I was feeling considerably better today. I got the okay from my medical department (who had plans to stay home and bake and can and take a ride to town on her Ute) to go up to Buffalo Creek for the Surly/Salvagetti Fat Bike Demo.
At noon I headed west up 285 and arrived just as the Surly guys (not too surly actually) were setting up. I was one of the first few to get a demo bike and I struck out hard west on the Colorado Trail for dirtier climes. Before I left I oohed and ahhed as I handled the bike around the parking area. It was lighter than it seemed like it should be, and initially it rode very well.
I realized something today: I'm a clumsy mountain biker. I'm not gumby, I'm not unskilled, I'm just clumsy. I take up a lot of trail, and I think most of the time I'm lucky no one else is coming the other way.
Right off the bat I was impressed with how the Krampus handled the gnarly decomposed granite (of the Pikes Peak variety.) The 29x3 tires found purchase where my narrow 26x2 would have squirrelled right out from under me and left my big-boned frame wrapped around a pine tree.
Infamous decomposed granite and fat tires go well together
At first I was just cruising along over some easy rollers that trended downward. It was a nice packed surface, and I found I could crank along at least as fast as I could on my current MTB. The Knards rolled over roots like a steamroller over Christmas elves.
Look out Buddy!
I crossed back over the main road and began descending the Shinglemill Trail. I still hadn't encountered any technical terrain, but that changed as I passed through a stand of boulders and the trail twisted tight and blind. I was able to maneuver the chubby bike through it all, and then continued on down to the junction with the Morrison Creek Trail.
I met a couple on mountain bikes there. They oogled the fatbike. I had to admit it wasn't mine. I proceeded to tell them about the demo, and they groaned in misery. They'd pedaled up from Pine Valley Open Space and had too far to go to return to take a detour out to the Surly basecamp, but they wanted to try out a fatbike.
I bid them a good day and dropped onto Morrison Creek. I was finally on a fast downhill and I tried to really let the bike go. I found it very forgiving at high speed. At one point I couldn't make a turn and left the trail at 25+ mph and what would have been a disaster on my skinny bike was a fun bounce over logs and rocks until I managed to get back in the trail.
I discovered as I floated over some jaggedness in the trail that I really like the amount of travel and rebound the tires alone provided versus that of the front suspension on my Cannondale. I also liked having the rigid fork when trying to plow over high roots and rock obstacles in the trail. I found that not having the fork travel seemed to help me power over stuff I didn't expect to get over.
Soon I was down to the valley bottom on the two track. I cruised along happily for a short jaunt to the bottom of the Shinglemill Trail, which I turned onto and began climbing back up the long slog to the Little Scraggy Trailhead.
The 1x10 setup was unfamiliar to me, but I found that it suits my singletrack riding style very well. I was able to go as fast on flats and downhills as I wanted, and I was able to pass riders on conventional MTBs (3x9) as I climbed up the Shinglemill Trail. The downside was I was cranking harder than usual, and not able to spin, so my lungs went into overload and I blew up about halfway up the climb and had to stop and get my breath back. The other riders didn't catch me though, and I was back on and climbing within a minute.
The bike I rode only had a 32t "granny" gear so I ended up standing on my pedals frequently as the trail continued climbing up and up. I found out that with the torque I was creating and the wide tires I lost traction in the loose stuff on the steeper pitches. That could have been mitigated with either a lower granny or perhaps a lower PSI. Regardless, I managed to ride everything except one tight turn that I had stopped below to take a photo.
Finally I was over the worst of Shinglemill, but already jonesing to ride it again. I continued up to the main road and crossed over. The section of Shinglemill between the road and the Colorado Trail is steep with roots and rocks to crawl over. I finally got to see how the bike clawed it's way up more technical, steep terrain. I was feeling beat, but when I yanked on the pedals the little green mule bucked up the hill.
Back on the Colorado I finally got to open it up again, and managed to get my breath back for a strong finish. I was finally passing a lot of other demo riders and they all had big fat grins on their faces. I imagined I had a similar grin on my face too.
At the Surly tent I reluctantly gave the guys their bike back. I really wanted to just ride off into the sunset on it. Wow! That was a lot of fun!
Pizza on wheels ;)
I hung around and enjoyed the ambiance for a bit until Basic Kneads served up a piping hot pizza. I was on the waiting list to ride a Moonlander but ran out of time. I needed to get back to Arvada.
It was okay. I got to ride the Krampus and that was the reason I went up to Buffalo Creek today.
I could see becoming very comfortable riding on fat tires on singletrack. In fact, I hope to be very comfortable riding fat tires on trails in the near future. After climbing up out of Buffalo Creek and cruising along on the Colorado Trail I started thinking with a 2x10 setup the Krampus just might be a superb bike for Leadville. I'd had reservations about riding a fat bike in a 100 mile MTB race, but I think it might just be a really good idea!
Thanks SURLY and thanks SALVAGETTI for an awesome ride!!!
I went back and corrected a few things. I'm not entirely happy with this post because apparently I wrote it in a head-cold induced fog. We'll let it stand as is though.