I know with the virus situation not everyone has been fortunate enough to be outside. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in that sense. I’ve had nearly 6 months of daily riding and it’s been fantastic. I think I’m likely healthier than I’ve been in 20 years. The past 5 weeks of cycling with the unassisted fatbike on our new trails and road rides during rainy weather have been the best part of my days. When I’m not working (which is often these days due to the virus situation) I’m either riding or thinking of riding.
Since my last post we’ve had a very wet 10 days which meant switching most of my riding to the road. It also has manifested as longer ride times and more miles ridden. Mostly it’s my time in the saddle that I care about. On the road an hour means 12 miles or so ridden, on the trail it’s more like 6 miles. I’ve found that my road rides are generally longer and end up with more calories burned.
Riding the road with the fatbike is an excellent experience. I air the tires up to about 20 psi which eliminates self steer and results in a very quiet ride. The Vee Tire Mission Command tires are excellent for this kind of mixed pavement and trail riding. Far from riding a skinny tire bike but very doable. The gearing on the bike is a nice sweet spot for off-road and on-road riding. When I’m off-road I keep it on the small chain ring and on-road I tend to keep it in the larger chain ring as the speed of the ride is generally faster. The gearing range I’m getting is working very well.
Last, I’m really happy with my ability to handle the riding I’m doing. 80 to 90 minute rides are no problem. Daily totals of 140 minutes of ride time are no problem. The next step is to try some longer rides, perhaps in the range of 160 to 180 minutes which should be no problem. I’ll likely try my longer ride into Perry county soon. It’s a mix of pavement and gravel, about 28 miles and on the Rover was about 144 minutes with a speed of 11.5 mph. I expect I’ll be able to do the same ride at a similar pace on the Gravity.
It’s been a few weeks since I took a road ride but we’ve had a lot of rain here the past week so I decided to give the trail a break today. I did fit in a 1 mile ride this morning before today’s rain rolled in on me mid-ride. Then later a 4 mile ride on the gravel road and over to the pond across the way. But I wanted to do a longer pavement ride. I’ve got my sister and various nieces, nephew and their significant others here visiting so I sent a group text inviting folks to do a ride. My two nieces rode the ebikes and I rode the Gravity.
We did an 11 mile ride in just under an hour with an average speed of 12.2 mph. I was pretty happy with the ride. I’ve had several one hour trail rides on the new bike but this is the first one hour ride on pavement. The steady cadence with several rolling hills, a couple longer, lower intensity hills and one very steep hill felt really good on this bike. The steep hill was a good bit of work but I made it up without too much fuss. I’d pumped the tires up to about 18 psi to avoid self-steer and decrease the rolling resistance and they performed pretty well on the pavement.
My family have all been using the ebikes and are having a blast on them which has been great as my family are not cyclists. There’s little doubt that in this case having the electric assist has added the zip they needed to get started. That said, for the most part, they’re all happy to offer their own effort with the peddles which I’m happy to see. From what I can tell they are getting used everyday that is not too rainy.
Milage for the past week:
I’ve been living in the cabin for most of the past 12 years. The first four were spent mostly outside gardening and clearing the area of tornado-downed trees.The fifth was a lot of time outside at night looking through the telescope and then I left for two years. When I returned in the fall of 2015 I never quite got back into the rhythm of gardening or my time at the telescope. I was still outside a lot but not in the steady, mission-driven way that I had been before. My time outside became more casual and meandering.
This spring I’ve been back outside far more. First on the bike, riding around the county. Then, in mid April, my sister and niece began an extended stay in their cabin which prompted me to cut my rides short. From 36 miles I dropped to 26 miles or less and my ride time from 3 hours to 2 hours. And then, almost accidentally, I started the trail building project in mid April. Three weeks later and we’ve now got about 2 miles of completed trail. I feel like I’ve spent most of my days either working on the trails or walking on them or riding on them. It’s been a wonderful, rewarding process.
The simple act of just getting out into the quiet woods during the springtime has been a privilege I wish more people had access to especially in these times of the Covid virus. I’m used to having outside time and space so it’s not really new for me but a lot of people are struggling with what to do with themselves.
Whether walking, biking or trail building, time spent in the woods is good for the mind and the body. Obviously, increased movement and exercise is always good but the time spent hearing birds and frogs sing, observing the daily emergence of spring wild flowers and the flight of insects amongst those flowers is a constant source of bliss.
As my trail building slows I’ve spent more time walking and riding. Slowly but surely my time in the saddle is on the up and up and it feels so nice to be peddling again! I’m not back to my 3 hour ride time but this past week I’ve had daily ride times of 90 minutes to two hours. My rides are different in a variety of ways in that they are now primarily on the trails which means they slower. On average a Rad Rover road ride was about 12.5 mph whereas a trail ride on the Gravity is about 6.2 mph. Also, rather than one long ride each day I’m tending to take 2 to 3 rides a day.
I feel like the workout is better on the trails but my heart rate seems to be about the same, perhaps just a bit higher than on the e-bike.
In my last post I ended my mentioning that I’d ordered a new non-powered fat bike which arrived a week ago. I’m not at all sure what’s up with the name of this bike, the Bullseye Monster made by Gravity. It’s an entry-level bike, so nothing too fancy but a step or two up from a standard box store bike. Most bikes of this size and form weigh in between 30 to 38lbs, the Bullseye Monster weighs in at about 36lbs. So, it’s toward the heavier end but compared to the 75 lb Rover it feels impossibly light as I’ve gotten used to the heavy cruiser weight of the e-bike. I don’t plan to be doing anything extreme with this bike and really just wanted a well built, solid and dependable bike for riding around on the new trails. I’ve been riding it for just over a week, here are some initial thoughts.
Like many bikes sold over the internet it arrives mostly assembled. Like the Rover, I had to attach the handlebar to the stem, attach the front wheel to the forks, attach the pedals, tweak the rear derailleur and brakes then air up the tires.
First, I have to say that it’s been 20 years since I spent time with a regular, non-powered bike. I worked in a bike shop for two or so years and it’s not taken long for me to remember some of the details of a well made bike, both in terms of how it feels to ride as well as the various aspects of quality differences to be found in the frame and components. Right off, the components such as the shifters, derailleurs, brakes, etc are entry to mid-level parts that perform fairly well. These are not as light as more expensive components but they are still fairly well made and they do what they are supposed to do. So, functional but heavier.
A few basic specs. This is a fat bike so, 4” wide tires, 26” diameter wheels. The drivetrain is 2×8, so, 16 gears (11-34T on the rear cog, 22/32T on the front chain rings) which seems to cover my needs very well. I’ve had no problems going up short but steep hills at about 14 to 18% grades. On the kind of terrain I’ll be riding I don’t need high gears for high-speed riding though it is geared well enough that I’d have no problem maintaining 18 to 22 mph were I on paved downhill. I think these bikes are mostly to be used off road or on gravel roads of various grades and at speeds ranging from 3mph and up and in these scenarios, this gearing is fine.
The Mission Command tires by Vee seem to be designed for average conditions which is to say, a bit of everything but nothing too extreme. They’re not reported to be the best tires for snow, I’m not sure about sand. On pavement they have a good bit of self-steer at the current tire pressure of 15psi. I suspect that if I needed to do a lot of road riding I could pump them up to 30psi and much of that self-steer would go away. They do fairly well on gravel and off road which are what I will primarily be using the bike for. Thus far, they are fine on my trails which consist of hard pack, semi-loose dirt and mud. I’ve been riding through some pretty rough terrain on my new trails which still include a few thorns, branches, small, pokey tree stubs, etc. No punctures yet!
This bike has no suspension! It’s an aluminum frame on a hard chromoly fork but I’m riding with the tires at about 15psi and it’s not too rough on our rock road and the trails. In the 10 days I’ve ridden the Gravity I’ve gotten in about 62 miles, average of just about 5.6 miles per day and less than an hour of riding per day. I expect to continue with my trail building for another week or so and after that will bump up to 2 to 3 hours of riding every day again. Though at only 5 miles per hour on the trails I’ll only be getting in 10 to 15 miles a day. I’m fine with that as I’m loving the experience of riding the new trail and really I think of it as time in the saddle more than miles ridden. If the terrain dictates that riding is slower that’s not something I‘ll worry about.
All in all, the feel of the new bike on the trail is fast, nimble and fun, I love how it handles. I’d been a bit concerned about how my knee would feel on the steeper climbs but that’s been no problem at all. I drop down to the granny gear and spin right up. No doubt, it’s work and I’m breathing hard at the top but I have no problem getting up. Getting to the top of the steepest climb which averages about 17% grade and is steepest at about 23% (according to Ride with GPS) has my heart rate at about 165bpm.
There were only two negatives worth mentioning. First, the pedals that come with the bike are too small and my feet slipped off them a few times. After a couple days I switched them with the Rover’s larger, sturdier Wellgo pedals. Much better. Also, the head tube is said to be limiting as to fork upgrades because it is not tapered. In my case, I’m not concerned as I don’t expect to be adding a suspension fork, but it’s worth mentioning. It’s only been a few days so I’ll likely report back in another couple of months but I don’t expect there to be any problems.
I have no intention of making any upgrades anytime soon. As things wear out I’d likely consider replacing the stock parts with improved components but I don’t feel any need to do that until they wear out.
I’d have no problem recommending this bike for anyone looking to get their first fat bike.
I’ve changed things up a bit! For the time being I’ve redirected most of my riding time, normally 3 to 4 hours to trail building around our place. I’ve gotten in a bit of riding as well but most of the time has been spent raking, clipping and mowing a new woodland trail. Funny, I’d not at been planning to do this, it just sort of happened. Once the thought occurred to me that I might put in some trails I just went with it and once I started in on the work the enthusiasm took over. 4 days later and I’m pretty happy with the progress. Thus far the trail, which starts with an older trail my brother-in-law Greg put in 10 years ago, contains about a one mile loop with a longer option to my parents’ place. If I take the longer ride to my parents the loop is about 1.6 miles.
I’ve got quite a bit more to do to finish the planned route along our property lines but I’m in no rush. Much of that will be fresh path building through some thick stuff so it will take some time. I’ve also got a lot of older paths made by Greg that just need some maintenance. All in all, should end up with about 3 to 4 miles of paths.
The thinking behind all this (as much as there was any actual thinking involved) is that it would be nice to have a riding experience other than my current 35 mile route on the roads and gravel. While I love those rides they are shaped and changed by the county maintenance schedule and practices. It makes sense (I think) to spend some time and effort to better utilize our own land and get to know it better. I’ll keep my impact to a minimum which is to say that the paths are not going to be very wide. For most of the trail I’ll have a width enough for two people to walk abreast. Some segments may be more narrow. I’ll let them evolve a bit based on how they’re being used. My hope is that family will use them and I can adjust based on usage.
A bit about the path/trail building process. I try to take a minimal approach with the intent of minimal impact. I use a rake, limb clippers and my mower. I’ve got a general route planned and primarily let the land guide me based on the density of growth. I move forward based on tree/brush density choose it the path based on least growth. Common sense probably, just looking for the easiest path forward. I rake some of the leaves and fallen branches then use the clippers to remove branches that reach over the path and small trees in the path. Then run the mower. Repeat. It’s great exercise. I’m averaging about 4 to 5 hours a day working on them trail and the result is already rideable.
Over the past few months I’ve been riding 3 to 4 hours, 35 miles, on the county roads and I plan to transition much of that riding time to these trails just looping around. I’ll end up with fewer daily miles because trail riding speed will be more like 4 to 6 mph rather than my usual 12 average. But ride time will be the same. With daily 3 hour rides I suspect that I’ll have the new trails pretty well packed in just a couple weeks. In just the 4 days of building and preliminary test rides they are already starting to look like used trails. There’s something so comforting and reassuring about a well used woodland trail. These trails have the added element of being on family land and so almost feel like a kind of gardening.
Last, a few thoughts about electric bikes and trail riding. My niece has been visiting for the past couple weeks and having a good time riding the Lectric XP. The last couple days she’s been riding it on the trails and having a blast. I’ve been riding the Rad Rover and it is indeed great fun on the trails. That said it feels somewhat out of place on hilly, tight turns where riding is 4 to 8 mph as compared to the more stretched out pavement and gravel rides where the speeds are 10 to 18 mph and often 20 . The Rover, at 75 lbs, feels much better suited when it’s cruising and allowed to stretch out a bit. To put it another way, I then I the Rover is better suited to the wider, lazy turns that are common with trails built for 4-wheelers or motor cycles. It’s meant for cruising for distance. As far as these two electric bikes go I think the XP is better suited to these trails as it’s tighter and and more nimble. It’s a bit rougher as it only has the 20” wheels but these trails are fairly smooth and will be more so when they are done. Which brings me to…
Enter the pedal only, non-electric fat bike. It’s been on my mind for a month or two that I’d like to have a “regular”, non-powered mountain or fat bike. After a couple weeks of research I ended up ordering another fat bike. This will be sized between the Rover and the XP as it has the same size wheels as the Rover but a much smaller frame. At about 36 lbs and a stand over height about 3 inches less than the Rover I think it will be much better suited for trail riding. It will be here later today, I’ll post photos and a review soon.
My sister and niece are visiting so I’ve been keeping my rides shorter, mostly riding in the morning when it’s cold. We’re keeping our visits to outside porch visits because our cabins our small. Normally we’d just pile in but social distancing and all that.
Our roads are being dug up by the county for spring maintenance. Normally they grade the gravel roads a few times a year and in theory that’s what they are doing. But it seems more like ploughing than grading. After a few weeks of traffic and a few rains it will all settle back down but for now my previously relaxed gravel rides have turned into a much bumpier, rockier experience. Pretty interesting but not the smooth, carefree rides they were. The upside is that even though it’s the same road it almost seems like a different road so it’s variety even though it’s the same. LOL. Another upside is that because they’ve so destroyed the road I’m going much slower, pedaling with no electric assist for most of the gravel road which is great exercise. I was already reducing my use of electric on the gravel sections but now it’s almost no assist at all because I need to go slower. Even though I’m only riding 26 miles compared to the 38 miles of my normal loop I’m still getting in 2.5 hours of ride time because it’s so much slower.
All that said, I don’t understand the goal of the “maintenance” work. Why churn up a road that was largely smooth and level? A last note: I finally had my first puncture. Thanks to the Slime in my inner tubes I didn’t have a flat! The Slime filled in the leak and I had no problem getting home. I rode the bike for three or four days before taking off the front tire and patching the tube. The tube was holding pressure pretty well so I’m not sure I needed to patch it but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Super glad I slimed the tires!
A last note: 2000 miles for the year thus far. I’m not sure I’ll maintain my current pace through the summer and really, I’m trying to not have any goals. Just ride and enjoy would be the extent of my plans.
Well, here we are. Middle of a global pandemic and in the U.S. we have, not surprisingly, fumbled the response horribly. Our political process, discourse and system are in a persistent state of crisis and disfunction. We currently have the worst president in U.S. history and he’s made a real shit show of the crisis and through it all his supporters keep supporting him. People are dying. It’s a mess and that’s an understatement. All that said a crashing of the economy and drop in human use of fossil fuels is good for the planet. There’s a lot that might be said on that subject.
I’m riding. I don’t know what else to do at the moment. I’m trying to be helpful to my nearby family, older folk that need to stay home. So I’ll shop for them and try to be safe. And when I’m not shopping I’ll be riding. The past few months it’s been my obsession and continues to be so. So much has changed in the past couple of months and things will be getting worse before they get better. At the moment I’m not sure what I can do to about things so I plan to keep pedaling as it’s one thing I can do that puts my mind at ease and helps me stay sane, stay healthy.
I’m nearing 2,000 miles for the year and my rides are now consistently at about 3.5 hours and 40 miles.
Okay, well, I have a GoPro. It started when I took a couple of ride videos with my iPhone to share on our family shared iMessage thread which we lovingly call “The Nut Tree”. They were hand held and not too bad but not great. Both my dad and my aunt suggested I get a GoPro. I initially shrugged it off because I just didn’t expect to be doing too many videos. Mostly just sharing with no big expectations. Same with some still photos. I’m not a “YouTuber” and have no desire to get into that. I’ve done the occasional YouTube when it seems to have educational value but just oddball stuff on no schedule.
Anyhoooo, both my aunt and dad brought it up a few times and each time they suggested it the idea sounded better. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we have this…
I have to admit, it’s fun. I do enjoy sharing and editing video is fun. I’m not planning to put a lot of time into it but I expect I’ll post a few of these off and on. I’d not posted to Instagram in over a year because of the Facebook ownership and my distaste for Facebook. But with our new cycling project in town I decided I’d start posting again, primarily cycling related stuff so I’ll share the videos there too. But ultimately I want to make sure that my time on the bike is about riding, not documenting.
Lots of very nice rides this week including today which was forecasted to be an all day rain. It cleared up late afternoon and the sun came out. I’d put three hours of charge on the 50% battery I had and had plenty of juice to get out for a two hour sunset ride. Great thing about sunset (and sunrise) rides and walks is that the birds are always so active. Really nice to see and hear their heightened activity. An excellent way to end the day!
Really enjoying that new extension on my normal ride. Bumps me up to 39ish miles and 3 hours long. Beautiful ride. Funny, now 25 miles seems like a short ride! If I keep at my current rate of riding I’ll end the year at or above 7,000 miles. I’m trying not to be too goal oriented and just get out when I want to. Maybe. But I often tend to see things like this as a challenge and I tend to push further rather than being content. We’ll see
One of the reasons I love being on a bike is the pace. I’m never in a hurry on a bike as it’s already a step up from walking and I really do enjoy experiencing the environment I’m in. Slow is fine with me! My current route is really two parts. The blacktop has me riding at about 14 to 17mph and it’s a nice ride. But my favorite part of the ride, by far, is the gravel portion which is a narrow road with trees right up to the edges. At 9 to 12mph I’m really relaxed and enjoying the slow flow of trees around me and the ground under me. I’m a walker on a bike!
Enjoying that slow pace also means that I’ll get better range off of each charge which is a nice bonus. On Tuesday I set out on a ride intending to add an additional 6.7 mile loop to my usual 32 miles. It was a fantastic ride! The new loop is about 4 miles of really nice gravel and a couple miles of pavement. The total ride was just short of 39 miles. On Wednesday I thought I’d try extending that loop around Perry Lake and that didn’t work out because Perry Lake is a private neighborhood with a gated entrance! I rode on up to HWY T then turned around and returned to my new loop ending up with my longest ride yet, 44 miles and 3.5 hours. That extra bit had the steepest hills I’ve ridden on the Rover with a grade at about 15%, maybe a bit more. Total elevation on the ride was 3,145. No problem getting up those hills using about 600 watts and peddling fairly hard in the granny gear. No way I’d do it without moderate peddling. Average speed around 12.5mph for the full ride and 40% battery capacity remaining.
Having a chance to explore around Madison and surrounding counties has been a fantastic experience. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be back on a bike. One note about my riding style, as much as possible I’m keeping to lower PAS levels 1 and 2 in part because I’m riding the bike and not driving it. At the end of the day I want to put in as close to 100% of my own effort and I think that’s more likely at those lower PAS levels. There might come a time when my knees are not healthy enough to pedal as much as I am now and then I’ll use the electric assist more but until that time I really enjoy putting forth the effort.
Lastly, just to point out and emphasize the amazing efficiency of the bicycle and electric bike, I’m riding 30 miles on about a nickel’s worth of electricity and my own effort which amounts to about 1,000 calories of food each ride. It doesn’t get much better than that.