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Ice Cream headaches and Dreamcycles.....

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.

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Shoulder Seasons

And we can't forget the "shoulder seasons" as well. I am trail steward for CamRock trails. For the first time this year the trail is open year-around and will be open to snow biking. The issue now is educating riders. We have no snow. The trail is a ton of fun to ride when the trail is frozen. We need to educate people that even if it is 20 degrees but sunny, or it has been warm for three days with no rain, the trail is not rideable. It is mud. The trail is a new animal once the frost comes in.
Fat Bikes will help minimize the damage. But even they should not ride on thawed-frost trails.


Only groom when the snow is too deep to ride. Try riding it first, then go get your groomer if biking fails.
Keep the trail narrow or it will get too easy and boring. Corners need to be widenend a bit more than the straights. The features will show up on the side of trails. Snow covers downed trees and large rocks and we start riding them. Don't groom these. Let the bikes groom them so they stay a challenge.
Ski trails can be a good time if they have fast hills and corners and the tires float on top with no sinking.

snow bikes

We have allowed snow bikes here at Grand Targhee Resort on our nordic trails. There are many groomed trails in this area ( Teton Valley up to West Yellowstone ) We have worked with the local trails and pathways to have access on the the trails they groom in the winter. We are also working on getting a snow bike permit to allow us to access the snowmobile trails that are groomed in this area.We want to be a partner the snowmobiles and to support the grooming of the trails. We're working on getting a snow bike sticker, that $ would then go to the trail grooming.
The education of snow bikes riders is pretty simple but it's important to make sure you're not stepping on other trail users toes. By not riding trails when they are to soft, putting a headlight and tail light on your bike (especially on snowmobile trails) yeilding to nordic skiers.
I have posted to links below regarding trail etiquette - by Dave Byers and also a video of riding here at Targhee.
Enjoy, once you try a snow bike, most likely you're going to be hooked on it.

Andy W

Fat-Bike Winter and Beach Policy

In addition to winter snow riding a large part of a fat-bike's allure is its ability to ride on sand. Beach riding is probably more fraught with possible user conflict that snow riding. Riders should be especially courteous and educated about each region or states laws concerning beach access. Prime summer swimming season is probably not a great time to hit the beach. Foul weather beach riding reduces the number of possible user conflicts.

Snow biking on snow shoed trails is what I do the most. Many times, I go and snow shoe the trails that I want to ride later. If you groom most of the trails that I ride, you would rob the snow shoeists of their fresh deep snow that they all love to race out to get into. After 10 people tramp down the trails with snow shoes, they are ready for fat-bikes. There has to be some kind of regulations that keep fat-bikes off of groomed ski trails and the spring thaw season has to be regulated to protect the trail tread. Moderate terrain is perfect snow biking terrain.

Here in rural Alaska,

Here in rural Alaska, everyone has a winter activity that they take seriously. Lots of snow machiners, xcountry skiers, runners, and back country snowboarders. Being the 1st fat biker in town, and starting a fat-bike-rental and tour business, I wanted to start off on a good foot. I approached the ski club and attended a meeting. I stop and talk to the guys i see grooming, and to skiers at the trail head. This proactive work has really paid off. The ski club has pretty much accepted me as one of their own, the guys who do the grooming have given me their tentative permission to use their trails. On our warm winters days (yes, it does get pretty warm, 40 degrees or so, here in so. cental ak.) you do need groomed or packed snow, and I ride the widest rims/tires available. The trails aren't THEIRS to begin with, so i never needed to ask, but I'm glad I did. I don't plan on riding groomed trails when its that warm, as it will cause damage. And everyone will know it was me!

If winter mtn biking does

If winter mtn biking does take off as a sport, let's hope there is a little thought and future discussion on the possible conflict between a nordic ski track on a trail and how that differs from a mountain bike wheel tread (more rounded and they tend to ride in the center of the trail) on a winter narrow trail. Nordic skiers are already seeing a diminishing number of trails that maintain a ski track because of the increase in folks walking or snowshoeing on trails. The point isn't that winter mtn biking doesn't belong, but more so to recognize some of the problems out there that this new form of winter travel does present. Mostly to please be aware and sensitive of others. Maybe it means holding off on riding certain winter trails until a week or so after a storm so that nordic skiers can enjoy it for awhile until it gets more hardpack. Or picking trails that aren't used by skiers as much because the snow quality isn't as good.

Uncle Bicycle

Staying off the nordic ski trails is sort of a no-brainer. Even a fat bike doesn't track well on them and has the potential to do some pretty serious damage.

As one of the first fat bikers in my town, I'll admit that I've tried the groomed skate-ski trails under cover of darkness. Under certain conditions, when the snow is well-consolodated, a fat bike won't even leave a discernible track. But when it's warmer or the snow is fresh, they can leave a trench that is a clear hazard to the skiers.

At some point in the near future, winter cyclists will have to reach out to other user groups. We're not on the radar yet, but it won't be long.


in my experience, fat bikes do far less to degrade winter trails than, say, snowshoes. if a trail advertises shared use, in my opinion, it's fair game for fat biking. i just make sure to be courteous to other users and subscribe to the rule that bikers yield to everyone else on the trail.

Shared use is fine, but

Shared use is fine, but common sense and courtesy should prevail. If you see groomed cross country ski tracks down the middle a section of trail, try and stay to the edge and not mess up their tracks.

Fatbike Use

Our local park has a multi-use trail. By far the worst impact on the trails is the walkers. I've been out on the xc ski trails and the impact of a fatbike is far less than that of the skiers themselves. However, if snowbikers are to use the local ski trails it should only be with permission. I ride a lot in northern Minnesota and without snowmobile trails most snowbikers
would not be able to go very far. Those fat tires will NOT go many people think. I stay off if the ski trails and the snowmobile trails.

The last thing a snowmobiler is expecting to see as they round a corner going 50 mph is someone on a snowbike. If you are going to ride the a pass and make sure you are very well visible.

The thing I like about my Pugsley is it takes me places where nobody else would think of riding a bike in winter. If I'm up north there are 100's of miles of forest roads and logging roads to ride.

I think that as snowbiking grows, more trail areas will open themselves up to accommodate the growing trend. We need to be patient and tread lightly.

Snowmobile Trails

It's also important to stay off snowmobile trails maintained by clubs that run across private land unless there's some kind of permission in place. Snowmobile clubs in my area have worked for years and spent lots of money and time to reach agreements with landowners and set up a network of trails (sound familiar?) It would be supremely bad form to help one's self without at least asking, much less chipping in.

Also, riding on public trails that allow both bike and snowmobile traffic calls for lots of courtesy and high-visibility clothing.