Port bike shop finds customers eager for latest in cycling trends
Event organizers often keep a wary eye on the approaching weather, especially if the function is going to be held outdoors in winter.
That won’t be the case when ZuZu Pedals hosts the South Beach Bumble Bounce, the first local race devoted to fat bike fanatics.
Fat bikes have become the rage in climate-challenged Wisconsin, allowing riders to go out for a spin through ice, snow and general muck.Mike Kusserow, sales and service specialist at the Port Washington bike and fitness shop, said the fat bike fad is gaining momentum because of the flexibility the equipment offers.
That “ride through anything” ability has made Kusserow a longtime fan of the bikes, especially when cold weather forces most people to store away their riding gear.
“It used to be my friends and I would have the beach to ourselves when we went out for winter rides, but now we are likely to run into people we don’t know,” he said.
Fat bikes get their name from their distinctive tires — typically knobby, five-inch high affairs mounted on 26-inch rims that look like they belong on mountain bikes on steroids.
“The tires on a fat bike can be kept as low as 5 PSI (pounds per square inch) for increased traction on snow and ice, and they can be pumped up to 20 PSI for riding on trails,” Kusserow said.
“The trick is most tire gauges don’t go as low as 5 PSI, so there is a bit of trial and error involved in getting the pressure just right. If you don’t get it right, it can result in a bit of a bouncy ride.”
With properly inflated tires, Kusserow said, a fat bike can handle most mountain bike trails pretty well.
“Of course, once you get a mountain bike on sand, it will just stop. The fat bike can just keep going,” he said.
The original fat bikes were developed in Alaska, where they were used to get around in the roadless back country.
“Then people discovered they are a lot of fun to ride,” Kusserow said.
“You can still get them equipped with gun racks and pegs where you can hang your tent and sleeping bag — kind of like a mini RV.”
The fat bikes offered at ZuZu Pedals are designed to open the expansive lakefront to recreational riders throughout the year.
The Franklin Street store has about a half-dozen fat bikes in stock, and the units displayed in the front window attract plenty of attention.
The store carries SE, Fuji, Specialized and Surly lines, with prices ranging from $900 to $3,000.
“It used to be a sport for hard-core riders, but the prices have come down, making it much more family friendly,” Kusserow said.
For those who demand high-end gear, he said, full carbon frames and sophisticated shifting systems can push the price tag to well over $5,000.
Like any bike, fat bikes should be tuned to the riders’ height, weight and cycling abilities.
“Customers usually find they like the fat bikes more than they expected, with the fat bike often becoming their bike of choice. That’s why we urge riders to get exactly what they want because they will end up using it a lot,” Kusserow said.
He said the challenging conditions the bikes are used in mean most riders have to spend about an hour after each outing, clearing sand and moisture from the gears and frame.
The shop rents Surly fat bikes, and the $70-a-day charge can be credited toward the cost of a bike if the customer decides to buy one from ZuZu Pedals.
Rentals come with use of a helmet and lock, as well as a map.
Kusserow is organizing the Bumble Bounce, named after the beloved snow monster from the animated “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” Christmas special.
The ride will be held Saturday, Jan. 24, starting at noon on Port Washington’s south beach.
Four-member teams will take turns riding a 1.5-mile circuit on the beach, encountering whatever conditions Lake Michigan throws their way in mid-winter.
A post-race celebration featuring live music and an awards ceremony will follow at 3 p.m. at Alley Katz, 219 N. Franklin St., next door to the bike shop.
“We are only having race day registration, so we don’t know how many people will show up,” Kusserow said.
Weather, he said, won’t be a factor.
“You can pretty much take whatever winter throws at you on a fat bike. Even in the cold, once you get pedalling you heat up pretty fast,” Kusserow said.
Image information: The wide tires on Mike Kusserow's fat bike allows him to handle most winter riding conditions. Photo by Mark Jaeger