Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Break

We decided to head up to the condo for New Year's. As anyone who lives in the area is well aware, there hasn't been much rain in Sacramento and little snow in the Sierras. This has the Tahoe locals a bit freaked out. Whereas there should have been plenty of skis and snowboards on the roof racks, instead I saw many cars still carrying bikes. Not good for the ski businesses and Tahoe in general. On the plus side, it was pretty darn quiet in Incline Village.

When I bought the Pugsley I had planned for the holiday weekend to be a snow biking trip. The lack of snow made me strongly consider taking the 29er instead, but in the end I decided to bring the Pugs anyway. I thought if I climbed up high enough I might put my tires in some kind of frozen substance.

I thought the Flume Trail might be tailor-made for the Pugs. The climbing might not favor this bike, but the amount of sand on the ride certainly would.

Tunnel Creek Road is a climb I generally avoid unless we have had some rain to firm things up. It's a steep, sandy, 1600-foot ascent that I have probably complained about before. The Pugs made the sandy nature of the climb a non-factor. Because of the beach riding I have done, I knew the fat tires would perform well on the sandy climb, but I did not anticipate how well; compared to a normal tire it was night and day. The only downside was the fact that the Pugs is a pig. Hauling a 36-pound beast up a long, steep climb isn't easy. Still, the floatation "outweighed" the Pugsley's weight.

On a normal mountain bike I usually bog down a couple times in the deeper sand, but on the Pugsley I cleaned the entire three-mile climb. This was shocking to me since I really expected to do some pushing. To look at the bike, one wouldn't think "climbing machine."

On the last third of the climb I encountered a number of sections featuring frozen snow and sheets of ice. I kept my spin smooth and even, and I motored right over these obstacles with minimal slippage.

Once I crested the top the bike really came alive. I have ridden the Flume so many times over the years that it's become a little boring--relegated to a once or twice a year trail. The Pugs made it all new and fun again. I actually caught myself making motorcycle noises once, which isn't normal behavior for me. Ever.

The Flume alternated between dry sand, snow and ice along its 5-mile length. The bike handled it all well. I rode with care on the way out, but on the way back I was confident enough to really open it up, and I stopped slowing down for ice and snow. Even frozen ice ruts, which can be treacherous on a normal bike, offered little to be worried about. I only had one instance when the back end came around a bit, but a quick dab was all it took to straighten back up.

The descent back down Tunnel Creek was awesome. I slowed down for the ice fields but otherwise blasted down the rest. The wheel-sucking sand simply wasn't an issue like it is on a normal bike. Even the hairpin with the really deep sand, a corner that usually causes me to slow way down, was a piece of cake.

I rolled up to my front door with a nice 22-mile ride under my belt. The bike performed better than expected. This ride blurred the line of what I originally thought the bike was made for. I can't wait to get this thing in some snow.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Fat

No, I'm not talking about myself. Really. Are you looking at my gut?

Some years back Surly released a bike called the Pugsley. It featured huge, four-inch tires. It's main purpose, at the time, was for riding in snow.  I looked at it and thought, "Meh." Not for me. I can't stand the cold.

Time went by, and we bought a place in Tahoe. I revisited acquiring one of these beasts, now referred to as fat bikes. In the end I just didn't think I would use it in the snow enough to warrant the purchase.

Then I saw a thread on the MTBR fat bike forum dedicated to beach riding pictures. I knew then that I wanted one. The thought of riding along a beautiful beach with the Pacific Ocean lapping at my feet sounded awesome.

After a little eBay and Craigslist liquidating for funds, I had the bike in hand. The maiden voyage would not be along the ocean, however, but along Folsom Lake.

I started on the far south side of Beal's Point near the Dyke. The water is getting low, so there was plenty of exposed lake bed to explore.

One of the weird things right off the bat was riding with flat pedals. After riding with clipless pedals for 18 years, it took some getting used to. I didn't know what the hell to wear, so I went with these Nikes. They worked fine.

I figured that the bike would do well, but I tried to temper my expectations. I didn't want to over-hype it in my head and be disappointed. Not an issue. The bike rolled over everything.

This was the only place I fumbled on the entire ride. After dropping the air pressure in the tires, I motored right through this deep sand. Like most people do, I started with too much pressure. It's just hard to wrap your head around 10 PSI when you see it on the pressure gauge.

At times it wasn't that hard to imagine myself on the ocean.

Some of the granite areas like this one were fun to navigate.

This point reminded me a bit of Monterey, complete with sea birds on the water.

Lunch time.

Enough said.

This section was challenging, but I made it through.

Red Solo Cup:

This is the basic route going from south to north. Probably about six miles of beach. The water is currently lower than when this Google Earth image was taken.

I was out for about three hours and I had a blast. It's pretty cool to ride wherever the heck you want and have a bike that handles it with ease. Without the need for an actual trail, a lot of new riding possibilities are now open to me. I am wondering if I can actually ride around the entire lake . . .