84. Albion Fatbike Festival

Borrowed Tires, One Stud Too Many, and a Man Made of Lego

So awesome.

Gotta wear plaid

When is the best time to change your tires before a race?

I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s at 10:30 the night before.

Nonetheless, there I was in a frigid garage, trying to keep my heart rate down so that I could sleep restfully, craning over my wheels and wreaking bloody havoc on my back (because I can ride for hours and hours, but there are certain positions that make my back scream, and leaning over things is pretty much the worst), attempting to swap my tires for a set I borrowed from my guy Dan Marshall.

It only took an hour or so, but with a bit of ice anticipated on the course, the studded tires were going to put my mind at ease.  What did I think of riding with studded tires?  I’ll let you know about my loaner rubber a bit later.

It’s been a crazy winter at Team Colin HQ, so the 2018 Albion Fatbike Festival, on Saturday, January 12, was my first fatbike race of the season.  Actually, it was only my second fatbike RIDE of the season (and really only the third or fourth time riding my new-to-me Cannondale FatCaad 2.  Without snow in the city, and basking in some pretty warm weather (well, until now that is), I’ve spent more time on the very bald 30 millimetre tires of my CX bike lately.  Can you blame me?  It’s gorgeous.team-colin-blog.jpgI don’t think there are two more disparate tires than a 30 mm. file tread tire and a 4.5 fatbike behemoth–which is 117mm, so the ride on my fatbike was, um, very very very different, and the race was awesome.




Not only did I get to quell my Fatbike Wants (I know, you get them too), but with perfect weather and sublime conditions, the race was a good reminder of exactly what fatbiking should be.  Also, since it was presented by Substance Projects, and sponsored by Cannondale, The Albion Fatbike Festival was just a bunch of fun.  This picture is blurry, but I think it captures the family feel of this community:albion-fatbike-festival-team-colin-blog.jpg

From left to right, that’s me (looking goofy); Cannondale Neil (looking a more goofy); some chili, hot chocolate, and a sponsor beer (I cannot stress this enough:  do NOT consume together); Dan Marshall (looking as handsome as ever); and Dan’s boy (looking totes adorbs–love that kid).  Somewhere in the background, Dan’s mom and dad were serving chili, and everywhere in the foreground, cyclists were having a great time.

Really, the Albion Fatbike Festival was more bike EVENT than it was bike RACE, and with race distances of 10k or 20k, and a 10k poker run (with costumes), the vibe was relaxed and very chill (see what I did there…winter…snow…oh nevermind), and it was so great to see my racing peeps in the middle of the winter.  Being central (and close to Toronto) it was a who’s who of the community.  It was also super cool to see my original guy, Dan Marshall from Substance Projects, working with my new BFF, Sean Ruppel from Superfly Racing.  Sean is concentrating on Crank the Shield, so he passed the torch to Dan and Substance Projects–although I think he had a tough time weaning himself from the event, because he was there as sweep, bonfire guy, and general Seaning (an actual verb).

Or maybe he was there because he wanted to make sure his baby (the race, not me) was in good hands.  Love this community.  BTW, I took a picture with Sean, but we both look awful (I know, impossible, right?) so I had to delete it.

I Was On Time!  No I wasn’t!  As usual, before the start of the race, I was harried and late.  But there was a reason this time.  Dan asked me to help with the audio for the event, and loading the speakers and equipment into my car in the morning was a giant challenge.  Worse, unloading it, trudging it up the hill to the Chalet, and then setting-up, was a bigger and gianter challenge–especially with the added clothing complication of in winter riding.  In the summer, you can basically ride wearing anything, and if sweat happens, whatever.  In the winter, it’s layers, layers, and layers, followed by booties, gloves, earmuffs and neck warming apparati, and if sweat happens, brrrr.

So I had an excuse for being late.  It’s not like I’m a total mess.

Actually, I am a total mess. I’m always a mess.  A total, unadulterated, mess.

So ghetto.  My zipper broke a few weeks ago.  Electrical tape.

To recap:  I was running late and zipping around like a tornado, so I was sweating before the damn race even started, but by 8:30, everything was set-up, I was mostly dressed, and I knew I was going to at least be on time for the start.  Phew.  A good start to the day!

Actually, I knew it was going to be a good day even before that time.  When I first got to the Chalet, a fellow racer introduced himself to me and told me he read my blog.  ALWAYS AWESOME!!!  Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell, it’s just so wickedly cool.  When I start a day like that, I know everything else will fall in line. Thanks bro.

Outside and at the START, I was ready.  Of course, I wouldn’t remember until AFTER the start of the race that I didn’t change my tire pressure from the night before (which was waaaaaaay too high), but I was layered, my bike was dialled, I was clipped-in (and taped-up) and it was only 20k, so I didn’t need anything in terms of nutrition and such.

In fact, in my pocket, I only had a Park Tools allen key and a hankie, you know, because snot.

And hex bolts.

Race Report:  Albion Fatbike Festival.  January 12, 2019 (Albion Hills)

I seeded myself closer than usual to the front of the pack.  Dan said the course was mostly double track, so I knew I wouldn’t be a hindrance to the faster riders, and it was nice to check out how the race starts from the front.  I had a minute or two to spare, so I sort-of stretched and sort-of limbered my body, but at minus-something, there wasn’t much point. Plus, after the grunt, sweat, and general workout with the audio gear, I think I may have been somewhat/kinda warmed up.

The race started and we were off.

Case in point, I was NOT warmed up.

So, how was the start of the race from the front of the pack?

I’m undecided.  It was a bit more aggressive up there, but it wasn’t a problem (even though the pros like my pal Michael Tourond seemed cool as a cucumber—on a single speed, no less—and still managed impressive results).  Honestly, even with a short race, there is plenty of time for passing (and getting passed), and as much as I fret about things, I’m pretty chill in a close group of elbowing riders.

The Temp and My Kit.  It was about -8 degrees (with a wind chill of -12 or so).  Cold, but not unbearable.  Still, while I was waiting for my muscles to warm-up (and stop feeling like I was breathing acid) I knew a hard sweat might prove troublesome.  I always worry about heat retention vs. heat distribution, but my kit on Saturday was spot-on.  Except for slightly damp hands, and slightly cold toes (which only started to lose feeling after 45 minutes), I was dressed perfectly.

What’d I wear?  Cycling shoes with neoprene booties (and electrical tape); winter bib pants (left ankle also taped); wicking base layer, tech shirt, jersey, and nylon jacket on top; neck warmer, beanie, and earmuffs; and ski gloves.  Keep in mind that my sort-of cycling jacket cost forty bucks at Sport Chek, and I got my gloves from Costco.  Low tech.  Low cost.

What About My Tire Pressure?  That’s a big “no”. After seating my tires the night before at about 30 psi, I only let a bit of air out, knowing I’d adjust the pressure to about 15 psi before the race.

Case in point part two.  I did not adjust the tire pressure to about 15 psi before the race.  I’m pretty sure I was between 20 and 25 psi.  Not good.

Annnnnd, after the race started, we hit some bumpy stuff in a pine forest, and I realized just how “not good” my pressure was.  It was, um, less than gentle, and I think I’m now dating my bike seat. 

Here’s a tip to establish proper fatbike tire pressure:  Start with your weight, and divide by a stack of bison.  Then, add an exponent of the ambient temperature, and multiply by 7.  If there’s snow, multiply by polyester.  If you get the wrong answer, which you won’t know until after it’s too late, redo the calculation with a different stack of bison…

Fatbike tire pressure is like single speed gearing: It’s never right, and it’s never wrong.

…unless it’s over 20 psi on Saturday, January 12, at the Albion Fatbike Festival.  Then it’s a whole lotta wrong.

The Course.  After the forest, the course took us up a gradual climb, down a zippy hill, around a corner, and finally into some sweet singletrtack.  Aw man, how I’d been longing for some proper singletrack.  So satisfying.  It was so nice that think I cheated on my bike seat…    

Since the course was mostly double track, the rare bits of singletrack not only hinted at the awesome summer ahead, but scratched at how much I love the fatbiking.  I don’t get to fatbike much lately, but I miss it like crazy and it will always be a part of my (cycling) life. Plus, Albion Hills is, well it’s Albion Hills:  fun, fast, and flowy.  Since we weren’t on the summer trails, climbs (as much as I like them in warmer temps) were non-existent. We hit more double track, a few shots on the road, a slippy bridge or two, and my lap was done in 38 minutes.  I adjusted my seat height (forgot to do that before the race too), took a minute to say hi to a few pals who were doing the Poker Run, and I was back at it.

Dayam, that’s a lot of belly… (photo courtesy Ted Anderton and Apex Race Photography)

Back on course, and I was still waiting to warm up.

“C’mon long burn muscles” I thought “it’s time to kick in”.  I wasn’t sure if I was tired, or still warming up, but I knew the first climb of the second lap would let me know.  Turns out it was a bit of both.  There were a few riders ahead of me.  They were just out of reach, but occasionally I’d catch a glimpse of them poking out on the trail from behind the trees.  I knew they were there, so I held my pace, and knuckled in for the next 10k.  About 3k into the second lap, I sort of caught up to the riders ahead of me, and they were in a small pack a few hundred metres ahead.  Five of them.  I figured I’d use them as a benchmark.  I wouldn’t attack (because I just don’t attack—I usually do loooong races, and attacking isn’t an option), but it would be nice to at least keep up.

“Don’t let them get too far ahead…” I thought, “just keep them in sight”.

I was Finally Warmed Up.  Was it my imagination?  Was I actually getting closer to them?  They were spread over a long stretch, but the last one was definitely in sight. My pal, Mark Summers (of Joyride 150) once told me to attack with a short burst to overtake “…and the rider probably won’t try to keep up”, but I can’t do that. Truthfully, in marathon races, my style is borne out of the necessity to stay alive and just keep pedalling.  But I wanted to see if my current condition, which I would describe as “happily eating with the occasional gravel rip or laps at Joyride” was working for me.  Also, with a short race, and only 7k to go, I was no longer worried about about cramping, drowning, or blowing up, so I decided to go a bit harder.  However, instead of attacking aggressively and risking a cramp (or um, just getting tired), I adjusted my pace only slightly to catch up to the first rider.

Easy.  300 metres later, and I passed the first rider. Boom.

Another incremental adjustment to my pace, another few hundred metres, and I passed the second rider.  Bam.

Whammo!  The third rider. 

Zing.  The next rider. 

And then the last rider.  Kapow.

A moment later, he passed me.

Wait, what?

He passed me.

But then I passed him again!

It was Will.  He was wearing a FBN jersey, and we talked a bit.

Around the bend, over the bridge, up a short climb, and then the last bit before the end of the race.

My second lap (including seat adjustment, a few hugs, and generally being me) was 36 minutes.

What a great race.  An hour and 14 minutes of sublime fatbike conditions, at Albion Hills.  Awesome.

End of Race Report.

I Rode With Studs!  The day before the race, Dan Marshall posted on Facebook the course had a little bit of ice, and that scared the crap out of me.  When there’s a chance of ice on a trail, my shoulders tense, my back spasms, and I ride like a tentative moron.  I’m delicate like that.

I hate it.

So Dan offered to loan me a pair of studded 45NRTH Wrathchild tires.

Despite the fact I was riding at a billion psi, the tires were an absolute game changer.  Honestly, the course was a thing of beauty, but there were a few small ice patches threatening to derail an otherwise good time.  There wasn’t much ice (hardly any), but at every patch, a rider either ahead of me or behind me went down.  I hate the sound of a bike slipping, and a rider falling.  However, my Wrathchild’s gave me a stunningly solid ride.  They didn’t just track perfectly on the ice, they gripped climbs like I was on a conveyor belt.  I tried shifting my weight forward and back to see if my wheels would spin, but nope.

Like, wow Scoob.  Seriously, wow.  The 45NRTH Wrathchild.  If a tire was ever aptly named…

UPDATE:  I checked on each rider as they fell, and they were all okay.

Sonia/Sonya.  Before I end (and how did this post become so long?), I have to talk about Sonia/Sonya for a moment.  I passed Sonia/Sonya near the end of the second lap.  She was doing the 10k, and it was her first time on a fatbike.  Yes, it was her first time EVER on a fatbike, and she chose to race.   She rode with the posture of a recreational rider, and without pretense, on a rented bike, wearing a knitted hat under her helmet, and a matching knitted scarf.  It’s always so awesome to see people new to the sport, and by her pace and form, I sensed this was big for her.

Sonia/Sonya!  She epitomizes this sport.

After the race, I noticed her sitting at a table.  I’ve been the new guy, so I asked her to join our table.  She obliged, and we talked for a bit.  She said she wanted to put herself into a tough environment where she knew she had no choice but to finish.  So, without knowing much about the sport (although having some decent summer riding experience), and equipped with a bunch of desire, drive, and bossness, she made the trek from Toronto to Albion Hills, registered for the race, rented a bike, tied her scarf around her neck, and finished the race–because she had no choice.

And that’s epic.  Whether she knows it or not, Sonia/Sonya is MTB to the core.


The 2018 Albion Fatbike Festival…so awesome, so fun.




PS.  Were you there?  Do you have something to say about the race?  Anything to say about bikes in general?  Comment on this post, or fire an email to:  teamcolinblog@yahoo.com. Also, don’t forget to check the Team Colin Facebook page for updates and other bike stuff.

And don’t forget that I’m always looking for different voices.  If you want to submit some words or pictures, check out the Friends Of Team Colin page, and get typing.

Um, did somebody say costumes?

Congrats to all the winners.  Here are a few podium pics:

And check it out, chief of Mountain Bikers Ontario, Steve Bator, on the podium.  Nice work Steve.  Boom.albion-fatbike-festival-team-colin-blog.jpg

3 thoughts on “84. Albion Fatbike Festival

  1. Um yeah I was there!

    Stayed tuned for the un-competitive Poker Run Report. Filled with overly polite offers to pass and refusals, casual conversations, and hilarity ensues when costumed riders struggle to ascend a minor incline into narrow trees…


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