Fat Tire Bikes Are Not Just For Snow

I prefer to ride my fat tire bike right now, leaving my full suspension 29″  Santa Cruz Tallboy and my converted Diamondback Apex “road” bike in the garage.

Why?  Because each and every bike has a personality and a bike’s personality speaks to the rider in a special language.

Do read Rebecca Rusch’s one page submission from Dirt Rag #189, just like I did this fine Maine morning.

Illustration by Chris Escobar
Illustration by Chris Escobar

Here it is:  RUSCH JOB: ZEN AND THE ART OF FAT BIKING | Rebecca Rusch .” Fat biking is not a fad. It’s here to stay and has opened the doors to a whole new…”

While Rush’s article reflects her impressions of riding on snow, it captures the essence of moving through the wooded trails here in Midcoast Maine, anytime of year.  There a bit more calmness to “riding fat”, as The Bubbas call it.  For me, at my age and stage of life,  riding on 5 inch wide tires sporting 5 pounds of pressure at 5 mph is fine.  I’m riding difficult trail sections that were impossible for me to clear on 2″ tires.  I don’t steer and aim so much when riding fat.  I let the bike slide and hop a bit until it finds it’s own line.  It’s intuitive rather than calculated.  These same trails are seen differently.  I like to notice that.

It’s been hot and humid here, since I have returned from hiking the Portugese Camino this June.  It’s still cool out here at 6:45 AM on this fine summer day, and I’m free to enjoy it right now.

I’m heading out the door to swing my leg over my Surly Ice Cream Truck right now : out the door, over the hay fields, rocky streams, and onto the snowmobile trails that I keep open to ride up and around Moody Mountain.   I’m happy to be riding fat again this morning.

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When a Mile and a Half is Enough

My Ice Cream Truck is back from the bike shop.  The big, black, two-wheeled tractor has suited me well on the 10 mile loop that I put together for myself on this Patriot’s Day holiday here in Maine.
The bike went to the shop after my 4.7” 45N Dunderbeist rear tire sported a two inch tear right along the rim line last Thursday night on Ragged Mountain.  It wasn’t my fault. The tire had 161 miles on it.

This
This

I hit nothing that tore it.  It just failed.  Luckily I was not running tubeless. I was sporting a minor bulge, due to the 6 pounds of pressure I had in the tube.
My upgraded tire is the improved version of the Dunderbeist, with the same grippy tread pattern as before, along with additional interior layers of fabric that were added to the sidewall. Under warranty for the next two years, there was also no charge for mounting either.  Thanks, Sidecountry Sports, and 45North for the quick service.   I am ready to roll again.

I continue to be interested in backpacking, hiking, and riding my bike close to home. Since I  have read Microadventures, I have experienced increasing satisfaction in my outdoor recreational activities. I have also been outside almost every day.  The radius of my path today was just a mile and a half, yet it took me thirty-nine years to discover two distinct segments of today’s ride. Yes, I have mountain bike trails from right out my door. I have NEVER seen anyone else riding this loop other than when I  meet up with snowmobile riders, but that might not ever happen some winters.

Here’s one of the views on this ride, this one not 10 minutes ride from my driveway.

Hidden pond
Hidden pond

On the abandoned Martin Corner Road, there are often these large waterholes that linger after any hard rain. Martin  My riding pal Andy Hazen rides though here often. He tells a story about escaping the jaws of a snapping turtle that was hanging out in one of these pools a couple of years ago.

After ascending the steep section of Moody Mountain Road, the middle of this ride is along and around the French Road that runs north along the back side of Moody Mountain toward Levensellar Pond.  This loop is the product of decades of my clearing and connecting the old snowmobile trails.

Here are a couple of shots of an old woods road that loops off the French Road.

Pretty clean
Pretty clean

Headed out

A blow down blocks the trail ahead, where I have cut a go-around that hardly visible to the unschooled eye.

Make no mistake, this loop requires at least two and a half miles of climbing.  After the ascent up to the high point on Moody Mountain Road, the climbing continues along a woods road that almost reaches the ridge above High Street.

One more climb off the Muzzy Ridge Road leads to  a huge blueberry expanse that comes with a view of the Atlantic beyond. FullSizeRender 11

The end of the ride includes three miles of descent, part of which is freshly maintained snowmobile trail that leads off the blueberry field, where it twists and turns its way back down to High Street and then back to my house.  I have been hiking it for a few times before today. This is the first time that I have ridden this segment.  Unfortunately, a new blow down really needs a chain saw to clear it out.  I plan to bring along a small hand saw next time to clear a route around the blow down.

Sometimes, going around is better than forging ahead.

selfie

Thank you,  Strava.

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Strava, Snow, and Stoicism or Moving Along the Fitness Trail

It had been a struggle for me to meet my 2016 fitness goals here in the winter in Maine this month. I have been reaching deep to log in an hour a day of hard walking or bicycling- outdoors, of course.  Here’s the January 19 report.

Days = Hours = Good
Days = Hours = Good

When I finally made it back home last night, it was close to 8 pm, with an outside temperature of 11 degrees, and steady strong wind blowing around 20 miles an hour. I even had to bust through a snow drift on the Barnestown Road near the Pearse farm in Hope on the way home from The Bog, where I earned myself a meager 4 miles toward my quest to ride my bicycles 1,000 miles in Maine in 2016.

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I really wanted to stay home tonight and avoid the discomfort of the cold and the exertion that my body would need in order to move through this loose, dry snow pack on my new Surly Ice Cream truck.  But….the social nature of belonging to The Bubbas, a local, like-minded tribe of mountain bike nuts was one of the deciding factors that put me out there tonight.
Was it easy to get out to ride tonight ?
No.

However, there is definitely a strength in numbers.   I rode tonight with six other guys. We shifted around our positions in line as we moved though the loose, often sketchy snow pack.  If I got too fagged out, I pulled over and let someone else move ahead and pack down the tread a bit more.
I also gained some inspiration from a book that I have been enjoying this week:  A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. FullSizeRender 5 The book came my way from a book review by Tim Smith, Master Maine Guide and chief of Jack Mountain Bushcraft School here in Maine.

I had just reading the chapter entitled The Dichotomy of Control, where my takeaway lesson was encapsulated in the following sentence, “ A better strategy for getting what you want, he says, is to make it your goal to want only those things that are easy to obtain- and ideally to want only those things that you can be certain of obtaining.”

Another thing that helped was for me to visualize the successes that I have already achieved when I moved ahead at this familiar junction of  Do I Really Want To Do This Right Now?
I reminded myself that I would probably not be miserably cold even though it was frigid out.  This particular ride starts with a couple hundred foot climb almost to the 1 mile mark on Mountain Road.  That is usually enough to get warmed up inside of my winter riding outfit, which is not as heavy or bulky as you might think.  I also reminded myself that I have been out doing this many times already. I have rode in the dark on the snow and ice in the winter guided by a headlamp and a handlebar mounted light for a few decades.
I was even packing a third source of emergency lighting tonight- a brand new Black Diamond Spot headlamp of 130 lumens.  I didn’t need it, but if I had, it would have allowed me to see my way through the ride.
Tonight, I was not able to make the usual Bog ride mileage, but I wasn’t the only one.  It’s much more difficult to ride out there this week.  If the days had been warmer and the night below freezing it might have been a superhighway of snow.  But it wasn’t.

I think the Stoics might have something to say about that.

Sugarloaf’s First Fat Tire Festival

Weather at the Sugarloaf Fat Tire Festival eventually cooperated.

John riding shotgun
John riding shotgun

I was able to put together a decent ride on Saturday, after the thermometer dropped below freezing.

Hard packed and ready for rolling fat.
Hard packed and ready for rolling fat.

Friday afternoon, when the air temp rode to above 50 degrees, the riding was less than ideal. I only racked up about five miles – the distance from our rented condominium, on the slopes, to the Nordic Center, which was the base of operations for the action here on fat wheels this weekend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The cross country trails here are well groomed, wide as a highway, and fairly solid underneath, but I had trouble on the uphill segments, my rear wheel sinking in the softness on Friday.

Fifty riders paid $40 each to race early Saturday. It looked to be a slog up the slopes, with a good deal of hike-a-bike to reach the high point and then a good slide down. None of us raced- the surface looked to be too loose and soft.

The cold came back Saturday afternoon. By 2 pm, it dropped under freezing, so I decided to head out with Buck, Ian, and Blaine and ride around for a couple of hours. Much better surfaces, allowing for some very fast downhill swoops.  photo 7

As long as you stayed on the packed track, you were smiling, but veer off the snow highways and you were going down into the deep snow.

Ian, halved !
Ian, halved !

The Bubbas represented well, with a dozen of us occupying the condo- I had a clean bed in a room with Tom P., John Anders and Tim Sewall sharing snoring shifts with me.

It cost each of us $100 for our share of the rental for the weekend, a most excellent location, and place to hang for the weekend. Thanks to Blaine Curtis for setting it up.

I volunteered to cook breakfast for the gang on Saturday- eggs, bacon, home fries, English muffins, coffee. Suzie Cooke organized the most excellent Saturday night dinner in the condo. On Sunday, John Anders whipped up an excellent batch of breakfast burritos, with Buck kicking in a massive plate of bacon sausage from Maine Street Meats in Rockport.

Sunday was the day of my longest ride.  Maine Huts and Trails hosted a Stratton Brook Lunch Ride on Sunday.

Suzie, Buck, and Rick ready to flow
Suzie, Buck, and Rick ready to flow

We sampled their winter trail system with a ride up to Stratton Brook Hut where we congregated with fellow Fat Tire riders, before heading back down a spectacular descent of close to two miles on the Oak Knoll Trail.

Ian and Buck enjoying the Stratton Hut
Ian and Buck enjoying the Stratton Hut

I am pleased to work in 27 miles of winter riding this weekend.  Who knows how the riding will go back home, beside Penobscot Bay this week?

This was not my first time fat biking Maine Huts and Trails.

Here’s my  October 26, 2013 blog post from my maiden voyage on a cold October day,   from Route 27 to spending a solitary night at the Flagstaff Lake Hut.

I’ll be back for next year’s Fat Tire Festival and plan to hit up the Maine Huts and Trails again in 2015.

White Bike / Cold Darkness

Last night seven fat bike riders covered 11.3 miles at a quick pace over the super compacted snowmobile tread in Lincolnville. It was a loop trip, guided by Jason and Ian, with the Stevens Corner parking lot at Youngtown road as the base.  The ride went clockwise, up the big climb to Bald Rock, then over to Cameron Mtn, and down to the center.  From there out to Coleman Pond and then back through a  frozen swamp.

The ride
The ride

It was 11 degrees when I reached the house at 8 PM.  My hands and feet hurt from the cold.  I have to remember to use chemical heat packets for my hands and feet the next time I ride in this cold, which should happen Friday.

Some of the features of this ride were:

First, how surprisingly rideable the surface was.  It hasn’t been this good this winter.  It should stay good, with the eastern US now locked into a cold pattern , where frigid temps are expected until mid-March.  Warm is good for the soul, but bad for us winter bikers.

Second, it was a gas to have this much fun riding so close to my home.  My new trend is to stay close to home and have local adventures .  The feeling of careening down over a smooth track from Cameron mountain and gliding over a rock garden that makes up the trail in the summertime was unique.

Third:  The bizarre experience of riding along over the top of Coleman Pond was both unsettling, and exciting.  Our little lights put a weak glow into the darkness, and added to the mystery.

And oh, what a deep sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure in My Back Yard

Our camp is a ten mile drive from the house. Finding a little authentic Maine camp so close to home was fortunate.

20140202-071017.jpgWe snagged it a decade ago- found it in Uncle Henry’s swap and sell.

I have ridden my mountain bike over land to get there before. I go up over Hatchet Mountain and back down to Hobbes Pond over some abandoned roads to do that in warm weather. One adventure that I have finally completed today was riding my bicycle to camp over snow mobile trails in winter. Here’s the route- a 15 mile round trip. Checkered circle is the start and finish, the unmarked body of water is Moody Pond.

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I took the car over to camp in the morning. It was 22 degrees inside. I started the wood stove and went home, with a plan to ride the Pugsley to camp to eat lunch, relax a bit , and head back home. It took me 50 minutes from the house to bike to the camp, some 6.2 miles away. I took a mix of road and trails to get there. 9 pounds of pressure in my 4″ studded 45N tires was just right until I reached Hobbes Pond where I started to slide on the shiny, slick ice.

20140202-075251.jpgDeflating the tires to about 3 PSI let me ride directly down the middle of Hobbes Pond and come right up to the front door of the camp. It was scary, fun, and exciting to roll over the hard ice at a good clip. I liberated an HTC cell phone ( US Cellular) that was partially frozen into the ice in the middle of the pond. Call me if it’s yours. I am drying it out – hope to locate the owner.

The camp had was now at 62 degrees, comfortable for sure. I hung out, read the new issue of Rolling Stone and cooked up a big bowl of pho. Then a slightly longer trip back, exploring new trail, and detouring around Moody Pond via the Martin Corner road- unplowed, and untracked except for some cross country ski grooves.

i was dismayed to see a string of barbed wire blocking entrance to an open field near the 90 degree turn on Martin Corner Rd.- nasty, rusted barbs at neck height.

20140202-075416.jpg A reminder not to do too much poking around here in dim sunset without headlamps.

When I reached the house, Marcia had fired up the sauna for me. That 185 degree heat was exactly right.

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Riding a couple of miles on the top of a large body of water is not something that is on many people’s bucket list, but it was on mine.

Riding my bike across a frozen pond

We are breaking out into midwinter riding conditions here in coastal Maine. The temps have been consistently in single numbers for a few weeks now, and with diminishing snow cover, the ground can freeze more deeply. Ponds, lakes, and even rivers are also now solid, with at least two feet of ice covering most areas.

I took my first ride over Moody Pond.

20140201-090249.jpg It is thrilling to me to be on top of a body of water that I pass almost daily. Moody is 1.3 miles down High Street from my house. It is both scary and exciting to launch off of land onto a frozen body of water.

20140201-093126.jpg Primitive survival defenses well up as you stand on a substance that you normally sink through. Yet it was safe.

Riding over Moody Pond is just one of three bodies of water that I plan to cross this week. Today I hope to ride over Hobbes Pond, about 5 miles from here. I have a camp there that I hope to check on today. While I have ridden there from the house in the summer, I have never taken the direct route over Moody Pond and then the 1 mile long ride down the center of Hobbes Pond. I’ m both frightened and challenged to do it.

I’ll be taking a two mile long walk over Attean Pond in Jackman this upcoming week, then three more days of walking on the frozen Moose River, where I hope to reach the spectacle of frozen cascades on Holeb Falls. I know it’s sort of nuts, but it’s what I do.