‘Good to be back’: Northland Fat Bike Rally returns to Bemidji
Saturday's Northland Fat Bike Rally consisted of 10-kilometer and 28-kilometer race courses, both starting on Lake Bemidji and meandering through the trails of Lake Bemidji State Park.
BEMIDJI — For the first time in two years, dozens of cyclists gathered at Lake Bemidji State Park for the annual Northland Fat Bike Rally on Saturday.
As the sun was shining and the temperatures were in the pleasant-for-Minnesota mid-30s, the rally consisted of 10-kilometer and 28-kilometer race courses, both starting on Lake Bemidji and meandering through the trails of the state park. A free-will donation was taken for participation and went to support the TrekNorth Mountain Bike Club.
“The (TrekNorth Mountain Bike Club) takes kids out on trips, brings them around the local trail systems and teaches them how to ride a bike,” event organizer Jerry Smith said. “A lot of them don't have bikes and don't have the opportunity to ride bikes so it's a really awesome way to get more kids introduced to the sport and hopefully this will raise enough money to get another bike or to pay for some gas for them to go to more places.”
After taking a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, 20 cyclists strapped on their helmets and geared up for the sixth annual fat bike rally. Smith said in past years, the event hosted close to 30-70 participants, but this year was more of a fun run to get the rally back on track.
“This is the first one back since COVID-19 hit, so we’ve had two years without one. It feels good to be back,” Smith said. “We had a warm spell yesterday and then that all froze really well last night. So it's a really fast course, probably some of the best weather that we've ever had at this event.”
But the rally was not just for experienced riders. According to Smith, he wanted Saturday’s rally to provide the cyclists, competitive or not, with a high-level race, but also a space where participants could come and simply enjoy the ride — and the event did just that.
“There’s a lot of people here that have never been on a fat bike before, so it’s really cool to see them ride out here,” Smith said. “It’s a lot less competitive and more laid back. I didn’t want to create an atmosphere that was too intense and scare people away. But, those participants who want to race fast can, and those who want to just enjoy it can do that, too.”
Because the Northland Fat Bike Rally encourages participation from first-time riders, experts and everything in between, two locals, Sarah Wilson and Lori Barrow decided to try it for themselves — and ended up tying for second in the Women's 10-kilometer race.
“Sarah convinced me to come out just yesterday, she randomly texted me and said ‘I need a biking buddy,' so we rented two bikes from Bemidji State University and we just came out to try it for fun,” Barrow said. “It was really fun, it was a great workout. Everyone is so motivated, happy and we just got cheered on the entire time by friendly people, it was a blast.”
Barrow mentioned she was going to try fat tire biking again, but the best part of Saturday was how beautiful the trails were along with the opportunity to support the local mountain bike club.
“It was fantastic, we couldn't have asked for better weather. The trees were beautiful, the hoar frost was glittering and raining down,” Barrow said. “It’s really amazing that the local fat bike community can partner with the state park and put this on, especially after COVID-19. It’s beautiful to see something like this and it’s for the kids, too.”
Wilson added that fat tire biking and mountain biking in general is a fun way to get through the cold winter months, but can be rather difficult due to the costs associated.
“Having this type of event is really great to support the TrekNorth Mountain Biking Club because mountain biking can be kind of inaccessible to people because of the cost,” Wilson said. “So providing that opportunity to get bikes and gear for kids who might not otherwise be able to enjoy it is really great.”
Here's a look at the results from the day's races:
First: Dan Haasken, 35:26
Second: Dan Gannon, 36:07
Third: Caige Jambor, 36:10
First: Shandelle Eliason, 34:25
Second: Sarah Wilson, 46:42
Second: Lori Barrow, 46:42
First: Lyon Karger, 1:08
Second: Bonner Karger, 1:11
Third: Mike Speake, 1:29
First: Wendy Johnson, 1:34
Second: Chalin Walters, 1:36