>>>The bike that wanted to get fat
Photo: Kaz Yakamura

The bike that wanted to get fat

Skis have found themselves faced with some fierce competitors: fat bikes. Their wheels are wider, so they can be used on any terrain, including in alpine conditions.
dward R. Jesson travelled by bike over more than 1,500 kilometres, between Dawson (Canada) and Nome (Alaska) in March 1900. This incredible feat went down in history as the first major bike journey over snow. It was a real curiosity, since at that time – because of gold fever – prospectors like Jesson would normally use two wheels to travel over land and then change to a sledge to cross snowy trails.
A fat bike normally costs between 3,000 and 4,000 dollars.
Photo: Courtesy of Snow Bike Festival. GSTAAD/Nick Muzic

From California to Alaska

The origin of the fat bike is unclear. While some attribute their invention to young people from Marin County and San Francisco (California) in the 70s, other sources say they were first used in Alaska as a means of transport over snow.

Since that pioneering adventure, bicycles have evolved. They underwent extensive development in the 70s and 80s, when our two-wheeled vehicle left the road to delve into tougher terrain. The mountain bike was born, which no longer needs any introduction. In adapting cycles to the new terrain, it was the frame and wheels that experienced the greatest transformation. Their evolution has now reached the fat-bike stage, where the wheel concept is based on a mountain bike but the tyres are much wider (about 13 centimetres) and at a lower pressure. In fact, they are also used for moving over arid terrains. Widening the wheels stops them from sinking in the desert. And from sand to snow. Using them on snowy surfaces has become popular in North America and Canada. Being used to a lot of snow, riders in areas like Alaska have found a solution that means they don’t have to give up their bikes during the coldest months.
Competitors from 20 countries took part in the last Snow Bike Festival.
Photo: Courtesy of Snow Bike Festival. GSTAAD/Nick Muzic
At Rocky Mountain Bicycles (Vancouver, Canada) they design, develop and perfect bikes for all uses, including on snow. From survival to enjoyment. This is how fat bikes have become freestyle. The latest trend is to descend steep slopes and traverse through pine trees – just as a skier might – while pedalling. Pirouettes are also allowed: flips, 360° turns, you name it.
Wade Simmons, rider, trying out the Rocky Mountain Blizzard model.
Photo: Robb Thompson
“We were having fun ripping around on the snowmobile tracks but looking at all the pow chutes surrounding us it was only a matter of time before we were dropping in”, admits Wade Simmons, one of three riders (together with Geoff Gulevich and Noah Brousseau) that tested the new fat bike model in the Rocky Mountains. You can watch their descents (downhill snow) and pirouettes on a video they have called 2 FAT 2 FURIOUS.
This type of trail is becoming more popular and professional. In 2015, the first national fat bike championship was held in the United States, to test out this two-wheel sport, which is taking hold in Europe little by little. Gstaad ski resort (Switzerland) has already played host to two editions of the Snow Bike Festival, including three-day races, night-time competitions and fun rides. To do this, they have set up several slopes for use on two wheels. It is just a question of time before this type of trail starts popping up at other ski and mountain resorts. Skiers, make way!

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