Saturday, December 13, 2014


Back in the winter of '03/'04 I was living near Fairbanks, AK.  Before that winter in Fairbanks winter biking had meant riding the trainer down in the basement.  Previously my lower temperature riding limit was about +20*.  But I ended up falling in with a bunch of winter bikers (including, in a totally unearned bit of extraordinary luck, Rocky Reifenstuhl [though the linked article makes him sound totally badass at the start, further down it states "For all his intensity and racing bravado, though, there was a softer side to Rocky that many people didn’t see. He was a mentor and a teacher and a friend who was willing to share his knowledge about bikes and training and fitness and race strategy, as well as life in general, to anyone who was willing to listen.."  That's the Rocky I remember]).

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that I first fell in love with snowbiking in Fairbanks.  I don't remember ever riding on a groomed trail up there but everyone had snowmachines and the trails were - in general - packed hard.  Which was good because fatbikes weren't yet invented - or at least weren't commonly available (I had never seen one)(Mike Curiak wasn't even riding fat yet)

Because the trails weren't groomed in the they were narrow.  The ride yesterday reminded me of that.  We got a big snow here back in early/mid Nov.  And have gotten just a few small snowfalls and dustings (not more than a couple of inches at a time) since - and while the snowmobile trails are officially open they haven't yet been groomed.  Here's to hoping that they don't.  The trail winds through the trees, and though it's not single track by any stretch, it feels much more intimate than it does after the groomer comes though and makes it so two snowmobiles can pass each other easily.

It was one of those foggy days where the fog frosts the treetops and you almost can't tell where the trees end and the sky begins

Even though the Chequamegon Highlands are not much higher than our place (maybe a few hundred feet) I had no idea that things would be so frosty at the top of the ridge.  They weren't at home when I left and weren't when I got back.

Much of the ride was kinda a pleasure cruise that saw me taking lots of pictures and not really pushing the pace at all.

I had intentionally shorted myself on water - I took enough with me to get me a few hours down the trail and then run out.  I wanted to have to melt some snow.
With ~2 ozs of alcohol I melted enough snow to fill one pot of water (which I dumped in my camelbak) and then since the stove was still burning I melted most of another pot.  But it was +33 - not likely to be the conditions we'll see at Arrowhead.  Though in '13 it was almost that warm - the lowest we saw in the race was +20.  But in '09 it was -25 and in '11, -35.

It's been warm here - mostly in the 20's and even 30's with maybe high teens overnight and I haven't had much chance to test out gear in the really cold weather that I could see at Arrowhead.  It'd actually be really nice (for Arrowhead training - definitely not for our propane bill) if it got really cold (like -25) for a couple of days so I could give things a try in cold weather.  It's one thing to be able to use your gear at +20 but it's quite another to use it at -35 when you're sleep deprived and have 80 miles in your legs already.

Sour gummi worms are my Mike and Ike's

I hopefully won't need to even get out my tool kit in Arrowhead but just in case I do need it I "practiced" today.  I there were times when I needed to tweak my bike and since none of them were a big deal I suppose I could have waited until I got back inside - but I wanted to try out working tools with gloves on.  My slow-leaking rear tire gave me ample opportunity to try out my pump, too.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Less than 2 months


Arrowhead 2015 is less than two months away - the things I would like to do before the start seem to be stacking up.  I'm not super anxious about that since I've finished the race before with the same gear I have now (though I doubt that I'll ever eliminate all anxiety).  But I think there's room for improvement.  

And, of course, I need to ride, ride, ride.  To that end I went for a bit of a ride today.

though the Corridor isn't groomed, the thaw and refreeze have made it hard and fast.  

Fewer snowmobiles have been on the Spur - it was pretty soft.  I took me a few tries but eventually I got my tire pressure low enough so - when I was in my granny gear - I could ride it.  But it was too much of an effort and I soaked my layers

Eventually I made to forest roads that had seen a fair amount of truck traffic this hunting season and were packed smoother than they are in the summer.

Back to civilization at the end of the ride


Last night I went out for a ride well after dark, with hopes that the nearly-full moon would light the way.  There ended up being a thin layer of clouds so moonlight wasn't as intense as it would have been but it was still pretty light and I ended up riding most of the time without having to turn my headlamp on.

The snowmobile trails haven't yet been groomed and are pretty maybe 5 feet wide and have been packed down fairly firmly.  It reminded me of when I used to ride near Fairbanks on similar conditions.  I must say I much prefer the narrower trails to groomed trails - it twists around in the woods.

Earlier this week I received a new alcohol stove that I wanted to test out.  It works on the same principles as do the stoves that dog mushers use in bitter weather.  I have high hopes but haven't had any true cold to really test it.  I'll let you know how it goes.  If I could ditch the Whisperlite I'd be happy to do so - I'd save over a pound and end up with a stove that has no moving parts to fail.  The stove weighs about 2 oz (if you include the pot stand).  We'll see how it goes - I'm not going to take it if it doesn't work in true cold.