Tuesday, I made a grave error: I went mountain biking on Hog’s Hollow. Although, if I’m going to be specific, the error wasn’t in going on a ride. The error was in not knowing when to turn around.
This decision was not without irony. (That’s my obfuscated way of saying it was ironic. The obfuscation is supposed to make me sound urbane, with a dry sense of humor and a raised eyebrow. How’d it work?) I’ll explain in a moment.
Botched, Dug, Dug’s friend Brandon, and Brad were riding the new singletrack in Draper that leads to the saddle of Hogs’ Hollow. (A big “kudos,” by the way, goes to the city of Draper, which, in an era where lots of cities are closing trails, actually paid money to have an excellent stretch of singletrack cut.) Even though it’s been raining a lot lately, the trail had drained well, and there was little mud. It was late afternoon, one of those crisp Autumn days where you wear shorts and a long-sleeved jersey. Truly perfect riding weather.
Brad, Botched, Dug, and I were on our singlespeeds, cranking up at a painfully fun cadence. Brandon, sadly, began the ride under the misunderstanding that because the rest of us were on singlespeeds, it would be easier to keep up. The reality is, when you’re on on a singlespeed, you just can’t climb as slow as someone on a geared bike. Lacking a granny gear, you’ve either got to row your bike nice and fast, or you’ve got to walk.
Anyway, we got to the saddle. Here, Brad, who once bullied me along the worst mud ride of my life (a full, futile day of trying to slog along the Kokopelli trail through mud, rain, and snow), looked up at the next section of the ride — where we’d be climbing to Jacob’s Ladder — and said, “I’ve got to get home.” He turned around zoomed down the singletrack the way he came.
Moments later, we got a call from Dug, who said we shouldn’t wait for Brandon and him. Dug then hung up without explaining himself, which is his way.
That left just Botched and me.
“Let’s keep going,” I suggested.
I am so stupid.
Almost magically, the trail had turned into a caking, gluey, adobe-like mud. The leaves and straw compounded the adobe effect. In moments, Botched and I had big chocolate bagels where our wheels used to be.
This allowed me to make several observations about riding in the mud.
- Mud rides are not fun. This would seem to be self-evident, but it isn’t, at least for some people. I have heard people talk about how much fun they had on a mud ride. What’s fun about having your drivetrain jammed up, your wheels stuck from so much accumulated crud, and having your 23lb bike suddenly weigh 48lbs? I’m guessing somehow someone confused riding in the mud with having an adventure. But riding in the mud isn’t an adventure. It’s an adventure destroyer.
- Mud rides make you seek out water. Whenever I came across a puddle of water — the bigger and deeper the better — I’d ride right through the middle of it. Ever so briefly, my bike tires would shed pounds of mud and I’d be able to see my bike chain again. This would last until three seconds after I came out the other side of the puddle.
- Mud is stronger than gravity. Botched and I tried riding down the South side of the Hogs’ Hollow, which was the dumbest decision I have ever made. While the mud leading up to Jacob’s Ladder can be described as “incredibly evil,” the mud on the South side of Hog’s Hollow must be described as “Too Evil for Satan.” Within fifteen feet, Botched’s wheels were completely locked, and my rear wheel was jammed. Even though we were going downhill — sharply downhill — we could not move at all.
- You can go further in the mud with a singlespeed than with a geared bike. The simplicity of the drivetrain means there are fewer things that can get jammed up. Is this good? In one sense, sure it’s good. On the other hand, it also means you suffer longer, because you don’t come to the obvious conclusion that your ride is doomed quite as soon.
- You can go further in the mud with disc brakes than with rim brakes. I’ve never ridden as far without jamming up as I did last Tuesday, because now I have disc brakes. Rim brakes collect mud and reduce clearance much faster, meaning Botched had a lot more mud problems than I did, and a lot sooner.
- Time ATACs are good pedals for mud riding. Crank Brothers’ Eggbeaters are, too. If you’re going to be forced to ride in the mud, ATACs and Eggbeaters are good pedals for it. They have similar low-tech cleats, and similar open pedal designs. Meaning you can grind into the pedals and go, although getting out of the pedals may not be as easy. Botched (in his Eggbeaters) had trouble getting out of his pedals a couple times in Tuesday’s ride; I (in my ATACs) did not.
- Mud in Utah is a lot different than the mud in Washington. Back in Washington, the mud doesn’t cling to your bike. I would ride through mud and in mud constantly, and it just falls off the bike. After the ride, I wouldn’t even bother cleaning the bike, because when the mud dried, I could just wipe it off with a towel. In Utah, you need a chisel.
- The worst thing about a mud ride is after the ride. Here’s what my bike looked like the morning after the ride. I know, I should have cleaned it right after. I was cold, tired, and had parental responsibilities though, so waited until the following morning. Something like this requires 30 minutes of work, bare minimum to get back to riding shape. For a geared bike, it would have been more like an hour.