By Christopher Cudworth
A few years back while researching a magazine article on recreational opportunities in the Chicago area, I was tooling along one of the mountain biking trails in the Palos area, the hub of off-road cycling in northern Illinois.
While pedaling along I approached a steep, gravelly hill on which my rear tire spun and skated as I climbed. As I neared the top a murderous noise came from behind and up the hill came a dark-clad dude riding a really fat tire bike.
It didn’t look like he could go that fast on the bike. But he did. The hill was no problem for him.
But then I began reading about my friends up in Decorah, Iowa riding fat tires on the very same roads I used to train on for distance running in college. It was hilly terrain with gravel road surfaces. In winter they cake over with hardened snow and fat tire bikes are perfect for doing long winter rides in the hills and valleys out of the wind.
So my mind started to change about fat tire bikes.
This past weekend we spent a couple days in Decorah and at noon on Sunday we rented a pair of fat tire bikes. We’d stopped by Decorah Bicycles the day before and inquired about rentals. We test rode a couple bikes to find the right size with Sue pedaling around the lot in her jeans and tall boots. Frankly she looked kind of hot in that getup, but I could hardly expect her to want to do any serious (much less fun) riding in those togs.
So we had them put SPD clips on our pedals because we’d brought our mountain biking shoes in case we had time to rent and ride. Neither of us had time to properly pack extra bags for cycling stuff so we just brought shorts and a vest along with our shoes to make the riding better. That’s called keeping things simple. It’s okay to do now and then. You don’t have to cart all your cycling gear through three states to prove you like to ride.
It was worth the $50 for a four hour rental. We only used two of those hours but we got about 15 miles of cycling in with stops at parks along the way, including the very beautiful Malanaphy Springs park.
At one point I turned to look over at Sue and she smiled so wide I thought her chin strap would come off. “This is fun,” she enthused.
And it was. There were no preconceptions in place. We had fun up the hills and had fun down the hills. We had fun taking gravelly turns deep in the valleys around Decorah and when the ride was nearly done, coasted 1.5 miles back into town on Locust Road.
So we can heartily recommend the whole fat tire experience. Find some gravel or mud or snow and just ride. Your body and brain will thank you for it.