I figured with heavy snow to end November and a couple of fresheners on top of it that the local snowmobilers would have been up and down the Cotton Valley Trail, packing it to concrete. We've had a lot of warm and wet weather as well, but the snow was so dense and the sun is so weak that the cover is still thick and durable in most places. If past snow seasons were any guide, the motorheads should have been out with the enthusiasm and loud buzzing of the first mosquitoes of springtime.
I figured wrong. The Cotton Valley Trail had one set of ATV tracks on it, making a pair of awkwardly spaced ruts down through the crunchy, collapsible snowpack. The ruts were each too narrow to ride in. Only a little wobble and I would catch the edge. The center wouldn't support my weight,...except when it would. The center was also narrow enough that my waggles as I tried to grunt my way down the unpacked snow would dump me into one of the ruts again.
I dismounted and tried running with the bike for a while, to see if conditions improved. They did not. I turned and ran the bike back to the paved road so I could grind my way back up to the car.
I'm not sure a fat bike would have fared much better. The stiff, crunchy snow would provide plenty of support, but the ATV ruts would be just as much of a nuisance. The fat tires might even make it worse, being more prone to catch the sides. I don't have access to a fat bike to test it, so I have no way to be sure. Because fat bikes have become something of a status symbol, I fear reviews will have at least a bit of bias. I prefer to do my own testing and draw my own conclusion.
I would not commute on anything that did not have lights and fenders. The already bulky fat bike becomes even more cartoonish when you start accessorizing. And then there's the expense, especially for a set of studded tires. It might extend the commuting season considerably, but the big challenge to the park and ride has always been the park more than the ride. If I'm going to ride all the way from home I might as well use one of the bikes I already have. And I'm not going to ride all the way from home in the dark and the iciness with a bunch of half-hibernating drivers.
The ultimate utility bike would be a fat bike with an alternate set of wheels set up for wide 700c tires. But you'd still have to choose which set to mount that day. You could carry the alternate set along, but that goes way beyond ridiculous.
All the shenanigans on the bike meant that I did not get to work until after the Three Stooges had broken a light fixture in our clothing department and showered more debris down on the workshop as they smashed up a couple of bathtubs with sledgehammers. The rest of the day was pretty quiet.