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Finding Minnesota: Fat Bikes Are Gaining Traction

CROSBY, Minn. (WCCO) -- Our January warm-up has not been good for cross-country skiers and snowshoe hikers.

But more people are now getting into a different type of outdoor exercise -- fat biking -- which doesn't need much snow at all.

And the DNR is providing more trails on which to do it this winter.

Few people had ever seen anything like the fat bike just 10 years ago. It has tires wide enough to keep the rider upright through snow and sand, yet it's light enough to pedal without too much effort.

Fat bikes can be found all over the state now, with annual races in several communities.

Fat Bikes -- Finding Minnesota
(credit: CBS)

Former hospital administrator John Schaubach, 67, started riding three years ago.

"Being active outdoors motivates me to be fit and healthy more than going to a gym," Schaubach said. "I really have a hard time being in a gym. This is what I like, the outdoors."

The fat bike was reportedly invented by riders in Alaska and New Mexico. But Minnesota, with its designers of bikes and gear, has taken it to a new level.

Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike crew, has noticed.

"Companies that are right there in Bloomington -- Surly, Salsa, 45NRTH -- they're going with it," Hautala said. "And it's going into a whole new world we've never seen before. And people who've never been on a bike, they're getting on a fat bike."

Schaubach says looks can be pleasantly deceiving when hopping on a fat bike.

"When people get on this bike and ride it, they're completely amazed at how easy it is to pedal compared to what it looks like," he said.

The DNR expanded the number of fat biking trails in state parks and recreation areas this winter -- now up to 78 miles. There are 20 miles of trails at the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, a trail system rated "world class" by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

Fat Bikes -- Finding Minnesota
(credit: CBS)

Denise Sundquist of Brainerd saw how much her husband, Matt, enjoyed the trails of Cuyuna, and got a bike of her own.

"If I had one day left on Earth, this is where I'd be," Denise Sundquist said. "It's a great way to meet new people. It's very social."

Matt says he rides his fat bike year-round.

"It's not just a winter bike. I ride it in the summertime as well," Matt Sundquist said.

But for those whose biking season used to end after the leaves fell, the fat bike is making several more months of riding possible.

"I couldn't be personally more happy because it's getting more people cycling, which I think is what it's all about," Hautala said.

Fat bikes can cost $2,000 or more, but there's a St. Paul company, Framed, that offers more affordable versions.

Cuyuna will host the fourth-annual Whiteout Race on Feb. 7. Click here for more information.


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