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  1. #1
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    New question here. Winter fat biking

    So I've had my Surly Neck Romancer about 9 weeks, I've done 500+ miles and loving it. I don't want to stop riding in the winter so what do I need to be prepared for the cold harsh snowy conditions?

    I live on the border of NH and VT so it gets pretty cold and the winters can be nasty.

  2. #2
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    Theres lots of things that can be useful, and you'll find a lot of variations.

    Depending on the weather I use a combination of:
    Balaclava/scarf/neck warmer thing/hat with ears/headband/skullcap.
    Always wear eyewear - sunglasses/safety glasses/ski goggles.
    Various gloves depending on the weather/temperature.
    various shoe wear - SPD's/boots/shoe covers/wool socks
    Pants - jeans/winter cycling tights
    usually an underarmor style base layer with various jackets - my favorite are two castelli winter cycling jackets that are 100% useless if you're not making your own heat. On a bike, I can easily go with the base layer and jacket down to 0F.

  3. #3
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    Do some research dude. Tons and tons info out there.


    Edit: I was in a bad mood when I responded.
    Last edited by jonshonda; 09-24-2013 at 07:42 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonshonda View Post
    Do some research dude. Tons and tons info out there.
    And how many threads have that info all in one place? Now I'm subscribed.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  5. #5
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    I have done research, and most of the results are from people doing road biking. I'm looking for hands on experience with fat bikes riding snowmobile trails and or nordic trails.

    Do people typically use a regular helmet or do they go with full face downhill style helmet?

    I was thinking of going with the downhill style for extra warmth and the added safety when I inevitably fall.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diaonic View Post
    Do people typically use a regular helmet or do they go with full face downhill style helmet?
    I either wore a normal bike helmet or a snowboard helmet and goggles.

    If it was icy or rocky I'd add in knee and elbow pads.
    Safe riding,

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  7. #7
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    I Live in Maine, so same idea...

    my setup is:

    Under Armor
    Thin Thermal jacket and a Winter Coat
    Thermal pants and Outer snowboard pants (super thin)
    I have i Fur hat Not Helmet cuz on snowmobile trails if i fall i fall into snow, Ski goggles and Fur mittens
    LLbean Boots

    I ussually layer up a bit more on colder days and bring a backpack to shed clothing on hot days

    i alway like to carry extra hand warmers just in case....

    Add a bit of vodka to you water so it doesnt freeze...
    carry some snacks

  8. #8
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    Wool is your friend with a breathable outer layer.

  9. #9
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    Head: Burton snowboard helmet with a synthetic sweatband under for moisture. I get too hot in anything above 30 degrees.


    IMG_2392 by jonshonda187, on Flickr

    Upper body: synthetic thin base layer for moisture control, then a cheap goodwill found merino wool layer, then maybe a underarmour cold gear layer over that. I wear a p.I. windbrarrier jacket over everything.

    Lower body: still a work in progress, but p.I. barrier pants with a p.I. barrier wind breaker layer pants on top. I still get a little cold in the thigh area. Anything too bulky makes it hard to pedal.

    Hands: Answer gloves work awesome. But I have sweaty hands that don't get too cold. Never needed much more even when very cold. (Below zero)

    Feet: keen 200 gram insulated boots. Not very bulky, not too tall to limit movement.

    Lights: Gets dark fast in the winter months. Get lights w/ batteries that will last in the cold

    Large Saddle Bag: Store another pair of gloves and some hand warmers.

    A way to get out of the water If you fall through the ice you might be in trouble. I bought some retractable ice pics that are connect with a cord. Slide one down each sleeve, and they are there when you need them.
    Last edited by jonshonda; 09-24-2013 at 07:42 AM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diaonic View Post
    I have done research, and most of the results are from people doing road biking. I'm looking for hands on experience with fat bikes riding snowmobile trails and or nordic trails.

    Do people typically use a regular helmet or do they go with full face downhill style helmet?

    I was thinking of going with the downhill style for extra warmth and the added safety when I inevitably fall.
    If you are talking about real winter riding, a helmet is going to make things more complicated. Are you talking about riding on snow? If so, how fast are you normally going to be going? There are some rare times of insane speeds but generally you will be going not much faster than you can run and I don't see any runners wearing helmets. Remember, when you fall, you will likely be falling because you stopped and forgot that you are putting your foot down on unpacked snow.

    I rarely see a need for a helmet on a fat bike.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by alphazz View Post
    If you are talking about real winter riding, a helmet is going to make things more complicated.
    What constitutes "real winter riding"? I ride my fattie daily on a groomed MUP as a commute during the winter. Is this not a "real" winter ride?

    I agree that if you're riding snowy single track that often a helmet isn't really needed. But if part of your winter riding is on the roads that a helmet is probably a good idea. I just use my regular helmet with a hat under it.

    A full face helmet, except for the added warmth it might provide, seems a bit overkill for most any winter biking, real or otherwise.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by alphazz View Post
    If you are talking about real winter riding, a helmet is going to make things more complicated. Are you talking about riding on snow? If so, how fast are you normally going to be going? There are some rare times of insane speeds but generally you will be going not much faster than you can run and I don't see any runners wearing helmets. Remember, when you fall, you will likely be falling because you stopped and forgot that you are putting your foot down on unpacked snow.

    I rarely see a need for a helmet on a fat bike.
    My plan is to ride some single track, some double track and dirt roads in the area. Honestly I wouldn't ride without a helmet, I can see your point with the single track being slow.

    Up here there are group rides and the group "rides" on Tuesday and Thursday. If the trail snow is too deep they'll snowshoe first and the following group ride they'll take the bikes out.

    This is my first season so I'm just trying to get a handle on it. I saw someone on youtube using ski goggles and a full face helmet, seemed like a good idea on cold days. But I guess a face mask would work fine too.

  13. #13
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    We wear helmets all winter, snow hides rocks and ice and we ride fast and believe it or not we crash at pretty decent speeds. Helmets do not hamper extreme cold weather riding at least for myself and everybody I ride with.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    We wear helmets all winter, snow hides rocks and ice and we ride fast and believe it or not we crash at pretty decent speeds. Helmets do not hamper extreme cold weather riding at least for myself and everybody I ride with.
    +1 - I am not a helmet Nazi for all biking missions, but I fall a lot more in the winter than I do in the summer so I rarely skip the lid.
    Safe riding,

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    I will add to the list--Those nice large insulated mitts for the handlebars your hands slide into (I use them for anything below 25 degrees). They also keep the shifters a little bit warmer (keeps them from getting sluggish as the temps approach 0F)

    As others have stated, layers, moisture wicking fabric.
    In the cold, cotton is bad (no blue jeans)--gets wet and stays wet, then you get cold and wet.

  16. #16
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    Here are some links that might help you out.

    One is on winter riding skills. How to Ride Through the Snow | Bicycling Magazine

    This one is on staying warm
    How to Dress for Cold Winter Mountain Bike Rides | Bicycling Magazine

    Hope this helps. :-)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by alphazz View Post
    If you are talking about real winter riding, a helmet is going to make things more complicated. Are you talking about riding on snow? If so, how fast are you normally going to be going? There are some rare times of insane speeds but generally you will be going not much faster than you can run and I don't see any runners wearing helmets. Remember, when you fall, you will likely be falling because you stopped and forgot that you are putting your foot down on unpacked snow.

    I rarely see a need for a helmet on a fat bike.
    If a helmet seems complicated to you, you definitely can't afford to risk a head injury. (Just kidding ya-- couldn't resist messin with you with that ....)

    Seriously though, I can't see ANY argument against a light helmet. At slow speeds on single track, a spill could land you headfirst into the pokey end of a branch. On groomed trails or snowmobile trails I frequently get up to 30 mph and a wipe out could easily cause a head injury if you hit your own bike or ice or whatever. Around town, we're talking ice patches which also don't mix well with brain tissue.

    Finally, I like to wear one to set a good example for kids and knuckleheads who think they don't need one.

    My favorite winter helmet is a climbing helmet. It instantly adjusts to different hats and secures a head lamp.

  18. #18
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    I wear a couple layers of under armor thermals, and maybe a microfiber wool vest up top and winter cycling tights and bibs down below, with thermal hiking boots & wool socks. Ski gloves on my hands, a scarf and a hardshell helmet with a knit watch cap and goggles. It's been fine down to 10ş
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    I agree with the helmet being much more important in the winter. I've gone down much harder more often in the winter on patches of ice. Trees pose much more of a danger when you're skidding along on ice.

  20. #20
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    I just started riding last year in the winter on my fat back and learned a lot by reading through these forums. The biggest thing I learned was to dress warm! Follow the advice given above, it's all great. The biggest issues I had at first were keeping my feet and hands warm. I solved these issues by buying a set of Keen Brixen boots and getting a set of Trails Edge Moose Mitts. Now I can ride all day with proper layering as well. I love riding in the winter!
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  21. #21
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    Teton, yes, there are times that higher speeds are possible. Part of it is that during winter rides (in places where winter is really winter) sweat and temperature control is KING if you are riding for more than a few minutes. A helmet is just another piece of clothing and one that doesn't allow for moisture and cold control very well. I don't wear a helmet when I walk, run, hike, ski, or ride my fat bike. I try to be aware of dangers but any one of us could trip walking through our houses and die, yet we don't often hear of people wearing a helmet for walking.

  22. #22
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    icebike.org

    Not fatbike specific, but helpful for general winter riding gear information: Icebike Home Page

    On the helmet question, I would never advise someone else to ride without one, but I play the odds and use mine less in winter for the same reasons as others have stated: slow speeds, softer landings. If I plan to ride road or encounter ice I wear a helmet. Can't imagine using a full face helmet in winter due to fogging issues. Hard enough with glasses/goggles.

    Oh yeah, moisture/sweat management is everything: start out cool; layers are a must (add/remove as necessary; have a system for carrying the layers you aren't using); merino wool, capilene, and pogies are awesome. Consider platform pedals and boots/mukluks (warmer in winter IMO), but plenty of people ride clipless with good results.

    Experiment. Pay attention to materials (wool, capilene, etc.), but don't get hung up on brands or cycling specific stuff. Adapt your other outdoor gear when and where you can. Find out what works for you.

    The first photo was taken at about -20F, the second was taken at about +25F.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Winter fat biking-20-below.jpg  

    Winter fat biking-img_3793.jpg  

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  23. #23
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    I took care of a teenage boy for about a year with TBI. That stands for traumatic brain injury. I always wear a helmet now. When I was younger helmets weren't even invented for bicycles, nor were they used at all by anyone for skiing. I use my ski helmet for winter biking at freezing or below. I don't use ski goggles on my bike as I get too hot, but I rarely bike in single digit temps or below.

    I made the mistake of buying a Castelli jersey once. Now I own a lot of Castelli. The Castelli Espresso Due Jacket has exceed my expectations over a wide range of temps from 40's to single digits with a couple of layers of thin microfiber below it. The combination of materials (like windstopper) with the napoleon zips in front and shoulder vents in back work far better than "pit zips" could ever dream of. Air channels in through the front breast zips and out the backvents when you get hot and sweaty. Zip em back up if you cool down too much. I own Showerpass, Gore, Patagonia Asssos, Suogi, and as great as they are, I pick the Expresso almost everytime. Castelli fits tight so go at least one size larger than normal.

    For pants I prefer Pearl Izumi amfib winter cycling tights. They shed off freezing rain like you wouldn't believe and work well from 50's to single digits with microfiber beneath.

    Some people like the full winter bike boots but I just use my normal cleated bike shoes with 2 sets of bike overshoes, one quilted and another with goretex "rain" protection. I have the replacement soles with heated battery power but rarely use them.

    I've been biking winters before fatbikes were invented, with various combinations of studs and/or tirechains. I love winter.

  24. #24
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    Re: Winter fat biking

    Whatever you wear, the MOST important thing - is to be slightly cold when you are just standing outside. Do a test outside before you leave. I like to feel chilled, and it's hard to fight the "I need something warmer" feeling. But if you are warm and fine with no chill - you are going to get too hot when you are actually exerting energy and sweat. Sweating is the enemy in winter, which is why materials like wool are so good because they don't get as cold when damp.
    Last edited by duggus; 09-25-2013 at 02:38 PM.
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    K.b., I share your enthusiasm for the Expresso Due jacket and the the PI amfib. My go-to winter gear. On the "warmer" days I'll wear normal bibshorts with a pair of cold weather castelli tights, good to about 35F.

    I grabbed a pair of neoprene shoe covers with some sort of extra water proof layer on the outside that looks like fake leather (the logo fell off a few years back and I cant figure out what they are). On the really cold days I'll put a pair of fleece-lined shoe covers inside my junky pair of SPD-cleat shoes as a secondary sock.

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  27. #27
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    Moose mitts were my favorite purchase for cold weather last year. Not only do they work very well, they are priced reasonably, and they are handmade at a bike ship in Michigan. Cool stuff.

    Moose Mitts - Flat Bar - Trail's Edge Milford Plymouth MI

  28. #28
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    Cool-blue Rhythm

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  29. #29
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    A spare, dry first layer is nice to have, especially when you spent a while longer enjoying the winter sun (doesn't take much space).

    Also the wear of an kidney belt is something I can warmly recommend.

    A bandana to protect your neck/throat/face/head.

    A neopren-insulated bottle with hot tea (black'n'rum).

  30. #30
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    Very interesting...

    I'm suscribe this post!!

  31. #31
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    Mostly my hands stay warm with some cheap leather gloves from Menards. In below 20 degree weather I have some Planet bike borealis 3 finger gloves that were inexpensive, but my fingers sweat if it is above 32 degrees as they don't breath very well.

    I have something similar to the pogies called NRA Pursuit Handwarmers - Black EX000433 that have a zipper for cell phone or chemical handwarmers. They are on Amazon for $24.95. Without the zipper they are on Evilbay for $18.95 and are called Moose Persuit handwarmers

    For a couple bucks the chemical handwarmers can be a lifesaver to carry along if you get a flat or something when biking out in Timbuckthree.

  32. #32
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    What's up New Hampsha for damnsha!! I live in the Whites, and rode my necro exclusively last winter (instead of a car that is). My advice, start cold, you'll warm up. I like my Barr mitts with light gloves underneath. Cold weather tights, wind proof on front. Wicking layer up top and layer accordingly. Goggles if it is really super duper cold, but generally not, yes glasses. Flat pedals with good warm boots. An anything cage with a water bottle parka and hot drinks inside. I like hot Tang...mmmmm. Carry a puffy layer and warmer gloves in case of a mechanical. Put a Bud on front. Message me if you want some great riding, and keep your eyes peeled in the local forums, and here, as we are organizing a fatty xcountry race. Good fun.


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  33. #33
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    One thing to note is the fact that most of your winter clothes will work for winter riding. You don't really need to have the latest and greatest to ride.

    Keep it simple, dress in layers, don't use anything made of cotton. Wool socks rock.

    Have fun.

    Winter fat biking-428537_3350745336637_233531534_n-1-.jpg

  34. #34
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    Dressing to be a little bit cool at the start is good advice, but if you're going out on your own, take a warm garment.

    That goes on as soon as you stop - don't wait to cool down.

    It's also useful if you have an accident - you need to keep warm. Just make sure it's a zip up jacket, not a pullover type. (I once dislocated my shoulder out on the back of a mountain when I hit some ice. It was very very cold. Only problem was I couldn't get my pullover fleece on )
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  35. #35
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    Ski helmet and goggles are a must.

    I ended up adding fenders. Those giant tires can throw a lot of water and slush. The fenders were more to protect the bike, as my components took a bit of a beating...

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    I don't know if you Nordic Ski or not but that is a good guideline about what to wear. It is easy to overdress when you are exercising in the winter. It can be critical if you sweat and get your base layers damp. I like to have a big pack or a frame pack on the bike so I can quickly add or remove a layer. somehow 20 degrees and sunny seems warm in winter and I might get down to bib tights and a thin wool base layer for a climb. Other days you can't wear enough.

  37. #37
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    Here's an excellent article about winter clothing, written from a mountaineer's perspective but very applicable to winter cycling.

    Since reading it, I've taken to underdressing torso and limbs while still protecting my extremities. I also carry a down sweater and other bailout clothing, should things go wrong. Not soaking myself in sweat has worked out very well.

    As for helmets, I wear a regular road helmet with a North Face Skully skullcap underneath. Works great.

    For glasses, a pair of foam-gasket motorcycle glasses treated with a thin film of baby shampoo is about the best solution I've found so far.

  38. #38
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    Great thread. Got my Moonlander ready for winter. This info will definitely help!

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    Face gear for really nasty weather:
    Winter fat biking-541854_895006972143_588779809_n.jpg

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by veloborealis View Post

    The first photo was taken at about -20F, the second was taken at about +25F.
    First one looks like Bethel or Barrow. Screw that!
    "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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  41. #41
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    What do you guys recommend when it comes to packs? Is a frame bag a better idea? Depending on the ride and temps, my back can start to get sweat under my camel back. Not a big deal in the summer but arctic winds can make can really chill you down if you sweat through your cloths at all.

  42. #42
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    Although not specifically designed for cycling, I think you may want to consider these gloves for winter mountain biking:

    KONG® COLD WEATHER

    Here is a video about the design of the gloves:

    The Evolution of KONG® - YouTube

  43. #43
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    I came up with an idea.
    Cut the top of a skully cap open,(sew up the frazzles if you like),and pull it down over your neck and up over your nose.
    ...Then put a second one on your head under your helmet,and tuck the one on your neck under the one on your head as much as possible...so only your eyes are exposed.
    Cut a small slit for your mouth if you want. Then put a pair of ventilated ski goggles on.
    Now you whole head is covered.
    ...also- a few drops of anti-freeze in your chain lube (and cable lube) will keep your chain/cables fron icing up I hear.

    You can do muliple layers if you choose.
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  44. #44
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    Winter fat biking

    ^^^^seriously? Way a great idea!! So great, it's been around for centuries! It's called a balaclava. 45 north makes a killer one, but you can find them anywhere.


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  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by GnarBrahWyo View Post
    What do you guys recommend when it comes to packs? Is a frame bag a better idea? Depending on the ride and temps, my back can start to get sweat under my camel back. Not a big deal in the summer but arctic winds can make can really chill you down if you sweat through your cloths at all.
    I ride with both, but I have gloves, my hat and my shell in the frame bag. It makes it very quick to put them on or take them off.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

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    I'm thinking the best thing I could do for winter fat bike riding is getting corrective eye surgery. Riding with glasses in the winter just complicates things. Wearing a balaclava you need to remember too only exhale through your mouth. Accidentally exhaling through your nose means instant fog over.

    The fall is a good time to start trying out your clothing before it really gets cold. Instead of waiting until the afternoon for it to warm up before going for a ride, head out early for an hour when its colder.

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schott View Post
    ^^^^seriously? Way a great idea!! So great, it's been around for centuries! It's called a balaclava. 45 north makes a killer one, but you can find them anywhere.


    "You're like a Ferrari engine driving a dump truck"
    i have a couple of balaclavas...but i like my idea better.
    Maybe it's just me.
    You can pull the neck part down or off if you want...like a convertible.LOL
    Seriously though...it's just another means to an end...that's all.
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  48. #48
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    Re: Winter fat biking

    Quote Originally Posted by GnarBrahWyo View Post
    What do you guys recommend when it comes to packs? Is a frame bag a better idea? Depending on the ride and temps, my back can start to get sweat under my camel back. Not a big deal in the summer but arctic winds can make can really chill you down if you sweat through your cloths at all.
    Best deal on a reliable frame bag... I've been using mine for almost a year now. Ibera frame bags - super cheap and great fit
    Ibera frame bags - super cheap and great fit
    ...Be careful what you're looking at because it might be looking back...

  49. #49
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    First one looks like Bethel or Barrow. Screw that!
    Nome, actually, and there are times when I share your sentiment.
    The older I get the better I was...

  50. #50
    Laramie, Wyoming
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    Quote Originally Posted by GnarBrahWyo View Post
    What do you guys recommend when it comes to packs? Is a frame bag a better idea? Depending on the ride and temps, my back can start to get sweat under my camel back. Not a big deal in the summer but arctic winds can make can really chill you down if you sweat through your cloths at all.
    Gnar, we have to get together this winter now that you are fat. In some of the temperatures around here in the winter, I think the pack would be a killer. The frame pack does two things. It allows for storage and it keeps the wind off of the bottles if you keep them in there. My bottles don't start having issues in the Revelate frame pack until it is nearing -10 and then sometimes I'll put a chemical warmer next to the bottle in the pack.

    By the way, skip the Ibera frame pack. Looks like a waste of $20. Get a bag that will fasten securely on all three tubes and is built to last. Unless you are putting it on a Walmart bike.

    By the way, there is fresh snow in the high country today. I'm going to check it out tomorrow.

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