The day stands out in my mind, not only because I was in the first group to ride the first 1.25-mile fat biking groomed trail in Riverside State Park, but also because of the expletives I muttered at every bump after breaking my tailbone earlier that morning. But there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Phoenix that I was going to miss an opportunity to ride my rad Salsa with Frank Benish, the Evergreen East volunteer responsible for 11 miles of fat bike grooming in Riverside last winter, on that maiden voyage! While many cycling categories remain flat or on the decline, fat biking is only growing in popularity. And there’s never been a better time to live in the Inland Northwest if #thiccbiking is your thang!
After a wildly successful winter in 2018-19, with positive comments pouring into state and city parks according to Ryan Griffith with Spokane Parks & Recreation, plans for this year are set to take off, given the right snow conditions. Benish explains that an 8-inch packed base is ideal for grooming, and that it’s important for riders to use actual fat bikes to avoid damaging the trails. Fat bikes should have tires that are at least 3.6-inches wide and an air pressure of 10 PSI (pounds per square inch) or less. If bikes (or skis, snowshoes, feet, paws, or hooves) are sinking into the trail base more than 1 inch, users should avoid the trail until conditions improve.
This winter Benish estimates there will be nearly 20 miles of biking-specific grooming in Riverside, thanks to Evergreen East, Wheel Sport’s groomer, and a new single-track groomer. But that’s not the only local adventure to tempt cyclists into making their sport last all year. This fall, the Pend Oreille Peddlers purchased a groomer that will be used on beginner to intermediate trails in Pine Street Woods in Sandpoint. Brian Anderson of Greasy Fingers Bikes ‘n Repair says North Idaho boasts a number of shared-use groomed trails at areas like Farragut State Park, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, and Priest Lake State Park.
Dave Dutro, owner of Trail Maniacs and a grooming pioneer in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area, says the local interest and investment has increased drastically over the past few years. He’s moved from a dirt rake and snowshoes to a machine that, with support from the Lake City Trail Builders, could groom up to 20 miles in the Canfield Mountain area in 5-6 hours! The Trail Maniacs Foundation is currently raising money for a double-track groomer that would allow for more beginner-friendly trails from the Fernan Lake Trailhead.
And don’t forget about the winter recreation mecca that is Winthrop! Rick Lewis, about to round out 30 years as a ranger with Pearrygin Lake State Park, says fat biking is one more way to get people outside in the winter. The state park has nearly 10 miles of groomed trails and adjacent Methow Wildlife Area has an additional 6.
While fat biking used to be a niche sport with goofy-looking tires and lots of extra layers, those passionate about the sport have worked tirelessly to build infrastructure and support. Every expert interviewed for this article, when asked what they were most excited about for this season, echoed this sentiment: Getting more people out on trails! So this winter layer up, buy or rent a #thiccbike from a local shop or resort, and give it a try. And of course, pray for snow!
While there really is “no bad weather,” all things being equal, Carol Corbin would prefer to use her fat bike on tropical beach sand in January. In lieu of that, though, Riverside State Park is the next best thing!