Mountain Bikes In Snow? A Big, Fat No

Leave no footprint.

It’s the mantra for outdoors types – as in leave no trace.

But for those wanting to continue biking into the winter, a big footprint – a big, fat footprint – might be the way to go.

I own a mountain bike. I’ve never really used it in the winter, at least not in the snow. Mountain bikes are good rides “off road” on rugged back-country trails, but they’re not generally known for use in the snow. So, for the most part, I never really thought about using it in wintery conditions.

Then along came fat bikes – they’re built for the snow with their mega-fat, super-studded, under-inflated tires. They may even have boosted the popularity of “regular” mountain bikes come snowy winters. While mountain bikers may not have thought about riding in the snow, now, when they see those mountain bikes with the fat tires, maybe they’re more inclined to give it a try, even with those much-skinnier tires.

That was my thought when the first major snowstorm of the season hit central Minnesota on Monday and lasted well into Tuesday, dropping 3 inches or so – depending on where you’re at – of wet, heavy snow on the area. And, turns out, I would like to bike in the winter.

For those who know the mountain bike trail system in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation area, what would be better than blazing down those trails covered in snow – in particular, at least for me, the stretch of trail known as The Bobsled. A fitting name for a great rollercoaster-like winter ride.

But with snow and ice covering the red dirt trails at Cuyuna, and trails across the area and state as a whole, a regular mountain bike can be dicey, the performance sketchy at best.

With that first snowfall, I had hoped to rent a fat bike as I decide if it’s the year-round bike for me. Instead, but for the same reasoning, I decided to give my old mountain bike a whirl in the snow first.

Now, after Tuesday’s ride, I’m even more anxious to try a fat bike in the snow. Because if you want to ride in the winter, in the snow, a mountain bike just doesn’t cut it, no matter how high end. But what it did was get me even more excited to ride a fat bike in the snow.

I rented a fat bike last week, my first foray into that scene, and was impressed with the ride – even in the dirt, a huge upgrade over my mountain bike. It went through and over everything – the monster truck of bikes – and even seemed to cut through the climbs. I can only imagine how it will handle in the snow and ice, its forte.

Tuesday’s ride with my mountain bike wasn’t horrible – on straight, flat, relatively smooth surfaces (I just took it to a nearby system of trails mostly used for hiking and walking) it went through the mushy snow with a fair amount of ease. But when the trail became at all rugged, with any sort of climb, ride over, essentially.

And so the excitement of riding a fat bike in the snow builds.

I’ll keep you posted.

1 Response

  1. Darwin

    Hi there Brian, what works best, and always has for me. You take your standard mountain bike tire run tiny pointed metal screws through the tire from the backside. Mostly down the center just off set here and there. Then run a few of the flat rubbers that normally go against the rim, put in tube inflate. Now your talking grip. Work great in snow but ice they rock. Ride just as on cement. Happy trails, Darwin

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