Interview: Getting Fat In Winter With Josiah Middaugh

Last weekend reigning XTERRA World Champ, Josiah Middaugh placed fifth in the first ever Fat Bike World Championship in Crested Butte, Colorado. Josiah was good enough to take some time out of his busy schedule with family, training, and Middaugh Coaching to share his impressions of the event with DirtTRI.

DirtTRI- What was your general impression of the first ever Fat Bike World Championship? 

Josiah Middaugh – The race was very well organized and seemed to have a lot of support from the bike industry, especially from lesser-known brands trying to find a niche in Fat Biking.

How was the course? Fat Biking seems to be trying to find its place, trails vs. Nordic centers, etc.

The course was completely on Nordic trails which sounds very non-technical, and it would have been if we didn’t repeat anything. However we did 5 laps of a 6 mile course so after 2 laps the course was deteriorating quickly and softened up with deep ruts everywhere. We also had lapped traffic to deal with.

The Felt DD 30, Middaugh's ride for Fat Bike Worlds. Photo - Felt bicycles.
The Felt DD 30, Middaugh’s ride for Fat Bike Worlds.

How did the race go? We read you think you needed wider tires. What were you running? What seemed to work best for other riders? How fat are you thinking?

Honestly I had a rough day out there. I have gotten lots of advice from fat bike riders lately, but racing is where the real learning takes place. I was riding 4.0 inch wide tires, because that’s what came on the bike and I ran around 6 psi. It worked well for the first 2 laps but then I started to have trouble climbing the hills and trouble hooking up on corners. I noticed that the top guys had 4.8 or 4.6″ wide tires and lower air pressure. I have done enough winter triathlons and winter bike races to know that it is easy to blame it on your tires so of course that is what I am doing, ha ha . There is also a huge skill component to riding on the rutted snow and I imagine it might be similar to riding in the wet muddy ruts of a cyclocross race. I heard even the top guys took some spills but I may have had the highest wipe out to finishing place ratio.

What was the general atmosphere at the event? I assume lots of fat bike stoke?

It was a very positive, inclusive atmosphere. The sport is so new that nobody really has it figured out and it felt like everyone was in it together. It was a fun crowd with lots of costumes.

Was there any push back toward the event? We’ve seen a bit in media about the Nordic skiers not liking the bikes on the Nordic trails.

The organizers were very sensitive to that and devoted an entire day of the event to education. Since fat biking relies on other users it is important to develop a good relationship with Nordic skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers, and any other trail users. In most places it is still undefined as far as where you can ride your fat bike, so the industry is trying to get out in front of it. Luckily I think most forward thinking Nordic centers see the possibility to attract more trail users even if it means designating specific trails or creating new ones with specialized groomers (like singletrack groomers).

Fat Bike World Championship in Crested Butte, CO -
The start of the Fat Bike World Championship.

Do you see this event growing?

I do, mainly because there seems to be an invested interest by the biking industry.

As to you, do you ride the fat bike a lot in the winter? Is it, or has it become a fixture in your training? Particularly since you live in the mountains and the trails are snow packed.

Yes, I have been getting out about once a week, which has been great. For cyclists that train year-round it is a good way to be outside on the bike. The windchill is lower since you are going slower and you can get off the main roads and out in nature.

Do you think this could revive the winter triathlon concept?

Now that we can truly ride on snow. I think so, it’s a cool thing to be able to actually ride on snow.

There are a ton of cross duathlons in Europe in the winter. Granted, those events generally have to deal with muddy conditions, not snow. Do you think cross duathlon could be a realistic prospect? Perhaps snowshoe and fatbiking?

I’m not sure what the sport of fat biking looks like in Europe, but in the US it is growing very fast. Not just in ski towns out West, but I have heard it is doing great things for the bike industry in the Upper Mid-West like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (find those trails HERE). Lots of those places are starting single track grooming and have more trail riding options than we do here in Colorado. In Leadville they groom single track at CMC and Pedal Power just had their annual winter triathlon there, which included a 5k snowshoe, 10k snow bike, and 8k Nordic Ski.

Anything else to ad?

For people who love to ride there bikes year-round, fat bikes are rad.




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