Photo by Rachel Hershberger, TravelWisconsin.com
Perhaps you’ve seen off-road bicyclists riding even tougher terrain such as beaches or dune trails, or heading off across snow-covered routes in winter, balanced by unusually wide wheels. This is the fat-tire bicycle: a mountain bike with tires 3.8 or more inches wide. The increased traction and wider distribution of weight make biking easier on loose sand, mud and even snow and ice. The attraction of such a bike in Wisconsin is obvious. As Joel Augustine of Broken Spoke Bike Studio in Green Bay puts it, “You can have one bike and ride all year with it and take it anywhere you want to.”
The popularity of fat bikes quickly led to competitive sport, and Wisconsin not only hosts several great races throughout the fall and winter, but also series of races which attract everyone from seasoned experts to curious beginners.
Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, Cable
What started in 1983 with 27 participants racing to a Cable-area resort has become an eagerly anticipated annual race for over 2,000 lottery-selected participants. Every September, the Chequamegon 40 runs as many miles as its name from downtown Hayward to Telemark Resort, rolling through country roads, forest paths and even the famous American Birkebeiner Ski Trail. Twelve age brackets and divisions for both men and women are offered, and the Short & Fat 16 offers a more modest distance for newbies and young riders. Over 1,000 bikers participate. The entire weekend offers events around the races, including a pasta feast, live music and a children’s bike parade.
Fall Color Festival, Whitewater
Organized by Backyard Bikes at the popular John Muir Trails, one of the best mountain-biking destinations in southern Wisconsin, this September event with four course lengths is open to all off-road bicycles, but the 12-mile race has a specific winning category for riders on fat bikes. Each course awards the top three male and female riders as well as the top rider in each of eleven age divisions. A children’s race and a parent-child tag-team event make this benefit for the trails particularly family-friendly.
Fat-Bike Racing Series, various locations
The ten events of Hugh Jass Fat Bike Races run from October through March and are organized by Wheel & Sprocket, a Wisconsin bike store chain, at scenic parks near their various locations in southeastern Wisconsin. Broken Spoke Bikes has their own Snow Crown Series (including the annual Shelltrack Race in Manitowoc) and runs multi-length races January through April in three locations within an hour of Green Bay.
JANUARY 20, 2018
Badger State Games, Wausau
Owned and operated by the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau, Wisconsin’s annual version of the Olympics has both summer and winter games. A fat-tire bicycle category is held in the Wausau area in January. There are three race events of varying lengths, and the top three men and women in each receive medals.
FEBRUARY 18, 2018
Bike Across the Bay, Ashland
Instead of biking on land, try it on (frozen) water. Starting from the shoreline in Washburn, races run one lap (10K) or two laps (20K) on a route out over the ice of Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior. There’s nothing so dramatically beautiful than the rock outcrops and picturesque ice caves viewed from off-shore in a winter setting. The same weekend hosts Book Across the Bay, a cross-country skiing and snowshoe run from Ashland to Washburn.
MARCH 10, 2018
Fat Bike Birkie, Cable
This March race runs the same groomed snow trails that the world-famous American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race uses. Two races, the 49K “Big Fat” and the 21K “Chico” have age divisions and offer awards to the top three men and women in each age category, plus cash prizes to the top three overall performers for each gender. This race, along with December’s Solstice Chase in St. Croix Falls, are two of the seven featured races in 45NRTH’s multi-state Great Lakes Fat Bike Series.
Fat Tire For Hire
Try before you buy: Rent a fat-tire bike from one of these Wisconsin outfitters.
Backyard Bikes and Ski
(Located in the LaGrange General Store, Cafe & Deli), Whitewater
262-495-8600 | backyardbikes.com
Machinery Row Bicycles
608-442-5974 | machineryrowbicycles.com
New Moon Ski & Bike
715-634-8685 | newmoonski.com
Wheel & Sprocket
Locations in Appleton, Brookfield, Delafield, Fox Point, Hales Corners, Oak Park and Oshkosh
Broken Spoke Bike Studio in Green Bay not only rents fat-tire bikes but designs and builds 509 Cycles, right out of their own workshop.