I love big rides. Even when I am suffering monumentally, bonked and sick and barely able to turn the cranks at all, there’s a kernel of my brain that knows I’ll be back. Because every once in a while, an epic ride will go perfectly and you’ll feel like you’ve seen half the world in a day.
That’s how last Saturday was.
BotchedExperiment and I met at the Grove Canyon trailhead at 6:00am (others were invited, no others came). Over the next six hours we’d do a thirty mile loop, at the end of which I would effuse, “This was the best ride of the year.”
Somehow, everything that could go right, did. And everything that could go wrong, didn’t.
I was having such a great time, I found myself making a list of what was great about this ride. I doubt that I remember all of them, but here are a few, in semi-random order:
- Terrain changes: The ride we did starts by making you climb steeply on dangerously exposed, loose shale for a few miles. Then you cross a bridge to the other side of the canyon and you’re on forested singletrack. That turns to tall grass and ferns, then to high mountain desert. Then you’re in an alpine forest, then in a giant grassy meadow. Then a boulder-strewn, hair-raising descent. Then twisty, buff singletrack. All within in 25 miles.
- Feeling cold in July: We were in the shadow of the mountain until about 10:00am, which—coincidentally—was about how long it took for us to do the bulk of the climbing for the day. I had expected to be uncomfortably hot for most of the ride, so to be cool—and to have my wet feet (from the dew on the plants and from the occasional stream crossing) be cold on the first day of July—was a great surprise.
- Telling complete strangers about the ride you’ve done so far, knowing there’s almost no way they’re doing something as awesome as you: As Botched and I rolled into the Timpooneke parking lot—about 2/3 of the way into our ride—a guy in biking clothes asked us what our ride plan for the day was. I was so happy to say, “Well, actually we started at Grove Canyon, rode up until we caught the Great Western, then took that up to the summit of Timpooneke and rode that to here. Next, we’re going to head toward Pine Hollow, connect up to the Ridge Trail, take that to Mud Springs, and then follow Tibble down to the reservoir. From there, we’ll just take the road back to the Grove trailhead. What’s your plan?”
- Botched’s hairpin: In a completely non-show-off-y manner, Botched pulled off the most elegant downhill hairpin maneuver I have ever seen. Instead of approaching the hairpin (a tight U-turn) slowly and then trying to stay upright as you squeeze your bike through a turn with a smaller diameter than the length of your bike, Botched did this: He rode smoothly to it until his front tire was at the inside apex of the turn. He then locked his front brake and did a nose-wheelie, pivoted the rear-wheel in the air 160 degrees, set the rear wheel down and continued riding. It was a thing of beauty, I tell you.
- 25 miles of singletrack, 5-6000 feet of climbing: Neither Botched nor I had an altimeter, so I really don’t know how much climbing we did, but I think 5000 feet is a conservative guess. 7000 is probably the outside limit. But we spent the whole day on singletrack, and the trailhead was no more than five miles from either of our houses. Oh, and that 25 miles of singletrack only scratched the surface of what was available to us. Utah is, in fact, a pretty great state.
- Running across two groups of cyclists and a couple of hikers in 25 miles of singletrack: During the big six-hour ride we did, on a holiday weekend, we saw a couple hikers on the trail, one tent (at Indian Springs, where there is always someone camping), and a couple hikers. Otherwise, we had the trail to ourselves.
- The Apex Trail Moment: In Utah, a given trail is going to be perfect twice in a year: Once in the Spring or Summer when it dries out but before it gets dusty, and again in the Autumn when the rain packs down the dust. Botched and I hit this trail at its absolute best.
- Small groups: It’s a well-known fact that a large group is difficult to get moving, and just as difficult to keep it moving. When you’ve got a small group—up to four people, say—you can cover a lot of ground, even if you’re fat and slow. I don’t think Botched and I stopped for more than five minutes at any point.
- Similar abilities: It’s bad form to apologize for your lack of cycling ability—it puts the people you’re riding with in the awkward position of either having to tell you, “no, you’re a super rider” or forgiving you for aforementioned poor riding ability. But while Botched is clearly much more technical than I am, we climbed at similar speeds. Meaning we didn’t have to wait for each other every ten minutes.
- Outrageous view, earned by outrageous amounts of climbing: It’s always great to look down from the top of a mountain. It’s even better to look down from the top of a mountain when you realize that three hours ago, you were at the bottom of that mountain, and have climbed the whole thing on your bike.
- Showing someone new trail: Botched hadn’t been on parts of the ride we went on last Saturday. I love showing incredible trail to someone who appreciates it.
- Julie Andrews Meadow: Julie Andrews Meadow is right in the middle of the Timpooneke trail. It’s the most appropriately-named meadow in the world. Big, beautiful meadow. Giant vistas all the way around. It makes me want to spin around and sing “The Hills are Alive.” Luckily for Botched, I decided not to.
- The term “choclatiest:” Unable to resist playing the part of the tour guide, I was constantly telling Botched what was coming up next. As we neared one particularly sweet piece of buff, packed, banked and otherwise delicious singletrack, I told Botched that this was the “choclatiest” section of the whole ride. “The what?” Botched asked, not unreasonably. “Choclatiest—the superlative form of choclatey,” I replied. It’s a good, descriptive term for high-quality dirt, and I stand by it.
- Climbing first, descending later: If at all possible, I will arrange my rides so that I do all my climbing first, and finish with a downhill. The ride Botched and I did has that characteristic in spades. I’d guess we did nothing but climb for three hours, then alternately climbed and descended. We finished, though, with a massive descent down Mud Springs and Tibble. And nothing’s better than that.
- Finishing a ride tired, but not bonked: After six hours of riding, Botched and I were both fairly cooked, but neither of us were bonked. I tell you, I love that exhausted, happy, been-on-a-big-adventure feeling an epic ride gives you.
I tell you what: I love biking.