By Sam Kislia
From improved traction on dirt, to flotation when riding through snow, the over-sized tires of a fat bike let you roll where you have not rolled before.
What is Winter Fat Biking?
Some of Wisconsin’s most beautiful natural areas become inaccessible once the snow hits each winter. But a trend called fat biking is changing that! Once you see the oversized, balloon-like tires on these fat bikes, you’ll immediately understand where the name comes from. Fat bikes have extra-wide rims with low-pressure tires making it possible to cruise on soft terrain like snow.
Where Can I Ride?
In winter, whether riding groomed single-track trails, frozen lakes or fresh powder, fat bikes have extended the biking season and added a whole new twist for winter adventurers. Be aware that it is NOT legal to ride fat bikes on most snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, but there are some exceptions, so always check with the land manager before heading out. Trails often have restrictions on a minimum tire width and a max tire pressure, so normal mountain bikes don’t always qualify for fat bike trails.
The Department of Natural Resources offers guidelines about where fat bikes are allowed and the International Mountain Bicycling Association gives riders tips on fat biking best practices.
There's so much to see while fat biking in northwest Wisconsin. Ride across frozen Lake Superior out to Madeline Island. Don't want to take that adventure alone? North Coast Cycling Association hosts group rides on Saturday mornings as long as safe ice conditions exist. Hayward and Cable have 22 miles of groomed trails, among the best in the state for winter fat biking. In Neillsville, find 11 miles of trails developed specifically for this sport. It truly is a fat biker's dream!
Ice Road - Bayfield and Madeline Island
CAMBA Trail System - Hayward and Cable
In northeast Wisconsin, find dips, turns and scenic views on some of these trails made for fat biking. WinMan Trails, located at the North Lakeland Discovery Center, offers 1,300 acres of fat biking-ready frozen turf. At Newport State Park, pedal alongside 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Some trails are ungroomed, or primative, while others are groomed for a smoother ride. Whatever your preference, there are certainly some excellent opportunities for fat biking the beautiful trails of northeast Wisconsin.
Enterprise Primitive Trail and Mud Lake Trail - Rhinelander
Newport State Park - Ellison Bay
Bikers are finding the hills in the southeastern corner of Wisconsin are great for this winter sport. The Kettle Moraine State Forest, popular with mountain bikers in the summer, has several trails where fat biking is allowed in the winter. Kenosha County’s Silver Lake Park has several loops of single track trails groomed to perfection and you may even see grooming on the lake in mid-winter. Closer to Madison, CamRock Park is a great place to ride when the snow flies. Feeling competitive? You’ll also find some great fat biking events hosted at some of these parks.
Silver Lake County Park - Kenosha County
John Muir and Emma Carlin Trails - La Grange
Lapham Peak State Park - Delafield
When are the Fat Biking Events?
Sweaty Yeti - Yeti Fest - Neillsville
This is a weekend of fat tire fun, winter camping and typical Wisconsin winter frolicking in the snow at the Levis Mound Trails.
Fat Bike Birkie - Cable
This is the only time during the winter that biking is allowed on the Birkie Trail system. Don’t miss your chance to ride your fat bike on the snow-covered, groomed trails which also host the American Birkebeiner.
Bike on the Water - Bayfield to Madeline Island
This ultimate winter bike event allows fat bike riders to cross frozen Lake Superior from Bayfield to Madeline Island.
For more information on other events, check out the Snow Crown Wisconsin Fat Bike Series and Great Lakes Fat Bike Series.
Who Rents Fat Bikes?
Want to try out the sport before investing in a new bike? As the popularity of the sport increases, you’ll find fat bikes available to rent. So hop on one and try it out. Here are a few locations to get you started. Reservations are usually recommended.
Backyard Bikes - La Grange
Riverbrook Bike and Ski and New Moon Bike and Ski - Hayward
Nor Door Sport and Cyclery - Fish Creek and Sturgeon Bay
Looking for more ideas? Check out more fat biking events around Wisconsin to plan your winter adventure or tell us about the perfect trails you've discovered in a comment below.