The article below was previewed in the March issue of Roaring Fork Lifestyle Magazine. Thank you to Andrea Palm-Porter for the great article.
Article Andrea Palm-Porter | Photography Darin Binion
It’s sunny, brisk, and a comfortable 28 degrees as four ladies meet at the bottom of Babbish Gulch near Sunlight Mountain Resort. Excitement fills the air, freshies lie on the ground, and laughter, hugs, and a unique camaraderie ties these fat biking ladies together.
It’s time for a morning spin—and what will be spinning, oddly enough, are bike tires! Fat ones.
It’s called “fat biking”.
These ladies have been riding fat bikes for three years, about one-quarter of the sport’s lifetime. Fat biking, the fastest-growing segment of the bicycle industry, was probably invented in Alaska by a fellow named Mark Gronewald, who won the human-powered counterpart of an Iditarod dogsled race on a bike fitted with tires two or three times as wide as those on a summer road bike.
Fat bikes typically range in weight from 30 to 40 pounds, and more when you add the accessories and gear carried on the rides. Their snow-worthy tires are (pardon the phrase) broad, ranging from a knob shoulder width of 88 to 119 millimeters wide.
Two summers ago, Amy Butowicz joined most of today’s group to ride the infamous Monarch Crest Trail near Salida on their fat bikes. Today, the three core riders— Rebecca Murray, Alison Birkenfeld and Andrea Palm-Porter—are joined by Emily Murray. They are riding a custom-painted peacock Surly Pugsly, two Salsa Mukluks and a custom, powder-painted, purple Twenty2 Bully.
The Bully comes from Twenty2 Cycles, a shop that custom-builds bikes in Glenwood Springs. The shop thrives on personalization of the bike and on customer relationships. The Twenty2 Cycles Bully features an aluminum frame and carbon components that make it a featherweight in the fat bike world.
The Bully, being ridden by Andrea Palm-Porter, is lighter than most and weighs a total of 24 pounds. It’s a sweet ride. Smooth shifting of the gears and the bike’s lightweight make climbing easier. What’s so crazy is the air pressure for the big fat tires; it’s typically set at around four to five pounds per square inch (psi) for riding on the snow. The wide tires and low pressure create the suspension and traction needed to ride in style and get the performance needed from the bike.
One of the favorite rides of local fat bikers is to climb up Grizzly at Sunlight Mountain Resort after the lifts close or during a “dawn patrol”, before the resort opens. It’s not easy riding a bike weighing more than 30 pounds up 2,000 feet, but it is rewarding and fantastic exercise.
The group always encourages newbies and nobody is ever left behind. The energy runs high in preparation for the descent as people gear up with helmets, headlamps and extra layers. The descent on Ute has lots of rollers and dips that only make you giggle more. The smiles are bigger than you can imagine, and screams loud with joy, as the group stops to ensure that everyone is safe and having fun. After the climb, as endorphins from the effort kick in, everyone meets in the warming hut for some silliness and for a shared feeling of accomplishment.
Prince Creek, and Red Mountain are a few other local stashes that appeal to fat bikers.
If you are looking for something new to do, try fat biking. It’s biking with a little bit of attitude, and it has fun and inspiration written all over it. The local bike stores are great at connecting you with fat bike events, riders and will even let you demo a fat bike. There’s even a Facebook group called “Fat Bike Gurlz”—it’s a perfect place to follow femmes on fat bikes.
Why Ride a Fat Bike?
Emily Murray: “I don’t really ski and this is a way to get out in the winter and in shape for mountain biking season.”
Rebecca Murray: “Fat biking is another form of staying healthy in the winter. It keeps my legs strong, and the women I bike with are motivating and inspiring.”
Alison Rene: “I want to ride bikes all year long and fat biking gives me that opportunity during the snowy months.”
Andrea Palm-Porter: “It’s fun, keeps me active and gives me different options to play in the snow.”