One of the aspects of semi-retirement I'm enjoying is that for the most part I'm on my own clock, deciding what I want to do when I want to do it. This added freedom enhances my opportunities to ride any of my bicycles pretty much whenever the mood strikes. Some would surmise that my mood for cycling is probably 24/7.
With fewer restrictions, I can maneuver my biking schedule around any appointments I might have or even weather conditions; I'm not locked in like I was with my full-time working career. A case in point occurred for me just the other day when Maine was experiencing a snowstorm, which have been less frequent than normal so far this winter.
With the slippery road surfaces, I was glad I didn't have to drive my car anywhere. But I did jump on my fat bike and headed to the Kennebec River Rail Trail. It was early morning with temperatures in the 20s, and I was instantly reminded again why I'm thankful I obtained my Specialized Fatboy. In the past, the winter season was a sort of recovery time for me, although I would still ride a stationary bike indoors four-to-five times per week. But now I can hit the "go" button anytime I want, and having equipped my blue beast with studded tires ... well, "Bob's your uncle!"
And you want to know the best part? For the entirety of that particular ride — Hallowell to Gardiner and back — I didn't see another soul. While I strongly believe cruising on bikes is way more fun when you do it with others, sometimes it is neat just being on your own. While my surroundings were white as a ghost, it was truly a golden moment.
Much of the rail trail is located away from vehicle traffic, so my ride was peaceful and quiet. The silence only broken from time to time by the high-pitched squeaking of my disc brakes, which happens when they get wet. Because no one had traversed the area before me, only a lone ribbon created by my wide fat bike tires was left as evidence that I'd even been there.
What's not to like? Riding a bicycle, with gobs of snow falling from cloud-laden skies and nothing written in your appointment book that requires your presence. Plus, you're pushing the pedals, so there's no way you're going to get cold. The only bummer about the whole trip is that my grippy 45NRTH Dillinger 5 tires — which deliver great performance on ice and snow — are also a magnet for picking up frozen dog poop. Oh well!
If you have never ridden a fat bike in the snow, please take the opportunity to do so. It is just plain old fun, and even the occasional self-inflicted landings — if they happen — are usually soft. Some bike shops have demos to try out, like we do at Mathieu's Cycle, or you could rent one, maybe at a ski resort that has biking trails. Furthermore, it's an activity that gets you outside into the fresh air. So go for it!
(Editor’s note: For those of you reading this who live in Maine, a “Fat Bike the Valley” event is slated for Saturday, Jan. 25, at Lost Valley in Auburn. It is free to participate and is a non-competitive group ride utilizing local trail networks. At 11 a.m. is a short/beginner ride of three miles and at 1 p.m. there are nine- and 13-mile loop rides. There are limited fat bike rentals available.)