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Nelson’s Fat Tire Festival returns Sept. 15-17

It’s the first time the festival has been held since 2019
A scene from the 2018 Fat Tire Festival parade on Baker Street in Nelson. The festival is returning after a three-year break. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson’s Fat Tire Festival is back after a three-year COVID-19 break.

The event, organized by the Nelson Cycling Club for the weekend of Sept. 15 to 17, will offer excitement and challenges for kids and for adult riders both casual and hardcore.

Organizer Chris George took part in the first festival in 1996, and since then has helped build Nelson’s 300 kilometres of mountain bike trails.

“It was a completely different world back then,” he said. “What we have in terms of trail networks has grown so much. We have a bigger user base, a bigger demographic.”

He said the Nelson festival is one of the longest running Fat Tire Festivals on the continent, and he likes to think of this year’s festival as a celebration of that legacy.

“Back in the day it was a big deal because there were not biking networks in every small town. The first few years of the festival in Nelson people would come from Rossland and Kaslo and Fernie, because it was so new then.”

George said he’s proud that the Nelson trail network and the festival itself are suitable for all ages and abilities.

“You can be a beginner and come here and ride a bike, but 10 years ago it was pretty challenging to be a beginner rider in Nelson. You learned the hard way.”

On Sept. 15, there will be bike parade downtown, with refreshments, face painting, and bike decorations provided. Decorating will start at the Hall Street Plaza at 4:30 p.m., and at 5:30 the parade will proceed down Baker Street to Stanley Street and back again.

“The kids get excited because they get to follow the fire truck down the street,” said George. “They get the whole street to play with. They find it exhilarating that they get to ride right down the middle of the street.”

On Saturday, at 10 a.m. at Morning Mountain, there’s the Poker Ride, a non-competitive event in which five marshals posted along the trail will each give cyclists one playing card. At the end there will be prizes for the best poker hand, plus other prizes. Registration starts at 9:30 and the cost is $20. Participants must be a member of the Nelson Cycling Club. The average ride time is about 1.5 to two hours.

”A lot of people like this because not everybody is into racing,” says George, “so they can just go for a group ride with their friends and have some fun, not on our most challenging trails.”

Also on Saturday the Powerslave Downhill is a classic downhill race, timed from the top, finished by most people in 3.5 to six minutes, with 75 or more competitors expected.

“Gravity fed racing at its best,” states the event website. “Pre-running of the course is highly recommended. There will be opportunities for getting a lift to the start.”

Registration for this race takes place between 1 and 1:45, with the race starting at 2. The cost is $20, or $55 for all three competitive events (Powerslave, Enduro, and Chainless).

Go to for a list of various routes and start times.

On Sunday there will be kids’ races with registration 8 to 9:15 a.m. The races go 9:30 to 10:30, younger kids starting first.

The kids’ races are free to Nelson Cycling Club members, with $10 kids’ memberships and registration available onsite.

Also on Sunday, the Morning Mountain Enduro, a timed downhill race, starts at 11, with an estimated run time of 1.5 to 2.5 hours with registration beginning at 10. The fee is $25, or $55 for the three competitive events.

“We don’t choose the hardest trails. We try to keep it user friendly,” George said.

The final event of the festival is the Rhythm and Blues Chainless Downhill.

“They take their chains off, no pedalling, and it’s a fun format,” George said. “People take it seriously but at the same time they don’t.”

The chainless race will take riders about 3.5 to six minutes.

There are many opportunities at Morning Mountain for spectators to come and watch the races, George said.


Exhibit celebrates Nelson mountain bike history and culture

PHOTOS: Bikes swarm downtown Nelson for Fat Tire Festival
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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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