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Snow-Bike Races: The Long and Short of It

  • By Eszter Horanyi
  • Published Dec. 20, 2011
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM EDT
Jay Petervary on the Iditarod Trail in 2011. Courtesy photo (file)

100-Milers

As the ultra-endurance scene is exploding in summer mountain bike racing, the snow-bike scene is experiencing similar growth. There are at least a dozen 100+ mile snow-bike races that pit riders against the elements and each other. Most of these events require that riders carry a complete set of survival gear, including -20-degree sleeping bags. Some of these races walk the line between long single-day races and multi-day adventure races. They should only be undertaken by those prepared to survive sub-zero temperatures overnight in addition to being able to pedal 100 miles on snow. While there are many 100-milers out there, some take on legendary status among racers for their locations, beauty, and sheer cold.

Susitna 100

The Susitna 100 is one of the classic ultra-endurance snow-bike races. Held outside of Anchorage, AK., bikes race alongside runners and skiers on February 18th.

The race often has temperature swings of 40 to 50 degrees F between day and night, with warm years seeing temperatures above freezing, and other years, temperatures that never break 0 degrees F. Thus, race organizers are strict about mandatory gear and ‘recommended gear.’ So strict, in fact, that in addition to the mandatory gear list, which includes a sleeping bag and a closed cell sleeping pad, each racer must carry an additional 15 pounds of survival gear.

While the race is only for the seasoned snow-bike racer, the experience of riding in the Susitna Valley is second to none.

More information can be found here.

Arrowhead 135

Riders in the Arrowhead 135. Courtesy photo (file)


Like many of the ultra-endurance snow bike races, an entry fee check must be accompanied by a race resume, highlighting not only that a rider can pedal 135 miles, but also that they can survive riding in -40 degree temperatures. Held in International Falls, MN., on January 30, the Arrowhead is considered one of the hardest snow-bike races in the lower 48.

International Falls, known as the Icebox of the Nation, generally has some of the coldest temperatures in the country around the Jaanuary 30th start date. Racers follow the 135-mile Arrowhead State snowmobile trail from International Falls to Tower.

Race information can be found here.

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