Thursday, March 10, 2011

Call of the fat bike.

Tuesday night we had a great Fat Tuesday ride.  The trails were much better than we had all expected them to be despite low 30's temps all day.  Surprisingly navigable, we rode our normal snowmobile trail loop south of town in just over an hour.  Afterward we retired to comfortable chairs at the Tavern lounge for a round of adult beverages and half priced appetizers.  Despite less than ideal conditions we had a great time.  Both the company and riding were thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday morning brought with it a few inches of fresh snow and the same warm temperatures.  I woke up at a half lit 6:15 with my first thought being of cruising fresh powder before work.  Knowing the snow was coming, I laid out clothes the night before.  I just had to get dressed and down a bit of breakfast before setting out.

The street outside my house hadn't been plowed yet when I started out.  The big Larry tires moved effortlessly though the snow on with the hard surface below it.  You hardly knew you were on snow save for how quiet it was.  I slowly made my way down towards the river.  It was quite obvious even from the start that it would be a granny gear ride.  From under the Highway 3 bridge the pedestrian bridge over the Cannon River looks pretty cool in the fresh snow.

Fat tracks over the Cannon.  I was certainly sinking less through this section than the walkers' footprints beside me.  Even the dogs' prints were lower in the snow.

Shortly after the bridge you hit the start of the snowmobile trail to Dundas.  This stretch was slow and draggy last night.  It was doubly so this morning.  In some spots it was all I could do to keep the bike going forward and upright.  It's a hell of a thing to be working hard in the lowest gear you have on flat ground just to keep moving forward.

To add insult to injury, this section is dead straight and goes on for a while.  The end can't, and almost doesn't, come soon enough.  It's not so much that it's physically hard, it's just a little spirit crushing.  Add to that an almost total lack of visible contrast and you have a heck of a three mile stretch.  It was very hard to find good lines as there was little to tell even where the ditch had been groomed.  All traces of our tracks from last night were totally erased.  

You cross the two branches of the Cannon River at Dundas.  It makes a beautiful spot to rest up for a bit.  The color of the Pofahl really popped in the lighting with the river in the background.  You can see the snow starting to pick up against the black of the tires especially.

At Dundas you make a turn east and head across Highway 3 again.  The snowmobile trails heads into the woods here, climbing gradually as it snakes up an old ravine.  This is the biggest grinder of a hill on this loop.  Those who have ridden it know it's a slow, spinning slog to the top.  It's also easily the prettiest portion of this ride.  I love it.  Up until we started riding fat bikes I had no idea this was here.  It's a mile from my house.  Looking back down the hill at perfect tracks on a new layer of snow.  Just gorgeous.  This section makes the whole ride for me.

I was able to ride the hill in one gear shy of my lowest.  That's pretty good for me considering the condition of the snow.  Last night conditions were easier, and I was only in one gear higher.  Progress as far as fitness goes for me.  This was also the last time I was out of the wind and blowing snow/ice.

After the winding hill this trial heads across wide open fields on top of the bluff.  The weather took a decided turn for the worse in the wide open expanse.  Out of the shelter of any close trees, the wind whipped the falling snow and stung my eyes something fierce.  I rode a lot of of this section with my windward eye closed. You don't need a lot of depth perception in a complete field of white.  In the falling snow there was not distinguishing the earth from sky.  It was just a blank of white dotted intermittently with trail markers.   I stopped taking photos at this point.  I wanted to get home, and there's not much but white and a few dots to see anyway.

I have to admit that I wussed out a bit here. I didn't take the last section of available trail back to County 1.  Last night I fell on this section trying to navigate some deep 4x4 ruts across the open field.  The thought of trying to do the same today through clenched eyelids fighting a strong headwind and snow was not my idea of fun.  I rode the short section of gravel back to Highway 21, and then I rode the shoulder on Highway 246 back into town.  The gravel road and shoulders hadn't been plowed yet, so I'm counting them as legitimate mileage.

All told the ride took me almost exactly two hours.  That's twice the time it took us last night.  I didn't ride as hard as I did last night.  This ride was about time in the saddle and enjoying the new snow.  It was a near perfect start to the day.

Happy Friday all.  Have a wonderful weekend.


Joboo said...

The title of this post would make an awesome book title!!! Right up there with The Call of The Wild!! ;)
Fat bikes are pleasing, aren't they!!


Ben said...

I have enjoyed this winter more than any in a long time largely thanks to fat bikes, and riding regularly with friends because of them. Pleasing indeed!

TGooz said...

I've not gotten out on my Muk nearly enough this winter but of the times I have they were utterly splendid. With winter supposedly ending soon I'm looking forward to riding my Muk on sandy stretches around a few lakes up north. THAT will also be a wonderful thing.

Ben said...

I'm looking forward to that as well. The smaller rock based shores should be a lot of fun as well. Playing on the hard, crazy shaped large boulders and then rolling down on to the pebble beaches is going to be a heck of a lot of fun. Talk about varied terrain big squishy riding. You can ride sand, big rock and pebbles sometimes in the span of 20 feet!

Jerry said...

I had no idea that hill was there until I started riding the snow mobile trails. it's amazing how beautiful it is there just across the street from Menards. nice photos Ben.

James Fisher said...

Nice pictures and narrative. Inspired me to take another after work ride today.

Ben said...

Jerry I totally agree. Discovering new places so close to home has been one of the best things about these bikes. I'm sure there is other stuff to be seen. I have to day I'm looking forward to next winter already.

Jim I'm glad I inspired you to go ride. Thanks for the wonderful compliment!