Fat-bottom whirls: Try out a fat bike for a new form of Tahoe-Truckee snow fun
This story has been corrected from a previous version to report that fat biking is offered at both resorts at Tahoe Donner and Northstar California. Originally, we did not report that the recreational activity was offered at Northstar; the Sun-Bonanza regrets the error.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area is located at 15275 Alder Creek Road, at the Tahoe Donner Association subdivision in Truckee. Skiing operations there resume on Friday, Dec. 11.
Visit tahoedonner.com/cross-country to learn more.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — I huff and puff — heavily — as my legs work the pedals around and my arms steady the steering.
Not only am I fighting to get up an admittedly small hill, I’m fighting to get a feel for the surface my tires are spinning on, one that I’ve never ridden a bicycle over before: snow.
This moment, less than a quarter mile into my two-mile guided ride on one of Tahoe Donner’s cross-country trails, is when it hits me: Riding a fat bike is much harder than I expected.
In other words, the old “it’s like riding a bike” adage doesn’t apply to me right now.
“Nice job,” Dave Walker, Tahoe Donner’s Bike Program Manager, says to me as I smoothly ride down and up a bowl-like dip in the trail.
I can’t help but feel like a kid circling around the block without training wheels for the first time. The herky-jerky steering, the encouragement I’m getting for conquering bunny hills, the smiles I’m breaking into when I don’t crash.
I’m in full feeling-like-a-kid-again mode.
“Thanks,” I say to Walker, followed by, in an out-of-breath gust, “how much longer do we have until the turnaround?”
“We’re about halfway there,” Walker says.
“OK,” I say, and then think to myself, “I feel about all the way done.”
But then shortly afterward, I find a rhythm. I manage to stick in the center of the groomed trail, where the snow is the hardest and easiest to move through, as I keep a steady pace. And before I know it, Walker and I are taking five inside the Moondance Hut, our turnaround point.
The ride back was even more fun — it was primarily downhill.
WHAT IS A FAT BIKE?
Fat bike are bikes with wide, over-sized tires — it’s impossible not to think of tractors when you look at them — that are designed for low ground pressure to allow for riding on soft unstable terrain.
First invented in the late 1980s for winter trail riding on the Iditarod Trail in Alaska, fat bikes have been steadily growing in popularity through the rest of the country.
“The biggest thing is the versatility,” Walker said. “Obviously you can’t ride a normal bike at a beach, you can’t ride a normal bike in the snow. And these bikes can do those things.”
Fat bikes can also be ridden across dirt, mud and pavement — essentially, anywhere you want to take it.
FAT BIKES AT TAHOE DONNER
Tahoe Donner and Northstar California are currently the only resorts in the Tahoe-Truckee region that offer fat biking on groomed cross-country trails.
At Tahoe Donner, Walker said customer request was the main reason the resort decided to give fat bikes a spin this year.
“Last spring, as kind of a tryout, we did a one-day demo at Tahoe Donner to see if people liked it,” Walker said. “And we had over 50 people show up for the demo and everybody came back loving it.”
With that, Tahoe Donner reached out to Framed, a fat bike manufacturer in Minnesota, and ordered a fleet of bikes. The resort has been renting out the bikes since Thanksgiving.
“It’s just another option,” Walker said, “another way to get people outside and enjoy the outdoors.”
Fat bike rentals at Tahoe Donner are $16 an hour. Since they are only permitted on the trails when conditions allow, check the daily grooming report for times at tahoedonner.com/cross-country/trail-report.