Civil engineer Jeff Oatley took fat-bike racing to a new level in Alaska, crossing 1,000 miles in slightly over 16 days on his big wheels.
He followed the same route as a frigid, grueling international sled dog race.
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Oatley started out a week before the official competitors in the Yukon Quest 2016 International Sled Dog Race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada. This race is incredibly tough for the mushers - and they have the advantage of dog teams. Weather conditions are unpredictable, the cold can be brutal, and the trail is lonely.
"You can't carry the weight that the mushers carry out there, yet you're traveling through this country that can be minus 60 degrees," Oatley told Outside Magazine. His own bike with tires designed to handle the snow weighed about 80 pounds.
Biking long distances through the snow is not new for Oatley, who has been fat biking since 2000, starting with the first titanium Fatbacks, he told Bikepackers Magazine in 2014. That year he won the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a fat bike-ski-foot race covering 1,000 miles. Oatley did it in 10 days, 2 hours, and 53 minutes.
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On the Yukon Quest trail, the 46-year-old faced whiteout conditions, often slept without a tent, and endured extreme isolation. "You're surprised by the sound of your voice when you start talking again," he told Outside. He also got stopped at the Canadian border and narrowly avoided deportation over paperwork, the National Post reported.
Ultimately Oatley crossed the finish line just after the second-place official racer. The feat took 16 days, which is actually the cutoff for sled dog competitors. He posted on Facebook that his knees were sore and he was coughing. He also announced that this would be his last race.
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And here I was thinking fat bikes were mostly just for winter commuting. They appear regularly on snow-packed roadsides out here in Colorado. At first glance they look kind of funny, and heavy. Will I ever again doubt what one of those bikes can do when put to the test? Fat chance.
via Outside Magazine