Scraping the ice off the van for a two-hour drive to deepest Dorset on a freezing morning in early December doesn't conjure great hopes for a day on the beach. Today is a little different though. It’s the third annual Global Fatbike Day. That's right, like all recognised minority groups, fatbike owners have their own day when they can ride their bikes with pride while raising awareness among first time fatbike riders and the fat curious.
Our horde of chilly fatbikers assembles at Swanage bike shop CharlieThe Bikemonger where we're greeted with coffee and bacon sandwiches. Last-minute fettling is completed and Charlie's fleet of test bikes is sized up for those without their own big-wheeled steeds. Once everyone is set, and with a rumble of giant tyreson tarmac, we descend through Swanage to the seafront for a group photo and a run-through of the rules for the day.
1. Don’t piss off the locals
2. Don’t ride off the edge of the cliff
3. Don’t be a dick
So off we ride, on a motley collection of bikes you’ve probably never heard of and wouldn’t expect to see outside of the Arctic Circle.
As with all group rides, the law of averages suggests there'll be a crash at some point, and today is no different. Some enthusiastic overtaking and an unplanned dismount headfirst over the handlebars results in a callout of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance – whose services we're extremely grateful for. Luckily there's noserious damage. Ironically the crash is between the two 29er riders in the group, ensuring sympathy is thin on the ground. It's generally accepted that this wouldn’t have happened had they been on fatbikes…
A brief pub stop to get to know each other and then it's onwards to the beach. It won't be hard for you to imagine the bemused looks we get from walkers as we plough through the loose, sandy paths between the dunes. There’s no escaping us mountain bikers there any more! A couple of miles later and it's time for a fuel stop at the Dragons Village Bakery in Corfe Castle, before heading on for a little XC and a bastard hill climb (where we're lapped by an angry roadie who clearly doesn't appreciate us getting in the way of his Strava times – result!) on the way to the next pub.
And that's where we stay, watching the sun set from the beer garden of the Square & Compass while keeping warm with an awesome selection of local ales and mulled cider. Eventually it's time for the long nighttime descent back into Swanage to get a bite to eat before hitting the party… but you really had to be there for that.
So what did I learn from my first Global Fatbike Day? Fatbikes are fun. From serious mountain bikers but first time fatbike riders to seasoned fatbike racers, everyone enjoyed themselves. There were promises of selling hardly-used bikes to fund a fatbike and plans to sneak them past unapproving wives. In the words of Charlie the Bikemonger: "With most mountain bikers, half their brain is looking for more extreme terrain, the other half wants to buy things to make this extreme terrain easier. The two things are fundamentally opposed to each other. They buy a new bike and it replicates the same experience they've always had. As your bike gets more technically superior, so you need to hunt down more technical trails. Now, buying a fatbike is like having a dune buggy or monster truck – it's nothing like your normal bike and it allows you to ride places where no one else can ride and experience new things. It turns your familiar local neighbourhood into a fresh playground. Most importantly, it makes you look slim.”
If you're unsure, curious or even think they're a complete waste of time, try getting your leg over one and see how you feel a few hours later…
Just a fad? What ever it is, it's fun!!!
What do you call a group of fatbikers? Actually no, don’t answer that
Feeling handy? Why not make your own wide rim from three spare regular ones…
Where would we be without these guys? Air Ambulance to the rescue!
Matt's monster, the Surly Ice Cream Truck
Our Matt (in the red) enjoying a well deserved pint - an essential element to a solid day riding, Fat Bike or no Fat Bike
This is a bikemonger – prophet of the future of cycling or evil genius?
Sand really does get everywhere
There's only one way to finish off a superb day on the bikes - the pub!
Possibly the safest kind of bike for nightriding, because you can hear them long before you can see them!