Numb Bums set to ride
Challenging course set for 25th annual race
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 06:00 am
Local motorheads are gearing up this week for the 25th edition of the world’s longest, coldest ice race – one that will surely leave many racers with numb bums.
About 100 racers from across North America will roar off the starting line at Sandy Lake this Saturday for the 2014 Numb Bum 24 Hour Ice Race.
Listed in the Guinness World Book of Records as the world’s longest, coldest ice race, the event sees riders race ATVs and motorbikes on a frozen lake for 24 hours straight.
This year’s event will feature a fireworks display to commemorate its 25th anniversary, said race co-ordinator Darin Oakford. It will also feature a more formal kids’ race, following the success of last year’s trial event.
The adult race starts at precisely noon this Saturday with a Le Mans start, which has riders sprint for their bikes and roar off en masse. They’ll then try to complete as many laps as possible before noon Sunday.
Track master Dan Cheron will have a 15-kilometre, 150-corner course ready for all comers by Friday, Oakford said.
“This year has posed a unique challenge for us,” he noted, as high winds and warm weather have melted all the snow they’d normally plow to make the course itself.
As a result, Cheron and his team are drilling about 2,000 posts into the lake and rigging snow fences to create gates through which riders will have to ride. It’s a bit like a downhill ski slalom, Oakford said.
“The track will be very fast this year,” he continued, as organizers can’t throw in as many curves as normal with this year’s format.
It will also get very challenging at night. Because there’s no snow, the course will essentially be a bunch of orange gates on a flat, open lake.
“It’ll look like there’s orange everywhere,” Oakford said.
The posts themselves will be extremely sturdy and will likely cause injuries if a rider slams into them, Oakford said. The gates will also be supervised, with riders disqualified if they miss any.
St. Albert Riverside Yamaha-Suzuki technician Luke Sydor said he’s prepping his 2013 KTM 250SX motorbike this week in preparation for the big race.
Sydor, 26, is a veteran of the Numb Bum with Sydor Family Racing, having first raced in the event with his brother, Kirk, back when he was 13.
That was before they had an age limit for the race, Sydor said.
“My brother, he could barely throw his leg over (the bike),” he said.
He and his teammates now regularly place in the top five at the Numb Bum, and were the overall winners in 2012.
Racers typically spend days of work and thousands of dollars outfitting their bikes to survive Numb Bum, as most bikes aren’t designed to race for 24 hours in -40 C weather.
“If you get bad luck, anything can go wrong,” Sydor said. Spare parts and spare studded tires are a must.
Racers must brace for wicked cold, Sydor said. Past events have featured -40 C weather, not counting the wind chill you get from going about 120 kilometres an hour.
“I’ve frozen my face a few times,” he said.
It’s an exhausting experience, one Sydor regrets undergoing every year.
So why does he keep doing it?
“There’s something about when you slide a bike into a corner, and you’re right on the edge of crashing and you’re going as fast as you possibly can that sparks adrenaline,” he explained.
“I’ve done other extreme sports … but nothing replicates that feeling.”