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Embracing the Northeast Iowa Fatbike Challenge!
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Embracing the Northeast Iowa Fatbike Challenge!

Let me take you to a random day in November...

My morning hadn’t quite gotten off to the start that I originally expected, but the positive light at the end of the tunnel was pretty darn nice. It’s a day off! I would have a bike available to borrow for however long I wanted. The temperatures were in the 30’s and I would work on battling my nerves with biking in the snow.

I got dressed and headed off to the shop. My funny moment during this was a person randomly asking me “What are you up to today?” and I said “Uh…biking!” and she got wide-eyed and said “Oh! Sorry! I thought you were someone else!” There is probably only one person that I could get confused with (especially in winter bike attire) and that would be O’Gara.

Upon arriving at the shop I got to see a sneak peek at my freshly painted fatbike frame. I’m not sure if seeing that gave me the inspiration I needed to get out there and blaze trails, or if the pep-talk I had been given the day before helped.

Either way, I was bound and determined that I would go out there, ride what I could, walk when I needed, and simply enjoy the fact that I could spend a day off outside.

I started my ride feeling that bit of nervousness that I probably had when I went on my first-ever solo mountain bike ride. That flicker of excitement in my gut that usually gives me the courage I need to keep on going. That “Let’s see what I can do!” feeling. It’s awesome.

I told myself to just give North 40 a winning shot. So what if I would possibly have to walk, thus far the tires were gripping nicely and I was feeling a bit more confident and sure. I made it up the first climb without getting hung up on one of the roots, yeah! Then I came around the corner of the more intense climb that has thwarted me several rides. I pedaled hard, giving it my all and hoping for the best….and I was at the top! Heck yes!!! I don’t care how the rest of the winter season goes now. I made it once, I’m happy enough with that. Take THAT!

I made my way to the top- Gunnar to the pines. I did my best to pack in and widen the trail through the pines and went off to Little Big Horn. I wondered what exactly I should ride and opted to explore the Dunnings area. That meant after Little Big Horn I would either ride down Rocky Road or visit my old friend, Fred.

Fred and I have a special relationship. I really do love that trail even tho parts of it make me nervous (when it’s wet and slimy.) The more times I successfully ride Fred under less than ideal conditions, the more I feel confident over my growing skills. This trail has been important with desensitizing me to drop-off ledges, making turns over rocks/roots, and making smooth hairpin turns. I haven’t ridden Fred’s for a week or so, and I missed it. It was a picture-perfect ride on that trail and I felt great!

Eventually I came to the fork in the road, so to say. Lower Randy’s to the left, Old Randy’s to the right-which would be the lucky trail? I work hard with fatbiking and knew that riding up Old Randy wouldn’t be as successful as riding up Lower. I’ll be working hard either way, but Lower Randy usually proves to be more successful. I have to admit I was a bit nervous as the trail hadn’t been ridden too much yet so there was packing work to do. I made climbs I didn’t think I could, wasn’t surprised when I lost my footing in areas, and made my way to the top.

Captain’s Loop was fun and I enjoyed my ride, having to stop for two down trees. Aww, dangit! That scratched my idea of riding it another time or two and I continued on to focus on the Dunnings Loop. I rode the loop twice, widening the trail and packing it in. The world around me was silenced by my winter helmet, but I could easily hear my tires rolling over the snow under me. The air was crisp and cool, my eyes watered a little.

I felt good. I felt happy to be outside, I felt more confident riding in the snow. My legs felt worked but strong, my right arm and shoulder were hurting-but I felt content. I felt strong.

I had noticed it looked like Upper Randy’s hadn’t been ridden and I made my way to that trail, letting my tire roll over the roots in my way. As I made my way to the first switchback I saw two riders coming my way. Well, wouldn’t ya know it was Jeff and Trevor! They were riding up Upper Randy’s, and my job would be made easier that way as I could follow their tracks the opposite way. I waited off to the side for them to pass, getting to see both wipe out in front of me! I got to see my first hand experience of two skilled riders facing challenges in the snow. It really put what Travis said to me the day before into perspective. Jeff also mentioned that I was riding trails when they were quite tricky. Trevor mentioned that when there is more snow on the ground, the roots are packed and flush; easier to roll over and not slip out. I was out there doing “work,” literally.

We parted ways and I continued, surprising myself with how much I was able to ride of Upper Randy’s. I can’t tell you how stoked I was! While Jeff, Trevor, and I were conversing 3 other riders had ridden up Backside and Lower Randy’s. My ride down the trail was much less nerve-wracking than my ride up.

I had a GU prior to my ride back down, and I was having such a positive experience that I didn’t want to stop quite yet. The only way to keep going would be to go up…and by up that meant riding up Rocky Road. I sat and pedaled, realizing that I would have to end my ride after another round of Fred; fatigued legs can’t be stopped once they start. I came down Fred’s and made my way to the Luge, thankful I had enough energy to make that one last climb. Riding down the Luge I felt I could let go a little, the roar of fatbike tires on smoother surface really does excite me!

That day gave me a lot to be thankful for. So much that it’s hard to put into words; however, it gave me a renewed appreciation for taking challenges head on. I do get exhausted on a mental/emotional level when it comes to dealing with renewed challenge, but when the moment happens that I can embrace it-it’s amazing. Confidence grows, my spirit soars, and I can appreciate the ride more fully without putting unnecessary pressure on myself. It’s glorious.

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