Meet snow biking, Alaska’s latest favorite winter pastime
If you love mountain biking, then you must love the great outdoors. But what happens when winter arrives, temperatures drop and crazy snow blankets the ground for months on end?
Snow biking, of course. Yes, riding your bike on the snow — yet another non-winter weather activity that us bold Alaskans have managed to carry on with in spite of the harsh challenges of the arctic.
So what exactly is snow biking?
Snow biking is exactly what it sounds like — biking on the snow.
The equipment changes, of course, most notably the tires, which are sensibly known as “fat bikes.” The fat two-wheeled carriages are specialized mountain bikes fitted with super wide, knobby tires about 4-5″ wide (versus the normal 2.5″ width). The tires are run at lower pressures so they can “float” over soft terrain like snow (or mud or sand).
A local company called 9:ZERO:7 has popularized the fat bike niche in Anchorage by manufacturing its own proprietary bike frame and fork designs specifically built for performance on the snow.
The team at 9:ZERO:7 is on the cutting edge of not just fat bikes, but incredible winter biking excursions throughout Alaska. Several locales actually offer better traversing conditions in the winter (versus summer) when the foliage is minimized and visibility is better.
And for extreme winter biker…
Ever heard of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race? It’s a pretty big deal — an iconic dog mushing race that runs from Anchorage to Nome. It’s just over 1,000 miles and covers some of the coldest, harshest and most isolated terrain in the world.
Now imagine doing the same Iditarod trail on a fat bike! The Iditarod Trail Invitational is the world’s longest winter ultra-marathon and one of the most challenging outdoor experience known to humans (you can go by fat bike, foot or skiis).
Racers can opt for the short course (130 miles), medium course (350 miles), or long course, which goes the full 1,000 mile length of the trail and can take up to 30 frozen days and nights of ultra-harsh and lonely conditions (ever been in -50F?).
Stay warm and have fun
If you’re planning on an extended cold-weather trip on a fat bake, winter biking veteran Iohan Gueorguiev suggests eating lots of food and investing in a quality sleeping bag to stay warm. If you can stay warm, you may have — according to some snow bikers — more fun than skiing.
Fat bikes aren’t just for crazy winter adventures, either. Many Alaskans commute to work and around town on their fat bikes in the winter just as they would in the summer. This often involves special studded tires for traction on icy roads, and, of course — extra layers of clothes.
Says Ellie Mitchell in the video below:
“Snow biking is just another way dealing with the snow. It’s so much fun to be able to go outside and ride your bike, even if there’s snow outside.”
Lastly, if you’re biking home from your local Anchorage brewery with a growler full of fresh beer, don’t forget the most valuable fat bike accessory 🙂