Through the snow on thick tyres

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The hottest trend for the cold season is called Winter Biking and originates from - where else – the USA. Gstaad has established itself as a magnet for mountain bikes with thick balloon tyres. And in January the International Snow Bike Festival takes place in Gstaad for the third time.

Winter biking is basically possible on any mountain bike fitted with tyres that have a good grip. Especially when fitted with slightly wider «Plus» tyres. However it’s even more fun with a Fatbike! A Fatbike compared to a city bike is like comparing a Monstertruck to a Fiat Panda or a freeride ski to cross-country skis. This means: it isn’t so flexible and light, but somewhat more comfortable and – not to be underestimated – considerably cooler. Fatbikes can be ridden off-road, places where it wouldn’t be possible with a normal mountain bike. Even inexperienced riders can speed along snow-covered trails effortlessly – thanks to the XXL tyres and under-inflation.

Ballon tyres from Alaska
The idea originated in Alaska, where about 20 years ago a few enthusiastic bikers welded two rims together to form a wide tyre, so that in winter as well they could ride through the snow on balloon tyres. Since then the Fatbike has been on an unstoppable triumphal procession. Fatbikes are equipped with tyres of up to 114 millimetres wide and are powered by 100 percent muscle power. Since the tyres are only filled with air this is easier than generally assumed. Anyone who uses a Fatbike for the first time is amazed how easy it is to ride it.

International Stars in Gstaad
Gstaad is at the forefront of this new winter sport and in recent years has become the European hotspot for winterbike fans. The Snow Bike Festival has been taking place here since 2016, the only cycling event on snow in the world to be recognised by the World Cycling Association UCI. The four-day race is the ultimate adventure for professionals and amateurs. It is necessary to master icy temperatures, difficult climbs and challenging downhill runs.

3 Questions for Herman Coertze, founder Snow Bike Festival

How much snow is actually needed to really get the snowbikes going?
None at all! It’s genius, actually we don’t need the «snow» at all. Of course when everything is white it is more thrilling.

Do you also participate in the race?
When the starting signal is given, I get a tingling feeling, but I have to devote myself to organisational tasks. However I hope that in the future I will be able to take part myself.

And what is your favourite route?
Along the Lauenensee (Lake Lauenen) it is absolutely beautiful, almost kitsch.

Snow Bike Festival
Racing and Rides, Party and Fatbike-Expo