With fat biking continuing to be one of the fastest growing segments of the cycling world, I attended this year’s Fat Bike Summit in Jackson, WY, hoping to learn about successes around the country that we can emulate here in the Roaring Fork valley. After this paragraph you’ll find a linked .pdf report that recaps many of the presentations in some geeky detail. The details included are great for those of us on the front lines of creating more (and better) fat bike experiences locally. There are enough photos in the report that it’s worth checking out even if you’ve only got just a few minutes.
Knowing that we’ve got challenges locally, including (1) organizing volunteers to pack our local trails (and then spread the word on current conditions), (2) developing fat bike winter specific machine groomed singletrack where possible, and (3) securing long term access to winter routes on the White River National Forest, here are some of the key takeaways from this year’s Summit:
1. Fat bikes are not a “fad”. This category has been doubling in size for a number of years now, with 100 brands offering fat bikes by end of 2014. Fat bikes are just as light as normal mtb’s at similar price point. It’s not just racers and enthusiasts, it’s women, families, and (previously) non-cyclists getting out on these bikes for fun.
2. Fat bikes mean a new winter season of riding in snowbound locales. This brings opportunity for new trails, new terrain, new experiences, and business for bike shops throughout the winter season. For land managers, it’s a new user group to manage; fat bikers should be patient and respectful as it will take time to enact favorable policy changes.
3. What do fat bikers want? Packed Snow. Moderate Climbs. Groomed Snow. Narrow Trails.
4. Shared Use trail systems work, and this is because most fat bike riders are respectful of the typical rules: Yield to skiers, snowshoers, dog walkers. Stay off the trail when snow conditions are soft; it’s no fun to be bogged down in tough conditions while also ruining the trail for other users with deep tire grooves.
5. Packed Singletrack, whether shared or separate use, can be accomplished by determined volunteers on snowshoes & can be improved even further by using heavy drag-behind implements. Prince Creek Trail system near Carbondale is riding well at this point of the winter thanks to a combination of volunteers, foot traffic, and… lack of recent snow storms.
6. Groomed Singletrack – fat bike specific trails – groomed by a growing assortment of both simple and complex dragged implements… are quickly becoming the gold standard for fat bike riders who’ve experienced this recent progression in winter trail design.
7. In most ways, the advocacy work required for fat biking right now mirrors the past + ongoing work to create, enhance, and preserve great mountain bike experiences. Everyone presenting at the Summit provided Solutions, rather than complaints or demands. The strategies on display provide a great path forward as we work towards best possible fat bike experiences throughout the Roaring Fork valley.
If you haven’t ridden one already, stop by your favorite bike shop & take a demo fat bike out for a spin!