Winter Fat Bike Snow Riding in Winthrop
November 29, 2012
By Kristen Smith
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA) in Winthrop, Washington is opening selected cross-country ski trails to fat bikes. The Methow Valley is home to the nation’s largest cross-country ski area, with over 120 miles of groomed trails. The Methow Valley is also home to some of the best mountain biking found anywhere. This winter MVSTA invites passionate cycling enthusiasts to try fat biking on selected groomed trails in four different locations of the Methow Valley trail system.
What are fat bikes, or snow bikes as they are also called? Fat bikes are specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure. The combination of very wide tires and less than ten pounds of air pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow with very little impact to the snow platform.
Fat bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle industry. In addition to providing a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season, fat bikes give people another way to play in the Methow Valley’s incredibly dry, sunny, cold, snowy conditions. Simply layer up like you would for skiing and get out and ride. No waxing required, and for the passionate cross-country skier, it’s good cross-training.
Steve Mitchell, an avid snow biker from Winthrop, describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter this way: “Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love… Nordic skiing. There are days when the snow has set up just right, so hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There’s an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you ‘can’ ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!”
This is the first year MVSTA has opened the ski trails to fat bikes. This will be a pilot program with selected trails open at selected times depending on snow conditions. James DeSalvo, Executive Director of MVSTA, briefly describes the launching of the program. “We are piloting fat biking with our eyes and ears wide open. The future of the program will be based upon the response we get. We believe we can manage fat biking use so that it has no greater impact to our trail platform than that of our traditional skiing public. The ski trails will still remain our top priority and it will be interesting to see what response we get.” Information on what trails are open to fat bikes will be available daily on the MVSTA grooming report at mvsta.com. There will be fat bike trail options in the Rendezvous, Town Trailhead, Big Valley and Sun Mountain locations. Just like a skier, a valid MVSTA day pass will be required for snow bikes at all locations except for Big Valley.
Joe Brown, owner of Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop shares, “We are really excited that MVSTA has made the initial decision to open up some of the trail system to fat bikes. It’s a natural progression that we should take advantage of and support. So many areas in the Midwest and Alaska have seen fat bike usage exponentially increase over the last several years and have successfully integrated bikes, Nordic skiing and snowmobiling. Many cross country skiers are also mountain bikers so this will really provide a great opportunity to combine skiing and riding interests throughout the winter months.”
“I remember the first time I saw and then rode a fat bike. I thought it looked cumbersome, unwieldy and heavy. I was completely blown away once I started riding however. The floatation of the tires and efficiency of the bike was phenomenal—I was able to ride on the same terrain that I used in the summer months without losing traction or momentum. On top of that, the tire tracks stayed on top of the snow with less impact than a set of skis! I think once people allow themselves to try it, they will be hooked—so much fun!”
Fat bikes are available for rent at Methow Cycle and Sport located in Winthrop. Reservations are recommended. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adaptors for customers that wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice.
Two fat bike demo days are scheduled in the Methow Valley that will allow anyone to try the sport for free. These dates are December 16, 2012, and January 13, 2013. More information on the demo days can be found at mvsta.com/events.html.
The Methow Valley anticipates opening the selected fat bike trails to riding on or about December 16, conditions permitting.
To ensure this year’s pilot program is successful we ask that bikers carefully read and follow these conditions of use:
• All riders need to purchase a trail pass.
• Purpose built snow bikes only! Both tires must be wider than 3.7” and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions!
• Trail access is dependent on conditions. Please check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information. (mvsta.com/grooming.html).
• Do not ride in soft conditions. Please stay off trails with more than 3” of new snow.
• Bikes yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth.
• If you are riding on a free trail like Big Valley please consider becoming a member of MVSTA.
• Be a good trail citizen. If the conditions will cause you to leave ruts that will impede skiing, leave the trail. As a general rule, if you have to get off and push or carry your bike, the snow is too soft and you must get off the Nordic trails. If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch or are having a hard time riding in a straight line, it is also too soft to be on the Nordic trails.
• Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate others, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we’ll all have a good time this winter. Snow bike riding next winter depends on how things go this year. So, spread the word about snow biking, make it fun, keep it safe.
More information on the Methow Valley winter fat bike program can also be found:
· On the MVSTA website
· On the MVSTA blog
· On the MVSTA Facebook page
· By contacting Kristen Smith at the MVSTA office in Winthrop, 509-996-3287 Kristen@mvsta.com
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