OCVA nurtures Oregon Coast’s fat biking industry
Take a stroll along one of the Coast’s long, sandy beaches and you’ll likely come across people walking and running, kids playing soccer, families flying kites, dogs fetching sticks, and surfers gearing up for the waves. A few years ago, you might have seen a few fat bikes (so named because of their 4-inch-wide tires) among other beach users. Today, you might see dozens. The burgeoning sport offers year-round economic opportunities for coastal towns with long, flat beaches, which serve as an open road for fat bikers.
Seeking a unique opportunity to help shape the culture of fat biking along the Coast while the sport is still in its infancy, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) is actively working with businesses, environmentalists, land management agencies and communities to establish the Coast as a fat biking destination that rivals any other.
Attracting visitors in all seasons
Like many recreationalists at the Coast, fat bikers are seeking exercise, adventure and scenic beauty. They’re also looking for places to eat and drink, spend the time, and entertain themselves after the sun goes down. And that’s good news for business owners such as Daniella and Elliott Crowder, owners of Bike Newport, a full-service bike shop that has been renting fat bikes since 2015.
“We’ve traveled around the U.S. and Mexico and there really is no better place to go fat biking than the Oregon Coast,” Daniella Crowder says. She points out things like consistent sand and slope, moderate climate, and miles and miles of open, public beaches that are off limits to cars. Plus. because they are generally flat, Oregon’s beaches can be less intimidating for newcomers compared to snow-covered or dirt trails, she says.
While fat bikes are heavier than traditional mountain bikes, their 4-inch-wide tires “float” on the sand, making it easier than one might think to clock some miles. Fat bike packing is becoming increasingly popular, as cyclists seeking to avoid traffic find solace on the beaches. Bike Newport offers guided trips ranging from 8 miles to 26 miles, which are open to beginners and experienced cyclists alike.
Crowder, who is also director of Oregon Rides & Events, has been working with OCVA to promote and organize two fat tire festivals, one in the spring and one in the fall, and develop a series of fat biking maps for the Coast.
The Cannon Beach Fat Bike Festival, April 20-22, 2018, includes a sunset beach ride and bonfire (Friday), a poker ride and after party at local pub (Saturday), and a beach clean up (Sunday). There will be fat bike demos and rentals and mechanics to answer questions about bike fitting and bike packing gear. The event is hosted by the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce and produced by Oregon Rides.
The Banana Belt Fat TireBike Festival, Aug. 3-4, 2018, will have many of the same ingredients as the Cannon Beach Fat Fire Festival—races, group rides, a bonfire, and food and drink—but the focus will be on helping people discover the myriad of fat biking trails along the South Coast. The event is hosted by the OCVA and produced by Oregon Rides.
As with many recreational activities, fat biking raises concerns among some environmentalists, who worry how the sport could impact natural resources such as tide pools and wildlife. Both events are working with local environmental groups and land management organizations to mitigate potential conflicts with other user groups and educate bikers about trail etiquette, including how and when to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.
In an attempt to help prevent user conflicts and keep people on designated trails, OCVA is producing a series of fat biking maps for the Coast, divided by region, which guide people to appropriate trails and provides some tips about what to expect.
“Similar to the Oregon Coast Trail, fat tire biking is a great way to connect the communities of the entire Coast around one core activity,” Dave Lacey, destination coordinator for Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA). “We’re trying to create a biking culture on the coast that’s both fun and respectful of the natural areas and local communities.”