How to Train For Fat-Bike Racing

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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How to Train For Fat-Bike Racing

If you have caught the fat-biking bug, there is no cure! But you are not alone, so many people love fat-biking that we are seeing more equipment solutions and event organizers producing bigger, better and more challenging events for you to tackle.

Here’s what beginners need to keep in mind to have a successful season:

PICK YOUR EVENT

Any good training regime starts with selecting your event. Some of the athletes I coach have done extreme events like IDITAROD while others simply want to do local fat-bike races over the winter. Other athletes are more serious and do more intense events like fat-bike nationals and still, others want to use fat bikes in traditional summer events like Ironmans.

Depending on the duration, intensity and environment you will be racing in, you can start building your training more specifically. Harsh, long-distance events like IDITAROD require a lot of preparation for staying warm, camping, carrying food and navigation tools, while the more intense/short events require training more like cross-country mountain biking. All fat-biking prep has a few common elements, though.

PREP THE RIGHT GEAR

With few exceptions, you need to be ready for cold weather, but you also need to be ready to produce a lot of heat while moving slower. Your training should help you develop a great gear bag with a variety of gloves, thermal layers, jackets and other breathable, yet insulating, accessories. It takes some practice so you are confident in what you need to ride in different conditions and at different exertions (i.e., endurance rides versus races).

PRACTICE MOUNTS AND DISMOUNTS

If you happen to also have found the joys of cyclocross then you are likely prepared to ride on the slippery and soft surfaces you’ll find on your fat bike. The better you are at mounting and dismounting, the more you can be riding and the faster you can move forward. These advanced and somewhat niche skills are foreign and can be a huge cause of frustration and loss of time in races that require dismounts for steep climbs or loose surfaces like soft snow.

PERFECT CADENCE AND PEDAL STROKE

Fat biking can be challenging since you have to fight for traction and often do so at lower cadences. If you are used to spinning high cadences on the road, where you don’t need to fight for traction at the same time, then this might be quite challenging. Before the snow comes, use sandy and muddy mountain bike, cyclocross or fat-bike rides to prepare. Using sand-pits or muddy areas to do short efforts where you have to work hard, fight for traction and also maintain cadence helps you develop a feel for letting the bike move under you while you pedal smoothly and powerfully. Treat these efforts like intervals by resting between really hard efforts to maximize your ability to ride sections and experience speed and fatigue.

DIVERSIFY YOUR TRAINING

If you want to maintain really great fitness, don’t forget your other bikes and the traditional ways cyclists maintain form over the winter. Cross-training and strength work, as well as indoor trainer workouts, can provide a great stimulus to support your specific fat-bike work. While it may seem like you should fat-bike every day, it’s better to focus on different aspects of your fitness, such as really hard intervals on the trainer, strength in the gym and cardiovascular fitness on cross-country skis.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.

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