Fat bikes find their way to the Iowa Great Lakes

Having fun on a fat bike is practically guaranteed. Something about seeing those oversized tires sparks the imagination. Before sitting in the saddle you’re already off blasting snowdrifts, tackling sandy beaches and riding the off-road trails in your mind.

Originally invented out of necessity for navigating snowy trails in Alaska or desert terrain like sand, some of the first fat bikes were essentially modified mountain bikes.

Now multiple manufacturers like Trek, Specialized and several others are making fat bikes. Now they’re seen from coast to coast, in all seasons and across seemingly any types of terrain.

“Fat biking has been spreading for awhile now,” Okoboji Expedition Company manager and head mechanic Drew Mills said. “Starting on the coasts and eventually getting to cities like Minneapolis, the last few years they’ve been getting really popular around here and everywhere.”

Owner Taylor Huseman said they get a lot of summer customers telling them about seeing fat bikes on the beaches in places like Florida.

“They’re fun to ride and add something totally different to the sport, so it’s cool to see it growing in our area,” Huseman said.

Okoboji Expedition Company has a fleet of fat bikes available for rental, which they got just in time for their third annual Fat Bike Race during Winter Games this past January. And in a testament to the fat bike’s growing popularity, the number of entries for the race have tripled over the course of the three years.

However, just because they debuted during the winter season it doesn’t mean they’re only meant for riding when the snow is flying.

“They’re so much fun and you can ride them year-round which people have begun to realize,” Mills said. “There is almost no limitation to where you can go with these bikes, which leaves it up your imagination to test them out.”

Mills explained that the oversized tires allow for an easy and smooth ride on off-road trails.

“With tires that big you have a lot of traction and the bike climbs and corners great. The tires don’t slip,” Mills said. “You can run right over small rocks and the tires provide a level of comfort in the ride. With so much cushion you don’t really notice running over cracks or holes.”

Some of the most common questions about the fat bikes center around how heavy they might be or whether they’re harder to pedal than a mountain bike or road bike.

The answers to these questions can get a little more detailed but are generally “not that heavy” and “no, not really.”

“You get a fat bike with carbon fiber rims and frame and you can lift the bike with a finger, but generally they reduce weight with cutout rims to reduce rotational weight and the gearing set really low. Your perceived exertion is the same as any other bike, but the top end speed just isn’t there. It’s not a ‘fast bike’ by any means,” Mills said.

While the fat bike won’t set any land speed records, it can venture where other bikes simply can’t go. Local areas like Horseshoe Bend and Kettleson Hogsback have several trails and are fun areas to explore on a fat bike.

Mills said they’ll try to organize Fat Bike Night this summer that will likely entail a memorable full moon ride somewhere aroud the Iowa Great Lakes.

And that’s exactly the point. Creating memories.

“If people come in asking fat bike questions I encourage them to take a quick ride and tell me what they think. They always come back with a big smile,” Mills said. “It’s a bike that makes you feel like a kid again.”

Rental Rates

Try a fat bike for yourself from

Okoboji Expedition Company:

Up to 3 hours: $30

Over 3 hours: $40

Overnight rental: $50

2-Day rentral: $80

Call 712-332-9001 or visit www.okobojiexpedition.com for more info.