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.
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.
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 from 6:30-8 p.m. with discounted bike rentals and lights available. Be sure to stick around for some post-ride live music at the lodge.
With just over 6 miles 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 with timely reports, as well as planning a fat bike race this season. 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. During the winter, the Cuyuna trail system features more than 20 miles of groomed trails for fat biking fun, with just over 6 miles of 6-foot-wide trails in the Sagamore unit, and another 14 miles of singletrack between the Mahnomen and Yawkey units.
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.
Events to Consider
Take winter by the handlebars at a fat biking event! With 300 riders competing in 12 different categories, the Cuyuna Whiteout is one of Minnesota’s largest fat bike races—but 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 festivities in February.
Embrace the Bold North
While winter is long in Minnesota, fat biking is one way to embrace the cold and truly experience the season. If you’ve never tried to fat bike before, you may find it an easier sport, with a shorter learning curve, than other wintertime activities as well. It’s sure to change your view of winter, and who knows—it might just become a year-round ride!