Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Why would I take a dremel tool equipped with a carbide cutting bit to my shiny new Wildfire FatBike frame? Because if I were lining up to start the Arrowhead 135 this Monday I would be dealing with this:

Dealing with frozen bike parts in the middle of the night at -25F does not sound like a good time and this is precisely why I am winterizing my FatBike. My bike currently works great down to -5F but I want to know that it will work at -40F if it has to. I will definitely be at one of the winter bike races next year so I figure I might as well start testing things out now.

Winterizing Checklist:
#1 Dremel out the cable stops and run full length shift cable housing
#2 Replace hydraulic brake with Avid Mechanical brake and full length brake cable housing
#3 Replace all factory bearing grease (bottom bracket, headset, hubs, freehub, pedals) with Morningstar "Soup"
#4 Cover all metal bike tool surfaces with plastic tape

When the arrival of my FatBike was delayed by three months I had written off doing a winter bike race in 2007 but there is a little voice in my head encouraging me to buy a plane ticket to Anchorage and line up on Feb 17th.

To everyone racing the Arrowhead 135 this Monday, good luck and be safe out there! I will be rooting for all of you to have a great race and to achieve your personal goals.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Michelle goes FAT

Thanks to Fitzy loaning us his Pugsley I was able to take Michelle on her first snow bike ride today and explore more of the snowmobile trail network in the Big Hole Mountains. Based on Michelle’s perma-grin throughout the ride I would say that she is hooked and we may be a two-snow bike family before long.

We had perfect 15-20F sunny weather and firm trails to ride on so we ended up riding for about two and half hours. I was dying to check out the trails beginning where JayP and I had turned around the last time we rode in the Big Holes so we drove further north to begin our ride. I feel like a kid in a candy store lately every time I take the snow bike out and discover more new trails. We didn’t see a single person and the terrain was incredible. Today’s ride was more sustained climbing right out of the gate but the reward was a long descent back to the truck at the end. Michelle handled the snow bike great and said several times, “this is way better than the trainer”. Our youngest dog Kenai had a blast too and is secretly hoping that Michelle gets her own Pugsley so that his chances of going along on rides go up.

I also got to test out the new front rack today. The Old Man Mountain Sherpa rack is supported vertically by the axle using an extra long quick release skewer that is provided with the rack and then attaches to whatever holes are available on the front of the bike. The rack comes with two aluminum bars that have a long slot in them so you can mount them as needed. In my efforts to bend them to fit my fork/rack combo I weakened and broke one of them. Doh! I ended up pounding a star nut up into the steerer tube from beneath and then cutting and bending a ¾” wide piece of aluminum for the lateral support. I am not convinced this is strong enough so I may keep fiddling with it.

Friday, January 26, 2007


In the language of the Mountain Crow Indians, "Togwotee" meant "from here you can go anywhere". What a perfect place to launch our training adventure from. For JayP, this would be a 24-36 hour shakedown ride to test out his bike packing, eating, hydration, and winter camping strategies before the Iditarod Trail Invitational. For me, this would be my first significant ride on the FatBike and another chance to dial in my winter hydration and calorie intake. I did the driving up to Togwotee so Jay wouldn’t have to worry about a shuttle and he could simply ride home to Wilson, WY some time on Friday.

I took a half day off from work and we started our ride at 1pm from Togwotee Lodge. We could not believe how warm it was. It was in the teens in Jackson but up at 8500’ it was almost 40F. We shed all the layers we could and joked about wishing we had our summer “kits” with us. The plan was to do a 22 mile loop so that I could end up back at the truck and then Jay would continue on to ride south in the dark and camp at some point before riding home on Friday.

The Continental Divide winter trail network is made up of 600 miles of groomed snowmobile trails so there is huge potential for some epic rides. There are free maps available online or at local snowmobile shops and every intersection is signed. Awesome! Once we got five miles away from the lodge we saw very few snowmobiles and had the trails to ourselves.

Do to the soft snow and big hills the first six miles took us over 1:30:00 but we were riding most of the time. My early season fitness level was causing me to question what I had bitten off but at the same time I was having so much fun exploring new terrain I didn’t want to stop. At about 3:30pm the temps dropped quickly, the trail firmed up, and we were motoring. Motoring on the FatBike is relative though. At 8mph I feel like I am breaking the sound barrier. Four hours into the ride I had settled into a groove and I actually felt as if I could ride for a lot longer. At 5:15pm we came to a point where it didn’t make sense for Jay to ride with me any further so he headed south and I headed for the truck. Once the sun set I put the headlamp on and keep trucking along thinking I was home free. I saw lights from one of the lodge’s snowcats coming at me and I thought “cool, I will be flying once I get onto the freshly groomed trail behind it”. Not! The smooth surface left by their snowcat was hiding a fluffy layer underneath that was not rideable even at 5 psi. I rode the last ½ mile by hugging the 3” wide band of packed snow to the edge of the groomer’s path and frequently got stuck in the snow banks off trail. Back at the truck my watch showed just under 5 hours of ride time and the map said that I did 22 miles.

As I drove home alone I reflected on a great day and thought about Jay out there riding in the dark and eventually sleeping under the stars in his -20 degree bag and bivy. As soon as I accumulate a bit more winter camping gear I will be up for the entire adventure instead of the condensed version.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Riding the rollers will tell you very quickly how smoove (smooth) your pedal stroke it. My pedal stroke needs some work based on yesterday's one hour roller session. Riding rollers is pretty new for me but so far I like them a lot more than the stationary trainer. Once I get up to speed I feel pretty solid. Getting started, taking a drink from the water bottle, or wiping the sweat off are the main challenges I hope to overcome shortly.

Tonight is another Indoor Cycling Center session at Fitzy's and I am hoping to do a big snow bike ride with JayP on Thursday and make a small contribution to his training efforts.
JayP is training for this year's Iditarod Trail Invitational and he wants to do an overnighter while riding from Togwotee to Slide Lake and then home to test out all of his gear. I will drive the two of us to Togwotee, ride with JayP for a while, and then head back to the truck solo while JayP continues on into the darkness. The weather forecast is for clear skies, highs in the low 20s, with a low of -3F so it should be nice.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Gearing up to go the distance

Riding for six or more hours in the winter is very different than riding for six hours in the summer. Increase that time to multiple days and the challenge goes up exponentially. In general, you simply have to carry more stuff in order to remain comfortable and safe in the winter.

Keeping all of my toes is a big priority for me as I delve into snow biking and aspire to race in Alaska or Minnesota next winter. Two weeks ago while alpine skiing I got mild frostbite on my left big toe to the point where it is still dark purple and numb on the tip…yuk! My ski boots were squeezing my toes a bit on back to back cold ski days and I should have known better. The lack of circulation was more of a factor than the temps themselves. My snow bike footwear strategy is based on circulation and insulation and is coming together nicely except that I haven’t tested it on a long outing yet. My concern is perspiration. Sweaty socks = cold feet. This is where Vapor Barrier socks come in. VB sock keep the sweat next to your skin and your insulating layers stay dry so they can do their job. Think about how a wetsuit works.

Integral Designs VB sock has a nice closure at the top to keep the heat in
RBH Designs offers a VB liner sock as well but the seems are not taped. Moisture may seep into your outer sock.
RBH Designs also offers an insulated VB sock that has a soft fleecy lining.
Hydration is another challenge during long winter events that may see temps range from 25F to -40F. A water bottle in a cage freezes really fast at -20F. I am Camelbak fan throughout the year and normally wear one during mountain bike races of any length. I want to figure out a way to wear one in the winter so I am going to experiment a bit. If I wear their insulated bladder inside a pack AND next to my base layer it might work. Keeping the bite valve and hose free of ice is the biggest concern.

Hydration Plan B is to use insulating sleeves for two Nalgene bottles. This means that I have to stop to drink and I am less likely to drink as often. Where do you get water in the middle of a winter snow bike race? You melt snow of course. I am not a backpacker nor do I have extensive backcountry or mountaineering experience. Based on reading about stoves and using stoves the JetBoil looks like a simple and efficient solution that even I could use. The 1L cannister acts as a container for the rest of the parts and packs up to the size of a Nalgene bottle.
I love planning and researching the details involved for a long event!

Friday, January 19, 2007

FatBike Nirvana

Today was the day I had in mind when I ordered the FatBike back in August. I had a feeling rides like this would be possible but you never know until you actually get out there.

JayP and I hooked up for a ride this afternoon with the idea that we would explore the snowmobile trail network in the Big Hole Mountains on the west side of Teton Valley and see if it truly is a viable option for the snow bikes. Holy crap is it a viable option! We blew the needle off of the fun meter today! We rode, and rode, and laughed, and climbed in our granny gears, and bombed downhill at silly speeds, and overall had a lot of fun while riding pretty hard for a couple of hours. And we barely scratched the surface of the trail network. There are steep climbs, steep downhills, rolling terrain, and interesting scenery. This network of trails is groomed by the local snowmobile clubs and they do a damn nice job. There was even some corduroy to be found at a main intersection.

There are easily enough snowmobile trails there to connect a few loops and ride all day long…or longer. It makes me want to seek out the local snowmobile clubs and give them a big thanks. There are even signs! Our summer trail network is notoriously hard to follow due to lack of signage. You just have to get lost a few times and figure it out.

We had perfect 18 degree sunny weather and moderately firm trails. The trails were just firm enough to be rideable on the Endomorphs at 5-7 PSI but were probably too soft to ride on skinnier tire.

2006 Susitna 100 winner, JayP, making it look easy.

Dueling Fatties
It was great to ride with JayP and bounce some gear ideas off of him since he has had a lot more time on the snow bike than I have. Look for JayP to rock it in this year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational. We geeked out about vapor barriers, breathable layers, lightweight tubes, rack configurations, arctic lube, and racing in the snow.
Today's ride was like pouring kerosene on a fire that was just beginning to burn. I see some winter endurance racing in my future.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Heat Wave

Yesterday afternoon the temps jumped up to 11 degrees so I grabbed the Hulk and headed for Teton Canyon. It had not been above 5 degrees for over a week so 11 degrees felt pretty good to me and it was my best snow ride to date. The 1:20:00 ride flew by and re-energized me for the rest of my work day. I am loving the FatBike and the fact that I can get outside and ride instead of staring at the wall on the trainer.

So far, my clothing choice is the hardest thing to nail down for snow biking. I usually wear too much and my torso & head end up soaking wet within an hour. I need to experiment with fewer layers and more breathable fabrics. The Moose Mitts on the handlebars are the shizzle! I can get away with only thin glove liners down to zero degrees. My hands were sweating in them at 11 degrees.

I hope to do the Susitna 100 or the Arrowhead 135 next year so I need to get my clothing options dialed in. Getting sweaty in the first 10 miles of a 100 mile race is not good.

I discoverd this short loop off the main trail that winds through a spooky forest.

The main trail is mostly in the sun with great views all around.

Can you see the moose?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Indoor Cycling Center, first night

Last night was the first session of the 2007 season for the Indoor Cycling Center at Fitzy's. The ICC is a program Fitzy started about three years to help the local cyclists keep their mojo when it is dark at 5pm and often too miserable to ride outside. Up to six cyclists line up in front of a big screen and the computer projects your stats up onto the screen as you ride. The bikes are mounted on Computrainer Pro trainers and the resistance automatically changes when the terrain on the screen changes. Very cool.

Because you can see each rider's progress and stats it ends up being somewhat competitive. I tried to keep the heart rate at a reasonable level last night but I still spent a lot of the 1:15 ride above 170 bpm. Mondays and Wednesdays will be ICC days for the next couple of months.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Hulk lives

After seeing the frame with the wheels on it as I was building it up Michelle named it the Hulk. Bright green and bulging at the seems. Brilliant!

I scrambled out of work early so I could get a short ride in this afternoon. It was 2 degrees when I left and the snow in Teton Canyon was squeaky cold. I rode for about an hour and ended up working pretty hard because of the soft conditions. The FatBike rode great on the soft skate track. I didn't feel guilty about riding the skate track because the Endomorph tires leave such a shallow inprint on the snow due to their wide footprint.
This bike is going to extend my riding season by a whole lot. I am looking forward to exploring the snowmobile trail network in the Big Hole mountains on the west side of Teton Valley.

For the bike geeks out there, here is the build spec:

Frame & Fork: Wildfire FatBike
Hubs: XT
Rims: Surly Large Marge
Tires: Surly Endomorph 3.7
Stem & Post: Thomson
Bottom Bracket: Phil Wood 100 X 145
Crankset: Middleburn square taper
Pedals: Wellgo Magnesium
Shifters: Sram XO Twist Shisters
Front Derailleur: Shimano E-type
Rear Derailleur: Sram XO
Rear Brake: Magura Louise FR
Handlebar: Easton Monkeylite Lo Rise

A few shots prior to the first ride

Do these tires make my butt look big?

I am impressed with the quality of the Middleburn crankset

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The eagle has landed...finally

Brown Santa gave me quite a scare last night. Typically he delivers between 3pm and 4:30pm but that window came and went. At 6:30pm I was sure that he wasn't coming and had resigned myself to another day of waiting. When the dogs sounded the alarm that someone was on the front deck at 6:45pm my mood perked up immediately.

After 4 1/2 months of waiting my Wildfire Designs FatBike frame finally arrived.

The FatBike frames are built by DeSalvo and shipped up to AK where Wildfire has them painted, preps them, and builds them up as complete bikes or ships the frames off.

The frame and fork have enough clearance to run Surly 3.7 Endomorph tires on Large Marge rims and the frame can do dual duty as a rigid 29er in the summer as well. FatBikes use a standard 100mm front/135mm rear hub configuration whereas the Pugsley runs a 135mm rear hub both front and rear.

I hope to get it built up tonight and take it out for a spin tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The eagle is airborn

Touchdown is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and the fun will begin immediately.

I began this project back in late August thinking I was ahead of the curve and that I would have plenty of time to order the frame, pick out the parts, and get the bike built before the first snowflake hit the ground. I won't go into the drama here but I was sooooo close to pulling the plug and ordering a Pugsley a couple of times. It doesn't help that my buddies over at Fitzy's didn't order Pugsleys until November and have been riding for a few weeks already. Have I mentioned that I am not a patient person? I am excited about this frame and I know it is going to be worth the wait.

I have all of the parts I need and I am hoping the build goes smoothly.
The only thing I don't have is a headset press so I may bomb over to Fitzy's and have them press that in for me.

On the training front, I am hoping that today and tomorrow are my last trainer rides for a while and I get outside on the new hotness Friday.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Pow Day

It has been a good weekend of skiing at Grand Targhee, our local ski area. The "Ghee" is a low key place to ski that has incredible snow more often than not and now that the Christmas holiday is over the crowds are gone and lift lines are non-existant. A favorite part of ski season is ripping around the mountain with our friends and then sipping a Black Butte Porter, or two, in the Trap bar afterwards.

It started snowing pretty hard again after lunch today.

The dudes, Bechler and Kenai, were amped for a walk after we got home so we added a couple layers and headed out for a loop around the neighborhood with big flakes coming down.

There is always a lot sparring back and forth on our walks and Bechler is the master of the "sneak attack".

Friday, January 5, 2007

And so it begins...

...a new blog and a new year.

2006 was a year of many firsts for me in my short cycling career and I enjoyed reading my fellow racers' blogs so much that I decided to join them the fun.

My blog will also add a level of accountability to my training and racing as I plan to publish the good, the bad, and the ugly as the season unfolds. What does the 2007 cycling season look like? The only thing I know for sure is that I will be back at the E100 for 100 miles of joy and pain.

We are fully entrenched in winter here in Driggs so any cycle-specific training usually happens indoors or is doesn't happen at all. However, this year I have a new weapon in the works to replace some of those mind-numbing trainer hours.

I am not a patient person and the wait is killing me. Stay tuned...