Dry, crunchy, and in generous portions.
I’m having foot surgery tomorrow. It’s non-invasive, but it will still mean three agonizing weeks away from the bike (unless I rush my recovery… we’ll see). In order to keep atrophy at bay, I decided an epic ride was in order, and visited an old friend.
Mount Greylock, the great humbler of cyclists across the state, was the perfect proving ground for the new wheels. I took the Pugsley up Notch Road, climbing several hundred feet before even reaching the reservation. The steep route is my backyard, so that’s what I ride.
I almost didn’t get out. On Monday, I stopped and saw Steve, Chris, and Josh at Berkshire Outfitters, my old LBS when I lived in North Adams. Josh was thrilled to see I had a fat wheel with me, and was happy to loan me a cassette lockring tool and a chain whip so I could swap on the 10-speed.
Here’s where the problems started: I had a 10-speed derailleur, a 10-speed cassette, a 10-speed shifter, a 10-speed chain… and a 6-7-8 speed Surly chainring. Damn! Surly went the old-school route on their BCD and their teeth!
I can’t say I blame them; this adds a little durability to an already overbuilt steel ring. If it was really broken in, I might’ve been ok, but as it was brand new, my chain was sticking to the teeth like so many chives. I didn’t have time to put 4,000 miles on the chainring before installing my rear derailleur, so I needed a swap.
Luckily, I had reason to go back to Amherst, and grabbed the ring that comes stock, the 33T ramped aluminum outer. Once I swapped her in, the bike worked perfectly, and I was ready to roll.
The road up Greylock was absolutely gorgeous. Two days of high winds, intermittent snowfall, and most importantly, sub-zero temperatures had dusted the icy road surface with an inch-thick layer of sugar snow. It was like rolling through fairy dust as the afternoon sun peaked between the trees, hitting the cloud thrown up by my tires. Yes, I was spinning up the mountain through a cloud of sparkling snow; it was just that perfect a day for fatbiking. Criss-crossing over the snowmobile ruts was like crossing train tracks, but there was fresh, clean snow almost the entire way up. Underneath, the slick ice gave me mini-heart attacks when I walked the bike, but the tires handled it just fine if I kept my weight on the seat.
Still, the sinking sun meant I was on a deadline. I pushed and pushed just as fast as I could (barring a few picture stops), but about 1.5 miles from the summit, it was time to swing back around. I knew I’d be in the shadow of the mountain for a good part of the remaining climb, and I was losing feeling in my feet and hands. It was just about 7ºF out.
The 1×10 system had no trouble with the climb. In a perfect world, I’d have a 30T ring (like the Surly O.D. specific Wolf Tooth ring), but 33T wasn’t so bad and I think I’ll wear that out before getting anything new and flashy. The SLX shifter and XT rear derailleur, with a clutch, kept the chain on tight and I had no trouble with dropped chains, even when I hucked the bike over a fallen tree on my way up.
All in all, this bike has really come together. The flat bars make way more sense than the jones bars on this big frame, and the back rack mounted up front feels much more stable (and, more importantly, looks awesome).
And just like that, my sun was gone and my epic ride had come to a close. I was exhausted, freezing cold, sore as hell, and smiling ear to ear. And the best part about dry, near-zero conditions? A clean bike!
Easily one of my top rides this year.