Sunday, February 11, 2018

Focus On Fatbikes

The focus was on fatbikes this weekend, even for me. No, I haven’t taken the plunge, and I don’t think I ever will. A fatbike can ride over snow—sometimes—but it doesn’t make the air temperature any warmer. The little interest I have in fatbikes is satisfied by the occasional demo day. Milwaukee’s Fyxation hosted one today at Pleasant Valley Nature Park & Trails in Ozaukee County. I was there with my daughter. That’s her in the picture above.

I left without taking a ride. With the wind chill at 7°, witnessing crash after crash, and hearing nothing but complaints about the poor quality of the snow, I decided it wasn’t worth waiting for a demo bike in my size. The last fatbike demo I attended also was ruined by bad snow. On that occasion, the temperature was too warm. Today, the problem was the “freshness” of the snow we received last night, which apparently spoiled the “perfect” conditions that existed yesterday.

I was at Pleasant Valley yesterday, snowshoeing for the first time in 3 years! It has been a long time since we had a deep snow base, but the 12+ inches we received over the last 10 days has dramatically changed the landscape. Hitting Pleasant Valley on Saturday was a conscious choice to help prepare the trails for today’s event. Snowshoeing is a complementary activity: it packs the snow without leaving holes or ruts like hiking does. Of course, mechanized grooming works too:

Trail boss Eric Hackbarth checks on the progress of sled driver Jed Kimla.

But like I said 3 years ago, if the snow needs to be compacted to a smooth, road-like consistency, then why not just ride on the road? That’s what I plan to do later this week when the temperature gets back above freezing. The road starts at the end of my driveway; I don’t have to load the bike into my vehicle and drive to a trailhead. And the road gives me innumerably more route options. I’m barely a mountain biker, and I’m no kind of fatbiker.

Some people are, though. Like my teammate Matt Grady. Yesterday in Grand Rapids MI, Matt became the USA Cycling Fatbike National Champion for the men’s 23-29 age group. I think he’s the first national champion in Team Pedal Moraine’s history. We’ve had state champions in different disciplines and categories, but no national champions that I can recall. Well done, Matt!

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