The Skinny on Fat Biking in the Black Hills | Black Hills Travel Blog

The Skinny on Fat Biking in the Black Hills

  • The Skinny on Fat Biking in the Black Hills
Thursday, February 27, 2020
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As with all things sports related, technology has advanced sports to a new level. For example, in the past 10 years people don’t just own one set of tennis shoes, they have specific shoes for walking, for running, for running on dirt, or even just to go out on a date—you get the picture. And it’s the same in the bicycling world. If you’re more than just a casual bike rider, you don’t just have one bicycle anymore. You might have a road bike, a triathlon bike, a dirt jump bike, a mountain bike, and now you might even be thinking of getting a fat bike.

If you are into mountain biking, as many people in the Black Hills are, you probably don’t just mountain bike in the summertime. It’s become a year-round sport here in the Black Hills. When the temperatures drop and the snow falls, winter bicycling is still possible thanks to fat tire biking.

You might have seen some of these bikes around the hills in the last several years, perhaps while riding on the Mickelson Trail or on one of your favorite hiking trails. There are literally hundreds of fat tire bike riders around the Hills. And, as in all sports, competitions are born and the Black Hills are no exception. Several events and races have popped up around the Black Hills that include fat bikes such as the Winter’s Fat Classic in Lead, and the 28 Below 50K Race and Ride Tour in Spearfish.

Fat Biking 101

For those unfamiliar, fat bikes are mountain bikes that you can ride all year long on different types of trails. The differences that “fatties” offer are very interesting. The wide tires provide more traction in both dirt and snow, and allow a rider to climb uphill like no other bike can. The bigger tires—some as wide as 5 inches—can float through sand and snow, which is why they have become the favorite for winter riding. 

The best snow conditions to ride the fat tire bikes on are snow-packed trails. Due to growing popularity, there are several communities in the Black Hills that have even started grooming trails for just for this purpose. One such trail is the Fish Canyon Fat Bike, located just outside of Sundance, WY, which has around 13 miles of trails that a fat biker can ride on. Trails in Sturgis, Rapid City, and Spearfish all have groups that will keep the trails packed by regularly riding on them. There is also grooming happening on Forest Service land at Deadman Mountain south of Sturgis, Mt. Roosevelt north of Deadwood, a much-expanded area around Big Hill, and at Reuter Campground. Also, the cities of Lead and Deadwood have allowed grooming of their new Homestake Trail, and Sturgis will continue to allow use of their trails east of town.


Appropriate Gear

Clothing is very important when you’re talking about being in freezing conditions and traveling sometimes at 10-15 miles per hour. The wind chill can dip below the minus sign fast—especially in the Black Hills! It can become chilly in a hurry and a rider must be prepared. To do so means dressing in layers and carrying a pack to store extra clothing in. This is an absolute must. It is easy to get overheated and sweaty on a bike even in 10-degree weather, which is why it’s important to keep your body and feet regulated so you aren’t miserable. And as always, make sure you have a helmet as a slip on the ice could be dangerous.

Believe it or not, putting fluids into your body is more important in the winter than in the summer. Make it a point to constantly drink water whether you are thirsty or not. It's also important to protect your water from freezing. This can be solved by using insulated waterbottles, and by keeping the waterbottle close to your own body heat. You could even consider putting the insulated waterbottle inside an insulated bag, and start by filling the bottle with warm water at home.

As for any trip into the wild lands of the Black Hills, make sure you have your survival and emergency gear along. Travel with a lighter or fire-starter, space blanket, map, compass (GPS is also good), pocketknife, and a light. 

You can get more information on riding your fat bike in the wintertime from any of our excellent bike shops in and around the Black Hills.

See you on the trails!

Photos courtesy of Tim Rangitsch of Acme Bicycles.

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