Good Morning Great Divide

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Bed by campfirelight, awake by sunlight. Smoke fingers linger over my down bag in the early morning; I always take time to admire how lofty my bag has become by sunrise. I played games with REI for years returning bags, and finally bought a better bag at a local shop in Missoula last summer. I’m fully content with it, and a vapor barrier extends the range at the end of the season. Toss the coals about, lay a log on top and heat some water– coffee and cream of wheat will get me where I’m going. This is my last night in the woods for a while, as I’m into the great wide Wyoming open for a week of sage and sunshine. I can count the campfires I’ve had over the past four years on one hand, and this seemed like an occasion to burn a little bit of the woods. The campsite was littered with rusty cans of Texas ranch-style beans and shotgun shells– it wasn’t dirty by USFS standards, but well used. I took the opportunity to use it some more. If i’d had a big gun, I woulda shot it.

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Two days ago I climbed away from Idaho on the Reclamation Road between Yellowstone and Teton National Parks into a thick August swarm of tourists. Yesterday I climbed away from Teton tourists to the not-so-secret handicap accessible swimming hole at the top of Togwotee Pass. Descend twenty miles, then climb back to Union Pass and ride until dark. From my camp at 9000 ft, today is all downhill, nearly, and the final miles into Pinedale are paved. Ice cream and wifi aren’t too far off, despite fifty miles of riding. I rest my forearms on the bars and find my aero position– I’m there by noon.

The Great Divide narratives underscore the pretense of long stretches without water, the presence of bears and to be off the trail by “mid-October at the latest”; mostly I count long stretches without a half-gallon of ice cream for $4.44, and the fact that I’m “in bear country” is nothing new. The riding is occasionally challenging, but the route is a logistical walk in the park with the help of the ACA maps. It’s dangerous to visit supermarkets with big eyes and an empty stomach as 4 for $7 promotions of Keebler cookies and day old donuts are tempting– a hungry sucker, I had to find a way to pack a dozen day old donuts and a half-gallon of soymilk. The soymilk fills the Kleen Kanteen, but doesn’t last long. The donuts are now a ball of smashed donuts, and that’s just fine. This is the first “super”-market I’ve visited since Butte, and the experience is overwhelming– they have everything.

Leaving Idaho behind, squeezing between the two national parks…

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Not interested in an $8 campsite– the campground attendant was incredulous at that, and rude– I rode the final hour of sunlight to the Teton Nation Forest boundary. This is public land and I figure my tax dollars are hard at work helping the trees grow so that I can sleep amongst them. Actually, the USFS is a road builder above all else. They build a lot of roads, and a gated logging road provides perfect camping. I awake to climb up Togwotee Pass, to a 46 mph descent down the other side, and a climb back up to Union Pass. At 15 mph the Surly Larry tires hum, at 25 they sing, and at 45 they scream.

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Making camp by campfirelight, I awake to descend two-thousand feet to Pinedale over fifty miles– let the fat tires roll.

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Riding high: Idaho

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It is not every day that I can boast the benefits of the Surly Pugsley or fatbikes in general, although I try.  I am often forced to concede to admonishing onlookers that “yes, the tires are heavy” and “no, there isn’t a motor hidden within”.  I’m more inclined to speak with those that are interested in what it can do, rather than what it can’t.  In fact, I haven’t found anything it can’t do, but there are some people that can’t be convinced.  “All the way from Alaska? Really?  Honey, did you see that?”.   I’m forced to stand and smile for pictures.  Italians want to know “what kind of bike it is?”, and before I can say Surly Pugsley they clarify, “is it a mountain bike?”.  I’m resting in the shade atop Togwotee Pass above 9658 ft.  Call it anything.

But when the trail turns to sand, described by the Great Divide narrative as “extremely soft volcanic soil”, I’m grinning ear to ear.  If only those sedentary naysayers could see this, or the Anchorage winter, or the miles of washboard I’ve ridden.  Now in Wyoming, I met an awesome guy on an old Schwinn Sierra that fell in love with the concept of framebags, and completely understood the concept of fat tires despite his first encounter.  Two of the same breed– the Pugsley is a little like the Sierra would have been in 1984.  What are the big tires for?  Aren’t they slower?  The simple fact is that some people want to go places on bikes, and some do not.  This old Sierra carried him cross-country in the 80’s, and he’s been in Wyoming ever since.  Bikes take people places.

The thrifty mile abandoned rail corridor, once called the Oregon Short Line, shuttled tourists to Yellowstone National Park; anymore is it signed and managed as an Idaho state multi-use trail.  It’s an ATV and snowmobile trail for sure, and it’s not suited to the casual bike ride as many improved rail-trails are.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are rich with similar trails whose main function is winter snowmobile use.  I’ve just met Trey and neither of us have met another Divide rider in over a week.  We are barely through the ritualistic questions about the big tires when their volume and low-pressure speak for themselves, and we part ways.  Sinking, spinning tires on his secondhand Kona mountain bike Trey opts for the alternate route which is 17 miles longer and half paved.

Evening is my time to ride and accounts for about half of all time in the saddle.  Swimming accounts for the remaining daylight hours.  Following side trails for fun, I lose my way and find myself at a gas station on the main highway.  I pick up a cold tall beer and ask directions back to the abandoned rail corridor.  Riding sand on a fatbike, swimming, and sipping a cold can of beer– I’m riding high in Idaho.

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I’ve regularly begun filling the 64 oz. Kleen Kanteen as surface water become less plentiful.  Refilling my drink bottle and cook pot, the supply of water within is never-ending.  Sick of peanut butter for the time being, I’ve got an extra bottle cage on the fork for another liter of water which may be useful through the Great Basin.  And as the days become shorter, I’m finding myself riding into the night.  Cool evenings and distant national forest boundaries tempt me; at least, a half-hour of riding in the dark to reach free camping is better than packing into a national park campground for $8 a person.  An impromptu group of four cyclists can share a piece of dirt for $32, although I opt to ride to the Teton National Forest boundary.

Miles Davis performed at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 in front of a rock audience of over 500,000.  When asked the name of the tune, or the kind of music, he replied, “call it anything”.

Reading about riding; Adventure Cycling

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Looking around like I own the place, this is my second trip to Adventure Cycling headquarters in a year and I know where all the secret stuff is stashed.  The ice cream and sodas are in the cooler, you must sign the guest book for fear of Greg Siple’s becalming wrath; and the cycling library is straight ahead, left at the tandem and right toward the kitchen.  This may be the most extensive cycle-centric library in the country and it’s chock full of Dervla Murphy, Ian Hibell, Joe Kurmaskie, Barb Savage and other usual and unusual titles.  There are hundreds of old travelogues; some have become timeless classics and some are out-of-date stories of sweating up hills and running out of food.  In fact, while Barb Savage’s Miles From Nowhere is considered a classic bike touring text, her penchant for hyperbole is a little off-putting and after the fourth time that Larry retrieves escaped ball bearings from his freewheel, I lost interest.  Still, the book is widely read and was a gateway for many American cycletourists.  I was on the hunt for an adventure of a different caliber, and Ian Hibell’s Into the Remote Places was the reward.  Ian’s writing is even and descriptive, with a honest sense of his immense adventure– there’s no need for hyperbole when the truth is unbelievable.  The book begins with cyclists hacking a route through the Darien Gap, surviving on handfuls of rice.  It continues similarly.  Long out of print, it is books like these that make the ACA cycling library special.  For your next trip to Missoula, set aside a day to lounge in the shade reading about riding.

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Ian’s Norway to Cape Horn, South Africa bike is now prominently displayed in the reception area, featuring an old Carradice Overlander handlebar bag (the red one is not original, but is nearly identical to the black one he used) and Carradice panniers.  As well, large water reservoirs are contained atop the panniers, the load supported by an integrated steel carrier.  The bike is smartly packed for a trip spanning continents, and the Sahara Desert.  Before the days of fatbikes such a trek required a bit of walking.  Walking through too much water in the Darien Gap and with not enough water in the Sahara is what sets Ian apart from the field of long-distance cyclists, although the “field” is rather thin to begin with.  He is the first to travel, completely, from Tierra del Fuego north to Alaska.  At the time the road to Deadhorse at Prudhoe Bay wasn’t built, so Circle, AK near Fairbanks was the northernmost road-accessible point on the continent.  In the late sixties, my boss and the owner of The Bicycle Shop in Anchorage, AK hosted an English cyclist for a week.  Leaving town, he pedaled with him out to Palmer.

“An English guy?”  There must be thousands, I think.  “What has his name?  (Pause.)  Was it Ian Hibell?”

“Oh yes, Ian.  He’s the only guy I’ve ever allowed to stay with me.  He stayed a week.”

And so it was.

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Greg Siple is always a treasure of information, especially of the early days of Bikecentennial and TOSRV.  This time we spoke of the influence his father had on his cycling career, and cycling in general.  Charles is still living in Ohio, and David Herlihy (author of Bicycle: A History) is soon to visit him to harvest stories of his experiences with six-day racing in America.  There aren’t many living cyclists front the pre-war era.  And since 1982, Greg takes our portraits for his collection; more recently he has begun to weigh the bikes that come through Missoula.  Mine weighed one pound more than last year at 67 lbs, without much food or water.  The heaviest bike weighed was a Swiss cyclist whose panniers contained over 174 lbs.

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This photo is from my visit last year, dated September 20th.  These are impromptu Polaroids taken in the office while Greg’s collection of photos are taken in the back alley in front of a large white background.  Convincing the organization to pay for film in 1982 was a challenge, he said.  He still shoots film, and presumably, doesn’t have to twist any arms to get it.  It’s impossible to see, but Carla Majernik’s chrome Peugeot in the background features rubber handlebar grips, installed on the drops.  Thirty years before I hacked Ergon grips to my drops, others were concocting similar solutions.

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I’m spreading the word, and have created demand for Ian’s book and for the ACA bike library– last year George the Cyclist came looking for it and spent the entire day reading; Sean’s return to Missoula had him looking for the same title, and I told a grip of young cyclists on the Trans-Am Route about it yesterday.  The door pictured at the top of the page was the entrance to the original headquarters on the second floor above Eddy’s Club on Higgins Street.  In a recent trip to Missoula, Dan Burden (Dan and Lys Burden cycled the first half of Hemistour with Greg and June Siple) signed his name on the door in the night.  Greg didn’t even get a visit from his old friend.

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Riding cross: Bannack, MT to Idaho

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My first few days back on fat tires wear the nubs off the knobs, riding on pavement.  Thereafter, I huff and puff up Fleecer Ridge, barreling down the other side.  Being able to descend with abandon is fantastic, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the ability to climb with vigor for some cheap thrills– I require a bike that can do it all, fast.  After a few days of dreaming about normal sized wheels and tires, something happened.  Finally, I can ride the Pugsley the way I want.  It has taken some acclimatization, literal and figurative, and some muscle development.

Leaving Anchorage, I labored up small hills and wondered if I would regret riding a fatbike through the other three seasons.  Over Denali’s passes and the Top of the World Highway, my body responded with strengthened legs.  Reaching the Great Divide Route, brutish climbs reawakened those climbing muscles.  At every major junction in the process of touring on a fatbike, I’ve labored under new challenges and wondered if my heavy go-anywhere bike was a good idea.  And finally, after fitting fat tires this week in Bozeman, I’ve had to grow a new pair of legs to keep up with myself.  I’m realizing the perceived limitations are in the rider, not the bike.  Even now, there’s more to this motor than has already been realized.

To propel a bike with as much utility and versatility as the Pugsley requires a strong motor, and following a few nights of sore muscles I can now ride the Pugsley like a cross bike, like I want.  Gravel grinding– climbing fast and descending faster– is now fun and familiar.  Doing it on 4 inch tires at 15 psi is new, but it is intoxicating and childishly fun.  I barely ever scrub speed while descending; while climbing, it’s good to keep the wheels turning and the momentum up, but traction is never the weak link.  And yesterday, across mild terrain, I pedaled and floated over 80 miles of gravel, culminating in a blistering sunset effort to Red Rock Pass.  Laying down to sleep amidst tall grasses and sage, I smile and reflect that riding the Pugsley does not limit my riding style.  I smile and laugh that I’ve spent the day riding it like a cross bike.  I laugh, for there’s a lot more to riding fat tires than floating over gravel at 20 mph, but it’s just one of many things that can be done on a fatbike.  Six months ago I was riding in the dark, in the snow.  Now I’m sleeping at over 7000 ft on the Montana/Idaho border, thanks to a particular purple bike.

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My breakfast of choice, of late, has been Cream of Wheat.  It cooks quickly and sticks with me better than oatmeal.  I add brown sugar and fruit in the morning, or for a savory evening snack, garlic and vegetables do the trick.  Surely my mother will laugh, as I grew up hating oatmeal and tolerating Cream of Wheat.  Now, I love both.  On this occasion, peaches, bananas and brown sugar give me fuel.

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Of course, that’s a Scott Montana overhead.  This wilderness lodge near Polaris, MT welcomes cyclists, although I only stopped to admire this nice vintage ATB.

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Some southern hospitality can even be found up north.

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Bannack is a ghost town and the first territorial capital of Montana.  A hearty thank you to my hosts at the Bannack Campground, Paul and Jamie, who are full of life in this deserted valley.  We shared an evening together, and they shared their dinner and cold silver cans of beer with blue (lavender) mountains.  Since retirement, they’ve discovered that working as campground hosts satisfies their love for travel, and their desire to meet people in a more relaxed, conversational setting.  In exchange for their time and effort, they have free rent all summer in a spectacular corner of Montana with a steady stream of visitors.  Two main bicycle routes, the Trans-Am and the Great Divide Route, pass near Bannack.  It sure beats Texan Gulf Coast summers, they say.

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The ride up and over Medecine Lodge Pass into the Big Sheep drainage challenges me; the sustained climb on the Pugsley strengthens me.  I’m finding that the more I do it, the easier it becomes.  Descending, my rear tire begins to slowly go soft.  I don’t mind fixing the occasional flat, although I hope it’s not something I encounter daily.  The big tires require well over three hundred pumps with my little Lezyne road pump and the older dropout design of the purple Pugsley requires me to loosen the rear brake caliper, which feels like one step to many.  The process is a bother.  I will be searching for a system to minimize flats, especially in the thorny southwest.  Sealant applied to tubes, or a pure tubeless setup are considerations.  A pump with a bigger chamber would be nice.

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On this night, I encountered a group of adventure motorbike riders.  All were on the de facto “ultimate adventure bike”, the BMW GS-1200.  They were riding a variant of the Great Divide Route from Albuquerque to Helena, in a ten day period.  Some of them laughed at my pedal-powered efforts.  Secretly, I laughed at the imminence of Monday morning, a pot of Folgers, and a desk job.  I will still be here in a week.

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And in a push to the Idaho border, a dotted line of classic gravel roads lead the way.  All I have to do is pedal.

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The Swimming Song

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Riding remote dirt roads in contemplative oblivion, sunshine and swimming holes urge my thoughts back to several blissful Tacoma summers.  These are the days of three-hundred dollar rent in three-story houses; endless piles of jazz, funk, soul, R&B, Brazilian and good ole American on vinyl; bikes entangled in living spaces, and a sailboat.  These are the days of impromptu trips to Point Defiance for swimming and messing about with geoducks, barbecues at the beach, and longboarding the Five Mile Drive.  These are the days of Sammy Walker’s self-titled 1976 release, Jorge Ben, The Proclaimer’s “Throw the ‘R’ Away” and “Over and Done With”, Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up” and Loudon Wainwright’s “The Swimming Song”, all on repeat.  Those were the days.

This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around.

This summer I swam in the ocean,
And I swam in a swimming pool,
Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes,
I’m a self-destructive fool, a self-destructive fool.

This summer I swam in a public place
And a reservoir, to boot,
At the latter I was informal,
At the former I wore my suit, I wore my swimming suit.

This summer I did the backstroke
And you know that’s not all
I did the breast stroke and the butterfly
And the old Australian crawl, the old Australian crawl.

This summer I did swan dives
And jackknifes for you all
And once when you weren’t looking
I did a cannonball, I did a cannonball.

Loudon Wainwright, “The Swimming Song”; Attempted Moustache, 1973

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I hope everyone is having a memorable summer– these are the days!

Photo credits: Lucy Kruesel, Alex Borgen and Colby Sander.

Real touring bikes: Canadian Rockies

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Another round of bikes from all over the world, attracted to the picturesque peaks of the Canadian Rockies.  Germans in particular are quite fond of the north country, although they travel to many destinations.  I’ve recently encountered two German couples, separately, traveling with a baby of one year or less– it seems the Chariot is a preferred method of hauling live cargo.  The following bikes were spotted between Jasper, AB and the Montana border.  A self-contained ACA tour of the Great Divide Route from Banff to Whitefish was a goldmine of great bikes and characters.  In the Yukon I managed to capture almost every bike I saw; more recently, I catch a little over half.

Two bright beams approach from the northbound shoulder of the Icefields Parkway.  I leave my light on all the time as well, and readily spot the piercing LED from afar.  Approaching, both parties come to a halt and exclaim, expectantly and knowingly, “Germans?!”.  If you see a bright dynamo light coming down the road, “German?” is usually a good guess.  I am right; of course, they are not.  I tell people I’m from Alaska.  We speak about the growth in popularity of dynamo lighting in the US and the General influence of German cycling equipment.  Upon closer inspection, they are riding perfect examples of German tourers: Rohloff hubs, Magura hydraulic rim brakes, Schwalbe Extreme tires, Tubus, Ortlieb, Schmight lighting, SKS fenders, ESGE kickstand, Ergon Grips, and stout aluminum Idworx frames.  Proudly, only the pedals are from Shimano.  A limiter keeps the handlebars from turning more than 90deg, which prevents damage to the hydraulic brake line and the headlight.

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Kiwis on tour riding 26″ wheels, both are riding Jamis mountain bikes with Vaude panniers.

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Americans on Kona Sutra touring bikes with Ortlieb panniers.  These are the second pair of Sutras for this couple; their other Sutras have been used for several longer tours and now reside at the winter residence down south.  It was time for some new drivetrain parts on the old bikes so it was decided that new bikes would solve the problem.  That’s the third, and most expensive approach to drivetrain maintenance– new bikes.  Note disc brakes with rim brake mounts.  I’ve seen numerous lowrider racks mounted to cantilever posts as shown.

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I finally captured it!  People stop and point and poke at my Pugsley all the time.  Tourists in Banff particularly enjoyed it.  A vacationing German couple asked if the framebag contained a motor.

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Not a touring bike, at least not yet.  As I often say, “it’s not a touring bike until it’s on tour”.  Likewise, when it’s out on the open road, it’s a touring bike no matter if it’s made of carbon or features full-suspension.   Just a town bike in Banff, but this Kona Explosif caught my eye. It’s hideous, unless you grew up reading mountain bike magazines in the 90’s.  Technically, this bike was a little before my time.

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On the Divide, a wide variety of bikes are to be found but most feature proper mountain bike tires.  This Trek Marlin 29er is a two day ride from home in Calgary, and less than ten miles from the start of the Great Divide Route in Banff.  This rider approached the local bike shop with a budget and list of anti-specifications: the bike could not have hydraulic disc brakes, it could not have an air or oil fork, and it could not have 26″ wheels.  The result was an inexpensive 29er which came in way under budget, to his surprise.  A simple reliable bike doesn’t require a hefty price tag!

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A full suspension 26″ wheeled carbon Norco.  The rider enjoyed the ride and claimed not to have any issues mounting racks.

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Nothing to see, but another statistic.  A young German woman on a Giant XTC mountain bike with front and rear racks.

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This is by far the most unique bike I’ve seen since Alaska, and perhaps for the entire summer to come.  Tim SanJule constructed this bike of parts and tubing from several other bikes, building on lots of real world touring experience and improving upon his last touring bike, an old steel Specialized Rockhopper.  A second down tube, or diagatube, was added for strength and to prevent shimmy while loaded.  S&S couples were sourced from a Craigslist bike, the eccentric bottom bracket (EBB) from a KHS tandem, and the tubing from a variety of old bikes.  The parts are described as “tough North American stuff”, referring to a mix a Paul, White Industries and Phil Wood.  A vintage Sachs front derailleur and a short cage Dura-Ace rear derailleur add some flair; don’t shift into the small-small combination or the chain will go slack, but the short cage derailleur shifts better and reduces chain slap.  Both front and rear Avid BB7 disc calipers are operated by a long run of exposed cable from the top of the fork and near the BB, respectively.  The housing stop on the caliper itself has been removed.  Cromoly Tubus Cargo racks are mounted front and rear and the fork features multiple braze-ons for bottle cages and racks, a la Salsa.  This rider is leading a dozen riders on a self-contained ACA tour of the Great Divide Route from Banff, AB to Whitefish, MT.  The following bikes are from that group.

Tim grew up in the same small cowtown I did.  We comprise the entirety of cycling culture in, or from, Cortland, NY and make for a curious pair of bikes and riders.  Tim pedals in a climbing helmet and a well-worn pair of Converse Chuck Taylor athletic shoes.  When I was a “mountain biker” in high school, I used to ride in my “Chucks”.

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A carbon Trek 29er, purchased several years ago in preparation for riding some of the Great Divide.  In that time, this rider has accumulated lots of gear to suit his needs but was bursting at the seams of his bikepacking-inspired setup.  An Old Man Mountain rack is mounted in front with Ortlieb panniers, as it was decided that a rear rack would place unsafe stress on the carbon frame.  Slow speed steering is described as “heavy”, which can be especially hazardous when climbing loose surfaces.  Seven separate Revelate Designs bags are hidden here.

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A Rhode Island based rider on a Tout Terrain Silkroad with “the works” from Peter White Cycles in New Hampshire: a Rohloff Speedhub, an Shimano Alfine dynamo hub, B&M lighting, Schwalbe Marathon Extreme tires, and T.A. cranks.  He was a bit disappointed to have had a puncture with his highly specialized, and expensive touring tires.  I assured him that such things were normal, and quite possible on any tire.

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An early 1990’s Bridgestone XO-3 with a Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost and a Girvin suspension stem, comprising a simple short-travel full suspension system.  This bike also wears a pair of older (vintage?) Schwalbe XR touring tires.  S&S couplers have been installed.

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A first generation Salsa Fargo with Revelate framebag and panniers, wearing an uncommon Schwalbe tire, the Marathon Plus ATB in a 40 or 42mm dimension.

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I took a liking to this bike, a Surly Karate Monkey with Rohloff, Revelate bags, Continental Mountain King tires, and a small pair of Jandd panniers on a rear rack.  The Revelate Tangle bag is nice as it leaves enough room for both water bottles to be used.  This one fits the frame nicely.

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A Niner S.I.R. 9 steel frame of Reynolds 853 tubing.  A nice clean build with an attractive older White Brothers suspension fork, pulling a BOB trailer.

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An eight-year old custom titanium Seven 29er with S&S couplers, also with an older White Brothers fork.  The White Brothers forks were the best, and only option when 29ers first arrived.  They continue to be made in Grand Junction, CO.  This bike was wearing a pair of WTB Nanoraptor tires, the first true 29er tire available, first offered back in 1999.

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Voracity, and veracity

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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.

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4233WP

4230WP

4250WP

4261WP

4277WP

4291WP

4302WP

4318WP 2

4322WP

4339WP

4354WP

4361WP

4377WP

4365WP

4331WP

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.