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Snow and Cold Can’t Stop Volunteer Patrollers

The Isanti, MN-based Backcountry Mountain Bike Trail Patrol has greatly expanded its winter patrol capabilities through the addition of two "fat bikes" and a new, compact automated external defibrillator (AED). The new tools have allowed the all-volunteer National Mountain Bike Patrol (NMBP) unit to assist at events such as the City of Lakes Penn Cycle Fat Bike Loppet and Ice Cycle races, in addition to their long-standing patrol on cross-country skis at the Loppet’s 40 Km classic and freestyle ski races. In their very first outing at the Lake Maria State Park Winter Fun Day in January, one of the bikes was deployed to assist in locating an overdue skier, due to its ability to travel on snow-covered trails.

The Backcountry Patrol was able to acquire the bikes thanks to the generous support of the Team Ortho Foundation of Minneapolis. Team Ortho produces amateur athletic events each year such as the Minneapolis Marathon, Polar Dash and Monster Dash Half-Marathons in the Twin Cities, as well as events in Chicago and Dallas-Ft. Worth, to benefit orthopedic patients, technology, research and education. The Backcountry Trail Patrol has assisted with coordination of Emergency Medical Services since 2004, and provides on-course bike mounted medical support for Team Ortho events in the Twin Cities.

The two Surly Pugsley fat bikes were purchased through K.C. Bohn and The Outdoor Edge in Cambridge. The AED was provided to the patrol as part of the Allina Health Emergency Medical Services Heart Safe Communities program. The new HeartSine Samaritan 300 was selected because it’s compact size and light weight allow it to be carried in a patroller’s backpack or a mountain bike rear rack bag. The patrol has had an AED since 1998, and was the first NMBP unit in the country to have one.

Originally created in Alaska, fat bikes (mountain bikes with low pressure in 3-to-5-inch wide tires) are currently one of the fasting growing segments of cycling, and one of the areas seeing this growth is here in the upper midwest. Leagues, clubs, Facebook pages and websites have sprung up, regional and national conferences of fat bike riding and trail grooming have been held, and fat bike specific races, including the City of Lakes Fat Bike Loppet, the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout in Crosby-Ironton, MN, and the American Birkebeiner Fat Bike Birkie in Cable, WI, have taken place. The patrol will be assisting with medical support at these and other events as well as using them for trail patrol in Isanti County Parks and the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin. The Backcountry Trail Patrol is a volunteer partner with both agencies.

The Backcountry Mountain Bike Trail Patrol is a member unit of the NMBP, a program of IMBA. It is modeled after and very closely aligned with the Nordic National Ski Patrol. Like National Ski Patrollers, all NMBP members are required to hold certification in Wilderness Emergency Medical Care and CPR and are also trained in land navigation (map, compass and GPS), radio, cell phone and interpersonal communications, trailside bicycle repair, safe mountain bike riding techniques, backcountry survival, US Forest Service risk management, patrol procedures and bike-mounted search and rescue operations. Members ride on trails in parks and forests to educate, assist and inform all trail users. Enforcement is not part of patroller’s duties or training, although they do act as additional “eyes and ears” for land managers and law enforcement officers.

For further information, the Backcountry Mountain Bike Trail Patrol’s website is

Hans Erdman
Patrol Director/NMBP Instructor
Backcountry Trail Patrol Association, Inc.

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