We ride every Wednesday night. Hot or cold, dry or wet, we ride. (Unless it’s Christmas Day. We did skip that ride). This past Wednesday, New Years Day, we suited up to face the cold and ride.
It started like a normal fatbike ride, sprinting down snowy streets towards forests and paths.
The paths were decidedly snowier, and a bit tougher going.
We stopped briefly to regroup…
And it was then that we saw the alluring Kishwaukee River. (I don’t think anyone has ever called the Kish alluring before…) We pedaled down to the banks, and contemplated our fates. Some spots were frozen hard, some were not quite frozen, and some were downright watery.
For as dry as the snow was, it was surprising to see how much would pack up inside your rims.
We surmounted the first few obstacles that stopped our river borne progress…
And we rode off into the night. (Stay to the right there, BPaul).
Wonder of wonders, even Chad A made it out on the ride, sporting a single speed Ti Mariachi with studded tires.
As you’ll see below, studs are helpful on thick ice, but skinny, studded tires are not helpful on thin ice.
Where the ice was established, the snow on the river was perfectly smooth.
My 45Nrth Dillingers were performing admirably.
The front group sought solace under a local bridge for a few minutes, enjoying the crisp air.
As we anticipated the arrival of the back group.
Tobie from North Central Cyclery was sporting his Carbon Beargrease X9, and was rolling on a river.
Check out the reflective Gore wear (except where covered up by his pack).
He was also sporting the top-secret Whusker Du tires.
The Whusker Dus feature white tread.
And here are Chad’s studded tires.
I was riding alongside Chad, when suddenly he pitched perilously forward. He was frozen in midair for a moment, perched over his front tire in a pushup position on the bars. Apparently, his skinny studs broke through where my fat tire floated over.
Good thing Gore winter wear is waterproof. Magic Pants for the win.
But in the kerfuffle, Chad lost his trusty Knog light to the Kish. Wait…what’s that?
Yes. The Knog continued flashing, under a frozen river. We were able to fish it out (thanks to my waterproof Gore WS Thermo Lobster Gloves, throw it back on his bike, and continue riding.
We rode upriver until we ran out of ice.
The combination of water and ice on our rims added significant weight to the bikes.
And for some, added significant weight to their face.
We encountered a lot of varying conditions on the river. There were spots where there was no ice, but it was shallow enough to ride…and there were spots where it was super-deep but frozen hard. There were spots where you could hear the ice cracking under you as you rode over it, and spots where you’d just start to break through…but-if-you-kept-pedalling-you-would-keep-going. There were spots where seemingly solid ice gave way to slush that sprayed off of our tires. There were spots where ice gave way suddenly to rocks or gravel.
All of these varying conditions held one thing in common: the conditions were perfect for fat biking, and we had a blast. BPaul said it was the best ride of the year. Since it was January 1, that’s not exactly a lofty standard…but I get what he meant. It was a fantastic ride. The pictures do not do the conditions justice.
Get out and ride.