Boris: Meet the snow

The snow is fickle this winter in Washington. It’s been warm this December, and while it’s an average year for total precipitation, the snow cover is way below average. While my Boris fatbike was waiting patiently in the garage, I was getting impatient to try it out with it’s new Dillinger tires. Snoqualmie pass claimed to have 5~ish inches of snow, so I drove over to the Iron Horse trail and see what kind of fun could be had.

Snobiking on the Iron Horse trail.

Snobiking on the Iron Horse trail.

The first thing to figure out is parking. WA has a myriad (4, I think) of parking permits for recreation, and my current permits did not allow me to park in the Hyak – Iron Horse parking lot. A groomed trail permit would be required for an additional $40.

WA has a myriad of parking permits - it's even worse and more expensive in winter.

WA has a myriad of parking permits – it’s even worse and more expensive in winter. Here’s the sign at the Hyak trail head, which also has a sledding hill.

However, a little bit down the road is another parking lot, this time operated by the National Forest service, where my NF pass works. While the snow wasn’t deep on the trail, those 2-3″ were fresh snow. Gosh, noone told me that riding through fresh snow would be so much more work. I would estimate that it took a good 60 W to go at 7 mph on flat ground.

Along the Iron Horse trail east of Hyak.

Along the Iron Horse trail east of Hyak.

I had a big grin looking down on a fat front tire and the track I was making. So cool. Totally overkill, but still cool.

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On the positive side of not having much snow, the avalanche risk tends to be near 0.

The positive side of not much snow: the avalanche risk is near 0.

After some poking around the trails and roads, I decided to ride up the Stampede Pass road. Higher up, there was ~6″ of snow on top of a thick layer of ice. A couple cars had made nice ruts to ride in, and made going much easier than having to blaze my own trail.

The icy road gave me a chance to test out the studs on the Dillinger tires. The spikes helped on the ice, but they are not nearly as effective as the 26×2.1″ studded Kenda Klondike tires that I have. I think part of the reason is that the rubber is so much softer on the Dillinger tires which means the knobs bend and conform to the ground. This unfortunately has the effect that the studs also bend over and at 8 psi, the tire just doesn’t give enough support to hold the studs firmly in place against the ice. I would say that I am glad that I got the studded tires, but I must say that I was a bit disappointed by the performance. On the way down I was going a bit fast and hit some icy stretches which made me a bit nervous but it turned out alright.

Riding back on the Iron Horse trail, I wasn’t quite so fresh anymore and that made me notice the drag of riding through fresh snow. So, I resorted to trying to ride in the path that I had made on my way out, which made a difference of riding about 2 gears higher.

Keechelus Lake.

Keechelus Lake.

Overall impressions of the studded 45Nrth Dillinger 4 and 5 tires:

Overall, I am happy with my purchase. I am not sure that I would notice a difference between having the D4 or the D5 in the rear. In the front, the larger D5 greatly reduced the self-steer sensation that I had with the Mission 4″ tires; steering is now more or less neutral.  I never felt like I needed more grip, except when riding down fast through 6″ of snow-over-ice. Traction uphill and stopping at slow speed were great. The rear tire was mounted backwards, which I think is the reason for a sideways sliding effect when skidding at high speed. I may swap the direction to test this out. Rolling resistance was big in the snow (that’s fresh snow for ya), but on gravel it didn’t seem much different from the Vee Mission tires that I had been running.

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Fatbike winter tires

Here in western Washington, freezing rain and snow are common up in the mountains. Riding my Boris X9 with the Vee Mission 26×4″ tires on the slush-covered Hansen ridge trail a few weeks ago, I was sliding like crazy and knew that new tires would need to be ordered. No wonder, the tread on the Mission tires is nearly non-existent:

Not a winter tire.

Not a winter tire.

After riding my studded Kenda Klondike tires on my commuter bike a couple days later on Hansen ridge, I knew that I needed a studded tire. While cars were sliding on the iced-over forest road, I was riding the 12% grade without problems. The only time I had problems was when I put my foot down :). A lot of oogling and reading mtbr threads seemed to indicate that the way to go is with the überexpensive studded Dillinger tires by 45Nrth. The Boris X9 isn’t designed to accept 5″ wide tires, but the fork sure looked big enough, so I bought one Dillinger 5 to start with. Besides, the actual with of the Dillinger 5 and 4 tires is a lot smaller than their name would imply.

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Fancy concave studs.

Fancy concave studs.

The studded Dillinger 5 came in at 1530 g.

The studded Dillinger 5 came in at 1530 g.

First, I tried to install the Dillinger 5 in the rear, where it barely fit at under 10 psi.

Brand-new Dillinger 5 installed in Borix X9 with tubes and under 10 psi.

Brand-new Dillinger 5 installed in Borix X9 with tubes and under 10 psi. Chain is in closest gear setting on 2×10.

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However, after letting the D5 sit for a few days at 15 psi, the tire stretched enough that it was now rubbing on the frame. Even moving the cassette over by one gear, and slightly dishing  the rear wheel did not make enough space for the Dillinger 5. Too bad, because I really like the size and tread pattern of the D5. Actual tire width is 4.2″ across the knobs when installed on the 80 mm Weinman HL-80 rim (with tube, ~7 psi).

That meant that the D5 would go in the front, where it fit fine, and a Dillinger 4 was ordered for the rear.

The studded Dillinger 4 came in at 1370 g.

The studded Dillinger 4 came in at 1370 g.

See the price tag in the picture? Yes, these things are pricey! More than my car tires. The tread pattern of the Dillinger 4 appears a bit meager compared to the D5, but reviews of its performance seemed fine. The actual tire width across the knobs is 3.8″ on the 80 mm Weinman HL-80 (with tube, ~10 psi). That’s only 10% smaller – so who cares. Except that the tread pattern looks beefier on the D5.

How did it ride? First ride impressions in the next blog.

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Whiskey Dick Variations

It’s time for a few pictures from 3 recent trips to the Whiskey Dick wildlife area near Vantage. The first trip was cut way-short by very strong winds. Probably 40 mph sustained winds forced me to turn around at an exposed ridge line where I did not feel confident anymore about being able to complete 20 more miles of this. A herd of 30 (mountain?) sheep was next to me while I was eating my sandwich and deciding what to do next. The clouds were moving quickly, just image a fierce wind blowing into your eyes and holding on to your bike while it hangs at 45o down-wind.

View of the Frenchman Coulee sand dunes (left-ish) and the Columbia in between.

View of the Frenchman Coulee sand dunes (left-ish) and the Columbia in between.

The second trip was more typical for this time of the year: cool/cold and a few muddy spots. Nice outing. Met one hunter and his two dogs at Hartman / Whiskey Dick creek and a couple hikers later at night walking back without lights. Had a nice chat.

Fall colors in the Whiskey Dick / Hartman Creek area.

Fall colors in the Whiskey Dick / Hartman Creek area.

Headed down into the Skookumchuck drainage. A 'private property' sign blocked access to the Columbia.

Headed down into the Skookumchuck drainage, but a ‘private property’ sign blocked access to the Columbia.

The third trip was absolutely splendid. Way too warm for this time of the year, and only a bit of breeze every now and then. The upper portion of the Whiskey Dick drainage always seems to be pretty well protected and it was downright warm there: 60F(?). Met a few people out on their ATVs, Jeep, and a off-road golf-cart-like contraption after sunset.

Not missing the crowded streets in Seattle one bit.

Not missing the crowded streets in Seattle one bit.

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Late fall ride to Miller Peak

A whole day free from work! Sunshine! Fall colors!

Thick fog lay over Seattle on Saturday morning, so I decided to head east to Cle Elum. The fog was still thick there – so I drove on eastwards until the fog disappeared a few miles down the road and saw Mt. Stuart in my rearview mirror. Decision made: turn around and do a Miller Peak loop. I started the ride dressed for icy cold weather to warm up – and in case I was still out after sunset. Nothing like fresh legs at the beginning of a ride and sunshine. The ride started with a bit of dirt road and puddles that had frozen crusts. Then, the Iron Bear trail takes off at 10% grade. The higher I went, the warmer it got. Soon, I took off my last shirt – and I was still sweating.

Heading up on the Iron Bear trail to the Teanaway ridge.

Heading up on the Iron Bear trail to the Teanaway ridge.

Went past a few hikers, most were in a good mood. The switchbacks on the Teanaway Ridge trail were fun, I could tell that my skills had improved since last year when I rode this, and that made me happy.

Fall view of Mt. Rainier from the Teanway Ridge trail.

Fall view of Mt. Rainier from the Teanway Ridge trail.

Even the rocky chute on the County Line trail seemed easier than last year. Here’s Miller Peak presenting itself nicely.

Miller Peak from the County Line trail.

Miller Peak from the County Line trail.

Met a couple moto guys – their vehicles weren’t terribly noisy and we could talk in normal voices. Then rode the County Line trail, which last year I had mostly walked due to the rocky/gravel sections. This didn’t seem so bad this year and so I rode it. Perhaps the trail was just in better condition?

County Line trail toward the Miller Peak trail.

County Line trail toward the Miller Peak trail.

On the way, I met another hiker, Don, who was full of trail info and we chatted for a while. It’s rare to find people who are more chatty than me, but he certainly was. He warned me to get ready for the cold breeze up at Miller Peak. I heeded his warning and put some clothes back on :)

The view from the top was stunning. The breeze was indeed pretty chilly, so I laid behind some rocks, out of the wind to look at Mt. Stuart.

Looking towards Mt. Stuart from Miller Peak.

Looking towards Mt. Stuart from Miller Peak.

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A sea of fogs lay in the valleys – while blue skies and sun sparkled up above.

Mt. Stuart is ridiculously sharp and pointy looking. I don’t know how people climb that. Must be quite an adventure. After a few minutes, I had enough of the breeze and went back down.

This ridge is the way down from Miller Peak. Ok, the other side of the ridge - which is way less scary.

This ridge is the way down from Miller Peak.

Then, I rode down the Miller Peak trail and went up Stafford Creek trail to try to ride the rocky sections there – but utterly failed. I didn’t even make it to the intersection – just gave up, and went back via Iron Bear trail. Iron Bear is so steep in the end, so I walked it. Finally, a nighttime descent down the other side sealed the deal. The temps dropped rapidly to 40F, so once again I bundled up for the fast ride down the dirt road. Brrr.

GPX track

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