Winter came on with a blast just before this past weekend. Bitter cold with a few dustings of snow. People think I’m crazy because I get excited about the bitter cold. As an avid winter fatbike rider with over a decade of experience riding winter trails, I know what a good Arctic blast of cold air can do to firm up the trails. Sure you can have fun on winter trails at 20 or 30 degrees fahrenheit, but the really good riding doesn’t start until you get below zero. Minus 10 or minus 20 is even better.
The local mtb club got out with their groomer on Saturday just before the overnight temperature dipped into the high teens below zero. Despite very little base, probably 6 inches or less, the grooming timed with the drop in temps created some nice conditions. I headed out late Sunday morning when the temp was still -7F degrees. The trails were firm, but not perfect. A few more snowfalls and a few more groomings are needed to make great conditions. But after the long warm Fall, it was great to be out in the bitter cold riding snow.
The bitter cold was brief. By Monday it was warming into the low 20’s again. I wasn’t needed at work and had the day off. I managed get out before it warmed up too much. Even though the temps were in the low 20’s, it had been below zero over night. This second night of bitter cold firmed up the groomed trails even more. The conditions had improved overnight. I had a great day of riding with the Brewer Park and Piedmont trails all to myself. Here’s some of the pictures I took Monday.
Today the temps rose to 40F degrees with sunshine. I have to admit the good trail conditions will have disappeared. I will have to wait until another snowstorm and cold temps comes around to get back out on the trails.
Note: Internet access issues prevented me from posting this last evening. I also had more to write. But I’m going to post what I have so you all can enjoy it before the week is over.
Fun entry, Doug. You experience what I’ve been unsure of for years. We get a snow and it’s usually really hard mushing. We don’t have groomed trails and we certainly don’t get groomed ones. So every snow is WORK. But I’m glad I don’t have to have -5F to ride. I’m just not that manly. Good work.
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Seems to be a believe fatbikes are made for deep snow. Every inch of fresh snow makes it exponentially harder to keep the pedals turning over. Regardless, a fatbike is fun winter or summer.
So…as I read this post I wondered what does “good conditions” mean? Is it, as suggested by Tim, when the surface is firmer and doesn’t involve plowing through highly resistant loose stuff? In our rare snow events, it seems as if there is only thick, mushy snow…or ice. Both seem difficult to me.
I had to think about this. What does “good conditions” mean to me? Really I think it’s the opposite of what Tim is riding in, and the type of “wet” snow you get when it snows in Texas. I think it may be the same for skiers. Skiers love powder. The colder it gets the less wet the snow is and more powdery. The powder is harder to groom because it lacks moisture to hold it together. But once it is groomed, or compressed down, and is exposed to sub-zero temperatures it firms up. Even without grooming, very cold dry snow will compact down on it’s own eventually. The more compact, the less you sink into it. In essence, it becomes more like compacted dirt trails. The more it firms up the less resistance to a rolling tire.
Wetter snow at warmer temperatures will also compact. But not as nicely. It can become icy if the temp drops, or in warmer air with sun shining on it can soften significantly. The softer the wet snow, the greasier it gets.
With the extreme temperature range we have here (Tuesday was 57F degrees warmer than it was Sunday morning. -17 to 40F degrees) conditions can change dramatically from one day to the next.