Every once and a while, we here in Michigan get a random 50 degree day in the middle of winter and during the warm up of spring. March tends to hover in the 30s, so when the 50s show up the shorts come out and people go crazy … which leads to riders braving the local trails.
Michigan weather gave us a couple inches of snow a week back that has been slowly melting. Back in the woods, the snow has been sticking around. Out in the open, it’s a melty, muddy mess. But that is what fat bikes are for right?
Fellow “Dad on Dirt” Jake and I decided to give Island Lake State Park in Brighton, MI a try. It highly traveled through the entire year. The Blue loop is a little longer at around 9 miles, but tends to be a bit easier. We expected rough conditions so it seemed like the best route.
Its always funny to start a ride like this, when you are trying to take it easy through puddles and mud. At some point you stop caring and embrace the fact that you will be completely covered in dirt by the end of the ride.
After about a 1/2 mile or so we ran into a rider with a broken chain. He was on the side of the road that linked to trail sections and a fellow roadie was helping. I offered a quick link to fix it, but he had a 9 speed chain and these were 10. He ended up taking a couple links out and we said our “good luck”s and moved on. Right into a long clay-mud climb.
My chainring DID NOT like that. My small ring on the 2×9 developed constant chain suck. Which meant I was stuck using the bigger ring. This was going to be a tough ride.
We knew there is a little swimming pond coming up that we could rinse the clay-mud off. The water was FREEZING. There was a dog there playing in the water. I can’t imagine how he tolerated it. I found a log that I could walk out on a couple feet and tried my best to rinse off my drive chain. It was clean, but still not working. The big ring was going to be the ticket today.
The rest of the ride was a weird combination of terrain. It would vary from leaf covered, to mud , to puddles, ice and 3 inches of loose snow. I’d say this was the most varied conditions I have ever ridden in.
We were in it for the long haul. Playing leap frog with a trail-runner (hats off to that guy!) The climbs were tough in the bigger chainring, but it was a good challenge for the beginning of the season. I was surprised at the number of hikers out on the trail. Lots of wet feet were in Michigan today!
By the time we got back to the trailhead we were covered in mud. Bikes were filthy and sounding horrible. It was going to take some work to get the bike back to working, but it was totally worth it. I load my dirty bike into the back of my car with the plan to stop by the power washer on the way home.