I'm sure some of you, if not most, have seen one of those bikes with those massive tires. If you live in a cold climate and receive a lot of snow then you know what kind of bikes we are talking about. There may be a lot of questions revolving around those styles of bicycles and some of you may not know what these bikes are used for.
Gone are the days when you could get a bike and it would be used for everything. Today there are many specialty bikes each designed for a specific purpose. There are three general different types of bikes; bikes designed for pavement, bikes designed for off-road travel, and electrically-assisted bikes. There are sub-categories in each of these classifications and they all have key differences. The general difference between on-road and off-road is the tire size. Road bikes are skinny tires, while off-road bikes have wider tires and the width can vary wildly. Electrically-assisted bikes have a “generator” on-board which helps “peddle” the bike.
Within the mountain bike category, there are a few different tire sizes which are commonly referred to as 29ers, mid-fat, and fat-tire. The larger the tire size is it helps with stability when off-trail and on uneven terrain and also gives the bike floatation on certain types of ground such as snow and sand. Fat-tire biking is commonly used during the winter because the large tire size will allow the bike to stay on top of the snow better than smaller width tires (basically the same concept as snowshoes). Some people will put studs in their tires or put on chains to increase traction on ice.
Fat-tire bikes are allowed on any mountain bike trail and anywhere bikes are allowed. You can still bike on the pavement with these bikes unless you have chains or studs on your tires. Last year when Lake Superior froze over people were taking their fat-tire bikes out on the lake for a ride along the frozen tundra.
Many people will use fat-tire bikes during the summer too, for select activities because they offer a few unique advantages. They are a popular hunting option because they can go off-trail, over all-terrain, and the large tires are also quiet. People who are just getting into mountain biking sometimes prefer them because the large tire size allows them to feel more stable on uneven terrain.
For people in the Duluth area who are curious about fat-tires bikes, you can rent them at Outdoor Pursuit at the College of St. Scholastica, Recreational Sports Outdoor Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Continental Ski & Bike. If you don't feel comfortable with renting your own bike, book a guided trek with Day Tripper of Duluth or The Duluth Experience.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) offers a list of Ride Centers, which means there are places featuring large scale riding and offer something for every experience level. Duluth, MN was recently added to the "Gold Level", one of only 6 places in the World to receive this level of certification. For Duluth area maps and trail conditions check out COGGS, they also feature ride etiquette rules.
Fat-tire biking is something that everyone can enjoy. If you are looking for something to do, consider renting a fat-tire bike and head out to the trails. Experiencing the remote trails during the winter can offer up a new experience, which soon might be your new favorite activity.
If you are in need of bags to attach while biking, you are in luck! Duluth Pack offers a variety of different bike bags sure to fit your needs and your bike. If you are more of a backpack person we recommend the Scout Pack due to its smaller size, sure to fit comfortably while biking.
Peddle on, friends