The new Six Rivers New England Mountain Bike Association chapter and the Merrymeeting Wheelers have teamed up to provide a monthly fat bike ride on local trails. (Photo: Lawrence Kovacs)

BRUNSWICK — A growing group of locals are hoping to stay fit on fat bikes this winter, even as the offroad trails they traverse are covered with snow and ice.

 

Fat bikes are made for off-road terrain, designed with over-sized tires to handle unstable trails and snow.

Increasing trail options and growing interest in local biking options has led to many in the cycling community getting off the road and into the woods all year. Lee Huston, the former owner of Center Street Cycles in downtown Brunswick, noticed the shift while he owned the shop.

“Right now, everybody is riding in the woods,” he said.

One motivator for riding off-road is a growing fear of being struck by a distracted driver, Huston said.

That fear may be well-founded. According to a recent report in the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Department of Public Safety estimates that distracted driving is a factor in up to 40 percent of the 35,000 annual crashes last year.

“A lot of people are afraid to ride on the road,” Huston said, “but people are also a lot more nature-oriented … .”

Huston credits groups like the Merrymeeting Wheelers and the New England Mountain Bike Association Six Rivers chapter for keeping the community active.

“Every week we’ve had a fat bike ride with 20 to 25 people,” said Six Rivers President Lawrence Kovacs. “It’s brought people out in freezing temperatures. We’ve had night rides. It’s really exploded in recent years.”

The winter method of riding didn’t take off until the early 2000s, but Kovacs said it was a welcomed addition for riders who wanted to stay outside. In spite of the wide tires that give the bikes their name, fat bikes aren’t heavy and are much safer to ride in the winter than a traditional mountain bike, he said.

The Six Rivers group represents Topsham, Bath, Brunswick, Edgecomb and West Bath.

Riding options may soon expand in the Mid Coast. Huston praised Brunswick’s recreation department for holding meetings over the last four years with those interested in creating more trail space for riding and other activities. There are plans in the works for a connected trail at the former Naval Air Station.

Four miles of introductory level trails opened off Neptune Road at the former base in October, an effort by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and the Six Rivers New England Mountain Bike Association.

On Feb. 10 during the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend Outing, Six Rivers will host a fat bike ride and benefit on new trails at Neptune Woods on Brunswick Landing. The event starts at 11 a.m. and concludes at Flight Deck Brewing. The event supports the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Visit nemba.org/chapters/six-rivers for more information.

Meanwhile, the club will continue to work on the Topsham trails for mountain bike riding after the winter season.

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