As much as I love the outdoors and exercise I am always careful on pushing this love onto my two youngest girls.
This week the girls have been on a sort of half term break of school for Monday-Wednesday. We decided with an amazing forecast to climb the Cobbler …
The Cobbler (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Artair) is a mountain of 884 metres (2,900 ft) height located near the head of Loch Long in Scotland. Although only a Corbett, it is “one of the most impressive summits in the Southern Highlands”,and is also the most important site for rock climbing in the Southern Highlands. Many maps include the name Ben Arthur(an anglicisation of the Gaelic), but the name The Cobbler is more widely used.
The walk starts from near sea level and goes up steeply through a wood section and continues from there, following a burn known as the Allt a’ Bhalachain. this section is open with a beautiful vista ahead up towards the Cobbler.
From here the path bypasses the Narnain Boulders, steepening at around 600 metres (2,000 ft). The path splits and you can go left and straight up the face between the two peaks but this was heavily iced and we had no crampons or sticks or even axes. We followed the path around and ascended from the rear.
The back was still very snowy and it meant an ascent where we had to kick the steps into the snow. the youngest (9) was keen to be first but after 10min let me do the steps until we were 20feet from the top and then took the lead again.
We made the top – with photographic proof
whilst sister (11) and grandad were still ascending
it was so unseasonaly hot with nary a breath of wind. So mild in fact we had lunch at the top.
and then down to the pass again before the descent.
And home to a fire ….. asked the girls the next day whether their legs were sore at all.
Last week the work commitments cleared even if the weather didn’t. Chose to run when the weather was at its worst but then parts of the late week looked peachy if cold.
Went out for a ride on the beautiful Mercian steel tourer. I have been reading articles about whether it was better to load some of the weight rando style into the front panniers which lowers the CoG (centre of Gravity) opposed to rear. Now the forks on the Mercian have a decent rake and it responds well to the front being loaded.
For longer tours I would load all 4 but this was a test shake out with medium load for short tours.
So off I went on cold 2C morning with frosty canal paths. The bike handled well and I relaxed into the ride – most of the time on the Lynskey road bike I have half my eye on the stats on the GPS and find myself getting uptight when the average speed drops below 27kph. Stopped at loch lomond for a pic of Ben lomond over the water covered in snow …This was far more sedate winding my way up to loch lomond then looping out to Helensburgh.
This was far more sedate winding my way up to loch lomond then looping out to Helensburgh.
Friday was a short 7.5km run but Saturday was mixed with a break in the weather forecast.
Munro Bagging and Ben Ledi was in my sights but even on the drive up to Callander it looked like I got the weather a bit wrong.
A bit too much snow on the hill for no crampons – and visibility was a bit short at the top – and there are too many cases of walkers going missing for me to be a knob about having to do it …. This weekend alone 2 of 3 elderly walkers caught out have died in hospital and a young couple on a valentines trip are feared dead and possibly buried by an avalanche in the Ben Nevis range. So a sedate 12km walk around the woods near the base was good enough for us – still got to blame my better half for the weather as every time she comes with me to climb the weather sets in …
Back to Glasgow and out for a ride on my other road bike (one neglected could get jealous)
Over the crow road my normal trip / training ride. Again pretty cold but the Rapha Pro Team jacket I bought has been absolutely fantastic this past winter. In fact, when the temp is above 8C, I think it may be too hot to wear.
They are expensive but so far it has been worth every penny. The only missing chink so far are my gloves – have a very wintry Sealskins MTB pair and then the next are more summer long fingered so getting cold hands if I don’t opt for Sealskins…..
Back to the ride – it was one of those rare perfect wintry days.
And the Crow road actually had snow and slush all over it once you cleared the car park on the bend. But still I mad a new friend at the top even if they weren’t very chatty.
Was very peaceful at the top …
So another ride in and gradually building up the miles – this work business definitely getting in the way of play.
Shot at the Coquihalla Lakes Lodge, Kamloops Bike Ranch, and Coastal Mountains, BC
Filmed & Edited by Liam Mullany
Additional Cinematography by Harrison Mendel
Produced by Liam Mullany & Brian Park
Special Thanks to Cory Leclerc & Eric Simmons
Music: Jet Trash — Baby C’mon
Took my 11yo this weekend up to the Cairngorm range and walked into a bothy for an overnight adventure.
The forecast was for the howling wind and rain to give a brief 48hour window … so Saturday morning at 7am we left for a 3.5 hr drive up the road.
Temp was -1C walking in but sun on the face and felt good.
The walk is under 10km and with only one stream to negotiate as the other 2 have small makeshift bridges over them.
Temp was forecast to hit -6 which is cold for us. Bothy looked warmer than it actually was as no insolation to speak of and a poor wood burner.
Ruby enjoyed it though – this was taken in the morning as the tea was brewing and the candles had melted the ice on the inside of the windows.
A glorious morning and a decent walk out too …..
The best thing about days like this is it gets children enthused about the outdoors and also great to spend time one on one with the kids. Normally there is a juggling act to some with ….. and finally below a GoPro movie of the 2 days …..
Watching the birth of fat bikes in the mountain bike industry has been nothing short of breath taking. Drawing from personal experience, this fat-tired wonder opened up a lot more trails as well as placing big grins on our faces. Before fat bikes we had been riding our mountain bikes year-round, putting on the studded tires when the snow started to accumulate and whipping them back off again as the ice melted in the spring spring. About three winters ago, a wide tread mark kept beating us to the trails and part way through the season, we finally spotted the culprit: a Surly Pugsley Black Ops.
A month or so later, Freewheel Cycle Jasper had a fat bike demo day. Happily for us, there weren’t a lot of people trying them. We ended up testing the fat bikes on an old rutted dirt road, the bike park, a frozen lake, the town walking path, and off path through the virgin snow. We became absolutely hooked on the idea of riding these in the winter versus what we were doing at the time. The rest of the season saw us driving 80 kilometers to rent Freewheel’s fat bikes, when the conditions in our town were counter productive to riding skinny (our studded mountain bikes). That was 2012. The fall of 2013 we had the opportunity to purchase a pair of Surly Pugsleys. We’ve had them out on all kinds of trails in Alberta and British Columbia.
Sales of fat bikes were through the roof that year and with the explosion of fat bike owners came a multitude of fat bike pages on Facebook. I belong to three group pages; two are are- specific while the third is literally comprised of riders from around the world! For those curious fat bike followers, the pages are: Jasper Fat Biking (Jasper, AB), Fat Fockers (Kamloops, BC) and Fat Bikes (world). These are three entirely different pages as well as groups of riders riders. While just a few of us post on the Jasper page, the Kamloops Fockers are a large number of enthusiastic fat bikers, with a core group who get out with snowshoes–and a groomer when needed–to keep the trails rideable. Members of the Fat Fockers update statuses on trail conditions, post trail expansion ideas with community involvement, and upload a number of great photos.
The Fat Bike page is an entity of its own. Being member #150 (+/-), I have watched the group grow to almost 6,500 members worldwide. The topics vary from what fat bike should I buy, what winter clothes and boots do you recommend, what GPS is best, what studded tires, how about night lights, all the way to the most controversial one, “Once You Go Fat, You’ll Never Go Back!” That topic tends to raise the hackles in different ways, depending on the rider.
Some riders are steadfast in their belief that fat bikes are the wave of the future and that we can wave good-bye to normal mountain bikes. And the evidence seemed to be in the interest and sales. Retailers in some areas couldn’t keep up with the demand, with Surly, Salsa, and Konas being produced for Canada. The industry was taken completely by surprise and mountain bike makers jumped on the bandwagon. This past year saw well known names in North America, like Trek, Specialized, and Norco, introduce their versions of a fat bike.
With this new wave of bikes came the redesigning of accessories to fit fat bikes and their riders’ needs, depending on where they rode. This included items such as panniers, racks, frame bags, lights, fenders, and attachments for carrying any number of items. These versatile bikes were covering all kinds of territory.
That also brings up the often unseen point in the debate, “are fat bikes a trend or not?” Where and when are fat bikes being ridden and how does that affect the market in a given area? For most of Canada and a chunk of the USA, winter has a lengthy grip. Personally, we bought the fat bikes primarily to ride in the winter.
Fat bikes are proving, however, that they aren’t just a bike to ride in the winter… and if you do a search on fat bikes, you’ll find that some of them, originally, weren’t even intended to be winter bikes. Hundreds of photos of fat bikes in almost every country can be found on the internet, proving how they are being used as travel bikes and work horses. You can even find videos on YouTube of freestyling, touring, and even hunting on fat bikes. It is amazing what some of these riders are doing with fat bikes!
Since I try not to use a motorized vehicle at all when at home, I will use either of my bikes depending on how much time I have. The looks I get and the curiosity of non-riders when I do a solo ride on my fattie to the library or to get bread make the fat bike a fun training bike in the summer. My husband will only ride his fatti in the winter as he loves his Santa Cruz Carbon Blur for the rest of the year.
Is fat biking just a trend? I don’t think so, but I also don’t think they will entirely take over the biking market.
Your Turn: Do you see the fat bike craze slowing down anytime soon? Why or why not?
Sandra Pelley hails from Hinton, Alberta. She rides year-round and favors full suspension mountain bikes and fat bikes over road bikes. She and her husband travel all over western North America to ride their mountain bikes, and her bucket list includes a Women’s Only Weekend at Ray’s Indoor MTB Park in Ohio, Finale Ligure in Spain, France, Kingdom Trails in Vermont, and the Trestle Bike Park in Colorado, to name a few.
Watch BMX rider Gregor Laucht gamble with gravity on the Felt DD 30.
The “Double Dare” video features German BMX/dirt jump rider Gregor Laucht riding the Felt DD 30 on the ski slopes in Switzerland. Filmed in January 2015, the village of Braunwald provides the perfect playground to test the limits of the DD 30 in mint powder conditions, demonstrating the full range of fat bike capabilities.
How far can you push a fatbike? Pretty far if you’re BMX pro Gregor Laucht. Watch Gregor take the Felt Double Double 30 to the powdery streets and slopes of Braunwald, Switzerland.
Scott Chapin & Steve Peat.
Scott works at the Santa Cruz Factory and races cyclocross bikes.
Steve races downhill and uses cyclocross bikes for training.
In Scott’s world, every ride can be a World Championships. In Steve’s
world, every training ride adds up to a World Championship.
Elbow to elbow, the two took the all-new Santa Cruz Stigmata on a tour of
Yorkshire, England during a particularly nasty mid-winter storm.
i have been planning a route for a while – off road with a night in a bothy shelter up in the Cairngorms …. so was all prepared to pack and then take OS maps. But I recently bought an eTrex 30 from Garmin and a SD card with the OS maps of the UK on it. The idea is that this is my primary nav aid (although will have compass, OS map and another gps with me)
So starting using Basecamp as well – this has improved a ton since I last looked at it years ago – it helps having the etrex connected or the SD card plugged into the computer because then you can use the OS maps. If only basecamp let you use google or bing or satellite pictures as sometime you can see a trail that is not marked …..
Will report back on the eTrex once i have used in anger – all I can say so far is that the bike mount is not the most sturdy …
The town of Nome stands on the Northwest coast of Alaska; 180 miles from Russia and 1,100 miles from the state capital of Juneau. Cut off by sea ice during the winter, and with no road or rail connections to the rest of Alaska, it seems like an unlikely place to build a town. A gold rush, however, can drive people to extraordinary lengths. When “The Lucky Swedes” discovered gold near Nome in 1898, thousands of prospectors headed north with high hopes, and fortunes were won and lost. Nome grew with schools, churches, a hospital, and electricity, but each winter, most of its population would depart before the sea-ice locked in the town. For those that remained, temperatures would typically be around -20C and winds would tear down from the mountains to the coast. In the depths of winter, the sun would rise for just four hours a day. In the winter of 1925, a terrible diphtheria epidemic broke out. Diphtheria is highly infectious and tends to affect children first. Without treatment, it has a very high mortality rate. That year, the town doctor had not been properly restocked with the serum needed to treat this disease and the call went out for help. A method had to be found to get medicine to Nome and save the lives of its children. These were the early days of aviation, and flying in Alaska’s winter was almost impossible. The serum could only be sent by a safe, trusted method: dog team. Dog teams held together this sparsely populated region back then. They were the primary transport for winter journeys between the villages; the mail run, delivered by dogs and men, formed the only physical connection to the outside world during the winter. A musher and his dog-team would run trails along frozen rivers and lakes, through mountains and woodlands, across bleak tundra. Individual runs were short, with teams stopping at roadhouses to rest, warm up, and resupply. During the 1925 crisis, the dog teams were organised into a relay. When the serum arrived at one road-house, it was handed to the next musher to be taken on. It became known as ‘The Serum Run’. The mushers involved were considered heroes for risking their lives by running long stretches in the face of temperatures below -40ºC; battling conditions that would have stayed the normal mail run. They prevailed, and the importance of sled dogs and their mushers was forever etched into the psyches of Alaskans. But the age of the sled-dogs was passing. Snow-mobiles and planes soon became the cheaper and faster alternatives to keeping dogs. No matter how much affection people held for the events of The Serum Run, technology offered savings in time and money – it opened a new chapter for the wilderness of Alaska. Yet, for Joe Redington, the romance of the sled-dogs and their achievements in The Serum Run were not forgotten. In 1973, after years of preparation, The Iditarod sled-dog race was run for the first time. 1,000 miles from Knik (near Anchorage) to Nome. It justifiably took the tagline “The Last Great Race” – following portions of the historic mail route and The Serum Run. The Iditarod kept alive the traditions of dog mushing, and redefined what was possible in terms of speed and distance when racing dog-sleds. It continues to this day, bringing communities together and provoking new stories on the trail every year. In the shadow of the sled-dog race, a new human-powered wilderness adventure race has sprung up. The Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) brings together racers from around the world to ski, bike, or run along the Iditarod Trail. New racers must have qualified by completing one of a number of other winter races. This gains them entry to the 350-mile race from Knik to McGrath. Successful completion of the race gives racers eligibility to enter the full 1,000 mile race to Nome.
The ITI has almost no support for the racers past McGrath. One bag of food is dropped to bridge the 170-mile gap from Ophir to Ruby where there are no settlements whatsoever. Everything else is organised by the racers posting food to be held at the village post offices. Between the villages, racers must be entirely self-sufficient. By the time anyone lines up for the race to Nome, they are already strong and accomplished in their field. They face an ever-changing trail, bringing the best preparation that they can muster. In February 2014, I was one of those racers. Hoping to win; planning to stay safe and make it to Nome. Around 50 racers lined up at Knik to start the ITI; many facing different directions as they tried to figure out which way to go. Part of the challenge of the race is finding your way – topographically, mentally, and emotionally. There is no required route. You must pass through the checkpoints, connecting them the best way you can.The racers around me carried a variety equipment. All of the bikers had some sort of fat-bike – a four-inch-tyred mountain bike that looks like a cartoon. The massive tyres work like snow shoes for bikes – providing floatation on soft terrain. By lowering the pressure to just a few psi, you can spread your weight over a massive footprint and ride on snow that is too soft to even walk on without punching through. The rest of the equipment is down to preference. Some use pannier racks; some use soft bags in the frame, on the handlebars, and attached to the seat post. For the 1,000 mile race, I had a large load of equipment including a stove with three days of fuel, an expedition down jacket and trousers, light-weight waders, ice cleats for my boots, goggles and a neoprene face-mask. With all of this, and three days’ worth of food, the bike was heavy. It had everything I needed to keep moving forward in almost any weather. The initial few hours of the race were hard. With so much distance ahead, it felt like a joke. The very idea that I was going to ride to Nome seemed laughable. The sun was shining, the snow was hard-packed. Racers in the ITI were flying along. I tried to strike a balance between making the best of the conditions and not going too fast. As I had learned on previous occasions, mis-managing sweat can be a big problem. It’s all too easy to ride fast in the sunshine, and sweat out into your clothes. When the sun goes down and the temperature drops 20 degrees, your clothes freeze, robbing them of their insulation. We spun along the trail with mountains framing the horizon and thin snow crunching under our tyres. I chatted to Jeff Oatley for a while. He had wins in the 350 mile ITI and numerous other winter races. He was a veteran of Race Across America and a rival for the win. The competitiveness of this race is unabashed, but as like-minded individuals who may be forced to save each others’ lives one day, racers share a unique bond.Much of the first 350 miles passed uneventfully. My aim was to stay relatively fresh, keep my body undamaged, and my position in the lead pack. My mood would dip and sway with my blood sugar – brooding thoughts were the first call to start eating again. Like every condition on the trail, if you keep moving forwards, it passes. Where the flat riding ends, The Alaska Range begins. It hulks across the middle of that first 350 miles; a stark focal point. It had been a warm January in Alaska, and we had heard troubling tales of how the trail might fare through Dalzell Gorge. This part of the trail is put in specifically for the race, descending The Alaska Range into the interior. It crisscrosses the gorge, with ice-bridges put in to take it forward and back over the river. This year, the ground was bare earth with a faint dusting of snow. The bridges were suspect. And the speed for bikers was high. Coming down the trail, I had split-seconds to judge the sturdiness of ice-slabs. Sometimes they would creak under my tyres. Parts of them had collapsed, revealing the running water underneath. High stakes if things went wrong, but it was our gateway to interior Alaska.
At the McGrath camp, Jeff Oatley, Phil Hoffstetter and I – the lead three riders who will continue to Nome – tried not to get too comfortable. We chatted and wolfed down food, relishing the chance to eat something hot and filling, rather than trail food. I arrived mid-morning, and aimed to be away by mid-afternoon. We were friendly, but there was no doubt I was trying to get a little jump on their plan to leave that evening. I had ridden the upcoming section of trail before, and I knew that the route is well used by locals. I could make some easy miles before making camp that night.So I said my goodbyes and left. It was unseasonably warm. I rolled my boots down in an attempt to keep my feet from sweating too much. As with other clothes, sweating during the day risks frostbite by night. I was fidgety on the bike – my mind still indoors at McGrath. I changed the saddle height a bit to move the pressure on my already-painful knees. I lowered the tyre pressure to give me more floatation in the relatively soft snow. I wondered if Jeff and Phil would leave earlier than they’d said.
Rivers and swamps tested my patience with flat, straight riding. The Kuskokwim Mountains drew closer, with confusing perspective: big and far away, or small and not that far? Now, there was only the crunch of snow, insidious climbing, and the tempering of effort to control my body heat. Buoyed by the long afternoon light, these felt like bonus miles. I told myself not to walk my heavily-laden bike for even a single step – the others would see my unbroken track in the snow and know how strongly I had ridden through here.The fading light made it hard to read the trail. Organising gear is one of the most important skills out here. Like all of my essential kit, I could put my hand on my head-torch with my eyes shut. So, I tried to preserve batteries by not using it yet. Half of my mind was thinking about dinner, and half of it was watching the lonely silhouettes of Ophir’s mining paraphernalia. Suddenly, I was flipped over the handlebars. The trail had widened, the snow-mobiles had spread out, and they had left little strips of unpacked trail in-between – one of which, I had just blundered into. The lights of the cabin at Ophir were just what I needed to see. Two volunteers for the dog race had decided to come out early. They immediately offered me hot food, beer, and even a bed for the night. Mindful of the following riders, I declined the beer and the bed. For every moment of comfort in the ITI, there is a voice in the back of your mind; an imperative to keep moving, to take as long as you need, but no longer. Despite the warmth inside and the dark outside, that voice pushed me on, to the longest uninhabited stretch of the route.It is 170 miles from the cabin at Ophir to the village of Ruby. The names along the way tell the story: Poorman Creek, Cripple, Wolfskill Slew. Sparse trees and unbroken wilderness from forest fires are all you can see until the mining road on the final few miles. I tried to push on, but the inexorable tipping point came. How much sleep you dare to take, and when you choose to take it, is part of race strategy. Exhausted, my bike was taking more meanders around the narrow trail. Increasingly, I was stopping for no good reason. It was time to sleep and make better progress in the morning.I stomped down enough snow off the trail to make an area to sleep in. I inflated my sleeping mat, and unfurled my sleeping bag. I was working with thin liner gloves and, although warmer than usual, it was still necessary to warm my hands under my arms for a moment before continuing. I had some warm water left from Ophir, so I put both water bottles in the sleeping bag to stop them from freezing overnight. No need to set up a stove tonight. I put a bag of food within reach of my sleeping bag for breakfast, brushed my teeth, and settled down to sleep.
From Ruby, the race joins The Yukon River. The river is a desert for the mind of a racer. Flat, wide, and meandering on for nearly 150 miles, and it broke my resolve. Without hills, without some reward for effort, I slipped into survival mode. There was no race in my head anymore; all I wanted was to get off the river. Jeff had caught up with me at Ruby while I had lost time trying to sort the resupply in the village. On this big river, he rode away into the lead. Twice I failed to reach the town I had been aiming for and ended up weaving helplessly though the night. Eventually, I made camp out on the ice – glad that it was a warm enough year for this to be an option. In the long afternoon along The Kaltag Portage, the hills started to flatten out. The new Old Woman Cabin, so different to my experience of it in 2011, was a place to add a few more clothes: the sun was beginning to outrun my westward progress. A single path reared up ahead, and comfortable-looking tundra carpeted the edges of the trail. I wanted to make Unalakleet, but even the most optimistic estimate would have me arriving in the middle of the night. Hitting towns at night was no better than riding through any other empty place, so I set my aim to be there for breakfast – well-rested, in time to pick up the supplies that I had posted there, and ready to move on quickly. The comfy-looking tundra was actually frozen hard, so I rode on into the dark looking for some smoother ground.
I started to become withdrawn. Legs turned, but my mind did not. The trail started crossing rivers. On one, I had amassed too little momentum and power in my attempt to get up a riverbank, and toppled back with the bike landing on me. Exposed wood, splintered by the passing of snow-mobiles, provided a harsh landing with an aroma of pine. I wanted to stay right there where I fell; exhausted, nearly asleep. The choice of where to bivvy was quickly made for me by my tiredness.The trail from Shaktoolik to Koyuk is an iconic and dangerous part of the route. It crosses the sea ice of Norton Sound; which can be precariously thin. Sometimes there are even holes, covered by snow and almost indistinguishable from the safe path. Winds rip across the ice and there are almost no natural navigation cues – just wooden stakes put out to mark the race route. A snow-mobile had already gone through the ice this year, so I had no hesitation in taking a rest on its edge, and facing the challenge by day.In the morning, I covered up every inch of my body before I rode out. When I stopped to eat and drink, I had to turn away from the wind, remove my face-mask, and do the business before the wind took all sensation and dexterity from my hands. Mile by mile, progress was good. Around ten miles out of Koyuk, one stake-marker stood alone. The sea ice had overflowed – water had been pushed up through the ice. By the time I reached it, this water had frozen, but it had taken the trail markers and the snow-mobile tracks with it. I guessed which way to go from the last stake. Riding the slick, newly formed ice was treacherous. No markers and no tracks. I made my way back to the last stake and looked again. Still nothing.With no marked passage, all I could do was use my GPS to aim for Koyuk and hope. With so much slick ice, and no studs on my tyres, I attached the cleats to my boots for some traction. I tried to read the ice with uneducated eyes. The slickest surfaces threw me down for lack of grip. Soft snow broke under my weight, forcing me to a trudge. On foot, the deeper snow pulled the ice cleats from my boots. After a number of return trips to retrieve the cleats, I added straps to them, holding them firm.It felt like an eternity. I was always tense, gnawed by doubt. Eventually, I picked up a snow-mobile track across crusty snow. At full speed and maximum effort, I could keep the bike up on the crust without punching through. More tracks came in. Joining, leaving, criss-crossing. I was getting closer. Finally, a wooden stake and a motorway of mashed up snow revealed the return of the main trail.
It was afternoon when I rolled into Koyuk, but I badly needed to put my head back together. The tension of the sea ice and the near-certain knowledge that I was stuck in a second place finish had destroyed my resolve. Jeff was about a day ahead, and Phil about a day behind.Local information is often key to safety as you move down the trail. I was told to be careful of open water heading out of town; and not to follow the Iron Dog trail markers over the edge of the ice, but try to find the local snow-mobile route over the land. In the pre-dawn darkness, and with the vaguest of directions, I followed the edge of the village, searching for a likely looking trail. I read stories into some of the tracks on the ground, hoping that they were going my way. There were occasional dismounts, eerily quiet passages over bare ice, but eventually more snow-mobile tracks joined my route. I seemed to have found my way. White Mountain is 70 trail miles from Nome, and home to Joanna Wassillie, who welcomes racers into her house, departing trail news and warming us with her hospitality. It hit me the moment I arrived and felt too much like coming home. It was a chance to relax and be ready for the final ride. A chance to chat and hear more about life in the village.The final stretch can be hard on tired legs, so I left White Mountain just before dawn, hoping to arrive in Nome in daylight. I hit those first hills at pace. All the way to the coast, they just kept coming. There was little wind and the trail was packed down hard – I wanted to make the best of it. The view from each hill was the same: more snow-covered hills. Nothing else interrupted the endless crunch of my tyres over the snow, until I caught sight of the coast. Beaches, small bays, and a long spit of land stretched as far as I could see. The promise of the finish.Topcock Mushers’ Cabin sits at the bottom of the final hill. It is where mushers put on their extra layers of clothing to prepare for the coastal winds. Winds over 50 mph are pretty common around here, battering riders and mushers alike, pushing down from the mountains, driving you towards the sea. That day, I arrived before the winds had picked up, so no face-mask was needed. I kept on, to make as much ground as I could before they came.The snow had been blown clear of the trail along the coast leaving a stark choice: ride over frozen, ridged ground, or along the ice on the edges of frozen lagoons. I chose a silent, nervy, but fast trip over the ice. I tried to keep the tension inside my head to keep it from spreading down to my muscles. The pedalling had to be smooth; any steering had to be gentle. The side-wind mustered an insistent push towards the sea, but with little traction, I couldn’t steer against it. I had to let it drift me off-course. I would pick patches of roughed-up ice to turn into the wind and take back some ground before coming out onto the slick stuff and slowly being forced across again.Safety Roadhouse is the last stop before Nome. I fantasised about a Coke and some chips to fuel the final run around Cape Nome and into town. When I hit an actual road, the excitement was short-lived. Most of the road was covered in black ice – completely unusable without studded tyres. Riding on the fringes, I made slow progress.When I saw Safety, my heart sunk. Doors closed, no smoke from the flue, no snow mobiles outside. I was too early. Safety would open for the sled dogs, but our bike race was running so fast that they hadn’t opened yet. The best I could manage was to take shelter from the wind. I ate some tortilla chips and home-made fudge from my supplies. At least I would be moving along the trail again soon.As I ate, I saw Cape Nome clearly in the afternoon sun, but its foot was shrouded in white. The wind was coming. It was already on the Cape and looked to be ferocious at ground-level. I hurried back onto the bike, trying to gobble up as many easy miles as I could before things went to hell.Fishing camps and summerhouses were silent clues that Nome was getting closer. Their dwellers’ lives were a season away, and not a soul interrupted my journey. The ploughed road made for pretty decent travel. On either side, snow was piled up a metre high. It was no surprise when the wind came, but it came hard. Trapped between the ploughed snow on the sides of the road, I frequently had to steer away from the seaward side. Often, grip eluded me and I fell. The trick was to get your hands away from the bars before you hit the ground, avoiding a trapped finger. Resist the temptation to brace with your hands, avoiding a broken wrist. Just hit the ground like a sack of potatoes, get up, and go again. The wind was stinging my face and new bruises gathered on top of old. I looked at the time and put on my goggles and facemask. Even walking, I could get to Nome before I had to sleep. The only question was how much these last few miles would hurt.I tried the road first, giving up because of the wind. Then I tried the snow just outside it – a centimetre of crust sat on top where the warmth of the sun had melted it, and it had refrozen multiple times. I was climbing towards the Cape now but, if I rode at maximum effort, I could keep the bike floating on the crust for at least 100 metres at a time. Each burst of speed would end in one of two ways. Either the front wheel would sink and I would go ever the bars, or the back wheel would sink and I would have to find even more effort to power the bike out, or grind to a halt. Nothing was easy.
For a mile or so, I was in the silent lee of the Cape. Progress came too easily, but as expected, the toil returned. Everything at ground-level was temporal. My own tracks were being erased as I moved, my feet and tyres looked vague through the white streamers. Riding, pushing, falling, I inched forwards. The last fall was a couples of miles from the edge of Nome. I watched my bike spin away from me on the ice. Lying on the ground again, I rested a moment, then decided to head down to the snow-mobile trails that had started to follow the road. Falling in the middle of nowhere was one thing, but I wasn’t going to fall again in the town.On Front Street, Nome, there was no finish line. No party, and no supporters. When I rolled to a halt, I looked around: no-one to share in the moment. I took a note of the time, and then a room in the nearest hotel. I phoned my wife, and I phoned the race organisers. The Iditarod Trail Invitational was over for me with the disappointment of coming second to Jeff Oatley. I had to raise my hand to the stronger, more experienced rider. One of only a few people who could truly understand the last 11 days.
So the kilpatrick hills are just outside glasgow and I have never been there to walk or ride but the Facebook meetup group were going there today although later so I decided to stop there this morning to have an early ride.
Road was pretty icy but once on the bike it was great and then I started to climb
And climb right to top of ridge. The genesis caribou has a 1×10 setup but up top it hits 13% ave gradient (makes note to check on gps track) I was having to sit back and pedal as standing or leaning forward meant the tyres were starting to slip. But sitting down meant the front wheel lifted on every pedal stroke …. I confess to 2 brief halts. Then the top ….
Nice pretty untouched snow – luckily someone had passed yesterday so I had an indication of where to go – it was all new to me. Fat tyres only sunk in 2-4 inches but when I stepped off it was 6-10 deep ….. Ooooft
Saturday morning 7:30am alarm goes. Wolf down some muesli and get the bike out.
It says -3C on the thermometer and snow is forecast so today i have packed my snowboard goggles and mitts along with roadie neoprene overshoes into my handlebar roll – JUST IN CASE.
There is carnage on the 2 mile stretch of road leading up to Mugdock as idiots in cars forget they are 2WD (4WD wannabes) cars with low profile tyres – so they have slidden and created some entertainment for me (and probably higher insurance premiums)
Meetup with pal Stu then off to meet the rest of the guys. This was my first rolling on snow with the fat bike and it felt so smooth and tracked so easily once there was powder. The other boys were on a 29er normal a 26 full sus and then two 29+ bikes running 3″ tyres. First we went up to the boards and my pal said the 15psi I was riding was way too high so I dropped it to 8psi then immediately slammed it into a board and gave myself a puncture. I told them to head on but they waited the 5 min for me to change the tube. Then onwards we went. The route they went involved lots of single track sections through the woods so I felt i was not getting the terrain I wanted.
A lot of trees were down so handsaws came out sections were rerouted or trees dragged out of the way ….
So after 3 hours of lots of stops and starts i headed off by myself to enjoy the crunch. Went upwards towards the Campsies and the West Highland Way were there is a great descent but it was not snowy more sludge and mud so I headed straight across the heather up to a stone fence for a spot of cold leftover pasta. Then a few more loops before heading home ….
Snow wasn’t too deep but still that lovely crunch.
My thoughts on the Genesis Caribou so far: (2 rides in)
Gearing seems about right, struggled slightly on some hills but i think I just need to man up.
Tyres although wide have little grip so wet roots will still slide. Think it was specced more for weight
Bottom bracket quite low so a few pedal strikes – but this may be a contrast to the 29er
Despite strikes actually pretty flickable on technical sections – I thought steering would be slower but has a good feel.
Tubes … uuugh … how last century – will need to convert to tubeless sometime in the future but this might also mean changing the tyres
Slow …. the sections to trailhead even on tar are painful (man up once again and get over it)
Overall – a keeper ….. more once tested for more than 80km.
8am this morning and the door bell rings with the post doing his special delivery. This one is quite special. My order from alpkit has arrived.
Possum frame bag and also the sat bag …. which I then added my old busted fender to zipped onto some convenient straps on the bottom (the aim of this is in the rain and mud to stop the bag being sprayed continuously)
So far impressed by the construction of the bags … out for a ride tomorrow but think it will only be with the frame bag in place …….. The forecast is for a bit of a snow dump tonight and tomorrow ending at 8am so looking forward to it and trying out the fat bike in ‘designed for’ locations
Love this old blog from Dales on fat bikes (see what i am googling recently)
Fat bikes are gaining popularity not just as niche snow and sand machines, but as everyday bikes for use on natural terrain. Cue the Surly Pugsley, one of the first mass-produced fat bikes. Now that fat offerings are available from various mainstream companies, more and more riders are now asking themselves if this sort of bike could be for them.
I purchased one of the last 2013 complete Surly Pugsleys a few weeks ago, as an alternative to a short travel suspension bike, for use year round and to complement my single speed Surly Troll. So far it hasn’t failed to impress, in sand, snow, mud and on natural and man-made trails.
Its maiden voyage saw me trying to climb some of the fireroad trails around the Pentland hills, which were covered in deep snow. It’s was a baptism of fire/ice, and it took a whole new set of skills to the keep the bike on the straight and narrow. I quickly learned the key was to stay seated to ensure the rear wheel kept traction, and stay in the granny gear to keep the wheels rolling consistently. I found that if you stood up, the rear wheel lost grip, and if you shifted up a gear, the big tyres would slowly grind to a halt. All this aside, the Pugsley impressed, and the narrower tyre tracks veering off to the left and right of the trail showed where lesser bikes had tried, and failed, to muscle their way through/over the deep snow drifts which covered the trail.
Later in the week I went riding in the deep mud which had collected around Arthur’s Seat after the snows had metled. The Pugsley was again in its element, and the impressive float of the 4 inch tyres allowed me to scrabble across deep muddy puddles, and although it was difficult to precisely steer the bike, general stability was excellent, and at no point did I feel the need to dab a foot, which was good, because the mud was thick enough to suck the shoes off my feet. It was like piloting a paddle ship, just spinning the cranks in a low gear, and aiming for the far shore.
My third ride was an extended tarmac jaunt across Sustrans National Cycle Route 1, which runs from the Edinburgh city centre out towards Dalkeith. Obviously a long tarmac ride is beyond the scope of what a fat bike is really built for, but what surprised me was how quick the big tyres wanted to roll once they gathered speed, probably because the contact patch was only along the centre inch or so of each tyre if they were inflated past 15psi. It was by no means fast, and I only managed a 10mph average, but this allowed me to cover 20 miles in a couple of hours, and take in the scenery at a leisurely pace. To critics who say these bikes are just sideshow attractions for use one or two months a year, I’d like to disagree, and echo the idea that a fat bike can make a good everyday bike, and felt no more inefficient than a 140mm+ full suspension bike when on the road or path.
My Pugsley was given its first true test at the new Cathkin Braes Commonwealth Games XC course. Although it carries a man-made vibe, the loop includes steep descents, rocky climbs and great views, alongside the staple berms, doubles and sweeping switch-back climbs. It’s still in a slightly unfinished state, so the trail was rougher, the mud was deeper, and the rocks more prominent than they might be in future.
Despite finding myself in a group comprised of riders on 140-150mm travel rigs, the Pugsley never felt less than sure-footed, and easily kept pace with the full suspension rigs. The super fat tyres offered excellent traction through the berms and on the climbs, outclassing even the stickiest 2.5″ tread on the other bikes. Winching up the climbs was no chore with a 22-tooth front ring, and full 11-34 rear cassette, the paddles on the rear tyre hooked up on even the softest terrain, and would only slip on the slickest of roots.
Interestingly, downhill sections were less of a challenge than expected. Run at 10psi, the Larry and Endomorph tyres offered plenty of float, and an inch or two of “free” suspension, which took the edge of rough descents and drop offs of up to a foot or two.
On the steeper sections I was glad I’d replaced the stock BB7 brakes with a pair of Avid’s more powerful hydraulic Elixir models, which scrubbed off speed quick enough, even with the substantial rolling mass of the Pugs’ big wheels and tyres to contend with. My only other changes had been to the cockpit, for personal preference, and I threw on a pair of Shimano’s new Saint pedals, which allowed me to ride with hiking boots in the poor weather, so I could always get off and push if the going got too tough.
The Pugsley truly shined in the unfinished sections, where deep swathes of mud or water cross the trail. The final climb was scattered with deep, sandy patches, which proved troublesome for the average XC/AM bike
So whilst many fat bike riders stick to sand, and to snow, I’m eager to try out my Pugsley as my “main” bike for 2013, and test the idea that fat bikes can be used as proper trail rigs, rather than just as clown bikes for soft, and otherwise impassable terrain.
So it’s so far so good with the Pugs, and I’m looking forward to trying it out at some of the larger Scottish trail centres, to see how it really measures up against the more traditional all-mountain and cross-country machines in our demo fleet.
Most recently, having seen the footage from the recent “Forth Fat” fat bike gathering in East Lothian (which I sadly missed, arriving on the fat bike scene as recently as I have), I’m also eager to schedule a trip to the beach!
If you can’t wait for the Pugsley, check out the Surly Moonlander, currently available in sizes 18-24″. The Pugsley will be available again from late summer in the UK.
Fat biking has transitioned relatively quickly from a fringe novelty to a central facet of the mountain bike experience. In my opinion, fat biking is the single biggest innovation to shake up the industry since I started mountain biking–which means it’s more important than 29″ wheels, 27.5″ wheels, dropper posts, thru axles, and a whole host of other innovations that have happened in the industry over the course of the last decade. But just in case you haven’t drunk the fat bike cool aid just yet, here are 5 reasons why you need a fat bike:
1. No end to the mountain bike season.
While granted there have always been a few key locations around the globe where the mountain bike season stretches 12 months per year, the vast majority of riders live in places were snow and ice historically made riding a bike all year round either not very much fun or simply impossible. But with the advent of fat bikes, all of that has changed!
Fat bikes more-or-less originated in the cold white north of Alaska, and caught on quickly in places like the upper Midwest. These locations have always experienced long, cold, snowy winters, and they were quick to adopt fat bikes. Mountain biking quickly became a 12-month-per-year sport for these early adopters, instead of just a 5-month-per-year (or less) sport.
If you ever wanted mountain biking season to last longer, start sooner, or simply never end, buying a fat bike is the magic key to making those wishes a reality!
2. It puts the fun back in mountain biking.
While there are definitely some lightweight carbon fat bikes with mind-bogglingly low weights, most fat bikes are a bit on the heavy side, and aren’t really intended for going super fast. But sometimes–maybe even most of the time–it’s nice to forget about mashing around your favorite loop at top speed. Instead, just go for a spin, smell the flowers, take in the view, drink a beer, and have fun. Fat bikes are helping thousands of riders remember how to chill out and enjoy the moment.
3. You’ll ride places you never thought you’d be able to pedal a bike.
Yes, you can ride in the snow at times you never thought you’d be able to ride before. This even includes riding in the high alpine in the middle of winter, instead of inside the normal 3-month summer window! But even when you’re not rolling on snow, fat bikes open up a whole host of possibilities.
Riders are using fat bikes to traverse muddy, sandy, rocky shorelines in epic adventures. You can even tool around sand dunes in the desert, mud pits in never-dry locations, and much, much more. Fat bikes are definitely mountain bikes, but they’re so much more. It might be more appropriate to refer to these pedal-powered behemoths as “all terrain bikes,” as they allow you to–quite literally–ride anywhere.
4. Rocks are so easy, it feels like cheating!
More and more riders are shredding their local singletrack trails aboard their fat bikes, during the summer. And you know why? Fat bikes–especially suspension-equipped fat bikes like the Salsa Bucksaw and the Turner King Khan–do a superb job of smoothing out the rock gardens and technical features of a trail. In fact, shredding through gnar feels almost too easy on a full suspension or Bluto-equipped-hardtail fat bike. It almost feels like cheating somehow… but it’s not.
5. You need an excuse to buy yet another bike.
Let’s be honest, here: if there’s one thing that we mountain bikers drool over, it’s the latest-and-greatest crop of bikes that rolls out every year. But it can be hard to justify to your significant other–and your check book–purchasing a bike every year, or even every several years. But if you don’t have a fat bike, ah ha! Here’s a completely new type of bike that you’d be more than justified in purchasing! I’m sure you can find the cash in your budget for a new rig that will allow you to ride all year long–and will, more importantly, give you yet another bike to lust over and continuously upgrade.
Your turn: Can you think of any other great reasons to buy a fat bike? Add them in the comments sections below!
I am getting tempted by a fat bike that I have never ridden …. this is interesting.
fat bike survey from singletrackworld:
We received nearly 1,000 survey responses from dozens of countries and 49 of the 50 US states on the topic of fat bikes. We covered a lot of ground, so here’s the executive summary.
There is a ton of interest in fat biking, even in places where snow and sand are scarce. Survey respondents skewed toward riders who already own fat bikes or are considering buying fat bikes but even among those with no intention of buying a fat bike, 71% at least want to give it a try.
Fat biking is addictive. Sixteen percent of fat bike owners own more than one and, on average, fat bike owners ride their fat bikes 76 times a year. Potential fat bike buyers estimate they’ll only ride 37 times a year, so there must be something about getting a fat bike.
First mover advantage is huge in this market. We’ve seen this play out to a degree with other mountain bike trends (29ers, for example), but in fat bikes, the most popular brands are those who got the wheel rolling in the first place. Surly and Salsa are still big favorites among consumers, and smaller brands are still holding onto some of the top spots despite inroads by megaliths like Trek and Specialized.
Fat bike fanbois. I say this in the most respectful way, but it really does seem the fat bike’s capabilities have been oversold to a degree. Consider this series of responses to the survey (not included in the infographic):
About 60% of the respondents say fat bikes provide excellent handling on everything from rocks to hardpack to mud. At worst, 5% say their fat bikes handle poorly in rocky conditions. It’s actually hard to draw a conclusion about which conditions fat bikes are optimized for from these charts–it looks like fat bikes are great at everything!
Ok, now it’s your turn. What jumps out at you from these numbers? For those who want to dive even deeper, we’ve also made much of the raw survey data available here.