A Note from Fatty: Many of you have been asking whether the 100 Miles of Nowhere is still on. Yes, it’s definitely still on. I’ll be giving more details and opening up registration next week. Meanwhile, I thought you’d like to get a sneak peek at the very cool design Twin Six has come up with for the event t-shirt. Seriously, could those guys get any more awesome?
Another Note from Fatty: Tomorrow I will be announcing a different contest. I will say no more about it now, other than that I think there’s going to be huge interest in winning, and not just from the readers of fatcyclist.com.
The core team is made up of nothing but married men, all of us with children still living at home. That’s not a requirement for admission; it’s just the way it is.
And of course, we all enjoy telling our respective wives about the rides we go on. Why wouldn’t we? They’re exciting, close, more-or-less in cell phone range, and no more unsafe than, say, driving a car or eating a corn dog with cheese. And mayo.
Here, for example, is a little video I just put together of Brad, Jamie and me riding Corner Canyon during an unseasonably warm couple of days in early March:
Who wouldn’t want to show that to one’s spouse?
This is likewise true of the other local MTB rides: Frank, Tibble, Timpooneke, Hog Hollow, the Zoo, Lambert, BST, and so on.
All good clean fun, and worth recounting.
But we tend to get a little vague when describing Grove Creek.
Grove Creek — which we just call “Grove,” because it’s just too darn much work to say that extra syllable, is the hardest-climbing uphill I know of. I don’t even dare hazard a guess as to how much climbing there is in its short three (or four? Maybe five?) miles to the bridge, but I would bet it’s closer to 2000 feet than 1000. And it feels like 5000.
Grove may also be the most beautiful of all the rides we do. Or more accurately, it may be the most beautiful of the rides we fail to do, because it’s so hard we mostly pretend it doesn’t exist — even though the trailhead is no more than five miles from my house.
My point is, though, that Grove is beautiful. But the nature of its beauty is its curse: Grove is a freakishly dangerous trail.
Oh the Pain
Oh, sure, Grove starts out harmlessly enough. You ride along on the nice, flat jeep road for a few minutes, dodging mud puddles (there are always mud puddles in the first section), chatting with your friends, trying to keep your mind off what is next.
And then the “what is next” part arrives. The jeep road turns sharply upward, and you know it’s not going to level off for a good long time. On a geared bike, I will try to ride most climbs in the second or even third gear, with the granny unused — an insurance policy.
On Grove, however, I just immediately go to the granny gear. No questions asked, because they’ve already been answered.
Until yesterday, I had never attempted Grove on a singlespeed. Which shows that until yesterday I had some common sense. Which is to say, I walked a lot of the trail yesterday, and have no plans to try Grove on a SS again until I have magically transformed into Brad or Kenny.
Then — in the one piece of mercy Grove shows to the rider — there’s a short piece of swoopy, buff, fun downhill singletrack, letting you recover for a moment.
Before the really hard part begins.
Stay on Target
While the first part of Grove is brutally difficult, I hardly ever think about it, because the insanity of the second part of Grove just blots the first part clean out of my mind.
Everyone regroups at the top of the first climb — there’s a nice little flat spot where people sometimes set up camp — and then everyone looks around at each other, hoping someone has a flat or another really good reason to delay.
In the absence of a good excuse to turn around, negotiations begin on the riding order. These negotiations are very important, because — and I may be tipping my hand about the trail a bit here — there aren’t a lot of great places to pass on the second part of the Grove clmb.
And then the clmbing begins.
Immediately, the transformation of the trail is as complete as it is terrifying. Suddenly you are not riding on buff singletrack. You are riding on rough, sharp shale, embedded into the ground in a technical trail with what I like to call a “significant penalty for failure.”
And by “significant penalty for failure,” I mean that you’ve got a cliff wall going up on your left — you can literally put your hand out to lean against it when you need to stop and rest — and another cliff wall going down on your right.
The good thing about this cliff — the one going down, I mean — is that if you do fall off it, you have time to consider your options. The bad thing about this cliff is that the time spent falling off a cliff is not really optimal for option-considering.
In short, if you’re going to fall, it’s a good idea to fall left. (This statement is only true on the way up.)
Of course, it’s not shear cliff on the right all the way up. Sometimes instead you’re riding on loose shale. And sometimes you’re deciding whether you’re up to trying a not-quite-a-ledge move. Usually I’m not.
And a lot of the time, you’re looking around, completely stunned at how beautiful it all is. That dangerous cliff off to the right gives you a view of the creek at the bottom. And the canyon made by that creek leads to a gorgeous waterfall. And on the other side of the canyon, you see Mt. Timpanogos, covered in fresh snow right now and blindingly white up top.
I have found it wise to stop from time to time and take it all in. This is wise for two reasons:
- I need to stop anyway, because I have exceeded what I previously thought was my maximum heart rate.
- I find that I’m less likely to veer off the trail when I’m paying strict attention to aforementioned trail. On most trails, that’s good. On this trail, it’s downright necessary.
Eventually, you get to a bench, just before the bridge that crosses Grove Creek (and on the other side of the bridge is more excellent riding of a completely different sort, but that trail’s still covered in snow this time of year). Someone built that bench as a monument to a cyclist family member / friend. I cannot think of a better, more fitting monument, anywhere.
The first time my friends brought me on this climb, I was astounded and outraged. I really thought it was some kind of mean-spirited prank: “Hey, let’s take Elden on a climb that goes on forever, hurts constantly, and is life-threatening if you screw up.” Very funny, guys.
Of course, once you’ve made the climb, you’ve got to turn around and ride down.
I remember the first time I came down Grove, I actually dismounted and walked about a third of it, muttering darkly the whole time.
Meanwhile, Dug and Rick M flew down the trail. As if nothing could happen. It just seemed insane, and part of me wished I could keep up with them, just to see up close what it was like to defy death.
Strangely, though, yesterday as Kenny and I descended, I noticed I was able to stay with him pretty easily. And I actually felt like I was in less danger, not more, as I flew down.
Slower does not necessarily equal greater control. I’m finally learning that.
Most Disappointing Video, Ever
One of the big reasons I wanted to ride Grove yesterday was because I now have the VIO-POV.1 helmet cam, and I was picturing what a glorious five minutes it would be to do a continuous shot of the descent down Grove.
Kenny and I agreed we’d drop to the camp spot, switch the camera to be rear-facing, then continue from there.
But when I got to that regroup spot, I saw something terrible: my helmet cam was switched off. Evidently, the zip tie I had around the camera unit had punched the off button or something — and I’d find out when I got home that I had only got the first — and least spectacular — half minute of that whole part of the descent.
“Oh well, we’ll get the second part, anyway,” I said, and turned the camera back on. And then, once again, it turned off just a few seconds into the descent.
So now, belatedly, I’ve learned how to use the “keylock” feature, so the camera will keep going regardless of what buttons inadvertently get punched due to jostling.
So I went ahead and made a video anyway, so you can see exactly how freaky the trail is. Just understand that it’s pretty much an uphill-only video.
I’ll get the downhill view as a separate video, the next time my legs will let me do that climb.
Provided, of course, that my wife ever lets me ride Grove again.