December 1, 2016
By Kris Parfitt
Photo at right: Well-prepared fat-tire bikers ride on part of the 200-kilometer trail system in the Methow Valley. Photo courtesy Methow Trails
Versatile and capable of going almost anywhere, fat-tire bikes are a great way to explore snowy backcountry, single-track trails and powder-piled meadows. For a safe and enjoyable adventure, check out this guide of 10 things to know before you ride.
1. Check Weather Conditions
Know before you go and check the weather forecast for where you plan to ride. This will help you prepare your wardrobe and know what to bring.
2. Don’t Trespass
Recognize private-property boundaries on your map and in the area where you’re riding. Some trails may be on, or pass through, private property. Respect the rules and regulations posted or stated by a land owner and manager.
3. Get Geared Up
Is your bike ready to ride? Are your tires in good condition? Bring an extra tire tube and pump. Fresh batteries in your front and rear lights and clean reflectors provide better visibility for other snow enthusiasts and vehicles sharing the same road or trail.
4. Dress Wisely
Base – Dress in layers and bring a backpack to hold the clothing you shed when you warm up. Remember that cotton holds moisture next to the skin, so use wools or synthetic wicking fibers to manage your body temperature.
External – Pack a shell made of waterproof or water-resistant material that also provides adequate breathability and is longer in the back to keep your backside dry on wet, slushy trails.
5. Stay Warm
Head – Wear a helmet liner (wool or synthetic) to keep your head warm under your helmet, or a cap with a visor when it’s raining. A balaclava or scarf is handy to filter cold air from your lungs and helps keep your neck warm.
Hands – Any cold-weather riding glove or cross-country ski glove will keep your hands dry and warm and allow easy dexterity to work brakes and gears. Insulated covers for hands that fit over the handlebars ensure warm, dry hands.
Feet – Most fat-tire bikers swear by hiking boots with thick socks and gaiters.
6. Fuel Up
Hydration – Biking is an aerobic activity and wearing layers traps heat, producing more sweat. Cold air is usually dry and can decrease the moisture in your breath. Insulated water bottles or a water bladder filled with warm water helps keep your hydration system from freezing in cold temps.
Food – Stay well-fueled by eating a meal before you go on your ride and bring sufficient snacks to keep you satiated on the trail and in case of an unexpectedly longer ride.
7. Carry Emergency Gear
Accidents happen and poorly marked trails can cause confusion. Be prepared for anything that goes wrong by bringing the Mountaineers recommended 10 Essentials.
8. Bring a Map
Green Trails Maps provides waterproof maps for almost anywhere in the Northwest. If you’re relying on GPS technology, download your maps before you go and check cell coverage in the areas where you’re riding.
9. Invite Friends
Riding is more fun when you’re with friends. Bring a buddy or two and enjoy the ride together. If something goes wrong, you’ll have safety backup as well.
10. Share Your Plans
Regardless of whether you’re riding with friends or going solo, always tell someone where and when you’re going, and an estimate of when you’ll return.