By Ambassador Sandra Beaubien

December 2020 was a strange month. Usually in Ottawa we have plenty of snow for fatbking and skiing, but the weather was not cooperating.  The predicted snow storms turned to rain, followed by cold weather making our rocky trails icy. Luckily, mid December saw a week of unseasonably cold temperatures, and my friends and I started to discuss the thickness of ice on the local lakes. Checking with our trusted sources, which included ice-fishing websites, we decided a golden opportunity was here and it felt like a new beginning for the year ahead.

We packed plenty of water, snacks, lunch, safety gear and beer and we headed out on an epic fatbike ride to bag some lakes. The temperature was cold, around -12C so we bundled up knowing that biking across lakes often left you exposed to the wind.  We drove about an hour north and went searching for frozen lakes to ride across!

With the isolation of COVID and another lockdown looming, looking at the smooth solid ice and the patterns created from the sudden freeze was pretty stunning. I love to skate and skating on frozen ponds and lakes gives you a feeling of freedom and youth.  Riding your fatbike with studded tires on lakes gives you that same feeling of freedom.

If you have never fatbiked on a frozen lake before, it is a really unique experience.  Being in an open expanse has a totally different feeling compared to biking on trails in the forest.  I am certainly not the bravest of lake riders, and only go with more experienced lake riders who know how to read the ice thickness correctly.  As a girl, it was drilled into me growing up – never go on frozen lakes.  Once the fear subsided (honestly, it has taken me 3 years to not white-knuckle my grips on lakes), seeing the different conditions on each lake, and also coming across a group of long-blade skaters really demonstrated the uniqueness of this type of fatbiking.

My favorite part about lake riding is getting the opposite view you would get on land.  Instead of standing on the shore, or at the top of a rock face looking down or out into the water, the reverse perspective is awe inspiring.  Your brain knows you are in the middle of a body of water, and looking towards the shore is such a foreign thing to do while standing on a frozen block of ice.

We ended up connecting trails and roads to ride 4 different lakes in one day on that ride.  A new record for all of us!  It was perfect conditions for riding our bikes on frozen lakes.  The snow has now arrived and we are back to biking the trails, but this will probably be the ride we reminisce about the most this season, the one that gave the feeling of the beginning of the winter season. 

Even though the winter was slow to start, the weather change is always welcome and as usual, a plentiful amount of snow arrived and I savoured every ride on my fatbike. It was just so great to be outside and feel the cold wind in your face and the snow sticking to your eyelashes.

This year saw another explosion of fatbike trail access, with my usual MTB trails still being my favorite, I did add in some variety and rode some groomed trails at a golf course and also some wider groomed trails along the Ottawa river.  Experiencing a variety of trails helped keep me excited for each ride. With our usual watering holes being closed for most of the winter, we even had to improvise a bit with our post-ride tailgate to stay warm 🙂  

Photo credits: Rob Hutchison
Video Credit: Mike McGuire