It was a mistake. I knew it almost immediately.
Heading home from a fatbike ride on the North Saskatchewan River, I decided to take a shortcut through the Laurier off-leash dog park, something I would not normally do. But I was tired, and it was the most direct route home. I knew that bikes were prohibited in the dog park, but I figured I could zip through it quickly; maybe no one would notice me.
I was maybe 50 metres past the large no-bikes-allowed sign, when I realized how badly I’d miscalculated. There were dogs and dog-people everywhere. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of dogs, scampering about, cavorting, you might say, and almost as many people. Dog people. I figured I was in for it. Dog owners in dog territory can be grumpy when it comes to cyclists. I braced myself for a scolding, for dirty looks, for the old “Can’t you read the sign, dickweed?” refrain I was sure to hear.
But guess what? I got a free pass. Not only did I not get hassled; the dog folks actually smiled at me, shameless interloper that I was. Or, rather, they smiled at my bike. Only one woman said, “You shouldn’t be on here.” I replied, sheepishly, “You’re right. Sorry. My bad.” To which she responded, “Cool tires!” With a smile.
Such, I discovered, is the power of a fatbike. It’s got a kind of Jedi-mind-trick capability, such a mesmerizing effect on folks that, on a fatbike, you can get away with a lot. I disobeyed a posted sign, flouted a traffic law, and—no big whoop. On any of my other bikes, I’m sure I would have been heckled, harassed, possibly even lynched.
How far could one push this unconditional acceptance of fatbike violations? Well, I don’t intend to find out, but I suspect pretty far. On a fatty, I’m guessing you could hop back and forth between sidewalk and road to avoid red lights, and still, all you’re likely to get from pedestrians and vehicle drivers is a goofy grin and “Whoa! Cool tires!”
Maybe the better question is how long will this magical fatspell last? Fatbikes are still a relative novelty, at least around here. People are still so struck by their strangeness, their preposterousness, that they are blind to what the bike rider is actually doing. At some point, however, fatbikes will become more common, and the charm will wear off, the free pass will expire. And instead of hearing “Cool tires!” that curb-hopping fatty-rider will be greeted, as he should be, by a good, old-fashioned “Dickweed!”