Electric Fat Bike A “Car-Free” Winter in Whistler
Like many, I’ve become increasingly conscious of my carbon footprint over the past few years. I can actually pinpoint when my personal paradigm shift occurred. It came about 2002 when an old college friend gave me a book called “The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists”.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Like a child (or conveniently under-informed undergraduate engineer) I had imagined that someone was in charge, that there were smart people in lab coats somewhere who would prevent humanity from destroying itself. My own naiveté makes me shudder. But now you know.
Since then I’ve taken some personal responsibility, I’ve tried to learn a lot more about how the world really works and I’ve tried to make better personal choices for the environment. Transportation was one of the first places I made changes. I started by driving my van only when I needed to, to make the 60 km trip to work and back and to buy supplies like food and (mmm) beer. After that I retired my van and replaced it with a diesel model that I converted to run on waste vegetable oil. Not bad, but I wanted to do more. After all, growing crops to drive cars is hardly a sustainable solution for 7 billion people.
BACKCOUNTRY SKIING ON A FAT BIKE
The single biggest transformation came when I sold my house in Pemberton and moved 30 km south to Whistler, the place where I work, where I ski and ride my mountain bike and hang out with friends at Citta’s. Once in Whistler, everything I needed was within 5 or 10 km, an easily bike-able distance. For 5 years I rode year-round when I could, but trips with cargo like recycling and groceries still required a car, especially when the snow got deep. My car-free-Whistler existence wouldn’t come until I got “fat” (and I got electrified).
RIDING IN THE WHISTLER VILLAGE
This January I got one of the first production electric fat bikes from Surface 604 in Vancouver and it has not only made going “car-free” possible, but also a ton of fun. The low-pressure fat tires and long wheelbase easily handle the snow and ice; the hilly terrain tackled by the electric assist. The only thing that slows me down now is stopping to talk to people who want to know more about the bike. Young and old, men and women, the reaction seems to be the same for everyone: “Why am I not riding one of these things!?!” It’s especially gratifying to get the “thumbs up” from people in their cars who, when they see the bike, instantly realize there is a viable alternative to driving their car. You can almost see the light bulb above their heads.
For me, the e-fatty doesn’t replace my mountain bike. I’m as passionate about cross-country riding as ever. I love grinding up steep single track and catching as much air as possible on the way down. No, for me the Surface604 is more like my pickup truck, customized for maximum utility and convenience. I don’t polish it after every ride. I don’t care when the chain gets rusty from the snow and salt, I just lube it with high viscosity 5W50 diesel engine oil, which keeps it running smoothly for another month.
I’ve fabricated custom fenders, ski racks from inner tubes, custom saddle bag racks and installed old-school moto-cross style bars with a riser stem that puts me in a super upright position. I retrofitted a kid’s trailer that serves as a cargo trailer for big loads and this summer I’ll be going to work on a trailer for our Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP’s).
CORY LEIS ON ALTA LAKE IN WHISTLER
I expect the grin on my face will diminish over time. But for now, I’m positively giddy when I feel the fresh air on my skin, knowing that I’m not destroying the planet simply getting around town. On the financial side, I also feel good knowing that I’m contributing exactly $0 to the coffers of Big Oil. Hell, just one of those surprise $1500 repair bills from the mechanic is almost enough to buy the bike in the first place!
DAVE ON ALTA LAKE IN WHISTLER
My electric fat bike may be one of the only ones in town right now, but judging from public reaction, I’d bet that’s all about to change. The sooner the better in my opinion. Bring it on. I think the planet, and future generations, will thank us.