Fat bikes a popular pick for winter riding

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First Posted: 1/5/2015

When the weather outside is frightful, perhaps its best to leave the car in the driveway and get on a bike.

A fat bike, that is.

What is a fat bike? Rich Adams and Tom Jones, owners of Around Town Bicycles in Wilkes-Barre, put on a demonstration for the public at Kirby Park Saturday afternoon.

Originally created to handle the tough Alaskan terrain, fat bikes are essentially mountain bikes with wide, or fat, tires. They ride the same as a mountain bike, and create an easier, smoother ride for the cyclist.

“They’re great for beginners,” said Lee Curry, an Around Town Bicycle technician. “They’re like riding on two beach balls — fun and easy to ride.”

Built to go through snow, mud and ice, the fat bikes drove flawlessly through the center of Kirby Park Saturday afternoon. But they can also do normal trail and street riding. The tires vary from 3.8 to 5 inches, depending on the type of terrain one wants to ride through.

Fat bikes have been steadily building in popularity nationwide since their debut five years ago. They come in adult and children’s sizes.

Some local cyclists that came to the event said they wanted to ride year-round, and the fat bike has given them the ability to do so.

Dave Kuhl of Hanover Township bought his first fat bike last year. He said he decided to buy one after watching some friends peddle through the snow last winter.

“I had a regular mountain bike and was riding for years,” he said. “Last winter I decided to go out with some of the guys who had the fat bikes. I watched them ride through the snow after last year’s storm with no problem. I couldn’t do that with my bike.

“That gave me the push to get one. They’re multi-purpose bikes that allow me to ride all year. I don’t have to stay home during the winter now.”

Chuck Estock of Wilkes-Barre Township had a similar story.

“I didn’t want to stop riding in the winter,” he said. “I started going online and doing some research and found the fat bike. I’ve been riding it ever since.”

The bikes have become high in demand over the years, a little too high for manufactures to keep up.

“Currently we have about 10 or 12 in stock with the ability to order more,” Jones said. “But their availability can vary. The manufactures have promised to do better at keeping up with their demand this coming quarter.”

The bikes can run a pretty penny, but Around Town Bicycles offers financing and the ability to rent the bike before you make a commitment.

Fat bikes start at about $1,000 and can go up to about $5,000, Jones said. If that seems a bit high, you can rent one for two days for $99.

Joan Slawich of Plains said she’s had her Fatbike for a month and that it was worth every penny.

“They’re lots of fun to ride, they climb and turn well,” she said. “They’re really very fun — and very forgiving. The weather won’t stop me from riding anymore.”