Bent Chain Rings and Wacky Weather.

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Doug’s Pug at Kingsbury Creek.

When I last posted I had taken the Pugsley out on a day with some fresh snow. The snow was covering lots and lots of ice left from some thawing and a rain storm. I wrote about taking a couple of falls in the first 3 miles. What I didn’t mention is a third fall later in the ride while walking the bike down a treacherous ice covered descent. My feet slipped out from under me and I fell towards the bike. I ended up falling on the bike with the handlebar¬† grips smashing into my mouth. At first I thought I might have knocked a couple teeth loose and given myself a fat lip. I was sore, but it wasn’t that bad. No loose teeth. It was at that point I decided I’d had enough and headed home.

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Trail along Knowlton Creek on the east side of Spirit Mountain.

On the way home that day I noticed a new noise while pedaling. Sounded like something hitting something else on every revolution of the cranks. At first I was baffled. But then I saw what was causing it. I had bent the bash guard and possibly my outer chain ring. The noise was the chain hitting the adjacent chain ring or bash guard. I’m using a Surly Mr Whirly MWOD crank. It’s set up as a double with a steel inner chain ring and an aluminum outer chain ring and bash guard.

I’m not sure when I bent it. I’m sure it was on one of the falls. I replayed the falls in my head for the next three days. My conclusion was I couldn’t have bent it while falling while riding it. It’s possible my knee made contact with it as I fell on top of the bike when I fell while walking the bike. Although, I keep thinking if I hit it with my knee hard enough to bend it, my knee should be hurting. It’s not, so I’m not 100% sure.?? Before I headed out yesterday I needed to try and bend the rings back. I’ve never had good luck bending aluminum back into shape. But thirty minutes in the basement with the bike in the Park Tool work stand and some bending in the bench vise and I had both the bashguard and the chain ring back close to true. Sometimes my mechanic skills I better then I think they are.

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Kingsbury Creek

Fast forward to yesterday, which was Saturday. We’d had more warm weather this past week followed by some wet snow, followed by temperatures around 0F degrees Thursday night. After eleven winters of fat tire riding on snow, I’ve become quite good at predicting trail conditions. Well, at least until this winter. The wild swings in temperatures this year have really thrown me for a loop. I’m not used to January and February thaws as big as we’ve had. Thaws that completely change the snow pack. I thought for sure after the wet snow followed by dropping temps, the conditions should be fairly crusty.

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Up on Spirit Mountain with the St Louis River below and Lake Superior in the upper left of the picture.

I was wrong. The temperature was approaching 30F degrees and the sun had just come out from behind cloud cover when I left my house. The trails were not crusty at all. These were snow mobile trails, not the local singletrack. I found the trails to be very soft. There had been very little, or no snowmobile traffic. The snowmobiles will compact the fresher snow to some extent. This helps it to firm up with the temperature drop. No such luck. The snow was so loose I was sweating heavily and working hard.

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I ended up taking it easy and enjoying the sunshine and snow. Another warm-up and lots of melting were in store for today. Another wild swing in temperatures with rain for Monday. This time of year you never know when the last ride on snow will be. I try to get out there as much as I can.

Another day, completely different conditions.

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My last post from Saturday had me hesitating to go out because the trail conditions had deteriorated so much from repeated thaws. I decided to get on a bike and see for myself what shape the trails were in. It turned out to be a good ride. Although for from ideal, I was able to ride and enjoy being out.

Yesterday, Sunday, the 50% chance of less than an inch of snow predicted for overnight Saturday night turned into a 100% chance of 3 inches of snow. What a surprise. So I definitely was going to go out for a ride. It was still snowing lightly when I left. By the time the ride was over the skies had cleared. The biggest surprise was not that it snowed as much as it did, but how treacherous the conditions were. I stayed away from the mtb singletrack because the snow was soft and I didn’t wanted to leave ruts. Plus I was concerned about not being to see the icy spots that were covered in fresh snow.

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Wipe-out.

I quickly discovered the paths and snowmobile trails I chose to ride were covered in glare ice. That ice was completely hidden by the fresh snow. In the first 3 miles I went down twice.¬† At that point I turned around and cautiously headed for home. I never felt the need to have studs on my fatbike tires because our winters are typically cold enough we don’t get the repeated freeze/thaw cycles. The freeze/thaw plus the rain we had last week covered everything in ice. Studded tires required.

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Keene Creek

I ended up taking my time getting home and taking some pictures along the way.

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Kingsbury Creek
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Kingsbury Creek

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Less then ideal.

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Is this what they call “popcorn snow”?

A week ago we had near record high temps in the 50’s. Followed by heavy rain on Monday. Heavy rain in February??? The snow at my house completely disappeared with the exception of a few piles. Wednesday night it rained again along the big lake and at my house. But go a 1/4 mile up the hill and there’s a couple inches of new snow on top of some crusty, icy stuff. I heard conflicting rumors of good riding conditions and the opposite. Including a the need for studded tires.

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This was a clear case of just going and finding out for myself. The morning temp was 8F when I got up. It was warming up slowly despite abundant sunshine. I got out after lunch. The temp had only risen to 24F degrees. I assumed everything would be firm. And it was. I went up on the ridge above my house to Brewer Park.

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I found “less then ideal” conditions, but it was still ride-able. I found myself dismounting quite a bit to walk around icy patches. Studded tires would have been nice. I did okay without. More troublesome then the icy spots was stretches where walkers and runners had been on the trail when there was soft conditions. The deep, frozen footprints nearly bounced me off my bike. I had to walk a few sections due to this. Overall I did more walking to get around the footprints frozen in the trail then I did to get around ice. We need to educate all users to stay off the trails during soft conditions.

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I’m so happy I went and found out for myself what conditions where like. It was challenging riding, but I still had fun. I got to enjoy the sunshine and ride my bike through the wooded hillsides overlooking Duluth. That’s a good day.

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The Purple Pug still looks good after so many winters!!!

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Velo Duluth’s New Year’s Day ride 2017.

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I can’t remember how long I’ve been attending this New Year’s Day Ride. I reckon I started going around 2004 or 2005. I’ve gone every year since, with one exception. I missed 2009 because I was recovering from surgery for a shattered humerus bone in my right arm.¬† The ride dates back 35 or 40 years. Originally being a road ride. This year they added the option of a road ride or a fat tire ride on the local mtb trails due to the growing popularity of fat tire bikes. Since I spent the previous two days on my fatbike and was feeling the efforts, I opted for the traditional road ride.

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Velo Duluth is a bicycling club that has gone mostly dormant. I still pay my membership fee every year. It gets me an in-store 15% discount off parts purchased at Twin Ports Cyclery. This years ride attracted a modest group of around 12 or 14 riders. The temperature was a balmy 30F degrees. Unusually high. I started the ride with a small group of six. The plan was to head towards Canal Park and then out to Park Point. A nice 15 mile round trip. I ended up bailing on the group in Canal Park and heading home. My gut hasn’t felt right since the middle of last week. I was enjoying being out on the bike, but needed to be setting my own pace.

I was joking with Susan the day before. I was mentioning I was going to the ride. These days it is often the only group ride I do all year long. As an introvert, I joked, I try to get that group ride thing checked off the list on the first day of the year. Then I can say I’ve done my group ride for the year. It helps lower my social anxiety for the next 364 days.

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Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota.

It was a beautiful day to be out on a bike. Sunshine and “warm” temps. The street conditions were exactly what my A-train Super Commuter was designed for. Lots of sloppy slush, salt and sand with patches of ice.

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Duluth side streets.

The side streets are mostly covered in an inch of ice from the Christmas Day rain/snow/sleet storm. On top of the ice is a nasty mixture sand, salt, and slush. The A-train’s belt drive, Rohloff IGH hub, disc brakes, and stainless steel frame are impervious to this bicycle-eating concoction. It’s a dream to ride in these conditions.

Happy New Year to all the reader’s of this blog.

Weekend report: First snowy rides of the season.

 

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The same spot one week apart.

I look forward to winter. I keep saying the funnest riding I do all year is the riding I do on snow with my Surly Pugsley in snow. I get giddy when the forecast calls for a snow storm. This year we had a very warm November. A very late frost, perhaps a record late frost. The wait for snow has been much longer than normal. But when the weather did change, it was abrupt. The two pictures above were taken from the same spot one week apart. Open water in one, snow covered ice in the other. I’ve been giddy. Saturday we had just enough snow to make it feel like snowbiking. I hit the MTB trails in my neighborhood. The temperature was 10F/12C degrees. That definitely made it feel like winter, finally.

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There were other fatbikers out on the trails on Saturday as well. I remember when I bought my Pugsley, I rode all winter for 6 years before I saw another fatbike on the local trails I was using. What a change.

Sunday we had fresh snow when I woke up and light snow all day. By time I got out on the trails in the afternoon there was a powdery 2″ layer of the fresh stuff. I decided to avoid the MTB specific trails and ride some of the neighborhood multi-use trails. Mostly for a change of scenery from the Saturday ride. Some of these trails are snowmobile trails once there is enough snow. Right now there’s not enough for the snowmobiles to use the trails. To keep this short the rest of this post will be a picture post from my Sunday ride.

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So good to have the winter season underway. If this would turn out to be a cold winter we could have snow on the ground until April. That’s a lot of snow bike rides to look forward to.

Fresh legs.

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In town gravel riding.

The past three or four years I’ve been having an increasingly harder time recovering from rides. All my life I’ve always struggled with recovery. I’m not a natural athlete to begin with, yet I have an ability to push beyond my limits. When I do go beyond my limits I take longer than most people to come back. For the ten years prior to 2015 I rode the most miles I’ve ever ridden in my life. I rode between 5,000 and 8,500 miles a year. To do this kind mileage I used a strategy of consistency. I rode 6 or 7 days a week, every week. I didn’t do a lot of big miles days, I just rode often. I felt like I was always in recovery mode. After ten years of this it took a toll on me. So last year I didn’t set any mileage goals and simply rode less. Since I don’t own a car I use my bikes for transportation. This meant I still rode a bike most days. I cut down on my pleasure rides due to not always feeling good.

Now with a new job and a new commute, only 3 miles, I find the commute is not as taxing. Even more so because of certain logistical problems of this commute I have been taking the bus to work most days. To get home I’ve been taking the bus or walking. My work site situation and my required work attire lend itself better to a walk than to a bike ride. The only exception is the use of my Brompton on a few days when the weather has been nicer.

All this to say, when the weekend comes around I find my legs are especially fresh and ready for some serious riding. It’s so different having fresh legs. It makes me realize it’s been years since my legs have felt good for a weekend ride!!! I seriously feel like I’ve been consistently in recovery mode for……forever! What a delight to ride along without effort, tackle hills like I don’t need to save anything for the next day and just enjoy riding along without that dead feeling in my legs. It’s wonderful.

As you might have noticed in the above picture it’s still winter here. We had a cold week with light snowfall on most of the days. In some locations it added up to several inches of snow. The promise of an early Spring with a 60degF Saturday four weeks ago didn’t hold up. That’s life in Northeastern Minnesota.

Winter again!

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Our current weather cycle of almost Spring, followed by Winter….and repeat, continues. The snow from a winter storm earlier in the week was gone by yesterday. The city had the street cleaners out sweeping up a winter’s worth of sand. It was looking more like Spring again. Today we woke to another 2 inches of wet snow. Flurries continued to fall all day long.

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The temperature rose to barely above the freezing mark. The wind was that bone chilling damp wind coming off the Big Lake. And the snow flakes were as wet as rain. Not much to draw one outside. Regardless I knew any ride was better than staying cooped up inside. I finally got motivated late in the day to get out for a short ride.

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I had a realization today. When the weather is like this, damp windy cold, I tend to choose a route with a good amount of climbing. Climbing keeps me warm. So that’s what I did today as well. Only 14 miles, but I climbed over 1300 feet total during the ride. Here’s my route today: //ridewithgps.com/trips/8286132/embed

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During a normal winter I would still be running studded tires. I took them off a few weeks ago when we started warming up faster than other years. Today was a bit sketchy without the studs. Not to the point that it was scary. It required more attention to my speed, stopping distances and taking corners. The temp dropped to freezing during my ride. Between that and the fresh sand on the roads I didn’t take the downhills at my regular speed. I definitely didn’t want to do any panic stops while descending. The wet roads with sand combined with a bike that has disc brakes that tend to lock up in conditions like this made it a day not to push my luck.

As always. Once I got home I was glad I got out for a ride despite the less than ideal conditions.

 

One of my favorite winter biking accessories.

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I’ve spent the last 12 years learning to commute in every weather scenario Mother Nature could throw at me. I’ve commuted in temperature extremes from -32degF to 104degF. In torrential rain, ice storms, snow storms, a few blizzards, and high winds. I’ve learned what works for me in terms of equipment, clothing and accessories. For example (above), my first Gates Belt drive + IGH experiment. I often write about equipment and clothing. However, there are accessories I use everyday I seem to overlook or take for granted. This post is about one of them.

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My favorite accessory item came about to solve an issue I was having with my heavy winter gloves, and to some extent my winter riding boots. On a typical winter day I would adjust how I would dress for the day based on the morning weather. During the seasonal swing months of March and April it’s not unusual to have a temperature differences of 20 or 30 degrees from morning to afternoon. Often this would mean I would be appropriately dressed for the morning commute and overdressed for the afternoon commute. I could easily leave off a layer on my torso, legs, and head. This was not always an option for my hands or feet. I would wear the same gloves home even if they were too warm. This meant my hands would perspire and the gloves would absorb this perspiration. The next morning I would find the gloves did not dry completely. The inside of the gloves would be wet and clammy.

I had a similar issue with boots or shoes. During the Spring melt or during rain storms there is only so much water even the best fenders can stop. Fenders are great for keeping the water and grit off most of you. But feet aren’t always protected from even the longest fenders. Water spray can come around the fender and still soak your feet. Water can seep in the top of boots and shoes as well. Again, the same as the gloves, I would find my boots not drying completely overnight.

And then I found this on the REI website:

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It’s the DryGuy Boot dryer. It’s been redesigned a bit since I bought mine. But is essentially the same item. I really had a hard time with the price point. I tried a couple different boot dryers in the $15-$20 range. They barely worked. They didn’t have a heated setting and neither lasted an entire year. I finally broke down and bought the DryGuy several years ago. It has become my most used winter accessory off the bike. Sure it dried my wet and damp boots and gloves. No more clammy gloves or boots in the morning. It also stopped any bacteria growth and increased the time between washings on my gloves.

The biggest plus of buying this boot dryer was something I never thought about. I keep all my gloves and boots in our basement. The temperature of our basement in the winter is about 55degF. Or more like 52degF for the boots sitting on the floor. Putting on boots that are 52 degrees to ride in much colder conditions doesn’t give your feet much chance of staying warm. I used to bring the boots upstairs every morning and set them next to the hot air register to warm them up. After buying the DryGuy I started putting my boots and gloves on it about 30 minutes before leaving for work in the morning. What a difference it made leaving the house with warm boots and gloves. Now I always leave the house with warm hands and feet. My feet and hands stay warmer longer when starting out with warmed gloves and boots. You’re not expending any of your heat to warm the items you’re wearing. I can’t even imagine putting on cold gloves and boots now.

 

When I began this blog I started to write my series of posts on Fourth Season Skills. So far I’ve only written three posts. I hope to continue this series despite the fact that many of you are experiencing Spring-like weather. Look for them throughout the month of March.

Determined to ride.

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This time of year, mid-February, I am normally enjoying the best snowbiking of the year. Usually there is a base of accumulated snow 2-3 feet deep. The trails have been packed in for six or eight weeks and we would be experiencing the coldest temps of the season. Last weekend we were seeing less snow then normal, but we had a cold spell that firmed things up. And then this week happened. Above freezing day time temps. That is rare. Rain yesterday and today. And the world was engulfed in thirty different shades of gray.

I really needed to get out for a ride. So I dressed for the conditions and headed out. It was 36degF/2degC. The first half of the ride was rain.The second half was mixed rain and snow. Less than ideal conditions. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years is, it’s how to dress for less than ideal conditions. I chose a route that would help to generate warmth. If you click on the link you can see an elevation profile.

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It’s a route which includes quite a bit of climbing. Nothing gets me heated up more than climbing. The first 5 miles was relatively flat. The next 13 miles were mainly uphill. Or at least it seemed like all I was doing was climbing. It had just enough breaks in the climbing to keep me from overheating too much. I tried to take some roads that aren’t part of my usual route to keep things more interesting. I passed a lot of historic homes. Something I enjoy looking at.

Here’s another 10 minute look from the rear of my bike of my ride. Recorded with a Cycliq Fly6. It’s starts at the stone archway from the picture at the top of the post.

Another good example of the incredibly nasty and cruddy streets we have during the winter. The rain is turned into salt water from all the winter salt on the streets. It turns the sand into a cruddy mess. The best part is having my A-train Ultimate Commuter to ride. The internally geared hub combined with the belt drive just laughs off these component eating conditions. It helped turn a ride in awful conditions into a pleasant mid-winter ride. I’m looking forward to more tomorrw.

The worst conditions to ride in….

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I’ve always said if I had a choice of two different conditions to ride, one being -15degF and dry or 35degF and raining, which would I pick. If the only criteria was the temperature, obviously I’d pick the warmer of the two. Add rain into the equation at the warmer temperature and there is no doubt. I’d pick the -15degF hands down.

Why? I can dress to stay warm at -15. No matter how you dress for 35 and raining, the longer you stay out the higher the chance the dampness and cold is going to penetrate whatever you wear. You are bound to get chilled at some point. It is the most miserable conditions to ride in.

I really wanted to get out for a ride today. Guess what kind of weather we were having? Thirty-five degrees and rain mixed with snow. I have a hard time getting motivated for a leisurely ride in this type of weather. After putting it off most of the afternoon, I finally got myself out the door about an hour before sunset. I kept it short, just over an hour. Just like a hundred times before. The conditions weren’t ideal, but I somehow enjoyed the ride.

Here’s a Cycliq Fly6 rearview of 10 minutes of the ride. You can see the cruddy road conditions. Muddy puddles you can’t see the bottom of, wetness and sand everywhere. This type of nasty road conditions is what we normally have tin the months of March and April. It’s a bit earlier this year. Conditions my belt drive commuter bike just laughs at. No cleaning necessary!

 
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