Winterbike 2013 – Northeast Kingdom's Fat Tire Festival

On March 9th, the second annual Winterbike took place at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT. Home of one of the greatest trail networks in the northeast, the Kingdom Trails now offers year-round activities for bicyclists on their vast network of shared trails. From the Nordic Center, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, hikers and mountain bikers enjoy many miles of shared trails. Down in the village, on Darling Hill, the locals are also packing down single track for winter use.

We arrived bright and early for an 8AM start under blue skys and crisp air. Trails had the change to freeze up overnight making them perfect for the ride. A first group of roughly 20 riders quickly formed up for the epic ride. The group was to ride 4hours on the vast network of double track available straight at the Nordic Center. A second group headed out to Darling Hill were a single track of the Fat-tired kind was scheduled. Roughly 15 riders took part on the ride.

We started the ride climbing Herbs to Beat Bog, to River Run all the way to Heaven's Bench. Quickly after the first climb, riders were pealing off their layers. Everyone was all smiles as we were able to ride at a comfortable pace in the same trails we enjoy in the summer. On the Fat Bikes, we quickly realize that we need to focus a lot to stay on the narrow white ribbon. Of course, things are much slower in the winter and trails might get slippery but the sensation of speed and thrill are still there. With no suspension, you really need to pump the trail to make it smooth and flowy!

 

After 2 hours, we're back at the Nordic Center where the festivities are full blown. Many groups formed and plenty of riders took demos to give fat-biking a try. Hungry and thisty, tables are setup with local beer, food and drink options. Riders can pick different bikes from various shops and retailers supporting the event. David Lauzon, co-founder of ADSVMQ, Quebec's trail advocacy group, and I took out for a spin on the nordic trails to take advantage of the sun and to check out other trail options. Mid-way through our loop, we come across a campfire and another area worth stopping to: Beer, food and drinks are filling up the table under perfect blue skies and warm sun of early march! Good thing, we started to need sugar to function!
In total, nearly a 100 people showed up for Winterbike! According to Kingdom Trails, the sport is growing and riders are coming from all over the northeast: Ontario and Quebec riders came out for the day and as well as people from as far as Rhode Island brought out their Fat Bikes! Same vibe coming from manufacturers who are having a hard time keeping up with customer's demands for Fat Bikes. One of them is tinkering the idea of a 2013.5 mid-release because they sold out so quickly! Retailers have been busy building up these custom rides all of winter as well. When you catch a glimpse of everyone smiling, you quickly understand why!

After 2 hours, we're back at the Nordic Center where the festivities were full blown. Many groups formed and plenty of riders took demos to give fat-biking a try. Hungry and thisty, tables are setup with local beer, food, and drink options. Riders can pick different bikes from various shops and retailers supporting the event. David Lauzon, co-founder of ADSVMQ, Quebec's trail advocacy group, and I took out for a spin on the nordic trails to take advantage of the sun and to check out other trail options. Mid-way through our loop, we come across a campfire and another area worth stopping to: Beer, food and drinks are filling up the table under perfect blue skies and warm sun of early March! Good thing, we started to need sugar to function!

In total, nearly a 100 people showed up for Winterbike! According to Kingdom Trails, the sport is growing and riders are coming from all over the northeast: Ontario and Quebec riders came out for the day and as well as people from as far as Rhode Island brought out their Fat Bikes! Same vibe coming from manufacturers who are having a hard time keeping up with customer's demands for Fat Bikes. One of them is tinkering the idea of a 2013.5 mid-release because they sold out so quickly! Retailers have been busy building up these custom rides all of winter as well. When you catch a glimpse of everyone smiling, you quickly understand why!

 

To finish the day on an even higher note, organizers put up a 6x race. With 6 riders racing to the bottom of the hill after a long day on the bike and a few drinks in the sun, they did put up a show for the crowds. Many different race strategies ranging from running at full speed with the bike way high to surviving down on skinny tires made for a good time.

About « Fat Bikes » and the Kingdom Trails

Recently, with Winter season being shorter and less snowy in North America, more and more cyclists are staying on their bikes through winter. With special Fat Bikes that have tires ranging from 3.5n to almost 5.0in, the winter trails are getting more accessible on a bike then ever. Since cyclists are the last to come out and share winter trails, they need to remember to yield to other users. In order to help land managers, IMBA U.S. has put together a "Fat Tire Best Pratices" on their website.

Kingdom Trails has adopted a very similar approach in order to include fat bikes on their winter trails. There are a few basic rules:

  • First, you must be a member or day pass holder to ride the trails
  • If you're using the Nordic Center shared trail network, you'll need a purpose-built Fat Bike with tires bigger then 3.5in in order to avoid impacting the trail surface
  • Do not ride if the snow is too soft
  • Do not ride on the classic track

To know more about conditions and rules on Kingdom Trails, visit their website

Big thanks to Sebastien Bussières for the ride... and for the video! Enjoy.

Vermont WinterBike 2013 from Sebastien Bussieres on Vimeo.