Well, I can now check off that box on the bucket list. And as spring officially arrives, at least by the lunar calendar (still 2' plus of snow in the yard of the Brass Lantern Inn, here is the update on that adventure.
In mid February we had guests staying with us that brought a full array of outdoor gear; skis, snowshoes and fat bikes. Of course I couldn’t help noticing the bikes on the back of their vehicle in our parking lot. And in the course of discussions with them, they invited me to take one of their bikes out for a spin around the block, or snow covered Rec Path as it were. How very kind of them and Thank You very much!
The Bike -
First thing I noticed as I began to push the bike around the lot and in spite of the massive look of the bike, it was, overall, relatively not that heavy. With the balloon size tires, beefy frame, I was thinking, ok, hope this bike has a full range of gears to even get me out of our parking lot. It did, thankfully, and the ride on dry pavement was similar to what I would believe to be riding a tractor down Route 100 with low pressure in the tires. Yeah, it was a bit bouncy and I found myself adjusting my cadence to reduce or respond to that springy ride.
Trip Planning -
In planning my trip I recognized that it would probably be a better first ride to take on the 2% grade of the paved trail of the Stowe Rec Path than to tackle Cady Hill Forest on my inaugural ride. Good move on so many fronts and let me explain.
The Stowe Rec Path, one way, from end to end (I started at the south end behind the Stowe Community Church) is about 5.5 miles. As I began to ride north along the trail I was first taken by how very stable the bike was on packed snow and sections of slushy snow. Nothing like having a very wide base of 3” wide, knobby tires spreading out to grab the terrain and at the same time, provide absorption to those bumps to bring a smile as I began my ride.
The Inaugural Ride -
As I rolled on I was also struck by the sheer beauty of the scenery that was afforded to me by being on that path in the winter. At many points I was less than 50 yards from Route 108/Mountain Road but felt like miles away. Not having taken the opportunity to cross country ski (item 2 on the winter adventure list, next blog?) or experience this trail from snowshoes the views and the peacefulness of being on the Rec Path in the winter was a special treat. Other than a few people on snowshoes, I really had the path to myself on that overcast Sunday afternoon.
Quickly, however, I began to realize this type of biking is not just a casual roll through the woods. This bike is built to be stable and secure, which it was, however, and while seemingly obvious, it wasn’t until out there that I realized this is going to be a real work out. I also had every intention and would not settle for anything less than riding the full length of the Rec Path. “It is only 11 miles round-trip,” I told myself. And, knowing this path I knew that I would have a gentle, 2% overall downhill ride back to the starting point from the northern terminus of the Stowe Rec Path.
That downhill thought was good in concept, but, a bit different in reality. Most likely, by the point of the “downhill” section my legs, my seat, and my shoulders were going, “what the heck are you doing here?” so the anticipated relief never quite materialized. Clearly, the rolling resistance concept of my college physics class was absent in my initial assessment of fat biking. In most sections of the packed snow it was crank for crank forward movement and not much, if any, coasting.
The last 2 miles back to the Inn were admittedly a challenge, physically and mentally. I had my cell phone with me and I nearly stopped at a couple of cross roads with the Rec Path to call for a ride home, but, no, darn it this was going to be fun and only fun if I could say I did the “entire Rec Path!” as I convinced myself. There was a lot of talking to myself these last few miles.
I pulled into the parking lot of the Brass Lantern Inn just as the twilight of the afternoon was fading away. It really was a wonderful experience and I hope to do it again. Probably will have to wait until next winter as the number of ski days left are fewer in a closing at Stowe Mountain Resort is about 4 weeks away, and ultimately I gotta get some work done, right?
Next winter, I hope to go on shorter rides but within the mountain bike trails (less road like, more mountain like).
See you outside,