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Fattening up for winter

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CROSBY — Just how fat are the tires on a fat bike?

Plenty fat. As in fat enough to mountain bike through the snow in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area this winter.

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Now that’s phat.

The DNR is designing a winter fat bike trail system within the Sagamore Unit of the CCSRA near Riverton, and at a Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew meeting Tuesday night at the Hallett Center, Steve Weber of the DNR said that aside from some fairly minor details, the first trails of their kind in the area are a go.

So let it snow.

“We’re getting into it,” said Weber, DNR manager at the CCSRA. “The Sagamore Unit is a beautiful setting. It’s not too steep. We’ve got seven miles layed out now. So you have to put in 10 miles (including) getting in for about two hours of riding.

“We don’t have a date when it will open. We’re hoping we’ll open as soon as we can. We’re hoping we’ll have some snow.”

A fat bike was on display at Tuesday’s meeting. A typical fat bike, the tires were, well, very fat — about three to four times as big as on a regular mountain bike. One mountain biking enthusiast at Tuesday’s meeting — which drew about 40 people with an interest in mountain biking and the CCSRA trails — said the norm is to buy a fat bike rather than trying to outfit a conventional mountain bike with the fat tires.

Those tires perform better in snow, but because of the size of the tires and, of course, the snow, maneuvering won’t be nearly as easy as, say, summer biking on the world-class mountain bike trails that opened just down the road in the heart of the CCSRA in June.

“What we have cut out now is the trail system for the year,” Weber said of the winter fat bike trails.

“Since it’s a pilot thing, I’m not sure what we’re into,” he said of winter grooming possibilities.

Plans are in the works for a possible “Cuyuna Whiteout” — a winter mountain bike celebration. In the meantime, Weber is looking beyond the Sagamore Unit for future winter possibilities.

“How can we use the summer trails for winter use?” he asked. “We’ve spent all the time getting Sagamore ready. It’s set up for fat tire riding, but it’s for snowshoers, too.”

Also discussed Tuesday was the formation of a National Mountain Bike Patrol group for the regular trail system, future night rides and a potential name change for the CCSRA — to Cuyuna Lakes State Recreation Area.

“From a regional branding perspective you want consistency,” said Aaron Hautala of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew. “It’s a small tweak and still has to go through a few details.”

The main trail system didn’t officially — and completely — open until June, in conjunction with the first Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival, and closed Nov. 3. According to Weber, the trail drew 15,552 riders in its inaugural year.

Weber said the biggest day on the trails was June 11 — during the mountain bike festival — with 564 riders. August was the biggest month, with 3,314 riders. The average was about 3,000 riders per month. The daily average was 68 during the week and 194 on weekends.

“We’re expecting more people in 2012,” Weber said. “We’ll be getting open early. It could be in April. It could be an early season with a lot of people out there.”

While there aren’t plans to add to the main trail system, additional features are in the works, too.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to add more trail. But we’ll probably have more man-made additions,” said Nicholis Statz, CLMTBC dirt boss. “Banked corners ... Things that make us really stand out.”

BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at brian.peterson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/brian_speterson. For his blogs, go to www. brainerddispatch.com.

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