Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fat Biking Fun-Times: Part II (Tour Of Northfield)

Continuing on now from yesterday's post, as I said, we started out to just "goof off" for awhile on the fat bikes. Curtis, who is Ben's mechanic at Milltown Cycles, joined us as well. Ben used one of the shop's Mukluk demos which was outfitted with the Big Fat Larrys on Graceful Fat Sheba rims, an Origin 8 SubCompact crank, and a seven speed cassette. All cleared each other with no issues. The Big Fat Larrys needed the clearance for the drive train, and the Mukluk frame was plenty accommodating.
Trying some trails-like moves

Curtis had the Pugs, Large Marges, and the Black Floyd tires. Even though the Floyds seemed like pavement specific treads, you'd never have guessed it by the way Curtis rode those things.

I had the Snow Dog, of course, and Rolling Darryls mounted with the 3.8 Larry tires.

Our first major stop was the campus of Carleton College where we found all sorts of things to ride on, around, up and down. On the way over to the college, we discovered that the big fat tires made mincemeat of the large limestone landscaping rocks along the Cannon River bike path. These rocks were jagged and twice as big as your head, for reference. Big Fat Larrys, Larrys, and Black Floyds were all effective at making rocks seem like pretty tame objects.

This encouraged Ben and Curtis to start pushing the limits more, and soon we were all looking for things to ride on, or hills to bomb down, or steeps to climb up on. Ben and I tried one steep climb that was so ridiculous that it was almost physically impossible to stay upright on it. We both didn't quite make it, but going up as far as we did proved to me that fat bikes can go right up something as long as you have the legs to get it moving along.

Then we hit a ball diamond where Curtis and Ben decided to try "sliding into home". Well, it was pretty crazy!

I got right down on the ground with my camera for some low angle shots while those two skidded into "home" over and over again. Let me tell you, that camera I have has a sloooooow shutter! I had to pre-plan the release so it would catch the bikes at the most opportune time, and didn't always work out the way I wanted it to!

Oh well! It was fun to try, and Curtis and Ben were having a ball, so what the heck.

I'm not so sure the Carleton College groundskeeper would have approved of our massive groove that we wore into the field of play though!

Turns out Carleton also has some bike paths and wide dirt walking paths through the woods. We rode on some of this, then picked a place to bomb down through the vege to an open area. This proved to me that the traction a fat bike gets makes descending a piece of cake. But I wanted a dropper post! 

We moved on from there and plunked around Carleton for a bit more before we hit upon some rail road tracks which we rode right on. Between the rails we were able to ride over the ties and did just fine. It was rough, but do-able without too much fuss.

Once Curtis had a bobble though, we were more wary, since toppling over while in the middle of the rails would really hurt! This turned out to be kind of an out and back, since we all decided that we didn't want to end up in the next town down the line! So, we bounced back to the road we came in on and back into town again.

Bike repair station
Then we headed up the hill towards St. Olaf College. Yes- Northfield has two major private schools of higher learning.

Here Ben wanted to check out some new installations for the college students that were to help promote cycling on campus. The first thing we saw was this really nice bike maintenance station replete with tethered tools, and a pump, all attached to a "repair stand' of sorts. The stand held the bike by the saddle and seat post, getting the tires off the ground so a person could fix their rig should the need arise. Ben aired up his BFL's here with the air hose. The sidewalls were wrinkling at the super low pressures he had been riding them at. I asked him what he aired them up to, and he said, "I don't know. It's so low the gauge won't read it!"

Pretty cool stuff, but that wasn't all. There was also a bicycle share/parking station which will allow students to grab a bicycle when needed. The way the shelter worked was really cool too.

Ben and Curtis check it out.

Overhead trays could be pulled down, bikes unloaded, or loaded on, and secured by a clip over the front wheel, then could be lifted back up on the sliding system and left there under the roof of the shelter above.

Ground level racks also were there for more bike parking as well. St. Olaf has a pretty cool set up for the students for cycling. It remains to be seen if they will take advantage of it, but I hope they do. It is a pretty nice set up which should help those students maintain mobility at a low cost to them.

St. Olaf also had some nice structure to bounce around on, jump up on to, or launch off of. I knew I should have worn my new knee pads! Ben was dropping about a foot and a half, maybe two feet to flat. The BFL's would sound like planks hitting flat on the pavement. It was pretty cool.

Then we went down this amazing, twisty, turny single track on St. Olaf's campus through a wooded area. It was all down hill too. The thing I took away from this section was that I forgot I was on a fat bike at all! Sure, the steering was different, but otherwise, I wouldn't have thought these bikes could rip single track like that.

There's more. Lots more, and too much for this one post. More "Tour Of Northfield" tomorrow!


Herringbone said...

Nice post. St Olaf's progressive bike promotion is cool. Really like the "Fat Biking-Fun-Times" vibe. Thanks.

shiggy said...

Is the rock/wood in the first pic intended to be a bike skills area?

Sure looks like fun.

Guitar Ted said...

@shiggy: It was evident to me that it may have been originally intended as some sort of stimulating place for students to sit and think, or perhaps an arty installation you can interact with. (Probably a bit of both)

But after looking harder, it was also apparent that it was perfect as a place to hone riding skills, although I am sure this was very unintentional on the part of the college!

Rob said...

That bike "aid" station is killer! And it sounds like an awesome ride, just pedaling around exploring, which always is a fun break from lap times or pelatons or whatever a regular ride involves.