Just a decade ago, fat-tire bikes were a brand-new iteration of mountain biking, hardly part of anyone’s lexicon or vacation plans yet.
Today, fat biking is becoming a favorite way to explore the natural beauty and geography of the Oregon Coast. With wider, grippier tires than mountain bikes, fat-tire bikes are sheer fun to ride for all skill levels on all sorts of terrain — namely sand.
Visitors may want to check out the four brand-new routes are now available for fat biking on the Central Coast, between Lincoln City and Florence.
“I’ve discovered that Oregon’s beaches — specifically Central Oregon for us — has some of the most rideable sand I’ve found on the West Coast,” in terms of its coarseness and moisture content, says Elliott Crowder, co-owner of Bike Newport along with his wife, Daniella, and their 13-year-old son.
“It’s also fantastic scenery, and low usage — there’s often times when you get away from the entrance to a state park and all of a sudden you’re the only people around. All you’re leaving is tracks. It’s wonderfully healthy experience for yourself and the environment.”
Along with Safari Town Surf Shop in Lincoln City, Bike Newport offers a rental fleet of a dozen fat bikes.
Crowder’s shop — the largest on the Oregon Coast — is a serious bike shop (with bike fitting and repair services) as well as haven for cycle tourists, with its own yoga loft, four beers on tap and stocked shower and laundry facilities.
This season Bike Newport will launch its shuttle service for some of the four brand-new fat-bike routes, suited for all ages and skill levels (from easiest to most difficult):
- The Roads End Ride (3.7 miles one way, elevation 125 feet), from Lincoln City to Road’s End State Recreation Site, is an easy way to explore Lincoln City’s friendly beaches.
- The Otter Rock Ride (9.4 miles one way, elevation 662 feet), from Otter Rock to Bike Newport, lets you cruise through Beverly Beach and past the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Some of the terrain is a bit rockier for a fun challenge, and there’s also a big creek section.
- The Dune Ride Exploration (23.4 miles one way, elevation 654 feet), from Florence’s beaches to dunes, is geared toward adventurous riders looking for challenging terrain.
- The Yachats Ride ( 27.6 miles one way, elevation 612 feet), goes from Newport to Yachats, one of the hottest little towns on the Central Coast.
Crowder, a longtime cyclist, bought his first fat bike in 2010, but says the newest generation of fat bikes — which came to fruition in 2015 — are vastly improved. Daniella, a cyclist as well, loves her purple Salsa Cycles carbon fat bike, and rides it as often as she can.
The couple bought the shop 13 years ago shortly after their son was born, when they were on the Coast after a Cycle Oregon ride and saw the shop for sale. They decided to quit their long hours at their restaurant in Grants Pass and bring their son up in the bike shop, where he helps with repairs, builds bikes and organizes a local mountain bike club.
Part of the business is keeping up with new innovations. “Instead of taking a mountain bike and stretching it wider, they came up with a geometry that works,” Crowder says. “The industry adopted it and made it its own thing. If someone hasn’t ridden a modern fat bike, the geometry is so good now, you won’t even know you’re on one.”
Ready to start? Follow these three tips for fat biking on the Coast: Ride the beach with a tailwind, and ride the road (or shuttle back) into the headwind; ride at low tide for safe access around large rock features; and come prepared to get wet at stream crossings.
By Jen Anderson
Photo courtesy of Travel Oregon