Fat tire bikes keep adventurers active during winter months

The bigger the better, right? When it comes to bike tires, plenty of people in Homer would have to agree.

Getting enough exercise and time outside during Alaska’s dark winters can be difficult. One activity that transcends the seasons is fat tire biking, a popular pastime in the state and a thriving sport on the Lower Peninsula. The Homer Cycling Club has even hosted a Big Fat Bike Festival every spring for the last six years.

Homer boasts a large fat tire biking community, which includes Derek and Catriona Reynolds, who own Cycle Logical. The business recently moved to a location on Pioneer Avenue and hosted an open house, where the Homer News asked fat tire enthusiasts just what makes the sport so special.

Katy and Daniel Countiss have been riding fat bikes for about seven years — Daniel even made his own frame from titanium. A favorite trip of theirs is from Mud Bay out to McNeil Canyon. Katie added that heading out to Caribou Lake in the winter is actually easier than biking it in the summer.

“There’s something fun about riding a bike places that you don’t normally get to go,” Daniel said.

The pair said there’s not much different about fat biking in the winter compared to the summer, other than the clothing aspect. It’s a balancing act to bring enough layers to be warm, but also have a place to put them if one starts to get too hot, Daniel said. Another important part is finding a way to keep water from freezing during a ride.

Morgan Ransom, a transplant from Northern California three years ago, mentioned hand covers called pogies that can also be helpful in staving off the winter chill while riding.

All the bikers suggested that those just getting into the activity try renting a bike first, which can be done at Cycle Logical. Fat tire bikes can also be rented at Homer Saw and Cycle. Claire Waxman, a partner there, said that before the business rents them out, staff asks people about their planned route, their skill level and what kind of adventure they’re after. They make sure customers know about the tides on Homer’s beaches, especially if they’re visitors.

“It’s very popular,” she said of the activity. “… People are coming from out of town, and we have a fair amount of biking opportunities here, like on the beach.”

Waxman said that in winter, fat tire bikes come in handy for reaching places people couldn’t normally get to, even on an ATV or snowmobile.

Cody Czer-Ransom, Ransom’s wife, echoed those thoughts.

“I think the biggest thing here is that fat biking is kind of essential to be able to ride your bike in the winter,” she said. “You can ride bikes here with studs, but riding the fat bike allows you to ride on the beach, it allows you to ride on the trails that are icy. You can go out on the snow, you can go to the snowmachine trails … it just kind of opens up a lot of avenues, and there’s even places you can ride the fat bike that in the summer time you can’t ride normal bikes.”

Ransom said there’s not much besides the large tires that makes a fat tire bike different from another mountain bike. Despite their appearance, they actually tend to be lighter, he said. Carbon fiber is a popular material for their frames.

“The biggest misconception is (people) think that it’s heavy,” Waxman said. “… the misconception that because they’re big, that they’re heavy and awkward.”

She said this can sometimes be the case if a person were to purchase a fat tire bike cheaply, one made without the proper materials.

For those renting, fat tire bikes can also be rented with studs for a winter trip. Ransom said the route out to Caribou Lake is a good one for beginners, as it’s relatively flat and sometimes groomed.

“Fat bikes are just — if you’re going to get one mountain bike in Homer, a fat bike is the one you’re going to be able to ride year round,” he said. “…They’ll always put a smile on your face, because they’re just kind of a silly toy. You can’t look at them without kind of grinning.”

For more information about fat tire and other forms of biking, go to the Homer Cycling Club website at homercyclingclub.org.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.