The Bike Shoppe

The Bike Shoppe
Your Ogden Utah bike expert since 1976!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fat biking is inconsistent

I've been fat biking for about 4 years now. I've learned a lot about what makes it fun. I've learned a lot more about what makes it not fun. Just like any sport on snow, you can decide you don't like it your first attempt. There are some things you need to know before you can make a decision about whether or not you like fat biking. (There are many more factors that come into play for you to make a decision about whether you should buy a fat bike.)

The biggest factor in enjoying fat biking is managing your expectations. If you expect fat biking to be exactly like mountain biking, you will likely get discouraged unless the conditions are perfect. Comparing fat biking to mountain biking is like comparing cyclocross to road racing. They have similarities, but you will probably spend some time off your bike pushing it. I've spent more time than I care to admit walking a fat bike through snow drifts and fresh snow.

Don't expect the same conditions on the same trail two different days. When it's really cold, the snow can turn into a sugary consistency. If it's warm, the snow turns to mashed potatoes. If the conditions are just right, the trail will pack out and it will get better each time it's ridden. I have never experienced the same conditions two separate days. It is either better or worse, never the same.

On a similar note, you cannot expect the same conditions in the afternoon or evening as in the morning. Winds may pick up, temperatures change, more people use the trails. So if someone says the trails are perfect, give them a try, just keep an open mind because that could change. Often the trail is better on the way back compared to the way there, but could be worse if it doesn't pack down.

Don't expect your skills and abilities to directly transfer from mountain biking to fat biking. If you are a very well rounded rider, you'll be fine. However, even if you are a strong rider on the dirt, riding on the snow could become frustrating. Snow riding requires you to shift your weight to gain and keep traction. You will be forced to learn these skills as well as how to take a slam. The trail can be packed well enough and then you hit a soft spot or get off trail slightly and you find yourself rolling in the deep. Tuck and roll, you'll be fine. It's easier to learn how to take a slam in the snow than on dirt. Change your mindset about what you should be able to do. Be humble about it also. You'll get faster on snow and on dirt.

When you do decide to buy a fat bike, there are some things you should keep in mind to avoid frustrations also. You cannot expect to be able to swap wheels and tires between bikes. This year bikes have started to become more standardized with 190mm or 197mm rear hubs and 150mm front hubs. This allows bikes to have either 4" or 5" tires. But you can still find bikes with 135mm front and rear hubs, or 142mm front hubs and 170mm rear hubs. As long as you are expecting this, you shouldn't be disappointed.

If you want the conditions to be perfect, there are some places that have really figured out how to groom trails. Powder Mountain's Fat Bike Nationals course is amazing, but they do charge for access to it. The cost to keep the trail in fantastic shape is what you're paying for. If you don't want to deal with all of the inconsistencies of fat biking, this is a great way to ensure a better experience. But sometimes the worst experiences become the best memories.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Exercising in an inversion

If you've lived in Northern Utah for long enough, you are well aware of what THE inversion is. Ski resorts will see 40 degree weather, while valleys are stuck in the teens. Inversions are naturally occurring, cold air falls and warm air rises. But it is compounded when particulate matter creates a "lid" on the valley. High pressure systems just scoot over the top of us. Car emissions are the biggest culprit of expediting the magnitude of the inversion, but burning anything is the problem.

If you drive your car during a high pressure weather system, you make things worse. For most reading this, the other transportation option would be riding a bike. However, if you ride your bike during the inversion, you will die...eventually. Exercising in an inversion is often compared to smoking. The particles are small enough that your lungs can't filter them. It also effects you very quickly. You start coughing and it sticks with you for a while. Exposure to this dirty winter air effects people differently, depending on health conditions and development. Sensitive people, such as the elderly and very young or those with respiratory issues, can't handle as much exposure. Exercise accelerates the effects of exposure to the bad air.

It appears that the only option would be to stay home. This will work for those that can telecommute, or those that have found a way to properly work the system. For the rest of us, we need to be able to ride our bikes. Cue Respro masks. Respro makes masks that have filtration systems built in that can filter out very small particles. Last year I rode my bike in to work to help the air quality. You're welcome. The side effect of riding 10 miles was me coughing for the remainder of the day. I decided I should purchase a Respro mask and wore it home. I didn't have the temporary, initial sting in my lungs from the cold. But even more important, I didn't cough when I returned home. I'm sold on it. If you are from Cache Valley, you really should wear a Respro mask all winter.