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A Taste of Fatbiking in Iowa
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A Taste of Fatbiking in Iowa

On a Tuesday earlier in November, we had our first bit of snow that stuck to the ground for longer than five minutes. I can’t lie and say I wasn’t a little downtrodden over the fact that we were legitimately heading into the winter months. Most times winter ends up leaving me feeling blue, antsy, and wishing for blankets and hot chocolate.

My friend, Kristin, and I had planned to go for a morning ride. With the small amount of snow on the ground I knew we would be okay for some of the more basic trails, especially the pines. We would take fatbikes out and explore what we could- Travis would take us to the fire road so we could start in the pines first and ride the other trails down.

Kristin and I had spent several weekends apart (that sounds a little silly, but Saturday morning mtb rides were becoming more frequent!) and I was so looking forward to getting out on a non-weekend day to have some quality time with a friend. Travis dropped us off and it was go time!

Until I got confused with the grip shifters and shifted myself to a point where I could barely pedal; smart. I reminded myself of how they worked very quickly that way, re-shifted, and caught up with Kristin.

The pines were fantastic and we were the first bikes to have that small bit of snow. The bikes rode nicely and we plugged along. After the pines I figured that the upper half of Little Big Horn would be a safe bet-we rode to where you could take an uphill onto First Right and came back around to ride it again. The second loop through you could tell that the ground was warming up and the snow was melting away. Proverbial slop is what we had to ride through, and at which point, I ended up falling on my butt because I took a corner too sharp. After another loop through the pines we went down Gunnar and then went to ride North 40 counter clockwise, hitting IPT for our exit route.

It was a fantastic time and I really enjoyed myself! I had high hope that this year would be the first year I could accept winter with a more childlike enthusiasm and actually have fun spending time out in the cold and snow. I used to enjoy that sort of adventure as a kid, but as I aged I found myself turning reclusive. This year, fatbiking will be the solution to that!

Later in the day Travis and I went out on fatbikes in the sloppy mess that was what was left after the dusting of snow melted away. I started to learn more and more about how to ride a fatbike and the differences with how it handled vs. my other bikes. Needless to say, it’s not all roses and sunshine for me.

Inclines? My butt starts to lift off my seat, I inch forward, ready to give it my all on the climb…to find myself with a back tire doing nothing but spinning out. First major lesson? Keeping my butt planted on my seat. Experiencing the technique and apparent difficulties I have with staying seated for climbs. It’s more weight under me, which is sometimes difficult for me when it comes to bursting. Also? You (still) can’t be in too easy of a gear or you will go nowhere. Fun things about fatbike riding? You aren’t “ripping it” but are out and simply riding for the pure pleasure of it. You roll over so many things easily! It's literally fun put on two wheels. 

Travis and I had gone on the similar route that Kristin and I had gone on, minus the ride up to the fire road. We took IPT in, did North 40, rode up Gunnar, did the pines, Little Big Horn, Fred’s, and the Luge. I was still able to keep going, so we decided to head up to Palisades and ride the trails in that area. One being we would go down Dead Pet and work on the other side. Just recently I started riding the upper section of Dead Pet after I came down from Lower Pali. This is a trail that I will say still gives me that knotted gut feeling in some areas, but overall I have felt okay with the adventure that this trail offered. The other side (lower) section of Dead Pet is one I haven’t really explored all but one time, and that ride was many months ago.

Riding a trail once is pretty much like not having ridden it at all, and the other interesting aspect of this ride was it was starting to get dark. Riding a newer-to-me section of trail that is challenging, without light, is really a hoot! The one positive aspect of this? The hill that took me so many times to try and ride up was accomplished right off the bat with an easy gear and keeping my butt on the seat. Holy cow! The things a fatbike can do!

After we finished up Dead Pet we headed back home, by way of River Trail to the bike shop, which would eliminate our time on paved surfaces/streets.

Two fatbike rides in one day with two great people in my life. Two rides that provided two different trail conditions and a whole lot of learning. There is much more to learn yet, but I can certainly say that I will not let the challenge deter me from having some fun outside this winter!

More about fatbike, mountan, bike, fun, snow

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