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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
What the screed below boils down to is that I just want to ride my bike more.

In this instance, "more" does not refer to days per week nor even necessarily hours per day. Although both of those would also be nice.

What I'm after is the ability to ride more feet per mile. On snow.



Allow me to explain...

Our backyard mountain receives copious quantities of snow every winter -- averaging over 300" and piling up close to 500" with some regularity. Today is December 12th and already over 100" has fallen this season. I was out this afternoon as another 5" came in, driven on a wind. Most well-adjusted funhogs would immediately jump in here and point me toward some phat powder skis and skins and suggest that I would enjoy myself more with those tools. And they'd have a point.



But I'm not really interested in skiing anymore. I ski bummed in Crested Butte from '92 to '98, banging out 130+ days each of my first two seasons, and then 100+ days each season thereafter. Skiing is neat but I've nearly had my fill and moved on for many reasons.

Anyhoo, our backyard mountain gets lots of snow. And while people flock here in droves to ride our trails in spring, summer, and fall, those same hordes are nowhere in evidence when winter arrives. So these snowbound trails don't get much traffic -- nowhere near enough to keep them packed in and consistently rideable.



When you have a low-moisture content alpine/continental snowpack that is constantly being refreshed and not enough traffic to adequately compress it between storms, you get trails that are soft, punchy, difficult to ride. At best. More often they're drifted over with wind affected ball bearings, or completely buried under cold smoke.

To the end of being able to ride more, I experiment with new ideas every chance I get. Usually that means ever wider rims and tires, such that I've had a series of custom snowbikes made over the past 20+ years. Sometimes it means riding whichever rims and tires you have, but experimenting with pressures. Sometimes it means ignoring the rolling bits and focusing on/learning about how geometry can make poor conditions more rideable. Other times it means ignoring all but the minutia, and seeing where you can get with that.

And, quite honestly, sometimes it just doesn't matter, because the snow is too deep, soft, fresh, to do anything other than push your bike through it. When riding locally I have the luxury of checking weather reports daily and thusly keeping tabs on what conditions are doing. If I know a foot of fresh is en route then I know better than to try to ride the next day or two.

But when I head to Alaska -- as I've done every year for more than 20 years now -- both the route and schedule are set, so I just have to embrace whatever weather and trail conditions happen. Having the floatiest bike and the wherewithal to make proper use of it are critical.



For the past four seasons I've been on the same chassis -- built by Whit @ Meriwether and dubbed "Brrrrrly."

Click that last link and you'll understand a bit more about what makes sense for riding the kind and quantity of snow we have in our backyard. Click this one if you want the builders perspective. Keep in mind that this bike represents literal decades of trial, error, and evolution.



And then realize that *both* Jeny and I have these bikes.



That last bit is important because for the first time in a few years there are contenders to consider when it comes to uber-floaty fat tires. For the past four years I've ridden the venerable Vee 2XL in the PSC (white) compound. I run them tubeless on Kuroshiro 105mm carbon rims, usually at pressures so low that they fail to register on even the best modern gauges. Nothing else commercially made comes close to the float this combo provides.

But now Terrene is offering their Johnny 5 meats, and after installing and riding a set I'm finding lots to like about them. And Terrene is also offering a writ-large B Fat tire that, when installed on the new ENVE hoops, might just be worth more than a passing glance.



So, over the past few weeks and the next little while we'll be riding all of the above on our Meriwethers, on our backyard fluff as well as further afield, swapping bikes often mid-ride so that we can get a sense for which combo's work best when, at what pressures, and why. We've even invited a few snow-savvy friends to come join us on these test missions, partially because they're our friends and it's fun to ride with friends! But also because it's nice to get second, third, and fourth opinions to ensure that the conclusions you've drawn are both scientific and accurate.



Bringing this whole thing back to where it started, what I'm after here is the ability to ride more. Faster isn't of particular interest, although since riding is faster than walking, then anything that keeps us pedaling will ultimately prove faster than the alternative.

Thanks for checkin' in. Don't hesitate with questions.
 

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Great read...and look forward to follow ups.
Living on the MA/NH border....my snows can be very different.
We had 8ish inches of mashed taters 3 weeks ago and now frozen dirt and ice.
Wheels with 2XLs, J5 studded, and Dillinger5 studded sit waiting the next snow.......which will happen when it feels like it. The J5s are the new untried weapon...
Options are great ....until I pick the wrong one
 

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I'm amazed at your continued passion and commitment to finding the best human-powered solution, Mike.

I'm not a big fan of working really hard and going really slow, but I also will not stop riding, so I groom my own trails.

Night Red Winter Darkness Geological phenomenon
 

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I tought maybe puting a foot long ski, 6 in wide under the front tire would be a way to open trails, making 2-4 passes then just ride my Bud/Lou studded wich are pretty much filling my Specialized Hellga small with 90 mm. I might retire in 1-2 years so presently i open on snowshoes.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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So what are your thoughts on the J5s?
 

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I'm beginning to suspect that the answer may not be wider tyres than currently available. We're already stretching out Q factors close to the limit.

Maybe the solution has been under our noses for the last 30 years as done by Jean Naud



Riding through windblown soft desert sand is very similar to fresh snow at times, and spreading the load of the rider has to help somewhat.

Alternatively a quad.
 

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OMG, I clicked those links and damn that tire is ridiculous. But now I understand better why you need so much flotation and a custom bike.

We simply don’t have that kind of snow in the East. I should know because I also am a long time skier (spent 25 years skiing up to 45 days/year).

But I do wonder about the limits of Q factor although a wide Q factor does not bother me.


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I'm beginning to suspect that the answer may not be wider tyres than currently available. We're already stretching out Q factors close to the limit.

Maybe the solution has been under our noses for the last 30 years as done by Jean Naud



Riding through windblown soft desert sand is very similar to fresh snow at times, and spreading the load of the rider has to help somewhat.

Alternatively a quad.
Spreading the load that way seems questionable. Yes you will float, but will the rear wheel bite with the rider's weight so far up front. Climbing will be even worse I think.

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Snow Dog
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I will gladly come out and prepack and ride your trails before you....

for the right price ;)

..and I would also consider coming out just to hang, ride, and learn from you and live in my car!!!!
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'm amazed at your continued passion and commitment to finding the best human-powered solution, Mike.

I'm not a big fan of working really hard and going really slow, but I also will not stop riding, so I groom my own trails.

View attachment 1228840
I've ridden some of 'em. Thanks for what you do.
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
So what are your thoughts on the J5s?
I think I need a lot more time on it to be able to opine intelligently.

Thus far I've got ~15 hours on it, and another 15 hours on the 2XL on those same days. Do a ride on one bike, swap bikes, complete the same lap. It can tell you a lot, but conditions change so fast that you might not notice some key component having morphed.

Best way to do it is to have a riding partner, and swap bikes back and forth every few minutes.

A string of riding partners are moving this way -- started with tonight's ride, actually -- and for the next few weeks, such that we'll have the ideal testing scenario.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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I think I need a lot more time on it to be able to opine intelligently.

Thus far I've got ~15 hours on it, and another 15 hours on the 2XL. Do a ride on one bike, swap bikes, complete the same lap. It can tell you a lot, but conditions change so fast that you might not notice some key component having morphed.

Best way to do it is to have a riding partner, and swap bikes back and forth every few minutes.

A string of riding partners are moving this way -- started with tonight's ride, actually -- and for the next few weeks, such that we'll be have the ideal testing scenario.
Normally, I'd be giving a bunch of ride reports about soft conditions with the snow we got, but now I'm dead in the water recovering from surgery. I probably put at least 50hrs or more on them, simply riding damn near every day while I could. Got several softer rides on some fresh snow, but never deep enough to have any real idea of soft-snow conditions. Hopefully that info comes from someone pretty soon. I have a wheelset with the D5s too, so I can swap back and forth relatively fast, but not on the same ride, and not for a month or two. All in all, they seem more evolutionary than revolutionary considering what else is out there, but absolutely going in the right direction.
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Normally, I'd be giving a bunch of ride reports about soft conditions with the snow we got, but now I'm dead in the water recovering from surgery. I probably put at least 50hrs or more on them, simply riding damn near every day while I could. Got several softer rides on some fresh snow, but never deep enough to have any real idea of soft-snow conditions. Hopefully that info comes from someone pretty soon. I have a wheelset with the D5s too, so I can swap back and forth relatively fast, but not on the same ride, and not for a month or two. All in all, they seem more evolutionary than revolutionary considering what else is out there, but absolutely going in the right direction.
And we have more or less the opposite -- so much snow that we're riding at base (sub 1psi) pressures all the time, and still walking a fair bit.

Comparing them to D5 seems silly -- different design/intent to each.

Mostly agreed on evolutionary.
 

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Sorry to hear about you not riding and recovering from surgery. I’m waiting for my scheduling for surgery which will likely be late Jan or feb. gonna be tough for me not to ride as this is my favourite part of the season. Send tips my way if you got any. I’m also waiting to for my new frame to arrive to try the J5 - hopefully I’ll get a few rides before I’m out of commission.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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And we have more or less the opposite -- so much snow that we're riding at base (sub 1psi) pressures all the time, and still walking a fair bit.

Comparing them to D5 seems silly -- different design/intent to each.

Mostly agreed on evolutionary.
No, conditions are finally prime, lots of new snow, dense packed on a good base, great powder, etc. I just can't take advantage of it.
 

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No, conditions are finally prime, lots of new snow, dense packed on a good base, great powder, etc. I just can't take advantage of it.
Yes, conditions in Anchorage are finally what they used to be like years ago. The new snow definitely got the masses out. Was out enjoying it last night, a couple of short incline pitches on Speedway and in Mirkwood caused my D5 rear tire spin out. I kept thinking out more mass and a more aggressive tire like the J5. We have the same 90mm carbon rims, if you get a chance can you measure the width of that combo please. I'd just like to compare them to my D5's, which are my current go-to tire for softer conditions. And any idea about true weights? Website says studded ~1800 grams.

Thanks, and I hope you recover soon. Had rotator cuff surgery a year and a half ago and missed an entire winter of biking, just killed me. Spend lots of time in the garage on bike maintenance.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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Yes, conditions in Anchorage are finally what they used to be like years ago. The new snow definitely got the masses out. Was out enjoying it last night, a couple of short incline pitches on Speedway and in Mirkwood caused my D5 rear tire spin out. I kept thinking out more mass and a more aggressive tire like the J5. We have the same 90mm carbon rims, if you get a chance can you measure the width of that combo please. I'd just like to compare them to my D5's, which are my current go-to tire for softer conditions. And any idea about true weights? Website says studded ~1800 grams.

Thanks, and I hope you recover soon. Had rotator cuff surgery a year and a half ago and missed an entire winter of biking, just killed me. Spend lots of time in the garage on bike maintenance.
I did in the other thread, but I haven't in a while. They are sitting at pretty low pressure, maybe 3-4psi, but I have ridden them a whole bunch. I just got 120mm, from side knob to knob. But it's VERY soft out there as reported by most of the people at the parties the last two nights. The trails in Far North got more snow than many other parts of town, so what was on top of a decent base two days ago is now going to be soft. Lots of people are heading out today to snowshoe/ski and pack down some of the other trails.

Studded at ~1800 sounds reasonable. Studs are usually pretty light and I think I got around 1730g with none.
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Progress.

After a few weeks of banging out back to back solo laps, riding partners have begun to filter through town so that we can swap bikes repeatedly mid-ride. Doing so gives us better immediate feedback, and removes the possibility of quickly changing conditions affecting the conclusions we draw.





We've ridden at all hours of the day and night, in conditions ranging from decent hardpack to baseless wind drifts, with paddle-track churned merengue as the middle ground. In other words, the whole gamut of local snow conditions, and often all in one ride.





The sizing of the 2XL and Johnny 5 tires is very similar -- casing width is the same almost to the millimeter, but the 2XL stands 1/2" taller from ground to crest. That's a lot of added air volume. Does that added air volume matter? I think a better question to ask is: How much does that added volume matter?



And I think the answer will likely be: It depends -- on the rider, their local snow conditions, the load they carry on the bike, as well as their expectations and desires.



Over the next few weeks we'll continue drilling down and filtering through perceptions, ultimately relying on some combination of those perceptions as well as a few carefully thought out testing protocols to arrive at our conclusions.



Thanks for checkin' in.

 
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