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Discover What Fat Biking is and Why It’s Become so Popular

These off-road two-wheelers with oversized tires have become a popular way to experience winter

Two people are shown riding fat tire bikes through the snow with trees in the background

When winter hits, most people consign their bikes to a forgotten corner of the garage. Even though it’s possible to safely ride your bike in the winter, many don’t feel as confident on those skinny tires. If that’s the case for you, check out a fat bike instead. Fat biking is a popular winter sport and a great way to experience winter because the soft, chunky tires on these specialized bikes are designed to scoot over a variety of terrain including snow, sand and mud.

“Fat bikes are the snowshoe of the cycling industry,” says Shawn Fitzpatrick, owner of Toronto’s Oxygen Bike Company.

If you’re considering taking up this fast-growing sport, here are five things you should know.

  • Look for a well made fat bike
  • Safety should still be a priority
  • Explore Ontario trails on your fat bike
  • Ride your fat bike all year-round


1. Look for a well made fat bike

A basic fat bike from a reputable manufacturer starts at around $1,000, with mid-range models ringing in at $1,500 to $2,500 Fitzpatrick says. You can find bargain basement fat bikes at some big box stores, but Fitzpatrick doesn’t recommend them. Some don’t have gears, making pedaling uphill a chore, and their components aren’t likely to survive the cold and snow.

2. Safety should still be a priority

While it might be tempting to just barrel through the back country, don’t. You should follow all cycling safety rules and tips, including always wearing a helmet. It’s also important to dress in warm clothes, preferably in layers so you can peel off attire if you start to sweat, deMos says. Fitzpatrick recommends always sticking to trails and, as a matter of courtesy, ringing your bell when you pass someone.

3. Explore Ontario trails on your fat bike

The province is brimming with trails tailor-made for fat biking. Local bike clubs in many Ontario municipalities spend the winter tamping down back country routes—often with snowshoes—so they’re fit for cycling, deMos says. He recommends reaching out to your local club to get a rundown of trails in your area. You can also use the website and mobile app Trailforks, which has trail maps and often updates cycling conditions. Be sure to support your local clubs, too. Annual memberships are under $100, or donate an amount of your choosing. Even if you use a path once, a one-time donation of $5 can contribute to maintaining the trail.

4. Ride your fat bike year-round

While they’ve become synonymous with snow, fat bikes can also handle sand, mud and other challenging terrain. Fitzpatrick sometimes bikes from Etobicoke to downtown Toronto via Lake Ontario’s beaches.

Fat bikes also make for capable city rides. Despite their massive tires, they’re only a few pounds heavier than the average mountain bike.

“If I could only own one bike,” says Fitzpatrick, “it would be a fat bike.” 

Here to Help

Did you know that your CAA Membership includes a service called Bike Assist™? It’s roadside assistance for your bike. If you find yourself with a broken chain or stranded somewhere, a CAA operator can help you with your issue on site or transport your bike to a location of your choice.*

Image credit: iStock.com/GibsonPictures