Isaac suggested we see how the fatbiking was around Loon Lake, in the Eldorado National Forest, about a 2.5 hour drive from my house. With the severe lack of snow this winter and weeks if warm weather I wasn’t expecting much of the white stuff up there, lake level is around 6,400ft elevation, but maybe the jeeps and skiers had packed down some snow trails to ride. A big spring storm was predicted to hit so we kinda over-prepared for the worst and brought everything in case we had to gear up if/when started dumping. But when we arrived it was sunny and almost 50 degrees at the lake.
We rode counter-clockwise around the lake from the far side of the dam on the north. The headwind ceased as we entered the singletrack and soon we found some solid snow patches to make me feel like we brought the right bikes. There was a lot of bone dry trail too, especially once we got into more exposed terrain.
This was Isaac’s first fatbike ride and he was riding my first elevated chainstay fatbike that I made over two years ago. It’s an “interesting” bike with only 32 x 36 for the lowest gear. He’s an excellent rider so cruised over the snow and technical rocky rooty trail like he was a fatbike natural. The increased wheel diameter and wideass low pressure tires allowed us to roll over spots that we’d have dismounted on any other bike. But on fatbikes we rolled over the rocks and roots and floated through the hub-deep stream crossings and puddles with relative ease. Slow of course with the 32+lb bikes and huge rim/tire rotational weight but we weren’t trying to set any Strava records.
We had trouble finding the left turn onto the trail that hooks over to the Rubicon trail, patchy snow and deadfall may have been to blame. We found a big rock arrow but it seemed too soon so we continued on. Then after one “detour” we ran across an older arrow made of a few branches that seemed in the right spot. It wasn’t, so we had a great hour-long bushwhacking mission at the far end of the lake. Lifting the 32+lb bikes over shrubs and downed logs was making me wish I built carbon frames, until I thought about how many times we hit rocks and rocks hit us. Good cross-training Isaac remarked. We stumbled upon a nice waterfall separating us from where we needed to be, a good lunch spot before continuing on our hike-a-bike.
Once we finally found the famous Rubicon Trail – a popular Jeep route from Loon Lake to Lake Tahoe – the granite big-rock fatbike-bouldering began. Imagining jeeps on this trail seemed crazy and even on a bike it was a challenge to ride. The increased traction and ‘suspension’ of the tires helped a ton but fatbikes no doubt behave differently on dirt and slick rock than a normal sized tire…it’s kinda hard to get used to. I was wishing for a 2″ higher bottom bracket from all the times I hit my flat pedals on rock or on the off camber snow patch. The wide Q-factor of these bikes makes this even more frequent. There’s definitely a trade off to fatbikes on dirt like I’ve blabbed on about previously. I prefer 29+ most of the time. But overall this route was a great choice for fatbikes.
The last slickrock section was massive and just awesome to experience. This part of the Sierras, on the west side of Desolation Wilderness, brings back memories of my childhood – camping at nearby lakes while attending Mountain Camp on Ice House Lake. The smells, sights, and feel of this area are nostalgic. It was great to be back in that neck of the woods exploring again.