Monday, January 27, 2014

Beware the Wrath of Fat Bikers

There's been much spirited debate on Facebook and forums lately about winter trail use etiquette. Much of it centers around fat bikes, bicycles designed for travel on snow with super wide tires. Fat bikes have exploded onto the scene this winter. It seems most mountain bikers now have fat bikes, many on second or even third generation fat bikes. There are even winter fat bike races now. So what's all the etiquette hoopla about?

Fat bikes are touted as go anywhere bikes. They roll well anywhere a regular mountain bike rolls, plus a whole bunch more places like beaches and on snow. But "snow" requires a qualifier. Fat bikes don't roll well over any ol' snow. When a major storm dumps a foot, not even most cars can roll through that. The snow must get packed enough to support the weight of a fat bike with rider before riding is enjoyable or even possible. Fat bikers contribute to grooming their favorite trails with snowshoes and homemade drags. Other recreational trail users help too, unknowingly.

Once new snow is packed, it needs time to set up. Riding too early on trails will chew them up. Non-snowshoed walkers will post hole a freshly groomed trail, making it a filling rattling experience once firmed up. A good thaw-freeze cycle will expedite the setting up process. But until that happens, trails are perceived as being "fragile" by the fat bikers. Anything that disturbs a freshly groomed trail curing to perfection will send the fat bikers into a tizzy.

It used to be that mountain bikers were the scourge of the earth when mountain biking first caught on in the 80's. To this day, mountain bikes are banned in many places in the Bay Area.  Cross country skies have long lamented how bikes destroy their tracks.  It now appears that regular mountain bikes with 2" wide tires are the scourge of winter trail riding. There's a perception that narrower tires destroy trail conditions and the riding experience of fat bikers.

I'm having trouble getting my head around this. IT'S FUCKING SNOW! It can be here today, gone tomorrow. Literally.  Frequent snow dumps keep renewing what's on the trail, and snowless spells will see bare Earth return or icy conditions necessitating studs.

The trails at virtually every place I ride are multi-user. That includes skiers, walkers, snowshoers, bicycles of any kind, even horses. Do fat bikers propose banning all activities but fat biking on snowy trails? Based on some of the vitriol on forums lately, you'd think this was the fat biker's mission. I'm not singling anybody out here. When I was in Michigan over the holidays, the same ranting was going on there about how douches with sub-4" wide tires were destroying the trails. Perhaps if trails must be in such a perfect state, fat bikes aren't all that they were cracked up to be. Sounds like to me too many folks are intoxicated on fat bike Kool-Aid. This elitist attitude will not serve the greater mountain biking community well. It will only leave some riders feeling alienated.


Anyway, I had to get this rant off my chest. Some comments made in the past week rubbed me the wrong way. Could have sworn I helped build a couple of the trails that I'm now told I'm not welcome on because my tires are too narrow. Remember when riding bikes in the snow used to be fun? Jeez, now we have all these rules to follow.

16 comments:

solobreak said...

Sounds a lot like the way douches in cars feel about bikes on the road. We're ruining it for THEM! How dare we?

Anonymous said...

Shut up and get a Fatbike.

Hill Junkie said...

Had a fatbike for over a year. My knees didn't much care for the wide Q-factor. That coupled with how rarely only a fatbike worked off-road led me to unload it.

mkr said...

Too funny. I had not noticed the conflict. Being new to the fat bike thing I'm just glad to be able to ride trail a higher percentage of the time rather than having to ride sloppy, dangerous roads. Much of my riding has been sled trail, where I recognize that I am the guest of someone else's work. As a previous snowmobile trail groomer, I know the angry sentiment you speak of. When I just volunteered 8hrs in the middle of the night to groom perfect highway and some douche on an ATV spins trenches in it or a dumbass on a sled spinning the track the whole way tears it to shreds you take it personally. However, we ride multi user trails so we must expect foot traffic and everything else. If the fat bikers are angry, think of how the XC skiers feel, having broken trail and laid nice track after each storm. We all need a little perspective here. Enjoy the snow, bumpy or otherwise.

norm hansen said...

NOW Hill junkie don't become a fat bike racist not all of them like that its just sad that some of them are as they are. I know that Fat Bikes brings more people out in the winter on bikes and that's probably a good thing so lets not tag people let's try to understand them I know that's hard to do sometimes.
Just keep on riding
Normbilt

nml said...

Riding groomed single track with your 2" tires is equivalent to the douchebag walkers that tromp down the middle of groomed ski trail, ignoring posted signs saying "No Walking or Dogs on groomed trails". Skiers sure as hell don't want walkers putting holes and ruts in their nice groomed trails, same as Fat Bikers don't want skinny tires wrecking trails that they contribute time and money to grooming. Just like you wouldn't ride your mountain bike on muddy trails conditions, as this requires much repair work to the trails, the same goes for winter snow, especially in areas where the snow can stick around for up to five months of the year. If you are that anxious to ride on snow with your bike, get a bike that was designed for it. Riding snow on a fat bike makes it much easier and enjoyable experience.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fat biker in west Michigan, and I have not noticed any anger or animosity one way or the other. Sure, a well groomed trail is nice, but I'm perfectly happy to be out riding in the snow.

Anonymous said...

Have not seen fat bikers being angry with any other users. I have heard that XC ski operations are not happy when MTBers trench out their carefully groomed trails (understandably).

Anonymous said...

Will i can agree with most of your rant... I can also see the other side of the story. We here share local trails system with other sports, hikers, snowshoers and XC skiers.. The problem I have is that most of the other sports will not use the trails till we as snow bikers go in and snowshoe it or just ride it depending on snow fall. It's almost like they wait for us to make the trail just so they can damage it. So we have decided... OK.. lets now use the normal trail system and make a separate loop so that this way we can have just a bike loop. Sure as shit as soon as we do that and they see our trail is in better condition then the other trails they come along and destroy that trail. People need to have a little more respect for the hard work people put into these trails.

One of my biggest peeves is that there are trail systems just for XC Skiers, Just for Hiking, Just for Snowshoes.. No other sport is allowed on these trail other than the ONE sport that is listed. So the trails stays in perfect shape year round for them. Yet there isn't a trail system in place just for bikes..

The sad part here also is that it is the Ontario Mountain Bike Association that takes care of all trail maintenance and repairs and makes the trail system better for all sports not just ours.. yet all the other sports that use the trail don't care..

I think all sport can use the same trail system in the perfect world with just a little knowlege and respect for the other sport but this will never happen... Every sport seems to feel they have ownership of the trails.

And for everyone that doesn't think post holing isn't a problem.. think of this way.. Would you be upset if your neighbor down the street put in speed bumps every foot down your street just because he owns a 4x4. City property and can do what he wants.. Try driving on that for a day or two and see where the complaints come from. Respect the trail and the other users..

tgoods58 said...

Come to Iowa. We just had a race on the 19th where runners, XC skiers, skinny and fat bikes all shared the same trails. Everyone had a good time. Fat and skinny riders rode together. We aren't as elite in the Midwest. We're just happy to be outside and getting a good workout.Look up the Triple D. Come join the fun next year.

the bully said...

What the heck is going on here? Was out today at Horse Hill saw a guy on skinny tires with studs. I said hey bro. Enjoy the ride! Of course I was on my fatty which I love riding. I don't care who is doing what. However, you won't find me on our trails in warm conditions.'Heck if it's that warm out I"ll hit the roads less traveled and find some dirt roads. Here's what gets me ticked off though. All these fat bike guys that love a groomed trail disappeared last time it was grooming time. Makes me mad. Pipeline comes to mind. It's a mess right now. No fun when you can't rail corners. Most hikers keep their distance from our single track and stick to the wide main loop so to me folks should just use their common sense. If the snow is soft do something else. I wouldn't want to be the guy that roosters a sweet hard packed single track. The winter is short and fat bikes give that different ride that you just can't get with the skinny tire.

Anonymous said...

Well said Doug. Between all the fat bike hoopla and all the recent issues at Bear Brook with the Equestrian community I will not be renewing my NEMBA membership. These people are giving the Mtn biking community a bad name.
Signed
Fat Bike rider

the bully said...

Anonymous, poorly said. Not sure what NEMBA has to do with any of this? I'm guessing Fat bikes are only the property of NEMBA members LOL. Sadly, what if there was no NEMBA organization? My guess is we'd all still be riding rutted out quad trails like back in the 90's. Riding over glass and burned out cars at Lowell Dracut. And what about Bear Brook? Plenty of room for equestrians to ride horses on double track trails we maintain for them. I'll let you know when someone other than a cyclist shows up for a trail day.

Hill Junkie said...

There's been a lot of healthy discussion on this topic here and on a couple FB pages. I hope it brings awareness to how our comments and behavior can be perceived by others.

I do want address the Fat Bike Rider's comment. NEMBA is a solid organization. I've financially supported them most of the 17 years I've lived in New England, and I've participated in several trail work days over the last couple years. We have so many more riding opportunities now than when I first moved here, and this is largely due to NEMBA's efforts.

Any organization will have diversity of opinions and attitudes that you don't agree with. Things are not always black and white. In fact, some of the same folks that express fatbike elitism have helped to defuse the equestrian powder keg at Bear Brook.

I will continue to support NEMBA, and I hope you too would consider continued support.

the bully said...

And what's with the belly on the fatty rider! Don't think I didn't notice...

Anonymous said...

we mock what we don't understand.