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Where are fat tires taking us?

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During what appeared to be the never-ending winter of 2014, fat biking transcended being a popular trend to becoming a full blown “here to stay” for the long haul kind of activity. Rest assured, VMBA has not been idling on the sideline watching this all go by. 

As Vermonters, we are incredibly lucky to have our public land managers so responsive to our recreational interests and share our excitement for fat biking possibilities and developing access in partnership with VMBA. “The Forest Service wants to stay current with evolving trends so we can effectively balance recreational use on public lands with the protection of natural resources. It is exciting to see new opportunities for people to explore their National Forests and we are pleased to be a part of the fat bike discussion,” said Holly Knox from the US Forest Service. VMBA is also  working with Forest Parks and Recreation to thoughtfully create access for fat bikes. Craig Whipple from FPR shared, "With the rapidly growing interest in fat bikes, we will be working quickly with our land managers to determine where and how best to encourage their use on state lands."

VMBA recently also met with Matt Tetreault, interim executive director of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST), to discuss access opportunities.  The VAST trails hold potential, but there’s a lot of work to do. At present, biking is not allowed on VAST trails – unless each landowner has granted permission. Snow machine users have not been acclimated to our presence on their trails – yes, I said “their trails.” VMBA will be working with local VAST clubs and the individual landowners to uncover potentially appropriate areas for biking access as we move closer to next winter.

Fat biking has a huge economic impact in Vermont. VMBA recently reached out to ten shops across the state to get an indication of demand through sales. On average, shops are selling three times the number of fat bikes this year than last year. The growth is staggering.  Rental fleets are seeing triple the use from last year and the number of riders attending events continues to grow.

This year Winterbike  hosted over 250 riders from as far as seven hours away. Event organizer, Ryan Thibault said, "Vermont is the perfect home for fat bikes and is poised to become the eastern Mecca. I've spent three winters organizing fat bike events and what started as a handful of kooks in the woods has escalated into hundreds of people gathering at every given opportunity. And winter 2013-14 saw shops, riders, and networks embracing the extension of our sport.”  

Snowfall doesn’t necessarily make summer singletrack great fat biking. “For the last three winter’s KTA has steadily expanded and fine tuned its fat bike trail management, but still has work to do” says CJ Scott of Kingdom Trails. Having access to an existing corridor is small piece of the fat biking puzzle. CJ talked about other important factors required for great fat biking. Groomed trails are key, which can take a few different forms. CJ mentioned corridors that are wide enough for snow machines and a drag groomer are ideal, but also present challenges. Off camber sections are tough and often eliminate the efficiency gained with a machine; snowshoes and shovels are the time-consuming alternative. This summer, Kingdom Trails will be exploring “B-Lines” which are new routes specific for fat biking, making grooming easier to create opportunities for expanding mileage.

Collectively, VMBA and our partners will have better answers regarding access heading into next winter. In the meantime, we ask that riders stay off the VAST trails, unless permission has been granted to you specifically by the landowner – please use extreme caution as the speed differential between bikes and snow machines is significant. The following links will take you to the best fat bike access currently.

Stay tuned to VMBA.ORG for updates as this exciting new opportunity unfolds.