Here’s a ride report from Craig Ward out in Lake Tahoe!
Until this weekend my fat bike experience was limited to some beach riding along a local reservoir in Folsom, California. My new Pugs had performed beyond my expectations in that arena. But I wondered, what more can it do? Time to find out.
December around Lake Tahoe usually means snow, and lots of it. Not this year. At lake level the conditions are clear, unseasonably warm and bone dry. The cars rolling through town, normally loaded up with snowboards skis, sport bikes on top instead. Most trails around North Lake Tahoe are still accessible except at the very highest elevations.
The planned New Year’s visit to our vacation home in Incline Village, Nevada didn’t yield the winter wonderland we expected. Except for the lower temperatures, it might as well be summer. While a 29er seemed to be the best bike for the conditions, I brought the Pugs. I wasn’t going to let the lack of snow spoil my fat bike fun.
I decided that my first ride would be up to the Flume Trail. I hadn’t done any extended climbing yet on the Pugs, so this ride would definitely test the bike’s climbing capabilities.
Tunnel Creek Road is a climb I generally avoid unless we have had some rain to firm things up. It’s a steep, sandy, 1600-foot ascent that I normally do not enjoy. The Pugs made the sandy nature of the climb a non-factor.
Because of the beach riding I have done, I knew the fat tires would perform well on the sandy climb, but I did not anticipate how well; compared to a normal tire it was night and day. The only downside was the fact that the Pugs is a pig. Hauling a 36-pound beast up a long, steep climb isn’t easy. Still, the floatation “outweighed” the Pugsley’s weight.
On a normal mountain bike I usually bog down a couple times in the deeper sand, but on the Pugsley I cleaned the entire three-mile climb. This was shocking to me since I really expected to do some pushing. To look at the bike, one wouldn’t think “climbing machine.”
On the last third of the climb I encountered a number of sections featuring frozen snow and sheets of ice. I kept my spin smooth and even, and I motored right over these obstacles with minimal slippage.
Once I crested the top the bike really came alive. I have ridden the Flume so many times over the years that it’s become a little boring–relegated to a once or twice a year trail. The Pugs made it all new and fun again. I actually caught myself making motorcycle noises once, which isn’t exactly normal behavior for me.
The Flume alternated between dry sand, snow and ice along its 5-mile length. The bike handled it all well. I rode with care on the way out, but on the way back I was confident enough to really open it up, and I stopped slowing down for ice and snow. Even frozen ice ruts, which can be treacherous on a normal bike, offered little to be worried about. I only had one instance when the back end came around a bit, but a quick dab was all it took to straighten back up.
The decent back down Tunnel Creek was a great. I slowed down for the ice fields but otherwise blasted down the rest. The wheel-sucking sand simply wasn’t an issue like it is on a normal bike. Even the hairpin with the really deep sand, a corner that usually causes me to slow way down, was a piece of cake.
I rolled up to my front door with a nice 22-mile ride under my belt and a greater understanding of what a fat bike can do. This is a very capable platform that can handle most conditions surprisingly well.
Knowing that I have a heavy entry-level bike, I can’t help but wonder what I could do with a Ti frame, carbon fork and lighter wheels . . .
Yes, after only a few weeks of ownership I have the fat bike upgrade fever. Damn.