Efforts by local cyclists are proving that Burns Lake can be a mountain biking mecca all-year round, even amidst the snow.
Leading the pack of winter riding are fat tire bikes, which are much like mountain bikes except for their extra wide, 4-5 inch tires.
Though suspected as a passing fad by other cyclists, fat tire bikes are in fact the only kind that can handle snowy trails as their wide tires are inflated to a low pressure of 8 or 9 pounds per square inch (psi), giving them even more grip on the terrain.
Regular mountain bike tires, inflated to around 30 psi, tend to sink quickly into the snow.
Five years ago in Burns Lake there were “maybe three people who rode [fat bikes] throughout the year. But as more people got bikes and more people tried it they got hooked right away,” Susan Russell and Dave Sandsmark, owners of Burnt Bikes told Lakes District News.
Riders are drawn to fat tire bikes by the better balance they offer, and people with knee injuries find the activity is easier on their bodies and something they can do throughout the winter, Russell explained.
They estimate that last year at this time there were 15-20 fat tire bikers in the area and this year there are almost 25.
In previous years it was unpredictable when riders could hit the winter trails because if the snow wasn’t packed down it was too soft for the fat tire wheels.
But this season is different, and in December the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association (BLMBA) bought a groomer and Rokon motorbike with the support of grants from the Chinook Community Forest and Bulkley Valley Credit Union.
With the new equipment BLMBA staff can groom single track trails on difficult and steep terrain so that the snow is sufficiently compacted.
As a result, winter rides have become more regular. Since December, riders have met on Sunday afternoons at Kager Lake, along with a women’s group ride on Thursdays.
“You can count on more people coming out this year because of the trail conditions. Last year nobody would’ve showed up,” Sandsmark said.
The eight riders who came out on a very snowy Jan. 6 rode 7 kilometres on single track trails around Kager Lake.
The growing popularity is evident in bike sales as well, with Burnt Bikes having sold four fat tire bicycles so far this season, the same number it sold over all of last year’s winter season.
Fat tire bikes are slightly more expensive than their thinner cousins, and an entry level unit goes for around $1,000, Sandsmark said.
The shop also offers fat tire bike rentals and kid and adult demo bikes to try on group rides.