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.
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.
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.
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.