Mtbr's Ultimate Guide to Winter Mountain Biking, Fat Bikes, Gear, Apparel and Trainers

Over the next two months, Mtbr is taking a deep dive into all manner of cold weather mountain bike gear, with round-ups and reviews of fat bikes, tires, wheels, apparel, trainers and more. We'll also be delivering tips on improving your winter riding skills (both outdoors and indoors), and getting you up to speed on winter cycling events and the best places to ride when there's snow on the ground.

LATEST ARTICLES

Borealis Crestone fat bike review (29+ update)


After reviewing the Borealis Crestone fat bike during winter 2016, we’re back with an updated look at how it performs with 29+ wheels and 3.0 tires.

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  • Mark says:

    I recently converted my aluminum hard-tail Trek Farley Fatbike with Bluto fork into a 29er Plusbike. I used i30mm (i = inner-width) aluminum rims with ~900gm 29×3.0in tires. When mounted to this rim the tire is 2.75in wide Wow! This bike rips! It is easily the best hardtail I have ever ridden. On anything technical this bike is way more capable than my full-suspension 29er. I’m guessing this bike would be even better if it was designed specifically to be a Plusbike. I want my next bike to be a full-suspension Plusbike with this wheelset. I think the Crestone would have been better with this narrower setup. I’m splitting Plusbike wheels into 2 categories. The first I’ll call the Plus-Husky wheel: i40-45-50mm rims mounted to 29+ tires that weigh more than 900gm. The other I’ll call the Plus-Slim wheel: i30-35mm rims mounted to 29+ tires that weigh less than 900gm. The Plus-Husky bike is a narrow tire Fatbike great for soft, loose conditions. The Plus-Slim bike is a wide tire Trailbike great on everything else. A light Plus-Slim aluminum wheel/tire can weigh 1.5lbs less than a heavy Plus-Husky aluminum wheel/tire. That’s 3lbs difference for the entire bike. Weight matters and outer wheel weight matters the most! The Plus-Slim bike has 95% of the traction and flotation of a Plus-Husky bike with a lot less rolling resistance and weight. A Plus-Slim bike is lively and goes where you point it. A Plus-Husky bike is slow, sluggish, plodding and difficult to steer. The Plus-Husky is too much wheel for normal trail use. The Plus-Slim wheel weighs just a few ounces more than a typical Trailbike wheel. I think that everyone will be riding Plusbikes when the Plus-Slim wheel becomes the standard. Of course, everything I described would also apply to 27.5 Plusbikes. Thanks for reading my diatribe.

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Charge Cooker Maxi 1 fat bike review


Does it make sense to go the budget route when buying a fat bike? Check out our full review to hear our take.

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  • Joe says:

    I have a beast of a fat bike — a Motobecane Boris. This meets my requirements for having fun during the winter. The extra weight does not bother me — I consider it as a training bike. When I want a lighter weight bike to shred trails, I’ll go to my 27.5 Trance.
    Fat bikes are way overpriced for what you get. All things considered, they should cost 10-20% more than a standard hardtail bike. But they often cost twice as much. Some people are willing to pay that for an off-season bike — I am not. I’ll save it for my main ride! Just IMO.

  • Steve Hanson says:

    I’m 70 years old and ride my Maxi I year-round. (2015 model)…I don’t find the weight an issue…I think this is the best fatbike in this price range on th market. The only issue I really have with it is the lack of presta tire valves…

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Winter shoes shootout: Bontrager, Northwave, Shimano, Specialized


The best winter shoes are easy to put on and take off, are warm, wind and waterproof, and provide efficient power transfer on the bike, and reliable traction off it. See which of these four was best in test.

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  • thub says:

    45 NRTH Wolfgar rocks. I live in Alaska and have had troubles with my feet for years while fat biking. Wolfgar solved the issue. I ride flats in the winter and haven’t tried them clipless yet but plan to next winter. The boots are expensive but worth every penny, I was able to ride at any temp this winter.

  • jchkeys says:

    I have the Northwave Gran Canion goretex, they are amazing, especially when you have to hike a bike…. all the road bike form shoes just upset me, I like a full hiking sole….

  • zuyowoxo says:

    very nice

  • rob black says:

    Sorry, but a winter comparison without 45 NRTH or Lake is fairly useless. The long time kings have to be used as a control group to make a meaningful comparison.

  • Stumpy says:

    I picked up a pair of Lake MXZ303’s, and they seem pretty nice. They are warm, and so far waterproof. They have a Boa on the bottom, and a snap buckle top.

    I did strip a screw hole in the cleat plate, which was depressing, but they are great, IMO, boots.

    Stay safe, everyone…

  • Stumpy says:

    I was curious about the Specialized Defroster shoes, but they felt ‘light’. The Lake’s had Vibram soles that grip in the snow, ice, and mud…

  • Munter says:

    If you need winter boots then you are probably damaging the tracks.

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Inside Look: Wahoo Fitness presents – the importance of indoor cycling


Wahoo Fitness provides us with a few reminders about the benefits of riding a trainer when time, weather or other commitments preclude us from riding real trails.

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Tim Johnson climbs Mount Washington by bike in winter


Recently retired New Englander rode a Cannondale fat bike 7.2 miles in -19-degrees temps to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet.

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Ultimate winter apparel for truly arctic rides


Dressing for wintertime rides is tricky business. The right outfit for that long chilly descent may be too toasty when the trail turns back uphill. Here’s a round-up of apparel that will keep you warm on truly arctic days.

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Reynolds Dean carbon fat bike wheels review


New lightweight 80mm composite hoops are the ultimate fat bike component upgrade — if you can afford them and are looking for all-season durability. Read our review to find out more.

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Specialized aims to be taken seriously in apparel arena


Mtbr interviewed Peter Curran, head of Specialized’s apparel design team, who among other things was responsible for the development of the company’s popular SWAT-equipped mountain bike clothing.

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  • Ryan says:

    $950 for spesh pants/jacket OR around $300 for some XC ski gear that does the same job and a cool $650 left over.

  • MTBRider says:

    This is a joke right?!

    If Specialized wants to be taken seriously, they should make actual clothes that actually work!! I had a pair of Specialized pants that ripped in a week. Specialized does not compare to Pearl izumi or other counter-parts.

  • Fritzman says:

    I recently picked up the jacket & bib set (about 50% off from US MSRP) and it works damn well. Better than the high end XC or DH ski gear I’ve used – which lacked the many small cycling-friendly details that the 686 kit offers.

    CONS
    – the jacket and bibs material is nowhere near as warm as I expected. You WILL need good layers to make this work from -15 to -25C.
    – jacket hood isn’t large enough to comfortably fit over a helmet. You can get it on most of the way to cover your neck and ears, but movement will be restrictive and the front 20% of the helmet is still exposed to precipitation. Also, the hood is too large/clumsy to fit under the helmet. It’s pretty much useless unless you ride w/o a helmet.

    PROS
    – The jacket and bibs material is nowhere near as warm as I expected – this will open up a lot more seasons of riding (ie: late fall and early spring).
    – The bibs work awesome. SUPER comfortable, flexible, and awesome stow-pockets. Love how the ankle cuffs are tapered and have an inner elastic to stop the snow.
    – The jacket with side zippers to access rear stow pockets is very convenient. Tonnes of zippered vents. Breathing vents built into the collar is cool. Lots of inner pockets for devices etc…
    – The material is extremely breathable, very little use of the vents is actually required.
    – Despite it’s rain proof rating, the material doesn’t look like a garbage bag. It’s a low luster, somewhat stretchy, quality looking fabric.

    A product like this is worthwhile for someone who will put in many hours of winter/spring/fall riding – in all kinds of nasty weather. If you’re a fair weather, near-freezing mark, fatbiker who rides only 15-20 times a winter, maybe look for more budget friendly options.

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Felt DD 10 fat bike review


A truly great option for the rider willing to make a moderate financial commitment to wintertime fat biking, but who isn’t looking to race and wants to leave the door open for riding year round.

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Reynolds Dean carbon fat bike wheel first look


New lightweight, tubeless composite hoops from Utah-based wheel maker ridden to triumph at Fat Bike World Championships.

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Ultimate winter apparel for freezing rides


Unless you live in a perpetually warm locale, dressing for wintertime rides can be tricky business. The right outfit for that long chilly descent may be too toasty when the trail turns back uphill. Here’s a round-up of gear that’s worked great for us on freezing rides.

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  • Don says:

    Mother Of God… $1500 worth of clothing to ride a bike in the snow?!

    • Jason Sumner says:

      Don — No doubt there are some spendy pieces on this list. But nowhere does it say you need to buy it all to ride outside in the winter. This is simply a compilation of gear we have used with great success this year that one might consider when they’re outfitting for their next wintertime ride. It’s also worth pointing out that when well cared for, apparel such as this can last a very long time, and thus could be a worthwhile investment. Thanks for reading — Jason

    • Liam says:

      Nobody said you had to buy everything at once.

      Invest in one or two items and save for the others. Probably some deals going on soon.

      Cannot put a price on being comfortable and warm when most people wouldn’t venture out.

      My personal favorite is Endura. Very well thought out stuff.

      • Jason Sumner says:

        Exactly — Thanks for chiming in, Liam. And yes, Endura makes some great winter and summer kit. We’ve been testing a new jacket lately and love it.

  • paul says:

    The items may last, but you’re shape may not. And yes, you CAN put a price on keeping warm and comfortable…apparently it’s $1500.

    Over-and-above the normal summer kit, I’ve acquired the many pieces, on sale, for much less using the same layering strategy. I’ve ridden down to -25 for much cheaper comfortably. And to boot, I use many of these pieces in other outdoor adventures. If it’s about vanity, fine, but functionally, at best, these pieces may be marginally better than what I have used and for me, certainly don’t justify the x times increase in cost.

    Here’s what I use..
    1-REI Rainwall jacket: $75
    1- Next-to-skin layer from Costco (tops and bottoms) $20
    1- 200wt North Face Fleece Layer from the outlet stores $30
    1pr – Smartwool light ski socks. $13
    1pr – Goretex socks from Cabelas $13
    1pr- old mountainbike shoes that are 1 size too large $100 that’ll take years to wear out during winter riding.
    1-balaclava from costco $15
    1pr Swany gloves $75
    1 – old pair of bibs that no one’s going to see anyway under all that gear. $0
    1 – old long sleeve jersey that no one’s going to see anyway. $0

  • paul says:

    Woops, forgot the Novara windfront tights or, lest it ages me, the Bellweather windfront tights, from the early 90’s. $50

  • mort says:

    I used my Chili’s longjohns…Key Biscayne dipped into the 60’s today…the fight is real on VK trails!

  • brian tunney says:

    Getting great laughs from many comments. I see people out spending $3000 – $5500 on bikes and now go bonkers over some high tech outer-wear ! The ski industry has been thriving on higher end gear and name-dropper lables for decades !! 🙂
    No, I’m not going out buying it all up either but much of the information is a good guideline for any not experienced in outdoor recreation in sub 20 degrees or colder. I’m a bit more reserved so I either look for similar gear less pricey and take my chances or I look through the closets at home using or testing stuff already acquired. I’ve been thru the gamut-
    Michigan or Colorado; 30 years of biking / 40 – skiing so I have stuff that has proven effective may times over the years. Some of it was the high tech or high end “of the day” and some will eventually have to be replaced.

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Pearl Izumi MTB WxB vs. Gore Power Trail rain shorts shootout


For the year-round cyclist sometimes it’s the small things that make life more enjoyable. Here’s an inside look at the cycling accessory you didn’t know you needed, but shouldn’t live without.

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Pivot LES Fat fat bike review


Quite possibly the most versatile fat bike (or even hardtail) on the market today. Find out why in our full review.

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Specialized Fat Boy Expert Carbon fat bike review


Depending on your perspective, needs and budget, the Specialized Fat Boy Expert Carbon is either the perfect (albeit expensive) fat bike, or somewhat limited. Find out if it’s the right big wheeler for you in our full review.

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  • Andy says:

    Nearly 6k for a rigid fatbike with no suspension? Is that a joke? LOL

  • Phil says:

    + plus awesome twitchy handling. I wonder if it self steers badly. Of all the fat bikes out there there is very little discussion that I have seen regarding optimal geometry for these beast. My Fatback is terrifying going down anything steep during the summer compared to my Turner Burner. Designed primarily to be stable loaded for long distance bush riding its anything but playful. A buddy of mine sells hell out of the Ventana El Gordo because it has such good handling characteristics.

  • Brian says:

    Would recognize that mountain anywhere, good ol Crusty Butt

  • Joe says:

    I could not plunk down almost $6000 for a rigid/rigid bike of any kind. I thought road bike prices were bad. I don’t quite understand the high cost — you can purchase precision machined carbon fiber full suspension mountain bikes for that price. Perhaps it is economy of scale? Yikes!

  • Stumpy says:

    I bought a Pro Trail on their ‘Fat Savings’ sale. It’s awesome…

    Except, the bottom bracket squeaked like a overweight rat. Turns out that the assemblers used very little grease when they stuck the bottom bracket in the frame.

    And the reviewer was totally correct, the same frame is shared between the types of Fatboys. I have the front derailleur mounts of the 2×10 lower end rides. I guess, ‘just in case’?

    But the troubling issue for me is that out of two Specialized rides, I have had two issues, rather significant issues, with them. I’m batting 100% with issues.

    The Fatboy had the bottom bracket issue, and a Stump Jumper FSR Comp had an issue with the hub falling apart. Yeah. The wheel wouldn’t spin more than two or three revs after I really gave it a try while it was on a work stand.

    They make quality frames, and actually quality bikes, but I am thinking that I have to go through each one after I buy it to see what the assemblers missed, or cut corners on.

  • kathy ellis says:

    I have a Fatboy 415 FSX from 2000 that needs some parts but I can not find anywhere to get them, Can anyone help me?

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Ultimate winter apparel for cold weather rides


Here’s our round-up of the Ultimate Head-to-Toe Cold Weather Kit, with cold being defined as roughly 32-39 degrees. Stay tuned for round-ups on kit suitable for freezing and arctic rides.

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Video: 2 Fat 2 Furious – Freeriding fat bikes in B.C.


In the latest wintertime fat bike video edit from Rocky Mountain Bicycles, the goal was simple: Only ride lines that would be hard or impossible on a regular mountain bike. They pulled it off.

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Fat Bike Worlds: Bonding, branding, and chairlift riding


First annual Colorado event paves path for big wheeled bikes, showcasing the wealth of possibilities fat biking can bring to the sport.

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  • qblambda says:

    MTBR must be renamed FBR because the website turned few couple weeks ago into a Fat Bike Review… too much…

    Please be open mind. We wanna see bikes, all the bikes 🙂

    • R says:

      To: qblambda

      Relax dude, its winter in the northern hemisphere, where the vast majority of MTBR users reside and Fatbikes get a lot more use in the winter.

  • Joe says:

    qblambda, Like R said — it’s winter and a lot of people use fat bikes during the winter. I know I ride my fat bike almost exclusively during the winter. A few years ago, MTBR would have had to rehash stories of the past summer or just in the southwest. Now, with fat bikes, there are fresh stories being written about Colorado winter riding. Sweet!
    That being said, I am looking forward to spring and riding my Trance 27.5 again!

  • andrew acosta says:

    for real, I am building up a transition bandit 27.5 in my room now but live at 9,800″ in colorado at a ski resort, so I fat bike when theres no fresh powder to snowboard on, and when theres alot of powder I go out and snowboard…its great to be able to do both in the winters up here

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Atomik carbon goes big with Phatty 85 and Chubby 43 rims


Atomik uses a combination of aerospace grade foam and patented carbon technology to create their high end (yet affordable) rims.

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Mega Gallery: Fat Bike World Champs Day 1


Day 1 of the first annual Borealis Fat Bike World Championship went off in spectacular fashion on Thursday at the North Village venue in the Town of Mount Crested Butte.

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  • jcote says:

    I remember many years back, we used to shovel out the trails to ride them. And, there were races like arrowhead, yukonultra, idadrod plus some in vermont on snowmobile trails. Not many showed up. I remember doing back country roads on sand filled roads (not salt) with studded tires we used to make with screws. People thought we were odd back then (10+ years back)… now, its the norm. With fat bikes.
    I still get a kick bringing out the cyclocross bike with 700×35 tires and head down the highway in the dead of winter… get odd looks.
    But, maybe one day the norm.

    good to see many out in the winter enjoying it rather than being stuck like a hamster on a trainer – yuk, who wants to do that… better being outside enjoying it all – pure freedom!

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Scott Big Ed fat bike review


Just because it’s affordable (which it is) doesn’t mean it’s good. See how the Big Ed fattie fared in our full review.

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  • Bikerjosh says:

    Suspension on a fat bike with those massive low pressure tires; really? No, really?

  • Michael Banks says:

    Jim, would it be possible to see your data? I am very interested in this not only as a cyclist but as a researcher having worked with very precise measuring instruments in wheelchair push-force requirements for different tire/caster configurations. As you know, friction and rolling resistance are so interesting because of the multifactorial nature that produces them. It would be nice to see some hard data on this well worn topic within wheeled mobility circles. Thanks.

    • Jim says:

      Here are some professional results… but they only went up to 4.0″ tires. His data matched ours exactly.
      https://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/fat-bike-reviews

      We came to the conclusion that on snow… tubeless 120 tpi tires with just enough air pressure to “Leave a Flat Track” was the lowest rolling resistance possible for a given rider with any given conditions. “Leave a Flat Track” is the principle we have been working with the USFS to gain access to winter trails. It is a win-win for all nordic users… The hard part was getting nordic bikers to let the air out of their tires. Conventional wisdom says more air = lower rolling resistance and that is simply not true when riding on snow.

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How to train indoors without going nuts


Training indoors doesn’t have to suck. Here are some helpful tips on how to stay sane while spinning inside from an enduro racing world champ, BMX Olympic medalist, and a former supercross racer.

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  • Jeff says:

    Here’s a novel idea – you don’t have to ride a road bike to be a better mountain biker. We aren’t road bikers, so why train like one? The article states that road biking is constant spinning and MTB is not. Duh! Then why do it. You would be better off doing movement and weight training and save your knees from overuse injuries. Use the winter to “heal up”, get your body moving correctly, get stronger, do a little stationary bike work, then hit the trails. This isn’t my idea – see http://www.bikejames.com. I am only saying it works for me and apparently lots of other people. I think if you dig deeper, you will find more pros do this as type of thing as well. Also, I’m not a pro athlete, most of us aren’t, so why are you acting like one?

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Inside Look: SKS Fatboard fat bike fender


Great gear that will keep you dry and mud-free during mixed condition fat bike rides.

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Trek Farley 9.8 fat bike review


With an actual weight of 23.9 pounds (size medium) and a $4700 price tag, it’s clear Trek’s top-of-the-line Farley 9.8 fat bike is no lumbering giant. But is that thoroughbred pedigree enough to justify the price?

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8 great indoor trainers when you have to ride inside


With hundreds of options to chose from, it can be hard to narrow down your shopping list when searching for a trainer. To help make the decision process easier, here are eight of the best trainers on the market today.

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How To: Pick the right indoor trainer for you


Whether you live in a cold climate or just want to squeeze in a quick workout, sometimes the best option is an indoor bicycle trainer.

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