Winter roared back into Madison last week with snow, wind chills worthy of warnings, and near-record low temps. And yet, our winter commuters continued to arrive by bike.
With the latest snowfall, fat bike enthusiasts have geared up and headed out to play in the snow. And with the popularity of snow bikes increasing and the bump in public trails now being groomed for fat bikes, we asked our Saris fat bike enthusiasts what gear they recommend for a fun-filled, tundra-exploring adventure.
1. Pedals & Shoes
Every rider has a preference on their pedals, no matter the weather. We noticed that our winter riders tend to be split between clipless and flat pedals.
“I recommend the Crank Bro Mallet Pedals as they allow me to clip in, even with snow covered shoes.”
"VP Vice pedals have insanely good grip and are wide enough for me to wear a good boot while riding."
The wisest advice comes from our design engineer and mega fat bike enthusiast, BJ:
“If you aren’t willing to pony up for winter cycling shoes, ditch the clipless pedals and ride in warm, sensible boots.”
This is the perfect example of gear that’s been re-purposed for fat bike snow adventures. Often used for hiking, mountaineering and other sports that require calf protection, gaiters can help your lower legs stay dry and prevent snow from falling down your boots for a cold surprise.
“45North Gaiters save me from getting my feet wet since they don’t plow the bike path that I ride. They also help keep my legs warm!” –Jason, his Surley Pug Ops pictured above.
3. Smart Clothing Choices
Let’s be honest, a list of clothing recommendations could be its own, separate blog. That’s because when it comes to having a good time on your bike in the winter, clothing choices are key.
“Using breathable clothing is super important. Having clothing that doesn’t breathe is like baking fish sticks at 600 degrees. Being half burnt and half frozen does not even out to a good experience. Clothing needs to allow you to maintain an even body temperature without generating hot spots that get sweaty while other areas freeze.” -BJ
BJ also recommends that you focus on your extremities, including warm shoes and gloves when gearing up for the cold. Which leads us to…
4. Pogies & Gloves
How to keep hands warm while riding is one of the most common conversations held between the winter riders – and no two people do hand warmth the same. But there is one thing can be agreed on: pogies (aka Bar Mitts). Many of us sport the pure neoprene, Bar Mitt brand but Todd swears by his lined and ventable 45North Cobrafist Pogie.
“I can’t be warm enough on my 10.5 mile commute. Got to keep the fingers and toes warm!” – Todd, test engineer.
And even on the coldest days, many layer a pair of gloves (or two!) inside their pogie. Cassandra is a big fan of the Smartwool liner glove stuffed inside another glove, such as the Pearl Izumi Lobster gloves favored by Jason.
5. Face & Eye Protection
To quote BJ, “Facial covering is also important when it gets really cold. Sunglasses or goggles for your eyes, and for the rest of your face I’d suggest anything from a simple bandana or scarf to a balaclava.”
Echoing BJ’s advice, Cassandra (pictured above) chimed in saying, “My other item would be my goggles. They not only offer facial protection from the wind, but in subzero temps they keep my eyelashes from freezing together!”
And if you’re worried about frostbite, Todd recommends a tin of Dermatone instead of Vaseline. It’s water-free and has SPF 30.
This one almost goes without saying, but if you’re riding out on the ice and snow please wear a helmet. There are many out on the market for winter cycling specifically, complete with a goggle clip and thick lining around the ears.
And if you don’t want to splurge on a winter specific helmet, our online marketing specialist, Mary (pictured above), layers a wool balaclava under a Pearl Izumi Procycling cap to block the wind while sporting her road helmet.
Why are fenders so important? We’ll let BJ answer that.
“Salt and road grime turn to sludge after most snow storms, and they get sprayed everywhere. To save both your bike and yourself, full coverage fenders are my most recommended item for winter commuting.”
Here’s the thing: full coverage fenders for fat bikes are hard to find and can be expensive. Our crew of fat bike riding engineers have built their own out in our plant. Not everyone can do that. So if you don’t have a sheet of Plexiglas and a riveting tool, then check out PDX Dave’s Mud Shovel fenders. Both Mary and Cassandra sport them with zero complaints.
Jason's fat bike sports custom fenders designed by BJ.
Winter brings fewer hours of daylight, and for commuters that means good lights on both the front and the back of the bike are essential for a safe ride.
“My Light & Motion USB rechargeable light has a multitude of settings so I can ride the path home at night without blinding those on the path with me.And when I hit the road, I’m able to easily turn it on high for better visibility in car traffic. Plus, I can charge it at my desk all day when it’s needed and can easily swap it between bikes.” –Mary
9. Bike Rack For Your Car with Fat Bike Trays
Now that you’re all bundled up and ready to hit the road, it's time to get you and your bike where you want to ride. The best way to get your precious fat bike from Point A to Point B is on our SuperClamp EX platform hitch rack.
Available in either 2-bike or 4-bike configurations, the SuperClamp EX is equipped to carry fat bikes with up to 4" tires right out of the box. And if your rig is sporting tires in the 4" to 5" range, swap in the Fat Tire Wheel Holders. Because even the fattest of fat bikes deserve to get out and explore.
10. A Fat Bike
As Todd said, “The fat bike helps!” Indeed it does. Most of our employees can be seen on the popular Surley Pugsley, but there’s also a Badger Fattywompus among the rankings. Plus, many of our crew have significant others that sport a completely different fat bike. It’s all about personal taste, fit and comfort. So if you're in the market, be sure to stop by your local bike shop to find the right fat bike for you.
BJ's significant other captured this beautiful shot of her fat bike in the snow.