Fat biking, like many other outdoor sports, has seen a big uptick in popularity due to the pandemic causing people to look for new ways to enjoy the outdoors.
PJ Hunton, a board member with the Kimberley Trails Society, took the Kimberley Bulletin out to Lois Creek Trails after a fresh dump of snow, to demonstrate how their new snowdog machine creates trails for fat bike riders to enjoy.
“Our vision and mission [at the Trails Society] is to build, maintain and manage trails in the Kimberley area,” Hunton said. “In the winter it snows, but that doesn’t stop people from using the trails, so last winter we decided we should start grooming the trails to make them better for everybody to use.”
In order to accomplish their goal of grooming trails, the Trails Society created a GoFundMe page and, thanks to the generosity and support of the people and businesses of Kimberley, they managed to raise $8300 in three days.
They used that money to purchase a snowdog, a gas driven, track-powered machine that is used to tow either a toboggan for grooming through deep snow, or a custom-built plate groomer, that is used to create corduroy trails.
“When we first got the Snowdog, after testing it out for a few runs we realized that we needed to make some serious modifications to the plate groomer that actually lays down the corduroy,” Hunton explained.
“Last year we fabricated a little mod that improved the actual corduroy itself, but this year we took it upon ourselves to design a brand new plate groomer and with the help of one of the trail society’s newest sponsors, Fab-Rite Services in Cranbrook, they plasma cut all of these little metal bits and pieces that all Tetris together and one of the local welders in town welded it all together and now we have a custom made, awesome groomer that we’re pretty excited about for this year.”
The plan for this winter, Hunton said, is to groom a loop through Lois Creek which includes trails such as Powerline, Skid Trail, The Cabin Trail, and A-Frame, and then another loop encompassing trails such as Elbow Road, Apache, Edge Trail and Army Road. That will result in two different spots with two different loops approximately 15 kilometres long each.
“The Trails Society is stoked to have this machine and to be able to groom the trails because it really does make the winter trail experience much better, and we’ve really got a send a huge shoutout to the community of Kimberley and some of the local businesses for opening up their pocket books and really making this happen, because without the community it certainly wouldn’t be here.”
Hunton said fat biking has grown substantially over the past seven to eight years as it’s a great way for cyclists to be able to still recreate in the winter, and it’s a lot of fun — and even more fun, he adds, if the trails are groomed.
With people seeking new ways to recreate more than ever due to the pandemic, interest in fat biking has grown exponentially, and it can be tricky to find a bike.
“If you’re looking for a fat bike these days, go to your local bike store like here in Kimberley, Bootleg Bike Co. or Blackdog Cycle and Ski, they may or may not have fat bikes left in stock,” Hunton said. “They’re a hot commodity these days, like everything in cycling, but don’t be scared to look online and on the Kijijis and the Facebook marketplaces of the world as well if the local bike shops are sold out.”
Mat Boudreau, co-owner of Bootleg Bike Co. agrees that fat biking’s popularity has soared in recent month and said that his store’s stock was all snatched up, other than a handful of the electric bikes. Boudreau was also the one who did the welding on the snowdog.
“The suppliers are sold out and we can not get any more and that’s pretty much throughout the whole industry,” Boudreau said.
Bootleg used to rent fat bikes as well, but COVID made that virtually impossible, so they hope they can rent them out again next year. The store does have all the accessories you would need for fat biking, such as lights, studded tires and winter riding apparel, plus they have an extremely knowledgeable staff who are happy to share their wisdom about the sport and are also equipped to do repairs.