Archive for the ‘biking’ Category

Neverending spring..

Monday, May 6th, 2013

We have been having an very late spring. Its early May now, and the trails are still rideable and skiable around my house, though they are getting a bit soft in the late afternoon. With a Monday free, Remus and I set off to see if the trails in the White Mountains are still in good biking shape.

The biking was in a word – fantastic!

Our long days have been balanced by moderately cold nights, keeping the snowpack intact, and the trails firm. A wonderful combination..

Remus and I headed out to Colorado Creek cabin at a mellow pace, stopping to take pictures, enjoying the sunlight, the views, and in Remus’s case, roll around in the snow to cool off. Life is tough..

The trails had a dusting of fresh snow on them, but still fast going and almost no pushing.

Other trail users were out as well..

We turned around after reaching the cabin, and headed a short ways towards Beaver Creek, but turned around, hoping to make it back before the twins bed time.

This spring has been fantastic and while I have been enjoying it, I know that breakup is just around the corner, with summer fun following soon after. Every season has its own fun, and while I am looking foreword to summer.. meanwhile I am really digging what I have now – yay!

One Last Snow Bike Ride..

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

On a fantastically sunny and warm Monday Remus and I headed out to the White Mountains NRA for one last juant on the snow bike.

After a false start after forgetting my bike shoes, I made it out on the trail in the early afternoon, and enjoyed wonderful trails, clear skys, and a superb trails.

It was a bit hot for Remus, but the pace was mellow enough for him to have fun.

Summer is coming, but right now I am still digging spring.. I have had a lot of snow, but I will still be sad to see it all go.

Tolovana by bike!

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

This Thanksgiving Nancy and the twins where off to visit Nancy’s folks on the east coast, and I was left with a week by myself with no commitments. Ms Marsh was kind enough to help me out, and invited me out to Tolovana, and on Thanksgiving day I found myself biking down the trail to to Tolovana. We don’t have much snow here in the Interior, making for not the best skiing, but pretty darn wonderful biking. I really enjoyed the ride out, enjoying the well packed trail and the fast biking.

The views were spectacular.

Near the high point of the trail I stopped at the “Tolovana Hilton”, an abandoned water tank, to get out of the wind for a moment. It is pretty amazing how warm it is once you are out of the wind..

I had the trail to my self for the most part, passing one party on ski and a family on snow machine.

I was amused to find out that I almost beat the snowmachiners out to the hotsprings. They had arrived at the parking lot the same time as we did, and passed me for the last time about a mile from the hotsprings.

One of the skiers knows my wife Nancy, and apparently recognizing Remus, asked if she was coming. Alas, Nancy was on the east coast, enjoying sun and fair weather.

The last downhill was steep enough that I briefly stopped to see what was making a hissing noise and realized it was water vaporizing on the brake rotors. A funny sight at -5f.

After about two hours of riding and taking lots of photos I arrived at the little cabin that we were going to spend the next two nights in. I was surprised to see smoking coming out of the chimney, and a snowmachine parked outside. I stuck my head in to see one of the younger members of the snowmachine posy hurriedly packing up – apparently he was told by his dad they were staying in the “first” cabin, and only when I arrived did he relize his mistake. No harm done, and I didn’t have to start the fire! Remus and I mellowed out enjoying the time to ourselves, and were eventually joined by Ms Marsh, who had walked in.

The evening was spent eating, soaking, and talking. It was a fantastic way to spend Thanksgiving, though I missed Nancy and the twins.
Black friday was spent eating, soaking, and exploring, with maybe a bit more talking.

The wind had picked up a bit overnight, and was really blowing on the day after Thanksgiving. At one point while biking up the Tolovana airfield I though I was going to have to get off the bike to push the wind was blowing so hard. On our last day the wind died down a bit, and the bike ride out was fast and pleasant. The biking was so fast it almost felt like cheating, as the trail was so firm I think you could have ridden a road bike on it. In these conditions the bike is almost magic, zooming along when skiing would have been a slow slog on the flats, and nail biting terrifying on the downhills.

A big thanks to Ms Marsh for inviting me out, it was a wonder trip, and a great way to spend a quiet mellow Thanksgiving, and it’s mad shopping aftermath.

“Almost” winter..

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

My local trails have been slowly working themselves into shape, and in the last week or so have become packed enough to doing longer rides from my house on the snow bike. My “default loop” these days is about 30 miles, mostly on trails, with a short section on a dirt road. On fast days last spring it would take me under 4 hours to complete the loop. Since the trails seem to becoming passible, I decided to head out and check things out. Alas, this time it took almost twice that, with a fair bit of pushing.

Sections of the trails are really nice, mostly in places were the local mushers are grooming the trails to a white asphalt like hardness.

In other places there has been little traffic, probably because we only have 6″ or so of snow on the ground, making travel a bit hard on snow-machines. The ruts made by ATVs in the summer are barely covered in some places..

It was a nice ride though, and it was wonderful to be out on the snow bike right out of the house. Darkness is arriving pretty early these days, which is not a bad things – you can’t have winters in Alaska without darkness, and I was happy to spend some time riding in the dark. It might seem strange to some, but I love traveling after sunset in winter…

I was somewhat surprised I had the trails completely to my self, and only encountered one other person, a fat biker, just a few miles before I was back at my house.

Things are definitely looking up, but we need a bit more snow before our winter trail system really opens up. With another 5″ of snow the trails would be fantastic – here’s to more snow!

Snow Biking!

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Winter is finally here, with colder temperatures and a bit of snow. I managed to get out for my second bike ride in the White Mountains of the winter, and my first ride over 5 hours since the snow has come. It was a wonderful day to be on the bike…

The trails in the Whites are a bit rough, but passable. It should be ok skiing, though a bit thin. The biking was pretty good!

I was surprised to see lots of fat bike tracks and a single set of smaller tires – looks like snow biking just keeps going up in popularity!

The first 6 miles of trail were packed hard, and the riding was fast. Just after Lee’s cabin the trail got a fair bit softer, but the riding was still pretty nice…

I seemed to have the place to myself, with only a small bird and a couple of raven’s interrupting the solitude.

I continued on to Moose Creek cabin, ducked into the cabin to check things out, then turned around and headed back to the parking lot.

A couple of miles before the parking lot Denali came out, backlit by the setting sun. A wonderful way to end a day!

On a bike geek note, I put on some cheap carbon (faux?) levers that added a surprising amount of comfort, mainly warmer (happier!) fingers. Well worth the ~$50, if they hold up.

I hope everyone is enjoying winter!

Checking out the Fairbanks Circle Trail..

Friday, September 14th, 2012

A long time ago, before the Steese Highway came along, folks would travel from Fairbanks to Circle using a trail that went from Clearly Summit to Central that was called, surprisingly enough, the Fairbanks Circle trail. I had heard various stories about the trail, and and it had been on my list of things to checkout for several years now. I had been told that two locals, possibly the legendary “hell” bikers Roman Dial and Jon Underwood, had biked it from 12 mile summit to clearly summit, which is somewhere around 50 miles, and rumor has it took them over 24 hours. So, with a day free I decided to go check it out and see what it was like. I had hopes it might have potential for some off road bike touring, but either way I was interested in checking it out and crossing it off the list of trails I had been meaning to explore.

The area I explored was a mix of ATV trail double track..

and old mining roads.

The views were pretty nice though.

In some places there were several options, all seemingly heading in the same general direction. For the most part they seemed to join up again, and occasionally I bumped into mile markers marking the “official” trail.

On some of the ridges just before I turned around there were survey stakes that looked like they were marking a trail of some sort.

Though the trail was pretty marginal in this section for biking at least. I ended up walking down one of the hills as the trail dropped off very sharply and I couldn’t see a section of it. It turned out to not be too big of a deal, but walking is not the end of the world (just my dignity).

The next climb was pretty steep though..

So I took a trail leading off to the side, and was soon back on mining roads again. I pressed on a bit further, then turned around.

It definitely seems like there is some nice bike powered exploring to be done here, and now I really want to bike the entire route. This is definitely on the short list for next year.

More photos can be found here and a map here.

The Soggy Bottom

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Last summer I heard about a 100 mile summer race, the Soggy Bottom, and followed it online. It looked like fun, so when the spring came I signed up. On a damp slightly morning, I lined up with about two dozen other bikers, and we were off.

The Soggy Bottom’s course is on the Resurrection Pass trail system (more details here, north and south). The route, in a nutshell, goes from Hope Alaska, over Resurrection Pass to Cooper Landing, then back to Hope with a side trip down and back on Devil’s Creek trail. It can be done solo, or as part of relay, with exchanges at Cooper Landing and Devil’s Creek. Apparently most people doing the race are from Anchorage, and have some sort of support crew in one form or another. The evening before the race, I talked a bit with the organizer, Carlos, who very kindly offered to take two drop bags to the exchanges for me, and I quickly filled two stuff sacks with snacks etc and handed them off.

The race started at a fairly mellow pace on several miles of road, with the fast guys and gals zooming off, and the rest of us tagging along at the rear.

Fortunately the section on the road was pretty short, and we were soon on the Resurrection Pass trail. The riding was fantastic single track in large trees and tall leafy green plants, including the ever popular Cow Parsnip.

At this point the riders had thinned out a fair bit, and I rode most of the way to cooper landing with two riders for Anchorage. Eventually I climbed up out of the green stuff and into the higher alpine terrain.

The trail continued to be pretty wonderful – fast and smooth riding single track.

Eventually I reached the top of the pass, and started heading down.

On one of the downhill sections I pinch flatted on a rock waterbar. Not a big deal, after a couple of minutes I was going again, but alas I had now used my only spare tube. While I was changing the flat three riders passed me. I caught up with two of them before Cooper Landing, the other guy stayed well ahead of me, and was to finish a hour or so before me.

Just before the flat I past a group of very classic looking hikers, including one guy hiking bare shirted in sweat pants with a mid sized boom box on his shoulder, playing old hair band rock. It was quite a scene, and made more so by the bare shirted man’s budda like physic.

About five miles or so before Cooper Landing I started running into the leaders heading back out. It was a nice twist to see most of them as I rode in, though it did require me to stay on my toes, as the trail was narrow in a couple of sections. Upon arriving at Cooper Landing I was a bit confused and had a bit of trouble locating water, but I eventually figured stuff out and got reloaded. I asked around for a spare tube, and one of the relay riders (Brian I think) from Anchorage set me up with two tubes and some CO2 cylinders, definitely adding to my peace of mind – thanks!. After fiddling around a bit too long I headed back out, heading back to Hope. The ride up to the pass was uneventful. I was caught by a relay rider, and I tried keeping up with her for a while, but eventually she pulled away. There was a brief bit of pushing up a short steep section, but otherwise it was all rideable, and very, very fun. Eventually I reached the Devil’s Creek trail, and headed back down. On the way down I passed some of the faster folks heading back up, but the really fast folks were already done with this section and on their way to Hope by the time I reached it. This section of trail was amazingly fun, with lots of fast riding with fairly long sight-lines so I could open it up and ride fast. There were periodic rocky sections that were wonderful at keeping me on my toes, and a bit of mud but nothing too bad.

The end of Devil’s creek trail ends in large parking lot, where there was a checkpoint with water and a lot of relay riders relaxing and having fun, having finished with their sections. I restocked and headed back out. The climb back up to the pass was almost as fun as riding down. Eventually I made it back up to the top, then enjoyed the 20 miles of mostly downhill riding back to Hope. I arrived in Hope just before dark, and was very happy to get a shower, a beer, and some pizza. The race ends just outside a bar, and there was live music playing, making for an interesting scene. After the beer I headed off to go to sleep, feeling a bit wiped.

I really was not sure what to expect from this race, but I was completely blown away by how fun it was. Fantastic single track, and a bit of mud, what more could someone ask for? I was pretty happy with my time, though I could have ridden a fair bit faster if I had done the trail before and knew what to expect. Running tubeless would have saved be a flat, as I pinched flatted on my rear while slamming over a rocky waterbar. It might have also saved me a spoke, as somewhere in the last 40 miles I broke a spoke on my rear wheel.

A major thanks to Carlos the organizer for putting on this wonderful event. Hopefully more Fairbanks folks will head down for the event next year, as it is well worth the drive. For folks interested in a fun but not super epic time, the relay looks like it would be a blast – the legs are all in the 35 mile range. My photos really don’t do the course justice, as they were taken on the move with a little point and shoot, but the trail system the race is on goes though some very beautiful territory. That area has some fantastic bike touring potential.

First long road ride of spring..

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

After putting in some extra hours at work I was blessed with a day off from work. It was a beautiful day, and I decided get some outside play time in. Alas, the snow is going but not gone, so no skiing, or off road riding until the white stuff is completely gone. The roads are dry, so I put skinny tires on the cross bike and headed off for a roughly 100 mile out and back ride.

6 hours and a little over 5k feet of climbing I was back. I am missing the snow, but really, really looking forward to riding on some dirt. Heres to summer!

End of the snow?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

On a fine Wednesday I found myself with a day off work and no family commitments, and decided to go check out the trails in the Whites. The plan was to see if I could get some late season snow biking in, but I also took skis just in case things were too soft. The trails were in great shape, probably the best all year.

The biking was great, but a bit slow as it was a little hot for Remus the dog.

I ended up doing a 35 mile loop, out to Moose Creek cabin, then across to the Trail Shelter, than back out. It was a beautiful day..

The Wickersham Creek crossing on the Moose Creek trail was all broken up by some snow machines who past me heading out. I attempted to get across without getting wet, but alas no such luck. I ended up just walking across carrying the snowbike, it was knee deep, quite a bit deeper than I expected. The sun was out, and it was very warm (hot even!) so not a big deal. Remus swam across, and was very excited to play in the water.

We stopped at the Trail Shelter to loll around a bit in the sun and have lunch. Lunch was greek yogurt and a bagel.

Remus had a bit, and agreed it was pretty good.

The trail softened up a bit in the late afternoon, but it was still wonderful biking.

It looked like the biking should be good for a couple more days, and the skiing should be good for at least a week or so. Get your last bit of spring fun in now, before its gone!

Sun..

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

We are starting to get quite a bit more daylight now..

And with the additional sun has come a break from the cold. No more -56f!

I spend a wonderful Monday out biking in the Whites, and enjoyed a wonderful 11 hour ride. It was great, but alas, I was in too big of a hurry leaving the parking lot, and left without enough snacks. The 1k calories I had with me was not enough for 10+ hours, as I found out. Not the end of the world though, and I enjoyed a wonderful day of riding in the sun.

I saw three moose durring my wanderings which is fairly unusual for the Whites. Perhaps all the fires in the last ten years have changed the vegetation to be a bit more friendly to them.

The cold weather had apparently taken a toll on some of the other inhabitants of the whites..

For the last hour of my ride I rode with a wonderful full moon illuminating trail, making for nice night riding.

Only two more weeks to the big one.

Hope everyone is out enjoying spring!