Welcome to Fat Biking

Welcome to Fat Biking

Well, It’s been a fun winter so far — with a few exceptions.

Ok — so in retrospect this was not the ideal year to sell my snow-blower.  Note to self — wait for a non-record-breaking snow year to declare independence from motorized Lego 12-2013 046snow removal.

And yes, in hindsight, my refusal to get a flu shot last fall (because “I don’t believe in flu vaccines”) was ill-advised. It appears that even though I don’t believe in flu shots — the flu still believes in me — as my wife reminds me.

So when my recent two-week, near-death match with the flu bug coincided with what was hopefully the two weeks of this winter’s heaviest snowfall — I had some time between storms for self-reflection.


Winter fun is not a dominant trait in my genetic make-up.  Winter endurance? Yes. Quiet resignation? Sure. But not winter fun.

My family has been in Maine for six generations — our first thought on hearing of another approaching winter storm is not how much outdoor fun we will have. That instinct, to the extent it ever existed among my ancestors, must have gone by the wayside about five generations ago.

But genetics is not destiny — and by skiing, hiking, snowshoeing and semi-regular trips to the UMF Health & Fitness Center I have managed to make winter a very tolerable time of year.

So imagine my surprise recently when winter fun came and found me, picked me up by its teeth, shook me thoroughly and tossed me — laughing — into a handy snowdrift.


It happened when Todd Richards, owner of Northern Lights — a bike & ski shop in Farmington — offered my son Ben and I a chance to test drive a new “fat bike” on the IMGP1807fresh snow cover. Fat bikes are modified mountain bikes with huge balloon tires for biking on snow, mud, sand and other soft surfaces. The wide, low-pressure tires

provide traction, flotation and suspension all in one package.

Fat bikes are fairly new to the biking scene — I had never ridden one. But a local snowmobile trail provided the perfect classroom on a bright winter day.



The snowmobile trail was great –but Ben and I couldn’t  resist a local, ungroomed, ski/hike trail.

IMGP1820The trail was narrow and soft. A perfect test for flotation in real-world conditions. For pure fun, there may not be a better antidote to winter.

The challenge was to keep the tires on the narrow, partially-packed trail surface. The pay-off was threading through groves of winter trees on a vehicle you didn’t expect to be riding again until April.



Baxter State Park recently opened its perimeter road to fat bikes during the winter season on an experimental basis.

For winter bike commuters — you know who you are — this is  the bike for you. You are cheating yourself and taking unnecessary  winter risks if a fat bike is not your winter ride.


You’re also missing out on some serious winter fun.


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About jimandrews

Jim Andrews is an attorney, Registered Maine Guide, writer, husband, dad and sixth-generation Mainer who grew up in the hills of Oxford County and now lives in Farmington. He is a monthly columnist for the The Maine Sportsman magazine where he focuses on muscle-powered travel in the outdoors and specific applications to fishing and hunting in Maine. Late in the fall of 2010 Jim suffered a mid-life crisis and decided that the cure would be a self-propelled trip from Kittery to Fort Kent in the summer of 2012. The preparation, planning and execution of that trip will be covered here -- as well as his own ongoing attempts to reintroduce physical effort back into the increasingly-motorized world of fishing and hunting in Maine. Find Self-propelled on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Self-propelled-Guide-Service-1098692573535403/