As summer was winding down and we moved into August, it occurred to me…winter is coming.
The initial panic was quickly replaced with determined resolve. I decided that this winter, I would have a good time.
In recent years, it has been all too easy for me to get bogged down with various mundane responsibilities, causing the winter to slip by in a dark, unenthusiastic blur. Most uniquely-winter activities take planning, preparing, layering, driving and money, all things I feel hesitant to budget for when things are calling from left and right. This year I decided – enough is enough. It’s time to have some fun.
Only a few days of eBay browsing revealed my perfect solution: a 2013 Salsa Mukluk fat bike.
It had a white frame with small evergreen trees on the down tube. It was pretty. It was reasonably priced. It was in Delaware, but it was perfect.
The dreaming began. Winter fun was now just out my front door! Sidewalks and streets, frozen lakes and rivers, trails flat and hilly, the entire frozen world was now my playground.
It was still only August, but two weeks and a shipping headache later, my winter salvation finally arrived, but I hurriedly assembled the bike, anticipating the maiden ride around the block.
There was no saddle in the box.
After an email to the seller and a few more days, I could safely sit on the bike.
I gathered up my son and we rode down to Briggs Bridge. I could feel my heart soaring with freedom. I was liberated from the shackles of winter.
I could also hear my son whining. He was tired. He was cold. He was wet. Now he was crying. We went home.
Months passed, it got colder, but the snow refused to fall.
Finally, in early November, there was just enough snow to justify my superlative solution to work-life balance – the bike commute. I bundled, packed my lunch in my backpack and hit the trail.
Pure joy ensued. Visions of endless expeditions, beautiful adventures and — why am I going so slow? Is the snow getting deeper? Do I – oh, no – not snow… Yep, it’s a flat tire.
I made it to work – just barely – but had to get a ride home.
The following weeks were a tug of war between optimistic victory and conceding defeat. The tire is on!
Filled! Holding air! Nope, it’s flat again. Hey, I think I finally got it! Now the chain is hopelessly tangled. Phew! Straightened out again, but, no, I can hear the tire losing air. Ah!
Christmas came and gloriously, magically, in the true spirit of the season, a beautiful set of studded tires appeared under the tree. After multiple attempts and several cut knuckles, it became clear that my bike wrenching skills were too amateur for the likes of a tubeless fat bike. It was time for professional help.
Within a couple of days, the rims were returned with the beautiful new tires firmly installed and fully pressurized. And just in time, too.
The 1st Annual Merry Masher Fat Bike Race at Mirror Lake seemed the perfect opportunity to really get out there and finally test this new endeavor.
I ambitiously registered in the Expert category, not based on my skill set, but just for the 15-mile length. After five miles and one full hour of winding, narrow, rooted single track trails, it became clear that I would never finish the entire distance before dark.
I set out for the second loop hoping to finish at least 10 miles, but after a mile or two became overwhelmed with a familiar sensation. Yes, my new tire was going flat. After pressing on for a couple more miles, I had to admit defeat and walked to the finish line.
I only cried for a minute, so I was all done by the time I saw anyone.
Now, weeks later, my beautiful bike is parked in the garage in the same sad state as on race day.
With my registration for the Little Su 50k already paid, I am desperately hoping this wave of bad luck is over. I still have some tricks left to try and feel confident that by February 17th I will have this issue solved. But if not, thirty miles around Big Lake on a flat may be the last straw.
This new winter adventure may have yet to prove to be fun, but one thing’s for sure, it hasn’t been boring.
Sara Kennedy is a special education teacher in the Anchorage School District. She likes to swim, bike and run around Alaska, and camp and fish with her family. To reach Sara, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.