The following article was written by first time fat biker and travel-writer, Mary Reid.
Gain 4-inches this winter and go where you please. No, this is not an unhealthy New Year’s resolution; I’m talking about a bicycle, specifically the size of its tires. Have you looked at the Fat bike and wanted to try it out? Perhaps you are reluctant to go on your own or are you a summer cyclist getting bored cycling indoors? Look no further than Collingwood, Ontario, where Rideguides.ca provides guided fat bike tours.
I am a summer road cyclist but have been cycling indoors for what feels like an eternity. I need to spin real pedals outdoors but in the snow? I’m 54 and haven’t ridden trails in the summer for years let alone winter. Despite these protestations, I say yes. I simply have to try this…now.
I drive to the west side of Collingwood to Rideguides’ home office and meet Tim Carter, a super friendly outdoor enthusiast and owner/operator or Rideguides.ca. After paying $65, signing the obligatory waivers and submitting friends as emergency contacts, we venture outside. I look at the bike with its Fat tires. They look so intimidating. My seat is adjusted and Tim has replaced the handlebar stem to fit my 5’2 height.
Instruction begins with braking: Feather (gently pull and release) both brakes for a controlled stop. The other concern on a Fat bike is dismounting: Lean, look and land. Lean where you naturally would and look for a place to put a foot down before dismounting. You do not want place your foot on ice or other hazard.
A perfect day for this was selected: sunny, about -7 Celsius when we started, and very little wind. After a good warm up on the rail trail and easy off road trail, Tim asked what I would prefer: narrower trails or
continue on the rail trail and take in views of Collingwood. As the trails were quiet, except for birdsong and the sun was out, playing hide-and-seek-through tree branches, I noticed my shadow on this monster bike. To stay where we were was my choice. The Fat bike was a new found friend whom I wanted to trust more as it easily navigated the friendly bumps on the snow-covered paths.
Now the challenge and grin factor went up a few notches. I pedal; the bike goes where I direct it over small rocks and stumps. Add some S-turns and melting ice and I was having a blast. “These bikes plow through anything!” I exclaim. I was warned of an approaching ascent followed by a downhill – the latter of which I was more concerned. The bike gave me no back-talk as I switched gears and I easily made it up the hill. The impending downhill was making me nervous. I watched Tim go before me and, as instructed, I slid my butt to back of the seat, feathered the breaks and down the hill I went.
We ended by traversing more trails, navigating over the aforementioned obstacles which make a trail ride engaging, even portaging at some points. Only once did I have to suddenly dismount my Fat steed. I let out a squeal and found myself literally stuck between a rock and hard place in melting ice. My squeal soon turned to laughter as I pushed my bike out and mounted again. This is fun!!
The air was cool as it entered my lungs but did not chill me as my body was warm from riding. However, time is up and Tim has another tour to do for more experienced riders at Horseshoe Valley in an hour. My mind, however, is plotting my next Fat bike ride as I know I could do this on my own or I will bring one of my 50-plus year-old friends.
Wear snow pants or layers which allow for easy mounting and dismounting. Bring water as each bike is fitted with a cage.
Rideguides.ca offers a fleet of six bikes of varying sizes. Tim is an accomplished bike mechanic and each bike is thoroughly cleaned and tuned after each ride. Today was $65 which included bike rental, a helmet, instruction. Tour time is approximately two hours minus the time for waivers, bike set up and tutorial.
As stated earlier, I’m soon to be a 55 with no Fat bike experience. If you are not comfortable on narrow trails, stay on the rail trails. My goal was to try something different in the winter while going for a much-needed outdoor bicycle ride and the result?
A big Fat grin.
Go to: cyclesimcoe.ca for all Fat Biking locations.
To have a guided tour, great for a first timer like me, contact Tim from Ride Guides – firstname.lastname@example.org or call 705-443-7256.