2010 Yardsticks

06.1.2010 | 10:35 am

After work today, I’m going to go ride to the top of the Alpine Loop. I’m going alone, and I’m going hard. As hard as I can, in fact. And I can’t help but wonder:

How fast (or slow) will that be?

Last year, at the fastest and lightest point I had been in years and years, I did the climb — 10.5 miles, 3000 feet of climbing — in 53:11.

Of course, I weighed 156 pounds back then — as opposed to 162 right now. That’s not going to help. And that was back at the end of the season, when I was as strong as I get. This time, it’s early in the season.

So I’ll be slower, certainly. The best I can hope for, really, is a 56-minute climb. I’d be very happy with that, in fact.

Heck, I’d be happy with a 58-minute climb right now.

Obviously, The American Fork side of the Alpine Loop (from the toll booth to the beginning of the parking lot turnoff at the top) has become one of my most important personal yardsticks — a measuring device to help me get a sense of what kind of cyclist I am right now.

My Collection of Yardsticks

The Alpine Loop, though, is only one of my yardsticks. In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to go as hard as I can up a number of different local climbs:

  • North Side of Suncrest: 3.6 miles, 1300 feet. It’s as brutal as it is brutish. Last year, my best time was 18:57. Which tells you that during the last three minutes I was genuinely at my limit. You don’t come that close to under a minute mark without feeling like you are about to barf. Or explode. Or barf, explosively. If I recall correctly, I cried when I got to the top of this climb. If I can beat this time by even one second sometime this year, I will be very proud.
  • Clark’s: This one’s a mountain bike trail. I don’t know what the distance is, and I don’t know what the altitude gain is. But I do know that when I finished it in under ten minutes last year (9:50), I texted every single friend I have letting them know what I had just done. This year, the trail’s been rerouted; people are guessing it’s about 30 seconds longer of a course. Which means I may never see a sub-10 time on that trail again. Alas.
  • Sundance: This is a peculiar yardstick. I try to do the road climb from the Provo Canyon turnoff to the Sundance ski resort without ever dropping my speed below 8mph. I have succeeded in doing this exactly one time. This is also an interesting yardstick because I haven’t actually tried doing this in more than six years — when I was in my 30’s. Now that I’m in my mid-40’s, I wonder how I’ll do. Honestly, I feel like I’m no slower than I was five years ago, but I don’t know if that’s true.
  • Squaw Peak : This is another climb I haven’t actually timed myself on in at least six years or so. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve kept score of my speed up this road — 4 miles, about 1800 feet if I remember correctly — that I don’t even remember what my best time was. I’m pretty sure, though, that I was always trying to get up in under half an hour, and I never did. Judging from this year’s best times, though, it looks like Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) has easily eclipsed that half hour mark. Which just goes to show something I knew anyway: Rick is much, much faster than I am.

Of course, all of these yardsticks are just ways I track how I’m doing as I get ready for what is in fact my most important annual yardstick of all: The Leadville 100. This’ll be my 14th start…and hopefully, 13th completion.

I’ve wanted sub-9 for so long — more than a decade — on this race. Never got it, though I’ve been close — 9:13 once, 9:14 another time — a couple times.

“Maybe,” I think every year, “This is the year.”

And this year, it may even be true. I think I’ve got a good enough start to the season that I may be able to drop the remaining winter blubber, get fast, and finally get that big belt buckle — you know, the one Kenny has almost a dozen of — instead of yet another little belt buckle.

It’ll be close, that’s certain. Close enough that I’m thinking I may go ahead and go with a geared bike instead of a single speed. Close enough that I’m thinking hard about whether a suspension fork buys me more than it costs me, time-wise

Yes, these are the things that keep me awake at night.

The Yardstick Doesn’t Matter, Except It Does

The thing about having these yardsticks is, they’re scary. I’m nervous for my Alpine Loop Climb TT right now — like for a big race — even though it’s just me. And there’s no prize. And honestly, nobody in the world (except Mark, because I know he’s going to try to outdo me) cares about how I do.

They’re totally meaningless, really.

But they also couldn’t be more important.


  1. Comment by bahama mama | 06.1.2010 | 10:44 am

    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person so competitive with myself.

  2. Comment by ted lippold | 06.1.2010 | 10:47 am

    starting my own yardsticks, new to riding, road, keeping a log, feel better after each ride, so far lost 70 lbs. in two years. getting faster each day.thanks partly to your blog.

  3. Comment by bahama mama | 06.1.2010 | 10:47 am

    not that you’re competitive with me…

    How ’bout “I’m not the only person so competitive with oneself”

  4. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.1.2010 | 10:51 am

    I have a scary yardstick, too. It’s lime green, and it has 39.37″ on it.

  5. Comment by Grizzly Adam | 06.1.2010 | 10:54 am

    We ALL live and die by those yardsticks. Seriously. I stress more about my results on the same rides you listed than I do about the real races. Why? Who knows. But that’s the way it is.

  6. Comment by MOCougFan | 06.1.2010 | 11:02 am

    Great yardsticks. Except Sundance. Just thinking about climbing that right now makes me want to Barf.

    AF Canyon and SP are summer musts.

  7. Comment by Rick S. (Not my real name) | 06.1.2010 | 11:15 am

    I always care how you do. And I will knock you off your bike if you try and come around me for the AF summit sprints this year.

    It’s about time we get the group together for some morning races.

  8. Comment by pipebaum | 06.1.2010 | 11:17 am

    My yardstick, the solo three hour non-stop effort on the rolling terrain we have here in Minnesota. No TT or aero gear, no drafting. Managed to increase my distance each year for the last three years.

    Hurts just thinking about it.

  9. Comment by ocary | 06.1.2010 | 11:20 am

    My yardstick: Manhandler @ Afton (MN folks should know this one). Only ever ridden during 24hrs of Afton.

    –> 3 years back – couldn’t get up it without walking.
    –> 2 years back – rode it on 5 out of 6 laps. Walked time 6 due to mechanical issues and not wanting to rip apart the chain for the second time that lap.
    –> last year – didn’t race, but rode up. In flip-flops. Holding a beer.

    –> this year…. need a new yardstick or start timing the climb.

  10. Comment by brian | 06.1.2010 | 11:21 am

    According to utahmountainbiking Clark’s is 1.6 miles & 750 feet elevation gain.

    Didn’t I see you headed toward the Alpine Loop last week? I swear it was you turning left onto 11000 N.

    The great thing about being in my second year after starting mountain biking is the vast improvements in yardsticks. Things like – last year on this climb I was in my lowest 1-1 gear and had to stop and gasp for air right there for 5 minutes. Now I’m in my middle ring and staying on my bike while gasping for air.

  11. Comment by Clydesteve | 06.1.2010 | 11:28 am

    Oh, bicyle training yardstick – 3/4 mile, including 300 yards of gravel, 10 – 18% grade. The hill at the end of my commute home, plus my uphill driveway. Less than 10 minutes, which translates to above 4.5 mph for the whole climb, is gold jersey, cyclocross division.

  12. Comment by mark | 06.1.2010 | 12:10 pm

    You should definitely do gears plus suspension fork at Leadville this year. In fact, I recommend that you ride your Superfly–I hear it’s capable of going sub 9 on that course.

    As for the yardsticks, I’m watching your times. But what I’m really looking forward to are the head-to-head competitions.

  13. Comment by Greg | 06.1.2010 | 12:34 pm

    I’m a local boy and know all those climbs well. Let me say, a sub-hour trip up the alpine loop is amazing…especially on a bad day. You ride’m cowboy.

  14. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 06.1.2010 | 12:35 pm

    If I lived in UT the Alpine Loop would be a yard stick of mine. That’s a great barf inducing ride. My current yard stick is Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island, WA. It’s a killer!

  15. Comment by Shane P | 06.1.2010 | 12:37 pm

    Go with gears and a suspension fork. That stuff was the evolution of mountain biking. They started on fully rigid bikes with no gears…..

  16. Comment by Doug (WAY upstate NY) | 06.1.2010 | 12:42 pm

    My friends and I don’t do alot of (well any) races. Our yardsticks are really milestones. A bunch of us did our first century (HMoN) this spring. Usually we have a year end ride in mind. This year we are riding across the Adirondack Park, over 100 miles, with a bunch of really good climbs. Should be a nasty test.

    I will say that as we “age” it seams that the mid-life crisis thing is coming in the form of 1 upping each other and ourselves (and our running friends, who seam to be racing us as well, but much slower :).

  17. Comment by MattC | 06.1.2010 | 1:05 pm

    I’ve got a log w/ every single ride I’ve ever done, all the way back to 93 when I started Mt biking. And now that I have road bikes I have logs for EACH bike. And EVERY RIDE I DO is like a TT…me against the clock (and myself). Oh..and the wind too. The wind will win every time…I need to get a computer that can measure/track windspeed as it’s as important as how much climbing when I look at my log to gauge the ride. Anybody have the iBike iPro? Seems to be the ticket…Good luck on your race Fatty!

  18. Comment by brokeMBA | 06.1.2010 | 1:08 pm

    Hey Fatty. This is off topic, but I wanted to send a shot of my ever so patient wife and myself in Moab last week. It was our first trip out there and what an amazing place it is. Next time I make it there, I’ll try to set it up to see if you and some of the guys can come down and play as well. As a second and even more off topic thought, is RAWROD open to any of us that are willing to come out?

    From Moab Mountain Biking Trip" alt="a>" />

  19. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 06.1.2010 | 1:09 pm

    Go, Fatty! You are a climber! Use those monster quads! Woo!

  20. Comment by brokeMBA | 06.1.2010 | 1:12 pm

    Looks like that photo link didn’t work. Second try…

    You just did an Ironman. You will fly through that climb with the endurance of a Kenyan running Boston and the monster quads of one of those guys that chucks beer kegs over the wall in the Strongest Man contests…well…maybe kegs of Diet Coke with Lime…whatever…


  21. Comment by Jim | 06.1.2010 | 1:20 pm

    My yardsticks are usually filled with ale.

  22. Comment by Dr. Brett | 06.1.2010 | 1:30 pm

    When you’re old and the podium is far, far away, yardsticks are the only measure you have. And they only matter to you. They are measured in increments of suck-level. I always want to suck less.

  23. Comment by RP in SLC | 06.1.2010 | 2:28 pm

    I feel explosive barf coming on whenever I think about the ascent up the north side of Suncrest. Its so steep! I’ve topped 60mph coming down that side and have lived in fear of ever having to climb it; the south side is tough enough! I’m no climber–I’m such a Clydesdale I should have my own category–But now I have to try it; and have to try and get a sub 19 too. What are your start and end points? And thanks for another great post!

    Per the Suncrest TT Log:
    The North side time trial begins at the intersection by the Chevron at the bottom of Traverse Ridge Road. Start your watches on the corner as you exit the intersection heading uphill. Stop them at the stop sign at the top of the hill.

  24. Comment by Paul Guyot | 06.1.2010 | 2:36 pm

    Gears will give you your first sub-9 run. I guarantee it. Sans flats, of course.

    If you go with gears and don’t run sub-9, then I will give you a speaking role on a TV series. Not a “reality” series, but rather one of the good ones.

    If you gear it up, and run sub-9, then I win, and you must send me a Fat Cyclist jersey.


    Shaken. But I spit on my palm first. Ew. – FC

  25. Comment by mike roadie | 06.1.2010 | 2:46 pm

    No question. This will be the year you go sub 9 hours. It is not a question of weight, but of form. And you’ve got it!

  26. Comment by Saso | 06.1.2010 | 2:58 pm

    Interesting to read that I am not the only crazy one competing against myself on any significant climb in the neighbourhood.

    Some random thoughts:
    - sometimes I regret I am taking times on the climbs as it can get frustrating to see I am lagging so much behind my best
    - you look at your chronometer all the time checking the time and speed? That is depressing, it is better to look up the road and give it your all
    - it is best to climb the hill for the first time when there is no yardstick taken yet
    - it is good to have a hill where you NEVER measure the time, just enjoy the ride

  27. Comment by MattC | 06.1.2010 | 4:03 pm

    I actually find that given a reasonably consistent wind speed/direction, my ‘yardstick ride’ times are very consistent…almost always within a minute, and sometimes even seconds. I can see my progress (or lack thereof) when I can reduce my ‘best’ by any measurable amount of time.

    I always thought a shorter ride would be easier to compare against itself, but on my long Saturday yardstick ride (3:40:10 is my current ‘best’…it’s 62 miles, 4100′ climbing) everything seems to average out and the times are extremely consistent. This is a road ride, I don’t really have any good Mt bike yardsticks…too many variables where I ride (hikers/horses are the usual).

  28. Comment by charley | 06.1.2010 | 4:26 pm

    fat man,

    come try cheyenne canon some time. 1500′ rise in 5k. this incline is a similar endeavor. it ends up the road from chris carmichael’s house.

  29. Comment by Doug | 06.1.2010 | 6:00 pm

    I think its been proven that the suspension bikes are faster because of the reduced vibrations on the bike and body. You become fatigued faster riding a rigid bike. Of course all of those studies could of been done by the suspension companies!

  30. Comment by Rob | 06.1.2010 | 7:06 pm

    Suncrest North face is truly a killer climb – I’ve tried it exactly once. Had to use an amazing quantity of self-derogatory swear words to get myself to the top of the course; barfed at the summit; congratulated myself; then hit 55 mph on the way down (scared me to death with those cross winds!!!).

    The sad thing was that a time trial team for the University of Utah was just starting out when I got to the base. I talked to their coach who told me that they should all get to the top in about 20 minutes…..the ride home for me was very sad….and slow.

  31. Comment by Mark | 06.1.2010 | 7:48 pm

    I’m so out of shape I took my bike computer off and just ride as hard as I feel I can that day. The yardstick is how I feel, the fantasy is 25 mph. I may put it back on later this summer but I’m kinda liking just the ride.

  32. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 06.1.2010 | 8:23 pm

    Thank goodness for yardsticks. There’s a hill I used to have to walk my bike up when I first started riding. Every year I get a little stronger and it’s super fun to see the progress. Enjoy kicking it on your ride!

  33. Comment by Zed | 06.1.2010 | 9:06 pm

    I prefer doing race for which I have no precedent. I can set my goals low and be satisfied when I exceed them.

    Good luck with the sub-9, Fatty. I really thought you had a sub-9 in you last year. Heck, maybe you still do.

  34. Comment by Born 4Lycra | 06.1.2010 | 10:02 pm

    Fatty brilliant you are still aiming for the Sub 9 – good to know the more things change the more they stay the same. Best of luck.

  35. Comment by Fat Chick on a Bike | 06.2.2010 | 6:16 am

    My yardstick must be more like a yardtwig
    Started riding in Jan
    Did my first metric century Saturday
    Ride name “Flat as a Pancake”
    My friend the RocketBiker rode with me the whole way
    I had no idea he could bike so slowly
    I was pleased with myself but it’s a long way from the terra shown in that video
    Next step for me faster, then full century

    PS no fat cyclist jerseys at T6 waaah

  36. Pingback by The Unraces | Epic Riding | Grizzly Adam | 06.2.2010 | 9:46 am

    [...] has pointed out the local yardsticks—as he calls them—The Alpine Loop, Suncrest, Squaw Peak…  And they are all on their own [...]

  37. Comment by Steve the BigRide | 06.2.2010 | 1:17 pm

    I am a better rider because I made it faster? A dot in your life. I am not a better fisherman because I caught the most. I am a better fisherman because I gave a kid and his dad a better way to fish what was biting that day. There are yardsticks that most of us need to base our lives on and his name is Fatty.

  38. Comment by Barbara | 06.2.2010 | 2:51 pm

    brokeMBA, and all you other Utahans – I hope you all appreciate the fact that your back yard is a place where east-coast people like me pay lots of money to go for vacation! The pictures are beautiful – and I’ve been there so I know they just barely begin to do justice to the beauty you call home.

  39. Comment by Andrew | 06.2.2010 | 7:56 pm


    I’m heading home to Victoria next week (8 hour drive) to visit the parents. High on the list of things to do is my age old yard stick – Beechworth to Stanley – I’ve been riding that one for atleast 14 years.

    Difference is this time I am 10kg (22lbs) lighter than last time (4 months ago). I’m looking forward to the ride.



  40. Comment by Patrick | 06.3.2010 | 1:41 am

    How did you get on Fatty?

  41. Comment by William | 06.3.2010 | 2:01 am

    I am glad that I am not the only person in the world who is kept awake at night thinking about bike components. I think bike parts have cost me more sleep than my kids…

  42. Comment by Brandon | 06.3.2010 | 11:17 am

    Don’t forget the Nebo Climb up Payson Canyon. I rode up to the lakes monday. Snow is still on the top. If you want to climb it one morning up to the snow line at 9000ft let me know. We need to ride the loop again this summer. Maybe I will spring for a coke float instead of a cliffbar this time at the Wendys.


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