Voracity, and veracity


Wheel built, tube patched, tires mounted and a hundred miles of pavement out of Bozeman.  Crest the Continental Divide, and turn left onto USFS route 84 near Butte.  I’m back on dirt, back on the Divide, and back on fat tires.

Big hungry tires eat dirt and climb without tractional hiccups as pressures are dialed for optimal suspension and maximal traction.  Mostly, as this winter in the snow, I keep draining air from the tire for a better and better ride.  A new rear Marge Lite rim is technically one pound lighter than the old Large Marge, but fat tires add some heft back to the system.  The bike is not heavier, but it is not lighter or faster.  It rides very differently.  The Pugsley had become an all-road bike with the Schwalbe Big Apple tires, capable of 100 mile days on pavement.  At times, the 60mm smooth tires were capable of riding dirt roads and more.  The fat tires do other things.

It’s ironic that Montanans enjoying fat tire off-road vehicles ask, insistently, if my big tires are slower.  I sass: “slower than what?”  Are not the big tires of a Ford truck or an ATV slower than a theoretical skinny slick racing tire?  Big breath of diplomacy: “Fat tires afford a contemplative pace and a sure-footedness that permit my thoughts, even as the trail turns upward and the ‘road’ disintegrates.  Fat tires go almost anywhere.  Fat tires are fun.”

If you insist, “sometimes fat tires are slower”.  I insist, with fat tires I can descend with my eyes closed.

I ride slowly and studiously, engaged in something other than human traction control or anti-lock braking.  This is easy.  Relaxed, song lyrics and upcoming articles saturate my brain and old memories nearly lost, resurface.  Last year on the Divide, I was riding a 47mm Schwalbe Marathon and proud of the transition from pavement to dirt on the same set of rubber.  But the Marathon was a dull scalpel, requiring my attention.  This time is different– the 94mm Surly Larry is a big fucking tire and a lot of fun.  After only a day, I pass dirt miles in blissful oblivion.  As long as F-250’s and cattle aren’t between me and Colorado, I’m barely conscious.  In my youth, I spent a decade in a swimming pool counting laps, conversing with myself in French, and calculating.  Riding fat tires allows me to get lost in my thoughts.  In the physical realm, I’m hoping the fat tires afford the same luxury of exploration.  That’s the future, and most of what I dreamed about today atop Fleecer Ridge.













4318WP 2








For the record: offset Pugsley wheels aren’t that weird, the Profile Design Kage is highly versatile, and riding fast and far is not the point.  Bicycles are overwhelmingly fun these days.

Sean has come up against some unexpected scheduling constraints and has bravely charted a new route towards Tacoma.  What awaits him, in place of the Divide, is his own adventure.  I am solo once again.

12 thoughts on “Voracity, and veracity

  1. You are only sorta solo and doing important work. ( I have to assume that you are familiar with Ken Kifer.) The current rendition of your bicycle is…well, “beautiful” is all I can come up with right now. It is early and I am hung-over and being tormented by pseudo-real world things; I am back in that damnable falsehood of workaday and wondering why.

    Oh yeah: train tickets and a Krampus and the Divide. Now I remember. And I refuse to fly. On a plane. I was flying well enough on the plane I was on until recently, but change was needed and this is it. Keep kickin’ ass, Nicholas (the nemesis of Krampus from his own point of view…I always wonder if the bad guys think they are the good guys).

    Your photos break my heart and give me hope at the same time.


    • Ironic how Nicholas is the nemesis, or at least the antithesis of Krampus. It is a beautiful bicycle, especially now that it’s proportions have been restored.

      Oh, how people love to stop and talk about my (motor?)bike.

  2. Hopefully the mosquitoes around Wise River have mellowed out a bit. They were the worst we’ve ever experienced when we were there. Ride safe!

    • Not a single biting flying insect for miles. I’ve been sleeping out the last week and loving it. Wise River to Polaris is a great road ride, and Ma Barnes Country Market is a trip.

    • The fat tires definitely belong, although I’ve spent a bit of time on pavement and have missed the Big Apples for a minute. These transitions can be hard, tuning the pace and route selection to fit the bike. I recall leaving Anchorage in early summer and feeling unsure on the new bike, but it has become a familiar friend over the past months. I’m making a new friend…

  3. what a pleasure to read, thanks for that. Is that a travel agent on your rear derailleur? If so, what is the reason, I assumed friction mode bar end shifters would handle the task?

  4. Barry, It’s an Avid Rollamajig. It came on the bike when I purchased it secondhand in December, but seems to be out of production. It is designed to reduce the extra friction encountered in the big loop of housing near the rear derailleur, which is where most rear shifting problems arise, in addition to bent aluminum hangers.. I couldn’t say for sure if it helps, as the full length of housing is already a source of considerable friction, although a new cable and some lube have really improved things. I’ve also left the cable uncut so that it can be removed, cleaned and lubed more easily; the soldered tip will easily thread back through the housing. The Rollamajig will remain for now as an oddity of recent history. Someday, it will be a cool vintage bit. Thanks for tuning in.

    Check this out: I’m sitting next to a fire alongside a river in a ghost town, a Montana State Park, with a free wifi signal. It’s not all hardship on the road.


    • Thanks for the Rollamajig education Nicholas, that makes sense, and I dig the bit on leaving cables uncut. Yesterday, I saw I route marker just below Lake Louise, AB for a hiking route called the Divide Trail. I said to my wife, we could take that trail all the way to Mexico, and she replied with a half smiled “really?”. In time i will introduce these writings to make my case. Thanks for the ammo.

      • The Great Divide bike route starts just behind the Banff Springs Hotel. Look for the Bow Valley/Goat Creek Trail, which eventually leads you to Mexico. It sounds like you’ve piqued her interest…

    • The Divide spoils the rider with low-traffic, exceptional scenery and challenging (rewarding) topography. I think it’s influencing a new generation of cyclists who are learning to get off the beaten path. I’ve pedaled to Banff for two consecutive summers to connect with the route. It’s that good.

      I met a family in Whitefish, MT that had ridden up from NM on matching Salsa Fargos. Their son, who carried all his own gear, is eleven.


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