Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bike building

It looks like I may be buying a snow bike! And not just any snow bike - a snow bike in pieces. Pieces that I have to track down, then order, then assemble. It's a terrifying endeavor for someone as technologically challenged as I am. Therefore, I find the prospect very exciting.

The other day Carlos, the proprietor of the Soggy Bottom 100, contacted me about a frame and wheel set being sold by a friend of his in Anchorage. The friend is currently working on the North Slope for two weeks, but if all goes well, I could soon be the owner of a Raleigh M50 DX hardtail frame, a snowcat wheel set with fatty tires and Shimano XT disk hubs, and a Surly fork that "is probably as good looking as (my) couch."

Nice! Frankenbike!

A frame and wheel set does not a bicycle make, but it's definitely a start - and it gives me a chance to customize all the components, right down to burly little parts that will hopefully be up to the continuous freeze and thaw of my southeastern Alaska home. And if the thing actually moves forward when I'm done with it - all the better.

The best part about this potential bike is that it will also work well in the thick, muddy stew that passes for trails around here. It's not a Pugsley - so I won't be carving fresh powder anytime soon - but it should hold up better on snowmobile trails than my Sugar. And - in theory - be a little less like a hot knife in butter on the Susitna 100.

I haven't definitely decided whether or not I'm going to ride the Susitna 100 in February. There's always the issue of expenses, which also now include a fair chunk of change just for travel, along with gear, vacation time, blah blah blah.

Beyond the blahs, there's a larger picture, a worldview that somehow shifted the day I stepped off that windblown trail and staggered toward my new life in Alaska. Racing the Susitna 100 is a rewarding memory, now that seven months have passed and time has mercifully glossed over long stretches of suffering and some initial feelings of failure. What I have left over are ghostly images the seem out of place in any world, especially my world. Sometimes, when I'm stressed and feel a need to go to my "happy place," I find myself reflecting back to the final quarter of the race, after a freak rainstorm turned the trail to soft mush and I had resigned myself to trudging the last 25 miles on foot. I should remember a miserable place - dripping icy water from every layer of clothing, plodding through the wet snow into slow, endless darkness - but I don't. All I remember are the ghost trees, still-life shadows on the snow, the way the air was so quiet even my footsteps seemed far away ... and the finality of it all forced me to slip so deep inside myself that now, just seven months later, I can't remember nine hours passing. I only remember one drawn-out moment of peace.

When that moment comes back to me, I begin to think I would be crazy not to ride the Susitna 100 again. To revisit old experiences. To create new ones. To wield a new snowbike and a season's worth of skills to possibly even competitive level. When I think about it that way - it feels like skipping Christmas (which, unfortunantly, I skipped last year and probably will have to again this year.) All the better reason to sign up.


  1. If that's the Raleigh I think it is, that fork will make your couch look good!

  2. Check out this winter bike!

  3. Jill...once again I enjoy your writing. Great description of what you felt during the race. I had to make a similar decision (the financial part)when I was deciding whether or not to enter the Arrowhead Winter Ultramarathon for 2007. It will end up costing me upwards of $3,000 ($3,000 that I don't have)with the new snowbike and all the required gear. I decided why not. I feel the need to do something extraordinary every now and then to break up the mind numbing monotony of every day life.

  4. It's so hard to explain to other people what it's like to do an ultra race. I almost always have a point in a long race where I wonder why I'm doing it but then there are the periods of an intense high. After about 12 hours on the bike, time no longer seems to mean much and everything just seems to blur together and yet I have some very vivid memories.

    During RAAM I don't really remember every wondering why I was doing it. Once I was injured, I wanted to quit a few times from frustration of not being able to get power out of my leg and slowly crawling my way across Kansas.

  5. I'm lusting after a snowbike at the moment and look forward to the tale of the build. Alaska is calling me even though I've never been.

    Also, how do you pronounce Susitna?

  6. Chris

    Susitna is pronounced Sue-sit-nuh

    Mt Susitna (Mt Sue) is also called Sleeping Lady.

    cheers from Oz,

  7. My snow bike looks looks like it will be my regular bike with some studded Nokians.... then again, I worry more about ice than snow.


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