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Outdoors

Getting the skinny on fat bikes

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    Brad Zahar rented this fat bike from Century Cycles in Peninsula.

    BRAD ZAHAR / CHRONICLE

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    The view from a fat bike of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's towpath trail.

    BRAD ZAHAR / CHRONICLE

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Cycling is a sport best reserved for warmer weather and dry trails. At least, that’s what we’ve always been told.

But biking in the snow and colder weather can be a lot of fun, especially when riding a fat bike.

Fat bikes are similar to mountain bikes but are much heavier, totaling about 35 pounds. Their tires are 4 to 5 inches wide, hence the name, fat bike.

Last week I had the opportunity to hit the towpath trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and ride one.

It was a great workout, pushing that much weight as I rode just over 7 miles on the towpath trail. Pushing that weight in the snow is a lot of fun as it’s like having four-wheel drive on a bike.

With a light snow falling and a covered trail, the peace and quiet in the park was such a beautiful sight while trying out a new activity.

Century Cycles in Peninsula rents fat bikes for $15 per hour. The bikes are in good shape and provide a scenic ride, too.

Riding a bike in the dead of winter is also nice, something Kevin Madzia of Century Cycles says is a great use for riding a fat bike.

“(Fat bikes) let you ride at places and times of the year when you normally don’t,” Kevin said. “The huge tires give you traction to float over soft terrain.”

The inch of snow on the towpath trail was a good amount to get the feel of the bike and how it handled on soft, light surfaces.

These bikes aren’t just reserved for bad conditions like snow.

“Riding on rough trails is much easier,” Madzia said. “Their traction makes it easier to keep your speed up.”

You can use these bikes on similar trails that you would ride mountain bikes on. Some great trails locally are Findley State Park in Wellington and Royal View trails in Strongsville which are part of the Cleveland Metroparks. Same goes with Bedford Reservation, another area of the Cleveland Metroparks.

Saturday at Bedford Reservation, bike enthusiasts are racing fat bikes in the Bedford Reservation. The race course combines Bedford’s mountain bike trails and Shawnee Hills Golf Course. There will be two races, one 45 minutes the other 75 minutes. You complete as many laps as you can on a 2.25 mile course consisting of dirt, paved and gravel cart paths. Century Cycles is renting bikes for the event. Madzia said earlier this week they had some bikes still available. The race will go on unless there is a thunderstorm or miserable, wet and muddy conditions.

Getting a bike of your own isn’t cheap. Fat bikes start around $1,500 and go up from there. Renting is a fun way to try the bike out and get a feel for it, maybe wanting to try a new type of bike in the future.

After all, sitting inside all winter is starting to wear thin as the end of the season is starting to show itself. Finding new ways to get outside can inspire and change the mindset that biking and spending time outside can only be done when the weather is perfect.

Contact Brad Zahar at bzaharoutdoors@gmail.com.


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