We've all been there. You think you know something. You know it front and back. All of a sudden, your entire belief system is shattered. That's how I feel today about fat biking.
When I first got into mountain biking, I was crushed when the first few snowflakes of winter fell. How dare the season change on me. It was shortly thereafter I was introduced to winter riding. Fat bikes were just starting to make an appearance around here. Heck, so were 29ers. However, 90% of us were still riding our cross country steeds. Trails weren't groomed...they were snowshoed. Packed down by generous volunteers. My first foray into winter riding was at White Tail Ridge. I was in awe of the trail which was crystallized by the frost. My 26" hardtail GT was a beast in the snow. I had knobby Nevgals which rubbed my frame if I steered too sharp. I loved it.
Hey, remember what snow looks like?
Then came the snow races. Elk River was my favorite. I had an older set of Hutchinson Pythons that I had studded up with self-tapping drywall screws. Overkill for the snow, they were however a dream on hard-packed icy conditions. I took home a few awards - even a Cold Bear Series title. With toe warmers, flat pedals, and winter boots - I was having a ball. The last race of the series was Fat Bike Fest - where the few fatties in the area really got to shine. Watching those steel frame Pugs and the like...I always thought "Yeah that's cool, but I have my bike and it works for me."
Proof. That's me in the red on the advanced class podium/snow mound.
Then I took my break from winter. I fell in love and out of love with skate skiing. I snowshoed. I rode the trainer. I started hating winter. I grew jealous of everyone getting tougher while I was becoming a big baby about the elements.
All of a sudden, fat biking really started taking off. Everyone I knew was getting one. Chad had one back when I was still lollygagging on my 26" - but he traded it for a tandem when I got my concussion in 2011. (Still one of the most romantic gestures ever.) We mused about getting it back. Then the talk about fat bikes and ski trails and this and that started overtaking Silent Sports and MORC. Trail bosses started banning 2" tires. I felt slighted all of a sudden. Pretty childish, looking back. I didn't even go outside in winter anymore. I was still in the mindset of "I was just fine on skinny tires". But I didn't know how different winter riding had truly become.
This past fall, I had the opportunity to borrow a Mukluk from Cyclova. I brought it to the Woolly. One of my girlfriends told me it was like riding a giant marshmallow. She said it brought the playful excitement of riding back for her. She was right.
Much like couples discuss when the right time to have a baby is, we had conversations about the new fat bike. We ride the same frame size, and we have roughly the same size feet - so we decided to share a bike and a pair of Wolvhammers. I was told I wasn't allowed to name the bike. We took turns politely and per the rotation. And this arrangement lasted TEN WHOLE DAYS.
So now here we are. One Mukluk and one Beargrease later. It amazes me how different riding in the snow has become. Trails are clandestine chutes of snowy singletrack. It's so reminiscent of summer riding that it is hard to remember what it felt like on the GT.
Our two fat bikes with daughter in tow during Light Up Osceola.
I'm still figuring out tire pressures. It reminds me of when Chad was teaching me to ski and he'd always say, "This condition is completely different than the last time you skied." It's always different every time I am out there. And yet it is a riot. Alicia Fisk and I train together often, so she has been my ruler to what my fat biking measures up to. She was the first person I rode with when I went out with the Mukluk. We laughed each time I tipped over, and laughed even harder every time I tried to get up. It was like Bambi learning how to walk. That's ironic because my mother always called me Bambi. It's like she knew.
It's so encouraging to see all the women out there riding (and racing). No wonder they come so strong into the spring. I'm anxious to see how my fitness translates into the summer race season. I am planning on doing Fat Bike Fest at Elk River this upcoming month. That will be a real blast from the past.
Chad and I had a romantic evening of swapping out tires tonight. He studded up his tires last night and after my ice skating lesson at Elm Creek today, he's letting me borrow his set. I'm sort of giddy wondering what studded fat bike tires are like to ride. I'll know tomorrow after hitting up the Woolly.
Until then, I keep looking at my black and blues all over from today's "ride". I have a checkup this week. I wonder if my doctor will have to ask me about my home life being "safe" again...