I’ve lived in Washington for about 1.5 years now, and there’s a lot to like. I like how friendly car drivers are to me when I’m commuting to work on my bike. I like the excellent roads around my house in Sammamish. I like how beautiful and green this area is.
But the fact is, it’s June 15 today, and I rode my bike to work wearing tights and a long-sleeve jersey. And I guarantee that I was not overdressed.
I hadn’t thought much about how much colder it is here than in Provo, UT, until yesterday, when I took an impromptu trip out to my old home town to see my friends and go mountain biking for a day. Where it’s warm. And sunny. And the question isn’t whether there’s great singletrack nearby, it’s what flavor of great singletrack you’re in the mood for.
The 7-Year-Drought Was My Fault
I lived in UT for about 10 years, seven of which were low-rain years. We were riding in the mountains in March, and were high in the mountains by late May. This makes for great fun early in the season, but by July you’re riding in deep dust. One of the things I looked forward to when I moved to Washington was no longer having to worry about enough water.
And so — of course — Washington is now coming out of the puniest Winter ever with the likelihood of water restrictions. UT mountains still have big snowcaps left over from the massive snowpack.
I can only conclude that I am The Drought Bringer. Fear me.
The Ride that Wasn’t
This (I mean the still-present snowpack, not my new status as a Drought Bringer) meant that it wouldn’t be possible to do my absolute favorite mountain bike ride of all time: Tibble Fork. That’s a minor shame, because I do not know of any trail in the whole world that has such an outrageously perfect combination of singletrack: killer climbs around switchbacks. Tricky moves up and over rocks, roots, and fallen logs. Perfectly-banked, rocket-fast singletrack through aspen and pine.
I swear, I get misty even thinking about it. Although, to be candid, it’s probably best that I didn’t get a chance to do this ride — the last time I rode Tibble Fork, I was not a Fat Cyclist. In fact, I was a cyclist who could punish most other cyclists who tried to keep up on the climbs. It’s probably best for me to remember riding that trail as the old me.
Another great ride we used to do is called Hog Hollow, in Alpine, UT. As we’d get to the saddle after a relentless 4-mile climb, I’d inevitably make a snarky remark about all the houses being built on the mountain and how soon enough the whole thing would be paved and we’d be doing this ride on road bikes.
Well, now Dug’s gone and bought one of those houses. Which is where we started a ride from. And I have to admit, now I can see why people want to buy houses up on that mountain. The view’s killer, you’re away from the city, and the Jacob’s Ladder portion of Hog Hollow is right out his back door.
Kenny loaned me his new Fisher Paragon for this ride — everyone else was riding singlespeeds (better give the Fat Cyclist something with a derailleur; we don’t want him to die out on the trail — too hard to haul his carcass back to the road). Those 29" wheels completely change the way a bike feels — it seemed like I was waaaaay too high. One time when I went to swing my leg over the saddle to get on the bike, I wound up hanging my leg up on the seat instead, putting me in a trapped, hopping, teetering dance with the bike. I’m not just the Fat Cyclist, I’m the goofy, clumsy cyclist.
And that wasn’t the only thing that was different. He had Grip Shifters, which I haven’t used since my first mountain bike. And Magura Marda disc brakes. Now, to this point, I’ve always been happy with my V-brakes: I can stop every time. But there was in fact something extraordinary about those disc brakes on Kenny’s bike — great modulation, super-light touch, very confidence-inspiring. "I might have to get me a pair of these," I thought.
Then he told me they cost $500. You know, my V-brakes are just fine.
The Actual Riding
While we were riding, I kept rotating through a bunch of different thoughts:
- It feels so great to be on a mountain bike again.
- Wow, I sure am tentative on the downhills. Is that because I’m not used to the bike, or am I really that rusty on a mountain bike?
- Hey, the group isn’t riding away from me on the uphills. Is that because they’re on singlespeeds, because I’m losing some weight and getting my climbing ability back, or are they just taking pity on me?
- Why am I so neurotic, asking myself all these dumb questions?
- Maybe I should stay in my middle ring for this ride, as a show of solidarity with the singlespeeds. (Looks at next climb.) Or, maybe not.
Jacob’s Ladder is a great out-the-door ride; Dug’s lucky to have it. Great singletrack, fun technical downhill, and a good climb. All with a killer view. It made me homesick for when I had "Frank" — a 7-mile singletrack loop — right out my front door, back when I lived in UT.
It’s time I quit sticking to the roads here in WA. There’s great mountain biking to be had. I’ve just got to go exploring.
Today’s Weight: 176.2. Not much of a loss from Monday, but hey. I was travelling. Cut me a break, will you?