Fat Bike Fun in Central Oregon

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It was the day after Mother Nature dumped some spring snow in the Cascades — skies were crystal clear, a true bluebird day and the perfect setting for a trip up to the mountains – with my bicycle. A perfect day for fat biking.

That’s right, my Fat Bike, (more specifically, a Surly Pugsley.) After grabbing my bike from the shop I own, The Hub Cyclery, I headed up to the Dutchman Flat sno-park about 21 miles from Bend. With all the folks heading to Mt. Bachelor to go skiing it took me about 40 minutes to get there, but I knew it would be worth the drive.

When I arrived at the parking lot, there was already a few snowmobilers getting ready on a near cloudless 23 degree-day. I knew this was going to be a great day.

As I headed out on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, which is closed to traffic in the winter and turns into a gateway to the winter wonderland backcountry, I decided that with the amount of time I had, I would head up to Todd Lake.

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It is such a surreal experience being out there in the middle of the snow covered trees and landscape and being able to just ride your bike along.  Fat biking takes mountain biking to whole new level.

In traditional mountain biking you are typically flying down singletrack trail and a lot more addrenalin is involved.  Fat biking is not as fast-paced and it’s just you, the bike, nature and the smile you have on your face.

You simply can’t ride a fat bike without smiling, it’s a fact that I’ve proven many, many times.

From Dutchman to Todd Lake the ride is flat for the first couple of miles and then descends down toward the lake.  In snow – especially fresh snow – this can be both fun and taxing.  The best conditions for Fat Biking is a bit of hard pack, but with the fresh snow the snow is a bit softer.

To make the bike float more on the snow, I dropped the tire pressure down to 4psi, that’s right 4psi.  Fat bikes use a much larger tire diameter and this allows you to run extremely low air pressure which gives your more traction and allows you to say on top of the snow better.

Once, I reached the turn off for Todd Lake it was a fresh groomed trail up the road.  Being there early, I had fresh tracks and worked my way up the tree-lined road.  During the summer this area is packed with cars and hikers, but not today, it was just me.  To get up into the lake you take a left and head up a singletrack.  In this case the snow was to deep to ride so it was a few minutes of pushing the bike up a trail.

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As I arrived at the lake’s edge, it was nothing but an open blanket of white snow in front of me. But there was a crevasse through the snow where the creek ran out, and the water trickled out from the lake.  In the background you could see Broken Top mountain and clear blue skies beyond that.  As I headed back down the trail, I figured I would give a try and ride.

To give you an idea, the snow was above my knees with each step, so this was going to be a challenge on the bike.  I almost made it all the way down trying to stay upright until is just got to deep.  Not to worry, falling on powder snow doesn’t hurt like hard dirt.   Now it was time to head back up, and up it was.

The ride seems so easy heading to the lake, but you feel the legs buring as you head back up the hill.  Fat bikes are a bit heavier, so you can definetlly get a work out pedaling them.  As I made may way back up I came across a group of snowshoers and gave them some directions as to where to go. They where in awe of the bike and seeing me ride in the snow.

You certainly don’t need to try and pedal through snow as deep as I did. There are plenty of Nordic and snowmobile trails that make for absolutely perfect (and easier to negotiate) fat biking terrain.

Fat biking has been around for years now, but has really gained popularity within the last couple years.  What used to be a niche market for the bicycle industry, is now mainstream with almost every bicycle manufacture making one (and most local shops renting them.)  Some folks say it is probably just another fad, but I say it’s here to stay.  Why, because you just can’t ride one with out ‘smiling”.

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* This story was written for and previously published at VisitCentralOregon.com

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