From Dirt to Snow

This week may have finally been my last mountain bike ride of the 2013 season.  While I jealously watch many of you in more southern climes enjoy riding in long-sleeved shirts to fend off that fall chill, I am considering hanging my bike up for the year because the whisper of snow is in the air here in the Yukon.

Do you live somewhere that you can ride year round? Or do you have to put away your bike for another sport during the winter (sorry Neil, I know your summer is just getting started)?  Are there any other snow bikers out there?  How do you transition into this next season?

As the days get rapidly and considerably shorter in length, there has been a sort of desperation in my efforts to squeeze in one last bike ride this year.  The snow hasn’t yet fallen on most of the local trails which is pretty amazing considering it is late October.  I rush home after work and head out to one of my favourite trails, one that I can access from my back door.  But it all feels rather panicky and given that snow is in the forecast for later this week, I think I am going to turn my efforts to winter workouts.

Twice a week, starting about now, I spin indoors on a trainer.  It’s good fun since I do this with a group of friends and, because there are no pressures around who rides faster when you are stationary, it’s a great way to catch up socially while working on fitness.  I also, once the snow actually sticks to the ground, head out on the cross-country ski trails to enjoy the outdoors. Fortunately, my skills (or lack thereof) as a mountain biker have never diminished my love of biking. Whether I go fast or slow and whether I walk up a hill or down a particularly technical section does not change the fact that I love being out on my bike. With skiing, however, it’s another story.  I consider the sport to be a herculean effort on misery sticks.  But I do it for my heart because I know that if I keep my cardio up it will help make the transition back to dirt easier.

But what makes the end of the mountain biking season tolerable for me is that it means the start of snow bike or fatbike season!  These bikes generally have tires at least 3.7 inches wide and are built around a specific frame with wider than normal forks.  The large tires allow the bike to ‘float’ on sand or obtain decent traction on snow.  These bikes have exploded onto the bike scene over the last couple of years.  Articles have been written calling them stupid and sluggish.  But there have been some good rebuttals of these criticisms and I am personally a fan of fat bikes, no question. Indeed, they are a niche market but if you live somewhere with serious winter (or, possibly, somewhere with serious beach) they are a blast to ride and they are not a trend that I see going away.

So while I lament the encroaching darkness and the end of what was a really, really amazing summer, I am also excited about the snow bike season which is just around the corner. What does the change of seasons mean to your riding habits?  Do you add in other sports or physical activities as the weather worsens?  Or are you one of the lucky who can ride dirt 12 months/year?

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