Why I Purchased A Fatbike

I first learned about fatbikes many years ago when living in Houghton in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A local rider picked one up and used it to commute into town. I'd occasionally see this person riding in the snow along the highway into town and I couldn't help but think... Why!

I assumed that for this person cycling was their primary activity and that riding through the winter provided a way to maximize and maintain their fitness for the summer riding season. For me though... I always liked the change in seasons and related changes in activities. When I lived in the U.P. spring was for road riding and nordic skiing while it lasted. Late spring/early summer (bug season) was kayaking/road riding. Summer was for mountain biking and kayaking. Fall was for mountain biking and climbing. And winter was for ice climbing and downhill/nordic skiing. At that time, and ever since... I've had plenty of other activities to keep my busy during the winter so I never seriously considered a fatbike.

Enter 2020/21 and the Covid-19 pandemic...

When the pandemic came storming in it quickly became apparent during the summer that recreating outdoors was going to be a bit different. Here on the East Coast, with travel restricted, everyone was jonesing to do something. And, it seemed like everyone took this opportunity to discover all of the great outdoor recreation opportunities available in the area. This summer trailheads were jammed, and trails were busier than ever!

I started getting into bikepacking a couple of years ago, and this past summer I turned to bikepacking as a way to get out and explore from my doorstep. We have a ton of dirt roads here in Vermont and a bike is the perfect way to enjoy these routes and see what there is to see.

As winter approached I started thinking about how I could keep this going. I knew that skiing at the resorts was going to be a cluster due to new restrictions and rules related to the pandemic. I also knew that backcountry skiing on the weekends was going to be challenging due to increased interest and a very high likelihood that trailhead parking would constantly be full. With two young kids at home if a window of opportunity presents itself you have to be ready to take advantage.

The closest resort and backcountry area for me is about a 35 minute drive away when the roads are in good shape. Factor in prep times and you're looking at 1.5-2 hours just to get to and from an outing. Even for a short ski tour I would need to budget 3.5-4 hours and I just don't often have this kind of time. Upon realizing this I started thinking about other alternatives.

First my thoughts went to nordic skiing. Here in Burlington there are a number of places one can get out on nordic skis close to town. However, nordic skiing requires snow and during my time living here the only thing that has been consistent is how inconsistent the snowpack/weather are in this area. So, I kept thinking.

Eventually, my search led me to fatbiking. There are actually a number of groomed trail systems close to home, then there is the bikepath which isn't all that exciting in the summer, but once it's covered in snow and ice becomes more interesting. It also runs along the lake, and once the lake freezes I'm hoping that it will provide some fun opportunities. On top of this there are a number of parks with trails appropriate for fatbikes, and it's possible to put together a 15-20 mile ride, about half of which is on trail, right from home. Additionally... while I typically commute on foot or bike everyday during the warmer months, during the winter I do end up driving more often than I'd like. Maybe a fatbike could turn that around a bit. Lastly, I don't mind winter camping and have identified a number of trips I'm hoping to sprinkle in throughout the winter. I've even found a nice stealth camping location not far from home with a view of the lake!

I ended up purchasing a 2021 Rocky Mountain Blizzard 10 from the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington. It seemed like a great value, and so far I've been super happy with it. I did make some changes. I sold my first-born so I could afford to buy a pair of 45NRTH Wrathlorde tires. These are super aggressive studded tires and with all of the freeze/thaw we see they have already been worth the investment. I also added an Old Man Mountain Rack, purchased a set of Revelate Nano Panniers, and made a framebag and a couple of other bags so that I could easily carry all of the gear needed to comfortably winter camp.

At this point I'd say I'm completely sold. Trail riding on groomed fatbike trails is blast, and jumping on the fatbike is the perfect way to get some exercise when I have a couple of hours (more time than I want to spend running, and not enough time to go skiing). It's the end of the first week in February and I've already completed 3 overnight trips and I'm hoping to get in 2-4 more before the season is over.

So, was it worth it... Definitely Yes.

Stay tuned... I plan to share more about my experiences, about my setup, and some tips and tricks I've picked up related to winter fatbikecamping.