Spring is in the air! The temperatures are mostly above freezing, the snow is melting, and the bike paths are kinda clear. The trails are soft and slushy; snow bike season is over. Time to put away the big tires and get out the full suspension mountain bike.
I dragged my 29er into the shop to have its tubeless tires re-seated (again. What a bullshit experiment this tubeless thing has been. I think I’m probably $350 in the hole now and I’ve had more flats this last year than I’ve ever had in my entire life. Lame) and drivetrain tuned. I waited and waited while the suddenly-slammed shop worked through its backlog of tune-ups. Finally I got my bike back and, excited for a ride free of that 4″ tire contact patch, hopped on for a spin around the city.
And I was underwhelmed.
My bike felt heavy, slow, and sluggish. The Shimano drivetrain, which I never liked to begin with, felt annoying and cumbersome as I converted my movement patterns back to trigger shifting. I immediately missed my grip shifts. The seat, which I’d felt OK about last year (I never feel “good” about bike seats) was suddenly a vile instrument of torture. It was almost a relief when the numbness set in after an hour. The bike’s cockpit felt cramped. My fenders weren’t protecting me well. I couldn’t find the gear I wanted, which is typical with that particular drivetrain, but still. Things just felt…off. I expected to feel faster now that I wasn’t on my big-tired behemoth. All my friends have been talking about how great their first few rides off their fat bikes have felt; that they feel rock-star fast and fleet. This sensation was not happening for me. I felt sluggish and pained; weighed down, overburdened.
Not one to give up easily, though, I opted to head up, up, up to the Hillside area of the city to get in some good climbing on less-busy streets. I was soon tempted off into the mud and gravel of the dirt roads. I expected to have a lot of fun with the full suspension bike, as I’ve been on my fully rigid snow bike for nine months. To my surprise the only time I noticed the suspension is when it bobbed under me as I tried to climb. Annoyed, I locked it out. My ass hurt. My crotch hurt. My wrists were uncomfortable. My legs were grumbling. I was barely spinning up the hill in grandpa gear. What was going on?
I forced out 25 hard miles, then headed home. I had gotten in a workout but didn’t feel great about it. Was I just tired and sore, maybe in need of a rest day? Sometimes a hard-feeling ride is just an indication of a tired body. I gave myself a rest day and felt fine this morning, so I geared up and set out for the garage to grab a bike.
And lo and behold, what happened? Without even really thinking about it, I passed both my full suspension summer bikes, only pausing long enough to pull the pedals off the 29er, and unhooked my trusty snow bike. Tires pumped to pavement pressures, I zipped off down the street and easily put in another 25 mile day, feeling happy and entertained and – dare I say it? – fast.
So I guess I’m on the snow bike for the foreseeable future. It’s pretty fun on the pavement too and, let’s face it, it just feels right. I’m glad I brought my GPS along today – is 39 mph a pretty good clip for a fat bike? OK, so it was on a long downhill, but it still felt great. And so did the up. Even though, sure, it’s slower than a regular bike, it still FEELS better and that’s what matters.
We’ll see if I change my tune when the techy trails dry out in, oh, another month or so.