Dress For Success: What to Wear Fat Biking
- by Josh Pombar
I’m no stranger to cycling or mountain biking and while I’m not a bike addict, I may be on the precipice of becoming one after buying a fat bike. While this purchase would bring my bike count to five, it would also serve as my first venture into fat biking. My biggest concern getting into this sport was what to wear to stay warm.
I didn’t want to go out and spend hundreds of additional dollars on specialized products for mountain biking in below-freezing temperatures; instead, I did a few things to figure out what gear would be best.
I grew up in Vermont and have been on the mountain since the age of two, so I know how to prepare myself for the elements. That said, high-aerobic activities are a different beast than gearing up for a day of skiing. My biggest challenge in finding the right gear was the fact that I tend to “run hot” - so to speak. I don’t get quite as cold as the next guy, as I’ve been known to wear shorts in the middle of winter. Because I run hot, I tend to sweat more than I’d like to admit, which poses a problem while outside in sub-freezing temperatures since hypothermia becomes a realistic risk factor. Obviously, this was a risk that I was trying to avoid. With this challenge, I took several sources of information into account: I posed questions to close avid riders about what they wear, read far too many blog posts and articles on the subject, and took what I know from running in the winter. In conclusion, my research ventures allowed for me to come to the following list:
What to Wear Fat Biking
I already owned a pair of Merrell hiking boots, so I used these instead of getting a pair of insulated boots. My feet don’t tend to get cold enough to warrant the added insulation. You’ll want footwear with good traction and if your feet do run cold, I’d recommend an insulated pair of boots.
Depending on the temperature and the duration of the ride I use either the Darn Tough Badge of Honor Micro Crew Light (above 20 degrees) or the Hiker Boot Sock (below 20 degrees). These socks fit great and always keep my feet warm. Merino wool socks are the best because of their natural warmth and odor-resistant properties.
On my legs I wear padded bike shorts for seat time comfort, thermal tights and a pair of North Face Isotherm Pants. This layering has kept me comfortable and warm in all conditions although there have been a couple of times where windproof briefs or a windproof outer layer might have been nice.
Just as with any other winter sport, layering is key. I wear the Ibex Woolies Crew over a technical t-shirt. This top is lightweight, comfortable and stays warm even when it gets wet.
Keep in mind thickness and ease of finger movement when choosing the right pair of gloves. I purchased the Flylow Ridge this winter. This glove isn’t too thick and has good finger articulation for holding the handlebar and working the brakes.
A good fleece pullover makes for a great mid layer. I wear the Turtle Fur Carapace ¼ Zip Pullover. I love this top! It’s made from Micro Fur Fleece which has two qualities I really appreciate on the trail. First, it has a great warmth-to-weight ratio and always seems to provide just the right amount of warmth and second, is the fit. I am 5’11” and 195lbs and the large fits perfect and fits under my shell without feeling bulky.
The shell is where you can pick and choose all your bells and whistles. Some of the tech features that differentiate here are whether the shell is hard/soft, if it has wind-stopping properties, and if it’s waterproof. I landed on the Mammut Ultimate Hoodie. This shell has all the tech features I was looking for; soft shell, Gore Windstopper, pit zips, hood, breathable, and waterproof. This jacket paired with the Carapace pullover is the perfect combination. On -0 degree days I may swap the Mammut jacket out with my Arc’teryx Atom AR Hoody for added warmth.
You’ll want something sleek and low-profile that will fit under your helmet. The Brain Shroud fits perfectly under my helmet, gives me good ear coverage, is breathable and quick-drying which is important when I work up a sweat. If it gets really cold, I’ll wear a merino wool beanie that also fits under my helmet and always provides just the right amount of warmth no matter what the temperature is. If you’re worried about the cold a balaclava is always an option too. I really like the quattroclava because of how versatile it is.
Just In Case items
As I stated earlier, I don’t tend to get too cold while riding but that doesn’t mean I don’t prepare myself for those just-in-case times. To always be prepared, I carry a tube neck gaiter with me. The versatility of this product is fantastic (I carry one with me in the car and in my hiking pack). Whether I need to cover my neck, face, or pull it up over my head to wear as a balaclava it provides the ultimate protection.
Hydration is key to good health, so I always bring a post ride tea with me. I put a bag of my favorite tea in my insulated water bottle and let it seep while I ride. Then no matter how long my ride is, I always have a hot beverage waiting for my drive home.