Monday, February 2, 2015

Isn't it ironic...

don't you think? A little too ironic... and yeah, I really do think. The words of Alanis Morissette come to mind when looking out the window.  Nordic skiers and fat bikers alike were doing the snow dance while a snow drought persisted, and now we have snow by the foot.

I've never been one to "ride" indoors. I find it mentally abrasive, no different than say being blasted by music you hate or overwhelmed by the stench from a landfill. I've dabbled with indoor trainers a few times but just couldn't reach that flow state of mind that is achieved by moving yourself through the outdoor environment.

There was one year I missed only three days riding outside. I had no goal of riding everyday outside. Things just happened that way. I think the days I missed were due to business travel. I rode trails in the winter when I could. A 26" wheeled mountain bike with 2" wide tires didn't offer much float. The snow either needed to be super powdery or frozen granular. Winters were hit or miss. Some winters I was banished mostly to the road, until I discovered that Cape Cod often stays free of snow when the rest of New England is socked in white.

Was there a way to embrace the snow without involving two wheels? Yes there was. That is when cross country skate skiing entered the picture. This was something more aerobically demanding than riding and used many of the same muscles. How awesome was that?! If conditions got too crappy for riding, there was a high probability conditions would be superb for skiing. There was no way to lose!

This has been my modus operandi for a better part of a decade now.  When roads become dangerous and trails too deep to ride, skis perfectly provided the means to achieve an endorphin enhanced state of mind-flow.

Earlier this season, trails were staying bare, maybe a little snow cover, and sometimes a lot of ice. Had to drive to find marginal snow to ski, but the local riding was pretty good, especially just a bit south. Fat bikers were actually driving north to find snow to ride their bikes on! It had never occurred to me to drive somewhere just to ride a bike on snow when you could ride right here on dirt. My how things turned around. The fat bike phenomenon caught on way faster than mountain biking itself did or the singlespeed movement did. Wonder what that Kool Aid was spiked with?  The bikes evolved at a dramatic pace too.

The lack of snow earlier this winter was quickly made up. The last two storm accumulations were measured in feet. Everybody should be rejoicing, right? This is where paths diverge between the fat biker and Nordic skier camps.

You see, there never is such a thing as too much snow for a skier. More is always better, ensures a long and prosperous ski season. Riding off-road is a different story. When a large snow dump occurs, at first the trails are unrideable, even by fat bikes. There is too much resistance and even 5" wide tires won't float on two feet of powder. The trails need to be packed first, no different really than Nordic trails being groomed for skate skiing. Local snowmobile clubs will pack their trails. However, sled traffic often keeps the surface pretty loose and soft. Rideable, sure, but fun, maybe not so much.

The utopia fat bikers seek is packed singletrack trails. How does that come about? You enlist teams of your fat bike friends to go snowshoe stomping the trails. Great exercise in the great outdoors, a worthy activity all by itself. But say the trails are just starting to pack enough to ride and another big snow dump moves in. Son of a bitch! Start all over again. Buy a fat bike to ride in the snow, then when it snows you can't ride your bike in it. Oh the irony!

To be honest, I wouldn't mind more off-road riding opportunities during the winter. I tried a fat bike for a season and a half but had to part with it after it repeatedly crippled my knees. I can only assume the really wide Q-factor was behind this. So I've been pricing out 29er+ bikes. These basically are a regular 29er mountain bike designed to accommodate 3" wide tires yet still have a standard width bottom bracket. A 29er+ is far from a fat bike, but it at least splits some of the difference.  The only reason I haven't moved on this yet is I would really like to put 3" studded tires on it, and right now nobody makes one. There is probably not enough demand for somebody to ever produce one. So what to do?

In the mean time, I'll continue to log ski miles and see how many 40 and 50km days I can do this season. Everybody should embrace the snow. Shoeing your favorite trails shouldn't just be a means to an end. The process of staying fit outdoors should be reward in of itself.


Anonymous said...

contact a local builder

the bully said...

My fat isn't covered in snow. It's covered in sawdust from my hardwood floor install. You're absolutely right though, we can't pack em fast enough this year. The temps also haven't created any real chances to get a good base. More snow on the way for sure.