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On the Trail: Winter biking 101



The Hummocks Trail in Big Sky Town Center offers a great location for intermediate fat biking. PHOTO BY MATT JENNINGS


Take a look around the trails of Big Sky, and you’ll see that you don’t need to put your bike away just because the snow is flying. Winter biking, or fat biking, is a growing sport and you don’t need to be a hardcore rider or invest in all new gear to try it out. I spoke with local biking enthusiast and Big Sky Community Organization winter grooming volunteer Matt Jennings to get some tips on how to get started and here’s what he had to say.

Layer up. Even though its cold outside, fat biking is a workout like cross-country skiing. Dress in breathable layers to keep warm and comfortable without overheating. Put on warm socks and winter boots and you’ll be set if you find yourself off the trail.

Take it slow. Riding on snow will be slower than what you’re used to when riding on dirt. Be aware of conditions on the trail changing from packed snow to ice to soft snow. When riding downhill, stay in control and light on the brakes to avoid skidding off the trail. Keeping your weight to the back of the saddle and your body relaxed also helps.

What to ride. A fat bike comes equipped with tires between 4 to 5 inches wide compared to a typical mountain bike tire that would max out around 2.5 inches. Whereas the tire pressure in a mountain bike is kept around 28 to 30 pounds per square inch, fat bike tires are kept at about 6 psi. This allows the tire to flatten out across the snow, creating a stable surface and flotation. If your bike leaves deep ruts in the snow, let some air out of the tires.

Where to go. If you’re new to fat biking, a good place to start will be the groomed community trails in Town Center and the Big Sky Community Park. The trails are wide and mostly flat to give you a good feel for the bike. Once you’ve mastered that, the Hummocks Trail is a local favorite. This trail is packed down by users, so try to stay on the packed trail or you will find yourself quickly sinking in the snow.

If you’re looking to get out of town, consider Harriman State Park, located south of Island Park, Idaho, about a 1.5-hour drive from Big Sky. The park features 24 miles of groomed multi-use trails, and yurts for an overnight stay.

Fat biking is a great way to extend your biking season, stay in shape and just have fun.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2019, edition of EBS.

Sara Marino is the Big Sky Community Organization community development manager. BSCO engages and leads people to recreational and enrichment opportunities through thoughtful development of partnerships, programs and places.

Joseph T. O'Connor is the Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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