After one too many ascents spent dragging my sorry ass, fatbike and full bikepacking kit through deep snow I had a revelation…..
Would a Ski Pulk work for a fatbike, help spread the weight and mean that I could go further and visit previously inaccessible locations?
Not only that but how about taking snow shoes and then mounting the bike on the pulk (when the going gets really tough) and pulling it up the mountain?
Well…..now I know and so read on to see how the first few forays have gone…..
I received my pulk from the mighty fine folks at www.skipulk.com and straight out of the box it looked like it was up to the task!
The first couple of outings were with the kids and only up and around the valley so that I could get used to the fixings etc… (and the kids LOVE it!).
So far so good which meant that the next step was to take the plunge and head off into the hills to see how the rig performed on the mountain.
I picked up a buddy and we headed through the tunnel to Val Ferret in Italy. We parked up, sorted out our gear and wandered off into the forest…..
Whilst researching which sled to go for I liked the look of the Paris ‘960 Expedition TM’ sled. Then, when I spoke Ashley at skipulk.com and explained what I had in mind for the pulk they recommended exactly that model and so the decision was made!
This was coupled with both the standard fatbike attachment for riding and also the skiing harness for when things got a sniff more technically silly.
The morning was cold with clear skies and as we set off I thought I might not have enough layers on but as soon as we got going I soon warmed up.
After the initial climb I could tell that there was a not insignificant weight (in order to put the kit through it’s paces) being dragged behind but the bike still handled essentially normally as all of the weight was behind the bike instead of loaded onto it as would normally be the case for bikepacking trips.
The weight distribution felt really really good and the pulk was stable and tracked really well.
But…..even with this improvement in performance things got a little too tough as the trail increased gradient, became less compacted and grew broken up I decided to swap things around and try out the harness option.
Switching things over took about ten minutes but with a little more experience I could get it down to five I’m sure.
I then headed upwards and onwards alternating between the snowshow trail and deep powder to see how stable, buoyant and capable the setup was.
One thing I quickly realised was that I should have mounted the wheels first and then the frame as the Lauf forks are a funny shape and dragged a little in the deep snow but it wasn’t problematic and everything still worked just as I’d hoped.
It wasn’t easy but then again climbing mountains with full bikepacking kit and a bike strapped onto a sledge was never going to be easy!!!
After a while I swapped rigs with Rob, who was running a regular fatbike and pushing/shouldering it and it was definitely easier with the pulk (and that’s without the pulk-less bike being loaded for bikepacking duties).
But…..easy it was not!
It made me realise that it’s bloody hard work climbing with such a heavy load and in such deep powder conditions – I definitely need to get myself into better shape before I take on any epic challenges.
We stopped for some lunch and watched multiple avalanches on the opposite side of the valley (with one particularly big one which made you think about just how screwed you’d be if you found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time).
Refreshed after a nice little rest we started the descent back into the valley bottom and much fun was had by both parties.
The pulk and load just didn’t seem to hinder my progress in the slightest! The only negative was under braking when the additional momentum caused a bit of a surprise but, once again, that would’ve been the same as riding a ‘normally’ loaded bikepacking fatbike and so on the whole it was still a net gain.
So, after it’s first real test I am very impressed at how it performed, eager to push things further BUT a little apprehensive about just how far I’ve got to go before I am ready to take on the high mountains in winter!
With a little luck I’ll manage to find the time to ride the Rovaniemi 150 next year as I think this setup would be particularly suited to a long, flat race with likely soft and/or deep snowy conditions.
Below are a few more shots of the rig and it’s fittings and I’ll post more after I’ve lived with it for longer.