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5 Ways Fat Biking Makes You a Stronger Rider

5 Ways Fat Biking Makes You a Stronger Rider

fat tire bike

Fat biking will make you a stronger. Here’s how.

Winter is a tough time to keep in bike shape. If you live in a snowy region and don’t fat bike your only other options are city paths when there’s no snow coverage, or riding an indoor trainer.

Those aren’t much fun compared to blasting through powder and don’t develop any functional bike strength. Fat biking gives you the opportunity to roll on your favourite single track year-round.

Fat biking makes you a stronger rider and prepares you for summer in ways a stationary bike and city path never will.

And if party laps with friends in the middle of winter is fun AND makes you stronger, what’s not to like?

5 Ways Fat Biking Makes You a Stronger Rider

Fat Biking Trains You to Move a Heavier Bike

@patronmccabe

A workout on wheels.

Think of a fat tire bike as your set of weights. The stronger you are, the more weight you can move.

Unless you buy a full carbon fat bike with carbon wheels, it will be significantly heavier than your summer bike.

Just pedalling it builds adaptations you won’t achieve with a lighter summer bike. 

It takes more power to climb technical sections. It is more work to move around. Getting it rolling uses more power than it does in summer. 

All of this is a workout. You’ll expend more energy in less time than you will in summer. It requires more conditioning to pedal at the same rate.

Even though you might not go as fast, or cover as much ground, a fat biking makes you a stronger rider.

When you hop back on your other bike you’ll notice a major difference. Imagine doing bicep curls with a bag of potatoes then switching to a bag of chips.

This is the difference in strength you’ll notice. 

When you look at that big clunky fat bike sitting on the showroom floor remember–it’s like weight lifting for your biking muscles!

Fat Bike Tires are More Work

@patronmccabe

There’s a lot more rubber and wheel weight to weave around your favourite berms.

Fat bike tires are heavy, fat wheels are heavy, and fat tubes are heavy. These all contribute to a higher swing weight–it takes more work to get them spinning.

This is the second major way fat biking makes you a stronger rider–compensating for the weight of the tires and wheels.

On a side note, you can eliminate the heavy tubes by going tubeless. Tubeless conversion is notoriously difficult on a fat tire bike and Hardtail Canada will publish a future article to help you with it. 

All this weight spinning around is another force your body has to work against. It’s more effort to steer around. The fat tires require deliberate action and focus to stay on line–they are less nimble than your summer wheels.

Those quick little moves around obstacles turn into bigger, deliberate moves on a fat bike. Sometimes they’ll turn into power slides–putting your foot down to whip your bike around! 

Switching back to efficient wheels will be noticeable–never again will you take for granted those lighter wheels, how much easier they are to maneuver, and how more quickly they start rolling.

Body Positioning and Core Strength Are Critical

Stability is key whenever you’re on snow.

Controlling a bike that can easily slide around on snow is a constant core and bike stability workout. Another reason a fat tire bike makes you a stronger rider.

A few years back I did an Enduro race in Penticton. The route had wet, slippery muddy sections. These had to be navigated during practice laps, and the day of the race itself. They didn’t go away.  

I was better at controlling a squirrelly bike through the slippery mud than most of the people I was riding with.

But they were better bikers than me. WAY better bikers. North Shore pedigree. 

The difference? My theory is they were from areas that do not have much fat biking.

It was apparent how much handling a fat tire bike on slippery snow directly translated to keeping the bike under me in the similar condition of slippery mud.

This type of bike control–side to side stability at slow speeds–depends heavily on core strength. All those little micro-movements, some that happen so quick you barely notice them, are a trial in body stability.

Ask any exercise expert: the key to stability is a strong core. Even if you aren’t doing planks every day, the simple act of fat biking will work your core in a way that normal summer biking never will.

Another similar factor is body positioning. 

Heavier, slower turning fat tire bikes require more direct, deliberate input than summer bikes. Anytime you move your bike around you are using your entire body. Traction depends on it. If your weight isn’t balanced while climbing, descending, or cornering, you’ll start sliding.

You gain better body awareness. These bigger movements lend themselves to improved summer biking efficiency where less input is needed.

Another reason fat biking makes you a stronger rider.

Practicing these moves all winter make them second nature come summer. You’ll whip your summer bike around without a care, becoming more efficient while you climb, corner, and brake.

Big snowy berms force you to stay dialed over top of your bike and precisely lean in–in summer you’ll use those same moves at higher speeds with more traction.

Your improved core strength and body positioning will be noticeable. There’ll be plenty of Strava gold on your first summer rides after riding a fat bike all winter!

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More Finesse While Braking and Cornering

Another fat bike snow angel in fluffy powder!

More finesse on snow is another reason fat biking makes you a stronger rider. Traction is far less than summer biking, but this can be a good thing. 

This lack of traction ties into the previous discussion about enhanced body control. In a previous article we discussed how brakes aren’t as important for fat biking because you can’t brake hard without losing traction.

With fat biking, you have to modulate your braking with a lighter touch.

On the one hand, you are travelling slower so the braking demands aren’t as important as in summer.

On the other hand, mis-timed braking can send you off the trail. If it’s mid-winter and there have been several significant snow falls, this means a bit of work digging yourself out and getting back on the trail.

You will naturally learn to use a lighter touch. You will brake more going into turns, to maintain steering traction as you glide through.

When you’re cornering, or steering through tighter sections, you’ll be more deliberate–anticipating your moves and smoothing them out using the simplest line.

Janky, abrupt steering motions are how you lose traction. If you brake hard, or steer erratically, your fat bike will let you know. 

The many snow angel imprints trail side are evidence of a biker losing control!

Fat biking is naturally conducive, and rewarding, to those who brake carefully and plan their moves. Reactive, jolted motions almost always result in flopping over into a snow bank.

These deliberate motions will translate to normal trail riding: you’ll maximize your braking efficiency and hone your steering.

Your Functional Cardio Will Be Primed for Summer

Fat biking cardio makes you stronger.

Fat biking is a workout. Even pedalling on flat ground involves more energy just to keep the bike rolling.

And this is a good thing, and another major reason fat biking makes you a stronger rider.

Keeping your functional heart rate up–working hard pedalling the bike while also using your strength to control it–is fantastic training.

Fat biking involves pushing, digging yourself out of snow, helping friends. You’re on and off your bike more than usual. This builds stabilizer muscle groups you don’t use while casually spinning.

Short technical climbs are all out grunts on a fat tire bike. While pedalling up you also need to stabilize your bike with all your muscle groups to keep your weight balanced.

You rarely achieve this level of functional fitness, at this intensity, with summer mountain biking. 

With all this work comes greater cardio adaption, which is the 5th way fat biking makes you a stronger rider. 

Nothing’s worse than coughing up a lung breaking in the legs on those first couple rides each season. 

If you fat tire bike through winter, you’ll never have to experience that pain again!

A Fat Tire Bike Will Make You a Stronger Rider

Your summer bike will be a piece of cake after pedalling this all winter!

Fat biking is a great workout, fun way to exercise in winter, and the perfect way to bike year round. 

It requires a different set of skills and more strength than summer biking. 

The benefits are noticeable. Your bike control will improve. You’ll have more strength for those short punchy climbs. You’ll learn to maximize your traction. Your bike fitness will be primed and ready for summer. 

Fat biking makes you a stronger rider, and it’s fun.

Thanks for reading!

Featured image credit: @patronmccabe 

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