Ktrac review and photography

One of our presents to each other this year was a couple of new cameras. I started doing photography when I purchased my first SRL camera when I was 13 and had a full color darkroom in my bedroom shortly thereafter. I got into doing some model photography during my first career as a freelance graphic designer (yes, when I was young and single), but dropped it all when we made the move into software development.

So, I am looking forward to getting re-acquainted with my old hobby, and I'll try to start including better images in the blog for you. Here are some of my first shots with the new Olympus SP-560 from Whitefish, Montana during our Christmas vacation.


I'm writing from our ski cabin in Whitefish, Montana. We're getting
dumped on with snow, so I thought I would take the opportunity to
thoroughly test out my new Ktrac tracted drive and front ski fitted to
my Cannondale mountain bike.

The reason I was originally interested in Ktrac was as a way to keep my bike training up over the winter. The Atlantic ocean crossing is less than a year away, and I would like to have developed a HUGE base before I start really getting into some serious distance training this Summer. The plan is to get WiTHiN out to the Pacific often throughout the winter, spring and summer for some extended trips. I need to start developing a good base now, and mixing in some outdoor cycling this winter is a great way to add miles to my training week and break it up a bit.

Also, I am still trying to arrange another attempt at the 24 hour
human powered boat distance record for possibly June this spring. I've
been talking to the current 24 hour distance record holder Carter
Johnson (240 km in 24 hours on a surfski) about racing me in June and
he's into it, so we'll see. It will be quite a challenge. We've also
discussed the possibility of inviting some other forms of human
powered water travel such as a rowing skull, and an outrigger canoe.

Back to the Ktrac - first of all, here is/was my expectations/hopes.
At a very minimum, I wanted to be able to bike over machine grooved
ski and cross country ski trails up decent grades. Next, I thought it
would be great to have enough traction and floatation to make way
through some fresh powder - not too deep - maybe a few inches on a
packed base.

The Ktrac rear tracted wheel replaces my current standard knobby
mountain bike tire and the installation is very simple - no more
complicated that replacing a wheel. It comes with it's own 8 speed
cassette and my rear caliper break fits onto the Ktrac rim. I also
installed the Ktrac front ski and used it exclusively for this test
because I had forgotten my front wheel at home. The Ktrac rear wheel
is VERY heavy. I don't have a scale with me, but it's got to be 15 to
20 pounds.

I started out sliding down my steep driveway on a layer of hard packed
snow/ice. The front ski was surprisingly like a front wheel! It is a
short ski with some curves cut into the sides like popular down hill
skis. Those parabolic curves bite into the snow and carve nice, tight
turns. It took a few seconds to get used to a bit of a delay in the
input/output compared to a front wheel, but overall it was fairly easy
to adjust to.

The Ktrac rear tracted wheel provided enough traction to climb back up
my driveway without any noticeable slipping. I'm not sure any knobby
wheel would have enough traction for this driveway - possibly a
studded tire tough. The street out front climbs a very steep hill to
the top of the hill our house is built on. Cycling on the road was
fairly easy except when small rocks got caught under the front ski.
When I reached the top of the hill, I took the bike off-road onto a
groomed ski trail. The small trail from the road to the ski trail was
foot-packed, but very deep snow. I had to push the bike through this.

When I reached the flat section of the ski trail, I was surprised that
I could not pedal the Ktrac through this at all! Both the front ski
and the rear track sunk way deep into the snow - even through the
snowplow packed top layer. I was able to ride down the hills though,
as some speed really helped me get enough floatation to stay on top of
the snow. Once I had some speed up, I was able to move across
flattened sections better, but once the inevitable slow-down came, the
Ktrac would get sink into the snow and get stuck.

The downhill runs were fun, and I can see now why Ktrac seems to be
marketing their drive as a way to ride your mountain bike down ski
hills. If you are looking for another way to ski down mountains, then
I think the Ktrac could provide you with loads of exhilarating fun and
challenge. This is not what I wanted to use the Ktrac for though - I
have a ski closet packed full of downhill skis, cross country skis and
mountain boards for that.

Overall, making way over the ski trail was a pain - I was constantly
having to get off and push over the flats and uphills while enjoying
short downhill runs at full speed. I'm not sure if a knobby tire would
have fared any better, but I am certain a good winter knobby tire
would have been better on the road which was the only place the Ktrac
sort of worked.

I do think that I could get the Ktrac to work for me though... I think
what it needs is more flotation. I was talking to the inventor of the
all terrain vehicle who was exhibiting beside us at Wired Magazine's NextFest this
summer in LA. He told me that they designed the skis to distribute 1
pound per square inch of ski area to provide enough flotation to keep
their mahine on top of the snow. If you look at
snowboards, or downhill power skies, they all use something close to
this formula.

I think the Ktrac could be built into the rear wheel of a recumbent
bike, with two skis mounted on each side of the rear Ktrac drive. The
front wheel could be replaced with ski as well, but longer and wider
than the standard Ktrac front ski. If the two rear skis were depth
adjustable, you could set them such that the Ktrac sunk deep enough
into the snow for good traction. The other benefit of the trike
approach would be stability the triangulation provides.

I would be fun to experiment with this and I think that maybe the M5
low racer just might be a good platform for the experiment. It already
has 700 cc rear wheel, so the Ktrac would fit. I could fabricate two
arms which clamp to the M5 frame to hold the outrigger skis.

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Winter Training

On Monday, Helen and I returned from a bike trip through the Tuscany region of Italy with Backroads. It was a wonderful trip! Despite cycling mammoth hills every day (2000 ft up, 2000 ft down, all day long), I managed to gain 10 pounds. Imagine that - eating Pizza and drinking Chianti Reserva day after day with reckless abandon and you will gain a few pounds. Oh well - it's back to a serious training program for this cowboy.

Helen and I are doing the Las Vegas marathon on December 2nd, so I really need to get my running form back. I designed a new training program that will hopefully convert me from my sluggish present self to a lean and mean marathon machine. My goal is 3:15. My training program is here if you care to look it over.

I am also biking an hour everyday to maintain a cycling base plus 3 days of weights (2 days of legs and 1 day of upper body). My goal is to really pursue the Greenland Ice Cap crossing in the spring. Tons of stuff needs to happen first, but I am going to assume that everything will work out as I have planned (ha, ha, ha - good one!), and I want to make sure that I am really super ready for the biking volume that I will need to have as a base. If I can break the 8 day crossing record, it may end up being a solo RAMM-type of effort -RAMM is Race Across America where solo competitors cycle up to 20 hours per day for 8 to 10 days in a row racing their way across the US.

My daily hour of base cycling is now on the mountain bike which is probably what I will end up using to cross the Ice Cap. My goal is to cycle to the gym 5 days per week regardless of what kind of nastiness winter wants to throw at me. This should get me used to various wintry surfaces, and dressing appropriately. It snowed again today - but this year I am actually really looking forward to the snow and cold. Learning about winter biking, camping and survival is kind of exciting.

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Greenland by human power

There has been a new project idea that has been fermenting in my brain for a while.

Since my mission in life is to conquer the world by human power, I figure that I better get on with some of the other kinds of earth aside from water and pavement.

I have always been very fascinated with human powered arctic travel, and have read about a dozen books on expeditions to the poles. I believe that our traditional human powered methods of travelling to the South Pole and possibly even the North Pole could be improved upon, and this challenge really intrigues me.

I think a good place to start is the Greenland ice cap. For details on some of my ideas regarding the crossing, the existing crossing record of 8 days and some ideas for a human powered snow mobile, please visit a new web site that I set up for the Pedal The Ice Cap expedition. Your input is always welcome.

Here is some applicable human power data:

Greenland human powered record - 550 km 8 days by Sjur Mordre - average 2.8 kph

Greenland crossing record using kites - 6 days, 23 hours - average 3.2 kph

Iditabike record - 563 km in 3 days 8 hours - average 7 kph

Cross country ski 24 hour record - around 355 km - average 14.7 kph

The heart of what my concept for a human powered snow mobile could be is the Ktrac treaded rear drive from Ktrac Cycle. I received my Ktrac today and I must say that I am VERY impressed.

I have spoken with Kyle from Ktrac a few times about this concept and he thinks that his patented Ktrac would be up for the challenge. Kyle says that when traction is required on sand or soft snow, the larger contact patch created his track is far greater than the contact patch created from a simple fat tire. For ice or packed snow, a studded ice tire might be better.

I was very surprised at how little rolling resistance this tread has. I was expecting it to be very sticky, but it rolls with very little effort down my drive way.

The plan is to mount it onto my mountain bike and run some tests on various snow conditions. And since this is Calgary, I would expect the snow to start falling anytime.

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