Frost Heave Ride

It’s no secret that fatbikes are known for their prowess in snow, with their heritage in Alaska and winter-time riding.  Sandy beach rides also suit the larger than life tires, and many fat bike owners are finding the shoreline to be a wonderful new riding venue.  After acquiring a Mukluk to my stable of bikes this winter, it amazed me how the bike opened up new riding opportunities.  No longer do I have to seek out singletrack for a riding thrill. I’m finding the bike is even more versatile that I expected as it makes virtually any ride fun.

Living on the edge of the Clark County Forest provides me with a smorgasbord of riding opportunities, from ATV and snowmobile trails to forest roads to logging skidder runs.  I try to take advantage of them all, depending on weather and riding conditions.  I recently discovered that my Mukluk has extended what used to be a limited season…that in-between frozen and dry ground period of time. The unseasonal weather this year hurled the frost heave season on us three weeks earlier than usual.

A favorite ATV trail nearby follows a small river and has plenty of climbs and overlooks and is lightly traveled most days.  It connects with old logging roads and using it provides me with a nice loop.  It is usually best to ride blacktop during the frost heave season, or keep to the gravel township roads. Being a good land steward who tries to leave no trace when I ride, normally I never would venture out on the soft forest trails.  The ground pushes up, leaving wet and hollow surfaces, which a regular mountain bikes have difficulty with. Not only is it just no fun slugging through miles of that mush, the 2-inch mtb tires leave ruts.

I pre-scouted said trail with a hike and black lab the previous day, and wondered how the fat bike would handle it, so I followed up with a test ride the next day.  The floatation of the big tires worked great staying on top of the crusted mud and firm sand with the wheels barely leaving a track. I suddenly had access to trails that I could not ride without the big tires!  Unfortunately, poaching ATVs had really rutted up the trail, but my Salsa hardly left a trace as I pedaled along.  From time to time I could hear the low rumble of the hollow ground below, but I just floated on top and continued my ride.  The beauty is, there is so much to see as the season changes and the big bike gave me the chance to explore it all.

To say I love this bike is an understatement. With each new ride, I’m finding new opportunities to explore trails and seasons that I could only hike before. You have to get past the idea that fat bikes are just for rolling over snow. The monster bikes really shine in many conditions. There are so many more places to reach, traverse and enjoy during these in-between months as well.

Thanks to my fat tires, this frost-heave season I have the freedom to roll through the woods on my favorite trails rather than riding the road. Bikes really are freedom.


About Steve Meurett, On-TheEdge

Photographer, skinny skier, fat tire rider, teacher, dirt digger, hunter and coach. Steve lives in the shadow of Chatty Belle and shares his thoughts on biking with us from time to time. To read more and see more of his great photography from central Wisconsin, check out Steve's blog On The Edge

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