It has come to my attention – painfully, I might add – that many civilians lack a thorough understanding of the beardsicle. Or, as my friend Rio likes to call it, the glacial facial. I have often winced when people would see a fully developed beardsicle and refer to icy extensions of a mustache as “snotsicles.” I mean, seriously, do they think we ride around the woods lazily letting mucous pour from our olfactory intakes? Most of us aren't that barbaric. To comprehend the origin of the large icicles that form on a manly 'stache during winter rides, one must first understand the fundamentals of the beardsicle. You came to the right place, dear readers. Whilst transporting oneself aboard a modern velocipede, physical exertion commonly results in a significant increase in exhalations from one’s mouth, containing a high content of moisture that rapidly cools as it passes through the air and freezes upon – or just prior to – contact with air-cooled surfaces such as hair and clothing. As these frozen particles accumulate on cold surfaces, layers of frost are formed, thereby turning facial hair white in a fashion that has, on occasion, been compared to the appearance of a small, humanoid creature that is sometimes rendered in a painted plaster form to decorate a lawn or garden. Alas, warm exhalations from the nose routinely cause a thermodynamic change in frost crystals located directly above the rider’s upper lip, thereby converting a solid to a liquid that is forced by the laws of gravity to flow downward until such time as the flow of cold air once again forces the liquid to return to a solid form known as ice. This process occurs continuously during physical activity, providing a steady flow of water that adds to the mass of icicles that hang like stalactites from the mustache. In other words, what some refer to as a snotsicle is simply an icicle. It contains the same water and ice crystals as the rest of the frost that covers a rider’s face, chest and shoulders, and should not be mistaken as nasal mucous. After all, fat-biking is a sport not of ill-mannered brutes, but of ladies and gentlemen.
Middle Fork Loop is one of the best winter rides in the Anchorage area. On a sunny day in late winter, when the trail conditions are prime, it has all the ingredients for an epic afternoon. It's reached after a long, sustained climb into Chugach State Park, then runs across the mountains with great views of the Anchorage bowl, Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna. Even Denali, on a good day. And the descent will put a huge, shit-eatin' grin on your face. The problem is that Chugach State Park's management plan doesn't address mountain biking, and certainly not winter mountain biking, so we're still treated as second-class citizens by park managers. We have to beg, borrow and steal to use some trails. Fortunately, we have winter access to Middle Fork again with special-use permits issued to fat-bikers this season. (Last year, after two or three seasons of permits, we got the shaft and were shut out of Middle Fork.) Yes, you have to own a fat bike for this ride. Although trail conditions are sometimes suitable for regular mountain bikes, the special-permit rules specifically require fatties. According to the rules, "A Fat Tire Bike is defined as a self-propelled bicycle created for cycling on soft, unstable surfaces. The tire width is 3.5” or greater and tire pressure is less than 20 pounds per square inch ground pressure." Get a permit and treat yourself to a ride on this trail. Or get a permit just to show state park people that we're here, we're not going away and we want fair access, regardless of how many Nordic skiers don't like to share. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Give them your name, mailing address and email address, and tell them you're requesting a fat-bike permit for Middle Fork Trail. That's it. That's all you have to do. Within a few days, they'll email you a permit that you can print and attach to your bike when riding Middle Fork. Be nice. Follow their rules and don't shred the trail. Try not to be a dick, no matter how many grumpy skiers scowl at you. Then maybe, just maybe, Chugach State Park officials will someday learn to accept us as legitimate trail users who don't need a "special permit" to use our park.
While I was screwing around and not writing a blog over the past few months, a fresh flip-off photo would still arrive from time to time. My friend Debbie stepped up her latest addition to the Fabulous Finger Gallery by going international with the semi-infamous Bicycles & Icicles "No Waxing Required" sticker.
This sticker has turned up in a lot of places. It has gone to Ho Chi Minh City, and is affixed to the famous summit sign atop Col du Galibier, thanks to my roadie-freak friend Gina. And this past summer, Debbie took a sticker along on her mountain bike tour of Nepal, and made sure it found a home on a store window. Probably in what most of us would call the middle of nowhere.
I like knowing that the silly little sticker I made to subtly flip off bike-hating Nordic snobs is slowly working it's way to odd little corners of the world, and staying there to occasionally make a confused traveler scratch his head and wonder what it means.
Because when you think about it, that's pretty much what this blog does to careless surfers of the Internet.
Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people who are
offended by the site of a bicycle? My friend Jules and her hubby the Bike
Monkee found this note on their car Saturday after they finished a ride on
Yes, I said ON Eagle River. They were riding on ice and
snow. You couldn’t even make an argument that they were causing trail erosion
or damage because, come spring, the “trail” will cease to exist when it melts
and flows downstream. And they were riding fat bikes, not Kawasakis, so they
weren’t making noise.
Some grumpy bastard just didn’t like the sight of two people
on bicycles. So he had to try to piss on their good time by arrogantly leaving
a note to say the trail isn’t open to bikes until snowmachines are allowed to
run on it. Yeah, snowmachines. Much of the winter, the river is open to
screaming, exhaust-belching machines. And this bastard is worried a couple of
I haven’t bothered to look up the law cited in the note, nor
do I plan to do so. But I’d be willing to bet that the logic behind the rule –
if there is any – would be related to safety. When public officials determine
the ice is thick enough to support snowmachines, it’s obviously strong enough
to support bicycles. So that’s an easy, no-risk time to say, “Yep, you can ride
your bike on the river now.”
But people routinely spend time on frozen lakes and rivers
before the ice gets super thick. The grouch who scribbled his note was probably
doing the same thing. My guess is that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about whether
Julie and Monkee were in danger. I think he just wanted the place to himself.
Maybe he even saw his method of travel, whether it was on foot, skis or snowshoes,
to be more “pure.”
Screw that guy.
A fat bike on snow is about as close as you can get to a
zero-impact vehicle. And anybody you see riding one is probably going to be one
of the nicest people you’ll meet on the trail.
To hell with the haters. You could never please them anyway.
Last summer, I put this pile of bike-related bullshit on indefinite hiatus. I thought it might even be permanent. But in recent weeks I've found myself wanting to tell some stories and share some photos. Hell, I even have some additions to the Fabulous Finger Gallery that got stashed in the dust bin after Bicycles & Icicles went dark. In short, I sort of miss writing the damned thing. Some people have asked me why I stopped, and a couple have encouraged me to start again. My only reason for quitting was that inspiration had faded, and I felt like the blog was getting stale and boring. With a (hopefully) great season of fat-biking ahead, excitement and inspiration are returning. So in the next few weeks, after organizing my thoughts and wrapping my mind around doing this again, you can expect to see new posts, and some new flip-offs from faraway places. Come along for the ride. If we're lucky, the going will get weird.