For anyone who has ridden a road or mountain bike in snowy terrain, it doesn’t take long to realize that this is not a combination that works very well.
It’s a reality that Cedar City biking enthusiast Topher Mason has faced every winter – wanting to get out and enjoy his bike, but unable to turn or stop on slippery surfaces.
“Recreation is a big part of it, but as I get older it has also become a factor in health,” said the 62-year-old of why he wanted to ride.
However, since he embarked on one of the latest trends in the bike industry a year and a half ago, snow – or sand – is no longer a problem.
They are called fat bikes, and as the name suggests, the tires on these bikes are wider than the average bike, some around 3 inches, others – like Mason’s – are closer to 5.
“Because they’re tall and wide, they’re really soft… you can roll over really big objects,” Mason said.
The main attraction for Mason and his friends is that they no longer have to wait for good weather.
They are not the only ones celebrating this.
“They’re really taking the industry by storm,” said Nate Talbot, store manager for Bicycles Unlimited in St. George, of the big bike craze.
With more contact points on the ground, there is more stability and more traction, as some of the early fat bike users who tested them on the glaciers and snow in Alaska have shown, said Talbot.
Now, it’s no big deal for Mason and his friends to go up to Deer Valley in the winter and enjoy the snow-covered landscape.
“It’s wonderful,” Mason said.
Fat biking is not the only area in which the cycling world is increasing tire size. Mountain bikes have seen tire sizes drop from 26 inches to 29 inches in recent times, with options in between; different sizes better for different riding styles.
Some like the 26-inch because it’s more agile, while the 29-inch has a longer wheelbase is better for speed and racing, Talbot said.
Those looking for the best of both worlds opt for the 27.5-inch wheel.
Tire size isn’t the only thing to push forward when it comes to cycling trends. One element that has been in place for a few years is electronic gear shifting, which Talbot says makes shifting “a given.”
“You’re still pushing buttons, but the transition is smoother,” Talbot said.
The same electronic technology is also available to work with the shocks and suspension.
“I’ve tried electronic shocks and shifting. When it comes to shifting, I really like it,” Talbot said.
However, not everything associated with current cycling trends is positive. At present, Talbot said they are seeing a decline in sales of children’s bikes, which he attributes to children’s increased interest in scooters as opposed to BMX bikes.
The industry as a whole also attributed the decline in sales of children’s bikes to overall lower activity levels among children.
It is difficult for Mason to identify with such a thing, as he has been actively riding since he was 3 years old.
“I used to bounce pretty well, but now I don’t,” Mason said with a laugh. “Demolition is no longer fun for me. It takes a lot longer to recover.”
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