We are stoked to have this story from Bike Black Ribbon Tester, David Krueger called The Fat Bike Birkie: All My Winter Riding Leads to This! Read on!
I had heard about it. I had wanted to try it out. So this year I signed up for the Fat Bike Birkie. I also had a plan. I would race as much as I could all winter and then (hopefully) I would be in some sort of shape for my last (and best!) race of the winter.
“Hugh Jass: I like this kind of training”
More or less, I raced every other weekend since early December: five races in the Hugh Jass Race Series and both Winter Color Festivals at Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin. I was doing well and and having a great time; then I got the flu in late February. I was very disappointed that I had to miss the Team SnowBike Enduro at Silver Lake, Wisconsin. I was sick as a dog and the Birkie was less than two weeks away…
“The elevation profile does not lie”
“Note: these rollers are huge”
Fortunately, my immune system worked and I (more or less) recovered. Illness or not, I was going to ride. It is the Birkie after all! So my wife and I jumped in the car and we headed to up to Cable to meet up with friends.
“All paths lead to the Birkie”
The day before the race was a beautiful day. The Chico (20k) and The Big Fat (47k) courses were open to pre-ride for a few hours Friday. As soon as we began our test-run on The Chico we found the trails were perfectly groomed and, of course, fast. The snow was hard and grippy. There were no issues with traction – you could put all the power down you wanted. I was carving almost any line I desired. It was spectacular. I’ve never had so much fun figuring out my tire pressure on a pre-ride. Of course, the shots of Fireball I was offered halfway through the ride probably didn’t hurt either.
“Having a blast riding The Chico course (Photo Tony Cortez)”
Late Friday the rumor of snow turned into snow… Not a lot of snow, but a few inches was to fall. Enough snow that we knew Saturday’s course conditions would not be the same as Friday’s. Regardless of the change in conditions, I was happy with my setup. There is only so much preparation one can do; it was time to relax. The snow was starting to fall and we had finished our course recon and post-ride beer, so it was time to head back to camp for dinner and an early night.
“We stop for a post-ride beer, then the snow starts”
And then it was race day! My fellow racers and I were up early so that we could eat a good breakfast and get to the staging area to find a nice place to drop our bikes. It had indeed snowed a few inches overnight. There had also been just a bit of freezing rain – just enough to make the snow crunchy. I think the light freezing rain helped. It solidified the snow just a bit more than it would have been otherwise.
“Chef whipping up some sausage and potatoes”
As we rolled into Cable, there was a beautiful sight: fat-bikes as far as the eye could see (over one thousand racers had registered for the weekend). I could immediately tell this race was a different from all the other races I’ve done this winter; everyone had their game-faces on. Don’t get me wrong, everyone looked happy and glad to be there, but you could also see most knew this course would not be a lazy weekend ride.
“The early bird gets the good staging”
“A couple of folks showed up for the race”
“I’m a bit giddy”
The race was spectacular. It was 28 degrees with almost no wind at start time. It began with a lead-out out of downtown Cable to get everyone settled and up to speed before we formally hit the Birkie trails. As soon as we hit the trail, I verified conditions were a bit different from the day before. It was perfectly groomed, but the several inches of snow overnight had turned the hard corduroy into something a bit softer. Everyone learned very quickly that cornering and steep climbs loosened up the grooming. An inch or two of loose snow and ruts quickly began to appear, which made for squirrelly descents and cornering. Fortunately, everyone gave each other adequate room to maneuver, and I only witnessed one minor incident.
As the field sorted itself out the conditions became less of an issue as you could freely choose your line. From then on, it was just a matter of pushing as hard as I could, while making sure I could go the distance. That mostly consisted of hammering up the hills and trying to conserve a bit of energy on the very fast downhills. A little over two hours and eight minutes later I finished in 88th position! I was (and still am) ecstatic over the race. All the winter riding and racing proved to have been great preparation for the Birkie. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had on a fat-bike: a tremendous course, and with great friends. All of us were in agreement that there was not a second of disappointment the entire weekend.
“As close as I will ever get to the podium”
The Birkie is worth the all the training. You need to ride these trails. They will blow your mind. My recommendation is to gather up your friends, train hard, and do the Birkie. Even if you are not a racer, ride the Birkie just to do it. You will have a blast; I sure did. All the leg-burning climbing is something I won’t forget soon; nor will you forget all the high-speed downhills. I’ll be back next year. Watch out Will Ross, I’m gunning for you!
“Will Ross: a great guy and ridiculously faster than me”