Monday, December 9, 2013
Celebrating Global Fat Bike Day
Well, not exactly. The world-wide celebration of bikes with fat tires was apparently scheduled for Saturday, but due to household chores and other duties, I missed it. It was also very cold in Seattle and even colder in the mountains, so I hoped for the temperatures to rise a few degrees on Sunday.
I bought a Sno-Park permit online, and those eighty bucks bought me a heated rest room and a huge empty parking lot at Hyak, right next to the Snoqualmie ski resort. My plan was to see what the Iron Horse rail trail looked like and then possibly find out whether the Nordic ski trails in the area would be bikeable.
More hard climbing efforts took me to the intersection with the PCT, but before that, I met a couple on cross-country skis. Of course, Pepper was the center of attention, but it turned out that Tim was a director of the Snoqualmie XC trail system and when he said "We have to make sure to add you guys in the system", I felt I just fulfilled my fat bike advocacy deed!
Forty five minutes later, back at the PCT intersection, I bundled up for the descent and kicked the pedals. I have to say, downhill snow biking is a great fun, but one may actually freeze while having fun. On skis, the steeper the slope gets, the more you have to work, and stay warm. What saved me probably from a likely frost bite (or at least a brain freeze) were lots of washboard brake bumps on the trail. Hitting these at speed on a fully rigid bike, with my arm and neck muscles rigid with cold, felt like my neck vertebrae were about to snap any moment.
The toughest part was to defrost myself back at the car, despite the heated wash room and a thermos full of chai with honey. I guess for my very first ride on snow, I took a bit more than I originally planned, but by stretching the goals, we learn the endurance, right? GPS track here.
During the 50 mile drive back home, I kept thinking about how new and exciting this whole fat biking thing is for me. I also realized that using an all-terrain and all-season bike brings additional risks. Mountain biking has, of course, an inherent risk of mechanicals, crashes etc. and requires our ability to make it out of the woods. In summer though, there are many mountain bikers on trails and help may be available eventually. On my first couple of fat bike rides, I experienced two environments that despite its absolute beauty and excitement of being actually able to ride there, made me think of "what if". Riding on beaches means you should know the tide times. One would not want to get locked between the surf and the house high piles of logs and driftwood (here in WA and OR, too I guess), with no escape route.
On the snow, there is avalanche danger. It is very real here, people die every year in avalanches just outside of town. I am not really sure if it makes sense to carry any avalanche gear on snow bike rides, since there likely would not be anybody (with a beacon, probe and shovel) to witness the avalanche and start the rescue in time. An obvious solution to this is not riding alone, but apparently there are only 10,000 of us in the USA riding fat bikes! And I don't know anybody here who does.
These kinds of thoughts bring me to another web found information: the Global Fat Bike Summit takes place January 24-25 in Ogden, UT.