I have to say that most of my life I really enjoyed the Winter season in Michigan. Well, except for when I was eight and had a paper route that had me trudging through snow up to my waist, while pulling a sled full of newspapers, in the dark, around the neighborhood….That sucked! I’ve always appreciated the activities that only those who live in the Northern portion of the country can experience and felt sorry for those who never see how beautiful and awesomely harsh Winter can be on any given day or hour. Over the years I avoided “hibernation” by staying active and embracing the change of season by cross country skiing, building snow forts and sledding with the kids at the local school hill. I enjoyed the break from the bike but in the same vein missed the bike, the ride and the social interaction with my cycling friends.
Three or four years ago I saw quite a few friends purchase fat bikes. I have to admit I was a critic of the Fat bike movement. I didn’t get it. Those big goofy tires looked like something from the Flintstones and those early years of the new sport seemed like I saw more people pushing their fat bike than actually riding them. I didn’t get it! ” I’ll never get one!” I said countless times to Marnie. We rented some fat bikes at Crystal mountain and rode for an hour. It was sloooow plowing through the powder. We laughed, we fell, we pushed our bikes…. ” what the hell? Everyone says “it’s the best!” I don’t get it, this is stupid!
Well, fast forward two years where Rick and I were presented an opportunity by our race sponsor partner, GRBC to work owning fat bikes into our sponsorship package. Rick sold me hard that we should do it and “I would love it!” What?!! I have 40 plus bikes in my house, I don’t need another one. Especially one that won’t be used, taking up space!!
Thankfully we / I took the offer! After a year of owning it, I now “get it” and truly love the winter fat biking experiences. You learn to go with the flow like we do with fluctuating Michigan winter conditions. I’ve had some amazing rides on the Lake Michigan beach, exploring area woods, groomed Marquette trails, Merrell Trail, The Burg…..and have been blown away by the uniqueness of those rides and the added adventure the fat bike provides.
Even though I’ve been loving the winter fat biking and the addition of another sport to keep me fit and sane through the Winter, I said “I would never do a fat bike race.” Well, that all changed as teammate Jeremy called me over Christmas vacation and asked if I’d want to race the Farmhand fat bike race at Cannonsburg, in the two person team category. I couldn’t say no! The day before the race we received over a quarter inch of rain with warm temps turning to ice as temps dropped that night. Race morning, on a two minute phone call with Jeremy we set our race strategy (win) and laughed at the amount of preparation needed for a winter race; clothing, freezing hydration, tire pressure, equipment….
Jeremy started the race taking the first leg. I sat under the Founders tent in my winter coat, boots and snow pants trying to stay warm and going crazy wondering what type of trail conditions Jeremy was experiencing. Not really knowing if he’d come past the team pits gassed or injured, I knew I had to be ready. Here came the solo leaders of the first lap, so I stripped off all my winter clothes, grabbed my bike and ran to the pit start expecting a handoff to take lap two. Jeremy came around the last corner, fish tailing the back end and riding like a crazy person on fire. He blew past me….so I put my winter gear back on, sat at the team tent and had numerous offers for Hot Damn, Founders beer and whiskey. I declined feeling racing on some ice would be enough of a buzz. The other teams are switching riders every lap so I start to wonder if they know something we didn’t? Lap two, here come the leaders! Strip off the winter gear, grab the bike, stand at the fence ready for a tag. Jeremy blows by, big grin, decent lead on second place. What the hell?? I put all my crap back on and start to wonder if Jeremy’s going to do the entire race by himself. I conspire a strategy with teammate Martin. “If Jeremy doesn’t stop next lap I’ll start drinking or better yet you knock him off his bike and I’ll actually get to race. ” Third lap in Jeremy has a good lead on the competition and actually makes the tag! I’m racing! The course was actually fun despite a few icy spots and a few crashes. In the end we held on and won the team category placing 1st out of 41 teams. Congrats to teammates Terry on 2nd place and Adam for 6th. Along with Jane who had a great race despite bald tires. Also a great race by Marnie who just missed the podium in her first fat bike race. She says she’ll never do another one. “Too scary”. never say never!!
Thanks to Teammate Rob too for capturing some great moments/ photos on the course!!
photos by Rob Meendering