Fat-Tire Bike Riders Hit Trails, Despite Cold

DNR Encourages Visibility, Safety

Rider on a fat tire bike doing winter trail riding
Fat-tire bikes make winter riding a bit more feasible. Photo: vikapproved (CC-BY-NC)

Even in this cold winter, more people are trying to ride fat-tired bikes on state recreational trails. The Department of Natural Resources is advising bikers to check access and put on visible gear before they ride.

The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin says the number of people riding winter-ready mountain bikes — or “fat bikes,” with tires almost as wide as car tires — continues to grow. Bike Federation Deputy Director David Schlabowske says there are maybe only 30,000 of the fat tire bikes in the world, but he calls them ‘really fun.’

“You get on these giant-wheeled bikes, and it puts the same grin you have on your face that first time you hopped on a Big Wheel or maybe had the training wheels taken off your two wheeler.”

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The so-called new generation of winter bikes — which also includes a small number of “ski bikes,” with a ski in the front and bike tire in back — has the DNR trying to head off conflicts with other users of state trails.

Trails coordinator Brigit Brown says being visible is the key.“Wear reflective clothing, head lamps, different types of devices that can make them more visible to other users on the trail. In a lot of cases, they’ll be sharing trails with snowmobiles.”

The DNR also says winter biking is not allowed on state trails open and groomed for cross-country skiing, warning that many county, federal or private trails that allow snowmobilers prohibit bicyclists.

The Bicycle Federation Of Wisconsin isn’t calling for any change in public or private policy. The federation says if winter biking continues to grow, then maybe fat bike or mountain bike clubs will reach out to owners of non-state trails and try to work out some sort of time or space sharing plan.

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