Riding the trails in the snow is just a whole different animal. It’s harder. It’s slower. But, when the conditions are just right, it can be a lot more fun.
I met up with my Breakaway Quickdirt teammate, Kate Tingley, at the parking lot below the Alum Creek Dam. We rode across the snow-covered dam together and appreciated the winter landscape. The wind was low and the park was quiet and peaceful. It was 11 degrees Fahrenheit and despite having a little numbness in my fingers and toes, it was nice to be outside. I was certain I would warm up once I hit the single track.
I was riding my Trek Superfly SS with the new Lauf Fork and boost hub wheel on the front. But, despite my excitement to try it out, this was not the ride where I could push my new equipment to its limits. This ride would be challenging in a different way.
Kate was riding on a fat bike, the Trek Farley 7. She had been riding it all year, but now she was finally on a ride where it would show its full potential.
After crossing the dam, we entered the beginner trail, P0, and I let Kate take the lead. It was fun to watch her tackle the trail on her fat bike. I have to admit I was a little envious. She was rolling through the snow and over objects with ease. Her tires were clinging to everything and keeping her perfectly upright. Fat bikes are sweet. They serve a different function than mountain bikes and I think they will be around for a while.
On the other hand, I was feeling a little squirmy in the slippery snow. While I didn’t fall, I had to put my foot down a few times when my tires slid off powder-covered roots here and there. It was taking me much longer to get used to the new conditions.
Several fat bikes had ridden before us and left a small trail for us to follow. There were 4 inches of snow and if you didn’t know the trail you could have gotten lost without these tracks to follow.
When we crossed the road, Kate and I switched places and I took the lead. This is where my confidence started to increase. My wider front wheel seemed to be grabbing the ground pretty nicely and there was only the occasional off-camber slippage. I was ignoring the fat bike tracks and picking my own line. My momentum starting carrying me through plenty of fresh powder and I felt like a skier breaking ground after a big storm.
I started gliding through the frosty wonderland like I was on a sled and it was a fun and almost magical experience. The forest is so peaceful for those that are willing to brave the cold. A gentle breeze knocked some snow off the tree branches above and it mystically sparkled on it’s way to the ground.
In this off-season, there will be plenty of miserable moments where I will be forced to fight through a biting headwind on a long country road. There will be ice to cause crashes and drivers splashing muck on me. There will be days where my feet go so numb that I won’t be able to feel them in the post-ride shelter. Those are the rides that make you appreciate a day like today.
When the stars align and the conditions are right – when you have a friend to ride with – embrace that moment. These rides add variety to your training. They make you a better technical rider. They will make you feel lighter and faster when the weather warms back up. Spending 15 minutes getting dressed will make you appreciate just throwing on a jersey and shorts in the spring.
We only did one lap, but that was enough. We both got a good workout. I looked at the time on my GPS. Oh crap. It’s late. Somehow with stopping and goofing around, 3 hours had passed since I left my house – but it didn’t feel nearly that long. I had to hurry home and pick up my son from school.
I will log a lot more miles this winter, but this will be the benchmark by which I judge those other rides. It certainly was a fun way to start the season.
So, get off the trainer now and go outside. These adventures are the exact reason why we ride our bikes. So quit bein’ a wuss and get out there.
…and follow Quickdirt on Facebook. That’s cool too.
And, if you’re looking for an excuse to ride outside this winter. Combo, the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization, is holding a winter race series at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. It’s aimed at fat bikes, but has divisions for skinny tired bikes as well. It’s held regardless of weather and each race has its own personality. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable races around. Read more about that here: https://www.bikereg.com/cr-fatty3