Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pick up a fat bike and ride! 5 tips on where to rent bikes and ride in Southwest Idaho

Dave Williams rides a fatty in the Snowy 45 at Jug Mountain Ranch
The cross-country ski trails loop around Jug Mountain Reservoir. Very scenic 
There have been times this winter when fat biking is perfect on foothills trails.
That's not the case right now except when they're frozen in the early morning. 
Hi all,

With High Pressure dominating aloft and the ever-familiar layer of yucky inversion fog blanketing the Boise Valley for the next 10 days, it's paramount for your mental health to head into the mountains and go for an adventure.

This week, I'm recommending that you try FAT BIKING as your travel mode of choice. The snow is freezing hard at night and warming up in the afternoon in SW Idaho. It's key to hit the trails when they're frozen hard in the early morning for the most efficient ride. The weather is perfect for that right now.

Below, I'll recommend five places to ride close to home in Southwest Idaho, and where to rent a fat bike.

But first ... why ride a FAT BIKE? Personally, I was sold after riding Jug Mountain Ranch last winter with a bunch of guys from Boise and McCall. We got out in the morning when the corduroy-groomed xc trail was hard and firm, and we rode up to Brundage Reservoir and then looped around back to the clubhouse via a mix of singletrack and xc trail. I loved bouncing up and down on the big tires ... it just makes you giggle. Fat bikes climb slow, but they're super stable on the downhill, and they're basically the bike of choice on snow and ice.

Here's what Ryan LaBar said about fat biking in Bike magazine: "Before these mutant bikes became available, the cold, dreary, daylight-choked winters of the midwest had to be dealt with by skiing, snowshoeing, sitting on the couch drinking beer and eating nachos or, God forbid, actually riding the trainer. 

"Not to say that these activities aren’t fun (except maybe riding the trainer), but, really, nothing compares to the escape from “reality” that shredding trails on two wheels gives you.ile fatbiking on the snow is generally much slower than riding dry trails, the lower friction and alien texture of snow–when conditions are good–replicates the sensation of ripping trails at full speed. It is a blast. Shallow pitches become technical descents, crashing doesn’t hurt nearly as much and power sliding corners has never been easier or more fun."

I bought a custom-built fatty in December from Vibe Cycles in December, and I'm really enjoying it. The bike weighs only 27.5 pounds because it has carbon rims, 45Nrth Van Helga tubeless tires, a carbon front fork and carbon handlebars. It rides great.

So ... how to get started? Rent a fat bike from a local bike store and go ride! See how you like it!

  • Meridian Cycle rents fat bikes for $50/day. 
  • Idaho Mountain Touring rents for $50 for 1/2 day, $75 for a full day. 
  • World Cycle rents for $80 for a 24-hour period. 
  • Ken's Bicycle Warehouse rents for $50/day. 
  • Eastside Cycles rents for $50 for 1/2 day, $85 for 24 hours.     

Check with the bike shops on the type of bike they're renting and size(s) available.

Now, where to ride? Here are five sure-fire places to ride this weekend:

  • Rocky Canyon Road - Watchman Trail Loop East Boise Foothills - Start from the end of the pavement on Rocky Canyon Road, ride up to the Five Mile Trail junction, go left and climb Five Mile to the Watchman Junction. Caution: Rocky Canyon Road is super icy in places. I rode the Five Mile Trail last Saturday, and it was in perfect shape ... either snow- and ice-covered or sandy. Take Watchman down Curlew Ridge to Shane's and back to Rocky Canyon. Hit it early when the trails are frozen. Total distance is 10 miles. 
  • Skyline Trail - Summit Trail - Beaver Trail - Elkhorn - Ralph's - Skyline Loop - This is a big loop in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Trail system, starting from the Gold Fork parking lot and then climbing Skyline Trail to the Summit Trail, drop over to the Beaver Trail and do a long climb to the Elkhorn Trail, Banner Ridge and so forth. Loop back to Skyline on Elkhorn and Ralph's to finish the ride. Approximate distance 15 miles. Here is a video of fat bikers touring the park n' ski trails. Idaho City Park N' Ride from Aileen Frey on Vimeo.
  • Middle Fork Payette River snowmobile road - Ride the groomed snowmobile trail about 9 miles one way to the Silver Creek Plunge hot springs pool. 
  • Jug Mountain Ranch, Lake Fork, Idaho - Fat bikes are welcome to ride on the JMR xc trails. Dogs are cool too. Great place to ride. Start from the clubhouse and do a big loop up to Jug Mountain Reservoir and back to the clubhouse. Did I say it's a great place to ride? BTW, JMR is hosting the Snowy 45 fat bike relay race on Feb. 28.  
  • Roads and trails in the Owyhee Mountains - It's been an unusually wet winter in the Owyhees this year, but often times, the trails and roads out there can be great for winter riding, especially when they're frozen or dry and sandy. My friend Eileen Frey highly recommends the Wickahoney Loop, south of Bruneau. I'd recommend the Wilson Creek loop or the Barking Spider loop in my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook. Both of those are pretty close to home.  

Another place that totally rocks for fat biking in Grand Targhee. All 15K's of their Nordic trails are open to fat biking, and they have two miles of snow-packed singletrack trails. From a resort perspective, everyone says that Targhee is setting the pace for accommodating fat biking. How about a long weekend skiing and fat biking at Targhee in blue sky conditions! Book my room now!!!

Watch the Fat Bike Boise Facebook page for posts from riders reporting on conditions throughout the SW Idaho region and beyond.

Have fun!
- SS

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