Boy, fat bike racing is hard. Like, really hard.
I did my fourth Fat Bike race on Saturday (February 27), and it did not go well. I’d like to write a boss race report, but I can’t. If I did, it would look like this:
Race Report: Fat Bracebridge: February 27, 2016)
At the beginning of the race, I started pedalling. At the end, I stopped pedalling. In between, there was some climbing, a few descents, a bit of walking, some trees, a billion ruts, snow, lots of snot, ice encased pedals, and more snow.
I placed okay–mid pack in my category and overall–but throughout the day, I just didn’t feel proficient. There was a 2.5 km Time Trial race about 90 minutes prior to the official start, and it was utterly horrible. The trail conditions were pretty bad, but my riding was pretty badder. From my first pedal stroke, to my last gasp across the finish line, every second was a joke. I couldn’t find my line, I couldn’t find a rut, and I didn’t have any pace or momentum. I couldn’t even find my footing when I had to walk up the climbs, which was often. Ugh.
The conditions on the actual race course were much better, but I was still me, and I never really felt like I got in the groove.
It seems to me that a perfect storm of factors (see what I did there) have to converge to create the ideal fat bike course. I think that’s the case, but again, I’m really not sure. Saturday was only my fifth time on a fat bike, so honestly, I can’t be sure. However, I figured out this: snow plays a pretty big part in a winter fat bike race. They say the Inuit have a hundred words to describe snow. I’ve always understood the various types of snow based on experience gained making snow forts on my front lawn, but now I REALLY get it. Unfortunately, it just seems like the only snow I’ve encountered on a fat bike is the “whatthehellisthiscrapandhowdoIstayonmybike” kind. Damn.
Although I’m starting to think maybe that’s it. Riding a fat bike isn’t like riding a mountain bike, which is probably why it’s not called mountain bike riding. This seems kind of obvious to me now, but honestly, I just realized it. Riding a fat bike through the snow in the winter is different from riding a mountain bike on a dry trail in July.
Here’s what else I realized during Saturday’s race:
- I know absolutely nothing about the proper tire pressure. It’s a total mystery to me.
- My food choice–cold tortellini and leftover baked salmon–was bang on. I’m going to duplicate this every race. Filling, tasty, and wolf-downable while changing.
- I still don’t know what this sport is called. Is it a “Fat Biking” or “fatbiking”? Seriously, I have a bit of OCD, and I think there needs to be an industry standard.
- Fat Bike racing is hard. And so is fatbike racing.
Okay, so, racing a fat bike is hard, and after the race, I had a little pity party in my van. All alone. In my van. “Ooh I couldn’t stay on my bike”. “Wah wah, I kept falling”. “I’m a loser”. Boo friggin’ hoo.
And so, I started thinking about the process. I also called on the members of Team Colin.
Here’s what I learned since Saturday:
- First, I’m a moron. What right did I have to just get on a fat bike–a bike that looks, rides, weighs, and is built for totally different conditions from my mountain bike–and expect to just ride it–ON THE SNOW-like a champ?
- Second, I have a bit of a learning curve to experience. Although I’m not calling it a learning curve. I’m calling it a “Learning Climb” (hey, I just made that up). Put simply, I need more experience
- Third, I have to stop worrying where my front wheel is, and ride with my focus farther ahead of me. I don’ t know if I lack nerve, or if I’m just plain dumb, but this it tough for me. I get in a rut, bring my focus right in front of my front wheel, and then I slow down. After that, I can’t get going again because I’m still focused on my front wheel.
- Finally, I have to stop thinking about why I’m such a loser, because I’m not. When I think back to the race, each time I had to dismount, every other rider did too. When I was getting tossed from rut to rut (and creating new cuss words), they were too (although my cussing was way more creative).
After the race, one of the gurus from my bike shop, Andrew, sent the following message to me. Spoiler alert, it’s very zen, very cool, and holy cow, it is so damn accurate. He wrote:
“Occasionally, counter-intuitive as it may seem, feeling shitty is in itself the reward.
One does not develop technical skill by having great technical skill. Only through full awareness of lacking technical skill can one even sense the void that needs to be filled.
Sometimes the duress of a number strapped to the handlebar is the only thing that enables this sense within us; becoming cognizant of what we cannot do and what we wish to be able to do.”
And that is why he is a cycling guru.
I think I’ve got (a bit of) a better picture of fat biking now . The good news is that the picture is of me riding a bike–and nothing bad ever happens to me on a bike. So I’m going to ride–maybe it’ll be a fat bike, maybe it’ll be a fatbike.
My guru finished his message with the following:
“You will BOOM another day. You may even be surprised at how loudly. “
And so I will Andrew, and so I will.