When Experience Grand Rapids first profiled the local fatbiking community back in 2018, it was clear the snow sport was exploding in popularity and participation. We can now report that area enthusiasm for this rad style of riding has only grown higher in the ensuing years.
Brian Dokter is president of the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance (WMMBA), an organization of 500+ members that builds area trails and promotes safe riding. He says more locals were motivated to give the sport a try in the last few years, which have been “phenomenal for the whole biking industry.” Fatbiking – which is an even better workout than road or mountain biking – has welcomed an influx of new aficionados.
We get calls from Indiana, the Detroit area and up north asking ‘where can I ride and where can I grab a beer afterwards?
Local fatbikers have a “good density” of trails to choose from, says Dokter. In fact, the West Michigan area is gaining something of a regional reputation as a fatbiking destination. “We get calls from Indiana, the Detroit area and up north asking ‘where can I ride and where can I grab a beer afterwards?’”
Our groomed trails are part of the appeal (and 45+ craft breweries don’t hurt, either). Grooming mostly occurs when snowfall is too high and/or fresh to provide a firm base. Simply put, grooming makes riding easier.
WMMBA trains and equips “an army” of volunteers to optimize riding conditions on 150+ miles trails around the area, both in the winter for fatbiking and in warmer weather for mountain biking.
WMMBA maintain 13 trails across the area (and is always looking to build more). These trails are located within 45 minutes or so of downtown Grand Rapids and are groomed for fatbiking:
Biking through snowy trails at Cannonsburg Ski Area.
Photo by Experience Grand Rapids
There are five trails groomed for fatbiking within 45 minutes or so of downtown Grand Rapids:
Merrell Trail. This 6.4-mile winter single-track trail in Rockford opened in 2012 and quickly became a favorite of local bikers.
Dragon Trail. 21.75 miles of this under-construction trail near Hardy Dam and Newaygo State Park are now open and groomed for fatbiking. When it’s finished, the Dragon will stretch 50 miles and provide a truly world-class biking experience. (You can donate to the fund to finish the trail.)
Yankee Springs. 6.5 miles of this winter single-track trail near Gun Lake are groomed. (Additional ungroomed miles lay in wait for more adventurous riders.)
Indian Trails. This city-owned golf course features a 3.7-mile single-track fatbike loop groomed by clubhouse staff. Trail riders can purchase a day pass for $3 or a season pass for $15.
Cannonsburg Ski Area. This popular winter sports destination grooms five miles of rolling to hilly terrain for a fatbike trail loop. Purchase a $5 day pass or $35 season pass and experience a mix of open areas and twisty, tight single-track.
Visit the WMMBA website to check current trail conditions.
Taking off to fatbike at Cannonsburg Ski Area.
Photo by Experience Grand Rapids
Dokter was an avid mountain biker when he first started fatbiking in 2015. “I got an opportunity to ride a fatbike and just really got into it,” he recalls. “It helps that I love winter – but I tell people that you’re only cold for the first five minutes, anyway.”
If you haven’t yet hopped on the fatbike bandwagon, Dokter advises you to start slow. “Try to find a bike to borrow or rent and hit a trail with somebody who knows their stuff. There are intricacies to these bikes and their gears and tire pressures that really make a difference.”
Cannonsburg Ski Area offers fatbike rentals for use on their trail. Once you’re hooked on the experience, you’ll find lots of bikes for purchase along with excellent advice at Alger Bikes, Freewheeler Bike Shop, Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. (Ada or Uptown), Spinful Bikes, Switchback Gear Exchange, Village Bike & Fitness (North or South) and West Michigan Bike & Fitness (Grandville or Kentwood).
Dokter urges everyone to “just get out and try fatbiking.” (Dokter’s orders, you might say.) “It’s a beautiful way to take in the winter in West Michigan. And you’ll be joining a great community of riders!”