Monday, February 01, 2021

Winter Views: Local Fat

End of the line......this time.
 With the decent snow cover and lower temperatures it has proven to be a great period for fat biking in snow. This snow seems to be a lot more capable of holding together and not acting like hour glass sand, so riding in deep, unadulterated snow has been a fun activity. This kind of riding is perfectly suited to the Blackborow DS. Those nearly 5" wide tires on 100mm rims do a number on deep snow when things are right for that set up. 

Things were right for that set up lately. So, I took advantage and I don't have to go far to find a challenge either. This 'local-to-me' riding is so close I suppose you could say it is 'hyper-local'. I ride two city blocks and there I am. Right at the gates of the Elmwood Cemetery. 

It's really quite the resource, if you can get over the heebie-jeebies of riding around hundreds of ancient headstones. The park-like atmosphere is highlighted by run down two-track, a bit of crude blacktop, and a 'back lot' that runs between the hill where most of the humans are planted and the woods hard against Highway 63 to the West. 

The cemetery is a privately owned one, not attached to the City, and the gates are open 24-7, pretty much. They did close the place up for a couple days around New Years, I suppose for reasons of lessons that they have learned over the years. Other than that, riding, walking, or running on the 'roads' and along the woods there seems to be fair play. I never have run afoul of anyone I've seen there working, at any rate. Most of the time the place is deserted. Am I 'poaching' some riding here? Maybe. Seems like a pretty solid grey area to me though. 

Thursday's tracks to the left. A previous session's tracks can be detected to the right here.

So, why ride through this when we have miles of groomed trails for fat bikes? Well, to my way of thinking, a groomed trail is a trail where, a walker, a bicyclist, a runner, an XC skier, or whatever can go easily. You may not even need a fat bike if you are a cyclist. That's all well and fine, but I have miles of alleyway in my neighborhood which is pretty much the same thing, only harder because it is all uneven. 

And that pretty much is why I don't ride groomed trails much at all. I got a fat bike because, back in the day, I couldn't ride where I wanted to, and a fat bike gave me the opportunity to go places I could not go before. Before all the trail grooming madness here, I had to use the fattest tires with the most float that I could just to ride the post-holed trails where people had walked, or wherever the snow machines had gone. It opened up a new level of challenge and skill building I never had experienced before. 

 Saturday's end of the line at Byrnes Park, or whatever they are calling this place these days!

I learned more balance, more subtle handling skills, what air pressures do, how to shift my weight for varying snow depths and conditions. I learned how to steer in deep snow, and I learned how to max out my heart rate! I have learned these things and a whole lot more seeking out the unbeaten paths. 

I am not always successful. I dab. I fall over. I run out of leg and lung. But if I don't try I have no chance at learning or enjoying those times when it all comes together and I cut through deep snow without a dab or without stopping to get my breath back again. I wouldn't have learned that I can go up and over, through, or around the things I have. I would not have learned these things on groomed fat bike trails. 

Those things I have learned have translated into better handling skills on the gravel roads and better fitness levels throughout the year. I have gained confidence in my bike skills and to be honest, playing in the snow keeps me 'young at heart' too. There is something about just goofing off in the snow. At least for me.

Now, don't hear that I think groomed trails are dumb, or lame. They just don't spark my interest like what I am doing does. Groomed fat bike trails have gotten a LOT more people out and about in Winter, and that is all good. However you do your activities outdoors is not wrong, it just may not be my cup-o-tea, that's all. 

And in the end, I'd rather be riding gravel, if you really want to know.

1 comment:

rth009 said...

"There is nothing like goofing off in the snow." Guitar Ted speaks the truth.