Fat biking has come to the Cariboo, and now so has a Snowdog trail groomer, enabling bikers to ride some trails year-round.
Fat-tire bikes, usually just called fat bikes, are mountain bikes made to accommodate plus-sized tires.
These “fat” tires are usually three to four inches across, making them significantly wider than a normal mountain bike tire.
The wide tires also provide better grip, and for people who ride on snow or icy surfaces, metal studs give even more traction.
The fat tires on wide rims provide extra flotation for the bike and rider, allowing for cyclists to ride across snow, sand or loose gravel much more easily than a normal bike, just don’t assume it will be smooth sailing across untracked powder. The bikes still require some packing to ride snow.
While they float and grip, the much larger tires and rims also make for a heavier machine, so the pace of the biking is slower, but some like it just as much as biking in the summer.
“A few of us began to fat four or five years ago,” said Mike Franklin, vice principal of the Lake City Secondary Columneetza Campus and avid mountain biker in Williams Lake. “We rode some pretty rough conditions, but when conditions were good it was a blast.”
Some of the group heard about trail grooming happening in other places and after one of the group rode groomed trails in Prince George and Kamloops, he was enthusiastic about the improved trail conditions and safety of the consistent trails with the Snowdog.
The Snowdog is a purpose-built groomer for single-track trails used by hunters, trappers, ice fishermen, and other outdoor recreators, including fat bikers. Franklin and Gordon became keen to help grow the sport locally by getting one here.
As an added bonus, they could do some nordic ski trails for the schools.
They wrote up a proposal and the Snowdog was ordered and purchased in the fall.
So thanks to the Williams Lake Cycling Club and the local high schools partnering, some loops on the Fox Mountain network are now tracked and groomed by a Snowdog.
“It’s really neat … because it’s as narrow as it is we don’t have to cut down any trees or make the trails wider, we can follow an actual single track path through the forest, so it’s authentic bike riding, which is really neat,” said Scott Gordon, who is helping to groom the trails for the cycling club.
There are not necessarily a ton of fat bikers in the Cariboo yet, but there are some area riders who have gotten on board with the trend to be able to pedal all year.
More cyclists have been asking about purchasing fat bikes, but the supply in stores is not able to keep up with the demand, according to both Cycle Logic and Red Shred’s Bike and Board Shed.
Red Shred’s owner Mark Savard said only a fraction of the fat bikes he ordered a year ago are expected in this March.
For those who do have a bike, Chicken Scratch, Snap, Crackle, Bearacouga, Foxfire and Three Little Piggies Went Home are the looped trails being groomed for the time being. Riders meet weekly at Cycle Logic in Williams Lake on Thursdays at 6 p.m., conditions permitting.
The trails can still be rough, if they get tracked up in places by walkers and wildlife when the snow is soft, but the packing being done by volunteers with the cycling club has made for a wider, better path where the trail is not too bumpy.
The trail network on Fox Mountain in Williams Lake, built by mountain bikers for mountain biking, have become popular year-round with all sorts of recreational users.
Close to town and on fairly level ground, the trails provide a convenient outdoor recreation opportunity and are a big asset for those living on Fox Mountain itself.
Trail etiquette tips: Anyone walking the trails when the snow is soft enough to make holes in the snow should back out and come back another time or use snowshoes to prevent damaging the set trails for others. Please do not take horses on groomed trails. Dog owners should remove dog messes from the trail tracks. Enjoy the trails and say hello to other trail users.