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Fat Bike FAQ

If you still have questions, or want to be educated further – please check out our General Resources Page or shoot us an email.

What is a “fat bike”? 

  • A.K.A. “Snow bikes”, “All-Terrain Bikes or ATB’s”, fat bikes are basically mountain bikes on steroids.  Upon first glance, they look like a mountain bike with extremely fat tires.  This is true, but what allows this to happen is a wider fork, bottom bracket, and rear triangle.  This allows the bikes to handle rims as wide as 100mm, and tires over 5″ wide.  The fat tires, ridden at low tire pressures, give these bikes the stability to ride at very low speeds, and the ability to float over sand and snow and and almost anything, while minimally impacting the trail.

What snow conditions are best for fat bikes?

  • Generally, firm/ condensed snow is best.  Obviously, grooming creates these perfect conditions.  Snow that has been packed by snowmobile,  snowshoe, or other means can also be rideable.   Check here for some good rides that usually have stellar conditions.  A few inches of new snow can be amazing too, giving you the “fresh tracks” feeling.  It all depends.   Anything more than a few inches of “new/unpacked” snow, and it gets hard to ride, especially on the climbs.  DO NOT ride if you cannot stay in a straight line or start creating divots- you should be skiing or snowboarding instead!!  In climates like Mammoth, where it never gets that cold (we rarely get to single digits), morning riding is typically optimal- especially if the daytime high is 35 or higher.  As the day goes on, and the snow gets sun affected, the top layer can get slushy and slippery, inhibiting traction.  Night riding can also be a blast!  BE AWARE – Conditions are ever changing.  Much like skiing/snowboarding,  you should always be assessing the feel and sounds of the snow, and keep an eye out for icy patches.

What kind of clothing is best for Winter/Snow riding?

Any tips for first time fat bike riders on snow?

  • Yes.  Take it slow.  These bikes take a little getting used to.
  • Start at 5-7 psi tire pressure, or the recommendations of the trail network .  Make sure your saddle is adjusted, and the bike fits you well.
  • Make sure you’re dressed properly.
  • Carry enough water and nutrition as you would on any other ride.  Even though you may not “feel” thirsty in cold weather, your body still needs hydration.
  • Keep your Camelbak/ bladder under your top layer in very cold weather.  That includes the hose and mouthpiece.  You can also get neoprene sleeves to go over your hose to keep water from freezing inside.
  • If you’re having trouble with traction, remember to keep your weight over the back tire, and pedal with nice even strokes.  You might also need to let some air out of the tires (see below on tire pressure).
  • Don’t forget sunscreen and lip balm.
  • If you’re going through an icey patch, remember these tires are not studded.  They’re made to “float” over snow.  They will not perform well on ice.  Go slower, but keep enough speed to stay in a straight line and have your balance centered.  Don’t try to turn or the bike will slip out from under you.  Brake before you hit the ice, not while you’re on it.  If you need to, get off and walk (carefully).  Icey patches are rare and usually small, but they do exist more and more as the temps get warmer in the day, thawing puddles and then re-freezing at night.

Is there anywhere in Mammoth to rent or buy fat bikes?

  • Yes.  Eastside Wide has a great demo fleet of fat bikes available.  Click on the link or contact Jennifer Girard for more info – 760-914-0675

What trails are legal to ride a fat bike on?

  • We’re constantly working to increase legal, appropriate Winter Fat Biking opportunities.  We’ve partnered with SEMBA and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area to host a Winter Fat Bike Race Series.  These events take place on groomed snow at different venues (Sierra Star Golf Course, Tamarack XC Ski Center, and Main Lodge). The USFS also approved a Fat Bike Pilot Program granting us access to the non-motorized groomed trails in Shady Rest Park and three additional miles of groomed singletrack that the Town of Mammoth Lakes will also maintain.  Join the SEMBA Google Group  to stay informed.  There are plenty of legal options in and around Mammoth.  Click here for some of our recommended snow rides.

What tire pressure should I use?

  • For riding on snow, usually 5-10psi is best, although you can go all the way down to 3psi (any lower and your rims might bottom out over bumpy terrain).  The rule of thumb is, “when in doubt, let air out”.  The softer the conditions, the lower the pressure.  If you’re riding on harder dirt or mountain bike trails during the summer, usually 15psi is a good starting point.

Should I use clipless or platform pedals?

  • Whatever you’re comfy with.  Platform pedals allow you to use a variety of boots, giving you more options for warmth.  If you go clipless, it’s best to have cycling winter boots or winter booties over your shoes.  Keep them toes toasty!

Can I ride on snow with a regular mountain bike?

  • We don’t recommend it.  They tend to dig into the snow and become more of a hassle than an enjoyable ride.  Fat bikes float on top of snow.  Areas around the country that allow fat bikes on groomed trails do not allow mountain bikes for these reasons.  Keep the mountain bikes in the garage until Spring brings the hero dirt.

Still have more questions?

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