Alaska, What are these odd-looking bikes?
When I first visited Alaska, I saw odd-looking bikes being ridden around the trails. It was deep in the winter during January and trails were covered with ice and snow. I was on a pair of cross-country skis and someone passed by on one of those bikes. What were they?
It’s called a fatbike. It’s also called a fat-tire bike, fat bike, or snow bike. You can probably guess why; because it has fat tires. They’re everywhere in Alaska. The locals here are generally in-tune with a variety of outdoor activities and fatbikes are universally loved. It almost looked like I could do it.
A long story short, I didn’t have the best track record in terms of riding a bike. The term ‘it’s like riding a bike’ didn’t apply to me. Growing up in a huge city, I never owned a bike, and certainly, it wasn’t a suitable transportation method. I had a small plastic bicycle when I was little, based on an old photo but it wasn’t made for riding beyond the neighborhood. I learned how to ride a bike but we had to go to a special park to do it. So it never stuck with me. When I got on bikes during my travels, I could handle myself but I was never comfortable with it. And I was always extremely embarrassed.
Fast forward. I moved to Anchorage, Alaska three years ago and was determined to a fatbike. Everyone had one and I wanted to fit in. Also, owning my first bike was an exciting idea. The price for a fatbike varies depending on the features. You can spend anywhere between $1800 – $4500+ for a new one. I searched Craigslist and found a perfect used fatbike good enough for me for $800. It allowed me to explore the extensive trail system in Anchorage and commute to work each day. So I finally got comfortable on a bike.
Now, let’s get to know more about fatbikes.
What is a fatbike?
It’s an off-ride bicycle designed for unstable terrains such as sand and snow. It’s made with oversized tires and larger rims. It’s been getting a lot of attention in the adventure world and for a good reason. There’s no off-season, it can go anywhere, it’s even capable of crossing the South Pole. There are many specialized events designed for fatbikes, especially in Alaska, such as Iditarod Trail Invitational.
There’s a long and complex development history but the bottom line is, it’s designed for an adventure. It enhances the experience for those who are looking for more extremes and makes the adventure more accessible for the rest of us.
When can I ride a fatbike?
A fatbike is designed for snow but you can ride it all year. I used to commute with my fatbike year-round and I absolutely loved it.
Where can I ride a fatbike?
Paved trails, singletrack trails, fresh snow, on a frozen lake, beach, muddy trails, in the city, so basically anywhere. A fatbike was easier for me to ride on singletrack mountain bike trails because the tires provided a softer ride.
Studded tires add extra traction
When snow is soft and nice, breaking the trail on a fatbike is so much fun. It makes me feel like I’m pioneering a new world! But when the temperature fluctuates, the snow melts and freezes, that’s when studded tires come in to play. The studs give enough traction for a safe and fun ride on ice. These are not cheap but if you’re planning to do a lot of riding in winter it’s certainly worth it.
How can I try a fatbike?
When visiting Alaska, make sure to get on a fatbike just like locals do. Many places rent bikes to visitors and it’s an affordable adventure. If you are looking to rent one and explore on your own, Trek store in Anchorage is a good place to start. Tour companies like Greatland Adventures run fatbike tours around town. If you’re heading up north, check out the Government Chalet at Hatcher Pass and North Shore Cyclery in Talkeetna.
I’m still learning about fatbike and cycling in general. But certainly a fatbike provides more opportunities to explore the outdoors in winter. Living in a place like Alaska with 6+ months of winter, it’s very important to stay active. I recently went to Talkeetna to bike and it was a really fun adventure! I wrote all about it on the one and only Alaska Travelgram’s blog.
Unfortunately, my fatbike got stolen but I’m on the lookout for a new one. In the meantime, there are places where I can rent one for an adventure.
When you are in Alaska, find your adventure on a fatbike!