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  1. #1
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    Observations after 2 years with a fatbike

    So it's been about 2 years with my Specialized Fatboy and I figured I'd share some of of the wisdom and experiences I have learned so people who are considering going fat can make a better decision:

    1. It's great in sand. From wet, packed sand to sugar sand, this bike remains fun to ride through all of it once you get your PSI figured out. This is where I enjoy mine the most.

    2. It's fun in the snow with a few big caveats. The snow has to be just right. 1-2 inches of crusty snow and you can ride a lot of places still. Too powdery, too wet, or more than 2 inches deep, and the chances of the ride being doable go down a lot. In those cases, you need trail grooming of some sort, which is not too common unless you live somewhere with real winters and a fat biking and/or XC skiing community. A standard 29er with studded tires will work pretty well for the ungroomed conditions where a fat bike can be ridden, and they work better (wont kill you) on ice. Again, it depends on the exact snow conditions that day.

    3. You can ride wet trails safely 1-2 days earlier than "skinny" tires. Obviously this one depends on a lot of things, but trail impact is generally a lot less.

    4. Normal dry trail riding is more forgiving than a normal rigid bike, but the fat tires are not a substitute for suspension.

    5. The fat tires are stable and carry a lot of momentum, so they are good for riding newer trails, across fields etc that aren't worn in yet.

    6. Carry a high volume pump.

    7. Go tubeless or put slime in your tubes. The tires are more than twice as wide as normal tires and seem to pick up a bunch of sharp stuff.

    Overall I'm glad I have one in the garage, and I definitely ride more because I have it, but I am also certain that I wouldn't want it as my only bike for year round riding in the mid-Atlantic region.




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  2. #2
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    2016 Motobecane Sturgis rigid
    2008 Yamaha WR250r http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=997633

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rumblefish29er View Post
    ... The snow has to be just right. 1-2 inches of crusty snow and you can ride a lot of places still. Too powdery, too wet, or more than 2 inches deep, and the chances of the ride being doable go down a lot. In those cases, you need trail grooming of some sort,
    You may need to try some different tires... With Bud and Lou (and 3-4psi) I can take 5 inches or so of fresh powder at a time. Multiple passes down the same path widens it out. Over 5 inches and I carry a backpack with a cheap set of snowshoes. Dismount, walk a half mile and return and it is packed enough to ride.

    For the ice we have a lot of this year? Studs (or chains or screws). It has been so icy this year if I dismount on any sort of hill, I cannot stand up.

    For mud? go early in the day - at daybreak when it is the coldest and the mud is the stiffest, or wait for a better day.

    The snow this year was completely different than last year. But I am in Michigan where they say "don't like the weather? Wait a day... it will be different tomorrow.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by k.b. View Post
    You may need to try some different tires... With Bud and Lou (and 3-4psi) I can take 5 inches or so of fresh powder at a time. Multiple passes down the same path widens it out. Over 5 inches and I carry a backpack with a cheap set of snowshoes. Dismount, walk a half mile and return and it is packed enough to ride.

    For the ice we have a lot of this year? Studs (or chains or screws). It has been so icy this year if I dismount on any sort of hill, I cannot stand up.

    For mud? go early in the day - at daybreak when it is the coldest and the mud is the stiffest, or wait for a better day.

    The snow this year was completely different than last year. But I am in Michigan where they say "don't like the weather? Wait a day... it will be different tomorrow.
    Yeah I am sure there are better snow tires than my Ground Controls...they seem to lack lateral control when the snow is less than perfect.

    And yeah, the snow is always a little different. Last year I was able to ride quite a bit more challenging trails, whereas this year I can barely get down the rail trail. I guess the point is that people probably need to dial back their expectations about snow riding in ALL conditions with a fat bike.


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  5. #5
    since 4/10/2009
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    Last winter I was making fresh tracks in 7 inches of heavy, wet snow on 4" tires. If you are giving up on rides after you pass 2", you're doing something wrong. BF (before fat), I was riding my skinny 26er in up to around 4 inches of fresh snow.

    If ice, use studs. Doesn't matter what width.

    IME, the trail conditions window where fat tires are better than skinny mtb tires is VERY narrow. IME, often measured in hours, not days, at least where I live. Not really enough to claim a significant difference. Around here, just choosing a different trail gives you a FAR bigger window. Sometimes a week or more. And if you are open to riding gravel, too, there is always something to ride.

  6. #6
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    This year has redefined my expectations for winter riding. Thanks to the miracle of traction that are self studded Minions, I haven't met a day this winter where I couldn't ride trail. I might even prefer ice capped singletrack over snow, as it rolls fast and I can ride it just like summer. I should note that in mid Michigan, we haven't gotten a big dump, so I've not needed to ride in over 6", drifts aside.

    I'd also note that trail or no trail is a rather limited interpretation of the genre that shows a decided lack of creativity. So much more to ride in a frozen landscape.

    Despite the mild snow accumulation, the only guys showing up all winter on the trails are on fatties. Apparently we're having more fun than the skinny riders, posting up their trainer suffer sessions on Strava.

    But the OP is also right. It's not a magic bullet, and there are limitations for even the ideal setup.

  7. #7
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    Was slugging it out in Johnson Pass this AM in heavy snow and on frozen snowmachine chunk, not ideal, but I made progress for a ways. Eventually the snowmachine tracks were all but gone and the trail was mostly untouched, except older snow beneath had formed a crust and I was punching through it, which was causing massive resistance. A couple inches of crust that isn't strong enough to support your weight can be a show-stopper, but for a while the snow was "punchy" and I was doing just fine, not to mention there were times on the ride where I was able to just ride the crust off the trail, unfortunately though with the heavy snowfall I couldn't see well enough to take full advantage of this. Wasn't a great ride, but I've had worse.

    This PM, headed out on some local trails and for some reason hooked up nice, seems like we might have gotten a trace amount of snow that bonded to the ice, so while skinny studded tires may have worked, fat studded tires worked awesome, plus with the fast conditions I could hit the table-tops and jumps and the cush of the fat-bike was just right.

    What like about fat-bikes is I don't ever have the problem that skinny bikes do where you notice their tracks going all over the freaking place on the trail, left, right, seemingly doing loops, whatever. One big problem with skinny bikes is the lack of traction and spreading out the weight. Skinny tires tend to wash out super easy and you don't have to worry about that on fat. I did my share of skinny-bike snow-riding back in the day and with an inch of dry snow on cold ground it was quite fun, but even then you couldn't get very aggressive, as your tires would wash out when pushed, but fatbikes just work in the snow.

    I see a few hold-outs that claim you don't need a fatbike or that they are only useful right after a snow, but I also see their tracks and know I wouldn't want to be them
    "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

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rumblefish29er View Post
    ..or more than 2 inches deep, and the chances of the ride being doable go down a lot. In those cases, you need trail grooming of sort.
    I am not sure what you expected when you bought your fatbike, but if these are your limitations, it sounds like you are not doing it right.
    When we get 2 inches of snow the old lady upstairs still rides her clapped out old city bike down to the train station in the morning....on threadbare 27mm touring tires that have seen daily use since the Carter administration.

  9. #9
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    Observations after 2 years with a fatbike

    Quote Originally Posted by alias View Post
    I am not sure what you expected when you bought your fatbike, but if these are your limitations, it sounds like you are not doing it right.
    When we get 2 inches of snow the old lady upstairs still rides her clapped out old city bike down to the train station in the morning....on threadbare 27mm touring tires that have seen daily use since the Carter administration.
    It depends! 2 inches of fresh snow? Sure, no problem. Around here in the northeast right now, we have 0-4 inches of snow that used to be 2 feet and has gone through a dozen freeze/thaw cycles. The hard crust on top provides massive resistance but you punch through to wet slippery snow. Anything but the flattest sections and you aren't going far without tons of effort.

    Last year we had conditions were you could ride 3-4 inches without too much trouble. I am not enough of a snowologist to know what causes it all, but it probably varies with the original consistency and the pattern of warming and cooling after that.

    I'm committed to this so I think I am going down the route of getting some snowshoes and packing down a couple mile loop after storms that is flat without too much off camber stuff.

    I also have a CX bike with studs for when its up just pure ice or less than 1 inch....works surprisingly well.


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  10. #10
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    It's not worth discussing snow performance as there are thousands of variables.

    We had about 6" of heavy wet snow here two days ago. I went to a local trail and had doubts about even being able to ride. Bud 'N Lou plowed through the fresh stuff with no problem. What blew me away was being able to go up a climb that I only make half the time in the dry.

    One day it's easy the next it's not. It can be frustrating at times but it gets me out of the house in the winter, and for me, that's priceless.


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  11. #11
    Fat Biking & Health Rider
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    Pretty much in agreement with Rumblefish and Jayem here. I'm a little north & east of Rumble, riding similar towpath/rail trails. Specialized Fatboy, 4.6 Ground Controls. It takes me 6 miles over asphalt county and local roads just to get to Lock 1 of the Delaware Raritan Canal towpath if I'm staying close to home. Last Saturday, got to the towpath, which goes north to Trenton, NJ and beyond. 24 inches of snow had melted in the preceding week and had refreezed down to 4-6 inches of hard crust and soft underlayment. No grooming here; after a mile or so up, mine were the only tracks being made. Talk about tough going; even airing down at 3 psi or so, the conclusion is there is only so much that pedal power is going to take you; well, at least for me anyway! Fighting for every inch, every foot of travel. Not my cup of tea, but it's better to get out then it is to not. I'd just as soon knock off real miles in my journeys from Point A to B, back to A, and that is simply not happening on these particular trails after any kind of snow fall.

    Pretty much spot on about the Fatboy observations; but I'll keep my tubes as I figure not going off trail much. We are products of the terrain we live around in; in my case, the canal towpaths present a lot of great riding. But this state (NJ) has become so developed and overpopulated, the once quiet country back lanes are no longer that, and off-road alternatives have been blocked with No Trespassing warning signs. Since buying the Fatboy in late Nov 2014, I've not been on any of my other bikes since. Still for me, the biggest game changer in bicycling to have come along in a very long time.

    Mike

  12. #12
    since 4/10/2009
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    The variable here limiting riding is not snow DEPTH but rather condition of the snow. Old snow that has thawed and refrozen but isn't solid enough to support your weight so you punch through, of course those are difficult to impossible conditions. What do you expect?

    The key is to get out when the snow is fresh, pack down a loop, and then you don't need to worry about what the snow does as a result of the weather so long as you can handle the inevitable ice once it gets packed solid enough.

    That is how we handle it here.

    Off trail, even in the snow, is a non-starter. Snow depth is insufficient to bury the brush and debris on the forest floor.

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