With snow season around the corner (hopefully!) we would like to share these winter recreation tips for folks who enjoy the outdoors during the snow months. While these may be more fat bike-focused, they are good for all winter recreationists to consider.
It takes time to groom for skiing and fat biking, so we encourage all users to consider the following guidelines to help keep our winter trail use optimal.
For example, if you enjoy hiking consider snowshoeing as a great alternative! Not only does this help to pack down trails for fat bike riders, but you are not post holing groomed trails for other users.
1. If you’re leaving a rut, turn around
If there’s one cardinal rule of fat biking on groomed fattrack, it’s “don’t leave ruts in the trail.” Now, how to avoid leaving ruts is the key (see below), but if you’re out for a ride and find that you’re leaving a rut in the trail–turn around, and try again a different day (or during a different time of the day).
2. Use tires that are at least 3.8″ wide
When riding on fattrack, choose tires that are at least 3.8″ wide. Generally speaking, the wider the tire, the better. The Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) notes that tire width correlates to the weight of the rider, saying “larger riders should run minimum 4.5-inch tires.”
3. Adjust your air pressure to the conditions
As a general rule, the softer the conditions, the lower the air pressure you need to run in your tires. Again, air pressure is dependent on rider weight, and a heavier rider may need to use a slightly higher air pressure than a light rider. As a rule of thumb: 1-4 psi for a “soft groomed surface,” and 6-8 psi for “hard surface and base.”
However, in soft conditions, it's recommend starting around 4-5 psi and working down from there. It’s easier to start a touch higher and let out air than it is to add air to your tires in the middle of a ride.
4. Don’t ride on a freshly-groomed trail
Freshly-groomed trails are rarely ready to be ridden immediately. Trails need time to harden, or ‘set up.’ The time required for a trail to set up depends on several variables, such as temperature and humidity, but it always requires a period of falling temperatures.
If you ride a freshly-groomed trail, leave a long rut in it, and then the trail sets up, your rut will be frozen in place, ruining the experience for everyone that comes after you.
5. Don’t post hole through a groomed trail
“Post holing” is the act of hiking in deep snow without snowshoes, leaving deep footprint holes behind you, which resemble post holes. If you reach a hill that you can’t pedal up on your fat bike, make sure that you walk in the unpacked snow off to the side of the trail.
However, in some places where the snowpack is very deep, you could easily sink in to your waist (or deeper) when you go off the packed trail. In such a situation, walking off the trail may be impossible. The best choice in this situation is, again, to turn around and not leave footprints.
6. As the weather warms, avoid thawing conditions
As the weather warms–either with a change in weather patterns or as spring approaches–trail conditions become more variable, with “freeze/thaw” conditions taking over. When the temperatures climb above freezing, make sure that you don’t ride when the trail is slushy–again, don’t leave ruts.
To avoid leaving ruts in freeze/thaw conditions, ride early in the morning when the trails are still frozen and packed. While the temps may climb above freezing, that doesn’t mean the trail immediately starts to melt. Snow temperature tends to lag 2-3 hours behind air temperature. Even if the air is sliding over 32 degrees, the snow is still a bit colder and tends to hold its shape and structure fairly well. However, expect variable conditions, and plan your route accordingly.
Areas with direct sunlight will soften and deteriorate more quickly, while forested or shadowed trail will stay firm for some time, even if it’s getting warm. This makes a mid-morning or lunchtime ride possible, especially when there was a cold overnight low.
7. Make sure that fat bikes are allowed on the trail you’re riding
Up until this point, we’ve primarily been discussing fat bike-specific fattrack, although most of these points apply to any groomed trail. But if you’re heading out to ride and you’re not sure if the trail you plan to ride is open to fat bikes, make sure you check the signs and trailhead kiosk.
Nordic ski trails are often very fun to fat bike on, but not all nordic ski trails are open to fat bikes. The same goes for snowmobile trails, snowshoe trails, and more. Legislation and regulation vary significantly across the nation, so do your homework.
8. Don’t ride over classical nordic tracks
While all of the above guidelines apply to riding on cross country ski trails as well, a specific consideration for nordic trails is to absolutely never ride across classical nordic ski tracks. The classical track is a parallel set of lines groomed into either side of the ski trail. Make sure that you fat bike on the wider area that’s groomed for skate skiing. Also, those who like to recreate on foot should not walk in ski tracks.
As with sharing any trail, these guidelines all boil down to mutual respect. Respect the other fat bikers on the trail. Respect other trail users. Respect the land manager. Respect the time, energy, and money invested on behalf of the groomer.
As we work to respect others around us, hopefully, our respect will get respect in return, and fat biking opportunities will only continue to grow!
Decorah Bicycles also sells Redfeather Snowshoes