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.