Yes! At long last, today I hit the saddle for a multi-faceted road test. Before contracting Covid, I loaded my fat bike with its new purple bikepacking bags and stuffed them with a sample cargo. I installed a new thru-axle in order to pull canine companion Chip's Burley Coho XC trailer. On the trailer, I installed Burley's 3+ tire, a 16x3" semi-fat tire to better match the Surly Ice Cream Truck's 26x4.8" monsters. Finally, I moved my Garmin's mount position in order to clear space for the handlebar pack.
Then I came down with Covid and everything languished unridden in the bike shed for weeks. Today, I finally felt well enough to try. I loaded Chip into his trailer and away we went. It would have helped if I had remembered to use my albuterol inhaler before setting out. I happily almost never need it, but that means that when I do, it's easy for me to miss the physical queue or forget in the swirl of getting out the door. I am nearly recovered, but it seems to hang on and on in my lungs.
Between Covid, loss of conditioning, and the fact that I was riding my fat bike at its heaviest ever given the bags, dog, and trailer, I wasn't going anywhere fast. Meh: I can't describe how good it felt to be back in the saddle, and I wasn't the only one. Between my illness and an unusually long and intense cold snap, Chip has suffered from a terrible dearth of adventure of late. He was thrilled to get out and ride, even more to run. Once I remembered about the water, that is: Chip detests water in all forms save those which he can consume. He is an accomplished ice cube thief, and loves his water bowl. Past that, all water is evil and horrible. Especially when it is cold.
Temps in in the low 50's meant there was a lot of snowmelt today. Extended sections of the MUP which made up the bulk of our route were damp. Sometimes, Chip will run on damp concrete and not mind. Most of the time, it's a problem. Today it was the latter. Thus he 'only' ran 3.5mi. I feel certain there would have been more had the trail been drier. Twice he signaled to stop after ~0.5mi due to trail damp. Still, I feel confident that he enjoyed the outing and will be ready to go again...well, as of right this second, if the truth be told. Chip is always up for an adventure.
I also saw one of the finest examples of bike handling and balance that I've ever seen. Out of a little girl on a little single speed. She might have been 6. She was out with (I presume) her family on a very busy day. I followed them into the shadow of an overpass while waiting for safe passing conditions. Before that happened, the girl rode onto a section of shaded, hard-frozen ice. Both her tires lost traction and slid in different directions at the same time. Unlike when I have experienced this same thing on studded tires, her tires kept. Sliding. And. Sliding. She first ended up almost directly perpendicular to the trail before swinging the other way and going more than 45* off straight in the other direction.
I'm just gonna say it: I probably would not have ridden onto that ice in the first place without special equipment. I know better thanks to being an adult and having literally tens of thousands of miles under my belt. Had I tried what she did with a comparable bike, I'd have eaten sh!t and eaten it hard. Straight up. It's been a long time since my heart went into my throat the way it did watching her slide and knowing beyond any shadow of a doubt that she was going down. I hate seeing kids hurt. Worse, not one of my myriad first aid kits has yet made its way into the fat bike's gear. Sometimes, a band-aid really can make a kid's wound all better.
Fortunately, no one told the little girl that it was clearly impossible for her to do anything but crash. After a series of wild oscillations, she rode off the ice and proceeded as though nothing had happened. Her presumed father had acted perfectly and in the clear expectation that she was going down: grab some brakes, move over, unclip to stop. And she was fine. Shortly afterward, I got an opening and rolled past. I commented on her incredible recovery and he agreed that he had no idea how she had managed that. I wish I'd thought of it at the time, I'd have suggested he introduce her to MTBs. Balance and low speed control she seems to have, in spades. Also plenty of luck, no doubt. That could make for a heck of a racing career. Respect.
In any event, even though today's 14mi hurt toward the end and were probably a few more than I should have done, I wouldn't change a thing. Except to maybe hit the [email protected]
inhaler before setting out. Then I might have managed yet a few more miles. No biggie. I still got saddle time. When that happens, my whole world is improved. Boy, did I need that.