What off season? Fat bike race season in our neck of the woods start on January 20 with Fat Chance at Crystal Mountain. Here's how an odd little race became a winter-time landmark.
For our friends reading this outside of the Midwest, it may be a little hard to believe that fat biking is such a big thing. And it really is; our recent Christmas Ride saw nearly 80 riders show up, and this past weekend's NMMBA Annual Meeting for the local trail organization saw nearly 100 in total, and that was on a day that was discouragingly icy. Fat bike races are just as big, and their popularity comes in spite of the conditions, which are, suffice it to say, variable.
That was certainly the case at the first edition of the first fat bike race in northern Michigan. Fat Chance started way back in 2012; originally, it was going to be called the Inauguration Race, until it was pointed out to race organizers that the name would only make sense every four years. Instead, it was called Fat Chance and given a very 70s theme, which included a few riders wearing groovy clothes, wigs, and bell bottoms.
And more people would have gotten into the spirit, were it not for some incredibly tough conditions. On the morning of the race, a huge blizzard rolled off Lake Michigan, the shores of which are just a few miles away. The frigid wind bent over the ski resort and dumped snow all night and much of the morning, only tampering as the noon start time neared. Groomers put in lap after lap on the course to knock down the powder, but they were up against what racers would battle all day long; the cold. Temperatures sank as the storm subsided, with the the wind staying steady. Teh air temperature was 20 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel like -10. M-115, the main road to the resort, was shut down briefly, and the race was delayed to make sure everyone had time to hit registration before toeing the line.
The race was still fast, and thanks to the hard work of the groomers, went off with some of the best conditions ever. That race set the tone for a season that saw the next two races in the area see temperatures below 20, and well below zero with wind chill factored in.
In spite of the challenges, Fat Chance has remained the true start of fat bike season for most area riders. This year, the course will revert to that of its first edition, mixing in some wide skate lanes and tight singletrack over a 2.5 mile loop, with 90-minute and 45-minute criterium-style scoring. And these results with matter beyond January 20, too. Fat Chance is the first of four races in the Short's Brewing Fat Bike Series, which has seen some down-to-the-wire finishes over the past five years.
We made our first public appearance as up.bike last year at Fat Chance, and we're in again for 2019. You'll be able to check out the #AdventureHub before, during, and after the race, complete with all of our mounts and products. Feel free to use the hooks on the outside of the trailer to store your bike before the race at registration, and we'll even have a little something for the victors. For the second year, we'll be offering up some handmade, custom medals for everybody who hops on the podium!
Fat biking is a big deal around here, and we love being a part of events like this one. We'll see you Sunday, January 20 at Crystal Mountain for Fat Chance presented by Iron Fish Distillery.