Fat bikes were conceived for extreme races in the dead of the Alaskan winter. Now, a once-niche pursuit has migrated across the continent, flourishing in the freeze-thaw conditions that pose problems for traditional winter sports such as skiing. For Peter deMos (above), whose Liv Outside, a Bracebridge, Ont., outdoors centre, was an early adopter, fat bikes are the ultimate ride for cottage country. “There is no down season,” he says. “You can ride anywhere on snow, ice, and mud.” Cottager, Conor Mihell, answers some questions about the popular outdoor activity.
What was your initial impression of fat bikes? I first thought, This isn’t going anywhere. I didn’t see how bigger tires would make much of a difference in snow. At the time, there weren’t any dedicated trails.
What changed your mind? I love to be the first person to try something, so in 2008 we started importing fat bikes from Alaska, and I spent the winter commuting on one. Not having to give up cycling—it felt like I was getting away with something. Turns out, the giant tires let you do stuff you never thought was possible. I was like, “This is the best way to spend winter!”
What’s the appeal for cottagers? Fat bikes are easier to ride on technical terrain because you’ve got more grip, more stability, and can ride slower. It’s an adventure bike that’s fun year-round. And there’s a growing fat-biking social group in cottage country. We have a land partnership and groom 6.5 km of dedicated fat-bike trails. Similar things are happening at nordic ski areas and on snowshoe trails across Ontario.
How much does it cost? Don’t spend less than $1,200—if you go cheaper it will cost you more later in components that wear out. But my advice is to rent a bike first and, if you like it, invest in the sport.