Wide-ranging fun

Fat bike races bring diverse crowd to Powderhorn

Thomas Hayles makes his way down a steep slope during Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s Slope Side Fat Bike Race on Feb. 25. The fat bike race is a unique competition where cyclists rely on very fat tires to help them go up and down snow-covered terrain. Hayles, who is from Aspen, won the race.

Russell Ickes gets into trouble at the bottom of the course during Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s Slope Side Fat Bike Race on Feb. 25.

Slippery snow and too much speed are not a good combination.

One particular rider couldn’t clamp down on the brakes too much but he wasn’t going too fast as the fast-approaching corner loomed.

Behind the mirrored goggles, the rider’s eye were no doubt bulging with fear.

His bike slid and he hit the snow. He quickly recovered,  popped up and got his fat bike going again at the bottom of the course at Powderhorn Mountain Resort.

Fat bike racing — an interesting phenomenon.

Powderhorn hosted the Slope Slide Fat Bike Race the weekend of Feb. 25, welcoming hardy cyclists who had an odd desire to brave cold temperatures and slippery slopes on bicycles with big fat tires.

Fat bikes are specialty bikes with really, really fat tires. Built for traction and control, fat bikes look a little odd but come in handy when riding on slick slopes.

“This is my first fat bike race,” Grand Junction’s Geoff Roper said. “It was very difficult and a lot different than other forms of racing in that you can’t go very fast and your have to put in a lot of effort.”

He said the uphill grind was brutally tough, then the 36-year-old then smiled.

“I wanted to check it out since I never raced fat bikes before, and I’m terrible at it.”

Thomas Hayles, 58, of Aspen was far and away the master of this race, easily pulling away from the pack and cruising around slick corners and uphill grinds with a fair amount of ease.

“My past has been with road racing and cyclocross, which I still do, and fat bikes is like you’re learning all over again,” he said.

The learning comes from figuring out the right air pressure for the fat tires — usually in single digits — the right size of knobs of the tires and how to safely keep your speed under control on the downhill.

“You don’t want to hit the ground,” Hayles said, smiling. “When the snow gets soft, it can make it a little nervous because you know you have to get your speed down on the corners. You have to be really cautious sometimes.”

Most of the 20-plus riders in the field managed to make it around the course without hitting the snow but there were some extra cautious times for most navigating the corners and the downhill.

The uphills were not easy either.

“It was a lot of fun but it was hard. I was expecting it to be a little more flat,” Lauren Roper, Geoff’s sister said. “But the downhill part was fun.”

For Hayles, fat bikes makes for a year-round racing opportunity.

“With fat bikes, you can bike year-round now. We can do a lot of training for cyclocross and other disciplines, and you can get the endurance training and it’s a different type of power on the fat bikes,” he said.

But he said he has to be careful to not over train on the bike and find cross-training opportunities like running and working out in the gym.

The main thing for Hayles is fat bike riding and racing is a new and exciting activity.

“It’s like driving a tractor when I was a kid, it’s really fun,” he said with a laugh.


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