My Favorite Winter Fatbike Gear-Part 1

Winter is finally here and and that opens up a lot of new opportunities to ride fatbikes.  Some of these opportunities are made even better with the right gear.  This will be my fifth year of winter cycling and I have a few favorite items that help make fatbiking out on the snow and ice much more enjoyable. 

Crank Brothers Double Shot pedals

Riding in slippery or technical conditions while clipped in can be a bit unnerving for some whether you're a commuter or a fatbike enthusiast.  For those that want to clip in some or most of the time while having the option of a flat, there's the Crank Brothers Double Shot pedals.  This hybrid pedal is flat on one side with moulded pins and ribs for grip and clipless on the other side that can be set up with the included cleats for a 15 or 20 degree release angle.  This is my go-to pedal for winter because it gives me the confidence of a flat when I need it for technical or icy sections.  Clipping back in after using the flat side is as easy as rotating the crank arm one half revolution and stepping on until clipped.  Crank Brother Double Shot Pedals are available from Crank Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $89.

Bontrager Barbegazi Tires

For the big flotation of a high volume fatbike tire, I really like the Bontrager Barbegazi.  This beefy tire comes in two sizes, 26x4.7 and 27.5x4.5 depending on which wheel size you're running.  I have mine set up on a pair of 26x80mm Mulefut 80 SL wheels and even with their massive width, I still have enough chainline clearance on my Trek Farley.  For off the beaten path, adventure riding and deeper snow where flotation and lower pressures are key, the Barbegazi really excels and is my number one choice for these conditions.  Its wide footprint with aggressive tread pattern and Tubeless-ready design make it a perfect tire for snowy Minnesota winters.  Available from Trek, Penn Cycle and other Authorized Trek Retailers for $119.99 each.

Orange Seal Subzero

Going tubeless for winter riding allows you to run lower pressures for the conditions without the risk of pinch flats which can happen when using tubes.  If you're like me, riding in the extreme cold is common and I want a tubeless sealant that will still perform in sub-zero conditions.  With Orange Seal Subzero Tubeless Sealant in my TLR tires I don't worry about it freezing up and not working.  Orange Seal Subzero is available in 8 and 16 oz. bottles for $14.49 and $21.99 from Orange Seal, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Multiple Wheelsets

Swapping out tires can be a pain, especially if you have them set up tubeless.  For this reason I have built two extra wheelsets instead of buying another bike so I have the freedom of choosing the wheel/tire combo for the trail conditions.  For fast hardpack I have a pair of Bontrager Hodags (27.5x3.8) mounted on Mulefut 50 SL wheels, for deep snow and bushwhacking I'm ready with Bontrager Barbegazis (26x4.7) on Mulefut 80 SL wheels and for the icy stuff I will be mounting a pair of the new Bontrager Gnarwhal (27.5x4.5) studded tires on my Jackalope wheels as soon as they are available. Switching out wheelsets is easy and only takes about 5 minutes giving me the option of the right tire for the conditions.  Wheelsets can be expensive but you'll love the freedom of choice they give you not only in the winter, but year round.  Visit your local bike shop to discuss a wheel build that works within your budget.

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2016 MN Global Fat Bike Day Events

Global Fat-Bike Day is a worldwide grassroots campaign that started four years ago to bring people from the fatbike community together to ride and make new friends.  In honor of Global Fat-Bike Day there are several rides scheduled here in Minnesota on December 3rd that you may want to get in on as well as the Winter Bike Expo, and the Superfat Crit.  I have complied a list of them so you can get your "fat on" and ride with others of the "well-endowed tire crowd".

COGGS will be holding their 2016 Global Fat Bike Day Ride in Duluth with a meet up at 8am and ride at 9am with multiple ride lengths.

Nicollet Bike in Mankato will be hosting their Global Fat Bike Day 2016 group ride from 1:30pm to 4:30pm starting from the shop. "Riders of ALL levels are welcome! This is a no drop ride and will be very social.  There will be a social gathering after the ride with some refreshing treats! Hope to see all of you there!!!"

The Woolly Bike Club has decided to move their Global Fat-Bike Day 2016 group ride adventure  from the Woolly singletrack to the "Sand Barrens north of St. Croix Falls, where weather is not going to be a factor.  This ride will be a 20ish mile loop, and should take between 2 and 3 hours. This will be an unsupported, no-drop casual-paced ride, with as many rest breaks as necessary. The course can be easily short-cut, or modified to keep us within the 2-3 hour time frame." 

The adventure begins from the Wolf Creek Bar in St. Croix Falls, WI at 9am and will cover all types of terrain along the way.  The ride will conclude at the Wolf Creek Bar for food and beverages afterward.

Trailhead Cycling is hosting their Global Fat Bike Day Ride at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park in Coon Rapids at 10am.  "Global Fat Bike Day! Everyone grab a fattie and join us for a super fun ride at the Coon Rapids Regional Park off West River Road. there are trails along the river bottoms, as well as trails across west river road at the BP environmental area. feeling like a longer ride? follow the Rush Creek trail (there is a single-track trail along side the paved trail) that (almost) takes one to Omni Brewing! Food truck day!! bring a fat bike, helmet, lights (hey, it gets dark early) and some $$. FATNESS!!!"

Join Tonka Cycle & Ski for their Global Fat Bike Day Ride that starts at 11am from the shop parking lot in Minnetonka.  "There will be 3 different groups (speeds) Mellow, Mid Mellow and Fast."  A limited number of fat bikes are available for rent and can be reserved online.  Free beer and brats will be available under the Tonka tent after the ride.

The Global fat bike day ride will leave the Touright Bicycle Shop in Little Falls at 10am.  "Come celebrate global fat bike day. Free fat bike rentals first to reserve. We will ride form the bike shop to Lindbergh state park. Hopefully snow will be good. Pizza, coffee and donuts available for energy. If you are interested come on out. Great time to try that fat bike fad you keep hearing about."

Global Fat Bike Day with Downtown Bicycles will start from their shop in Northfield at 2pm for a ride around town and then back to the shop for refreshments.  This is the 3rd annual Global Fat Bike Day ride that Downtown Bicycles has hosted.

Salsa Cycles Global Fatbike Day River Bottoms Ride will begin at the Henry H. Sibley House in Mendota at 10am.  This family friendly event will require a participation waiver to be signed by all who attend.  "Salsa sponsored rider and musician Ben Weaver will perform a short set at some point during the ride.  Conditions will most likely keep us from riding the River Bottoms trail, but we will still have a ride. The route will be determined day of. Be there!"   For updates, check the discussion section of the event page.

Women on Wheels Liv/Giant and Trailhead Cycling will host Women's Global Fat Bike Day Ride with a meet up at the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park.  "Meet at 10 am. we'll ride along the river bottoms. It's a fun place to explore on your fat bike. the ride will last about one hour. For those that want to ride loger; we'll pedal over to Omni Brewing in Maple Grove. There is a single - track trail that parallels the Rush Creek trail. bring some $$ for food truck and liquid refreshments. Lights recommended (it gets dark early) Helmets and Fat Tire Bike required."

Image Credit: Freewheel Bike

The Winter Bike Expo presented by Freewheel Bike returns for its sixth year December 3rd & 4th to the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center.  The expo draws hearty cyclists from all over to see and demo all that manufacturers have to offer for winter commuters & fatbikers.  Admission is free and the fun kicks off at 9 am each day.  Winter biking seminars will be held throughout both days and there will be fatbike demos, raffles and beer!  For a schedule of events, visit the Winter Bike Expo link above.

Image Credit: Freewheel Bike

Stick around after the Winter Bike Expo on Saturday night for the Superfat Crit, a criterium race for fatbikes set up on a feature laden course along the railroad trench of the Midtown Greenway.  Racers must have fat tires of at least 3.7" or wider and lights since the race will be conducted in the dark.  Racing starts at 6:00pm and entry requires you to bring "a pack of something to share with your new friends."  Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is located at 2834 10th Ave. S. in Minneapolis right on the Midtown Greenway.

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Thanksgiving Weekend Bike Events in Minnesota

Burn off some calories from your feast over this Thanksgiving weekend at one of these upcoming events.  There are several rides and a cyclocross race going on around Minnesota you can join in on.

The Turkey Day Fatbike Ride takes place on Thanksgiving morning at the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington.  This group ride will give you a chance to get out of the house for a fatbike ride through the floodplain forest of the Minnesota River in the morning and have you home in time for your feast.  The ride will start at 8am and last about 2 1/2 to 3 hours encompassing multiple areas along the Minnesota River.  You will have to "Bring everything you need to get yourself out of a jam as you are responsible for you."  Ride details will be updated on the Facebook Event page.

The Black Friday Ride is based on Koochella Racing's Black Friday Ride.  "Meet up at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Vis Center Parking Lot ( 3815 American Blvd E, Bloomington, MN 55425) at 10:45 for an 11am roll out. Plan on a no-drop fun cruise. Run what ya brung - fat, cross, mountain, tevs. Be prpared for beer and snack stops - bring stuff! Dress for success. We'll ride 'til we don't want to and go where interest dictates. A post-ride migration to The Midtown Global Market for Taco Cat and East Lake beer should probably happen. If anyone has a venue for an evening bonfire and wants to step up, that person would be the star of the day."

Turkey Vengeance is a group ride that will be held on Black Friday so you can ride your bike instead of participating in the madness at the malls. This ride hosted by Ride Like a Girl Cycling's Teri Holst and Mel Cherry is open to everyone that would like to attend.  Taking place at the Minnesota River Bottoms from the Lyndale Ave. parking lot near the 35W bridge on the Bloomington side of the river, the meet up will be at 12pm with a roll out at 12:15.  Mountain bikes or fatbikes and helmets are required.  There will also be a Penn Cycle Otso Demo at the same time if you would like to test ride one of the new Otso Voytek fatbikes.

The second annual Joyful Riders Club: The Leftovers Ride will be held on Black Friday with the start point at Surly Brewing Company in Minneapolis.  The meet up will be at 4pm with the ride starting at 4:30 and lasting until around 8pm, so bring your bike lights for this one.

The "Pie Burner" Thanksgiving Weekend FatBike Ride is now in its fourth year and will start and finish at Palmer's Tavern in Hibbing.   "the Pie Burner Thanksgiving Weekend FatBike Ride has a ride fee..... a simple donation of new unused toys, books or stocking suffers.... or a cash or check donation. These donations stay local, and help underprivileged children have a bit more of an enjoyable holiday season." 

The ride will have two route options to choose from, 15 or 30 miles.  Fatbikes or plus bikes are recommended for the terrain and possible snow conditions along the route.  Full details can be found at the Facebook Event Page and my post, The Pie Burner Thanksgiving Weekend FatBike Ride Returns for Fourth Year.

Cross Fer Tots-will be held on Sunday, November 27th at the Cambridge City Park in Cambridge from 10am to 1pm.  "A great way to wrap up the Minnesota cyclocross season by helping with the Toys for Tots fundraiser with Cross Fer Tots."  Additional information and updates can be found on the Cross Fer Tots Facebook page.


Get Phat With Pat Winter Fatbike Races Return to the MN River Bottoms for 5th Year

Penn Cycle & Fitness will hold their annual Get Phat With Pat Fatbike Races for the fifth year at the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington on January 21st and January 28th, 2017.  They are co-sponsored by and are a part of the Bloomington Winter Fete.

The Details: 

Both races will be held at the Russell A Sorenson Landing at the end of Lyndale Ave. S. in Bloomington, MN underneath the 35W bridge.  Registration will start and 9 am the morning of each race and closes 30 minutes prior to race start. Registration will require a $10 entry fee and also a $5 donation to MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists) which will help the non-profit volunteer organization pay for trail maintenance, equipment and fund their 2017 season.

Fat bikes (3.8” tires and wider) are recommended.  Spectators are encouraged and welcome!  There will be three race classes for each race day; Beginner, Recreational and Advanced.  The Beginner class race will start at 10:15 am, the Recreational class race starts at 10:00 am and the Advanced class race starts at 12 noon.  Distance and laps for each race class yet to be determined based on the course layout.

Start and Finish will be under the 35W bridge with the course heading west on existing trails and some new sections.  Lap will be a loop with one section of trail heading out and another heading back.  Lap distances and number of laps for each race class to be determined based on trail conditions.  An agreement with the City of Bloomington will allow many temporary sections of trail for the races.  The race course will be groomed and ready to ride one week before the first race.  Riding the temporary course once established is encouraged to pack down the trail.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers in each category.  There will be plenty of swag given away to race participants at the conclusion of each day's races.  A Grand Prize Drawing (prize yet to be determined) will be held at the January 28th race for race participants*.  All prize winners must be present to claim their prizes.  *To be eligible for the Grand Prize you must race in both races.

Get Phat with Pat will not only be fun but the weather will also make it challenging as we saw at the second race last year.  Thanks to Pat Sorensen and Penn Cycle & Fitness for organizing these races and the City of Bloomington for allowing them to take place at the Minnesota River Bottoms.  I'll see you there.

For more information and updates on the races visit the Get Phat With Pat Race #1 and Get Phat With Pat Race #2 event pages on Facebook.


Product Review: SKS Fatboard Fender Set

When I first saw the SKS Fatboard Fender Set at Interbike in 2015 I knew this was a product I had to do some field testing with.  So I contacted SKS-USA and requested a sample for a review and they were kind enough to send a set out, but with a warning on the package.

For those of you unfamiliar with this product, it is a two-piece reinforced plastic fender set that measures 5.5 inches wide by 19 inches long.  The front fender mounts on the downtube using straps with Velcro fasteners that will fit just about any tube shape.  The rear fender has a tool-free quick-release powerstrap attachment system that mounts to the seatpost with a two-hinge arm to fit any bike's geometry.  These fenders work with tires up to 5 inches wide and weigh in at 353 grams.

I wanted to put them to the test in a wide variety of conditions, so I took some time throughout the following year to see how they performed.  This would include mostly wet conditions during the Winter, Spring and Fall.  All types of terrain were ridden during this testing period including pavement, groomed winter singletrack, gravel and places where there were no trails.

My first experiences would be on some wet commutes to work on warm December days.  Wet pavement and puddles were everywhere along my route and those big tires can really kick up water, especially when rolling fast. As far as keeping me dry in these riding conditions, they did the trick so I didn't have to worry about all of that pavement spray getting on me.

In the early Spring when the singletrack is too wet to ride I switch my focus to gravel.  With all of the Spring melt the roads can get a bit messy and I prefer not to get covered with that peanut butter gravel mud.  As you may know, Minnesota Springs can be windy and when riding into a headwind, the front fender did act a little like a sail and slowed me down a bit, but the benefit of not having mud kicked up into my face was worth it.

This Fall in Minnesota has been very wet and my local singletrack has had frequent closures so I tend to venture to some spots where I can ride that won't cause trail damage.  This is where the Fatboard Fender Set was really put to the test.  Lots of puddles, sand and mud would have normally covered me on these rides, but I'm glad I had these fenders on.

They provided plenty of coverage whether I was rolling plus (27.5x2.8), fat (27.5x3.8) or really fat (26x4.7).

For the really wet conditions, my feet still did take on the occasional big splash but I found that if I wore neoprene shoe covers my feet would stay warm and dry.  In colder conditions I would wear my 45NRTH W√∂lvhammer boots which are waterproof making wet feet a non-issue.

With a significant amount of time for testing, the SKS Fatboard Fender Set performed well in regards to keeping me dry and relatively mud free.  Installation is quick and the two-hinge arm for the rear fender made it easy to get the right positioning, even with a seat bag installed.  The rigid reinforced plastic used in the fenders was strong so I didn't have to worry about cracking them during freezing conditions to knock the ice off.

They did a great job overall and I no longer ride messy conditions without strapping them on. Would I recommend them to my fatbike friends? Definitely yes.  I have had other fatbike fenders in the past and these are by far the best I have tried.  If you're a fatbiker that likes to ride everything, you'll want to add these to your fatbike arsenal.

The SKS Fatboard Fender Set is available at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $55.

Disclosure:  SKS-USA provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.


MN River Bottoms Flooding Update

If you've been down to the Minnesota River Bottoms in the last few weeks you may have come come across some of the flooded out sections of the trail that were impassable.  Since the Old Cedar Ave. Bridge opened up a little while back, I have ridden the East Segment (Cedar Ave. to 35W) several times only to have to turn around when the trail disappeared under water.

I've never seen the water so high in the East Segment where one of the creeks from the marsh runs into the Minnesota River.  There are two small bridges that cross the creek leading the trail to the Lyndale Ave. parking lot near 35W that were completely underwater until recently.

This was the end of the line until the flood waters receded.  With the recent dry weather and warm sunny days the water level of the river and creeks in the floodplain has gone down significantly.

Slowly the two bridges in the East Segment began to emerge from under the water making this section passable once again.

Both bridges are high and dry now opening up passage all the way to Nine Mile Creek on the west side of 35W.

River levels that were once flowing high along the banks have dropped several feet eroding some of the dirt close to the edge of the trail in spots.

The old cottonwood tree bridge at Nine Mile Creek appears to have been cut by someone ruining this crossing many of us have used for the last couple of years.  This was a well traveled crossing point, especially until the creek froze up in the Winter where it was safe to ride across the ice.

The raft ferry installed by the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) is still in place granting access across the creek until it is removed before the water starts to freeze later this Fall.  Once across the creek, bikers and walkers can follow the trails all the way to the Bloomington Ferry Unit parking lot.

If you are looking to get in a ride through the floodplain forest that is the Minnesota River Bottoms, there are several access points where you can start from.  There is a Minnesota River Bottoms Google Maps that will show you your options.  Now that the Old Cedar Ave. Bridge is open, I like to park at the lot on the Bloomington side of the bridge which is accessible on Old Cedar Ave. from Old Shakopee Road.

For current updates throughout the Minnesota River Bottoms visit the MORC MN River Bottoms Trail Conditions page.  The Faturday group ride on Saturday mornings has started up again and will continue through the winter if you would like to experience this area with some other riders who know the trails.  Information for the Faturday rides can be found on the MORC Group Rides Forum and the MN Fatbike Group Rides page on Facebook.

Get down to this wilderness in the heart of the city and enjoy while Fall still graces us. Winter will be here soon, then comes a different kind of fatbike fun.
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