Last Thursday and Friday, I attended the Midwest Fat Bike Access & Grooming Workshop in Cable WI, a gathering of practitioners devoted to improving off-road cycling and fat biking in winter.
Following a late Thursday afternoon/evening fat bike ride by approximately 15- 20 riders on the newly groomed Esker trail in the CAMBA trail system’s Cable cluster, participants gathered for the opening reception at the Lakewoods Resort. QBP’s John Gaddo showed Cold Rolled, the documentary by Clear & Cold Cinema featuring the 15-mile winter singletrack Snow Bike Route (SBR) that’s part of the Noquemanon Trails Network in Marquette, Michigan.
Friday’s workshop was held in The Rivers Eatery where owners Mick and Beth Endersbe and staff served up a scrumptious breakfast and their specialty stone oven pizza for lunch.
QBP’s Advocacy Director Gary Sjoquist and QBP’s 45NRTH Brand Manager David Gabrys opened Friday’s session for the 70+ attendees, which included representatives from upper Midwest mountain bike and Nordic ski clubs, as well as land managers from state DNR’s, the U.S. Forest Service, and various city and county park systems. Gary and David gave an overview on the history of fat bikes, how and where they’re being used, and industry trends for fat biking. IMBA’s Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson talked about the economic impact of fat biking, the demographics, and fat bike best practices.
Gary then detailed the different types of fat bike trail categories. Here in the upper Midwest, most fat bike use is occurring in the winter on existing mountain bike trails, as mountain bikers who love the variability of XC singletrack in the summer seek a similar riding experience in winter. There’s also growing interest in using fat bikes on frozen lakes, rivers and other winter backcountry areas in the upper Midwest that aren’t rideable in warmer months.
The other main fat bike trail category is what Gary referred to as ‘negotiated access’ on Nordic ski trails and snowmobile trails. He presented several examples of shared trail use that’s occurring in the Western U.S., where the terrain, greater snow depth, and other factors make grooming of XC singletrack less practical. (The 3rd Annual Fat Bike Summit later this month in Ogden, UT will include a heavy focus on shared trail usage.)
Here in the upper Midwest, among the challenges for shared trail usage are 1) fear of fat biking damage to Nordic trails; 2) fear of snowmobile collisions with fat bikes; and 3) usage fees. While these and other challenges are certainly not insurmountable, there seemed to be a general consensus among those in the audience who spoke on the issue that it’s better for us in the upper Midwest to focus most of our efforts on the winter use of existing mountain bike trails and to go very slow and carefully when it comes to shared trail use. See the PDF of the Powerpoint presentation by Gary, David, and Hansi.
We then heard short presentations from representatives of upper Midwest mountain bike chapters who described the fat biking-related activities in their trail systems, including whatever grooming techniques and equipment they’re using, both human-powered (e.g., snowshoes) and mechanized.
Dan Deetz, Mark Anderson: CORBA (Chippewa Off Road Bike Association); Arlyn Aronson, Maasto Hiihto/Churning Rapids Trails
HUMAN POWERED GROOMING EQUIPMENT
Dan Deetz: CORBA
MECHANIZED GROOMING EQUIPMENT
Scott Trierweiler: Neillsville Area Trail Alliance (Levis Mound Trail)
Rokon, roller and drag used by Chippewa Off Road Bike Association. The equipment is owned by OTR (On The Rivet) race team. The materials for the roller were provided by Eau Claire Bike and Sport, with the labor done by Mark Anderson.
C.J. Smith, John Smith, & Jay Thompson: Elm Creek Park (MORC)
Mike Brunet: Noquemanon Trail Network
Rick Carpenter & Dave Pramann: Namekagon Fat Bike Club
Gary Barden & Bob Dunahee: Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition
At 4 pm, most participants grabbed their fat bikes for a ride on one of the area CAMBA trails. Alas, not me, as I don’t yet own one. Real Soon Now, I’m hoping!
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