Fatter By The Lake

02 Jan
A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.


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37 responses to “Fatter By The Lake

  1. sueslaght

    January 2, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    What a fabulous post. Sounds amazing and great photos too!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 2, 2014 at 11:32 PM

      Winter cycling is a blast (sometimes it’s just a blast of Arctic air).

  2. Lee

    January 2, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    Great job and thanks for sharing!

  3. unsportywomencanrun

    January 2, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    Love the photos – it looks freezing!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 2, 2014 at 11:33 PM

      That ride was a lot warmer than the one I took this morning. Next week we are supposed to drop down to -16 F.

  4. Lifterly

    January 2, 2014 at 11:14 PM

    Sounds awesome! I never even knew about fat bikes!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 2, 2014 at 11:34 PM

      Fat Bikes are great in snow, sand, mud and rough terrain—and they are a real joy to ride!

  5. brendaintheboro

    January 3, 2014 at 1:47 AM

    Loved this post. Going out in strong winds and showers this morning. Almost put off until I saw this post so won’t wimp out. No fat bike though.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 3, 2014 at 9:44 PM

      With the right clothing there is seldom a reason to have to miss a ride. The only times I let weather stop me is when the wind is over 30 MPH, it is lightening, or when the fog is too thick (I’d hate to die in a crash just because a car couldn’t see me).

  6. creative pixie

    January 3, 2014 at 2:17 AM

    I didn’t know there was such a thing as a fat bike. Looks like you had fun even if it was cold.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 3, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      I own five bikes and my Fat Bike is my favorite — they are a real joy to ride!

  7. Cycling Dayton

    January 3, 2014 at 5:01 AM

    I could have used a bike like that yesterday! The snow covered roads were great on the way into work but as I got closer the snow plows came by and left mostly ice to ride on – coming home was awful. My mountain bike with knobby tires pales in comparison to these bikes – with studs no less!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 3, 2014 at 9:47 PM

      I spent several hours out on the roads today and they were covered with a lot of snow and ice — with my steel studded Fat Bike tires I didn’t slip a bit (I was doing better than some of the cars).

  8. timscyclingblog

    January 3, 2014 at 5:19 AM

    What a bunch of fatties, they all look fab and looks super fun.

  9. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    January 3, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    Makes me jealous (and thinking, I could never do that!). Fun post to read!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 3, 2014 at 9:48 PM

      I think yo would actually like it (if you had the right clothing for winter conditions).

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor

        January 5, 2014 at 6:23 AM

        Assuming all goes well–um–do pregnant women ride bikes? LOL!

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          January 5, 2014 at 8:38 AM

          Yes! I’ve ridden with several pregnant women before (usually triathletes). However, by the sixth month they find that they are not as aerodynamic as they used to be.

        • thehomeschoolingdoctor

          January 9, 2014 at 7:22 PM

          Aerodynamic? Man–I’m just hoping (if all goes well) I don’t fall over on the bike! I’m no triathlete! The center of gravity sure does change! LOL! (I just noticed the question of pregnancy fit well with your title, “Fatter by the Lake.” Chuckle.)

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          January 9, 2014 at 9:04 PM

          After the incredible amount of snow and arctic weather we had this week I am predicting that durig the first week of October the maternity wards in Chicago are going to be full.

  10. fatguy2triguy

    January 3, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    I am in awe of those bikes. Your legs at the end of a ride must be burning. Great pictures.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 3, 2014 at 9:49 PM

      Fat Bikes are a nice switch from summer racing bikes and cyclocross bikes — and you’re so right about the muscle burn (but those bikes sure put a smile on the face).

  11. Jean

    January 3, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    Looks like a great gathering for hardy cyclists windswept beach.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 3, 2014 at 9:50 PM

      The wind coming off Lake Michigan in the winter can be fierce, but riding on the beach is awesome!

  12. Jeff Katzer

    January 4, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    A far cry from the spandex clad riders drafting in a pack on a summer day… Nice post.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 4, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Sadly, most of the spandex crowd spends the winter in their basement on a trainer!

  13. ATdF

    January 6, 2014 at 2:34 AM

    ops! i guess it would be better to come to illinois to sell my products, here is toooo warm (-;

  14. an uncommon girl

    January 6, 2014 at 8:31 AM

    What an arctic ride!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 10, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      It’s fun in the snow — and this January we’ve already had more than than we did for ALL of last year. I hope we have an early spring!

  15. st sahm

    January 7, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    The shores of Lake Michigan photo is super ‘phat’!

  16. Fred

    January 8, 2014 at 5:59 AM

    Damn you! Im an inch closer to building a fat bike every time you post !!!! Hahah…. The pic of riding on the sand is awesome!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 8, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      I spent a few hours out in the snow this morning — it is a BLAST!

  17. AlainFx

    January 10, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    What a nice report ! Thank you so much for sharing your winter experience. Looking at your pictures, I see many of you wearing ski goggles. I ride a Norco Big Foot and I recently bought a pair of ski goggles for winter riding, they are much more confortable when temperature goes down but after a few minutes riding at 5F, they get all foggy and condensation freezes inside goggle screen. How do you manage to avoid condensation/frost ? Thanks in advance. Alain from Canada.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 16, 2014 at 9:32 PM

      Two helps can help: First, I have an “anti-fog” cloth that I use the clean the inside of the lens every time I ride (you can pick one up at any ski shop). Second, a lot of the fog comes from your mouth—try to find a balaclava that directs your breath away from your goggles (see


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