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On a roll


Fat Tire Tour of Green Bay returns for seventh year

By Janelle Fisher

City Pages Editor

Dozens of bikers from near and far will show up at Ned Kelly’s pub the morning of Saturday, Aug. 19, with absolutely no idea where the day will take them — but that’s all part of the fun of the Fat Tire Tour of Green Bay.

The Fat Tire Tour of Green Bay, now in its seventh year, stems from an event which began in Milwaukee nearly four decades ago.

“The event started 39 years ago in Milwaukee, by kind of a Wisconsin bike legend Phil Van Valkenberg,” Jason Manders, organizer of both the Milwaukee and Green Bay events, said. “Phil started lots of different events and wrote books for the Department of Transportation and ride guides of rail trails and all kinds of country roads… His life was in biking. So he started this kind of just as a friends thing with over 22 people the first year. It’s just kind of kept growing ever since.”

Manders said that although he had helped Van Valkenberg with some of the earlier rides with no intention of ever taking over as organizer, when the need arose, he stepped up to ensure the event would be around for people to enjoy for years to come.


“He ended up having some medical issues — a stroke — about 10 years ago, and so I took it over,” he said. “I had done a few of these rides and helped them out, doing various planning and games and stuff for a few years just for fun — not with the intent to take it over, really. But then there was an abrupt year where he could no longer do it and [the ride] was probably going to die, so I just jumped on and ran with it.”

It was after Manders took over, he said, that the Green Bay ride began.

“I’m from Green Bay,” he said. “So when my wife and I took it over together we ran the Milwaukee ride for a few years and she was like, “You know, we should do one in Green Bay, too.’”

The Fat Tire Tour of Green Bay is run very similarly to the Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee, Manders said, including the fact that the route of the ride is kept secret until the morning of the event.

“It’s different every year,” he said. “And we keep it a secret. When you register, you get the map and that’s when you find out what we’re doing that day. It creates a little mystery.”

While the route changes every year and is kept a surprise until the ride begins, Manders said the ride usually includes stops at a variety of locations along many local trails.

“We try to show people a full range,” he said. “We try to hit a dive bar if we can, brand new breweries, sometimes there’s a banquet hall or a place to have lunch and get some drinks, like a supper club. We also stop in at least one park and hang out there, so it’s kind of a little bit of everything. We try to find new routes and bike new trails through neighborhoods and show people different parts of the town, which is in the history of the Milwaukee ride. [Van Valkenberg] wanted to show people the city that they lived in in a way that they never would have seen.”


While the name Fat Tire Tour likely conjures up images in one’s mind of modern-day fat bikes, Manders said the definition was different when the ride started, and bikes of all kinds are welcome on the ride.

“39 years ago, fat tire bikes were the invention of mountain bikes,” he said. “They were just coming out and I don’t even think they had the name mountain bike yet. Balloon-tired bombers was a phrase out in California, where this kind of became the new leading edge sports thing. Back then, a fat tire tour meant you’re not out there on a road bike, which is about all there was — you’re going to be on some other mountain-y tire bike… Now that snow bikes and fat bikes are a thing, we get kind of grouped into what people think is a fat tire bike ride, and it’s really just any bike you want to ride. There are no rules.”

Not only are there no rules about the type of bike, Manders said riders of all skill levels are welcome on the ride.

“There’s people that barely even bike, and there’s people that are on clunkers or junk bikes,” he said. “It’s all over the board.”

For those considering taking part in the ride, Manders said it’s a great way “to experience Green Bay in a way you probably haven’t before.”

“It’s just going to be a long, fun day where you cruise around town,” he said. “You’ll meet new people and possibly make new friends and get some exercise along the way and see parts of the town you’ve potentially never known existed.”


Find out more about the Fat Tire Tour of Green Bay and sign up to ride at fattiretour.com.

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