Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Opinions on fat tire bikes

This article about "Pondering the Point of Snow Bikes..." has been getting some buzz in my usual corners of the interwebs today. I doubt I'm alone in thinking that the author is basing his rather strongly stated opinions on minimal experience coupled with unrealistic expectations and myopic prejudices. Frankly speaking, I've read that blogger's writings on various bike subjects over the years, and have generally seen a similar pattern of sharp criticism and suggestions for technological improvement springing from only the most rudimentary knowledge and experience. It takes all kinds, and the internet is full of kooks, present company excluded, of course. Don't believe everything you read, especially about bikes. My opinion: my Pugsley is quite likely my most versatile bike, and I can do many fun things on it that I can't do on my other bikes. Lots of avid cyclists "don't get it", which is fine with me - I don't "get" the popularity racing road bikes. It's ok.

I loathe the term "snow bikes", because fat tire bikes can be ridden ANYWHERE any other bike can be ridden, in any season. Yes, the fat bikes positively shine in a variety of winter scenarios (but NOT all winter scenarios), but they also work great in sand, loose leaves, tree debris, rocks and loose gravel, and on other surfaces where most cyclists wouldn't consider riding a more conventional bicycle. I've been riding my Pug recently about 30-50 commuting miles per week on paved roads and trails, and it's fine and fun and not nearly as slow and ponderous as an armchair expert might expect.

Some friends and I went for a nice ride on Sunday. First we hit this trail along the river near my house:
In the summer, this trail is sandy, which makes it somewhat hard to ride on a normal bike, but a fat bike rides over sand like it's a paved road.

And we continued down onto the edge of the river, where the "trail" was more like a smattering of human and canine footprints.
This snow wasn't well-packed, and the tires sinking through the crust made it more challenging than the buff single-track we'd just finished riding. But at low pressure of less-than-5psi it was ridable. The know-it-all "fat bikes are a fad" types don't understand how GREAT it is to just ride off in interesting directions, even if nobody has gone through the trouble of building a trail and a parking lot there. I do believe that this surface would have been impossible to ride on a typical, non-fat offroad bike. Under the snow, I happen to know that the river's edge is strewn with large rocks, driftwood, sand, and other debris, making it nearly impossible to ride on a normal bike ANY time of year. Fat tire bikes open up riding opportunities that simply don't exist with other flavors of bikes.

After we completed our loop, we'd worked up a powerful appetite, and settled on lunch at a dive-ish bar in my neighborhood. I chuckled as I imagined what passers-by might think of the collection of bikes we locked up to the light pole outside.


Andy D. said...

After reading, I wonder if the writer even rode a fatbike or just needed to meet an editor's deadline. It reminds me of Jan Heine's myopic butchering of the Big Dummy. I would have a hard time not having fun on my Pugsley, riding anywhere, anytime. I've got a barn full of bikes, including a Stumpjumper FSR (a bike put forth in the article as an ideal for fatbikes to pursue), but for some reason my Pugsley is what I ride most.

The best impression of the experience the writer could come up with was a disjointed mix of a questionable wolf encounter, unnecessary dropper seatposts, a Hummer-like automated tire pressure system, predictable weight complaints, and some unsupported reference to the supposed confusing times of early mountain biking? Sounds like someone missed the point.

Bill C said...

I haven't read his other stuff, but i started tuning out of that fat bike review with the phrase "proper mountain bike". Anyone who needs to have strict definitions of what a bike is or is for is not open-minded enough to just go have fun on a bike for the sake of having fun on a bike.

Joboo said...

I read the article twice, just to make sure I was reading what was said right!!
A 1/3rd of the way through both times, I started hearing the teacher from Charlie Brown; ya know Wa, Wa Wa, Wa Wa Wa!!
It is what it is, there's lots and lots of D-Bags that don't get it, or think they think they do.
I choose to let them be, I'm way to busy pedaling my heavy, slow, unconventional big pig of a Pugsley around and LOVING EVERY DAMN MINUTE OF IT!!
Pedal On!!

Anonymous said...

I experimented briefly with Fat-Snow bikes two years ago. While I appreciate that this category of bike has a loyal (if not rabid) following,I simply do not relate to this style of riding. I struggled terribly with the enormous Q factor that these rigs sport - when I first pressed my Pugsley (owned for less then two weeks) into service,I was shocked at the acute angle that my leg formed in order to place my foot on the pedal. Also - while I was not expecting s spirited ride, the almost total lack of 'responsiveness' when applying power was difficult to adapt to. It quite frankly removed all of the fun that I have come to associate with sport cycling. I returned home tired, sore and deflated from my effort. I felt as though I was churning out a tremendous amount of watts with little to show for my effort in terms of speed. I am utterly perplexed that so many cyclists swear by their fat-snow bikes! I know that this my be an unpopular view, but I felt I should give an honest review of my own experience with this category. I have since returned to lightweight bicycles that reward my input with speed and agility. I return now from my rides filled with the same joy that I had the first time I mounted a quality racing machine. Light, responsive and fun. Thank you for letting me voice my view, Jim.

Sophia Hodgson said...

Good point! Just because fat tire bikes are mostly ridden during the winter season, it does not mean that it cannot be used anytime and in any scenario. Thank you for coming up with this discussion.

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