January 9, 2016
Here’s what’s rad about fatbiking: even the people that take it super seriously don’t take it that seriously. Ask anyone that attended Uberwintern 2016 in Stowe, Vermont and they’ll attest to the markedly non-competitive nature and generally laid back vibe of this eclectic clan. The spandex clad, plastic-bike crew seem to happily commingle with the Sorel-wearing, Grizzly Adams-looking dude on the 40 pound rigid steel bike. Kinda utopian.
2016 marked year number four of what’s become a new winter tradition in Stowe; thanks to the good peeps at MTBVT.com and the Stowe Mountain Bike Club, Uberwintern has blossomed from a couple of dudes on bikes in the woods to a full blown party on wheels. All the usual bike-fest boxes are ticked but the ante gets upped when the mercury drops. For Ryan Thibault, mastermind of the event and the brains behind MTBVT.com, this event is a labor of love and it shows. Not only does this event raise funds that go directly to the local trails, but it also brings together people from all over the northeast in a very unconventional setting.
Anyway, I’m new to fatbiking and I’ve been sitting on the fatbike sidelines for the past few seasons, curmudgeonly proclaiming my mistrust for any winter activity that’s not snowboarding. But I’ll admit, I was intrigued and more than a little eager to dip my toes in that proverbial chilly water. When I rolled into Sushi Yoshi, whose owner Nate Freund graciously offered up to host Uberwintern this year, there were vendors galore, more fat bike demos than anyone could ride in a single day, and possibly best of all, custom brewed von Trapp Brewing lager awaiting all registered riders. Hell yes.
Thanks to a dedicated crew of maniacs who (wait for it) dragged old tires packed with cinder blocks around the Cady Hill Forest trail network, the trails were in perfect shape for Uberwintern 2016. Yeah, go back and read that again. The weather leading up to the event was less than ideal and we most certainly dodged a bullet; temps in the 60s up until about a week before had plagued the entire northeast, leading to a not-so-wintery vibe in town. But winter arrived in the nick of time, and disaster was averted.
When the group rides finally departed Sushi Yoshi around 10 a.m. there were literally too many groups to count. Throughout the day the groups fractured and reformed happily as people jumped among crews with differing levels of ambition—some opting for epic all day rides linking the various trail pods, others simply taking the chance to ride up Cady Hill for a toddy around the bonfire. Conditions were ripe for two wheel drifting and people were getting loose, throwing roost and embracing the general hooliganism that inevitably arises in such conditions.
Back at the ranch, the after party was killer with great food (thanks Nate!), great beer (thanks Trapp’s!) and of course, great people (thanks everyone!). Whether you’re a seasoned fat bike veteran, or just thinking about giving it a go, Uberwintern is not to me missed. I for one am a convert and you better believe I’ll be first in line when registration opens next year…