During the cold winter months, avid mountain bikers have had little choice but to take an indoor cycling class or spend hours on a trainer — options that just aren’t as appealing as being outdoors.
But with the proliferation of groomed ski trails and better bike ingenuity, mountain bikers are clipping into their pedals and taking to Utah’s snow-covered trails, sharing them with those who cross-country ski, snowshoe or walk.
“More and more people are becoming aware of what you can do on bikes,” said Greg Steele, owner of Beehive Bicycles in Salt Lake City.
He said riding on the snow-covered trails is more manageable with the addition of disc brakes and the increasing popularity of the fat-tired Pugsley bikes.
Now, with the coming of spring, more bikers are expected to take advantage of the hard-packed trails as they satisfy the urge to ride.
“Especially in the Park City area, we are seeing more and more bikers out there. There is definitely a buzz,” said Eric LaPerle, manager at White Pine Touring and a frequent snowrider. White Pine Touring currently has two Pugsleys to rent, and LaPerle is thinking about adding more to keep up with demand.
“There are a lot of avid riders around here, and they want to ride as much as they can year-round,” he said.
With so many groomed trails, it is possible to continue riding through the winter. That’s particularly true during mild winters, when there is a below-average snowfall.
Those smooth trails are one of the reasons Jim Kupferschmidt was out riding the Round Valley’s trail system, near Morgan, recently.
“It is a great workout,” said the mountain-bike racer. “The more bike-specific training you can do, the better.”
Trail etiquette remains the same in the winter as the summer, so if trails are muddy and soft, stay off them to preserve the integrity of the dirt below the snow.
“It’s best to go on a cold day when it’s well below freezing,” Steele said.
Added LaPerle, “It’s a lot easier to get out there and ride when the ground is firm and smooth.”
If you plan to go snowriding, invest in some winter riding apparel — warm shoes are a must. But your bike needs no additional winterizing. Tires that are 2.4 inches in width will handle the snow, Steele said. Tires 3 inches or wider are even better.
Before heading out on the trails, make sure the area allows bikes. Mill Creek Canyon does not allow bikes on its groomed trail going up the ride, but riders who are brave enough to tackle some steeps in the snow can ride the pipeline. The road in East Canyon going to Big Mountain is open to bikers as is the Mirror Lake Highway in the Uinta Mountains.
Closer to Salt Lake City, one of the most popular areas for bikers is the Round Valley trail system, which boasts 25 kilometers of groomed trails that are maintained by Mountain Trails Foundation. While bikes are welcome on the trails, foundation executive director, Charlie Sturgis, worries about the ruts the bikes can cause in soft snow.
“A lot of ruts can be hard for amateur and recreational skiers to manage,” Sturgis said. “We don’t want to see them in the classic ski lanes.
As always, bikers should watch their speed.
“I tell everyone to slow down and enjoy it,” Sturgis said. “It can get congested in some areas, and it all comes down to courtesy with everyone.”