Monday, February 25, 2013

Early Morning Cyclist Inspiration

My test ride late yesterday afternoon gave me a false sense of hope for this morning's ride.Well, it was pretty, I'll give it that. Otherwise, I was pushing my bike through snow that was too deep to ride, taking the back roads where I could (that part was OK), and praying that I didn't' get squished by a logging truck or plow on the 1/4 mile of busy snowy road I was forced to ride. 

If only this picture looked as cool as it did in real life.

This is not a black and white photo!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow Bike 101 – A Fatbike Newbie’s Review

A Review of the 2012 Surly Pugsley Compared and Contrasted with a 2010 GT Sensor 1.0 with studs.

Out of full disclosure, this picture was not taken in the conditions of the test.

I’m new to the fatbike world but not new to winter biking.  I recently picked up the Pugsley because there are days when a “Normal” bike just won’t move through the trails.  Both bikes are stock with the exception of the tires on the GT which are Nokian Extreme 294carbide studded tires. 

For this review I am comparing 2 rides I took on the same trail, in opposite directions with nearly identical conditions.  It is about a 14 mile ride with one large hill in the middle but the starting and ending elevations are about the same.  The snow was well consolidated, frozen granular snow with surfaces that ranged from ice to course chunks to washboard.  In all the conditions were not ideal for either bike.  The looser chunks were a little slow for the Sensor and the icy sections were a little hairy for the Pugsley.  I’ll add a “ Note: “ with information about other rides.

Corners:  In all sections without ice the fatbike ruled in the traction department.  Footing was always dependable.  In sections with looser snow the wide tires would push up their own berms and carve out a corner without washing out.

Ruts: The fatbike also climbed out of ruts much easier than the GT.  The wide tires didn’t fall into the ruts as far and the increased traction climbed over the walls easier. 

Climbs: My GT sensor isn’t the lightest bike in its class but after churning up some hills on the pug it felt like a featherweight.  No contest, the GT wins.  Note: if trail conditions aren’t firm enough the fatbike quickly pulls ahead.  Normal bikes tend to dig in and spin out on softer snow.

Descents: The fatbike falls down a trail like an anchor on rails.  The added weight and traction made long winding downhill runs a blast.

Rollers: There were some sections of trail where the snowmobiles really kicked up some speed bumps.  I really missed my suspension running through these sections on the Surly.  I had to stay out of the seat for full sections of these both up and down hill.  Something about the distance between the rollers and the wheelbase of the Pugsley made these particularly punishing.  The GT on the other hand dances over them sometimes just skimming the crests of each one on quick descents.

Ice: Riding the GT Sensor with 588 carbide tipped studs;  I didn’t give it much of a thought.  Riding the non-studded fatbike; I thought about ice a lot.  Especially going over the lake that had a surface of chunky snow that had melted and re-frozen into solid, chunky, wheel re-locating ice.  For trail sections with incidental ice if you picked a line where the tire could follow a frozen ridge in the trail the Surly found enough traction to keep you going.  For sections of lake that have smooth, flat ice the fat tires had enough traction to keep you upright as long as you didn’t do anything too quickly.  Of course you could pick up a set of 45 NorthDillinger tires if you can find them and afford them.

Overall: For this particular ride I would pick my studded full suspension bike.  My back was much happier not to be pounded by the seemingly endless 1’ tall bumps in the trail and there was enough ice on the trail to make me happy I had studs.  My average speed on the way home on the Pugsley was 7.9MPH and my average speed on the way in to work on the Sensor was 10.0MPH.

In all fairness: I did a second test ride on the day I took the above picture.  There was about 6" of stick snow that had been packed with about 3" on top of that.  The temp was 31F.  First I took the Sensor down the road and about 1000 feet into the trails.  It was squirmy on the road and washed out on the trail.  It was in no way something I would do on purpose.  I rode back and took the Pugsley on the same route and it was a blast.  It was much more sure footed on the road.  I didn't get 1000' into the trail, I got about 2 miles into the trail and could have kept going but needed to get back.

Limits:  Unfortunately, there are limits even with a fatbike.  More than a few inches of powder, a soft base, a layer of crusty snow over some powder all stop it in it's tracks.  I wish I wasn't at the mercy of snowmobiles but that's the nature of the game.

Conclusion:  Any time the snow is soft, fresh, packed powder or new the fatbike is the tool for the job.  On those winter days when the trails are firm I prefer the lighter, faster, smoother ride of my full suspension bike.  If you want to ride in the winter a dedicated snow bike will get you on the trail more on more days than a standard mountain bike but not all days.  I’m glad I get to own them both.

(Did I miss anything?  Leave me a comment)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ice, Ice Baby

The trails have been a little challenging this week. Let me just say that these are a lot harder to climb than they look in the pictures.  Yesterday I made it halfway up this flow only to crash and slide back down about 20'.
Both harder and slipperier than a water slide.

Looking down one of the longest flows You can see my bike at the top of the hill.

Closer to my bike you can see the flow continue down the trail.

This view is from the bottom looking back up.  The highest point you can see is where my bike was in the last picture.

The picture definitely doesn't do this one justice.  This flow is terrifying to fide so I don't.  It is about 200' long at up to a 15% grade and the edges are lined with rocks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Early Morning Cyclist Inspiration

This rock is in the middle, well, not the middle, of Little Sebago lake. In the summer we kayak to it and jump off.  This is my first visit to it in the winter.

Big Rock!
Really Big Rock

Monday, February 4, 2013

Early Morning Cyclist Trail Maintenance.

Thanks to Carol for the saw that gets the job done but is a LOT lighter than a Husqvarna 

Now You See It

Now You Don't, OK, you can still see it but I was too late to make another cut.

I got this saw as a gift several years ago and finally found it's true calling.  I've always had other saws available at home so this got little use.  But, out on the trail or in the kayak this is the perfect tool to make short work of windfalls up to 8" in diameter.