Featured Rider #1

In our new feature, we want to turn the spotlight on you. There are some amazing ambassadors out there, just doing their thing. Regular riders, quietly promoting the fatbike scene whilst remaining largely unnoticed. At Fatbiking Europe, we want to give them the attention they rightfully deserve.

So, allow me to introduce the first of our ‘Featured Riders’

Name? Nick Howarth

Age? 44 years young

Day job? Countryside Park Ranger

Current Fatbike? On-One Fatty.

Is it factory standard or have you upgraded? It’s now got RockShox Bluto RTC3 120mm, RockShox Reverb dropper post, Charge Spoon saddle, Hope Fatsno front hub, Race Face orange bars, Shimano Deore brakes, Shwalbe Jumbo Jim 4 inch tyres, Absolute Black 30 tooth oval chainring, Shimano 11-42 10 speed cassette, Shimano XT rear mech, and last week’s mud.

Flats or clipped in? Clipped in is the future; for power, delivery and control.

Tubes or tubeless? Ghetto Tubeless!

How many other bikes do you have? Up until a few months ago, I had 19 bikes in the garage! I decided I needed to seriously thin down. So, I sold all my old school stuff; Choppers, Burners, Boxers and Grifters. Now the only complete bikes are my fatty, a Scott Scale 29er (which I’ve recently converted to singlespeed), and my 2 road bikes; a Scott Speedster and a Dawes Vantage road tourer (my guilty pleasure… which allows me to disappear for days on end, doing big mile days in far away places)

Which other model of fatbike have you got your eye on? I don’t really have my eye on any other fat bikes at moment, but if it’s steel, skinny tubed, and sporting skin wall tyres. … I’ll probably love it.

How long have you been fatbiking? I have been fat biking for nearly 2 years. My first fatbike was a Calibre Dune. I loved the idea of an uber grippy winter hack to blast through everything. But I soon realised it was far more capable than just a hack bike. I also realised it was too small. At the time, the Dune was only made in medium, and against everyone’s advice I bought it anyway. It was great to throw around, but anything over 25 miles killed me. The Dune is a brilliant starter bike, but marred by terrible bearings. Really terrible. Every bearing on the bike failed in a 2 week period and it then spent 5 weeks at the retailer, waiting for new parts. As a result, I decided to buy an On-One Fatty. It’s not only a very good looking bike, but Planet X is only 4 miles from my front door! Any problems. .. they can have it back in 20 minutes.

If you have other bikes, which is your favourite and why? Recently, I delved into the world of singlespeed. A riding buddy always destroys me on every ride we do together, even though he rides a fully rigid singlespeed. So I thought I’d give it a try. I converted my Scott 29er hardtail and it has become a very different beast. It is very good for explosive fitness and leg strength. I’m racing it in a local urban cx race in 2 weeks too, so I really should leave the Fatty and get back out on it! I like road riding, but the roads around Sheffield have become so dangerous over the last few years, and a couple of close shaves and one rear shunt by an old lady has pretty much put me off. My guilty pleasure is my Dawes tourer. I bought it to ride John O’Groats to Lands End 5 years ago, which I did solo and unsupported and  I loved every minute. I’ve just returned from a week riding it on the wild Atlantic way in western Ireland. I had scorching weather and it was an amazing experience. Whilst the Dawes was in its elememt, I can report the area is absolutely no good for fat biking though, a complete lack of trails and only coves and secluded beaches.

What do you like most about fatbiking? I love the idea of a bike that can go anywhere. I have always dashed out of the door the second I see snow. So having the chance to ride a bike designed to ride on the stuff was perfect. I have ridden pretty much everything and everywhere in UK on my Fatty. Every trail centre, every mountain and most, if not all of the popular riding spots. I love uplift days; Antur Stiniog and Bike Park Wales absolutely rock. But… I crave variety. One red route can very quickly become another. I still love a day at a trail centre, but it can’t compete with packing a day’s food and drink, and disappearing out into the Peak District for an epic trail blazing mission to find something new. Even if it’s just a view I’ve never seen before. The fat bike allows you to push beyond the realms of what and where is usually ridden by the masses. I race on my Fatty too. I recently raced in the Ardrock Enduro in the Yorkshire Dales. This has to be 25 of the hardest miles I can think of. It’s a fast, furious, and horrendously hairy 6 stage enduro. I loved it. Although I had to run 25 psi to prevent pinch flats! Ive also ridden solo at Mountain Mayhem. I love to push myself through the drama and romance of a solo 24 hour xc race. You definitely leave the race knowing a lot more about yourself and what you are actually capable of.

And the inevitable follow up; what do you like least? Nothing really. Once you have mastered tubeless and so no longer run the risk of sitting trail side pumping for 30 minutes, what’s not to love. Yes, at first it can be hard work, but you very quickly build your fitness and strength to compensate, and after a year or so will be over taking your mates. I regularly take Strava “King of the Mountains” from myself; ones I originally achieved on either the full susser or the 29er. I even came 2nd in our clubs recent downhill race, and 2nd fastest on the xc time trail stage! I also came 5th in the fat bike category at Mountain Mayhem 2016. Proving fatbikes aren’t so slow after all!

The best place you’ve ever ridden a Fatbike? And why? I keep being drawn back to the Isle of Skye. I absolutely love it there. Earlier this year I rode the trail through the centre of the Cuillins mountain range, “Glen Sligachan” was by far the most dramatic and awe inspiring place I’ve been. Being surrounded by snow capped black jagged peaks, on a sunny day, is something everyone should experience once in their life. But these extreme places come with a sting in their tail. A flash storm dropped as I was 5 minutes away from my van, and really showed me what the power of nature can deliver at the drop of a hat in these wild places. Be prepared! It literally went from t shirt weather to a torrential snow storm in a couple of minutes. Wow!

Do you still get stared at on your Fatbike? Yes I still get stared at on my Fatty. And yes it still makes me smile. My favourite incident involved a well spoken, middle aged, woman. As I splashed through the stream which runs through the Porter Valley in Sheffield, she stopped,  and whilst staring down at my tyres, simply said “Good God!” It was brilliant.

If money and time were no object, where would your number one Fatbiking destination be? I could sit here and list umpteen glorious exotic and extreme locations around the world… but to be honest… if I’ve not been there yet, then that is my next destination.

Do you have any hobbies, outside Fatbiking?Camping, wild camping, bivvying, whatever you want to call it… basically, I love sleeping outside! But my main pastime, other than riding, is my local MTB club; Rother Valley Riders, of which  I am the Chairman and Director. We are based in Rother Valley Country Park near Sheffield, where I work as a ranger and also coordinate the building of trails. To cut a very long story short, I started building MTB trails in 2011, after many attempts at convincing the park manager to allow me to cut a trail in the woodland areas within the park. Very soon we had lots of other riders wanting to become involved. Fast forward to now; we are currently the UK’s biggest British Cycling affiliated MTB club. We have roughly 320 paid members and a Facebook page with over 2000 followers. A fair chunk of those riders are on fatties, too! Through the voluntary hard work of our members, we now have roughly 4 miles of purpose built trails, ranging from mild blue routes and red runs, to our newest addition; a fast and furious, steep, berm filled black trail.

Tell us some interesting facts about yourself? I once met Sue Pollard from Hi Di Hi in an infamous all night house club in Mansfield. Wearing lots of sequins. [Editor: Was that you or Sue in sequins, Nick?]

Finally, and most importantly, what’s your favourite way to cook potatoes? Chips! In a chip butty. Great big fat chips. With scraps, and loads of salt and vinegar, in a BREAD CAKE!

If you would like your name in print, then drop us an email to us@fatbiking.eu and we’ll ask you some questions. Please note, we reserve the right not to ask you about potatoes.

Author: Damo

Bike rider. Ale drinker. Beard wearer.

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