International Fatbike Day (and 2012 Holiday Gift guide/SOTI part one)

It’s designation was no more than a matter of chat-room consensus, but today is the first annual (?) International Fatbike Day. Let us celebrate.

Yes, the appropriate word is fatbike, not fat bike (just like packraft).

The scheduling is appropriate, considering that fatter-tired bikes are perhaps the most exciting innovation which happened in outdoor gear this year. From the knobby Nate, Bud and Lou tires to the Krampus platform, more and more niches in the >2.5″ arena are being covered. So the only thing the adventurous cyclist in your life needs is the opportunity to figure out which is best for her, and therefore fatbike tires are the number one outdoor adventure gift this season. Increasingly expensive, not always the most exciting purchase, but without question the most important thing on your bike and thus something both useful and novel. Or go full-on and give the new On-One Fatty, the best value going on a complete fatbike.

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I continue to be quite pleased with Big Fat Larry and plain Marge rims. The very rounded profile of the large tires on relatively skinny rims makes them respond very differently at different pressures. At higher pressures and especially on harder surfaces, the contact patch can be barely 2 inches wide, and thus quite speedy. Fat bikes aren’t road bikes, but it’s nice to blitz the plowed road, then drop pressure and ride through the snow until conditions stop you. By then the snow is usually deep enough to start skiing.

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Drop pressure and on harder surfaces, like sand and cobbles, the footprint spreads out consistently. While this remains true on harder snow, in soft and marginally rideable fluff my tires tend to knife in a bit before they spread out. For pure snow riding wider rims would be ideal, but I don’t regret going with the burlier rims and more versatile tire profile. I can drop pressure and bottom out the tire on cobbles with little fear of rim damage, and the rounder profile rides well on dirt.

I’ve had a lot of fun outdoors this year, but the early spring gravel riding in the above videos is high on the list as best-of 2012. Alas, for my International Fatbike day ride I’ll be visiting some muddy singletrack. Early summer floods carved out the channel I had to wade to access the play area in the first video. What was knee deep is now well over the head, and when I visited a few months ago via the backway I had to scoot through someones yard to avoid swimming. The complete down-river trip shown in the second video, from Pressentine down to the old steel bridge for any locals, goes with 4-5 packraft crossings once you have the route dialed. It will be in prime condition once the river level bottoms out next month.

Fatbiking; try it. You might find something nifty.

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