Riding in fresh snow: challenging, fun, puzzling

Last Thursday MORC Chair Ryan Lieske posted this alert to the MORC forum thread on trail conditions for Murphy-Hanrehan:

Trail Condition: Snow – Fat Tires Needed
Date Posted: 02-23-2012 @ 11:03 AM

Details: 3RPD opened Murphy today. Get out and enjoy it, our winter riding days are numbered!

(3RPD = Three Rivers Park District which serves "the suburban areas of the Twin Cities metro including suburban Hennepin, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Ramsey counties.")

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With little snow here in the Northfield area, I was skeptical of the ‘fat tires needed’ rating but once I got on the trail early Saturday morning, it made sense. There was more fresh snow than I expected, especially on the north-facing areas. I lowered my tire pressure (tubeless) to 10 PSI but I still had to walk my 29er on a few of the uphill segments (left photo above).

The 3-4 fat bikes that had been through sometime on Friday laid down a nicely packed path (right photo above) but staying on it was challenging, like riding a skinny log or plank the entire time.   After a couple of miles, I figured out that the more I focused on A) leaning, not steering the bike and B) focusing my eyes way further ahead than normal, the easier it was. I’m used to doing that in technical areas or when going fast around downhill turns but it hadn’t occurred to me to do it on the more leisurely areas. Duh.

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I had a little trouble predicting traction on the obstacles. 

I assumed that snow-on-wood would be slippery but I had no trouble riding up the stepped bridge (left photo above). I know, riding the bridge up is riding the wrong way/against traffic but with no leaves on the trees, it’s easy to see if anyone’s coming.

On the rocks (center photo), going down was no problem but up? Not. After several attempts at the lower section, I picked the bike up and placed it halfway up the rocks. Zeeeeeero traction. 

There was great traction both directions on the larger sloped rock (right photo). I was even able to do a downhill turn on the fresh snow (see my tire tracks). Very puzzling.

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I’ve yet to attempt riding the entire length of the long, curving, and high skinny at Murphy. Now that I’ve got flats with Impact 5.10‘s, I’m confident in my ability to do it but I’d rather not do it alone, just in case of a get-off that doesn’t end well. Smart or lack of cojones, you decide.

I rode the first third but took the out on the snow-covered dirt mound (left photo).  When I got to the end, I noticed that one of the fatty bike riders had ridden the entire thing (right photo).  No mean feat, considering that much of the skinny was icy.

One thought on “Riding in fresh snow: challenging, fun, puzzling”

  1. I’m glad to have a little experience riding in some fresh snow, as they’ve been getting some in the Crosby-Ironton area in advance of this weekend’s Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout and more is expected mid-week. I’m borrowing a fat bike from a friend and bringing my 29er. The latest advice from Cuyuna’s dirt boss, Nick Statz:

    …fat bikes would be the weapon of choice in the Yawkey. Sagamore trails are groomed with a snowmobile and drag so those trails will be packed nicely for the xc race

    See the recent Whiteout blog posts on the 25th, 26th, and 27th.

    The latter has another video by Aaron Hautala.

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