Sunday, November 14, 2010

Learning Curve

I discovered today that the learning curve for winter riding can be somewhat steep. Also, despite the fact that you feel that you have a bike that can go anywhere, Mother Nature, feels otherwise. There is no such thing as a bike that will go anywhere, just like there is no such thing as an unsinkable ship. So, despite what you've heard or what you believe, there are conditions that do not suit a Pugsley very well, and I've come to believe that heavy wet snow with a lot of slush underneath fits into that category.
We received approximately nine inches of heavy wet snow (this has since been revised to 12") on Saturday, along with misty and rainy conditions that left the snow saturated with moisture and very heavy. Heavy enough to topple trees, flatten shrubs, and bring down power lines.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday enjoying the weather and riding my Pugsley up in the park. Riding is somewhat of a misstatement since I also did a lot of walking and pushing. So this morning found me anxious to get back out and ride. I swapped my 32 tooth chainring for my standard 30 tooth chainring. You see, I'm riding a single-speed set-up on my Pugsley and the 30 x 22 tooth set-up was highly recommended by others who ride single-speed Pugsleys. Since I'm a single speed rider at heart it seemed the way to go for a winter bike. Fewer issues and less maintenance is fine by me.
I felt the conditions today may be better since the snow had a chance to settle, but to my dismay I found my self struggling to keep the Pugs going in a straight line. While riding through the heavy slop I found it difficult to keep the front tire going in a straight line. The tires wanted to float, but once the bike started fish tailing all over the place, the front tire would simple slide out from underneath me and more often than not I found myself on the deck lying in a cold wet mixture of snow and slush.
There were stretches were I could actually ride quite easily and others where it took more effort, but I could still stay upright and make forward progress. However, there were other stretches where it seemed impossible to stay upright and move forward. Therefore, yesterday's and today's rides involved a good deal of walking and pushing. Something I was not accustomed to.
I've had the Pugs since last winter and most of my riding last year was in much colder conditions. I'm still experimenting with gear ratios, clothing, and other gear. I'm discovering that there can be a fine line between what works and what doesn't. That being said, I'm also finding it to be a fun and exciting process. That is of course, as long as you're not losing toes or fingers to frostbite.
The weather now is supposed to warm up and I'm quite sure that most of the snow we have received will eventually melt. My hope is that the next time we get nine inches of snow it is much colder and drier. In the meantime I'll continue on my way along this learning curve and eventually will get it figured out. However, just when you think you have it figured out something new comes along.
I have also enjoyed trying out some the new gear that I've purchased and will talk more on these items later. That's the joy of learning I guess. I'm happy to have winter here and I'm planning on making the best of it.
For now however, I'm still warming up after a cold and damp day on the bike and looking forward to the first trip up north where I know I will find colder temps and hopefully better riding conditions.
Embrace winter and get out there and enjoy it :)


Doug said...

I've always said snow right around freezing is the hardest snow to ride in. It is extremely greasy.

I usually wish for snow all year round. But right now I'm wishing for a good cold spell to get the ground good and frozen before we get any more snow. Without the ground frozen, there will always be a layer of slush under the snow cover.

Looking forward to the new equipment write-up?

Vito said...

I couldn't agree more Doug. You've been at this winter thing much longer than me. I too would prefer it about 10-15 degrees colder.

The worst parts were where the park department actually firming the base for the XC ski trails. They rode over it with snow mobile which gave the illusion of firmness, but there was an inch or more of slush underneath. It was tough riding.

At one point I ended up on my back in a really nice puddle of slush. COLD and WET!! But in the end FUN, FUN, FUN!!!

Joboo said...

gotta agree with you guys!! it was tough riding out there today. i thought it was just me until i saw your post Bill??!! makes perfect sense. i let out air and it seemed to make it worse.
i've been struggling with gear selection, and upgrading my clothing myself. with having a young family, i have to make smart choices, and it's proving to be tough.
i'd like to give the AH135, a go, along with others.
i did find a -20 sleeping bag for dirt cheap at CAMPMORE, although it may not be the best it'll do for now.
finding time to test and justifing things to the better 1/2 is proving to be just as challanging. oh well, such is life, and it's all about the pedal in the end anyway.


Yeti said...

Exactly what I thought last Wednesday when we had some snow. A narrow tire with big knobs would probably have cut through the slush, where the fat tires floated on it.

Nice blog BTW. I hadn't seen it earlier, but now it's on my reading list.