Monday, September 22, 2014

Kisatchie Mud: Fat biking in Louisiana

I have neglected my fat bike, The Panzer, lately.  While my shoulder has been recovering from surgery I swore off mountain biking (the source of the injury).  That hasn't been hard since there is not much single track in my neck of the woods.  

It was kind of sad to go to Montana on vacation and not mountain bike, but I resisted the urge.  Anyway, as I have been riding on forest service roads on my Giant Revolt, I have noticed plenty of areas that are ideal for a fat bike.  Specifically, inhospitable terrain such as muddy roads, barely roads, and severely loose roads.  Perfect for the Salsa Mukluk.

I decided that I would head out and do a little stomping around the Kisatchie National Forest.  It gets a fair amount of military traffic and recreational off road traffic.  The result is roads that aren't all that great.   Perfect for the Panzer 

Kisatchie national forest fat bike
Such as the bend in this road which turned out to be deep and slick.  I was barely able to power through it.   
 I was wishing I had a set of Nate tires for better traction.  The Larry tires were quickly overwhelmed.  

  There were a lot of roads like this that were very loose and soft.  It could be done on a normal mountain bike, but this is much more fun.
There are a lot of unimproved Jeep track.  You can sort of see the road but it has a tree across it.  No Problem to go around with the Panzer!
Again, there was barely a path.  This is ideal terrain for fat tires. 

 Over all, the Kisatchi jeep track is a nice alternative to the less than ideal paved roads.  The Salsa Mukluk is a Prime candid for this terrain.  I am still cleaning sand and dried mud from odd nooks and crannies.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Louisiana: Bicycling paradise?

I have taken a liking to riding on dirt/gravel roads.  It provides a change of scenery and some challenges.  Gravel Grinders have become very popular throughout the Mid-West and beyond.  I have said it before, I missed out on a lot of opportunities in Montana because I thought mountain biking was king, if it wasn't single track it was garbage.  Life changes and so has my view of riding.  Since I don't do as much mountain biking I started road biking.  Then I moved to the Mid-West and there was an abundance of gravel roads and gravel enthusiasts.  

I bought the Surly Ogre and that was my first "gravel bike."  I am a big guy and I need to have slightly larger tires and most cyclocross (to include my Salsa Las Cruces) wouldn't accept the tires I wanted.  When I found out I would be going to Louisiana I quickly settled on a Giant Revolt road bike.  This is truly a different beast but it suits me well.  Disc brakes, drop bars, third water bottle mount, and the ability to run large tires.  Specifically a 40mm Clement MSO.  

When I told people I was being stationed at Fort Polk I got the customary nose scrunch and "oh, I am sorry!"  I saw something different, small population, no amenities, and lots of dirt roads.  Simply put, heaven on earth.  I called my go-to "LBS" Bike and Hike in Rock Island, Illinois put one on order.  Steve and Phil take great care of me and since I move so much I don't mind supporting them, after all they are a brick and mortar bike shop not some online outfit.  Even more important since the nearest bike shop is 55 miles away.

Aside from military traffic, the National Forest roads see little traffic.  There is a lot of variation in road types.  Some is heavily graveled.    

Giant Revolt forest service road
Others are Southern red dirt roads.

Giant Revolt bicycle Jeep track
Some are soft sandy jeep track.

Some are.......

Louisiana Gravel Grinder

Even the pavement is rough!  These are gaps as big as two inches in places.  Tooth rattling.

No shoulders and big seems.  If you drop off the edge it could be a bad day!

Or you can ride roads that are sand.  The smoothest road surface in LA is the damp sand.  These are better than many of the paved roads.  which is why I like riding the gravel.  At least if it is rough there is a reason.  The Giant Revolt can handle them all!

All in all, I love it here in Louisiana with national forest right out my back door.  For all of the neigh sayers, Fort Polk is a great place.  For all of those concerned about a lack of riding, lose the skinny tires and get out and enjoy something different.  

Paradise indeed!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Big Changes in Life

We recently moved to Louisiana.  Not my first choice but hey, I haven't disliked a place I have been sent.  So far I love it.  Doing some research I found that I would be in the middle of "no-where."  Lots of National Forest with little legitimate mountain biking (that is single track, there is plenty of jeep trails) and really bad roads both paved and dirt.  It actually suits me well, I enjoy small Army bases and out of the way locations.  In fact, moving to a place called the Sportsman's Paradise is far superior to an urban traffic jam.    The only real issue are the roads.  Louisiana is in the top ten states with the worst roads.  I was also going to be living in a considerably smaller home with no garage.  This meant that I had to make some decisions when it came to bikes.  I had, yes had, many wonderful bikes but not all of them were suited for Louisiana, at least the parts I am in now.  The nearest single track is about 35 miles away and it is only 10 or so miles.  

I had to cul the herd.  At the beginning of 2014 I had 6 bicycles (mine, not including the families), so I decided that I would have to pick my favorite three bikes.  Then I became a bike selling machine.  I sold the Basso, El Mariachi frame, the Surly Ogre, and the Giant Anthem X29er.  I planned on keeping the Salsa Mukluk, Salsa Las Cruces, and I added a gravel bike a Giant Revolt which I will explain later.  

Here is what went and why.

The Basso:  A great bike, I didn't put many miles on it but the gearing was very limiting which meant is was not a go-to bike.  It looks great and was a great conversation starter but since I have limited space and am an introvert, it had to go.

The Giant Anthem X29er:  An amazing bike.  When I bought it I knew I would never do it justice.  I don't like a lot of maintenance but with hydraulic brakes and suspension, it added a little more maintenance than I wanted to deal with.  Then there was this time when I wrecked last year in Kansas at Wyandotte County Lake.  A great and relatively secret location where I may have been trying to do the bike the justice it would never see from me.  It resulted in a torn Labrum and surgery which I am still recovering from.  Due to a serious lack of single track and it is jinxed.  Easy decision except bikes depreciate and I took a bath on this one.

Surly Ogre:  This one pained me a little bit.  It was a genuinely hard decision.  It is such a versatile bike and I loved playing with it.  But really it came down to the lack of mountain biking and type of mountain biking.  This frame went quick.  I live less than a mile away so I don't need a serious commuter.  I decided that I really only needed one mountain bike so I stuck with the Salsa Mukluk which is an ideal bike for these parts.  It would be great for bike packing but I don't have time for that with my current job.  I sort of miss the Ogre but this opens the door for an ECR or Krampus later in life.

Salsa El Mariachi:  I would love a new El Mar with the Alternator Drop outs.  Bottom Line, I disliked the EBB.  I am a big guy and I never felt like I could mash the pedals without slippage.  This was easy.

What I kept

The Salsa Las Cruces:  My favorite bike of all times.  It needs some updates component wise but it is a great ride.  It is near and dear to my heart for a number of reasons.  It suits roads in Louisiana since I can get bigger rubber in it.

Salsa Mukluk:  Need I say more.  Yes, but that will be a future post.

What is new

Giant Revolt

I like weird bikes.  Most of the bikes I buy are jacks of all trades and masters of none.  I enjoy riding gravel roads (plenty around these parts) and I am big so I need more than a 32c tire.  I know there is much controversy over Gravel Bikes, but I don't think Giant calls it that specifically.  What they do advertise are jeep roads, logging roads, gravel roads, and pavement.  It will take up to a two inch tire and is great for all surfaces.  

It is an odd looking rig!  

It has a longish wheel base, by no means twitchy or ultra responsive like some road racing rig. 

Nice wide bars with flared drops for stability.

Carbon fork and disc brakes

I don't know what is going on with the rear end.  The only thing I can think of is that it allows for a lower bottom bracket.
Down tube protector and full cable housing.  It is a weird plastic thing and is necessary for cable routing.  I would like to see it go but I don't see an alternative.  
It has a detachable "fender" which I have removed.  I don't know that it would keep much muck off but I will try it this fall.

There is a third water bottle mount under this plastic thing.  One hole is pre-drilled to hold the plastic thing on.  I had to drill the second.  Really, three water bottles are necessary for certain rides and in the heat of Louisiana.  I don't like riding with a Camel Bak with it is 100 degrees.

More about this bike in the next post.  I will say that there have been a lot of changes over the last year.  So far no complaints.  Who can complain about crawfish étouffée or boudin sausage?  Not this guy!