Monday, October 20, 2014

Title Goes Here

Not too much to say today. Other than: It's SNOWING! I feel like a kid on Christmas. I love the first snow. I love the second snow. I love snow in general.

Had a chance to get some good riding in on the new Farley this weekend.

Friday I took my son and one of his friends to the MatSu River Park where we rode some of the trails that we helped build along with the flow trail and some good single track before heading to the river bottom to ride that a bit. A fun time was had by all.

Saturday I didn't ride, but Sunday I did, with the goal of trying some rooty, techy track to really start getting a feel for the new bike and it's capabilities.

After starting out with a sweep of a few XC ski trails, a portion of which have been abandoned as they are on the municipal dump's property, I headed out to the track. First, though, the climbs on the XC ski trails.

I don't know what grade some of those climbs are, but there is one that is nearly a 1/4 mile of what has to be 20%+ grade - it's a killer. XC skiers like their steep uphills for some reason. (Crazy buggers). Anyway, I was able to clear all those climbs with no issue. Though I have to say I was able to clear them on the Pugs as well - it just took me a few more minutes to get my breath back after climbing on the Pugs than with the Farley.

Anyway, after riding the single track, I still have to say that I feel that the Pugs climbs the rooty, techy stuff better.

On the Farley I'm constantly needing to adjust my body position to keep the front end down and the power to the back wheel, where with the Pugs, I might have to push the front down a touch, but it's really Ron Popeil - set it and forget it.

The mass of the bike also seems to be a bonus on some climbs - the Farley seems to want to stop dead when meeting some obstacles that need climbing over where the mass and momentum of the Pugs seems to push it through some of these challenging areas.

That said, the lighter weight of the Farley does allow me to feel fresher after riding. Yesterday I put in about 20 miles of mixed riding - pavement, XC ski trail, and single track and was still able to take the dogs out for a 2.5 mile run in the afternoon. I'm not a runner, per se, so this is a fairly big deal. Don't know that I would have felt fresh enough to do that after riding the Pugs.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I'm not feeling terribly motivated lately to write or to really do anything. A downswing with the weather, I guess.

And the funny thing is that I should be excited to write. I should be rushing to get the words in my head down on the page, but I'm not.

However, as the best writers always advise, you must write even when you don't feel like it. So here it goes.

I bought a new bike. A Trek Farley 6 fat bike. I've talked about this already. And I still struggle with balancing the want and the need sides of things and enjoy the bike for all it's worth.

I've put on some good miles already. A 30 mile out and back paved ride. A 20 mile or so single track ride on mixed terrain. Daily commutes for nearly a week now. Rain. Wind. No snow yet, but that's coming soon.

I've put in some good miles and I think I've started to get a good impression of the bike.

Let me first remind you of my riding style and background. For the past two and a half years I have exclusively ridden a Surly Pugsley. Nearly 10,000 miles on that beast this year alone. Trail, beach, river bottoms, pavement, terrain parks, skate parks, pump tracks, snow, snowmachine trail - I've ridden the Pugs on just about ever terrain there is. So, my impressions of the Farley are going to be colored by my experience with the Pugs.

First, let me just say that the Farley is a nice ride. After completing the 30 miles of paved riding last Friday, I was tired, but not exhausted. I wasn't completely spent. I'd ridden a similar path the week before on the Pugs - going out 27 miles and calling it good and at the end I was feeling it. Exhaustion and aching legs. The Trek is lighter and it feels lighter and faster even with the wider tires. I know that I could have tossed off another 10 or 15 miles on the road with no problems at all and still felt fresh the next day. So there's that.

Unfortunately, most of my riding is on paved trail as part of the daily commute. While I enjoy all types of riding, this type of riding isn't what I do for fun. Some might say that my selection of one bike to rule them all is a bit backwards given the proportion of types of riding I do. It seems a bit backwards to buy a bike geared for trail riding when most of my riding is not on trail. But that's the way I roll. I want a bike I can bomb on single track and still ride for daily commuting. That's a big part of what drew me to fat bikes to begin with. Particularly with the Pugsley. The Pugs was trail capable, but had the accoutrement needed to make for convenient commuting - easy rack mounting, fender mounts, a more upright feel, etc.

The Pugs was a bear on the climbs. It would climb over just about everything, but you felt the weight the whole time. The Farley isn't quite the same. The geo is definitely more trail bike than expedition bike. Not as upright, fewer mounting points, and light.

And these differences translate into a bit of a learning curve on the trail. The first thing I noticed is that the Farley requires a bit more finesse. The Pugs would do whatever you wanted it to on the trail, but often it required a bit of brute force to get it to do what you wanted it to. Example - there is this slightly tricky off-camber, rooty climb coming out of the college trails and into the Kepler trails. It's not steep, but the roots and such make it a bit challenging. With the Pugs it didn't matter the line, you just pointed, geared up, and climbed it knowing that the momentum would help see you through.

Not so much with the Farley. No, with the Farley it is important to pick the right line and be in the right gear going into the climb. The front end does feel really light on climbs and wants to come off the ground. This leads to challenges when climbing over roots in that you can loose too much momentum and have to daub. I had two such instances on sections of trail I've never had issues clearing before.

Some of this might also be an issue of tires. I ran the Hodags at about 12 PSI and found that on wet roots, particularly on off-camber sections, they broke loose time and again. The tires also don't seem to shed mud all that well. With Nates and even with the Knards, I'd have challenges breaking them loose in similar conditions. I find this a bit interesting as my Nates and my Knard were both 27tpi versus the 60tpi of the Hodag. I am sure that I just need to experiment with pressure a bit more, but with the Surly tires I would often ride them on trail at the same 17 to 18 PSI as on pavement and would still grip everything no problem.

And completely apropos of nothing - the MuleFut rim, decent as it seems to be, has a graphic of a pig on it. Not sure how pigs and mules go together. Odd.

Another thing I noticed with the Farley is that it doesn't seem to want to jump. The Pugs loved to get air born. With the Farley I had a hard time feeling the back end coming off the ground, or even getting the front end up for manuals. With the Pugs, a manual was like nothing and getting air was even easier. Though with the Pugs it always was apparent that you were in the air because the front end would dive as soon as the back was up. With the Farley, the front seems to, once in the air, want to stay up. Yet the Pugs, for as heavy as it is, just felt more willing to jump than the Farley.

All in all, I'm impressed with the Farley. There's definitely going to be some learning to finesse versus just point and go here. I'm a bit curious how it'll do on snow, though.

Buyer's Remorse

Well, I finally did it.

I dropped the hammer and bought a new bike. I don't have it in my possession yet. Not until tomorrow. But right now, I'm not sure how I feel about it. About the whole idea of buying a new bike, that is.

Buyer's remorse, I suppose.

Or maybe I just wonder if I was hasty.

First, maybe I should look at the reasons I want a new bike. Notice I said want, not need. First and foremost it is completely about want. The bike I have currently would more than suffice for many more years. Hell, it's got a new frame, so I guess it's nearly a new bike.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about about why I want a new bike.

I ride a lot. We've established this already. And as someone who rides a lot, I want to have the most comfort I can while making the commute. In a self-powered vehicle that can mean a number of things. A lighter bike makes for easier rolling which makes for a more enjoyable and comfortable ride. In the winter, wider rims provide a bit better tire profile for flotation meaning a bit easier riding through the snow making for a more comfortable and pleasant ride. I'm hopeful that a wider bar will also lead to a more comfortable ride.

Another reason I've been looking for a new bike has to do with the recent snafu with the Pugs frame and being without transportation for a couple of days. Generally I don't go in for the idea that one needs to have an extra car or bike just in case one quits working. But, I've found myself in that situation too often. And it sucks. I want to know that on any given morning even if my primary bike is down, I can still get to work. Without driving.

I also am getting tired of riding by myself. Particularly in the winter. I don't have many (any) friends and a really challenging schedule which makes it difficult to set up rides with people outside my family. With the new Pugs frame being size large, all of my kids and possibly my wife can ride the bike, giving me four different possible riding partners. So, the bike will no longer be set up optimally for me as the rider, but it will be available if I need it and will give my kids something to ride along side me as I explore new areas this winter.

The large frame on the Pugs feels just a touch too cramped for me to ride everyday without putting on a new, even longer, stem that could affect the handling and with the slight differences in geo, the large already feels a bit twitchy to me.

And I just want a new bike. I've ridden the hell out of the Pugs and have gotten the per-ride cost to somewhere way south of a penny per ride. I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I still like the bike, but am just ready for something new.

So what makes the new bike better than what I currently have? Well, not much. Or maybe a lot.

I've already mentioned the wider wheels. The frame is non-offset, so easier to build a 29er wheelset for for summer riding. The hubs are out of the factory with sealed cartridge bearings rather than the open bearings that caused me so many problems on the Pugs until I rebuilt the wheel (which is now entering the break a spoke phase...). The brakes are hydro vs. mechanical. I don't know if this is better or not, yet. I've had a few times where the mechanical brakes felt a bit sketchy. The frame is aluminium and has a lifetime warranty - so no seat post bonding going on here. I've have aluminium frames break in the past. They have a life span and all. But that frame, too, had a lifetime warranty and the company replaced it. Unfortunately at the time I didn't have the funds to build up the frame as few, if any, of the parts from the original bike would work on the new frame. That said, I'm in a different place now and by the time this frame bites it, well, I should be getting to the point where a cruiser might be more my style.

Other than those few items, it's not like the new bike is light years ahead of the old bike. It is just new. Which is part of the hesitation I feel now that I've made the payment. Is this really what I want to spend that much money on? What else could I use that money for? The kids could use some skis. We could probably use a second car since we have one child who is licensed and one that is going to be soon. We could use a new X, Y, or Z.

I tend to get this way after making a large purchase. Not with cars, because when you finance something it feels a lot less real in terms of the cost.

I'm sure that I'll love the bike. And I'll ride it all the time. I just don't know that I'll ever be able to say that its purchase was ever anything more than me wanting something new and having the funds to afford it.

On the flip side, I do find that a new bike, or even new bike parts, tends to cause me to up my riding, which should result in a corresponding reduction in weight, thus better health? Yeah, I needed a new bike for my health. That's it.