Written by: Dan Spengler
The Maah Daah Hey trail is that kind of new and untested condition. A hundred miles of single track that skirts Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota, the MDH has been our dream destination. The trail is a point-to-point ride in mostly desert-like conditions with no available support. Riding it requires planning. Tales of a little rain turning the trail into an unridable swamp made the fat bike the “obvious” choice. When a race appeared on the radar this August, we knew there’d be the support, transportation and and available water that’s needed to check this one off the list. 100 miles of Maah Daah Hey in a day. A stellar accomplishment on any bike. Yet to be executed on a Fat Bike.
I made 62 miles of trail, fixing 2 headset related mechanicals, a flat tire, and losing a crown on my tooth (during an especially rocky descent) before getting pulled at checkpoint “Evergreen.” My friends Dan and Pat made it 82 miles on their “normal bikes” before getting the hook. Andy got smart and reached the 50 mile checkpoint and piled into an air conditioned van looking for other riders who’s day had ended. At this checkpoint, it was myself and two of the many caring and curious volunteers that made this race so unique. They had more than they could have bargained for during this event. They had to convince some riders not to go on while said riders laid on the desert floor cramping and delirious. They thought we were nuts. At the time, we were.
After a 20 minute “nap” in one of the volunteers support vehicle, I drove with them looking for other riders. You can’t make a racer quit a race, but you could see the ones that needed some coaxing, which at this point was everyone. I want to restate how well these volunteers did their job on this race. Markings on the trail weren’t perfect. “Detours” took valuable time. The stations seemed too far apart for belief sometimes and emergency water seemed to vanish. But the volunteers made this race, and at the risk of sounding unmanly, I got emotional toward the end seeing a green volunteer shirt knowing I was seeing safety.
Finally, with all the riders accounted for, we packed up the bikes and took the support shuttle to the finish line in Medora for our 3 dollar campground shower. If you are thinking of doing this race, invest in the 3 dollar shower. Seriously. I was offered beer, pizza, water and hugs at the finish line, but made a bee-line to the 3 dollar shower. I kept thinking of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction gushing over his 5 dollar milkshake. 3 dollar shower. I’m telling you.
We left feeling a little defeated, but with brains working overtime on how to beat this trail with a fat bike next year. Can’t come soon enough. Tips? Bring water, lots. Bring tubes, more than 1. Bring real food, make it salty. Swim in all river crossings. All of them. And last but not least, you can’t go wrong by bringing the fatty.