Written by: Ken Blakey-Shell
Race promoter: Fun Promotions
When: June 8th, 2013
Where: Cannonsburg Ski Area
A couple weeks ago a friend and riding partner named James Gomez tossed out the idea of riding the 8 Hours of Cannonsburg to Scott Quiring and I. The race is held at the Cannonsburg Ski Area by Grand Rapids and has been used for a variety of mountain bike races for the last 20 years. In recent years there have been a lot of improvements made to the trail system. A fun, serpentine 5+ mile loop has been established that winds up and down various sides of the ski hill. In general, there are not any long sustained climbs and short rises are broken up but there still is a fair amount of vertical with about 100’ of climbing per mile.
When James had tossed out the idea, Scott and I had just gotten in some amazing rides on our fat bikes and had been talking a lot on the rides about how fast our fatties felt especially downhill! Thus, the idea was born to duel against our skinny rubbered brethren. What better way to test the speed of a fatty than an 8 hour race? You might be able to dig deep and churn out a fast lap or two but over 8 hours you should be able to really see how a fat bike stacks up against other mountain bikes. The fatty challenge came to fruition on June 8th, 2013.
James, Scott and I signed up for the “4” man team event under the banner of Quiring Cycles. Scott rode his Ti Quiring fatty with an Alfine 8 drivetrain, clown shoe front rim and Marge Lite rear shod in Larry tires. James rode a Ti Salsa with a 2×10 setup, Marge Lites and Husker Du tires. I rode my stainless steel Quiring as 1×9 with Holy Rolling Darryl rims shod in a Big Fat Larry up front and a Nate on the rear. Not exactly specialized summer singletrack fat bike setups, but it had worked up to this point on our local trails. Why mess with a good thing? As we warmed up we got a lot of funny looks and a few questions like “Are you really going to ride fat bikes in the race? Is the whole team on them? Aren’t they slow?”
Instead of running the singletrack loop the normal direction, the promoter decided to run the course the opposite direction. This turned out to be a big advantage for the fat bikes because there were not always established, grooved in lines for some of the corners. With the fat tires that made no difference and we were able to ride whatever lines made sense for the course and obstacles we needed to thread between.
Scott lined up first for our team and put the HAMMER down. He got off the start in about 5th position but shortly after reaching the top of the ski hill he had worked himself into the lead and was able to let the fat tires do their work on the downhills. He ended the first lap with 2nd place nowhere in sight and he handed off riding duties to me followed by James. Each time one of us came in, we gushed about how much fun we were having ripping the downhills. Based on our splits up some of the climbs, we weren’t climbing faster than the other bikes but we just killed it on the downhills.
As the trail got more grooved, the skinny bikes started going faster and the second place team put on a push to close the gap to us which after 6 hours was about 17 minutes. Team Quiring Cycles was up for the challenge though and kept turning out lap times around 25 minutes. We consistently held the gap steady to run down the clock. In the end, we completed 19 laps which was one up on second place. Fatties win!
A big thanks goes out to Jack Kunnen of Jack Kunnen Photography who generously provided the pictures for this report. Jack has been a part of the Michigan MTB race scene for a lot of years and keeps supporting people having fun on two wheels.