QUAD CITY ENCHANTED FAT BIKE STOMP – (QCEFBS)
Written By: Jake Ralfs & Aaron Mielke
It all started out as an idea over a few craft beers at Great River Brewery in Davenport, IA (as all great ideas do) one cool afternoon, post-fat bike ride with a few pals. The Mississippi River was at an all-time low from the drought conditions hampering the Midwest leaving the banks of the river exposed, creating a fat biker’s dreamland. The river banks consisted of everything Fat Bike loves to gobble up: exposed rooty drops, large boulders begging for attention, sandy shoreline and driftwood skinnies delicately set up by Mother Nature. Rock gardens, previously never seen above water, exposed themselves and all their technical line-creating glory. Inlets of water dared to be slogged through. Just miles upon miles of this stuff. It quickly became clear we were no longer seeking the nice and clean lines. Rather, the “how-can-I-try-to-break-myself-and-this-bike” lines attracted Fat Bike, challenging the rider to push the limit of his comfort zone and in turn, learning Fat Bike’s capabilities were, and always have been, beyond belief.
Where can’t we go? What can’t we do? And so the Stomp was born.
Let me take a few steps back – speaking of craft beers, if there is a place with a brewery-per-capita as high as it is in the Quad Cities, I’d love to hear about it. Since there is no other place as fitting as a brewery to begin and end a stomp, we meet before and after the stomps to plan, debrief, and rehydrate at one of the local favorites. On that cool Winter afternoon while decompressing at said brewery after a nice long stomp down the river banks, we decided the “Stomping Grounds” need be shared with the masses. Fat Bike was made for this type of terrain, and right here in the QCA we have been blessed with what is likely the most unique riding experience you will ever find – the dried up Mississippi River bed and its banks. So it was decided. We’d put on an event to share all of our fat bike goodness with our fat brethren.” The “I AM FAT Enduro” in Iowa City had just wrapped up, creating plenty of fat bike inspired momentum – momentum we felt could be built upon with our new found Stomping Grounds. We wanted to keep it a little less organized but still focus the event on the fat bike. What was born was a fat bike stomp for the ages: QC Style – have fun, no whining, with a few stops to indulge and laugh with good friends along the way. We hoped we could draw in 25-30 people. Little did we know our hopes were about to be crushed – in the best way imaginable.
The hype machine went to work. The QCEFBS (Quad City Enchanted Fat Bike Stomp) was blasted all over facebook and local club forums. The QCEFBS Epic Trailer video was created to add fuel to the fire that was growing ever out of control. All bets were off as the event became “Fattie Approved.” We had created a monster. The plan was simple: convene in the parking lot of Front Street Brewery, a local favorite that just happens to be right near the river. What wasn’t known is how huge the QCEFBS would be! As we started to see people trickle, then pour in, it became abundantly clear this fat bike stomp was going to be, dare I say, EPIC. Riders from all over Iowa – Davenport, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Keosauqua, Muscatine, Dubuque. Riders from all over Illinois – Rock Island, Peoria, Bloomington, and everywhere in between, showed up in droves. It was downright sure to be a good day.
Sunshine, 20 degrees at 9am – conditions couldn’t be better.
Some counted 55 or more riders at launch – about 35-40 fat bikes. Surly’s, Salsa’s, 907’s. Titanium, steel, aluminum. Fat bike don’t care what it’s made of. Saddle up, smile, and stomp. We took off right around 10am and began making our way down river. I lost count of the number of people I saw smiling and jovially remarking on the amazing terrain and the beautiful river landscape. Bald eagles lazily soared overhead to the sounds of laughter and fat bikes stomping the ground. With the help of the local mountain bike club FORC (Friends of Off Road Cycling), arrangements were made for a sag stop, half way to our destination. By 11:30am and 5 miles in, we stumbled upon a much needed bridge troll, equipped with two coolers full of PBR and local craft beer; a beer stop on the way to the beer stop, obviously. This is a fat bike stomp after all.
The ultimate plan was to end up at a hole-in-the-wall bar along the river, Dee’s Enchanted Inn, about 8 miles down river from our launch point. We had stomped here before, all along the river banks, and the Dee’s staff has always been a welcoming bunch. Dee, who dubbed us “crazy bikers”, couldn’t have been happier to have us all at her place when I called and told her to expect up to 50 people, all who are bound to be ready for cheap yellow beer and greasy burgers. I suppose when we arrived with over 70 bikes she was happy, even though we ate the bar full out of the $3 burger basket-special and drank them out of all canned beer in the 2-1/2 hours we were there. Dee and her staff made sure the bonfire was ablaze and the beautiful sunshine helped out immensely, rounding out the most perfect afternoon. Friends were made, stories (ahem, Yukon Pete) were told, and smile muscles got a good workout. All created because of Fat Bike. Awesome.
The journey back was hazy for some, rough for others, but fun for all. A few broken bones and mangled, muddied bikes later we all made it back to the brewery for pizza (compliments of FORC) and cold local micro brews for those that still had room in their bellies. As the sun disappeared and the parking lot started to clear, we knew the QCEFBS was a triumph of epic proportions – fat bikes and Mother Nature coming together to celebrate all things we have come to love and passionately share with each other. The Quad City Enchanted Fat Bike Stomp was a huge success that is most definitely happening again. For those that were there, see you again soon. For those that missed out, you won’t want to miss the next one.
Special thanks to FORC and the local breweries that helped make this happen.
Oh, and to Fattie Lumpkin and Yukon Pete… well, ‘nuff said.