Two days and 5 hours of time spent outside on my Pugsley. I keep saying every winter it’s the funnest riding I do all year. This winter’s riding is no different. We’ve lacked much snowfall, we’ve had just enough to keep the ground white. There have been many nights well below zero degrees Fahrenheit this winter. That has helped what snow we do have to become really firm. It’s taken most of the winter to get a decent base on the trails I ride. Finally this weekend, it all came together to make for some really great snowbiking.
And great views thanks to some sunny days. With the temperature below zero at night and creeping into the mid-teens (15F/-9C) during the day, it made for some of my favorite winter weather. At 15F degrees the snow is not wet and the trails stay firm. After many below zero rides, 15 feels warm.
Sunday I went in a different direction and rode a network of non-bike specific trails out to one of my favorite overlooks, Bardons Peak.
The trail conditions were super fast. I normally have my fat tires inflated to 3-7 psi for snow riding. Today I was running them at 11 psi. It felt like I was flying over the snow.
While everyone else if hoping for a quick end to winter, I’m hoping these conditions hang in until April. There’s been several years I’ve been able to ride snow until mid-April. Maybe it will happen this year as well.
It’s been nearly 6 months, and two seasons have passed since I last wrote a blog post. What has motivated me to put down some words and pictures after all this time? I’ll tell what. I got the E-receipt for renewing the domain name for this blog. I figured I better use it considering it’s costing me the price of a new bicycle chain of moderate quality.
The pictures are going to look the same. We are in the midst of a wonderful winter. I’ve been doing my favorite winter activity, riding snowy trails on my Pugsley. Hard to believe I’m in the middle of my 12th winter of riding on my beloved purple Pugsley. I’ve gone from being an early adopter of fatbikes to an old guy riding around on an old relic from the early days of fatbiking. But WOW, have I had fun on my one and only fatbike. I’ve ridden it more than 10,000 miles on snow alone. Ten years ago to the day today, Feburary 5, 2008, I rode it to a 12th place finish in the Arrowhead Ultra 135. One of my proudest, and toughest, accomplishments.
That was the last time I raced it. Nowadays it’s what gets me out in the woods in the winter. It’s where I love to be.
Most of the times I’ve had on this bike have been wonderful. There was one mishap the Saturday before Christmas that wasn’t so fun. I’m running an old Surly Larry tire on the front of this bike. It worked plenty good enough for the snowmobile trails I used to ride. Now I’m spending more time riding singletrack trails. I can’t push this tire when going around snow covered berms. It has a tendency to wash out. That’s exactly what happened to me on that Saturday a couple of months ago. I went down fast and hard. Landing on my side. I felt intense pain when I went to stand up. And when I tried to start riding again. I’ve cracked a rib before. This is what it felt like. Intense pain with every breathe. I continued to ride along in a lot of pain. After about 20 minutes the pain subsided a bit to where I could take a deep enough breathes to keep going.
I had either cracked a rib or bruised it quite bad. Here’s the kicker. Exactly one week later I was out for a ride and the darn tire washed out on me again on a berm. I landed hard on the same side. Talk about pain!!! I was injured enough that I couldn’t laugh or breathe in very much for a good six weeks. Only in the last few days have I finally been pain free. I still got out on the bike, and I did some cross-country skiing as well. It was all done with a certain degree of pain happening for the duration of the activity. Getting out of bed was quite difficult as well. At least I was still able to get out and take advantage of the nice winter conditions.
My plan is to start blogging again. Perhaps a goal of once a week when I have something interesting to share would be something to shoot for.
Wow, I didn’t realize it’s been three months since my last post. It wasn’t intentional. Sometimes I need a mental break from sharing my life. It’s nice to ride and not think about my next blog post.
In terms of riding bikes, this summer has been different than any summer prior to it. I’m no longer commuting by bike. It’s still a hard adjustment to make. I loved my daily bike commute, in all weather. My rides now are almost all leisure rides. The past two months I’ve ridden only three of my five bikes. My Pugsley, my Brompton, and my Xtracycle. With the abundance of new mountain bikes trails being built in my neighborhood, I’ve been learning to be a mountain biker with my fatbike. Riding after work I much prefer to be out in the woods on the fatbike than riding in traffic on the roads. It’s so much more relaxing.
Friday evening Susan had other commitments so I had the evening to myself. I wanted to go ride some trails. The mtn bike trails weren’t really an option due to all the rain we’ve been having. We didn’t always have mountain bike trails in my part of town. This has only happened in the past 1-5 years. There’s always been lots of unofficial trails in the open spaces and woods in town. Many of them have been there for years, are hard-packed and more immune to rainy periods. I decided to string together a loop containing a mixture of rail trail, abandoned railroad right-of-ways, gravel roads, and neighborhood trails. The pictures are in order, but I didn’t stop and take pictures of everything.
The trail curves to the right in a horseshoe fashion eventually leading to the tunnel under Ely’s Peak.
I’ve been coming to the tunnel for 12 years. It used to be spooky because I never used to see anybody here. But it’s become more popular as more people learn about about. I’ve never saw anybody else here until two year ago. Now I see several groups of people every time I come out to it. Eventually it will become part of the local trail system.
This intersects Skyline Parkway where it meets Beck’s Road. I turned onto Skyline and headed back towards home. The western portion of Skyline Parkway is gravel.
We’ve been in a rainy, wet period of weather the past week. Everything is getting really soggy. We haven’t seen much of the sun. Now that I’ve become more of a recreational cyclist than a ride-everyday-commuter-cyclist, I don’t have to wake up everyday with the prospect of a very wet commute. I also don’t have as much motivation to get out and ride when there is pouring rain, gusty winds and temps not much above the freezing mark. That was the case Saturday.
Saturday I ended up getting quite a bit of things done around the house. Sunday was looking the same. It changed around 3 pm. There appeared there was gong to be a brief break in the rain. The winds were calmer than on Saturday and the temperature crossed up over the 40F degree mark.
I really was feeling the need to get out on the bike. I took advantage of this break in the rain and got out. I put on my new Angry Catfish/Northern Frameworks cycling cap. Jumped on the bike and headed towards the lake front. I rode my A-train built by Alex Cook, the same builder who now works under the name Northern Frameworks. A house brand for Angry Catfish.
I didn’t totally escape the rain. It was starting to mist fairly heavy the last few miles. But as always, once I’m out on a bike for a ride I rarely regret it. And I almost always enjoy the ride.
Susan and I tend to spend many of our weekends at home. I do my bike rides from home and she splits her time doing fiber projects and sewing inside, or gardening outside when we have nice weather. This weekend we did road trips both days.
First up was our Spring maintenance check of our section of the Superior Hiking Trail. It’s an adopt a trail section volunteer thing. I say “our section” because we are starting our 16th year with the same section. The trail itself has only been around for 31 years. To get to the trail we drive about 90 miles up the North Shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to Schroeder, MN.
The title of this post mentions three seasons. The first two seasons we experienced on Saturday. Too our surprise there was more then the usual snow still hanging around on the trail this year. Strange considering the mild winter we had only 90 miles away in Duluth. It’s the most Spring snow we’ve seen in all the years we’ve been doing this.
The second season we experienced was Spring. The forest flower was sporting many wildflowers. The trees had yet to leave out here. Ninety miles away in Duluth the leaves were 3/4’s of the way out.
The section we maintain starts at the Cross River and follows it for nearly two miles. It feels remote and the only access is by foot. It has many drops in elevation as its waters race towards Lake Superior. It’s always a beautiful walk along this wild river.
Along with 7 miles of hiking I also got in a bike ride. I drop Susan and our maintenance gear off at the trailhead we will start from. I then drive to the trailhead we will end at. Drop off the car and ride the bike back to where Susan is. I hide the bike in the woods. We pick it up after we’re all done hiking. It works quite well.
The weather was about as good as we could ask for. Light winds, sunny, and a temp in the mid-50’s. Perfect for hiking and trail work.
Susan likes to attend the Shepard’s Harvest Festival when she can. It’s an annual sheep and wool festival held down near the Twin Cities in Lake Elmo, Minnesota at the Washington County Fairgrounds. It happens to be near a St Paul suburb I lived in for 8 years in the 90’s and also a couple of years in the 80’s. I spent many years bicycling around the area. I decided to accompany Susan for the ride down. I brought along my Brompton so I could get a ride in while she spent time at the festival.
The Brompton fits nicely in the “boot” of our car.
The weather forecast was for 82F degrees, low humidty and light winds. Much like summer conditions for those of us from Duluth. Warmer than I prefer but tolerable. I hadn’t ridden in anything warmer than upper 50’s so far this year. I dropped Susan off at the Fairgrounds and drove 3 or 4 miles to a trailhead along the Gateway Trail. It’s an 18 mile long rail trail that starts in St Paul near the State Capital building and travels easterly and then north through St Paul suburbs and then into the country. It ends at a regional park.
I used to live a few blocks from the trail. In the early 90’s it was still an abandoned rail right-of-way. The rails, ties and ballast had all been removed. The surface was dirt and grass in most places. The only users were dog walkers and local horse owners. Back in 1991 I was given a 1988 Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I had never ridden a mountain bike. I started taking it our for rides on the future Gateway Trail. I think it was in 1993 or 1994 when they paved it and made it into an official trail. I was thrilled. I put hundreds of miles of riding in on that trail. I know every inch of it. I also spent two years doing it on rollerblades when I developed tendonitis in my arms and was told to stop riding my bike.
Today was a bit of a return to my old stompin’ grounds. It’s changed some. I didn’t see any one on rollerblades. Back in the 90’s about 50% of the users were on rollerblades. Today I saw more bicyclists in a couple of hours than I would see in a month back then. It’s really caught on. And there’s been a few improvements like two bridges and one underpass where there used to be surface level crossings of major road crossings.
A new connector trail, Brown’s Creek State Trail that joins the Gateway Trail to Stillwater, MN and the St Croix River. It’s a 5.9 mile rail trail that was not here when I last rode the Gateway. These rail lines used to connect St Paul to Duluth. That’s why there’s a “Duluth Junction” 140 miles away from Duluth.
After the ride I picked up Susan and we made the drive back to Duluth. When we arrived in the Lake Superior Basin the temperature of 50F. 32 degrees cooler than what we had left behind in the Twin Cities. The wind was blowing off the cold lake with 20-30 mph gusts.
I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my old “neighborhood” as well as a trip up the shore of Lake Superior. What a wonderful weekend Susan and I had together.
Our Spring here in the Northland arrives later than many places in the lower 48 states. One way to know when it has finally arrived is by noticing when I bring out the bikes I don’t use in the winter. Sometimes that happens in March and sometimes later. This year I’ve been enjoying riding my all-weather A-train, so that has slightly delayed the emerging of my “summer” bikes. This weekend I had the itch to ride my other bikes. I took out two bikes in two days that I haven’t ridden yet this year. Yesterday I wrote about getting the folding Brompton out.
Today it was my Ellis Cycles frames turn to see the sun.
I call it my “fast bike” because with 32 mm wide tires it has the skinniest tires of all my bikes, with the exception of the Brompton. It’s also a very lively frame. It’s very responsive to any input of power.
What a joy it is to ride this custom bike. I say that every year. But it really is a delightful bike to ride.
My last post mentioned I was so happy to get in two rides over the weekend after being down with a cruddy cold for two weeks. I had four good days where I felt perfectly normal and healthy. And then, the cold symptoms started coming back mid-week. I was so upset.
Today I was feeling like the cold wasn’t going to repeat itself and was feeling good enough to get out for ride. A short one, but a ride none the less. I realized it was May already and I had yet to ride my Brompton in 2017. I really enjoy this little folding bike and look forward each Spring to getting it out. I tend not to ride it in winter to spare it from all the salt and sand on the roads. I have other bikes for that.
As always I thoroughly enjoyed being back on this fun little bike. As I was tooling along, climbing a small hill, and minding my own business I heard the familiar sound of mountain tires rolling up behind me. I didn’t give the rider the satisfaction of acknowledging his presence by glancing over my shoulder because it was obvious by the sound of his tires he was putting in a big effort to catch me and overtake me on the uphill. I maintained my leisurely pace and let him catch me. When he had finally pulled up alongside me I looked over and made eye contact.
This is where it always gets awkward for me. As a true introvert I am woefully incapable of making small talk with people I don’t know. I can do a friendly greeting and “beautiful day out” type stuff. Anything beyond that and I get tongue tied. This guy was on a fatbike of some type with a set of 29er wheels. He says to me, “Those tires roll good?” I have no clue from what perspective he’s coming from, which throws me. Is he making a statement about my “silly bike with small wheels”. Or is he intrigued by my Brompton. I don’t know. So I say the first thing that pops into my head, “Oh yeah” I say. And then, the awkward silence ensues. It feels like an eternity. I don’t know what to say next and he doesn’t say anything. So he just pulls away and rides off. I don’t know if I came off as an asshole, or if it was just as awkward for him as it was for me. In the end it was just all kinds of uncomfortable. Yet the entire episode lasted all of 20 seconds.
Okay, you didn’t know I’ve been off the bike. One or two of you may have noticed I haven’t posted here or on any social media for a few weeks….well….except for those cat pictures. I’ve been fortunate enough for almost three year years not to catch any cold or flu bugs going around. The longest “healthy” streak in several decades for me. That ended on the Thursday or Friday before Easter. For the next two weeks I did nothing but sleep, blow my nose, cough, take cold medicine and try to be productive at my new job. I successfully suffered through it. I didn’t have to call off sick from my new job. Although I probably should have to keep from spreading my germs around.
Yesterday was the day for my first ride since catching the cold. A Saturday that started out with cloudless skies. It had clouded over by the time I got out in the late afternoon. The wind was blowing off the lake and the temp was in the low forties by the lake. So I rode toward the lake to start off. That would give me a tailwind coming home. The Canal Park area, which is by the Lake Superior water front is also a big tourist area. I didn’t expect to see many people around on a cold April weekend. But it was as busy as a summer day. Maybe it was Spring Break people or some event was going on, not sure. But there were so many people out walking on the lake front I had a hard time taking the picture above with all the people walking by.
Even though I have now lived in Duluth for 15 1/2 years I still not used to seeing ocean going freighters here in the middle of the country. The above ship is the Reestborg. A Dutch flagged ship. It’s anchored off shore waiting to enter the harbor and take on a load of wheat before it heads back to the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway. Maybe most people don’t realize there are ocean going ships that reach ports deep into the Midwest? Duluth happens to be the furthest inland port for ocean ships. Although the majority of the large freighters only navigate the Great Lakes.
Sunday gave me another opportunity to ride. Getting out yesterday and riding seemed to flush the remaining cold out of my system. Cleaned out the lungs and sinuses. I feel like the cold is gone. Riding today felt colder then yesterday despite the air temperature being almost exactly the same. The difference was the wind speed. Today the gusts off the cold lake were much higher. Didn’t matter. I was just happy to be out riding a bike and feeling healthy again.
We had what must have been one of the nicer April 1st in quite awhile. Pleasant temps for this time of year and a lack of wind. I got in my longest ride of the year on Saturday. Nothing to brag about, but it felt good to spend some time in the saddle.
People at work were talking about the Annual Lester River Kayak Races happening this weekend. They are scheduled last minute to correspond with high melt water on the river. Lester River is located on the eastern side of Duluth. I headed in that general direction thinking I could end up at the races about time they were scheduled to start. I rode along the Lake front on the Lakewalk. It’s still odd to have the studded tires off the bike so early in the Spring. The bike felt fast with the smooth rolling summer tires.
It wasn’t long before I reached the Lester River Crossing on the Lakewalk extension. I headed up stream to see if I could find the kayak races.
I found a place to watch just as the projected start time arrived. I waited 20 minutes but the kayaks never came. As per usual for me when the weather starts to warm up, I tend overdress and get a bit sweaty. I was starting to catch a chill standing around. So I meandered on my way without witnessing any of the racing in person. Here’s some footage from YouTube for an idea of what I missed.
Bike ride number two on bike number two happened Sunday. It was an errand run to the local Co-op (not to be confused with Whole Foods Market).
We’ve always kept a tight household budget. In fact we’ve been budgeting our expenses since 1998. Our food budget always challenges us and helps us from over spending. The down side of the food budget is we get low on basic food staples by the end of the month. Once a new month rolls around we generally do a couple of big shopping trips. The picture is of the Blue Truck/Xtracycle loaded up with four full size sacks of groceries. The xtra large canvass shopping bags were hand sewn by Susan and fit in the Xtracycle quite nicely.
Bike number three may not be what you were expecting. This one has a motor other then me to power it. The snow is gone and it’s warm. I decided it was a good weekend to take the cover off the moto, drop in the battery, and start it up. I’m always impressed with this Honda motor. After sitting outside all winter, it starts up instantly and without any complaints. Luckily whatever animal was living under the seat was gone and hadn’t chewed through any of the wiring. Looking forward to another season of riding this machine along with all my other bikes.
The studded tires came off and the summer treads went on. All the tires I handled were Schwalbes. That will tell you the state of my thumbs. They are raw from coaxing those tough beads onto the rims. For those tracking things at home, the studded tires were 26 x 1.75 Schwalbe Marathon Winter. The summer tires I’m currently using on this bike are 26 x 2.0 Schwalbe Supremes. Interestingly enough, they measure almost the same width on the rim with a caliper despite being two different sized tires.
The annual ritual of removing the studded tires is always a milestone. It signals the arrival of above freezing temps. I’m not commuting by bike many days lately. Back when I commuted daily, the day the studs came off was always a big day. And a bit stressful some years. Take them off too early and get surprised by a late Spring snow storm, and you regret it. There’s been a few years when I’ve had to put the studded tires back on.
This years removal was about three to four weeks earlier than normal. On average the studded tires usually come off the third week of April. That’s about the time we no longer drop below freezing at night.
The best thing about taking the studded tires off is the first ride on the bike. I feel like Superman on the bike with faster rolling tires. And the lack of the “sizzlin’ bacon” sound of the steel carbide studs on pavement is sooo nice. It feels like I’m gliding along effortlessly and stealthy quiet. To top if off I gave the bike a good scrubbing to remove all the accumulated winter grit and salt. It felt, and looked like, a new bike. You know what a joy it is to ride a new bike.
Riding the local mtb trails on the Pugsley was definitely not an option. The trails are officially closed. We are into the mud season. Trails will be closed to all users until it drys out. That could be in two weeks or six weeks if we have a wet Spring.
I chose to ride Skyline parkway. I timed it today so that I was able to get in a decent ride between rain showers. Skyline has extremely low traffic on a wet, cold, foggy Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed cruising along silently on my bike in the dampness, with the woods shrouded in fog. It was quite meditative. When I stopped to take the above picture I started to admire the look of the raw, unpainted stainless steel tubing used on this bike. All cleaned up the unpainted steel frame had an enticing shiny look to it in the low light conditions. I snapped a few pictures of it.
These low light conditions also seem to “illuminate” Alex Cook‘s (the builder) frame building skills. One interesting highlight of this frame is the use of a 1″ steerer tube. While everyone else is building with 1 1/8th” headtubes or tapered headtubes, Alex suggested we go with a 1″ on this bike. He said it would blend better with the over aesthetic of this frame. I think he was right. In fact, I think he nailed it.
It’s always nice to have an enjoyable ride on a day that proved hard to get motivated to go out. Although I admit I was a bit chilled when I arrived home. A hot cup of tea was in order. My wife has quite a selection of loose leaf teas from The Tea Source in St. Paul, Minnesota. I picked a nice Roasted Chestnut black tea. Of course I used a mug I designed. I thought it was a fitting theme for today’s ride.
My Spring sale at my store, Salty Pedaler, goes thru April 7, 2017. Use code spring2017 to get 15% off all orders.