Tag Archives: ben welnak

Fatbike video

Ben Welnak recently posted this cool video (aptly titled Fatbike Spring) on his site, BenWelnak.com.  It’s a nice mix of stills and video, showcasing some of the beauty that can be seen and fun that can be had on snow-covered but melting winter trail on a warm day in Colorado.

We’ve posted it here with Ben’s permission.  Check it:

http://vimeo.com/38006540

 

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Ben & the Bully are at the top of the Mahem

Those of you who follow RideFatbikes.com regularly know that Twenty2 Cycles and Ben Welnak (one of the owners) are held in high regard here, in part due to the fact that Twenty2 Cycles makes some great fatbikes, expanding the ever-increasing offerings in the fatbike world, and in part due to their advocacy and sponsorship of the Triple F.  So when we heard that Ben one the Leadville Mahem (the 2nd of 3 races in the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race series, we were excited to get the word out.

Ben’s blog, The Front Range Chronicles, is a good read, and can be found here.  The article below is a guest post from Ben Welnak, and is a copy of the same article from his blog.  If you like the article, be sure to check out the rest of the great stories on his site.

SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2012

Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race #3 – Mineral Belt Mayhem

I headed up to Leadville yesterday after Amy and I met with some Walk to Remember folks to get on the CBS local news. Amy did a great job talking on air while we were recording – she’s better on camera than she thinks, especially when discussing child loss. It’s a great organization that helps people who have experienced child loss know that there are others out there ready to talk about it.
a lot of snow on the drive up to Leadville

I rolled into town around noon and took a little time to get all my clothes laid out and bike ready to rock.

i know…triple crank with no front der…oops, didn’t order enough and the one went on a customer’s bike. I’ll get that ordered up, but for tonight I’ll be rolling a 1 x 9
A lot of clothes for an hour long race. Gear includes ice fishing mittens with sweet ass Ergon gloves underneath (yes, ice fishing…I am from Wisconsin after all) All necessary though as the temps dropped like a rock down to like 10 degrees after sunset.

Once I was comfortable with everything and it was ready to go, I headed down the street to the City on a Hill Coffee Shop to eat, hang out, and get some work done while I waited for the race.

On the way over I took my time and checked out the skijoring. It sure is something else!

the Leadville, CO main street (the race finishes on this street!)

Around 5:30, I started packing up my stuff at the coffee shop and headed over to the race sign up at the Cycles of Life Bike Shop . $20 later I got ready to roll. My legs were feeling a little sore, so i took a good amount of time warming up to get ready for the cyclocross-like 12ish mile, 1hour+ effort (the time varies a good bit from year to year depending on the snow conditions).

just happened to get Number 22 to go on the Twenty2 Cycles Bully.. a good sign perhaps

It was good to get back. After a hiatus from last year’s race, it felt good to be back, waiting in the coffee shop, looking out the window at like 1,000 people lining the streets. A lot has changed in those two years, wow. I’m definitely a different person than the last Mineral Belt Mayhem.

So, the race…

We’re all ready to go.
Headed away from the shop down the main drag, Harrison Ave, on to 8th Street

It started off with a neutral rollout from the shop down the snow packed street. Then once we hit 8th street, a cop continued to lead us out until we hit the Mineral Belt Trail just on the edge of town. The total starting pack was probably around 50 (waiting on the results as of writing this to get the actual numbers).

The Mineral Belt Trail is a 12 mile all-season trail designed for bikes and walkers. In the winter it’s a nicely groomed cross country ski trail for both classic and skate skiing. It was packed for the race, but there is only so much packing will do with a lot of new snow.

The cop pulled off as we approached the start of the trail and the race was on. Throughout the rollout, I wanted to stay near the front so I could take a stab at pushing the pace early on and see where I could take it. It was all good as I looked over and saw a couple people and the rest of the pack not too far behind. I didn’t want to be “that guy” by blowing apart the rollout, so I let off to not go crazy.

The race was on and you could hear the changing gears. I pushed the pedals, hit the trail first, and hopped up over the little ridge of snow. Crap…the chain jumped off. I had to stop and get it back on. I was now suddenly in chase mode only 1 minute into the race. Not good.

I hopped back on and put my head down. It didn’t take long to catch up to a lot of the people on regular mountain bikes because the snow was soft and it was hard to navigate. The leaders were not far up ahead, so I knew that if I could keep it steady that I could put it on over the last couple mile uphill section.

The snow didn’t get much harder. There was a small section on the right of the skate ski deck and a sliver of space next to the classic tracks that were enough to carry some float. But once you tried to venture out from those spots and pass, it was like hitting peanut butter. The tires would just punch through and drag.

Five of us continued up the initial climb in the lead. It was strung out maybe 30-45 seconds from the leader back to me at 5th. I stuck on the wheel of a guy on a 29er knowing that he’d probably fall off the pace, taking advantage of the extra packed tire tread. It’s just too hard to maintain a good pace, going up an incline on “skinny” tires, so it was only inevitable. I tried to pass him a couple times, but when I swung out to go by, the soft snow sucked me in. It wasn’t worth trying to put so much into it so early on. I got tired of following him though, so I finally just punched it and grinded through the slow snow.

The leaders weren’t getting out any further, so I just maintained a good pace and focused on catching the next guy. I got him and we see-sawed for a bit before I started pushing the pace and moving the Bully faster. We reached a downhill section and I let it rip with the second place rider in my sights.
After closing the gap on the second place rider on this section, I passed him on a short road crossing and the race was on to catch first.

I kept him in my sights, which was around 30 seconds up-I would continually pick sections that I saw him pass and then countdown, just to know where I stood. Knowing that the last couple mile would be a tough gradual uphill, I anticipated that he’d get tired given the pace he was pushing. After we popped out of a sweet downhill section through the trees, the 1st place rider was closer than I thought. He seemed to struggle through a rough patch of snow leading up to the Highway 24 crossing and I knew it wouldn’t be long. I hit a short road crossing and sprinted for about 20 seconds until I caught and passed him.

The last section was pretty loose and had some deeper snow. There was one spot that I decided to jump off and run. I took a quick look back and saw two lights – the third place guy was catching second. I looked back a couple minutes later and saw him pass. At that point, I stood up and pushed to the end of the trail. Once I heard the cowbells of the volunteers at the right turn onto Harrison, I knew it was done. I just pushed over the hill and got to sprint it home on the snowpacked Harrison Avenue for a 1st place finish.

I love the end of this race – racing down through the center of Leadville at night with a good gang of people hanging at the bike shop.

A good group of people hung around after the race, both at the shop, as well as the mexican restaurant next door. We were waiting to see how others were doing. Some people were have some big issues with the snow and took 2-3 hours to finish. As of right now, the results aren’t posted yet, but I will update this post when they are.

The Leadville Winter Mountain Bike races never disappoint. It’s a great chance to get out and gain a little race training, have a post race Oskar Blues beer, and meet some cool people.

Thanks to the Cloud City Wheelers for the opportunity to race in the dead of winter above 10,000 feet of elevation. Thanks to Cycles of Life for hosting this race. Groomed race course, cheap entry, plenty of schwag, free beer, and cool people – can’t really ask for much more.

The Twenty2 Cycles Steel Bully handled the course well. The “mountain bike-like” geometry really is fun. It allowed me to really rip the downhills with quick handling and was very balanced when I was slowly going up the hills. I really dig the sturdiness when I stand and put the power to the pedals. I know that I should feel this way, since I am an owner in the company, but I can’t argue with the result.

I won’t be hitting up the last race of the series on April 7th because I have some bigger and longer fish to fry – April 7th is AntiEpic day. So, it’s a bittersweet end to my Leadville races for the year. It’ll be a year until the next, but it also means that spring is right around the corner.

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Fatbikes All Year (by Ben Welnak, guest author)

The article below is by guest author and friend of RideFatbikes.com, Ben Welnak.  Ben is an avid mountain bike enthusiast and racer, and is an owner of Twenty2 Cycles.  His personal blog is well worth reading, and you can check that out at BenWelnak.com.  Ben’s cycling and racing perspective and insights can also be found at XXCMag.com, as Ben recently joined Jason and Zandr to do the weekly XXC podcasts ( http://xxcmag.com/xxc-podcasts ).   At RideFatbikes.com, we’re fortunate to have Ben contribute some of his insights and thoughts to issues such as the one below, which is likely on the minds of many of us “fatbike afficionados” as we enter the spring riding season.

If you want to discuss the issue Ben raises, feel free to leave a comment here inline with the article, and we can get the discussion rolling.

Big Betty tire in Twenty2 Cycles Bully fatbike frame

Fatbikes All Year

by Ben Welnak

This winter has been a very interesting one in the mountain biking world. Fatbikes have stormed the scene and left a wake of a whole new range of frames, components, wheels, clothing, races, and other accessories. Many riders have taken advantage of several new options to take the plunge into buying a full new bike for the offseason. They’ve realized the change in mindset that the fatty tires bring. Now, snow, paths, frozen lakes, rocky shorelines, sand, and any other type of riding is just plain fun.

It’s March, daylight savings time starts next weekend, and spring is right around the corner. You have big heavy fat tires and 80mm rims that you bought to prepare for the frozen months, which didn’t seem to appear in a lot of the country. Now, with thawing dirt, are you going to hang up your brand new bike? Or…will you get it rigged up a little different so it’s ready to rock on your regular riding haunts too?

They are great in all conditions, but I understand how all of us think. If I could just have a lighter setup with these big wheels, I could keep the fun and make it a little quicker and easier to get through the hills. We’re always looking to upgrade – if this frame was a little stiffer, this wheel a little lighter, these treads not so much of a drag on the ground. There are talks of “skinny” fatbike tires out there and I’m sure that, after this booming year, there will be plenty of options coming on board at some point in the future.

I thought it would be cool and (hopefully) helpful to try out some different tire options to give you an idea of other options out there to drop weight and make your rig a little faster for the summertime singletrack. This isn’t meant to be the most technical discussion or a specific gear review article. There are plenty of other great people doing that kind of thing already. Rather, it’s meant to be a look at what options are available, try them out, and share the information. I’m not sure how many pieces I will write or where this will even lead. Maybe nowhere and maybe it kicks off a little discussion. We’ll see.

I’ve started out with Schwalbe’s Big Betty freeride tires. At a claimed weight of 870 grams and a width of 2.4 inches, it seemed like a good option to test out. I mounted them to 65mm wide Surly’s Marge Lite rims and kept the pressure around 20 psi. The tires stretched out to a little over 2.6inches, with the tread a little bit narrower than the sidewalls. Not enough to be any issue, but should be noted I tend to start with a fuller tire and then go down from there. Mounted on my Twenty2 Cycles Bully, which is designed for the “traditional” fatty tires, it was an over fun ride.

Big Betty rear tire in Twenty2 Cycles Bully fatbike frame

I’ve only done a little riding on them so far, but it was on some frozen singletrack. The pavement ride to the trail was relatively good. It wasn’t a smooth road tire or a regular 29er tire, but it’s not meant to be. It rolled good for a fatty tire, although it did seem to pick up a lot of small stones. To be expected with a tire with such tread, but it’s noticeably more than you’re probably used to with the other fat tire options.

I definitely have plenty more testing to go on these to feel the full effect. Stay tuned to RideFatbikes.com as I do more testing and writing about these Big Betty tire setup. I will continue to try these out on the Bully and see what I think as I hit more thawed out mountain singletrack. I’m interested in trying some of the new tires later this year and see what is possible with some of these setups.

Feedback is definitely welcome. I’d love to hear what everyone else is running and what ideas you have. Feel free to contact me directly at ben@twenty2cycles.com.

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Winter racing in Leadville Colorado

At RideFatbikes.com, we consider our mission to serve as a resource to the fatbike community.  We’ve had great support from readers who’ve taken time to email or comment, applauding our efforts to highlight news and information that they may not otherwise stumble upon.

We’re fortunate that our readers and collaborators also volunteer photos, information and ideas that allow us to bring even more depth to this site.  Our friend Ben Welnak at Twenty2 Cycles (primary sponsor of the Fatbike Frozen Forty) sent this write-up over.  Ben rides and races a lot, so when he makes a ride sound this great, it’s likely pretty great.  You can check out his site too, at BenWelnak.com.

Here’s what Ben has to say about the Leadville Mountain Bike winter race series…

Leadville Mountain Bike Series Race #2 – Tennessee Pass Night Jam

by:  Ben Welnak – Twenty2 Cycles ( https://www.twenty2cycles.com/ )

There are many new winter races in 2012.  Meanwhile, the Leadville Series Winter Mountain Bike Series has been around for several years.  There is a good local and loyal following for this four-race series.  With snow and mountains, who wouldn’t want to race?

This is the description of the race series from the Cloud City Wheelers website ( http://www.cloudcitywheelers.com/events-rides/ )

“These unique and exciting races occur throughout the winter in and around Leadville. Utilizing groomed nordic ski trails and snowmobile trails, these races are a great way to keep riding and racing during the off-season. Three of the races are even held at night! A typical course is 12 miles with a mix of spine-tingling conditions. Cost is $20 per race.

All proceeds from the race series go towards Cloud City Wheelers advocacy efforts. These races always end with plenty of tasty food and beverages, laughter and dang good times. Come on up and enjoy the ride!”

All of the races are open to both fatbikes and regular mountain bikes.  In the past there were a limited number of fatbikes racing, but, as you can imagine, this year there are plenty of fatbikes showing up, which almost makes it necessary to split the regular bikes and fatbikes into their own categories.

The first race of the series, the “Copper en Fuego”, was on January 14th at Copper Mountain.  It was a new race for 2012 and was very popular.  160 racers showed up and learned what the Leadville Series ise all about.  From the sound of all the comments, it was all smiles and all fun.

This past Saturday night, 64 racers braved the near zero degree temperatures and 10,000+ft elevation to toe the line at 7pm under the full moon to crank out 12 miles on the groomed ski trails of the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center http://tennesseepass.com/nordic-center/  . While all the races are unique because of the elevation, temperature, and, well, racing in the dead of winter, this race is especially unique because it’s a great example of the collaboration of a cross country ski specific center with fatbikes and regular mountain bikes.  The nordic center is gracious enough to host the entire event (with a toastly fireplace and cabin surroundings), from sign-in to post race warmup, beer, and pasta dinner….all for $20.

The course was freshly groomed and mostly hardpack.  The first 3-4 miles were a little soft for regular mountain bikes though and I was breaking through too much to keep up with the wider guys.  The rest of the course was nice packed and provided enough traction to put down some good riding.  Over the 12 mile, the course had a total elevation gain of about 1,500 feet, which feels like almost double that at some points because of the snow.  The key of the race was to stay on the skate deck and steer clear of the classical tracks.  The tracks can be dangerous by grabbing your tires and throwing racers off into the soft, unpacked 2+ feet of snow in the woods.

The top three men were Taylor Sheldon, Jordan Carr, and Erik Lobeck.  The top 3 singlespeeders were Jerry Oliver (friend of Twenty2 Cycles, Eric Cutlip, and Barry Croker).  The top 3 women were Stephanie Jones, Amanda Good, and Erin Allaman.  For the full results of the races, you can check the results page  http://www.cloudcitywheelers.com/2012-leadville-winter-mountain-bike-race-results/  .

An event like this proves that cross country ski areas can work with local groups to produce great events for alternate trail users.  It should be interesting to see how the future unfolds for the relationship between fatbikers and cross country skiers.

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