Trail Conditions for Calgarians

PB Forum :: All Mountain, Enduro & Cross-Country
Trail Conditions for Calgarians
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Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 16:19 Quote
Pull the trigger RMR. I treated myself to a fat bike last winter and was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it and how you really don't need to acquire much, if any, additional gear to enjoy it.

A friendly reminder from both West Bragg's website and parking lot sign...

"It is requested that only fat biking (tires greater than 3.7 inches), hiking and snowshoeing are conducted when these trails are snow covered or soft and easily damaged."

You will see several people with studded 2.X" tires all winter but you also feel the ruts they produce at times.

While the rule may seem excessive and/or exclusive for a malleable and seasonal trail, it is the written request of those that volunteer their time to build and maintain them.

Have fun out there and don't forget to donate!

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 16:38 Quote

That's usually been the plan, but snow in mid-October?! I have my limits!

hussler, beerdo;

Thank you for the feedback.

Sounds like 2.8" would be too limiting. I'd forgotten about tire size restrictions. I'm not keen on sinking into snow or mud, so I wouldn't ride in soft conditions, but I also don't want to be that jerk who interprets the rules for himself.

I've been "fat curious" for a few years and have hit almost every demo event in that time (particular thanks to Bow Cycle, Rebound Cycle, and Ridley's!). My experience has been:

• I'm very XC when fat biking. Soft snow is a chore, unpredictable crowns make me mad, and crashing every few minutes just isn't my thing.
• Frames that accommodate very fat tires often interfered with my calves and always had a wider stance than I prefer.
• 4.5" tires (Bontrager Gnarwhal, studded) added modest control and flotation, but were incredibly slow rolling. Would prefer to avoid this, if doing so would not be too limiting. Maybe narrower on the rear and wider front?
• 3.8" tires (Dillinger 4, studded) rolled like summer tires at the Nordic Centre and West Bragg in nicely packed conditions. Fat biking would be great if it could be like that most of the time.

How limiting in days and trail selection is are ~3.8" - 4" tires? i.e. How much of the time is a heavily lugged, 4.5" tire significantly advantageous, given that I'd be content to ride the most popular trails on soft days? And what are your thoughts on running said monster truck tire on the front with a racier tire on the rear?

Thank you!

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 16:47 Quote
If that's your usage case and if you're ok with riding almost all groomed trails, a 3.8 would be just fine. Its the non groomed stuff that you need 5" tires.

If width is a factor, then a narrower fat bike that fits max 4" tires could be a good choice. Like a Beargrease, or SuziQ. Way narrower q factor.

5" front and 4" rear? Yeah that works too! I ran a bike like that to save some rotating weight a couple of seasons ago.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 16:59 Quote
Yeah, I think that's my scene for fat biking. I had fun on some non-groomed trails, but they were heavily trafficked, so as good as groomed. Soft descents can be fun, I just don't have the patience to walk or spin through soft snow to get there.

A couple demos of the Beargrease in great conditions at the Nordic Centre were what made me think I'm a winter XC nerd. Geometry was a lot better than I expected, given how conservative it is. It was almost like being on a cross-country race bike in the summer without all those insufferable rocks and roots.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 17:11 Quote
Don't know your conditions, but in my area(Vernon, B.C.) conditions can change drastically day to day.
I wouldn't be on less than 4.5" tires, as you will be limited by conditions too much.
With fat biking, you just have to get over the fact that you aren't going to be ripping around like on dirt. It's just a way to get some get some exercise & still earn a beer with the boys afterward.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 17:20 Quote

Thank you for the reply. Your experience may be universal, for all I know. For now, I'm posing the question here, rather than in a more general forum, because the conditions we experience on highly trafficked trails in the front ranges of Chinook country may be weird enough to create a unique set of requirements.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 18:42 Quote
I ride 4.6" studded cake eaters, but only because I'm gear limited (beater Moose fatbike with 100mm wheels, anything smaller would be impossible to get the bead to seat, and then they'd look like those hella-flush guys in the car scene). All the guys I ride with run 4" studded cake eaters and they do fine. I'd say that 85-90% of the time I'm not traction limited, its usually a technique issue (e.g. bumping off the edges of the narrow packed line while climbing) or I run out of legs (e.g. deep snow with few tracks climbing the husky road). The guys with the 4" tires definitely have a lower effort edge over me when just bombing the packed trails, but I'll usually high-mark when they run out of traction on the climbs. We've ridden a lot of the trails in WBC and off moose mountain as long as there is enough traffic to get up to the trails or enough fall line to ignore the snow depth, including moose packers (earlier in the season), race of spades, 7-27, a bunch of the husky trails, snakes and bobcat (but not as a loop unless earlier in the season, usually just a down and back up lap), prairie view and down jewel. As for the downhills, I'd say that there is enough traction to make them a hoot - your technique has to change a bit, i.e. inside foot out to change your centre of mass, feathering the rear brake to slide the back end around, etc. Lastly, you'll want studs, the variation in conditions in the area west of Calgary can make for some frozen surprises in spots. Studs won't make you invincible, but will give you those precious extra seconds to recover when you hit a surprise melt-freeze section on the trail. Lastly, pushing becomes a fact of life in spots, whether that's snow conditions (too much, or light and fluffy with no bottom) or crappy trail conditions (lots of foot traffic postholing instead of a snowshoe line, or everyone else spun out on a Merlin corner and now the trail is all sugary from guys pushing).

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 18:45 Quote
At the risk of being impertinent it also a bit depends on your (ahem) physique. I ride 4.5 front and Dillinger 4 on a beargrease and most of the time it's fine. If I'm struggling then so are most people. Whilst I'm not the racing snake I once was I'm still not going to pretend to be a lineman anytime soon.

I like the extra grip the bigger front tire gives. Going tubeless will make the biggest difference to how xc it feels as most fat bike tubes could be used as a life saving ring in a pinch.

You are inevitably going to end up taking the bike for a walk at least once.

If you are happy riding the main trails repeatedly you'll be fine I'm sure anytime other than just after a big snowfall. I get a bit bored of the same snowy owl loops etc by the end of winter. It's still outside in fresh air mind.

The worst conditions I find are spring where parts will be sheet ice but other parts are isothermal snow with no traction.

Conditions: CNC has a lot less snow. Still some roots and rocks in the odd place.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 at 20:35 Quote
leftypumpkin, sweaman2;

Thank you for the replies.

I do a lot of trail running and hiking in the winter, also used to XC ski and was pretty good at winter 4x racing, when that was a thing. Just not familiar with how to optimize a fat bike set-up.

Physique has transitioned from time trialist / climber in the racing days to time trialist / rouleur, but I still do all right. My patience, however, has taken a turn for the worse and things like carrying a bike up Prairie Mountain for the descent or breaking trail at walking pace seem unappealing, even it it limits my trail choices.

Sounds like a low-fat rear tire and slightly chunkier front may be the way to go.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 at 7:21 Quote
Fat biking is not alot of fun unless the trail is groomed. Otherwise it's like riding an endless skinny with alot of hiking.
Even when groomed Trail choice is key, many summer trails are not great for fattys, as steep climbs end up being slippery hike a bikes. Side hills become death traps.
Fattys are slow and heavy, don't expect the ride to have much flow unless the trail allows it.
I groom about 20km of trail and very little is on actual trails. The area I use allows me to lay out the trail to have gentle climbs and wide turns and long descents. This and putting an e kit on my fatty has brought the fun factor up to a level 8 from a 4 out of 10.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 at 14:11 Quote
It depends a lot on the winter. The snowy winters you will be wanting the 4.5 tires often. The drier winters you would be better served on something with some smaller tires.

Personally i feel like the plus tires and the 3.X tires are a lot more limiting in what you can ride and when you can ride it. I’ve been on several rides where guys on the smaller tires were struggling and leaving ruts while the guys on the 4.5-5 tires were having a good time.

Personally i went 4.5 with studs so I have a bike that will work in the widest range of conditions. Yeah, when things are hard packed it’s overkill, but I think it’s better then having a winter bike that I can’t ride as often because conditions are too soft.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 at 14:30 Quote
Can't deny the versatility of a 4.5"+ set-up. I'd be all for it except it seemed like a tipping point occurred between 3.8" and 4.5" (all 120 TPI casings), with the fatter rear tires exhibiting shear collapse (like a dragster tire during launch), while the narrower tires didn't. I believe this is why the efficiency of the narrower rear tires was comparable to summer tires, while the wider rear were so much slower.

Of course, nothing is slower than sinking in, walking, or crashing, and the fatter tires are better at avoiding these things. Still, I don't know if I can give up on a tire that can be summer-fast, despite the limitations, in favour of a tire that can never be fast, but with fewer limitations.

Thank you for providing these points to consider!

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 at 14:43 Quote
RMR, you're also going to be looking at a lifetime of PSI evolution. An accurate pressure gauge is the most important accessory you can buy for a fatbike if youre looking for more performance.

Posted: Oct 24, 2020 at 14:50 Quote
Yes, aware of this from my summer set-up. I have separate gauges for my road bike and my mountain bike, such that my usual pressures are nearly full-scale on both. I would expect to get a third, 10 psi max gauge for a fat bike.

Posted: Oct 25, 2020 at 12:14 Quote
I've been doing the Fatbike thing for 10 years now and what I've learned over the years is tire pressure is the number one thing that will affect your ride more that the tire size. I rode for years on 3.8'' as they were the only option and for all but fresh snow breaking trail or a track that has had 1 or 2 people go down it you don't need the 4.8''. I do run the 4.8'' surly Bud and Lou combo now and with the right pressure traction isn't the issue, it's my fitness.
As someone less mentioned that you can't really ride the same kind of trails in the winter as in the summer, I really don't ride out in the mountains in the winter as the conditions seem to fluctuate a lot, I mostly ride in Fishcreek as most of the stuff is in the valley and it stays colder during the day and since there isn't any crazy big hills the trails suit fatbiking better.

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