Sands of summer provide fat-tire biking options
When summer rolls around, many winter cyclists hang up their fat-tire bikes and pedal their road or mountain bikes through the long summer days. And then there are the people who are looking for something different, a way to explore coastal areas on two wheels. The fat-tire bike is the perfect human-powered vehicle for a beach adventure. The first time my husband, Jon, and I took our fat-tire bikes to a beach was in 2011 during the personal-use set net fishery just south of the Kasilof River on Cook Inlet.
That first evening, we parked our car on the bluff and biked down the cut bank to the beach, riding past other camps until we reached our group. We then continued down the beach pedaling near the waterline on the firm wet sand. I could have kept going for miles.
Through the rest of the weekend, during downtimes between setting the nets and then picking red salmon from them, heading, gutting, counting and storing the fish in coolers, our friends took turns borrowing our bikes to see what fat-tire biking had to offer. Easier and faster than walking, each rider was gone for some time and always returned with smiles on their faces.
Now the fat tires are a regular part of fish camp where the uninterrupted shoreline of sand and some rocky stretches and long hours of daylight mean there is time and space for a long scenic ride along the water. The bikes have made me look forward to fish camp even more than ever.
We weren’t the first to explore that stretch of beach on fat tires. Homer residents Pat Irwin and Kathy Sarns Irwin chronicled their route from just west of Hope to the Homer Spit back in 2005. Compared to their trip, we only ride a small slice of beach. I’ve also enjoyed some beach riding in Homer and the stretch of beach below the bluff at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, always paying close attention to the tides.
Homer has embraced beach riding, and for five years has hosted the winter beach biking event, the Big Fat Bike Fest. This year on Memorial Day weekend, Homer hosted the inaugural Salty Bottom race and fun ride/run which took participants from Bishop’s Beach to as far as the Anchor River and back. A few dozen people signed up for the event, which helped kick off the summer season on a beautiful sunny day. The event is yet another example of how summer fat-tire bike use is gaining in popularity.
Yet many people don’t want to get saltwater on their bikes. I’m of the theory that a bike should get plenty of use and good maintenance. Before you go, prepare your bike by lubing the chain with a wax-based lube to help keep the grit from sticking to it. After the ride, rinse the bike with a garden hose (no pressure washing), wipe down the frame and the chain with a soft cloth, and then apply fresh chain lube. This will keep your drivetrain from rusting and assure that you’ll be ready for the next adventure.