Blog: Happy Trails!

 

Blog 7: Fat Bike, Falling w/o Getting Hurt

Fat Bike Enduro Feature
Rode it all the time, then one slippery day, I lost momentum and fell backwards down it!

Ok, the title is a bit of a misnomer, but calling a blog Minimizing your Chances of Getting Hurt When U Fall Off Your Fat Bike is lame.  Now in a serious tone, any seasoned mountain biker knows there are some falls you take where you simply have no time to react.  We, as off-road cyclists, know those falls have to be taken as they come, even though we take pre-cautions and ride under control (a relative, case-by-case term that is based on our individual abilities).  After all, we love the challenges of our sport, but we all know it comes with known dangers.  I have a chipped tooth I never had fixed as my example.

All that said and forgetting bad arial landings and Red Bull stuff, there are 3 ways to fall when riding Fat/MTB/BMX Bike: over the handlebars, to either side, and the worst, straight backwards.  The purpose of this Blog is to discuss techniques to minimize the likelihood of getting hurt under each scenario.  Under all three, the most important take away is to keep your body loose and flexible w/ some bend to your knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists.  Think about the difference b/w landing on a foot with a rigid vs. a bent knee.  There are a lot more ways medically for things to go wrong when our joints are locked.  Also, please note that our human reaction when falling is to get back to the ground as quickly as possible, which makes us want to stretch out our leg, effectively locking the joint, just to make contact one second sooner.  Further, we have to scan the ground we are falling on so we are prepared for the surface we are landing on.  That quick, in real-time, scan can be the difference b/w twisting an ankle and riding away.

Over the Bars.  Very simply: head back, torso upright, let go of the handlebars, and step over the bars off the bike with the foot that is in the 12:00 to 3:00 position.  Keep that knee bent into making contact with the ground, your other leg and foot will follow leaving your bike behind you.

To Either Side.  Bend the leg on the side you are falling to and keep that ankle loose but ready for contact with the ground.  At the same time you need to visually scan the terrain you are landing in so you are prepared for your first foot to make contact with the ground and you are aware of rocks and other natural features below.  Remember, you, with a change of your own body weight distribution as you are falling, can redirect where your feet and hands actually land.  It all happens quick, but the idea is to land on the most solid piece of ground as possible.  Keep that knee bent, wait for your first foot to get to the ground.

The Dreaded Backwards.  Very steep, close to vertical, but short inclines taken at speed with momentum are great gravity features, but misjudging same and not having enough momentum, can be disastrous.  Nose of the seat in your spine or up your ass when that rear tire gets to level ground…  Nasty stuff.  Point here is that you have to re-direct your body weight as you are rolling backwards to either side of the bike or to the side you are naturally falling to as dictated by the terrain you are riding.  Then follow the To Either Side routine.

It’s nice to be able to write this stuff down and have you folks read it, but the reality is that the foregoing has to be thought about and actually practiced while falling to be truly effective.  It can become like 2nd Nature.  Not saying we want to take you out on a Fat Bike Falling Adventure, but we can help you hone your Fat Bike skills by practicing advanced techniques, while having fun.  Contact josh@upnorthguidedtours.com or 715/413-2076 and see www.upnorthguidedtours.com for more.  Thanks for reading!

#fatbike #fattirebikes #upnorthguidedtours #fatbikesafety

Blog 6: Fat Bike’s Effect on the Mind

Primitive Fat Bike Trail in Northbrook, IL
Primitive Fat Bike Trail in Northbrook, IL

If we for the most part forget the physical side of Fat Biking for purposes of this Blog and focus on the positive effects riding Fat Tire Bikes have on us mentally, it’s impossible not to notice at some point during a ride that our attention is diverted from whatever issue we are wrestling with in our minds to our riding, pure and simple.  Taking our minds off issues that can absorb us help us give our minds a break so we can revisit same later and make decisions with a clear head.  I have found that all forms of off-road bike riding have this desirable mental effect.  What makes the Fat Bike experience different is the shortened length of time it takes for minds to unwind.  It’s the wide tires, they smooth out your route more than other non-road bikes allowing you to “get into the zone” more quickly.

It’s usually business on my mind.  Yesterday it was AdWords: to use AdWords or not to use AdWords, again…  This campaign will be better, is fat bike a good search term(?), I’ll tailor searches to a smaller group of surrounding zip codes, how much am I going to spend(?), etc.  By the time I’m reviewing a mini-issue for the 5th time I start putting on my bike clothes, filling a water bottle, running through a bike and the gear I’m bringing, and I’m out the door to take a little Fat Bike spin.

It was a few blocks to the woods from my office, and when I got in, the sun was just beaming thru the canopy to the forest floor.  Righteous majesty, impossible not to smile.  The forest is lush this early September due to late Summer storms.  The latter season wild flowers cover the floor to both sides of the trail with yellows, whites, and pinks.  My mind was lightening up but open market per click pricing reared its head.  How is it pricing is determined???  Then a root that was noticeably more pronounced than earlier in the season grabbed my attention, and once my composure was regained I focused on gaining riding efficiencies back by limiting the bobbing effect, shifting up by 2 gears, allowing my legs to carry the burden by relieving my lower back of strain with a change of riding position, and of course by keeping my breathing as relaxed as possible.  I love it when efficiencies are paying off, efforts are rewarded by that feeling that you are flowing thru the forest, it’s an “at one with all” sense.  That sun kept breaking thru lighting up leaves and the forest floor, and I couldn’t help but notice how high the first Savannah remnant’s grasses I rode by were.  Leaves were army green, nothing was hinting at Fall yet.  Man was I moving thru the woods!

Sometimes that’s all it takes.  Put the issue down for even a couple moments to take in some nature, get some exercise, do what you enjoy doing, and voila, you are refreshed, ah clarity, the answer presents itself.  Nothing I can do about per click pricing, start with $100/mo. in clicks, limit ad appearances to those searches being made from 5 surrounding zip codes, etc.  Those fat tires do smooth a lot out.

If unwinding and refreshing your mind sound right to you, contact us for a quick fix: josh@upnorthguidedtours.com and 715/413-2076.

#bikes #fatbikes #fattire #upnorthguidedtours #getaway #takeabreak #biketours

 

Blog 5: The Importance of Spending Time Together (on Fat Bike!)

Fat Bike with our Kids
O on Fat Bike in the Woods

A great way to strengthen the bond between us and our kids is to do the activities we enjoy doing, with them.  For our family, it’s Fat Biking.  It’s not just in passing a skill down, and it’s not just in time spent together, it’s really about the quality of time spent together.

Never pushed O to ride bike, pushed in other areas, but there certainly was no pushing of Fat Tire Bike riding.  He got interested about a year ago when his cousin started riding fat and when he saw his buds cruising the neighborhood on bike.  O’s not shy and quickly asked about our XS Pugsley, and just as quickly, was off on bike!  Exposure, availability, interest, and motivation = your kids are doing what you love doing, WILLINGLY.  The door is open.

Took O for his first Snow Bike ride on MLK Day 2018.  Chicagoland just got a good 4 inches, and the roped-off parking lot to our local forest preserve served as a perfect testing ground granted the untracked snow over a firm, predictable base.  O’s smile, priceless.  It was a short testing session, since breaking him in slow, without exhausting him, was key in maintaining his interest.

Winter Fat Bike for Beginners
O’s First Look at Fat Bike, on Snow

But O’s first trail ride on a fatty, a ride that lasted no longer than 33 minutes on mostly flat and wide gravel, was the high point of the first half of the year!  Riding thru in bloom prairie and forest was not lost on O, but every time I turned around, it wasn’t a smile, it was game-face time, a face of determination. I know that face, it’s working on riding faster for longer, and it’s about picking more efficient, direct lines.  No teaching needed, it’s naturally in him.  It’s not that O’s pushing himself doing what I enjoy most, it’s seeing what he is made of.  Quality time together, noticing our similarities, seeing who he is.

O is using Fat Bike to push himself and to express a side of what he is.  Perfect, but of equal importance is the bond that strengthens between us when we spend time riding Fat Tire Bike together.  Ride on!

If you are reading this, you like bike.  Contact us for a quick connection to your kids: www.upnorthguidedtours.com; josh@upnorthguidedtours.com; and 715/413-2076.  Thanks for reading!  #fattire; #fatbike; #passitdown; #upnorthguidedtours

Blog 4: Low-Key is the Way to Start Fat Biking

Fat Bike Sandy Trail
Fat Bike Sandy Trail, and Enjoy some Beach Time

People often tell us that Fat Biking is too hardcore.  Our response is that it certainly does not have to be!  Not all of us were born to race, charge the uphills, push the limits on the downhills, and get close to our personal breaking points without breaking.  In fact, most people who are interested in trying off-road cycling simply want to get into the backwoods, get some exercise, and have safe fun.  We agree and can help you get started.

We suggest finding flatter, less technical off-road cycling routes that offer a second activity such as swimming, hiking, or snowshoeing that can be done in the same outing.  That way you can ease into off-road cycling, you re-connect with nature, you get a sweat going without overheating, and your experience is multi-dimensional.  We have those kinds of routes in both the Chicago Area and in the Northwest Woods of Wisconsin, and we can show you the way!

The Chicago Area pictured here is a great example of such a route.  The riding features little to no elevation change, but since there are no notable downhill sections, you are constantly pedaling and getting the exercise you crave.  The only technical aspect of the route is some sand on the trail in a few areas, which is handled easily by you on a fat tire bike.  Accordingly, you will not get discouraged.  That particular route has amazing views of Lake Michigan, it takes you along the last remaining beach ridge shoreline in Illinois, and you ride through constantly changing ecosystems: dunes, to marshland Swales, to prairies, to Black Oak forestland.  Hundreds of plant and animal species can be found along this route, including, believe it or not, the Prickly Pear Cactus.  The trail changes from dirt to crushed limestone to grass, which provides a diverse riding experience.  And of course beach time and playing in the Lake is just a stones throw away from the riding.  It’s the perfect family Summertime afternoon getaway!  Join us this Summer for 1.5 or 3 hours to experience this tour route for yourself.  See www.upnorthguidedtours.com, and contact josh@upnorthguidedtours.com or 715/413-2076.

Blog 3: Fat Bike Grooming in Cable, WI

Fat Bike Trail Grooming
Fat Bike Trail Grooming
Fat Bike Trail Grooming
Fat Bike Trail Grooming

We thoroughly admit we love to groom and Fat Bike the steep, out-of-bounds, unmapped Winter trails we at the Up North Guided Tours shop maintain!  Yes, the downhills are absolute barnburners, and a few of the uphills are hikes, but our routes put the adventure back into bike.  They get you into the deep, very less traveled backwoods; they provide you with incredible vistas for your viewing pleasure; they do feature some long, flowing sections; and they get you connected into the natural world.  We create Winter trail so you get a true Northern Midwest outdoor experience!

We start grooming early in the Winter to create a base, we groom after snowfall to maintain trail integrity, and we groom towards the end of warm-ups to compact trail so it hardens providing rock-solid firmness.  Grooming is better than not grooming, but routes set up best when groomed as temperatures are going down.  Grooming the steeps is an exercise in balance: speed, momentum, and snowmobiler agility/weight distribution are necessary to clear uphill stretches and tight, downhill, banking turns; staying off the brakes on downhills keeps the groomer in-line; and properly weighting and applying the right amount of pressure via the jack on the groomer pan as snow and temperature conditions dictate all must be considered.  Grooming the steeps is never perfect, but when balance is reached, functional snow art is created.  Accordingly, some art and some science are involved!  Remember, snow/ice bike is an extension of mountain bike: open up your front suspension, let a little air out, and take some rough with your pristine!!!

Our preferred grooming tools for the steeps, esp. during a snowy Winter are as follows: our 2-Stroke Ski-Doo Tundra 550F LT; our Wildcat 33″ Groomers; our Stihl chainsaw; our Tubbs Wilderness 30 snowshoes in case we have to walkout; our office cell phones w/ the best possible coverage; and 2 of our compact, well charged flashlights that we typically use as handlebar lights.

We do not only create Winter biking trail by pulling a groomer, we also rough-in shorter, narrower stretches via snowshoe, poles and gaiters.  Examples are evident at our shop’s Home Trail and our Cabin’s Connector Trail we rough-in for our guests, participants, and equipment rental customers.  Now, on a personal note, the beauty of roughing-in trail by snowshoe is in the silence.  Nature forgets we are there and continues as if undetected.  Owls and Wood Peckers are heard, fresh Wolf tracks are seen, and the sweet smell of dense forest practically envelops us.  Gotta love this kind of work!

Outside of our roughed-in Home and Cabin Connector Trails, our grooming route is within Bayfield County Forestland and a large private parcel.  We take our Permit and Right-of-Way License privileges very seriously, and we thank Bayfield County Foresters and the Private Landowner/Manager for same.  The trails we maintain that are in Bayfield County Forestland are HVN and TRTS, and the trail we maintain on the private parcel is HVN X.  Those three trails are open to the general public for snow/ice biking.  Please see the Trails page of our website for detailed descriptions of each.  Additionally, there are trails we help FAT CAMBA maintain.  Those trails are mostly within Bayfield County Forestland and are Westside and Backside, both of which are open to the general public, as well.

Why do we put in this type of work?  To enhance the experience of outdoor adventure seekers, of course.  Enjoy!  See www.upnorthguidedtours.com, and contact josh@upnorthguidedtours.com or 715/413-2076.

Blog 2: What is Up North Guided Tours Doing (w/ Fat Bike)?

Family Fat Bike Guided Tour
Family Fat Bike Guided Tour

Rolling Stone and Tim Krabbe would say: To explain (Fat Bike) is to diminish.  So let’s leave plenty for you to chew on.

We could tell you all about our purposes of advancing recreational tourism in Northwest Wisconsin, enhancing Northeast Illinois residents’ experience in the outdoors just beyond their own backyards, raising awareness on the potential of fat bike as the ultimate human-powered backcountry travel tool, promoting healthy lifestyle, and advocating for multi-use trail sharing, but yawn: that would bore you to tears.  Up North Guided Tours is really about having safe, non-competitive, GROUP FUN in Midwestern natural areas.  We offer a release from normal, everyday life!

We love and do all forms of off-road riding: from flat gravel to singletrack, from primitive jeep trail to freeriding the steeps.  It’s all fun, it all offers different forms of off-road cycling exercise, and it all provides different types of cycling experience!  We also love to explore on snowshoe.  We blaze our own Winter paths and experience Winter serenity in its purest form.

We don’t do what we do only thru our money-making vehicles of guiding, equipment rentals, and apparel sales, we go much deeper.

We work closely with Bayfield County Forest Department and private owners of large tracts of land to not only open areas to general public biking that were not previously open to same, we also help to maintain those areas.  From basic chainsaw maintenance to snow bike grooming, we love working trail!  We especially love steep trail since we believe there is no riding quite like gravity-based riding, which is somewhat untapped here in the Northern Midwest.

Up North Guided Tours is also behind Cable Night Riders, which provides Cable area youth with an opportunity to ride off-road bike and explore their backwoods for free on Friday nights.  Kids in Cable are an underrepresented group, they simply do not have enough to do.  We give them a productive way to get together, enjoy nature, and blow off steam!

Now, regarding our Guiding, Equipment Rental, and Apparel Sales work, we are focused on providing you with the very BEST SERVICE.  We watch out for your safety like no other and take you on routes that are right for your skill level and interests, we provide you with higher-end and very well maintained equipment, and we only carry the very best in apparel at reasonable prices.  We serve you the way you want and deserve to be served!

Want to know more?  Check us out in person and judge for yourself.  You will have fun and will have a unique experience!  See www.upnorthguidedtours.com, and contact josh@upnorthguidedtours.com or 715/413-2076.

 

Blog 1: Fat Bike Philosophy 101

Primitive Fat Bike Trail in Cable, WI
Primitive Fat Bike Trail in Cable, WI
Fat Bike is the most versatile, human-powered method of accessing the backcountry.  Low tire pressure and lack of motor leave little to no trace, switching out tires and chain rings allow riders to utilize fat bikes during most seasons under most weather conditions, and the wide tires and rims let you ride terrain that is close to impossible to ride via standard mountain bike in a substantially safer fashion.  Fat Bike is the utilitarian solution to backcountry travel!

Wider tires which are run at extremely low PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) and wider rims distribute and displace bike and rider weight, and that in turn leads to little to no tread markings on all types of terrain, including: grassy , two-track, single-track, technical (rocks and roots), and overgrown routes.  Lack of motor reduces noise and air pollution in the backcountry.  In other words, Fat Bike is not a cause of environmental damage so long as Fat Bike is not ridden on anything but gravel roads during mud season.

One Fat Bike can responsibly handle most weather conditions.  Responsibly is the operative term granted we do not ride ‘em, nor do we advocate riding ‘em, during mud season as routes, except those on gravel roads, are too soft and even Fat Bike tires have too much negative impact during those few months. One is the magic number since all you need is one Fat Bike to handle all your off-road riding so long as you switch out a couple components.  Here’s what we do, tires: we run a set of low-resistance rollers for summer and fall months, that means a low-rise tread pattern to increase rolling efficiencies; and during winter we switch between a set of snow tires for solid snow conditions and a set of studded tires to handle icy conditions. Chain rings: we run a larger chain ring for summer and fall, and we opt for a smaller chain ring during the winter.  The larger chain ring during summer and fall allows for faster downhill bombing, whereas use of the smaller chain ring during the winter makes pedaling easier when riding snow and ice.  In other words, we customize our Fat Bike fleet based on riding conditions to enhance your experience.

Wide rims and wide tires not only lessen environmental impact, they maximize your fun!  The wider stance not only creates stability, which is safer than skinny-tired bikes, it allows riders to thrive in steep, technical terrain with confidence.  That opens many riding options: off-road riders no longer have to follow meticulously maintained trail lines to get their miles in.  We are free to roam!

Submitted by Up North Guided Tours, LLC for Forest and Lakes Monthly, and originally appeared in the Forest and Lakes Monthly October 2017 edition on page 7.  Up North Guided Tours guides Fat Bike and Snowshoe tours for all skill levels to places you have never seen on our fleet using our transport to and from our routes.  We also rent out our equipment and sell off-road cycling apparel.  Further we perform supplemental trail maintenance, advocate shared trail use, and provide youth services out of our Northwest WI location.  We are in the Chicago Area during the Fall and Spring seasons, and we are in Cable, WI during the Winter and Summer seasons.  We utilize all forms of off-road riding our areas offer, including routes that are unmapped and hard to find.  We promise you a unique off-road riding experience!  Call or email Josh for details 715/413-2076 or josh@upnorthguidedtours.com, see our site at www.upnorthguidedtours.com, and check us out on Facebook and Instagram.