The view outside the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji, Iowa, is one of snow covered marsh and grassland between the nature center and the gracious homes on the other side. In that terrain, there is a 1 kilometer lap that sends riders through snow, sand, rocks and grass, and up and down hills.
“Last year there were a lot more hills,” said Matt Matthiesen of West O Beer Co., the official beer sponsor of the Frozen Fanny Fat Bike Challenge. Cyclists and spectators were well supplied with beer, hot cocoa, hot cider and pulled pork barbecue sandwiches as the wind whipped through the frozen grasslands.
Thirty-eight participants rode their fat bikes (with tire widths of at least 2.5 inches, most 3 inches or a bit more) through the course, some after a morning spent on the 16 mile Freeze Your Fanny on the roads and streets of Okoboji.
“I think it’s true that you first freeze the fanny in the morning, then your pre-frozen fanny has a better time on the rough riding afternoon event,” according to Milford attorney Barry Sackett, who took on both bike-freeze events for the fifth time this year. More often a marathon runner, Sackett, 45, challenges himself every year he’s in town for the winter games.
The 34th Annual Okoboji Winter Games began as a bare-bones broom ball tournament on East Lake Okoboji, fueled by abundant beer and hot toddies. Over the years it has grown to include eight “cheerleaders” chosen from the chambers of commerce and commercial clubs of the beach towns that make up Okoboji. Businesses and organizations sponsor everything from cribbage tournaments to mass games of bingo, broomball, and the polar plunge into the lake with EMTs standing by and a warming house right on the ice.
This year’s festivities were altered slightly in location as warm January temperatures after an initial arctic blast made the ice unstable.
Cyclists (all male this year, though women have participated int the past) navigated the snow and rocks of the Frozen Fanny course with aplomb. Oohs rang up from the sparse crowd of spectators upon the occasional spillout. The riders continued the course for 90 minutes or as long as they could hold out. The rider with the most laps in that time, this year Sam Kendall of Jackson, Minnesota, is declared the champion.
Kendall rode in the 31-40 age category and this is his second win in the last decade. “Endurance is the key,” Kendall said. “When you don’t think you can pedal any more, you just do. I don’t have a secret, or really any particular athletic prowess other than that.”