16 Essential Minnesota Winter Bike Events

By Brian Fanelli

Minnesota is a winter biking wonderland. We don't hang up our bikes for the season, we ride them. Want to push yourself to the limit on an ultra-endurance fat bike race? We've got 'em. Or what about a social city ride, or a rigorous winter road race? Yep, we've got those too.

However you like to ride, you're sure to find a winter bike event worth traveling to in Minnesota.

JANUARY

Fat Tire NE

Norpine Fat Bike Classic

On Saturday, Jan. 5, head to Lutsen for the annual 45NRTH Norpine Fat Bike Classic. Race through the unique winter wilderness of Minnesota's north shore on a 16- or 24-mile course, and end your day at the clubhouse with live music, complementary BBQ, and beer from Castle Danger.

Joyful Riders Club

Social rides at a social pace. On Thursday, Jan. 10, the Joyful Riders Club will meet at the Surly Destination Brewery in Minneapolis for a 10-15 mile ride through the Twin Cities. All rides end back at the brewery for a well-earned free pint of Surly beer.

Snow Crush 2019 Fat Tire Race

Saturday, Jan. 12, head to Faribault for the fourth annual Snow Crush Fat Tire Race at River Bend Nature Center! Hosted by F-Town Brewing Co., the Snow Crush features 6-, 12- and 18-mile race courses for every level of rider. After the race, meet back up at F-Town Brewing Co. for hot food, live music, awards ceremony and a complimentary beer for registered racers.

Get Phat With Pat 

This two-part series held on consecutive Saturdays, Jan. 19 and 26, races on the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington. Get Phat With Pat is sponsored by Penn Cycle as part of the Bloomington Winter Fete—compete in both for a chance to win big prizes!

Carver Lake Cold Catfish Cup 

A Saint Paul staple, the annual Cold Catfish Cup celebrates eight laps around the sun on Sunday, Jan. 20. Whether you're racing in the Marathon, Elite or Sport category, all races take place on the same course—the only difference is how much time you're given to rack up as many laps as possible. After the race, stick around for an after party with fire pits, hot and cold beverages, food trucks, music and more.

Arrowhead Ultra 135

The Arrowhead Ultra 135 is broadly considered to be one of the hardest, most grueling endurance races in the world. The average finish rate? Just 50%, and it's even lower for first-time competitors. Racers depart from International Falls at 7 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, and have just 60 hours to ride the 135 miles south to Lake Vermillion. Riders receive no outside help, and even something as innocent as stepping into a bar to warm up results in a disqualification. It's cold, it's long, it's dangerous and it's popular. Registration for the 2019 race has already sold out, but spectators are encouraged to cheer these world-class athletes as they traverse the harsh northern Minnesota landscape. Use the handy spectator map to plan your trip.

FEBRUARY 

fat bike in snow Ricky Carter

45NRTH Whiteout 

On Saturday, Feb. 2, head to Cuyuna for the iconic 45NRTH Whiteout fat bike race. Compared to most fat bike races, the Whiteout is unique because of its single “great loop” around the park, with 30K, 20K and 10K race/ride options. There is a 300-rider cutoff, so register now.

City of Lakes Loppet Festival

Like many winter festivals, the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis is evolving to embrace the fat biking masses. As part of this year's festival, Penn Cycle is hosting two fat tire races on Sunday, Feb. 3: the 35K Fat Tire Loppet, and the shorter 21K Puoli Fat Tire Loppet. Both races provide a unique, once-a-year opportunity to ride a fat bike on the groomed Loppet Trail, which is otherwise reserved solely for skiers. Stick around after the bike race to enjoy the rest of this perennial cross-country ski festival.

Joyful Riders Club

Social rides at a social pace. On Thursday, Feb. 14, the Joyful Riders Club will meet at the Surly Destination Brewery in Minneapolis for a 10-15 mile ride through the Twin Cities. All rides end back at the brewery for a well-earned free pint of Surly beer.

Fatbike Frozen Forty

Head to the trailhead at Elm Creek on Saturday, Feb. 9 for the annual Fatbike Frozen Forty. Racers compete in 40-, 30- or 20-mile endurance fat bike races that offer a great mid-winter challenge on a course composed of 100% groomed singletrack. Feeling extreme? This year there's even a brand new, 100-mile ultra-endurance option for 10 "lucky" racers.

Snowbowl Fat Bike Race 

The Snowbowl has long been "Ham Lake's premier winter event for the whole family," and these days fat bikers can get in on the fun, too. Hosted in partnership with Pioneer Cycle, the Saturday, Feb. 9, Snowbowl Fat Bike Race course winds through scenic wooded areas, over obstacles and (cold weather permitting) even ventures across frozen Ham Lake itself.

Fat Bike Vasaloppet

Held in Mora on Sunday, Feb. 10, the Vasaloppet fat bike race is an exciting evolution of the long-standing cross country skiing race of the same name. Whether you're competing in the timed 38K race, or relaxing with the 10K non-timed ride, registration for the Vasaloppet helps fund trail development at the Nordic Center Skiing Complex.

Ely Skinny-Fat

Held in Ely on Saturday, Feb. 16, the Skinny-Fat is what you get by mixing one part ski tour, one part recreational fat bike ride and one part 20K nighttime fat bike race. Add a kid's race, heaping portions of great food and a communal bonfire to keep you toasty, and you've got all the ingredients for a legendary event.

MARCH

Northland Fat Bike Rally Women
Photo courtesy of Maggi Stivers and The Bemidji Pioneer

Northland Fat Bike Rally 

Saturday, March 2, head to this fat bike rally in Bemidji featuring multiple distances to suit everyone from beginner to advanced riders. Because the Northland Fat Bike Rally encourages participation from first time riders, experts, and everything in between, expect more "rally" than "race".

Joyful Riders Club

Social rides at a social pace. On Thursday, March 14, the Joyful Riders Club will meet at the Surly Destination Brewery for a 10-15 mile ride through the Twin Cities. All rides end back at the brewery for a well-earned free pint of Surly beer.

16th Annual Twin Cities Bicycle Club Swap Meet

A long standing Twin Cities Bicycle Club tradition, the annual swap meet is free, open to the public, and brimming with bargains. Head to Hopkins on Saturday, March 30, to discover a variety of ready-to-ride bikes, bicycle frames, components, trailers, accessories, cycling clothing & shoes, bicycling books & videos, and much more.