Monday, December 10, 2007

Whipping up a slushy

Date: Dec. 9
Mileage: 18.1
Hours: 2:15
December mileage: 227.4
Temperature upon departure: 36
Rainfall: .26"

Some days, my rides are less about physical fitness and more about psychological endurance. Unfortunately, I never know which one it's going to be until after I leave the house.

Within two blocks, I had no doubt about what kind of ride I was in for today. The roads were an absolute nightmare. Still mostly unplowed, a continuous cold rain had saturated yesterday's snow, which traffic stirred up into a substance that is best described as a dirt-flavored slurpee. I don't believe there's a bicycle invented that can efficiently navigate this stuff, or a car for that matter, and I found myself walking (walking!) my Surly Pugsley on the road (on the road!) to reach the trails.

The trail itself was devoid of traffic of any kind - not a footprint, not a pawprint, not even a shuffling porcupine track. Not a single soul had attempted to slog up the trail, and that wasn't big surprise. Imagine taking six inches of already wet snowfall, letting it melt a little over night, then injecting it with a quarter inch of rain, and you have a thick blanket of sludge that is only slightly more pliable than peanut butter, but a lot more slippery.

I walked for a while up the trail, holding out eternal optimism that any moment it would become rideable, and muttering my mantra that trudging with a bike is an important skill to forge. But even without me on top of it, the bike occasionally slipped out and fell over, or I slipped out and we fell over, and the whole thing was so stupid, and I was glad nobody was there to tell me so.

But it true Pugsley form, running the tires at about 5 psi no less, we were actually able to ride most of the way down. I slid around often. But not enough to crash. It was more like semi-controlled falling ... fishtailing fun ... like when I first took up snowboarding and learned that true control was an illusion, but true disaster was easily avoidable.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I don't just give up on rides like today's, rather than pushing through two planned hours on the cusp of either laughing out loud or screaming obscenities. I think it's because I believe that any hardship, real or perceived, is good for my mental fitness. I also fear that once I let myself give up on one thing, no matter how minor, I'll start on that steep and slippery slope that ends in me throwing in the towel on the whole Iditarod dream.


  1. I have to question whether the Pugsley has actual merit as a vehicle, or is it just a really cool novelty item (like a tall bike, or a fixed gear?)

    Anyway, don't mean to dis your fat tired ride, but...

  2. Madam
    You have inspired me to pull out the old gary fisher ranchito and get rolling. Keep up the great work.

  3. If you have tires that allow you to ride on such low pressure, why can’t you ride on a “flat” tire? What if you stuffed the tire with something foam-like so you’d never have to worry about changing a flat in super cold conditions. Also, the pump I have always starts out at about 15 psi. (I think this represents a certain amount of atmospheric pressure?) So when you say 5 psi, does that really mean more like 20 psi - or is my pump gauge just broken?

    Keep on trudging…

  4. Today was a hard day of riding and trudging along but tomorrow will most likely be better. All this training is going to be worth it's weight in gold in due time.

  5. Here a few things about the psi:

    I was just guessing about the 5 psi. It may be an exageration. But I've tested it at 10 psi before, and it was definitely lower than that. I don't have a gauge on my pump.

    The tires are so wide that even single-digit psi's provide enough bulk in the tire that you're not rolling on the rim, like you would with an entirely flat tire. However, you can only do it on snow cover, because it's pretty suseptible to pinch flatting and other rim disasters at that point. That maximum pressure is 30 psi, not unlike a car tire.

    Juancho ... Pugsley is totally a novelty bike. I don't deny it. But, if you are riding over snow-covered trails, it and its other Fatbike siblings are by far the most versatile and efficient bikes made. It took me two years to accept this truth, which is why I've had to keep trading up.

  6. I think Pugs (and you) will move along a lot better on the cold, dry snow of the Ididarod. Training in Juneau seems like a huge handicap.

  7. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one having trouble with the slush - while sliding and fishtailing and, yes, walking my Redline Monocog outfitted with 60mm Schwalbe Big Apple tires into work these past few days, I couldn't help but wonder whether I'd be better served for winter riding with Snowcat rims, or a Pugsley, or Nokian studded tires, etc... I guess perfection remains, as ever, elusive.

  8. What if come Iditarod time the snow is several feet deep? Will the race officials be kind to you and pack the trail down good or will they just mark it a few times with a snowmobile. I know all y'all rough and tough Alaskans would want it that way, right? The deeper and more difficult the better.

  9. 9 miles an hour...yeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  10. OK, I trust your judgement. While in Bozeman, MT a friend made me a set of "chains" that were actually spectra climbing cord with intermittent aluminum clips that sat very low-profile in the tread pattern. Not much help for snow, but incredible on ice. I've not seen anything like them on the market and I wore them ragged and my friend moved away.

    I don't have much use for that sort of thing anymore. It was 87 today. Brrr!

  11. I always tell myself: EVERY ride make me better....

  12. Never give up! Never surrender! =D


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