Guest blogger, Jeff Toonstra, Grand Rapids and Itasca Mountain Bike Association shares about Fat Bike trends, Fat Tire Bike riding in Grand Rapids, and the highlights about the second annual Fat Fourteen Bike Race coming up in March at the Forest History Center.
What’s the Big Deal About Fat Tire Bikes?
Ever since the development of off road bicycles, there has been constant change and improvement in design. Several years ago folks that were challenged with sand or snow conditions started thinking about how to create wheels and tires that would float better over those conditions. This culminated in Minnesota’s own Surly Bike Company, selling the first commercially available fat bike, the Pugsley. Initially it was written off in the cycling world as a fad, now has become the fastest growing segment in mountain biking with all major and many minor bicycle manufacturers producing bikes capable of 4-5 inch range tires, the defining feature of a fat bike. When I started riding, many people stopped and stared; now fat bikes are a common sight in the area. Surly has even spawned a new category of “mid fat” bikes with approx. 3 inch tires and wider rims. Fat bikes have expanded to many forms of design and even specific use including of course, winter snow riding. They also have become a primary bike for riding year-round, for touring and even as a means of hunting and fishing, with one company selling a bicycle specifically designed for that. The popularity partially has to do with the fact that they are easy to ride, comfortable and provide many new opportunities for exploration. Our local Itasca Trail Sports shop sells Framed and Jamis and services most fat tire bike models. They also have a nice selection of helmets and accessories as well.
Fat tire biking is not just for the winter! The Grand Rapids area provides many opportunities for winter and summer fat bike riding. The Legion Park in Grand Rapids has dedicated mountain bike trails. Mt. Itasca has a skate ski segment that can be ridden on with a fat bike. On undeveloped wilderness areas, such as the Tioga Recreational Area, it can be very enjoyable riding on a fat bike year-round. The key is to be sure that it is permissible to use a bike wherever you go, for example, though tempting, snowmobile trails are off limits. Also area ski trails can be enjoyed in the summer, if single-track trail isn’t your thing. Winter fat bike racing has literally exploded in the past couple years. In fact this year there was a world championship of fat bike racing held in Colorado.
GRIMBA has arranged a second annual fat bike race the Fat Forest Fourteen at the Forest History Center; scheduling was difficult in finding a free weekend without a fat bike race already scheduled due to the tremendous popularity of the sport. The Second Annual Fat Forest Fourteen will be held at the Forest History Center on March 12, 2016. Trails there are generally considered easy, or green level trails so all are welcome to participate in the race of approximately 14 miles long. The event is family friendly with an emphasis on having fun, fellowship and enjoyment of the facilities made available graciously by Jeff Johns. For more information, fliers will be posted around the area, check GRIMBA.org. For more information on the Fat Forest Fourteen contact the Forest History Center at 218-327-4482.