Fat biking is hot—an odd thing to say referring to an activity that requires snow and cold temperatures. Maybe we should say fat biking is cool; no matter the term it’s hard to ignore the rise in popularity of this winter cycling craze. Hot, cool, or fun, it’s Day Two of our five days of winter in Algoma (read about our first day skiing Searchmont here), and checking out the fat biking scene around Sault Ste. Marie is on the agenda.
We had the pleasure of exploring the area’s mountain biking offerings this past summer with the crew from Vélorution Bikes & Skis; it seemed like the thing to do was pick up where we left off.
“Any fat biking in the area?”
“Any fat biking in the area?”
The question is met with bewildered facial expressions from our friends at Vélorution. In retrospect, it was a silly question—kinda like asking if it snows in Algoma? Of course, it does and of course, there is.
“There is the Hiawatha Highlands, there are trails on Whitefish Island, Fort Creek is just down the road, and you can always ride the Hub Trail.”
“When do you want to ride, now?”
From past experience, I know it doesn’t take too much arm twisting to get these guys out for a ride, but this might be a record, made even more impressive considering it's -26°C outside.
Due to the cold temperatures, we decided to start off local. Ten minutes along the road and we hop on to the Hub Trail, the 25-km jewel of non-motorized recreation that circles around Sault Ste. Marie. In the winter, the Hub Trail and fat biking seem to be a match made in heaven, in fact, the trail is the backbone of Fat Mondays, an evening social group fat bike ride that uses the Hub Trail to explore the city.
Next, we drop into Fort Creek and follow the paths of snowshoers and walkers (aka single track) beneath snow-laden trees and through open meadows. It’s amazing what the right gear and an elevated heart rate can do for dealing with the deep freeze—the only signs of the cold are the smiles frozen on our faces.
Back at the shop, a cup of Vélorution’s famous coffee in hand, we plan out our next move. We would love to check out the trail grooming efforts at Crimson Ridge, but maybe later. We opt to combine trail time with some urban sightseeing and head for the waterfront and Whitefish Island.
I believe one of the attractive factors of fat biking is its ability to turn everyday spots into an adventure. Riding on Whitefish Island is fairly easy. You won’t find any ups or downs here but what you will find are views of the St. Marys River and its rapids, the International Bridge above, and the Sault Ste. Marie Locks. The Hub Trail is right there and just a few minutes down the trail you have the must-visit Bushplane Museum.
A side benefit of a downtown Sault Ste. Marie urban fat bike adventure is the ample opportunity to get off the bike, grab a bite to eat, a hot drink or, as in our case, visit the cycle-friendly brewers at OutSpoken Brewing.
It might be the short winter day, or maybe it’s the late lunch, the -26°C temperature outside, or the comfort of a warm bar stool—most likely all of the above—but with daylight fading, we come to the realization that we can’t do it all in one day. There are still the trails at Hiawatha Highlands, the groomed trails at Crimson Ridge, and plenty more of the Hub Trail to explore. The fact that we can’t do it all in one day is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s good—it shows that the fat biking scene around Sault Ste. Marie is hot, I mean cool... ah, you know what I mean.
What’s next on our Algoma winter adventure itinerary? Hint, hint, it involves wax and glide, stay tuned.
Notes From The Road
Whatever your winter accommodations needs are—be it a hotel or a backcountry lodge—Algoma has you covered. For our visit, we set up a home base at the Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre. The super-comfortable room was no surprise given the Quattro reputation but it’s the amenities the hotel provides, like a complimentary breakfast that is served early so we can hit the trails, a spa, pool, and gym to work out the day's kinks, access to WiFi and a staff that can help you execute your plans or point you towards new experiences, that made our stay so much more enjoyable.
There is a restaurant at Quattro, but it was under renovation during our stay. Not a problem, there are numerous dining options within walking distance of the hotel. For us dinner was a short walk away to Casey’s Grill and Bar where the food is delicious, the atmosphere is friendly, and there is always a special.