Fat bike fun in the big backyard of the Roaring Fork Valley
The riders gripped, swigged and passed a flask of whiskey as they huddled closely together atop fat bikes at the base of Sunlight Mountain Resort on an icy Tuesday night.
“This is the lower I.Q. of the valley,” Hans Lutgring, one of the riders, joked.
As temperatures hovered below freezing and snow flurries persisted, these hooting and hollering winter warriors were about to tackle a 4.5-mile trek through nearly pitch black conditions.
Mounting their bikes decked out with fat, doughy tires, nothing more than small headlamps wrapped around their helmets illuminated the path forward. That’s almost everything the “Stomparillaz” need.
A gung-ho attitude is the final trail necessity.
It invigorates riders against the bitter cold, and prepares them for the race to come.
On Feb. 27, these local fat bikers will go head-to-head against fellow riders in Sunlight’s Rat Bike Face.
This friendly fat bike race, which is coming back to Sunlight after a nearly 10-year hiatus, spans across a Nordic trail system defined by heart-pounding uphills and white-knuckle descents, according to the race’s advertisement.
At the head of organizing this local group of riders is Steve “Zee” Novy. An architect by day, he morphs into a passionate fat bike madman by night.
As he played some tunes from a portable speaker, Novy said the first Rat Bike Face race had riders chugging a beer for every lap.
“It was just dumping snow,” he said. “It was so incredibly fun because the conditions were challenging us from above and on the surface.”
Barrelling down a snow-globed mountain on a bike with big tires is the best part, Novy said.
“It’s because it’s totally sketchy, and you’re never really in control,” he said. “It’s pure adrenaline.”
Novy said it’s hard to imagine, but the coursing adrenaline becomes more fun with every time this group goes out, and it’s not that big of a deal if anyone slides out.
“This is like our big backyard,” he said. “And we love to turn other people on to it.”
‘JUST GO FOR IT’
Every week, the Stomparillaz converge at Sunlight Mountain Resort well after the ski lifts have closed for the day.
Some just finished a day’s work, while others, like 14-year-old Glenwood High School freshman Dante Humphrey, just finished school.
Humphrey is currently a rider for Team Colorado Cycling, a statewide bike club that competes nationwide. He also rides for the Dirt Demons, Glenwood Springs High School’s bike team.
Like his seemingly fearless compadres, fat biking spikes his adrenaline.
“Years ago, I was going down Sunlight and I slid out,” he said. “I fell off the bike and I just got on my back, put my feet and arms in the air and slid for 100 feet. It was awesome.”
More importantly, Humphrey said he uses fat biking as training because it boosts his heart and keeps it up.
“The coolest thing about (fat bikes) is that they can pretty much go over anything,” he said. “That makes them pretty fun to do because you just get into low gear, turn the pressure down and just go for it.”
But there’s more to the high-octane sensation. Hopping on a fat bike and pedaling up and down a mountain puts muscles you didn’t even know you had to the test.
Chloe Lutgring — Hans’ daughter — is a 16-year-old Glenwood Springs High School junior. Her experience as a rider has so far helped her become a member of USA Cycling’s Olympic Development Academy for mountain biking, as well as the Dirt Demons.
Chloe said she races around the country, and later this year she plans to compete in Europe.
Standing covered head-to-toe in winter gear beside her bike, Chloe said fat biking is a sport that helps build her athletic prowess. Meanwhile, this exercise can be done anywhere from South Canyon to Prince Creek south of Carbondale to, of course, Sunlight and even regular roadways, for that matter.
“It definitely builds your core, and it’s also a different discipline,” she said. “So, for me, it’s helped me a lot with my balance.”
Coming out on a frigid weekday to pump her muscles in a grueling workout has also offered Chloe a chance to establish camaraderie.
Just before huddling into that warm circle before the riders trekked up the mountain — the underagers didn’t drink, of course — Chloe said she’s found what she’s looking for.
“I’ve always found it as a way to connect with friends, and especially just throughout the winter when the high school season isn’t in play, I get to see people like Dante,” she said. “I kind of take these Tuesdays and Thursdays like a little gathering. It’s like a little family.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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