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  1. #1
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    Fat bike for cold weather riding

    Hi there,
    I have been looking around for fat bikes for the winter here in Alaska.
    I have spotted a few online that are not too pricy like SE F@R at 1000$ but I realized that maybe those bikes are not really meant to really cold temperature and would probably break on me at the first bump.

    So what do you think? What do you use for cold winter that is reasonably priced? Under 2000$, more is just not possible ahha .

    I would like to do Bikepacking, I usually ski but my knees don't really like that anymore so I though that Bikepacking on snowmachine trails around Fairbanks could be a nice way to get around/go camping in the winter, maybe with a small sled with snowshoes to go and explore in the deep snow.

    But anyway I don't know much about fat bike obviously so I would appreciate your help .
    THanks!

  2. #2
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    The bikes are not going to break on the first bump, but large tires that allow you to run low pressure, ideally tubeless, are helpful. Studded tires greatly improve your ability to go out there and ride everything. $1500 bike and no studded tires is way way worse than $1000 bike with studded tires.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  3. #3
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    I ride the Chena and Tanana rivers and associated trails almost every day most of the winter.

    You want 4.8-5 inch tires, I used to ride 3.8s, and they are OK, but our snow is so dry it dosen't often pack well.

    I don't have studs on the fat bike. There are a few places that you will have to walk it over frozen overflow, glacering, road crossings, etc, but I haven't needed them on the trails. I ride my MTB with studs on the roads. If someone gave me a set of studded tires, I'd put them on. I'm running Jumbo Jim LiteSkin 4.8s and the work well.

    Tubeless is a plus, not as much for the weight reduction, but it lets you run lower pressures, and the tires conform and hook up with the snow better. I run about 4-6 psi in the river and trails. Not tubeless isn't a deal breaker, and most set ups can easily be converted to tubeless.

    The only other must have is a set of poagies. I use thin ones that I can scrunch up in the middle of the bars if I don't need them.


    As far as bikes... under $1000 might be tough, but since there is so many flat trail opportunities here, almost anything is better than skiing. You may have to flush the grease out of the free hub to get it to work. Most of the better hubs seem to have pretty good cold weather grease in them.

    REI has the Oso, you have a year to return it is it doesn't make you happy.

    I do see them on Craigs list once and a while.

    Duncan
    Fairbanks
    “Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'Sir' without adding, 'You're making a scene’.” -H.J. Simson

  4. #4
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    If you buy from a decent lbs you'll have a decent bike. The cold is no problem for any fatbike that is well made. Whether it's steel, aluminum or carbon, temperature isn't an issue. Cheap walmart bikes are an issue, not because of cold but because of basic quality and component issues. Most fatbikes are/should be setup for winter riding which means lighter lubes in the cassette and any bearings that require it. There are plenty of used fatbikes and if you can size yourself on a bike you'll get much more for your money buying from somebody selling their steel bike to get an aluminum or selling their aluminum to get a carbon. I agree that you want a build that willa accept 5" (4.7 in reality) tires. They will provide much better float on soft snow.

  5. #5
    Nev
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    I'll be living up there very soon.
    What makes a winter bike vs. summer bike?
    I assume I can have one for both, what changes would I have to make between season?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nev View Post
    I'll be living up there very soon.
    What makes a winter bike vs. summer bike?
    I assume I can have one for both, what changes would I have to make between season?
    Well, most people don't ride FS bikes in the winter, because shocks, seals, oil and the such usually aren't meant to work at the lower temperatures, even if the seals work well. There are a few exceptions, and there are a few FS fatbikes now out on the scene, but that's a lot more weight to something that already has some pretty massive rolling resistance/wheel weight and in the winter, you just don't roll all that fast, which is where the big fat tires come into play, because they can absorb a lot of the impact, while giving traction.

    Some people ride hardtails with narrow tires during the winter, using studded tires. These work fine on any real hard pack or ice surface. Sometimes these conditions exist, but it doesn't take much snow before these are skidding all over the place and you have no control. Good for commuting when there's no new snow or when we have variable conditions with hardpack/ice/no or low snow, etc.

    To answer the question though, usually a fatbike with studded fat tires ideally tubeless to allow you to run very low pressure for traction in soft conditions. 4.0 tires are satisfactory, but bigger 4.5-4.8" are better, I'd only choose to use 4.0 if I was racing, but some older frames won't accept tires significantly bigger. Pogies to keep your hands warm. A frame-bag to put an insulated camelback bottle or two into (these work really well) as well as some tools or extra gloves or something of that nature, maybe some other smaller bags too. A light-setup, because while at worst around xmas the light is from about 10am-4pm, you can ride all the time with lights, which is what we do and lots of group rides happen in the dark. Flat pedals are usually the simplest way to go, with big warm snow-boot type boots. There are several clipless winter-boots out there, but they are expensive and the still-pretty-expensive lower models are more like fall/spring than full on winter and some of us have poor circulation where it's just hard to make clipless work. Some of the parts of the bike act like heat-sinks, pedals that connect to metal cleats that are close to the ball of your foot are good heat-sinks. Another good heat sink is an aluminum bar, so lots of people run carbon bars, not because they are chi chi fancy, but because they transmit heat less. Foam grips are good for this too. Some people like real low gearing for the snow, not me personally, but many do.

    I've found that I don't need very much braking in the winter, so you don't need massive DH calipers or rotors, lightweight rotors are fine.

    There are lots of variations of "winter bikes" obviously, but these are the most common themes I see.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  7. #7
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    I take off my suspension fork (hard tail) in the winter. Some suspension forks can handle winter. Most can't (-30F not so good for them). Other than that, lighter grease in the cassette is the biggest deal. Studded tires...pogies as layed out in the earlier post...

  8. #8
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    Yea, what they said.....

    I'll put in a plug for flat pedals, I always wear boots that I could walk home in. If you rip a tire in the cold, (I hit a rebar survey stake in the snow last year) putting in a tube can be really hard, breaking a tubeless bead in the cold can rough. Unless your on really nice trails, there is often a little hike a bike. Quality foot wear is essential.

    Snowmachine/dogsled trail are for the most part pretty smooth. There are exceptions, but fat tires offer plenty of suspension. Even my coil shock on the MTB freezes up about 15 deg.

    You'll have to calibrate your sense of speed and distance. Anything over 10 mph on a flat trail is flying, often you need to be happy with 6 mph. Sometimes it's a matter of how slow can you ride. You can't sweat when it's cold out. With rare exception, you'll fly by the skiers. It always beats walking, unless of course you are pushing the bike.... Depending on conditions, a 20 mile trip on the snow can be like a 40 mile MTB trail ride. In great conditions, you'll be zipping along like on pavement.

    An old wool sock works well for a water bottle cozy. You'll have to still take water in the cold, the absolute humidity is extremely low. If you are heading out on your own, a good hat, dry gloves, a down jacket, and puffy pants stashed in your frame bag will help keep you out of the news if your world goes to crap.

    The right clothing is an art, that you'll refine. Everyone is different, it takes a while to get it dialed in. Temps can change 20 deg from the top of a hill to the bottom.

    There are miles of trails, we ride all year round, unless it's stupid cold, then I sit inside and read the forums....
    Last edited by AlaskaStinson; 10-01-2016 at 12:02 AM.
    “Maybe, just once, someone will call me 'Sir' without adding, 'You're making a scene’.” -H.J. Simson

  9. #9
    Nev
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    Background: My wife is in Anchorage now working I'm in Texas getting house ready to sell in the next few weeks and will follow...

    So I'm hearing get frames and wheelsets that'll accommodate both summer and winter tire setups? And own two sets of tires?

    Wife and I are very active in our 50s. No racing, etc. but also zero problem with weather, nights, etc. Want year-round riding when the temp allows.

    Thanks

  10. #10
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    That's what I do. any fat bike can use a set of mtn bike tires instead. Other than a probably adjustment to the brakes when you change wheels you end up with the almost best world. A dedicated mtn bike will typically have better travel in the fork but many fatbikes, like mine, don't come equipped with a hydraulic fork anyway. Some fatbikes may be better than others for converting to a mtn bike type wheel but for the most part its just a matter of buying or building a wheel with the same hub sizes and whatever "hoop" you want.

  11. #11
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    Or just summer fat tires, lots of people do that. Winter fat tires (get them with studs) wear very little in the winter and last many seasons, but summer and commuting especially puts a lot of wear on tires.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  12. #12
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    Oops, double post
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

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