Fat and Icy

Most winters, I spend substantial portions of my riding time on one or the other of the frozen lakes in Madison (there are five). Lake ice forms a massive winter playground, letting us ride places that require watercraft the rest of the year, and see things from a completely different perspective. I look forward to riding on the lakes for at least the latter half of the open-water season.

This winter–for a cluster of semi-related reasons–I didn’t venture on to the ice until just this last weekend. That’s at least 4-6 weeks later than usual.

Why you ask? The early part of winter was rather warm and often windy, either preventing the formation of ice completely, or at least preventing the formation of safe ice. When it did get cold and the lakes acquired a good, solid ice sheet there was hardly any snow–and lake riding without at least a crust of snow isn’t even fun with studded tires. A couple of weekends ago, conditions finally collided to present us with a solid ice sheet and several inches of tacky snow–but then I was laid up with a sore back.

Which is what made the couple of hours I spent on the lake this last weekend so satisfying. It wasn’t the snow–which was minimal and so crunchy that we couldn’t hear each other talk while riding–and it wasn’t the weather, which was overcast and windy. And it wasn’t that we even really needed fat bikes for the conditions at hand (I left the tire pressure at about 15psi, even).

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It was just that I was out there, where I belong.

Postscript: On Sunday, temperatures rose to the mid-40s and melted off most of what little snow was there. So now we wait, again, for snow cover. This morning may have provided enough; time will tell.


I don’t talk about it much here, but I listen to a lot of music.

A lot.

All of the time. A premium Spotify subscription let’s me listen to pretty much whatever I want, wherever I am. All day at work, whenever I’m at home and not watching TV or listening to a podcast, and often places in between (never on the bike though, and rarely in the rare bouts of car driving).

Now, I love a good cover. Take a great tune, add a musician or a band that loves that tune, and let them go to town. It creates a whole new thing, sometimes as good as the original, occasionally better (and sometimes so truly bad that it starts to come out the other side of good).

Here’s one of the best (perhaps the best) cover of one of my favorite songs.

See what I mean?

H/T to BG for bringing that one to my attention.

Looking Forward…

2015 wasn’t the best year for me, on or off the bike, and I’m glad it’s over. But it wasn’t all bad.

You’ll notice the absence of long training rides, long gravel races, too many events, and anything else that requires discipline, application, and preparation. 2015 just wasn’t the year for that.

So what are my plans for 2016?

One the one hand, I’d like to say that I have mileage goals, time-in-the-saddle goals, touring/camping goals, fitness goals, or some other kind of goal.

But honestly, I don’t.

I just want to 2016 to be better than 2015, both on the bike and off. I want to be fitter this time next year than I am now (and not just bike-fit) and I want to have ridden my bike more and enjoyed it more in a years time than I have in the last year.

As such, I have some directions, but nothing in the way of goals. Some of these directions include but are not limited to long, slow road rides, touring, coffee-making, hammock-swinging, fishing, overnights, and riding the fat-bike in the dirt.

Where do you want 2016 to take you?



New Bike Day: SS Cross Check

No…not for me.

My wife has been less than satisfied, for several reasons, with her old single-speed commuter, a heavily modified Raleigh One-Way. A couple of weeks ago, I was trawling eBay for something else, when I ran across a very good deal on a  new-in-box Surly Cross Check SS complete.

So I pulled the trigger, and then reset the Fedex shipping dates so that it arrived when she was out of town for a few days. I figure it’s much more impressive to see your new, surprise bike already built up, instead of in a big cardboard box.

When she came home on Sunday, she was definitely surprised.

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I kept most of the stock setup, but did make a few changes based on what I know here preferences to be.

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Changes include:

  • Brooks B17 (from her One-Way) instead of the generic ass-hatchet spec’d by Surly.
  • VP-001 pedals (none included).
  • Jones 660mm Bend Bar, Paul brake levers, and ESI chunky grips instead of the Salsa Bend 2 bars, Avid FR5 levers, and generic rubber grips.
  • SKS Longboard fenders, because most bikes should have fenders. Especially commuter bikes.
  • Custom rear light mount for the non-drive-side dropout braze-on.
  • Paul Gino light mount for the left fork crown braze-on.

Everything else, we left stock. Some kind of rack–probably a black porteur–will come later.

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Happy new bike day.

And now, unlike me, she’s hoping that winter doesn’t come for a while, so that she can ride it as much as possible before the ice and snow and road salt force us to put it away.

Bottomed Out

While in Minneapolis this weekend, I finally got a chance to ride the Minnesota River bottoms on the Ox.  We’d ridden hard at Carver Lake the day before, so our Sunday morning ride was all about mellow cruising and basking in the warm November sun.

We started at Sibley House and rode the trails southwest along the Minnesota River, then crossed  the river on the Hwy 77 bridge and rode back northwest to the trailhead on American Blvd. From there, we took the LRT to 46th St and rode to Angry Catfish for coffee and bike-nerdery. After that, we rode the paved and unpaved trails through Minnehaha Park back through Fort Snelling and crossed the Mendota Bridge on the MRT to get back to the car.

The entire ride was, in a word, sublime. It’s a fat-biking paradise.

Only an idiot would thinking paving any of this a good idea.


Northwoods Sojourn

It’s pretty hard to beat fall in the Wisconsin Northwoods–and we seem to make a trip north about this time each year to visit the in-laws and get outside in the crisp, mosquito-free air.

This time, I took the Pugsley and squeezed in not one but two different rides.

On Saturday, after a stop for lunch and a growler at the Great Dane in Wausau, I headed out on the Bearskin Trail to ride from Hwy K to Minocqua and back. I’ve done this 36-mile round trip in as little as 2.5 hours on the fat-bike in the past, but this time it was simply too beautiful to go that fast. A combination of a leisurely pace, some exploratory side trips on various snowmobile trails, and plenty of stops for photos meant that it took me nearly 5 hours. The ride started out drizzling and wet, but then the wind shifted and the rain stopped, making way for some dazzling late afternoon sunshine.

And yes, I do ride the Bearskin nearly ever time I go to the farm. But it’s easy to see why.

On Sunday, we woke to frost and clear skies and very little wind. Couldn’t ask for a better day to ride around in the woods, so I visited another of my favorite trails at McNaughton Lake. These are primarily ski trails, so there’s no single-track. Essentially, they’re perfect for off-road fat-bike touring in the woods. And they circle not one but three lakes, all of them undeveloped. I rode three laps in order to make sure I took in all of the trails at least once; only on the last lap did I see another human being.

There were at least a half-dozen perfect places to stop and make coffee–but alas, I forgot to bring my coffee-outside gear. Photos and water-gazing had to suffice.

New Bike Day: All-City JYD

Well, it took me just about a year to build it up, but the All-City JYD is finally on the road.

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I’ve only ridden it a bit around the neighborhood. I’m really liking it so far, though the front brake still squeaks (either the pads aren’t toed-in correctly or I’ve got the straddle wire too high–or both).

Not too many good photos yet, so go check out the full specification in the meantime.