“Fat Bikes” Make Cycling Possible, Regardless of Weather or Terrain

fat-bikeIt’s no secret that NYC weather can be erratic, especially in the weeks leading up to spring. Sometimes the weather can be picture perfect, other times it can revert quickly to winter-esque, complete with chilling winds– and even snow. Urbanites who love biking are affected by this weather twofold and often must add various accessories and precautions to make their bikes weather-friendly.

However, the Fat Bike could be the answer to these inconsistent inconveniences. This bike, featuring oversized “fat” tires is ideal for off-roading as well as riding in unstable terrain like snow, sand and mud. These bikes can take on any environment, from a snowy muddy mountainside to a swerving, pothole-ridden Manhattan road. We asked My City Bikes all about these intriguing cycles and how New Yorkers can take advantage.

What inspired the inception of “Fat Bikes” and how were they created?

Fat Bikes actually started being developed in the 1980s by cyclists in Alaska and New Mexico when mountain biking was gaining popularity. Riders were challenged by the snowy and sandy conditions and started experimenting with a wider tire footprint that could better handle the terrain. Wider tires have less rolling resistance. That “fat” width of the rim and tire is what gives Fat Bikes their name. A Fat Bike tire can be around 2.5 inches wide, compared to the a road biking tire (the thinnest) at around 27mm or a mountain biking tire around 2 inches.

How can they be purchased/ utilized in NYC?

Local bike shops like 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn are the best place to get a fat bike. That way you can go for a “test ride” and mechanics can adjust the bike to fit your body. 718 Cyclery is a part of the My City Bikes alliance of beginner-friendly bike shops, which means that they are a shop that has committed to providing a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for riders at all experience levels and specialize in the unique needs of beginners. They also have a lot of experience and support for commuter bikes. They can help customize something like a fat bike so that it can be used to commute and mountain bike, which is more practical for most people than having 2 separate bikes.

The unique thing about Fat Biking besides its practicality for challenging conditions like snow, rocks and sand is that it is incredibly comfortable. The bikes are a statement unto themselves, and in a place like NYC with potholes and uneven pavement riding a fatbike is like driving a luxury car compared to the bumps and jolts a bike commuter encounters on a road or commuter bike. They’re not for everyone, and *disclaimer* they’re not as fast as a road bike, but for the people who enjoy them they are a pleasure for urban bike commuting.

Do you have any additional advice for bikers who want to continue cycling in the snow?

Wear a helmet. Wear layers. Wear sunscreen. If mountain biking always follow trail instructions and guidelines in any season to stay safe and help keep the trails in good condition. If commuter cycling always follow traffic guidelines (stop at red lights and stop signs, use hand signals to indicate turns, etc).

-by Johanna Silver

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