Story Ideas

Pump up your Canadian winter fun on a fat bike.

A hot new sport has locals and travelers alike revved up to hit the mountains this winter.

09 September 2015

Suggested tweet: Canada’s hottest trend: grab a fat bike and hit the mountains this winter #explorecanada

As if succumbing to a chill-induced hallucination, mountain bikers from coast to coast are headed to the ski trails. It’s called fat biking—and this new sport has Canadians pumped up for winter.

Fat bikes cross traditional mountain bikes with something like to a lunar rover. With ultra-wide tires—up to 12 cm (4.8 in) across—simplified gearing and purpose-built geometry, these cartoonish cycles are designed to float over snow, ice, mud, crud and sand. Oddball just a few years ago, they’re now the coolest thing to hit winter since the polar vortex.

“It looks very cool, with riders at our ski resorts happily tooling around, no matter what the surface condition,” explains Neil Jackson, Senior Vice President of Products & Maintenance at Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. “They seem un-phased by mud, rock, snow of any depth, or ice.”

According to Jackson, if you rode a bike as a kid, you can ride a fat bike today—accessibility that is key to the growing popularity.

“Last year, it was impossible to keep up with demand, with most suppliers selling out very early in the season,” he says. “This year, fat bikes are in stores already and selling equally fast.”

Six fat bikes will be for rent at RCR’s Fernie and Kimberley alpine resorts this winter. Fernie is opening a quartet of multi-use trails to fat tires, while Kimberley is offering adjacent Trickle Creek Golf Course for winter rides over frozen fairways.

A short jump west, Sun Peaks—the second-largest ski area in Canada—is also fond of these all-season cycles. Winter plans include a dedicated, ploughed area for fat bikes and half a dozen new rental units. Sam Wardenaar, bike mechanic and ski tech at Elevation Bike, Ski & Board in Sun Peaks, has noted a sharp spike in interest since their first foray into fat bikes two years ago. His initiation ride was last spring.

“It’s tons of fun, though the bike didn’t make it quite as easy as I thought it would,” laughs Wardenaar.

In the Alberta Rockies, Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park now permits fat bikes on nine trails; look for rentals at Rebound Cycles and Trail Sports. Deeper into the heartland, the sport is becoming de rigueur with hardy cyclists who refuse to hang up their wheels when the snow flies.

“Fat biking has become quite popular in Saskatoon. We have trouble keeping stock in our store and cycling enthusiasts are really enjoying the four seasons that you can get with a fat bike,” says Susan Clarke, co-owner of Bruce’s Cycle Works.

Quebec’s Ski de fond Mont-Tremblant—a cross-country ski and snowshoe network located 90 minutes northwest of Montréal—recently opened 35 km of trails to fat bikes. A ubiquitous vélo icon at each trailhead identifies wintertime riding routes. L’âme du Sport : La Source du Sport and Cybercycle in Mont-Tremblant rent these pedal-powered monster trucks.

Horseshoe Resort—just 90 minutes from Toronto—is another fat bike hotspot. And at Canada’s largest ski resort, Whistler/Blackcomb in BC, locals have been spotted cruising on fat bikes over trails around Lost Lake and in the Callaghan Valley, according to Lauren Everest, Whistler/Blackcomb PR and Communications Manager.

Across Canada, the surface of a chubby-tired revolution has been poked. When it comes to wintertime sport, it’s survival of the fattest.

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