Outdoor adventurer and photographer Martin Lortz figured it was time to try fat biking – winter’s favourite ‘new’ sport in Ontario’s cottage country.
Cycling all year long is now possible in Ontario’s cottage country thanks to the hugely popular sport of fat biking. And though it may seem like the super-sized tire craze exploded on the scene overnight, this band wagon has actually been rolling for the better half of a decade. Call it stubbornness on my part, but I confess this is one wagon I was not willing to jump onto. These bikes looked to me to be slow, heavy, bouncy – and probably just a fad.
Well even the burliest walls can crack under pressure, and in my case the pressure came from my riding partner/teenage offspring. So this past Christmas, with a couple of demo bikes from our local bike shop, we road down a nearby trail on some four-inch wide tires. It was a lot of fun, but with no snow on the trail it really just felt like a mountain bike ride.
Still unconvinced that fat biking is all its cracked up to be and wanting still to see what all the fuss is about, we connected with the folks at LivOutside in Bracebridge, Muskoka. “Rent a fat bike and ride our groomed single track” their website suggested, which is just what we did this past January.
As we finished up the rental paperwork, the counter top conversation at LivOutside swirled around the choice of dress for the -17C temperature. The day’s trail conditions included plenty of snow, groomed the day before, with a few centimetres of fresh powder on top. Our guide for our trek was Peter deMos, the owner at LivOutside (who was more than happy to drop whatever he was doing in favour of a ride).
Their trail network, Riverside Adventure Park Trails, starts practically at the shop’s door, and a couple hundred feet down the road we veered right and disappeared into the forest. First turn, I cranked the bars and promptly slid off the trail; first climb, the back wheel broke loose and I was standing again. Ten minutes into the ride and I seem to be walking more than riding. (Hmmm…this might be tougher than it looks.)
Judging by deMos’s ability to clear everything I struggled with, I knew I was the problem. But with a few great pointers from him, plus a mental adjustment on my part, soon those frowns turn upside down.
The relatively short trail network at LivOutside means doing laps, and that’s a good thing; with each passing lap you learn the terrain, adapt and improve. Climbing means a low gear and a smooth spin; you can almost feel each knob bite into the snow and pull you forward, while corners require minimal handlebar input. Soon we were snaking downhills, tapping the rear brakes and shifting the hips, drifting corners and railing berms. Way too much fun, and unfortunately all good things must come to an end. Our return to the shop was more of a have-to rather than a want-to!
If you have ever wondered about fat biking and why it’s so popular, just ask LivOutside‘s Peter deMos. It’s like popping the cork on a bottle full of passion. We talked about wheel size, tire options, frame design, the past and the future of cycling and how fat biking is a year-round commitment. And the company’s hard work in transforming their store into an outdoor adventure hotspot in Muskoka paid off when they hosted the 45NRTH Ontario Fat Bike Series in 2017 (the second annual edition) with the single track section at LivOutside taking centre stage.
As for me, did I find the answers I was looking for? Can a fat bike deliver mountain bike-worthy good times? Absolutely. Clear a seat on that band wagon – I’m ready to hop aboard!
For more information on fat biking in Ontario’s cottage country including where to rent, click here. For a tale of fat biking on Georgian Bay, click here. To play your stay in the region, click here.
Editor’s Update: Turns out Martin Lortz loves fat biking so much he’ll be riding all winter for Fat Bikes Canada and LivOutside. Follow him on Instagram at @lortzphoto for epic photojournaling of his adventures in Ontario’s cottage country.
Guest Blogger: Martin Lortz
Martin is a freelance photographer and writer specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Whether he is covering power sports or family-oriented pursuits, his passion for capturing the beauty of nature and the people who partake in it is evident in his work. His photos and articles have appeared in magazines such as Ski Canada, Explore, Bike, Mountain Life, Snow Goer,Kayak Angler, and Family Camping.
Photos by Martin Lortz