Grievous Error

06.13.2006 | 6:49 pm

Last Saturday, I simply could not take it anymore. I had been back in Utah for more than a week, but had not yet ridden the Best Trail in The World, even though I now lived only six miles from the trailhead.

That’s just wrong.

So I got up nice and early (8:30am) and told my wife that hanging pictures, unboxing junk that we’ll never use, and mowing the lawn would all have to wait. It was time for me to go riding.

She was cool with that. My wife’s very cool. My wife is the wifely equivalent of Fonzie.


So Excited

I put my bike on the car rack and drove the six miles to the Tibble Fork trailhead. Yes, I drove six miles so I could go mountain biking. I was in a hurry. I suck.


As I paid for my season pass for American Fork Canyon, I was giddy. I’m guessing the Forest Service guy had never before met someone so enthusiastic to be buying a pass, but for me it was a big deal. It meant that I was home. If you’ve ever completely burned out on a favorite trail, stop riding it for a couple years and then come back. The joy of returning is unbelievable.


Let’s Ride!

So I parked my car at the Tibble Fork Reservoir parking lot, strapped on my helmet (more about this in a moment), rode across the dam, and started climbing.

The first thing I noticed was that the trail was a little wet.

The next thing I noticed was that the trail was becoming increasingly wet, and slippery.

The third thing I noticed was that the mud was rapidly collecting on my tires and in my drivetrain. The rain from the previous two days had soaked the trail to the point that even at the base, it was sloppy and unrideable.

What a letdown.


The Main Difference Between Utah and Washington

A quick aside, here: The second-most-noticeable difference between biking in Washington and Utah is what happens to helmet straps between rides. In Washington, the humidity is so high (ie, it’s always raining) that your helmet straps don’t ever really dry out. They stay soft and supple between rides. In Utah, on the other hand, helmet straps dry out instantly, stiffening to the point where they’re just slightly more pliable than fiberglass.

I bring this up because I now want to bring up the biggest difference between riding in Utah and Washington. In Washington, the trails are (almost) always wet, and often have standing water in low spots. You can ride on these muddy trails with impunity; the mud just falls off your tires, leaving no trace. This mud doesn’t gum up your drivetrain; it doesn’t turn your tires into chocolate bagels. It’s the cleanest mud you could ever imagine.

The mud in Utah is not quite so accommodating.

I, sadly, had forgotten this fact.

Which is to say, after climbing Tibble for thirty feet or so, I realized the trail wasn’t in good shape for riding and turned around.

I should have walked my bike down.

But I didn’t. I rode it back down to the trailhead. For thirty feet or so.

Just thirty feet.

Big mistake.

By the time I got to the trailhead, my drivetrain was completely caked in adobe-like mud.  My tires were big ol’ tasty chocolate bagels. The weight of my bike had increased by 72.3%. Approximately.


No Salvage

The problem with committing to riding Tibble Fork is that it doesn’t leave you with much in the way of plan B options if the trail isn’t rideable. By the time I got out of the canyon, an hour of my ride time had elapsed. If I wanted to do a mountain bike ride, I’d need to first clean my bike. That would take more time. If I wanted to do a road ride, I’d need to go home and get my road bike out. That would take more time, too.

So I went home and changed into my work clothes, and started work on the house. My ride was done.

Saturday’s ride took 80 minutes overall. I rode sixty feet, and jammed my bike up entirely with mud. I think it’s safe to say it was not the most bestest, epic-est ride ever.


Another Big Error

Here’s another interesting characteristic of the mud in Utah: it dries hard. By the time I get home this Saturday (I’m traveling for work through Friday), that mud will have transmogrified into something similar to concrete, albeit marginally stronger. It will have chemically bonded with the bike’s paint. This layer of mud will be strong enough to protect the bike from a nuclear blast, which is comforting, though—sadly—it will also render the bike entirely immobile.

Nothing that six hours with a hose and a toothbrush can’t take care of, though.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 06.13.2006 | 7:03 pm

    I rode Tibble fork to 157 to Pine Hollow(?) to the road yesterday (Monday). It was unrideable in a couple spots, but over-all pretty great.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 06.13.2006 | 8:23 pm

    i don’t know how you do things up in the northwest, but that’s how we roll here in the beehive state. keeps folks off the trails when they shouldn’t be ridden.
    botched brings up another nice difference: our trails dry out really quickly. and it probably won’t rain until august.
    which brings up another difference . . .

  3. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 06.13.2006 | 10:57 pm

    ! ! ! BLASPHEMER ! ! !
    Even with my utter distain for all things that deviate too far from the purity of track cycling, I must protest.
    Even with my love of velodrome riding, my tolerance of the road riding and my complete lack of sympathy or respect for anyone who takes delicate machinery off-road, I must protest.
    Do you run your horses in the worst of conditions and then wait 4 days to rub them down and put a blanket over them?  Do you ride your bike and then wait 4 days to shower and refresh your clothes?  Do you pick your nose and then wait 4 days to flick it off your finger?  I suggest the answer NO.  And yet your poor bike…
    For the love of all things even vaguely related to the purity of a track bike, could you have not at least given your poor humble mountain bike a 2 minute hose down?  Save the spit and polish for Saturday, but show some respect man.  At least rinse off the chunky bits.  That machine was willing to slave under you for hours if you had made a more astute choice of venues and all the thanks it gets is a ride home in the back of the car, then to be thrown in the corner like the prom queens underwear at midnight.
    Utah has changed you sir.  The Fatty Cyclist from Washington that I met last year was a different man, a purist – or as much a purist as a mountain biker can be.  Over time I came to respect you as a brother, and even considered you my equal in cycling and wit.  But now you have some work to do.  There have been bridges crossed and words said that will take a long time to heal.
    My heart goes out to your poor suffering machine.  I am almost of a mind to organise an intervention or start some sort of charity appeal to raise public awareness of the plight of poor innocent bicycles left unsupervised in the care of monsters such as yourself.  Perhaps the government needs to implement a taskforce and create a national watch-list to help identify and minimise the damage done.
    I shall continue to monitor your conduct, in the hope that you come to your senses.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 06.13.2006 | 11:05 pm

    hey mike, dude, chill. while on the one hand, i am indifferent to your pain, on the other, i fear pain you may cause me through the form of letter bombs. but,
    i haven’t cleaned a single one of my bikes in over a year. not even a quick wipe-down. nuthin. i think they like it that way. i know i do.

  5. Comment by James | 06.13.2006 | 11:31 pm

    Fatty, you lie like a rug. No parent of preschool twins sleeps until 8:30am unless there’s time-zone lag involved. Heck, the only way I get morning rides in is to sneak out of the house while everybody else is alseep. Sometimes that involves getting up before I go to bed.James

  6. Comment by Unknown | 06.14.2006 | 2:31 am

    Post Pictures!!  Post Pictures!!!
    Let’s see if you can ferret out a real activist.  (You don’t count, Big Mike.  You were half way there with your attention getting headline, but then you switched to mixed case and started using reason and logic.)

  7. Comment by Zed | 06.14.2006 | 3:40 am

    It’s the dryness that causes that thing with the helmet straps, eh? Believe it or not, I’ve really been wondering about that.
    Oh, and the best method for mud removal is repeated bunny hopping–clears ‘em right  up, but it’s a little messy.

  8. Comment by craig | 06.14.2006 | 11:27 am

    I would have to say all MTB’s should have the following cleaning schedule
    Clean Drivetrain – When Needed
    Clean Rest of bike – Before Ebay sale

  9. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 06.14.2006 | 12:03 pm

    dug – my road bike gets a wipe when I can’t read the stickers any more.  I also sometimes remove the build up from the cluster when replacing the chain.  My track bike gets a a manicure, pedicure and therapeutic massage after each ride before being put carefully back into the climate controlled storage facility (similar to Michael Jackson’s oxygen tent) to await our next outing.
    KeepYerBag – maybe you’ve just never met a calm rational zealot before… Hi, my name’s BIg Mike and just because I punctuate and proof read my rants doesn’t mean I’m not a zealot at heart.
    Caloi – I don’t care how great Fatty says Mrs FC is, if he goes bunny hopping a muddy bike on the hall rug he’s in for an extended period of bread and dripping and sleeping in the garage.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 06.14.2006 | 1:25 pm

    Funny, but road bikes always seem to be clean, MTB dirty. A gunked-up, unplolished MTB is the mark of a serious rider, a gleming carbon fiber or titanium beauty a source of pride to the roadie. At least that’s how my stuff looks. But I always clean the runing gear on the Stumpy.Shifts better that way.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 06.14.2006 | 3:15 pm

    if you’re looking for advertisers,
    look no further than Pam.
    yep, the cooking spray.
    spray it all over your bike before
    any nasty ride and ta-da, no messy
    works great on the waffle iron also.
    although the waffle iron pretty much
    sucks going uphill.
    i believe it will also help keep helmet straps
    supple and baby skin smooth.

  12. Comment by Kelly | 06.14.2006 | 3:50 pm

    I love that you said "transmogrified" because it reminded me of Calvin & Hobbes. Two of the greatest characters. Ever.

    Can somebody take the caffeine away from BIg Mike? I have no problem tackling that guy and taking him down. Seriously. Have you seen my pipes?

    Sorry about not having the epic-est ride. Next time. You have much to learn about mud and stuff, huh? And thanks again for that panniers bag that I FINALLY got put on my bike. I’m riding more now that school’s out and it’s fantastic. Any excuse to ride.

  13. Comment by Unknown | 06.14.2006 | 4:54 pm

    mmm mud covered bike. dirtylicious. ok, bad Homer J impression.

    yo mr Fat cyclist!

  14. Comment by Jsun | 06.14.2006 | 9:01 pm

    argh, today I can relate to your plight, yesterday, not so much
    I went to get on the mt bike for this morning’s commute, (normally I take the ‘road’ bike, but I had gotten up a little earlier to hit a trail on the way in) and the front tire is flat.  No problem, quick tube change and I am rolling. 
    1/2 mile into the three mile trail it flats again with a loud bang, cool, sorta.  No problem, quick tube change and I am rol…, argh, forgot to transfer the pump to other bike.  Fortunately I was saved by another rider with CO2. 
    Cool, I am rolling again, thunk, thunk, argh, its the back tyre this thyme.  Problem, no tubes left, no pump, no fun.  Had to hike out 1/2 mile, call the preggo wife to rescue me and get her to drive me the rest of the way to work.
    Its not quite as lame as your day, (no one will ever beat your lameness) but it was a lot of prep, and build up for a twenty minute jaunt through the woulds.  (wood you bloody believe it, again?) It set the tone for the rest of my day so far.  It should only improve really.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.