KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song


Second Fat Tire Bike Race is Held in Talkeetna

by Phillip Manning ~ March 11th, 2014

This past weekend, the second annual Mike Sterling Memorial Bike Race was held in Talkeetna.  Unlike summer events like the Clean Air Challenge or the Big Wild Ride, this race featured a type of bike specially built for ice and snow.

Fat tire bike racing has grown significantly in popularity over the last few years.  The bikes are not an uncommon sight in and around Anchorage, and more riders outside of the city are joining in.  At last weekend’s race, approximately eighty competitors pedaled their way for twenty, forty, or sixty miles on off-road trails.

The race is named in memory of Talkeetna resident Mike Sterling.   Greg Matyas, owner of race sponsor Fatback Bikes, explains how Sterling helped him plan for the first Talkeetna race before his passing in 2013.

“Mike was the sole reason for me coming up and checking out the trails, there.  He would talk non-stop about how nice it was.  I had the pleasure of going up several years ago and seeing it for myself, and I agreed.  I spoke with Mike many times about possible courses and distances I had in mind.  He made some suggestions, and here we are.”

The race began at 9:00 am on Saturday, with temperatures a few degrees below zero.  By the afternoon, it had warmed up considerably, and riders who had finished were hanging out on Main Street talking about the beautiful view of Denali afforded by the race’s route as well as the good weather.  Paul Pierce of Anchorage was one of the competitors in the sixty-mile division.  It is his second year competing in the event, and he had high praise for the trails and groomers.

“It was better than last year.  I came up last year and this was far better….You can definitely tell people spent a lot of time out there…real labor of love putting the trail in.  It’s great.  I didn’t really know trails like this existed around Talkeetna until last year.  They’re excellent.  It would be well worth a trip up here on just about any weekend to check those trails out.”

Pierce has been riding fat tire bikes for about five years.  He says his bike, which he proudly describes as one of the original aluminum models produced by Fatback, has changed more then just recreation for him.

“I see a lot of people who are into it just for the novelty of the fat tire.  I think if you want to ride your bike up here year-round, you can’t go wrong.  I was a year-round commuter for ten years, maybe.  The first five were on skinny tires.  That was commuting, and now it’s riding for fun.”

Fun on the trail is not the only aim of the race, however.  After all, Alaska is full of great wilderness rides.  Race sponsor Greg Matyas says he and his fellow sponsors like to have the race in Talkeetna because of…Talkeetna.

“The town of Talkeetna is such a fun place to visit, and it lends itself very well to putting on an event like this.  One of the requirements for me for putting on the race is to end on a high note.  For me, that’s not ending in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere.  People can cross the finish line and have a beer in there hand within a minute.”

With the race beginning and ending mere feet from the door of race co-sponsor Denali Brewing Company, it’s safe to assume that many riders took the opportunity to do just that.

2 Responses to Second Fat Tire Bike Race is Held in Talkeetna

  1. Al Gallo

    Howdy Folks,

    Greetings from rainy and very windy Sitka. Did have California SeaLions out on the rocks this a.m. barking away, what a treat! Have a question of course, as usual being a PIA. Was wondering where I could get standings for all the distances in the Fat Tire? I imagine the TKA rag will have it, will you be posting it online as well?

    I will be back in TKA from the middle of Aug. until early in Oct.. Will be volunteering at the NPS station again. Keep me in mind for concerts and when I get back would like to talk to all of you about starting up the Concert Series again. Don’t want to go into details but I’m thinking it would be good for me to try and produce them with lots of help and advice from all of you. Look forward to seeing all of you folks in August.

    Take care,

  2. Susan Deyoe

    Its actually not the second annual Mike Sterling Memorial. This is the first year it was named as such since Mike died less than a year ago. And commenting on the man who said it was a labor of love putting in the trails…the trails (minus a couple of miles) exist year round and have nothing to do with a bike race.