Don't have a fat bike? You can still race a fat bike
Team drafts and relays proliferate throughout the Midwest
With the increasing popularity of fat bikes - usually hard-tail mountain bikes with heavier steel frames but always with low-pressure balloon tires at least 3.5 inches wide - comes a plethora of fat bike-specific races, even race series.
The organizers of many of these events understand, however, that there just aren't enough fat bikes in circulation yet to result in large fields for races. To address that, they brilliantly offer team events and relays that only require one fat bike per two to four riders. And to shake things up further, a few events require teams to be formed at the race venue shortly before the start.
That adds an element of surprise to the competition as well as opportunities for people who don't own a fat bikes, don't know anyone who does own one but nevertheless want to try racing one.
For example, the website for the Team Snowbike Enduro in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, on January 26 describes this approach: "Teams can share a snow bike or ride their own. Teams are formed the day of the race or you can bring your own team. If you bring your own team, you may have to put a teammate into the draft for other teams to acquire in the rider draft. Riders that bring a snowbike sign up as team captains or be part of the rider pool. Team captains pick riders from the rider pool to form a team. Three people per team minimum. Captain's draft order determined by pre-race derby."
If that sounds complicated, know that the Team Snowbike Enduro is at it's essence a straight-forward, three-hour race. The team with the most laps wins.
Teams at the Sweaty Yeti Bike Race in Levis, Wisconsin, on March 3 can also be formed via a same-day draft. "Team captains pick riders like in fifth-grade gym class."
Rather than conjure up horrific flashbacks to grade school, the organizers of the Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Bike and Sport Powder Keg on January 26 encourage the formation of two- and four-person teams at their two-hour lapped relay this way: "Multiple bikes per team are allowed, though we'd love to see fat bike owners recruit those without fat bikes to get them in on the fun."
For that event, teammates can be recruited through the Chippewa Off Road Bike Association online forum. Relays are a main feature of the January 20 BLBBRBK in the Afton Forest Preserve near DeKalb, Illinois (a three-man, three-hour fat bike relay race on a three-mile course, one bike per team); the February 16 Abominable Fat Bike Race in Tomahawk, Wisconsin (two-mile course, one- and two-hour races, solo, duo or team); and all four races in the Michigan Fat Bike Series have lap course and two-person team divisions.
Several race series, in which racers can accumulate points and compete for series awards, have taken shape, too. They include exciting new events, such as the Fat Bike Birkie on March 9.
So if you're curious about the fat bike racing scene, its doors are open to you. Don't wait to be drafted. Throw your helmet in the ring.