ALTERNATE TITLE: Why I got a fat bike in the first place.
Right off the bat I’ll just go and say this was the best winter visit to Marquette I have ever had. Third time’s a charm. After all the plans that laid to waste due to lack of snow or just soaring temps we hit it perfectly. And it was luck. Originally planning on Sat|Sun we pushed it off one day due to the snow storm that ran up the middle of the State. The one that was supposed to hit Hayward on Friday.
The snow hit Marquette Friday with about 8 inches of blowing snow. I knew the trails would not be ready Saturday morn. So we planned to leave Sunday morn and that turned out to be a good call. Also, the plan was to ride the North trails that always get walked\snowshoed in quickly first on Sunday. Giving the boys another full day to get the South trails ready. Yet another good call.
On Sunday the North trails were close to as good as it got. I gotta admit I was concerned with trail conditions right up to the time we unloaded the bikes. The reports coming out of the NTN were not promising. I’ll admit I thought of pulling the plug on this trip also. A few guys that were thinking of coming up bailed and it was down to just three of us. We have had as many as 12 people years past. I’ll talk about that more later but I will say here and now is that if you always wait for the perfect conditions you will never ride. Same goes for skiing. Sometimes you just gotta do it. This time it paid off big.
Once on the North trails Sunday you got no more than 50 yards into the woods before you got a huge grin on your face. Near perfect trails. All snow, no ice and firm as can be. Once you got past the now wooden bridge the trails turn into machine groomed. And some groomed by hand which is awesome.
I love the North trails. More than the south. So scenic. To me a good trail is not about its technical level or how it flows (which is still nice) but where it is and where it takes you. For scenic riding you can’t beat the North trail. It’s beautiful back there and there is so much to see that I want to ride slow. (like I could ride fast)
As we got out farther, past the dam the trails dont get used as much as they got softer. But not bad and thats about as far as I can comfortably ride and get back. Day one Sunday was a huge success. We got back to hotel, cleaned up and ate at Aubree’s and drank at Blackrocks. But it was to bed early to hit the South trails Monday morning. And I lose sleep knowing I need to to climb up Bensons Grade first thing.
So Monday we headed to the South side and the trails were better than I’ve ever experienced there before. The late day groom there at 34 degrees paid off Monday morn when it was 15 degrees at ride time. Absolutely hard as rock trails. Fast as all get out.
My ultra crappy fitness level was extremely exposed on the Benson climb. I had to walk about half of it. But I knew that going in and was needed to preserve myself for the rest of the day. I will say with the Fat bike Birkie coming in just two weeks that will be by far my slowest (tour) race ever and will be considered a trail ride with a lot of others in my book.
Anyway, back to the South. Once on top of Benson and rested we had an absolute blast for ther next couple hours. We rode the usual stuff but it a little exploring too. There are a few short loops built in that I never had done before. We took one or two of those. Some of those trails got so tight back in the deep Pines I wonder how they got the snowmobile in there. One loop was a lot of fun and we were maybe only the second group thru it but the trails were so set up hard that it didn’t matter.
Maybe it was karma as I had cancel so many other trips but we hit this small window of riding on the head. Today, Tuesday, just one day after the amazing conditions its 40 and raining up there. It was truly a small window we hit.
I must say it was hard to load up the bikes to come home yesterday. I literally rode laps in the parking lot when we finished. I did not want to stop. I went from near perfect riding conditions to drive home to a dreary crappy rain. Why do I live here?
I’ve been in this fat bike thing since its inception. I owned a Pugsley when it was the only fat bike to own. Back to when if you wanted a aluminum frame fat bike you had to build it up wheels and all. I remember owning a fat bike before Marquette’s NTN ever groomed winter trails. I remember the first time I went up there,2012 I think, and rode on my first mechanically groomed fat bike trail. In utter amazement. I remember the euphoria that came over me then. How am I going to explain this to others? No one is going to believe me.
Fast forward to today. We used to get 12 plus riders on these trips and now only three. I think the fat bike has become so mainstream, so accepted now that we forget what they were made to do. At least initially.
Today we have super light and full suspension bikes. These bikes like my Farely EX is a 12 month a year bike. But they are now so good in the summer we forget to use then in the winter as much. Sure, we have some local trails that get rode in when the snow is here but I tell you, its not the same. Nothing compares to a machine groomed trail in winter. On a trail system that has the manpower to keep it up all winter. It’s just not the same and is one of the main reasons I have a fat bike.
I’ve sold many really nice fat bikes to people who when asked, pass on a trip to Marquette or Cable\Seeley. They ride our local trails when rode in and tell me how awesome they are. But they have no idea there is another entire level of winter trail they have never experienced. They turn down a winter trip but these same people won’t hesitate to grab their MTB’s and head up there in summer. I dont get that. I know its just my opinion but to me winter is funner than summer.
And I realize that its all weather related and its still a weekend of travel to pay for. But if you ride a fatbike in winter you just have to do it. Just do it. Even if the weather is iffy and there are chances of not perfect trails. Again, if you wait for those perfect conditions to ride you will never ride.
So while I’ve been riding a fat bike exclusively now and have not had a MTB in three years I was reminded of why I got a fat bike in the first place this weekend.
In conclusion, I had fun.