Fat Biking, A New Winter Sport

Fat biking is the fastest growing segment in cycling, and the fun has proven to be just as contagious in Wind River Country as anywhere else. As skilled and novice fat bikers explore the places they can pedal, the sport becomes an increasingly prevalent aspect of the winter scene here in the Wind River Mountains.

“It’s not this little boutique thing anymore,” said Rio Rose, owner of The Bike Mill and active member of the Lander Cycling Club (LCC), said of this newest twist on biking.

It’s no wonder it’s taking off. It’s a fun, novel way to play, and it certainly makes biking in the winter more manageable.

“It feels like a little monster truck,” Rose said. He’s right—as you cruise down a snow-packed trail or road, you can’t help but chuckle when you look down at the five-inch-wide tire rolling below your handlebars. Though there is a slight adjustment to the give of snow and the size of the tires, anyone who has ridden a bike can expect to catch on to winter fat biking quickly.

Fat biking is not only a fun new game to try; it is also a great way to get outside if you can’t get excited about skiing, don’t have a snowmobile, or don’t want to take either out on thin snow cover.

“It opens up a whole new type of recreation,” said Nyssa Whitford, LCC member and Rose’s wife.

So where do you go in the county for a way around spotty snow conditions or to get your biking fix in the depth of winter? Lander and Dubois.

 

Dubois Area

“Our Dubois Overlook Trail is definitely good for fat biking, and it’s located right in town,” said Trever Deakins, president of Dubois Association for Recreation and Trails (DART).

A group of riders has fun on the trails near Dubois.
Photo: Jennie Hutchinson

The Overlook Trail starts at the top of the Town of Dubois Recreation Area Scenic Overlook at the end of McKinley Drive and covers 639 feet of downhill and 315 feet of climbing in 3.2 miles.

You can also enjoy grooming at the Deception Creek Trail for both fat biking and skiing. The trailhead to the 2.7-mile loop sits about 25 miles west of Dubois on Hwy 287. The winter grooming schedule is available through DART’s member newsletter. Learn more about membership and conditions at http://www.duboistrails.org/.

Lander Area

The most popular fat biking tracks near Lander are situated in Sinks Canyon State Park. Start from the Sinks Canyon Campground parking lot and explore the network of trails that pattern the northern side of the canyon. You will find single track that is typically packed down shortly after big snows, and wider tracks that may be easier to navigate but softer.

Road closed sign and fat tire approaches
Just because four wheels can’t go, that doesn’t mean two fat ones can’t!

Less than a mile up Sinks Canyon from the campground, Bruce’s Parking Lot is as far as you can go in a car and the launching point for fat biking up (and back down!) the five miles of switchbacks. A snowmobile trail skips the lower switchbacks and gives you a different route down, if you’d like new scenery and a different challenge.

Also outside of Lander, the Bus Loop is another hot destination for this winter fun. Reach these trails by heading up Baldwin Creek Road from Lander about four miles. The dirt pullouts for parking are just after the first cattle guard. The trails are on the south side of the road and can be looped together for as much or as little snow pedaling as you seek.

Lander’s mountain biking pride and beauty, Johnny Behind the Rocks (JBR), has just as much promise for fat bikers as traditional mountain bikers.

“There is lots of potential at JBR,” said Rose.

JBR is a network of trails, many of which were designed or improved by the LCC. Leave Lander going south on Hwy 287 and turn left at the junction to Rawlins, continuing east on Hwy 287. Shortly after crossing Twin Creek and passing a red cliff band on the left, prepare to turn left. The parking area, which lies about 15 miles from Lander, is clearly marked.

Bike rider rides up a snowy trackThe most accessible, tamest option for exploring this new sport is the Lander Municipal Golf Course, which the Lander Nordic Ski Association grooms for skiing. A new, 2.5-mile packed loop for fat biking, walking, and snow shoeing has been added to existing routes, accessible from the Lander Community Center. Skiers  only, please, on the groomed trails on the golf course.

Ready to ride? The Bike Mill in Lander has 10 bikes of various sizes to rent. Rose is an excellent resource about conditions, bikes, and the perfect tire PSI for your plans. Gannett Peak Sports also has fat bike rentals.