Imagine Northeast Iowa

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The Joy of Fatbikes
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The Joy of Fatbikes

My friend Clara and I had made plans on Friday night to go out and ride fatbikes around the pine trails of Van Peenen Saturday morning. I woke up to the melodious sounds of snowplows driving by the bedroom, “Ugh.”

Conversing with Travis I came to the conclusion that even tho the ride might be a bit more challenging; it would ultimately be more fun and safer with the extra snow. I sent Clara a text message to convince her that we would totally have a blast. This actually wasn’t the message she was expecting; her thought was that about an hour before I would send a message saying “This probably won’t be the best day to go.” She would’ve agreed instantly, however, my chipper “Yippie!” was enough to keep her interested. We kept our plans to meet at the bike shop at 10 a.m. and be true trail blazers.

When I left my house it was pretty ridiculous; for whatever reason I wasn’t graceful on my two wheels. I figured that it looked like a drunken sailor rode a unicycle and hopefully the neighbors wouldn’t laugh at the mockery I created. I rode in the alleys all the way to the bike shop, wanting to get my bearings and also test my wits. Alleys aren’t usually pristine, especially early in the morning after snow. I had better get in the proper mindset for some off-road snow riding and I better do it now! I got to the shop without any ungraceful incidents and felt mightily pleased. Clara was already there and jokingly said I was late; I opted for the whole “I don’t know how long it takes me to get here from my house” excuse, because I really don’t.

We got ourselves geared up, I found what I had worn was actually perfect for the temperature and physical activity of the ride. Wind breaking tights, Smartwool base layer, t-shirt, and an insulated wind-breaking jacket. Sweet! I wouldn’t get too warm or too cold, I found the happy medium I was looking for. Shortly after we had ourselves situated with our gloves and headwear, Travis loaded up the bikes and off we went to Van Peenen.

Two not very experienced women riders going off into the snow-covered “wilderness” what could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing! However we learned quickly how hard it was to try and ride in the freshly fallen powder snow. Once I lost momentum or my tire slid out from under me, I was at a standstill. I was able to get going again, and pedaled slowly up the hill a way until I got myself hung up again. I did my very best to try and get back on the bike and pedaling up the hill, but after 5 or so attempts I resigned. I also found myself having difficulties breathing for I had worked my lungs up and forgot my inhaler. I am yet not very good at remembering to use the inhaler before intense rides, and I had been too excited this morning to remember to pack my spare. “Let’s walk!” Clara said, with a huge smile on her face. I will admit that I didn’t mind that idea, so we continued up the hill until we got to the opening of the first set of Van Peenen pines.

Normally I have Travis take the lead when I’m riding with him, being he is more experienced I feel it’s helpful for me to have a guide to watch. Plus, I’m a bit shy when it comes to learning and would much rather mess up without the experienced person seeing me flub. This time I was the one more familiar with the trail that lay ahead, so I took the lead. Picking our way along the perfectly white trail gave me a rush and a feeling of accomplishment. We were the first to tackle the first set of pines; virgin snow just waiting to be rolled on.

Having someone more my skill-level with me made me feel a bit more relaxed and confident than if I were with an experienced rider. I felt like it was okay for me to make mistakes, swear, and laugh without worry of impressing someone or disappointing someone. It made it a very challenge-free ride in terms of my emotional and mental determination.

When we couldn’t successfully ride areas with deeper snow, we walked; it was okay to admit that was the easiest thing to do. Why would we let snow stand in our way? It’s not to say that I didn’t try my damndest to get back on that bike when it was nearly impossible for me to get going. There is a lot to learn about successful snow riding and some of the obstacles were just not working out in my favor. I didn’t get mad and I chose the path of least resistance instead. Both Clara and I found the second set of pines much more entertaining; it has more turns and we found it more technically stimulating. Unfortunately in the midst of our fun, Clara realized she had a lunch date to get to. We found our way back to the first set of pines and she headed back to town. I decided that I wanted to ride through the pines a few more times before calling it quits. I hadn’t spent much time riding outside except to work and back and my desire for an outdoor ride was huge. 

I went back through both sets of pines, working on some of the areas that tripped me up a bit. My goal was to try and figure out what I needed to do to successfully accomplish my flubs. Some were easily noticed and others I had to work at. There was one particular corner that kept slipping me up in the second set of pines, and I worked that area at least 5 times until I successfully maneuvered around the corner. 

My stomach was empty, my body was becoming fatigued, and my fingers had gotten a second wave of chilliness. It was time for me to call it a day; I text Travis letting him know I would be heading back. I had my fun, now it was time to go and rest. I made my way down the hill and back to the road;I kept finding spots where the bike wanted to slip out from under me. I felt like I was riding a bucking bronco and this was one heck of a rodeo. I cannot lie and say I didn’t let out some swear words; thankfully no one was within earshot of my expletives.

I got onto Quarry Hill Rd. and boy, was that downhill ride amazingly fun! The fat tires of the bike let off a sound against the ground very similar to an airplane. It gave me a rush and I was comfortable enough at one point to ease my fingers completely off the brakes and just let myself roll fast. I wish I could say I enjoyed the wind in my hair and sun on my back, but it’s the wrong time of year for that. I got back into town and made my way to the bike shop; once I arrived at my destination I was completely spent. My heart was happy, my body was exhausted, and I felt like I really did accomplish something good for myself. Yup, I can say I really do love riding fatbikes.

 

 

More about fun, snow, fatbikes, awesome

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