White Rim In One Day (WRIAD)

It's hard to explain the serenity of pedaling along mile after mile through the spectacular desert vistas of southern Utah. For a month or more I had been feeling the need to get away for a long ride down south to, in a way, end the season. I considered a few road rides, but when the opportunity came up to mountain bike the White Rim In One Day (WRIAD), I knew that's what I wanted to do.

On the drive down Friday afternoon I popped in a Bob Seger CD and the first song hit me with an emotional punch. I know the song is about a motorcycle ride, but at that moment it was a cycling anthem. Take a listen to "Roll Me Away" and see if it also expresses some of what you feel when you ride. A good way to start an adventure. Here are some selected lyrics:

We rolled across the high plains
Deep into the mountains
Felt so good to me
Finally feelin' free

Stood alone on a mountain top,
Starin' out at the great divide
I could go east, I could go west,
It was all up to me to decide
Just then I saw a young hawk flyin'
And my soul began to rise
And pretty soon
My heart was singin'

Roll, roll me away,
I'm gonna roll me away tonight
Gotta keep rollin', gotta keep ridin',
Keep searchin' till I find what's right
And as the sunset faded
I spoke to the faintest first starlight
And I said next time
Next time
We'll get it right

I arrived at sunset and stashed 2 gallons of water at the fee station then drove down to Mineral Bottom. The dirt road out to the rim was really good, and even driving down from the rim was good, just steep with several sharp switchbacks. I did wonder if my little Pontiac Vibe would make it back up.

Down in Mineral Bottom I saw one car parked just off the road with two people in the back. I asked if they were part of the MTBR White Rim group - they were and we made introductions. I pitched my tent, checked the bike, stocked my CamelBak then went over to visit. I ate a sandwich as I talked with Brian and Carol Ann about bikes, work, this and that and the ride tomorrow. Eventually another car rolled in - it was Geoff from Alaska. Yes, he had flown from Juno to Vegas, rented a car, stopped in St. George to borrow a bike from Dave Harris, and now here he was. We chatted a bit as he got settled and put the last few pieces on the bike. Later (around 11 pm) Chris and Dan rolled in.

I tried to sleep, but my mind kept racing so I got the 2007 Specialized catalog out of the car (I picked it up at a bike shop months ago) and read through some of the bike descriptions - reading calms my mind. I was warm in my new Marmot down sleeping bag - maybe too warm as I woke up at 3:20 am in a sweat. I relaxed until 4:20 then got up and started getting ready.

It was warmer (46 F) than I thought it would be so I went with wind breaker, jersey, arm warmers, regular biking full-finger gloves, Perl Izumi shorts, pants, and cotton socks. Everyone was up getting ready. I had some muffins for breakfast and was ready to roll so I headed out. I opted for the Petzl Tikka XP over the heavier but brighter Light & Motion Solo Logic - with the nearly full moon and slow speed (it was almost all uphill), the Tikka provided enough light.

Arriving at the rim there were some cars parked there and some people milling about. I asked around for more members of our group and found Jefe and Todd. I informed them the others were on their way up. After some introductions we were on our way.

I knew many of these guys were stronger (and all were younger) than me, but the talk on the forum was that this would be a mellow ride. Still, I know that when riders get together it's hard to not go fast. But I've done enough road centuries to know that for distance I need to watch my pace so I don't run out of gas, so I started out with a moderate pace. I mostly rode with Todd to the fee station. We could see the lights of the other guys out in front. Carol Ann doesn't like to push hard when she's cold so she was back with us. The dark of early morning made that road more interesting. My feet got a bit cold, but otherwise I felt good. It rolled on and on, but soon enough we reached the paved road and after a few more rollers we arrived at the fee station. The sky was getting light and we topped off with water and paid the park entrance fee ($5 for bikes).

A short distance after the fee station was the turn off for the Shaffer trail and the end of pavement. The sun was rising as we headed down into the abyss. The road dropped quickly at first, then leveled as it followed a shelf - it was here my chain came apart. Nothing dire - the vibration jostled the quick-link apart. I had a couple spare quick-links so it only took a few minutes to install the chain and link it together again. By this time the group was long gone and I descended the steep, loose and rocky switchbacks alone. Not a worry, but I didn't want to keep the group waiting nor did I want to go too fast and crash. It's a pretty wild route - so exposed. I rejoined the group as they had stopped to make sure I got down OK (thanks guys!), then we were off again.

After Shaffer is where you start to settle into a rhythm. It's mostly flat, but there are rollers and small climbs here and there. The road changes with just about the right frequency from hard-packed dirt, sand, rocks and rough slickrock. More than half the group had hard tails, but it's rough enough I was sure glad I had a full suspension bike. Soon enough we arrived at the first landmark - Mussleman Arch.

With the sun up it was warmer so I took off my jacket and pants. More rolling along enjoying the feeling of movement and the ever-changing austere scenery. We passed Lathrop Canyon and Washer Woman Arch/Tower (where a few guys looked to be getting ready to climb it).

I don't remember many distinct details along this section. Sometimes I'd chat for a while with another rider, but mostly I rode alone and enjoyed the solitude, watching the scenery roll by and the pleasure of cycling. Bicycles are the fastest human-powered locomotion and as such share some of the purity of running but multiplies the speed - a combination that I find intoxicating.

White Rim Panorama

I had read about the Vertigo Void on Fatty's blog so I was looking for it as I rode. I came to a place where the road approaches the rim at a 45 degree angle then goes right along the edge for 10-20 yards then wanders away and I suspected this was the Void. I got off my bike, laid down on my belly and wormed forward to stick my head over the edge. Sure enough I could look straight down 80-100 feet and discovered that ledge I was on cut back underneath me to create a 30 foot or more overhang. It was indeed vertigo inducing and made you feel like you were hanging in mid-air. Very freaky and a good thrill.

Somewhere along the way we regrouped and ate some snacks. Here I noticed I had lost my derailer hanger screw. Fortunately Chris had a spare and gave it to me (Jefe also had one - sure nice to ride with guys who carry spare parts!). Moving on we reached another landmark: Monument Basin.

Monument Basin Panorama

Continuing on we had a few sandy spots but it was generally good riding. Then I decided to crash. The thought came to me that I should take the corners faster so I did and went down on the first one. Two conditions conspired against me: my front tire was running pretty high air pressure to decrease rolling resistance so it doesn't grip the ground as well, and the berm I was counting on turned out to be just a pile of loose dirt. My front tire washed out and down I went. It wasn't a bad crash - I scraped up my knee a bit - but the worse part was the cramps that hit my left thigh and right calf. I tried to quickly stretch them out, but the damage was done and the muscles hurt and I could feel the dull pain for the rest of the ride. Brian and Carol Ann came around the bend just as I was getting up - the shame to go down with no obvious reason in sight. Oh well, there would be more shame to come, which brings me to Murphy Hogback.

I had read several descriptions of the White Rim and knew Murphy Hogback was a steep, tough climb, but I still underestimated it. By now I had pedaled 60 miles and I made a strategic decision to not chew up a lot of energy on the Hogback (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). I made the lower stuff, but I couldn't make the steep stop. Rode some more, but pooped out before the top. Pride compelled me to ride the last section to the top - a hollow victory, but better than nothing. The road drops down off really steep at first, then just steep. This side seemed worse than the other side - maybe it was just an illusion, but it made me thankful for the direction we were going.

More rolling along. We ran into a few other cyclists and vehicles here and there, but mostly it felt like we had the place to ourself. The sky had stayed overcast which meant we stayed cooler, but the light was flatter (I won't complain).

Past Candlestick we encountered a few more spots of sand, but it wasn't too bad. A few steep climbs, but mostly cruising. After Potato Bottom we got a good look at the Green River.

The came Hardscrabble - the last big climb. It started off OK and with only 10 miles left I felt I could give it a better effort than Murphy Hogback because I felt I could get back to camp on fumes if I had to. My determination pushed me up the bottom half even though it hurt and I was panting like a big dog. Then a short rest as it flattened out. I got a little excited thinking that was it. But no, the steepest section was next - right after this hairpin turn.

I gave it a try, but the top was too loose and I didn't have enough power. I started riding again but around a corner came a pitch that just totally demoralized me. I made a mock attempt to get up it a little ways then just walked the bike up. The White Rim had humbled me for the second time.

The road went along up high above the river for a ways then dropped down steeply with lots of deep dust. My rear brake started making a horrible grinding noise. I pumped the brakes but it didn't go away. Turns out all the descending had heated up and expanded the brake fluid to causing the pistons to extend and drag the brake pads on the rotor. When the slope mellowed I used only the front brake and the rear cooled and went back to normal operation.

Now there were just 10 more miles and the White Rim was done, but it wasn't that easy. I hadn't exhausted myself on Hardscrabble, but I'd used a big chunk of the energy I had remaining. The next 5 miles OK, but at a slower pace. I ate some Shot Bloks and they tasted soo good. The last 5 miles I was in robot mode - just trudging along. This was also the section with the most sand - not horrible, usually short stretches but more than the rest of the White Rim. I finished off my water with a few miles left (I still had a full bottle of sports drink). It seemed like a long 5 miles, but eventually I recognized the spot we had camped and saw the rest of the group up ahead. I was the last person to roll in. Back at my car I went straight for what had crossed my mind many times during the last 10 miles - an icy cold chocolate milk. I chugged it down - oh, it tasted so good. Then I ate some more fig newtons, a banana and washed it down with some cold sports drink and water.

Some of the group was heading into Moab to eat. It sounded good, but it was 4:00 and I wanted to use the daylight to get home, if I could. I got packed up, said good-bye to my fellow White Rim riders and headed for home. I was a bit concerned about going back up the steep dirt road I had come down in the dark, but it was mostly hard-packed dirt and I made it up without incident.

I did OK driving for a while, but I could feel the fatigue and drowsiness setting in. I stopped at Green River to get gas, wash my face and buy a big energy drink that kept me awake and alert all the way home.

My cycling computer recorded: 10.7 mph average, 99.6 miles, 9 hours 15 minutes riding time.

The White Rim In One Day was a fulfilling experience and great ride. No question I'd do it again.

White Rim photo album (some photos courtesy of Chris Plesko)

(Read more about the White Rim trail or watch a White Rim video.)

I'm Almost Gone

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be driving down to Canyonlands National Park (near Moab) to ride the White Rim trail on Saturday. I've wanted to do this ride for a few years now, and when Jeff Kerkove mentioned on his blog that a group was forming over on the MTBR forums, I investigated. Then got interested. Then decided to do it. I'll leave home tomorrow afternoon, drop some water at the fee booth, arrive at Mineral Bottoms to camp, get up around 4:30 am and start riding clockwise at 5:00. The full moon is today so we'll have moonlight in the morning (and in the evening, should we need it), but I'm talking a light too. I know some of the riders are strong, endurance types, but my game plan is to ride a mellow, sustainable pace so I don't burn out my legs. I'm feeling good on the bike lately so I hope it will be a good ride. The car is packed.

I put some Ergon GP1 grips on my bike today. I got the small size because they fit me best (Mark has some). They are WAY comfy and should be very nice for the White Rim ride.

Da Bomb-sled

The Bobsled trail off of the SLC BST is the bomb! It's pure mountain biking ecstasy. I'm both pleased to ride such a great trail for the first time, and annoyed that I've been mountain biking for more than 15 years and have only just now "discovered" it. (Even better/worse, I also rode upper Millcreek [aka Dog Lake] for the first time this year - sad.)

We parked at the park near 11th Ave and Terrace Hills Dr and headed to Dry Gulch - such a nice climb. Cruising along the BST was also nice. The Wall made us work. We stopped at the Bobsled turnoff and Mark let me have the honor of going first. It's a bit steep at first, but not too hairy. There is some small banked turns, but after the junction with the old entrance trail the berms get higher - like up to 10 feet. It was pure fun to go high on those banked turns - end even better, most of the time there are several banked turns in succession so the fun just keeps coming as you roll out of one and into the next.

There are several stunts scattered along the trail too. We hit a few of the mellow ones here and there. The highlight was the ladder drop near the end. It's about 1.5 feet high and flat. It looks bigger from above, but not so bad from below. I thought I'd give it a try, but wimped out as I got closer. Mark regretted not going for it last time and, after a false, start went for it and made it just fine. Well, the gauntlet had been throw down - I couldn't wuss out now. I lined up and rolled it easy - landed a bit heavy on the rear wheel, but all-in-all pretty smooth. Mark didn't get me in the air when he took a photo, so I did it again. Still not a good shot, so I did it again. I think I ended up doing it 4 times - fun stuff.

We also hit the little ladder ramp just down a short ways. I timed it bad and pulled up on the bars after the front wheel left the ramp - I landed nose heavy, but pulled it out.

We had so much fun, and with just enough daylight left, we decided to do it again. This time we climbed up Terrace Hills Dr and onto the old double track. It's steeper, but faster than Dry Gulch. The second run was also sweet. Knowing the trail a bit better I was able to bank higher and run a bit smoother. We both rolled right off the ladder drop and I hit the ramp better this time.

Simply a fun, short ride that put a big smile on my face.

Mark's report

Bike Hacks

Check out these wild bike hacks:

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Let There Be Light

Back in September Sly was into night riding and noted how nice it was to have popular trails like Millcreek all to his self. It got me interested to try some night riding. Then I found out my brother-in-law has a Light & Motion, Solo Logic that he bought a few years ago and hasn't used much lately. So I asked if I could borrow it. He dropped it by yesterday and I charged it up for a bit tonight then turned it on. Dang, it's bright! And this is old halogen tech - the new HID and LED stuff is even better. But it's good enough for me. I'll let it finish charging tonight then try it for a ride tomorrow up on the Orem BST, my "backyard" trail. I've used headlamps a lot so my first instinct is to helmet-mount the light. Maybe I'll try bar-mount too.

Speaking of lights for mountain biking, Dave Harris has been building his own super-bright LED lights and it sounds like he's cooked up some good stuff. Since he busted his heel, he pulled support duty for Lynda at Worlds (24 Hours of Adrenaline World Solo Championship) and lent her his light setup - check it:

I enjoy tinkering with electronics and building stuff and would like to get into DIY LED bike lights. If I ever meet Dave you can be sure I'll bring up the subject.

Contact Me

I added a Contact Me section - use the E-mail link to send me a message. I noticed UTRider has an e-mail link that uses some sophisticated JavaScript tricks to hide your e-mail address from spammers. It was developed by Syronex and is available for free. Here's how to add it to your Blogger blog:

  1. Go to the Syronex Anti-Spam Solutions page and fill in the form with your e-mail address and options to generate the JavaScript code. The User Challange (CAPTCHA) is cool, but seemed overkill to me so I didn't use it.

  2. Select all of the code in the text box (labeled Step 3) and Copy it to the clipboard.

  3. Login to Blogger and click on the Layout link (or Template link), then click on the Add a Page Element link. When the window pops up find the "HTML/JavaScript" element and click the Add to Blog button. Enter a Title then Paste the code from step 2 into the Context text box and click on the Save Changes button.

  4. Go to your blog and try it out.

The Anti-Doping Circus

I'm dumbfounded by the news I read over on UTRider's blog: Ivan Mayo tested positive for EPO during the Tour de France, but subsequent testing of his B sample by two other labs came back negative so he will be allowed to race. Interesting, but nothing special until you compare Mayo's case with that of Floyd Landis. Both rider's tests were performed at the same French lab, but while Mayo's B sample was tested at two other labs (Belgium and Australia), Landis' B sample was tested at the same French lab. How does this make any sense? Especially since, from the beginning, Landis has charged the French lab of sloppy work that resulted in errors in his tests. Logically you'd think WADA would have Landis' B sample tested at other labs to make their case stronger. So why didn't they? An obvious mis-step like this invites speculation and distrust. And with Mayo's B sample tested at other labs, I'm sure we'll see a reaction from Landis and the cycling community. Get ready for the circus.

When the anti-doping agencies either don't have clear rules, or don't follow them uniformly, they look like witch-hunters. They must have explicit, defensible rules, and always follow them exactly, and always treat every accused rider the same - otherwise they loose credibility and they are viewed as just another squabbling player in the pro cycling soap opera.

Every screw-up by an anti-doping agency makes me care less about pro cycling. I can't say it's better to be ignorant of doping, but when the fight against doping is done wrong it makes the situation worse. They loose credibility with each case they bungle until, like the boy who cried wolf, no one believes them anymore. And the damage they do to the sport is far worse than any other scandal I can think of. So when the anti-doping agencies make accusations but don't have their act together, they're making a bad situation worse. Some say the fallout from this current "purging" phase is the price to be paid to have the sport clean in the future. But if the therapy cripples or kills the patient, more has been lost than gained and the course of action was wrong. "I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone." - The Hippocratic Oath

Dick Pound is the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). I feel his out-spoken (to put it mildly) crusading against doping is hurting his cause more than helping. He should shut-up and let the lab results do the talking. Read more: The Righteous Fury of Dick Pound (WIRED)

Ever wonder how much difference doping makes? A strong amateur rider tried some of the more common drugs and reports the results in Drug Test, an article that appeared in Outside magazine. If it made that much difference to an amateur, think how tempting it must be for pros who are always looking for ways to improve their performance.

Ride Before the Storm

I woke up at 5:30 AM (this has been happening a lot lately - it's annoying). I couldn't go back to sleep and started thinking about some things I wanted to check on the Internet, so I got up and turned on the computer. Checking my e-mail I had a message from Stan, the ride leader of the Utah Velo Club. He had checked the weather forecasts and determined we could sneak in a ride this morning if we kept it short. Stan's my kind of guy - if there's a chance to ride, it's on.

I ate a little breakfast, filled up the water bottles and drove down to the second Springville exit, our meeting place. The were two other riders there. I put a new tube in my seat pack and pumped up the rear tire (I flatted yesterday on my lunch ride) and got dressed: Double jerseys, arm warmers and an ear band. A little after 8 AM we (6 of us) headed out. We had a good south-southwest wind. Here's the data from the Provo Airport (source: MesoWest):

8:48 AM, Wind 25, Gust 35, overcast
9:50 AM, Wind 24, Gust 36, overcast
Nice, huh? For most of the ride we were going east or west so we had a nice cross wind. We rode in an echelon formation when we could, but some roads had too much traffic for it. Going out we had a few stretches right into the wind. But coming back the tail wind was nice. We got rolling in the high 20s. With 3-4 miles to go we got some rain - it was enough to wet the pavement, but didn't soak us. In the last couple miles the pace was pretty fast. I tried to make a break 1/4 mile from the finish. Mike jumped on me and moved into the lead. He tried to shake me a few times, but I barely hung on to finish in tow behind him.

After the ride we headed over to Elevate Fitness in Orem to try out their cycling training equipment. I haven't really measured my cycling performance and I was curious to see where I stand. They have a pretty nice cycling room with 10 CompuTrainers and a big screen. I did a short session with the SpinScan software that showed my pedal stroke isn't bad, but it could be more smooth and my left leg does more work than my right. You'd think this uneven effort would be easy to detect while riding, but I've focused very intently on several rides to see if I could detect an imbalance, but I really couldn't. Well the software showed it right away. Now I'll be working to even them out. (I guess those one-legged workouts would help me.)

Next we "raced" together using the MultiRider software. After a few false starts (equipment problems) we got going on a 3 mile time trial with a few climbs. Yes, I said climbs. The resistance of the CompuTrainers can be controlled by the software so it's harder on the climbs and easier on the descents. You can even draft (the resistance eases up when another rider is 16 feet or less in front of you). After Stan caught up (he had to start the software, get on his bike and start pedaling) we went pretty hard. I was in the 3rd for a while, but caught them on the climb (about 1 mile in) and held on to finish 1st. (The software adjusts for weight on climbs so the resistance is higher for heavier riders.) I averaged 250 watts with a peak of 378 watts. My watts/kg ranged from the high 2s to the low 3s so I'd estimate my average is somewhere around 3 watts/kg. Average heart rate was 165, max 181.

These computerized training systems give you a LOT of data (to obsess over?). And it's pretty fun. The simulated rides make it more interesting. If you're solo you can race against a computer generated "pacer" or against your last "ride".

A training session cost $10, but a monthly pass costs only $40. I may do a monthly pass a few times this winter. It's near my house so I could do some training before or after work.

Classing Up ICup

Sly's snafu with categories at the 24 Hours of Moab race got me thinking about the Intermountain Cup Race Series (ICup). Ed has designed a good race series and runs them very well. Racers are group by category (Beginner, Sport, Expert and Pro), gender and age group (i.e. Mens 30-34). There's a little prize money for the Pros, but for everyone else it's just for fun. And most racers do have fun. But there is some sandbagging and other mild irritants.

The thought came to me that perhaps the ICup is trying to be both fun and serious and this attempt to "have your cake and eat it to" is the source of some of the annoyances. Thinking further I wondered if ICup would benefit from allowing racers to choose one of two classes: Competitive and Recreational.

The Competitive class would be for racers serious about racing - perhaps with ambitions of racing Pro (National or World) some day. There would be more strict rules, like forcing riders up to the next category if their race record shows they are at the top of their current category. Dropping down a category would be allowed under petition if the racers (poor) race record proved the point. Only Competitive class racers are eligible to win awards (i.e. ribbons) and earn team and individual points. The Competitive class would not have a Beginner category (Sport would be the lowest category in the Competitive class).

The Recreational class would be for those who just want to race for fun. They would be free to choose any category they wish (as long as it is compatible with their gender and age). They would not be forced to move up or down in category. They would not be eligible to win awards or points. Perhaps Recreational class would cost less. And you could go home right after you finish since you don't have to wait around for the awards.

The Competitive and Recreational racers would race at the same time (i.e. the Completive and Recreational Sport Men 30-34 would start together).

Yes, this would add more complexity, but it would provide two distinct paths for racers and reduce (eliminate?) sandbagging in the Competitive class. Once a racer achieved a certain level (based on points total or so many podium finishes) s/he would move up to the next higher Competitive category or move over to Recreational class. So racers still have choices, but sandbagging the Competitive class isn't one of them.

Abuses of the ICup series (like sandbagging) aren't rampant, thanks to conscientious racers who "do the right thing" and move up when it's time. But the ICup is growing and my guess is the abuses will grow. Moving from Beginner to Sport is a little daunting, but not bad. But moving from Sport to Expert seems like a bigger jump and some racers don't do it even though they should. The Competitive and Recreational classes give racers more options and provide a more "level playing field" for Competitive racers. Is it worth the extra structure? I think it is, but I'd like your comments.

Cardboard Bicycles

BoingBoing linked to these bicycles sculpted from cardboard by Chris Gilmore - amazing!

Moab Day 2

(Moab Day 1)

Monday dawns bright and blue, but we rest and start slow. The continental breakfast at the Super 8 is OK - I had a donut, some cold cereal, half an english muffin and some orange juice. We dressed in our riding clothes, loaded up the bikes and headed to the Slickrock trail. We've done the Slickrock trail many times and we thought about doing something different, but there's something magical about this ride - it always puts a smile on our faces.

Arriving at the parking lot my wife lets out a strange giggle - I know it means she's nervous. I have to admit I was too. And just moments before I was wondering why I felt anxious. I've done this many times. One reason is the challenges that still remain. I've cleaned every obstacle on the main trail except for the Woolly Gully. But last year we both made it up Cogs to Spare after years of failure, so now we HAVE to climb it - we can't go back to NOT making it. So that was a main component of the anxiety, but there are many tricky section and you always wonder if one of them will be your undoing this time out. But as is usually the case, once we got ready and started riding, the butterflies vanished.

The first substantial climb (Hurry Up and Wait) went well - I was pleased my legs felt good going up. Then we took the turnoff (left) for the main trail and climbed up the rolling short climbs to the first steep climb. It's a fairly short, but steep ramp that I get up most recent years without trouble - and this year was no different. My wife, on the other hand, has had her battles with this little beast - but this time she climbed it strong. She commented that the new tires (Kenda Small Block 8) stick better to the slickrock - makes sense since they have a tight knobby pattern and Dual Tread Compound with softer, stickier rubber down the middle.

After the ramp you're on top of a slickrock hill and headed to one of the trickiest sections. After descending a slickrock ridge a ways you make a left turn and do a short traverse across a sideslope then make a right-hand switchback to descent a minor ridge to the saddle below. It's intimidating and tricky, but pretty cool if you make it. This year I decided to take a different route - one I hadn't done for years. If you keep going down the ridge a bit farther, you can take a left off the ridge and zoom down to the saddle below and up the face of a knoll on the other side - it's a slickrock halfpipe! I was apprehensive, not in my ability to negotiate the "stunt", but mostly concerned that the g force at the bottom would cause a tire to blow or some other mechanical mishap would take me down. But the bike ran great and I enjoyed the thrill of diving down the drop, feeling the g's at the bottom, and rolling up the other side (with a few pedal strokes to make the top). Nothing like doing something a little crazy to to get you loosened up and feeling good.

After some more moderate slickrock fun we arrived at the Wooly Gully. I looked it over but ultimately wimped out and walked through it. My rationale? If I get injured here the the ride will be over or less fun. That's my cowardly story and I'm stickin' to it.

Then some more fun riding and we arrive at the loop junction. We toyed with going counterclockwise since we hadn't gone that way in many years, but we wanted to prove we could do Cogs to Spare again so we went left (clockwise). Soon enough Cogs was upon us.

Cogs to Spare was three parts. The first part is a "knob garden" - a rough spot of rock with many bumps the size of cantaloupes the rider must negotiate while not drifting too far left or right so as to stay lined up for the next part. The second part is a short, steep ramp that looks too steep to bike up and requires the rider to hit it with as much speed as they can muster and lean way forward to keep from wheelie-ing over, but not too far forward or you'll loose traction on the rear wheel. The third part is a steep, long-ish slope with one little rest spot, so after you've given all you've got to clear the first two parts and your heart rate is maxed and your panting like all the oxygen has left the air, you have to keep the pedals turning to make it to the top. And there's no cheating on Cogs - it goes up a ridge so there are no cheater routes left or right - going straight up the beast is the only option.

I stopped at the bottom, but only for a short rest, feeling I might do better to just hit it right away. Unfortunately I got bounced off the line and didn't even make it to the ramp. The second try I spun out just before the ramp - my tire pressure was too high so I let some air out. The third try I got on a bad line and when I hit the ramp I stalled and fell over. But the forth time I nailed the line, blasted the ramp and kept going. At the top I was spent. I stopped, leaned over my bars and panted for a full minute until I had recovered a little. Then I went down to support and photograph my wife's attempt. But before I continue, I present this:

What kind of freaky Hulk thing is going on with my lower legs! Not big bulging muscles - scrawny wiry alien-worms-under-the-skin things. I guess my steep climb overdrive is those tiny balance muscles. Either that or I'm about to blow a few blood vessels. Frightening.

I told my wife, the line just left of the white paint marks was the the way to go. She got psyched up, clipped in and went for it. She threaded the line through the knob garden, then spun up the cadence and powered up the ramp and kept going. She cleaned Cogs on the first try! And let out a triumphant yell on the way up the third part. The riders waiting their turn cheered. It was a good moment. And this, my friends, is the face of determination:

The cruise along Swiss Cheese Ridge was pleasant, with the great views, light breeze and Cogs behind us. This back side of the loop is my favorite - a swooping downhill roller coaster ride peppered with a few climbs. Then a good climb up to Natural Selection Viewpoint for a bite to eat.

Along the way I'd developed some problem with my rear derailer. At first it sent the chain into my spokes when in the lowest gear on a climb. Then it would stay in gear for a while then start jumping. Upon inspection it appears to have been hit (probably bent the derailer hanger), most likely when I tipped over on Cogs. I adjusted it a few times and then just settled into 2nd gear for rest of the way back since I had the least trouble with that gear.

I usually dread the ride past Shrimp Rock back to the loop junction, but it seemed to go faster this time. I took a few laps around Baby Bottom Bowl and horsed around at the junction trying to catch a little air.

Coming back along the out-n-back part I at least did the drop off the ramp into the Wooly Gully, but didn't even attempt to pedal through the deep sand and climb the ledgy exit on the other side. I goofed up on the steep ramp just past the Gully, but made it on the second try. The last serious obstacle is the climb back up to and beyond the halfpipe. This year and last we've been in pretty good biking condition, but other years this climb is shear torture with legs burning from so many exertions up so many climbs. But I felt pretty good and motored right up it - so did my wife. Oh, it's still had our full attention and got us breathing hard, but it was nice to not have the lactic acid burns. We both made the switchback and finished out the ride back to the parking lot. It always feels good to finish the Slickrock trail - it's part adventure, part challenge and part play (like a kid at the playground).

More photos.

While we rested and enjoyed some cold drinks we discussed what we should do next. The choices came down to Fins n Things or Bartlett Wash. Fins n Things is a mile or so from the Slickrock parking lot. I rode it with some locals a few years back and quite liked it. I also wanted to check out Morning Glory Arch. But there was a lot of deep sand and I couldn't find the view spot and we were getting hungry so we cut it short and headed back to the car. Yea, we should have done Bartlett Wash.

We headed back to town and ate some McFood, yes it's not healthy but man that Big Mac tasted good! We stopped in the center of town so my wife could look for a sweatshirt while I talked with Matt, the owner of Desert Highlights, about canyoneering and his Slick (retrievable anchor system). I talked too long and my wife couldn't find me (sorry dear), but eventually we met back up and headed for home. It was a nice, peaceful drive and we talked about how fun the trip had been and how it had given us the boost we needed. If you want to refresh your body, take a swim in a river or lake, but if you want to refresh your soul, go to the desert. "My heart cries out over Moab" - Isaiah 15:5

Moab Day 1

We got away around 1:30 Sunday afternoon and saw plenty of cars loaded with bikes, most of them were leaving the 24 Hours of Moab race. We arrived in the Moab area with enough daylight to do a short ride. We took the turnoff just south of the airport and headed for Klondike Bluffs. It's a fun trail with some sand, dirt and slickrock (even a few dinosaur footprints). I liked cruising on the slickrock best.

The bike trail ends at the Arches National Park border where you can park your bike and take a short hike (1/4 mile) up to the bluffs. It's worth the hike.

Coming back I wanted to go down the lower part of Baby Steps so I kept watching my GPS for the waypoint I had marked. We went right by it once, but coming back we saw it - a white bike panted on the slickrock and a sign in the dirt marking the trail (how did we miss it?). It was a pretty fun trail, but there were a few sections where it seemed like the trial builders were trying too hard to make clever lines. It had a fun slickrock section and we bombed down the double track as we raced the fading sunlight. Made it to the bar just in time. Drove down to Moab for a Chicken Bowl (with veggies) and a Kalua Pork Bowl at Teriyaki Stix - that hit the spot. Then check in at the Super 8 motel to rest up for more riding.

(I'll get the post up for Moab Day 2 tomorrow.)

Gone to Moab

We snapped. It has rained the last 4 Saturdays (as Mark noted) and my wife and I couldn't take it any more. I know rain and cloudy weather is no big deal for many areas of the country / world (like the Pacific Northwest), but we're spoiled with lots of sunny days here in Utah and this string of storminess took its toll. So we're headed to Moab for some mountain biking through Monday. I should have some good stories and pictures for Tuesday. Until then, we're gone (in more ways than one).

Timpooneke Late Fall

I rode the big Timpooneke loop (Timpooneke, up Pine Hollow, out Ridge 157, down then up Deer Creek South Fork, out Ridge 157 then back down Pine Hollow and GWT to Timpooneke) up American Fork Canyon after work with Ed. We met at the parking lot at the mouth of the canyon at 4:30, loaded the bikes and headed for the Timpooneke trailhead. We were pleased to find the trail to be in good condition - mostly tacky, some sections dry (but not dusty) and a handful of wet spots that were only soft, not muddy. The peak of the Fall colors has past, but we still came across a few places where the Aspens were lite up in incredibly bright yellow leaves. In one spot the fallen leaves carpeting the trail were so bright it almost hurt to look at them. The temperature wasn't too cold and overall it was a good ride. I just wish I would have remembered my camera. We made it back to the car 10 minutes before sunset.

The new shock was not as plush as I hoped it would be. It soaks up the big stuff OK, but the medium and little stuff was rough. It also didn't seem to track the terrain as well on the climbs. Now I can't decide if I will keep it or not. I'll give it a few more rides and play with the air pressure and rebound setting.

Shock MacGyver

The warm weather this week won't last long and I have an invite to ride tomorrow, but my mountain bike is still out of commission with a dead rear shock. I need to get my bike fixed! Ryan at Revolution kindly offered to loan me a used shock, but they didn't have the spacers for my Cannondale Prophet. They ordered the spacers from Fox Racing Shox last week, but they didn't arrive today. Not ready to give up, I ask myself "What would MacGyver do?"

I call Go-Ride to see if they have the spacers I need - they don't, but they have some that are a bit longer. That wouldn't stop MacGyver so I decide to give it a shot - I drive up to Go-Ride and buy the spacers, then down to Revolution to pickup the loaner shock. After work I eat dinner then retreat to the garage to see if I can alter the too-long spacers and make them fit my bike. I first try a file - I'm making metal shavings, but I have to remove 1.27 mm of hard aluminum alloy from two spacers and 0.55 mm from the other two - the file is just too slow. I try the orbital sander, but it doesn't work. I go over to my neighbor's house and try his bench grinder - now we're talking! It still takes a while to grind down the spacers to the correct length, and I take it slow to keep the end flat and true. After an hour I have all four spacers to the correct length within 0.1 mm - not bad, if I say so myself. Back in my garage I knock off the burrs, break the sharp edges and clean out the holes with a drill bit. I test fit the spacers ... perfect! I bolt the shock on, set the sag and take a little test ride in the dark as I adjust the rebound. The Prophet is rolling again, sweet!

The shock is a Fox Float R with ProPedal. It weighs a LOT less than the dead Manitou coil Swinger 4-way. It seemed to ride OK as I rode around my yard, off the curb and around the street. If I like the Float on the dirt ride tomorrow, I may just buy it and keep it on the Prophet.

Race Categories are Meaningless

Sly got kicked out of 24 Hours of Moab because some wanker(s) complained that he is a Pro (actually he topped out at Semi-Pro but that means Pro to the organizers). All he wanted to do was have fun cranking the night shift, hang out with his team and other riders, and enjoy the event. Fox admits he's not in Semi-Pro form, and while he's still a strong rider, his recent race results (or lack thereof) back up his claim. So it boggles my mind why anyone would care if he rides. Will Fox be an asset to his team? Sure. Will he be the ringer that puts them on the podium? Probably not. So why not let him ride?

Fox pointed out that the categories in MTB racing cause a lot of problems (like his), and I agree. I hadn't thought much about the categories before, but when you really think about it, they're arbitrary, ripe for abuse, and well, silly. Silly because racers pick their category and there are no uniform rules that force racers to move up (based on race results or some other objective criteria). Nor are there allowances for racers to move down if their performance drops. There is at least some logic behind age grouping since in general it's harder to reach a level of performance as a person gets older. And while you could describe a Beginner, just exactly what is a Sport or an Expert? Pretty nebulous.

It goes against what we're used to, but why not dump the categories? I know one reason why - awards and points. It's fun to get a ribbon and score some points. Without categories there'd be a lot fewer winners. But what does it really mean to be the winner of the Sport category? I'll admit that it is fun to get ribbons and rack up points. But if it doesn't mean that much, are we just feeding ourselves ego junk food? Can't we be happy with ourself if we simply rode a good race, even if we finished 18th out of 25 racers in the 30-34 group?

Amidst the artificiality of organized competitive events (the categories, awards, points, etc.), there is purity to be found in racing, but it's usually at an individual level - being in the zone, putting together a top performance, beating you best time, etc. Friendly rivalry can also be rewarding as you see "who's got it today". But for me, I find more purity in just riding - cranking some sweet mountain single-track, or cruising the desert trails, or flying downhill carving turns, or finessing a technical challenge.

No matter how you get your kicks, "riding" is the soul of cycling. And this snafu over categorization with Fox sucked some of that soul away. Is it worth it?

Not 100%

I went for a short road ride at lunch. It was warm (mid 70s), but windy. I went east to try to get out of the wind - it helped, but not much. I did OK, but I was disappointed that I'm not even close to 100%. That illness I had last week is still haunting me. It's discouraging how much those sick spells take out of me and how long it takes to get back to pre-illness fitness. Oh, well, such is life.

Life Remaining Countdown

Kevin Kelly posted about making a Life Countdown to motivate him make the most of each day. I thought it was an interesting idea so I made one for myself (look on the right side, down a bit). I followed Kevin Kelly's instructions, but did mine in Javascript so I could put it on this blog. I don't know if I'll keep it. My wife thinks it's morbid. Mostly it was just an interesting idea that gave me an excuse to do a little web development.

Squaw Peak Pain

My first ride after being sick was Wednesday at lunch with Mark. It was supposed to be a mellow ride, but Mark informs me that I didn't ride very mellow. I guess I was excited to be on the bike again, but I was certainly not feeling 100%. It was a nice ride, except for the 18 mph wind.

Saturday was cold and rainy. So when I saw the sun in the sky today I had to go for a ride. I headed toward Provo Canyon with my options being South Fork (a mellow climb) and Squaw Peak (a pretty stout climb). I decided I needed to see how bad this illness set me back so I went for Squaw Peak.

Turning off on the Squaw Peak road it starts hurting you right away with +10% grade. It only stays that steep for a 100 yards or so, but the damage is done. I was wheezing and coughing for the increased breathing. While the illness is gone, I have crud in my lungs I'm still cleaning out. At one point I was coughing so hard it was upsetting my stomach and I thought I might hurl. But I hung in there and tried to think calming thoughts. Eventually my airway was clean enough that I stopped coughing and the nausea went away. I got into a slow, but steady rhythm and chugged along.

The Fall colors are muted this year, but there were some splashes of brightly colored leaves here and there. The air had that musty, "dead leaves" smell - I like it, though I'm sure it's repugnant to others. The grade was averaging 6-7% and I was doing OK. Then I hit a section that popped up to 10%, it hurt but I got through it. The grade had turned steeper averaging 8-9% and I could feel my energy draining but I kept going.

Then I hit the final steep section before the end. Before the fork the grade hits 9-10% and I dug deeper. Then it jumps to 11-12% as I take the right fork - I'm out of my saddle and breathing hard. At the crest of the ridge there is a very short rest as I make the left turn to go up the ridge which is 12-13% and I start out the saddle, but sit back down and grind out the last half to the overlook - I'm seriously hurting now and it's all I can do to keep pedaling. I pull into a parking space and flop forward on the bars and pant for a few minutes. Eventually my breathing slows a bit and I get off the bike and take in the views as I continue to recover. 1930' of climbing from my house in Orem.

Now I get a nice downhill run as a reward for my hard work. But it's only in the mid 50s and I'm pretty sweaty so I immediately get chilled. It wasn't too bad because I had on two jerseys, arm warmers and insulated gloves. But I did have a wind breaker in my jersey pocket that I somehow forgot about until I was a mile from home - doh! Except for being a bit cold, the ride down was nice. I took it easy, 25-35 mph, and had fun carving the corners at moderate speed. Remembering Kenny's crash helped me keep my speed in check. I made it back to Provo Canyon and enjoyed pedaling home to get my blood flowing again and warm up a bit.

Sadly, the recent illness took a pretty big bite out of my climbing ability (be it what it is). Squaw Peak is a stout climb, but I did it earlier this year and it didn't torch me this bad. So, I've got some catching up to do. Even with the suffering, it was a nice ride and felt good to be out. Yep, the usual masochism exhibited by many avid cyclists.

Dead Shock part II

Go-Ride only does limited repairs on Fox and Marzocchi shocks. If I want my Manitou Swinger shock repaired I have to send it to Manitou, but they were just bought by Hayes and are in the process of restructuring and moving so it could be 2 months before I get the shock back and it will cost over $100.

So I asked about new shocks. The hot shocks this year are the Fox RP23 and the Marzocchi Roco, but both are over $300! So I started looking for used on eBay and RideMonkey - found a few interesting choices in the size I need.

On RideMonkey I found a guy who repairs shocks. I've sent him a few e-mails and feel it's worth trying - at only $50 it's my least expensive option. While the Manitou Swinger 4-way coil is not the perfect shock for my bike and riding, I've been pretty happy with how it's performed so repairing it seems like the way to go.

Dead Shock

After 8 days of being sick (man, that was nasty crud!) I'm easing back into some riding. The UUtah guys had a mellow ride planned so my wife and I joined them. We met at the Draper pool and shuttled up to the top of Traverse Ridge. We rode down Clarks trail then west on the BST then down the Oak Hollow trail back to the pool.

The UUtah guys had never been down Clarks and I'm pretty sure they liked it - I like riding it up or down, but have to admit that going down is a blast. Sadly, only a few hundred yards down the trail I start hearing some ugly, metal-hitting-metal sounds from my rear shock. I stopped to discover I had no damping at all and only the coil spring providing some suspension. I rode slow and took it easy. The rear end was bouncy and squirrelly, but at least I was able to ride.

From this incident, I am now a big fan of shocks with coil springs. If it had been an air-only shock, I would not have been riding "bottomed out". At least with the spring I had some suspension.

I'll send the shock into Go-Ride to be fixed. I hope it doesn't take too long - I want to do some more MTB riding this month.