Winter mountain biking in Minnesota: locations, conditions, equipment, group rides, events

 fat bike on a packed trail: excellentregular mountain bike on a trail with little snow: excellentregular mountain bike on a trail with moderate snow, not packed: difficultfat bike on a trail with deep snow, not packed: difficult

I attended Freewheel Bike‘s 2nd annual Winter Bike Expo ("the world headquarters of winter riding fanatics") on Saturday at their Midtown Bike Center.  (I blogged about the event on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog here, including my photo album).  While the event had offerings for bike commuters, the bulk of the action was aimed at mountain biking in winter, using fat bikes especially. QBP’s brands Surly and Salsa each had a big presence at the event, as both offer a number of fat bike models.  (They’re sold locally by Mike’s Bicycle Shop here in Northfield and Milltown Cycles in Faribault.)

I’m doing some consulting work on the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit & Festival coming up at the end of January in the West Yellowstone area, so I’m locked in on the trend. And the Expo gave me a picture of how much enthusiasm there is here in Minnesota for fat biking.

I don’t (yet) own a fat bike. Last winter I didn’t need one, since we had so little snow. My hardtail 29’er worked fine just about everywhere I went. But with a solid 8 inches from our weekend snowstorm, things are looking up for a decent winter.  And more and more of Minnesota’s mountain bike parks and other trails allow mountain bikes.

So let’s use the discussion thread attached to this blog post to discuss winter biking locations, conditions, equipment, group rides, and events.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Posted to Milltown Cycles’ Facebook Wall on Sunday:

    We will have our first true Fat Tuesday ride in Northfield this week. We’ll meet at Blue Monday coffee shop at 7pm, and will ride fatbikes on snowmobile trails! We hope you can join us.

    I think it was noted somewhere that front lights (white) and rear reflectors (red) are required on your bike when riding on snowmobile trails.

    December 11, 2012
  2. Jerry Bilek said:

    one of my favorite winter riding spots is the MN river bottoms. it’s a great place to explore.

    December 11, 2012
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    I agree, Jerry. Last year, with the crappy winter (little snow + freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, etc), most of the other Metro MTB trails were closed much of the time. The MN River Bottoms trails, however, are generally always open. The variety of terrain options (flat and hilly, sandy, easy and difficult obstacles, etc) also makes it a great place for beginners through advanced riders.

    December 11, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:


    Tonight’s fat bike ride included L to R: Mark Witt, Curtis Ness, Ben Witt, and Jerry Bilek.

    December 11, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    I rode Lebanon Hills yesterday with Bill Nelson, he on his fat bike, me on my skinny tire 29’er.

    Conditions could not be any more perfect. Packed snow, great traction.

    And if you have trouble with the X or XX loops in summer, they are generally much easier right now, as the snow is packed around the rocks.

    December 24, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Conditions at Lebanon Hills continue to be perfect for mountain biking, both for fat bikes and regular mountain bikes. I rode all the loops last Friday and Sunday.

    January 2, 2013

Comments are closed.