SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Stephen Bugno strapped on some extra layers to hit the trails in Fairbanks at -4ºF on a fat bike. Follow along on his adventures! Photos and story by Stephen. Read more about his worldwide exploration online at Bohemian Traveler!
If you can brave winter temperatures, Fairbanks is a great place to get active outside in winter. If you plan it right, going later in winter will give you more daylight and more manageable temperatures. Besides dog mushing at Trailbreaker Kennel, northern lights viewing, taking in world-class ice sculptures, and scenic nordic skiing, you should plan to get out on a fat bike on one of the local trail networks.
What is fat biking?
Most of you know what fat biking is by now, but any new arrivals to Alaska might have noticed bicycles with extra-wide tires on the snow-covered sidewalks or cyclists rolling through the boreal forest. Fat bikes were developed right here in Alaska and allow hardy cyclists the opportunity to ride gracefully year-round. The extra-wide tires roll well in the snow and even come in the studded variety to tackle icy paths.
Where to rent a fat bike
Beaver Sports has helpful and friendly staff who will get you fitted properly on a fat bike for a reasonable price. Best thing is there are miles of trails right behind Beaver Sports. You’ll be zipping around the ADMA (Alaska Dog Mushing Association) trail system in no time. For newbies, I recommend the Purple Trail. It’s a mostly flat, 5-mile loop through spruce forests and open bogs. Remember to yield to dog teams (they don’t have brakes!). Beaver Sports is located on College Ave. near the University of Alaska.
What’s winter fat biking in Fairbanks like?
Fat biking is kind of like mountain biking across snow. There are no roots to contend with but more challenging trails are windy and narrow and it takes some skill to stay upright to navigate the snow packed route. Easier trails are wider and flatter. Just keep pedaling to maintain your momentum. Soon after you get going you’ll discover these odd-looking bikes are no gimmick. They are the real deal. This is good old-fashioned fun in a new format. As long as you stay warm. This leads us to the next question.
How to dress for winter fat biking
Staying warm is crucial but regulating body heat is just as important. What I mean is that knowing your body is important. If you have trouble staying warm you are going to need to layer up. Insulated boots with wool socks, two layers on your legs over bike shorts, and good gloves. If you rent from Beaver Sports, the fat bike will have pogies over the handlebars. I wear warm gloves under pogies. I also wear a thin hat under a ski helmet.
If you heat up quickly and sweat easily, dress lighter and be able to take off layers as you go. It’s important not to sweat. That will just make you colder in the end. Fat bikers in Fairbanks test the limits of cold riding conditions. The day I went out it was -4 F, which was probably my low limit for the cold. Keep an eye out for daily temperatures and ride during the warmest part of the day.
Exactly how warm you dress depends on the day’s temperature and your individual body. Sometimes it requires some trial and error.
Creamer’s Field has great trails for fat bike riding.
When You’re Done Biking
When it’s time to warm up, Fairbanks has lots of other activities and a surprisingly diverse food scene for a city of its size. I’m a big fan of both the Museum of the North and the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. I don’t even like cars, but I was totally engrossed in this place. Besides the inconceivable collection of (operable!) automobiles from the late 19th century to pre-WWII, this antique auto museum displays a fantastic collection of fashion from the 1930s as well as provides insight into the history and development of Fairbanks itself.
For food, check out one of many outstanding Thai restaurants, or Soba, a Moldovan restaurant located downtown. Zach’s Restaurant is also a good option if you are staying at Sophie Station Hotel. For light food options, Little Owl Cafe is cute and Lulu’s Bread and Bagels is consistently fresh. For something different, try a type of tea you’ve never had before at Sipping Streams or a Japanese treat at Oishi Bakery.
Where to Stay in Fairbanks
Wedgewood Resort is situated on the edge of Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge but is close to downtown. Best of both worlds. You’ve got miles of trails behind the resort and can even catch the northern lights out your window if you’re lucky! That’s the magic of Fairbanks–wilderness out your back door. The rooms are very spacious as well.
Get a 15 percent discount (for Alaska Travelgram readers). Use discount code FHH15. The discount also is good at the sister property near the Fairbanks airport, Sophie Station.
More Info on Fairbanks in Winter
Here’s Your Winter Guide to Fairbanks
And here are some more ideas for how to spend One Day in Fairbanks
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