beggars would ride
Beggars Would Ride

Over. Built?

Once upon a time, I invited the girl I was dating to spend the weekend right as the first really good snowstorm of the season buried the little Sierra mountain town that I then called home. As the snow built up around the house, I built a fire and then cooked up a hearty pasta dinner. Being fond of rustic style dishes, and being a bachelor, I cooked a pasta sauce that was decidedly chunky. A discerning palate would find much to criticize; the large slices of firm vegetable, the very notable chunks of garlic, the perfectly cooked but also questionable inclusion of andouille sausage. As it turns out, not only did my date have such a discerning palate, she was also averse to sauces that were in any way chunky, hearty, rustic, or whatever description one might attach to sauces that are not pureed smooth.

It was an uncomfortable weekend.

Thing is, I LOVE hearty sauces. There’s this Italian restaurant in Santa Cruz that serves up an amazing Sunday Gravy; chunks of Italian sausage, spare rib, beef, pork, all slow simmered in a pungent tomato sauce that goes heavy on the garlic. It’s real chunky. And Lillian’s Sunday Gravy is about my favorite way to ingest an impending heart attack. Some of us like our sauces chunky and we like vegetables that are just cooked enough to still be firm to the bite. Others prefer our sauces to be smooth amalgamations of varied flavors both subtle and strong, but with a texture that doesn’t give away any secrets until taste buds are involved. I love me a good smooth sauce too, for the record. But that weekend in the snow, well, that was when I discovered that some people really, really do not like chunky sauces.

sundaygravy

So damn tasty. The $64k question, however: Would you ride it with a 29x2.4" or a 27.5x4.5"?

I have been thinking lately, about the difference between chunky and smooth sauce, and about snow, and sand, and rocky creek beds, and muddy hillsides, and the nature of the trails we ride. Partly because it is winter, and the texture of the ground we ride becomes so much more lively than it does during the seemingly endless baked hard months of California summertime. Partly because I’ve been cooking a lot of pasta this winter. And partly because I just took delivery of a fat bike. I alluded to this particular event horizon earlier, and will be writing up a first look about the fat bike in question next week. For now, suffice to say that the arrival of a bike that is very different from what I am used to riding, and is designed to be ridden in very different places than I am used to riding, in a very different manner than I am used to as well, has burrowed into my mind and raised a few questions and unearthed a few memories. The chunky pasta sauce from the world’s most awkward snowstorm looms large among those memories and, as it turns out, may have some bearing on things here.

Every Friday, I browse on over to pinkbike and watch the Friday Fails. I’m not sure how I wound up there the first time, but now, I go there weekly. And I cringe. I watch as rider after rider smashes into the ground while attempting big gaps or big drops or big hucks to flat. It’s obvious that some of them have no clue, and that others may have a clue but are well past their own limits, fueled by GoPro courage. There are also plenty of riders who know what they are doing but for whatever reason wound up on a video segment enduring their rag-doll moment of fame. Watching these wrecks helps remind me that it’s not such a bad thing to be a wheels on the ground kind of guy. They tell me that even if there isn’t a camera around, wood splinters are painful to remove, rocks are brutal reminders of just how frail flesh and bones are, and that gravity is to be respected. On one hand I am in awe of the human desire to transcend our surroundings, that aspiration so many of us have to go bigger, fly farther. However, there’s this little part of me, some Darwinian node in my brain that can’t help but say something like; “So, we build these trails, sculpt this dirt, create these smooth transitions, these runs in and out, do all this work to create a tiny slice of trail, and then we climb aboard our bikes with all this evolved technology, for what? So that we can hopefully survive the binary of either yard sale or adrenaline soaked success?”

By “we” I mean everyone but me. I want none of that. Other than watching Friday Fails and flinching with each cratering impact. So, does that mean I’m not really a mountain biker anymore?

Meanwhile, there’s this fat bike. Back in July, I spread 75,000 pounds of pea gravel out about 3” thick on the driveway and parking area in front of my barn. It did an amazing job of cutting down the dust in summer, and is also doing a great job of preventing the usual winter quagmire. As a side bonus, NOBODY can sneak up on me anymore, not even the dogs. Hell, the deer can’t even sneak into the garden now. Result! One thing I did not anticipate as I spent three days raking gravel was the effect that this gravel would have on two-wheeled conveyances. I probably should have foreseen that. The gravel essentially turned my entire front yard into a bike trap. If you’re on a road bike you are walking awkwardly, crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch, from the gate to the barn. If you’re on some kind of gravel bike with 45c tires and a head of steam, you might be able to make it from gate to barn, but you’re gonna have to channel your best Wout Van Aert. Any mountain bike tire under 2.6”? Keep your weight back, pedal as hard as you can, pray. Dirt bike? Same deal; weight back, don’t try anything stupid. Fat bike with 27.5x4.5 rubber? Pfffft. What gravel? Why are all you kooks walking?

fatone.original2

Maybe you're mushroom hunting. Maybe you're in a place where nobody owns shovels and there are no kids. Maybe you just want to go where the trails aren't. But is this still mountain biking? Is this still fun? Or have we crossed over into some alt-type2 world, and slung our lot in with hash runners and the snowshoe set?

Admittedly, this is a very, very selective and reductive realization, and I look forward to a future of riding bikes in 3” deep pea gravel about as much as I look forward to picking splinters out of my chin after misjudging a wall ride that someone built in the woods for no apparent reason other than “because.” But floating that fat bike across the driveway with zero effort, then up through the muddy ruin of the meadow, then on up the hideously steep trail to the cistern, all greasy with a skin of wet leaves, then straight up a hillside without any trail at all, up through a junky landscape that screams “nope” to any of my preconceived ideas about what may be rideable, it got me to thinking.

This is another flavor. This is another kind of pasta sauce. Some people won’t like it, because they prefer their sauces familiar and smooth. Some people will say that chunky sauces are not really sauces at all. But they are. They’re just different. I like to think that mountain biking can encompass and embrace a wide range of “different;” that shredding knobs from hard cornering is just as awesome as stylish air, is just as meaningful as the first time you realize what a berm is really all about, is just as cathartic as pedaling silently through an emptiness where there are no human built trails at all.

I’m gonna cook up some pasta tonight. I might even put some garbanzo beans in the sauce. Yeah, beans, in a sauce on top of pasta. A total abomination. Tomorrow I’m gonna go ride some dirt on the eastern flank of a mountain that has very rarely ever seen tire tracks, nor has there ever been any attempt to sculpt the dirt of that mountain into something more rideable. Is this still mountain biking? I don't care. Is it tasty and filling? Damn straight.

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Comments

T0m
+10 Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino whotookit Jotegir Hbar JT Geof Harries NealWood Metacomet Mammal

Fat bikes are deeply fun if you’re lucky enough to have hills and regular snow. All that pure traction on flat earth becomes marginal sledding with snow and gravity. Climbing can absolutely kick your ass. The snow is always changing, never the same conditions twice.  I don’t understand riding “racy” fat bikes on groomers, but the big bikes on snowy hiking trails is like the early adventurous days of this MTB sport. No fat bikers are cool, most fat bikers crash on the regular, and everyone else points and laughs. Perfect.

Also now that more progressive geometry can be found (RSD is killing it) they can become decent year-round hardtails with a wheel change.

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Jotegir
+3 Andrew Major Mike Ferrentino Geof Harries

The latest Rocky Mountain Blizzard has got me feeling unwise.  In the interior of BC I get use out of a regular bike with studded tires (barely any snow in town most years) but damn the newest breed of fat bikes looks reaaaaally nice.

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xy9ine
+2 Geof Harries Metacomet

i rented a blizzard for a rip around kananaskis over xmas. pretty fun, those things? a very different riding experience to what i'm accustomed to, but good times (in the right conditions), regardless.

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blangshaw
+10 Cam McRae Tremeer023 Andy Eunson Derek Baker Andrew Major Geof Harries Jotegir Velocipedestrian Blofeld JT

I'm gonna plug this absolute beast:

https://www.theinsideline.ca/service/tauntaun/

Steel frame and made in YYC.

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velocipedestrian
0

Hawt!

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maximum-radness
+6 Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino Geof Harries Hbar Andy Eunson Velocipedestrian

Colorado mountain bikers that live closer to chairlifts than apex ridge, have been heard saying: Fatbikes are the answer. 

And yes, a bicycle that goes (quite literally) anywhere on earth is considered a mountain bike in the purest form - as is a bike that goes on a chairlift to ride down a track sculpted for said bike is a mountain bike because neither is a “road bicycle” and both are about freedom from “2 ton murderous internal combustion death robots.”

All hail the combination of beans in sauces and hobby horses in the “mountains”

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TristanC
+5 FlipSide Mike Ferrentino Cam McRae Velocipedestrian Grant Blankenship

You're talking about my favorite flavor of "trail." Places that may have, at some time in the distant past, been a trail, or maybe a deer trail, or maybe a streambed, or maybe just a place with fewer trees. Places no sane person would try to ride or go for a walk with a bike. I love 'em.

mosquito gulch

sissy pants

^I have seen somebody ride this one, the trailbuilder. He builds things he wants to ride, and lets others try.

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taprider
0

you would like the Arizona Trail Race then
except no walking along the side of the rock filled chute, since the banks are thick with thorny plants

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whotookit
+1 TristanC

Is that Marquette/Ishpeming?

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TristanC
0

Bingo! Top is Mosquito Gulch, just west of Mulligan Plains out in da boonies, bottom is that incredibly janky section of Sissy Pants in RAMBA in Ishpeming that I'm pretty sure only Danny can ride.

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mammal
+3 taprider Adrian Bostock Todd Hellinga

It's probably not, but this reminds me of lower Godey trail in Merritt BC. I love the challenge of trying to out-flow the jank, but most of the friends I've ridden it with hate it.

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taprider
0

Sh*t I just looked at Lower Godey on Trail Forks.  LOL

Upper and Middle Godey are great fun too, and haven't been wrecked by that big crater by the Info Centre

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OtherGrant
0

that's the stuff

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mrbrett
+5 taprider Mike Ferrentino Cam McRae Lynx . Geof Harries

I love the "dumb" places my fat bike gets me in to. Even just otherwise "boring" terrain -  extremely loose gravel, sand, snow, ice, seasonally closed highways, riverbeds. Maybe my contempt of flow trails pushes me there too.

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TomM
+5 Metacomet DadStillRides Blofeld Kos bikedrd

I find that riding my fat bike on snowy trails with a bunch of friends is much more fun than grinding away on a trainer in my basement by myself.

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GB
+4 Cam McRae Mike Ferrentino Mark DadStillRides

Decades ago the odd soul rode up fire roads on the North Shore . They spotted an impossibility  steep piece of natural terrain.  Something that looks technically impossible.  

You plunge over the precipice hoping your brakes will help as you gain momentum  down untouched loam . 

A trail is born . 

Decades later the loam is stripped to rocks and roots ridden by the select few who are shown these stashes . 

Entropy has its charm. The fringe group that embraces this style of riding encourage entropy . 

I like peanuts  and dried fruit in my stir fries .  Big chunks of half cooked veggies in my pasta sauce .

Off camber rocks , thick mats of criss crossing roots , tight nasty stuff that leaves no room for idle thought .

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Offrhodes42
+3 kcy4130 taprider Mike Ferrentino

Throw some peanuts into the sauce too.

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kcy4130
+1 Mike Ferrentino

I quite like putting sunflower seeds on top of pasta/sauce dishes too. I like the added crunch. My wife thinks it's sacrilege, so I can't add to sauce before serving. Sunflower or peanuts are good in burritos too.

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velocipedestrian
+2 Mike Ferrentino kcy4130

Lots of Japanese kitchens feature a sesame grinder

A friend bought us one, and it turns out grinding toasted sesames onto your dinner is popular with the whole family.

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taprider
+1 Mike Ferrentino

raisins cooked in spicy tomato sauce are great too
GORP can be more than just trail mix

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kos
+3 Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino Geof Harries

Fat biking in snow is a blast. A great winter alternative to riding the chairlift. I dipped a toe into the waters a few years ago -- pretty sure it would be silly -- and I love it, partly because it is very different from the other "types" of biking I do.

Plus, an excuse for another bike!

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pete@nsmb.com
+4 Jotegir NealWood Vik Banerjee Kos

When conditions allow, riding your regular bike in the snow is also super fun. So much so that over the last six or seven years, we've been doing it so often on the shore that it's led to fewer days of skiing. Won't help with your n+1 problem, though!

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jt
+2 Mike Ferrentino bikedrd

Groomers are fun, beach rides (all year round) are too, but I rather enjoy the random not-technically-legal-for-anyone- whatsoever trails the fatties allow one to get in and out of in the cold months with no one else around who may/may not be breaking laws on these same limbo dirt vascular systems. Also rad is checking out regular summertime trails in deep winter when there are far fewer folx out. I've seen more interesting critters around these spots in winter than any other season. Fewer people disturbing them leads to them bounding along the same trail, if not just for a reprieve from the deeper snow on the sides. Fox, deer, porcupine, coyote and bobcat tracks that seem mighty fresh. One year the river through my burgh froze over solid for the first time in decades. We got 18mi in, checking out islands that a few of us only ever saw while wearing waders or canoeing/kayaking by, and we had to ride up and down a frozen waterfall that was in the route. Had to in the joyful obligatory sense of course. What adult child on a bike wouldn't do that?!? Not sure I'd wanna hang out with those who don't. 

Are they the bestest thing ever? Nah, I still enjoy my susser and a good combo of chunder, flow, and jumps. But they're a different way of experiencing that pure joy of butt in saddle, feet on pedals that keeps us coming back.

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velocipedestrian
0

"Had to in the joyful obligatory sense of course. What adult child on a bike wouldn't do that?!? Not sure I'd wanna hang out with those who don't. "

Hell yes.

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mikesee
+2 Mike Ferrentino taprider

Gateway drug offered and consumed.

And now we wait...

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andy-eunson
+2 taprider Mike Ferrentino

I don’t see a lot of fat bikes here other than a few e-bikes that riders are commuting on. Too much snow most years and no grooming that I’m aware of. I find it cheaper to buy a seasons pass at Whistler Olympic Park and ski their well groomed trails. I skied 22k today up there with my dog. Plus the wide bb on fat bikes won’t go with my wonky left knee. I had a VPFfree way back and the wide bb on that bothered my knee. I also really like the separation of seasons. Once spring hits I’m super stoked to ride. In the fall I get exited for ski season. Not so excited for shovelling my driveway season though. I Strava-ed one session and I went 800 meters with snow blowing followed by shovelling the remnants. 

I see fat bikes as a bit of the wrong tool for the job. Skis and snowshoes are better tools for snow, not that there’s anything wrong with fat bikes though. Whatever smokes your shorts eh.

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mikeferrentino
+1 Andy Eunson

Ahh, but therein lies the rub. I'm not really thinking much about snow at all. The q-factor is a thing, though, boy howdy.

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cxfahrer
+1 Mike Ferrentino

I could discuss whether short Maccaroni or Conchiglie belong into a Minestrone all day long.

You just convinced me to switch to the 3.0" mullet setup on my hardtail for today's ride.

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craw
+1 Mammal

I didn't know this was a thing.

> What is hashing in running? Hashing is an exhilaratingly fun combination of running, orienteering, and partying, where bands of harriers and harriettes chase hares on eight-to-ten kilometer-long trails through town, country, forests, creeks, and desert, all in search of exercise, camaraderie, and good times.

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pete@nsmb.com
+3 Morgan Heater Mike Ferrentino Mammal

In the back of my mind, I've been thinking about how to try Hashing on bikes.

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jt
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Think of putting together an alley cat but with fewer fixed gears and PBRs.

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pete@nsmb.com
0

Yes, but also, there can't be a pre-defined route - the hare gets to choose based on how the chase is going.

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mikeferrentino
+1 Pete Roggeman

Often referred to by its practitioners as "drinkers with a running problem."

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DaveSmith
+1 Jotegir

Tony and Paul have done the Canol Trail a few times on single speed pugsley's - animals.

https://adelorenzo.exposure.co/canol-heritage-trail

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mikeferrentino
0

I remember we ran a version of that in Bikemag way back when. Might have been Ryan Creary writing it, or one of the others. But what a grueling trek!

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Vikb
+1 Mike Ferrentino

I had a fatbike for a number of years back when there were no completes and you had to buy frame plus crazy rims and tires then build it up. I had a lot of fun exploring on it. With the right terrain at hand they can be a blast. I ended up getting a 29+ bike and moving where I no longer had terrain that made any sense for a fatty so I sold it. I remember our adventures fondly.

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lamar454
+1 Mike Ferrentino

you need 3-4" of quarter crushed first, then the pea gravel, then it doesn't move like sand

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mikeferrentino
0

Pig ignorance combined with lack of foresight and nowhere near enough money, now I have a nice gravel trap. I like to pretend it's my own personal runaway truck ramp, but flat, and it only works on bicycles and full wheelbarrows.

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Joe_Dick
0 kcy4130 Geof Harries

winter fat biking is a thing in these parts, complete with mechanized grooming of trails. It’s the opposite of that you are talking about, riding really slow bikes on really smooth trails. I some what get the appeal, its close to town and you don’t have to think too much. but I am pretty sure I can run the trails faster then I can ride them on a fat bike and it lack any ability to explore. that takes away my two favourite things about bikes. maybe if I lived in the desert.

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mikeferrentino
+1 Adrian Bostock

People I know who live in those places where the snow gets groomed tell me that they can ride their regular bikes faster on those trails than fatbikes, which kinda puts a bullet in that line of reasoning, so I hear ya. I'm scratching an itch that has been gnawing away at me ever since I took someone else's fatbike for a spin in an arroyo down in Baja a dozen years ago. I do not in any way see this as a replacement for my regular bike on regular trails, but more a way to get into exploring some places that don't really have much in the way of trails at all. That, and I wanted a bike with lots of those three-hole bottle mount options.

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Joe_Dick
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Some people ride their regular mountain bikes on the groomed trails, in the right conditions there is no issue, but I find that nothing works the way I want it to in -0c temps, tires, suspension, and lets not even talk about my Reverb seat post!.  I ride enough in the 9ish months of dirt season we have, I like the change and we have one of the largest XC ski areas in the province not far from town. plus ski touring, and (Gasp) running!.

Having meaty tires to explore chossy trails makes sense if it adds to the ground you can cover, as opposed to limiting it. Its always a balance. Like strapping shit to your bike. as what point does all that gear become a burden.

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gdharries
+3 DadStillRides whotookit Mike Ferrentino

Our volunteer trail groomers beg/plead that only people with 3.8” tires or larger ride the these types of trails. The narrower tires dig in and create ruts, which then ice over and create issues.

Could just be where we live, but makes sense to me. We have a big fat bike population.

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jt
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Yep, some snow is stable enough for 28c tires, other nothing less than 3". This can happen along the same stretch of trail too. Sun/shade exposure, type of soil, proximity to water sources all come into play. Personal rule of thumb is if someone's maintaining it and has a rule in place, there's a solid reason why and as a matter of not being a jerk, you should follow that rule.

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Joe_Dick
+3 JT Geof Harries Todd Hellinga

I am the trails/operations manager for the local trail association, I work closely with the winter groomers. We have at least as many trail runners as fat bikers, and only a few people on regular bikes. The grooming program is only a few years old, but very successful, both in terms of what they can groom and trail use. Educating the runners and other users about trail use and timing is an ongoing issue. It's a provincial rec site/public land, there is a learning curve for every one involved.

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jt
0

We have spots that allow runners/hikers, XC ski (traditional), and fatties on the same system, but with designated 'sides' of the trail. Perfectly understandable but not a lot of fun to ride (personally at least). We have spots that are fat bike only and without fail you have someone who has a bad take on a refrain from Rage Against the Machine and goes for a jaunt on the groomed and well marked trails. But I hear the same from XC only groomed spots too. People are gonna people.

Hbar
+3 Mike Ferrentino kcy4130 GB

Some of the rockier/antiflow trails here actually ride faster in winter than summer, due to the low-pass filter that is deep, packed snow. It's enjoyably disorienting

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DadStillRides
+1 Hbar

Yeah, it's so weird to ride a tech chonk trail you know very well that's turned into a flow trail by snow.

To me, fat bike trail riding makes most sense during long periods between storms when you're less interested in going skiing. Night riding on snow also just feels more right to me than my summer night rides. Sure, most of the time it doesn't compare to mountain biking in summer, but it sure beats going for a jog or especially exercising indoors.

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JVP
0

I like sauce.

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Maxcycles
0

Mike - I think you’ve highlighted the best use of a fat bike. Way more fun rock crawling and exploring on those things, rather than riding groomed snow (heavy dose of my opinion). Granted, as a person that likes their wheels off the ground a lot, snow jumps are fun and definitely a thing! 

That Kruch fat bike shared in this thread looks incredible!

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Kever
0

Different strokes for different folks.  The vast majority of trails on the shore absolutely require jank removal and dumbing down as they progress from loamer to established trail or they can lose their fun factor and become downright dangerous.  And even with some smoothing the trails are still chunky and technical AF. 

I do see the appeal of the authors style of fat biking though.  Sometimes when I'm building I find someones personal little offshoot janker line that has basically no work done and would be best ridden on a hardtail or fat bike.  These are trails that consist of meandering forest floor with a few sticks kicked out of the way.  A slower, different way to experience the forest, and their jankiness generally prevents them from becoming popular.

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Bli33ard
0

I'd say the discrete particles in a dish are not sauce, so you're off the hook. Also, as I used to ride every day in Manitoba to -15C, a fat bike would make perfect sense. I was just looking at a Rocky RC30 in fact. Yet, what does it matter? One has to have at least three bikes or you're not a biker, just someone that has a bike.

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