Back to Blog

Fat Biking: A Perfect Complement to Skiing

Person Riding Fat Bike

Have you ever gone out for a ski when the snow is icy, crusty, and hard? You scrape when you want to glide, skitter sideways when you try to turn, and elicit some hasty prayers as you narrowly avoid tree trunks. You’re a tough New Englander, so you grit your teeth and think, At least I got some fresh air and exercise. But in truth, this would be a better day to snowshoe, or even better, to ride a bike… A fat bike, that is!


Fat bikes are mountain bikes with extra wide tires – anywhere from 3.8 inches to more than five inches wide. (For comparison, mountain bikes traditionally use tires that are about two inches wide.) The fun of a fat bike is that those wide tires provide excellent traction and “float” – in other words, they help spread out the rider’s weight over a greater area, much like skis, allowing the bike to stay on top of the snowpack.


What many people don’t realize is that fat biking doesn’t need to be a high-adrenaline activity. Much like skiing, it can be a calm and quiet way to be in the woods. When you’re slowly pedaling along a winter trail, you stay warm and see wildlife and hear the birds. Many first-time riders are surprised at how easy and fun it is to ride across the snow with those wide tires providing a stable and reassuringly grippy connection to the snow.


Bike Commute

Finance Your Commuter E-Bike

Support your health and the environment with lower-interest bike financing through our Energy Improvement Loan.

See our rates



Do you need special clothing for fat biking? Nah. I wear my winter boots and ski gloves and the same clothing I would wear to snowshoe or ski: a base layer, an insulation layer, and a windproof shell. I add a thin hat under my bike helmet and I’m toasty and happy. There certainly is fat bike-specific gear, such as insulated boots with cleats for clip-less pedals and big neoprene sleeves that attach to the handlebar and provide an extra layer of warmth for your fingers. But you don’t need any of this specialized gear to have a great time riding a bike in the winter.


What you do need for fun fat-biking is a hard-packed snow surface, and the harder the better. Fat biking is best when the skiing stinks—when the snowpack is crusty and slick. (When the snow is soft, powdery, and deep, fat bikes tend to sink and become a lot less fun.) You can find hard-packed snow on trails that have been groomed for fat biking, such as at North Branch River Park in Montpelier or Kingdom Trails in East Burke. Many Nordic ski centers are also allowing fat biking on some of their terrain. Any other trails that have been sufficiently hardened by snow machines, snowshoes, or Mother Nature will work, too. My favorite fat biking experiences have been the days we found a naturally thick crust and could ride anywhere in the woods, over swamps, through hemlock stands, and across meadows that would have been miserable to traverse on foot. Pedaling through this type of winter scene can feel like levitating when you’re gliding magically and silently through the woods.


Ready to try fat biking? Here are some resources to get you started:

See you on the trails!


Your Credit Card Can Earn You Money

It’s true. Find out how you can profit from your spending.

Download the eBook

About Jen Roberts

Jen Roberts is co-owner of Onion River Outdoors in Montpelier, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont, and editor of Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s debut map series and guidebook.

Reading on Phone

Stay informed

Stay up to date on financial tips, tricks, and tools that will build your financial literacy and help you live a more prosperous life.

Subscribe now!