I have noticed the huge explosion of Fat Bike races. Some casual, some competitive. It would be safe to say there are easily three times the races than last year. I too had planned on putting one on this winter but just did not get my ducks in a row in time to do it right. Next year for sure.
But Im going to tackle a few on the bike. This pic is from the biggest. The Fat Bike Birkie. Im the last guy in the pic above with a yellow helmet\white jacket. We were just leaving Telemarks grounds and heading out on the super fast and fun Birkie trail. This race was coined the “national championship” but since then USAC has took that over and put the race in Utah. I would bet good money that the Birkie will have more bikes than USAC’s race. Birkie had close to 500 last year.
Everyday now I see new races posted on Facebook and web sites. And some of these races are coming from long standing cross country ski clubs. On their sacred skate ski trails. Offering a one time only bike race on some well kept ski tail is quite an attraction. At least it is to me. And Im glad to see this progression. A chance to hit these machine groomed trails for a day is what makes me drive hundreds of miles to do so.
Dont get me wrong, riding a groomed 3 foot wide trail thru the woods is awesome and always will be but blasting thru the woods on a 20 yard wide highway with a few hundred others is a thrill in itself. And its the forward thinking cross country ski organisations that will take the lead in this. Like the Birkie Foundation.
Many smaller clubs need to realize this is now past a fad and is a real thing and if they want to cash in need to look at putting on a race. Some of these clubs now see that running the fat tires does not destroy a trail. At best a touch up is all thats needed. I noticed in Hayward a few skaters left just as we got back. After talking to them they said the trail was still very ski-able and that they have seen much worse. And that was with near 500 bikes. In the back seat then will be the grassroots races with trail “snowshoed” in when you can race a machine groomed course almost every weekend in Jan\Feb. In time, like the summer MTB stuff, all these races will form into a bigger series. Hanging on to the bigger events and discarding the small ones. That type of selection will take a few years. And not saying the grassroots stuff isn’t fun. It is. Where else can you get a “beer lap”?
The Iola club has now jumped on the bandwagon and is putting on a race. Awesome ski trails there will make some awesome bike race trails too. However these guys do have a head start in the bike dept having put on a MTB race in summer for years. So they understand how to utilize their trail system and bring in a few extra bucks for the club. Many other trail systems will see this and join in.
Ive been on a fat bike since pretty much the only one available was the Surly Pug. Maybe 2008 or so. And I am amazed on how fast this entire genre is taking off. I compare it to the MTB explosion of the early 80’s but I was not in cycling then to notice back then but its got to be kinda the same.
I guess this is one time I can say “I remember when… way before fatbikes were even invented”. I guess at my age I can say that about a lot of things. I remember life before cell phones, fax machines and internet.
Holy crap Im old.