Originally published Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 10:45p.m.
As capable as a traditional mountain bike may be for exploring dirt paths, there is a class of bicycle that pushes the envelope even further. With tires up to five inches across, a “fatbike” is the ultimate all terrain pedal vehicle.
Originally developed for artic conditions and snow riding by connecting two or even three traditional mountain bike wheels together, it was soon obvious this wider footprint had a lot of potential. Manufacturers began creating specific rims, tires, frames and components for this emerging sector of the sport. In Prescott we often do not get months of snow covered ground, especially so far this year. But we do have terrain that these wide tire bikes unlock and much of it has never been ridden or possibly even visited.
Anyone remotely familiar with Arizona has seen countless dry washes and creek beds. Generally they are of little interest unless they are running with monsoon fed rapids. But instead of passing them by, the fatbike seeks them out. Water of course likes to flow and wind through whatever terrain might be in its way. Tributaries connecting together to broader and deeper waterways. Banks, waterfalls and canyons carve through the desert exposing all sorts of interesting geological wonders. Trying to travel these paths of sand in a vehicle can be problematic.
Fences, boulder fields, narrow widths and dead ends all lead to a frustrating experience. Exploring with a fatbike however is a completely different experience. There is no fear or trepidation as to what might be around the next bend. Fences can be skirted, canyon walls and waterfalls scrambled up and over. Downed trees or brush can be wriggled through or maneuvered in between. With a fatbike you now have a seemingly endless trail network.
One could of course just take their fatbike, find a wash and start pedaling. This can work if you just want to wander around with no real destination in mind. However, it can get confusing very quickly with no map to reference and since you will be riding in uncharted territory, nobody to really ask for navigational assistance. What I have found to work very well is to do some recon with Google Earth beforehand. I follow and trace washes I wish to explore and transfer these routes to my GPS. It takes a while to “see” creeks that are riedable, but well worth the effort.
Some great places to start riding fat are around Wilhoit, Congress and Bagdad with the ultimate find being the finger canyons close to Alamo Lake. Perfect for winter escapes once the temps drop here in town. Sightings of desert foxes and owls are not uncommon. Endless wonders such as arches, sinkholes, caves and aging petroglyphs. You never know what you might find around the next bend and I would wager many of these sites you will be the first person to ever see. Unless of course I happened to find it first.
Steve Reynolds is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Instagram at @Prescottopia. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.