Since I bought fat Pepper last fall, all my fat tire rides were solo. Of course, there are always people stopping and asking how hard is it to roll on monster tires etc. I did not meet any other fat cyclists on winter trails, heck, I did not meet any riders, even the skinny ones! An email to a fellow Meetup mountain biker connected me to another rider, whose friend video documented a 2013 fat bike gathering at Ocean Shores, somebody sends a Northwest Fatbike Facebook link, and all of a sudden there is a community of fat tire enthusiasts, meeting on the MLK weekend at Winthrop, WA. The meetup was hosted by the Methow Valley sport trail association (MVSTA) and the local ski / bike shop, Methow Cycle & Sport. OK, so now you have all the links, happy browsing.
On Saturday morning, a group of about twenty people meets at the bike shop, and after some introductions and trail information, we all head up Gunn Ranch road to a trailhead. The valley fog layer ends right about at the trail level and the views open up.
On Sunday morning, I meet with Mark, a young mountain biker and snow biking enthusiasts from Missoula, MT, who has been exploring local fat bike routes for a few days. He rode some big rides up to high altitudes, but I convince him to ride the Highway 20, thinking it might be an easy ride before I head back to Seattle. At the road gate, we see bunch of backcountry skiers who use snowmobiles to access skin tracks up those crazy couloirs and chutes around the pass.
After gaining some more elevation, the snow turns into powder, walking on it becomes impossible without punching deep holes. We again decrease our tire pressure to the point where I think I can squeeze the rubber all the way to the rim, but low tire pressure is key to maintain flotation on snow and be able to ride. We ride, sweat and our conversation stops. We see a huge switch back of the road, after which the highway climbs up along a very avalanchy looking slope. We decide to try for the bend, and after what seems like a long and painful effort, we get there.
This section of the road has very soft, deep powder, just somewhat packed by a group of snowmobile riders who break trail ahead of us. Under "normal" winter conditions, this would be a very dangerous part, we ride over steep ridges of snow and dip down steep snow banks, formed by snow slides from the chutes to our left. I can definitely feel the altitude here, but here is the Washington Pass sign, and the road turns steeply downward.
We hang around a bit, enviously looking at ski tracks up in snow filled bowls, but also looking forward to the descent. We start to glide down the mountain and the remaining 3 psi or so in the tires act as natural brakes, so we very comfortably cruise down at about 10-13mph. The best thing is to let the bike find its own best path, too much steering feels like a recipe for a wreck. We have to pedal some more on the final mile and half, out of the sun and on a flat trail, now definitely feeling the lack of muscle glycogen. Really, there is no better way to get stronger on a bike than fat biking.
Before my long drive home, I replenish my glycogen at the Mazama store with the aid of a mixed berry bread pudding with whipped cream and lots of coffee.
This was a really enjoyable weekend spent among people who love this part of the state, the trails and all the sports you can do here, without a trace of any judgment for other area users. They all seem to run, bike, ski and ride the trails and were very happy to show us their slice of heaven.