How probably the least gravel friendly bike I own showed it’s all about the ride, not the bike

and that i need to work on my titles

The last snow we had locally was in 2017, three years into owning a fat bike and it was brilliant, the culmination of all that promise of how good a fat bike could be. I’d ridden on normal trails in both summer and winter and yes it was great but it wasn’t snow, the reason fat bikes came about really. But as the snow melted so did my enthusiasm for fat biking. i’d done snow so nothing else was going to compare. I’ll admit i put the fat bike away in the loft at the beginning of spring due to lack of space for other bikes and although I made sure everything was good to go on it so i could drag it out and ride it after setting up the tyres I pretty much forgot about it apart from the annual Global Fat Bike Day which is always on the first Saturday in December (until Gomez says’s it ain’t). On this day I travel down to the surrey Hills where some great friends organise a ride that I haven’t missed since its inception.

2017 vintage snowmageddon

Fast forward to 2020 and through the UKgravelCO network I met a couple of riders and during a gravel ride conversation, undoubtedly over a socially distanced (I can’t wait to be able to stop saying or writing that) cake or coffee talk turned to other bikes we owned. It turned out we all owned fat bikes and the subject of Global Fat Bike day 2020 came up. Travelling down south in lockdown wasn’t sensible so we decided a group of us would ride and go for a brew up in the woods. So I climbed up into the loft and got the fatty down. A quick gear check and topping up with sealant and she was ready. A couple of test rides followed and made me realise that fat bike riding is a lot harder than gravel bike riding, there’s a little more resistance rolling those wheels along after the grav machine. It made me feel like I was going backwards fitness wise. I began to regret getting it back out until this Christmas break.

The snow came down quickly and we managed to get around 3 inches of the white stuff in just a few short hours. The fat bike was probably the safest bike to ride in the conditions so I headed out into the whiteness. As I was riding along deliberately pedaling into the thickest patches of snow, sliding on the hidden soft mud underneath I got into the groove where you are just thinking about staying upright and trying to maintain as much momentum as possible to get up the next slippery climb and staying off the brakes as long as you can to avoid locking the wheels and loosing control. I stopped for a breather (riding in virgin snow is hard work!) and realised this is what I’ve been missing these last few months. After this hellish year and less opportunities to get out and do long rides I’ve found myself getting stressed about not doing as many miles as last year or four years ago and looking back on my mileage for that particular time of year and how i’d need to do “X” amount of miles to make up for it. I’d find myself thinking “if i don’t do 30+ miles it’s not worth riding” and be disappointed if I only had time for 15 miles and pushing my limits on the next ride to make up for it. It’s amazing how you can get into a rut about things, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s channeling the stresses of every day life into their hobbies and sports. Standing there at the top of the hill watching people sledging an laughing it made me realise it doesn’t matter how long the ride is or if the average speed is lower or if you “only” ridden on a cycle path the thing is that its the riding that is the important part.

In fact getting back on the fat bike has reinforced my mantra of No Rules Just Ride, it doesn’t matter what you ride, drop bar, flat bar, thin tyre or fat, just ride. that’s why any bike or rider is welcome on a UKgravelco ride.

Fast forward to 2020

I rode 8 miles on the fat bike in the snow and it was 8 miles of just riding along. It doesn’t matter how far you ride or if the route is epic or just round the block of your housing estate. The most important part is that you are out on your bike enjoying the freedom because you want to, not because you think you ought to.

The fat bike, probably the most inappropriate bike for riding gravel but the best bike for making you realise it’s all about the ride, not the destination or the bike.

As we near the end of 2020 Let’s hope that longer rides and rides with friends old and new can happen again but if that doesn’t happen I’m going to do my best to enjoy it no matter what and no matter which bike it’s on.


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