2015 Bodie Bowl on the fat bike

Bodie is a Ghost Town nestled at 8000 ft up in the Sierra mountains roughly between the Town of Bridgeport and Mono lake. I have visited it a few times but not since my Sam Angus (The Mad Dog in my Blog title) passed away. As soon as I saw the announcement for an MTB race up there I knew I had to do it in memory of my old friend.

Angus the Samoyed at Bodie Ghost Town back in 2004. RIP my friend.

Bodie Bowl – August 22, 2015
A Mountain Bike Event through the Historic Ghost/Mining Town of Bodie, CA and the surrounding Bodie Bowl. This course will work it’s way through town and then out into BLM lands and a private Cattle Ranch. Great views of the White Mountains, Mono Lake, Mammoth Mountain and the Eastern Sierras.

This event will take place at Bodie State Park on August 22, 2015. Start times will be 8:10 am (Expert), 8:25 am (Sport) and 8:40 am (Recreational). There will be two courses. “Expert/Sport” course will be 50 Kilometers (31 miles) and approximately 2500 feet of climbing. The “Recreational” course will be 30 Kilometers (18.6 miles). The courses will be at an elevation of 8000 – 9000 feet. There is just “The right amount” of climbing on this course with the elevation to make it challenging. Both courses are all on dirt and primarily one loop with a few “out and backs”. Most of the ride will be on soft “Double Track” making it a fast course with easy passing access. You’ll love it!

In my mind the perfect bike for the Bodie Bowl  was a  drop bar fatbike and it was this race that was the genesis of the idea for “Fatty Lumpkin”.

“Fatty Lumpkin” About to get his first proper taste of sand

The race turned out to be a very low key affair with only around 50 entrants and a very friendly atmosphere.  I was also surprised to see 34f temperatures at the start which was a shock to the system after baking in the Bay Area all week.

Pretty Cold !!

I went for a warm up dressed with woolly gloves, arm warmers and a wind vest but the temperature rose very quickly so I ditched the wind vest and gloves for the race.  I wish I had ditched the arm warmers too as it got pretty warm on the climbs.

My plan for the race was to hang on to the only other fatbike in the expert group and hopefully out-sprint him on the uphill run in to the finish. Unfortunately the other fatbike rider turned out to be faster than me.

The race started off pretty mellow with a single speeder dictating the pace round the first of the town center loops. I was glad of the steady start as I had only done 1.6 miles of warm-up. Straight away I noticed  that the other fatbike rider was strong on the short climb.  On the second loop of the town center he opened up a bit of a gap but made a wrong turn on the downhill so the group came back together.

The first three miles were downhill on a bumpy and sandy road so I ended up on the front but I was riding well within myself as I knew we had a long way to go. I wasn’t on the front for long before the other fat bike rider came flying past so I had no choice but to go with him. Pretty soon we had opened up a decent gap over the rest of our group.  When we hit the first climb the fat bike rider started to gap me but I suspected he was pushing too hard so I kept to a pace I was more comfortable with. I felt sure I could bring him back on the longer faster sections (how wrong I was).  I was very impressed at how good the fatbike handled on the loose and sandy trails and was really enjoying myself.  On the first downhill I had to temper my enthusiasm a bit as there were a lot of rocks and I didn’t want to crash or break off a derailleur.

It turns out that we had taken a wrong turn and should not have gone up the climb spur at the start of the race but rather at the end. When I got to the junction I followed the arrows but they took me back to nearly the start.  A few people shouted at me that I was going the wrong way but the arrows seemed to confirm I was on the right course.  Eventually it dawned on me that there was no-one else around and I was only about a mile away from where we started.  I dawned on me that the race was over for me so I turned round and just rode to finish.

Out on Course – Picture Courtesy of Leigh

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful and due to the out and back nature of the course I got to see the lead group quite regularly (I think a lot of them went wrong too but not as bad as I did).  I was really impressed at how well the fatbike handled the terrain and any sluggishness that I normally feel on hard packed trails completely disappeared once I hit the sand. The ride was nothing short of magical.  I think I should have gone quite a bit lower in pressure for this event as I was bouncing about a bit too much on the rocky bits.  On sandy or loose rock climbs the fatbike was amazing.  I felt really sorry for the few people who had turned up on CX bikes as they were having a terrible time digging in and fishtailing in the sand. The course was 100% rideable on a fatbike.

I finished in a time of around 2h30m with 30.1 miles and 2269ft of climbing on the clock.  I really enjoyed this event and plan to be back again next year with some better navigation skills.

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