Riding in sub-zero temps.

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I had my wife’s car this weekend for use to get to out on my hiking adventures. She’s spending her weekend in a gorgeous rented house on the other side of town. She’s hosting a knitting retreat. She’s big into knitting, spinning and weaving of fibers. I needed to get the car back to her since it’s her main form of transportation most days. So I threw a bike in the back and drove across town to drop off the car. We were having another gloriously sunny January day combined with bitter cold. Temp at the time of my ride back home was -2F/-19C degrees with a mild windchill.

Even though I love winter, it does take me a few weeks before I fully acclimate to this kind of cold. I can tell when I’m acclimated. It’s when a sub-zero ride like this doesn’t feel uncomfortable any longer. I was quite comfortable. I enjoyed a ride in the late afternoon sunshine.

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I never tire of this view of Duluth’s Aerial lift bridge and Lake Superior beyond. With the air temperatures below zero and the water temperature slightly above zero, there is always vapor rising off the surface of the big lake.

Happy Riding.

I can’t resist fresh snow.

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We had 2 inches of fresh snow fall during the day today. It was warmer at 10F/-12C degrees, but still cold enough to have the fluffy kind of snow. The best kind. It’s much easier to ride in than warmer, wetter snow. Snowbiking in fresh show 009

It’s hard to see any definition in the low light conditions above. With the exception of a track from a standard size mountain bike tire from earlier in the day, I was breaking fresh trail. Traction wasn’t a problem even though I’m running a rear fat tire best suited for hard compacted groomed snow.

It was another beautiful day to be out in the snow.

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In some weather conditions the alley is the fastest and safest way to ride to and from the trail.

Happy Riding.

Gotta get out while the conditions are good.

We had another sub-zero night. It’s helping firm up the snow out on the trails. A small fast moving clipper system is supposed to drop an inch or so of snow this afternoon and evening. That’s enough to change the conditions on the trail. I thought I needed to get out while the trails were in great shape. I headed up to the Brewers Park and Piedmont Mountain bike trails for the third day in a row.

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Every thing looks washed out with the low light conditions. Didn’t matter for the riding. It was fantastic. Temperature at ride time was 2F/-17C degrees with a windchill of -11F/-24C. A temperature I find is easy to dress for after ten years of doing this kind of riding.

For the second day in a row I didn’t see a single other person out on the trails during the 90 minute ride.

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The snow system started to move into the area midway through my ride. Small snowflakes started to fall. It was spectacularly beautiful out in the woods with light snow falling.

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I was losing light so I hit the snowmobile trail for a quick exit down to the main road. Then it was a very cold mile long descent on the road followed by a 1 mile shortcut along the ore tracks to get home.

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It’s always a good day when you can get out and play in the snow on a bike.

Happy Riding.

 

Bitter cold makes for Great Fatbike Conditions

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An arctic blast of cold air moved in last night. It was -12F/-24C degrees when I got up this morning. I knew that meant one thing. Great fatbiking! A dip in temps like that always firms the trails up.

My wife and I made it out to a Sunday morning showing of the Star Wars movie. Weird going to a Sunday morning movie right after breakfast. Neither of us like crowds so we usually don’t go to opening weekends of popular movies. We figured light crowds considering the day and time, the frigid cold morning and the Minnesota Vikings were playing some big game at noon. All those variables provided a nearly empty movie theater to watch one of the most popular movies of all time. Us and twelve other movie goers. And we both liked the movie.

When we got home I putzed around for awhile and eventually got ready for a bike ride. My first stop was at my LBS, Twin Ports Cyclery.  When I was in the other day the owner had offered me a chance to test a new product. He wanted some real world feedback on how well it works to see if it’s something he would want to carry. I first declined but reconsidered and went back today to pick it up. More about that on this blog when I get into mounting it up. While there the whole shop crew was watching a live streaming of the Cyclocross National Championships. I started to get sucked in, but broke free so I could go enjoy the snow conditions.

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As suspected the conditions had greatly improved overnight. The trail was firm with less punchiness. The air temp was 1F/-17C degrees with a light windchill. An arctic mass of air like this usually brings intense blue sky with it. I have to say it was absolutely perfect riding conditions. Being outdoors in this kind of weather reminds me of why I love winter so much.Pugsley fun 003

I rode a section of the Piedmont Trail system today. This was new trail for me. I’ll definitely be back out to ride it more.Pugsley fun 004

Yesterday I saw two other fatbikers while out on the trails. Today I didn’t see a single other soul in over an hour on the trails. What happened to all those hundreds of new fatbike owners?

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This section of trail had been groomed recently. It has some drifted snow on it from high winds overnight. But no tire tracks, only footprints. It’s gets a little cold and people miss out on the best snowbiking we’ve had so far this year. That’s okay, I like the solitude.

Happy Riding.

Magic happens when you least expect it.

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Yesterday was a wonderful day full of sunshine and cross-country skiing adventures. Today was a day of soreness as a result of the skiing. I used a lot of muscles I don’t normally use. Today we returned to the dense cloud cover and a grayness closing in on our world.

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I live for the chance to be outside in the winter. But I do admit that sometimes it takes awhile to get motivated to get out. With the gray day, my muscle soreness, and our lack of snow and cold, I was having a hard time deciding what to do today. Finally, about an hour before sunset, I talked myself into taking the Pugsley out in search of some snow to ride.

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As usual, as soon as I got out and started to move under my own power my spirits started to lift. The temperature was an unseasonably warm and balmy 30F/-1C degrees.

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When I take leisurely rides I always ride from my house. I rarely throw a bike in the car and drive somewhere to ride. Today I headed for the Western Water Front Trail. A hardpack gravel multi-use trail that weaves in and out of the bays and inlets along the St Louis River. I rarely ride this trail. However, it is particularly interesting in the winter. It’s not groomed or tracked. It’s packed down mostly by the local residents who walk their dogs on the trail. It’s open only to walkers, hikers and bikers.

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I reached the western end, turned around, and started back. That’s when I started to notice this:

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The sun was setting. It had discovered a small opening in the clouds and was peaking through onto the under sides of the cloud cover. For the next five minutes the skies were completely magical.

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I hadn’t seen anyone while out on the trail. It almost felt like I was the only person seeing this wonderful display happening right before my eyes.

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And then as quickly as it started, it was gone. I was speechless watching the spectacle. When the sky returned to gray, I turned my pedals toward home with a feeling of intense joy inside.

All I could think about was how I would have missed that five minutes of joy if I hadn’t gotten on my bike and gone for a ride. You just never know when something magical is going to happen.

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I finished the ride in darkness with my thoughts on the five minutes of light that made my whole day.

Let the Fatbiking commence.

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Conditions: Cloudy, 22 mph sustained winds, air temp: 25F/-4C, windchill: 10F/-12C

The first fifteen days of December was one of the warmest starts to December ever. Last winter was a mild winter with not a lot of snow or opportunities for endless snowbiking. This winter was starting to look like it might be a year with not a lot of snow. In the past week and a half or so we received two snow storms. Between the two storms they’ve given us between 6-12 inches of snow on the ground depending on where you happen to be standing at any given moment. Along with the snow came some normal temperatures. Temperatures low enough the snow doesn’t melt right away.

Our most recent snowfall was some powdery snow on Saturday followed by a high temp of 15F/-9C yesterday. That’s a recipe for potentially good snowbike conditions.

I went in search of packed trails. About all I could find was this lightly used snowmobile trail within the city. It’s a mere 1.5 miles from my house, all uphill.

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The trail was barely firm enough to provide traction. But it was enough. What a joy it was to be out on the Pugsley on a blustery cold day with fresh snow all around. And nary another trail user in the nearly 2 hours I spent on the trail. Bliss!!

A fitting day to start anew.

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Back in July of 2012 I wrote my last blog post. I had been writing a blog about commuting year round, every day, in Northeastern Minnesota. I had written it for nearly 7 years.

I took a much needed break from blogging, from sharing my personal experiment to ride in any weather any time. The experiment was a success. So much so it has become a way of life for me.

Well, I’m back to do it again. More of the same pictures from the same spots over and over again. Today was fitting because we had the first significant winter storm of the season. It’s been an unseasonably warm start to a late winter. I was so thrilled. I got to do what I love more than just about anything else. Be outside in the middle of a winter storm. I got to go outside and play in the snow. Of course this play was all done on my Surly Pugsley. It’s starting it’s 10th, I repeat, it’s 10th winter of playing in the snow.

It’s good to be back!