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Often described as one of the toughest bike races in the lower 48 states, the Arrowhead 135 challenges even the most prepared riders. This is a journal by a non-athlete's participation in an event where starting is often just as much a challenge as finishing.

Training and bike options
August 2, 2010
2 Week Break, Mountain Biking

This past two weeks has been a bit of a break while we did some summer vacationing. It worked out well as this week is exactly 6 months before the Arrowhead, and so training can begin in earnest.

We did a camping trip with the kids down to southwest minnesota, and took the mountain bike for some "prairie biking". We were at blue mounds state park, and they allow bikes on all the trails. They are mowed, but pretty rough otherwise. This park has a fair amount of climbing, too. It was hot and sunny and humid, a wide prairie sort of heat - you kind of have to experience it to understand. The thick smell of prairie sage and wildflowers and grass, and the loud drone of a zillion kind of insects combined with an intense sun and heat that shade provides no relief from. Its no wonder that some pioneers thought the prairies harder to cross than the mountains.

After that, we hauled gear and bikes to the mountains near Boulder, CO. In Boulder, Eric and I did two day rides on (he says) easy trails near town - Heil Valley Ranch and Marshall Mesa. Marshall was the easier and shorter (we were only out for about an hour - it was still 85+ degress at 7 pm), but it was the first day I was there and still wasn't used to the altitude. Heil was great, somewhat steep climb with a great downhill run. I actually passed someone on the way up...

On the bike front, today Salsa introduced a new snow bike called the Mukluk. This is very exciting as I personally am a fan of Salsa bikes, and its a little different from the Pugsley. First, its 4-5 pounds lighter than the Pug. Thats huge for me, as that is transferred directly into the amount of cargo that can be carried. 5 pounds is several days worth of food, for example. Or another camera, or more fuel for the stove. In short, any weight we can transfer from the bike to cargo extends our range.

Another difference is the geometry. The Salsa has a lower standover height than the Pug. One of the things I noted last winter when riding on snowpack was that sometimes its necessary to just push the bike a bit while standing over it, and at one point my leg was getting cold from pushing against the cross bar. I thought a pad would be good. But lowering the standover would have more advantages in rough situations (and save the weight of the pad).

The unknown is that the frame is aluminum. How would that work at -40? Would it crack under the load? I suspect that given Salsa's high quality level that the frames will have much higher cold temperature tolerence than a typical aluminum bike. And actually, it might even be better as steel can get brittle at super cold temps, whereas aluminum can be better at temperature extremes.

In any case, I think I need to get a hold of one for "comparison analysis"... :-)

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