Heading off to fat bike nationals, I was pretty happy with my current set up and decisions. I had my Kenda Juggernaut pro 4.5 snow bike tires that did pretty well in loose snow. Most fat bike couses run on a circuit quickly break down with warmer temperatures in single track sections and this tire has proven a winner in this area. The local base depths of 60'' to 90'' had made me pretty comfortable riding the top tube and hitting loose snow lines with this set up and I was ready for a technical race. I had decided to for go cross nationals and head to fat bike nationals. Boy, had I misjudged the situation. Little did I know, I was heading to my first fat bike nationals...Cross Vegas style.....
Arriving at the course, I realized I was instantly going to have a huge disadvantage. There was no snow! The course director was one of the nicest directors I have met and was doing his best to keep the course in good condition. This included not allowing pre-riding till 4pm the night before the race. The course was actually very muddy when I arrived about 48 hours before the race. It seemed like it would be a perfect cross course....however, I was set up with rims that measure about 114mm. Translated into cross, I was riding a soggy or icy Vegas turf cross course. I would have benefited from a nice set of 33mm grifos, chicanes, or even file treads. This would be equivalent to the cut off of 96mm on the fat bike wheels when it came to tire width. Instead, I was riding 114mm limus tires.
The Kenda Juggernauts are amazing snow tires....however, on a turf race even with a dusting of snow or ice as occurred, this was not the correct set up for the race. Being a cross rider was all I needed to confirm this feeling. And that is exactly what happened....
The race took off with an extra lap added on due to the 15 minute lap time averages and a total race time estimate of 90 minutes for 19 miles. That is super fast for a snow bike race and a little slow for a long cyclocross lap. It was a very small field and seating didn't matter very much. Tire pressures were high across the field at about 7.5 psi or more. The first lap took off and the going was easy. There was no hole shot to the single track for at least .70 miles. However, the temperature was dropping and ice was starting to form on the common inside lines. Lucky for me, I was picking the outside lines and had no problem leaning the bike a bit with my super chubby and grippy tires. I had fought my way up to 4th position at 2 laps in but that's when the inevitable happened. The slow rolling tires and wheels got the better of me on the climbs and I started to slide back. The rest of the race was a time trial for me trying to catch the 5th place position however the gap widened and when all was said and done I had finished 6th. I thank the promoter, racers, sponsors for having this amazing opportunity presented to me again in 2017. However, I took away a couple of learning points. Fat bike races do not equal snow bike races. There is an amazing correlation to cross bike equipment and this should be respected and acknowledged. And.....I am still riding off into the snowy sunset:)
I was meaning snow....what were you thinking?
In all seriousness, I am going through a case of cyclocross withdrawal after watching riders at cyclocross nationals slide down a hill on their bottom. I miss my friends and family from Hartford, CT. and the cyclocross community However, Colorado has been blessed with some artic weather in the past few days and at least about 12 inches of snow. I have also been blessed by support from people in Kenda Tire, Green Mountain Sports, and Van Dessel with the ability to fat bike in the front range. Below is a picture of the Van Dessel's Primo Ballerino set up tubeless with Kenda Tires Juggernaut Pro. The largest width of gorilla tape was used to set up the wheels tubeless as well as the rim strip that Van Dessel supplied with the wheels. Take care when doing this in seriously cold weather since the pressure can change with rapid changes in air temperature ie from garage to house and vice versa. I almost lost my seal putting the bike in the -10F garage after the tires were set in the 65F bike shop.
Some of you may be wondering why on earth is going on with this fat bike rage and why are they so popular. I will show you in the next couple of pictures why a fat bike can make snow days so much fun.
Above is a picture of the prime example I am talking about. It has just snowed about 12 inches and there seems to be this amazing curtain of silence that has descending upon Lakewood. Cars are creeping along in snowy conditions and it is the middle of a normal work week. The trails are totally silent.
The picture above is on the green mountain trail system in Lakewood, CO. The Kenda Juggernaut Pro tires are doing an amazing job gripping the loose, unpacked snow with a psi of about 4.5. No ski traffic to be seen and a good two hours playing outdoors when the trails were too muddy to ride about 24 hours ago. Fresh tracks to be had almost everywhere in the front range at this point and I don't even have to jump in my car. I can literally just roll out my doorstep on the snow and start my ride during my extended lunch break and be back for my next phone meeting.