Scott Mercier: Giving the fat bike a try with a trip to the Maroon Bells
Special to The Aspen Times
2nd annual Aspen fat bike race
When: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019
Where: Aspen Golf Club/Aspen Nordic Center
Time: 8 a.m. racer check-in; 9 a.m. open division start; 10 a.m. rec division start
To ride a bike fast, you have to be both light and powerful. Last month, we talked about the importance of weight and my intent today was to write about training rides to increase power.
However, the training plan for power involves a fitness test that needs to be done on the road. The roads just aren’t clear enough yet, so I’m going to delay the follow up until next month. With that in mind, I’ll talk about fat bikes.
The name fat bike has nothing to do with the rider, but rather the width of the tires. These tires are ginormous and are designed to be ridden on snow or sand.
Fat bikes seem to be a rage in the Roaring Fork Valley. There’s even a fat bike race this Saturday at the Aspen golf course. The open division races for 50 minutes starting at 9 a.m., and the recreation division races for 30 minutes at 10 a.m. Entry is just $20 and includes lunch and a T-shirt. They’ll have demo and rental bikes available, as well.
Here is the link if you want to race: http://www.rfmba.org/event/aspen-fat-bike-race.
The weather looks perfect with a forecast for clear skies and temperatures in the low 40s. Groomed trails will make for great racing conditions and it should be a blast.
I’d wanted to ride a fat bike for quite some time, but just never got around to it. That changed when my daughter was home from college over the Christmas holiday. She wanted to ride to the Maroon Bells. I’m always looking for an excuse to do something with her, so the answer was a resounding yes.
My two biggest fears were that we’d freeze, or crash on the descent. I just wasn’t sure how the tires would grip the snow and I thought crashing was a real risk. I brought a backpack loaded with hot tea, an extra jacket, ski pants, mittens and our ski helmets with goggles to stay warm and safe on the descent.
We started at about 11 a.m. on a picture-perfect blue bird day. The temperature was barely freezing, but it didn’t feel cold and within the first mile we had to start shedding layers. I’ve probably ridden this road 50 times, but it felt like a new ride in the winter. You don’t even realize you’re on a road; rather, it’s a perfectly groomed cross-country ski track.
The T-Lazy-7 Ranch runs snowmobile tours up to the Maroon Bells, but the guides made sure they passed us at a safe distance and a slow speed. We also would not have seen a moose if one of their guides hadn’t pointed it out to us. The moose seemed oblivious to the cold and was bedded down in the deep snow.
We were not in a rush and the ride to the Bells took about an hour and a half. The view of the Maroon Bells just never gets old and it was eerily quiet in the winter. Mira and I were the only ones there for about 15 to 20 minutes.
The T-Lazy-7 crew towed a small trailer up to the top that’s open to anyone for free hot coffee, tea or cider, and they encourage you to make yourself a beverage.
The descent was an enjoyable reward for the effort we’d put into the climb. My concerns about getting cold or crashing were unfounded; we were warm and safe. Riding on the snow was actually remarkably easy and the knobs on the fat tires provided ample grip.
I’m not rushing out to buy a fat bike, but if you’re looking for a break from the slopes and are tired of riding the trainer indoors, grab a fat bike and go for a ride. You’re sure to get a great workout, and to end the ride with a fat smile!
Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services teams. He currently works as a financial adviser in Aspen and can be reached at email@example.com.
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