Video by David Smith
Words by Richard Tanenbaum II
Stunned. Shocked. In awe. Words hardly explain our amazement at the athletic display played out by Manuel Beastley at the 2013 Sea Otter Classic. The 43-year-old journeyman marched up to the Bike Magazine booth on Friday afternoon, announcing that his signature-model Mongoose fat bike was, "the most versatile machine on the market." He said he was out to prove it by competing in every off-road event at the Sea Otter Classic.
We hadn't expected much, to be honest. Beastley informed us that he'd just departed a harsh winter in his native land, the Yukon Territory. He'd hopped a series of freight trains to complete the 3,100-mile journey. His $200 fat bike was fresh off a Walmart showroom floor. We collectively let out some nervous laughter, unsure whether this wild-eyed gentleman was delusional or some kind of offbeat comedian. The laughter immediately ceased the moment we saw Beastley ride.
We had been stationed at the top of the downhill on Friday evening, taking photos of world cup downhiller Stevie Smith. Stevie was sessioning a series of jumps for the camera when Beastley barreled around the corner. Through a cloud of dust we saw a cherry red fat bike arcing a textbook two-wheeled drift, then pulling an effortless "nothing" off the biggest jump on course. He overshot the landing, broke through the tape and tore down the grassy slope. It wasn't until we heard the fat bike rider's hoots and hollers that it finally registered—Manuel Beastley meant business.
As promised, Beastley stomped an international field of competitors in every category. Spectators were left dumbstruck. In this era of social media, Beastley gained worldwide appeal almost instantly. Hashtags #fatandfurious and #dontcallhimmanny quickly started trending and rumors started to circulate that this great champion and his unorthodox steed would be making an appearance at the Celebrity Log Pull Championship Tournament.
By Saturday evenings' Dual Slalom event, Beastley had amassed hundreds of fans. And, Slalom being the most raucous event of the weekend, the majority of those fans were drunk. Beastley made it to the quarterfinals in the pro slalom, busting out of the gate and blasting down the course with effortless style. Beastley's final run was a full-contact battle with Kiwi Cameron Cole. Cole threw a final elbow into Beastley's ribs and just edged him out at the line.
Beastley's fans—on the verge of a full-blown riot—were tearing down the finish line banners, screaming and threatening Cole. Just before things became violent, Beastley took charge and announced that he was going to the Log Pull and invited his fans to join him. "That's where the real fun is, anyway," he said.
Of course Beastley and his bike dominated the Log Pull. But in a rare act of generosity, Beastley let Eric J. Highlander, Esq. (the reigning Log Pull World Champion) take the grand prize. As one fan marveled, "Not since Filip Meirhaeghe have we seen a grand champion so ruthless, yet so kind."
This year's Sea Otter Classic was a great cultural turning point and Bike Magazine is fortunate to have witnessed it all firsthand. Beastley and his Fat Bike of Glory left an indelible mark on competitive cycling last weekend. With nothing left to prove, Beastley is on his way to Venezuela to work on an oilrig. Countless bike companies have been courting the athlete, but he claims that he's not interested in competing fulltime. "I've got real work to do," he stated.