The reason I'm riding outside this winter is because my obsession for road cycling has taken me to a new level of snowy streets and wintry trails.
My addiction to fat biking is really just a branch from the bigger cycling culture picture. When I took a fat bike for a test ride late last winter, I was immediately sold because it was a way to extend my outdoor riding season to twelve months of the year.
This winter has been a big year for fat bikes worldwide. New races and events have been happening throughout the world. In December, Global Fat Bike Day brought people out to celebrate their love for cycling on fat bikes — there were even events in St. John's.
- Fat bike: So fat, so good, for this Corner Brook commuter
- Roadie gets fat: The joy of cycling through the snow
But despite the spike in popularity, fat bikes are not new.
Loyal Squires runs the blog Fatbike Republic, and is based in Portugal Cove-St. Phillips
He's also one of the key people responsible for bringing together a fat bike community on the east coast. He may be too modest to come right out and say that, so I will for him.
Through his blog and Facebook page, people are connecting over their love for fat bikes. Whether it's sharing pictures of their bikes in snow banks or offering tips about tire pressure — it's basically a place for people like me to geek out with other like-minded people in the province.
Squires started riding a fat bike about three years ago in St. John's. Much like my story, he was hooked once he realized this sort of cycling would give him a chance to ride all year long.
'You work all week, everybody has their own individual stress level.' - Loyal Squires, blogger and fat bike enthusiast
When Squires started out, he only knew of about 10 other fat bike riders in the community. The group was then so small, he could differentiate between the different tire tracks when he came across them in the snow.
In just three short years, that community has basically exploded.
The fat bike community is friendly and welcoming, something Squires credits to its recent popularity. He says compared to mountain biking and road cycling, there's no competition.
"I think it just brings the fun back in the sport, with fat biking there's no expectations — it's just to go out and have fun".
The curious thing I've noticed about the fat bike culture is that riders are often middle aged men and women. They all come from an array of backgrounds and, with the exception of a love of cycling and a hunger for exploration, they have little in common.
Squires noted my observation and thinks it's because fat biking is a way to escape from being an adult: "unplugging, getting out into the wilderness."
He added that it's also a way to forget about the work week.
"You work all week, everybody has their own individual stress level. This allows you to decompress and not having to do it inside," he said.
What happens on a ride, stays on a ride
Much like road cycling, fat bike rides bring people together, usually off the beaten path. And, that's probably why it doesn't take long for friendships to form on the trails.
Here in Corner Brook, we like to get together to plan out our next adventure, sometimes a couple days in advance.
But, no matter how much we plan, it's often thrown out the window once we hit the trail and start to improvise new trails along the way. Especially if trail conditions are different than expected — for better or worse.
That sense of adventure is what makes these rides unforgettable.
An unexpected adventure of fellowship
A few weeks ago, after a night of icy trails forced us to explore new areas, we decided to stop into a grocery store to pick up a couple of things on the way home.
Giddy from the ridiculously fun and scary trails, we strutted through the supermarket looking like aliens.
Outfitted from head to toe in proper winter cycling gear: boots, tights, baggy shorts on over said tights, bright jackets, lobster fingered gloves and helmets.
Wearing the unofficial fat bike uniform, we ventured into the produce section, then into the bakery section and drew way too much attention to ourselves. Shoppers got a good kick out of us, but also looked really confused.
It's one of those things that can only be explained by the camaraderie between the group that had just bonded on a Tuesday night after work. Over icy trails, through random adventures in the wilderness.
Building a fat foundation
Once a ride is over, we sit around and talk about what happened during our ride. Usually laughing about something ridiculous that happened; something only cycling nerds like us would appreciate.
I'm not going to lie, there's often a good craft beer thrown in during the debrief. Craft beer is another thing the cycling and fat bike community gel over — at least us here in Corner Brook.
Fat bikes are starting to becoming increasingly mainstream. On the west coast, we have a foundation laid for what should continue to grow more and more each year. This is just the start of something great.
Next week, I'll look at the future of fat biking and what can be done to keep building its popularity.