About two years I was in Moab, Utah for a week doing some fantastic mountain biking. One of the days there we were at the famous Slick Rock area doing one of the standard biking loops. It was then that I first laid eyes on a ‘fat bike’. Here we all were on our full suspension, super tricked out, mountain bikes…and then along comes a guy on a rigid frame bike with the widest tires I’d had ever seen. And low and behold, he flies right past us and cleanly navigates through a difficult section of trail that had a few of us stopped dead in our tracks.
Around these parts people call these ‘snow bikes’, but they can be very versatile and are also great on sand and dirt. What makes a ‘fat bike’ unique is the width of the tires and the frame and fork dimensions that fit such a tire. Fat bike tires can range between 3.5 – 5 inches in width. This is approximately twice as wide as your standard mountain bike tire. You ride the rites with very low tire pressure and they literally float over all sorts of terrain, including SNOW!
So right after Christmas I had the opportunity to borrow a friend’s snow bike…thanks Jodi! She’s got the Surly Pugsley in all black (with pink pedals of course!) and has been riding the heck out of it throughout our groomed trails here in mammoth and the surrounding areas. Well after doing about 6-7 miles out at Shady Rest with my dogs following, both my dogs and I were instantly sold! I drove away from Shady rest that morning with tow exhausted dogs, some great leg fatigue, and an internal laughter shouting “cross country skis for sale”! I thought to myself, who needs cross country skis anymore when I can be riding a mountain bike year round….and what a great way to exercise my dogs.
Since that day I have been researching distributors of these bikes, looking at e-bay, identifying the right frame size for myself, etc. But now I’ve just learned that the US Forest Service is starting to regulate the use of snow bikes on any trail that they groom. And unfortunately, these bikes need a groomed trail and can’t really be used to go tromping through the powder. RIDICULOUS I say! So the snowmobilers can tear through the forests with loud engine noise and air pollution from exhaust, but I can’t ride a snow bike on these trails because it’s considered a wheeled vehicle? I could probably take a horse out there and let it crap all over the trail and that would be okay too, bit no bike. What if I promise to clean up after my bike if it takes a poop out there on the trail?
In all seriousness, this is pretty disappointing. I plan to connect with a few of the local riders and snow bike owners to help work WITH the US Forest Service to get things changed. As you hear more about this, please help support the mountain bike community and our goal to have year-round riding access throughout the Eastern Sierra!
Here are some online articles I found with other fat bike endorsements and hurdles:
Also, check out my YouTube channel for a little video I took on that bike ride I did:
Posted by Eric Leach / firstname.lastname@example.org / 949-690-5555