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More wheel, more fun

Fat-tire phenomenon fuels four-season cycling

Posted: April 21, 2013 - 7:43pm  |  Updated: April 24, 2013 - 1:38pm
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Racers line up Saturday for the start of the first Earth, Wind and Fat Tire 10-Kilometer Bike Challenge on the Wolverine Trail, part of the Tsalteshi Trail network.   Dan Schwartz
Dan Schwartz
Racers line up Saturday for the start of the first Earth, Wind and Fat Tire 10-Kilometer Bike Challenge on the Wolverine Trail, part of the Tsalteshi Trail network.

She is an avid athlete. Bike races, foot races, swim races, all three in one race — she enjoys it all, she said.

“But my preference is mountain biking,” Angie Brennan said.

And about a week ago, she got a fat-tire mountain bike. It’s yellow, and she named it Beatrix after the “Kill Bill” movies, she said.

“Like, oh my God, it’s yellow, I’ll chose that name,” Brennan said.

She’s a “Kill Bill” fan, she said, and curious about the fat-tire bikes.

And she is not the only one.

Saturday morning in the parking lot to the Wolverine Trail, part of the Tsalteshi Trail network off of Kalifornsky Beach Road, Brennan was one of several people pulling fat-tire bikes out of the back of vans or the beds of pickups.

She and nine other racers were fixing race numbers to their bikes and helmets to their heads in the parking lot before the inaugural Earth, Wind and Fat Tire 10-Kilometer Bike Challenge. Some were on regular mountain bikes. Another had studded tires.

“I have no idea what I’m doing today,” Brennan said, squeezing her front tire as big as a balloon. She said the pressure of the oversized tires needs to be just right for the conditions — too soft on ice and it’s slow; too hard on snow and it’s unstable.

She bent over her bike and attached her race number to her handlebars with twist ties.

“This is how I got it at Beemun’s (Bike and Ski Loft),” she said, “and I’m just going to go for it and hope I don’t die.”

She hopped on her bike and pedaled across the parking lot to the start line.

Race organizer Mike Crawford said the race is a “proof of concept.” Homer, Seward and Anchorage are the playgrounds for the new type of bikes, but the fat-tire fever hasn’t made its way to the Central Peninsula yet, he said.

They are perfect for mountain biking on the Kenai Peninsula, he said. Their wide tires roll well on beaches, in the mud and through deep snow.

“The beautiful thing about them is they open up a portion of the year that’s unridable,” Crawford said. “There’s opportunities summer and winter. It’s pretty amazing.”

They give people another reason to get outside, he said.

At the start line all 10 cyclist were perched on their bikes, pressing into their pedals, ready to go.

Brennan had said at her van that she hopes the fat-tire community grows. It’s more fun with more people, she said. There’s the camaraderie. The fear-factor dissolves. You can coach beginners.

“It’s just a heck of a lot more fun,” she had said.

With their wheels against the spray-painted orange line, Crawford shouted “go” and they lurched forward, gears clicking, wheels churning up the snow. And they were gone.

The firm trails were a “trifecta of awesomeness,” Crawford said, “because you can ski it, you can run it, you can bike it — this is what spring in Alaska should be.”

He said he organized the race to jumpstart the fat-tire community in the area.

“Hopefully we’ll generate interest with groups like this,” he said.

Already it’s starting to catch on, Beemun’s bike mechanic John Tabor said. The bike and ski retail shop started carrying the fat-tire bikes about four years ago, he said.

“When we started we needed to buy all the frames and components and build them,” Tabor said.

But now they buy the bikes completely built, and they carry three different models, he said.

“The more they’re out there on the street, the more people see them, the more they’re interested,” he said. “We’ll have people come into the store and say, ‘Yeah, I just saw a guy on one of those. What’s up with these?’”

Back above the finish line, at the top of the hill that wound down to the flats, Brennan’s head, shoulders and then handlebars popped up.

She pumped the bike up the hill.

She tore across the top.

She flew down the front, through the flats, and then she was across the finish line.

“It’s awesome,” she said, breathing hard and laying her bike down. “You really can ride anything out there. It’s like a road.

“I got a new freaking drug.”

Earth, Wind and Fat Tire 10-Kilometer Bike Challenge Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails

Women — 1. Brennan, Angie, 32 minutes, 24 seconds; 2. Morrow, Kristin, 39:49; 3. Moran, Patty, 40:24; 4. Daniels, Regina, 46:46; 5. England, Kimmy, 47:53.

Men — 1. Reimer, Adam, 26:49; 2. Eskelin, Tony, 27:50; 3. Nelson, Wilbur, 30:52; 4. Maryott, Jack, 34:40; 5. Oliver, Tony, 41:48.

 Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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