After five years of studies and test rides we finally have a Fat Bike Season at SLSD in Oceana County. If you haven’t ridden there yet it’s pretty awesome but does have some hidden dangers that can be very treacherous. This is not by any means a complete list of the dangers, just the ones we have encountered so far. Standard legal disclaimer, riding mountain bikes is dangerous and everyone should ride at their own risk and within their physical and mental abilities.
It is important to note that the entirety of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes is not open to fat biking, just the area on this map which is pretty much everything to the north of where you will enter the dunes from the ramp. A recreation passport is required.
I have been fortunate enough to have been on all of the test rides that led up to the opening to the public, here are a couple of things you may encounter at Silver Lake that you may not run into on any other fat bike trail, or mountain bike trail for that matter.
You can’t necessarily see the entirety of the dune from the top, and ice or a cliff can be hidden over a small rise in the middle of the dune. I remember on one of our rides I was in the valley looking up at a rider who was at the top of a very tall dune and what he couldn’t see was the entire face of the dune was a sheet of ice for about 40 feet, luckily he didn’t descen, maybe he saw it maybe he didn’t but it would not have ended well had he descended at that spot.
The photo above just shows two of many issues with the descents. What happens out there in the winter with the wind, is that the downwind side of a dune will become sort of covered with soft sand that kind of blows across the surface of the frozen sand, so you’ll be riding along on perfectly frozen sand and just get mired in 6 inches of really soft, unrideable sand, and if that occurs when you’re doing 25 miles miles going down the dunes, you’re going over the bars.
Wait what… Quicksand!
Other than soft sand and glare ice in spots where you might not expect it the only other issue I’ve run into, and I’m not kidding you, is quicksand! I rode into what looked like a normal wet spot of sand down by the lake last year, got stuck, tried to walk out, and sunk in farther. I was able to back out, sort of use my bike as a cane, but when I first took two steps forward I was quickly up to my knees. This was late in the spring and what I surmise happened was water had settled on top of the frost layer and so the sand was just liquefied. So watch out for quicksand!