I talked my Partner In Crime (PIC) into giving fat biking a try and we headed out to Leadville, Colorado for a test drive. If you’re going to go fat why not start in Cloud City at 10,000 feet in the highest incorporated city in the U.S. and one of the cutest hardscrabble mining towns you’ll ever see?
Where To Rent:
Leslie at Cycles of Life set us up and gave us the intel on the trails. The bike shop is conveniently located on main street across from the Kum n Go gas station and you can ride right out the door to hit the trails. It’ll run you $50/day for a bike and helmet but it’s worth every penny. Up to two rental days can apply to purchase if you get really crazy about it. Entry level bikes start at $1,000.00.
Where To Go:
Leadville boasts 2 interconnecting trail systems – the 12 mile Mineral Belt Trail which circumnavigates the entire town and the Colorado Mountain College Timberline Trail System. Both are groomed for multi sports like cross country skiing (skate and classic), snowshoeing, and winter biking. Take the Mineral Belt Trail in a clockwise direction and you’ll be treated to a mostly flat to slightly downhill trail. We, on the other hand, did not know this and went counter clockwise, for more of a spin class-like experience – a steady, slightly uphill climb. But not to worry, either way, you can really never coast with those jumbo sized tires and super grippy treads. Both trail systems interlink and you can do as many of the loops as you like. Along the way you’ll be treated to eye popping views of the Sawatch and Mosquito mountains.
What To Wear:
There’s really no ‘official’ fat biking athletic wear so we dressed like we were going cross country skiing. Light wool base layer, tech wool top, shell jacket, cross country ski pants (kind of like running pants but with wind block/water proof on the front), wool socks, and Sorel boots rated for -40 degrees (overkill but warm toes are nice on the descents), ski gloves, beanie or headband (your head will get colder than you think), and a bike helmet. You’ll get sweaty on the uphills and be chilly on the downhills.
When To Go:
Unlike many winter sports, fresh snow is not a fat biker’s friend. You’ll want to wait a couple days after the storm and look for a packed or groomed trail to give you the most grins for spins. We lucked out with a picture perfect, windless, bluebird day after a storm system that dumped over 3 feet of snow.
What It Felt Like:
My tires had a paltry 5 pounds of air in them which allowed the tires to smoosh out into a pillowy, marshmallow ride. No need for shocks with these fat babies and the less air the more cushion to the ride. It took a few pedal strokes to actually trust what was happening beneath me. The tires really do grip the snow, you can bust thru more stuff that you’d believe, trust them and they will take you where you want to go!