Fat Bike Tips and Tricks - Can someone help?

I know we have a lot of avid fat bikers in the club. I’m hoping someone can educate me (and others) on fat biking tips and tricks and winter riding? :slight_smile:

Some questions:

  • What winter conditions are best for fat biking?
  • Are single speed fat bikes a thing or is gearing an absolute must?
  • Do you notice the wider Q factor? (Space between pedals?)
  • When do you use studded tires?
  • Are young teens strong enough to fat bike in the winter as well?
  • Are groomed trails required?
  • How’s the workout on them?



Hey Chris,

Fatbiking is loads of fun - here are my thoughts:

  • best conditions: packed snow. I bike in Kiwanis a fair bit, then the GRT. I have a 10 km loop that takes about an hour. In Kiwanis, once the trails are packed down, there are little off shoot loops in the forest there!
  • Never used single speed on FB. I like gears. You have to completely change your expectations around speed/distance. Even hard-packed snow can be a grind. You’ll average well under 20km/h, in all likelihood
  • I do notice the wider Q spacing, but I got used to it quite easily
  • I have studs that I’ll use for any winter riding. It’s not always necessary but with the freeze/thaw cycles, patches of ice can sneak up on you.
  • anyone can do it - but again, I’ll mention expectations. Like I mentioned, I don’t count on much more than 10 km for an hour ride.
  • I find the best grooming is pedestrian traffic. After a fresh snowfall, I’ll wait a half day or full day before I head out on the fattie. Pedding through deep unpacked snow is no fun.
  • It’s always a workout for me. There’s very little coasting/recovering because of the nature of cycling on snow. And I’m out of shape!


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That’s awesome thanks! So it’s relatively easy to get a good Z2 workout in? Slow is fine :slight_smile:

Yeah, I’ll echo most of what Steve said. I like how he said twice to “change your expectations”. :wink:

  • packed snow is definitely best conditions, though a thin layer of fresh snow is awesome as well (similar to skiing). I love getting out with light fluffy snow falling. It’s so quiet in the woods.
  • I’m sure there’s a few folks riding singlespeed fatbikes, but yeah, there’s a huge variance in speed and effort levels, so you’re basically never in the “right” gear. If you’re concerned about dirt/salt and whatnot, perhaps an internally geared hub? I have absolutely no idea if such a thing exists for fatbike hub spacing.
  • same as Steve said, q factor is noticeable, but not terrible. Also depends on pedal choice. I go between SPD and flats, depending on conditions. I thin I notice more when I go back to a “regular” bike after lots of fatbiking
  • since going to studded tires, I’ve never switched back. My fatbike is strictly for winter, so the studded tires stay on indefinitely. I’d highly recommend. Without them you’ll miss out on a lot of days to ride. And/or crash on ice.
  • I see no reason why not. I’d say you do get points where you need to put a lot of force through the pedals, but typically they’re short. So like going through a drift of deeper snow, or a short steep incline on a snowy trail
  • groomed trails are lovely, but not strictly necessary. Like Steve said, anywhere that lots of people walk would be just fine. Perhaps a little lumpy, but then a 4" tire at 6 psi provides plenty of cushioning
  • workout is really what you want to put into it. I’d say the most likely scenario is if you’re trying to go easy, you could get stuck having to put out more force (and thus more watts) simply to keep moving forward in particularly deep snow.
    Go to say, the Hydrocut or Puslinch, and your effort will be like a typical mountain bike ride. Lots of neuromuscular high-watt spikes, with coasting and zone 1 or 2 power for the balance. Want to ride lower watts more consistently, hit the Grand River Trail and you should be able to easily tune your effort level. Fresh snow will make it harder so then you can just pick your wattage target and adjust gearing to get a good cadence etc. (I’m terrible at planning workouts, but with a smart watch automatically suggesting workout, I’ve actually found the fatbike easiest to tailor my output. Riding the GRT with snow cover, I can make it as hard as I want pretty much, and not worry about going too fast around a corner compared to say, trying to do 250 W on a gravel bike in summer and getting going too fast)

Groomed trail in Parry sound for a fatbike race. Really nice and fast.

At the Hydrocut March 2019. Super icy, I crashed three or four times on ice before finally turning around and going home. Got studded tires shortly after and they may be expensive, but totally worth it.

20 days later, end of March, we had an overnight dump of snow. A group of us went out to Columbia Woods and it was pure magic in there.

My favourite conditions: about 1 -2 inches of snow, with fresh stuff lightly falling. (Homer Watson park) Once you start getting into 3-4 inches or more, fatbikes won’t make it either. They’re amazing, but not magical. One fatbike race I had a few years back at turkey point was horrible. Trails were so snowy I think I walked for like 4 hours of a 5 hour race, with my feet sinking in deep snow every step I took.

Studs also good if you want to do something dumb like ride a frozen creek.

Speaking of altered expectations; here’s a ride I did in December 2020 after a fresh snowfall. I rode for 7 hours moving time (8 hours elapsed) and managed “only” 75 km.

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Hi Chris,

I use my regular MTB with wide downhill tires Schwalbe HansDampfs 2.4” It provides enough grip on most conditions other than fresh deep snow where Fatbike would be a better option. This way I train in winter on the same bike with, the same geometry, etc. I have tried fat biking as well and it is lots of fun, just could not justify another bike :frowning: Join me for the Columbia Woods hill reps if you want a good workout :slight_smile:



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This is great info thanks all! I’m going to rent one up in Collingwood this winter and see how James and I like it :slight_smile:

Seb great idea on the MTB, I believe I have a set of studded MTB tires here somewhere. Might be an option on no snow/hard packed days.