November 30, 2017

Fatbiking in the Upper Peninsula – Marquette is the hidden gem that makes winter cycling a real adventure.

Sarah Lukas heads to the upper peninsula of Michigan to explore its desolate beauty in the middle of winter.


Where is Marquette, Michigan? In the UP? What’s the UP? They are Yoopers? What the hell is a Yooper? I’d like to say that I have been lucky enough to have grown up traveling to Marquette year-round since I was about 10 years old, so when I get the opportunity to talk to people about Marquette, these questions inevitably come up.

The UP is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It seems to be an overlooked piece of Michigan by many. The UP is rugged and isolated, with hardwood forests blanketing 90% of its land. Founded and developed because of its rich deposits of iron ore, Marquette has over 83 miles of shoreline along Lake Superior, a county population of 67,077, and a city population of 21,335, making it the largest city in the UP. And Yoopers? Well, they are the people of the UP who consider themselves very different than their lower half, and have even threatened to secede from Lower Michigan.

So what drew us to go explore this far-north, Midwest town, in the middle of winter? A few things: singletrack, community, snow, and beer. Marquette prides itself in the relationship it maintains with the riders of the county, and has built trails specifically for fat biking. With an average of 200 to 350 inches of snowfall per year, fat biking here easily rivals the opportunities in Canada and Alaska. What you see among Marquette’s mountain bikers is so welcoming: a commitment to supporting each other, and a recognition that everyone is better off if they contribute to the collective mountain bike and social experience.

Gearing up for a couple days of fat bike riding, mix in some low elevation backcountry skiing, and don’t forget ice fishing, can be incredibly challenging. Most of the time, you just pack layers upon layers and hope for the best. I had a full range of GORE BIKE WEAR® which made packing for this trip a breeze. With the temperatures ranging from about 5 degrees Fahrenheit to mid 20s, I wanted to be prepared and not be miserable. When you get cold and wet, trying to enjoy the beauty of winter and what we are doing is a challenge.

The first day was the wettest, as Marquette was getting a huge lake effect snowstorm blowing in. Over 12” of snow fell during our ride. While I was layered in my Power Lady 2.0 Thermo Bibtights+, Element Lady WINDSTOPPER® Active Shell Pants, Power Lady 2.0 Thermo Jersey with Base Layer WINDSTOPPER®, what really made my day awesome was my Power Trail Lady GORE-TEX®Active Jacket. Without this jacket, I would have been screwed. The snow was incredibly wet, and falling quicker than the snow groomers could keep up with. I was able to stay dry with my layers underneath, cut the wind, and really have a great day out. Did I mention my hands were plenty warm with the Universal GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Insulated Gloves? No need to take them off to access my phone, either. Perfect for these conditions.

Aside from riding, we got to explore Marquette’s backcountry by snowmobile and skis. Most of the layers remained, but my Power Trail Lady GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Jacket was amazing. Since we were going a little faster on the trails this time around, the WINDSTOPPER® fabrics insulated me quite nicely.

After getting to explore miles of fat bike specific singletrack, consuming plenty of beer and bloody marys, along with laughing and admiring the locals, our intent is to head back in summer to experience the many miles of technical mountain bike trail available. Overall, our starting point for exploring Marquette by bike was an invitation to come play in the winter, which we successfully accomplished.

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