When I think about what inspires me the most to mountain bike, road bike, or snow bike, it’s just being outdoors. I love the fresh air on my face and body, the smell of the leaves, fresh earth, or fresh cut grass in the air, the beautiful shades of greens and blues seen in the trees and lakes, the sound of laughter among friends—I love being outdoors in almost all weather conditions. Therefore, winter opens up a fabulous new opportunity for biking called snow biking or fat biking.
My husband and I own twenty acres just outside of Marquette where we snow bike as much as possible all winter. Since we don’t own a snowmobile or groomer, we manually groom the trails ourselves by snowshoeing them. This can be a lot of work on our eleven different loops, but it is also great exercise! It’s not as simple as just going for a casual snowshoe. When grooming, you have to go over sections multiple times, and bank corners where needed. This doesn’t produce the same quality of bike trail as professionally groomed trails. In fact, it’s harder to snow bike on trails that are manually groomed, and every time it snows significantly you have to re-groom. However, it’s worth it to be able to step outside your home and ride.
Between snowshoeing to groom trails and the actual riding, winter snow biking on our trails is a major workout. Our trails are on a gradual hill so no matter which way you go, you will be climbing at some point. We usually start at a half-hour ride and work our way up to an hour. At times, snow biking can be fast in the straighter sections, but rides on most of them are slower and more challenging, with trails curving all through our glorious woods. During the work week, going for a ride right after getting home works best for us. This usually requires the use of headlamps or flash lights mounted to the bikes. Night riding is a little more challenging, but so enjoyable under the clear, star-filled sky! Winter snow biking on our trails also helps us master riding at slow speeds, cornering, and balancing. It’s made me a better biker for summer trail riding.
To prepare for winter snow biking, you should have bar mitts if your hands normally get cold in the winter. With bar mitts on your bike, you only need to wear a light pair of gloves. On our trails, I don’t recommend clipping into your bike pedals. We wear boots to keep our feet warm and dry. As far as clothing, we wear the same garments we would wear for cross country skiing or running in cold temperatures-layers, breathable garments, wind protection, helmet, goggles if it’s really cold… the usual winter gear required for snow biking.
If you want to try snow biking, area bike shops offer rentals. I recommend you try renting first if you’re not sure about it. The many trails in and around the city of Marquette are beautifully scenic and perfectly groomed. In addition to riding recreationally, snow bike races exist throughout winter and across the Upper Peninsula. Check online or at any bike shop for more information about snow biking or racing. Snow biking is just another wonderful sport to enjoy in our beautiful north woods. Have fun!
Financial adviser and former human resources director at Marquette Area Public Schools Michelle Gill grew up in the western U.P. and has called Marquette home since 1994. She and her husband David enjoy living an active lifestyle, playing outdoors as much as possible.
Excerpted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2018-19 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.