Yesterday I started work at 5 am. An unusually early start time for me. The good news was I able to get in an 8 hour work day and be home before 2 o’clock. Hmmm, what to do? Bike ride of course. I had enjoyed my trail ride on my Pugsley earlier in the week so much, I decided to try that again. I lack any serious mountain bike skills. I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve ridden summer trails on my Pugsley. My only “mountain bike”. Well, I do have the 80’s Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I don’t normally think of that bike as my mountain bike because I’ve used it for just about everything but mountain biking over the years.
I decided midday and mid-week biking on the trails would allow for the least amount of run ins with other bikers. I ride really slow and they always catch me. Then I get self-conscious about my lack of mountain biking skills and do something really embarrassing like riding off the trail or not making it up a tiny little rock without putting a foot down.
Turns out I didn’t see any other bikers, or hikers for that matter, at all. I really enjoyed the trails yesterday. I think I might try riding them more often. The trail you see above is a mile and half from my house. It was built in late 2014. In the next few years an access trail from neighborhood is supposed to be built through a new park at the end of my block. So I will be able to ride these trails practically from my front door. I don’t think the Pugs is the best tool for this job. But for now I’m having a great time learning to ride some of this fantastic local single track on it.
Today I was able to get out again in the late afternoon. This time is was a quick out and back on the local rail trail. All but the first and last mile was on a paved trail.
It wasn’t a perfect day because it was slightly on the hot side for me. But it was nearly a perfect day for being out on a ride. It wasn’t energy sapping hot and not humid at all. In fact I felt surprisingly energetic. I felt like I could have ridden a few more hours if time wasn’t an issue.
I’m glad I got out and enjoyed the beautiful summer days the past two days. Once we’re in the middle of the warm season, it’s easy to forget it doesn’t last long in this part of the country. Most of the year it is a rare thing to be able to get out and be able to stop during a ride and not get cold. Looking forward to more days like these over the next two months.
I’ve been following a couple of events the past few weeks. A very exciting overall win by Lael Wilcox yesterday in the Trans Am Bike Race was beyond exciting.
The Tour Divide is also going on right now. Mike Hall is an amazing endurance athlete and has led the race from the beginning. Currently, as I write this, in second place is Chris Plesko from Colorado. Not only has Chris held second place for more than half the race, he is doing it on a single speed bicycle. He is trying, and most likely will succeed, at breaking the Single Speed Tour Divide record he set in 2009. Mike Hall’s performance is nothing short of amazing in this years race. Equally so, I have to say, is Chris Plesko’s outstanding performance on a single speed. He is within a day or so of the overall record for the route. You know, set on a multi-geared bicycle. Too many amazing performances to wrap my head around. Keep it going Chris!!!
The picture is one I took of Chris when he stayed at my house in January 2010 on his way to race the Arrowhead Ultra 135 in Northern Minnesota. And of course, it was on this single-speed Ti Fatback. I remember being thrilled to see the Surly Larry tire he had mounted on the front. It had very recently been released and was still hard to get. It was the first time I’d seen a Larry in person. Up until then the Surly Endomorph was the only tire available for fatbikes. Here Chris is still running an Endomorph on the back wheel. How times have changed. He also had a nice full-set of Epic Design bags and pogies. This is before Epic became Revelate Designs. I think Eric, the owner, was still doing most of the sewing himself back in 2010. You can see the fit of the frame bag is custom to follow the bend in the top tube. Nice!
In June of 2006 I asked my LBS to order me a strange new frame from Surly, some fat rims, and some strange fat tires. In 2007 Surly was the only company offering a fatbike. And you could only get it as a frame. Surly made the only fatbike rims, the 65mm wide Large Marge rims. And Surly made the only tire for fat bikes. The 3.7 Endomorph. If you wanted a fatbike the Pugsley was the only option from any bike manufacturer. I remember my biggest concern about spending money on one of these new fatbikes was if I was going to be able to get replacement tires and parts down the line if they didn’t catch on. I guess the opposite has happened.
Here’s pictures from the day it arrived at my LBS back in 2006:
Most bike shops in the summer of 2006 had never heard of a fatbike. If they had heard of it, they had never seen one in person. This was the first one my local bike shop owner had seen. Word around town was mine was the second one sold in Duluth. An employee at another bike shop had the first one.
Why did I get one? I first saw pictures of a Pugsley on the Surly website sometime in early 2006. They had first started selling Pugsley frames in 2005. From the moment I laid my eyes on a picture of one, I got it. I understood the possibilities of a bike with fat tires. Mainly I was thinking about snow. I love bikes and I love snow. A bike that you could ride in snow was the best idea I had come across in a long time. I wanted one. I had to have one. At the time I had never spent more then $1200 on a bicycle. The ballpark figure to build up a Pugsley at the time was $2000. For awhile that was a deal breaker for me. In order to rationalize the purchase I decided I would attempt riding the Arrowhead 135. The best commercially available bike for that event at the time was a Surly Pugsley. I entered the race in 2007 and 2008. I DNF’d in 2007. I came back in 2008 and finished in 12th place.
I was satisfied with my 2008 race. I haven’t gone back. I’m not one to repeat the same events over and over. What I did do is ride my Pugsley all winter every winter. I estimate I’ve ridden over 7,500 miles on snow in the first ten years of owning my Pugsley. It’s the funnest riding I do all year. I absolutely love it. I also commute on it some days. I use it for days when there is an active snow event happening and for extreme cold rides. My coldest commute to date was on the Pugsley at -32F degrees (-60F with the windchill).
A few winter pictures:
More than 90% of the miles on my Pugsley are winter miles, off-road, on snow. I rarely ride it in seasons other than winter. One memorable ride that wasn’t a winter ride was my first bikepacking trip in June of 2007. Of course, it wasn’t called bikepacking back in 2007. It was just camping. But this particular trip was an overnight trip mostly off-road. It was a 132 mile round trip to the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin and back. It was a really fun trip I thought I’d repeat, but it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s pics from that trip:
I had mostly forgotten about the 10 year milestone of owning this bike. I remembered it this past weekend. I thought it’d be a good idea to get the winter salt finally washed off. The last ride on it was in the snow. Today I cleaned it up and took it out on some local single track.
For the past few years I’ve been itching to upgrade to a newer fatbike. But today I had a blast riding my Pugsley…..just like every other time I’ve ridden it. We’ve been through so many good times and adventures, I’m not sure I can let it go and replace it. It’s a damn fun bike, and always has been. Happy Birthday Pugsley.
It’s the weekend, we’re having some of the warmest weather of the year. I felt drawn to cross the river into Wisconsin for some reason. Maybe the thought of crossing over the river on one of the local high bridges would seem cooling in our hot weather we’re having. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t able to get across the river by bike last summer because the bridge was being refurbished and the pedestrian/bike way was closed all summer and into the fall. I’m not sure what the pull was. It was strong enough to coax me across the river both days.
Today’s ride was to be extra slow. The temperature reached an incredible 91F/32C degrees while I was out today. You have to realize how hot that is for us Duluthians. There are entire summers where the temperature never reaches the 90 degree mark. Just four days ago we had a high temp of 51F degrees. Forty degrees cooler than today. I acclimatize to hot weather very slow. But, I did pretty well in the heat yesterday when it was only about 5 degrees cooler. So I took it slow and drank water constantly.
My destination for today was the Superior Municipal Forest. I’m not sure of the history of it, but it appears to be older growth woods. The forest lines the bays and inlets along the St Louis River. There’s a nice gravel road that winds it’s way through the forest and in and out of the bays. Here’s my route for today: //ridewithgps.com/trips/9542772/embed
This gate is usually open during the summer. The gravel road doesn’t look like it’s received any maintenance since winter. We’ve had a lot of rain. Maybe they’ve been waiting for it to dry out a bit before grading the gravel.
What it meant for me was a lack of any other humans. Not a soul to be seen. It was almost eerie being in the middle of a city and not seeing another person. I felt like I was in the middle of a wilderness far away from any cities.
About halfway though the forest roads I started to feel the effects of the heat. I had to take the short gravel uphills quite slow to avoid feeling light headed. I slowed my pace and kept the fluids coming.
Despite the crazy heat, I had a wonderful 20 mile ride. No traffic to speak of and very few people. Even when I wasn’t in the municipal forest.
With the exception of a couple of aggressive deer flies, I didn’t have to worry about bugs today. High winds kept the bugs down. Sustained speeds over 20 mph with gusts much higher. It was so high on the bridge coming back I had to get off and walk the bike for about a mile. I know from past experience it has to be over 45 mph gusts to get me to dismount on the bridge.
I’ll leave you with another picture of my A-train on a fishing pier in Superior, Wisconsin.
There are a few days every year which seem about perfect. It happens most often in the late Spring or early Fall. Today was one of those days. Weather has a lot to do with making a day perfect. Maybe today seemed extra perfect because yesterday was far from it. It was rainy, foggy, and windy. The temp clawed it’s way to only 51F/11C degrees and stalled there. Today started out looking the same. It was 47F/8C degrees with dense fog on my way to work. But then the fog started to lift and break up. By 2:30 pm, when I got off work, it was cloudless with a crisp blue sky, a light wind coming off the very cold Lake Superior, and 71F/22C degrees. I rushed home, turned around and went back out for a leisurely ride. I tried to soak up as much of the bright sunshine as I could. It seemed so incredibly bright today. Perhaps it felt that way because yesterday was so dark and rainy.
The route included rail trail, gravel, paved roads, two fairly big climbs….and all was within the city limits of Duluth.
I normally shoot all my pictures with an old Canon Elph pocket camera. Today I took all the pictures you see here with my iPhone. I haven’t taken many pictures with the smartphone. This was the first ride I shot entirely with the phone. I kinda like the way they turned out. Again…..perhaps it was the perfect day.
As I was brewing up a fresh cup of Lapsang Souchong tea this morning, I decided to write a new blog post about cycling in all four seasons. I posted this on my Salty Pedaler blog this morning. You can see it here.
While I tend to go biking when going solo, which is most of the time, Susan and I go hiking when we do something together. We’ve been trying to get out together more often this year. Yesterday turned out to be a hiking day. It started out to be just about perfect weather. Much cooler than the day before. The temp being about 20 degrees colder. The forecast was calling for a 15% chance of rain. We figured that meant a 85% chance of no rain. The reality turned out to be the exact opposite. Luckily we’ve lived here long enough to know you can’t trust the weather forecast. We packed along some rain gear and warmer clothes.
Our chosen destination was a newer stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail. The most southern section currently built. Most of it is inside a State Park. It covers a rugged, densely wooded corner of the park that is not used. Prior to this section of trail being put in a few years ago, there was no development in this corner of the park. We did an out-and-back hike lasting just over three hours. We did not see another human the entire time. We did see some large black bear prints in a muddy section of the trail. No pictures because I had my camera buried in my day pack because of the rain. And yes, that 15% chance of rain turned into a 30 minute thunderstorm.
Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy the forest during a rain storm. It smells so nice. All the dripping water and wetness makes everything seem to lush and green. I mentioned to Susan I would rather be out in 58F degrees and rainy then 85F degrees and buggy. She agreed. It was a good day to be out in the forest.
This blog is about riding in ALL four seasons. It may be no surprise to many of you winter ranks really high for me. But, fantastic rides can happen in any season. Mid-June can be a really good time as well. I most likely love winter so much because my body is more suited to winter climates. I don’t do well in hot, humid weather. One reason we live in Northeastern Minnesota near Lake Superior is because the summers are very mild. We don’t get the high humidity and high heat index numbers for more than a dozen days each summer. Some years we get none at all.
Right now we’re approaching summer. We’ve had lots of rain. The leaves have been fully out only for about three weeks. And everything is green, green, green, and growing like mad.
It was a wonderful weekend day to get on a longish ride in the country. I did a mix of low traffic roads with wide shoulders and rail trails.
I took my Ellis Cycle. It was designed for light touring and long rides in the country. Really. That’s exactly what I asked Dave Wages to create for me when building this bike. Since there is always a chance of having to take a stretch of gravel to get from A to B in these parts I also requested clearance for 32mm tires with fenders. This was back in 2008 when running a road bike with a tire wider than 28mm wasn’t a thing yet. Or I should say it was just starting to come back. Regardless, it’s a great bike for this type of riding.
I always take a break on this old railroad trestle over a dramatic gorge on the St Louis River. I watched some young people testing their level of invincibility by doing some cliff jumping.
That’s my Blue Truck/Xtracycle locked to the giant carrot. When the local co-op opened this second store in March less then 1 mile from my house it cut down on my long tail biking miles. The other store is 6 miles and one big climb away from my house.
Food shopping at the co-op makes up a large portion of what I use this cargo bike for. The new store is walking distance. For small purchases I walk to the store.
One of the other errands I’ve been using the Blue Truck/Xtracycle for during the summer months is picking up our weekly CSA farm share. This was what motivated me to build the cargo bike 9 years ago. The first summer farm share is next Monday. Our pick up location for the past 11 years has been located three miles away. I would combine the pick up with my commute. This year we have a new pick up location. It’s less than a mile away. Again, fewer miles for the cargo bike.
I have to admit it’s sad to be putting fewer miles on the cargo bike. On the other hand I’m thrilled to have more access to these kind of services within one mile of my home.
The title of this post came from a comment on the above picture from a long time viewer of my Flickr account. I have to agree. If I were to dive into my archived pictures on my computer over the past 12 years, I would most likely find 100’s of photos taken from this spot. Far more than any other spot I took regular pictures from. For 12 years it was on my route I took to and from work. This commute was done by bicycle everyday, in all four seasons for all of those 12 years. I can tell you from experience, “this view never gets old”.
It never looks the same. The colors change with the weather. The water changes color with the seasons. The sky never looks the same two days in a row. Even the fog looks different from day to day. The view from this spot would routinely stop me in my tracks. I would always pull out the camera to try and capture the moment as it was happening. Once I got home and uploaded the pictures to my computer, they would never look quite the same as they did in person. I would be disappointed over and over again when I realized the photos didn’t capture what I had seen in person earlier in the day. I learn this lesson over and over, again and again.
This is no longer on my commute to work. With a change in jobs came a change in my route. Yet, I am still drawn to this spot even though I have seen this view from the seat of my bike twice a day on 3,000 previous days. Yesterday I headed out for a short ride on a nice day after getting out of work early. Where to go? I let the day and the bike decide. I ended up here once again unable to ride by this spot without stopping to take in the sweeping view and snap a few photos. Hoping to capture the view I was seeing in person.