Central Oregonians love to bike, and they love snow. And the sport of fatbiking allows them to combine those loves by riding on snow.
Fatbiking involves riding a bike with tires 3.8- to 5-inches wide, much wider than tires on other bikes. The wide tires make it possible to ride in areas where a normal bike would be difficult or impossible to ride, such as the beach or on packed snow.
Central Oregon Trail Alliance has a permit from the Deschutes National Forest to groom 9 miles of trails for fat bike riding. The trails are located at the east end of the Wanoga Sno-park across from the sledding hill. Depending on how much snow we have, they are groomed from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 each year.
Wanoga Sno-park has three loop trails fat bikers can ride. The shortest loop is about a mile long and is shared with snowshoers and skiers. There are also 3- and 6-mile loops that are primarily for bikers. Trail maps can be found online at bendtrails.org. Be sure to follow the signs, since there are also some trails that are for snowshoers and skiers only.
Central Oregon Trail Alliance volunteers groom the fat bike trails at Wanoga using snowmobiles that pull special grooming implements. The result is singletrack through the snow! Grooming reports are available on the Facebook page Central Oregon Fatbikes.
The packed snow surface is relatively fragile and it’s important to know the etiquette of fat bike riding to keep it fun for all. First, it’s important to ride when the ground is frozen. Riding early in the morning is ideal as temperatures will be lower and you can beat the crowds to the sno-park. On a typical Bend day, where temperatures rise to 40 or higher, it is best to finish your ride by noon, or even earlier on especially warm days.
Second, it is important to ride with very low air pressure in your tires. Ideal air pressure is around 3 pounds per square inch. Tire pressure changes with elevation, so be sure to bring along a pressure gauge and a pump so you can fine -tune your tire pressure to the conditions.
Fat biking when the ground is soft or with too much air in your tires will leave ruts in the trail. These ruts can make you and subsequent riders swerve and fall and are difficult for the groomers to repair.
If you’d like to try fat biking, most of the bike shops in Bend rent and sell fat bikes. Plan ahead since fat bikes are popular this time of year. In fact, Central Oregon Trail Alliance estimates that 25 to 70 people ride the Wanoga fat bike trails each day.
If you want to explore more riding options, fat bikes are allowed on groomed snowmobile routes and most snowshoe trails. There are hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile routes in the area. Maps of these can be found on the Deschutes National Forest’s website.
Grooming reports for snowmobile routes are available on the Facebook page Moon Country Snowbusters.
Fat bikes are not allowed on Mt. Bachelor’s Common Corridor or on trails groomed for Nordic skiing, such as those at Meissner, Swampy Lakes or Edison sno-parks.
And on rare days, when the top layer of snow freezes into a smooth crust, crust cruising is guaranteed fun. Enjoy the trails!