How to Organize a Fat Bike Poker Run

The Flannel Fest Fat Bike Poker Run by Rose Oakley-Law

Kimberley, British Columbia ~ February 19, 2021

  • Forty two riders
  • 14 volunteers
  • 10 doggos
  • 5 card decks
  • 2 meters of snow

That’s all you need for the best time you’ve ever had in the woods with your clothes on.  Preferably layers!


Recently, as part of our town’s Flannel Fest I organized our first-ever fat bike poker run.  I knew it would be a popular event as people are craving their social connections while maintaining their safe, active lifestyle. Our poker run was a big success, and I learned a lot about how we can jazz it up for future winters.


You don’t need to be a poker player to organize this fun event for your community, but planning in advance really helps. Start with finding volunteers, because without them there will be no event.  Friends who are passionate about fat biking and want to promote the sport and your local trails society are the best candidates.  If they can squeeze a ride in during the event, all the better. Consider dividing the event into “shifts” if you get enough vollies; then they can take a turn at riding the route too.

Find a great prize.  Contact your local bike shop to see what they can do for you.  By holding this event, you are really helping each other!  Smaller prizes can help make your event fun too.  Try and think of some creative criteria: worst poker hand, loudest rider, best-dressed dog, etc.  




How it works:

Each rider picks up a card at all five stations.  Best hand wins.  It’s not a race, and it isn’t timed.  E-bikes are welcome. 

Here are the ten basic steps to having a fat bike poker run:

  1. Get permission from your local trails society. Without their blessing, you are in for a whole heap of heartache!
  2. Set your route.  Ideally, this should be a groomed or hard-packed loop with the start and finish at the trailhead.  Consider parking and other logistics so your event can be as inclusive as possible. (The trailhead is where riders will check in, then pick their first card from a bag.) Best to have two vollies here…and bring a portable table.
  3. Set your card stations. Ride the route several times with friends and discuss where the four other card stations will be. I decided to sew flannel flags and string them across the trees to mark the stations. This is where volunteers will greet riders and hold a bag of cards out (sanitizing first!) so they can take one.  Record the route on Strava or Trailforks, screenshot, then mark the stations in edit mode. 
  4. Advertise your event.  Facebook and word of mouth is probably all you need.  Give one email address for people to register.  Decide on how many riders you can accommodate (remember it should be less than 52 or you’ll run out of cards!) Communicate a registration deadline – you will need some time to finalize, print and assemble everything. If this is a fundraiser, decide on the beneficiary. Pro tip: Voluntary donations yield more than a set entry fee!
  5. Keep email addresses of everyone who registers.  Create a mail group so you can update everyone quickly. 
  6. Stagger start times and record on a chart. This is one helpful way to avoid congestion at the trailhead and in the parking lot. When you respond to emails, send riders the map, their start time, location, and some very basic information.  Remember that you might get a wide range of riders who may or may not know about trail etiquette. Are dogs welcome? Are there parking restrictions? Make and print a chart of riders and start times so you can keep tabs on how many are out, and who has returned. On the chart, give each rider a number. This number will be written on their poker hand, once submitted.
  7. Think of a way to collect the poker hands when riders complete the loop. (We stapled the cards together in a “fan” and wrote the rider’s number on the fan with a Sharpie.)  
  8. On the afternoon before the poker ride: mark the card stations (we used flannel flags on a string that hung between two trees.). Place arrows at junctions.  Print out your charts and checklists.
  9. When the event is over: assign a sweeper to pick up arrows and flags.
  10. Keep your stuff!  Flags, maps, communications, arrows, email lists can all be used next year. 




Consider the weather.  On the morning of the event, I got so many texts and emails asking if we were going to cancel.  Nope! Very cold weather is no problem for fattie riders, but for volunteers standing at their stations, it’s another matter.  We provided hand and foot warmers and flannel masks as soon as volunteers arrived. We also had an understanding that if anyone got too cold, vollies could just leave their bag of cards at the station and riders would use the honour system.  



The feedback was fantastic, as everyone appreciated the chance to get out with other like-minded fattie lovers to enjoy nature, grab some elevated heart rate and endorphins, and maybe win a prize.  The suggestions for improvement were also good: dog treats / bandanas for our furry shredders, and maybe throw in some special, fun activities at each station (swap a card at station two, do a shot at station three, pose for a photo at four,  etc.)




There are endless ways to make this event even better, and I have a whole year to plan them.  For now, I think I’ll just put away my sewing machine, then go for a fat bike ride in the woods, fully clothed.   


Rose retired to British Columbia, Canada after 26 years as a primary teacher and principal in Ontario.  She traded in her laptop, teaching schedules and mark books for mountain bikes, skis and kayaks.  








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