Fall Moab ‘06, Part III: The Measure of Success

11.9.2006 | 11:47 am

You know, I could pretty much take the day off today if I felt like it. Why? This morning Dug uploaded part 1 of his video of our Fall Moab trip. I personally have already watched it five times. Yeah, I like it that much. Of course, part of why I like it is that I know all the people in the video, but the fact is, most of you know these guys by name, because they’re who I talk about. So, I’ll just point out who’s wearing and riding what so you’ll know who’s who in the video:

  • Dug: Wearing a short-sleeved white t-shirt, khaki shorts (29″ rigid singlespeed Surly)
  • Gary: My next-door neighbor, wearing long-sleeved white t-shirt and white shorts (rigid singlespeed Kona)
  • Brad: Blue, white, orange “Racers Cycle Service” jersey, baggy blue shorts (29″ rigid singlespeed Moots)
  • Bob: Long-sleeved dark blue jersey (Santa Cruz Blur)
  • Botched: White jersey, black shorts (Canondale Scalpel)
  • Tom: Long-sleeved white and blue jersey (Canondale Gemini, aka “The Pig”)
  • Rocky: reddish-orange jersey (Titus something or other, full suspension)
  • Kenny: Blue and black Gary Fisher jersey, blue helmet (29″ rigid singlespeed Gary Fisher Rig)
  • Rick M: red, yellow, and blue Gary fisher shorts and sleeveless jersey (29″ rigid singlespeed Gary Fisher Rig)
  • Rick Sunderlage (not his real name): white and black jersey (29″ Gary Fisher Rig with a suspended fork)
  • Me: Black orange, blue, gray jersey (29″ rigid singlespeed Gary Fisher Rig)


Dug says he’s going to upload a couple more video installments to cover the rest of the weekend. I’ll post them as he does.

But I’ve still got my story to tell.

The Importance of Gold Bar Rim
Almost everything in Fall Moab is subject to change. Which ride we do on Friday changes, which ride we do on Sunday changes. Where we eat changes.

But riding Gold Bar Rim on Saturday is not up for discussion. We do it every year. And we always will. And for good reason: It’s an all-day ride with something for everyone. It’s got desert singletrack. It’s got slickrock. It’s got moves galore. And it’s tradition.

I had planned to ride the geared bike on Gold Bar Rim this year, but when it came down to it, I’ve just been having too much fun on the Rig (my rigid singlespeed). Plus, there was that whole peer pressure thing. Kenny, Dug, Rick M, Rick S, Gary, and Brad were also on singlespeeds — basically, if you had one, you were riding one.

It starts with a long dirt road, punctuated with deep sand. Unlike previous years, I rode right through that deep sand. In fact, everyone with 29″ wheels did. Big advantage there. Before long, though, you leave the sand, and the rest of the day will follow a preset pattern:

  1. Ride for three minutes to the next move.
  2. Try the move until everyone has completed it or has satisfied themselves that they won’t complete it.
  3. Go back to step 1 and repeat the whole day.

Timid Fatty
A few years ago on Gold Bar Rim, I tried doing a technical double-ledge drop. This resulted in one of the best pictures that’s ever been taken of me:

This is going to hurt....

Of course, that great picture came with a cost: I got smashed up pretty good. And as a result, I’ve had an irrational fear of doing high risk moves. Not just on Gold Bar Rim maybe, but definitely especially on Gold Bar Rim. So, time after time, as everyone else was working on tricky moves, I’d content myself with watching and taking pictures.

For example, here’s Rocky doing a move I didn’t try:

Rocky doing a ledge move

And here’s Rick M, cleaning a move I didn’t try:

Which isn’t to say, however, that I didn’t try anything. Once I decide to work on a move, I’ll keep trying it over and over and over, long after everyone else has cleaned it, memorized it, lost interest, and moved on. Eventually, though, I will get it. Rocky did a great job capturing a series of me finally getting a nice ledge move, complete with an overhanging lip:

step 1: wheelie step 2: big push Step 3: ride away like it was easy

I think I tried that move nine times before I got it.

The climbing moves are my favorite. The thing is, with a singlespeed, you can’t shift into the granny gear and finesse your way up at 0.5mph. You’ve got to jam up pretty hard. The great thing about this approach is it forces you to commit. The bad thing is if you fail, you crash quite a bit harder. Here’s me climbing a wall (thanks again to Rocky for the photos):

Approach... ...climb... ...ride away.

You can bet, though, that I didn’t even attempt the scariest (in my very wise opinion) kind of move of all, though: a wheelie drop across a gap. Here’s Dug, bravely attempting the move (he’s not even close to getting it this time, though he eventually does clean it):

And here’s Kenny, in mucho mucho trouble:


After I took the above picture, Kenny fell into the crevice, then fell forward. I was certain he was going to break a leg. But he didn’t.

Thus Far, I Lack Souvenirs of the Trip
As the ride wore on, I started noticing something: everyone but me was scraped and bruised up. A couple people had borrowed a couple inches of duct tape off my seatpost, to be used as bandages (yes, duct tape makes a fine bandage). Tom, typical of the group, was sporting a fine bruised and bloody elbow, gained in a fall so bad that he lost all feeling in the left side of his body for a while:

Tom shows off his souvenir

I, on the other hand, was hardly scraped up at all. All I had to show so far was a barely-skinned knee. In fact, I hadn’t even dislocated my shoulder even once during this trip.

What a pansy I am!

By the time we got back to the car, I resolved: on the last day of the ride, I would try every move. I would not worry about consequences.

One way or another, I would have something to show for this trip.

The Best Restaraunt in Moab
After the ride and a shower (nothing in the world is quite so nice after a long day in the saddle), we headed out to La Fiesta Mexicana, a newish (just a couple years old) restaraunt in Moab.

This place is, without question, the best place to eat in town. Here’s why:

  1. They serve Mexican food. After a long day of riding, nothing is as good as Mexican food. Except maybe Italian. No, I’m going back to my original position. Mexican wins.
  2. They serve good Mexican food. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the best Mexican food I’ve ever had — because it isn’t — but it’s good. Moderately authentic. Really good salsa, too.
  3. They serve a lot of Mexican food. Their portions were enormous. I got the Chicken Fajitas, and could not finish them all, even after a long day of riding, when my appetite is at its most powerful. The burrito Botched ordered was so big it took a couple of people to carry it in.
  4. The service was extraordinary. Really, really nice, helpful, and attentive staff.

In short, if you go to Moab, you must eat at La Fiesta Mexicana. I hereby decree it as law.

Tomorrow: I make good on my promise to find technical glory, either through completing moves or crashing while trying. Or both.


Fall Moab ‘06, Part II: Something New

11.8.2006 | 6:44 am

The Fall Moab trip has always been about tradition. The first day is for riding the Slickrock trail — the most famous mountain bike trail in the world. The second day is for riding Gold Bar Rim, the most technical trail in Moab (at least, it’s the most technical trail around the way we ride it). The third day is for riding Amassa Back.

This year, though, we changed things up a little bit.

Dug, in his pre-trip pronouncement of what we’d all be doing (which he always writes in the form of, “You’re all welcome to do whatever you want, but what I plan to do is…” format), indicated that we’d be riding Bartlett Wash as our first ride — a trail most of us had never tried before.

To help make his case, though, Dug provided this link, describing Bartlett Wash. After looking at what the ride had in store for us — an endless expanse of freeform, exquisite, rolling sandstone, nobody had any complaints about Dug’s proclamation.

There’s a reason, after all, that Dug picks the rides: Dug’s good at picking the rides. I tell you, I’ve never seen him so happily absorbed as when he’s looking at a map. He’s as good at envisioning trails he’s never ridden as I am bad at it.

So a few miles before Moab proper, we pull into a dirt parking lot. “You’d better leave your car here,” says BotchedExperiment (who, for the sake of convenience, I shall henceforth refer to simply as “Botched”). “The road gets a little rough from this point.”

That would be an understatement.

Riding in Kenny’s Jeep, we got bounced around as he navigated deep erosion trenches, big rocks, dry riverbeds and more. My car wouldn’t have made it the first 100 feet.

Then we got to the trailhead parking lot to find Rick’s Hummer already sitting there. It had been there 20 minutes. Turns out there’s an easier route (but my car still wouldn’t have made it).

Everyone quickly suited up and got their bikes ready, anxious to get going. As they did, I walked around, handing out sandwich bags with the Matisse & Jacks homemade energy bars Bob and I had made the previous night. Some people politely accepted a bag; most people declined. Nobody gets excited about energy bars. So I stuffed a couple extra bags in my jersey pocket to see if I’d get a better reaction when people were on the trail.

I now had to decide: singlespeed or geared bike for the first ride? Figuring that this was a ride without sustained climbing (and also bowing to peer pressure), I went with the single.

The Wash
A quick ride along a damp, sandy streambed brought us to Bartlett Wash. The descriptions I’ve read don’t do it justice. It’s an extraordinary expanse of beautiful sandstone mountains. There’s no marked trail (eg, painted lines on the Slickrock trail), so you just tool along, looking for interesting things to do.

Bartlett Wash is, in short, an enormous sandstone mountain bike skills park. With hardly anyone in it.

At first we contented ourselves with riding up and over stuff, as well as experiencing the indescribable pleasure of the grip sandstone has on rubber. You can climb stuff — and descend stuff — that would be pretty much impossible on any other surface.

For example, there’s a nearly-vertical wall I would never have even thought possible to climb, on any bike. Before long, though, everyone was getting a good run at the thing and rolling right up it. Check out this video of Kenny zooming up — on his singlespeed, natch.


I never managed to get the courage to try that particular move — the image of me stalling out 2/3 of the way up, then falling over backward, was too strong to overcome. For what it’s worth, I did roll down that wall, which was plenty freaky, thankyouverymuch.

Sadly, I didn’t bring my own camera on this ride, which meant I didn’t get to capture some of the most aweome moments of the day:

  • Dug nearly dies: Dropping down an extremely steep, technical basin, Dug’s rear tire lost traction as he tried to navigate an off-camber, downhill U-turn. He slid, overcorrected, re-corrected, and managed to stay upright. I’m pretty sure the penalty if he had fallen there would have been a concussion or broken bone at the very least.
  • Dug is no longer used to big suspension: Dug was riding his rigid singlespeed, while letting Tom — who had flown in from out of state — ride his big-hit Canondale Gemini (which we all call “The Pig,” because it weighs around 400lbs). Dug swapped back with Tom for a moment, though, to try a technical ledge move. But when the fork compressed six inches, Dug wasn’t ready for it and did a face-first endo right into the corner of the ledge. To me, it looked like some giant unseen hand had just swatted Dug off his bike, just for laughs. Dug was looped for several minutes, and sported a scab on his chin for the rest of the trip. To his credit, though, Dug didn’t back down even a little. I don’t know how he stays aggressive after a big fall. When I go down hard, I’m timid for a month.
  • Botched Can Fly: One of the things I like about Botched (apart from the whole working-full-time-to-cure-cancer thing) is that he takes requests. “Hey, go jump off that four-foot ledge,” you can say, and Botched will go do it. “Hey, go and drop off that wall,” you might say, figuring there’s no way he’ll do something like that, and he’ll go do it. Botched’s bike-handling skill and apparent lack of fear of anything has made me involuntarily gasp at least twenty times by now. No exaggeration. To give you an idea of what Botched looks like, here’s a shot I got of him hopping over a crevice (which was deep and wide enough for me to stand in). This photo’s out of order (ie, not from Bartlett Wash), but I want you to have a good idea of what this mild-mannered, cancer-fighting, blog-commenting guy is like when he’s on his bike (and yes, he did clean the move):
    Botched jumps the crack
  • I’m getting better at the technical stuff: I was riding down near-walls, climbing up ledges, and descending scary technical stuff the whole day. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the tricks Botched taught me have really helped; I understand how my bike works better now than I used to. And second, I think I’m stronger technically on a singlespeed, because there’s just fewer things for me to worry about. I don’t worry about my bike ghost-shifting in the middle of the move. I don’t worry about whether having my fork compress at the bottom of the move is going to shrug enough momentum to pitch me over the front. And the bike just feels more direct / immediate somehow. I’m not going to say that I’m now a fully-committed rigid singlespeeder, but I can understand why somebody might be.

When you’re with a big group of guys on a big ride, the ride post-mortem can be every bit as important as the ride itself. This was particularly true for some of the guys on this trip, many of which currently hate their jobs (I’m one of the lucky ones; I recently switched to the best job at the best company I’ve ever worked for). Everyone was tossing around a football, some were having a beer or two (or three), and a couple of dopes were smoking stinky cigars. I made it clear to anyone smoking that I didn’t care for the second-hand smoke. Sorry, I just don’t get the cigar thing. Now, a nice pipe while wearing a deerstalker cap, that at least makes sense. Especially when sitting in a remote parking lot in Moab after doing a big ol’ mountain bike ride.

By now, people were hungry. Again, I offered up the home-baked energy bars. This time, people tried them.

And then, they devoured them.

It turns out that these Matisse & Jack’s Bake-at-Home Energy Bars are the best-tasting energy food, ever. Especially the chocolate chip ones. I’d suggest, in fact, that the Matisse & Jack’s folks shouldn’t call them “energy bars,” because we all know that energy bars are hard to chew, taste dry, and are generally unappealing. These should be called “energy cookies” or “energy brownies” or something like that. ‘Cuz these things taste like dessert. I’m a fan. And they held up just fine in my jersey pocket over a three-hour ride, so they’re trail-ready. Sixteen thumbs up: eight people tried ‘em, and we all liked ‘em.

Tomorrow: Gold Bar Rim (with lotsa pics and video) and the Best Restaraunt in Moab. Yeah, I know I was going to get to those today, but things are hectic at work; I’m lucky to get this much written.

My Weekend Ruled. A Lot. (Part I: Preamble)

11.7.2006 | 7:32 am

There was a time when I used to go on weekend-long mountain bike vacations to Moab all the time. They were usually impromptu. On Thursday, someone would give someone else a call, an email thread would start, and we’d settle on what time we’d leave the next day. I’d give my wife a day’s notice (or less); I knew she didn’t mind, because that meant she’d have a weekend to herself to read Jane Austen books, hang out with her craftsy friends, and watch DIY shows on TV.

That time is over.

Now I have a job that requires me to think and focus, not just show up. Now I have kids I want to spend time with. All my friends, of course, have the same kind of restrictions. So pulling off a three-day Moab trip is a big deal. It takes planning and maybe a little bit of sacrifice.

It’s a big enough deal that I’m going to write about what happened the whole rest of this week.

Oh, and it’s also a big enough deal that Kenny makes a poster for the event:


Two Days Before
As part of the early planning for this trip, someone proposed that we camp for Fall Moab. To be clear, everyone already knows that I do not like to camp. And yet, consensus was reached, I was overruled, and it was decided that we would camp.

Nobody took into account, however, that I can be a subtle and manipulative jerk when I feel like it.

Two days before the big event, I called the hotels around Moab and discovered that you could get a room with two beds for $50/night. Not bad. So I called Bob, ostensibly to finalize when I’d pick him up at the airport, let him know his bike was at the bike shop and ready for him, and so forth. Here’s how the crucial part of the conversation — ie, the real reason I called – went, though:

Me: So, you’ve got your sleeping bag, right? (note: I did not tell him I have plenty of sleeping bags, one of which he could borrow)

Bob: Yeah.

Me: Got a pillow and a pad to sleep on? The ground’s going to be cold. (note: I did not tell him I have several cots and pads, any of which he could borrow)

Bob: Yeah, I should be able to find those in the garage somewhere.

Me: I wonder what the low temperature’s going to be in Moab. Let’s check weather.com….Whoa. It’ll be in the 20’s.

Bob: I guess I’d better bring a good coat. (Note: I did not tell him that he could borrow any of the several coats I own)

Me: No doubt about it. Man, you’re going to have to check a lot of luggage.

Bob: Yeah, that’s going to be a pain.

Me: I guess we can buy groceries in Moab, though.

Bob: You know, I’m beginning to think it would be easier to just get a hotel. It’s probably too late to reserve rooms, though.

Me: Well, actually, I just happened to check this morning and the Aarchway Inn has plenty of availability and they’re now in their winter rates. It would only cost us $25/person/night.

Bob: I think I’ll send out an email proposing we stay at hotels.

Me: Hm. That’s an interesting idea.

So Bob emailed the group, I replied with a supportive-though-disappointed note, and the deal was done. We’d be biking during the day, but getting a hot shower and eating at restaraunts at night. Perfect.

The Day Before
Thursday, Bob flew out from Seattle; Tom flew out from Iowa (or is it Ohio? I can never remember which is which). Yeah, this trip is important enough to fly out, no matter where you live (I flew out for it myself back when I lived in Washington).

Since Bob would be staying at my house, he got to help me make something new: Mattisse & Jack’s Bake at Home Oatmeal Energy Bars. Yep, Connor over at Matisse & Jack’s sent me a couple boxes — about the same size of cake mix boxes — to try out their product: mix in some yogurt and applesauce, mix, and bake.

Here’s what the result looked like:

I may not be the best food photographer that ever lived. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an energy bar that you could actually call attractive. Well, we’d see how they taste when we shared them with everyone at Moab the next day.

Day 1
Bob and I had planned to get out the door by 8:30am, but first there was a small matter of me pestering him to try out the Teeter I keep in the backyard. Here’s Bob — on the high setting — doing it in his jeans and without a helmet, making it look easy:

I maintain, however, that Bob is a numbskull for not wearing a helmet. As you can see, it’s a long way down.

We left late, because I stalled for several minutes, trying to make a tough decision: should I bring my geared bike, or the singlespeed?

Finally I decided to not decide, and brought both. I’d decide on a ride-by-ride basis.

We all met at Racer’s, where Kenny was passing out the posters he had made. Then he thought about it for a moment, and decided that he’d tape them to our cars, instead. So we all — me in my tiny Acura RSX, Rick in his monstrous Hummer H2, and Kenny in his nondescript Jeep — loaded up our bikes. Bob, Tom and I had geared bikes, everyone else had a singlespeed. I got a sense that I’d be peer-pressured into singlespeeding a good chunk of the weekend. But at least I had the option to use whichever bike I wanted.

From Provo, it’s a quick three hour drive to Moab. During this three hours, I get progressively wound up, and I can tell I’m not alone. We traditionally stop in Wellington to grab a sandwich, and I can see that everyone is already acting different than when we left Provo. We’re giggling, joking, jumping around.

The group of friends has gathered. The road trip’s begun. In just a couple hours, we’ll be riding on sandstone. I’m so excited, I occasionally burst into song.

Tomorrow: Part II: Bartlett’s Wash, energy bars, Gold Bar Rim, and the best restaraunt in Moab.

I’d Write a Long, Clever Post Today, But…

11.3.2006 | 7:16 am

I’d write a long, clever post today, but in ten minutes I’m leaving to go Racer’s bike shop. There, I’ll gather with about ten of my best riding buddies, and we’ll head on out to Moab.

Yes, the annual “Fall Moab” trip — the group ride I look forward to above all other group rides — begins today.

What does that mean?

It means three days of mountain biking, watching the technical geniuses among us (everyone but me, pretty much) do crazy, foolhardy moves on their bikes. I may even try a few myself.

It means two nights of boasting about what we did during the day, describing–down to the minutiae — what everyone already knows. What you were thinking at the approach. What the bike felt like as you committed. What the penalty was if you failed. How much it hurt when you whacked your noggin on sandstone.

I have been able to think about nothing else for about a week, and I know others in the group feel the same way.

I expect to have stories, pictures and video clips to share when I return.

Have a nice weekend. I know I will.

Wherein Dug, Full of Righteous Indignation, Challenges Me to a Duel

11.2.2006 | 1:02 pm

A note from Fatty: Yesterday, I (considerately) wrote a letter to my good friend Dug, in the hopes of dissuading him from his ill-conceived plan of riding the Leadville 100 on a rigid singlespeed (click here to read it).

Dug, alas, took offense.

In the interest of fair play and equal time (for I am a generous person, as well as fair and just. Oh, and handsome. I’m handsome, too.), I have posted Dug’s reply below.

Elden, you are my friend. In fact, you are one of my oldest friends, and by old, I don’t mean that you are old (although you are), but that I’ve been friends with you for a long time. So long, in fact, that when I met you, you were a retarded, floundering rollerblader. I took you to the bike shop to buy your first bike. And your second bike. I think you’re now on your eighteenth bike, but I got bored helping you buy them and lost track.

In short, Elden, you are a flibberdigibit, and a poor judge of Leadville finishing times.

You are also a dipweed.

Rather than list all the reasons why I shall not only finish the Leadville inside of 12 hours next year, not only finish inside of 12 hours on a singlespeed, not only a singlespeed but a RIGID singlespeed, not only finish Leadville on rigid singlespeed, but in UNDER 10 hours, rather than list all the reasons why I’m confident that I will do this, I will simply offer you a wager.

  • If I finish Leadville next year in less than ten hours on my crappy, “Brad Keyes maintained” Surly Karate Monkey rigid singlespeed YOU will give ME whatever bike you ride in Leadville.
  • If I finish in Leadville in more than 11 hours, I will give YOU the bike I ride in the race.
  • If I finish between 10 and 11 hours, we’ll call it a push. You keep your bike, I keep mine. But, in this case, since I’ll have finished (and you contend I won’t finish), you’ll have to maintain my bike for me for the rest of calendar 2007.  

Pick up the glove, Ricky Bobby. I will enjoy haphazardly training all next year, eating Pink Cookies and Twizzlers and cookies, drinking Diet Coke during the race, and collecting your $4,000 bike at the finish line. After which I will celebrate my 42nd birthday, and as a gift to myself, I will ride your (my) bike on Hog Hollow after a rainstorm, and never get it tuned up.

Fatty Responds
Fool that you are, Dug, I accept your challenge–in spite of the fact that you’re oh-so-courageously betting your $400 bike against my $2500 (not $4000) one–as long as you agree to the following stipulations:

  1. If you do not finish at all, you give me both your Surly and your Gemini. I will use the Gemini for parts, or donate it to charity, if they’ll have it.
  2. If I decide to do the race on a singlespeed (and I do not at this time commit to any such thing) and finish the race an hour or more faster than you, you must wear the “Fatty Rules” jersey on at least one ride per week for the following 12 months (Botched will be happy to loan you the jersey, I suspect).
  3. If I decide to do the race on a singlespeed and then successfully finish, but you do not, you must live with the shame of that memory for the rest of your life.

PS: If you’d like to place your own Fatty v. Dug bet, I’ve created a topic in Fatty’s Forum for just that.

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