For the 2nd year in a row, I jammed out to the Fat Bike Summit with a crew from Mammoth. Last year, it was in Ogden, UT – read about it here. This year, it was at Snow King Resort in Jackson, WY. For those that don’t know, Snow King is the O.G. ski resort right in the heart of Jackson that opened in 1930. Gets overshadowed by Jackson Hole Resort 12 miles up the road – think of it like June Mountain compared to Mammoth Mountain, except you can night ski for $25!
Anyhoo, jumped in the turbo diesel Jetta Wagon with Jen and Dan at 5:30am. Bikes and skis and fritos and tangerines packed. Wyoming bound. After driving about 4 hours each, and Dan only stalling 3 times, we hit the town square. Checked in to the motel. 14 degrees cold for us Mammoth pussies. Popped into Bon Appethai – Tom Ka Khai soup quickly warmed the core and washed it town with a Pako’s IPA to get my pH dialed. FYI – no lack of thai food or bagels in Jackson. Spooned with Dan at Antler Inn. Right next to town square, bus stop to Jackson Hole Resort out front – and only 0.7 miles from Snow King. $70/night for this trip – comfy, good sized room.
Didn’t hit the “conference / land manager” portion of the summit this year. Last year it was too depressing seeing all the optimism from land managers in other forests, while we deal with our hurdles in the Inyo NF. There’s good info in the Fat-Bike.com article if you want a conference recap. Instead, we focused on the important aspects of this year’s Summit: Riding expensive bikes and drinking swell beer and eating tasty grinds.
All the big dogs were at the race /expo on Saturday. The usual suspects (Salsa, Surly, Borealis, Fatback, etc) were all on hand. But this year, there were a few new notables that didn’t make it last year. Specialized had a bunch of Fat Boys, including the 20″ and 24″ models for kids to test out. Trek was showcasing their Farley’s. Rocky Mountain and Felt were showing of their rides as well.
Stuff that stood out to me:
- So many bikes rocking the Rock Shox Bluto suspension fork – just last year, pretty much every fat bike was rigid. SRAM/Rock Shox even had a booth just to showcase the fork and their new Guide brakes that are also being spec’d on many of the newer fatties.
- Lotsa fatties are now going with 5″ rubber. I remember when the Surly Moonlander came out with the 5″ Bud and Lou tires and that thing looked MASSIVE. Now, most fat bikes are 5″ tire compatible, and these beasts look like “the norm”. By comparison, my 4″ Husker Du’s on 80mm rims looked… dare I say… skinny.
- Mucho bicicletas gordo pimped out with studded tires. It seems the 45NRTH Dillingers are the most popular studded offerings – coming in both 4″ and 5″ sizes – with a super hefty price tag of around $250, EACH! Yes, I’m thinking what you’re thinking – my car tires are less than half that price…
So what did I demo?
- First, I jumped on one of my favorite bikes – the Borealis Yampa. It had 5″ Bud and Lou’s on it. Just as I started to climb the short track loop, the chain snapped. What? I’ve never snapped a chain in my life. Oh well, Fixie Dave had it riding again in a jiffy. Regardless, I love that bike. I really loved the feel of the 5″ rubber. Right away, I could feel much more stability and float than 4″ tires, and they were fairly over-inflated. My 4″ tires serving me fine – but in softer conditions, the wider meat is definitely the shizzle jizzle. After shredding the local Cache Creek and Hagen singletrack for a bit, I switched bikes with Jen, and…
- jumped on the Borealis Echo – laced up with 4″ studded Dillingers and Bluto suspension fork. I’m a singlespeed and rigid kinda dude. Simple man. So the squishy fork with low psi tires felt like overkill to me – but most people want as much cushion for the pushin as they can manage. Pussies (was that my outside voice?)- so I guess that’s why everyone seems to be jockin the extra travel on the fork – but it definitely messes with the geometry a bit, even though the bike was designed around that fork. Gotta say, I still like the Yampa. The studded tires were great, though! To get back to Snow King, we had to descend some sketchy, icy roads and the studs rocked it! You still have to be careful, but so much more traction and confidence – and they weren’t bad rolling on the asphalt either. Barely any more buzzing than a regular tire, hardly noticeable. Definitely great for variable riding conditions where you might hit some slip and slide spots that will crack your dome. You won’t see me spending $500 for a set anytime soon… but if I could validate to the wife that I just spent Lucy’s college fund on tires (and a 6 month booze cruise) I’d do it.
- Next I weaseled a Specialized Fat Boy. Felt like a pig after the carbon race rocket. Had a much cheaper component spec – but half the price, too. After a bit, I got used to being on it, and really liked the geometry and feel. Also was my first time using pogies – and, surprisingly, they were great. In 15 degree weather, I wasn’t even wearing gloves! The bike handled great flying through singletrack. As much as I hate to admit it, the Specialized bike is pretty fricking great – definite bang for the buck. Their wide 4.5″ tires were just right for everything.
- The last bike I tried out was the Felt LebowskE. Yup. An electric fat bike. Boy was I skeptical. Still am. 49 lbs of bike. Looks just like a “real bike” except for the battery in lieu of a water bottle and a beefy bottom bracket area. I’m still conflicted about ebikes in many ways, but that’s another story. Bottom line – this bike was super frickin fun. I took it on the short track race course, up some steep hills and fast descents. I can see many ways in which this would be a great way to get people out on bikes that normally would surf the couch instead. Since the power-assist only kicks in when you pedal, you have to at least do some work – there is no “free ride” mode, although the turbo mode that puts out 270 percent of your human power is pretty close. It was quiet, and rode just like a “normal” bike – except you do feel the weight when the pedal assist is turned completely off. With Americans becoming so lazy and allergic to physical activity, eBikes are inviting to wealthy couch potatoes – but they’ll also help elderly and disabled folk to stay active… and have great potential for green commuting… hmmm… regardless, they’re here to stay, and I like them better than Segways.
This year, the race format was super fun. It was a short track loop, almost completely visible from the expo area. One punchy climb, and one fast descent with a bermed turn. Barely any flats = good for ss. I did the sport/ non-serious race which was 3 laps. The pro/serious race was 6 laps. All the “serious” dudes were mandex-clad and rocking 23 lb carbon race rockets. I definitely wasn’t gonna compete with them on my 29 lb. singledingle. The format had 2 qualifying heats, where the top 3 moved on to the finals, and then we raced again. Lucky for me, I built an easy lead in my qualifying round, and conserved a bunch of energy for the final. In the final, I attacked on the first climb, got a nice gap, and won that biatch. Maybe I should’ve been “serious” – but then I wouldn’t have taken home the Vee Snowshoe Tire which I traded to the second place dude for a pair of Bar Mitts. Either way, it was fun as heck, and it was nice to win – especially being the only SS in the field for the second year. I’m always getting my ass handed to me in the expert/pro field, so let me relish in this victory, ok?
When in Jackson:
Get a Melvin’s Burger at Thai Me Up / Melvin’s Brewing. The fried egg, bacon, and jalapeno pepper make it a perfect burger. Their G13 pasta and craft beer is also perfect apres fare and they play trippy Asian movies that put you in a trance.
Hit up Moo’s for ice cream. So good. Huckleberry, toasted coconut, you get the point.
Go to the touristy spots too – The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – oldest bar in town, saddles for bar stools, a stuffed bear that was one of only two documented grizzlies ever to be killed without a modern weapon. Some dude killed it with his bare hands, so it’s in a display case. Sit at the shoeshine chairs and marvel at the wild west decor that is definitely not subtle.
Peep out the historic Wort Hotel and the Silver Dollar Bar. Lot’s of cool old photos, and this Indian head that some rifle champ shot with his .22 at 30′ in 90 seconds, without a drawing or anything for reference. (see photo below).
Snake River Brewing has good local beer too. I stole a slice of margherita pizza off this old lady’s plate as they were leaving – and it was tasty good as well.
The antler arches in town square are always impressive, and we saw an old school fist fight break out here. “I had his neck, I had his neck” yelled the bloodied and swollen drunkard (and by my account, loser of the tussle) as his girlfriend or maybe mom pulled him away in shame.
Apres at the Mangy Moose by Jackson Hole Resort is also a fun time. Some gay dude hit on Dan and kept showing us pictures of himself doing weird stuff… like sitting in a desert, smoking with Joe Camel… or doing yoga with Spongebob at Burning Man – and he was rocking a sailors hat from Gilligan’s Island.
Alright, that’s enough… my next post will be about the group ride we had in Grand Teton National Park and the sweet groomed trails and new fat bike singletrack at Grand Targhee Resort… ain’t road trips fun?