Browse Tag by fatbike
Alaska, fat bike, Gear

There and back again.

Most of this year (like every year I’ve spent in Alaska) I’ve been on a boat. I spend my days on the water working long hours and living in cramped quarters with a small crew. From February until as late as November my time on two wheels is curtailed. When the occasional day off arises, now that there is a motorcycle in my stable it gets more attention than the bicycle. If I’ve got 2 hours to get into the woods on two wheels- the motor makes it happen. No it doesn’t help my legs or my wind- I spend most of my year traveling less than 10 knots, sometimes it feels good to go fast.

Don’t worry. I’m not going full moto. I’m not selling my bicycles to because I’ve got this new found need for speed- but goddamn motorcycles are fun. But I digress. This isn’t about motorcycles. It’s winter time here at 60 degrees North latitude and as I look outside there is a quarter inch of ice that fell last night as sleet and froze. The motorcycle is in bed until the spring thaw and now it’s time to get fat. Fat biking. I’ve had the fatbike for a couple years but didn’t make the jump to studs until this year because they’re so damn expensive. Dillinger 4’s & Dillinger 5’s are impressive and those that have them love them but a pair will cost you more than 4 Walmart beach cruisers. If I lived in Anchorage I may have committed earlier but I’ve been biding my time long enough that with all the new offerings out there I was able to find a studded set of the Vee Tire Snowshoe XL for around $280 a pair.

First impression: why the shit did I wait so long? If you live in an area that gets ice- you need studs. They’ll save your ass. Or at the very least your hip. They aren’t magic- and you can still go down on the ice but they’re a butt ton better than rolling on a wing and prayer. Do yourself a favor and get some.

So theres a cool little app out for a while now. It’s called Relive. It uses Strava or Garmin gps. It makes neat stuff like this:

And in other news- tomorrow is Global Fat Bike Day. If you’re in Anchorage there is a ride starting at Bread & Brew on Tudor at 6pm. If you’re in Cordova- I’m sure we’ll do something. Holler.

Global_Fat-square

Alaska, Bicycle, fat bike

Pedal. Paddle. Push.

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I’d been looking at this loop for a while now- Eyak River, down and around Pt Whitshed and back to Hartney Bay. It would be a fun little pedal/paddle trip. A quick day trip. 28 miles or so…

My wife, ever supportive yet always the realist- asked me how long it was going to take me. “Six hours, maybe eight.” I said. 
She smiled. That smile she gives me when I tell her I’m just going to have one more beer at the bar. The smile that says: “I know you think that’s the case, but I know you and you’re full of shit.”

As it is most of the time- she was right. 

Even though it’s just out my back door, I knew that chances were slim to none that I would see anyone for the day- so safety was a concern. Packing in the off chance that I’d have to bivy in the rainforest was necessary.

My pack list:

  • Lunch: a couple granola bars, some dates, coffee in a thermos, a salmon sandwich, and a can of salmon in case I needed more. I had some GU Brew in my water bottle, and some IPA poured into a VAPR bottle that fit smartly into my water bladder (which had ice water in it to keep it cold.) 
  • iPhone to use my GaiaGPS app
  • DeLorme InReach Explorer
  • Packraft and paddle packed into my Blackburn handlebar harness
  • PFD strapped to my backpack when not in use
  • First Aid kit. with emergency blanket
  • pack raft repair kit
  • Tool kit, pump, Leatherman
  • firestarter
  • Bear spray (I opted for spray over gun because of weight.)
  • Long underwear top and bottom and spare socks

I wore my brand new Louis Garneau techfit shirt and shorts, my sock guy socks, crappy sneakers, OR Helium jacket, and my light fishing shell pants. I wore my Hodala vest that was made by Doom and some smartwool arm warmers. A cycling cap and a stocking cap to keep my thoughts warm.  Light GIRO gloves. I also brought along the new Ryders THORN sunglasses I’m trying out. 
Wifey dropped me off at the trailhead on her way to work and I got started. Though I’ve lived here for near 10 of the last 15 years, I’ve never hiked the Eyak River Trail. I tried riding down it, figuring it would be quicker than paddling. I made it a couple hundred yards and gave up. It sucked. Up and down through roots and boulders- if that’s what it was going to be like- I was better off in the boat. I will walk or ride it in the future- but I’m thinking that that it’ll be like just about every other USFS trail in the area in that it was built to say “Fuck you” to mountain bikers. I got my raft together and then enjoyed a leisurely float down Eyak. Listening to birds and watching the sand tumble down in the current. It was quite peaceful. 
   
 Then came Mountain Slough. Years ago- I traveled a similar route in a canoe. But we couldn’t find Mountain Slough- so we took Eyak River all the way to salt water and paddled the coast. This time, through the miracle of GPS and some local knowledge, I found it. Though it isn’t much of a slough now, after the 1964 earthquake that raised the elevation in the area by six feet. A big sand bar marks where it used to be. I got into pedal mode.
  
In pedal mode, with 4” tires, I was able to navigate the sandy slough, through some of the veiny iron rich water deposits twisting and turning as sloughs often do. The brush above the slough became too thick to navigate, and the water too deep to ride through effectively so I resigned to staying afloat until Crystal Falls. 

Back to paddle mode. The tide was going out, but I was high enough that the area isn’t affected tidally-much. Bike strapped up with the wheel and pedal off, I headed down stream… a very short distance. The water got to be about ankle deep- and my boat just wasn’t cutting it. Sloughs are a fickle lover. One stretch can be water head high. Turn the corner and it’s nothing but a puddle. More than once I was baffled as to where in the shit the water went. For the next few miles I clamored in and out of my raft- paddling or pulling. At about this point- 2 1/2 hours into the trip, I realize it was going to take me more than 6 hours.

I skipped the cutoff to explore Crystal Falls, an old abandoned cannery just off of Mountain Slough, as I was beginning to realize I needed to get my hustle on to make the tide. With big tides in this area and the best riding to be done at low water- sometimes you gotta beat feet to make it. I decided I’d take the straight shot across the intertidal area to Pt Whished.

This is where I started to question what in the hell I was thinking to start such a trip.

  The muskeg and meadows and mud that I’ve seen from the air quite a bit looked far different up close. The muskeg in this area is in fact small little sloughs with mountains of grass between. It’s the equivalent of trying to ride over 6-12” curbs placed in no order, but between 10-20” apart. Soggy ground with slippery mud in-between. The “meadows” are water soaked bogs, often with tall grass and brush growing 2-4’ high, making riding impossible and pushing the bike very difficult. The mud is soft and gooey- like a greasy turd. Break through the surface of the gray slime and you get the black anaerobic compost of millions of years of decaying life. 

  Multiple times I sunk balls deep in a sinkhole and found myself staying afloat by using my bike as a snowshoe. At one point I was making headway riding in the refried beans-like mud. A  low spot in the mud was ahead and I figured I could just hop my front wheel over it and keep going.

*Squish* 

SNAP! 

 

I hit the ground in an instant. Shit. My shoulder was about three inches in the mud, cheek to the slop. What was that sound? Did I just break my collarbone? Did my carbon fiber frame or fork just snap? Should I move? I slowly righted myself. I felt whole. I picked my bike up. Bike was good. The Blackburn handlebar roll carrying my raft however, didn’t make it. The bracket- which felt a little chintzy, has a little zip tie thingy to keep it in place and the thing snapped. Thankfully it didn’t fall into the tire and it still works, but it doesn’t stay quite in the right place.

  
About this time, I figured out that a certain point I got sand on my shirt or my backpack. This came to light as I was pushing my bike through 4” of mud. An uncomfortable sensation, sort of an itch- sort of a scratch. I lifted my shirt to find sand. I lowered my chamois to find…. sand. I don’t know if you’ve ever had sand in your chamois- but sand is what they make sandpaper from and riding on 60 grit isn’t something that I’m fond of. Thankfully much of the terrain was unrideable, so I only had to walk in my sandy chamois. 

  
All this, 6 hours in, and I’m not even at my halfway mark. Shit. The first thoughts of where I might sleep for the night crossed my mind. My phone was near dead because the GPS app eats batteries like Garfield eats lasagna (mmmm…. lasagna) and for whatever reason, my Satellite txt unit, though it sat on the charger all night- didn’t take a charge. Though I knew where I was at- my concern was for communication with the wife that gets nervous if/when a situation like this arises. What should I do? What CAN I do. I looked around. Camping in 3” of water isn’t a good idea. I have weather on my side- I’m not broken and I know where I’m going.

  
So I remember what my momma always told me. She said “Son, sometimes you just gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps and shit in your pants.”

  
So I took that to heart. That’s what I did. Pt. Whitshed was right there. I mean- I could almost touch it- 5 miles away. So I slogged along- stopping for water here and there, hopping some small sloughs, fording others.

  
I was stalked by two moose that were hanging back around 50 yards. After researching back in town I have learned that when they pull their ears back, raise the hair on their hump and lick their lips- you should get the fuck out of there. I wish I had read that before I left. Thankfully I didn’t have to use my tiny can of bear spray- as I don’t even know how effective it is on moose. But seriously- I’m more scared of moose in the woods than bears. I doubt I’ll leave my sidearm at home when I’m this area next time. 

  
I got to the bay just to the east of Sunny Bay. I don’t know the name of it. It was 4:30. I’d transitioned from push/pedal to paddle 4 times now as I approached the biggest slough yet. About 10’ wide, it was a murky glacial blue that I couldn’t see a bottom in. That was it. Whitshed was close enough- My riding was minimal up this point and I’d been out 9 hours already. 9 fucking hours and I was half way. Man do I have a way of putting the “what the fuck was I thinking?”  into Advewhat the fuck was I thinkingnture.

On the water, I was bucking the tide a little bit- but making ground. my legs were tired, as was my wind- turns out working on fishing boats and doing construction for the past 6 months hasn’t helped my cycling at all.
  I paddled around Pt Whitshed, tide almost high- then around Wireless Point, then Big Pt. Then Gravel Pt. and into Hartney Bay. The tide just began to turn and I touched down at Hartney. I drug my boat up the beach and took everything down. Txt’d the wife (on the DeLorme as the phone was dead) that I was riding home, and got on the road. Pavement never felt so good under tire as those last 5 miles home. With no pasty mud holding me back- trying to glue me to the landscape- I felt like I was flying along.
I got home and the wife met me at the door with a warm hug, a cold beer and a hot meal. Some guys have all the luck.

All this and I realized a couple things:

  • Sometimes it feels good to hurt bad.
  • The people that lived here and traveled this area- even 50 years ago, were tough sumbitches. Way tougher than me. 
  • Bicycles are the cyclist’s selfies.
  • For being as pessimistic as I am, I’m overly optimistic about how much time it will take me to do something.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Take pictures.
  • Even if you don’t enjoy the whole ride, you’ll enjoy the story. 
  • When in heavy moose country- bring a sidearm. 

Will I do the trip again? Yes and no. If I do the same route- I’ll skip the bike. I may try and ride the Eyak River trail- as much as is rideable. I want to explore Crystal Falls- maybe overnight there. 

I’m really loving my packraft. I enjoy making loops out of trips because out-and-backs are for suckers. I’m still working on my pack list. I felt fairly good about my preparedness minus the electronics which are not necessarily crucial- though do offer some safety especially the DeLorme satellite txt unit. 

And some gear reviews:

I wore my Louis Garneau Techfit shorts and shirt under my shell as a base. The shirt was great- I didn’t use the back pocket- but the zipper didn’t chafe under my pack. I would prefer a snap to the Velcro closure on the shorts as I could feel the edge of the Velcro on my tender muffin top. A belt might have helped keep them up- they sagged a bit when soaked with silty water.  The chamois fit well and was quite comfortable. I wore a size XL in both and like many cycling garments- I couldn’t go smaller. European cycling companies don’t care that Americans are getting fatter. They’ll call a spade a spade. That “extra-medium” you’ve been wearing… Yeah- get a large. 

I also have been wearing the shit out of my Ryders sunglasses. I brought the Thorns out and they were great. The anti-fog feature works really well- though I did manage to fog them up. It was actually well beyond fog, more like water droplets- I’m a heavy sweater. One wipe down though and I was good to go. I feel confident in saying that most shades would have been worthless for much of the trip. The hydrophobic outside doesn’t seem that effective, but the photochromic lens- especially the yellow was great for a grey day. Looking at the frames, I was surprised to see that they are only UV400. That may have something to do with the other technologies- but if 100% UV protection is real important to you- it’s something you should know. The Thorns fit snugly- maybe even too snugly for my fat noggin. The pinch point is right above my ears. The Caliber model fits better, but I like the look and yellow tint (as opposed to brown) of the Thorn.
So that’s all that’s fit to print. And this is all being done on my phone- as I sit back on the boat on the Gulf of Alaska. Here’s to more bike rides and to moving forward. I hope my misadventures inspire you to push your limits, to explore the wilds around you and to breathe deep the fresh air that your lungs were built for. 

The Trio in Talkeetna

Speedway Cycles/Fatback Bikes, and Backcountry Bikes, are thrilled to announce The Trio, a Mike Sterling Memorial Fat Tire Bike Race in Talkeetna, Alaska.

Denali Brewing Company is a cosponsor and is brewing a special beer as well as catering after the race at Sheldon Hanger.

Distances of 20, 40, and 60 miles, fat tires only (3.7″+). No runners or skiers.

The course features beautiful rolling terrain with narrow trails along with some river running and each lap takes you through downtown Talkeetna. Start and Finish will be at Denali Brewing Company.

Registration includes all the beer you can drink, as well as dinner and the band. And you get to do it all in Talkeetna!

Live Music after the race by the Rabbit Creek Ramblers!

Awards will start at 7pm.

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Registration:

Online: Ends 3/11/2015 at 9pm AKST.

Bib pickup at Speedway Cycles on Thursday 3/12/2014 between 6 to 8 PM.

Registration Day of: 7-8am on Saturday 3/14/2014.

There are no refunds.

More details to come.
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http://denalibrewingcompany.com/
http://www.fatbackbikes.com/
http://www.mountainbikealaska.com/

Abominable Alaska Fat Bike State Championship

Abominable #3 Alaska Fat Bike State Championship

  • Date – Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 6:00 PM
  • Location – Kincaid Park by the Chalet and Bunker
  • Registration
    • Save some money and register for all three of our races for $50 at Chain Reaction Cycles from Tuesday, December 2 through Saturday, December 6 until 2pm. Or register the day of the race on site for $20 (cash and check only).
    • On site registration will be from 5:00 PM to 5:45 PM
  • Pre-Race Meeting – The pre-race meeting will be held at 5:50 PM at the Start/Finish.
  • Course Information
    • Start/Finish – The race will start and finish behind the Kincaid Bunker on the wide multi-use trail.
    • Experts will start first and complete 4 laps, Sports will start 1 minute later and complete 2 laps, and Beginners will start another 1 minute later and complete 1 lap.
    • Race course and number of laps subject to change depending on conditions.
  • Swag/Awards
    • There will be a small awards ceremony shortly after the Expert Racers Finish.
    • There will be finish line prizes provided by Bear Tooth and Chain Reaction Cycles for the top three in each category.
  • Volunteers – We are always looking for volunteers. Let us know if you are interested in volunteering by emailing abominableinfo@gmail.com. ASS State Champ Updated 2-28-2015

Susitna 100/ Little Su 50

The Little Su 50K is FULL!  

(There may be a “one day sale” on January 22, 2015 for any vacated spots-check back here for details)

Registration is still OPEN for the Susitna 100! 

Please visit Active.com or click on the “To Register” tab to the left.

 

2015 Susitna 100/Little Su 50K Race Dates:

February 14-16, 2015

If you have questions regarding Susitna 100 or Little Su 50K:

Alaska, Bicycle, fat bike, Gear

AK Codepak- hard sided framebags for your bike

There are a few items that seem to be standard purchases for those that buy fatbikes.

  • Flat pedals– if you ride in snow much- clipless pedals have a tendency to get ice in tight spots so the pedals won’t engage. A good set of flats prevents this- as well as enabling you to wear warm boots.
  • Pogies– you’ve seen them. The oven mitts that people put over their grips to keep their booger pickers warm. I hate the look of them and thankfully don’t live in an area that they’re necessary. Not saying that I won’t use them ever- I just don’t need to in Cordova. I wear my kit (spandex) when I’m racing cross- not when I’m riding my cruiser to the grocery store- know what I’m saying?
  • Framebags– frame bags of some sort are used to carry stuff in the void that is your main triangle. Long used by bikepackers and the swiss military and anybody else that saw all that space as wasted- there is a new option out there- made right here in Alaska.

AK CODEPAK

codepak

 

Is manufacturing hard sided frame bags made for your fatbike. Using either aluminum or carbon, you can get one built specifically

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Alaska, Bicycle, DIY, fat bike

Tire repair 101

The tires on the bike go round and round…

…until you find something sharp and hard and that at once identifiable swan song “PSSSSSHHHHHSSSS” rings out- your stoke deflating as quickly as the tube in the tire itself.

That was my experience a couple weeks back on a ride through Boulder Alley and up the east side of Sheridan Lake. A really fun place to ride, the lake was freezing, as were the puddles that accumulate in the low parts of the trail. Most weren’t thick enough to support me riding across, and 9 puddles out of 10 I would break through. I made it to the lake and rode along the ice edge- the water level much lower than normal enabling me to get closer towards the Sherman Glacier than usual.

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On my way back to the truck, I didn’t make it far before it happened. I swear it was a damn piece of ice, but it could have been a stick- a sharp stick. All I know is that I thought to myself. “It’s a good thing I didn’t pack a pump, patch kit, or any tools.” It was a 3 mile walk out- not the end of the world, but enough to kick myself for being over confident and under prepared.

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