Contributed by Steve Meurett
What a difference a year makes.
Last year at this time, Wisconsin was floundering in less than stellar snow conditions-all but shutting down most traditional winter activities. Luckily, a fatbike addition to my stable of bikes made the season more than enjoyable, even if I rode alone. Every sane person knows you don’t ride bikes in the “winter!”
A friend made a comment the other night about how many fatbikes there are out in the wild now and I realized, that except for one race last year, I never rode with another soul all snow season. That’s sure changed in 12 months. Throughout the year I preached the doctrine of big tired cycles, all but ignoring the other mountain bikes hanging in the garage. This December of this year I had no shortage of fatbikin' friends.
Although Levis Mound in southern Clark County is well known for it’s mountain bike singletrack and cross country ski trails, suddenly this year with real snow on the ground, it has also become a destination for the big bikes. With several enthusiastic new riders taking the helm, the Levis singletrack has become a packed ribbon of white through the forest and opened up a whole new opportunity for riding. They’ve tackled the snow with shovels, snowmobiles, drags and even tile rollers (which is very effective at packing) to create a wonderful riding experience. Yes, you can ride a fatbike in unpacked snow, but with a frozen smile on my face New years Day, a group of us flew along on flowy snowy singletrack provided by these trail builders. Their work was well worth it.
That’s not to say the pedaling is effortless-we did a six mile loop and our legs had all they could handle pulling back into the warm chalet. Even moderate terrain became a fun, almost trials-like ride through some sections just to clean it.
Of course, beyond the undertaking of rolling though snow, there are other unique challenges. Levis has plenty of bridges spanning creeks and low spots, so balancing even those wide tires on snow and ice covered planking often left a couple of us dropping off (to be chided by the rest!). Berms formed by the packing roller became either a hoot to corner into or a front wheel grabber tossing riders to the snow covered ground. Either way … fun.
As maybe an “elder” of the group, I couldn’t help sit back and listen to the excited chatter during the post ride while warming up and enjoying a cold beverage (somehow it makes sense-trust me). There was talk of how much fun the ride was, the awesome condition of the trail, where to expand, what equipment worked well (in trail building and riding) and arranging the next group ride. Of the dozen fatbikers pushing pedals that day, all were ready to set times and dates for the next adventure, and it wouldn’t take long - they will all be back in a couple days.
I realized that in just the span of a year, my days of riding a fatbike alone are over, (although there is nothing wrong with that … and I’ll continue) but damn, it sure is fun to share the love with others who have partaken in the fatbike Kool-aid and aren’t afraid to step out the door into snow and cold, don a helmet and crank pedals - all with a smile on.
Steve Meurett lives, works and plays in West Central Wisconsin and spends about every free moment outdoors where his passions lie. His outdoor interests take him on and off trail, pursuing mountain biking and skinny skiing, photography and hunting, while keeping an eye on wild mushrooms and the next fruit for craft wine. Steve is the Trail Director at The Levis Mound Trail System and member of the Clark County Trails Advisory Committee. He resides, teaches and is a photographer in Neillsville. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.