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On the climb

Registrations increase for 3rd annual Lake MacBride Fat Tire Classic Feb. 15
The starting line at the 2019 Lake MacBride Fat Tire Classic. (photo by Catherine Bilskie)

SOLON– The Lake MacBride Fat Tire Classic was not designed to be like other bicycle races.
Winding in and around Lake Macbride State Park, the course has climbed 2,300 feet of elevation over 20 miles, something designer Nate Kullbom said is “nearly impossible to do in Iowa.”
Kullbom, store manager for Sugar Bottom Bikes in North Liberty, said some riders felt the route was too difficult.
The third annual Lake MacBride Fat Tire Classic on Saturday, Feb. 15, will feature only 1,700 feet of climbing in the 25-mile race, he said.
“That’s still a lot.”
Sugar Bottom Bikes partnered with the Solon Centennial Lions Club to put the event on for the last three years, and the fat tire-only race is gaining traction.
Participation is capped at 200 riders, and pre-registration is well ahead of where it was a year ago.
According to Kullbom, 106 entrants have been received so far.
In the first year, the Classic attracted 89 pre-registrations, with 112 last year.
“I don’t think we’re going to hit 200, but probably another 50 in the next three, four days sign up,” Kullbom said. “That’d be good.”
The relationship with the Solon Centennial Lions Club is the key to the winter event, he said.
“It was actually their idea to do something like this.”
Jay Proffitt, a Lions Club member, approached Sugar Bottom Bikes owner Jon Yetley about the possibility of creating a local bicycle ride fundraiser.
“Fat Tire ride around Lake Macbride, that’s what we came up with,” Yetley said. “It’s been a really good event.”
After working with Park Manager Ron Puettmann for permission to use Lake Macbride State Park, Kullbom came up with the unique route.
There are few winter fat tire races in Iowa, and most will be a small course with multiple laps, he said.
“You’re seeing the same stuff over and over,” Kullbom noted. “With us, you’re seeing something new every time you turn a corner. There’s a lot of different terrain, a lot of different stuff to see. You’re never getting bored, you’ve got to be ready for something different every couple miles.”
From the twisty, winding pea gravel of the North Shore Trail and dense pine forests with a lot of tree cover to snowmobile trails, beach and a Level B road, the Lake MacBride Fat Tire Classic offers a wide variety of surfaces and scenery.
Kullbom said he wasn’t aware of any other races in Iowa state parks.
There are two options for participants– the 25-mile race and a 10-mile ride.
If conditions are frozen with no snow, mileage is added for the fast conditions.
“If it’s kind of soft or if we get a lot of snow and it’s slower, then 20 miles is probably enough,” he noted. “We’ve got lots of different contingency plans for different situations.”
The 2020 version begins and ends this year at a new location, Lake Macbride Golf Course, said Solon Centennial Lions Club member Brian Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick said the clubhouse will serve as race headquarters, as well as the site for an after-party featuring singer-songwriter Dave Zollo from 1-3 p.m.
The Lions Club members provide the volunteers needed to run the race, and staff the Bacon Stop which this year will be moved to the Timber Dome Lodge, with another small station near the entrance to the Solon Recreation and Nature Area, Fitzpatrick said.
The Fat Tire Classic is one of the club’s big annual fundraisers, he said, and the group is continuing some past partnerships.
Solon firefighters will be among the volunteers, raising funds for the firehouse project.
The Lions Club will also celebrate the collaboration with Lake Macbride State Park, which Fitzpatrick said has been “very gracious in their involvement for allowing us to use some of the single-track trails all three years.”
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is celebrating 100 years of the Iowa State Parks system in 2020, and kicked off the yearlong celebration on New Year’s Day with guided hikes in 49 state parks and forests, including Lake Macbride.
The Fat Tire Classic is one of the 100 statewide events celebrating the 100 Year Anniversary of the Iowa State Park System, and the Lions Club will contribute a portion of the proceeds to help take care of some Lake Macbride projects like signage and retaining walls, Fitzpatrick said.
Backbone State Park in Delaware County was the first state park, opening in 1920. Lake Macbride was opened in 1934.
The Fat Tire Classic is on pace to raise over $10,000 in its first three years.
“We’re going to break our attendance record again,” Fitzpatrick predicted.
While the race and ride draw a couple dozen local riders, most of the participants come from the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area, Kullbom reported, but some come from the Quad-Cities, Dubuque, Cedar Falls and Des Moines, as well as from Colorado, Kansas and Illinois.
Additional event information can be found at www.sugarbottombikes.com/lakemacbrideclassic.
For more information about the event, contact Jon Yetley, of Sugar Bottom Bikes, via email at jon@sugarbottombikes.com or call 319-541-4634.