RUNNERS AND WALKERS WHO HOPE TO find a new, easy-to-master, outdoor sport activity that is relatively high in intensity, but spares legs from the usual continuous movement, are in luck.
The hot trend that began in the early 2000’s in Alaska and the states of the southwestern USA utilizes bicycles with “massively oversized tires”. Kraig Becker wrote a piece. “The Skinny on Fat Bikes” by for Healthyway.com that likely introduced the fat tire bicycle to many who had not seen them on paths or trails.
The name so aptly describes these distinctive cycling machines that there will be no difficulty in recognizing them. They have big, wide (most are 3.75-5” in width), heavily treaded tires, thick wheel rims, and a study frame with wider forks, features that experts say increases their weight, slows them down, and makes maneuverability a bit more difficult. Because they can maintain traction on “unstable surfaces” like mud, snow, and sand, the tires can be purposely underinflated to enhance traction and increase energy expenditure.
The section headings in the Becker piece tell how the structure of fat tire bikes translate to a different riding experience, compared with traditional cycles:
- Not Built for Speed
- Beginner Friendly
- All Season Riding
- It’s a Great Workout
Some articles, including Becker’s, allude to the higher calorie burning ability for riders especially on surfaces that are not flat and smooth. However, I’ve not yet located a scientific article that provides such information. The claim of 1000+ calories per hour burn might be a testimonial. However, bicycling as an activity is associated with exercise intensity level, as measured in METs (Metabolic Equivalents) from level 4.0 (leisure bicycling) to 16 (competitive mountain biking uphill). Fat tire biking intensity will probably fall somewhere in between those MET values and depend on the type of surface and incline of the route.
I bought one a week ago, desperate to find a new way to get around in the chilly windy March weather that threatened snow almost daily. I had used a borrowed youth mountain bike before and wanted something more stable and fun. A way to maintain and hopefully improve fitness while enjoying harsh spring conditions and even the snow-covered paths next winter.
I read Selene Yeager’s article “6 Ways Fat Biking Makes You Fitter” and I was sold.
Yeager’s discussion hit all the buttons with regard to finding “fresh challenges”, “fat blasting”, and building “muscular endurance” that flipped the thrill switch for me. There aren’t too many of my exercise activities that are safe and yet can be described as thrilling.
Okay, this is the only one.
These bikes are not inexpensive, and I had to budget for this luxury purchase of $1100. It was an end of the season sale. Other pieces of sport equipment like stand-up paddleboards, stationary cycles, and electric bikes can be more expensive, as can gym memberships. Running is described as costing only the price of a pair of good shoes, but can lead to many more expenditures. It’s a tough budget decision.
Monday, April 2, I used the fat tire bike to get in 30 minutes of high intensity interval work + 20 minutes of warm-up/cooldown effort for my personal “April Fools, No Fooling 50” event.
At that moment, my purchase decision seemed wise. I was thrilled.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
NOTE: one MET is defined as 1kcal/kg/hour and is roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly. Running at a pace of a 10- minute mile requires 9.8 METs.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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