By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
BAY ST. GEORGE — Fat Bike Day has taken place on the first Saturday in December since 2012, and this year it fell on Dec. 4. The day invites fat bike enthusiasts to celebrate by taking a ride on their fat bike.
The fat bike is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires that allow it to ride on soft, unstable terrain such as snow, which is beneficial in Newfoundland and Labrador where winter can last up to six months of the year.
Nigel Pike with the Bay St. George Mountain Bikers group said that riding on a fat bike isn’t the same as riding on a regular mountain bike.
“If you’re into biking, riding on a fat bike makes it year-round accessible. It is a little different. The way it feels, it’s closer to running than standard mountain biking is, but it’s definitely a lot of fun,” said Pike. “You can use the bike in the summertime, but it isn’t really the same. Thy have huge tires, they go a lot slower, and usually on a fat bike you don’t need a suspension because it usually isn’t necessary in the wintertime.”
Fat Bike Day originated in the United Kingdom, but has achieved a global following, and in the Bay St. George area it is gaining traction. Pike said the event, which has normally been held in Corner Brook, was enjoyed by many.
“Everyone came out here and we went for a big fat bike ride around some other trails in Stephenville, because there wasn’t really a lot of snow down at the time. We went up around the Dome and came back to where the bomb shelter is, where the trail starts,” said Pike. “We had a big tent set up. We had a little fire in a woodstove inside that, had a barbeque and sat around talking about bikes.”
The Bay St. George Mountain Bikers group has been in the region for the past three years and has amassed a following on their Facebook page of over 150 members, including about 10 members who volunteer with the group.
Pike said mountain biking is a great recreational activity to take part in, especially when in the midst of a global pandemic where so many restrictions are in place that people aren’t able to socialize or participate in things as they once could.
“I think it’s been great. You keep your distance when you mountain bike and during COVID, even when we’re trail building like we were doing all summer long, you just go grab a space where you’re in the same general area as someone, but not directly on top of each other,” said Pike.
There are currently two trails that are completed, and a third is nearing completion.
“Darren Hann – he is an instructor at the College of the North Atlantic and he did a lot of work on the new trail,” said Pike. “He got permission to use some of their machinery to build the trail, so we have this big, beautiful trail thanks to the college sponsorship that’s going to be done next year. We weren’t planning to have this new trail done for about two years, but thanks to this machinery it’s done a lot faster.”
Pike said the Bay St. George Kinsmen and the Town of Stephenville have been incredibly supportive of the mountain bike trail program, and next week they should be receiving the trail groomer they have on order, which they got from the Stephenville Recreation and Wellness Department which will be a great asset for the group.
“The whole point of the trail groomer is it will beat down the trail so you can go fat biking, you can go hiking, snow shoeing, whatever you want to use it for,” said Pike. “It’s going to open up a lot of terrain for us.”
Pike said there are so many ways to get involved with mountain biking. He is also involved in a team called the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation Cycle Team, which has about 60 members, with the majority of members being from Ontario.
“It’s a group of professional firefighters who each year meet in Ontario, and we cycle from Hamilton to Ottawa, it’s phenomenal. The whole point of it is to raise funds and awareness for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation,” said Pike. “Right now, I am the only Newfoundland member, and I am trying to get more Newfoundlanders to go.”
Pike said that overall he wants people to know that there is so much more to mountain biking than many realize.
“I think when people think of mountain biking, they think about going in the woods behind their house or somewhere with a quad trail, but there are actually standards and ways of doing mountain biking that are much more organized and enjoyable as opposed to just going for a ride on a quad trail.”