Best of Luck, Fat Bike Racers!

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This weekend, the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series kicks off with one of the original fat bike events in the state, Fat Chance at Crystal Mountain.

So many of our pals spend their winters exploring the trails and putting down hot laps at Glacial Hills, the Cadillac Pathway, and the Winter Sports Singletrack that it’s only natural we all see each other at the races! Much of our growth over the years is thanks to the support of Short’s Brewing Company, and their passion for the trails and the outdoors is really embodied in their continued sponsorship of events like the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series, including the North American Vasa. Hopping into the action is just another great way to get involved!

This weekend, Iron Fish Distillery gets the SBFBS party started at Crystal Mountain with the 8th edition of Fat Chance. The circuit-style race starts at 10am, with 90 and 45 minute options and a number of age categories. Afterwards, there are plenty of prizes, schwag, and Crystal Mountain’s famous chili for participants, plus a chance to ride on the fast, flowy 2 mile course that’s been revamped to include some of the original sections of trail from the first edition of the race!

SBFBS boasts four events, and the second one always feels a bit like homecoming. The 49th Annual North American Vasa is becoming beacon of winter sports in northern Michigan. Skiers and fat bikers, once goaded into conflict, have embraced their mutual love of snow and competitive spirit, and this year’s fat bike race will run alongside the Saturday ski events yet again. NMMBA is heavily involved in the fat bike race, with board member John Roe taking the reins and always delivering what many would agree is the best fat bike race course possible; miles of singletrack, plenty of places to pace, enough elevation to keep you honest, and downhills that will have you giggling. It’s one of the few longer races left in the Midwest, with two 20km laps for the long races and a single 20km lap for the shorter option.

For the first time, the Dogman Challenge is in the SBFBS, but it’s an event that fat bikers have revered for years. It’s a full two-hour endurance race, with racers tackling a two mile loop as many times as they can in 120 minutes. The event, held at Mt. McSauba in Charlevoix, is one of the best run in the state, and nearly every rider who shows up goes home with a little something for their efforts. The noon start time makes it especially easy for folks from out of town to attend, and there’s always a thrill to toe the start line and head straight down the resort’s bunny hill to get the race going.

Finally, the Series ends on a high note with the famous Beard of Zeus, back home at Timber Ridge. It’s literally a party within a party; the race loop sticks to Timber property, with over 1,000 spectators built-in at the annual Suds’n’Snow Microbrew Festival happening at the same time! Racer fly past the beer tent every lap, resisting the temptation to stop and sip (well, trying to resist) as they put in as many laps as possible in 90 or 45 minutes. The March 2 date is often the last race of the year held on snow anywhere in our neck of the woods, while many use the race as a chance to fine tune their fitness ahead of Barry-Roubaix just a few weeks later.

For the first time, Beard of Zeus will be a full-on NMMBA event, with proceeds going to support our mission of building, maintaining, and protecting trails in northern Michigan. Your entry helps us do so much for communities in Traverse City, Bellaire, Cadillac, and across Leelanau County, and your presence means just as much. We love being able to bring riders together and help foster relationships that don’t end when the race (or ride) does.

Make sure all four of the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series events make it on your calendar, and we’ll see you in the woods to get ready!

Volunteer of the Year Award and More From the NMMBA Annual Meeting

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Last night, trail lovers from all over northern Michigan made it to Timber Ridge in Traverse City for our our Annual Meeting. A ride, a meal, and a great way to roll into 2019!

We had over sixty riders brave slightly icy conditions to kick off the meeting. As members from across the region trickled in , the sun broke through the clouds as the temperatures limped just over freezing. While the trail was a bit slick, the casual, fun pace of the day made it a great chance for riders from as far away as Alpena, Lansing, and even the UP to chat, catch-up, and work up a healthy appetite before heading back to Timber Ridge for the meeting.

Right on cue, the taco bar from Red Mesa welcomed all riders back and allowed our President, Chad Jordan, a little time to prepare to update everyone on just what NMMBA has been up to, and what’s up our sleeves for 2019. Chad offered up news from the Traverse City Trails Network, the new Acme Bike Park (planned at the Bartlett Road trailhead on the Vasa Pathway), and welcomed new board member Tim Jenema to the team. We also learned more about the Cadillac Pathway’s new Pavilion, 11 miles of approved new trail, and Polar Bear fat bike series this winter!

Up at Glacial Hills, we have plenty to look forward to, including more and improved amenities at nearly every trailhead, a totally revamped way finding system to make navigating the trails easier and quicker, and maintaining some of the best trails in the state. Bike Leelanau, too, had a lot to look forward to, including the second and third phase of Palmer Woods, the ever-expanding bike library in Suttons Bay, and the Winter Sports Trail at the Leelanau State Park.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night, however, came from Steve Mentzer. Last summer, NMMBA decided to work on a new award to honor volunteer work. A small committee worked for weeks to put a name to the award, and the person we kept coming back to was that of our friend Dan Morley. We lost Dan to cancer in July, as many of you will undoubtedly remember. Dan lent his professional expertise to help us shape our bylaws and navigate legal waters for years as a volunteer, but it was his personal love of mountain biking that we will treasure. Dan was up for any ride, and distance, and few people have pulled more new riders into our cycling community; he was famous for getting friends to sign up for races before they even owned a mountain bike! It’s fitting, too, that one of the last things he asked for was someone to ride the redesigned Vasa Singletrack and capture some video so that he could see the changes for himself. Of course, he loved them.

And so, it is incredibly fitting that we awarded the NMMBA Dan Morley Volunteer Award to Dan Morley himself as a testament not just to his tireless work to help NMMBA over the years, but for the passion, enthusiasm, and joy he brought to the trails every time he went out to ride. We’ll always remember his trademark, “At dawn, we ride” and strive to continue our mission in his memory.

From the whole NMMBA family, thanks to everyone who joined us last night and helped us to get where we are today. Together, we can continue and expand out efforts to care for our trails and encouraged healthier, active lifestyles for kids of all ages. Thank you!

Low Ain't Slow: Tire Pressure Tips For Real Winter Conditions

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After weeks of riding a mix of dirt, crusty ice, and just an inch or two of snow, it’s time to make the important tire pressure adjustments to preserve the trail and the fun.

For much of December, riders on the Winter Sports Singletrack were able to hop on their fat bike and ride at just about any tire pressure that suited them. While it may have looked a bit nordic, the trail’s base was so thin that we were really riding on just a few millimeters of snow, with roots and leaves poking through in many places on the trail system. Most of the trail was biked-groomed; instead of needing a snowmobile and drag, a few early-morning riders were able to pack things in nicely.

With this New Year’s Eve blizzard, however, it’s time to take another look at tire pressure. While you may right 8, 10, even 12 psi, those same pressures positively slice through soft snow. Even with a trail that’s been groomed and given time to set up, tire pressures that firm punch through, slide out, and cause deep ruts that take hours and hours to repair. How much time? To give you an idea, our volunteers put in over 11 hours of grooming on New Year’s Day alone!

So, what should your tires be at? After riding for years now, we’ve detemined that 4 psi is the highest pressure that you might ever need, and even that’s reserved for days with a firm base. Starting from 4psi, you can air down a little at a time until you have enough grip to stand up and pedal hard without slipping, and to turn without sliding out. That pressure can change slightly based on rim width, tire size, and rider weight; a heavier rider might need 1-2 psi more than a lighter rider. It can take a little guess-and-check, but once you find the right tire pressure for the conditions and your weight and riding style, you won’t just help us preserve the trail, you’ll also have a lot more fun!

We usually look for the tire to ‘puddle’, or flatten out once under weight. This puts the maximum amount of rubber on the snow for more traction, and gives you more flotation. Staying on top of the snow minimizes your track or rut in the snow, as well as making you much more efficient. Think of a dune buggy; those big balloon tires help to stay high on the sand, instead of slogging through it. That’s the same idea behind fat bike tires, and when in doubt, less pressure is always more fun.

Timing your ride to grooming efforts can also be a big help. With most of our trails being groomed in the morning, they’re often softer until they have time to set-up. Snow usually takes a few hours to get firm after being rolled or groomed, and the longer you can hold off, the better. You’ll always be the first to know if you’ve purchased your grooming badge…and you’ll help us to get out more often, and longer, with enough support to keep grooming as long as the snow flies!

You can learn more about our grooming efforts across northern Michigan, how to confidently adjust your tire pressure, and loads of more info at out NMMBA Annual Meeting this Sunday at Timber Ridge!