Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 in review

The outdoor year 2016 was for me pretty much about sea kayaking. The -Vigu sea kayak guide specialization started in March and was quite intensive, with the final being in Cornwall in September. In addition, I also did more mountain biking in the latter half of the year. On top of this, the year was quite hectic at work and a couple of times my stress level was definitely too high. Still, looking back at the outdoor year it wasn't a bad one.

The year started with Nordic skating. The season lasted for a little less than two weeks in the Turku region.

The first overnighter was less than a week into the new year, as it should be. It was a rather cold bikepacking overnigher.

In the middle of January we got real fatbike conditions.

The winter was sweet and lasted to the end of February, which was much too short. I made the most of it, though. On skis, fatbike, kayak and with the kids.

The snow melted rapidbly in March, and it was again time to spend more time in the kayak, both on indoor and on the sea.

Also, there was again some Nordic skating when the snow was gone.

The last remnants of winter were explored by fatbike.

April saw almost exclusively kayaking.

May was a busy time of the year with lots to do at work and several kayak and canoe overnighers.

June was even more hectic at work, but I did get away for a six day sea kayaking course in the Archipelago Sea. as well as having two other kayaking weekends.

July was mostly spent on vacation, but we had one kayaking weekend...

... and the four day Vigu mountain biking introduction course with me as the instructor.

August was quite ok with both bike riding and a week-long sea kayaking course in Sweden.

September was hectic. First the downhill cycling course in Åre...

... almost immediately followed by the climax of the sea kayak guide course, a week in Cornwall...

... and finally with after two days of rest, the NIL Sea Kayak Guide assessment weekend.

For the rest of the year I mainly did mountain biking, as well as spending more time at work. There were a couple of bikepacking overnighters as well as the six day Vigu bikepacking trip with me as the instructor. There was only some occasional kayaking.

November started great with cold weather and a little snow. The snow disappeared and at times the ground has been a little white, but not enough to allow any snow sports. The Nordic skating season, though, has been the best one for many years.

Now I'm just waiting for snow. Lots of snow.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nordic skating and the lack of winter

The fall 2016 was actually quite nice. Dry weather until the end of October, then a short rainy period before the weather became colder. We even had snow the second week of November, but that soon disappeared after a week of raining. The weather continued to vary with temperatures both above and below freezing, with a November that was a lot less rainy and grey than usual.I have several friends who were quite impatient (ping Toni) and just waited for a real winter with snow. I would certainly also have welcomed lots of snow for fatbiking and skiing in November, but there is an advantage to having several arrows in you quiver. The lack of snow and temperatures still mostly below freezing made for the best Nordic skating on lakes for a long time.

The Nordic skating season started November 7 for me, which must be considered very early in Southern Finland. The lake Littoinen could possibly have had strong ice at most two days earlier, but I was away then. Since I hadn't had time to check out the lake, we had drysuits as an extra precaution. As it turned out, the ice was stronger than the first time of the previous season.

There were weaker spots, though.

The lakes continued to be in skating conditions for most of November, but I had other things to do and got back on the ice in the beginning of December. My almost next door lake was covered with snow and the ice was actually surprisingly thin when I checked it out December 4.

An ice pike is a necessary piece of equipment. With a single blow you should be able to get through 5 cm of ice. If you don't get through the ice, it is at least 5 cm thick at that point and strong enough. If not, you examine it closer and possibly start looking for stronger ice. The thickness of the ice can vary a lot in a short distance, so you look for signs that indicate changes in the ice, e.g small color nuance changes or e.g. a creek entering the lake, visible from the map.

You can actually hear that the ice is thin from the frequence of the sound the ice makes.

Two days later everything had changed. First a night of rain had gotten rid of the snow and then a cold and clear night had strengthened the ice noticeably.

I use my ski boots with a Salomon XA Raid binding on Lundhags blades, an excellent system.

The next weekend the inner bays of the sea started to freeze. The kayaks started to get harder to paddle. Three days later people skated where we had paddled, though the ice was still quite thin.

In addition to lakes and the sea, there are the rivers. A cold Sunday allowed 47 km of skating along the Aura river.

If you really know the ice, you can also go out in the dark, though this should not be taken lightly.

Offlake skating.

A week later, the weather changed and is now looking quite depressing. The lake ice doesn't suffer from rain and warmer temperatures very quickly, but the Christmas weather doesn't look good currently.

Now, a warning is certainly warranted when it comes to being on the ice. Thin ice can be very dangerous and people die every year when the ice breaks under them. Always have ice prods and the other safety gear and don't go out on the ice if you don't know it or don't know what you are doing. If you are interested in Nordic skating, there are associations that hold courses and arrange trips. This is the way to get started. In Finland you have Suomen Retkiluistelijat - Finlands Långfärdsskrinnare, in Sweden Skridskonätet. In Norway this is a slighly newer thing, but Skiforeningen has something going on.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Surly Ice Monster Truck

A little over a year ago I wrote that I expected for Surly or Salsa to come up with something new before paying their premium price. Neither of them did that, and yet here I am with a freshly built Surly Ice Cream Truck fatbike. How did this happen? I actually have two reasons, one of which is totally subjective. After having spent the last two years mainly on developing my sea kayaking skills, and achieving some sort of goal there, I now look forward to doing more bike riding, including some more demanding bike packing outings. The White 3Fat Pro isn't really enough for that.

The second reason is that I've followed the discussions about fatter tires a little closer now. A year ago, it still looked like something was happening, though it in reality only was Espen Wethe of Nakamura Norway who tried to push the envelope. Since then, the only thing that has happened is that Surly came up with the Big Fat Dummy cargo bike, which has clearance for 5.25" tires. A sign of what is under development? There are some challenges with going fatter. The Q-factor of the crank arms are probably quite maxed out now for most people, which might mean that an IGH is needed instead of ordinary gears. Also fatter tires affect the BB height quite a bit, meaning that a bike optimized for 5.5" tires might not work well with 4.5" tires during the summer. There might be technical solutions to this as well, e.g. vertically adjustable dropouts or an excentric BB, but it might very well be that a bike made for really fat tires is mainly a winter bike.

So, there I was again, considering the Salsa Blackborow or Surly Ice Cream Truck. Very few other bikes can fit the currently widest fat tire in production, the 5.05" Vee Snowshoe 2XL. A Finnish alternative actually came up as well, the Pole Taiga, which I found quite intriguing. The Pole philosophy is having very long bikes with a slack head tube angle. I do believe in the concept, but came to the conclusion that the largest Pole Taiga frame size L was not enough for me. I'm not fond of having a lot of seat tube and I also want a good sized main triangle in the frame, to fit a big frame bag. Salsa has given up having the largest tires to fit, and phased out the Blackborow in favour of a new wider Mukluk, which is supposed to fit 4.8" tires on 100 mm rims, but not anything bigger, according to information on the MTBR fatbike forum. Good old Surly continues with the Ice Cream Truck, which can take the 2XL tires. During some initial discussions in August with Foxcomp, I was advised to wait for something new. Patience, however, is not my strong side and I returned to the subject in November. After again getting good advice against sizing down to an L sized frame, an order for a blue Ice Cream Truck frame in size XL was made. It arrived three weeks later and I got it built in a few days.

Some small adjustments still remain, and I'll have to get the rear brake hose shortened.

The Vee Showshoe 2XL tires on Clownshoe rims. I had the Clownshoe wheelset built by Foxcomp three years ago, but on 135/170 mm hubs for the Salsa Mukluk, after first having the rims powder coated with blue color. The wheelset was rebuilt with Hope 150/190 mm hubs in the beginning of this year. Quite a coincidence that the rim color matches the frame color so well. The 2XL tires really are a lot bigger than the 4.8" Surly Bud tires. On 100 mm rims the width is close to 130 mm and they are quite tall.

Steel has soul and Surly only makes steel.

Plenty of attachment points on the fork. I will mount the Salsa Anything Cage, though it remains to see which version.

I've used the Rido R2 saddle exclusively since 2010. The comfort for me is superior to anything else. This is a special version, with colors matching the bike and also the Finnish flag. The saddle is mounted to an old Cane Creek Thudbuster LT seat post, which I need to protect my bad back.

SRAM Guide RS brakes with 180 mm rotor at front and 160 mm at the rear, my preference for getting the same feeling for both brakes. Also visible is the Surly MDS dropouts for 12 mm through axle. With the axle in the rearmost position there is sufficient room for the 2XL tires. These particular dropouts were hard to get. They have been out of stock everywhere for most of the year and are now to reappear in February or so. I found a pair in a shop in Norway, though they couldn't send anything to Finland. They were ordered to a friendly philosophy professor in Trondheim, who then sent them to me (thanks, Jussi).

The clearance is good enough for winter use, about 7 mm to the sides of the chainstays, taking into the account that the tire isn't absolutely true. Since I'm running 1x11 gears, the chain clearance is no problem.

The Alpkit Confucius handlebar, sawed down to 740 mm width. I'm hoping that this would provide a nice and stable way to attach a front dry bag. Also shown are the Ergon GS1 grips. I've preferred the Ergon grips since they appeared some seven years ago.

SRAM GX 11-speed shifter.

The SRAM GX 11-speed rear derailleur.

The Race Face Æffect crank set, which is very affordable. The Cinch system allows smaller chain rings than the traditional 4-bolt 104 BCD system. My intention is to use a 28t or 30t oval chain ring, but nothing was in store yet, so I got a 26t chain ring from Toni, who had one to spare.

More that enough clearance at the front.

The bike fits me fine, and doesn't actually look so big under me.

I do think the bike turned out quite nice.

I will get a rear rack for it, probably a Salsa Alternator 190 mm rack. The frame bag from the 29+ Mukluk also fits the ICT. It remains to be seen when the first overnighter trip with it will be. We would need to get some snow first.