Sunday, 16 July 2017

Fatbiking Safety | The Unexpected Crash


I'm guessing that when most of us hop on our fatbike to take a spin, getting into an accident or putting ourselves in danger is the last thing on our mind. Grabbing a helmet and ensuring the cell phone is charged is probably the extent of most people's safety planning.  I recently learned the hard way that you need to be prepared as accidents can happen at any time.

Not long ago I put a good dent in the "honey do" list and ended up with a little time to kill in the afternoon.  As the weather was great I decided to head over to a local mountain bike trail that I frequent and bounce around for a couple of hours on some of the unfamiliar side trails.  I contacted a couple of buddies, but they were tied up so I went flying solo.

When I hit the first side trail I encountered some rocks and semi-technical downhill sections.  As I expected these types of challenges I was riding in the attack position which allowed me to shift my weight around and stay upright on the fattie.  I'm no speed demon . . . but I had fun.  With one trail down it was off to find the second one on my to do list.

This one was more of a meandering trail through the woods with a couple of rocks thrown in for visual interest.  I was pedaling along on the trail and spied a small rock ahead and decided to roll over it on the right.  As the front tire crested I knew I was in trouble as there was an unexpected drop.  My weight shifted forward and OTB I went . . . face planting in the dirt.  I was alone, without a cell phone, bleeding, had minimal medical supplies and on a trail that was not well used.



I surveyed my injuries (nothing broken), cleaned my wounds (flushing with water bottle), found my broken riding glasses and hobbled back to my vehicle with an uninjured bike.  It was off to the hospital where I discovered I needed eight stitches in my forehead.  I also had a broken nose, broken bone under my nose and multiple facial cuts scrapes and bruises.


CAUTION - The following video contains graphic images.


Click HERE to see the 3 minute uncut crash footage.

As I was healing I realized that the situation could have been much worse. It was time to review my trail riding safety list.

PRE-RIDE

Its always best to ride with a buddy, but at times we have to ride solo.  If a trail side accident occurs your buddy can help triage the situation and get you back to safety.  This luxury is not available when riding alone.  When flying solo I ensure that people know where I am going and approximately how long I will be gone.  Leaving a Google Map of the area with a loved one and a contact number of a riding buddy who is familiar with the area is extra insurance.



I'm not a lover of cell phones, but they can provide an important lifeline in case of an accident.  However, you need to be conscious and have cell service for it to be of any benefit.  For those who do carry a cell phone on their fatbike outings there are several GPS tracking services that can send "crash alerts" to programmed people in case you take a tumble.  And having your name and contact information on a piece of paper somewhere on your person would greatly help any passerby who may find you in an injured state.



In addition to snacks, tools and a spare tube . . . a first aid kit should also have a place in your off-road fatbike excursions.   Although slapping a bandage on scrape may not be necessary, I wish I had a larger bandage to cover the gash on my forehead after the tumble.  Find a kit that works for you and squirrel it away in your backpack.



I know that many of us just grab the fattie and go, but a quick pre-ride bike check is always a good habit.  Its better to notice that loosened pedal before the ride than out on the trail after picking yourself up from the dirt.

PERSONAL SAFETY

I never ride without a helmet, but surprisingly some people do.  I think those folks are crazy as a rock will win against a skull every time.  Some manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet every 3-5 years while other say that may be a conservative time frame.  However, it is widely accepted that a helmet should be replaced after a crash.  

I'm certainly glad that I was wearing my riding glasses when I took my recent tumble.  They flew off my face after impact and when I found them I discovered one of the lenses had popped out.  I shudder to think what would have happened if I had not been wearing eye protection.  During many a ride my glasses offered additional protection from dust, rain, wind, bugs and the errant tree branch.

Gloves.  Some people hate wearing gloves, I can't ride without them.  Landing after an OTB superman my gloves were covered in dirt, rocks and twigs.  They certainty would have been in worse shape if I had been flying naked.  Gloves also reduce rubbing against the grips and offer additional protection when scrambling up or down rock faces.



Shin protection.  I'm pretty sure that most people have felt the bite of pedal pins on your shin after missing a pedal stroke.  Its definitely not pleasant.  I experimented with a couple of bike specific shin/knee protection options over the years and discovered soccer shin protectors fit my riding style.  They are light, not as warm, don't move around and many have built in ankle protection.



TRAIL SAFETY

The main reason why I went OTB was that I was not paying close attention to the trail.  It was an unfamiliar trail and its non-threatening meandering nature tricked me into not paying attention. Its also easy to become complacent when riding a familiar trail, as they too can serve up a surprise when you are least expecting it.

When riding its best to pay attention at all times and expect the unexpected.  And even if you are paying attention there is no guarantee that you will not take a spill.  Everyone goes down from time to time.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED

My unexpected impact with terra firma could have been much worse.   I will be left with a scar reminiscent of a lightening bolt over my right eye as a permanent reminder.

I will be taking a look at the Giro Switchblade and Bell Super 3 as they offer interesting convertible helmets that cross riding styles between trail and downhill.

I will be researching lightweight body protection and will probably supplement my riding gear.   I want to increase protection, but not to the point of riding around like a jousting knight.

My first-aid kit will be much better stocked for the next trail side experience, and I may have to invest in a cell phone (sigh).


Be safe . . . have fun . . . ride on!






Sunday, 2 July 2017

Snow Avalanche 4.0 - Dirt Loving Rubber


During the winter season Fatbike Republic had the opportunity to test a set of the new Vee Snow Avalanche 4.8 PSC studded tires. Impressions were quite favorable on this new tread design from Vee.




Now that the snow is gone, Fatbike Republic secured a pair of 4.0 Snow Avalanche in a silica non-studded version to see how the tire handles the non-white fatbiking seasons.


Be sure to check out the ride video below !

The Tire

The Snow Avalanche is available in two sizes (26 x 4.0 and 26 x 4.8) and in both studded and non-studded versions.  According to the folks at Vee Tire:

The Snow Avalanche features an aggressive tread design for enhancing steering performance and off-camber grip. With a low rolling resistance and excellent float, this directional tire is great for blocked trails or loose snow.

They are also available in two types of rubber compounds: Silica and Pure Silica Compound (PSC) with the off-white PSC being more supple and focused more on winter performance.

Overview

The tires sent for testing were the 26 x 4.0 Silica (black) version of the Snow Avalanche.  With a hardness rating of 57A the rubber maintains low resistance and flexibility in all temperatures.  For comparison purposes a car tire tread measures 60A and a pencil eraser has a hardness of 40A.




These tires are tubeless ready, directional and have a folding bead.  A thread count of 120 makes them more supple than tires with a lower TPI. And if you enjoy studding tires, there are 240 stud pockets for you to fill with your favorite stud.




This is a totally new tire for 2017 and Vee looks to be heading in a new direction with tire design.  A quick look at the tire reveals smaller more square edged lugs that would appear to give more biting surfaces.




Running down the center of the Snow Avalanche are alternating dual and single lugs, with the single having a modified chevron pattern blending into the first transitional row.  The alternating beefy square edged lugs of the first transitional row and the square edged rhombus lugs both contain stud pockets.  The Avalanche's shoulder alternates between large and medium vertically oriented rectangular knobs.  These lugs are slightly concave towards the center of the tire.  For some extra traction the transitional portion of the tire carcass has been textured.



The claimed weight of the Snow Avalanche 4.0 is 1300g and when dropped on the scales it actual weighs in at 1283g.




Mounted to an 80mm rim with 8psi the 4.0 Snow Avalanche measured 3.76” in width.  Tread depth is around 0.17" for the center treads to 0.26" for the shoulder lugs.

Field Test

If you are looking for testing of the Snow Avalanche in winter conditions, head on over to the Snow Avalanche 4.8 PSC review.  It’s one sweet tire for the snow.

These black beauties were mounted to a Norco Sasquatch 6.1 sporting 80mm alloy rims.  Tire pressure remained pretty consistent at around 9-10 psi for general trail riding to 15 psi for hard packed gravel grinds.




Heading to the local mountain bike trails the Snow Avalanche handled the obligatory climbs with ease.  While no featherweight, these tires were easy to spin and lift over trail born obstacles.  The smaller lug size, coupled with the sharper edge profile (no ramping) allowed the tire to grip roots and rocks and keep the momentum flowing.  There was very little if any “skidding” on dirt and rock off-cambers as the heavy shoulder lugs provided plenty of grip.




The modified chevron pattern (reminiscent of the Endomorph) when run in the recommended direction – chevron pointing forward when looking from above – should theoretically provide better braking traction and less rolling resistance.  When run in reverse - chevron pointing back when looking from above – the tire should provide better climbing/mud traction.  I did notice that the tire seemed a little quicker when running in the recommended direction.

These tires also performed well going through the wet and slimy. The lugs churned through the mud and cleared quickly.  The silica compound and sharper squared lug pattern minimized slippage over hard wet surfaces.




When running high psi for gravel grinds these tires rolled really quickly on the center and first-row transitional lugs.  Turning the bars had the fattie running in the intended direction and there was no noticeable washout.  One rider said that the bike feels like it is on rails.  These tires can corner.




Final Thoughts

Don't let the name of these tires fool you.  
After considerable dirt time in the saddle with the Snow Avalanche, I have to say I’m really digging the new tread design from Vee Tire.  They provide plenty of traction, corner well and roll fast.  The smaller sharp edged lugs love the dirt.  The Snow Avalanche would make a super OEM tire for new fatties.





Although not tested in the snow the Snow Avalanche 4.8 PSC proved to be one formidable winter fatbike tire.  The 4.0 Silica version should also do quite well.  If you plan on studding these tires, be sure to do it before riding them as small rocks and dirt pack the stud pockets.

If you are looking replace your worn out 4" tires, or looking to shed  your winter 5" for a snappier 4" tire . . . be sure to check out the Snow Avalanche 4.0 by Vee. 

Ride on !