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.
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.