As told to Scott Downes
On a frigid weekend in late January, fat bikers gathered in Crested Butte for the first ever Fat Bike World Championships, hosted by the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce and sponsored Borealis Fat Bikes. The race headlined a weekend-long festival that drew fat bikers from across the mountain west and beyond, included forums about advocacy and trail usage, and featured Lez Zeppelin – a dope all-female Led Zeppelin cover band.
Colorado-based mountain biker Amy Beisel soloed to victory in the women’s elite race. Beisel has been racing for seven years, based in Gunnison for more than a decade, and recently joined Team RideBiker p/b Sho-air | IsoRide | LIV. Her race highlights include wins at the Original Growler (where she also holds the course record) and Leadville Series Stage Race, as well as top ten finishes at MTB US National Championships, US Pro Cup races, and the GoPro Games.
303Cycling caught up with Beisel this past week to ask about fat biking success, her upcoming season, and candid thoughts and tips for training and racing.
Amy, you are fresh off your Fat Bike World Championship victory, even though it was maybe the fifth or sixth time you’ve been on a fat bike. So tell us how did that come about? What prompted you to take a shot at the fat bike world title?
The first ever Fat Bike World Championship held in my backyard was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. I just love riding bikes, whether it’s hardtail, road, cyclocross, or big 5” travel bikes. So riding a bike with really fat tires was a fun, new challenge.
What are the biggest differences between a mountain bike race and a fat bike race?
The feeling is completely different. Fat bikes are just a lot slower, I think, in all aspects. And you are on groomed trails more than not, whereas single track is more prevalent in a XC race. I will say crashing on snow is way more fun than crashing on dirt and rocks!
Any advice for those of us who are fat bike-curious?
Do it. Just give it a try. There are a lot of shops that will let you demo a fat bike. I noticed the bottom bracket is wider. When I set my length as if it were a normal size bottom bracket, my knees ached a little. I’d recommend lowering your saddle 1mm or so. This helped me avoid having any knee pain.
How did you first get your start in mountain bike racing?
My older brother started racing and he kept saying I need to try it because it is so fun. So one day, I bought a used bike from a demo shop and never turned back – I started racing that same year. I got a late start – I was 24 years old – but it is never too late to start riding a bike. Traveling around Colorado (to various races) with friends, and having a lot of time by myself, has been so much fun. Gunnison is a great place to learn how to ride a bike, so I give credit to the terrain and the people who taught me.
How do you integrate training at an elite level into your day to day life? Do you have a standard routine or prefer to change things up over the course of the year?
Integrating training can sometimes be a challenge with work and other obligations, but I somehow always make time for it. Usually 2-3 hours a day on the bike, but some days are longer than others. I love training. I love doing intervals – going uphill for that specific interval, turning around, recovering, then doing it all over again. I have made huge sacrifices to be able to train and more importantly rest.
I work with a coach and we definitely change things up over the course of the year. In the winter/offseason, I do a lot of muscle tensions, low cadence and bigger gear, it’s essentially like lifting weights on the bike. I also do lots of high cadence pedaling and one legged pedaling. Eventually, I move into more the high end of fitness and will start LT training and V02. It is always changing throughout the year, and I try to be “peaking” at Nationals.
Do you have any tricks for staying focused on long training rides and races? What goes through your head when you’re on the bike?
Friends! Some athletes prefer to do intervals alone, but I love having a friend with me. I always go harder. If a friend isn’t available, it’s music. I love to turn it up loud and bust out a hard effort. In races, I try to be as positive mentally as I can – happy thoughts. Sometime I will sing songs in my head, to take my mind off other pain factors.
Sometimes I focus on nothing except the trail ahead of me. If my legs feel horrible and I’m not riding well, I can get really negative and think I suck and want to quit. It can be a vicious cycle. That’s why happy thoughts are always better! If I feel really good, I repeat “I am within my limits” to myself and I feel like I can conquer the world.
You’re on a new team this year and coming off some big results in recent years. What’s next for you? What are your goals for 2016?
Yes, I will be riding for RideBiker. It’s a unique team in that we find our own sponsors and make our own connections, but are united together under RideBiker, which is an alliance that supports a handful of elite athletes, club teams, and race events. It’s a pretty cool concept. I also work with Isoride (a Colorado company) for nutrition, LIV bikes, Greggs Orthopedics, Porsche of Colorado Springs, Kenda Tires, Xpedo Pedals, SRM, Julbo eyewear, Giro, and Sugoi Apparel.
My first race is coming up at the Pro XCT in San Dimas, CA. My goal is to do the US PRO cup races, Epic ride series, and Nationals as my main focus. I will also do local races in-between like the Original Growler and Go Pro Games, to name a few.
A few final rapid fired questions for our How We Ride series:
What bike(s) do you ride and why?
LIV Obsess and LIV LUST, both with 27.5” wheels. They are xc bikes and I love the fit of them.
What’s your favorite place to ride in Colorado?
So many to choose from, but I think Monarch Crest is one of the best rides of all time.
Describe the worst day you’ve ever had on the bike.
I had ridden around 40 miles and was completely cooked. I had absolutely nothing in me and had about 10 miles to get home. I cried a lot. I have never been so far bonked in my life as that day.
Describe the best day you’ve ever had on the bike.
The same day where I bonked so hard. Jon Brown took a tube out of his backpack and put it around his seat post. I grabbed the other end. He towed me home the last 10 miles. I have never felt so grateful in my life – so it was also the best day ever on the bike!
And what advice would you have for people new to cycling?
Have fun and be prepared. Always have a tube and pump, plenty of food and water. And get involved with your local cycling community, like through a bike shop or organization, to help you!