Jacobs Ladder, Ghost Falls

07.20.2010 | 11:41 am

There are times when you and the mountain bike simply don’t get along at all. When every time you stand up to pedal, your rear wheel spins out. When every uphill switchback is too tight and steep and you stall out right at the apex. When every downhill switchback has you sliding out off the trail or into an endo.

And then there are the other times.

You’re going fast, downhill. A series of rocky ledges that have practically broken you in half on other days present no problem at all. Why haven’t you seen this perfect line before? A dip into a loose, off-camber ravine usually means coming to a near stop. Today it means nothing. The laws of physics are for other people.

Over a bulging cluster of rocks. Usually your teeth rattle and you listen for the sound of a pinch flat. Today you float over it like it’s pavement. You hit the ravine and flip from slide to slide as you rocket down. The consequences of sliding out — scrapes and blood and bruises at the very least — don’t play across the back of your mind. And it’s not like you’ve just successfully turned off the projector either. It’s like there was never a projector there in the first place.

Just past the first switchback — which you ride high on the berm, bringing plenty of speed into the straight — there’s a little launch. Usually you feel just the slightest moment of lift-off. Today it feels like seconds. You land, pedaling. No correction necessary. This is exactly where you want to be.

There’s a tree just to the left of the trail, just slightly before the trail itself angles left. On another day, you’d give it wide berth — at least a couple inches. Today you practically graze the tree as you go by. You’re not tempting fate; this is simply the right line. The way the trail is supposed to take you.

Another switchback. It’s loose, dusty. Without thinking about why it works, you countersteer as your back wheel slides around and then hooks up exactly where it should. Sure, you shouldn’t skid when you’re mountain biking. But sometimes it just happens.

And only rarely does it feel so perfect.

There are short uphills, but they mean nothing, because whatever momentum doesn’t come from the downhill prior is easily supplied by standing up and pedaling hard for fifteen seconds.

The burn feels good.

When you get to the bottom you laugh. A little shaky, a little stunned at the perfection you just experienced.

A good day on a good trail feels like you know how to fly.


  1. Comment by UpNorth | 07.20.2010 | 11:54 am

    You nailed it. I only wish those days happened more often…

  2. Comment by Dr Bryce | 07.20.2010 | 12:20 pm


  3. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 07.20.2010 | 12:30 pm


  4. Comment by Luke | 07.20.2010 | 12:37 pm

    agree with upnorth. Never happen often enough.

  5. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.20.2010 | 12:41 pm

    You keep saying “you”. I think you mean you, not me.

  6. Pingback by Stealing a bit, today … « The Aftermath – my journey through loss | 07.20.2010 | 1:25 pm

    [...] his post today reminds me of my ride last [...]

  7. Comment by JeffyJeff | 07.20.2010 | 1:35 pm

    I was waiting for a “but” or “end then…” — very glad that the ride of sunshine and rainbows was unspoiled!

  8. Comment by kyle. | 07.20.2010 | 1:36 pm

    sounds like a good time. my last mountain bike ride ended up with a cracked rib, twisted wrist, broken sunglasses, and an assortment of cuts and bruises.

  9. Comment by KanyonKris | 07.20.2010 | 1:37 pm

    Eloquent and on the money. Glad you had a good ride.

  10. Comment by skippi | 07.20.2010 | 1:42 pm

    TRYing to find new readers for you as i ride the Tour Da Farce !

  11. Comment by Alex | 07.20.2010 | 1:55 pm

    last time I had a perfect ride I also saw a unicorn.

  12. Comment by Tim D | 07.20.2010 | 2:02 pm

    Last weekend I was the exact opposite of this. I crashed so many times I have bruises on my bruises.

  13. Comment by Dr. Brett | 07.20.2010 | 2:40 pm

    What amazes me is how it can change even from run to run. The practice run before my first timed DH run of the day, I land the four foot drop as if I weigh fifty pounds less. Agile, lithe. I glide over the next step-down and rail the berm. Poetry in motion. The very next run the same drop backhands me to the ground, standing over me…glaring. “I’m the master”…

  14. Comment by Alex | 07.20.2010 | 2:54 pm

    Poetry indeed… Man, I really want to go ride now!

  15. Comment by Heber Chad | 07.20.2010 | 3:05 pm

    I definately need to ride today. If its even half as good as Fatty described, it will be a great day.

  16. Comment by pscarlett | 07.20.2010 | 4:30 pm

    Heuy Lewis had a song ” I want a new drug”… this is the drug he was looking for
    Magic post Fatty

  17. Comment by GenghisKhan | 07.20.2010 | 4:42 pm

    MTB 32:16 Almost you persuade me to be a mountain biker…

    Oh, wait, I am! Wahoooooooooooooooooo!

  18. Comment by tjdave | 07.20.2010 | 6:04 pm

    Amen, brother!

  19. Comment by Anonymous | 07.20.2010 | 6:56 pm

    i love cheese!

  20. Pingback by A Sort of Homecoming: Dirt Worship « Feed | 07.20.2010 | 8:23 pm

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  21. Comment by DifferentKenny | 07.20.2010 | 8:29 pm

    Awesome… My ride this morning was all cobwebs and mud, but it still feels good to mash the pedals over the dirt.

  22. Comment by Kathy McElhaney | 07.20.2010 | 8:33 pm

    After 10+ years of running, I got a mountain bike last month. I can only dream of such rides. For now I am happy with getting through a recently torn up trail that includes sandy inclines and a 12% grade at one point (made it today without walking!)

  23. Comment by Susie | 07.20.2010 | 9:00 pm

    That’s just awesome, Elden!

  24. Comment by RipkenFan | 07.20.2010 | 9:03 pm

    I would love to get there without crashing first. The second lap is usually the best for me.

  25. Comment by JTPT | 07.20.2010 | 9:18 pm

    The clown can write. Who knew?

  26. Comment by T Handy | 07.20.2010 | 10:03 pm

    Fatty, I left VM for you a few days ago. If we could connect that would be great- I don’t want to bother you. You have my e-mail address now, drop me an e-mail if that’s easier and more convenient for you. BTW- congrats on your podium finish at the Tour De Donut! Here’s the question- if you dropped your donut in mid-bite, should/would Contador stop for you while you picked it up, dusted it off and continued to eat, or should/would he go straight for the chocolate milk in the cooler?

  27. Comment by Heat305 | 07.20.2010 | 10:07 pm

    Sounds like the bike leg of the adventure race (kayak, mtn bike, trail run) I’m doing this weekend with my girlfriend. Except, I haven’t been on a mtn bike in ages, and my girlfriend is a runner, doesn’t care much about bikes, though she rides her road bike on monday and wednesday afternoons, and rowing is her idea of pure torture.
    Anyway, it will be an Adventure, literally.

    P.S. Fatty, is my 2011 kit in the mail yet? Just kidding! My gf and I are hoping our kits get here before the Mount Dora, Florida Bicycle Festival the 2nd weekend of October.

  28. Comment by Anonymous | 07.20.2010 | 10:44 pm

    That really sounds like an epic ride. It is making me want to ride in the mountains now, but sadly there isn’t any around me so small rolling hills and flat lands it is.

  29. Comment by Jenn | 07.20.2010 | 11:03 pm

    You’ve got mad skillz, Fatty. And I’m not talking about cycling.

  30. Comment by Chris | 07.21.2010 | 6:28 am

    Those are beautiful trails, and this is a great piece of writing! I ran Ghost Falls to Bonneville Shoreline [and back] last weekend. I don’t know how you guys ride some of those trails. Studs!

  31. Comment by Steve Z | 07.21.2010 | 7:01 am

    Hell yeah.

    I mean “HELL YEAH!!!”

    When it’s good, it’s great (though I don’t think I’ve ever been THAT good).

    Yer gettin pretty good at that fancy writin’ stuff Fatty.

    Steve Z

  32. Comment by Anonymous | 07.21.2010 | 7:14 am

    Amen brother, ride on

  33. Comment by Ian | 07.21.2010 | 7:47 am

    I know. I had one of those yesterday. Well almost. Fast, flowing and not the sandbagger I usually am In fact, I nailed a track I usually find an excuse to stop four times or so. Floated over everything. Later on, one of the guys said, “You seem to be getting used to those clipless pedals”. The mongrel jinxed me. Into a tree and down a hill. A graze on my arm and a chainring gash in my calf. That’s ok. I almost never come home from a ride to this site, without bleeding. And I nailed the back track. I’m invincible

  34. Comment by Darth Vader | 07.21.2010 | 8:55 am

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……………..yes. Nicely done darksider.

  35. Comment by KK | 07.21.2010 | 11:45 am

    “You’re going fast, downhill.”

    Fatty, your narrative starts in the middle, Inception?

  36. Comment by 3 donut (3d) brian | 07.21.2010 | 4:27 pm

    How was your ride up AF Canyon this morning? – We drove by you at about 6:45 on our way to mtn bike.

    How does it feel to repeatedly ride over a message that was written to you on the road nearly a year ago? Might be an interesting post…

  37. Comment by AK_Chick | 07.22.2010 | 12:09 am

    This is off topic, but had to share. :) 29 miles on the roadie tonight. We are having a somewhat crappy summer (little sun, lots of clouds, some rain – blah). We have miles of multi-use trails in Anchorage and one of my favorite rides is to a place called Kincaid Park (mtn bike, running trails in summer, nordic skiing in winter, soccer fields, folf (frisbee golf), etc.) it has some small nasty little hills on the way in next to the road and a nasty bugger on the way out to 9 miles of multiuse trail. 10.3 miles into my ride when…(taken from my FB post)…coming down the BIG hill at Kincaid. Mama and tiny baby on side of trail. Stopped. Flagged runner to stop. Flagged biker to stop. Biker: “No problem.” Blazes down hill. STOPS BETWEEN MOM AND BABY. Mom doesn’t bat an eye. Baby crosses trail to mom. Holy crap. Runner and I proceed. Mom barely glances at us. We are within touching distance of her. Now I’ve seen almost every thing. Wish I had my camera.

    We see moose all the time around here, but I have never been around a mom who was so calm with so many people going by. It was weird. And surreal. And normally, I would NEVER do that. Mom’s will kill to protect their babies so this was highly unusal.

    Also, one of our popular mtn bike trails has wildlife of another kind: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/21/1376279/sow-3-cubs-cause-rovers-run-warning.html I will definitely be avoiding THAT trail!

  38. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 07.23.2010 | 7:04 am

    Mountain biking is just about the closest thing to flying without an engine! That, and downhill skiing… but right now there isn’t any snow, so yeah, mtbing…

  39. Comment by Daisy | 07.23.2010 | 7:56 pm

    Fatty, you inspired me to my second PR of the week. 6 miles was a big deal in April. BUT I finished 17 on Tuesday and 25 today.


    Dropped my bike off for a tune on the way home, so I have an excuse to slorch in the hammock tomorrow without feeling guilty.

    And I’m spent.

    Thanks for articulating so well what’s so utterly awesome about MTBing.

    PS. you rock.

  40. Comment by Cycling Jersey | 07.24.2010 | 2:47 pm

    great post Fatty – you nailed it for sure!

  41. Comment by Bob | 08.6.2010 | 7:41 pm

    A perfect post, Fatty. Thanks!


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