Despite the rise in popularity of fat bikes, a quick Google search for fat bike clothing reveals a very slim selection. It's not surprising as fat biking is still a unique genre of cycling and making appropriate clothing that actually works for pedaling in cold conditions is tough.
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Qloom's marketing man Stephen Downey notes: "Before fat biking was a thing, at Qloom, we spent a lot of snow-filled adventures aboard Nordic skis. When biking in frigid weather, just like XC skiing, clothing is one of the most critical components to a positive experience, but it’s also one of the most challenging pieces to get right."
For venturing out on the bike in cold, snowy conditions there are a couple of dedicated boots available, from 45Nrth, Shimano, and others, but outside of Specialized's collaboration with wintersports brand 686, very little fat bike specific gear exists. Qloom is looking to fill that void with its fat bike specific winter range. I've been testing the Watson Lake pants and jacket through the cold and snow.
Qloom Watson Lake pants specs
- Casual fit
- Front panels: 4-way stretch, water-repellent outer fabric
- Rear & crotch panels: waterproof 3L fabric with taped seams
- 360° pattern construction guarantees freedom of movement
- Rear stretch insert for increased manoeuvrability
- Easy-access YKK-zippered front pocket
- 13-inch/33cm zippered side vents
- Lower leg zipper
- Front and rear reflective logos
- 85% Polyester, 15% Spandex
The right features
Complementing the fit are just enough features to show that Qloom is paying attention. First and foremost is the strategic material placement. Qloom did a stellar job of placing stretchy panels on the front thighs and knees along with a waterproof saddle area, where spray from the rear wheel hits. I've taken plenty of tumbles into the snow and never once did I come away feeling soggy or damp.
A rear stretch panel keeps plumber's crack at bay and allows easy, non-binding movement when hunkered in the saddle or when ejecting off the bike. That is combined with a high-rise in the rear. Together, coverage is excellent and snow can't sneak in when you're cartwheeling through the cold, fluffy stuff.
I've found the zippered thigh pocket useful for easy access to my phone, but the lack of front hand pockets leaves me wanting for a place to stash my gloves should I have to use my phone. The ankle zips are a nice touch, especially since the Watson Lake pants taper significantly, but there's no way I'm slipping my shoe through them even when fully unzipped.
The slide lock waist button was a bit confusing at first, not wanting to let go and trapping me in the pants like I was some sort of barely functioning fool. Once I figured out the slide part of the slide lock button though, my appreciation for it grew immensely.
A major pet peeve of mine are the waist fastenings, which would come undone; Qloom's slide lock button conciliates my annoyance. Qloom's Downey points out: "The sliding button at the waist keep the pants secure even in the awkward moments where you’re suddenly flailing head-over-heels in waist deep powder." I can attest to the button's holding power, it never once came undone even through numerous off-bike tumbles, large and small.
About the only gripes I have are the stretchy waist adjusters, I've found they don't hold the sizing adjustment as well a hook and loop adjustment. Also the knee and lower leg inner fleece material get caught up when I had wool knee warmers on. Of course any knee warmer with a slick outer would pose zero problems.
Nailing the fit
More so than in summer, nailing the fit of winter gear is a challenge. Too loose sacrifices warmth, too tight limits layering, a Goldilocks just-right formula is the goal and Qloom nailed it. Tall and lanky are my best descriptors and the medium Watson Lake pants are sized perfectly for me to wear tights or knee warmers underneath, but also function just as nice without on warmer days.
There's just enough stretch throughout thanks to the 15 percent spandex in the material, as well as the articulated knees which keep the pedaling easy and unencumbered.
I've pedaled the Watson Lake pants in temperatures ranging from -12C / 10F up to 1.6C / 35F with varying layers underneath and was pleasantly surprised to rarely ever be bothered by either temperature extreme. The 33cm / 13-inch side vents along the outside of the thighs provide easily customizable ventilation and still remain low profile even when fully unzipped.