Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beginner's Mind - Fat Biking

The first fat bike I rode was three years ago in the Equinox Challenge in West Yellowstone, Montana.  I have terrible technique as a skate skier and wanted a fun option for 12 hours of endurance racing. So I was psyched when they invited fat bikes to the Event starting in 2012.  I'd never been on a fat bike until about 5 minutes before start time.  I was on a Surley Pugsley named Mabel - and I was immediately hooked.

In 2014 when I rode in the Equinox Challenge again, I rode the Salsa Bucksaw, courtesy of Fitzgerald's Bikes.  It is one sweet bike and I still feel dreamy when I think about her.  

Aside from the Equinox Event, I never thought I'd be a true fat bike enthusiast.  It hadn't caught on in our small town of Lander yet and frankly, I just don't like the cold (which I mention ad naseum in every single post).  

This year both bike shops in our little town offered fat bike rentals and so over Christmas break I treated myself to a three week rental from The Bike Mill.  We'd just gotten about 16 inches of snow and the temps had been hovering in the minus teens and minus twenties.  When it warmed up to five below I took a test ride along the river near our house.

It didn't take me long to figure out how to stay warm and toasty.  The first thing I did was duct-tape hotties to the outside of my socks over my toes, then added another sock over the hotties.  My Sorel pac boots are big anyway so this was a nice fit and not too tight.  I have a pair of heated gloves and this year I bought the warmest down coat that Patagonia makes.  Until I move to Central America for the winter, I'm going all-out to stay warm.

One of my favorite trails, a rocky section in the summer, turned magically into flowy 
single track in the winter.

Besides the pure joy of riding there are some wonderful things about riding in the winter in particular.  The trails that you know so well are transformed into new trails entirely.  And the snow conditions change daily and even hourly, challenging your technique.

The other fun part is taking chances on the squirrley stuff.  I could point the bike down something steep and soft, but falling was inconsequential.  I had a number of painful knocks this summer, including a cracked helmet, so it's relaxing to ride in the fluff.  

The quiet and stillness of the forest in the winter is nothing short of magical.  I don't ride a fat bike fast and I stop a lot just to soak in the beauty.  Every day is different, even when riding on the same trail, depending on the weather and snow.

A few weeks ago I was out riding on a dreary overcast day with intermittent fog.  But the fog cleared and the sunlight made the snow glitter.  There were ice crystals in the air and chickadees flitting across my path.  And on another day a raven kept pace with me on the continental divide trail, showing up now and then like a random thought on the edge of my consciousness.

Riding on a section of the Continental Divide Trail in the Wind River Mountains.  

Fat biking in the snow will keep you humble.  

 Be a courteous fat biker and yield to all other traffic.  Skiers don't have brakes.

Something about riding in the winter makes me feel like I've gotten one over on 'the man.' 

 Last light on the canyon walls.

Another way to warm my toes.  The Forest Service was burning slash piles near the trail.

Have lab, will bike...Wind River Mountains.