You may have noticed a new type of trail user while out cross-country skiing or snowshoeing this winter. With increasing popularity, mountain bikers are taking to the trails with specially designed fat bikes. These are bikes designed specifically for winter use, and they are changing the way we think about winter recreation. With constant upgrades in technology and an ever-growing network of fat bike friendly trails appearing across Canada, there has never been a better time to cycle through winter.

 

 

 

 

Fat bikes are basically mountain bikes with large rims and tires (97 mm/3.8 in or larger). Tubes on these bikes can be inflated to a low pressure, allowing smooth riding over a variety of terrain. While fat bikes have revolutionized winter riding through snow, they are also ideal for sand, boggy areas and basically any other rough terrain.

 

While the exact origin of fat bikes is disputed, they first came to public attention in Alaska in the 1980s when long-distance bike racers used homemade prototypes to take on the 1,600 km (1,000 mi) Iditarod Trail. Since then, a variety of designs were developed all over the world, and the mid-2000s saw the emergence of commercially produces fat bikes, bringing the sport to the mainstream.

 

See below where the Global Mountain Bike Network explains what a fat bike is!

 

 

 

Why Ride a Fat Bike?

For hardcore mountain bikers, there is no better way to stay in shape in the winter than to hit the trails on a fat bike. For the rest of us, fat biking is a great way to get out and explore the outdoors in winter, and to try something new. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to cover terrain faster on a fat bike than you can on snowshoes or cross-country skis. And conditions that are not great for downhill skiing or snowboarding are often the best for fat biking, when the slopes are skied out and snow is packed down.

 

 

Where Can You Fat Bike?

Fat Bikes can be ridden on virtually any terrain but are most popular for riding on snow. Where you ride is really only limited by your ability, fitness and confidence. Beginner fat bikers will want to stick to  groomed, fat bike specific trails. Advanced riders can take their bikes virtually anywhere, including extreme downhill terrain. Many bikers who live in rural areas or in places where the sport is not established have been building their own trails or using established mountain bike networks that would otherwise sit unused in the winter.

 


 

For a quick overview of some of the best places to ride a fat bike in Canada, we have put together the following list:

 

Silverstar Mountain Resort, BC

Located near beautiful Vernon, BC, Silverstar offers over 15 km (9 mi) of groomed fat bike trails, as well as a fleet of rental bikes for new bikers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the resort even hosts Pedal and Pint Fat Bike Rides, a group ride followed by a social beverage at Silverstar Village.

 

Fernie, BC

The charming mountain town of Fernie in the BC Rockies offers a ton of fat biking options, from easy trails in community parks to more advanced riding at Fernie Alpine Resort and Mount Fernie Provincial Park. Fat bikers can also enjoy Fernie's world-class mountain bike trail network, including the Montane and Ridgemont areas.

 

Image: Fernie - www.tourismfernie.comFernie - tourismfernie.jpg

 

 

Canmore, AB

The Rocky Mountain town of Canmore is known for its outstanding mountain biking during the spring, summer and fall, and most of these trails can be ridden with fat bikes in the winter, including the Cougar Creek trails and the Highline Trail. Fat bikers can also use the Canmore Nordic Centre.

 

Duck Mountain Provincial Park, SK

Located along the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, Duck Mountain Provincial Park offers a variety of snowmobile and ski trails for fat bikers to check out. One favourite is the Green Lake Loop, which incorporates part of the Trans Canada Trail.

 

Image: Green Lake Loop - www.fatlanders.bikeDuck Mountain - fatlanders.bike.jpg

 

 

Horseshoe Resort, ON

Located close to Barrie, Horseshoe Resort offers 9 km (5 mi) of groomed fat bike trails through a stunning rolling forest landscape. Fat bike rentals are available and this area is great for beginner riders.

 

Image: Horseshoe Resort - www.horseshoeresort.comBarrie - horsehoeresort.jpg

 

 

Gatineau Park, ON

Ottawa's Gatineau Park offers 28 km (17 mi) of fat bike trails. The trails are rated intermediate to moderate and are perfect for experienced fat bikers looking for a bit of a challenge.

 

Kouchibouguac National Park, NB

With over 16 km (10 mi) of groomed fat bike trails, Kouchibouguac is the perfect place for winter riding through a beautiful Acadian forest landscape. Fat bikes are available for rent at the Pijeboogwek Shelter and the park even hosts a Fat Bike Festival in March.

 

Fat Bike Etiquette

While fat biking, it is important to remember that snowshoers, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers have been using the trails for much longer than you – fat biking is a very new sport. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to avoid conflict and be an ambassador for the sport. Here are some things to consider:

 

Yield to skiers and snowshoers. Skiers have no brakes and should be given the right-of-way.

 

Keep your tire pressure below 10 PSI. Overinflated tires can form deep ruts in the trail, and low tire pressure will keep your riding smooth anyways.

 

Do not ride if the temperature is above 0° C (32° F). Warmer temperatures can cause your fatbike to create ruts in the trail, ruining the trail experience for other users.

 

Stick to designated trails. In order for fat biking to grow, respect needs to be shown to the established winter sport community.  

 

Many of the best places to fat bike in Canada can be found in our Backroad Mapbooks and Backroad GPS Maps. Our Mapbooks and GPS products are state-of-the-art navigational tools that will get you to your fat biking zone of choice with confidence. Dress warm, tell a friend where you are going before you head out and, most importantly, have fun!

 

Have you been fat biking? Let us know in the comments!