The skinny on fat biking: riding in western Colorado
Grand junction Free Press
Fat bikes are taking the Grand Valley by storm. Yet, those who own them notice there are limited places to ride on designated trails, especially during the winter months.
According to United States Forest Service’s recreation specialist Loren Paulson, his team is actively seeking ways to incorporate fat-biking into current groomed-trail system uses.
“Over the past few years we have been hearing a lot more about it,” Paulson said.
Kristina Kittelson, Grand Mesa Nordic Council’s membership coordinator, said fat bikes are not allowed on Skyway’s groomed trails, or in the County Line and Ward Nordic ski areas due to U.S. Forest Service travel management plan prohibiting them. Fat-bikers are only allowed on roads like Lands End and Mesa Top snowmobile area.
According to Dave Grossman, an avid fat bike rider and Grand Junction resident, there needs to be an alliance between Nordic skiers and fat-bikers rather than with snowmobiles.
“Those snowmobiles move almost as fast as cars, which could be a bad combo,” he explained.
And while tension between Nordic trail users and fat-bike users sometimes arise, Grossman hopes that both groups can come together to explore mutually beneficial opportunities.
On a recent trip to Telluride, Grossman said he enjoyed riding a groomed trail used by Nordic skiers, hikers and fat-bikers.
“I hope the Grand Mesa can mimic what Telluride and other ski towns have done with trail sharing during the wintertime,” he added.
Tanner Lewis, fat-biking expert and Bicycle Outfitters staffer, and Grossman agreed that Colorado’s Grand Valley has potential to blossom along with the fat-biking craze.
“Powderhorn has the potential to grow as well, especially with the new lift,” Lewis said.
WHAT ARE FAT BIKES?
Fat bikes are beasts compared to regular mountain bikes. They offer a wider tire, typically 3.8-4.2 inches or wider, and have a wheel-base of 29 inches or more. Frames are typically simple with little mechanics or suspension. Tire pressure is usually kept around six to 10 pounds of pressure depending on size.
A fat bike costs between $1,000-$6,000 depending on brand and components. Rentals cost between $70-$100.
Fat bikes aren’t limited to riding on snow-packed trails either. Grossman enjoys using them for hauling trail-building tools all year. Lewis uses a fat bike on his daily commute.
Fat bikes are not limited to snow-packed trails.
According to Lewis, they can be used successfully on sandy trails during the summer months — like Rabbit Valley trails near the Colorado-Utah border.
The larger-than-normal bike can also be used for “adventure opportunities,” Grossman added. “It’s a growing pursuit to put a backpack on a bike for a couple days and camp.”
Fat bikes used on snow-packed trails create a floating sensation, experts noted. Areas to try include snowy Colorado Riverfront Trails, along with the West Bench Trail on the Grand Mesa..
“I like it because it adds an interesting challenge” Grossman said.
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Born in New Castle, Alice McKennis Duran learned to ski at 2 at Sunlight Mountain with her father and older sister, Kendra. She also had a brief stint training with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club prior to joining the national team.