There’s no doubt that last week’s Iceman Cometh Challenge is the biggest race around. When it’s over, Northern Michigan takes a breath to enjoy great group rides, take on new adventures, and gear up for fat bike season.
The tense training and bike miles leading up to the Iceman are done, the mud is wiped off and the number plate gets pinned somewhere on the garage wall. More and more, however, bikes aren’t getting put away. There are still many rides to enjoy as we head into the holidays, and a whole slew of fat bike races throughout the winter season.
As the days grow short and the temperatures drop, night rides are a great way to duck off the roads and slow things down on the trail. Einstein Cycles takes "taking it easy" seriously; its weekly Friday Night Lights rides are essentially themed potlucks with a bike ride warm-up. Anywhere from a dozen to forty riders come out to twist and turn through single track trails from 6:30 until 8 p.m., with delicious food to follow. The ride leaves every Friday from the Bunker Hill Parking lot starting November 20.
After the snow flies, the tires get wider. For the fourth year now, Northern Michigan will play host to the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series. With four races on the calendar, riders take on the conditions and courses (as much as each other) from January to March. Races have seen temperatures as low as -20 degrees, with blizzard conditions pushing competitors to the brink in three of last year’s four events.
There are so many spectacular places to ride in midwinter. Benzie County under a blanket of snow can’t be missed, and that’s where all the fun gets started on January 23 when Fat Chance opens up the 2016 season.
The second race of the series brings fat tire bikers and skiers together at the North American Vasa Festival of Races. The King Vasa Fat Bike Race combines some of the best trails around for a demanding course of 33km or 12km, depending on what folks are up for. February 13 is the big day for all winter athletes, and it happens right at Timber Ridge Resort on Traverse City's east side.
It’s a bit of a field trip for the third race, but you definitely won’t be disappointed with the location. Forty-Five North Vineyard near Lake Leelanau makes its debut in the series at The Vineyard Race at 45 on February 21. It’s a stunning race between the frosty vines and over some breathtaking climbs. All of the Leelanau Peninsula is rolled out before you head back down to the finish, where Short’s Brewing will pair with Forty-Five North Vineyard ciders for a unbeatable recovery drink.
The last fat bike race of the season takes place on March 5, and it’s a big one. Located at Timber Ridge, the race runs alongside (and through the middle of) the Suds & Snow Microbrew Festival, an event which draws over 1,000 spectators that will line the course for the afternoon. This races takes place late enough in the season that it’s not uncommon to be under sunny skies and warmer temperatures, with a flat and fast course that makes the racing even more exciting. It’s the second race at Timber Ridge, and riders tend to know every dip and bump on the route, and exactly where they’ll make their move. Besides, every inch of the course is in sight of the Suds & Snow Microbrew Festival!
Biking in Traverse City during the winter is a thrilling adventure! Find a fat tire bike, layer on the proper gear, and get ready to play in nature's most exhilarating season.