Fat biking is ‘release your inner child-type fun’
Whether they’re rolling around slick city streets or climbing snow-packed mountain trails, fat-tire bikes are back and in full force this winter season.
For those who don’t know, a fat bike is a mountain bike with 4- to 5-inch wide tires that are designed to handle snow or other surfaces.
Traditional cycling tires are about 2 inches, cycling enthusiast and The Hub of Aspen bike shop owner Charlie Tarver said.
Local cyclists and bike shop salespeople say they’ve watched the fat-tire bike trend become increasingly popular in town over the past four or five years.
Aspen’s Stapleton Ski sport shop, which started renting fat bikes in fall 2011, says it has experienced about 20 percent more interest in the sport from customers each year since.
Erik Skarvan, an avid cyclist and founder of the local outfitter Sun Dog Athletics, said more than half of his customers want to go buy fat bikes once they give them a try.
Skarvan, who’s been a part of Aspen’s outdoor scene for roughly 20 years, said he’s “never seen anything like that here.”
And for its third consecutive year, Winterskol welcomes its Fat Cycle Challenge today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rio Grande Park. The race route is a 3/4-mile loop that consists of single track and bridge crossings. Competitors must bring their own fat bike and are required to wear helmets during the race. The first place winner will take home a $300 cash prize, second place is $200 and third place is $100.
Winterskol also will host a bike village event whereby people may demo fat bicycles from 10 a.m. to noon. Sun Dog Athletics also will offer a free fat-tire bike clinic from 1 to 2 p.m.
Some local businesses also have embraced the fat-bike trend. The Big Wrap eatery started using a fat bike with studded tires to transport and deliver food to customers about two years ago, owner Babs Menendez said.
Prior to its fat bike means of transportation, The Big Wrap used a traditional bike with studded tires, which Menendez said couldn’t handle deep snow like the fat bike.
Big Wrap employee Austin Magruder said the tires’ increased surface area allows for significantly more traction, thus handles ice much better than a traditional bike.
“Fat bikes give bike enthusiasts the opportunity to stay on their bike all winter,” Stapleton Sports co-owner Ed Garland said. “You can bike up Independence Pass almost just like in the summer and get the same work out,” he said.
Some of the trails to ride locally are the Hunter Creek valley and up to Maroon Bells, Garland said.
Aspen also will soon welcome a four-mile loop created solely for fat biking, Skarvan said.
The city of Aspen and Roaring Fork chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association are teaming up to develop the loop so that cyclists have more trails so ride, as bicycles are banned from the Nordic trails.
Garland said he cannot wait for the fat bike trail, which he thinks Aspen needs.
“There’s enough demand for it, and people want a place that’s not as extreme or difficult to get up to and also that’s nearby,” he said.
Garland predicted that the sport will become even more popular locally with the addition of a fat-bike trail.
“The sport brings an incredible amount of enjoyment,” Skarvan said. “At the essence, it’s release your inner-child type fun.”
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The Little Nell Hotel Group, a division of Aspen Skiing Co., announced Friday that it purchased seven acres of vacant land at the base of Mammoth Mountain. It plans to build a Limelight hotel and residences. The size hasn’t been disclosed yet.