(Last Updated On: October 27, 2017)

If you’ve spent any time Breckenridge over the past few winters, you may have noticed a new breed of snow enthusiasts joining you on the town trails, bike lanes, and Nordic center recently.

Bundled up like skiers and riding like mountain bikers – these trail users have found a great new way to play in the snow – and it appears that they are having a lot of fun doing it. I’ve spent a dozen summers biking around Colorado, but this was new to me. You might say I was a bit Fat bike-curious. So I set out to see what this new sport is all about.

Getting Geared Up

Zeke from Breck Bike Guides adjusting the tire pressure on my fat bike. Photo: Elizabeth Miller

Zeke from Breck Bike Guides adjusting the tire pressure on my fat bike. Photo: Elizabeth Miller

First, I had to find myself a fat bike. There are few shops in town that rent fat bikes (Avalanche Sports, Alpine Sports, Gold Run Nordic Center, & Breck Bike Guides, Ridden).  As the name implies, Breck Bike Guides also offers guiding services in addition to rentals and bike service, so I figured that was a good place to start.  Part time mechanic and local pro mountain biker Zeke Hersh set me up on the Rocky Mountain Blizzard, a fully rigid model (no front or rear suspension) with 4.8” diameter tires, which, for your reference, is more than double the size of a standard mountain bike tire.

*There’s a variety of fat bike options on the market, with models that include front suspension, better components, range of tire sizes, seat droppers, and more. Be sure to talk with the bike shop staff about your ability level and what style riding you are looking to do (trail rides, winter commuting, not sure?), and they will help you choose the right fat bike! And remember to always wear a helmet and bring gloves and water. 

So now that I’ve got the bike, its time to figure out what to wear.

What to Wear

There are a number of brands that make specific winter cycling apparel, which you can find at Breck Bike Guides and other local shops. But just to get started, I found that lightweight breathable cross country ski gear did the trick. I’ve been an avid skier for many years, and have plenty of outerwear to choose from. But if you don’t happen to own a cache of ski gear, I’d recommend checking out the outerwear selection one of Breck’s many ski shops.

Heading to the trailhead for my first fat bike ride. Photo: Jeff Cospolich

Heading to the trailhead for my first fat bike ride. Photo: Jeff Cospolich

Make sure you wear layers and look for high-performance materials. I had been eyeing some Camp gloves at Mountain Outfitters, the local backcountry gear shop, and I took advantage of the chance to justify my new purchase. The wind stopper mitt/glove combo was certain to be a perfect choice for today’s adventure.

Here’s our gear checklist:

  • Helmet: A mountain bike helmet works
  • Hat: Light weight beanie to wear under the helmet
  • Face Buff: To cover neck, chin, ears, and cheeks on a cold day
  • Gloves: My hands tend to get cold, so I opt for the heaviest options. Check out http://barmitts.com/ for fat bike specific product
  • Shoes: Heavy duty winter cycling shoes or hiking boots
  • Shoe Covers: This can help keep your feet warm, but they may get cold anyways.
  • Jacket: It depends on the temperature, but I recommend a softshell or other breathable material
  • Pants: Find a lightweight, breathable option. Your heavy ski pants may be too much for the trail.
  • Thermal Layers: Make sure to wear layers – or bring them. You can overheat or get cold quickly and it’ll help to add a layer or take off one.
  • Backpack: To carry layers, water and a snack

Where to Ride

Breckenridge, Colo. is the perfect place to learn to fat bike in the winter and mountain bike in the summer. Photo: Jessie Unruh

Breckenridge, Colo. is the perfect place to learn to fat bike in the winter and mountain bike in the summer. Photo: Jessie Unruh

Speaking of adventure – now I had to find the right trail. As an 11 year local, I know our trail system quite well. Breck has a great network of trails close to town, and so I headed straight for an area that I have seen fat bikers on recently. With my limited knowledge of this new sport, I did know one thing – fat bikers like packed-down trails. Find a trail frequented by dog walkers, cross country skiers, and other riders – and you will have more success. As we pedaled up the road towards the popular trailhead, we passed a couple of fat bikers. They greeted us by yelling, “Hey! Check out the other crazies out here with us!” Fat biking is still a fairly new sport made up of some diehard enthusiasts, and I guess we were officially “in.”

Fat Biking doesn’t feel as much like mountain biking as I thought it would. The bikes move slower in the snow, and it is imperative to stay on the packed section of trail. Veering a few inches off the trail causes the bike to slide out. I put my foot down several times, and it took some getting used to. But by the end of our 5-mile loop – I had the hang of it and was having a blast. And if you find your back tire slipping on the climbs, don’t be afraid to let some air out. You can run extra low tire pressure on fat bikes, which is what makes them super fun and grippy!

Recommended Fat Bike Trails in Breckenridge

  • Gold Run Nordic Center
  • B &B Trailhead – Turk’s Trail, B&B Trail, X10U8, Minnie Mine
  • Sally Barber Road to Nightmare on Baldy
  • Peaks Trail

Make sure to check your ability level and match it to the trail and remember to give yourself a day or two to acclimate to the altitude before heading out on a big ride.

Guided Tours

Guided fat bike tours are becoming a more popular way for beginners to learn the sport, and more advanced riders to find good trails. Contact CBST Adventures, Breck Bike Guides, or Gold Run Nordic Center for guiding options in and around Breck.  There is even a new Guide company called Beer & Bike Tours that does exactly what the name implies. And a few other companies (At Your Pace) also offers a Bike & Brews Fat Bike Tour. You can check out the local trails and breweries on a 6 and a half mile loop that shows off the best of what Breckenridge has to offer and ends with beers (where?)

So, now I’ve gone from fat bike-curious to being officially hooked. Fat biking is just another fun way to have fun in the snow.  Plus you can get some exercise, play outside, socialize with friends, and experience Breck in a new way.

Just what my garage needs – another bike!

Check out the blog post on winter biking for more information.