MTB: infecting the younger generation

Ask my husband and kids and they’ll tell you they’re tired of me asking them/begging them to go mountain biking. We have a great system of trails at DeWitt’s Westbrook Park and they simply refuse. My kids have never rode trails so don’t know what they’re missing. My husband has and he says he hates them. Whatev’

This afternoon, as I headed to DeWitt for a session at Westbrook, it dawned on me that my 12-year-old nephew had an early-out from school. When I called to see if he was down with trying some trails, he happily complied!nic me start

Nic is a great kid, often game for trying new things and today was no different. With me on my Salsa Mukluk fat tire and him on a 24″ kids mountain bike, we took off. Quickly I could tell he wasn’t utilizing his gears so we did a little “Shifting 101” on the side of the 101 (trail) and we continued. I lead and would call out things to prepare him for what lie ahead.

Except for a tree branch clotheslining him and scraping his upper lip & nose, making him bleed his own blood, he rocked those trails! There were switchbacks he flicked through, rock gardens he bumped over and even some ramps off which he tried SENDING IT!

He told me it was a type of riding he’d never done. Living on a farm outside of town, most of Nic’s biking is around my parents’ neighborhood in town. And now he has this! Easily accessed by paved trail west along DeWitt’s 11th Street.

My favorite part of all of this? Purely selfish! HE WANTS TO GO AGAIN!!!! I think I’ll put him on my son’s Trek 3500. He’ll be beating his old aunt in no time!

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What happens after bike thievery

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon when I walked out the back door of Healthy Habits Bike Shop & saw my favorite bike was gone. Was she locked up? No. As employees, we’ve always left our bikes parked out the back door, unattended. We’ve been at this location for 10 years, “It’s Bettendorf!” and we’ve never lost a bike. Well, no longer can we be so lax with our babies.

My bike was a 2016 Salsa Mukluk. It was the base model, aluminum frame with the Bearpaw carbon fork and a SRAM x7 drivetrain. She arrived attractive enough, but the boys promptly helped me remove the front derailleur and replace the two stock chainrings with a single orange RaceFace Narrow-Wide 30t chainring. The benefit was it allowed for a bit more room in the rear chainstay so I could upgrade from the stock Surly Nate 3.8 tires to the wider Specialized Ground Control 4.6. Using yellow Duct Tape for my rim strips, I set up the tires tubeless, put on yellow Fyxation Mesa MP Platform pedals and Arundel sport bottle cages. I later added an orange Chromag riser bar and orange Wolf Tooth headset spacers and stem cap. I named her “50 Shades of Orange” and she was HOT!

We had so much fun together!

halloween parade 2016

We rode in parades, we “stomped” on Davenport’s Credit Island and Clinton’s bottoms, we were one of more than 100 who participated in the 2016 Quad Cities Global Fat Bike Day, we lead gravel rides and rode trails, hell I even rode the cow paths in my neighbor’s pasture, working on my off-road skillz. And yes, she killed it at the 2017 Quad Cities Criterium Faterium! She was my girl!!!

Despite filing a police report, having loads of people share the theft post from our shop Facebook page resulting in thousands of views, regardless of mates riding urban creeks and thickets, the reality settled in: she was gone and I had to replace her.

But how? How do you replace a ray of sunshine? She was so bright, it was like looking into the sun!!! But having tasted fat biking, I couldn’t be without a steed and began a sad search for No. 2. This was not fun shopping. First of all, I didn’t want a new fat bike. I wanted MY fat bike. Secondly, there was only one model that appealed to my penchant for color: the Salsa Beargrease Carbon NX1 in red with a galaxy print on the underside of the downtube. But I’d just sold one to a friend and I was not going to steal her thunder.

I looked at the rest of the Salsa fleet, the Surlys, the new Heller and the Fatboy from Specialized. NOTHING appealed to me. Everything was so basic and blah (in color) so I focused on the components I wanted: trails showed me that I enjoyed a 1x drivetrain and I wanted more than the seven gears I had previously. I did not want a suspension fork, didn’t care if I rode carbon and enjoyed the relaxed geometry of the Mukluk and wasn’t sure the more aggressive, shorter headtubes of the Beargrease or Fatboy were for me.  As I whittled down my options, price was an issue (remember I’d just ordered my gravel bike and really didn’t have a second bike in the budget), but when I looked at the 1x11s available in my size, the price between aluminum and carbon fat tire rubwasn’t a crazy difference.

So I made my decision–the Salsa Mukluk Carbon SLX 1×11 in matte black. In addition to having the drivetrain I wanted, the rear spacing on this model was wider than my first bike which will hopefully alleviate the issues with rubbing. (During February’s Frozen Fat Fondo Fest, the mud caked so heavily on my tires that it wore into the chainstay.)

When the new ride arrived, I felt pretty blah and the guys at the shop teased me, “Oh, my new fat bike arrived, woe is me.” I probably sounded like Eeyore.

I couldn’t let it remain a black-on-black bike so I chose red for my accent color. Even though it arrived tubeless ready, complete with sealant rim strips already applied, I pulled them off and repeated my Duct Tape rim strip trick only this time in red and proceeded with a tubeless set up. I then put on red RaceFace Chester pedals, red Arundel bottle cages, a red Salsa Lip Lock seat post collar and topped it off with a red Spank Oozy riser bar which I cut to fit my shorter wingspan. It was starting to grow on me.

Then I took her out to DeWitt’s Westbrook Park for some trail riding. Oh. My. GOSH! I couldn’t believe how different it rode!!! I was zipping around on those trails like my hair was on fire! I definitely had bugs in my teeth because I couldn’t stop smiling!!! The beefy Maxxis Minion FBF 4.8 tires were grippy AF! Meet Black Betty. . .

black betty

The following day I took her on our weekly gravel ride and had my ass handed to me. Is it the tires? I was completely gassed after just 16 mostly-flat miles! And during Sunday’s Fatties at Five ride from the shop, I was the “sweeper” mainly because I couldn’t keep up! WTF?! Apparently Black Betty is a beast and she is going to attack my legs like a crazy mutha! I’ve already been told I’m not going to want to ride the Maxxis Minions in the Fat Bike Birkie going down next March in Hayward, Wisconsin. We shall see. Until then, let’s ride!!!!

Entering a new realm of gravel

It’s been just 10 days since I introduced my Specialized Sequoia. It was in a Facebook photo of the progress on Healthy Habits’ new location going up yards from our current digs. She arrived beige. Boring beige. And I don’t ride boring bikes.

gravel rig

Taking orange decals originally intended for my recently stolen 2016 Salsa Mukluk fat bike, I dialed in her color with cable housing, bar tape, Arundel bottle cages and Issi pedals. A few days later I added an orange Salsa Lip Lock seat post collar. She ceased being boring.

In the last week I’ve had her out four times, putting in miles where and when I could. My previous gravel riding was done on either mountain or fat tires, but with my next big goal being Dirty Kanza 2019, skill building starts now on the Sawtooth 42mm tires that came stock on the bike.

Already I can tell gravel riding on narrower tires is a whole different beast. Last year I was doing much of it on a mountain tandem with my son which definitely has its advantages for honing one’s handling skills.

This year I did all my gravel riding on my fat bike, and nothing beats the stability of a fat tire to make gravel GRAVY! Those monster tires and treads mean even the loosest of gravel is no problem. But those monster tires are also slow and exhausting. It’s one thing to do 20 or 30 miles on a fat bike, and quite another to do 200.

first gravel ride

So why did I choose the Sequoia? It’s been a year-long process of elimination. I loved the pre-2017 Salsa Warbird, but the new design features a 1x drivetrain. Many people tell me that’s what all gravel bikes are heading to, but I know myself–I need gears and wanted a 2x setup. With the Warbird out, I figured I’d do what my husband did and go with the newly designed Diverge Comp from Specialized. A full carbon rig with the new Future Shock in the headset makes for a super comfortable ride.

But steel, especially for riding gravel, was something I couldn’t ignore. The stock Sequoia is pretty hefty, but earlier this fall a customer, Vinny, ordered a Sequoia frame and had us do a custom build from there. I was stunned how much weight was shaved just in wheels. That’s all it took. I chose the Shimano 105 group set and plan to build lighter wheels in the future. She’s set up tubeless and for now, I’m simply riding and figuring out what psi works best for me.

I find gravel super intimidating so as I delve deeper into a new way of riding, I’m drawing on last summer’s Ironman training. Hill repeats, week in and week out, for several months taught me to finally surrender my fear of hills. It was in the doing, over and over again, that I lost my fear. I’m going to trust that by riding gravel, day in and day out, on hard dirt and the loosest of fresh rock, I will eventually jettison my fear and embrace the suck.

gravel Oct 23