Fat bikers honour friend with camp-out and ride across Lake Winnipeg

A group of intrepid winter cyclists camped out and biked across Lake Winnipeg this weekend to honour a friend and fellow fat biker who died just days after taking part in the same epic journey last winter.

Frozen bike ride honours Alfred Barr, 31, who died just days after taking same trip last winter

More than 30 fat bikers took part in the 2018 Alfred Barr Lake Winnipeg Fat Bike Crossing and Campover this weekend. (CBC)

A group of intrepid winter cyclists camped out and biked across Lake Winnipeg this weekend to honour a friend and fellow fat biker who died just days after taking part in the same epic journey last winter.

More than 30 cyclists riding fat bikes — specially built bicycles with large tires designed for riding through ice and snow — took part in the 2018 Alfred Barr Lake Winnipeg Fat Bike Crossing and Campover.

The event saw the adventurers spend two nights sleeping in tents at a camp set up at the middle of the lake roughly 15 kilometres out of Grand Marais, Man., before biking across the frozen waters during the day Saturday and Sunday.

2018 Alfred Barr Lake Winnipeg Fat Bike Crossing and Campover organizer, Tom Kolesnik. (CBC)

"It's to commemorate one of our members who rode on the lake with us last year and unfortunately died in a parachute accident 12 days later," said organizer Tom Kolesnik.

"The spirit of the weekend was to do some adventure and have some fun."

'An amazing young man'

Barr, 31, who was a search and rescue technician (SARTEC) with the Royal Canadian Air Force, died March 9, 2017, during a routine training jump near Yorkton, Sask., and Kolesnik said the group knew right away that they wanted to honour their friend when they headed out onto the ice for the second annual ride.

Master-Corporal Alfred Barr was a search and rescue technician based at 17 Wing Winnipeg. (RCAF)

The fat bikers held a memorial service Saturday that included a moment of silence and a toast for Barr. 

"Alfred was an amazing young man, very capable air force search and rescue technician," said Kolesnik, who is a major with the RCAF. "He was a runner and a fat biker, he was part of our fat biker group and he was well-respected and loved."

The fat bikers spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday taking pre-planned and mapped out rides along the ice, some short and some long and more difficult, said Kolesnik, including a roughly 16 kilometre trip from the camp into Gimli.

International appeal

The event attracted riders from the United Kingdom, the United States and from across Canada.

"Although it's a Manitoba community there are some real global connections," said Keith Holm, who helped lead the cyclists across the lake.

The riders rode their bikes between Gimli and Grand Marais, Man. and honoured their friend and fellow fat biker, Alfred Barr, who died just days after taking the same trip last winter. (CBC)

With temperatures around 0 C for the ride and memorial service on Saturday, Holm says conditions "could not have been better" for this year's event.

"We rose to a beautiful sunrise on Saturday morning … and were met with perfect blue skies yesterday, very light winds, and gorgeous scenery."

It was Winnipegger Jeffery Hobden's first time both winter camping and taking part in the event.

He told CBC News the cold didn't bother him at all.

"Surprisingly, if anything I was a little too warm until I figured out how to properly layer myself and get my sleeping bag warmed up," he said, adding he'd recommend the experience for anyone interested in adventure.

This was Jeffery Hobden's first time winter camping and his first time taking part in the annual fat bike trek across Lake Winnipeg. (CBC)

"There's no better way to embrace the winter and to challenge yourself in such extreme conditions."

For next year's ride, Kolesnik says he's looking at adding an additional three-day training camp to the schedule for those interested in learning how to do difficult winter challenges and races.

With files from Camille Gris Roy