Shortly after launching the #fattestdayride celebration, I started to think about what I should do to celebrate the Solstice. I thought that a pagan weekend of bike chicanery at Levis sounded like a good plan for what mi amigo, Erv Spanks reminded me is the third fat-bike holiday on the calendar. I somehow managed to remember this one and Global Fat-Bike Day. I had to ask Erv what the other one was….Fat Tuesday! (Duh!)
The fat-bike holiday that we’re talking about today is the Fattest Day Ride. Stolen from the Pagans and like many of the best ideas for events, is focused on getting out on the bike with the goal of having FUN! The Summer Solstice is the longest and “at the risk of sounding impolite” might just be considered in some circles, to be the fattest day of the year.
A summer fat-bike gathering isn’t something new. A group of fat-bikers in Flanders have been holding Summer fat-bike group rides for the last few years. Hans Synaeve sent me some pictures from their latest gathering and sparked my memories about how my amigos and I used to ride and camp on the day of the solstice. Most of those celebrations took place in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Solstice would fall on a random work/weekday. I’d talk my ride buddies into driving up to Wisconsin to ride at the John Muir Trails and then we’d go down to Whitewater Lake and get a group campsite where we’d party like Romans! The quiet hour would send us into our tents for a few hours of sleep and then we’d get up at the crack of dawn and after a greasy diner breakfast, drive into work. That’s been the crazy kind of shit that I’ve always loved to plan with ride friends.
The Pandemic has delayed most of what we’d all planned for this Spring, so why not kick off Summer with the best of what we can do together under these unique circumstances? We decided to spread the word on social media and try to create a virtual fat-bike group ride/hug! I sent out the fat-signal to a couple of close friends (and posted it on facebook)
My plan was to ride and camp at Levis Mound for the weekend. Use the chalet campground as a base camp for Friday night and then bikepack out to Goat Dance on Saturday night. I brought two bikes with me on the trip. My Fatback Corvus FLT (Ten Beers) and my #klunkedelic Asylum Cycles Hank (singlespeed). When I got to the trail center it was starting to rain. Levis is pretty sandy and can handle rain about as well as any trail can in the Summertime. There’s a sweet flowy loop that I like to ride at Levis. After the showers passed, I saddled up on Hank and blasted around the base of both Mounds. My singlespeed dance mix goes something like this, Lower Glen, Swamp Cut, YellowJacket, Secret Trail, (past) Goat Dance, by Buck Hill and then…Wolf Run, Lower Hermosa, Select Cut, Snodgrass. I rode without my Wahoo for the first time in a long while. There were a couple of times during my solo #fattestdayride Prologue that I was completely blissed out! Just a kid out on his bike without a care in the world. And the best part of the weekend was still yet to come.
My brother from another mother, Adam Blake drove up from Iowa City on Friday. He got in and we grilled some brats and chilled with come cats that he knew from Davenport that were also camped near the Chalet. We talked about how the rain might impact our ride plans around a sputtering fire while it occasionally spit rain. The weather forecast called for periods of showers on Saturday and we did get a couple hundredths of an inch of rain in the early AM. Adam and I decided to ride our fatties Saturday afternoon to soften our impact on the trails that were still just a bit wet and splattery.
Adam let me decide which route to take, so I bee-lined it out to the end of Yellow Jacket and up Buck Hill so we could hit Sidewinder! Adam had mentioned that he couldn’t wait to ride Sidewinder. We took the Hermosas back to Dead Turkey and then did the Select Cut & Snodgrass return to the Chalet. There were spots where Adam and I were ripping along the sandy banked trails and we’d round a corner and there’d be slick black dirt corner that would set us into a two-wheel drift where you best not even think of touching the brakes. Both of us hoot’n and scream’n along with lots of laughter and glee. There were times where Adam told me he had no idea how he didn’t run into me when we were both sideways, but we both made it through the ride with zero mishaps and huge grins!
After running a trail building day in Eau Claire, the one and only Dustin Marsh joined us on Saturday afternoon for the main feature of the #fattestdayride – The Overnight! We made some dinner and got started getting packed up for the top of the mound. With the weather deteriorating quickly into a fairly steady light rain, we decided that it’d be more prudent to camp up top, instead of out on Goat Dance. Dustin had brought a couple of bundles of dry firewood and we did our best to add that to our loads, but we came up just a little bit short. Dustin made another trip, to get the last of the wood, while Adam got the fire going and we set up our tents in steady light rain. It wasn’t long till the rain let up and we hung out and enjoyed the fire.
Dustin and Adam both ride Salsa Beargreases. Adam’s Bags are from Bedrock Bags and Dustin’s are made by Cedaero. My bags are primarily from Revelate Designs along with a blend of bags from Oveja Negra, Backcountry Stitchworks, Apidura, and Cedaero. Dustin and I hung out in Hennesey Hammock tents and Adam’s Nemo ground tent matches his bike.
We got up and made coffee and watched the sun burn off the blanket of fog that had developed overnight. We took our time and packed things up for the trip back to base camp. The trip down the mound was a total blast!
Sunday was also Father’s Day so Adam and Dustin had to skedaddle, which left me with the rest of the day to ride wherever I wanted. There’s a trail that’s been piquing my interest called Hartman Creek, so I set my sights on hitting that bit of happiness. I can’t remember if it was through GFBD or MTB Project that I’d discovered a trail system that I’d never ridden, but either way, I felt like that had to be remedied.
Hartman Creek was just what the doctor ordered! I’ve been riding mountain bikes in Wisconsin for over thirty years. Gnomes would say “I’ve been around”. I don’t know how these trails stayed off of my radar for so long! There are three color-coded loops stacked into a rolling wooded area that’s set back from the parking lot. From the lot, you access the singletrack via some grassy doubletrack. There were maps available at the trailhead and the signage was top notch. The trails are nice and flowy. They groom the trails during the winter, so the track is a little wider than tighter hand-built trail and the soil seemed to be pretty sandy. It made me appreciate The 3.8″ sneakers on Ten Beers. I think this would be a great destination for families with kids that are just getting into the sport. There’s a couple of nice Technical trail features on the Blue and Black Loops for more experienced riders. All of the man-made features have a bypass built into them. The trails are right next to the campground which should put Hartman Creek State Park on everyone’s bike-fun destination list.
I can’t think of a better first attempt at celebrating my first Fattest Day Ride! Great friends, sweet trails, and Bike Fun! (with a side order of gnomes) How was your Solstice Father’s Day Weekend?