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Flakes of Fury

Fat tire bike race return to Fort Stevenson State Park

Much of the course for the fat tire bike race at Fort Stevenson was on the park’s extensive trail system. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

GARRISON – Pleasure found in enjoying the outdoors, along with getting some wonderful exercise, are just two of the many reasons for a growing list of enthusiasts that have discovered fat tire biking.

Fat tire bikes are just what their title implies. Tires are much, much wider than what is commonly found on conventional bicycles – three and one-half to five inches wide. The big tires have an aggressive tread and are made to perform in the snow. Or, more properly, on top of it.

Last Saturday though the snow cover was minimal the annual “Flakes of Fury” fat tire bike race was held at Fort Stevenson State Park. There was no need for grooming of the trail, something that if preferred if the snow gets a bit too deep for good winter biking. A total of 17 riders gathered at the starting line for the 12.4 mile race.

The course utilized a combination of the park’s extensive trail system and a little bit of paved roadway. It led riders through wooded draws, along the high banks of scenic Lake Sakakawea, through towering tree plantings and down a curvy trail flanked by tall grass.

“We haven’t had to do any professional grooming one time this year. Pretty neat,” said Rory Schell, Val’s Cyclery, Minot, moments before a rules meeting prior to the race. “Snow or not, they want to come. They are going to ride. They want to get out and go!”

Phil Helfrich, Bismarck, left, and Rory Schell, Minot, talk fat tire biking. Both men participated in the “Flakes of Fury” race at Fort Stevenson State Park. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

Doug Fuller, Garrison, was on hand for the pre-race preparations and to visit with several of fellow fat tire bikers. Fuller wasn’t entered in the race, but is an outdoor enthusiast and a regular rider on his fat tire bike.

“I love being outside. There’s something about the fresh air and winter workout,” remarked Fuller. “As you get older you are going to ache if you sit on the couch or if you get out and do something. You may as well go out and do something.”

Race participant Phil Helfrich, Bismarck, was warming up for the race with a few short bursts on his fat tire bike. Like Fuller, he said getting outside during winter in North Dakota is what fat tire biking is all about.

“If I’m out here riding bike I’m happy,” said Helfrich with a convincing smile. “You cannot beat it. It’s a good thing to do to release all the energy from the work week or whatever is going on externally. You come out here and exercise and hang with like-minded people. I came up here last year and it was a blast! I enjoy it.”

Jared Frank, Mandan, was the first across the finish line. He was followed by Jamie Perry, Bismarck, and his son, Colin. Melissa Marquardt, Hazen, led the women’s riders. Second was Hazel Drewlo, Bismarck, and third went to Wendy Rask of Hazen.

A field of nearly 20 riders leaves the start line one week ago for the 12.4 mile fat tire bike race at Fort Stevenson State Park. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

“This year we just wanted to give people the opportunity to get out and get some exercise, hosting our own unique opportunity for people to get out and use our trails,” said Tyler Schelske, Fort Stevenson State Park. “I wish we would have had a little bit more snow, but we can’t control that.”

A pair of cyclists appear to be pedaling through tall grass. They are really riding on a hiking trail being used for a fat tire bike race. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

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