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  1. #1
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    Grooming for fatbikes

    Our trail system has been considering introducing fat biking into the mix this winter. I thought I'd simply groom the trails by packing in some trails with snowshoes and encouraging snowshoeing on those trails. Is it any more involved than that?

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    As far as singletrack goes, snowshoers are a fat biker's best friend. Our snow is super dry and usually ready to ride after a day of sun and a little shoe traffic. Works even better when somebody else does it for you too. Our other trails are all groomed with big snow cats. Stay away from steep uphills unless its super short.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zaab70 View Post
    Our trail system has been considering introducing fat biking into the mix this winter. I thought I'd simply groom the trails by packing in some trails with snowshoes and encouraging snowshoeing on those trails. Is it any more involved than that?
    Why would you groom for a fatbike. If you groom, then you can ride a mountain bike and you don't need a fatbike.

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    Thanks leadvegas. We have some favorable grades so this should work well. I can't wait for the snow to give this a try.

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    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    Why would you groom for a fatbike. If you groom, then you can ride a mountain bike and you don't need a fatbike.
    I don't have any first hand experience, but I got the impression that fatbikes need a little help from snowshoe or snowmobile tracks. I could be wrong.

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    I've heard of guys on snow shoes dragging weighted sleds to pack the trails down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    Why would you groom for a fatbike. If you groom, then you can ride a mountain bike and you don't need a fatbike.
    Where do you live?
    It must not snow much there.
    "We LOVE cows! They make trails for us.....

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    I'm not that ambitious...but there's a regular rider up the way who runs dogsledding tours and'll earn a lifetime membership and some beer if he brings the team down to sled the trails a few times this winter.

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    YRG
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    Quote Originally Posted by rideit View Post
    Where do you live?
    It must not snow much there.
    We get about 400" a year but, I was kinda being a smartass. But around here we groom trails for skiing and if you want to ride a bike, you just ride on the groomed trail. Regular bikes are fine. So if you were to ride a fat bike, it seems you should be blazing trail. Not that it matters cause I think wheels are silly for snow, I spend my time on classic skis, skate skis, alpine skis, and backcountry skis (or snowboards) and only when I feel like doing something slow and silly do I ride a bike on snow. I do have friends who say they can dig trenches railing turns on their dh bikes going down runs on the resorts. That sounds good, but I know it's still slower than skiing.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    We get about 400" a year but, I was kinda being a smartass. But around here we groom trails for skiing and if you want to ride a bike, you just ride on the groomed trail. Regular bikes are fine. So if you were to ride a fat bike, it seems you should be blazing trail. Not that it matters cause I think wheels are silly for snow, I spend my time on classic skis, skate skis, alpine skis, and backcountry skis (or snowboards) and only when I feel like doing something slow and silly do I ride a bike on snow. I do have friends who say they can dig trenches railing turns on their dh bikes going down runs on the resorts. That sounds good, but I know it's still slower than skiing.
    Yeah, 400" is barely a squall.
    So sorry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaab70 View Post
    I don't have any first hand experience, but I got the impression that fatbikes need a little help from snowshoe or snowmobile tracks. I could be wrong.
    You're right. Snowshoe tracks work OK but are bumpy and can be a bit narrow after a few significant dumps. Riding in the trench is not as much of a problem as pedal strikes on the walls. Dragging weighted sleds definitely improves the 'tread'.

    Timing is everything. I keep a stretch of singletrack packed from my house to a snowmobile trail and try to get on it on days above freezing so that it hardens up at night. It really takes multiple passes of stomping - more people help. Likewise people riding when it's soft can rut it out and make all your work freeze to crap.

    Packing by riding only works when there's just a few inches of snow. Really, more than 4" or so is pretty hard to plow through when it's our typical New England density. Park City conditions have no bearing on what you have in VT.

    Best wishes. Love your network!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Grooming for fatbikes-pugs-pale-ale-1-11-13-medium-.jpg  

    Grooming for fatbikes-pugs-sunny-track-1-18-13-medium-.jpg  


  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    We get about 400" a year but, I was kinda being a smartass. But around here we groom trails for skiing and if you want to ride a bike, you just ride on the groomed trail. Regular bikes are fine. So if you were to ride a fat bike, it seems you should be blazing trail. Not that it matters cause I think wheels are silly for snow, I spend my time on classic skis, skate skis, alpine skis, and backcountry skis (or snowboards) and only when I feel like doing something slow and silly do I ride a bike on snow. I do have friends who say they can dig trenches railing turns on their dh bikes going down runs on the resorts. That sounds good, but I know it's still slower than skiing.
    Apples & oranges. In New England, when the skiing becomes bulletproof boilerplate the fat biking gets really good. True that you can still skate ski on the groomers (and many of us do), but the biking can get magical. And regular mtn bikes, even with 2.5" tires, do not compare with fat bikes. Fatties turn marginal conditions into sweet velvet.

  14. #14
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    We have groomed Nordic areas here but they don't allow wheels on the trails (which as a nordic skier I totally support) Many of the trails that we ride in the summer get lots of snowshoe and XC ski traffic and we see some fat bike traffic but 1) The trails stay pretty narrow, if it's just a ski track it will usually be very narrow. 2) If it's been snowing a lot the trail will stay quite soft and even with the big tires, fat bikes will get mired in the snow. 3) Fat bikes make a mess of ski tracks which doesn't make fat bikes very popular with skiers (who are very often cyclists but don't like seeing the ski track trashed).

    Around here Snowmobile trails are usually the best bet for fat bikes.

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    Skiers haven't used our trails for years, so they're lowest on the totem pole if they do come. Snowshoeing is picking up. Given our frequent snows, it will be a challenge to keep anything fat bikeable, but I'd like to play around with it nevertheless.

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    Thanks Radair! I'm planning on working on some signage this winter anyway so I thought I'd take a two birds with one stone approach. I'm not quite committed enough to drag heavy sleds with me, but the landowner always has fanatical ultra endurance athletes training on the mountain who carry heavy objects as part of their regimen. They'd be more than happy to do it. I might suggest it to the landowner.

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    Snowshoe grooming works really well. Our local trail system (urban park really) gets a lot of foot and snowshoe traffic and over the past couple years the number of fatbikes has exploded. The trail gets a lot of traffic by bikes daily which helps keep it groomed. It turns into a really fun flowy pump track like experience.

    What we did do last year was organize a snowshoe night when we were to receive a very heavy, wet dump of snow rapidly in one afternoon. About 6-7 of us left the bikes at home, brought our headlamps and a few wobbly pops and stomped out the tracks over a couple hours. I even built a pulk sled with pull poles to try to finish up the grooming (damn thing kept flipping over on me though). The temperatures dropped overnight and the tracks setp nicely and were awesome the next day.

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    We're having a 300 person snowshoe race in March and there should be some primo tracks to follow after that. Too bad there's nothing earlier though.

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    While riding works to pack down trails after small snowfalls, bigger snowfalls require some extra help. One of the techniques used up here on the singletrack is to drag weighted car tires. They help to give a good tread width on the trail and leave it fairly smooth. You can either drag them on foot or pull behind a snowmachine (snowmobile in the lower-48 I am told.... ). Hook up a shot stick (cut off hockey stick works well) and tie a sling from that to the tires and go for a hike.

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    SHHH... just bought my wife a pair... Marquette Backcountry Ski I've had mine since last year... told her it's all about having more us time while we exercise.. little does she know that she will be helping pack down the local singletrack, for my fatbiking the next day...

    if I had a younger kid.. I'd be getting him out there on one of these..


    Google Image Result for http://www.snowgoer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Kitty-Cat.jpg

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    Snowshoeing can be hard work. To get any kind of distance, I think the snowbike future has to be a machine groomed trail. Which means considering trail width, potential groomer obstacles, and what such a trail would be like to ride in Summer.

    A snowmobile from the 1970's would be much more narrow than those made today.... I don't own a fatbike, and am considering them but keep coming back to the grooming issue. Relying on snowshoes is a leap of faith.

    There used to be a motorcycle type snow machine, that may be the ticket. Don't remember what those machines are called.

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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjohnson View Post
    Snowshoeing can be hard work. To get any kind of distance, I think the snowbike future has to be a machine groomed trail. Which means considering trail width, potential groomer obstacles, and what such a trail would be like to ride in Summer.

    A snowmobile from the 1970's would be much more narrow than those made today.... I don't own a fatbike, and am considering them but keep coming back to the grooming issue. Relying on snowshoes is a leap of faith.

    There used to be a motorcycle type snow machine, that may be the ticket. Don't remember what those machines are called.
    It wasn't the Rocon you were thinking of was it? 2 wheel drive mini-bike. I haven't seen one in years but those things will go anywhere and have a tire about as wide as an ATV tire.

    Edit: It appears they still make them.

    Rokon 2-Wheel Drive Motorcycles
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    do a search on you tube for diy snowmobiles.. there are a lot of things out there, that your local group might be able to piece together... I am currently trying to more info for something like this..
    homemade snowmobile / tracked vehicle / lumihärveli 4 - YouTube

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  28. #28
    zrm
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    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    You're right. Snowshoe tracks work OK but are bumpy and can be a bit narrow after a few significant dumps. Riding in the trench is not as much of a problem as pedal strikes on the walls. Dragging weighted sleds definitely improves the 'tread'.

    Timing is everything. I keep a stretch of singletrack packed from my house to a snowmobile trail and try to get on it on days above freezing so that it hardens up at night. It really takes multiple passes of stomping - more people help. Likewise people riding when it's soft can rut it out and make all your work freeze to crap.

    Packing by riding only works when there's just a few inches of snow. Really, more than 4" or so is pretty hard to plow through when it's our typical New England density. Park City conditions have no bearing on what you have in VT.

    Best wishes. Love your network!
    Yeah, it seems like fat bikes are fairly limited to well packed trails. Snowmobile trails (groomed or otherwise) or a singletrack well packed by slowshoers, walkers or skiers is required. Fat bike tires will keep rolling in snow that will bog down a standard sized tire, but they won't plow through deep snow.

    Most XC ski areas prohibit wheeled travel on the groomed trails so unless they specifically allow it, (bike tracks can make a mess is set track or skate lanes) people should assume XC groomed are for skiing only. I also know some groomed snowmobile trail systems prohibit wheeled travel although that's mostly oriented to ATVs, dirtbikes or passenger vehicles, I don't know if they'd care about bicycles or not.

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    FYI - A short description of what the link is for would help. Personally, I don't bother to go to any link that doesn't look legit. Too many spammers out there who just randomly post a link on every thread they can find.

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    https://www.facebook.com/groups/362878050453494/
    This facebook page has photos of a groomer they are building.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by zrm View Post
    Most XC ski areas prohibit wheeled travel on the groomed trails so unless they specifically allow it, (bike tracks can make a mess is set track or skate lanes) people should assume XC groomed are for skiing only. I also know some groomed snowmobile trail systems prohibit wheeled travel although that's mostly oriented to ATVs, dirtbikes or passenger vehicles, I don't know if they'd care about bicycles or not.
    Sorry to hijack this thread, but does anyone out there have experiences/examples they can share about XC ski/fat bike co-existence or conflict?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeePhroh View Post
    Sorry to hijack this thread, but does anyone out there have experiences/examples they can share about XC ski/fat bike co-existence or conflict?
    We've had pretty good experiences around here. We have several local trail systems that are groomed for non-motorized multi-use. Most of the skiers are friendly and have accepted the Fat Bikes. Every now and then, though, I encounter a rude skier who seems to think they are exclusively entitled to our public snow trails. For them, here's a sticker i came up with to gently remind them of their place in the evolution of snow sports
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Grooming for fatbikes-r615545008_proof.jpg  


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    Quote Originally Posted by Wildfire View Post
    For them, here's a sticker i came up with to gently remind them of their place in the evolution of snow sports
    Love it!

  34. #34
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    I think there's a difference between not for fee groomed trails and for fee groomed trails. I think if someone has paid for the use of groomed trails for Nordic skiing, then they have a right to expect the trails to be used exclusively for that purpose - groomed trails for skating or classic. When people walk, snowshoe, walk dogs, or ride bikes on them are more than just not as nice, they can be dangerous. (think about how much MTBer whine about horses using "their" trails - trails designated multiple use BTW)

    If a trail is groomed and designated for the general public then that's a different story, but those trails are generally already pock marked with foot prints, full of dog walkers and slowshoers so a skier knows what to expect and accepts it.

    BTW - skis are a much better way of moving across snow than wheels. The Scandinavians figured this out thousands of years ago.

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    As a hardcore snowmobiler who rides a fat bike. Be careful on the snowmobile trails. Snowmobilers pay to have the trails groomed. We must buy state registations and groomer stickers.

    Fat bikes don't pay any money to the snowmobile groups. Should that change is a good question. But a snowmobile doing 40 mph around a corner is not going very fast. But to a fat biker doing 3 mph it is fast. Make sure you show respect to the sledders, they pay for the groomed trails with time and money.

    Personally I think there will be a showdown between the fat bikes and the snowmobilers. There are very few people like me who take the middle ground on this. Most cyclist are antimotor and most motor people are anti human power people. Mainly both sides do not get the other side, Both sides have good points and bad points. But it is mainly the human power side that tries to kick off the motor side. So don't be surprised if there is resentment to fat bikes on snowmobile trails.

    Also learn the snowmobilers hand signs. Usually the amount of fingers being held up is the amount of sleds behind you. the help up closed fist represents last person.

    as far as grooming, just pick up a used sled and go ride it around your trails. multiple times.

  36. #36
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    Quote: BTW - skis are a much better way of moving across snow than wheels. The Scandinavians figured this out thousands of years ago. [/QUOTE]

    Agreed on the part about if the trails are groomed by and just for XC skiers, I was talking about groomed multiuse trails. And, many XC ski areas are now allowing fat bikers because they usually leave less of a groove/rut than a skate ski does. Riders do have to use discretion and not ride the trails when they are soft, like just after a groomer goes through, but skiers should also let the trail set up a bit. I groom trails professionally all winter, so I am familiar. I think a lot of the perceived conflict comes down to bikers being viewed as "non-traditional" and new.

    So how come, if skis are so superior, almost every year in the 350 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational and the Susitna 100 mile races - which are raced by both skiers and bikers - the bikers usually win by a wide margin? I bet those Scandihoovians would have loved to have fat bikes if the technology existed back then.
    Last edited by Wildfire; 12-14-2013 at 01:09 PM. Reason: typo

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    There don't seem to be a lot of first hand accounts of how well a weighted sled works for packing in fresh snow on singletrack. It seems like an obvious solution but maybe it's more efficient to spend the energy to making multiple trips with snow shoes instead of a slower trip hauling a sled? Can anyone else speak to the viability of the human ox method?

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    Quote Originally Posted by brassnipples View Post
    There don't seem to be a lot of first hand accounts of how well a weighted sled works for packing in fresh snow on singletrack. It seems like an obvious solution but maybe it's more efficient to spend the energy to making multiple trips with snow shoes instead of a slower trip hauling a sled? Can anyone else speak to the viability of the human ox method?
    The problem with sleds, and even skis for that matter, is they have such a large surface area, they will sit too high up on the snow and span over soft spots or voids in the underlying surface. Over time, they can do a decent job, but it usually takes a combination of a sled, then the first bikes who have problems for a while, then the trail gets more rideable. The trail behind a sled looks nice and smooth, but it is not packing into the low portions of the underlying trail surface, just spanning across them. As a rider, you will not be able to see where the more solid portions of the trail are behind the sled.

    Smaller drags tend to work better as they will have a smaller surface area and move snow around a bit more while packing. They will help to fill in the divots in the trail surface underneath and contour to the trail a bit better. We tend to use 2 or 3 car/truck tires with a little added weight, either pulled by hand or by a snowmachine (snowmobile down in the lower 48... ). A combination of things over the long run works best to pack in a good line for riding, mixing snowshoes/skis, tires, feet, and bikes, but that is more of a long term trail packing thing once the initial work is done.

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    We've had good luck with the snowshoes packing things in but unless you get a lot of traffic it leaves a bumpy surface that's difficult to ride if only a couple pairs of feet have gone through. The plan is for the sled to come after two snowshoers have done the initial stomping with the hopes that it will compact and smooth the snow enough to take the trail from 'hike a bike' to 'struggle' for the first few riders.

    The sled is going to be based on this tub:
    All-purpose Mixing Tub by Do It Best Global Sourcing - Essential Hardware

    The idea is to load weight on one end and tip it up enough that only the rounded portion will be making contact with the snow along with a few other modifications to make it track straight. At least it's a cheap experiment.

    I know it's not going to magically turn the trail into a highway but if it shortens the break in period after a good snowfall I'll call it a success.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anchskier View Post
    The problem with sleds, and even skis for that matter, is they have such a large surface area, they will sit too high up on the snow and span over soft spots or voids in the underlying surface.
    These guys seem to have the sled thing dialed:


  41. #41
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    For those that live in or near the Upper Midwest region, here's a conference on grooming and advocacy for fat bikes:

    https://www.imba.com/civicrm/event/info?id=367&reset=1

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    could get one of these (link) probably could pull behind a snowmobile also
    Human Powered Trail Grooming - Home

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    This club has built a trail grooming device that is towed behind a snowmobile. They maintain over 20 miles of fatbike trail. https://www.facebook.com/pages/NTN-S...47765491905204
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregB406 View Post
    This club has built a trail grooming device that is towed behind a snowmobile. They maintain over 20 miles of fatbike trail. https://www.facebook.com/pages/NTN-S...47765491905204
    There is definitely an echo in here.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by tim208 View Post
    As a hardcore snowmobiler who rides a fat bike. Be careful on the snowmobile trails. Snowmobilers pay to have the trails groomed. We must buy state registations and groomer stickers.

    Fat bikes don't pay any money to the snowmobile groups. Should that change is a good question. But a snowmobile doing 40 mph around a corner is not going very fast. But to a fat biker doing 3 mph it is fast. Make sure you show respect to the sledders, they pay for the groomed trails with time and money.

    Personally I think there will be a showdown between the fat bikes and the snowmobilers. There are very few people like me who take the middle ground on this. Most cyclist are antimotor and most motor people are anti human power people. Mainly both sides do not get the other side, Both sides have good points and bad points. But it is mainly the human power side that tries to kick off the motor side. So don't be surprised if there is resentment to fat bikes on snowmobile trails...
    I joined the local snowmobile club (2 of them, actually) and the trail master of one of them said he has no problem with skiers and bikers on their trails. Much of their funding comes from State grant programs so they are OK with multi-use. Becoming a member also gets you their latest trail map. But some snowmobilers have the same sense of entitlement that some bikers and hikers have, so there will always be a few who don't want to get along.

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    A blog on the recent snow bike summit, grooming. I wasn't there.
    2014 Midwest Fat Bike Access & Grooming Workshop | Mountain Bike Geezer

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    I thought I'd dredge up this thread to see what evolution has produced over the last year. A crew of us are still relying on snowshoes and fat skis but are looking toward more modern methods. Anyone have anything to add?

    The photos from the 2014 Midwest Workshop cjohnson linked are quite inspirational.

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    We just got done with a group ride on our newly groomed trails. Up here in Leadville Colorado we get a lot of snow and sunshine. This year we are trying out a new single track grooming project and it is amazing so far. The weather has been warm and now we have a rock solid base to groom for the rest of the year. Our grooming implement of choice is an old Nordic track setter with the cutters removed and combs added on. We also have 150 # s of weight on it too. The sled pulled the groomer very well after one run with the snowmobile only. I'll get a picture up soon.

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    So fat bikes are meant for snow, but they don't do that well unless the snow is groomed..? But I've also heard talk of fat-bike specific trails??

    So, we're building specific trails that fat bikes can be ridden on, and they don't work well for the terrain they're intended for without it being groomed....?

    Seems like a case of "here's an odd widget, let's make a machine that uses odd widgets, then we can sell them!"

    Maybe I just don't get it. Why not make the tires fat enough so that snowy trails don't need to be groomed? I guess then that bike will be useless when the snow is gone....?

  50. #50
    zrm
    zrm is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skelldify View Post
    So fat bikes are meant for snow, but they don't do that well unless the snow is groomed..? But I've also heard talk of fat-bike specific trails??

    So, we're building specific trails that fat bikes can be ridden on, and they don't work well for the terrain they're intended for without it being groomed....?

    Seems like a case of "here's an odd widget, let's make a machine that uses odd widgets, then we can sell them!"

    Maybe I just don't get it. Why not make the tires fat enough so that snowy trails don't need to be groomed? I guess then that bike will be useless when the snow is gone....?
    A muscle powered bike that could travel on un packed trails would not be feasible. There is a limit to what a wheeled vehicle can do in soft, deep snow. It's why there are skis, snowmobiles, and wide tracked vehicles like snowcats.

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