Fat bike

I have tried many different types of cycling; folding bikes, touring, road bikes, cruisers, bicycle snowplow bikes, and now fatbikes.

What’s all the rave about fat bikes anyway?

If you haven’t tried fat bikes, its a whole different world of cycling. Forget about snow being a problem. Forget about rough grass fields being a problem. Forget about curbs being a problem. Ice is still a problem unless you get spiked tires (haven’t tried fat bike ones yet $260).

In a youtube video I saw a fatbike float in water. I kid you not!

I was waiting for prices to come down below $1000 and when they did, I bought an entry level EVO Brewster fatbike with massive 4.8″ tires. Lowest gear is about 35 gear inches. Top gear is about 99 gear inches which I don’t see being all that feasible unless bombing downhill or being pushed by a strong tailwind. Mostly I stick to lowest gear on rough surfaces anyways.

Some of the big differences between fat bikes and other kinds of bicycles are:

1) tire pressures can be reduced to almost nothing for soft surfaces like deep snow, beaches, mud etc.

2) at very low pressures I find the steering attempting to turn itself sharper (its those massively wide rims). At higher tire pressures I didn’t notice this.

3) was told that 5″ tires get you through loose snow and 4″ tires get you through packed snow. I charged through 6-12″ deep slushy snow before realizing that going faster wasn’t needed. Those big tires just kept rolling over everything.

4) pavement is not required. In fact, you’ll enjoy riding in places that have not been possible to ride before.

5) learning to power wheelie over curbs can be forgotten. Just ride towards the curb and those big tires will roll right over the curb with hardly any kind of sensation. With a normal bike, if you don’t lift the front wheel over a curb the bike will hit the curb and stop dead, possibly causing rim damage as you fall off the bike. No such embarrassment with a fat bike.

6) steering takes longer. Steering those massive tires means steering happens more slowly and surely. This makes fat bikes more stable.

7) fat bikes are longer. If you have had problems with the front tire lifting while pedalling up steep hills, time to forget about it.

8) fat bikes take longer to accelerate than road bikes. Put a road bike and a fat bike on rough or soft terrain however, and the fat bike wins out because it is much easier to pedal.

9) in Alaska, fat bike racing happens every year over very long distances. You’d spend more time walking skinny tired bikes than riding them in deep snow.

10) fat bikes make winter camping fun. A friend winter camps with kids around Lake Minnewanka near Banff. Sounds like fun.

11) you’ll get the hang of fat biking faster if you think of fat bikes as 4X4s. They go pretty much anywhere and like a 4X4 on rough off road routes, they go slower and can go anywhere.

12) you’ll need to find tire gauges that read low pressures. 30 psi is the maximum pressure on the EVO. Most bicycle tire gauges and pumps go over 100 psi and are useless for trying to find out where 2 psi is on their scale.

13) you will need a very high volume pump like a floor pump. These big tires take a lot of air. A skinny mini pump will take all day to fill the tire up to a couple of psi, never mind pumping it up to maximum pressure.

14) Most fat bikes won’t have the means to attach carriers and panniers. The solution is frame bags, handlebar bags, and rear racks that mount on seat posts.

15) don’t worry if the chain rubs against the back tire in low gears. Those big tires often get in the way of chains. I’m adding a chain guide just because I like to keep the chain off so it won’t always be getting dirty. I was surprised after the first rides to find the chain was still clean. Maybe it won’t get as dirty as I think it should.

15) rutted unplowed pathways are not a problem. Just lower the pressure to where the ride is smooth.

16) if you have poor snow plowing on roads and pathways in your area, a fat bike can let you get around. Its the ultimate winter bike.

Fat bikes may be the solution for people who don’t want to bike in traffic. If there’s any bike that allows you to go places where there’s no traffic, this is it!

Bicycle Snow Plowing is a new winter sport!


Bicycle Snowplow bike needs surgery

Today was spent running between bike shops. A week short of the 1 year anniversary of buying the Giant Simple 3, the bike went in for repairs to fix shifting issues.

The first repair was to replace a stretched shift cable and shift housing. There were still shift problems so the bike had to go back to the store I bought it from.

While the bike was being looked at, I had to waste a lot of time in a coffee shop until the bike was ready. I returned to the store and rode it around the parking lot. It still was not shifting into 3rd gear. The mechanic thought the shift housing was sitting too far out and wasn’t pushing the shift rod in far enough. More runs around the parking lot. The shifting improved but still refused to shift into 3rd unless I back pedaled and put on the brake.

After a few hours at the store, the mechanic decided the only thing left was to take the hub apart. It was obviously going to be a warranty repair and since it was only about a week left on the warranty, the examination had to be done now.

Heavy snow was falling for about a half hour before tapering off. The mechanic found a spring unwinding on the axle. The spring shifted the gears into 3rd gear. The bike was put back together and I was told not to do much shifting because the spring could break and damage parts. I’m waiting for Shimano to allow a warranty repair.

The bike still worked and I shifted into 1st gear and left it there while hooking up the 5 foot plow. The higher elevation on the pathway was covered in about a half inch of snow. It was plowed quickly, leaving a ridge of snow on the pathway with a five foot wide path on one side of the pathway and about 2 feet on the other side of the snow ridge. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go out and hook up the plow and push the snow ridge off the pathway. It was just a quick clean today.

The new rear wheel mounts are flat steel bar. They allow me to raise or lower the wheels by bending the steel. Today with the light snow, I bent the wheels up and put the whole blade on the pavement. In deeper snow I can adjust the wheels down several inches. This works very well for setting the plow height to exactly what is needed for the snow conditions.

In 1st gear I was doing about 15 kph up to about 20 kph maximum at a very high cadence. Surprisingly, the Ice Spiker studded tires occasionally lost traction now and then on icy patches hidden in the snow for a fraction of a second. It is rare for this to happen but remember a 5 foot plow does offer resistance in snow so I often hook up tire chains as well if snow is several inches deep.

Once the plowing was completed, I bent the wheels back down and raced home, coasting down hills. Since I didn’t bring my panniers with tools and a leash to pull the plow to the side, it was not possible to push the snow ridge off the pathway. Tomorrow I may load up all the gear and finish the job. Snow should end soon. Nothing is falling tonight.

David Johnston McNish Coldwell Sep 25,1929-Jan 2, 2016 Eulogy

The riddle we solve in life, is called death. Death seems so final, so real, but is it?

My parents let me stay with Mrs Budd the summer before schooling started. Each morning while Mrs Budd made breakfast, I’d sit on her front steps and immerse myself in life.

Birds were chirping happily, jumping and flitting about in the sunlit trees. Squirrels randomly shot about, alternating between a caffeine overdose and a strong sleeping potion that froze them in mid stride.

Can life be more than any of us know in this moment? Can we know more than a bird or a squirrel?

Dad had his struggles raising 6 kids. We sometimes struggled to realize that we needed discipline to be successful in life. It is the people we want to understand that are the ones who are the most difficult to say good-bye to.

When the heart is broken and we think that we cannot endure another moment, let us remember that tears are also tears of love. I believe that God does not abandon us even in death because our understanding fails to grasp the immensity of what we call life.

Some say death is the end of our lives here. I argue that what the heart loves, the mind takes a lifetime to understand. We know only a fraction of all that is possible for the heart to feel in heaven. When our hearts are empty, there is nothing to keep God’s love from rushing in.

Heaven is the moment we go to sleep and awaken to find the dream more real. When the heart awakens, there is no distance between us. Life is limited only by our capacity for love.

We learn to see past the illusion of death by learning to see with the heart. The eyes can trick us and the mind can deceive us.

Instead, let us look at what is looking through our eyes and listening through our ears. Let us lay aside doubt and just experience life all around us.

Whenever I cannot see past this painful illusion of death, I return to that morning as a child when the birds and squirrels were so alive. I was a part of their cheerful proclamation, I am alive and I am happy.

God does not speak as people speak but rather, God speaks to the heart through life around us.

Some day we will return to the ocean of love and mercy where God dwells. Let us not be sad about Dad’s passing, but let us celebrate his love for life.

Can life be more than any of us know in this moment?

Yes it can. How we perceive life is far more real than how we perceive death.