Fat Bike Birkie 2016: the “Big Fat” 47km race
What a difference a year makes!
My numbers speak my truth. Last year in my first Fat Bike event and my first Fat Bike Birkie 47K Race:
- My finish time was 4:05:50.15
- Age group category 20/25
- Overall finish was 447 out of 489
- Number of yard sales: I stopped counting at 20…OUCH!
Last year, I was borrowing a friends Surley Pugsley and he was running Endomorph tires (the original fat tires) on the bike. I had them at 8psi initially and had to stop multiple times to dial in a safe psi throughout. Even at a very low psi, I had a very difficult time getting up any hills because of the tread on the Endomorph tires. Additionally, this was my first Fat Bike event. I had been borrowing a friends Fat Bike since the fall of 2013 (yes, very generous friend, thank you John), but spent all of my time riding on the roads. So my bike handling skills and confidence descending in the snow were sub-optimal, to say the least.
This year, in my second Fat Bike Birkie 47K race on March 5th, my 3rd race in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series this season:
- My finish time was 2:58:51.87
- Age group category 12/16
- Overall finish 445/531
- Number of yard sales: zero! Oh yes!
This year I had Big Mama with me (my Surley Moonlander) with Surley Bud and Lou tires. I ran them at 4.5psi/5.0 psi. My set up on my Surley Moonlander (although heavy at 39 lbs) provided me with the right combination for traction on the course. My Garmin maxed out on 35 mph on a steep, long downhill and you could hear me screaming “Weeeeeeeeeeeee” the entire race. It was an absolute BLAASSSSTTTTTTT!
It was a festival of snow for the 1,000 participants with 2 countries and 14 states represented. There were even riders from England there. The towns of Cable, Seely and Hayward, Wisconsin USA came out to support the event with the start-finish venue right in downtown Cable. Additional support was provided by CAMBA and fat bike demo rides were made possible by Salsa, Trek and Specialized. On the Friday before the race, there was even a Fat Bike Criterium which included novice, kids and expert categories. It was a Fat Bike Carnival in Cable, Wisconsin USA.
The 47 K (29 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation gain) course was in perfect condition thanks to the recent 3 inch snowfall the night before and the hard work of the groomers. As far as the course, it was PERFECT! The descents were an absolute blast. Initially, it did take me some time to feel comfortable with my tires and set up, but once I had complete trust in my bike with the conditions, it was so effortless out there. My Bud-Lou tire combination at 4.5/5.0 psi gave me excellent control on the fast downhills and with cornering. Additionally, I was able to stay on my bike on the steep climbs. I felt like I had melted into the snow, being one with the snow. It was the best 3 hours I have spent on the bike in a long time.
Both the 47K “The Big Fat” and the 20K “The Chico” utilized the same course for the first 12K. The 47K had 6 aid stations on the course. In addition to the race, there was a post-race BBQ and after party at the Sawmill Saloon in Seeley with a silent auction,raffle and live music provided by Kicking Rocks.
You see, Fat winter biking is very special to me. From a very young age, I grew up snowmobiling with my family up in Cable, Hayward and Eagle River, Wisconsin. I have fond memories of these yearly vacations up north. There was a moment during this year’s race when I actually felt like I was snowmobiling through the Birkie course. It was a moment of transcendence for me.
Man, what a fun winter cycling season it has been. I can’t wait for next winter for the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, the Hugh Jass Race Series and all of the other Fat Bike winter events put on in the Midwest. FAT IS WHERE IT’S AT!
For all of you Fat Bikers out there, come here next winter and give some a try. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed! There were 9 races in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series this season, which included both singletrack and wide open trail options depending on your skill level. These races were held in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. This was the 4th year of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series.
Now to start thinking on how I can lighten up Big Mama for next year’s series…
“…deep beneath the cover of another perfect wonder
where it’s so white as snow…
running through the field where all of my tracks will be
concealed and there’s nowhere to go…”
-lyrics from Red Hot Chili Peppers “Snow (Hey Oh)”