Take a minute and try to imagine every single thing that you 'need' when you head out on a bike ride: Bike. Clothing. Food. Sunglasses, shoes, helmet, and gloves. Tools, tubes, and spare parts. Camera? GPS? Batteries? Alright, now put all of that into a mental pile for a second. What if that ride were going to be overnight? Then you'd need to add shelter of some sort (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), more food, perhaps a means of cooking it, and a means to procure water. Got that added to your pile? Now, imagine that this overnight ride is going to actually be more like 25 overnights--over three weeks out. And it's going to happen during the Alaskan winter.
Got all that? Pretty big mental pile, eh?
Now load it all onto your bike. Ha! Three weeks where you have no possible chance to get so much as a toothpick if you need one, unless you've been carrying it along the whole time. 3 weeks worth of toothpaste, TP, clothing, food, shelter, and all the little necessities. If you give this any thought at all, you'll quickly realize that you may or may not even know how much TP to take for a 3 week trip. And that's only the beginning of the head games.
Deciding what and how much to carry is one part of the puzzle, figuring out how to carry it is another. Since the aforementioned trip will occur in winter, the sheer amount of insulation, calories, and fuel that need be brought further compounds the head games.
For the '05 trip this was the answer:
It took about 500 miles for me to finally get it through my head that it was unrideable on anything but flat tarmac, and then only just. Ask Bill M.
In '06 the answer evolved to this:
Almost completely opposite from the '05 version in that this one was awful on flat tarmac, and got better on snow and even better still as the snow got softer and more technical.
The problem with both is that third wheel hanging back there and creating another chunk of rolling resistance. I never had any illusions that it'd be easy to pull a ~90lb trailer in soft snow, but I also never envisioned just how slow it would be. I ended up having to take more stuff along to account for the slower pace of pulling the original load of 'more stuff'. And while we're heading in a different direction right now, I may still end up using the '06 setup again, as it may prove to have the fewest compromises.
But for now, we've taken a different tack, and one that I'm not completely certain is the 'right' one.
Many folks have been telling me (some of them for years) that I should just throw it all onto the bike and ride it that way. This is a good time to go back to the opening sentences above and think about how much stuff one needs for three winter weeks at 65 deg N lat. Then look at the pics of how much 'stuff' is packed onto the trailers. Then consider that I'm no slouch at packing light. Lastly, consider that riding snow poses it's own set of problems, and distribution of one's load makes all the difference between riding and walking. Load poorly even on a 3 day sashay and you'll walk more than ride. Load 3 weeks worth of stuff onto two wheels and the odds are that you're gonna walk, period. Snow trails are often nothing more than a few mm of crust left by a fast moving snowmachine. Overload that crust and your speed goes from 3-4 mph to 0-.5 as the effort to maintain it increases exponentially.
I *did* mention that I'm not sure this is the right road to follow, didn't I?
Among many, many, many other ideas that have been batted around this summer, this is one of the few that is unequivocally a 'good one'. The only good reason for a titanium dual crown rigid fork is (IMO) to store fluids that would otherwise take up valuable space elsewhere on the bike. In this case, that fork will carry about 8 days worth of fuel for melting snow to make water, which will in turn be used to rehydrate food, hot chocolate, and eventually me.
And that's just the beginning.