Moon Safari – written by Cody Sovis
As an exceedingly average bike racer, cycling is often about hitting intervals, obsessively checking my heart rate and stressing out about each and every minute detail of every single ride. (and yet) Somehow, it’s an awful lot of fun. But after months of racing and training, and more than a few freak-outs over bad performances and not getting picked to race in the Tour again, has me looking for a change of pace. Then, some brilliant, beautiful person invented the fat bike. Hopping off a finely tuned, race-ready cyclocross bike that weighs 18 pounds and throwing a leg over a Moonlander is rather life-changing. The second you’re on a fat bike, it’s about fun. It’s about finding a new trail and taking it easy on a long and winding adventure.
Up in Traverse City, Michigan, we have a weekly ride called Tuesday Night Worlds. Some of the fastest Lycra-clad road racers in the county show up, slam down some gels and hammer 40 miles at over 25 miles per hour. The group of riders can be up to seventy strong and include multiple state road race champions, time trial state champions, winners of laughably big races, and a few rising stars. It’s a ride I’ve been doing for three years, and the Old Mission Peninsula, where the ride takes place, is maybe the most-ridden stretch in the state. Just after spinning around in the parking lot for a while, my co-workers and I had an inspired idea. Why not ride around the peninsula? On the beach. With fat bikes. What could be so hard about that? Armed with a Surly Moonlander, a Surly Necromancer and Salsa, we chose a Sunday where the shop was closed and went on one of the best rides I’ve ever been a part of.
About ten minutes after we started out, we’d gone only a mile and were not exactly picking up speed. The three of us, Jason Whittaker and Einstein Cycles owner, Jason Lowetz, and I were battling to hold seven miles an hour. I’d pictured a twelve mile an hour stroll over golden sands with a nippy northerly wind on a rather pleasant forty-five degree day. That wasn’t the case. The ‘beach’ looked more like a quarry. Rocks, rounded by the waves of Grand Traverse Bay, stretched out ahead of us as far as we could see. There were pockets of small boulders, and even the areas with swampy dune grass had obstacles lying in wait below, bouncing us around and sometimes into the muck.
We kept on, ticking off miles laboriously. But as hard is it was, we were all thrilled at the challenge. My arms and back and shoulders were burning as if I was in a boxing match and some of the impacts , certainly, put my Clown Shoes to the test. But it was all so fun; the churning, the attention to the beach and rocks and the things all around us. Every ten feet was measuring by the slow turning of the crank and the grind of the rocks under us and death-daring excitement of a close call. We made it ten miles before I looked up toward the road at a row of houses off the beach. I spied a house I’d gone past on Tuesday Night Worlds, I could not believe, that I had ridden fifteen feet from this beach and never once looked over to see what it was like. Always in too much of a hurry, always more focused on getting there and staying with the group, always ignoring the thrill and beauty of a different sort of challenge. I was proud of us for finding a new route, a new test, and especially happy to find it so close home.