For Fat Bike trail grooming and riding, the Winter of 2013-2014 (Here in northern Illinois) was almost perfect. We got our first snow in early December and it has stayed until late March.
But it was not without its challenges.
Many sub zero days and nights taught me how to dress properly when it's that cold. Once you get that figured out, the rest is easy.
Tips and things I learned this year while riding and maintaining my Backyard Fat Bike Singletrack...
It takes a lot of time and effort to maintain even a short trail. Stick with it. It is time well spent and worth the effort.
Know where your trail is. This sounds dumb, but a heavy fresh snowfall or blowing and drifting snow can bury your trail quickly.
Don't put away your loppers for Winter. A snow trail may require a wider corridor because a heavy snowfall will weigh down and lower branches, obstructing your path. Especially if the trees still have leaves or pine needles.
My #1 method of grooming a trail is snowshoeing.
We (Sue) have also pulled (w/snowshoes) a fishing sled with cement patio blocks in it. This method is great if you really need a good workout.
You can also ride your trail into shape by using your bike as a groomer. Just don't ride in the same track, keep making it wider. Rider skill, snow type and depth will determine if grooming by bike will work best for you. In fact, a fresh snowfall of less than 4 inches on a solid base is much easier to ride than snow that has been freshly groomed and not had time to set (get firm), or snow that has been hiked on, even with snowshoes.
In the early stages of grooming (not a lot of snow), riding them is a great way to start a firm base on your trail. A firm base is important. It will keep your trail around longer in the event of a warm day or two.
Once you get a firm base, you can even shovel or blow (with a leaf blower) a fresh snowfall off the trail if you want to. But remember, the thicker your base is, the longer it will be around as warmer weather approaches. And a firm, hard base is like riding on dirt!
If you're grooming a trail that doesn't get a lot of traffic, don't make it too long. You want to spend more time riding than grooming right?
My trail was a short 1/2 mile out and back with a .2 mile loop at the end. For one or two people grooming and riding, it was almost perfect. During the Spring I made new singletrack and plan to have a 1/2 mile loop for 2015. Loops are nice because it may ride very different depending on the direction you ride.
Even a short loop, out and back or spur (single trail with a loop at the end) can be interesting and fun to ride. And it beats the hell out of the alternatives... Not riding, riding the trainer, Spin Class.
Snowshoeing and pulling a groomer burns a lot of calories. That's great if you like high calorie foods and drinks. So don't look at snowshoeing in a negative light. It is necessary if you want great trails to ride. It is also good for you, and although sometimes it'll seem like you're doing more snowshoeing than riding, it must be done. Enjoy it.
The more people you have stomping the trail, the faster it goes. Invite friends, throw a stomping party. Make it fun.
When your trails are "perfect", ride them a lot. They may not be that way for long.
Get lights and ride at night. It's hard to beat the beauty of riding a ribbon of white snow under the stars and moonlight.
Cold will affect your battery life, but because the snow reflects so much light, you can run the lights on lower settings, extending run time.
And if you've never ridden at night using only the light of a full moon, you are missing out on one of the truly awesome things life has to offer.
A wet packing snow (think snowballs) is the best to stomp, but powder will also firm up nicely if/when it gets cold enough. And try not to ride a freshly stomped trail, letting it "set" overnight will make it firmer the next day.
Try to avoid walking on your trails without snowshoes. Too much foot traffic can quickly turn a firm trail into mashed potatoes and not much fun or even impossible to ride.
A straighter trail that is 18 to 24 inches wide, or 2 or 4 snowshoes wide, is fine. Stomp your corners wider if you like going faster. Unless you like riding skinnies.
A wider trail will require more stomping time but be easier to ride.
A wider trail gives you room to stop and put your foot down without sinking up to your crotch and hurting yourself.
A narrower trail is best if it's a one way trail, especially if it gets a lot of traffic.
Speaking of speed. A slower trail will keep you warmer because of a lower wind chill factor. Think more about time (hours) and not so much about the mileage.
When stomping dry snow by myself, I like to take smaller steps. It's almost like having two people stomping. And alternate steps, don't keep stepping in the same footprints.
Sometimes Deer happens. Deer can quickly mess up a trail by post-holing it to death. You can keep a post-holed section as a snowy version of a rock garden, or grab a bucket and fill the holes with snow and re-stomp them if you want them smooth.
You can put a lot of trail in a small area by making it twisty and tight. Don't be afraid of intersections or crossing your trail if you have to.
If you have a big enough back yard, make a short trail. Spice it up with berms, rollers and jumps, or even a pump track. The other great thing about a backyard trail is not having to load up your bike and gear to go ride!
As much as you might hate below zero temps, they're great for firming up a trail after stomping or riding.
Our neighbor got one of these... www.humanpoweredtrailgrooming.com/fat-bike.html
He only got to use it once, so I'm not going to rate it yet.
I would appreciate any tips you have learned and will add them to the list.
Happy Winter Riding!
Here's some more great information... fat-bike.com/2014/01/what-is-good-fat-bike-trail-grooming/
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