Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow makes everything tougher

The weather threw Missoula some curveballs this week — 35 degrees and raining followed by refreeze and snow, four inches of new snow, blowing blizzard and 35 mph wind gusts. Despite the ever-shifting conditions, Beat and I were able to get out on his new Fatback twice, with an evening snow run that added up to three genuinely difficult and long workouts. The interesting thing is I've been using the Garmin Forerunner he gave me for Christmas, and the numbers are a bit demoralizing. But I'm not sure what I expected. Snow adds an impressive amount of resistance to any effort, plus cold, extra weight of gear, etc. Either way, I used to come home and say things like, "That was hard! That felt great!" Now I come home and say, "19 miles? In four hours? Really?" Either way, I'm having a lot of fun with the Garmin, and even more fun with Beat's Fatback.

Beat actually let me ride the Fatback the entire time on its inaugural ride Monday, around the Deer Creek Loop. My first impressions: The Fatback's steering is incredibly nimble compared to my Pugsley, I like its more upright stance, and it's light. And beautiful! And somehow faster. I can't prove that it's faster, but I motored along effortlessly on Monday as Beat struggled. Then, when we switched back for our Wednesday ride, Beat was the one powering far ahead as I gasped for air. We may have to go for a few more shakedown rides before I can be certain that Fatback is really that much faster than Pugsley, however.

On Tuesday we went for a three-and-half-hour, 13-mile run that nearly put me on the floor due to sheer exhaustion. On Wednesday the combination of blizzard, wind chill and high wind speed made the simple bike commute to work and walk to the grocery store seem epic. On Thursday, the clouds cleared and the temperature dropped to the single digits. It seemed like a great night to get back out on the bike.

We went to check out the Rattlesnake Trails which are multi-use, but mainly used by skiers.

I have to say, skiers make lousy bike trails. ;-) OK, before I get reamed by too many skiers, I want to emphasize that there are trails in this area where only skiing is allowed, and if skiers want a perfectly smooth surface, they can go there. There were snowshoe tracks on this trail but they were faint. If I were going to be in town this weekend, I would be tempted to go for a long back-and-forth snowshoe run and "improve" the Stuart Peak Trail for snow bikes. As it is, narrow tracks on top of soft snow make for tough, technical riding.

The mantra of snow biking on soft snow: When in doubt, let air out. That is, until all of the air is gone, then you have to put more in.

Then, when you have ridden 10 miles and less than 1,000 vertical feet in two hours at a moderate to strenuous effort level, you should reward yourself with Fizzy Cola gummy snacks. Hits the spot every time.

Beat tried a vapor barrier shirt and ended up with a huge block of ice on one wrist, where most of his sweat moisture found a way to escape through one sleeve. Fun with gear in the cold! It wouldn't be the same if you didn't try something different every time.

And here are the numbers. They're not pretty. :)