Mid-November here in Minnesota is a good time of year to try riding some MTB obstacles that I’ve been avoiding. Why? It’s not too hot to armor up completely and I have all winter to heal should my lack of skill make me pay a price.
1. Riding down the big rock at the end of the wooden bridge in the X loop of the Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail. It’s a steep drop, made trickier because the landing is the bridge over a 4-foot culvert with some rocks down below. I rode it just as it started to rain. It took me 4 attempts to clean it. 20-second vid:
Many of the mountain bike trails in the Twin Cities area have harder B-lines (alternative routes through a section of a trail) that are fun to attempt in winter when they’re covered with snow.
I rode many of them at Lebanon Hills a couple of weeks ago and captured on video my rides on three of them: a wide and flat skinny in the X loop (success), the big bridge rock in the XX loop (success after 3 tries), and the rounded skinny in the intermediate out loop (all fails).
What have I learned in my winter rides so far this year? Fresh snow can be surprisingly grippy, even on rocks, as I blogged two years ago. Snow on wood is nearly always super slippery. My front suspension starts to gets sluggish at about 10 degrees F and is completely stiff at -10 F. The day I took this video it was about + 10 F and that’s what made the difference in my being able to get over the bridge rock this time, unlike back on Dec. 18 when it was -5 F. When I manual, I use my front suspension to aid with front wheel lift.
As for the repeat fails at the intermediate out loop log: an ice-covered log skinny is tough.
I met Caleb Wendel, co-owner of The Bike Shop in Houghton, Michigan that weekend and yesterday, he alerted me that the video he took of me riding the hamster wheel was now up on Vimeo:
As I wrote earlier, Ken and I figured out one way to ride the hamster wheel without putting your feet down: ride in fast and up as high as you can go without falling backwards; lock both brakes until the wheel starts to move, then pedal quarter turns with the same foot to keep the wheel moving; use your elbows against the hub and spokes as needed to keep your balance.
Of course I’m now itching to go back to Ray’s at least one more time before they close for the season and I’ve been thinking about how else the hamster wheel could be ridden. This video shows a Ray’s employee, Dave Barnett, riding the hamster wheel (some of it includes a helmet cam view). It appears as though he’s not pedaling at all, once the wheel starts to move, but rather just throws his body weight forward a few times (starting at the 23-second mark):
I’d like to try that approach, regardless. I’d also like to figure how to ride the hamster wheel perfectly clean, ie, no shoulder or elbow dabs against the hub and spokes. It would seem like hopping the bike left and right as needed to keep balanced might be a way to do that, though doing that at a steep angle while pedaling half turns seems daunting. I’ll report back next time I go but if anyone has ideas or experiences to share, please attach a comment.
Here’s a short video clip on how NOT to ride the hamster wheel: