For many, the best thing about the winter is the inevitability that spring will soon come round again. The bitter cold, frozen windscreens, thick layers of snow on the trails, and inherent lack of desire to head out of the warm house are an annual annoyance, but there’s a remedy for these winter woes: e-fat biking.
It’s the same story every year: just a few days ago we were sporting T-shirts and it felt like the middle of summer, then as we looked away to top up the suntan lotion the leaves turned yellow. In seconds, they were dropping as quickly as the temperature. But while it looks like winter is here to stay, foul conditions and fresh snow on the slopes are no reason not to ride – especially not when you have an e-fat bike in the garage. Flaunting up to 4.8″-wide tires, these bikes aren’t purely reserved for winter snow-ploughing, as they’ve got more tricks up their burly sleeves.
Features of an e-fat bike
- Fat 4.0″–4.8″ wide tires, ridden with 0.4–0.7 bar air pressure
- The well-known Bosch Performance CX motor with its offset chainline
- RockShox Bluto forks with 80–120 mm of travel
- Extra wide and punched-out rims for the ultimate control and a lower rotating mass
E-fat bikes are the SUVs of riding: fat and in-your-face, but pretty damn cool!
On one of those all-too-familiar, dreary mid-November days with the sun being its indifferent self, it takes surprisingly little to rouse Antonia, Flo, and Gregor from their sofas to go riding. Swapping the plush couch for the saddle of e-fat bike, they ditch their sweatpants for riding shorts and grip the bars instead of the third milky tea of the day. Any buttons they press today won’t flick mindlessly between TV channels, but boost the motor of their chubby-tired rig on the mountains. They’ve planned a two-hour route, as after all, the temperature is in minus figures, and no one really enjoys numb toes.
Bavarian for beginners
Aschau is a true Bavarian idyll, with mountains, rivers, and wooden houses; it offers a refreshing break from everyday life. Home to just 6,000 residents, each with a thick Bavarian dialect, the Kampenwand mountain is a bit of a trademark for the area, with the oft-touted phrase: “Ich gang so gern auf’d Kampenwand, wenn I mit meina Wamp’m kannt,” which politely translates into high German as “I’d like to go hiking on the Kampenwand if only my belly wasn’t so fat.” For these three e-fat bike riders, the climb up the Kampenwand doesn’t give any rise for concern, as the powerful 250 watt battery is akin to a kind tailwind. They’re all on different bikes, but each rig shares some of the same high-quality components like the Bosch Performance CX motor, RockShox Bluto fork, and fat 4.0″–4.8″ Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires. Filled to around 0.5 bar, these tires offer up some serious grip and comfort.
Meeting point: Eiskeller
The trio waltz off from the central car park in the town, just a few metres from the legendary Eiskeller club venue that bumps on a weekly basis with everyone under the age of thirty-five from within a eighty km radius. There’s a steep gravel track up from the Eiskeller that takes you to the Reitweg hiking path. From here, the metre-wide trail winds its way gently up the mountainside, and the fat tires roll up without complaint. Average speed is about 14 km/h, and the bikes work their way up and over the roots and rocks, their progress only stilted by a few tight hairpins, where technique overrides power. You need conviction, good line choice, a long-range view, and a sense of power in the legs to get past these – and the result? Well, the trio reckon they experienced some of that Bosch-propagated ‘uphill flow.’ Unbelievable.
A change of plan
As the trio gained altitude, the temperature duly dropped, seeing them faced with their first serious problem after around 700 metres of climbing: soft, shin-deep snow. If you reckoned that fat bikes were unstoppable in winter, you were wrong; despite their surface area, the tires sink into the soft ground. They stop for a short break at a mountain hut for a re-think: no more climbing, let’s drop down from here – full speed. First to brake loses (mainly momentum)! Speed is decisive to keep your line in the soft snow.
No one is particularly perturbed about not reaching the top today; despite layer upon layer and thermal gloves, the temperature is already gnawing away at the fingers, and the need to hike the bike briefly leads to the same fate for their toes. The day’s only warmth stems from the glowing disc brake rotors, which see action on the steep trail towards the village. This is where the e-fat bikes show what’s in them. Relying on their tires’ bigger surface area, low air pressure, and grippy rubber compound, they even keep hold of the reigns on the nastiest, slipperiest roots. Ever the stuntman, Gregor is spurred on to push the limits of the bike, carving up the trail and turning every natural ledge into air time, getting the bike off the ground despite its heavy weight.
Grip, grip, and even more grip – E-fat bikes carve up the slipperiest roots without fear.
In no time at all the trio are spat back out onto the valley floor, bearing broad grins despite (or even because of) their mud-splattered faces. Time to re-heat, take a warm shower, and collapse on the sofa. They play out their morning in reverse; back in the joggers and back on the couch. Who’s putting the kettle on? Which channel to watch? After that ride, they can recline in smugness – they’ve earned this indulgence.
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer