Scenic overlook to the Prairie River on the Underdown Dells Project trail.
Letter from the Editor by Kelly O’Day
I’ve been pretty silent on the issue of my betrayal.
The betrayal of my declaration I wouldn’t be buying a fat bike, that is.
I mean the December issue had hardly hit the printers – well before street time – and I had already ordered one. This after turning down a good deal at a local bike shop, the preferable way to operate, anyway.
But a week after I had pushed “send” on my column stating how I wouldn’t buy one, how I would just occasionally borrow from mountain biker friends due to fears of reduced ski training and a general lack of money to put into yet another bike (n+1?), I received an unsolicited email.
Filled with big promises: All carbon! Sale price! Decent spec! Advanced fit!
An interesting rock formation backdrop below the UDP trail.
Since I felt the only way I could buy a fattie is if it offered more than winter fun, it had to deliver on those promises. The LBS bike came up just a hair short on them, not being carbon to be light enough for me to want to use it for four seasons while staying in my limited price range, but this one appeared to deliver on the pledges.
The only weakness was in wheel weight (which is rotational weight, so more important during acceleration), but I determined I could shave that deficiency at a later date. A set of carbon Pub Wheels with Pub Hubs from the people at Framed* has aided greatly in chopping weight there, on top of going tubeless with four-inch Jumbo Jim tires (compared to the winter choice of stock 4.8-inch Maxxis rubber).
But what about forsaking ski workouts?
It turns out owning a fat bike didn’t play any role in decreasing my snow commitments, other than having to turn those same friends down at times, when their offers to ride showed up on weekends of planned big skiing miles or weeknights of the best conditions.
Hanging out with my new buddy.
I found out the fat bike complements my skate ski habit well. When cold nights offered no glide on skate skis, the trails were perfectly set up for fat biking. When the trails were flying fast for my skis, they often were too soft for the fattie and reminders went out among the community to stay off the trails.
Community is a key word here, too. I tend to ski alone anyway, and when my main ski buddy broke his pelvis early in the season, I was on my own there.
But the biking group has been a blessing. When I might have taken a day off, an open call-out for a ride would arrive. And it would be such fun to blast swervy, rolly trails at night with a half-dozen people that the next call would also be heeded.
Me and the boys on pristine Underdown Lake snow, untouched and crusty.
I ended up not losing ski workouts, while gaining riding ones, and upped my overall fitness level for the Birkie That Didn’t Happen.
When the snow left early up north this year, there were still plenty of cold days on the trail with mixed snow and bare patches the bike handled well, so I gained some workouts on days that used to be downtime, too. Days that would have been windy and cold on gravel or paved roads were quite nice on a sheltered, wooded trail. People south of me would have had many days of frozen, but clear, trail throughout the winter.
The fattie also handles loose gravel/sand better than a grinder, although a grinder is better for firm conditions. The fattie can take on many a singletrack trail, too, so its best attribute may be its versatility.
I guess while committing a betrayal of intention, I more importantly perpetrated a selection of opportunity.
*Stay tuned for short-term and long-term reviews on these wheels.