TELLURIDE - The relatively new sport of fat biking has taken off in Telluride, and we’ll never look back.
Until fatties came to town, mountain biking was largely relegated to the summer and early fall.
Now, with the advent of fat-tire bikes, locals and visitors alike can rejoice at the abundance of mountain-biking opportunities, year-round!
Chances are you’ve seen these bikes around town. Perhaps you gawked, like I did, the first time I saw one in Alaska. They are a fixture outside of Bootdoctors and Gravity Works, two popular sports shops on Main Street. And if you’ve walked through town, you’ve already seen some sort of fat-tire rig cruising easily along the snow-packed and icy streets while pedestrians flounder and cars fishtail.
Fat biking has become ingrained in the local culture much the same way skiing has, albeit on a smaller, slightly different scale. As a form of winter commuting, it is unbeatable. As longtime local and fat-bike enthusiast Gary Hastings says, “I feel a lot safer on my fat bike than I do walking or driving.” Fat bikes offer traction, stability and maneuverability on packed snow and ice, they aren’t as heavy as they look (in fact, they are generally within a few pounds of regular full suspension bikes), and they can be accessorized in a variety of ways to carry a ton of gear for work and play.
Aside from commuting, fat bikes have basically opened up a whole new world, to those looking to either expand their mountain-biking seasons to year-round, and to those looking to explore the mountains in the winter in a newer, faster way.
If you’re in from out of town, take a day off from skiing and rent a fat bike from Telluride Gravity Works or Bootdoctors, on Main Street and go exploring.
On a ride to Telluride Brewing Company along the Valley Floor Trail I found myself picking up more speed than I ever had on a regular mountain bike ride, reassured by the fact that I had pillows of the fluffy white stuff to wreck in rather than exposed rocks and roots. Wooded trails gave way to open meadows framed by the white, jagged peaks of the San Juans. The usual fear that turns me into a stiff, pucker-faced sourpuss when I get on anything with two wheels was nowhere to be found on this ride. And nothing could have been a better accent to the ride than a dark, strong brew at TBC.
Bootdoctors offers guided brewery rides for $99, where you will not only have a guide leading the way, you will also work on skill building and enjoy a van shuttle back to town after a deliciously strong beer or three. If you’d rather save the money and ride to the beat of your own drum, stop into Gravity Works and rent one of the new Kona Wo fat-tire bikes, and have one of their experienced local staff point you in the direction of the brewery.
For the more hardcore bikers, rent some fatties and check out some of the local trails. On an early February fat bike ride on the Meadows trail I found myself in a forest filled with snow-covered aspens, interspersed with flat sections, gentle hills and steep drops. There were even boulders to jump. I was happily surprised by the fact that hike-a-bike was always an option where the trail got too intimidating. And as I watched a more experienced rider barreling through the silence of the woods, darting in and out of trees, I tasted that lovely isolation of the woods in winter and the sensation of fast freedom, something I usually only feel skiing in the backcountry.
Fat biking is a great way to get a workout and stay in shape during the winter. Mark Steer, an emergency room doctor originally from Wisconsin, loves his fat bike for fitness. “In my job, I see what happens to road bikers and I refuse to do it,” he says.
Now, “I can just pedal my fat bike up all the dirt roads around here year-round, without dealing with traffic, and get the same workout I would on a road bike without having to do any super technical trails.”
Fat bikes offer another avenue for those who love staying in shape by exercising outside, but don’t want to be limited to high-impact exercise. There are also a multitude of extremely bright bike-lights available for purchase to make the experience of riding at night pleasant and magical, rather than terrifying.
Which brings me to my last point. Fitness, commuting and sightseeing are all great things. But let’s just talk about the one thing that trumps them all: FUN.
What fat biking boils down to is fun. Ask the locals who gather every Tuesday night in winter and ride their fat bikes for the “Tuesday Night Ride.” Whether they’re finding steep hills to try to cruise down, exploring the Galloping Goose Trail offshoots in the dark (and often having to hike their bikes out of snow-banks) or just doing a quick loop of an established trail, they love and bond over this sport because it is fun.
And this fun, the type of fun best shared when it is cold and snowy, with adventurous friends, no presumptions and plenty of good beer and music, is what Telluride is all about.