Sanders: Fat bike in Winter Park, head out Vasquez Road
December 1, 2016
Our weather went from summer to winter as quickly as turning on a light switch. We're all itching to ski but we'll need just a bit more snow before your favorite runs have enough snow. In the mean time there is still plenty of biking to be had.
Fat biking is a great way to get out. A couple of tips for when you are out on the trail. As much as fat bikes can go through the snow you need some compaction. It's not like your back country skis where you can go anywhere. I tend to stay on the more heavily traveled routes. One key tip for fat biking is selecting the correct tire pressure. Most people ride on tires that are set around 4 psi. This seems really low (some go lower!) but spreading out the track does a couple of things. It gives you better traction and the ability to "float" on the snow. This can be a huge factor in how well you ride on the snow. Another advantage of low tire pressure is that is spreads out the track and you leave more of a flat track than an imprint on the trail. If you are sinking in the trail you may need to lower your tire pressure a bit.
If you haven't fat biked much then start out on something fairly easy for skills. Due to conditions snow can make a trail that is easy in the summer much harder in the winter. One my favorite rides is a loop out of Winter Park.
Start up Vasquez Road and turn left on Arapahoe Road. Follow it to the end then begin up Little Vasquez. Turn right on Blue Sky. Blue Sky climbs gently on an old logging road. You will then reach Tunnel Hill. Continue Straight, the road will T , go right at the T. This brings you to Vasquez Road which is normally fairly well packed in. Turn right on Vasquez then left on USFS 159. USFS 159 will begin climbing right away. This is an easy climb in the summer but will challenge you a bit as the soft snow tests your skills to stay centered on your bike. At the top of the first climb you will pass D4 and D2 on your right (If they are packed in remember these for a future ride) Continue on USFS 159, you'll head downhill for a bit , then one steep punchy climb (punchy is a great term for a hard climb that bikers most often use to make it seem easier than it is….) then you will see the Elk Creek Road on your right. Turn right on the Elk Creek Road and enjoy a long descent all the way to Fraser. Turn right on Fraser to Winter Park trail at the traffic light and that will bring you back to Winter Park.
Most of us are done using our regular mountain bike until next spring. There are a few things that you can do to your bike before you let it rest up over the winter. Clean it. Give it a good "bath" or at least wipe it down with some warm water and a rag. Lube the chain and all moving parts on the bike. This includes the pivot points on the suspension, pulley wheels on the derailleur and other parts. This will help protect them over the winter and your bike will thank you next spring when you bring it out to play. Air up your tires, fork and rear shock. Take a moment to write down what air pressure you set those at so when you check them in the spring you remember. One last thing I do is to write down any issues I have with the bike and tape a piece of paper to the bike with that list. That lets you fix them over the winter or give them to the shop when you have the bike tuned up in the spring.
Looking for more information? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!
Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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