While you’re gliding along some of the Methow Valley’s renowned cross-country ski trails this winter, don’t be surprised if you see a few cyclists pedal by.
That’s right. Cyclists. On bikes. This fun winter activity is called “fat biking,” which is essentially a beefed up mountain bike with knobby tires that are up to 5 inches wide. While these bikes may look funny, those who ride them have a blast.
“People see the bikes and just laugh,” said Kristen Smith, marketing director for the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA), a nonprofit organization that oversees more than 120 miles of cross-country ski trails. “They give everyone huge smiles, but they’re so much fun to ride.”
Fat bikes got their start in Alaska and have grown popular there and in the snowy northern reaches of the Midwest. The fat tires are filled to a much lower pressure than mountain bikes, which allows them to roll over snow and ice with ease.
The MVSTA opened a portion of its groomed ski trails to fat bikers during the 2012-13 season as a pilot project. Initially, skiers were not happy. But Smith says that once the riders took to the trails, and people saw how little impact the tires had on the groomed snow, the dust largely settled.
Smith says the same MVSTA trails will be open this season along with other areas nearby, adding even more miles for people to get out and pedal.
“It’s just such a great, accessible way for people to do something else in the winter,” Smith said. “And it’s easy — you just go out and do it.”
Where to rent a fat bike
Methow Cycle and Sport, Winthrop, Wash.
Where to fat bike in Washington’s Methow Valley
Methow Valley Sport Trails Association – One of the nation’s largest cross-country ski areas, the MVSTA opens 18 of its 120 miles of groomed trails to fat bikes. An adult day pass is $22. Check trail conditions in their grooming report.
Pearrygin Lake State Park – This 1,200-acre park’s roads and parking areas are plowed and maintained for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat bikes in the winter. Along with nearby Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife land, some 20 miles of trails and roads are available for riding. Entry requires a Discover Pass.
Like snowmobilers, fat bikers can also head to the closed portions of State Route 20 for some wintertime riding. Check conditions with the Washington State Department of Transportation.
For more information about fat biking, visit www.fat-bike.com.
Body photos courtesy of the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association.