February hasn’t been an easy month. Check out this morning’s post for details. So when the weekend was sunny, warm, and snowy our thoughts turned to fat biking on local trails. Thanks Sarah for the nudge! It’s a thing lots of people are curious about. People love to ask questions about our bikes. And it’s not often a thing you get to do in warm-ish weather. I think it was -2 when we set out.
We started out on the trails that run along the river by the golf course near our house. We ran into a guy on a mountain bike who was just coming home from a 50 km ride in the snow. We chatted bikes for a bit and he took our photo. Thanks cyclist stranger!
The trails where there was a lot of traffic were wide and flat and the snow was pretty packed. We could ride along and easily get out of the way for the occasional dog walker we ran into.
But our first obstacle wasn’t far away. The bridge was out at our usual storm drain crossing.
We considered crossing by carrying the bikes–despite their size they’re pretty light–but we were both worried about the ice on the rocks. It looked slippy, also cold and wet if you fell. So instead we went up and over above the drain. That was an adventure. We both fell but no one got hurt. Just then two cyclists arrived from the other direction. One of them went across–he had a mountain bike–and the other fat biker rider like us went up and over.
That’s part of the fun of riding these bikes, figuring out what you can and can’t do. Also, ducking for tree branches.
Here’s a skinny bridge we could have ridden over I suspect. But we both got off and walked our bikes across.
It’s after this stretch that things got interesting. Off the well trodden path, we were riding in some pretty narrow single track. And these bikes have pretty wide tires. More problematically if you stop at all it’s hard to get started again.
The snow off to the sides was soft and very deep. I think we each fell a couple of times into the deep stuff and then settled into walking our bikes for a bit. Eventually the path widened and there was more hard packed snow to ride on.
After a couple of hours of snowy trail riding, we exited the path and rode home on the roads. Last night we were both feeling a little worse for wear. The bikes are fun to ride but it’s very much a full body workout. We agreed that we need to work on not stopping! Also, less falling! And we need to practice starting again when we do stop. Also, less tire pressure would have been good for the softer sections.
It’s a ton of fun. If you want to give it a try and you’re near us they rent them in Horseshoe Valley. That’s where Sarah and I rented them for the first time. We blogged about it here. Later we went with Susan as a social outing for our bike rally team. Susan blogged about that trip. We’ve rented them at Tremblant and blogged it here. I’ve also rented a fat bike at Wildwood Conservation area and blogged about that too.
(Update: It’s snowing really hard out there. My plan is to ride my fat bike. It’s also going to be cold. Here’s the forecast: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High minus 8. Wind chill minus 26 in the morning and minus 13 in the afternoon. Brrr! Wish me luck!)
It feels like it’s cheating. But I did count Zwifting inside as winter biking. Anyway, for me, the main point of these social media challenges is to just increase the number of days I ride. I’m a pretty decent tough weather cyclist–I’ve got the gear and it still makes me smile–but even I can find January with its ice and cold and very dark days just a bit much. Enter the #31DaysOfWinterBiking. But also, for me, enter a week long vacation at the end of January riding my bike in Florida.
The plan: We loaded up the Prius and Jeff, Sarah, and I drove Saturday and Sunday from Guelph to Central Florida. It was about 20 hours, door to door. We stopped for the night on Saturday in a roadside motel in West Virginia. Sunday night we checked into our very cute cottage. Five days of Florida bike riding and then Saturday, tomorrow, we check out and do the same drive in reverse.
It’s a repeat of last year in some ways. Last year we went riding in Clermont though then Jeff was already on his boat in Florida and Sarah and I flew down. I liked where we stayed in Clermont but it wasn’t free for these dates this year. Instead, we’re in nearby Mount Dora, home of the Mount Dora Bike Festival.
The bike festival is in its 45th year and it brings hundreds of riders to this old cute Florida town. Their route maps are here. Our plan was to hang out and ride bikes in a leisurely, vacation style way, making use of the Mount Dora route maps and also driving back to Clermont to ride some of our favorites again.
Day 1: Tangerine Ride
When we arrived in Florida Sarah was sick–cough, cold, sneezing, sore throat. On holidays! So not fair. So for our first day we noodled down to downtown Mount Dora, an old central Florida town full of coffee shops and gift stores, sat outside and drank lattes. Properly fortified we did the Mount Dora Bike Festival’s family friendly Tangerine Ride. I recommend it!
“With 10.8 miles and + 394 feet of climbing this is a nice, mostly flat, casual and un-guided ride out to one of our beautiful lakefront parks, Trimble Park. Enjoy the park and then ride back through the historic town of Tangerine.”
We’ve been amused, as Canadians, with all the bear warning signs. Do they come south for winter? Turns out, upon googling, that Florida black bears are a sub species of the North American black bear. You can read up here.
“The park is in a known bear habitat and you may also see alligators, squirrels, raccoons, gopher tortoises, slider turtles, snakes, lizards and many bird species including eagles, osprey, pelicans and hawks.” From a guide to Trimble Park.
Total distance ridden: 28 km
Day 2: Shortened version of the Three Bob’s Ride, including thrill hill
“With 41.6 miles and +1112 feet of Climbing this route was named after three cycling friends all named Bob. This route was created from their friendly challenge to see which Bob could create the ride where you could spot the most lakes in Lake County in 40 miles. This was the winning ride and the route brags about having a water feature for every mile it is long! Rolling hills and great forested land are also highlights of this ride.”
Highlights: So many lakes! Also “thrill hill.” It wasn’t really that big of a hill but this is flat Florida. Still, it was a fun descent. Lowlight: lunch stop ended up being MacDonald’s since the local diners closed at 2 pm, after lunch.
Total distance ridden: 55 km
Day 3: Shortened version of the Metric Swamp Century
“Very scenic ride through northern Lake County, it is named for the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area that this ride will wind through.”
Highlights: Praline pecans with sweet Georgia heat spice for snacks, also an alpaca farm with alpaca boarding, you know in case you own an alpaca and need to take a vacation. Lowlight: Keep America Great signs. Sigh.
Total distance ridden: 70 km
Day 4: West Orange Trail
The West Orange Trail is 21 miles long and so out and back makes a pretty good ride. It’s a multiuse pathway, yes, but nicely paved and plenty wide. You can actually ride at speed through sections of it. We loved it last time and so we were determined to do it again.
Highlights: Love the wide paved pathway and the town of Wintergarden. We stopped there for coffee and lunch and I bought an Orange Trail bike jersey. Lowlight: Trying to navigate four way stops when the path crosses roads with riders with different tolerances for looking and riding through. I’m the nervous nellie in this crowd. Also we encountered our first rain on the way back.
Total distance ridden: 45 km
Day 5: Sugarloaf
It was supposed to be the “Assault on Sugarloaf” but by Friday I’d caught Sarah’s cold. With a sore throat and cough I agreed to ride up the local big hill but I wasn’t about to be mounting an assault on anything.
“The sugarloaf mountain is situated in Florida (US). This climb belongs to the Florida hills. The sugarloaf mountain via clermont, fl is ranked number 1 of the Florida hills. The climb is ranked number 427 in United States and number 11779 in the world. Starting from clermont, fl, the sugarloaf mountain ascent is 1 km long. Over this distance, you climb 67 heightmeters. The average percentage thus is 6.7 %. The maximum slope is 16%.”
In the end it started to rain and got dark and once we got off the lovely bike paths the cars were passing too close for my comfort. Sarah made it up Sugarloaf but I called for Jeff’s rescue wagon. Here’s the lovely bike trail.
Total distance ridden, for me: 15 km For Sarah: 38 km For Jeff: 0 km (he was also getting sick and was driving the support vehicle)
I made it through January! Yay! It’s been a long month. And a very gloomy one.
From here on in it’s a quick countdown to spring. Right?
Look what I got for Christmas, a beginner’s guide to goat yoga. Hey, I’m not a beginner. I think I’ve been three times. I’m a fan. But still, it’s a fun book. Thanks Mallory!
We’re currently heading to Florida to ride our bikes for a week. But it won’t be all bike riding. We’re thinking of going here on our rest day, Dancing Moon Goat Yoga. We’ve packed our yoga mats for Yoga with Adriene. After 20 hours driving, with one overnight stop, we’ll definitely need it.
The last time I went to goat yoga I didn’t want to give the baby goat back!
Kailey says, “I was always trying to change the fact that I was a fat cyclist into being just a ‘regular’ cyclist,” the 27-year-old says on a recent afternoon. “Now, I spend my time loving myself and moving my body because I enjoy moving my body and not as a punishment to my body.”
Day one of retirement was officially declared a “jammie” day. No alarm clock, a pot of tea, a good book, feet up, sitting in front of the fireplace. It was blissful and lasted almost ninety minutes.
And then that was enough for the dog who, delighted that there was another human home, insisted on a walk.
Somewhat reluctantly I changed out of my jammies.
It is so quiet and peaceful on this crisp winter’s day. No noise except the occasional passing car. Was this what it’s like, this retirement thing?
I returned home an hour later, fully intending to return to my perch. (My colorful, cozy jammies now replaced with walking gear, looking suspiciously like running gear), and then I had a vision: an empty pool, a lane to myself perhaps. Was that actually possible?
It was too irresistible, and so the perch by the fireplace was abandoned again. And there it was: my empty lane. Two kilometres of blissful, uninterrupted swim strokes.
Was this what retirement is like?
The choice to retire from teaching elementary school music was a tough one. I loved my job and was not particularly desperate to get out.
I had a fulfilling and vibrant career but, I was curious what life would be like on the other side.
Last fall, in a moment of “but what will I do when I retire?” I wondered what it would be like to be a gym rat, and so I approached my computer in search of half ironman races. These are called 70.3’s in the triathlon world. It seemed a good idea at the time, and it was a distance that my years as a triathlete had prepared me for.
I chose a date. May 31st, that worked for me. It would have been concert prep time, if I was not retired.
I chose a location. Connecticut, I could drive there.
Done! I signed up.
Oops. I missed a little bit of homework here. I found out later that this half ironman is called the Beast of the East.
As I write this blog, week one of retirement is almost over. It’s also my 59th birthday. I think about this “fitness” thing. For me, it’s always about the joy of seeing what my body is capable of. I do not have a point of view about speed, competition, losing weight, or much of anything else.
I love a challenge; my body loves to move endlessly, and the amazing thing is that I am fitter, faster and stronger than I have ever been.
I think I might be able to get used to the quiet, the recovery time and being able to head to the gym, my trainer or the road, at hours that do not involve the numbers 4, 5, or 6 attached to “a.m.”
I think I can get used to this thing called retirement. And who knows, hills may just become my new best friends.
Mary is a recently retired Elementary School Music Teacher, an Energetic Body Worker and a professional violinist. When not involved in any of the capacities mentioned above, she can often be spotted in water, on a bike, or running to prepare for her next triathlon.