Winter fat biking is a fantastic way to stay fit when the snow blankets the ground. Cycling is a fun cross-training activity for running and other sports. The cardio workout and leg strength you gain from biking will help to keep you healthy and strong. In this interview with fat biker, Juanita Dempsey, we explore the many physical and mental health benefits. She also shares her tips on how to get started on a fat bike.
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“Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There’s something wrong with a society that drives a car to workout in a gym.” – Bill Nye
If you have been following Pink Ribbon Runner, you will know that I want people to be active. But, during the winter months, being active outside can be hard to do. Snow, ice and cold temperatures tend to keep people indoors.
But being outside in the fresh air and sunshine is so important for the health of body and mind. So, I decided to do a series of articles to help you find a favorite activity to do out among the trees in the wintertime.
“Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.” – Dr K.K. Doty
Photo credits: All photos in this article were provided, with permission, by Juanita Dempsey
What is Fat Biking?
A fatbike is an off-road bicycle with large, wide tires. These fat tires allow for mountain bikes to easily ride over snow and sand. It is what they were originally designed for. But they are capable of riding over many different terrains, making them a very versatile bike. And those that ride them would say they are an incredibly fun bike.
To simply look at a fat bike makes me think of fabulous adventures out on the trails. But, I am no expert on fatbiking. But my friend, Juanita Dempsey is. She loves her fatbike. I have follow her adventures this year, seen some of her great photos, and it makes me want to go out and do some fat biking myself.
An Interview with a Fat Biker.
I met Juanita when I joined a local running club. We both volunteered on the executive committee of this club for several years together and became friends.
Juanita has such a wonderful adventurous side. She is so active. When she isn’t running, you can find her on her bike. She has had many biking adventures. It seems to be her main mode of transportation in the summer. And in the winter, you can find her out on the trails fat biking most days. I was thrilled when she agreed to this interview.
I think you will enjoy reading what Juanita has to say. Her enthusiasm for fat biking is contagious.
“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.” — Desmond Tutu
When and why did you start biking?
I have been riding bikes on and off for many years, starting when my kids were little with them in the carrier on the back. But I started riding regularly in 2013 and upped my game quickly once I found a riding partner. I have always enjoyed riding and the fitness aspect of it. Fitness is what drew me to it initially. And now, the fun factor is what keeps me going.
What got you interested in fat biking?
I became interested in fat biking through friends. It is a fabulous way to continue riding through the winter. It helps me keep my riding legs and avoid the pain of starting over every spring.
What is a fat bike? How is it different from a mountain bike?
A fat bike has bigger tires than a mountain bike, is slower and used primarily for winter riding. It can pretty much roll over anything, giving you more confidence on the more technical trails.
These bikes are quite easy to ride. You will love those fat tires
A mountain bike is used on dirt trails mostly. Getting mud in the eye has never been so much fun.
When is your favorite time of year to fat bike?
You can fat bike year-round. My favorite time of year to fat bike is anytime the snow is packed down on the trails.
When the rivers and lakes are frozen over, I can ride to a whole other level of joy. The beauty and adventure of these areas can only be enjoyed when the conditions are just right in the winter. When out on the winter trails on the McIntyre River and Sawdust Lake, I simply breathe and take it all in.
Do you belong to a biking club?
Yes, I belong to the Black Sheep Mountain Bike Club. There are many benefits of belonging to a club, which include the group rides. Anyone can join, any ability. You learn how to ride safely and efficiently. You also learn about your local trail systems.
Bike clubs also organize races for all abilities. I have participated in several of these races. My favorite is the Shuniah Forty Miner. This race is very popular race with lots of riders doing different distances. It also includes a kids’ race on their own separate trails. There is a big awards party afterwards and everyone has a grand time.
What do you enjoy most about fat biking?
What I enjoy most about fat biking is the freedom to just get out and play in winter. It makes the winter months go by so much faster when you’re having fun.
“You are one ride away from a good mood.” – Sarah Bentley
What has been your biggest challenge in winter fat biking?
My biggest challenge with winter fat biking is keeping my fingers and toes warm. Because you don’t move them much when riding they tend to get very cold. I am very thankful for hand/toe warmers and heated gloves.
What has been the best thing about fat biking in winter?
The best thing about winter fat biking is the beauty I get to enjoy. After a fresh snowfall, it’s a winter wonderland.
Also, my favorite trail, Swamp Thing, is only ridable in the winter when everything is covered with snow. In summer, it is a cedar swamp, hence the name.
What is one thing you have learned about yourself through winter fat biking?
I have learned to not be afraid of trying something new even if it looks a little weird at first.
Also, I’ve learned to fall in the snow and laugh heartily trying to get up.
“I didn’t fall, the ground just needed a hug” – unknown
How does someone start winter fat biking?
I would advise trying it out first, to see if fatbiking is for you. Maybe rent one from one from a local bike shop. Or borrow a friend’s fat bike if you know someone that has one that fits you.
When you are ready to buy a fatbike, talk to any of the bike sales people at your local bike shops. They are a fountain of knowledge. They will fit you with the right bike for you. And ask them anything, there’s no such thing as a silly question.
Dress in layers. It may take you a couple rides to see how many layers work for you. But, eventually, you will find the sweet spot.
And fuel; always take something to eat even if you think you won’t need it.
Then just go out there and have fun. It’s not a competition, it is your ride. Enjoy it.
What else would you like people to know about fat biking?
Just remember to have fun. It might seem hard at first because the tires are bigger and slower, but you will get stronger the more you do it. So just go do it.
Before you know it you will be hootin’ and giggling your way through the trails. You will be bugging your friends to go riding with you, just like I do.
Oh and did I mention how strong you will feel. Eventually you will be passing your friends on the trails.
“Ride like a girl, ladies. Strong and proud!” – Juanita Dempsey
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Juanita. If you are looking for more fun ways to stay active in the winter snow, check out these articles: