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Fat Biking in Duluth

Posted by David

Fat Biking in Duluth

A Frost River No. 388 Caribou Trail Bike Bag and No. 393 Growler Pack Tolltop

There’s a new wave of biking happening in Duluth... The Fat Bikes have arrived! 

With oversized tires for off road use over rough and soft terrain, Fat Bikes are known for their stability, an air cushioned ride, and fun year-round, and Duluth is quickly becoming a hub of activity for the sport. 

Check out this recent video of Fat Biking in Duluth, all shot in town on Duluth roads, trails, stairs and lift-served slopes!

Ride Duluth from 45NRTH on Vimeo.

“Remember those dangerously fun Honda 3 wheelers you rode as a kid?,” asks Jesse Class, Frost River Supervisor of CAD & Cutting and avid rider of a fat bike in Duluth, “They’re a lot like those!” Many riders appreciate the plush ride, the float over soft ground, as well as the exercise it provides and endless possibilities in terms of terrain and when during the year they can ride. “It’s not as much about the speed, but the experience,” said Class.

New this winter, and for those that are more into speed and gravity, Spirit Mountain Ski Area began offering lift-served winter fat biking for several of their runs. The resort is among the first in the world to offer lift access in the winter to blend fat bikes in the same terrain shared with skiers and snowboarders. It opens a whole new realm for riders looking to tap into new places to ride. This spring, Frost River is partnering with the local riding group and trail champions, The Cyclists for Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) to help bring the "Frosted Fatty" bike race to Spirit Mountain. The race will be an open course downhill with two stages. Riders will be given a time limit to complete as many timed runs as they can. The "King of the Mountain" will be the one with the best times over both stages. You can register here, start gates drop at 10 am March 19, 2016. There’ll be great gear from Frost River, Surly, and other sponsors for the winners.

399 Frost River High Falls Short Day Pack Illustration from the front angle

In addition to the race at Spirit Mountain, COGGS has been working to complete a trail system called the Duluth Traverse. According to COGGS, it will be the “the first 100+ mile system of singletrack all within an urban environment.” The Duluth Traverse links together several existing multi-use trail systems to allow residents and visitors access to great trails all over town. It’s a sustainable way to get out and enjoy the thousands of acres of public wooded space available in Duluth. Upon completion, “every Duluth neighborhood will be connected with this natural surface, human-powered trail,” say COGGS, and these trails are perfect for fat biking.

Aside from building and maintaining trails, COGGS closely monitors trail conditions around town. Seasonal and daily advisories are posted to help keep riders off trails when conditions are very wet and trails are fragile. In those instances, riders are urged to take to the streets, roads, and beaches and to stay off the trails, lest they get full of ruts and require repair.

COGGS and the City of Duluth have secured several grants to help fund the completion of the Duluth Traverse. For each of the large state and federal grants, COGGS and the City need cash matches to secure the funding. Contact COGGS if you or your club would like to donate time or funds to help make finishing the Duluth Traverse possible.

If you're in Duluth for the Frosted Fatty at Spirit Mountain or will be in town the evening of March 19th, 2016, COGGS 741321_1011475218880475_1326592899024270560_owill be hosting their 5th Annual Duluth Traverse Gala (registration is now full) after the races at the Greysolon Ballroom, and to finish off the March 19th fat bike and bike festivities, you can go to the LollyGagger After Party across the street from the COGGS Gala at Zeitgeist Arts Cafe & Atrium. The afterparty is open to all, and access is by free will donation. There’ll be local brews, purchasable pint glasses, great music and good times with bike-minded folk starting at 9:30pm. 

The trails COGGS is building are multi use, catering not just to fat bikers and mountain bikers, but to hikers, runners, and snowshoers alike. It’s a win for all interested in the opportunity to have great trails in town that can be used year-round.

At Frost River, we’re fans of fat bikes and their riders, and some of us ride, too. Frost River waxed canvas bike bags fit in fine with the style, mentality, attitude, and all weather riding that this new breed of bicycle brings. “When you fat-bike, you're in the elements and don’t want to worry about gear. Waxed canvas is durable,” said Class, “they're great partners.” More information about Frost River bike bags can be found here.

Highway 61 Rolltop Panniers No.389 by Frost River. Also shown with the Taconite Trail Trunk No.385 (not included)

We recently hosted fat bike riders from Surly Bikes and BikePacking.com for the start and finish of a bike packing trip in Duluth, providing parking and some local-knowledge route ideas. The riders disembarked from our new parking lot behind the Frost River shop at 1910 W Superior St and headed west, uphill, loaded with winter gear for a two night, three day bike camping trip. They hit three single track trail “parks” before taking on an ice crossing of the St. Louis River at the back of the Duluth/Superior harbor. They said the crossing made for a slippery ride that was unnerving with the ice groaning under their loaded bicycles. Over the ice and trails they proved that bike camping is do-able and enjoyable in all seasons, even winter.

We’ve worked with Surly Bikes to match bags to their racks and enjoy working with our fellow Minnesota company. When they heard about the bike packer’s trip, they invited us via twitter to keep BikePacking.com’s vehicle …“if they don’t make it out”… Thankfully, the riders did make it back, so while we missed out on a sweet minivan, we were able to get the scoop on their fat bike camping story. 

Fat Bikes themselves are available for sale or rent at several Duluth retailers including Ski Hut and Continental Ski. Rentals are also available at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica and there are guided rentals/trips from DayTripperDuluth and the Duluth Experience. It’s a sport that’s approachable for nearly all ages and doesn’t require a bunch of technical skill to get into, just the ability to bike, and the desire to have fun!

With all the trails, hard work, new gear, events and possibilities, the wave of fat bikes is still only beginning, but it seems like it’s in Duluth and Minnesota to stay, and we like it. Whether you're an avid cyclist, are new to the sport, or would like to try it out for the first time, there’s plenty for everyone here throughout the year in Reliable Duluth.

A bike loaded with Frost River Bike Bags overlooks the Aerial Lift Bridge along the Lakewalk. Caribou Trail on the bars, Growler Pack Rolltop on frame, Highway 61 Panniers over back tire.