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River rides

988 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Pain Freak
Ride accounts on this list seem to be slowing down so I thought I'd toss in a couple of rides from the 14 and 15 of Nov. This first one was on the Little Chena River just outside of Fairbanks. Now we've had a bit of much needed snow and I tried to ride a few days ago but trails had not been packed yet. Hopefully the motorheads were out over the weekend and the trails will be ridable this week.

Little Chena Ride
I've always thought folks that build right down near the river around here are nuts and now I know they are. It hit a balmy zero F. in town and was about -5F next to the Little Chena River where I parked, the parking area being open and somewhat sunny. Only dropping down about 15-20 ft. to the riverbottom within a few minutes it had cooled to near -20F, close and dark.

Heading upcreek the ice was ok, mostly covered by under an inch of frost snow. Occasionally an area of dark ice would appear and for some reason they kicked up my awareness a notch. That ended when I saw a bubble suspended over a foot down in that dark ice. This is a very twisty creek and I went side to side looking for smooth ice and a more direct line. Came up to 4-wheeler tracks and followed them, for the most part they provided slightly easier pedaling. It felt cold down there and the faster speed thanks to the ice only added a chill. Went up for about 30 minutes then came back, continuing under the bridge at the road crossing and down the little ways to the confluence with the Chena River. A red fox crossed the creek on this stretch while I was stopped for a moment. About halfway there the sun started hitting the creekbottom in places and there were spots of mirror smooth, overflow ice.

At the Chena found this.

Glad to have gotten this ice ride in as the forecast calls for snow starting Wen., then keeping up right into next week. Sounds like we'll get enough to require packing for the trails to be ridable.

This ride was the very next day. I've found that getting a winter dunking once every decade or so helps remind me to be prepared. Sorry if the picture links are disrupting but I've got a slow connection and downloading photos takes forever.

Chatanika River Ride
Drove out to the Chatinika River today for another ice ride. -10F in town but about -18F at the river which is about 20 miles from Fairbanks via the Elliot Hwy. Beautiful day, fantastic clouds. Parked at Olnes Pond which is a favorite spot in summer for swimming and biking. Rode a short trail to the river then scrambled down the bank with bike on shoulder.

The ice looked good but there's always an element of hightened awarness, ok fear, when venturing out on untested (no snowmachine tracks yet) ice this early in the season. These are unusual conditons (minimal snow and well below normal temps) so even though experience says, hey the ice looks a foot thick in most places, there's a bit of hesitation at first. This is a good sized river too, so breaking though could mean a serious soaking, as opposed to just getting your feet wet.

Lots of very smooth ice on the sides with oddly bumpy ice on much of the middle, either way the studs were sure apprecitated. Some areas of frost snow but just thick enough to change the tire sound from buzz to soft crunch. The sun, clouds and ice made an ideal backround for biking.

Cruised along crossing the river on most corners. As usual you pick up speed when the initial nervousness, ok fear, dissipates as you gain confidence in the ice and studs. Glad to have worn a heavier balaclava, with the level, mostly smooth surface I was pedaling effortlessly and not working up much heat. Suddenly from the woods there were tracks of what looked to be about 6-7 wolves. Followed them for and half hour or so until I decided to return and explore a slough passed away back.

Approached the slough from the opposite side of the river and it looked a little spooky so decided to cross the river upstream from the slough just in case. Hmmmm, still looked spooky on closer inspection but the ice seemed ok and there was lots of beautiful ice crystals. Less that 50ft. up the slough the front tire broke thru into a foot of water, crap I'd forgotten a well know fact, beautiful ice crystals are often formed by steam from open water, which means a good chance of thin ice. Got off the bike and gingerly walked past this spot and then thought I ought to get a picture of that hole, bad decision. In my defense I knew that slough had trails just above it which could get me back to my truck in under 10 minutes. Approached the hole closer to the bank with better looking ice underfoot, suddenly broke through and went in up to mid thigh, double crap. This photo shows the first hole in the backround and the second in the foreground. Broke though so hard that I got a nice contusion on my shin where it hit the edge of the ice. Impressive considering I had on five layers, two pairs of knee socks, icebike tights, shell pants and neos overboots on top, (I've still got a bump-sore spot on my leg from this). Well it was time to climb the bank and head to the truck, it took a minute or two before I felt a trickle of water greeting my left foot. I'd worn neoprene socks the last couple of river rides but didn't today, rats. Both feet were damp by the time I got to the truck after taking a long route and exploring a trail where a snowmachine had passed. It took a minute or two to get the strap on clipless off as they were pretty frozen. Fun ride even with the dunking but already looking forward to some snow and taking the studded tires off. t
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Hey Tony,
Glad to hear yer havin' some fun. I 've found that the riding is much better on the top side of the ice then on the bottom! We're lookin' good here in the Mad Zoo, 14" of snow has packed down great on the main trails, but temps are somewhat Fairbanks-like at around 15 below. Will try to make it out across the Big Susitna later this week, it should be freezing up pretty well with the cold temps.Hopefully won't need my snorkel.


awinterbiker said:
Ride accounts on this list seem to be slowing down so I thought I'd toss in a couple of rides from the 14 and 15 of Nov. This first one was on the Little Chena River just outside of Fairbanks.
So nice

Thanks for the pic and the story very nice. I am sorta snow-bikeless at the moment... so no real riding and lots of time on the trainer. These pics are just the motivation I need to stay in shape for future rides.

I got to do some rides off Chena Hot Springs road this summer. It was beautiful country up there, especially the 15 or so mile loop along a ridgeline, well its a loop if you use the road to join the trial heads. I can't remember the name but it has a public cabin around the 1/2 way point. I loved that ride.

Thanks again for the great pics and the write up.
ridge trail

Adam that's the 4 Mile Ridge-Stiles Creek Trail. There's a write up on it on my website, , second trail description on page.

The discription is for winter biking but it's a favorite summer trail too. You can make an all trail loop in winter and depending on time of year and or how much rain we've had you can do it in summer too, might have to carry the bike around a couple of big mud holes though.
Yeah, that’s it. My wife and I camped at the Tors campground then biked from there to the shooting range up around the ridge and out to the road then took the road from colorado creek back to the campground. It was around the time of the fair when all that smoke blew in this past summer. I really enjoyed that ride. It was my first trip up to the Chena area and only my second trip to Fairbanks. It was warm, dry and sunny (until the smoke blew in) quite a change from Anchorage.

Funny thing is we headed to that general area, in part, because I had stumbled across your website a while ago, but couldn’t find it just prior to our trip so we just went where the ATVs were riding.

We didn’t do much riding because we got smoked out after that. We hiked Angel Rocks the next day and then drove south down the Parks until we got out of the smoke.


Beautiful, just beautiful. I loved your album. I wish I could handle the cold. After it hits 50 I'm about done riding. My friends all think I'm nuts because I will still ride when it hits 110 degrees, I did this twice this last year. Once in AZ and the other in UT and I'm not kidding it doesn't bother me. What does bother me is all the awesome looking snow/winter riding you guys up north are enjoying and I will never be a part of it. Thanks for the pics and the story.The ice sculptures are really nice art.
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