Fat bike is a great way to explore the winter landdcape. What a thrilling experience to ride around St Johann in Tirol, Austria when it’s covered by a white mantle of snow turning it into a winter wonderland.
Have you ever heard of fat bike before? This fun packed winter sport, imported from the US, finally got to Europe! I tried it out myself during my latest trip to ski resort St Johan in Tirol
It’s a perfect opportunity for cycling enthusiasts to take over the mountain roads in the middle of the winter. Gliding through powder snow or hammering over frozen roots – the fat bike can deal with it all!
Not sure what to pack for your trip? Read my other post Packing List for Winter Vacation.
Clunky bike with fat tires
I met my fat bike instructor Kurt in St Johan in Tirol, small but pretty town landlocked in a valley between the peaks of the Kitzbühler Horn at an altitude of 660 meters.
“It is all not that complicated”, says Kurt turning himself to the fatbikes standing in front of the sports shop. “I suggest you guys just try it and see”. Putting helmet with balaclava underneath, I am ready to get familiar with the new vehicle.
It looks pretty much like a normal mountain bike. With one “slight“ detail that has no way to be missed: giant wheels covered with 3.8 inch tires. That is nearly 10 centimeters! Despite the bumpy looks, the bike is surprisingly light. It weighs is around 15 kilos only.
Learning to operate fat bike
“I just hope we aren’t biking to the top of any of those peaks” I nodded to my fellow participant as we were taking off on our monster bikes. The same second we became also the center of attention of people passing by.
Following the pawed road, my monster bike is behaving quite well. It seems fairly easy to handle. As we turn into smaller path following the stream, the surface is sometimes covered in deep snow. Some icy spots are to be found as well, despite the fact that the temperature is few degrees above zero. I am being quite careful, and it feels just like normal biking.
Thriling off-road experience
Snowy road begins to rise a little and resistance of wide buzzing tires is bigger and bigger. They stick to the surface without the slightest hesitation. I am shifting the gears to the easiest level, and yet I find it rather exhausting to pedal uphill. Here and there I make some stops to catch the breath and take few pictures.
The biking trail leads further alongside the forest. I am experimenting on the uneven surface with roots, branches and ice. The bike breaks perfectly, although I am worried that breaking on the icy surface will turn the biking experience a bit more to ice skating alike.
As soon as we are reaching the skiing slope, once again our group becomes the center of attention. The skiers and snowboarders don’t get us! On the slope on two wheels? Yep. Having lost my initial fears, I am enjoying the way down, passing my friend Becki being sucked in the deep snow. (you can read about her experience from Austria in this blog post).
The moderately descending trail leads through the forest back to the town. It is so much easier to go down the hill, really.
Born for the tough conditions
The snow mountain bike is constructed to accommodate extremely wide and knobby tires (wide up to 5 inches instead of 2.5). By running these ultra-wide tires at a low pressure (think 5 – 10 psi), they provide a ride that floats over soft terrain. In 2014, Daniel P. Burton rode snow bike across Antarctica to the South Pole.
While they’re sometimes called “snow bikes,” it’s not all about the snow. Fat bikes are actually more versatile and used for all kinds of riding, including mud and sand commuting.
Although it’s the first season that fatbikes are available in Tirol, Austria features great conditions for this sport: lots of the mountain trails and great mountain scenery. The guides can choose various difficulties of the trails. There is room enough for speed and adrenaline. It depends on how adventurous you want it to be.
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- keep warm! The most important thing to take is winter gloves. It gets windy while biking!
- better avoid the front break. I tell you – if you use the back one, you will be safer
- fat bike group tour costs 76 EUR per person (minumum of 3 people). I did my trip with Bike Academy and I can recommned them. The guide is experienced and fun!
The #InAustria blog trip was created and managed by iambassador in association with the Austrian National Tourist Office, Tirol Tourist Board and the Kitzbüheler Alpen Marketing GmbH. Veronika’s adventure maintains full editorial control of the content published on the site. I really enjoyed to ski again!