Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Goodbye to a good bike

Attempting to powder-shred with Pugsley in Spaulding Meadows, Juneau, Alaska.
 I sold my Pugsley.

I know, I thought I'd never write those words. If there was any bike I just assumed I'd keep forever, for sentimental reasons if nothing else, it was Pugsley. I loved this bike. But I didn't love seeing Pugsley hanging on my wall, gathering dust, and never being ridden. I quietly put Puglsey up for sale, and a couple of weeks ago, I mailed him off to his new home in Palmer, Alaska. I like to imagine a bright future of trips to Knik Glacier, beach riding along the Matanuska River, and perhaps even more miles on the Iditarod Trail. A bike like Pugsley deserves to be ridden in Alaska — not languish on a wall in California. Plus, Pugsley *is* just a bike. But I do sort of miss him.

This 16" battleship gray Surly Pugsley came into my life in September 2007. Buying this bike was my method of coaxing myself into signing up for the Iditarod Invitational. I figured if I had the right bike, I could somehow be ready for that kind of expedition (ha!) For the two years prior I was an avid winter cyclist, making do with a full-suspension Gary Fisher Sugar and a hybrid 40mm-rim "Snaux Bike." Anyone who claims that fat bikes aren't superior for their intended purpose as a go-anywhere, all-terrain bike have, in my opinion, simply never actually ridden one in appropriate fat bike conditions — deep but packed snow, soft mud, or sand. Pugsley was a revelation for me; suddenly I had so much more mobility than I ever imagined.

This is a photo from one of my first rides with Pugsley, taken on the Salmon Creek Trail, which was part of my "long" commute to work at the Juneau Empire. Pugsley and I spent a lot of quality time together that first winter, training for the ITI. I expressed my love for my bike in blog posts like "Ode to Pugsley."

Here we are on Sevenmile Lake on the first day of the 2008 ITI. When you go through an experience like that with a bike, it cements a strong love-hate relationship. There were times when I couldn't find the strength to push that heavy bike up a frozen headwall, and I nearly just left it there. Then, minutes later, I'd be coasting down a hard-packed slope, buzzing with elation.

Pugsley wasn't just a winter bike. I made it an ongoing summer project to circumnavigate Douglas Island along the cliff-lined beach. It was always an adventure — crushing mussel shells, steamrolling barnacle-crusted rocks, grinding over sand, racing high tides, mowing down beach grass, and eventually meeting an unworkable obstacle, like cliffs that dropped straight into the sea. Douglas Island is doable with a packraft, but I do believe it would be easier and probably faster overall on foot. Still, trying to use fat bikes for off-trail explorations is a lot of fun.

Beat and I posing with Pugsley in Missoula, on what I believe was Beat's first snow ride. Shortly after this, Beat purchased his aluminum Fatback, and it wasn't long before I started cheating on Pugsley with Beat's bike. I prefer the Fatback for many reasons — it's lighter, more agile, and seems to fit me better (even though it's Beat's bike.) We discussed it and decided that the chance the two of us will ride snow bikes together, ever, is fairly low at this point. It no longer made sense to keep the Pugsley. So I sent him back to Alaska, where I think he'll be happy in the way bikes can be happy — that is, I'm happy because someone else out there is falling in love with a fat bike.