The emergence of Fat Bikes has changed the norm in resort mountain biking. What started as a bike built for riding in the snow has turned into a year-round sighting in resort towns across America. In Aspen, you will see Fat Bikes being used as town cruisers, hotel fleet bikes and full on cross-county trail bikes. This winter, I suggest a return to the use that started the whole trend. Snow biking. Below is an insider’s guide to enjoying Fat Biking in Aspen.
- Ute City Cycles (231 E. Main Street in Aspen) offers Fat Bike rentals and demos for a low cost option to test out the sport. Their fleet typically includes high end carbon bikes that weigh less than your typical mountain bike, so go big.
- To maximize your experience, dress as you would for a winter endurance sport like cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Hands and feet are the most important areas to keep warm. You want to be chilly at the start because you will warm up with exertion. Choose a base layer that breathes so you don’t get wet and cold. If you plan on riding uphill, carry a windshell or down jacket for the downhill because you will get cold (think downhill skiing). I suggest a helmet even though you are riding on snow.
- The key to enjoying Fat Biking is understanding that snow conditions make or break the ride. A good firm, packed surface is like riding on dirt and just as fast. Soft, punchy snow will make you miserable very quickly and remind you that when you hike, you normally do not take a bike with you. The translation; plan your route around amounts of recent snowfall, trail traffic (which packs the snow) temperature and sun exposure. A local bike shop should be able to offer what trails are riding best on any given day. Also check Aspen Fat Bikers page on Facebook.
The go to ride in the summer is generally a good bet in the winter.
Pros: With lots of foot traffic, it is packed down quickly after a storm. It is in town and easy to get to. Often times you can continue a ride down into Hunter Creek for a loop.
Cons: It’s Smuggler and always hard. There is no place to hide if you are struggling. Not the most scenic ride around and definitely no solitude.Maroon Bells:
Probably the most popular ride.
Pros: Gets groomed occasionally and the first several miles are packed down. Beautiful. Solitude. First several miles are not too strenuous.
Cons: When the snow is soft, it can be really difficult riding. Lots of dogs. Can be cold and windy.
Just you, me and the snowmobiles.
Pros: Beautiful. Isolated.
Cons: Snow conditions can vary widely. Isolated.Buttermilk Loop:
Pros: Bragging rights. Fun combined with a Hairball descent.
Cons: Only legally done when the ski area is closed. Wetting your base layer because you are laughing so much.
I have done everything but pedal your bike, so you have no excuse. Get out and try it. The worst thing that could happen is you will need another new bike.