If I had to sum it up my fatbike experience so far, I would describe it in just one word:
Occasionally it's slow and fun, such as when I can go off trail and ride across the snow. But mostly it's slowness of the painful and frustrating variety, where I'm working hard for not much forward speed. Today's ride was a good example. We had an inch or two of new fallen snow over a couple of crusty inches. Riding the paved bike path to the trail was painful, more work than when I'm towing the kids and a trailer full of groceries against a headwind. I kept looking down, hoping to see I was plowing through a drift, but it was just a light dusting:
(actually, this picture was from later, with a bit more snow. Most of the paved trails I rode were even more clear than this)
It was fun to get into the woods and putter around, but it's still not as if I can float gracefully above the snow, like Legolas running over snow in Lord of the Rings. More like Gimli bulling his way through. Perhaps I can blame the tires, but I would quickly spin out going up any hills, just like riding a regular bike in the snow:
Fortunately, I found a fix for the ponderousness of the fat tires:
Yep, skinny tires, or least skinnier. I ordered up a cheapie $100 fat bike wheelset, meant to convert your fat bike into a reasonable all around machine in the dry season. It's generally not recommended to put 3" 29+ tires on such a skinny rim, but that didn't stop me from trying it out:
The narrower, lighter wheels transform the bike. When I got home after today's slog, I removed the 4" fatbike wheelset and put on the 29+ wheels. It was like getting a new bike: where I previously had to grind out forward motion, now I could just... ride. Like a normal bike:
It didn't have the stability of the fatbike where the snow got deeper, but the overall balance of the bike is so much better. I need to give the fatbike a trial in some deeper snow, but so far, a 29 plus bike looks like a much better package for my riding.