Snow King Resort loves the fatties. With the fourth annual Global Fat Bike Festival kicking off this weekend, the big-wheeled bicycles will cover the hillside.
Brace for a weekend full of conferences, demos, raffles and a race, as the international expo to learn everything about the burgeoning sport comes to Jackson for the first time.
This summit may be the brainchild of Fitzgerald’s Bicycles owner Scott Fitzgerald, but it is in no way just a local event. Wyoming Pathways Executive Director and event organizer Tim Young said the Tetons should expect some of biking’s biggest names, including Quality Bicycle Products, Trek Bicycles and Borealis Bikes.
“We’re really fortunate that the bike industry is coming here,” he said.
The heavier-set bikes utilize a bigger tire that is 4-5 inches wide and requires only 10 pounds of pressure, compared with 100 pounds needed for a road bike tire. A larger fork accommodates this adjustment. Having the larger tire allows the user to traverse more terrain and even grip the snow.
“It’s been about not quite 10 years that fat bikes have gradually been improving,” Young said. “Today, it’s a pretty mature option for people who are looking to bicycle in the winter.”
Friday will send the kickstand back and start the summit with a day devoted to best practices and how the snowy sport can be integrated into shared trail and land use. Young will lead the morning’s hourlong discussion.
“Hear the latest about how these bikes are being used around the country,” Young said.
Lights in Motion will host a 4:30 p.m. night ride to show off new headlights.
Friday attendees are asked to register beforehand. The land-use discussion costs $35.
Throughout the day Saturday and Sunday morning, the base of Snow King will be abuzz with demos. A short track will be set up, and demos will be offered from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Riders can even test ride Cache Creek trails, like Sidewalk and Hagen.
Then in the afternoon, the bicycle components company SRAM will give a clinic on fat bike forks and braking, followed by the first raffle of the day.
As this is a weekend of biking, there must be a race. Right at the base of Snow King, festival coordinator Gary Sjoquist said, there will be a short track with bermed turns and a number of heats. The start gun will go off at 2 p.m.
“After a day of testing fat bikes and checking out the newest gear,” Sjoquist said, “folks will be able to race their buddies for bragging rights.”
You don’t even need to get off the bike to enjoy a victory drink. A fat bike pub-crawl, hosted by Hub Bicycles, will take off at 7 p.m. from the Mountain Bike the Tetons tent.
This is the first time in the conference’s four-year history that Jackson has hosted. West Yellowstone, Montana, played host to the inaugural event, as Fitzgerald said he and his partners wanted to open dialogue with the National Park Service and pre-empt access issues.
“We started to explore more snowmobile trails and Nordic groomed trails,” he said, “and we wanted to make sure we were a good new-user group.”
The subsequent year, the event moved to Island Park, Idaho, where tons of snowmobile tracks are regularly groomed. Quality Bicycle Products moved the summit to Ogden, Utah, last year, but Fitzgerald said Jackson is the perfect fit for fat bikes, “because we’d really love to see access be granted in Grand Teton and Yellowstone.”
“It’s really hard for us to get traction and open dialogue,” Fitzgerald said, even though “fat bikes usually leave less of an indent than a skate ski track.”
Having the discussion about best practices on public land is essential, said Amanda Carey, executive director of Mountain Bike the Tetons.
“It’s important to share best practices,” she said, “and to create the rules of the trail for fat bikes and find ways for users to partner with land managers to develop the sport responsibly.”
Following a weekend of this discussion, the summit will close at 1 p.m. Sunday with an industry ride through Cache Creek, with engineers and experts leading the way.