Monday, January 2, 2012

Adventures Shared With My Copilot

This weekend was a four-dayer for us, and was designated as chill time. Some deliberate downtime between a very busy 2011 and what looks to be the same kind of 2012. A few to-do's got done, but the list didn't own the weekend and most were left undone. What did take some of the priority was a bit of riding and thinking about riding. And what I'm obsessed with lately, bike-wise, is hitting some of the area's unimproved railbeds on the new bike. I know it's a me-problem, but I'm just smitten with the history of these corridors and with the public access to miles and miles of stunning natural and man-made scenery.

I'm generally not so hot on driving to ride, but in this case, I'm pretty happy to get in the truck and lay down some miles in order to put myself in position to experience some meaty railbed. Roaming out to these areas on a fatbike isn't really an option - it's too far and honestly, riding one on pavement is about as exciting as cardboard, IMO. On any other surface, though, let the fun begin.

And my mood for the weekend was super low-key . . . I just wanted to pedal around in this crazy dry weather amid the sessions of sunshine and enjoy looking at stuff. It would be so rad if I could take my dog along.

I don't have a fatbike rack option figured out yet, so for now I'm just piling the damn monster in the back of the truck.

Trouble is, that's Brandy's domain. Which leaves no other option except for her to ride shotgun. She seems to dig it, so I guess I can deal with the dog hair and bad breath.

On Sunday, we headed to Rosalia, to check out and do a bit of riding on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. The remnants of the line are pretty prominent features of the area.

The signage on the gates that's now pretty familiar to me states that a permit is required and I had intended to just not worry about it and lightly poach, but when we got there, there was just too much population and visibility and I just wasn't in the mood to push it on a relaxed Sunday morning in rural Washington. We ended up just driving around and exploring the landscapes and hitting a few different road crossings of the trail. Despite the fact that we never pulled the bike out, we had a great time just banging around, and learned a lot about the lay of the land. And oh yeah, we got out on a couple occasions and did some good work sniffing around and peeing.

Today, we headed west on I-90 to Sprague - about a 40 minute drive from home, including a stop for an Egg McMuffin, which we shared. Not that bad (the eggamuffin or the drive). The destination was the end of the tame portion of the Columbia Plateau Trail and the beginning of the wild part. At a trailhead called Martin Road. The signage was unbelievably awesome and there's no way we could have not found it.

We were lucky enough to get a parking spot.

My new camera has a razoo timer feature that allows you to set it for up to a 30 second delay and then take 10 consecutive photos, spaced at about 2 second intervals. We dinked with this thing for a while and took a buncha shots - some of the sequences were pretty hilarious . . . this dork and his dog and his fancy-ass camera ride-posing in the middle of nowhere and failing miserably. A couple turned out okay, though.

The unimproved railbed is pretty gnarly - it would suck on pretty much any other bike and is one of the kind of surfaces that people talk about when they say that fatbikes allow them to ride places they couldn't before they got their hands on one.

The ballast was pretty hard on Brandy's pads, but at times there were cow trails along the edges (this is bigtime cattle grazing area) that gave her some relief. And me too - I'd ride there sometimes to mix it up.

The way the fat tires handled the ballast was pretty amazing. Don't get me wrong - it was 5-7 mph stuff, but it was comfortable and not that death-grip, wear-ya-down kind of experience you'd be having on a normal MTB. One of the things that I know second-hand is how tune-able the "suspension" of these bike is. But most of the pressure gauges that are attached to pumps are not accurate or reliable in the pressure ranges that these tire run at, so you have to have some means of measurement. I bought this gauge a coupla weeks ago and was finally able to get some firsthand experience with the feel of the bike at different pressures. Dropping both tires from 14 down to 10 totally changed the ride. For the better.

The other part of the big air equation is a portable pump that's up to the challenge. Damn, these balloons take a lotta air! What I picked up is a Lezyne high-volume morph-style pump. While the pump is nice piece of hardware, the plastic mount that comes with it is a flimsy pile of krap. You can't see it in this pic, but the base bangs against the frame and I had to protect it with some electrical tape. Stylin. I'll figure out a better way to mount it in due time.

This is more of the kind of garbage that would not be so much fun to ride through on a normal MTB, but was a blast with the fat.

What kind of bike adventure would be complete without a flat. Changing it takes a little longer than your normal-bike flat. I hope I get faster, 'cause I think there are a few of these in my future. I thought that maybe this was a pinch flat due to the 10 psi, but it was just a puny thorn. These tires don't have much in the way of flat protection - you wouldn't want them to - they need to be as flexible as possible to provide that cushion and grip that is so amazing.

The noise of these tires against the ballast, getting echoed off the walls of a rock cut is righteous . . .

I understand that this stuff (fatbike and/or nasty rail trail) is not for everyone, but I'm afraid I'm a little hooked for the time being. The majestic scenery and the freedom of exploring these historical wonders via pedal is messin' with me bigtime.


Jonathan Eberly said...

I finally understand why you have been obsessed with fat bikes and the JWP trail. Holy crap does that look awesome. I love the scraggy nasty terrain of eastern Washington and am so jealous of your opportunity to ride through it.

Pat S said...

Thanks, Jon. Yeah I know - I'm ill. And lovin it.

Patrick Sullivan said...

Holy awesomeness. Adventures of a man, a bike and his dog. Wish I was there.

Wileydog said...

Great post and pictures - so you were able to find the trailhead!. I still can't believe how easy it was to find -when I looked at the map before leaving home I wasn't sure if I could find it, and then there were all those signs after leaving the freeway and in Sprague.


Hank Greer said...

Awesome ride, Pat. As to your photos every two seconds, I'm guessing you traveled farther than you thought you would between shots. Plus, you can't help but look at the camera and wonder, "It that thing working?"

Pat S said...

Exactly, Hank.

Michael said...

Looks like fun times.

The mount for your pump looks like the same one that I have for my mini Lezyne, which is about ¼ the size of yours.

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