Let me just say, before I show you the many photographs I am about to show you, that none of these photographs have been staged. They have not been Photoshopped, and they were not taken with the intention for which I am now going to use them.
It was just me taking pictures while the guys I was with were trying moves on their mountain bikes.
Are we clear on that?
I Accept My New Role With Dignity
At the beginning of the second day of Fall Moab 2012, I was so glad I had brought three bikes along. I didn’t want to ride the Waltworks anymore. The dropping chain problem was just too spooky; I didn’t want to chance another drop in the middle of a move. But I had lost the front wheel to the FattyFly.
The solution? move the WaltWorks’ front wheel to the FattyFly. Ta-da.
As soon as I began riding, though, I knew I wouldn’t be trying out a lot of moves that day. My crash the evening before had hurt my palms enough that I couldn’t grip my handlebars normally; I had to go with a sort of claw-like grip. Which, while very effective at making me look like I wanted to be as far away from my bike as possible while still riding it, was not an especially good grip for riding over anything rougher than a roller rink (alliteration not intended).
I decided I’d be the guy who rode along, enjoyed the day, and took pictures. Which is not a bad role to have in a group of very technical riders who are more than happy to injure themselves for your amusement in their attempted feats of derring-do.
Beer Crusher at Little Creek
We were riding the Little Creek Trail, a lesser-known — but equally great — trail very close to Gooseberry Mesa. It’s an interesting blend of tricky slickrock moves and flowlng high-desert singletrack.
Everyone got busy doing difficult moves, all custom-designed to be as damaging to chainrings as they are to rims as they are to knees, elbows and hips.
Here’s Paul, showing that he is as serious about making moves as he is about dispensing justice:
But then Cori stepped it up a notch.
Cori always steps it up a notch, thanks to the fact that he has no fear of death and cheerfully embraces a future full of pain. Which explains why, a few moves after this, Cori would miss, and land on this rough sandstone floor, flat on his back.
What it does not explain, however, is what happened next: white foam suddenly erupted all around from beneath Cori. As if — instead of blood, bones, and bile — Cori was filled with vinegar and baking soda.
As it turns out, Cori used a beer can in his jersey pocket to “soften” his landing:
Please take a moment to appreciate that this picture was shot with a phone. In fact, click on it to see a larger version. Phone cameras have come a long way. OK, I’m done geeing out now.
If I had one good hard fall like that — one where, in addition to whatever other pain I suffered, I also crushed a pressurized can with my spinal column — I would call it a day.
Cori — clearly — is nothing like me. Which I shall now demonstrate with a series of pictures. First, here he is, standing in between a couple of ledges. You should know that about five feet to his right, that crack drops off into infinity. (Nearby, Paul does stretching exercises to stay limber.)
Second, here’s Kenny and Bob, inspecting the chasm. Notice that both — wisely — are not on their bikes, and –equally wisely — neither show any sign of getting on their bikes to leap across that void. (Also, do your utmost to avoid paying too much attention to Kenny’s new cycling gear, which can best be described as “industrial objectivist kitsch.”)
Oh, here’s Cori. Approaching the gulf on his rigid singlespeed.
Ha ha. Very funny, Cori.
And here’s the final shot in
Cori’s life the series.
Believe it or not, he did in fact (barely) clear that jump. I would have taken a follow-up picture, but I needed to go change into a clean pair of shorts.
But Cori was not the only one defying gravity and shortening his life expectancy. Nosirree. Check out my good friend Bobby G., showing that a guy on the brink of fifty can be as insane as a man half his age:
Hey, wait a second. What is that expression on his face? Let’s take a closer look:
I do believe Bob is simultaneously doing a difficult move and making a ridiculous face.
But I’m sure that was an isolated incident. Let’s take a look at Bob trying that move again:
OK, now let’s zoom in on his face:
Oh. Oh dear. I believe I’ve noticed a pattern.
No, surely not.
I’m sure Bob only does that when he’s doing a tricky climbing move. For example, here he is doing a drop, where he doesn’t make that face at all.
See what I mean? No? Here, I’ll zoom in on his face a little bit to show you:
That’s not just a ridiculous face, ladies and gentlemen. No. It is so much more. The evidence is overwhelming:
This is, in fact, Bob’s Power Face.
Of course, I’m only picking on Bob because he owes me money.
And possibly because I suffer from a similar ailment.
You see, as we got toward the second half of the day my palms stopped hurting so much and I started trying a few moves myself. Here, for example, is me riding across a little rock bridge:
What is really great, though, is the expression on my face in the next shot, as it becomes clear that I’m going to clear this little bridge:
My Power Face is, evidently, a goofy grin, with my mouth open as if to exclaim, “Durrrrr…”
Let’s have another look at me making a power face, shall we?
Here’s me grinding my way up a steep pitch:
And my face:
Yup, I apparently have two Power Faces. In this case, if the move had gone on any longer, my Power Face would have caused me to bite clean through my lip.
Which leads to my theory about trying out hard moves:
The more concentration you put into the move, the less control you have over your expression. I.e., the more extreme Power Face you will exhibit.
In support of this theory, I submit for your scrutiny this last photograph, of the last move of the day. It’s my favorite photo of all:
Why? Because of my third Power Face, shown here:
Obviously, as demonstrated by the puffed-out cheeks and protruding lips, I am concentrating very, very (very!) hard indeed. This is, quite clearly, my Ultimate Power Face. And that should count for something, I think, whether I clean the move or not.
But perhaps these photos demonstrate a flaw in my riding — the reason I miss so many moves: I am very inconsistent with my Power Faces. Goofy grin? Bitten Lip? Puffy Cheeks/Pouty Lips? My Power Faces are all over the place.
Bob, on the other hand, is remarkably consistent in the use of his Power Face. And since Bob cleaned about 300% more moves than I did, I must admit that, empirically, his one Power Face is superior to my multitude of Power Faces.
I have learned a valuable lesson here.
I hereby resolve: The next time I try a difficult-to-clean move, I shall stick out and curl up my tongue. And you should do the same.
And also, maybe you should carry a pressurized beverage in your jersey. You know, for its cushioning effect.
Ask anyone who has ever spent any time with me at all: I am a wonderful person. I am friendly. I am thoughtful. I am good-natured and generous to a fault.
I am the the freaking Boy Scout Law, personified.
Except for thrifty. And reverent. I still have work to do on those.
But if you had encountered me last Friday, after — along with Cori, Kenny, Steve, Bob, Paul and Jud — I rode the famous Gooseberry Mesa trail near Hurricane, Utah, you would have found me in a foul mood. A foul mood indeed.
I had my reasons.
Things Start Off Well
The ride started out great. It was cool — but not cold — on Gooseberry Mesa; I dressed in shorts and a long-sleeve jersey.
My friend Bob had flown in for the weekend of riding. Bob and I are cycling doppelgängers — we don’t even have to adjust saddle height to trade bikes — so I had brought along three bikes for the weekend: my Superfly 100, my Superfly singlespeed (aka The FattyFly) and my WaltWorks singlespeed.
For this ride, we wanted to have both a singlespeed and a plush, full-suspension geared bike on hand, to trade around for different moves and different moods. So we went with the Superfly 100 and the Waltworks (because the Waltworks is geared lower than the FattyFly).
Bob wanted to start with the singlespeed, so I went with the Superfly 100.
Right away, I realized that this kind of riding is the natural habitat of the Superfly 100. I hadn’t really fallen in love with this bike until now because I had been riding trails that didn’t really take advantage of suspension.
Fifteen minutes on the bumpy, ledgy, rocky trails of Gooseberry showed me that this bike is, in fact, extraordinary. I was loving it. It made me a better rider: I was cleaning stuff that I normally just don’t clean.
Bob took a turn at the Superfly 100 and came to the same conclusion: this is a remarkable bike.
After riding the Superfly 100 for a while, switching to a rigid singlespeed feels really weird right at first, especially since Waltworks geometry is a lot different than Gary Fisher geometry.
That said, I was still trying stuff, and not doing too badly at it.
In particular, there’s a tricky move where you have to come around a sharp right hand bend, bringing yourself to a near stop as you do so, ride across a short patch of sand, and then suddenly put everything you’ve got into powering up an extremely steep, 20′-long sandstone pitch.
On my first try, I slid out about halfway up, then slid down on my left side, giving me the right to claim first blood for the trip.
On my second try, I didn’t even get as far as my first try. But by then, people were gathering around, watching.
So on my third — and according to the rules, final — try, I put everything I had into it.
And I made it. On the singlespeed.
I could feel a good weekend coming on.
The Importance of Proofreading
We rode to the overlook, where it’s traditional to take a group shot and get something to eat. Here’s the group shot:
Left to right: Cori, Kenny, Steve, Bob, Paul, Jud, Fatty.
And here’s Paul, eating a Honey Stinger Waffle:
I believe it’s possible he’s enjoying that just a little too much.
As I was taking these photos with my phone, I noticed that I had surprisingly good signal. “Now would be a great opportunity for me to text a photo to The Hammer,” I thought. So I had someone take a photo of me, and I sent a nice little “I love you” message along with it, addressed — of course — to Lisa.
Unfortunately, I didn’t check my address very carefully and wound up sending it to Lisa Bearnson, scrapbooking guru and a former coworker of mine, back at WordPerfect Magazine.
“Um,” I texted to Lisa, “That was actually kinda meant for my wife. Not that I don’t love you.”
Wherein I Howl in Pain
I was enjoying the singlespeed now, so was taking an extended turn on it, while Bob tried — and cleaned — move after move on the Superfly 100.
Then, while going up a short — probably only six feet or so — pitch, the chain slipped off my singlespeed.
Instantly, my crotch slammed into my stem.
“Help,” I squeaked. “And also: ow,” I continued, in a high voice.
As soon as the urge to vomit passed, I put the chain back on the bike. Nobody understood why it had come off — the chain was nice and tight, and the line looked good — so we put it down to one of those flukes.
And then, on a much steeper, more difficult pitch — one you need to bring a lot of speed and power into to clean — it happened again, except this time the chain simply broke.
To get a sense of how this feels, try one or both of the following:
- Stand on a platform about three feet above a fence. Jump off that platform so as that you land straddling that fence.
- Give a large burly man who hates you permission to hit you in the crotch with a sledgehammer.
Without going into too much detail, let me simply say that I rolled around in agony for some time, my (distressingly high-pitched) screams echoed across distant mountain ranges, and my snipe is — for the second time in my life — purple.
Yes, perhaps that is too much information. You’ll have to forgive me for that. My judgment may still be impaired due to the indescribable pain I have recently been traumatized by.
Wherein I Stop Very Suddenly
It turns out that chain had broken at the master link, and was soon set right. Bob volunteered to take a turn riding the singlespeed, asserting — correctly — that I would now be far too timid on that bike to ride it with anything even close to alacrity.
And so it was that I was actually riding the Superfly 100 when — with evening quickly approaching and details of the terrain becoming hard to pick out — I rode by a bush that had grown a sturdy low branch, specifically designed to hook into the spokes of my front wheel.
My front wheel stopped. The rest of my bike — and my body — pivoted over that stopped wheel and I was slammed into the ground.
But not before I had a chance to throw my hands out in a defensive measure that, while completely ineffective at stopping anything else from getting hurt, was nevertheless extremely effective at making both my palms feel like I had executed a perfect dive from a high platform into an empty pool.
My screams rent the fast-approaching night.
“Are you OK?” asked Paul.
“Yeah,” I replied. “But I’m not having fun anymore.”
I got back on my bike and slowly rode back the remaining couple of miles. It was almost entirely dark by the time I got to the parking lot, but I was just glad to have this ride behind me.
Wherein I Discover Additional Damage
I put the bikes up, mounting the Superfly 100 and the Fattyfly on the fork mounts in the BikeMobile’s bed. I put the wheels on the wheel mounts on the truck’s roof.
Then I emptied my jersey pockets of the food wrappers I had with me, as well as my favorite glasses — a pair of custom Oakley Jawbones.
Or rather, I should say, the pieces of my Oakley Jawbones, pictured at right, in happier times. (Oh, by the way, this is the picture I sent to two different Lisas earlier that day.)
Evidently, it’s not a good idea to land with all one’s weight on a pair of sunglasses one is carrying in one’s pocket.
“Well, at least this ride is over,” I said, meaning it. I mean, I had had — in many respects — a fantastic ride, and a lot of fun. But it just felt like I had not had great luck.
We all agreed to meet at a sports bar in town for dinner, and I drove down the rocky dirt road into Hurricane. There, in the parking lot, I climbed into the back of my truck to lock the bikes up.
Which is when I discovered that one of the wheels had come off the wheel carrier. And not just any wheel. A Bontrager XXX carbon tubeless wheel. A very nice, very expensive wheel.
My FattyFly was now a FattyFly Unicycle.
Kenny agreed that after dinner, he’d drive with me, retracing our route back to the trailhead, to look for the wheel. We would not find it. Nor would we find it when we looked again the next morning. So, at this point, I must believe that someone has either found themselves a really nice wheel, or this wheel is somewhere off the side of the road, wondering why it’s been abandoned.
And to cap it all off, the burger I had for dinner was overcooked.
Everyone, Jim, from CA, the winner of the Ibis Silk SL with Shimano Dura-Ace wheels and components.
Here’s a little about Jim, as told by Jim himself:
What to say about me? I’m in my mid 40’s, married and have a 16 year old stepdaughter (teenage girl – ouch!).
I grew up a swimmer and grew into a swim coach and lifeguard as a part time job besides my full time job. I was kinda good and swam for a Division I college team and even won a national championship in Masters swimming. For various reasons, I drifted out of swimming just before turning forty. I always had a bike as a kid, and that’s how all kids got around. Once, when I was fifteen, I decided to ride up to Mt Hamilton (where the idea for Clif Bars was inspired) just outside of Santa Clara where I grew up. I made it on my ten (that’s 2×5) speed with toe clips and gym shorts, but only because I was young and stupid. Looking back on it now that 65 mile 5k+ ft ride was quite an effort; and really stupid.
Unfortunately, I kept my appetite after stopping swimming and grew into a fat former swimmer/occasional cyclist. I’ve always had a bike of some kind and did the occasional riding, but nothing serious. In the last few years I’ve gotten more into cycling and even started racing MTB and cyclocross last year; someone has to finish last. I’m getting some slow weight loss, but it is a battle.
A few years ago, I found the fatcyclist blog and started following it pretty regularly. My mother died young due to breast cancer just after I graduated college. I could relate to Elden’s blog and enjoyed the humor. This year I even did the 100 MON as my first century; though my report didn’t get published. I also finally rode Levi’s Gran Fondo after signing up for the first two and not being able to make it happen.
Fatty thoroughly thrashed me there.
Fatty’s book offer came out nearly the same day as a good friend was suddenly diagnosed with colon cancer and went thru surgery. I decided to order a book for myself and one for my friend, as he was my big supporter during 100 MON and might have some reading time coming up. Here’s a nice poster he made to support me during the ride.
He’s such a supporter.
I can’t believe I won this bike. I saw the tweet Fatty sent out announcing that “people named Jim in California who had bought two books should check their email,” and said, “Heh, that sounds like me.”
I’ve been looking forward to this next weekend for a long time. It’s time for Fall Moab (fiscal) 2012, which will be held in St. George, UT this year (Fall Moab is in Moab on alternating years). It’s the most important Core Team annual tradition we have.
And I am still looking forward to this weekend. But I’m also bummed.
See, a strange thing has happened to the Core Team during the fifteen years or so we’ve been riding together: We’ve all gotten older.
We’ve all exited our thirties, and some of us are closer to fifty than forty at this point.
And strangely enough, as we’ve gotten older, we’ve started having grown-up style stuff to contend with.
I’m not going to go into who’s got what stuff to deal with, but a mix of serious health and and family issues are keeping Ricky M, Brad, and (maybe) Dug away this year.
I feel for them — I’ve missed a couple Fall Moab trips myself. And I’m going to miss these guys. The core team is at its absolute best when everyone’s riding.
Basically, when you don’t see your best friends anywhere near as often as you’d like — and nowhere near as often as you used to — it’s a pretty big disappointment to have so many have to miss the trip.
On the other hand, Bob and Kenny will be there, as well as Cori (who took the all-time best picture of me, ever). And outrageously fast guy Chucky Gibson. So this is far from a total disaster.
I’ll be back Monday, with pictures, stories, and possibly even video.
And, more than likely, some new cuts and bruises. That’s just the way Fall Moab is.
I don’t know how many years I’ve been riding. That may seem a little odd, considering that it’s my one and only form of recreation, but it’s true. The problem is, I didn’t realize when I started riding that it was going to become my thing. So I just started doing it.
And now, when people ask, “How long have you been riding?” I have to make up a number. For the past five or six years, that number has been “Fifteen years.” Though — by working from a recollection that I did my first Leadville 100 about two years after I started riding, I’d say that the actual number of years I’ve been riding currently stands at sixteen.
And that’s too bad. I should have kept track. And you know what? That’s not the only thing I wish I would have kept track of during the years I’ve been riding. If I could go back in time to when I started writing, I’d tell myself, “Hey, buy a blank book, label some pages with categories, and keep track of things you frequently do when biking!”
Why? Well, because those would be some startlingly cool (or, sometimes, depressing) statistics.
How many times have I done my “backyard” rides? When I first started riding, Frank was my backyard ride — the ride I did more often than any other, because I could do it right from my house. Now Corner Canyon and The Alpine Loop are my backyard rides. Ideally, it would be interesting to have stats for each of them (have I ridden Corner Canyon as many times as I’ve ridden Frank yet?), but the most interesting thing to know would be how many hundreds of times I’ve ridden an extremely familiar trail or road, without ever getting sick of it. I’ll bet I’ve done 3,000 backyard rides.
How many times have I done my favorite ride? Tibble Fork is my favorite ride in the world, but how many times have I been up there. Fifty maybe? Perhaps more, perhaps fewer. If it’s only 50, that doesn’t seem like enough. In fact 100 times isn’t enough.
How many times have I crashed? If I’m counting mountain bike rides, I would guess I’ve probably fallen 200 times. Now that I write that down, it seems like that’s a lot. Like only a klutz would fall that many times. Which is why I’m inclined to believe it’s probably a reasonably accurate guess. If I count road biking, that’s one number I can actually report, because it’s so small: just once (that I can remember right now, anyway).
How many times have I fallen badly enough to draw blood? This will, of course, be a subset of the previous statistic, though I’d guess it’s a pretty large subset — maybe 60% of my falls have drawn blood.
How many times have my falls resulted in a permanent mark? Well, my wedding ring finger turns up at the tip, there’s the scar going from my nose to my lip, and then there are my knees.
Yeah. About my knees. I think it’s safe to say that both my knees are nothing but scars now. As in, there is no original, non-scar skin on my knees. I’ll bet my knees and shins have fifty scars.
How many near-misses have I had? I’ll bet I’ve had 500 near-crashes. Which means, I think, that I almost crash 2.5 times as often as I actually crash. No, that number is too high. Let’s change it to 400. Of those, I’d say fifty are times where it was so close that I got an adrenaline rush and accompanying shakes.
How many energy gels / bars / chews / waffles have I consumed? There was a time when I used gels pretty much every ride. I think back on that now and wonder what I could have possibly been thinking. That said, I now look for excuses to eat Honey Stinger Waffles. But that’s different. I’ll bet, if all energy food products are lumped together (which, by the way, would be really gross-looking), I’ve eaten 2,000. I wince a little at this, but bet it’s reasonably accurate.
How much peanut butter have I consumed? If I consider only the peanut butter I have consumed either immediately before, during, or immediately after a ride, I’ll bet I’ve had had 7,000-sandwiches-worth of peanut butter. I’m not exactly sure how to express that in gallons.
How many tubes have I used? This is an interesting question, because while it would be easy to express in a total — probably eighty or so — if I were to express it as a graph, it would look something like this:
That sudden drop in the number of tubes I need to use coincides with when I started using tubeless tires on my mountain bikes. And it continued to drop when I went to tubeless tires on my road bike. I’m happy to say — and have just thrown salt over my shoulder so as to prevent the jinx — that this year I have not had a single flat on any of my bikes. Between many fewer flats and improved handling of both mountain and road bikes, tubeless tires have — more than almost any other advance — made biking so much better for me.
How many strokes of air have I put in tires with the floor pump? Would it be outrageous to guess a million? The thing is, if I were to diagram use of floor pump over time, it would go in the opposite direction of the “number of tubes” chart above. Because while tubeless is awesome, you do have to top off with air more often.
How many times have I listened to Renegades of Funk? I’ve explained before that of all power songs in the world, there is one that powers me like no other: Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk.” It’s my secret weapon for climbing fast. I bet I have listened to that song two hundred times. It works every time.
How many jerseys have I owned? How many socks? How many bottles? I have quite a few jerseys right now. But I certainly haven’t kept all of them. And for every two jerseys, I probably a pair of socks. Which means, I guess, that I’ve owned the same number of socks and jerseys. I’ll bet 150 jerseys, and 75 pair of socks.
And the bottles. Don’t even start me on the bottles.
How many bad days have turned into good days? How many times have I been riding and taken what had been a cranky, miserable mood and turned it into an excellent mood? Or started a ride in outright despair and — over the course of a ride — brought myself back from the ledge? Combined, I’ll bet at least a hundred times.
How many insights have I had / problems solved? I’ll be out riding and suddenly a solution to what I thought was an unsolvable problem occurs to me. Somehow, turning circles with my legs over and over and over seems to trigger inspiration. I’ll be this has happened fifty times.
How many times have I bailed on a ride because I was lazy? There have been times when I’ve skipped riding. Not for a real reason, either. Just because I didn’t feel like it. Because I was lazy. I’ll bet that’s right around 75 rides I’ll never be able to recapture.
How many times have I bailed on work because I wanted to ride? None. Ever. My work ethic would never let me do that. (Hi current and former managers!)
How many times have I been to Moab? Thirty or so — generally a couple times per year. That’s like having a couple extra Christmases every year.
How many bikes have I owned? This, probably, needs to be the subject of a blog post of its own. I already know the first line for it: “I know, it’s time I admit I have a problem.”
How many miles have I ridden? This is, in fact, the question that triggered the idea for this whole post. In sixteen-ish years of obsessive cycling, how many years have I ridden? I wish I knew, but this is one number I couldn’t even take a realistic stab at.
How many hours have I ridden? On average, four days per week, times two hours per day, times forty weeks per year times sixteen years. Only 5,120 hours? Well, that doesn’t seem like a lot.
How many times have I smiled or laughed while riding? Enough to make all the other stats irrelevant.
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