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Snow bikes, officially called fat bikes, riding near Lake Superior, just north of Marquette. Image by Aaron Peterson, from Cold Rolled video feature. (Good to know: you don't have to ride this extreme if you don't want to.)
We like to call them snow bikes, but the bike-making industry has decided to call them fat bikes. Either way, the fun is the same: rolling across the snow on tires that are about 4 inches wide and softened to about six pounds of squishy air pressure. Little surprise this idea took hold among the snow devotees in Marquette, Michigan.
And also little surprise, our favorite Yooper, videographer, photographer and writer and also snow devotee, Aaron Peterson, was quick to hop on both a snow bike and the story. He rounded up a crew and filmed one of snow-biking’s first video features and is unveiling it in 3- to 5-minute shorties, one a week for five weeks. He called it Cold Rolled.
We checked in with Aaron Peterson to get a little more backstory.
Let’s start with the basics. When did the idea first start percolating?
I started about a year ago. Fat bikes were growing here around Marquette and my friend Evan Simula, who manages The Sports Rack, where they rent the bikes, got me on a bike. It was really fun. Riding over snow is totally alien. It has a really weird, random kind of fun about it.
And you couldn’t help but shoot some images.
Yeah. Took some pics. Then got some video equipment. And meanwhile I totally fell in love with riding on snow. Plus last winter was an epic snow year in Marquette, like 215 inches or something. At times we had like four feet of snow on the ground. Just a great winter.
So, like mountain biking, the best snow-biking involves groomed trails. Tell us about that.
One of the lead trail builders here, Mike Brunet, and some of his pals developed a groomer, built their own groomer and raised funds to buy a heavy duty work snowmobile to pull it. One of the amazing things is they were able to achieve that sense of trail flow that mountain bikers love. There are berms and zigzags and nice downhill grades. Just a ton of fun.
When did the video idea turn from shorty to not-so-shorty?
We went out and filmed a couple of days. My video equipment was brand new and I didn’t really know what I was doing with it. I was literally fumbling with buttons out there. But I was having a ball shooting it. Then I realized we needed more of a crew, so I reached out to some other people. I saw an NMU student’s work on Facebook and called him, Ryan Stephens. I called a guy near Iron Mountain, Dan Englund, who built his own helicopter drone for shooting aerial video. It has like a four- or five-foot rotor-blade diameter. He’s our MacGyver.
What about the riders?
We reached out to some amazing athletes too. Evan rode for us. He really became the driving force. He lives and breathes it. And he brought in some other riders.
So we thought we’d just shoot a little shredding video. Five minutes of bike porn in the snow kind of thing. And we posted it on the web. Well, that little trailer got 8,000 hits.
Pretty good for Yoopers riding bikes in snow.
Yeah. So then we started talking to Mike Brunet about snow riding back in the 80s. He and his friends were BMX riders and they wanted to figure out how to ride BMX all year round, so they built snow tracks in their backyards. They’d work on it every night, shoveling and spraying it down and then riding into the wee hours, just kids. Bike tires didn’t have studs back then, so they made their own, probably with some kind of screws.
So it started to morph from bike porn into a story.
Right. I’m about finding the story. And lightbulbs just started going off in my mind. I saw the story forming. I asked Mike if he had any old photos. He said, “No, but I have all this old home video.” And he had like three hours of it.
So you see these guys on bikes practicing back and front flips and landing in the snowbank. Well, these guys grew up. Now they are in their 30s and 40s and they run a trail network now and they have a trail budget and they built a trail groomer. And the video has become a little coming of age story. It just happened to work out. Some miracles, happy accidents, dumb luck.
See the schedule of the video unveiling in the press release below.
The action documentary “Cold Rolled” will be released in five weekly installments beginning Saturday, Dec. 7 (Global Fatbike Day).
Total length of the film is approximately 20 minutes, however Cold Rolled has been developed as a series of 3-5 minute webisode chapters that will be released weekly on Saturdays through December and early January. The full film will be available after all chapters have been released.
Cold Rolled will explore the history of winter cycling in the adventure-loving Lake Superior harbor town of Marquette, Michigan. Marquette’s Noquemanon Trails Network, the NTN, has developed special snow grooming equipment and techniques in order to launch the NTN Snow Bike Route—a 15-mile winter singletrack trail for fatbikes featuring flowy terrain, bermed turns and fast descents. The NTN’s SBR is believed to be the first of its kind—but more importantly, it’s really fun.
Scenes from the film include dynamic time lapse nature cinematography, fast paced trail riding, exploratory adventure riding along the frozen shore of the world’s largest lake--as well as vintage footage of ice and snow BMX tracks.
The film is sponsored by TravelMarquetteMichigan.com and Salsa Cycles and will be available for free via the Clear & Cold Cinema Vimeo pages listed below.
These approximately 4-minute long chapters will be live by 8 a.m. EST on the following dates:
Saturday, Dec. 7—Chapter 1: Intro/Dead River Ride
Saturday, Dec. 14—Chapter 2: A Thirty-Year Winter
Saturday, Dec. 21—Chapter 3: The Lake Superior Session
Saturday, Dec. 28—Chapter 4: MindSparks-Birth of the SBR
Saturday, Jan. 4—Chapter 5: The SBR Shred Session
Saturday, Jan. 11—Full film available