Wednesday, January 20, 2016

IMBA's Best Fat Bike Practices

Whether you are a fat bike veteran, or new to the sport, these are always some good points to review every season.  A lot of these recommended guidelines from IMBA apply to trails in our area.  So, be a good fat bike ambassador...

Fat Bike (Winter Mountain Biking) Best Practices

Yield triangle design by Jake Hawkes. Content on this page was developed in part by Grand Targhee Resort and Teton Valley Trails and Pathways.

DO NOT RIDE unless you are sure that biking is permitted by the land manager! Always be courteous to other snow travelers.

What are some basic equipment guidelines for a fat bike that will be primarily ridden on snow?

  1. Wide tires — deep snow coverage may require tires wider than 3.5 inches.
  2. Tire pressure will often be less than 10 PSI.
  3. Enough floatation that you can travel over snow without leaving a rut deeper than one inch.
  4. Sufficient traction that you are able to safely control your bike and ride in a straight line.


Best Practices for Fat Biking on Groomed Nordic Trails

  • Only ride at ski areas that allow and encourage biking.
  • Yield to all other users when riding. Skiers don't have brakes but you do!
  • Ride on the firmest part of the track.
  • Do not ride on or in the classic tracks.
  • Leave room for skiers to pass (don't ride side-by-side with all of your buddies blocking the full trail).
  • Allow the track time to set up after grooming and before riding.
  • Respect alternate-use days for bikers and skiers.
  • Some areas require riding only a purpose-built fat bike, not any old mountain bike. There may be a minimum tire tread width.
  • Be an ambassador for the sport: stay polite, educate other riders, discourage bad behavior and follow the rules.
  • Help out and get involved by joining your local nordic club.
  • Consider donating money for trail grooming.

Best Practices for Riding on Snowmobile Trails

  • When riding on snowmobile trails, use a front white blinker and rear red blinker at all times. Wear reflective material on both the front and rear of your body.
  • Stay to the far right of the trail and yield to snowmobiles.
  • Know and obey the rules of your local land manager. Understand that some trails may be on private property and might not be open to alternative uses.
  • Be prepared. Winter travel in the backcountry requires carrying proper gear and dressing properly. Be self-sufficient!
  • Use extreme caution when riding at night. Be visible and use the brightest lights you can find.
  • Be friendly! Fat bikers are the newest trail users. Be courteous and open to suggestions from snowmobile riders.
  • Help out by supporting your local snowmobile club.
  • Consider donating to trail grooming and maintenance efforts.

Best Practices for Riding on Natural Terrain and in the Backcountry

In the right conditions, a fat bike can be the ultimate winter backcountry travel tool. Frozen conditions and minimal snow coverage (1-5 inches) means access to areas that are impassible during the warmer months. But just because you can ride somewhere doesn't mean you should. Be aware and be prepared.
  • Do not trespass! Know whether or not you are on private property. Obey ALL land manager rules. Some land parcels are closed to bikes whether you are riding on a trail or not.
  • Do not ride through sensitive wildlife habitats. This may be especially important on beaches or in places where animals hibernate. Learn about the area you want to ride in before you ride there.
  • Do not disturb wildlife. Many species survive on minimal diets during winter. Stressors or the need to move quickly can deplete their energy stores.
  • Learn safe ice travel. Riding on frozen water can be extremely dangerous. Is the ice thick enough to support you? Take ice fishing picks and a length of rope when riding on lakes and rivers.
  • Understand changing conditions. New snowfall or warming temperatures can make the return trip much more difficult. Tire tracks can be covered, hard snow can turn to slush, rivers can start to melt. Always know the forecast and be aware of how changing conditions might alter the safe passage of your route.
  • Be prepared. Carry provisions in case you have to stay out longer than planned.
  • Let people know. Make sure someone else knows where you are going, when you left and when you expect to return.
  • Learn to share. Be aware that your tracks might attract other riders. Understand that "your" route might not remain a secret for long.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 Fatty Flurry Fest

Last year was so fun, we thought we should do it again this year! Fatty Flurry Fest is a celebration of Fat Bikes in North Idaho. If you have never tried a fat bike and always wanted too, here is your chance...for free. And if you already have a fatty, come hang with some fellow fat bikers and ride some cool trails.

Free Fat Bike Demo from 10-12:30pm (Surly Pugsleys and Pug Ops)

Group Rides: Starting at 1pm.  If you already have a fatty, this is for you.  We will have detailed maps of trails and some of your shop riders roaming around to make sure no one gets lost.  We will have the trails all dialed (weather permitting) and there are several ride options.  You can pick.

Post ride will feature some socializing and some sled pulling with some refreshments around the fire.

Some Notes: You will need a State Park Pass which can purchases on site for $5 or you can get an annual pass for your vehicle at the DMV beforehand. If you don't have a bike with tires at least 3.8" wide, leave it at home. There are porta potties that are nice and clean, but no running water.

All activities will be at the lake parking lot/event pavilion.

Camping (if you are brave enough) is available, as well as ice fishing, snowshoeing, xc skiing, ice skating, name it.

This is a "low pressure" social Fat Bike event.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch Fat Bike Report

Riding has been pretty great everywhere, so far this season.  Western Pleasure is always on my list to hit up.  Located about 20 minutes North of Sandpoint, WP makes for a great day trip or overnighter.  They have about 12 miles of groomed trails.  Please call 208.263.9066 first to check trail conditions before heading out.  A trail pass is $10/day.  Check out their Trail Map.  So, you will see that winter trails fall into 2 main areas: The Big Hill and The Meadows.

Schweitzer is up there somewhere

so many choices...

The Big Hill is much like it sounds.  I good climb from the lodge up to some great views of the Schweitzer and the surrounding mountains. The trails are machine packed and very rideable.  They are not meticulously groomed however.  And given the steepness of the trails, you will not encounter any skate skiers and only the most adventurous xc skiers.  This area of trails is best suited for fat biking and snowshoeing.  There are about 5.5 miles of trails.  This is the recommended area to ride your fatty.
Gitzo groomer used in Meadows area

always ride as far to the edge as possible on groomed xc trails

view of the meadows

Then there is the Meadows area.  The 7ish miles of trails in this area are meticulously groomed with a professional groomer.  There are some spectacular views.  These trails are frequented by lots of skate and xc skiers.  Personally, I would stick to doing loops in the Big Hill area.  But if you are looking for a few more miles of riding or just can't resist, please use the same rules as you would for riding up at Schweitzer.  If you are leaving more than an 1" rut in the trail, pack it up.  The grooming is around 7-8' wide.  Much like Schweitzer trails, everyone has a "home" or place where they should travel.  Skate skiers are in the biggest corduroy section, around 5 feet wide.  You will then see a classic track set off to one side.  DO NOT ride in either of these areas.  Fat bikers and snowshoers are to travel on the 18-24" section on the outside of the set xc track.  If there is no xc track, just ride as far to the edge of the grooming as possible to minimize any trail impact.

Add Western Pleasure to your fat bike riding list and go check them out.  I am sure you will have fun and you will also be supporting some really fine folks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Priest Lake Fat Bike Report

Spent a couple days up at Priest Lake for New Years.  And I was able to sneak away from the family for a bit to hit some trails with the fat bike.  
Now, if you are unfamiliar with riding at Priest, or even if you are, you should get a "Winter Recreation Map."  It will set you back $3 whole dollars.  I always hit up the Tamrak Shopping Village for a map, a Nordic Pass and is in the town of Priest Lake off Hwy #57.  This map will tell you all the groomed and ungroomed snowmobile trails around Priest lake, all 400 some miles of them.  It will also give you all the Nordic Trails in the area (you will need that pass to park at the Nordic trailheads).  With the map in hand, you can go the "Fat Bike Opportunities/Resources Page" at the top of this blog and click the associated links for the latest grooming reports to plot your course.
So, first I hit the Lakeshore Trail.  FS Rd #2512 (the road that goes up to Beaver Creek CG) is only plowed to about a half mile before the trailhead.  From that point forward, it is a groomed snowmobile trail and makes for a great 8 mile ride up to Beaver.  The Lakeshore Trail, as many of our local trails, has gotten a fair amount of use and packing from snowshoes and xc skiers...I think I was the first fatbiker.  Anyways, I was able to ride about 2 miles in on the trail, to the first beach campsite.  That is where most everyone before me had turned around.  The trails was in great shape, except for a few down trees, and I was able to clear the whole thing.  Riding that trail covered in snow with the lake along my side was an amazing experience.  I don't know how many times I have mountain biked that trail in the summer (dozens), but this was totally a different experience.  I recommend you hit it before walkers, warm temps and/or a big dump come and take it away.  Warning, it takes some good skills to stay on the slippery, narrow tread and those with the fatest (4.8" tires) setups will have the best time.

campsite view where I turned around
random trailside pic
The snowmobile trails were also in great shape for riding, and you can log more miles than daylight at Priest riding them.  Remember to keep an ear for sleds and move as far off trail as possible when they are passing.  Wear a bright color or a taillight for some extra visibility.  I will say that I rarely encounter that many snowmobiles when I ride their groomed trails.  I suspect that they mostly use these groomed trails as an easy avenue to get up to the high country and that is where they spend most of their time.  Anyways, sled riders have always been nice to me and are always curious about the bike.  Remember though, that their sled registration and membership dues pay to maintain those trails, Idaho however does not have an option for a fatbiker (or any other user) to pay into the grooming.  I hear that may be coming soon.  As for me, I pay snowmobile club membership just to feel like I have contributed what I can.

Lastly, I swung by the Hanna Flats Nordic area and the trails looked great and I wanted to hit them.  But family obligations called, until next time...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Trout Creek Wildlife Refuge Fat Bike Ride Report

Much like conditions out at Round Lake, the Trout Creek Wildlife Refuge is in amazing shape for fat biking.  It doesn't get quite as much use as Round, but plenty of snowshoers, xc skiers and fatties have packed in some nice single track loops and out and backs.  And there have not been many walkers.  Sorry, there is no map for the area.  There are 2 park entrances, I prefer the Rapid Lightening side.  Plus the Pack River store makes for a great post ride refreshment and food stop.

Take your camera as there is a good chance of seeing wildlife...mostly birds.  And don't fret about getting lost.  Most of the refuge is open, and it is pretty easy to see where you are going and where you have been.  So, be adventurous.  One warning though, the trail that goes up the hill on the backside, and sidehills over to the Trout Creek Rd is fairly long, has some good climbs and doesn't get as much use as the trails down on the delta.  It can be a tough haul.

Refuge is free to use.

Round Lake Fat Bike Ride Report

The winter season has started great, and Round Lake State Park is in the best fat bike shape I have seen in the last 5 years.  A combination of some great early season snow, lots of snowshoe/xc skier packing and not many walkers have made some great single track lanes around the lake.  I even ran our fat bike groomer over the trails to give them a good once over.

We are working on getting some of the side trails packed and opened up from down trees/brush.  Stay tuned, they should be open soon.  But for now, go ride Round Lake and remember you need a State Parking Permit.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Merry Christmas Ride

It what has become somewhat of an annual tradition, we ride Christmas morning before spending the rest of the day with family.  Santa is often on the hill too, taking some much needed down time after a long night of delivering present.

The trails off the Schweitzer Roundabout are in great shape.  There are usually at least 2 miles (often times more) of groomed or machine packed trails down to Smelly Lake and beyond.  Fun and easy ride down...with a good climb back to the parking lot whenever you decide to turn around.  These trails are not part of Schweitzer's trail network, but are merely service/utility roads that they keep open for maintenance vehicles and operations.  Always keep an ear open and yield to traffic.  Oh, and speaking of traffic, you will see xc skiers, skate skiers, snowshoers and sometimes walkers on these trails.  Be a good fat bike ambassador and give them a "howdy."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Fat Bike Page Update

Fatty season has started with a bang!  And to commemorate this joyous start, I have revamped the Fat Bike Page there at the top of this blog.  Review it and go ride your bike.  Please feel free to send me any updates, changes or comments to

Here is a picture for you to look at...