Wide Loads

Fat-biking around Bozeman.

Last winter, my husband had a near-catastrophic Nordic “yard sale” while skate skiing out of Sourdough. In addition to his hat and glasses flung far and wide, one pole had somehow separated from its wrist strap, one binding dangled from his boot, and one ski was 20 feet down the trail wedged in a bush. This accident and the collateral damage to the equipment, along with expanding trail opportunities in the Bozeman area, made us begin earnestly considering fat-bikes for our winter recreation.

For several years, fat-bikes had been on our minds, but we shelved the idea when stories of limited access and aggressive Forest Rangers became the basis for Bozeman urban legend. The Custer-Gallatin National Forest has become a more accommodating place for fat-bikes and because of this, wintertime knobbies are looking more and more attractive as a way to keep fit between storms.

After policy review and changes, the Forest Service now allows fat-bikes on all groomed snowmobile trails, but still restricts their use on groomed Nordic trails like Sourdough and Bracket Creek after December 15. This has opened many great access points for winter bike adventures, such as Fairy Lake Rd. and Battle Ridge in the Bridgers. In the Madison Range, it’s now possible to roll up Buck Creek to Buck Ridge and cozy up in the Forest Service cabin legally.

Between West Yellowstone and the furthest reaches of Island Park, there are hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails for fat-bikers to enjoy. If a mid-winter bike endurance challenge is your cup of tea, Fat Pursuits hosts several of the lower 48’s premier races, great opportunities to rally the community of fat-bike folks. To browse their amazing photo gallery and for more information, check out fatpursuit.com.

If you’re not into the notion of racing 200 miles in the dead of winter, local Forest Service trails are fantastic for the big weekend rides, and you can find daily fat-tire happiness on Bozeman’s town trails. With the short days of winter, fire up your night-riding lights and string together a 20-plus-mile route that includes many of the trails in the Main Street to the Mountain system and area parks. Riding Bozeman after dark is peaceful and lovely, especially around Christmas when many residents decorate their homes with lights.

If you are not ready to commit to purchasing a bike, the best option is to demo from one of our local shops and join an organized group ride. The Gear Wizard hosts Friday evening rides starting in mid-November, and Bangtail also organizes several group rides; check out their Facebook page for updates.

Other local organizations that periodically offer group fat-bike rides are the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Alliance, Project X, and The Bozeman Pedal Project. All of these groups have a Facebook presence and post upcoming events on their pages, so keep up to date by following them.