I’m just going to tell it to you straight: I’m not much of a cyclist. Other than having a road bike growing up—and occasionally hopping on a stationary one at the gym—I generally steer clear of that sort of cardio activity. And then I visited Breckenridge, cruised through the woods on my first fat bike and thought maybe I should rethink my bike ban.
You see, I love the concept of biking (other than the padded shorts; my butt needs no help with padding, thank you very much). There just aren’t any sidewalks around where we live—Tennessee in general is a whole lot of driving and very little alternate forms of transportation—and I’m scared mindless at the thought of mountain biking after falling down a very rocky hill the first time I attempted it in the Alps. But you want to know the best part about fat biking in the winter? You do so in the snow, so if you fall—and you will fall—you do so in a bed of marshmallows.
But let me rewind.
When SVV and I decided to head out to Breckenridge on a whim—as in, booked our flights just two weeks in advance, which I consider spontaneous … for us—we consulted our pals at GoBreck, who gave us the lay of the land and what all is new in town. “You must try fat biking,” they wrote. “It’s all the rage.”
SVV immediately dismissed the idea, thinking it was one of those awkward ski bikes that you take down the slopes. “That just sounds dangerous,” he said. (Side note: When did we both get so old that we let a little danger get in the way of our fun?)
“I agree,” I said, tentatively, as I secretly wrote Rachel in and said we were in because, let’s be honest, if something’s “all the rage,” I need to do it!
As it turns out, fat biking is very much a safe activity, as you’re riding a normal bike that has much thicker tires to keep you stable on the snow and trails.
We showed up at Breck Bike Guides on Main Street in Breckenridge right after lunch on Sunday, and one of the owners Nick got us all geared up to hit the trails.
His partner, Sydney, would be our guide. I found out she was also a journalist—for outdoors magazines—and knew we’d get along swimmingly. Even though it was warm outside, downtown was windy and so against my better judgment, I wore a ski thermal and my Canada Goose down jacket.
And also my ski helmet because safety first, kids.
Fat biking tip #1: Dress one layer down from how you’d normally dress for the weather because you will get hot at some point. It’s a lot of uphill pedaling!
The road bike portion of the trek was a long one, and I was already huffing and puffing as we pedaled up the mountain for what seemed like ages to get to the trailhead—not that I cared, really, as the views were spectacular and my glutes were burning (in a good way). At times, though, I was regretting the multiple layers. However, as soon as we got on the trail under the canopy of the firs, my sweat dried and I started to get chilly even.
Fat biking tip #2: Take an extra top layer in a bag or Camelbak should you get cold once in the trees.
Sydney had told us upfront that we would fall, but after coasting along for some time without a major falter, I didn’t believe her. Then, as I was trying to get my footing and step off my bike onto the trail to steady myself, I missed by about a foot and sunk. Then continued to sink. I braced myself as my bike started to tip over, too, as if in slow motion. Then, my whole body was laying sideways in the snow.
I paused long enough for SVV to take photos, obviously. It didn’t hurt one bit, though my toes were cold the rest of the ride. I was suddenly glad I grabbed my gloves as we were heading out of the door! My fingers stayed toasty despite my body being plunged into the icy abyss.
Fat biking tip #3: Know that you’re going to fall. It’s gravity. It’s going to happen. OWN IT. There’s no shame in falling.
It’s advised that you stay in the center of the trail where it’s packed down solid. Stray ever so slightly and your bike could sink into the snow (as I discovered the hard—or should I say soft?—way).
SVV then took one for the team and fell a few moments later. I like to think it was in support of his wife, because he’s a kindly gent like that.
Much of the trail was uphill—how does it seem you’re always biking uphill no matter what? surely, you have to go down at some point—and I had to stop on many an incline to catch my breath. Getting back on the bike while in the snow and on an uphill proved to be the most difficult part of the whole adventure.
Needless to say, we had a blast on our first fat biking experience. I was feeling even more proud of us when our fearless guide confessed that she didn’t even take us on the beginner trail. (Thanks for that vote of confidence, Sydney! My thighs are still thanking you.)
We definitely felt the altitude at times, primarily when going uphill. I don’t think there’s anyone come from out of state who doesn’t at some point, am I right?
Fat biking tip #4: Give yourself a day or two after you arrive to acclimate to the altitude before you hit the trails.
And while we were on the bikes deep in the woods for much of the afternoon, there were plenty of overlooks that we came to, and Sydney was always more than happy to let us stop for a
breather photo opp.
In the three hours we were gone, Sydney clocked us as being active an hour and 27 minutes, covering 8.39 miles, averaging 5.3 mph, climbing 751 feet and cycling at a max speed of 17 mph. Not bad for rookies, eh?
All Breck Bike Guide tours are fully customized to the experience and fitness level of the riders. Prices start at $35 an hour. You can rent the bikes on your own at $40 for a half day and $55 for a full day, though unless you’re a Summit County native and know the trails, you’re not going to get the full experience without the guidance of Nick and/or Sydney. Plus, they’re just so much fun, you don’t want to miss out on getting to know these two adventurers!
Fat biking is popular in other destinations like Telluride, but Breck Bike Guides is the first company to offer such day biking tours of any kind in Breckenridge. Prior to them opening last summer, the only mountain biking company in the area solely offered multi-day trips, no three-hour excursions like we went on.