Where Can (and may) I Ride My New Fat Bike?

Part of the reason fat bikes are becoming so popular is you can have fun riding them just about anywhere: sand, snow, dirt and pavement. While you can ride a fat bike just about anywhere, it is difficult to find out where trails are groomed and legal to ride in the winter. The fat bike scene has exploded here recently, as Wisconsin is blessed with the triumvirate of fat bikes: lots of great mountain bike trails, plenty of snow in the winter, and miles of sandy shoreline along Lakes Superior and Michigan.

Russell knows where to ride because people tell him where to go all the time, but many new to fat bikes don’t know where the trails are.

Being an old guy, I remember when mountain bikes were the new thing and suddenly became popular. It was easy to buy a mountain bike, but hard to find where the trails were and which trails were legal to ride on. There was no good single source to find trails and information about trails. You either had to be a local who knew where the trails were in the area, an bicycle insider with lots of connections, or you had to do a lot of searching. That is kind of where we are at with fat bikes today. Major manufacturers are even making fat bikes for kids, and with prices coming down, way more people are buying them.

ProjectMTB.com is a really great site to find trails.

Mountain bikers now have Project MTB.com, a next-generation mountain bike guide and trail map web site with an interactive, searchable map that displays trails, complete with elevation profiles, full GPS routes, photos, a detailed description and rider comments. Project MTB.com is a collaboration between the International Mountain Bicycling Association and the developers from the MountainProject.com. Since the launch of the site in the spring of 2013, thousands of local trail builders and riders have contributed over 35,000 miles of mountain bike routes from around the world to MTBProject.com.

Because ProjectMTB.com has become the go-to place to find mountain bike trails, I think it makes sense to add fat bikes to that site rather than reinvent the wheel. Another idea would be to create a new category on Skinnyski.com, but that would not allow for maps of where it is OK to ride fat bikes on the beach during the rest of the year.

The ice road between Bayfield and Madeline Island is now open for bicycles (motor vehicles are still iffy) and the North Coast Cycling Association hosts regular Saturday morning rides.

The other benefit of making it easier for people to find out where they can ride fat bikes is it will reduce the number of people riding where they shouldn’t. It is not legal to ride fat bikes on most snowmobile trails and cross country ski trails. It is legal to ride on some of them, but once again, it is difficult for the new fat bike rider to find that information. For instance, did you know that you can ride fat bike trails and even race at Mt. Ashwabay in Bayfield(see the video below), on the WinMan Trails in Vilas County or that there are 11 miles of trails groomed for fat bikes at Levis Mounds?

I have contacted Michelle Barker, the new Midwest Regional Director for IMBA, and Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA’s GIS guru, to suggest that fat bike trails be added as a searchable category on ProjectMTB.com. I will let you know what they say back after I hear from them. The Bike Fed is also looking at adding a ProjectMTB page to our organizational website. There are plugins available that allow us to add essential elements, including an interactive map window, to our website. You can see an example of that on the Metro Mountain Bikers website here.

Matthew Trulen, 10, figured out where he could ride at Levis Mounds on his first run with his new bike. Photo by Matthew’s dad Michael.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

One thought on “Where Can (and may) I Ride My New Fat Bike?

  1. Cool – I’m glad to know about MTBproject.com, and great idea to add a fatbiking category. The MTBproject.com site’s search capability could use improvement (it does not return results for all the cities, locations, trails and rides that you can find when you drill down into the site) but it’s a great resource to know about and start using.

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