Algonquin Park taught me about fat biking in the winter.

After riding a Fatbike for the very first time last summer (and having a blast!), I knew that I wanted to return to Algonquin Provincial Park to fat bike in the winter. I planned a winter weekend in a yurt at Mew Lake with two girlfriends, one who owns a fat bike, and the other – like me – who just wishes she did. The two of us picked up fat bikes from Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville on our way to the park, and were ready to ride!

We picked up our camping permit, unloaded our things, settled into the yurt, dressed for the weather, then headed for the Old Railway Bike Trail to try out the fat bikes. This trail is suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced riders. Having never ridden a fat bike in the snow before, we needed practice because we would be competing in our very first fat bike race the next day, the Muskoka Winter Bike Festival fat bike race at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville.

We rode from the yurt to the trailhead that would take us to the Old Railway Bike Trail, but as we left the snow-covered gravel road of the campground, we found out how difficult it could be to ride on the trail! We had such difficulty getting going that we wondered what we were doing wrong. Were we in the wrong gear? Should we be riding up out of the saddle? When at one point I rode 100m without stopping, it was cause for celebration! It took us a while to simply reach the Old Railway Bike Trail. At that point, we knew it was time to turn around and go back to the yurt. Sunset was approaching. Thankfully, we had brought headlamps with us – just in case. We didn’t end up needing them, but we were prepared! We were treated to the most gorgeous sunset as we rode west back to our campsite. I enjoyed myself even though our “riding” involved a whole lot of starting, stopping and walking. We wondered how we would manage an 11k fat bike race the next day.

When we got back to the yurt, we told our friend about our adventure, and she told us the problem – we had too much air in our tires! Way too much! We were fat biking newbies, so we didn’t know.  We learned a valuable lesson, and after letting out a whole bunch of air from the tires, we tried riding the trail again, and we could RIDE! It was like night and day!

Newbie tip #1
The more surface area of the tire that is on the ground, the more traction you have, and the easier it is to ride! So, for road cyclists like us, where high pressure is usually a good thing, on a fat bike, you have to think differently!

The next morning, we headed for Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville for the 1st Annual Muskoka Winter Bike Festival. We were there for the race, but there were also bike demos – you could try out the bikes on display. There was an earlier race for experienced racers and a later race for those new to racing. The race organizers decided to shorten the race for the newbies to make sure we had fun! The course for the experienced riders had a steep hill that only one person managed to ride up. Our race was super fun – 3 loops of a course that totalled about 4.7 km in all. It was challenging, with ups, downs, turns, and – for me – sunglasses that kept fogging up when I rode too slowly up the same darn hill!

Newbie tip #2
Non fogging sunglasses would make fat biking easier (alternately, carry your sunglasses in your teeth until you can pick up speed and un-fog your sunglasses)!

Thankfully, my tire pressure was perfect and I rode the entire course, stopping twice briefly at the same spot when I slid sideways down an angled corner. On the third loop, I finally figured out how to stay upright and mastered the corner. After the race, we were treated to a delicious bowl of chili with toppings of bacon, cheese and sour cream, and a hot chocolate with added chocolate and whipped cream (or a beer). Yum! The race was great and I would highly recommend it.

On our last day at AAlgonin, we set out – once again – to ride the Old Railway Bike Trail. This time, we made it to the trail in less than 15 minutes (compared to 60 minutes the first night). We headed west and didn’t see a single soul – just animal footprints of all kinds! It was so pretty riding through the forest. So calm.

We returned to the yurt, and while it was time to head home, we all agreed that we would have liked to stay longer! I would have liked to take the fat bike home with me!

Algonquin never disappoints.

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Kyra Paterson

Kyra of Waterdown, Ontario spends her free time swimming, biking, running, competing in triathlons and running races, orienteering and adventure racing, planning her next backcountry adventure and hanging out with her family.

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