Well the winter is upon us and that means Fat Bike time. I have been watching the Fat Bike/Snowbike trend from afar. I have been interested in it personally but not enough to pull the trigger. However lately I have been getting a lot of questions from land managers on how to deal with the numbers of riders that they are seeing both on their single track trails and on their ski trails. Eventually after a nice long ride with Trevor from Surly I was convinced I needed to get involved and at the very least have the ability to respond to the questions I was receiving.
I ended up buying a used Pugsley, fat but not that fat compared to the newer bikes and tires that are out there. My initial impressions are not going to be that radical to anybody who has been riding fat bikes for a long time. Due to the state of the trails I am riding on (frozen, small amount of snow) and the hugeness of the tires I am sporting, my initial impression is that I can go just about anywhere. Trails that were once show stoppers, are now filled in enough to be smoother and if they are still not super smooth, the tires and the lower pressure I am running them at fix that. In other words trails that I normally would not touch, are now touchable. That is both an extremely liberating feeling and an interesting conundrum if you are land manager. First the obvious, they now have bikes where they never would have had them. Secondly, how do you compete with the ability to nearly ride anywhere? I recently saw this post on Fat Bike Etiquette that I thought was interesting. I think that the main point here is similar to winter riding. Be courteous to other user groups and respect the trails that they have worked so hard to attain. Also relate to your local manager the desire and the need for winter riding opportunities. The great thing here is that there is almost zero environmental impact in winter riding, so creating interesting rides and systems is easy and relatively cheap for most land managers (you do still have other costs related to this however, plowing etc).
Several parks and trails are actually grooming their single track here in the Upper Midwest. Literally dragging and packing their trails. The Cuyuna Rec area is actually dedicating a full unit of the rec area just to winter riding. Winter races are abounding with Series in the Minneapolis area and in the Milwaukee area as well. Here is one race that looks like a hoot and of course the reigning snow bike race in both history and cool (no pun intended) factor is the Arrowhead 135.
I throw this out to the veteran and hard core Fat bikers and winter riders. What would you like to see if you had a winter playground dedicated to winter biking? Is grooming needed? What types of terrain and features would you like to see? What kind of trails do you want to ride the most? Do you even need a destination? I am not sure but with the growth of this sport, it would be interesting to hear what Fat Bikers are looking for and how they see their sport maturing and looking in the future.