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If you’re toying with the idea of cycling off-road in winter, you’re soon up against the question of just how fat your mountain bike tires should be to float on snow. A monster-sized Big Fat Larry at 4.7 inches? Or an Endomorph at a merely tubby 3.7? We’re not talking snowy roads, but fields of snow! Wherever you can snowshoe, you can ride a fat bike with fat tires. If you are environmentally careful, you can take this same “omniterra” tire onto sandy beaches or mud, slippery rocks and roots, and anywhere else a depraved imagination can conjure. But for an Ottawa winter, fat bikes are best on packed-down snow trails or not-too-deep fluffy white stuff. (If you’re an urban commuter, stick with regular-width knobby or studded tires.) In mountain biking terms, the response to “go big or go home” means going with a fat bike, a mountain bike on steroids. It has an odd-looking frame with outsized forks and stays, fat rims with double-wide tires, front and rear disc brakes and small chain rings, and weighs in at about 16 kilograms. The trick with these high-volume tires is they run at very low air pressure (five to 10 psi) so they float over snow with just enough traction to keep you upright. “They are just fun to ride,” says Kent Dougall co-owner of Phat Moose Cycles, one of only two local shops selling fat bikes. Phat Moose carries the Surly and brands, ranging from the ultra36 ottawa


light Salsa Beargrease, the same brand’s moderate Mukluk, up to the superfat Surly Moonlander. “I was never a very good cross-country skier, was never fit enough, but I’m master of the snow on this,” he says pointing to his own Moonlander. “It’s an expedition bike so you could really go afar, but even on the mountain bike trails at Kanata Lakes, it is sheer pleasure. With the low pressure, the bike feels super-cushiony and has lots of stability. “And it’s more thrilling than snowshoeing, but I’m bikebiased.” Dougall says three years ago he sold one fat bike. Last year the count was about 15 and he expects more this winter. “It’s really taking off. Last year, there

were maybe 50 or 60 cyclists out playing in the snow or racing on informal courses around Ottawa. They are great to use wherever you normally mountain bike.” However, he cautions that these models work poorly on plowed roads or in slush – the tires just slow you down. Tall Tree Cycles at its new 255 Richmond Road location is the only other fat game in town, carrying Surly and 9 Zero 7 brands. (The area code for Alaska, 907, is where one of the fat bike inventors tested it in 160-kilometre snow races). Alaska is still the (ahem) hotbed of snow biking. Grant Burke, head mechanic, says that Tall Tree owners Will Ficner or Thom Johnson believe fat bikes are here to stay – “they www.ottawaoutdoors.ca

Profile for Ottawa Outdoors Magazine

Ottawa Outdoors Magazine-Winter 2012  

The outdoor adventure magazine for 200,000 outdoor enthusiasts in the Ottawa/Gatineau and Ottawa Valley region.

Ottawa Outdoors Magazine-Winter 2012  

The outdoor adventure magazine for 200,000 outdoor enthusiasts in the Ottawa/Gatineau and Ottawa Valley region.