I generally claim to have invented family fatbikepacking. Back in 2012, Tadhg grew tall enough to clear an XS Salsa Mukluk, and has been on his own bike ever since. Fiona started as a toddler on a Burley Piccolo, moved to her own bike a few years later, and in winter at age 8.
This started as a Bikepack Canada Winter Overnighter, when Jonathan stepped up and picked a weekend to go. A few people signed up, and we had a fun ride to go on. We chose the Elbow Loop because of its flexibility in terms of camping spaces, in addition to the stunning scenery.
Bob decided that this would be a great opportunity to bring his daughter Abigail on her first winter bikepacking trip. This 7-year-old has more bikepacking experience than many adults who call themselves bikepackers. She is very bright, and delightfully tenacious.
I brought Fiona. I knew there was a good chance that Fiona would provide some motivation, as well as good company. Even though Abby is closer to the age of kids that she babysits, Fiona is reliably attentive and respectful of younger kids.
Fiona has done a lot of winter bikepacking so I knew that no matter what happened, she would be able to hold her own as far as riding in snow, though she is not pleased when conditions require pushing. For this trip, she moved up a size in fatbike and borrowed her mom’s size small Salsa Mukluk, it is a better fit for her than her kid-modified extra small Mukluk.
So it was that we hijacked the adult trip and made it a family fatbikepacking event.
Though Bob is an experienced winter camper, this was his first fatbikepacking experience. With a lot of time spent on a triathlon bike, Bob did not really know just how low pressure fatbike tires go. There was a lot of recent snow (so recent that it was falling on us) so I let air out of my tires to the two wrinkles point. Bob was getting down to what I call “road racing” pressure on his. I have to apologize for any damage I may have done to his heart as I let air out for several seconds past what Bob might have though was too soft. For more on fatbike tire pressure for ungroomed trails, see Mike Curiak’s article here.
Jonathan and Guy, have both spent lots of time with bikes underneath them, and snow under the bikes. Guy is consistently ready to have some fun in the mountains whenever the opportunity arises. We don’t just invite Guy for the charcuterie spread that he brings, but it is an endearing habit.
Bob was using, or attempting to use a TowWhee tow rope to use his strength to help Abby through the snow. While they work fine in summer, Abby’s bike had virtually no traction, stiff tire sidewalls that didn’t allow the tires to spread, and small wheels which made her wheel skittish in the loose powder. Whenever she got the slightest bit off centre of Bob’s track, the tow rope would pull her with her front wheel sideways and her bike would fishtail madly. She kept at it though, and I was amazed at her level of dedication. She recovered from many slides that would take down highly skilled riders, which is a testament to her phenomenal abilities. Her little bike was completely outgunned by the bigger bikes, but she was still winning.
We picked a spot near the river to camp, it gave us a good view, and easy access to water that we didn’t have to melt. We stayed up for a walk in the full moon, but I think we were all in bed by 9.
Our trip out was substantially faster than the trip in, Abby had seemingly improved her skills in her sleep, and she was riding even better than she had. I’m always impressed by how quickly kids adapt to things like no traction and rutted snow.
Though the pace of riding was casual, we all had a great time riding in the beautiful mountains. On one of our snack breaks, Fiona decided to evaluate my XL Salsa Mukluk Ti as a bikepacking option for herself. Fortunately, I get to keep my bike for now, but she’s already a better fit for her mom’s small than the extra-small, and the way she’s growing, she may even be big enough for a medium by next winter.
Overall, this was a great winter trip. We all had fun. The weather conditions were outstanding. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such good conditions on an ungroomed trail, so it was a great place to learn.
As always, we’ll be back, and now we have another kid to invite along family fatbikepacking with us.