I was in Utah a full 30 hours before I went on a mountain bike ride, so you’ve got to admire my personal restraint and single-minded focus on my new job.
Preparing for the Ride
I met Kenny, Bry, and Rick at the parking lot of the Grove Canyon Trail. We all just call it “Grove,” though. Kenny was putting the final touches on my brand new, never-rode-it-before bike: a Fisher Paragon. And by “final touches,” I mean that he had put about fifteen extra reflectors on it.
By getting a Paragon, I had completed my assimilation into the group. All four of us were riding 29" Paragons. Two yellow (this year’s color), two deep red (last year’s color).
Sadly, Rick had forgotten his helmet and bike shoes. This would not have happened if Rick would learn and use what I like to call “The Mountain Bike Checklist Ditty.” It goes like this:
The Mountain Bike Checklist Ditty
Air pressure, lube and tube
Don’t forget the CO2
Water in the bottle too
Always wear a helmet!
Shoes and socks and shorts and shirt
Cell phone in case you get hurt
MTB, ride on the dirt
Now you’re set to go!
copyright 2006 Fat Cyclist Productions. All rights reserved
OK, I admit: I just made up that ditty. But (I’ll further admit), I’m now rather smitten by it. I think I’ll memorize it and start using it.
I encourage you to do likewise.
And Now, Back to the Ride
Rick borrowed a helmet from Kenny. This helmet was far too small for Rick’s enormous melon, and perched comically atop his noggin. On the plus side, it did make Rick seem much taller.
For shoes, Rick was out of luck. He wore his street shoes, and did not complain about them even once during the ride. Props to Rick.
Grove starts out easy. Deceptively so. You start by riding along wide, gently climbing dirt road, chatting and joking with your riding buddies. This goes on for about a mile.
Then you take a right turn, and everyone stops talking. That’s because suddenly Grove gets brutally steep, and it stays steep for the rest of the ride.
At first, it’s just steep dirt road, which is not too big a deal. Just scoot forward on the seat, drop down a gear, and pedal.
Then it turns left into a steep gully and gets technical. Hoo boy. I feared this moment. I’ve cleaned that chute maybe 10% of the times I’ve tried it, and I am not currently in the best shape of my life.
I cleaned it. No slipping, no problems. Maybe there’s something to this 29" wheel thing.
Kenny shot on ahead, while I — strategically weaving and blocking the trail — kept Rick and Bry from passing.
After the first set of climbs, we traditionally regroup at a little fire ring. Everyone was really kind, avoiding looking at my gut, not mentioning how Rick was climbing better in his penny loafers than I was in full MTB kit.
Then we started again.
The second half of the climb is even more difficult than the first half. While slightly less steep, it’s absolutely relentless, and it’s almost entirely on loose shale. With serious exposure on the right side. Slip a foot to the right and you’ll be lucky to live. Or unlucky, maybe. Let’s not talk about this anymore, OK? I’m getting queasy.
We got to the bench — someone built a little park bench way up on this treacherous trail as a monument to a lost outdoorsman; best tribute I’ve ever seen — without hitting any snow. That’s about 2000 feet of climbing in about four miles (purely a guess).
We couldn’t continue on past the bridge, though; the north side of Grove is always a muddy, snowy mess long after the South side is clean and clear.
Time to descend.
I developed a couple theories as I rode down this shale-with-death-inducing-exposure:
- Descending skills get rusty when not practiced
- Rick is completely insane. He descended faster — a lot faster — than I did while wearing penny loafers perched on his clipless pedals. Freaky.
I got to the bottom without any problems, though I’m sure I looked ridiculously tentative. I know I sure felt ridiculously tentative.
I still beat Bry to the bottom, though.
My legs hurt.
My stomach is huge.
I’m glad to be back.