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Photo: Hank Greer
Photo: Hank Greer

Fat Bike Gear: What to Wear to Stay Warm and Dry

With the growing popularity of fat biking on snow-covered trails, more people are confronted with the question of what to wear to keep warm without overheating and getting drenched in sweat. John Drumm, store manager and resident fat bike expert at Fitness Fanatics in Spokane Valley has some thoughtful fat biking gear advice based on years of personal experience. “We find that having specific clothing for a single sport is not practical,” says Drumm. “Rather, winter clothing has to be useful for multiple sports. Skate skiing is a more active and more aerobic sport than riding fat bikes, but the clothing used for skate skiing is also ideal for fat bikes,” he adds.

Drumm cautions that people have a tendency to overdress for active outdoor winter sports like fat biking. “Riding a fat bike you are burning a lot of calories and creating a lot of heat. It’s actually amazing how little clothing you really need, even in the coldest temperatures,” he says. This is all fine with one caveat, notes Drumm. Always keep moving. Just like in other winter sports like backcountry or Nordic skiing that can take you far out into backcountry where you may need to make an occasional longer stop because of an injury or gear failure, you need to carry extra clothing to stay warm during such stops.

Drumm says that he stays comfortable riding his fat bike down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit with a breathable light shell, one light poly-tech blend mid layer and a poly blend base layer. “You can account for temperature control by adding or subtracting the mid-layers as needed,” Drumm says. “For my lower half, it is similar except that I don’t need the mid layer. Your legs run warmer than your top because of all that pedaling!”

Warm hands and feet are also essential to comfort and endurance. “Gloves are useless when it is cold, and mittens, while warmer, don’t allow you the dexterity to operate the controls properly,” Drumm says. He and his riding buddies use a hybrid glove/mitten combo called a lobster mitt – they allow two fingers to be side-by-side for extra warmth, while allowing for the dexterity needed to operate the controls.

For extreme cold, Drumm recommends mounting Bar Mitts on your handlebars. “Bar Mitts are fleece lined neoprene covers that completely envelope your handlebar controls, much like the covers used on snowmobiles for years,” he explains. “You can put your hand and forearm into these cozy chambers for total winter warmth. They are so warm you can get by with lighter gloves for maximum dexterity on the controls.”

Keeping your feet warm while pedaling down a frozen trail in cold temps can be challenging too, but Drumm recommends neoprene bootie covers to combat that problem. “These look like a wetsuit that zips right over your existing bike shoes. There is even an accommodating cutout to allow for your cleats,” he says. For really cold temperatures, he recommends battery powered heated insoles.

Drumm notes that Fitness Fanatics carries all of the fat bike riding gear he recommends here. “Since Fitness Fanatics is the go-to location for outdoor winter technical clothing for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and road biking, it makes sense that we are also your source for the ultimate in winter fat biking attire.” Fitfanatics.com.

Bar mitts

The Bar Mitts Solution for Cold Weather Riding

I got the chance to try out a pair of Bar Mitts neoprene handlebar covers on my mountain bike this winter, and the difference they made on blocking the cold, biting wind was dramatic. Bar Mitts come in several styles to fit different types of handlebars, from mountain bikes to drop style handlebars, flat bars and various commuter and townie bars. The Mountain Mitts fit over my mountain bike handlebar brake levers and shifters after opening the small zipper and sliding the neoprene cocoon over them. Velcro straps on the inside of the Mitts keep them secure to the bar. With the Mitts attached, you can get by with a lighter riding glove that gives you more dexterity in controlling the bike than you would get from wearing a thick pair of winter gloves. Fitness Fanatics in the Spokane Valley will be carrying Bar Mitts this season, and you can also order them online at www.barmitts.com. //

About Derrick Knowles

Derrick is the editor and co-publisher of Out There Monthly. He has spent more than 30 years exploring the Inland Northwest’s trails, mountains, lakes and rivers.