On March 14, 2018, Kim and I fly to Nome, Alaska, with the intention of riding our bicycles to Fairbanks, on the greatest equipment the world has yet seen. The fat-bike is a marvel of modern industry and design. Man’s greatest invention—the bicycle—has been fussed over, considered, and modified into a thing of beauty and unrivaled efficiency.
Winter cycling expeditions can be really hard. Soft snow trails, strong and sometimes relentless wind, discomfort, and injury are all potentially on the menu and to be anticipated. In the late 1990s, winter cycling expeditions had the potential to be even more difficult—fat-bikes didn’t yet exist. Even with big tyres, these trips are often impossible; without big tyres, impossible was more frequent.
In the 1980s, 1990s, and well into the 2000s, a handful of diehard winter cyclists were begging for bicycles with bigger, wider, and fatter wheels and tyres. Shade-tree inventors like Mark Gronewald and Ray Molina were pushing the boundaries but the options were few. Finally, however, one bigger bike company took a chance, made the leap of faith, and kicked off the fat-bike design arms race.
Since 2005, interest in this sub-culture cycling pursuit has grown exponentially. What used to be a sport wherein everyone who did it knew the name and or reputation of almost most everyone else, has mushroomed into a global phenomenon. Alaska has exported an idea and an activity to the world, and there is no going back.
And, since 2005, the cycling industry has been in overdrive, designing and tweaking the equipment.
To the engineers and designers, who have lost sleep, listened to input, and spent long hours in the saddle wondering how to improve the fat-bike, thank you. To the OG’s who spent their inheritances and re-mortgaged homes on the original fat-bike dream, thank you.
Twenty years ago, I took my first winter cycling trip on the Iditarod Trail with Roger and Arleen Cowles. My mind was blown. We were on the equipment of the day and we didn’t achieve the massive objective we’d set out for. We made it to Unalakleet and called it.
Tomorrow, I fly with my favorite adventure partner, Kim McNett, to Nome, again. We intend to hang around for a few days and take in the finish of the Last Great Race, visit friends, and camp on beaches dripping with gold and history.
On this trip, I plan to shoot video. I want to ask anyone we meet, how global warming has affected their ability to travel. For ten thousand years, winter has been the time for travel and human migration; winter has been the time to visit distant family and to reconnect. On our watch, this tradition is disappearing, unless we get serious and start fighting like hell against global warming.
The stories I hope to capture will I hope help others understand the dire straights we are in. The stories I hope to capture will I hope spur us to action. “Summer,” an Inuit proverb tells us, “is the season of inferior sledding.”
On this expedition we will be carrying our InReach tracking device. You are invited to follow our progress and read our updates by clicking this link: https://share.garmin.com/BjornandKim
Our bikes have been tuned; our bags packed; our batteries full of charge; and there is nothing left for it. We are as ready as we’ll ever be. Wish us well.
"It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” –Gandalf