Last night was my first real ride on my new Mukluk. Temps plunged from a balmy 23 degrees at lunch time to around 6 degrees come 7pm. Adding to the temps the night seemed abnormally dark for some reason. Although this was likely psychological, Curtis and I were having a bit of trouble getting excited to ride. As the time neared ride time we were both in street clothes BS'ing about this and that. Neither of us were looking out the back door with much longing.
At a quarter to seven Evan walked in, sealing the deal. The ride was on. We suited up quick and started down the parking lot. Immediately the chilly temps were forgotten. All of us had proper clothing and bar mitts; I was actually over dressed for most of the ride. We received 3-4"s of fresh snow over the weekend. With cold temps since then, the snow was in great shape.
We bombed along the twisty technical singletrack along the river to start. This trail gets a fair amount of walking traffic. It was a bit bumpy from all the footprints, but was decently packed which allowed for good uphill traction and higher speeds. I love this section of trail. It's recently be updated with two new bridges over ravines, and some really nice bench cut trail sections finished with found stones. It's even prettier in the winter, and parts are quite a technical challenge on a fat bike in slippery snow!
Once through the singletrack the trails open up onto snowmobile and mixed use trails in River Bend. These are doubletrack width and are for the most part groomed. They are open to walking as well as skiing, though there were no real ski tracks to speak of yet. Going was a little harder here due to the groomer, the snow was a harsh fluffy sort of thing. The tires were clearly working harder to push through it. Untracked sections of new snow were a quiet joy to cruise along through. These sections were my favorite. The tires just floated along quietly and smoothly. Downhill trails leading to the river bottoms were a blast. I opened up the bike and just let the tires run. The river is just starting to ice up, and was gorgeous in the moonlight.
Once through the main loop of the Nature Center we headed back to the shop. Running again through the singletrack I chose to take the much hillier uphill line. This was quite a technical challenge. The trick was trying to balance uphill traction, side hill slides, and downhill braking controlled slides. There's no shame in saying I walked a fair bit of it. I think this will be a great challenge for me this year.
Back at the shop we all discussed how relatively hard it was to get going, and how grateful we were for having made it out. For me riding with people on scheduled rides is by far the best motivator for winter riding. This time of riding lends itself to having people with you. There's a sense of camaraderie involved when laughing with each other when you fall. Congratulating each other for cleaning some tough section feels way better than smiling to yourself. Most important though it having someone with you to give you that little push. Someone to help get you out there. Someone to tell you to provide encouragement on the ride, to tell you to try that section of trail. It's people that make rides like this great.
A big thanks is due to Evan for giving Curtis and I a needed push last night. It was a fabulous ride, thanks for joining us!