Fat bikes have been getting more and more popular over the last few years. I never thought that I'd end up getting one, but a few weeks ago, I did.
If you don't know what this kind of bike is, then I guess a bit of explanation is in order. These are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycling industry, even though it's a really small niche. Originally, they were developed for races like the Iditarod's cycling category. They run at very low pressure and have really large tires. So you can ride over almost anything.
Lately, I've been heading out to coffee shops a lot more to work. Sitting at home staring out the same window tends to get pretty boring. But this winter is just completely horrible for riding bikes. And riding across town with a laptop worth about 2K with everything that I need to make a living in some of the horrible conditions we've had was really sketchy. There were good days where I could ride miles and miles, but a lot of snow and ice made things a bit nerve racking.
We have a facebook group for trading bike stuffs. Last month, my brother posted up several bikes for a mutual friend, Adam Turman. He was one of the first members of mplsbikelove.com, and designed the iconic heart shaped chainring logo. He had upgraded to a carbon fat bike, and needed to sell a couple bikes to cover it.
I went over to his house a few weeks ago to test ride it. A ton of fun, but I didn't quite get excited about it. Sure, it could plow over everything,
It was between me and a guy that races very seriously who wanted to use it to train. We both were kind of doing the "Minnesota Nice" thing, and neither of us were willing to really say that we wanted it more. He left, with the 'dibs' because of the time of his posting on the facebook thread. I hung out with my brother and my niece for a bit. After her nap, we sat down in front of a laptop looking at another facebook group looking for anything even close to the deal this bike was.
On the way home on my hybrid with the 35c studded tires, the difference was extremely noticeable. Having to almost stop and use a foot to push over a pile of snow plowed onto a curb cut. Feeling the wheels trying to follow ruts left by other riders on the greenway. One section of actually having to walk...
The confidence and fun that was on the Necromancer was completely gone. I was timid and nervous.
When I got back to my computer, I messaged the other potential buyer and was basically like "Hey, you know how we talked about who was more gung-ho to ride that bike? I just realized that I do really want it..."
Long story short, my brother held it for me until I had the cash. And I really didn't have the cash, I ended up dipping down to about 30 some dollars total to my name.
But it's totally worth it.
I'm not worrying about anything that I ride on. The bike is just a beast, riding over everything. I look at road surfaces that would make me walk or change routes on my old bikes, and go "PSH. Whatever."
That's not to say that it's easy. The first night that I had it, I rode out to a Costco about 8 miles away to use their pharmacy. They're the cheapest place in the metro for the things I need, even without insurance. Like, $100+ at the Target pharmacy, $55 at the Fairview Riverside pharmacy.
IT IS FOUR DOLLARS FOR THE SAME THING AT COSTCO!!!!!!!!!!
It is a thing with a very variable price, but still...
So, slightly below zero, low pressure, lots of miles...
Even before I got there, I was feeling worse than I've felt on a ride in a long time. But not too bonked. I dressed wrong, not realizing how my power output and aerobic effort would function on the new bike. Ended up too cold, and without proper core temp pushing a 3olbs+ bike with huge knobbies when the temp was steadily dropping making the pressure even lower.
By the time I was 1/3 of the way home, I was pretty close to crying. I knew I'd survive, that I'd get home... But I was TOTALLY dying. To the point that I thought that going to hang out in an igloo rather than travelling another 1.5 miles to get home.
I've ridden 150 miles with virtually no training. I've been at the bottom of the barrel trying to keep up with some friends, and I've bonked to the point of saying "Leave me, I'll limp home."
This was way beyond that.
I guess, the best way to sum it up is this interaction from the other day outside of the tea shop I've been frequenting.
Crazy looking perhaps homeless dude with a big white beard walking across the parking lot looks at my bike for a long time, then sees me walking to bike wearing winter helmet with a key out and stops for a second, then realizes he can engage.
"Woah! That looks like a lot of fun! That's a really fun bike! Is it a lot of fun?!!!!"
"Um, yea, of course it's a lot of fun. I can ride over anything."
... we chat about bikes for a bit ...
It's a niche, but with where I live, it's so great. I love being able to ride anywhere and the only limit is my clothes and my muscles. And pushing a 33lb bike with really low pressure knobby tires is a TON of work. I signed up for the Almanzo Gravel Race this year, which is 100 miles of gravel (the short race) with a TON of hills. I'm not in that kind of shape.
But this bike lets me keep riding and do longer rides during the winter. And all of those rides are going to be more difficult than normal, meaning they will put me at a better place in the spring.
Another funny thing is that I hadn't been contacted by any friends personally about riding a bike for a long time, but the day after buying this bike I had friends wanting to go ride on a frozen lake. I'm doing a ride next weekend that's all fat bikes and an unknown route/distance.
It feels a *lot* like how the fixie community was a decade ago.
At any rate, I'm going out more, and I'm actually being happy riding. I have to go a bit further than the Costco to get to my old place of work for our monthly c5 meeting. I was offered a ride. Turned it down.
I want to go ride the bike.