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It’s January somewhere.  That should be a drinking song.  As a cyclist, it could be a reason to drink.  Think about it — cold and ice and snow and wet and yuck yuck yuck.  Many cyclists used to lament the conditions this time of year, use it as an excuse to sit inside on the couch with a big plate of nachos and a libation(s) to numb the pain of not riding.

Technology and a mild winter have changed that for we two wheeled whackos.

If you have never heard of the invention, a bicycle called a “fat” bike is the rage right now.  They started appearing a few years ago, beefy bicycles with wide wheels and huge balloon tires.  I laughed, no SCOFFED when I saw the first fat bike.  What the heck was that person thinking, riding a contraption like that?  Before long, fat bike snobs appeared everywhere, spouting rhetoric such as “you go fat, you’ll never go back”.


Yes, that’s a real expression.  In the mountain bike world, fat bikes were the answer to suspension, fat bike riders claiming that the balloon tires actually save weight and effort, eliminating the need for shocks.  Clearance issues were no longer a problem, the large tires adding height to a bike.  I have to admit that on more than one winter ride, I have found myself jonesing for a fat bike as I witnessed fat bike riders negotiating the snow covered trails with apparent ease. Those were blizzard rides, however, on trails with a foot of snow and sheer ice underneath.  The fat tires on those bike don’t sink to the ice,.. but when they do, it’s fun for fat bike haters such as myself to watch the suffering.

Baaaaahhhhhhhhh.  Studded tires are better.  Take this morning, for instance.  This morning, I loaded up my old Specialized Hard Rock 26er, outfitted with Nokian studded tires last night, drove to meet my friend Jon and a few of his friends at Palos Forest Preserve for a January frozen trails ride.  The trails are snow and ice covered right now, spectacular in winter beauty.  Palos is a beautiful place, especially this time of year.  The trails there can be treacherous in dry weather, much less icy cold snowy conditions.  It was going to be a challenge.

Jon didn’t show.  Jon, my humble and exceptionally talented friend, the one riding friend who has not succumbed to the fat bike craze.

So it was up to me to provide trail guide services to three crazed fat bike riders.

I had to laugh at times.  Studded snow tires for fat bikes are outrageously expensive.  None of the three had studded tires.  We have some snow on the ground, but it’s mostly ice due to the also mostly mild winter we have had in Chicagoland.  Studs were better than fats this morning.  Since I was trail guide, I intentionally guided the three noobs to trails with steep drops and equally steep, twisted climbs.  My studs stuck to the trail with glue like reliability.  The wide surface of the fat bike tires just turned any challenging section of trail into a skate fest.

Heh heh heh.

The ride this morning was a blast, my first ice ride of the season.  I needed to spin some wheels today, especially since I do not have a functional rear road wheel right now, preventing me from riding the indoor trainer (ummmmm…. drat).  Adding to my pleasure was the experience of driving my new VW on the highway for the first time, with bike inside the cabin.  It performed admirably.  I think I will keep it.

One other note — mountain biking keeps one humble.  I know that is difficult to believe, but it’s true.  Just when I feel like I have had the best, most perfect and skilled ride ever, something happens that brings me down to earth.  Literally.  Mountain biking brings me down to earth.  15 or so miles of flawless riding this morning, I fell less than a quarter mile from the parking lot.  My left knee has a nice contusion, even though I was wearing two layers of incredibly sexy tights.

Yet I still am feeling studly.

And I do want a fat bike.  I’ll be a hater until I get one.2016 Jan Palos