As fat bike sales soar in Northeast Wisconsin, trails to ride are still limited

Fat Bikes in Winter

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – Local bike shops tell Action 2 News their fat tire bike sales have doubled in popularity since this time last year, but the trails to ride them have not.

Northern counties are still trying to catch up with the new winter sport to make sure winter trails are safe for all outdoor enthusiasts— feeling some growing pains, and looking at solutions working for other counties.

Across the state, it’s against the law and considered dangerous for fat tire bicycles to ride on trails that are marked only for snowmobiles. But without many places to ride, especially farther north in Oconto and Marinette counties, some cyclists are risking it anyway.

Brown county reforestation camp had the same problem in winters past, and made a new trail just for cyclists, using volunteers– once they saw that big bikes are here to stay. “What we’re trying to do is do our best to have a nice, rideable trail for them. It gives them something to ride,” said Curt Hall, a park supervisor for Brown County.

“And since they have a more reliable trail, we have seen fewer bikes on the ski and snowmobile trails. But you never know. It continues to be an issue from time to time,” Hall said.

Cyclists who argue for the use of these snowmobile trails tell Action 2 News they do see the danger in letting everyone ride—considering the person’s knowledge base and how acutely aware the cyclist is of the surroundings.

“There’s a lot of places to ride on. We don’t have to just stick to snowmobile trails,” said fat bike enthusiast George Kopitz who is the co-owner of Broken Spoke Bike Shop.

“Some guys like to ride just the snowmobile trails, but I actually prefer the reforestation camp you get a little more scenery,” Kopitz said.

Volunteer group “Friends Reforestation Camp Trails” (linked below) would love to see more of these trails as the sport takes off, so cyclists won’t even be tempted to ride where they’re technically not allowed to.

Hall says cyclists could even be slapped with a fine if it happens more than once, and reminds trail users they need to get a pass in order to ride.

“Bikes on snowmobile trails is a pretty high-risk situation. We do not allow it here, we don’t support it, and we probably aren’t even considering allowing it—ever,” said Hall.

The Reforestation Camp has started to rent out fat bikes to the public at their ski lodge, but for safety reasons it encourages renters to be educated on how they work before they ride.

RESOURCES:

Fat Tire Guides – Wisconsin Mountain Bike Trail Maps & Guides

Cross-Country Ski, Snowshoe Rental and Snowmobile Trail Information (Brown County)

Friends of Reforestation Camp Trails

WI DNR Fat Tire Bicycle Use on Snowmobile Trails: Preliminary Background and Considerations