Saturday, February 14, 2009
Fatback in new snow
I rode my Fatback today, and I had a blast. The wide rims and tires make this bike float over snow. On the right above, someone else tried to ride a trail that I'd just easily traversed. They turned around after about a quarter mile during which their tires washed out a bunch of times. Their normal mountain bike tracks give a good scale for seeing how wide the Fatback tracks are.
I started the day with both R and K running along side me. R, the full-grown puppy, thought that the front tire was designed to be attacked by Labradors. We spent the first few minutes of the ride with him growling and biting at it and me trying to convince him not to. Fortunately, his enthusiasm for tire-attacks petered out quickly.
The Fatback made the first of many visits to Hug Hill and posed with K for a photo at the summit. A front of clouds hid the Divide and surrounded the summit. A fresh coating of snow made riding a bench trail (above right) particularly exciting but Fatback navigated it with ease. I, on the other hand, was a tentative driver. A bike with huge tires handles differently than my normal mountain bike, and it'll take some time for me to become relaxed at the wheel.
I learned that tire pressure makes a huge difference. I started out with the tires very soft - the pressure was so low that my pump gauge registered slightly higher than zero. I tried adding air and almost immediately started washing out on every little climb. After lowering the pressure back to an almost zero reading, I cruised again. The hardest part was going down steep hills where it felt hard to turn the front wheel. I kept stopping to check if my headset was too tight but it wasn't. I think it's just tough to turn the wide front wheel, especially when it's so soft.
The Fatback looks like it's heavy. But, at the first obstacle that I needed to hoist it over, I nearly lifted it over my head because it was featherlight. It's lighter than my Stumpjumper. Wow.
Prior to trying the Fatback, my other big worry was that it has no shocks. I shouldn't have worried. The huge tires suck up the impacts, and my sensitive back was happy.
Although I had a tough time taking my attention away from my awesome new bike, the turbulent skies and new snow made the remainder of my ride gorgeous.
On a forested trail that I rode today, I've been noticing that a bobcat frequently walks in my tire tracks. Due to his small paws, deep snow presents an insurmountable barrier, and this forested trail has built up a surprising layer of snow. So, my tire tracks help him move through these areas. Today, his paw tracks were so fresh that I expected to see him peering out of the dwarf juniper bushes. His paw tracks precisely followed the straight line of my tire tracks from yesterday (left below). He's going to be happy with my new wider tire tracks!
I also saw two bobcat signs that I've never seen before. The bobcat walked at a good clip, and his hindpaw landed in front of his forepaw (center photo). Usually, it lands directly on the forepaw track when the bobcat walks at his normal speed. Consequently, I saw distinct fore and hind paw tracks today, including the feline-specific notch at the apex of the largest paw pad. Another new sign that I saw was that the bobcat scratched a depression in the snow before leaving scat. I've read that this territory-marking behavior is specific to cats.
The sky looked volatile all day with looming clouds surrounding patches of blue sky, including during my sunset hike with my trio of Labradors. The setting sun made the clouds glow with pink.