If you’ve not been following the world of fatbike news lately, USA Cycling has announced that it is going to have a sanctioned USAC Fatbike National Championship in February of 2015. My post on this topic will be relatively brief.
There are some in the fatbike world who want fat bikes to remain a niche–a novelty market with secret handshakes and ironic disregard for all things mainstream cycling. Just last week, there was a gent on the Fatbikes on Facebook page who was decrying the adoption of any technology for fat bikes, and wishing that things would stay with rigid, steel frames and limited drivetrain options. I’m all in favor of technology, and having seen the merit of fat bikes across so many varying conditions, I hope that they continue to be embraced and become more popular. (Frankly, more buyers will mean more options for those of us who ride fat). It should be understood that I’m in favor of popularizing fat bikes, for a myriad of reasons.
That said, I’m disappointed to see the USAC “Fatbike Nationals” race, and the reason is simple. I don’t think this is USAC supporting fat bikes or being progressive. Rather, I believe this is USAC being reactionary and seeing the growth of grass roots fatbike racing events like Blbbrbk. USAC hasn’t announced any thoughtful innovation or format…they’re just trying to squeeze this type of bike riding for a few more registration dollars, and trying to marginalize “unsanctioned” races, just as they’ve been doing since they declared war on unsanctioned races last year. Could this have been a great thing? I don’t know–perhaps. Perhaps if it had been thoughtfully approached. Perhaps if it didn’t require adherence to USAC’s “USAC race only” attitude. Or perhaps if it was an innovative series of races that expanded the format of the sport instead of just expanding USAC’s wallet. But as it stands, I see this as a money grab and nothing more…and I suspect it will be harmful to the grass roots races that are out there right now.