How ironic it is that my first test ride of the Trundleraptor is at Stowe Town Loops? I guess it isn’t really too surprising, unless you factor into the fact that the trails are completely covered in snow. How fortunate that I was riding a snow bike…
First off, I have managed to misplace just about every piece of cold weather gear I own. Having moved twice in the last year, it’s not really much of a surprise. After some frantic digging around, I came up with what I considered a pretty sorry excuse for appropriate cold weather riding gear. A set of really baggy snowboarding long underwear, some Clouveil Schoeller soft shell pants, a DeFeet wool t-shirt, my Niner wool jersey, my Endura softshell jacket, 12″ Sockguy wool socks, Keen Summit County boots (super clunky but warm) and last and incredibly least, a pair of $12 flannel lined leather work gloves from the hardware store. Ambient air temp by the time I got into the woods was a solid 0° according to my car.
Town Loops sees a fair amount of snowshoe traffic in the winter time. Being centrally located to a bunch of hotels, it offers a nice alternative to the seasonal visitors that may not be skiers, or those that just need a break from the mountain. There are actually dedicated snowshoe loops, and many of them criss-cross the trails we ride on in the summer. I decided I would not interfere with the nice snowshoe trails, and stick to the MTB trails as best I could. It wasn’t too long before I was trudging up the first set of switchbacks to get into the woods. The cold air was searing my lungs, and I was not in a happy place. I was hacking, sputtering and worst of all not breathing well. I pressed on though, hoping that all this motion and violent chest convulsions would somehow keep me warm. It was only working a bit. My hands froze into claws almost immediately, but my body and feet seemed to be doing OK. I was hoping that if the rest of me was really warm, maybe it would eventually reach my hands.
no one here but me and the deer
I got to the main doubletrack which was nicely packed down. I hopped back on the bike and started pedaling again, and then I found that on the downhill, the windchill was something I wasn’t really ready for. Somehow, the sudden blast of frigid air equalized my body temp into something that was actually quite comfortable, besides the frozen paws. Through all of this, Seamus couldn’t believe how much fun he was having, he was bouncing through the woods in his little dog bliss. I turned off the main drag and headed onto the first section of singletrack, where I was the first set of (bike) tracks. The trail runs along the top of a ridge, and the snow was about 3″ deep. It was pretty tough going, but I managed to maintain traction, and enough leg speed to keep my momentum. At least for a little while. I made fresh tracks for a while, until I took my first opportunity to join the nearby packed down doubletrack, just to get a break.
As I passed under the power lines, I saw that there were a few options to go places that were packed down. My original plan had me riding the Town Loops though, and guess what? No tracks. Oh well, off I went, riding a lot more than I thought I would. I had to walk on some of the short climbs. Dismounting a snow bike is a little different on trail. When your foot touches the snow, it doesn’t stop until it reaches something that will support your weight. Let’s just say it was awkward, and sometimes a bit painful in the personal region. Getting going again was just as ungainly, but I found that with a quiet upper body, no sudden moves and deliberate power down, you can get going in almost any amount of snow (within reason). I reached the “top” near where Charlie’s/Zogs comes back to the Loops having ridden a lot more than I expected, and then it was time to descend.
Wow. Slightly different, but easily adapted to. Being used to sliding down hills sideways on a snowboard definitely helped out. I have to say that I was beginning to have a really good time on the bike, despite the burning lungs, screaming quads and frozen claws. Shortly after the first downhill, the trail merged with one that was packed down and was going the way I wanted. By the time I reached the bridges, the one with the 3 humps in it, I was cooking right along. Until I hit the first hump, where I promptly exploded all over the trail. There was a lot of snow obscuring the actual bridge, and I misjudged the edge and plowed off to the left. Fortunately, my snowsports background has me quite used to hitting the ground at much higher speeds in much deeper snow, so laughing, I picked myself up, dusted off and kept on trundling.
The trails were pretty well packed until I got to the top loop (blue?), but the pack went to the left, I was headed to the right.
locals know where this is
I claim first descent of the year on a bike on the finny rock thing!
Then it was some more trudging/stumbling/riding until I got back to packed trails. I’m still amazed at what was possible to ride. The snow was a lot deeper back here, maybe 6″ or so. Had it not been for my pedals dragging in the snow, I feel I could have ridden much more of it. It had me wondering is 170mm cranks would have been a better choice… Still, back on the packed trail the bike was a dream. I really enjoyed anything that pointed down, and really had to reign it in in a couple of spots. The little red devil on my shoulder was telling me to jump off this tree and bink off that rock, it was so much fun.
bailing, this time not flailing
Alas, I was running out of time, which figures as my hands were beginning to get warm. It was time for me to head out of the woods, and since it was mostly downhill, I came back the way I went in. Well, obviously it was much faster, and I found myself back at the car in no time. My loop took me a little over an hour, but as always, these trails did not fail me. I have a much better understanding as to what is possible with these bikes, as well as a few ideas to set them up better for our terrain.
See you tomorrow, Indiana Jones
You’ll have to check back tomorrow.