05.31.2006 | 4:28 pm

Here’s a little glimpse into how distorted my priorities are. For the past few months, I’ve been working in a new job, getting a house ready to sell, selling that house, packing and moving out of the old house, finding a new house, driving from Washington to Utah, and—yesterday—closing on the new house.

That’s not the “distortion of priorities” part. This is: throughout all of this, the main thing I’ve been getting excited about is my new bike commute. Twenty miles each way. I start the ride to work from my house in Alpine (which I move into tomorrow) by climbing a mountain pass (I’m guessing about 1500 feet of climbing), then descending into Draper and riding another ten miles or so to my office in Midvale. On the way home, I reverse the route, ending the ride with a big climb back up that mountain and down the other side to Alpine.

To conclude: forty miles each day, with about 3,000 feet of climbing. If it weren’t for my complete lack of self-discipline foodwise, I wouldn’t be able to help but get into extraordinary shape. Presuming I could climb them at all.

So yesterday afternoon, I just couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see what those climbs were like. So I drove out to the base of the mountain and started riding up.


27 Is a Wonderful Number

Here’s something that’s different between Washington and Utah. In Washington, I only rarely went into my granny gear. Most of the climbs are brief enough around where I lived that I could power up in second, third, or fourth gear—hey, I powered up 12% grades on my 16×48 fixie, knowing that the climb would only last half a mile or so.

Here, though, the climbs just go on and on and on. And on.

As I spun up Traverse Ridge Road, I didn’t take too long to shift into my lowest gear. And not too long after that, I started thinking: I’m really glad I have a 27-tooth cog on my cassette. You wouldn’t think those extra two teeth would make a big difference in perceived effort, but on a long, sustained climb, they definitely do.


Thinking Ahead

I rolled along, noting that because of the way the road curved oh-so-gently to the right—eventually nearly completing a giant “U,” I could see what looked a mile of climbing ahead of me. “This,” I thought, “is going to be an incredibly fun descent.” I put my head down and spun, zoning out for a big chunk of the climb.

From the base of Traverse Ridge Road to the apex is about three miles. A good climb, but not something I couldn’t do on a daily basis. I hope.

I felt good enough that I decided to drop down the other side of the mountain, planning to climb back up. I expected I’d get massive speed going down the four mile descent, but it didn’t work out that way. The headwind was strong enough that I actually found myself pedaling most of the way down; I don’t think I went any faster than 35mph.

I’m not complaining about a downhill headwind, though; downhill headwind = uphill tailwind, which is definitely where I need the help.


Two Words

I zoned out during the climb back up. Which made me wonder: Do I zone out because of the hypnotic effect of a sustained hard effort? Is the “zone out” thing something my brain’s doing to shut off the pain? And do I slow down when I’m zoned out, or go faster? 

My reverie ended as the wind got stronger. I’m pretty sure it’s always windy up there. I wondered if the residents of the Suncrest subdivision tell each other, “But it’s a good wind.”

And then it was time to descend.

I was looking forward to the giant sweeping downhill on Traverse Ridge, and I was not disappointed. A tailwind pushed me along, I got into a tuck and went into the middle of the road—I figure that when I’m going faster than the speed limit, I don’t need to ride on the shoulder anymore.

My nose was about an inch from my bike’s speedometer, so I remember very clearly how fast I was going when the tailwind turned into a crosswind: 48mph.

That is a somewhat scary speed to suddenly have a strong force trying to push your bike sideways.

By the way, the previous paragraph is an example of understatement intended to intensify my point. My point, by the way, was that I was terrified.

In practical terms, I was trying to keep my bike on this left-sweeping arc, while the wind was much more interested in pushing me hard to the right. The front wheel shuddered a little bit as I tried to cope with these competing forces.

Meanwhile, two words went through my head: “Joseba Beloki.” Thanks to endless replays of his horrific crash during the 2003 Tour de France, I have a crystal-clear video of what a high-speed high-side crash looks like etched in my brain.

You know what? That shuddering-wheel effect goes away when you get down below 30mph. Which is the speed I took the rest of the downhill, and will continue to be the speed I take downhills coming down from this mountain.


Pre-Commute Post-Mortem

So after my twenty mile ride—ten climbing miles, ten descending miles—I still felt great. For some unknown reason, the change in altitude doesn’t seem to affect me. So Friday—the day after I move in to my new house—my new commute / training program begins.

It’s going to be the best commute ever.


None of This Is My Fault

05.25.2006 | 6:54 pm

I have, at various times in the last 15 years, been accused of getting people hurt. Let’s be clear: I have never run into another cyclist (unless we were derbying), pushed another cyclist off a cliff, or tricked anybody into doing a trail without describing the trail in detail first.

In fact, I will often begin describing a trail in detail, and the listener will at first act interested, even fascinated, but eyes soon glaze over, and before long, the audience just wanders off. They do this at their peril. I cannot stress this enough. As a result of this lack of attention, a few folks that I’ve introduced to the world of mountain biking have been injured. As far as I know, none have actually died.

My attorney advises me to not talk about this, but jeez, if you can’t relive the glories of crazy mountain bike injuries, what’s left?


The List Is Lengthy

I’ll abridge it for you. But only a bit, cuz one of the beauties of the Web for writers is No Word Count Limit. Although, if someone like Brad has read even this far, it’s longer than he’s ever paid attention to anything. Brad, if you’ve read this far, call me, I’ll buy lunch next time.

Anyway. I’m not going to say “top five mountain bike injuries sustained by folks I’ve introduced to cycling.” That would be stupid, not to mention derivative. No, I’m going to say “Here are some incidents in which some folks I’ve introduced to mountain biking have been injured.” Isn’t that better?

I should clarify, I take no responsibility for anybody who was a regular mountain biker before they rode with me. That means I don’t take responsibility for Tom Burch following me off a huge kicker on Pine Hollow and landing in a crumpled heap, and rolling right into his wife’s feet and separating his shoulder. His bad.

Also, Raymond Bennett was a regular rider long before he had a heart attack on Gooseberry Mesa. Not my problem. Plus, he’s back in the saddle. There are others whose injuries, while spectacular, are clearly not my fault.

For example, last year, a guy from Boston, I forget his name, was in town for a partner meeting. He was a big MTB racer type, and wanted to see what we had to offer in Utah. I took him up AF Canyon, we climbed up the road, jumped on the trail at Timpooneke, crossed to Pine Hollow, up to the Ridge, and out to Mud Springs, where serious downhilling starts, and finishes at the Tibble Fork reservoir.

This guy (why can’t I remember his name? He was a great guy, I should remember his name. I always remember stuff, I’m the guy who remembers stuff. Okay, I’m calming down now.), this guy was doing great. I mentioned some of the downhill was a bit sketchy, but he blew me off, and stayed right on me. We had passed through the sketchy stuff, and were enjoying the final mile, which is beautiful twisty singletrack, primo stuff.

When I got to the lake, he was nowhere to be found. I waited. And I waited. Finally I started back up, just as he came around the final corner. With a cut on his thigh an inch wide and 12 inches long, and a view into his leg that should have been its own M.A.S.H. episode. Instead of presenting to the engineers later that morning, we spent the morning in the ER, and he flew back to Boston with a foot long baseball stitch and lots of antibiotics.

But that’s not the point. The point is, he’s not my problem.

However. I do feel bad about a few others.


This List Is Longer Than I Thought

I feel bad for Eric Clegg, a very nice guy, who descended the crux move on Tibble Fork, but halfway down chickened out, grabbed a ton of brake, and slid off his newbie pedals and right onto his stem. For a while there I was sure he had ruptured at least one testicle.

I feel bad for J.D Nyland, an expert motocrosser, new to the pedal bike thing. At the bottom of Tibble Fork, he saw me on the trail below him, turned sharply left, not realizing the actual switchback was still 50 feet in front of him. His front wheel stopped on a downed branch, and he supermanned 10 vertical feet right at me, landing directly on his helmet. Whoops. He couldn’t turn his head for a week. Which, considering his airtime and distance, was definitely getting off easy.

I feel bad for Reed Willmore. Also on Tibble Fork. Wait, I’m seeing the problem here. Nevermind. Anyway, Reed Willmore.  Short technical steep section between the lower meadows on Tibble Fork, he failed to brake sufficiently. That’s a great phrase, failed to brake sufficiently. Pretty much describes the world’s problems, doesn’t it? Adolph Hitler, failed to brake sufficiently. Same with Stalin. Or Mao. Or George Bush. Or Elden.

Anyway. Joe Jensen (who has so far escaped serious injury, despite his association with me) came over the rise, and saw Reed far off the trail writhing in the weeds. Separated shoulder. Surgery. Sorry Reed. Next time brake sufficiently and everything will be fine. Although, I guess that didn’t work out so well for Eric Clegg, did it?

I feel bad for Bill Harris and Todd Smith, who, upon crossing the Ridge, heading for four Corners, nearly had to be lifeflighted since I lack any first aid skills whatsoever, despite my first aid merit badge, which is just the tip of the iceberg of all that’s wrong with the Boy Scouts of America. Don’t get me started. For both Bill and Todd, a couple of minutes of barfing and dry heaving helped a lot.

I feel bad for Eric Gaoiran (that’s right, I said Gaoiran, what, it’s Filipino), my brother in law. Although, with Eric, it’s hard to tell what biking did to him, and what he did to himself. Could be anything. But he’s gone over the bars at high speed into trees, rocks, and bushes more than anybody else I’ve ever seen. He’s like Mr. Bill, though, the way he bounces back.

I feel bad for my father in law. We did a family trip around White Rim, a 3 day thing, with Kim, her sister Rachelle, Rachelle’s husband Rick S., her dad, and a couple friends. In the parking lot at Island in the Sky, Senior (Kim’s dad) accidentally grabbed a fistful of front brake, went over the bars, and ended up with the perfect six inch chainring tattoo on his calf. I am very envious of this one. If I had the balls, I’d re-enact this crash myself just for the bitchin scar.

I feel bad for Vard Bischoff (seriously, I’m not making these names up). At Deer Valley, we’d finished the singletrack part of the Big Bear trail, but on the fire road finish, he got air over one of the erosion bars at speed. Let’s just say this was an unfamiliar position for him. He landed right on his head, and spent the next couple hours repeating himself every few minutes. He didn’t forget his name though.

On that same trail, different time, Steve Daly, tried to pass Joe Jensen in a switchback. Bad idea. He lost much of the skin on his knees, ended up in the Park City care center. You’d think Park City would have had more and better medical facilities. Nope. We would have been better off going to 7-Eleven and buying band aids.

And I guess I should mention Kim on Slickrock, about a mile or so in, climbing a very steep wall, not getting forward enough, and falling over straight backwards. That sucked.


None of This Includes Fatty

And then there’s Elden. I don’t even know where to start. Because Elden didn’t really injure himself early on when I got him out riding. He was too much of a puss to try anything. But as Elden’s confidence grew, sadly, his technical skills didn’t. And the injuries came, one after the other. Please, don’t ask him about his shoulder. But I take no responsibility for that, cuz once you’re out of the newbie stage, you’re not my problem.

Elden is his own problem now. Thank God. My lawyer advised me to say that. The “Elden is his own problem now” part I mean, not the “Thank God” part. That part is there for the ACLU.

News of the Weird

05.23.2006 | 10:51 pm

I live in Draper, UT, at Suncrest, to be specific, which sits atop the ridge that divides Utah County from Salt Lake County. I have been riding in and around these two counties for close to two decades. It’s usually a pretty nice place to be, although I’ve seen some weird stuff in that time.  

Once, on Hog Hollow, Dennis Dierken and I came around a corner and startled a young couple who had parked their 4 wheeler, spread a blanket, and were doing their darndest to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the Earth.

Sometimes I’m the weird one. Tom Burch and I took my dog Maisey on Hog Hollow, which sports a beautiful natural spring, replete with an upper pool and a 20-foot, 45-degree natural water slide into another pool. We didn’t like the idea of riding in soaked bike shorts the several miles remaining to the car, so we hiked Maisey to the top of the slide, and all three of us slid down au natural. In full view of a local youth group, turns out. We didn’t see that coming.


Normally, American Fork Canyon Is Very Pleasant

But last Summer I most definitely wasn’t the weird one. I ride a lot from my house at Suncrest down to Alpine, and up American Fork Canyon to the summit, and back. It’s my favorite road ride, just over 40 miles, over 4,500 feet of climbing, and some of the nicest scenery this side of the Matterhorn. During the Summer, I try to do this ride once a week.

One day, late last Summer, I was very much enjoying this ride. The conditions were perfect, I was feeling strong, I was alone with my iPod. The AF Canyon descent has some very fast but tight switchbacks up high, and also lower down, some bigger switchbacks and some flat out sections where you can get over 50mph.

About halfway down I passed the Pine Hollow trailhead, rounded the wide switchback below it, and opened it up again. Just below Pine Hollow is a straightaway for just under a mile, then another wide long switchback before the road straightens out again in front of the Mutual Dell campground.

Most riders brake through the Mutual Dell switchback, because either they are cowards, or they just don’t realize that you don’t have to. In fact, you can accelerate all the way through this switchback. I hear a voice in my head every time: “Stay on target! Stay on TARGET!” I’m a product of the media.

Anyway. This day, I rounded the Pine Hollow switchback (which does, in fact, require a bit of braking), and then opened it up again, anticipating the X-Wing corner ahead. About halfway down the straight section I saw the most startling thing I’ve ever seen. Normally, I would say “second most startling,” out of respect for the idea that surely SOMETHING must rank higher. Not this day.


I Am Not Making This Up

Just before a stand of trees, from the scree-covered slope to my right that dropped off at a precipitous angle, up popped a very tall, very lean, but well-groomed man. He gained the edge of the road, straightened up, and began walking briskly directly at me (me, who was traveling at about 40mph at the time).

Now I understand that this is not that weird. What was weird was that he was wearing a very short, very tight, spaghetti strapped, brown linen dress, densely populated with ginormous fake (I assume) breasts. He had a neatly trimmed beard, short hair, very hairy legs, and was wearing high heels that had those goofy (or sexy, depending on your preference) lace up strap things that wind all the way up to the knee.

As I rode by, very nearly crashing directly into him, all I could manage was a nervously polite nod of my helmet. In turn, he smiled a smile as big as all outdoors, and walked right past me. I snuck a look back just before the switchback, and saw that he had continued walking up the road at the same brisk pace, clearly very comfortable walking in high heels.


Two for the Price of One

You would think that would be weird enough for one day. Hell, weird enough for the whole year. But no. After I rounded the switchback, wondering if I did, in fact, see a puddy tat, I again wound up the speed as I passed Mutual Dell, which is usually an irresistible 55mph area.

As I zoomed past the gate to Mutual Dell, I startled a gigantic, but clearly juvenile moose, who, in response to my presence, took off running (as only a moose can run, all skiwampus) alongside me. At about 30mph. For about half a mile.

I can hardly type this without getting a big goofy grin on my face. I was still totally freaked out by the sasquatch in the spaghetti strap dress, and here I was about to be killed by a freaky fast baby moose putting a hoof in my spokes. The moose eventually must have realized I was not his mother, and peeled off and stopped.

Wierdest 90 seconds of my life. What if life were that wierd all the time? I swear the two events are related in some way, I don’t know how. Moose suit? Hazing incident? Humans and moose (meese?) mating in the wild? I would normally suspect Elden or Rick Maddox, but this guy was tall.

I vaguely remember the rest of the ride home. I mean, how do you top that? I still had to descend the rest of AF Canyon, cross Alpine, and climb the 4 miles and 1500 feet to my house, but who cares? And you know what’s crazier? A guy in my neighborhood, when he heard about my story, came and found me, and told me he had seen that same guy in roughly the same spot, about a week earlier. This guy should have his own hunting season.

No word on if he was wearing the same outfit, or if the moose was still in the neighborhood.

How Did I Get Here?

05.22.2006 | 5:49 pm

How Did This Happen?


I mean, how did bikes happen to me, not, how did I happen to blog this week for Elden, although, I’ll tell you that if you want to know. Do you want to know? You do, don’t you? Whatever.


Here’s what happened. Last Friday, Elden IM’d me and said “Hey, I’m going to be moving next week, I need you to guest blog for me.”


I said “No.”


He said “So, you’ll have to log in as me, and MSN puts the date in for you automatically . . . “


I said “Hey, did you not hear me? I said No.”


He said “Whatever, anyway, 3 times will be enough, Monday, Wednesday, Friday I’m thinking.”


We went on like that for a bit, I’ll spare you the rest. I’ve known Elden for a long time. There’s no use arguing with him when he gets like that. And if I didn’t do this for him, you can be sure, he would get me back. Put pictures of me naked on the web (and, yes, he has some, and trust me, you don’t want to see them), steal all the power cords from my computer, have the shop mechanic fill my tubes with water. Get his brother in law to not pay me for a month. Something. Not worth it. So here I am. I don’t promise funny, or vitriolic, or anything.


I only promise to take up space. You know, like Chris Stevens in Northern Exposure. The radio station had one rule: No dead air. Dead being silent. I won’t be silent.


So How Did Bikes Happen?


To me, I mean. Well, by accident really. I was a ball and stick sport kind of guy in high school and college. Wasted my youth, really. I get angry just thinking about it. I grew up in Minnesota, but headed west to BYU for college, in order to fulfill my wildest dream, which was to conform to every expectation my family had for me. That went well, I think.


But toward the end of college, I had a friend who wanted to take me mountain biking, something I had never really heard of. He showed me a couple bikes he had, Cannondales, I think he called them Fat Boys. He told me they cost around $1,000 each. This was 1989, mind you, back when $1,000 meant something. Anyway, we rode up Rock Canyon, by most standards a really crappy ride. Talk about your first hit of Crack. I was immediately hooked.


However, since my parents were trying to wean me off the family teat, I was in no position to buy Ramen and Ketchup, much less a $1,000 bike, so I went back to the balls and the sticks.


But a few years later (after I met and married Kim), a favorite professor of ours, Cecilia Farr and her husband, Tracy, took Kim and me to Moab, where we rode Slickrock. Can you feel the weight of history? That was 1991, the bike was a Giant Sedona (later outfitted with a bitchin Rock Shox Mag 20), and I was wearing short John Stockton style shorts, no shirt, and Tevas.


Yes, I have pictures. No, you can’t see them. But my life was changed forever.


I could document my life since by listing children (3), or jobs (who cares), or houses (4). But it’s more accurate to do it by listing bikes. This is like in the movie Gattaca, where they go around checking people’s DNA to see if they’re cool or a likely sex partner. But bike history gives you a better idea of compatibility than DNA or sexual history.


Here are the bikes I’ve had:


The aforementioned Giant Sedona (The guy at Gorilla Bikes talked me up from the cheaper model, exposing a serious flaw in my character).


Jamis Dakar Sport (At various times rigid, Amp fork, and Softride stem. The Spectre Ultralight seatpost broke off under me halfway down Porcupine Rim. I still have the scar.)


Bridgestone, MB1 (Rigid, until I broke the fork off at the crown during the inaugural 24 Hours of Moab, on my first night lap).


Schwinn Homegrown Full (I scored this bike by BS’ing my way onto a grass roots racing pro-form—it was later stolen out of my in-law’s backyard, after a Wasatch Crest night ride).


Schwinn Homegrown Hardtail (Purchased with insurance money, later sold to bro-in law as his first real bike. He now kicks my ass, all the time.)


Salsa a la Carte (Got this back when they made these by hand, I dented it at the Tour of Canyonlands race, converted it to a singlespeed in a premature singlespeed phase, eventually phased it out).


Bridgestone RB1 road bike (Totaled in head on collision with large delivery van, along with parts of my body).


Gary Fisher Supercaliber, Marzocchi Z1 (Sold on MTBR to someone who then objected to several missing teeth on the big ring. Where did I lose those?)


Lemond Zurich Road (Sold after I was run off the road on the Alpine Loop by a woman in an SUV searching for a tissue. She was a really nice lady. I still have the scars.)


Cannondale R2000 CAAD 7 Road (I still have this bike, and plan to have it forever. The top tube is slightly bowed from when Kim drove into the garage with bikes on top, one week after I got this bike. Doesn’t seem like a structural problem, although I think about it when I get up over 55mph.)


Cannondale Gemini (Six inches front and back. I still have this bike, I loved this bike, but I haven’t ridden it in two years, which brings us to . . .)


Surly Karate Monkey SS 29er (Bought it used from Brad, this is the best bike I’ve ever had. It weighs about 30 lbs, which isn’t exactly optimal for a singlespeed. I plan to get new wheels, rigid fork, maybe put on old XTR V-brakes I have lying around. I finally counted the gearing when Brad eased it up for me for White Rim, moving from a 32X18 to a 32X20. I loooove this bike. I’m telling you, I will buy and sell no more forever.)


Here’s the Thing


My friend Paul, the judge, once asked me how I liked some tchocke I was riding in Moab. After I gushed for a minute, he said, “I don’t know why I asked you, you’re not trustworthy. You always think whatever you’re riding right now is the best thing ever.”


And he’s right. That’s how it’s turned out. The best bike in the world is the one I’m riding right now. Always. Always and forever.

The Best Bike Race Ever

05.19.2006 | 5:55 pm

You know, it’s a shame I’m moving next week, because on yesterday’s ride, I had an idea for the best bike race ever, in the history of…ever.

And as far as I know, right here in the Redmond, WA area may be the only place where it would actually work.

Here’s what I’m thinking.


Stage 1: Track

The race starts at the Marymoor Velodrome with sixteen laps around the track. A test of pure power.


Stage 2: Cyclocross

Staying at Marymoor park, the next stage is Cyclocross. Your transition counts as part of your total time, so you won’t want to dilly-dally. Luckily (unlike Tri), all this means is changing your equipment: your bike and (probably) your shoes. And yes, Marymoor Park really does host Cyclocross events, so this isn’t just a theoretical, convenient placement. You really could make the immediate, direct transfer from track to cyclocross. Do three laps of the course.


Stage 3: Road

Jumping off the ‘cross bike (and switching back to your road shoes) and onto your road bike, take the rolling highway 202 up to Snoqualmie Falls—the road has an excellent shoulder the whole way, so you wouldn’t even have to shut down traffic altogether. After the quick climb to Snoqualmie Falls, hang a right and climb up to the Tiger Mountain parking lot. I’m not exactly sure, but I think this is only 15 miles altogether, which will feel like plenty, considering the big climb up to Tiger Mountain (and the fact that you’ve just done a track and ‘cross race).


Stage 4: Mountain Bike

At the Tiger Mountain parking lot, swap out to your mountain bike (and do one more shoe change), then ride the graded three-mile dirt road climb (a perfect single speed climb, I’d think, if you’ve still got the legs for it), and then take the twisty, technical, excellent singletrack down to the bottom, demonstrating that there’s more to your riding ability than just a good set of legs.


There. One big bike race. Four bike disciplines. No driving between stages. It would leave you cooked in whole new ways, and demonstrate how well-rounded of a cyclist you are.

I don’t know if such a race could be managed anywhere else in the world. Maybe that’s part of why I love the idea of it.

Hey, race-promoter types: please, do this. Please. You can name it after me. Call it "Fatty’s Gauntlet."


Today’s Weight: 163.8. That’s a net loss of 6.8 pounds since Monday. The Stunt Diet™ rules.


PS: Next week, I’ll be moving. During this time, Dug will be guest blogging. I admit I have two fears related to Dug blogging:

  • He will mess up the place. I worry that he will offend everyone and nobody will ever come back.
  • He will clean up the place. I worry that he will be much funnier and more interesting than I, and nobody will want me to ever come back.

PPS: Since I’m going to be gone and unable to look at comments next week, I’m going to wait ‘til I’m back the following week to do my MSN Free Stuff-Palooza. Thank you for your patience.

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