Best fatbike ride ever! Saturday’s Northumberland Snumbler, race #4 in the 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series, was, by far, the most fun I’ve ever had on a fatbike. Ever.
Wait, the Frozen Beaver was 10 days ago, and the Snumbler was 3 days ago? Yup, two fatbike races in two consecutive weekends. Please don’t pinch me–if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake.
The Snumbler was another great gig presented by Substance Projects and Cycle Solutions. It was also at my favourite place to ride, Northumberland Forest.
Annnnnd, I got to spend the afternoon with Dan Marshall of Substance Projects (and Liz, and Sherry, and Jen, and Simon, and yes, his mom and dad), and Matt from Cycle Solutions, and a whole bunch of other cool racers (including Wally Ess, the winner of the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Giveaway Spectacular).
But wait, there’s more. It was especially awesome because of THE COURSE. The course was a beautiful piece of fatbike beauty. When preparing for the Snumbler, the God of Fatbiking bestowed upon Dan Marshall a special gift.
I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Hey, um, God of Fatbiking (picks kale chip out of his hair, you know because the dude has 4 kids), do you have a sec?
God of Fatbiking:
Sure thing Daniel. What’s uppeth (because the God of Fatbiking sort of talks like a Shakespearean character)
I’m having a fatbike race on Saturday, do you think you could help me out a bit?
God of Fatbiking:
Sayeth no more Daniel. I will bestow upon you the Gift of Legendary Fatbike Race Design…
Thanks. And hey, can you watch the kids for me next week…
And the rest is history. No, the God Of Fatbiking didn’t watch Dan’s kids, the God of Fatbiking gave Dan the Gift of Legendary Fatbike Race Design. It was sent to him from Fatbike Heaven, carried on the wings of a Fatbike Angel.
Full disclosure, the aforementioned conversation did not happen. Also, there is no such thing as Fatbike Angels. However, Fatbike Heaven is totally real.
The course WAS Fatbike Heaven. I literally yelped throughout the race. “This is so awesome”, “Wohoo”, and “ILOVETHISCOURSE!”.
I was ready to race, and before the race even started, I was in a great mood. I spent the morning (and after the race) with my family at my mom’s place, which is just down the road. Also, Saturday marked my almost 1 year anniversary as a blogger, which is kind of cool. Finally, I was just really stoked to be spending it with my other family–you know, my bike family.
I was SO ready to race. My LEGS were ready to race. My BIKE was ready to race–okay, I had to borrow a bike, but my borrowed bike was ready to race. My HEART was ready to race.
And I was late for the race.
What? Since I was at my mom’s I had a relaxing morning sleeping in, and then chatting a bit–which is rare because I usually wake up at about 6AM on race day and scurry around my house until I leave.
I made it to the forest with just 30 minutes before the race. I was almost frantic: I forgot pedals for my loaner bike and had to find a set to borrow; I had to register; I had to find my dickie and my helmet liner; I had to stretch my booties over my shoes; I had to choose my gloves; I had to choose a second set of gloves; I had to (unsuccessfully) try to mount my GPS on the handle bars; I had to chat with everybody (because that’s just what I do); I had to jam some food in my belly (also what I do); I had to find my sunglasses; and I had to lock and unlock my car a dozen times because I kept forgetting all the things I needed (again, it’s just what I do).
I finished everything with about a minute to spare, and made it to the start line in a nick of time.
And I had to pee. Aw dang it.
And so, while actively peeing, I heard Dan outside the Port-A-Potty say “30 seconds!”. I was already standing, so I actually tried to loosen my shoulders and neck, and when I was finished, while putting on my gloves, I tried a few deep knee bends. I zipped my kit, put on my other gloves, and booked it out of the Port-A-Potty. Except that I forgot to wash my hands, so I took off my gloves, took off my other gloves, sanitized, re-gloved (and re-re-gloved), and I was off.
Yay, last place and I hadn’t even started.
Race Report: Northumberland Snumbler. Northumberland Forest (February 4, 2017)
The race started with a gentle stretch of double track, and, within a few hundred metres, it rose into a gentle, winding, climb through a planned forest. It levelled out onto a beautiful field of majestic pine trees lining the trail. It really was a beautiful sight, and it was immediately apparent that we were in for something special. The course conditions were perfect. Hard and granular, with enough fresh stuff to dig into.
I passed about 10 riders in the first few k, and seeded myself behind a small pack. The pace was a bit slow, but it gave me a second to breathe it all in. We were climbing a tight, switchbacked hill, and there were 3 or 4 levels of riders snaking their way up through the trees. The communal aspect of riding through a forest with a group of people was deeply moving, and I started to wonder what everyone else was chasing. Were they like me and just loved the race vibe, the chance to test their endurance while staying fit, and a chance to love the Team Colin Experience? Were they chasing a spot on the podium? Were they just starting out, and pushing themselves to the limits to see if they could make it? What else were they chasing?
Whatever our individual pursuits, we were all on the same trail at the same time, doing the same thing. Group boom!
With the pace, it even gave me a chance to talk to a rider in front or me, and we had a nice race chat.
Back to the Race Report. After a bit of less-than-perfect-but-still-awesome-singletrack, we hit the first of two climbs. It was a nasty short one that took me off my bike, and made me dig in for a hike. When that was done, we hit some more sweet, winding singletrack. Seriously, the course was truly a thing of beauty. A bit of double track, some more single track, a few trail crossings, and we hit the other hill. It was a long winding bugger that pushed me to my limits. I was behind Karen G., and she rode the whole damn thing. I didn’t want to let her get away, so I let her pace me, skootched forward in my seat, dug into it, and pedalled to the top. Killer.
The climbs were few though, and they weren’t really that tough, but all was forgotten in the last few k. The last bit of the Snumbler was absolutely spectacular. A bit of gentle double track, some twisty singletrack, and then Dan treated us to a long, winding, downhill that felt like it lead to the pearly gates of Fatbike Heaven (totally a real place). Seriously, when we were descending, I felt like I was about to sprout wings and swoop along the course. Long, winding, beautifully groomed, and fast.
“Woweee”. That’s not a description of what I felt, it’s what I actually screamed. True story.
And then the course got fun. No kidding. It actually got more funner. The funnerest.
A bit of wide singletrack led us to the final downhill that was like a roller coaster. I can’t commit to this fact, but I think I unclipped from my pedals, put my feet out and in front of me, and actually giggled.
Dan gave us a mach-speed stretch of doubletrack that led to the START/FINISH. OHMIGOD. I actually got out of my seat for a sprint. A fatbike sprint, 10k into a race. BOOM.
Around the START/FINISH for a second lap. Lather, rinse, smile,and repeat. I’m pretty sure I maintained most of my speed throughout the entire second lap. I finished strong and happy.
Booking it through the FINISH line, I think I yelled “I love you Dan Marshall” dismounted, and gave Dan a giant MTB/Fatbike hug.
Hugs all around!
Who hugs at a bike race? That would be me. I know it’s not very MTB, and I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of gnarly, but I’m a hugger. I hug the people I care about, and I really care about these people. The weekend before,at the Frozen Beaver, when I really didn’t want to race, these people elevated my spirit. At the Snumbler on Saturday, when I really wanted to race, they just made my day that much lighter. So I doled out the hugs.
Team Colin hug!
End of Race Report.
By the way I’m a big fat liar. The God of Fatbiking didn’t give Dan the Legendary Gift of Fatbike Race Design. It was all Dan. DAN marked the course. DAN lugged a tire around the course a week before the race to make sure it was awesome. DAN gave us all a great day.
Hey wait, Dan Marshall is also the God of Fatbiking… Who knew.
And can I talk about my bike for a second? Once again, I had to borrow a fatbike for the race. This time, Dan Marshall answered the call of the loser-who-sold-his-fatbike, and offered to let me ride his 2016 Salsa Beargrease XO1.
Wow. Whattabike. I’ve had some pretty sweet luck with fatbikes this year. Not only did I demo a Norco Ithaqua 6.1, and a Trek Farley 9.9 (both at the top of their respective game), but I also got to borrow a Norco Ithaqua 6.3, and now this. Which one do I like the best? The Salsa Beargrease. It was nimble. It was quick. It was a sherbet coloured fatbike dream. It stands alone (see what I did there, because there’s no stand).
It actually made me a better rider. I’ve always heard about Salsa’s legendary fatbike racing groove, and now I finally get it. The Beargrease cut through the trail like a bullet. I’ve never felt as fast as I did on the Beargrease. Maybe it was the course, maybe it was the forest. Maybe it was because we were in Fatbike Heaven (totally a real place). Heck, a bit of it may have even been my legs and lungs. I still don’t know, but I know this…
Best day of fatbiking ever.
I’m editing this blog a few days after my 45th birthday, and a few days (plus one) after my blog’s birthday, which is February 6. I spent my blog birthday with my other other family (my students) and then I booked it to Joyride 150 for Birthday Laps. Birthday Laps is when you ride your age in laps on the XC Trail. I did 50 laps this year. I turned 45, but 50 is a cooler number. Boom.
Yes, I rode 40k on Monday evening. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, it was awesome. No, I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the week without showing a filmstrip…
Look at the bike again. Here’s a sweet hero-shot leaning against the Cycle Solutions team support vehicle…
Here’s the factory spec sheet 2016 Salsa Beargrease X01. Dan dialed it in with an X9/XX drivetrain, Raceface Turbine crank, XT cassette on Hope hubs (with Rolling Darryl rims), a Truvativ bar/stem/post, and Dillinger 4 tires (which aren’t studded, they’re “semi-studded”–his words–with 120 on the front and 80 on the rear. He’s also got a Fabric seat, which I think are a new sponsor of the series. Damn comfortable seat.
Just look at it…
Hey, did I get this right? If you have anything to say about this race, the fatbiking, that sweet Salsa up there, or riding in general, fire a message or comment at me. If you want it to be public, comment at the bottom, and it you don’t, you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org