I have been having trouble identifying places to ride. Not for lack of research or enthusiasm. I have swung by a few snowmobile trailheads near my house, only to be discouraged that the snow there was deep and soft--not packed down by snowmobile traffic. I have looked for other trailheads that remain elusive--some of the maps I have found online are rough approximations. I'm thinking you kind of have to know where some of these trailheads are in order to find them in the wintertime.
I decided that today was going to be my day for a nice, long trail ride. I packed my fat bike on my car using the new bike rack, loaded a bunch of gear in the car, and headed out. (Look how filthy my car is! I had just washed it the day before. Trying to keep it clean this time of year is an endless losing battle.)
My first destination was a mountain biking trail in Augusta. I might have found the trailhead; I did see footprints heading into the woods. There was no place to park, though, that wasn't right next to a fire hydrant, and the snow looked too deep and soft. So, then, I headed to a trail system in Waterville. I definitely found the trailhead and it looked perfect! The snow looked well-packed and there was no problem with parking. I add the fenders to the bike, threw on my helmet and backpack, and took off.
Not so fast! Riding around the parking lot worked great but, once I headed down the trail, I couldn't move! The wheels just spun; they wouldn't grab any traction. Great, just great. I loaded everything back onto/into the car and headed back home. The whole way home I was doing this catastrophizing thing I can do so well. What if I don't find anywhere to ride my fat bike? What if I can't do the workouts I need to do to prepare for my trip? Etc., etc., etc.
When I got home, instead of going in the house, I jumped on the fat bike and rode up and down my road--five round trips. Turns out that, in these conditions (18 degrees F, sunny, 6 mph wind), my road is the perfect place to ride. Packed snow and dirt surface, enough hills to get a workout, no car traffic, pretty views. I ended up riding over ten miles (a little more than an hour). I felt I had had a good workout and, surprisingly, I did not get bored.
- If I can't ride on snowmobile trails as much as I had planned, maybe I can ride on remote (quiet) dirt roads. I guess more research is called for. Of course, once the weather warms up and these dirt roads become pea-soup soft, a Plan C will be required.
- It was cold today, but I seemed to have the right clothing on for this ride. I was a little cold when I was heading northeast (into the wind) and a little warm when I was heading southwest (toward the sun). Any colder or windier, and I would need my Moose Mitts to keep my hands warm.
- I love my fenders! They didn't impede my pedaling even once, they protected me and the bike from flying road/snow debris, and the rear one did not slide down the seat tube at all (as some reviews had led me to anticipate).
- The bar mount for my phone gives me easy access to it, but I guess I should research gloves that conduct through the fingertips so I don't have to remove them to operate the phone.
- The app I used to record my ride (Road Bike) worked great--right up until the phone completely died (see Bad News).
- Not once did I hear the front brakes dragging. In fact, the brakes worked so well that I didn't even think about them until the ride was over.
- During the first four miles or so of my ride, the seat felt comfortable. Then, discomfort took over. Good wake-up moment. I need to get a lot more saddle time in to get adjusted to that discomfort so I don't notice it any more.
- My hands and wrists were the most uncomfortable parts of me on this ride. The hand position on straight handlebars does not feel comfortable after a few miles and there are only so many ways to creatively change positions. I'll have to experiment with gel pads, etc. I will be happy to switch to my road bike and have all those additional hand-placement options.
- The tube to my hydration pack froze up solid. No surprise there! I was wearing the pack mostly to assess whether I would find cycling with water on my back to be comfortable--and it is. I guess the hydration pack won't work very well in this weather, unless I come up with warming strategies for that tube. (Update: My son says there are insulated covers made for those water tubes. Of course there are.)
- Riding around in this kind of cold drains the phone's battery really quickly. I guess during this cold I should carry the phone against me inside my jacket, and maybe not continuously use the trip-recording app. More experimentation is warranted. I probably should explore options for powering the phone (maybe a backup battery for the tour?) and for recording sporadic "moments" along a ride instead of recording the entire ride.
- I had been planning to take photos during this ride--but the whole phone-dying thing interfered with that idea.