Enter The Ute. In 2009 I was in @radicaledgebikeski and this bike was leaning against a wall. It was the first time I’d seen a long cargo bike in person. It was goofily awesome. It was being retrofitted with special carriers by local microbrewery @picaroons to be a growler delivery bike. For whatever reason, it didn’t work. Depending on who you ask it was either the weight, the maneuverability of the bike when loaded up or the fact that is shook up the beer too much. Jury’s still out. The bike sat. And it sat. @spoke_n_words tells a story of it being ridden by a guy in a bowler hat and a 3/4 length tweed coat. Maybe urban myth. Then the bike moved to a different location. An open/closed sign was placed on the rear deck and it became welcome signage.
A week ago, @kiersmktg was asked by Picaroons to do some signage concepts. In one of the photos of the building, there the bike was – the back of it in the bottom corner of a frame. Anyone who didn’t already know what it was wouldn’t even notice it. But I did. I said “Ask Sean if he’ll sell me that bike.” I hadn’t seen it in years. Didn’t know what shape it was in or if it worked. I just knew they weren’t using it.
Long story short, now it’s in my garage. It is, quite literally, 10+ years old brand new. Not even the usual chips in the frame paint. All original parts down to the Kona branded bell. I thought I’d dump the growler cases and probably fabricate either my own bags or racks/decks. Then I remembered years ago when I was working weekends at the Edge there was some big ‘pleather’ brown panniers in the basement. “What’re these?” I asked. “Oh, those came with that Picaroons bike.” I completely forgot about it – until I owned the Picaroons bike – and amazingly they were still there, untouched. I think more people – Fredericton and elsewhere – could be using cargo bikes both personally and for business. It’s my opinion that not many folks know about them or don’t think they’re practical. Maybe if they see one, it’ll give ‘em a moments pause to wonder ‘what if…’ So me and The Ute will be on the trails looking to turn heads. Make sure to smile and wave.
A Series Until It isn’t: The 2013 @surlybikes Pugsley Neck Romancer – in one version of ‘winter mode’.
Acquired brand spankin new from @radicaledgebikeski – The Rundown: 2013 Pugsley Neck Romancer Frame and Fork in Burned Nougat. @canecreekusa 40 headset. Bontrager parts bin stem clamping @giantbicycles Connect riser bars with @esigrips Chunky grips to block the cold. @rideshimano 9spd LX shifter clicking an SLX rear deraileur around an 11/34 cassette, spinning a @srammtb chain around a set of X5 GXP cranks that were a take-off of another bike and donated to this project by @shawnthamilton. They’re currently wobbly in the frame, I can’t get them to tighten and they’re probably doing bad things to my BB, but I’ll get to it when I can. @blackspire_components Snaggletooth 32T ring because Canada. I stomp the whole business through jerky squares via @45nrth Heiruspecs pedals. Avid FR5 levers pull BB7 brakes on the original rotors. The stock Kalloy seat post clamped by a Surly clamp capped by a @selleanatomica (NSX?) Saddle. Stock Surly Rolling Darryl rims mated to a Shimano Deore Rear Hub and Surly Ultra New front hub. @ridebontrager Gnarwhal studded tires. OG @porcelainrocket ‘2 section’ frame bag from back when Scott would actually take your frame measurements to make ‘em. I even had him add in some mesh pockets on the non-drive side of mine because #deepcustom . An @oldmanmountainracks Fat Sherpa rear rack holds my Anylander Panniers (also made by Porcelain Rocket) and @parts.and.labor . A couple of other choice bits of this current incarnation are some @revelatedesigns Expedition Pogies – something I waited forever to get, but shouldn’t have because they are a game changer in the cold – and a Tarik Saleh Bike Club Bartender Bag by @randijofab for positive mojo and transportage of little things. Bontrager plastic bottle cages on the forks for bottles. Of course now that I finally got around to making this post – just yesterday I swapped out the wheels for the 29+ set because spring is coming. At some point. I guess I’ll do another post – whenever.
Lyn picked me up from work and we took Colin and Olivia to the @fredredwings home opener last night. Good game. Looks like they have a solid group of guys. Was a fun evening. Shoutout and thanks to Kyle Holder for the tickets. We’ll be back! So today I got dropped off at the office to get the commuter rig back home. Worked out well as it allowed me to get a ride in on #intergalacticsurlyday on the Surly Disc Trucker Hit up my boys at the Radical Edge to stock up on snacks and some conversation. They were sold out of SkratchLabs gummies though – gonna have to make do. Stopped crossing the Nashwaak River to check out the foliage, Just starting to turn – no where’s near Peak Leaf yet – but it’s coming. Was nice to get out and spin the legs a little in prep for a big road ride with @spoke_n_words and @zacharyblong tomorrow. Gonna be good times and an unseasonably nice day for it. Go ride your bikes people – it’s always a good idea.
Somewhere around 1985 my parents bought a Thule roof rack to carry our bikes on a move cross country. We strapped my Haro Master and the rest of the bikes to the top of the Corolla and took off. Worked great. The clamps in those days for road bikes held them upside down by the bars and luckily that worked for BMX bikes too. Later, when I was busy driving all over Northern Virginia in a Dodge Colt trying to be an extreme in-line skater, I got the rack from my parents and used it to haul around launch ramps on the roof. I think I even was able to use the same feet. The rack was one of the few things that came with me when I got married. In 2006 I strapped 2 of my bikes (I’d now obtained some VeloVice fork mount trays) to the same feet/load bars) onto my Subaru Outback along with a huge, used Adventurer box I bought of Craigslist and moved from Virginia back to Canada. Since then the rack was used once in awhile with that Subaru to haul bikes, but the Subaru died several years back, so then I used the rack on top of our Honda Odyssey van. After that, I bought my first truck and without hesitation bought a Thule hitch mount 4 bike rack. The load bars and feet went into storage in my shed. Last year I traded the truck for a Dodge Caravan and made sure it had a hitch mount. With the truck I was able to throw 2 little kid bikes in the back and get 4 full-size bikes on the hitch, so no worries. Well, now, the kids are all for the most part riding full-size bikes, so at first I was stumped. Then I remembered the load bars/rack in the shed. I thought it would be killer if I could use those same, 30 year old load bars now, unfortunately, it was not to be. Not because they weren’t capable – they’re still bombproof and in great shape – alas – they’re just barely not long enough to use on the van. I could have used the stock crossbars on the van with the Thule box, but there wasn’t enough room on them to fit the box AND 2 bike trays. My peeps at Rad Edge set me up with new 65” bars and feet and we’re rolling again. Perhaps my kids will get these old load bars. I’m sure they’ll still be solid then.
Greazy. Some years ago I stumbled into @radicaledgebikeski to find one of these @45nrth Greazy caps sitting on a rack. It being the only one, and me being, at the time, a total 45NRTH fanboy, I snatched it up, ignoring the fact that I had an overflowing drawer full of headwear at home. It came home and went in the drawer. I had another winter cap with flaps that was my go-to and I wasn’t changing things up. A couple of times I brought this one out to get ready for a ride, only to decide at the last minute that it was too warm that day and went with a regular cap. Back in the drawer. Until today. Today it got the call up. I was heading out for a nasty road ride in nasty weather and it seemed this would fit the bill. The temp was hovering around 0º C and the winds were kickin’. Wind that kind of blows right through you. I got kitted up and immediately remembered why I liked this cap the moment I picked it up. It had some WEIGHT. The merino wool had substance. That worked out well, because that weight meant that the earflaps stayed down over your ears nice and cozy no matter what. The cap fits pretty much skin tight, which is great, because it felt like it wasn’t even there under a helmet, other than the whole toasty warm bit. The brim is a good size and construction and the earflaps, in addition to staying put, worked great and didn’t cause problems with helmet straps or sunglass arms. It’s not the sexiest cap out there when you take your helmet off, so if you’re looking to score at the cafe on your ride, you might be out of luck. I have some other caps that are more stylish off the bike. However, if you’re looking for a practical, solid and well performing winter lid to keep your cranium and listening bits warm, you owe it to yourself to check one out.
Managed to slam in 3 consecutive days of fantastic riding with great peeps to open the summer season.
Saturday I led my usual Radical Edge Donut Roll Beginner Road ride. I only had one rider this week, and Mike’s not exactly beginner, so heading out bright and early at 8, we beat the heat and had some great conditions. A tail wind heading out to Oromocto provided us with a pretty blistering pace that had us chuckling at ourselves at the turnaround knowing full well what we were in for on the way back. Taking turns with short pulls on the way back gave us a good workout into the headwind and we managed to get back pretty quick leaving the remainder of our day for adult boring stuff. The 50k-ish loop combined with my 15k rides to and from the ride start to home got me past the 75k mark on the day and there was still more in the tank.
Sunday was the Third Annual Radical Edge Gravel Grind in support of Special Olympics New Brunswick. I can claim original gangster status as having ridden since the first year, and hopefully it’s a streak I can keep alive, as the event keeps improving. A later start date this year meant no rain and no jackets/baselayers (!) for the first time! Full sun and soaring temps provided a great, if not even a bit warm ride, and the atmosphere and the post-ride feast and cool-down at the new Picaroons Roundhouse was well-appointed and most welcome after a morning baking on the gravel.
I had planned to ride the 75k distance but at the last minute, they were short staffed, so I volunteered to sweep the 50k route with a backpack of tubes and tools to assist anyone that ran into problems out on course. It was a refreshing change to take it easy off the back, take in more scenery and chat more with folks along the way – a real fun experience and reminder of what cycling at it’s core is about as well as what a great riding community we have around New Brunswick and the Maritimes. Best part of all, I had to fix a grand total of ZERO flats! Kudos to everyone for being so prepared! I had wavered back and forth on which bike to take to this year’s ride, my ol’ trusty Surly Cross Check or the Giant Defy Advanced 1. In the end I went with the Defy and was super happy with the way it performed. Stayed comfy all day, and the D-Fuse seatpost in combination with the carbon frame really was great at smoothing out the rough stuff. As a bonus, turns out my Porcelain Rocket top-tube frame bag that I acquired for the Cross Check also fits the Defy. Good to know!
As mentioned in a previous post, I worked with Josh and Jane at Special Olympics New Brunswick this year on some branding and marketing materials for the event and they’ve taken done excellent work and really turned it into a top notch event. Over 160 riders from all over the Maritimes, showed up and were treated to a well-supported ride and atmosphere, locally sourced and catered food, local microbrews and a phat table of door prizes, including a Thule T2 hitch rack. This event has grown and improved every year and is fast becoming a ‘mark your calendar’ ride for the cycling community in our region. Of course the most important part is in the end, over $17,000 was raised to support Special Olympics New Brunswick!
After baking in the sun all morning, Sunday evening I rolled out to Killarney Lake to lead a Rad Edge/Giant Sprockids Fredericton session teaching the next generation of shredders some MTB skills. It was super hot and the kids worked hard, had fun and hassled me the entire time to let them jump in the lake – which I regrettably couldn’t – though I kinda wished I could as well. They did manage to treat me to the ‘Gun Show’ however before the session was over.
Monday evening I put on my Giant Ambassador hat again and headed out to the Giant Bikes MTB Demo at MVP. I’ve been reading online from months about the Trance and Anthem and the differences between the two, trying to figure out which one I’d like – BUT JUST FOR RESEARCH’S SAKE BECAUSE OMG I’M NOT BUYING ANOTHER BIKE RIGHT NOW IN CASE MY WIFE IS READING THIS – HI DEAR. Sigh. If you’re ever in the market for a bike (of any brand really) and have the opportunity to get out and demo some, definitely make an effort. Even if you’re not in the market, riding different bikes over the same trails in the span of an hour or two will make glaringly obvious the differences and is a great way to learn about the features, geometry and handling of bikes. Of the two, I came to the conclusion that I’m an Anthem guy – though if I were to get one – which I’m not (see all caps above) – I’d go with the Anthem SX which is kind of a marriage of the two. I won’t bore everyone here with details of my experience and my reasons for choosing – if you’re interested, hit me up and I can talk/message your ear off. Everyone was having a lot of fun trying out the electric mountain bikes, the Dirt E+ and the Full E+. I wanted to make sure I got rides in on the Trance and Anthem so I ran out of time for that. Honestly, I need to keep burning as many cals as I can when I get out anyway. Rubs belly.
Super stoked that we have such a great riding community here in Fredericton and the surrounding area and a real treat to see it growing over the past few years. I have to give props to the Radical Edge, Giant Bikes and Special Olympics New Brunswick – particularly all the fine humans working hard with each of ’em – for definitely setting my summer riding season off on the best possible foot. Looking forward to many summer miles!
Over the past several years through various channels I’ve been fortunate enough to become a part of a great cross-section of people in the Fredericton area dedicated to healthy lifestyles and the pursuit of adventure. This is in no small part due to The Radical Edge and the community they foster in an effort to get people outside, living actively through their mission, events and attitudes. Their staff and customers are some of the best folks around and I’m proud to now call many of them good friends.
Which is why I’m super stoked to announce that I’m now their Giant Bikes Brand Ambassador. I’ve always hoped that by sharing my runs, rides and adventures that it might in some small way inspire others to get out and enrich their lives. Now, along with The Radical Edge and Giant, I hope to inspire even more of you to get out there. If you see me out riding my killer Defy Advanced around, don’t hesitate to say hi and maybe let me bend your ear a bit about how well it rides. Better yet, get yourself into the Rad Edge Westmorland shop and take a Giant, or any other bike they sell, for a spin – they’d love to help you out, make sure and tell ‘em I sent you.
I’ll also be leading a beginner road ride this spring/summer out of the shop, called the Donut Roll, which I’m pretty excited about. Our goal is to give beginning and less-seasoned road riders a ride where they can gain more experience and confidence. We may even get some donuts as well! Further details will be coming on the ride in the near future.
It’s easy these days to get caught up in the push-button ease with which you can get pretty much everything you need online, but there’s always going to be something missing. By supporting local businesses, you not only have an opportunity to get first rate service, but you can build quality relationships with like-minded folks while at the same time helping build and support a community you are actively part of.
Thanks again to Mike, Brian, Cam, Keenan, the other Brian, and all the other great staff at Radical Edge who’ve patiently helped me and also inspired me over the years. Now, LET’S GET OUTSIDE – I hope to see you out there!
So we did a FamJam car-camping trip this weekend and wanted to try out some cooking vs relying on pre-cooked stuff or buying take out.
Initially was going to use the vintage Coleman 2-burner stove gifted to me by my father-in-law, but last week at home I couldn’t get it to fire up, and ran out of time to mess with it.
I’d been into The Radical Edge checking out backpacking stoves and was thinking about buying a MSR Dragonfly to use for family car-camping trips as well as maybe bike camping trips with 3-4 of the kids and was attracted to it’s versatility – small packing size, but still big enough to cook for a larger group – and it simmers. Was hesitant to plunk down the cash on a liquid-fuel stove as I’ve never used one, and luckily enough, Brian mentioned that they rent them – why don’t I just try one out? Bing. Done.
So then I went online searching for recipes – of which there’s bazillions. After pondering the tastes and logistics of various ones, then factoring in ‘will my kids eat it’, I decided to actually just use a recipe that we make often at home on our gas kitchen stove. As we’d be car camping with a cooler for a short period of time, having to cart fresh ingredients and keep them cool wasn’t an issue like it might be on a longer, more minimalistic trip. Sausage and pepper pasta wins the day.
Brian had sent me off with a quick primer on stove use and about 3/4 a container of liquid fuel and assured me that would be plenty. On Friday afternoon before leaving the house I fired up the stove real quick just to make sure I understood it’s operation and called him with a few questions, then packed it up to head out.
Saturday evening was the target cooking evening, which worked out well since there was an open-fire ban on due to weather conditions, so we wouldn’t have been able to cook in the fire pit.
I prepped all my ingredients and fired up the stove. I had a little bit of trouble lighting it at first, I think due to the fact that I hadn’t primed it enough, but eventually got it going. One thing about the stove that set me off at first (and that I actually called about from home) was how loud it is. I was a little bit used to this from using my MSR Micro Rocket stove, but this one is actually considerably louder than that. Once I was assured that, yes, it’s ok if it sounds like jet engine, that’s normal, I got used to it and was actually sure that, no, it’s not going to blow up.
After starting up and getting over the jet engine noise, one thing Lyn commented on was how close the fuel bottle was to the burner. It seemed unnerving that it should be that close to the heat source. I pointed out that the fuel hose was that long so it must be ok, but it did make me wonder though. I would check the side of the bottle with my hand periodically and it wasn’t getting that hot, so I surmised that it must be ok, because it seemed that the majority of the heat from the flame was focused upward, not outward and if the canister needed to be further away, they would have made the fuel line longer. It also occurred to me that in the future I might use the windscreen provided with the stove to keep heat from the canister as well – it wasn’t windy at all that day so I hadn’t thought to use it.
Then I got cooking.
Since I was cooking for 6, I brought pots/pans from home as nothing ‘backpacky’ would hold that much. First up I cooked up my sliced sausage. I found the volume/simmer control on the burner worked really well, allowing me to control the temperature quite precisely. Once my sausage was done, I removed from the pan into another pot, left the burner running, and then dumped my onions and peppers and sautéed those a bit in the same pan. Once they were good to go, I set the whole pan aside and threw on a pot of water.
We were using a big pot from home and making two packages of pasta, so it was a considerable amount of water I needed to get to a boil. The stove took longer than I thought it would to get the water to a boil, and it never got really rolling but it got there. This could have been due to 2 things:
First, I was kinda hesitant to open up the stove full blast, as I wasn’t sure if it should run that long at full tilt or whether that would cause problems.* At this point I’d been running the thing almost half an hour straight. I didn’t know if the burner would take it or not. Also, I was a little leery of how much fuel I was using/if I would run out, but I didn’t really think it was a good idea to pick up the bottle and check it with the stove running, so left it alone, and ran just a little below full blast, thinking it might conserve fuel. (Note, in the end, I probably ran the stove for a little over an hour straight and I think I used about 1/3 of the fuel I had in the bottle.)
Second, if I’d used the windscreen mentioned earlier, even though there was no wind, it probably would have minimized some heat loss and been more efficient at focusing the heat on the pot.
Eventually though, I got my water boiling, dumped in and cooked my pasta. Drained that, dumped in some olive oil, the sausage, peppers, onions and 2 cans of diced tomatoes and then simmered/mixed it all again for a few minutes to make sure it was all hot to serve.
Dumped into some ‘bowls’, topped with parmesan and was good to go. Everyone said it was as good as home. Even if they hadn’t, 2-3 servings each said so anyway. We had brought some bread that we were gonna do up with garlic and cheese to make garlic bread in a foil packet on the fire pit while we cooked, but due to the fire ban, we just ate the bread with butter instead.
Overall, I was really happy with the stove and will probably pick one up at some point in the future. Though the drawback compared to something like the Coleman is that you only have one burner to cook with, there’s really no comparison, since they’re two different kinds of stoves. The Dragonfly is way more packable, yet still delivers a huge punch and excellent heat control and could easily be supplemented with either another Dragonfly, another burner stove, or the Coleman itself. As far as what I’m looking for, it would be a great addition to our family gear as something that could be used in tandem with the Coleman or as a stand-alone stove for more minimal outings.
*When returning the stove, my buddy at the shop confirmed that the Dragonfly is an 'expedition level' stove commonly used at places like basecamps and such, often for extended periods to boil copious amounts of water for camp. He said running it full bore, even through a whole canister of fuel shouldn't be an issue.
Yesterday, quite on a lark, I was able to have a great conversation with adventure cyclist Ryan Correy about bikepacking and the Tour Divide.
My LBS, The Radical Edge, posted on Facebook a couple of days back that they were having a rep from Hammer Nutrition come out to talk about their stuff and I mostly glossed over it as I pretty much chalk that stuff up to the uber tri-geeks and the Hammerheads out there. Yesterday though, they posted again saying that Ryan would be the one coming and would be giving the talk. As fate would have it, I was able to drop Julia off at soccer practice just in time to swing by the shop and check things out.
You can learn more about Ryan’s exploits at his website, but suffice to say dude has ridden some bike. Started at 13 with a cross-Canada tour with his dad and went from there. A tour from Alaska to Argentina. The Race Across America, and two finishes in the Tour Divide, the most recent just wrapping up last week on Canada Day.
He was there to do his ‘day job’ and speak to the tri and endurance racers about Hammer’s products – which I did find interesting and enlightening – but even cooler than that, I was able to talk to him – and his fiancee Sarah – for about a 1/2 hour prior, one-on-one, and barrage him with questions about the Tour Divide.
It was so cool to be able to actually talk to someone that’s done this event vs. read articles and interviews on the internet.
He had his rig there that he’d ridden on the Tour Divide and I snapped a photo of it, but I was so busy fanboy-ing out that it didn’t occur to me to actually move it to a not so cluttered background, so it kinda sucks. I was very much in a 14-year-old oh-my-god-this-bike(and this GUY)-did-the-Divide-TWICE kind of mode.
Ryan has written a book that’s just come out about his adventures on the bike. A Purpose Ridden details not only his 2012 Divide ride, but his other rides and his beginnings with his dad. I picked up a copy and I look forward to checking it out. One of the things I’ve always been curious about with riders who do these events and maintain blogs or write about them afterwards was how they retained the thoughts and details of such a long ride when so much else is going on physically and mentally.
One of the things that really resonated with me was when I asked him if he kept/took a journal with him on the ride to take notes, he replied that no, he didn’t need one. Other than taking lots of pictures – which also helped to revisit afterwords – he explained it by saying that there’s no way he could forget it. He said quite emphatically that he could ride the whole route again – save a few sections – without a map or GPS, pretty much on memory alone.
“Each day on the Divide is a thousand adventures in one. Each day is it’s own amazing adventure, constantly coming on new, breathtaking scenery. So many moments. I remember all the details.”
While riding 4,300km across the continent, unsupported for 19 days, many times alone in the wilderness, he said several times that really, things like whether or not you made the right gear choices were really not the biggest hurdle – that it was mostly a mental battle – were you prepared to endure the sleep deprivation, aches and pain and the subsequent doubts and challenges all those brought on. That was the key. Yet he was still able to – in the simplest terms – stop and smell the evergreens – and be fully present in those moments out on the trail and take those with him past the finish line.
Would that we all could make each of our ‘ordinary’ days ‘it’s own adventure’ and be fully present in them. I’m inspired to try.
So back in October of last year I officially put in an order for a Surly Necromancer Puglsey. Having wanted one for years, I’d finally managed to save up the scratch to get one. My goal was to bomb it around all winter, but also to hopefully commute through most of the winter up here on it. I’ve commuted winters past on my Cross Check, running studded tires, but once the snow really flies and the old railbed-now-trail that I usually commute on is covered with 2 feet of snow, I was forced to slice and dice with the cars and logging trucks on the backroads. Quite frankly, after a few years of near misses – and a few not misses at all – I decided I’d had enough. But I didn’t want to give up commuting in the winter.
That left me with the trail that I ride most of the time, which is great 3 seasons of the year. Nice, relatively flat gravel-covered double-track, with little-to-no traffic (specifically the motorized kind), nice scenery, and plenty of great vibe. In the winter-time it’s taken over by the snowmobilers who pack it down pretty good. I’ve tried riding it with an MTB and the skinny-tired cross bike, and though the MTB can get through, it’s a painfully slow go, and for the most part, even larger MTB tires don’t pack the float needed to keep it from being an overall miserable experience. Many years back I’d seen the introduction of the Pugsley by Surly and followed fatbike tech development. It was clear to me that this was a perfect niche for just such a steed.
Being that I live in the remote hinterlands of Canada, there wasn’t a shop with one readily available on the floor for me to try, so I basically measured up my fave MTB frame and ordered based on that. A couple of months later (around 4) I gota FB message from my man Josh at The Radical Edge. The Pug was in.
I picked it up on a Saturday and took it home. And it sat. A full docket of honey-dos and kid engagements conspired to keep me from riding.
Finally, one day during the work week, I had to run home to let the dog out. It was a nice, clear winter day and I thought, “Hey, I can take that thing out for a spin!”
I got home and jumped on – in my work clothes – and headed out the back door with the dog. I’ve got a little loop in my backyard woods that’s sort-of single track in the summer time – though VERY technical and rocky. It’s difficult to even walk in spots. There was about a foot of packed snow base and maybe 2-3 inches of fresh snow on the top.
I was amazed at the way the Pugsley rode over this stuff. Right through and over everything. To my surprise, it even climbed pretty well too. You could drop it into the low gears, get some weight over the back tire and actually go uphill. The big 3.8″ tires made it really stable in rough conditions and I could understand now why I’d seen guys running big 3+ inch tires on the front of conventional mountain bikes in the summer. The big ballon tires offer some great suspension, roll over anything, and the front end tracked really solid. I was psyched. It was a fun 20 minute ride and a great intro to fatbike ‘feel’.
Few days later and they’re calling for a blizzard pretty much up and down the entire east coast of North America. Ok, I says. It’s gonna be on a weekend – it’s ON.
So I suit up for cold weather proper, this time, with intentions of taking a bit of a longer spin on the Pugsley. When I finally got around to getting out the door, it was -15C, snowing like mad, gusting up to 30-35km/h and there was about a foot of fresh powder on top of the base.
Things went a little differently.
First off, trying to hop on and get going was an adventure. I’d jump up on the pedals to get started and the combination of the snow in front of the tires and the fact that I’d unweighted the rear meant that I pretty much went nowhere – rear wheel spinout. I chuckled at myself and hoofed the 15 yards to the backyard trailhead, which starts at the top of the hill.
So I managed to point the thing downhill and get in the saddle and off we went. What a total blast. Barely feathering the brakes, the resistance of the almost 12″ of snow in front was enough to keep the speed just right. The fat tires made it easier to stay upright at slower speeds. At a couple of off-camber spots, the front wheel wanted to slip out a bit – to be expected in these conditions – but a small correction and weight shift would get things righted.
Going downhill was all well and good, but once things started to level out, it got interesting. Trying to pedal in that much snow with any kind of bike would be a challenge – I knew that going in – so for the most part, I was happy to experiment and just ride along.
My backyard loop empties out at one point to a chip-sealed logging road that’s nice and flat, so I bottomed out there. I made some decent progress along the flat road, but it’s a pretty good workout. With that much snow as well, if you didn’t keep enough forward momentum and/or shifted the bars the littlest bit, the front wheel would start to get squirrely to the point that sometimes you’d have to step off. Then getting started again was tricky.
I wondered at the time if a more aggressive or studded tire would have made a difference, but I’m inclined to think not. Really, there was just a silly amount of snow to be riding a bike in – and it was the light/fluffy kind that gets really slippery when it’s rubbin’ together. No matter it was still fun.
So after noodling around the flats for awhile I decided it was time to head back – which was uphill. THAT wasn’t happenin – especially off-road. It might have been partially due to rider fatigue/too many weeks off the bike, but I simply couldn’t get the rear wheel to hook up in that much loose snow. I couldn’t get out of the saddle to get any sort of momentum going either, so hike-a-bike home it was.
All in all, a good time and a learning experience. I wanted see what the Pugsley was made of and I got a good idea. I suspected it would be great for hard packed – to semi-packed trails, so taking it out in fresh axle deep snow, I knew I was pushing it. A rider with Hincapieesque thighs and/or lungs might have been able to hammer back up hill in the singletrack sections, but I still kinda doubt it. It wasn’t just wattage that posed a problem, it was balance and inertia as well.
Still good times though, and I look forward to tons more – especially the commutes!
Awhile back on Google+ a bunch of commuters were sharing their foul-weather kit photos and manifests. For the bike/gear geeks that care about such things, here’s what I was kitted up in for the ride, which would be pretty close to what I’d probably wear to commute:
Performance Thermal Jersey – I have 2 of these I really dig, mostly because they feature a built in Lycra hood, which is just enough to keep the cold off your ears and the back of your neck and not too bulky to be uncomfortable – think wetsuit hood, only a little thinner.
Performance Thermal tights
Run of the mill Performance lycra shorts and Under Armour Cold long sleeve shirt
Pearl Izumi AmFib Gloves
Smartwool socks/Sorel Boots
Bern Baker Helmet – After many years of cold weather commuting and trying various combinations of bike helmets, hats, hoods, beanies and sizing, I finally just picked up this ski/snowboard helmet when I got the Pugsley. Verdict? Awesome. It’s got no vents (stays warm), goggle clip, and toasty removable ear covers. WIN.