No, the title of this post is not referring to how 20+ years ago I was a hulking, 300 pound sack of man flesh, lost 125 pounds and am now seemingly going out of my way to gain as much of that weight back as I can with a steady diet of burgers, pizza, pasta and beer. No, I am simply adhering to Cycling Writer Law 26/3.7 which states that if you ride, review, touch, hear about or suggestively rub up against a fat bike and proceed to write about it, you MUST mention the word “fat” in the title of your piece, e.g. Getting Fat, Rolling a Fatty, Fat & Fun, Fatties Do It Better, Fat Between My Thighs, etc., etc., Since I
suggestively rubbed up against rode my Surly Pugsley for the second time this week on Thursday, I have gone with the title Fat Again. OK, with all that fat talk out-of-the-way, I will move on…
One of the things I miss most about living in Western PA is my weekly trips to the mountains to patch together bits and pieces of snowmobile trails, singletrack, forest roads and ski trails in the attempts to put together a kick ass loop. More than anything I enjoyed exploring and experiencing the mountain; the forests, terrain, animals and plant life which often varied from what I rode closer to the city.
Sadly, there are no mountains here in Michiganderburgh, but there are ways to explore, find new challenges and experience new things, thus my recent forays about an hour or so north of town to ride and explore the snowmobile trails and seasonal roads of the area.
It’s funny to think that just 60 miles north the terrain and landscape changes so much. While there are no mountains, the land becomes more rolling (dare I say “hilly), the trees and ferns get bigger and the wildlife is larger and more plentiful. It’s very much the same vibe as rolling through the mountains of Pennsylvania, just the climbs are a LOT shorter!
Another thing that differs here in Michigan from that of Western PA is the amount of sand there is. Most singletrack in the state will have at least a few sandy areas which are easily enough handled by a “regular” mountain bike but in the snowmobile and ORV trails are a different story. I have done similar rides in years past and would often come to a complete standstill, forced off the bike and to trudge in ankle-deep sand until got to firmer ground. Each time I would return home thinking that a fat bike would have surely made the ride more enjoyable, only at that time I didn’t have a fat bike and to be honest those thoughts were based purely on what I had read about fat bikes. For all I knew all those fat bike riders were full of shit and just trying to justify their purchase of a clown bike.
Of course we all know that I do have a fat bike now (thanks to a friend upgrading to a better bike and selling his old Pugs for a song) and I can honestly say, YES, in addition to snow, the big fat tires work amazingly well on deep sand and have made my snowmobile/ORV trail and seasonal road explorations of the northern Lower Peninsula much, MUCH better and WAY more fun.
One odd thing I have noticed since I have started riding the Pugsley is how normal it feels. A good friend of mine is a staunch fat bike hater. I mean he HATES them. Hates what they look like, what they are used for (he’s a long time XC skier and fears encroachment on his trails), how much they weigh, everything. In fact, he hates them so bad that I have been “in the closet” with him about me owning one for the past seven months! Anyway, he is the one that got me referring to fat bikes as clown bikes on occasion, but as I was saying when on a fat bike it doesn’t feel clownish or silly at all. Sure, it feels freakish riding around town on one, but when off-road (especially on sand and snow where it excels), it just feels like a mountain bike.
I will say that when you have a fat bike such as the Pugsley, after you’ve climbed about your 20th sandy hill, your legs REALLy start to feel it! But it still feels totally normal, that is why this is the last post I will write which refers to “fat” in the title. It will also be the last post in which I appear to justify me riding a fat bike or to be “selling” you on them.
I don’t care if you ride one or not and you shouldn’t care if I ride one or not. It’s just a mountain bike, a mountain bike that allow me to go further and explore more than I could on my “normal” bikes. Explore all those wonderful places in which scattered shot-gun shells are the most common form of litter, the trees grow big and much fun can once again be had piecing together trails and roads in the attempt to make a kick ass loop!
With yesterday’s three hours of exploration, I stuck just to the snowmobile trail and upon seeing the Garmin map at the ride’s end, I’m close to being able to stretch the ride the whole way to the Hanson Hills trails and back and as a possible loop, which could push the ride upwards of 50 miles or more if done right. As it is, yesterday’s ride was still a dreaded out and back type ride of 34 miles at a hulkingly slow average speed of just 11.3 mph. I’m blaming the weight of the bike of course, that speed is no reflection on my lack of fitness or skills.
While I’m hopeful, I’m not sure when my summer schedule will allow me to explore those trails again, as I like to avoid the high speed, drunken weekend ORV traffic and come fall–when my schedule opens up again– hunting season will be in progress and full of trigger happy Michiganderburgherites with itchy trigger fingers. Oh well, it’s been fun and has brought back all those good memories of exploring the mountains of Western Pennsylvania.