There have been a consistent amount of winter ultra races over the past decade.  These events have brought a bunch of fat bikers to the start line to tackle some extremely demanding routes. Rides like the Iditarod Trail Invitational, Arrowhead Ultra, White Mountains, Tuscobia, and the more recent addition, Jay P’s Backyard Fat Pursuit. I have had the privilege of racing in the Fat Pursuit the past two years. I rode the 120 mile version last year and the new 200 mile version this year. Either option is going to test you, and weather can change drastically as you climb up in elevation. One thing is certain, you will be exploring the beautiful landscape just west of Yellowstone National Park. The conditions the past two years have been pretty good, but you should and can expect some soft snow, especially near the middle or end of the day once the snow machines have torn up the groomed track.

Many of these races, including the Fat Pursuit, have required and recommended gear lists, and some of the recommended gear varies from race to race. This gear is intended to keep you safe, and to help you survive winter cycling conditions. Be sure to pay attention to requirements when you sign up. Below is my kit for the 200 mile Fat Pursuit that took place last weekend. I hope you can extract a bit of information that may help you in your next winter bikepacking endeavor.

The BikeFat Pursuit Gear List

I went with a medium 9Zero7 Whiteout and it worked great. Choosing a light bike will help keep the overall weight down on the rig when you start adding gear. The drivetrain is comprised of a Race Face 28-tooth chainring, Sram X1 11×42 Cassette derailleur and shifter, XX1 chain, and RaceFace Turbine Cranks. I chose the 28-tooth based on conditions, climbs, and descents. Overall I think this was a great gearing choice for me, but I tend to pedal a bigger chainring than most. I used Avid BB7 mechanical brakes, but I think I finally hit my tipping point and would like to go to hydraulic for winter cycling. I talked to a number of people out there who said they had no issues with their hydraulics. Fat Pursuit Gear List
As for wheels, I was rolling some 45Nrth Dillinger 5’s (required gear – minimum of a 3.7 tire width), mounted to some Nextie Carbon Wild Dragon 90mm rims and Industry 9 Hubs (197&135). I’m a big fan of the 45Nrth Dillinger 5’s as they roll extremely well and are super wide. I learned my lesson last year by not running wide tires, I will never make that mistake again. I started my pressure at 7.5 rear and 6 up front. I slowly took pressure out as the race went on, and as conditions permitted. I never pumped air back in my tire.

As for contact points, I used a 710mm Jones Loop H-bar, which I was not too pleased with over the course of the race. Between sharp nerve pains and too much sweep, I think I will be taking them off. I have done long rides with them, but nothing this long. I did like taking my hands out of my pogies and resting them on the loop, this was a great change of position, but it would only last a short while before my hands would get cold. In the future, I will use a flat bar with a bit of sweep to it. ESI grips rounded out the Jones bars and I used Jefe’s Fat Hands, Jones Specific Pogies made by Jefe Branham. They kept me very warm even without cinching down the gator around my wrists. I chose Shimano XTR pedals and a Specialized Phantom saddle.Fat Pursuit Gear List
My Garmin Etrex 30 GPS (required gear) was mounted to my stem, one white and one red (required gear) Giant bikes blinkie light for the front and rear. I also ran an AyUp light on the front of my Jones Bar and a headlamp on my head. I would turn the head lamp off when it was snowing, this made for less distracted vision. I will certainly be using a two light system again in the future, I think it made me more confident to travel a bit faster.


On Me

I tend to heat up quickly, so I knew even in single digits I would be toasty in only a few layers. I rocked the new 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots with one pair of thin socks followed by a pair of thicker wool socks. My feet remained warm the majority of the time, I did produce a bunch of condensation inside however. I’m conflicted on these over the older 45 Nrth Wolvhammers. More on that another day.

For pants, I rocked some old loose fitting REI long johns, and The Terrex Xperior Pant from Adidas outdoors. I kept my core warm with a sleeveless Pearl Izumi base layer, a thin Under Armor long sleeve, a Camelback Octane LR that fits 2.5 liters (required gear), and my Griggs Orthopedics fleece lined jersey from Pearl Izumi. The one part of my body that was extremely cold at one point was my forearms, and typically I prevent that by using arm warmers, but for some reason I left them in the hotel room. You live and learn.

I used Giro DND MTB gloves under Jefe’s Hot Hands keeping my hands toasty the entire time. Inside the pogie I storied some extra gloves just in case I needed a little extra warmth. I started the ride with my Buff folded around my head and a Pearl Izumi winter cap. About 10 miles in I ditched the cap in my right pogie and left it there for the remainder of the race. I also used a wool buff around my neck. I used Rudy Project Noyz Sun Glasses with clear lenses the entire race.


Frame Bag

Fat Pursuit Gear List I used a Bar Fly Bag Custom Frame Bag on my Whiteout frame. I honestly did not carry much inside the frame bag. It held my bikpacking repair kit with all the essentials, a pump, my Jet Boil stove (required gar) that I never used, a Pearl Izumi Vest that I put on for the last 20 miles, an insulated 16 oz water bottle and the required map. I would normally carry a water bottle in a stem bag, but figured I would keep it in the frame bag and hope it was less likely to freeze. Along with the above, I carried a few packets of single serving Tailwind Nutrition. One piece of gear that I’m in love with for winter is the Camelbak Insulated bottle, it locks so it does not leak, stays unfrozen, and works like any other cycling bottle, two thumbs up. On the non-drive side of the frame bag is a small compartment, I stored a few packets of Aleve, my multi tool, and a lighter. DSC02203


Saddle BagFat Pursuit Gear List

For the 2nd year in a row, I rocked a Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion. This bag is perfect for winter ultras, stable, easy to pack and unpack in the cold weather and can pack down small when needed. I threw my Montbell Bivy (required gear), Big Agnes open cell Insulated Air Core (required gear), my ultra warm Terrex Climaheat Agravic down jacket (required gear) and my current favorite layer, terrex agravic 3l jacket which acts as a vapor barrier or element barrier. I never had to use those jackets or sleep system, luckily! Strapped on the top of the pack was my spot device. DSC02205

Bar BagFat Pursuit Gear List

I used an older Nuke Sunrise Superfortress harness system which is getting a complete overhaul and should be available this spring. I had Jefe make me a dry bag to hold my -20 degree Western Mountaineering Puma. That is all I put up front and frankly that is all that would fit. The system was solid, and remained dry and secure.

Top Tube BagDSC02230

I used an Oveja Negra Snack Pack for my top tube bag. I originally planned on using a Rogue Panda Design Alamo, but I was looking for a bit more space so I went with the Snack Pack. In hindsight, I would have been fine with either bag. Whenever I carry a top tube bag, you will find all my snacks in it. Snickers, Gu shots, gummies, peanut butter bars, nut mix, and more. I relied on the 3 resupply checkpoints for warm food, so I did not carry too much at one time. It worked well, I just wish I ate less sweets and more salty food, but calories are calories, and they got me to the finish.

Jones Bar BagFat Pursuit Gear List

The last piece of gear I used was the Bar Fly Bag Jones Banana Hammock. This pack is specifically built for the small space in your Jones Loop H-Bar. In this I stored toe warmer packs, my spare batteries (required gear) for all my lights, my battery for my AyUp, iPod Shuffle and headphones. I use toe warmers because it has the sticky membrane on one side. This way I can stick it to the inside of my pogies, top tube bag or Jones bar bag to thaw things out. DSC02220
Overall this setup worked great, I could have certainly dropped some weight, but some of the items would have been nice if I was in a pinch, and needed to lay down for a few hours. Luckily I never had to use my sleep system, but I arranged it if I had to, and If I end up doing the Iditarod Trail Invitational, I have a feeling I will want to pull the sleeping bag out once. I think having a harness handlebar system with separate dry bag would make taking out and repacking the bag that much easier, same with any harness saddle bag.

Please feel free to pick my brain if you have any questions. If you are interested in some of these bikepacking bags head to our BIKEPACKING BAGS INDEX page.

21 Comments

  1. How did the batteries last in the etrex 30 and other devices in the cold weather? My experience is that in cold temperatures the battery life is very short.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      I was also a bit worried about that, but it worked great. I used Ultimate Lithiums in my Etrex and head lamp and threw a foot heater on my Ay-Up Battery to keep it warm. So no complaints, I think it dipped down to 6 that night.

  2. Great read I was curious about sleep pad thought had to be a closed foam pad. Thank you for write up .

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Hey Hunter, Here is a screen shot of the required sleeping pad on the Fat Pursuit Website Sleeping Pad Screen Shot

      During gear check, they were making sure it was closed cell foam or open cell insulated. One packs way better then the other, but one will take longer to set up, and may be more difficult if you are struggling. You need to weigh your options.

  3. “As for contact points, I used a 710mm Jones Loop H-bar, which I was not too pleased with over the course of the race. Between sharp nerve pains and too much sweep, I think I will be taking them off….”

    I’ve reached a similar point with my Jones 710. Though it’s never been painful for me, and while I like the multiple hand options, I’ve realized it’s just a lot more sweep than I really want. I’ve gone back to a more traditional bar with 9º of sweep.

    As I start wrapping my head around longer winter/fat bike races in the future, your overview of your kit offers some helpful insights. Thanks for sharing Neil, and great job on the Fat Pursuit this year!

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      I love them for day rides, and shorter overnighters, but I think I have found the point where they start to do damage to my hands. I’m right there with you. I used a 12 degree bar all summer, and I think that was perfect.

      Totally not for everyone, I just think these races will become more and more popular, so here is a bit of info for everyone. Cheers!

      • Agreed 100%. I used Loop bars on the Canning Stock Route traverse, and I NEVER could get comfortable on them. I wound up in some really odd hand positions, in order to relieve the discomfort I experienced. I tried every angle imaginable, without relief. I even double cork wrapped the bars. I also found that I never used the ‘multiple hand positions’, ATMO.

        I’ve gone to a 14 degree flat bar with stubby barends, and couldn’t be happier on long trips.

        Scott

    • I too have had hand problems with my Jones H-loop bar (710). I have a slight numbness still in my left ring and pinky fingers. It has improved since I last used that bar but it lingers even after 2 months. It’s disappointing because I love the design idea of the bar.

  4. Neil, congrats on your victory at Fat Pursuit 200-mile this year. Regarding the condensation in your boots, I highly suggest you start trying/testing/dialing in use of vapor barrier socks. You probably already know about them but they should keep the moisture inside the vapor barrier sock, and eliminate wetting out the insulating socks that are worn over them. Yes, you feet will feel moist, but your feet should stop sweating at a certain moisture point (because they are moist). Spray-on deodorant on your feet before dressing at the start will slow some of the moisture build up. I use vapor barrier socks from Stephenson’s Warmlite and at $8 a pair they are about as cheap a test as you can get. I encourage you to give them a shot. Again, nice job at the FP.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Hey Kid,

      Good call. I was thinking about that the other day, I have messed around with the system a little bit two winters ago when I thought I actually needed it all the time. I just never had this serious of an issue with my older Wolvhammers, but I also have never done a fat bike ride this long 🙂 Thanks for the beta, and kind words. I have some things to work out if I’m going to attempt the ITI next winter. Missed you out there this year. Maybe next year?

  5. Great article! I love hearing how other racers – especially fast guys – do things. I’ll change up a few things on my rig ahead of the Arrowhead. I already swapped out my own Loops for flats after having all kinds of hand trouble at Tuscobia last weekend. How about another post on the race itself?? There’s only so much a guy can get from watching the blue dots!

  6. Bars – Origin8 Space Carbon UL8 Off-Road has a 25 deg sweep and I’ve liked it on many of my bikes. I kept swapping the same bars from bike to bike. Alternatively, I really like the Salsa Salt Flat carbon. Less sweep, but not straight. Nice blend.
    Nice write-up, Neil.

  7. …and CONGRATS!!!

  8. Great write up of a stupendous effort at the Fat Pursuit. I am sure you will do very very will if you in fact do the ITI. You are methodically fleshing out the gear and fitness that you need. I see you being super competitive in this event should you do it. IMHO. The bike looks awesome, and I think the hydraulics are good idea; one less adjustment point. I am at same point on my Jones H-bar, as I have been using my since before I met you last year. I am still getting nerve pain, and my recent issues are now going to my arms. I like the utility, but I might be swapping back to my last MTB set up with slightly swept straight bar and big Ergon bar ends.
    I assume that you have used the sleep gear already somewhere even though you didn’t need it in the Fat Pursuit? I doubt you would rush into this with untested gear.
    Now that SP is doing a dynamo for fat bike sized hubs any chance we will see you rocking a dynamo set up on your fat bike?
    Thanks again for the post on this subject. I like the content and everyone’s very good questions/comments. Backpackers are very supportive group.
    PS as a point of curiosity/suggestion more content on winter clothing items would be welcomed. Backpacking for now seems to rely on items from other winter sports. It will be fun to see what comes of gear due to the growth of winter fat biking. gO Neil gO

  9. Thanks for taking the time to do this write up. Very nice

    one technical question though: The spare tube you have zip-tied to your post….are you actually carring some cutters to get at it or can you just push the tube out if you need it?

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      I had a knife, but I could have pulled it out without using one. I was actually looking for some electrical tape before the race, but I did not find any. I typically would have used that.

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  12. The Jones Loop H-Bar has been the perfect solution (for me). With Straight bars, I had shoulder muscle tension, and wrist pains—until I switched to the Loop H-Bar. The 45 degree sweep is fantastic. The pains vanished. Immediately. I was very pleased. This has been consistently so for all day rides, or shorter. Plus, I love the extra hand positions, as well as being able to strap gear to it. Sorry to be the contrarian on this issue. But maybe the Jones bar isn’t for everyone. To each their own, though!

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