Of Track + Tread
The Sugarloaf Outdoor Center offers a variety of options for winter fat biking
As a relatively new winter sport, fat biking has seen a major rise in popularity in a few short years, partly thanks to more groomed trails that are readily accessible and easy enough for the whole family. Fat bikes were originally created for biking in sand, but they quickly became popular in winter weather because of their utility. Widetread tires with low air pressure allow these specially designed bikes to float in the snow and not get bogged down, says Tim Flight, a volunteer fat-bike-trail groomer at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center. Flight is one of five volunteers who groom 5 to 10 miles out of the nearly 50 miles of trails at the center, which range in width and riding difficulty. Some singletrack trails are incredibly narrow—only 24 inches wide—while others can be 6 to 15 feet wide. The more challenging trails are similar to what you would find on a summer mountainbiking track, with plenty of climbs and dips, says Flight.
Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time out on a fat bike trail, the most important thing to consider is trail-use etiquette. “Be aware of any track or tread that you’re leaving and what that might look like when it freezes,” says Flight. If the trails are soft, footprints and errant bike tracks will leave the trail rutted and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to ride. If you get the bug, consider joining the Carrabassett Region chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, a nonprofit organization that has built and maintains the region’s network of mountain biking trails.