Sunday provided more evidence that the FatBike phenomenon is real and growing as 28 racers braved the cold and showed up for the Mustache Beach Race. This is race #1 in the Wisconsin FatBike race series. This race was for FatBikes only, which means tires 3.7 inches wide or wider. No skinny tires were allowed.
Showing up with a FatBike was the easy part for me since I bought my Schlick Northpaw, the hard part was growing a mustache since I am naturally blond and relatively free of hair south of my eyebrows. In order for me to have any sort of respectable mustache, I had to stop shaving more than a month ago. My wife actually encouraged the experiment and suggested a meth burner (AKA the pornstache) as my ultimate goal.
The mustache requirement and race name were to leverage Movember and the proceeds from the race went to raise money for men’s health. For that reason, regardless of gender, racers had to sport a mustache to compete and the rules about facial hair were fairly complex in order to be fair to both genders:
- Those who could not or would not grow real facial hair were allowed to draw or glue mustaches on the upper lip area.
- Racers already sporting a beard who insisted on keeping the extraneous facial hair rather than shave down to a suitable mustache were required to pay an extra $5 and donate it to http://us.movember.com/ -
- There was no penalty for Rideburns (patent pending).
- Best Mustaches were provided Preferred Starting Positions……followed by drawn mustaches……then the bearded sporting mustaches
The rain or shine or snow (we can hope, can’t we?) race started on the beach in Port Washington near Veteran’s Park. From there, racers headed north along the lakeshore for 9+ miles to a check-point at the very north end of Harrington Beach State Park. Every racer had to check in at the turn-around point. After checking in with the race official at the check-point, racers turned back around and headed back south, all the way back to the Start/Finish Line.
Returning racers had to yield to oncoming racers and stay right when neccesary. This meant that south-bound racers had to ride in the softer sand on the way back to the finish (where 2 way race traffic exists). The first 3 men and women were awarded prize money. Although I was not up in the front of the pack to see the winners, I was told they turned down their prize money and donated it to the Movember Charity. No other results were recorded.
Other important information from the race is true for anyone riding along the Lake Michigan shoreline, some of which are public beaches, while others are private access only. On the public beaches, it is important for riders to be courteous and yield to all regular beach users. On the sections of shoreline that are private, Wisconsin law requires riders to stay below the high water line. Going above the high water line is trespassing onto private property. The last rule is a good one no matter where you are riding: Carry everything that you will need – be self sufficient – tools – food – water – clothing, and pack all trash out.
While this was billed as a race, and the faster folks led by the Maciej from the Team Polska mafia, did push the pace and finish the 18 mile sand slog in a little over an hour, most who entered simply rode at a conversational pace with their friends. Others preferred to ride solo, alone with their thoughts. The grey weather and miles of empty horizon provided the perfect venue for contemplating life’s mysteries.
This was my first long ride along the beach, and I learned a few things that you other newbies may benefit from:
- Sand is a great equalizer: It is sort of like riding on an indoor trainer, people of very differing abilities can ride next to each other simply by turning up the resistance. Anyone who wants a harder workout on the beach simply has to ride a few feet further from the water and the effort required to pedal increases exponentially.
- Bring protection: The other thing I learned was to bring a waterproof camera case. Without fenders, the big fat tires throw up lots of wet sand that gets everywhere. Water and sand are the enemy of cameras. Next time I will bring a waterproof camera case to better protect my photo gear.
- You will get wet: I wore waterproof boots and Sealskinz socks, but my feet still got wet. The Sealskinz kept my feet warm, despite the water crossings through icy Lake Michigan weather, but I did not bring an extra pair of dry socks and shoes for the ride home. Next time I will have a dry pair of shoes and socks waiting for me after the ride is done.
- Bring a spare: It seems improbable that big fat tires could catch a flat on the sandy beach, but between the zebra mussels and the other stuff that gets washed ashore, one rider did flat. Nine miles is a long walk on the beach, so bring a spare tube and pump.
- Learn to surf: At many places, the beach narrows and you will need to try to shoot between the waves if you want to keep your feet dry. This is almost always possible if you time the surf just right. If you don’t, you end up in water up to your knees.
I am happy to report that after this first serious test ride, my belt drive Northpaw performed great. You can read more about the full build in this earlier post, but bottom line is that the Gates Carbon Center Track belt drive and Alfine 11 internally geared hub combo is somewhat of an experiment. I was only able to find one other person who has built up a belt-drive FatBike, so nobody really knows yet how the belt will hold up to sand, snow and ice.
After sloshing through the sandy wet for a good two hours, I can report that the Gates Center Track performed flawlessly and silently. I thought maybe the sand would get on the belt and pulleys and grind, but I had silent running the whole time. The Alfine 11 IGH shifted perfectly as well. This experience makes me pretty sure that the Gates Center Track Carbon belt system and an internally geared hub make a nearly perfect drivetrain for a bike that will be subjected to lots of water and sand.
I still have to test the belt in heavy snow and freezing slush, but so far it has worked really well in the light snow I rode in up north deer hunting as well as in the wet sand. Stay tuned to the Bike Fed blog for more ride reports as winter progresses. As I write this, snow is falling, but melting as soon as it hits the ground, but I feel certain our Wisconsin winter will put the Northpaw to the ultimate test soon.
You can check out my bike and the FatBike scene at any of the upcoming races. Perhaps it is because they are more about fun than competition, but Fat Bike races seem to be popping up faster than Salvation Army bell ringers at the grocery stores. The Chippewa Powderkeg, January 28th is the newest race I have seen and not yet listed on the Fat-Bike.com, which lists races by state.