The fat tire bike – the right tool for the job!

Maureen Clark

With their extra-wide, knobby tires that can float over almost any terrain, fat-tire bikes have exploded in popularity in Anchorage and all over Alaska during the past decade. 

Anchorage typically sees periods of freezing and thawing during winter, with unpredictable snowpack.  That makes fat-tire biking a great alternative to Nordic skiing on the BLM Campbell Tract’s 12 miles of trails.

But fat bikes are more than just a fun way to get from one place to another.  They’re also an efficient way to cover a lot of ground while getting work done year-round. 

Man standing with a fat tire bike and near a posted permit
Racers pass a signpost at the Campbell Tract in the annual Frosty Bottom bike race in Anchorage, Alaska, Jan. 11, 2020.  BLM Campbell Tract trails are popular for winter biking. Photo by BLM staff.

Anchorage Field Office Outdoor Recreation Planner Scott Justham sees the bikes as the perfect way to get around the 730-acre Campbell Tract.  He arranged the purchase and outfitting of three fat-tire bikes for use by staff.  Unlike a utility vehicle or snowmobile, they’re a fast, quiet way to travel the trails without disturbing visitors.

Man sitting on a fat tire bike
BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Scott Justham on a fat-tire bike at Campbell Tract Facility, Jan. 2020. Photo by Maureen Clark, Anchorage District Office Public Affairs.

“It says something, when you’re on the same mode of transportation your visitor is on,” Justham said.  “They think you’re one of them.  You’re not ‘the man.’  You’re more approachable.”

The bikes are used by staff and volunteers when taking care of small maintenance chores, chatting with visitors, and picking up trash.  They’re also used while monitoring permit compliance during the fat-tire bike races that pass through the Campbell Tract.  And, unlike a mountain bike, which could damage soggy trails, fat bikes are usable throughout the year.

Anchorage Field Office Ecologist Aliza Segal uses a fat-tire bike during summer to monitor invasive weeds.  The bikes are also used during events such as National Public Lands Day and National Trails Day. 

Justham purchased the bikes in three sizes so they would be accessible to employees of all sizes.  And he equipped the bikes for safety and utility, with studded tires for improved traction on icy terrain, frame bags for carrying tools and other gear, and pogies – large mitts attached to the handlebars – to keep hands warm.  

“The bikes are sturdy and versatile.  They’re a great tool to help us get our work done,” Justham said.  “And, on the plus side, they’re fun to ride!”