For the month of December and into January, we’d like to share some of the Salsa Crew's and our sponsored riders' favorite moments from 2015. By all accounts, it's been a great year!
A Favorite Moment: Fatbiking from Scratch
Photos by Ben Witt
When I’m thinking about favorite moments from this year’s bike life, there are almost too many to count. I pedaled more miles, in more places, on more varied terrain than I ever have before, and each of these experiences were incredible in their own right.
But one that jumps to my mind, perhaps because in Minnesota we’re starting to get back into the snowy season, is one I experienced early on after my latest maternity leave. In February, I had the opportunity to ride on the incredible system of trails in Duluth, freshly covered in 8 inches of powdery snow—more than we’d had all winter in the Twin Cities.
I was on a carbon Beargrease that I borrowed for a fatbike race (my first bike race ever, let alone on snow and fat tire) two weeks prior, so my fat skills were of an inflated novice status—inflated because, due to the dry winter, riding on “snow” up to this point really wasn’t much different, in my estimation, than riding trail with a few slick spots in a really low gear. My thoughts going in: “I’ve completed two fatbike races now (one of which I even placed second in), so how hard could this be?” Like I said, novice.
Duluth dawned to a balmy 4 degrees Fahrenheit on this day and gave me a chance to try out some of the winter riding gear I received over the holidays. Two pairs of wool socks, wool long underwear, thick riding pants and coat, a water-resistant windbreaker, mask, two pairs of gloves, and clipless boots.
On the 15-foot driveway out of the parking lot to the trailhead, I fell in front of the entire group. Clipped in, I just went down with the bike, not able to gain traction. Embarrassed, I jumped up, and as the 14 or so other riders left me in their snow-dust, I attempted to gain momentum up Mission Creek Trail, which begins with a bit of a tight, twisty incline. I fell again. Up and out, pedal-pedal, foot down, and try again. Foot down. Again. Pedal. Foot down. Pedal-pedal-pedal, fall. The first mile and a half or so took me almost an hour to navigate this way, and with each effort my morale sunk lower and frustration grew higher. “Why couldn’t I ride a fatbike?” “How could just a little bit of fresh snow make such a difference?” These were dark thoughts.
Slugging up Mission Creek Trail ...
A couple of miles in, I came upon Salsa brand ambassador Ben Witt, who was tinkering with his Blackborow, waiting for the last rider to come through, and taking advantage of the sunny skies to shoot some photos of other stronger riders. Despite my layers, my fingers were burning from the cold, and I felt foolish on this bike. But I put on my brave face, laughed at my ignorance, and mentioned to Ben my troubles. Immediately, he told me to do some pushups—nothing warms up the appendages faster, he said.
Warming up the digits in a prone plank-to-push-up position ...
I complied, and while on the ground, Ben checked my tire pressure—turns out it was way too high for the terrain, and I hadn’t had the technical insight to even know I could release it to help with my traction. “Dumb,” the raven in my head thought again. Little did I know, I was experiencing my “favorite moment.” My low point was about to turn into one of complete accomplishment. Once I started to feel my fingers again, I did a few runs up and down the bit of trail we were on, getting used to the now-rideable pressure in my tires and figuring out how to use the “foot-down” method to my advantage in the now-loose snow, churned up from the large group in front of me. (Learning moment: I will not be clipped in this season, exchanging those pedals for flats.)
As the day went on, my confidence grew by leaps and bounds—and bridges ...
We determined I was the last in the group, so we set out to join the others in an out-and-back ride up the ridge. From over-correcting to compensating correctly, I was now staying atop my white steed, and the exhilaration of the cold and the accomplishment began to flow through my veins, warming me almost as much as those pushups had. In a matter of hours, my emotions swung from the lowest of the lows to one of the highest of my mountain biking experience, with marked improvements from that moment in push-up-plank position, and on through the snow.
This is the face all fatbikers should wear when fatbiking properly ...
It’s interesting to me that this is the “favorite moment” that first springs to mind, in a year littered with high highs and multiple firsts. It’s a tribute, I believe, to the power of vulnerability—and letting yourself be open to it. In many ways, the past year has seemed a bit stagnant in that I haven’t made any extraordinary career moves, my home life has been stable, and my exercise routine has taken a bit of a back seat to the day-to-day navigation of three little girls at home, two dogs, a husband, and a fulltime job. But in retrospect, the handful of times I’ve truly allowed myself to be open to failure are the ones of the utmost growth, and this year has been one of emotional maturing unlike any I’ve experienced since perhaps my college years, all thanks to the portion of this year that’s been lived on and by bike.
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Running and mountain biking with her dogs in the great outdoors—rain or shine, winter or summer—are two of the things you’ll find me doing when I’m not gathering inspiration from my daughters, Ella, Cora and Lili. I have a recent fascination with wellness topics that include circuit training, TRX, HIIT and any other fitness acronym of the day—a simmering-beneath-the-surface competitive edge means I’m willing to try any form of exercise once. Helping my husband Scott’s wedding and lifestyle photography biz offers a bit of creative balance to my everyday routine.