Fat-bike beach riding isn’t always peaches and cream. Sometimes you ride the beach…and sometimes the beach wears you like a prison jumpsuit. Last month, Sven, Puck and I went to explore a new section of beach north of Milwaukee. It was windier than a fifty pound bag of politics and Lake Michigan was rock’n real good. The ride started out with a plunge down an asphalt bike path from the top of a 100 foot bluff. That would usually be no big deal, but I had decided to ride my red pug for the first time in six months. It seems the last time I loaned it out to someone, it came back missing a front brake pad. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the piston was damaged as well. So right before the ride we just removed the front brake because ‘who really needs a front brake for beach riding?’ By the time I hit the apex of the hard left turn at the bottom of the bluff….I was screaming like a little girl!
The path ended at a small beach and at the end of that beach, there was some rip-rap that we needed to climb up and scramble over. A very short distance past that we were treated to a nice wade into 4 foot waves to go around a relatively fresh mud slide, that jutted out into the lake. We quickly discovered that, yes, fat-bikes do float….and once afloat, bash into your legs with every swell as you try to keep footing on the surprisingly slippery and uneven rocks, clay and glacial erratics that were, just prior to this ride, part of the bluff. After that, things became a little less sketchy for a mile or so.
I’ll wager that this section of beach doesn’t get very much traffic. We started to encounter a lot of downed brush and trees, that forced us out into the waves with ever increasing, frequency. We made our way about another mile and a half, dodging waves and hopping logs. We were all soaked to the waist and picking rocks out of our shoes from our frequent portages out into the surf zone, but we were having a good time and forged on until we ended up, turning around, at a point that would have required a couple of hundred yard swim to negotiate further……we had gone a mere 3-ish miles. That’s when things got interesting.
After our about face, we noticed that the waves began to grow larger. The places that we had just successfully ridden around now became portages or worse. Puck got taken out by a wave and bashed his knee on a rock, in the process. All three of us were getting all we could handle wrestling our bikes and trying to not get skewered onto downed tree tops along the way. I was happy to get back without swamping my camera.
We ended up with a little less than 6 miles, covered in just over an hour. This was one of those rides that builds character. I love the exploration aspect of fat-bike beach riding. It’ll probably take the rest of my life to ride all of the third coast and I look forward to every new section we get to explore.
Go ride your beaches, mountains and trails…..and then send us a postcard! (or better yet) Send us some words and photos, so we can share them with the rest of the fat-bike world!