Monday, December 19, 2011

Snow biking and racing

There is a relatively new craze sweeping through the cycling community and that is snow biking or fat bikes. As you all know MN is in winter about 9 months out of the year, haha jk but we do have long winters so you can see the appeal of snowbiking and fat bikes. The concept of riding your bike in the snow isn't new but the bikes have definitely been improved over the last few years with the invention of fat bikes. Bikes like the Surly Pugsley, Salsa Mukluk, 9 Zero 7, Fat Back and many others are allowing more options and pushing the technology behind this sport further.

Bens new Ti Fat Bike
The general concept behind a fat bike is a rigid mountain bike frame with over sized hub spacing front and rear that allows one to use an over sized tire that allow you to float more on the snow and travel in much deeper snow then a normal MTB tire would allow.
With this style of riding becoming more prevalent obviously comes racing due to the humans competitive nature and there are more races popping up every year but the grand daddy of them all, at least around here, is the Arrow Head 135. This race takes place in International Falls, MN and as the name implies it is 135 miles long. (disclaimer, this race is for bad asses only) For more information on the race check out

Since I was talking about this race I thought about doing a quick interview with a good friend of mine and a bad ass rider if I might say. He is also part owner of the only bike shop I'll visit in St. Cloud - Revolution Cycle and Ski, also on the side bar. With out further adieu he is what Ben Doom had to say:
Ben, Need I say more?

Thanks Ben for taking the time to answer some questions!

So you did the arrowhead last year for the first time, correct?  Yes.

When is the arrowhead? This year it starts on January 30th, which is a Monday.  It's run on snowmobile trails so the race is held during the week to avoid too much traffic.

How did you do? Last year I got 5th and Bike Rookie of the Year.  I had hoped to do better this time around but the level of talent this year is pretty deep.  Getting 5th again would be awesome!

What motivated you to want to compete in such an event? Over the past several years I've started doing more endurance type events, starting with the gravel scene.  I'm not a particularly fast guy but can ride pretty solid for a long time.  Endurance suits me I guess.  The people are great as well.  All laid back and looking to have a good time.
The Arrowhead has been on my list for sometime.  Glad I've been able to do it.

How did you prepare? Ride and ride some more.  Last year I rode a lot and tried to get out on local snowmobile trails a couple of times a week.  For whatever reason Fridays were my "big" day.  I usually would get 6 hours in before work at noon.

Is there anything you would change in your preparation/training? Last year my goal was to finish and not freeze any digits.  I rode a lot but all at the same pace.  This year I am tossing in some shorter, more intense rides hoping to up my overall speed.  But it really comes down to saddle time.  Having a family and a business makes this tricky at times.  Both have been very understanding and supportive.

What bike did you use? Last year I rode a 2009 or 2010 Surly Pugsley frame with pretty sweet parts.  It came in shy of 35 lbs.  Loved the bike, worked very well.  Me being me, I could not leave well enough alone and have a Salsa Mukluk Ti to ride this year.  I rode it at the Tuscobia Winter Ultra Endurance race this weekend and loved the bike!

What was your general bike/gear set up? 3x?, 2x?, 1x? panniers, other bags? Both last year and this year I will run a 2x9...(32/22x11x34).  Last year I used panniers and a frame bag.  I brought too much stuff...a common rookie move.  I will use Revelate bags exclusively this year.

What was the hardest part about this race? The hills after MelGeorge's were pretty brutal but I think the last 25 miles were the hardest for me.  It's only 25 miles but it takes 3-4 hours on flat terrain.  Mentally I struggled here.

What's one thing you brought that you wont bring if you did it again?
I brought extra clothing that was just not needed.  The experience of having one Arrowhead under my belt will help but I believe this to be an on going learning experiment.
I also brought too much extra water.  My bike weighed a lot.

What is one thing that will bring that you didn't bring the first time? Last year I made the decision to run platform pedals at the last minute.  I plan on using clips this year.  I know you prefer platform but I am used to clips and think this will help me in the long run...or so I hope!

Is there anything else that you did during the race that you would change? rest no rest food ect? My water froze before the first checkpoint so I had to run in and get some gatorade.  Most do not stop at this checkpoint.  I hope to have my water situation better figured out this year.  I truly did stop too long at any one stop.  I hope to limit myself to 15 minutes at the last two checkpoints.  But honestly, with a race like this one never knows and has to be ready to adjust plans and goals.

Would you recommend this race to other? YES

Thanks again to Ben for taking the time to talk with me on this topic! If you want to know more about Ben and his current activities you can check him out at: or better yet stop in next time you are in St. Cloud and check out Revolution Cycle and Ski, all the guys down there are great and super friendly!

Keep it real!

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