On a sunny bluebird Super bowl Sunday, 82 fat tire bikers eschewed the sportsball status quo to binge on bikes, bacon, and beer at the third-annual rendition of the Mountain State Fat Bike Champs race.
Held on the glorious and groomed trails of the White Grass XC Touring Center, the race featured all the competition, fun, and antics you’d expect from the fat biking crowd. Now that the slush has settled, it’s safe to say that the event was a resounding success.
According to event organizer Zach Adams of Appalachian Dirt, “I’d say it was the best yet. We had the most people, we had the best weather, and really, I think we had the best snow conditions.”
With morning temps hovering in the low 40s and the sun blazing in a clear, blue sky, some were worried that the course was going to be slow and slushy. But the previous night’s dip below freezing allowed the groomed trails to set up and compact, leading to stellar course conditions. “We really got lucky on the snow; it was really warm but the snow held firm, and it was a heck of a lot of fun,” Adams said.
A Massive Start
Everything about fat biking is big, and the race lived up to the heavy hype with a moto-style mass start that pitted all 82 riders against each other in a free-for-all to see who could break away before the course narrowed to the wooded ski trails. The congestion continued for a good portion of the first lap before the herd was thinned. By the second lap, the course was well-tracked and ready to roll.
The race covered 2.2 miles of lower-elevation White Grass trail, and featured two divisions: a five-lap XC, and the brutal 10-lap XXC. With afternoon highs reaching 50 degrees, the warm weather was superb for spectating, and a growing crowd cheered the racers on with cowbells and other accouterments.
Fat Is Where The Magic Is
While the race is a competitive event, Adams has a larger purpose in mind. Motivated by the fat biking scene exploding across the more snowy climes of the northern midwest, Adams goes through the heavy motions of putting on Fat Bike Champs to promote and grow the fat biking scene in Canaan Valley.
“Mountain State Fat Bike Champs is mostly an opportunity for folks to get out on groomed trail in the snow with a fat bike,” Adams said. “It’s one of only a few fat bike races around on the east coast; there’s not a lot of fat bike races that are on groomed trail. That’s really where the magic is, with fat bikes on groomed snow, so it’s about exposing people to that and raising awareness.”
For those who don’t roll fatties in the snow, preferable conditions are key to a good ride—and race. Heavy, wet, and slushy snow doesn’t allow the tires to grip. Conversely, fat bikes sink and slide in deep powdery snow. The solution: groomed trail.
“The point of grooming the snow is to get a compacted tread surface to ride on just like you do when you ski,” Adams said. “It totally transforms the riding surface when you’re on beautiful sounding, Velcro-feeling, blissful surface. It’s a feeling that you can’t really describe, but once you get it, you just have to keep getting it.”
Bacon, Beer, and Bikes
Fat bike racing is grueling, and racers need top-notch support to stay hydrated and stay the course. Fortunately for the competitors, Blackwater Bikes brought the party at the Springer Orchard Shelter, where they kept the racers fueled with bacon, beer, donuts, cookies, and some good ol’ West Virginia spring water. According to shop owner Rob Stull, “We had the easy job… which was making sure that at the end of the day, the racers didn’t really care what the results were, and that to us is a good race.”
The ‘comfort station’ at Springer featured loads of laughs, heckling, and that classic Canaan mountain bike vibe. Blackwater Bikes supplied the bacon, Mountain State Brewing Company supplied a seemingly endless amount of its Miner’s Daughter Oatmeal Stout, and White Grass supplied the spring water.
Hooked on Fat
Adams wants people to get hooked on fat biking. He’s fully committed to the mission and has been hosting group fat bike rides, started the website wvfat.com to raise the stoke, and is raising funds to purchase a trail groomer that can be used on single-track to make Canaan Valley a fat biking destination.
“I think we exposed some people and got ‘em hooked, not just with the race, but with the group ride from the day before,” Adams said. “My estimate is that we had twenty people out on the Thomas City Park Trails, and over the course of the weekend, we definitely exposed people to the prime conditions that get you hooked.”
Groomers cost around $7,000, but Adams is hoping to raise $10,000 to go towards the purchase of lights for night grooming, a winch kit for extraction when the groomer gets stuck, and other accessories to craft a quality riding experience. The stoke for fat biking was palpable throughout the weekend, and Adams raised nearly $2,500 from race proceeds, in-person donations, and donations to the groomer’s GoFundMe page.
Satiated from a resounding success, Adams is already looking forward to next year’s edition of the race with simple, realistic, and attainable hopes. “I’d like to see more people and equally good, if not better, weather,” he said. As for the groomer, Adams thinks he’ll have it ready to roll before the 2019 – 2020 winter season. “We’ll be able to regularly groom trails; we anticipate being able to keep regular trails open throughout the area.”
If you’re ready to get plumped up and try fat biking, rent a fat bike from Blackwater Bikes in Davis. Please keep in mind that Mountain State Fat Bike Champs is unique—White Grass does not allow fat biking on its trails at any other time. If the snow is down, head over to green flow trail at the Thomas City Park trails—which were built by Adams—for a purpose-built biking experience. Heck, if you’re lucky, you may just run into Adams when he’s out riding and packing the trails.
If you already know what fat biking is all about and love Canaan Valley, consider donating to the GoFundMe, or supporting the efforts in other ways. Get in touch with Adams: Two9er@gmail.com
Dylan Jones is publisher and editor-in-chief of Highland Outdoors. He did one lap around the course on a fat bike to shoot these photos, and his ass was sore. Kudos to the folks who crushed the race!
- Laura Hamm, 1:01:38
- Sara Petytz, 1:20:33
- Tammy Mongold, 1:23:28
- Zach Bittinger, 59:02
- Dirk Martin, 1:00:41
- Douglas Orischak, 1:01:35
Ashley Reefer was the only competitor in this division, and came out of the race during her third lap due to a mechanical.
- Chris Hays, 1:54:12
- Robert May, 1:58:58
- Andrew Orischak, 2:05:28