Explore winter on a Fat Bike
In this blog post, we’ll point you in the right direction when it comes to asking questions like what is a fat bike, why fat tires on bikes, which fatbike to choose and what to wear in fat biking. We’ll also give you some suggestions on Garneau bikes and kits for the most common conditions of winter fat biking.
What is Fat Biking
Depending on your geographical location, fat biking can be something of a necessity, an optional activity, or a great mystery! One thing is for certain though: since its inception many years ago fat bike riding has proven to be a style of riding that’s going to stick around! Whether it’s commuting in the snow, riding on the beaches, winter mountain biking, or reaping the benefits of wide tires, fat biking offers us everything from utilitarian purpose to all-out winter shred sessions. If you’re thinking about getting into the sport, be sure to check out the article that our friends at Bicyling.com put together.
Why fat tires on bikes?
Fat biking got its name from the use of wide, or “fat”, tires. Traditional mountain bike tires are typically 2”-3” wide, where fat bike tires can range from 4”-6” or more. This originally came out of the need to have wider tires to get over varying loose terrain. When riding in snow that’s not hardpacked or on sand, a traditional tire width of 2”-3” sinks into the ground and makes it nearly impossible to pedal. There was a need for cyclists who lived in these types of environments to create this evolution of the bike, thus enabling them to get around more efficiently.
Fat Bikes originally started showing up in Alaska and New Mexico in the late 70’s / early 80’s. For an in-depth history of Fat Biking, check out this great article from the Adventure Cycling Association.
Related: A Brief History of Fat Bikes
With the evolution of modern mountain bike geometry, fat biking has gained in popularity over the last 10 years. The older versions of fat bikes were cumbersome to turn, slow to move from edge to edge, and all out burley to handle. Today you’ll find Fat Bikes with tubeless tires, 1X drivetrains, shorter chainstays, slacker head tube angles, and longer top tubes. Simply put, this modern technology and design has created fat bikes that climb amazingly well, descend and corner with ease, are easy to ride, and are all out FUN to be on.
This has enabled fatbiking to be experienced far past the snow and sand of its early days. Today it’s common to see fat bikes on regular mountain bike trails in the summer, on gravel rides, commuting, and pretty much anywhere regular bikes can be found.
How to choose your fatbike
- Gros Louis 1
If you already have plenty of mid to upper level bikes and are looking to add a +1 bicycle to the herd, or if you’re planning to put more demand on your fat bike, the Gros Louis 1 is for you. It’s sleek design and impressive handling capabilities make it super fun on the trail too
The Gros Louis 1’s frame is made out of high strength and lightweight aluminum, and is paired with a carbon fork. This lightweight combination gives the bicycle great acceleration and handling capabilities. Its component group is a step above the Gros Louis 2, which in fact reduce weight and increase pedaling efficiency. Its 12 speeds drivetrain and large tires will allow you to face any situation.
- Gros Louis 2
Gros Louis 2 is your ally for year-round rides, short or long. It has been designed to perform flawlessly during winter without compromising summer performance with quality components that won’t break the bank. We make it for men as well as for women (Duchess 2) so there’s something for everyone.
It’s made out of an aluminum frame and fork and has all the features of modern fat bikes. Features like front and rear thru-axles, tubeless compatible tires, dropper post routing, and disc brakes with DOT fluid that won’t freeze, makes this a great option to start with and upgrade as you get more serious.
- Gros Louis 3
Gros Louis 3 is a great all-around fat bike that’s equipped with exactly the right gruppo to provide reliable performance. We make it for adults and teenagers (Big Will), so you can enjoy it with the whole family. It’s a great bike for recreational riding around the neighborhood, the local rails to trails, commuting, and generally having fun with no agenda.
It’s made out of an aluminum frame and has all the features of modern fat bikes. Features like front and rear thru-axles, tubeless compatible tires, dropper post routing, and disc brakes with DOT fluid that won’t freeze, makes this a great option to start with and upgrade as you get more serious.
What to wear to ride Fat Bike in winter
Due to the areas that fat bikes are ridden, we typically recommend an SPD style mountain biking pedal to be used with Garneau MTB shoes. Being clipped in helps with pedaling efficiency in snow and sandy areas and really helps you get where you’re going with more ease.
However, if you’re just getting into fat biking, using your regular winter boots and a set of flat pedals also works just fine.
We’ve spent some time developing winter specific fat bike shoes. These are great for the rider who is out a lot over the winter, and who doesn’t let the cold weather stop them. Typically speaking, these shoes are perfect for conditions under 0 degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The Klondike shoes feature a Vibram outsole that offers superior traction in wet conditions. It also has an amazing retention system that uses the combination of hook and loop closures and a boa dial to keep the foot warm and secure. It's made out of a Cordura 1680 D material with 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation. That means your feet are going to stay warm and dry no matter what!
- Our all new Mudstone shoes offer full wind and water protection in a slightly lighter weight option. With a 200 gram insulation, IP1 boa dial closures system, and fully waterproof upper and outsole, it’s a great option for cold temperatures. It also has a high-volume fitting last, which means you can wear thicker socks with it.
Any style of helmet that you would typically wear for cycling typically work for fat biking. The key here is warmth. If you’re using your own standard cycling helmet, just be sure to cover up your head.
- At Garneau, we really like the Vitesse Cycling Helmet. It has a bit more coverage than other cycling helmets which makes it perfect for the coolest day.
When it comes to layering, we’re huge fans of multi-layering system on the torso, especially if one of those layers can be removed and packed into a pocket or saddlebag if you over dress. With the right combinations of base layers, jerseys, and outer shells, there really isn’t a foul weather condition you can’t go in to.
- Base Layers (First Layer)
- Our 6000 Base Layer System is a great option to cover both the torso and the legs for those super cold days on the saddle. We have plenty of other base layers as well and depending on your preference you may choose to mix and match base layers as you see fit.
These are perhaps the most important layer. Base layers go against the skin, absorb sweat and moisture emitted from the skin during physical activity, and move it to the next layer of clothing to be spread out.
- Jerseys (Second Layer)
- Lightweight Jerseys: Our Men’s Lemmon and Women’s Beeze long sleeve jerseys are a great option for a lightweight long sleeve jersey.
- Midweight Jerseys: Step it up a notch with Men’s Edge 2 and Women’s Edge 2 jersey.
Our second layers (often also cycling jerseys) are typically made out of different thicknesses: Lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. This is where personal preference and outside temperature really come into play. If you think you’ll be riding super hard then a light to mid weight jersey could be good for you, especially if you plan on having a jacket on. If it’s super cold and you’re going easy, try out a mid or heavyweight jersey. Some people also use jerseys as a second and third layer by putting a lightweight jersey on first, followed by a mid to heavyweight jersey.
- Jackets (Third Layer)
- For a great outer shell that’s lightweight and fully wind and waterproof, our Unisex 4-Seasons Jacket is a great option. Since it’s a shell it doesn’t offer insulation, so it’s a great piece to use layers underneath, but it will protect you in the worst of conditions!
- Our Dualistic jacket and Women's Dualistic Jacket is also a great option for fat biking. It’s a softshell material so it provides insulation, protection from the elements and is super breathable.
We offer several options of jackets in the Garneau line, which means we have a jacket for almost every micro-climate. We offer jackets that both protect you from wind, water, and cold, yet are still super breathable and lets the moisture from your body escape through the outer layers.
- For the ultimate protection from the wind and cold, our Providence II Bib Tights and Women's Providence II Bib Tights get the job done! Thermal brushed back fabrics, articulated knees, and windproof panels are just a few of the features that keep you rolling in the cold.
- Our Unisex Torrent Pants are also a great outer pant shell that you can throw in for seriously wet and cold conditions, though they don’t have a chamois liner, so don’t wear them alone.
- Our Edge Nordic Shorts ca also be added as second layer for added warmth and protection.
- Shoes Accessories
- Our Thermax II Cycling Shoe Covers are our ultimate in winter fat biking accessories. They go on easy, are designed to be worn with MTB or SPD style shoes and are super warm.
- If you’re looking for something a bit lighter, then try out the Wind Dry II Shoes covers. They’re perfect for conditions above 5℃, or 41℉.
We’ll talk about shoes next, but if you’re wearing the same shoes for winter riding as you do in the summer, you’ll definitely need a shoecover to go over your shoes. It’s a great option for anyone who doesn’t need extra sets of shoes and is happy with what they have.
- The Bigwill is our most heavy-duty glove, designed for the coldest of conditions. It’s also a great piece to have if you’re not riding hard.
- If you’re stepping up the pace a little, or not riding in freezing temperatures, our fully waterproof Shield + glove is a great option. It offers both a Primaloft insulation and WindDry materials in its construction and excels in snowy and wet conditions.
- If you’re looking for an early fall or late spring glove, the Proof is a great option. It’s waterproof, windproof, and uses 3M Thinsulate materials to keep the blood flowing.
- If you’re looking for an early fall or late spring glove, the Super Prestige 2 is a great option. It’s waterproof, windproof, and uses 3M Thinsulate materials. It also features a lobster claw that can easily be removed or added to the glove when temperature changes.
- As mentioned earlier, it’s always a great idea to pack a lightweight liner glove. They really, really help when you realize it’s colder outside than you thought it’d be. Our Edge Glove is a great liner glove and will even stand alone on those cool early mornings when you just need one small layer.
Similar to headwear, the type of glove you wear depends on how hard you’re riding and how cold it is outside. A lot of people’s hands get very cold, while others stay very warm. Try a few things out, and always tuck a second pair of liner gloves in your jersey pocket in case you need to double up.
- As we mentioned earlier, it’s super critical to cover your head in the winter. If you’re wearing your own helmet, our Winter cap and Waterproof cap offer head and ear coverage that fits under your helmet and covers your head as well as your ears. We highly recommend covering your ears whenever possible.
- If you’re looking for full coverage, the Matrix 2.0 Balaclava provides head, ear, neck and face coverage, and fits under your helmet with ease.
- If you’re trying to mix and match, check out our Wind Headband, Winter Skull Cap and Matrix 2.0 Neck Balaclava.
- We also have headwear like our Hugo Headband that offers a wide band that can cover your ears and forehead, leaving just a small opening on the top for heat to escape. This type of coverage is great for higher aerobic activities where you’re working super hard and don’t want to overheat.
- For a thin sock we love the Merino Prima socks, and if we need to beef it up, we’ll add the Merino 60’s on top.
When it’s super cold out, we’re big fans of doubling up our socks. We like to stick with wool, and put on a lightweight, thin sock first, and then add a medium to heavy duty sock on the outside. This all depends on your personal preference, and what types of shoes and/or shoe covers you plan on wearing. Test this out in advance and know your body’s preferences.
Let's get «Fat» and ride!
With Garneau equipment, you can rest assured that your equipment will protect you from the elements and allow you to ride in any conditions. We have spent the past 35 years riding in the freezing cold of Quebec winters, and our products have kept us warm year after year. From bikes to helmets to shoes and clothes, we have all the Fat Bike equipment you need!