In Praise of Snowmobiles: Biking Warren’s Woods

Rockin’ time riding the Pugsley for double digit ( barely) miles near Warren village. Four of us were on fat-tire bikes, with four other Bubbas bicycling on regular-width tires.

Jason and Casey
Jason and Casey

It was 24 degrees out, with an inch of new powder settling on the snowmobile-packed trail.
After my disappointing experience around Moody Pond yesterday, I hoped for a firmer riding surface.
We had Casey join us today on his shiny yellow Pugsley. He and Jason were the forward force on the ride away from the Warren school.

Here’s Youtube clip of this ride that John Anders put together and submitted.  He’s doing a great job with the Contour camera and the editing.

The ride was definitely better today, on a heavily traveled snowmobile track that worked it’s way along the powerline and over fields onto a new section of trail that initially ran through the forest. While we were all moving forward, the lack of a frozen track resulted in places where the bikes broke through and the rear wheels just kept spinning. Uphills were hard. Some of us let air out of our tires, trying to gain a wider footprint in order to increase traction, a technique that I have sucessfully employed while riding motorcycles on long gravel roads in Canada. Several of us were running p.s.i.’s under 10. Both Jason and I had less than half that in our 4” tires. Here’s a picture of Jason’s fist illustrating:

It's not a flat fattie.
It’s not a flat fattie.

Sinking was enough a problem that several riders labored back after an hour, at the 2.6 mile mark. I joined Casey, Jason, The Hawk, and Craig Mac for an additional loop that added another 45 minutes to our ride. The terrain was varied. We even passed through a gravel pit.

Rare pic of The Hawk walking
Rare pic of The Hawk walking

I was unable to negotiate a steep downhill curve at speed and even though I was nearly upright as I staggered to regain my balance, as soon as I stepped off the trail onto the deep snow beside the pack I face planted into the soft snow.
With 40 degree temps predicted for Wednesday followed by two freezing nights, the winter riding is only going to get better.
Here’s the map.

Bubbas On Ice

I have never bicycled over as much frozen water. I’d estimate that 40 % of the riding this morning was on solid ice, of which there were two forms.

Slick Stuff
One was “smooth as glass”, and the other a bumpy surface that appeared under wooded cover where dripping sleet froze into micro peaks and valleys.

Five of The Bubbas showed up at 9:30 AM for the ride.
Winter Bikers
Two of the smartest guys, Eric and Jason, had studded tires. I’m not sure if they even fell once. I only saw them when they were waiting for us to catch up. I know that I fell. I saw Rigger fall. I didn’t see Steve fall, but did see him recover after sliding right off a narrow wooden bridge that was coated with frozen snow.
I smacked down a few times. My most notorious dive was into moving water that was deep enough that one boot, a mitten, and a good part of my butt became saturated with icy water. It was sheer ice going into the stream crossing and more ice on the lip out. I thought I had enough momentum to shoot across on my Pugsley snow bike, but no, I dove right in plus suffered in listening to the cackle of the guys watching me laying in the running water and worming around to extract my limbs from the drowning bike.
Today, I learned that a fat tire bike without studs runs a sorry second to a studded-tire mountain bike over sheer ice. It is a good thing for me to wear knee, shin, and elbow protection on these winter rides. I did like the grip of the big Larry knobbie tires on the actual refrozen snow that was in the woods on the edges of the ice lanes. I developed a technique on the way back to the car when I veered off right into the woods and detoured the ice roads where I could. The Pugs is like a tractor in those conditions.
Here’s a short video clip of Rigger riding over the ice:

Anyone out there have a recommendations for hip protection? I don’t want to break a hip. Hockey pants?

Here’s a Strava entry about the 6.6 ride, complete with map.