Yukon Arctic Ultra on a FATBike – Flori goes to the Max(x)!
Hier gehts zur Deutschen Version!
What we've got here is one of these stories that should begin like this: „Close your eyes and dream of…“. However you can't read very well when your eyes are closed, can you? So, open your eyes and switch on your imagination! Imagine it's late night and you're in a tent. You have a lamp in your mouth as a reading light whilst you study a map. Outside your tiny hood your FATBike rests in the deep snow. It's bloody cold, something around minus 40°C or 45°C degree. You don't exactly know it – and it doesn't really matter as in your sleeping bag it's cold anyway. What you do know is without a warm hat your brain will freeze within five minutes out there.
For a last time you stick your head through the door into the ice cold wind. There is an amazingly bright sky above which is packed with stars and a huge polar light glows up there. Somehow you're happy to be here.
It's early February and you're participating in what is probably the world's toughest ultra-marathon: the Yukon Arctic Ultra.
The good news: there is a guy who explores this for us!
In the case that just reading this gives you sort of cold feet, we got good news for you! You don't have to ride the Yukon Arctic Ultra on a FATBike yourself. All you need to do is follow our page over the next couple of weeks.
Florian „Flori“ Reiterberger is truly a warhorse and will (as we already indicated) ride one of the most spectacular bicycle tours on this planet on a custom built Maxx Jagamoasta. From February, 2nd to 12th (Damn right! February!) Flori will have snow and ice as far as his eyes can reach.
Why? And how? We've asked some questions.
We've had a chat with Flori about how one gets the idea to ride such a race, about his motivation and how the heck you can prepare yourself for what's to come.
Flori, who are you and where do you come from?
I was born in 1979 in Rosenheim. Right now I live in Eggstaett at lake Chiemsee.
Yukon Arctic Ultra – we already gave you or FAT respect. How did you get to this idea?
Honestly, it wasn't my own idea. Uwe from Maxx called me the other day and said: „Hey, I just sent you a link. This might be perfect for you.“ Due to the fact that I'm always looking around for new challenges, the „YAU2016“ had a huge attraction to me from the very beginning.
The race actually follows a route which has been made for one of the toughest sled dog races in the world: 300 miles (about 480km) through the Yukon Territory. In February, it's bloody cold out there, also there's a lot of snow. You have only one week, to get through there …
Have you passed similar challenges before?
In 2009 I started participating in long-distance races on the mountain bike. First 12 hours, later 24 hour races, either alone or in a team of two. Ski touring races were also a part of my sportive activities. Furthermore, I like combining alpine tours, like getting to the mountain by bike and to continue on ski to the top. For example my tour Rosenheim – Chamonix- Montblanc and all the way back. (check out my website)
What's your motivation to go to such extreme things?
As said before, I'm always looking for new challenges and finding new limits. I'm fine with all I haven't tried before.
Let's talk about the race. How do you prepare your body and mind?
Due to the balmy winter it's quite hard to get used to cold temperatures. Anyway I try to spend a lot of time outside on the bike or skiing. Bivouacs, fatbiking fully loaded and so on…
It's crucial for me to have my mind already there, before I arrive in Whitehorse, to grow really into the topic. Also, I don't see the YAU2016 as a competition but more as a personal challenge.
I'm planning a multi-day test run.
We're damn curious to see how this will work. Do you have any strategy for the race?
To get through. That's all that counts.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges?
First of all there is the cold. I already had to deal with temperatures about minus 32 degrees on a ski touring race, but minus 40 is still far from that. The conditions on the ground, that's another story. Talking to former participants, those are the main topics of their talks.
Apart from the mean cold is there anything that causes you headache? Such as weather, Grizzly Bears or similar? And how do you help yourself in case something goes wrong?
I'm not really concerned about the weather. What causes me quite a headache is the wide Q-factor of fatbikes. As a MTB-Pro-racer I usually ride with my knees close to the top tube, but that's impossible riding a fatbike. That's been the reason for some trouble in the past, but it's getting better already .
The weather will be anyway exactly how it wants to be, that's out of people's influence. It's most important to react on it soon enough.
How boring would that be if we could control the weather… Let's talk about something positive: what are you looking forward to?
First of all I'm very excited about fatbiking in that totally strange, exposed region at the Yukon River. However the uncertainty (I never made anything like this before) is quite a point. I hate it, when everything is arranged.
We also spoke to Robert Pollhammer who organizes the race. One of his main concerns is gear weight. What clothes will you wear and what's the gear you will take with you?
I got a complete outfit from Montane. Many of those pieces use a Primaloft insulation. Only my arctic jacket is filled with down. Even though down is lighter, it can lose its insulation abilities when it gets wet. Primaloft keeps you warm instead, also it dries much faster.
The major items are the shoes – I got a pair of really good insulated boots from Garmont. Anyway, even the best boots won't help when they are saturated by sweat. Using two pairs of socks and separating them from each other by a plastic bag is the solution. Later, in the sleeping bag I will dry them and put on dry ones.
Moreover the organizer specifies some emergency equipment, such as a saw to cut firewood.
Well, that sounds as if your hardware is properly set up. So, this may be a stupid question but if nature's calling – how does that work at minus 40°C degree?
At minus 25 degrees it's not a big deal to have a pee. Taking a dump means that you have to hurry instead of reading through half the „Bild“-Newspaper. Below that, all that's left is an old drinking bottle, no problem inside the sleeping bag, but outside it's necessary to build some kind of shield. About the other thing: Ask me again, when I'll be back. I guess I'll have to improvise…
Hmm… Makes me think about „icicle“… Whatever. Let's talk about your bike. It's a custom built Maxx Jagamoasta. We've already spoken about its special equipment. You're not particularly a hardcore biker. Why did you choose a FATBike for the Yukon Arctic Ultra?
The ground is mostly perfect for a fatbike. A normal mountain bike wouldn't make much sense with the section width of its tires.
Where does you cooperation with Maxx come from and how long did it take you to develop the bike?
I've already been working with MAXX successfully for about ten years. At that time, I've been looking for a race bike which was fully customized. There are not many bike manufacturers out there offering that.
Developing the MAXX Jagamoasta went pretty quick. By telling Uwe about my participation we immediately started to work on it. The process wasn't about copying another bike, but to start at zero. The basic concept took us about three weeks. Maxx really supported me in that time, so lots of gratitude to the whole team!
For now I have to adjust everything to my needs. Many things pop up for the first time, when you are fully loaded on the road.
In an early phase you intended to use a Rohloff Speedhub plus Gates drive. Later you changed this setup into common chain-and-derailleur system. Why that?
I finally decided to use derailleur gears, precisely the new Shimano 1×11 for following reasons:
– To our surprise Rohloff has stepped out when it came to the most crucial point in our request: reliability of part at temperatures around minus 40°C, beyond others because they did not want to go with Gates Drive.
– Alongside, the Shimano is lighter than the Rohloff.
– Finally, the gear transmission ratio – at the race you ride slowly and with lots of luggage – 24cleats/42 cleats is a far better choice, above all this it's impossible to realize that with a Rohloff.
Okay, this sounds well thought out. But you've made many more adjustments to prepare a standard FATBike for such an extreme event. What are the main points and are there any additional „behavioral rules“ to follow?
Our focus was on the bearings, the gearshift and the brakes. The bearings have been treated with special grease, same with the gears and their cables. We figured out, that the hydraulic system of the brakes might fail at about minus 15 degrees. That's why mechanical brakes were the only right choice.
We will introduce the Arctic FATBike in detail a bit later therefore let's go back to the race. We've looked it up on the internet and found out that the weather in Whitehorse is rather warm at the moment, around -5°C to -10°C. What conditions are expected for the race?
For now there were about minus 15 degrees average during the last few weeks, a temperature which is normally measured in our winters on 3000 meters and beyond. Usually February gets considerably colder, we expect day temperatures from minus 25 to minus 35, peaks up to even minus 50 – without wind chill.
Hmm… Frankly spoken listening to what you say makes me freeze… During the race sunrise will be after 9 a.m. and sunset shortly after 5 p.m. which means there will be less than 8 hours of daylight. How do you spend those long nights out in the freezing cold?
The ideal case would be to stay on the bike, thanks to a perfect illumination by SON. The distance won't be shorter, only because it's dark. Of course the nights will also be used for what they are meant for: recovery in the bivy.
The race track follows the legendary Yukon Quest sled dog race. We've done some research and found some nasty facts such as liquid water despite low temperatures, crevasses, wind speed up to 80km/h and so called „cold spots“ where temperature might drop to -60°C. Is there any way to be prepared for such extreme conditions?
It's really not easy to prepare on something, one never did before. You can imagine loads of possible scenarios, but reality will always look different. Talking to former participators is a great help.
During the next weeks we'll give some insight into your training to FAT-Bike.de readers so they can follow what you do. No doubt we're really looking forward to this!
And so do I…
Here's a guy who dares to ride his FATBike out there in the ice cold middle of nowhere! We give our FAT respect and are very curious of what's yet to come. Maybe some answers to our questions above will chance during the course of the race. Meanwhile you can conveniently follow the story right here. Moreover we strongly suggest, besides buying yourself some warm clothes for the winter, to take a look onto Flori's Facebook pages (here). And have a look at the homepage of the Yukon Arctic Ultra and particularly the picture gallery…