Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Seems to be Here

OK, I'm back...It's not that I have not been out on some new adventures riding, but that I simply have not taken the time to put anything here. Also during the past month my online photo depository (picasa web) changed making it much more difficult to publish my photos here. Not sure why they have made it so difficult to make links to my photos, but it's their product. Anyway here I am.

Fatbike riding has essentially ended since the snow has been uncooperatively melting away. I typically have a nice crust to ride on this time of year, but warm weather up high created mush, then slush, then muck. My last ride was last month in the rain on a fairly deep snow bed. It was "fun" and challenging, but it was essentially the end for my snow bike riding this season. Rats!

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I took my Fatback to Grangeville in hopes that I would find more snow up on Mt Idaho (my new backyard), but I simply have not had the opportunity to expore that option. I did ride up to the top of Mt Idaho on my Lynskey cross bike a few weeks ago and found some nice snow that would have been perfect for the fatbike, but before I could get up there again the weather turned quite warm making it mushy. I've been having a blast exporing my new back yard and the gravel roads around Grangeville when I'm up there and have the time (I stay up there when I work and come back to Asotin with my family when I'm off).

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Spring is definitely here, gravel grinders on the cross bike are it for me now (one of my favorite kinds of riding beyond the fat bike). Get out and ride your bike, do some exploring!

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Fat Chatter

Last week I went out and played in more fresh snow, it seems that once it started there was no end to it. The snow level went from essentially zero to several feet. WhooHooo!!! The only issue is that fresh snow is kind of difficult to travel in; especially uphill (which is typically the start of my ride here).

I let some days pass (actually I had to work) so that the snowmobilers would pack down a nice trail for me, and they did. So today being a free day for me I was ready to go play on the USS Titan (my Fatback titanium battle cruiser).  Everything started great. The snow was packed, but still fairly soft which made me spin uphill rather easily. The internal, insistent, nonstop self chatter was going as I climbed up in the soft snow: "I wonder how much better I’d do with a fatter tire on the rear, like a Surly Lou 4.8? Would this larger tire fit my frame?"  The Surly Nate 3.8 on the rear now has super traction, but I am finding that it has many limitations in the snow I ride most of the time.  Bottom line is that I need more float on the rear which means a wider tire. My Surly Bud 4.8 up front holds its own well.
Before I started, from my house I could see some dark snow clouds drifting over the mountain top. The day started sunny, but darkened as I trekked uphill on the Fatback. Once up on the ridge line, where there is a very scenic overlook into a 3000 foot river canyon, the weather was instantly not good. There existed 20-30mph winds blowing snow mixed with ice pellets stinging my face, plus a thick fog was part of the mix. The blowing snow and fog made visibility a few feet at best. There's a forest out there somewhere...

Having just climbed a difficult 1000 feet in the last 2-miles my thin layers of wool were damp with sweat and I was instantly freezing up. I quickly pulled a fleece vest and jacket from my pack and put them on. My internal chatter was now going at mega speed, taking mental inventory of additional clothing and survival equipment I had on the bike or in my pack…another wind proof fleece, a down puffy coat and vest, a wind proof winter parka (that is in the seat pack I strapped on for no known reason at the last minute before I left home), plenty of extra gloves, hats, facial covers, wind proof and water proof matches, a mini butane flame thrower (starts fires quickly), extra food, mini stove, knife….OK, I had enough stuff to NOT die up here any time soon. In fact I could quite easily spend a few nights.  I have much confidence in winter and wilderness survival, payment from all my past winter trials in winter wilderness trips and Antarctica. Bottom line - I love winter and snow.
My chatter continued...hmmm, I’m only 5-miles into a 30-mile round trip and the going suddenly looks very, very hard…I had a fleeting thought of turning around and calling it a day. "Wait a minute, that would be wimping out and totally no fun." I tried to come up with other options...Hmmm, none! "Alright then, forward I go, buck up Eric you live for this kind of adventure and you will finish,  ONWARD!!!"

The forward momentum from this point on was definitely a trial for one’s mental toughness, lots of slow going and blind riding. There were many times I’d be riding slowly along, at a best possible speed, when I’d suddenly stop because my front wheel was axle deep in an snow drift across my intended path...time to get off and trudge through. I spent plenty of time hike-a-biking (which is always part of fatbiking anyway). A "normal" person would probably get lost up there, but normal I am not and I know that place well, even in blowing, whiteout conditions I always knew where I was at. There were times when I did get some reprieve in tree canyons in which there was no wind and it was like another world with soft fluffy snow coming down.

Forward progress became more difficult with drifts forming at an amazing rate with the strong winds building giant roller drifts (which on a good day I would have fun on, but today these drifts were soft and difficult to get past. In the end I made it to my turnaround point.  I wasted no time starting back since it was getting late.

My tracks were totally non-existent where I’d just been. The way back was a tad easier since it is mostly downhill and some of the fog had let up, but the wind and blowing snow was still in full force keeping this adventure real. 

By the time I got back to my trusty Subaru the legs were rather tired and I felt hunger. I’m sure my previous day’s activities, working out on "nature’s elliptical trainer" (snowshoeing in deep snow), did not help the tired feeling in my legs. It feels good!

Thursday, February 06, 2014


I asked for more snow and it seems I got it...I was starting to worry that my entire fatbike season was going to turn into nothing except winter gravel grinders. The progression of snow fall this week has left me with plenty of snow to play in and struggle through.

However, at this time the snow is super soft making forward momentum difficult and any riding up hill is a butt kicking workout. Who needs interval training on the road when you have soft snow, a fatbike, and a 1000-feet of hill climb to start your ride?

The mental toughness this kind of riding develops is amazing. I typically set a landmark goal to attain before I start leave home (without knowing the snow/trail conditions on the mountain). I have yet to not make a daily ride goal on the fatbike. But I must say that there have been days when I heard a wimper come from within and many days of self doubt about my crazy idea for the day of riding.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Need More Snow!

Where's the SNOW???

My fatbike year started off with some huge dumps, but since then there has been nothing except warm temps and lots of melting. There was a small dump on the mountain a few weeks ago covering most of the unrideable ice, however the snow is still quite skimpy around here. I wish the midwest and east would quit hogging it all.

OK, I'll stop whining now since I do have some snow to ride on and one awesome fatbike! The snow depth is about 25% of normal though.

The route up to the snow in my backyard riding area is icy and treacherous during the first few miles and it only gets better with elevations. The snowmobilers (love those people) have done a nice job of making my riding experience much less strenuous by packing a sweet, easy riding path up the mountain.

I have not been riding as much fatbike just because of the skimpy snow plus I'm doing a slow move to Grangeville, ID. Yes, I'm leaving my little farm house in SE Washington. I have a love-hate relationship with this place since I've so love living here, but have not so loved the work I've had to put into the place. Now I get to start all over again in Grangeville. The bonus will be huge though since my backyard playground in Grangeville will be a mountain at the edge of town...yep, it's going to be some serious playtime!

Without much snow here this winter I've been trying to fight off chunking on too much weight by riding the local gravel, which in the winter is much more boring due to the deadness at the lower elevations. I do not know how I made it though the winter without a fatbike in the past. Up in the snow at least there is some life in the green trees that sparks some serious happiness.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

50-Miles on the Fatback

I did a little 50+ mile ride earlier this week. The snow conditions were superb and snomobiles had layed down some nice tracks making my riding much easier.

We're in a warming trend right now and I plan on finding out just bad the ice will be tomorrow. I'm starting to think I need a set of tires with studs, but I have no faith in the 45NRTH tires for where I ride. Maybe some GripStuds will make my life easier on the ice.

Anyone have experience with the GripStuds? I would like to know how well they work before I make the investment.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Storm Chasing - In Search of More Snow

Yesterday a nice looking "snow" cloud seemed to be dumping some white stuff in my local backyard playground. So I wasted no time chasing this storm to the foot of the mountain in search of fresh snow.

I was not dissappointed...I arrived in the middle of a nice solid dump. I had my "old" Fatback with me since it seemed to need some exercise and it was ready to go. This bike is one I have for sale and I only call it my "old" Fatback since it was recently replaced by a titanium model. This Fatback was new earlier this year (like March). I would not mind keeping it, but I really do not need a 2nd fatbike at this time. I also rode it today just to justify in my mind that the titanium Fatback was better riding (I still feel guilty selling this one since it's so new). This Fatback rides perfect and is a nice bike.

I also took this opportunity to try out another new product, an insulated Kleen Kanteen. This is not something for weight weenies since it is not a light product. But it has a specific purpose for me and that is to provided me with some hot beverages on the snow bike. I've had plenty of issues with insulated water bottles freezing on my rides. On this ride I put some warm tap water in 2 of these for my 1st test. The result was that I had warm water from start to finish on my ride. Today I rode again and put hot tea in one bottle which was still burning hot after 4-hours in the cold. So these things work and work well! Hmmm...maybe I can have some sweet iced tea next summer.

Today the snow was quite a bit deeper and the titanium Fatback was ready to go with my best traction tires, Surly Bud up front and a Surly Nate in the rear. On my Fatback 70mm rims the Bud measures 4.5 inches and the Nate is 4-inches. This is the best combo I have found for deep snow conditions. This tire combo actually works fine in any snow conditions, but it seems a litte slower on groomed surfaces (something I rarely ever get to ride on).

Today the snow was very soft and plenty deep, plus it was windy and still snowing some. I rode most if it without any difficulty. But some of the steep hills were easier to walk than to ride. In my mind, walking your bike now and then is just part of riding a fatbike in the backcountry. I resisted the hike-a-bike when I first started fatbiking due to my stubborn mindset, but now I rather enjoy getting off and walking some. Snomobiles will be through here soon and I look forward to their arrival since on their tracks I can go as far as I want without getting too tired. I put in 20-miles today and I'm exausted.

The mighty Titan (my titanium Fatback) today put to rest any guilt or buyer remorse I may have been feeling. I love riding that's a keeper. It "rides" better for me, it "feels" faster, I "feel" I can go farther on it in the deep snow and it "makes" me smile more...true or not does not matter since there is something about this bike that elevates everthing about my rides.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fat Tire Testing

I got in 3-days of riding the Fatback Titan in my local backyard (Blue Mtns) this past week. Each day I was presented with differing weather and snow conditions so every ride turned into a tire analyzing experiment. Oh yeah! My super analytical mind has been wondering again (actually it never stops) so the "real-life" analysis lab has come to life once again. 

On the first ride I was testing some new Fatback Sterling tires that I received recently. On the first day using these tires the snow was rather deep and almost wet which would challenge any bike tire. I had a very fun day of "testing" but realized quickly that the Sterling was not an optimal front tire in these conditions. It simply did not have enough volume to allow the tire to float well in this type of snow. Evidently the Sterling width is less than Fatback spec'd with Vee Rubber (who manufactures the tire) and Fatback is working on a solution as I understand from their blog. Overall the Sterling is 3.8-inches on my rims, which wider than the 45NRTH Husker Du tires, so I'm not dissatisfied, but I would like a tire that is 4.2-inches as advertised. I will patiently wait to see what Fatback does to correct this (evidently their proto types were 4.25 inches on rims similar to mine). Anyway, I was able to test the traction on the front as well in both directions and found the tread pattern seemed better in the opposite to their directional arrow on the front. As a rear tire the traction was quite good, second only to the Surly Nate in my small arsenal of tires (Surly Larry, 45NRTH Husker Du, and Surly Nate). 

The 2nd day the snow was much wetter and temps warmer plus it was raining, so just imagine really wet snow. Some people would think this would be pure misery to ride in, but I had a blast! Thinking that I would need more even float and traction in these conditions, I put on a Surly Bud up front and Surly Nate on the rear. A huge improvement was noted with floatation (the Bud is 4.5 inches wide whereas the Sterling nearly an inch less width). Also I felt I had better rear traction with this setup (the Nate is hailed as the best rear tire for traction by many more people out there than me). I still had issues sinking through the crust and the snow, however I really do not think any tire combo would have done much better in a steady rain making wet-soggy snow that was hard to pedal through - fun right?!  (old photo showing this tire combo)

The final day I put on the 45NRTH Husker Du tires front and rear. The weather had cooled after the rain making a nice crust of the previous day's rain-on-snow event. I was popping through the crust now and then, but for the most part it was easy riding on top of the snow. There were also huge ice patches in which only a studded snow tire would have conquered without slipping. I learned that the Husker Du was really not a good rear traction tire even in these ideal conditions. Some people would dispute this with me, but climbing a 1000-feet in the first 2-miles of my ride tells me exactly how good or bad the traction is for any tire. I'm not at all impressed with the 45NRTH tire in the rear. Up front it is a great tire on firm snow. I've used this tire several times in the past in various snow conditions and had similar results. Considering their low volume and lack of traction compared to the Sterlings and Surly combo, I am considering selling the 45NRTH tires. (another old photo - by-the-way, this bike is for sale)

One thing is certain - Riding a fatbike on groomed or well packed trails is fast and easy, but riding a fatbike thorough deep snow is one heck of a workout and incredible interval training. Wet deep snow is real training (not that I'm training) in both the realms of physical and mental toughness. All I can say is that if fatbike season came before cyclocross season, I'd be ready for some serious racing.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Mission of Obsession - In Search of Snow

The weather this week has been looking up in my opinion. Most people I know would not agree with my idea of good weather...snow and cold, which I find is best for my soul. So this past week the conditions locally have been right for a good dump of the white stuff and I've been plain giddy searching for it. I've had my binoculars out numerous times daily scanning the local mountain tops for a hint of new snow. I've even been out on a few scouting missions on the Fatback, but even though conditions were ideal for snow I could find nothing more than a few small patches.

I'm not one to give up easily so my search for snow became a mission of obsession. Then it snowed a small amount at my house overnight, so I was instantly out on my Fatback (in my PJ's no less) running my very excited dogs in the snowy pastures behind my house. Whoop Whoop!

Oh, but a little snow here meant much more snow up in the mountains...hmmm. I had to make a trip to Grangeville, ID to winterize my house there so the mighty Fatback Titan came along since there was bound to be more snow there being at a higher elevation and typically a zone of higher moisture than here. I was not search for snow was over. After taking care of the house, I headed up Mt Idaho a few miles away...

I can not believe how much fun I have riding my Fatback in snow. I've tried to convince other people that this is the ultimate riding experience, yet I ride alone around here. I don't care since I also love the solitude of riding's very spiritual for me to be out alone in a quiet, beautiful environment, to decompress life stress, think without distractions, and pray without some government entity or anti-Christian telling me I can not.

The views from Mount Idaho were spectacular during a blustery day mixed with snow and sunshine. I rode up a trail climbing 2000-feet before I had to turn around due to the setting sun. I can not tell you how good I feel after riding the snow...I no longer yearn for cyclocross racing, my blues were cured this day and I can not wait to ride the snow again.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Titan #3 - The Titan War Saga Continues

Another mighty Titan has materialized on my doorstep. As usual I am innocent and of course I deny any knowledge of how it got here, but I will admit that my association with such a fine bike will be strictly abusive to both me and the bike.

My initial 100-mile ride impression on gravel roads thus far has been nearly perfect (that means I have no real complaints and expect to have much more fun). Just let me say that I have put off racing this year for several reason that don't really include anything like I'm totally out of shape for racing cyclocross, the cost is rather high, and lack of confidence at this time. However this bike seems to have reversed those dark feelings of gloom and doom. I kind of want to train and race everytime I look at and ride this bike...hmmm!!!