Bundled up in three layers of clothing with my water in hand, I waited anxiously on Feb. 9 for the regular Monday night fatbike ride with the members of COGGS. Rudy O'Brien, one of the head ride and event coordinators for this organization graciously invited me to this tradition that has been going on for the last three years.
From starting at the Superior Zoo located off of Freemont Street, I had no idea where we were headed. Rudy later told me they would be biking up to Spirit Mountain. In hindsight, I should have better prepared my legs for this ride.
For someone who is riding for the first time during the winter, you should choose which day you ride based on the amount of snow on the ground.
"It could be a mixed bag," O'Brien said. "When you don't have much snow, it's good conditions. Trails are smoother than they are in the summer and you are riding on what is already packed. It makes for a good experience."
This particular trail that we would be riding was not exactly a trail at all, but more off the beaten path. So it seems that fatbikes are good for every terrain. There are certain trails that are better than others, and there are some to avoid. As I have not ridden a bike in over a year, I was also curious as to what trails other new bike riders should choose in the winter time.
"In some locations the bikers are aloud on the ski trails, but not in Duluth," O'Brien said. "They share tails with hikers and runners. The skiers have their own trails. On the superior hiking trail there are no bikes allowed as well. Other than that, it can be ridden on almost everything except deep, deep snow. Hartley is a safe trail, even if the conditions are not good elsewhere because there is a lot of traffic. It is a good entry level trail and fun for bike riders of all levels."
The fatbikes have been a growing trend in the Duluth area. Each year improvements have been made to the bikes. According to Adventure Cycling, the Surly Pugsley made the fatbike more widely available in 2005 and changed the biking scene dramatically.
"When the fatbikes started there was only one bike you could get," O'Brien said. "It was big and slow. There was more and more companies out there that began making fatbikes. They have gotten more light and durable over the years. There are now a number of bikes you can choose from and customization options for them."
I was sold. O'Brien finished lowering my seat, and we were off.
I road along with Rudy and four other members of the COGGS organization past the fenced perimeter of the zoo and into the woods. I was able to go over stumps and rocks with ease, although I actively tried to avoid them. I looked on as other riders went out of the view of my flashlight and down a hill. This would lead to my first fall.
I took a deep breath and road down the hill gaining speed quickly. Suddenly, I had to take a right turn or I would have ended up in a snow bank. I fell and got up immediately. I pedaled at the lowest gear up a steep hill and could feel my quadriceps tighten. Now behind the pack, Rudy and I came to the base of Spirit Mountain.
It was here where I had to throw in the white flag. As we road on a narrow path with woods on the left and a frozen stream on the right, I tried to maneuver my way around a large root instead of going over it. I fell once more and I was down for the count. The short, but strenuous ride had taken its toll on my legs enough. Rudy raced onward to inform the rest of the pack of my decision. We later road down together to the start of the ride where Rudy and I would part ways. It was a great opportunity for me to join him and his fellow COGG members on their Monday ride, but I was not prepared for such a lower body workout. Still, riding a fat bike in the winter season is an exhilarating experience.
"You will get that feeling you got when you were five, when you first road a bike. Fatbikes just make you smile," Rudy says.
I would have to agree with Rudy on this as I could not help but smile when I pedaled a fatbike for the first time that night. However, for more inexperienced riders like myself, there are fat bike tours you can take where you can get the full experience. Day Tripper Of Duluth has two, three and six hour fatbike tours. With these tours you have the option of riding on trails that include: Lester, Mission Creek, Hartley and Piedmont.
Fat bikes are sold at The Ski Hut and start at $1,500.