On Saturday I was riding a fat bike along the Harriman State Park trails and reveling in the feeling of joy and novelty of two-wheeled travel over snow.
I pondered on why bikes are so fun and my mind landed on something as I zoomed down small hills and scooted around snowshoers.
Bikes make us all superheroes.
Before you scoff and toss the newspaper into the recycle bin, hear me out. Superheroes are folks who have their strength multiplied by 10 — like Ant-Man or Spider-Man or Captain America. Guess what? When a regular Joe like you or me gets on a bike, the wheels, gears and pedals, through the magic of physics, multiply our efforts and propel us through space at two to three times the speed we could normally go — like our own superhero machine.
I remember the first bicycle that was all mine (not the one I had to share with my siblings). I jumped on it and zoomed down the sidewalk in the dark — because it was Christmas morning at my grandparents’ house in Oxnard, Calif. I had a feeling of pure bliss. I was off the leash and could move faster than ever before without much effort.
Like a superhero.
That feeling returned on Saturday as I pedaled, trying to keep up with pals on fat tire bikes at Harriman.
Conditions were pretty good on most trails. One trail in particular — the Silver Lake Trail — a single track route winding mostly through the trees, was just plain fun.
“That was at least an 8 out of 10,” said Gary Azevedo, who loaned me a bike to ride with him. He was leading the way.
Although I’m not too experienced on fat bikes, I have learned that matching tire pressure to conditions makes a huge difference. After riding about a half-mile when we started, we paused along the Henry’s Fork and I let a little air out of my tires. Like magic, my wheels stopped slipping and sliding so much. The rear wheel grabbed going up hills when I put the power down.
We were not the only bikers at Harriman on Saturday. Because it was a free entrance day and there were free bike demos available, I saw more bikes than ever before. Sometimes it seemed there were as many bikers as skiers on some trails. Fortunately, Harriman grooms its trails to accommodate both activities.
As the morning progressed, the sun warmed the snow and some trails softened up. One trail in particular — to put it bluntly — just sucked. The trail was soft and mushy and tires spun and slid all over. Sometimes we were forced to hike up slippery hills. I bashed my shin on a pedal when I put the power to it and it slipped off. We rode back to the Silver Lake Trail for a second ride and finished on it. Like going from agony to bliss.
So I find that fat bikes can be a lot of fun when the conditions are good and a lot of work when conditions are poor. But that’s the way of a lot of recreations.
You’re more likely to find good conditions at places like Harriman, Grand Targhee Ski Resort and other groomed trails in the Teton Valley.
At the end of the day, Azevedo asked me if I was ready to buy a fat bike. I’m thinking this poor journalist will have to wait. I think I need a new pair of climbing shoes first.
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Here’s a tip for skiers who don’t mind driving to Jackson, Wyo.: Snow King Mountain Resort is holding a local appreciation and free ski day on Friday.
The day celebrates 80 years in business. There will be free skiing and snowboarding all day, two-for-one tubing and coaster rides, free group lessons and rental (with advance reservations) and food and drink specials at the grill and cafe.