Minnesota is known for a few things. We invented waterskis. Conversely, we also invented the snowmobile. It’s duck, duck, gray duck. The Mississippi River begins in Lake Itasca, in the NW part of the state. The Norway pine is our state tree and the walleye is our state fish. Some call us the North Star State. We go fishing all year–even on ice. And ride fat bikes across frozen lakes.
A friend sent me a text about fat bike races on Lake Minnetonka. I’m more of a roadie. I ride a single speed Masi Speciale Uno to work and a Masi Evoluzione when I want to log extra miles. My Masi Speciale CX has seen its share of trails usually reserved for mountain bikes. All three cut through snow. Riding ON TOP of snow, however, is foreign to me. A few friends regularly take fat bikes on adventures. Bike envy is strong with me.
I jumped at the chance to pedal fat bikes on the lake. The race was put on by a local brewery. Events kicked off at 12pm. At 2pm, riders would gather at the starting line, then pedal around Big Island and back for a total of 15 miles. We arrived at 12:30pm and headed to a tent at the starting line. Fat bikes were hanging from the side of the tent and a makeshift fat bike stable was behind the tent. This was the place. Once we exchanged an ID for a bike, we were free to pedal as we pleased for 15 minutes.
It’s a strange sensation to go from riding on pavement with 120 psi in your tubes to riding on snow with 5 psi. The ice below the snow made it even more fun. Pedaling too hard to start would spin the rear tire on the ice and kick up snow like a rooster tail. I did this many times. We biked across a bay and up a hill then back down the hill and across the bay.
Fat biking is fun. I’ll say that. If you want to pedal all year without worrying about deep snow, or want to frequent your favorite mountain bike trails in January, you need to buy a fat bike. They’ve got stellar utility as well, and are good for bikepacking or hunting.
When we turned in the bikes, we still had a good hour before the race started. To the brewery on shore we went! I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy drinking.
Riders grouped in the parking lot of the brewery to check in and get race bibs. Every few minutes, a group of a dozen riders would pedal the two blocks from the brewery to the lake to the starting line. We followed along with a group at 1:45 to make it to the start of the race. The start of the race was carnage. A couple hundred fat bike riders starting at the same time and place (on ice) is a recipe for wipe-outs. Two groups of riders went down in front of us. Nobody was hurt and they were laughing about it as they pedaled toward Big Island. One guy bent his hanger to shit and was unable to go on. He was 100 yards from the starting line. If you feel bad for him, remember that a brewery hosted the race.
Fat bike races are becoming more common around Minneapolis. Angry Catfish, my local bike show of choice, hosted the Catfish Cup in Woodbury. Photos from the race looked thrilling.
If you’ve got a chance, get out on a fat bike and have some fun.