It was a learning curve for sure. How do you dress, how you ride, and where you ride. How you keep your water from freezing and yourself. I found that the worse the weather, the more I enjoyed getting out and testing my limits. It was a challenge unlike anything I had done before and it was just what I needed to make winter interesting again. I started looking at maps in new ways, because now there was new places to explore and see. Any place that was popular for cross country skiing is a paradise on one of these machines!
I have hated winter most of my life. For me it has always meant that there was no camping, no biking, no 4x4, and being stuck inside. Most winters I have struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome (SADS). The combination of being cooped up inside, and not doing the things I love made getting through winter difficult. Then in 2014 I got my first fat bike and it changed my winter life.
As fat biking became more popular, local forest preserves started grooming the local trails. Places as close to Chicago as the John Muir Trails and Minooka Trail systems have dedicated groomers that lay down a nice 30" wide packed trail of snow that makes it feel like your back on a very strange version of single track. Its fast, fun and dedicated to the sport of fat biking!
None of this would have ever been possible with out the technology advancements and dedicated construction of bikes that can run with 3-5psi in 4.5" wide tires to make traction and speed possible on such surfaces. The better the gear gets, the better the experience has gotten.
The other unexpected thing has been the amazing beauty of winter that I never experienced before. Common places that I am at during the winter are now transformed into beautiful new color pallet. Orange, Browns, and black that were hiding under the green of summer. Locations that were busy in the summer are now desolate and void of humans! When there are no humans around the animals come out! Coyote, Fox, birds, owls, deer and other Midwest wildlife to name a few! The winter truly is when they come out to play.
Soon I had friends that were also getting on board with the movement of biking year round and it started to take on a whole new social dynamic as well. See most of the winter outside of work hours is in the dark. So good lights and reflective clothing make for even more interesting outings, but it also took away the time limit of fun, we were no longer chasing daylight! Many times group outings and fun rides may go on for 2-3 hours at a minimum and im wandering back in the house at 11 at night.
Clothing has gotten better too! Balaclavas, windproof gloves. jackets that have windproof fronts and breathable back sections. Insulated leggings under pants and boots dedicated to clipping into your pedals in harsh environments has made this more and more possible as well. layers are key, but so are performance clothing that is not too heavy. layers are your friend.