BREAKING DOWN THE MID-FAT AND FAT EXPERIENCE
By Betsy Williford
As I briefly mentioned in my first article "Why I went fat, one woman's journey in mountain biking" last month, my upward movement in mountain biking actually gets credited to my Cannondale Beast of the East, a 27.5 plus. My second mountain bike.
This month, I thought I'd breakdown my experience with both my mid-fat and fat steeds. After all, some inquiring minds were curious of my personal experience.
"It meant more smiles and less of those painful spills."
In the spring of 2016 I purchased my "Ox Blood" colored Cannondale Beast of the East mid-fat. Weighing in at 29 pounds, with 3.0" tires and setup tubeless, this steed is the dreamy balance between the skinny and fat. For someone that is not very sound on technical terrain, this was just what I needed to jettison me into riding more and eventual developing that insatiable desire to broaden my horizons on trail choices and get more saddle time.
Riding a mountain bike with plus size tires gives me the additional overall stability that I desire to grow more confident. Just a split second more for balance over technical terrain made a big difference for me. It meant more smiles and less of those painful spills. I also noticed that descents over technical terrain were more fun too. I began to get a little more aggressive in picking my lines, opting to roll over a few objects rather than gingerly try to wind through them and ultimately cause myself to tip over by trying to avoid every bump out of fear. I could still climb pretty well and wasn't worried about being weighed down with a little heavier bike. I started to get faster on my rides. Being a naturally competitive person, seeing more of those little PR ribbons on my Strava essentially lit a fire under me and became a motivation catapult for getting out. I went from riding mostly green or green/blue rated trails to more blues, and a few blue/blacks. I joined a women's social mountain biking club to meet more riders and finally get some more formal training in the form of rider's clinics. I was READY to challenge myself more, all thanks to those plus sized tires.
Then came my beloved fat bike. My ultimate goal was always to go as fat as possible. This year I added the 9:zero:7 Whiteout AL to my newly budding quiver. Weighing in at 34 pounds currently, with 5.0" tires (not setup tubeless just yet), my orange colored fatty is my first pick to ride almost every time. The allure is that ADDED stability. I love riding a tank. I love bulldozing my way through terrain that scares me on skinny tires, or that makes me think twice on plus sized tires.
"Oh wait, hubby didn't do it, hold my beer, watch I'll do it."
Apex, a popular Front Range trail, is a perfect example. I rode Apex for the first time with my husband a few weeks ago. He on his Niner and me on my 9:zero:7 fatty. We rode the full Apex Tour on mtbproject.com. Climbing up Pick n Sledge there were a few, what I would call bigger, rocks to clean, not usually my forte. However, I felt good. I felt stable. I tackled them, head on, cleaning them on my first try. I might not have been so bold on my mid-fat yet. I couldn't hold back the celebratory holler. I did it! Instant confidence booster. I continued that magical flow the whole ride. I felt legit.
Finally, after descending Enchanted Forest, here I was bombing down the gut; a final, messy and boulder strewn part of the Apex trail. Dropping every obstacle like I owned it. Take that! You don't scare me! Oh wait, hubby didn't do it, hold my beer, watch I'll do it. The fat tires gave me courage. A little too much courage maybe. It happened, I lost focus for that one second and endo'd on one last big rock section. My first endo. That sucked but, looking back I notice it's a great sign that I was willing to push myself harder. All thanks to the fat tires.
There have been other comparisons that I've done between my mid-fat and fat. Riding at Three Sisters / Evergreen mountain, I noticed I crush the downhill on the fatty but, my climbing is faster on the mid-fat. Totally predictable and expected. I also noticed after riding the fatty and switching back to the mid-fat, I have more boldness to tackle moderate technical sections on my mid-fat along the Ponderosa trail because I already conquered them on the fatty. So it's great practice refining those handling skills.
For me, the difference between the mid-fat and fat is the mental mindset that follows depending on which steed I choose on each ride. The fatty gives me a chance to relax more and not overthink a trail. It drops the intensity level and manages my fears a little more. The mid-fat gives me the chance to hit a trail that I already know what to expect regarding terrain and now I can work on skills and refine them. And eventually become a better rider in all situations.
Other things I love about the fat bike, besides the added stability and confidence is the ability to ride year round now. I've found that what I miss on the mountain snowboarding, I can get back fat biking. Sheer solitude. Just me and the fatty on a snowy trail is pure bliss.
The beauty of plus size tires is bridging that gap for the less experienced riders to be eased into trails with techy sections but, I would dare say it also helps advanced riders push even harder in the right conditions.
I'm so obsessed with fatter tires. It's my personal jam, and I know everyone is different. But, maybe you or someone you know can relate or maybe you have someone you wished would ride more but can't seem to get them on the trail with you. Consider some of these thoughts! Maybe the fatter tires are here to stay. Maybe fatter tires are the future of mountain biking. It really is and can be for everyone of all skill levels. You just gotta find what you like best and what helps you get out and ride more.
Editors Note; For assistance on your own path to glory, take Betsy's lead and visit the Dirt Divas and COMBA! Don't forget about all the shredders willing to help over at Colorowdies too!