Written by Aaron Couch with our partners at Fitzgerald's Bicycles.
We love fat biking in the Tetons -- it keeps you active year round, allows you to connect with others, gives you access to our winter wonderland right from your front door and so many other reasons. It’s probably why you already have a fat bike. But do you have everything that will ensure an enjoyable and successful ride in the mountains? Previously we touched upon what to wear, what to eat and drink and where to ride in Part 1 of our Guide to Winter Fat Biking in the Tetons. Now, we’ll go through the gear you need for the best experience, regardless of weather or snow trail conditions.
Top Accessories You Need for Fat Biking
These are first on the list and for good reason -- what is a pogie? These are used in several cold-weather sports such as white-water kayaking paddles to cross-country skiing poles.
Pogies block the wind and often insulate, subsequently providing a micro-climate for your hands on the handlebars. Even in very cold temperatures, you can wear just a thin glove, improving your tactile ability to brake, shift and still handle the bike. The alternative to pogies is a large, bulky glove that inhibits all of those things. Furthermore, pogies don’t obstruct your hand movements or hinder you from pulling them out quickly.
Gear Recommendation: Fitzgerald’s carries several brands and types of pogies, from technical features like the 45NRTH Cobrafist and Wolf Tooth Components Singletrack pogies to simpler, but great performing designs like Bar Mitts and Dogwood Designs.
With short days and trails so close to town here in the Tetons, it's inevitable that you will be riding at near-dusk or in the dark. And if you leave from your house, you'll be riding with traffic. Having a front and rear light is not just a good idea, it's a must.
Gear Recommendation: Bontrager Ion Pro (front) and Flare RT (rear)
Pro Tip: Two front lights are very useful when riding trails. While the light on the handlebar illuminates the trail through the dense trees, the light on your helmet fills in the shadows when you turn your head.
What is tubeless and why do you need it? Tubeless wheels and tires allow you to run low pressures without damaging the tube, resulting in a flat. Varying snow conditions can require a tire pressure anywhere between 1 PSI to 6 PSI. Being able to ride between 1-3 PSI on groomed snow is not only the difference in being able to ride and not walk, but having fun out there on your bike when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to!
If your bike isn’t set up tubeless, bring it to Fitzgerald’s -- most bikes can be made tubeless with just tire sealant and your mechanic’s expertise.
Pedals That Grip
No simple ol’ pedal will do with big winter boots when riding in slick and wet conditions. Leave those old pedals on your townie and invest a little in a good set of pedals that grip your deep-lugged boots. A pedal made of composite materials is recommended to prevent the cold from transferring into the bottom of your boot.
Gear recommendation: Race Face Chester pedals come in a variety of colors, quality internal parts, and a great price point.
Pro Tip: Look for a pedal made of composite materials, like the Chester to avoid cold-transfer up into your boots.
Fenders for Commuting
Fluctuating temperatures through the winter can make riding conditions unpredictable. Snow packed roads can quickly turn to slush, making for a wet and cold ride home. A light and removable fender can make all the difference.
Pro tip: if you are commuting regularly through the winter, you’ll want to consider studded fat bike tires with aluminum-carbide studs. Talk with Fitzgerald’s for a fantastic selection of studded fat tires, even some with tread aggressive enough for riding trails before or after work!
Bike Bags: Why You Need Them
There are bags that fit inside the triangle of frame on the bike. There are large and small bags that attach under the seat. There are bags that hook onto the handlebars and sit on the top tube of your bike. All of these bags serve as a method to get the weight off your back and eliminate the need for a backpack.
Why is this important? Because you’ll likely start with too many layers. And you’ll need a place to put them. So you put them in your backpack. Now your back is still sweating while your ride with the extra weight and pressure. You stop, your sweat chills you, and now you’re cold and can’t enjoy the rest of your ride.
When you have a place to put an extra layer, gloves, tool kit, phone, sunglasses, etc. it is just easier. They open up options like, swinging by the store on the way home from a ride and grabbing some dinner without having to dangerously hang a bag off your handlebars and navigate the icy roads.
A frame bag, which goes in the triangle, is a must for winter cycling -- it’s not just for people riding long distances. It immediately adds more real estate to your bike in storing and organizing gear.
Gear Recommendation: Salsa EXP Series Fat Hardtail Framepack
A seat bag is a great place to stash a change of clothes for work or a puffy coat and an extra pair of gloves during a ride.
Gear Recommendation: Salsa EXP Series Seatpack
A small “feed bag” attached to the handlebars, stem, and fork is super versatile -- stash your phone, sunglasses, water bottle, bear spray, or a burrito.
Gear Recommendation: Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag
Top tube bags sit in front attached to the stem and under your seat attached to the top tube and seat post. These are excellent for a tool kit, snacks, food, or any other items you need to access quickly.
Bags from local bag maker in the Tetons, FBJ Creations, are in all Fitzgerald’s Bicycles locations, along with Revelate Designs and Salsa Cycles bags.
What Goes Into Your Winter Fat Biking Tool Kit
The tool kit often gets overlooked -- all the other accessories are exciting, but we don’t want to think about what we’ll need when things go wrong. A tool kit does just the opposite though. It keeps things from going wrong. Here is a list of things you’ll want to make sure you have before your next ride.
High-volume frame pump
A small, but high volume pump that will fit on your bike, either in a frame bag or mount onto your frame will allow you to adjust your tire pressure more often and confidently.
Gear Recommendation: Topeak Mountain Morph
Low-pressure tire gauge
A low-pressure gauge will help you get the perfect tire pressure for the varying conditions of snow. These range between 1-15psi to give you the most accurate reading.
Gear Recommendation: SKS Digital Airchecker
Need air in a pinch? Whether you just need to get home quick or need a blast of air to fix a mechanical on the trail, having a couple CO2 canisters on hand isn’t a bad idea.
Gear Recommendation: Genuine Innovations AirChuck
These are a must -- we’ve already discussed going tubeless and its advantages. This is one of them. Sometimes tires get punctured from nails, rocks, even sticks and the sealant isn’t quite enough to fill the hole. Put a plug in the tire, let the sealant do its job and keep riding. This also extends the life of the tire and prevents you from having to instantly replace it, which you would have to do with a tube.
Gear Recommendation: Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Kit
Crank Brothers multi-tool
There are a lot of great multi-tools out there, but when quality meets lifetime guarantee, it’s hard to beat. Crank Brothers has several multi-tools, all great quality, coming with your choice of tools, depending on what you will need.
Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers
In addition to the multi-tool, the Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers offer necessary uses not found in other multi-tools. The pliers can remove and install quick-links on your chain, which if it brakes is an absolute must to be able to do. There really is no other good way to do it, especially with gloves on in cold weather. The magnetic strip inside holds two sets of quick links. The Y-shaped tool is a valve-core remover. And lastly, a tire lever because you just can’t have too many of those.
Those chains aren’t going to lube themselves! In the winter, we don’t think about lubing our chains nearly enough. Lubing your chain will extend its life and prevent potential problems out on the trail.
Go Have Fun!
Now you’re all set with everything you need for a successful and enjoyable ride, wherever your heart and legs will take you. For more information on gear selection, how to use the tools or whatever else, reach out to the good people at Fitzgerald’s to ensure you have the best fat biking experience possible!