Comfort Rides

05.17.2010 | 11:51 am

I love it when someone takes me out on a new ride — whether it be a trail or road route close to home, or somewhere far out of town. Adding a new place to be on my bike is always great.

That said, I think there’s a good reason why, 95% (oh yes, I totally keep track my new v. old ride ratio; don’t you?) of my rides are on the same trails and roads I’ve ridden and known for years.

The fact is, the more I know a route, the more I love it.

Why? Well, the first reason is because the better I know a route, the better I am at riding it. I have a sense of how to mete out my effort. I know when I need to conserve energy on a climb because it ends in a false flat, and when to let it all hang out. I know the best, cleanest lines. I know what’s around the next corner without ever seeing it.

But the real reason I love the rides close to home is because they’re piled high with memories.

Let’s Talk

Yesterday afternoon, The Runner and I got out our mountain bikes. I admit I was giddy, because it was the first day the whole year I felt like I could wear a sleeveless jersey.

Not that I’m giddy about the prospect of sleeveless jerseys in general, mind you, but I was giddy about finally — it’s been a long winter — having a day when wearing a sleeveless jersey wasn’t an act of defiance.

“Should I bring an iPod, or are we going to be talking during this ride?” The Runner asked.

It’s a fair question. While I’m normally pretty talkative (though nowhere near as talkative as you might suspect from reading this blog), when I’m riding I often stop talking; I get absorbed in the ride.

“Leave the iPod at home,” I hazarded, not really sure I’d be able to back up that promise of being a good conversationalist.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry. I talked pretty much nonstop during the ride, just narrating things that had happened on the same route over the course of years and years of riding.

A First

As we climbed up Hog Hollow — a long, moderate dirt road that becomes narrower, steeper and more technical as you go up, I recalled that this was the first “away” mountain bike trail I had ever been on. By which I mean, up until then, the only trail I had ridden was Lower Frank, near my house in Orem.

Dug had persuaded me to come try out something different — go out to Hog Hollow, climb it, and then drop down the other side to the Sliding Rock.

Back then, none of the Corner Canyon stuff existed. In fact, back then, the whole Suncrest subdivision where Dug now lives didn’t exist, either.

I don’t remember the descent, in any case. All I remember from that ride is the climb. At the time, it just seemed impossibly steep and unbearably long. And ridiculously technical. I recall telling Dug that I needed to stop and take a break three times on that two-mile climb.

It’s strange, I thought, how your perceptions change. Now I think of the Hog Hollow climb as nothing more than a convenient on-ramp to get to the real attraction: Corner Canyon Park. It’s a good warmup, but hardly taxing, even on a single speed.

But it’s still a good memory of branching out for the first time, along with the feeling of triumph when I reached the saddle.

I could have also told The Runner about the many times the group of us would race to the top of Hog Hollow, and how I never tried to hang with the group — I was too slow. Or I could have told her about the time Jeremy filled Dug’s innertube with water for one of those races.

Another First

Being at the top of Hog Hollow really only means you get a short break before more climbing to Jacob’s Ladder.

As we get to the top of Jacob’s Ladder, I start thinking about another first — my first descent down Jacob’s Ladder.

Now, Jacob’s Ladder is about 3 parts jutting rock, 4 parts packed earth, 2 parts erosion gutters, and 6 parts pea-sized gravel. All on a sharply descending, often off-camber fin.

Yeah, it’s kind of technical. Nowadays, I love the descent. Even though I’ve crashed hard on it, I know that (almost) every time, I can fly down. The thrill’s worth the risk. (Except when it isn’t, of course.)

But it hasn’t always been that way. I remember the first time I rode Jacob’s Ladder, I was with a group of riding buddies, and as they disappeared off the front and I looked at the rocky ledges and loose sandy gravel in front of me, that I had a long walk in front of me.

And I took my time about it, too. Muttering the whole way, angry at them for showing me a trail that — eventually — I would come to love.

A Third First

A drop down Ghost Falls brought us to Clark’s, one of Corner Canyon’s main arteries. My first time up that trail was also the first time I had ever ridden a single speed. I remember Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) happily chatted (meaning that he wasn’t working hard at all on the climb) the whole way up, talking about how much he loved single speeding and how this was a perfect trail for it and wasn’t it awesome the way you had to stand and rock the bike for big chunks of the climb?

Or at least I think that’s what he was saying. I had a hard time understanding everything he said, what with the sound of blood pounding in my ears.

Meanwhile, I was wondering if Rick would be offended if I vomited on him. I certainly hoped so.

A Stunning Epiphany

And here’s the thing: just about every section of every road or trail I normally ride is like this for me now: I’ve got an anecdote for pretty much every little bit of everywhere I ride.

Which means, I suppose, I’m becoming (have become) that old guy on the group ride. You know, the one who’s always going on and on about the good ol’ days.

I shall now punch myself in the throat.


  1. Comment by Nick | 05.17.2010 | 12:08 pm

    I’m #1! I have many trails/runs just like this. I am not old but I think I am the old guy. The throat punch will now initiate.

  2. Comment by Megan (Best of Fates) | 05.17.2010 | 12:16 pm

    Sounds like a lovely, nostalgic ride.

  3. Comment by MattC | 05.17.2010 | 12:40 pm

    So you were a “Chatty-Fatty”…NICE! Thats one of my main tactics to gauge the strength of my climbing rivals (during friendly group rides)…I use my ‘Chatty-Matty’ superpower, and when their level of chattiness starts to drop, I have them suitably whipped and I can prepare to pounce and CRUSH them! Of course, that can backfire if I am the one gasping for air. And even if I am gasping for air, if I can still maintain some chat, it sufficiently demoralizes the others that they don’t know how close I am to death, and they don’t test me. It’s all poker…Hiding both weak and strong hands.

  4. Comment by TomInCO | 05.17.2010 | 12:43 pm

    I think I am in the 95% camp as well. A lot of the mtb rides have sections on them that I have yet to master so there is always a challenge. It’s also helpful to know exactly how long it’s going to take to do the ride. New routes always seem to require a lot of extra, and/or unexpected time – and a gps/compass/heli evac depending on who I’m with.

  5. Comment by Mike Roadie | 05.17.2010 | 1:22 pm

    Reminder: I am still not working, so I am definitely available to join you at TdC!!!!

    Rock on Fatty!

  6. Comment by Boz | 05.17.2010 | 1:59 pm

    I did a similar thing this weekend-explored some trails I was intimidated by, but now I really wonder why. Steep terrain? Mediocre ability? Lack of confidence? All those and more. But I sure feel better having just taken the chance and let go. Wow, lot’s of fun so close at hand. Now I have to make up for lost time.

  7. Comment by Grizzly Adam | 05.17.2010 | 2:02 pm

    You’ve been “that guy” for a long time. We just never had the heart to tell you.

  8. Comment by skippy | 05.17.2010 | 2:03 pm

    Giro d’Italia is a combination of “old road routes” after 12 visits! Tuesday riding Savigliano/Cuneo with Garmin, returning with Zabel.
    Wednesday out with Moser,Motta,Fondriest,Bettini etal & return with Maurizio at 40+kph!
    Thursday out of Novaro thru Coppi route into the side of a car driven by an “Uninsured/unlicensed illegal immigrant” just before Novi Liguri! Whole right side locked up w/out broken bones, can’t say the same of the helmet.
    Friday told Lloydie to say “Aiuto Disabili” on the podium, discussed “payback by “Pistolera” ar TDF with Cadel as we rode to start in Fidenza Village got sympathy from Carlos & Ivan & ignored by Vino. Shook hands with Angelo Z. who says he doesn’t miss “The Boss” but wishes the Italian crowds were bigger.
    Lucky for me i can sit in the saddle but can’t walk so i headed “Home from home in Zillertal to recover and where i am watching Australia Week unfold!!

    Lloydie,friday;The Pink Lady &Cadel,saturday; Porsche sports Car & F1 in Monte Carlo on sunday and Gossie today! OK so four days with 11 more Aussies trying to get on the podium, who next i wonder at Giro or will it be the T of C & whilst you ride around with Johann pass my compliments! Looking forward to the TDF and “The Boss & Cadel offing Pistolera”!

  9. Comment by Doug | 05.17.2010 | 2:04 pm

    Next year you can recylce this post and just add that you remember when you road this route with the Runner for the first time.

  10. Comment by Jeff | 05.17.2010 | 2:10 pm

    I know this wasn’t the point of the post, but…
    an ipod on a mountain bike ride? That is just wrong.

  11. Comment by Jenni | 05.17.2010 | 2:10 pm

    Do they make recumbent mountain bikes?
    Might as well start the beard too.

  12. Comment by bahama mama | 05.17.2010 | 2:15 pm

    I love my 19 mile commute home on my 40+ pound commuter bike. I know exactly how much effort it takes and how hard to push it on the 2 climbs. I’ve got some good and bad memories that come to mind every time I ride by certain sites. It is definitely my comfort ride.

  13. Comment by KanyonKris | 05.17.2010 | 2:19 pm

    A punch to the throat would prevent talking – a brilliant strategy.

    But seriously, I have a similar attachment to the local trails (and to a lesser extent, roads). Except for my growing risk aversion, cycling just gets better and better.

  14. Comment by Blackdog | 05.17.2010 | 2:26 pm

    We need a review of the new trail. Rush, also known as the Mistress.

  15. Comment by Heidi | 05.17.2010 | 3:16 pm

    I’m with Jeff when he says that an ipod is just wrong. Though I hike rather than bike, hey, how can you listen to the meadowlarks if you’ve got music funneling in both ears? What amazes me is people talking on cell phones when they hike.

    Geez, I seem to be doing a good Andy Rooney impression today…

  16. Comment by Joel P. | 05.17.2010 | 4:48 pm

    Two quotes to get you through. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” (Mark Twain) and “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” (Satchel Paige). I choose to average my chronological age with my level of maturity. I still come out somewhere in my low to mid 30’s.
    Joel P.

  17. Comment by Susie | 05.17.2010 | 5:33 pm

    i know what you mean though…i love the same old trails for running also…in fact if i don’t like a new trail, i know i just need to run it more–so that it becomes old and i like it more…hehe

    That said, here’s a pic to get you in the mood for the AToC…watched them come through on my lunch hour today…:)

  18. Comment by aussie kev | 05.17.2010 | 5:41 pm

    I ride the “block” 30 km loop most days – get to see the river twice and the ocean once so its a beautiful ride, there is one dodgy part where i take a “long cut” to keep away from the traffic. i realised on sunday i have ridden it to many times ( i have lived here 10 years so we are talking in the thousands) when i took the long cut in the car !!. My wife thought i was losing it !!!


  19. Comment by Susie | 05.17.2010 | 5:41 pm

    Okay, one more…:)!/photo.php?pid=1214665&id=1407863084&fbid=1456796145720

  20. Comment by Paulscarlett | 05.17.2010 | 5:45 pm

    I’m with Jeff and Heidi, how can you listen to nature, chasing dogs and the pained screams of injured cycling brothers if you are rocking to your fav tunes? In my world the crunch of gravel, the call of a kookaburra and wind through the trees is a symphony

  21. Comment by Lisa | 05.17.2010 | 6:21 pm

    I like trying new routes for the adventure but I prefer known routes when training. I can check my time at certain landmarks and see if I’m improving or too slow.

  22. Comment by Bethany | 05.17.2010 | 8:04 pm

    So this is going to sound like a weird thing to brag about, but I got in my first bike accident yesterday (well, if you dont count that time in the first grade that I fell off my bike and skinned my knee and STILL have a scar from it 22 years later)! I have learned that road rash is badge of honor to be worn proudly around this site, and that if anyone would appreciate it, it would be you crazy people. So heres to sore necks and scars that never go away!

  23. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.17.2010 | 8:59 pm

    What flavor of punch did you pour down your throat, Fatty?

    C’mon – If you can’t keep up the food aspects of this blog, perhaps you should just quit.

  24. Comment by Bob B | 05.17.2010 | 9:05 pm

    I haven’t lived in Utah for 12 years, and even I feel like I have a story for every section of the trail you mentioned. Except for Clark’s. That’s a silly place.

  25. Comment by Daisy | 05.17.2010 | 9:20 pm

    Fatty!! you did an awesome job here of articulating what I had failed to connect the dots about on my Moab ride last weekend.

    I road Slickrock for the first time. And I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it. I tried to love it. But I didn’t. It was scary, and technical, and foreign. And I ended up walking enough of it that it stung my pride.

    And you summed it up… I like to know what’s around the bend, how much to keep in the tank, how taxing is this climb…

    I feel like less of a wuss, for the moment. Thanks!!

  26. Comment by AK Chick | 05.17.2010 | 9:23 pm

    Aw, Fatty, that was awesome. No violence please. I’m hoping that someday, I too will have memories like that. Right now, riding up little hills makes me huff and puff and the blood pound in my ears. I’ve only been riding road bikes for a little over a year so I know I have to be patient with myself, but it’s hard sometimes. Reading your blog gives me hope! One of the best parts is the comments given by your readers. :) Love reading them! Keep making memories and keep reminiscing! You rock!

  27. Comment by Denise Brooks | 05.17.2010 | 11:04 pm

    My husband took me to our local Wildcat Lake Trail yesterday, only my 2nd time on it. But at one point I passed him, not realizing there was a ’staircase’ of huge rocks going down and the only way past them was to go for it. I DIDN’T CRASH!!!! I was so happy about it that when I did stop I was shaking. Last week I fell getting ON my bike and still have a huge black bruise on my thigh.

  28. Comment by Houston gal | 05.17.2010 | 11:20 pm

    Hmm, although I enjoy all your writings this does not seem to be the awesome news you promised us for your Monday post. We’re waiting with bated breath.

  29. Comment by buckythedonkey | 05.18.2010 | 1:29 am

    Short-sleeved jersey season: w00t!

    I was abroad for 100MoN Day but did it a week late – all alone not long after dawn in Richmond Park near my home in London. Just me and the deer to start with, which was nice. However, I don’t think I will never attempt a solo, short-lap century ever again…

    I see that Noodle has started her journey:

  30. Comment by Ian Thomson | 05.18.2010 | 2:23 am

    I am kinda wary of new trails that are easy and fun. Broke my foot last year on one of these new trails that my buddies wanted me to see. You will love it, fast and and not too technical. I tell you gravel, speed, and hard left and right turns, could spell disaster.

    I hate talking when I ride, mostly because I can’t breathe. Susie, those pictures are great!!!

    I also await your experiences with the AToC!!

  31. Comment by skippy | 05.18.2010 | 2:43 am

    @buckythedonkey the ride around Richmond Park London is amazingly beautiful and an ideal circuit for 100MoN, perhaps better than Centennial Park Sydney!
    Past days as i recover i have enjoyed reading “Fatty’s selection of postings”!
    Didn’t make it to Amsterdam for 8thmay as was there in April to sort facilities but both the “Tax Shower & IPC ” would not cooperate in setting up the necessary infrastructure to collect donations!
    Over the years i have had to be careful about collecting monies as each country has it’s own laws & unless you keep “the books correctly” a swift kick in the derriere is the result.
    here in austria i am taxed on interest & divis received elsewhere already taxed that never makes it into austria.Taxed again even though the Taxed money is received elsewhere!Bears repeating as it is an example of the screwy system that exists in europe where the “Rich” pay no tax and the poor charities are penalized!
    My 100MoN was Ziller to Brennero to Seefeld to home, lots more than required but a grey day visiting into 3 countries passed the time and improved the fitness

  32. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 05.18.2010 | 6:57 am

    Ha yeah the old guys do tend to do that: relate all of the epic crashes that they’ve witnessed on different sections of trail, etc etc. Looking back is only good every now and then. It’s more important to focus on the here-and-now, the ride of today, and enjoying the moment that you’re currently in instead of being caught up in the days of yester-year.

    I know at times I am too focused on what I have done instead of what I am currently doing or am going to do, but mostly, I try to keep my eyes up, looking down the trail!

  33. Comment by Joe | 05.18.2010 | 7:04 am

    I just laughed like a crazy person as I read that. That’s me alright, although with a more road bike bent, I was chattering to my daughter on our family ride this weekend, much the same way “watch this hill, you want some speed coming up it, but look how nice it flats out, oh yeah, I remember how that used to suck, it only gets easier, look how pretty that field is, you know I see a red tailed hawk up on that wire quite a bit, lets look for him today” blah blah blah for the whole ride. I didn’t really think about it till I read this, and I was like yeah, I guess I do that sometimes too. :)

    Good post Fatty!

  34. Comment by Mongo | 05.18.2010 | 7:06 am

    I’m in both heads on the new vs. old debate. If I have the time, there is nothing finer than a new trail even if it means the trail I’m following ends and I end up climbing up a 400 ft cliff with my bike thrown over my shoulder and a crotchedy buddy chirping away. If I don’t have the time (probably 99.9% of the time), the local trails that I have down to the minute are still a little slice of heaven.

  35. Comment by MattC | 05.18.2010 | 9:58 am

    @ Mongo…EXACTLY! It’s all about the time. The only way to find NEW favorite trails is to actually ride NEW trails! Surely the first time won’t typically be epic (especially if you ride alone)…partly cuz you need to sandbag due to the unknown nature of what lies ahead…and because of that it lacks the training stamp of an well-known trail…but the adventure factor alone is worth it! When I do a new trail, I like to re-do it again fairly soon while it’s fresh in my mind… so I can now enjoy it knowing what’s in store.

    And I have to admit that I USED to abhor the IPOD when riding (both rd and Mt)…however Fatty got me hooked on the shuffle/Arriva headphone rig…and I now use it on both bikes…but only when climbing (well…mostly)…and on flats occasionally…but downhills are OUT (mostly cuz you can’t her the music over the wind noise). But when Mt biking I do kind of like the sounds of my tires on the trail, and the sounds of nature. That is just a diff kind of music.

  36. Comment by Anonymous | 05.18.2010 | 2:58 pm

    @Daisy (9:20 pm) – I had the exact same response the first time I rode Slickrock. God, it was scary! But 10 years later, I’m happy to say it’s one of my favorite rides.

    All it takes to change a new ride into a comfort ride is repetition. And maybe guts. But I’m a wuss, so I don’t think so.

  37. Comment by Zac | 05.18.2010 | 4:42 pm

    so i remember the fact you were going to be in a fashion show and said something like — “So this should be a lot of fun for me. I’ll report on my experience Monday. Probably with photos.”
    i haven’t heard about it :)

  38. Comment by DJW | 05.18.2010 | 8:34 pm

    You struggled up Hog’s once upon a time? And balked at Jacob’s Ladder?

    I find that hard to believe. But, honestly, it gives me a lot of hope, a lot. While you may be *the* fat cyclist, I am *a* fat cyclist (T.G. Twin Six makes XXL) trying to become the guy who can talk all the way up a steep climb.

    Enjoy your time in Cali!


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.