Stowe Derby Fat Bike "Adventure"

Stowe Derby Fat Bike "Adventure"

By Bruce Bell

You know,” I said to Leslie days before the race, “Some people are going to be out there for a couple of hours”. “Are you looking at me?” she replied. We had been wondering how long it might take to complete this new race and I was just offering my two cents…

The 70th annual Stowe Derby took place on Sunday, February 22. The Derby is one of the oldest and most unique ski races in North America. The challenge is to race from the top of Mt. Mansfield all the way to the village. This year, a shortened version of the course was offered to the first 100 people wishing to race their Fat Bike. Team Fit Werx members Brian Irwin, my wife Leslie, and yours truly couldn’t resist the new challenge. We’ve been enjoying exploring the trails and roads this winter on our Fat Bikes and when trying a race was just the next logical progression.

Fat Bikes can be a lot of fun, but they work best on firm trails. So, while the 7+ inches of fresh snow that fell overnight provided a soft landing for the inevitable crashes, it also added notable challenge to staying on one’s bike. While some of the elite Fat Bike racers had relatively few problems, most of us fell repeatedly and spent a lot of time pushing our bikes whenever the course tilted upward. An early and relatively high speed crash of mine (you can only get going so fast in soft snow) resulted in a taco’d front brake rotor and a front wheel that would not rotate freely. This made steering and forward progress in general a relatively futile affair.  I proceeded as best I could, crashing about every 20 yards or so along the way. I did manage to find a way to stop falling off the bike though when all the stresses of starting and stopping apparently resulted in a broken chain link – at least I could stop trying to pedal…

I pushed my bike for the next mile through the soft snow until the race course converged with a plowed road. Assuming my race was finished, I coasted down the road and walked a short distance to a local bike shop. Leaving my bike at the shop and thinking that I knew where my wife’s car keys were likely hidden, I took the public bus back to the start of the race where her car was parked. The likely spot was barren – no keys. So, not knowing when the next bus would come by, I hitched a ride back down the mountain. By this time my chain was repaired my rotor straightened enough for the wheel to spin more than 1/2 a revolution unimpeded.

Racing sometimes just doesn’t go as planned.  Having run, walked, coasted, taken a bus, and hitchhiked for the last 1 1/2 hours it was time to ride the remainder of the course to the finish, where our other car was parked. if I could get to the awards party before the beer ran out the day wouldn’t be a total loss. As I approached the finish in the fading afternoon light I could see the volunteer course workers rolling up the last sections of fencing. No spectators were left and the timing equipment appeared to have been put away. The volunteers urged me to cross the theoretical finish line but I declined since I hadn’t really covered the course in regulation. The party was still on when I arrived and results were soon posted.

Elite racer Noah Tautfest was able to stay on his bike the entire course and won with a blazing time just over 46 minutes. He was closely followed by a who’s who of elite Vermont cycling talent. Teammate Brain Irwin had an impressive ride finishing in 1:05:00 and Leslie finished in under two hours, ahead of many. To my surprise, the charitable course workers somehow registered a time for me of 2:39:30. “You know”, I remember saying to Leslie days before the race, “Some people are going to be out there for a couple of hours”. Little did I know how right I was at the time…


Despite Bruce’s rough race day in the new snow, Fat Bikes can be a lot of fun.  Fit Werx is an authorized Fat Bike dealer of Surly, Moots, Fat Back, Felt and others.  Fit Werx has locations outside of NYC in Ridgefield Park, NJ; in Peabody and Lexington, MA near Boston; and in Waitsfield, VT (near Stowe, Burlington and Montpelier).

About Ian

From first time riders to Olympians, Ian has helped thousands of athletes achieve their cycling and triathlon goals. Ian develops much of the Fit Werx fitting and analysis protocols and is responsible for technology training and development. He is regarded as one of the industry leaders in bicycle fitting, cycling biomechanics and bicycle geometry and design. He is dedicated to making sure the Fit Werx differences are delivered daily and provides Fit Werx with corporate direction and is responsible for uniting our staff and initiatives.

Find out more about Ian Here


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