Fat Biking Reigns Supreme in Northwest & Central Minnesota

By Minnesota Heartland

Not so long ago, fat bikes were thought of as a passing fad, a niche curiosity. Their wide tires were mocked as cartoonish overkill, and many assumed fat biking would soon find itself in the dustbin of history.

How wrong we were.

A biker in the snow near Cuyuna, Minnesota

Cuyuna is one of Minnesota's top destination for fat biking / Aaron Hautala

These days, fat bikes are practically a defining feature of the Minnesota landscape, their distinctive tire-prints found year-round on recreational and commuter trails throughout the state. The once-mocked fat tires (usually defined as 3.7 inches and wider) provide excellent traction, comfort and control in all weather conditions and terrains, whether snow, gravel, dirt or mud, or whatever else thinks it can come between you and a good time.

If you’ve never tried fat biking before, you may find it easier, with a shorter learning curve, than other winter activities. It’s sure to change your view of winter, and who knows, it might just become a year-round ride! 

Where to Ride

Like cross-country skiing, fat biking requires a groomed trail once the snow gets much deeper than 3 or 4 inches. Fortunately, many of Minnesota’s mountain bike trails are groomed specifically for fat bike riding in the winter months.  

Detroit Mountain in Detroit Lakes grooms approximately 4 miles of cross-country mountain bike trails for winter fat biking. The trails are designed to mimic a rollercoaster, with a series of fast and flowing sections that take you up and down the mountainside. Detroit Mountain hosts Fat Bike Fridays all winter long, a series of guided night rides with discounted bike rentals and lights available. Be sure to stick around for some post-ride live music at the lodge.

Two people fat biking on a frozen Minnesota lake

Frozen Detroit Lake makes a great surface for fat biking / Paul Vincent

With just over 18 miles (and more coming) of designated trails for fat biking, and additional smaller loops groomed for first-time riders, Maplelag Resort in Callaway keeps you up to speed on trail conditions. The Ferber Park mountain bike trails in Fergus Falls are another option, as is Plum Creek Park in St. Cloud, and Blacks Grove in Wadena.

Then, of course, there’s Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, the granddaddy of central Minnesota’s fat biking scene. With 25 miles of riding, it’s truly a world-class mountain biking destination.

In addition to the many groomed trails found across Minnesota, there are countless forest roads and backwoods trails ideal for your fat bike adventures. Just remember to stay off any trails specifically designated for other uses, such as snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.

Winter fat bike racer at Cuyuna

For serious fat bike competitors, Cuyuna's annual 45NRTH Whiteout is an essential winter race / @jcampbell003

Fat Biking Events

Take winter by the handlebars at a fat biking event! With 300 riders competing in different categories, the Cuyuna Whiteout is one of Minnesota’s largest fat bike races. Don’t get intimidated by the massive numbers, because The Whiteout has route options for every skill level.

Other notable fat bike races in central and northwest Minnesota include the Northland Fat Bike Rally in Bemidji, and the SNOway But Round Fat Bike Race, hosted at Detroit Mountain as part of Detroit Lakes Polar Fest in February.

Minnesota Heartland is a regional association that works in partnership with Explore Minnesota to promote the 33 counties in Northwest and Central Minnesota.