Raising a Pro Cyclist

It's tough to break into professional cycling. You have to be super human and almost a genetic freak. But as in other sports like gymnastics, you can compensate by starting early. So if you dream of seeing your son (or daughter) making it big as a cyclist, you better start them young. In fact, if your child is 5, you're too late.

To help you achieve your dream, uh I mean to help your child achieve his/her dream, the forward-thinking folks at Fisher-Price have just the thing for you: Smart Cycle.

The handlebars turn so your future cycling phenom can practice weaving through the peloton, carving tight turns down insane mountain descents and swerving around fallen cyclists in the brutal crashes.

The pedal resistance is variable, under control of the software cartridge installed, from 5 to 1,500 watts so your prodigy won't outgrow this training tool.

The initial crop of software cartridges are the usual kids fair: dinosaurs, Sponge Bob, and of course Barbie for the girls. I'm not sure what they were thinking with the Hot Wheels cartridge - don't they know that cars and bikes are mortal enemies? No matter, these are all like gateway drugs for the heroin coming next year. Chris Carmichael is in production of Train Right for Kids and a Toddlers Spinervals release is slated for early 2008. By the end of next year your child could have thighs that would make a speed skater envious, a VO2 Max to match Lance, and a resting heart rate of 15.

So get cracking parents, it's never too soon to introduce your child to the joys of training for hours each day, 365 days a year to be a pro cyclist. Don't forget to buy the optional Combination Locked Toe Clips and the Electroshock Motivator add-ons so junior will complete the workout even without supervision. Of course as a loving parent you'll want to be involved - nothing builds a bond like a father or mother screaming encouragements like:

  • "Get that cadence up! Do you think Lance won 7 Tours with effort like that?"
  • "You want to go play with your friends? Play is for the weak, pain is for the strong!"
  • "Winners don't cry! Now put the hammer down and finish this last set!"
  • "You may hate me now, but when you're rich and famous you can buy plenty of psychotherapy to help you understand why I did this for you."
It may take a decade or two, but thanks to the Smart Cycle and obsessive parents living their dreams through their children, you'll be seeing American cyclists dominating the world.

Christmas Gifts for Cyclists

Cyclists are generally passionate about cycling, so giving them a cycling-related gift is a sure bet. Here are a few gift ideas:

OK, these Hello Kitty tires are more likely a gag gift, but if you happen to know someone who is both a cyclist and a Hello Kitty fan, these tires will surely fill them with Christmas glee.

Although useless (unless you consider paper weight an essential function), this 3D Cyclist "crystal" is just too cool. I'd stare at it for a good hour and show it with pride to all family, friends and Holiday well-wishers. After Christmas I'd put it on a shelf in my office and never notice it again until a visitor points it out, at which time it will be paraded as a rare work of art that was purchased for me at great cost by an adoring person who understands my magnificence. So, ya, this is a great gift!

This is manliness. Barbecuing with this Park BBQ Tool Set advertises that you are not just a cyclist, but a cyclist who works on his own bikes and likes to play with fire AND eat chunks of meat. Now let me hear your Tim 'The Tool Man' grunt!

This is the gift that keeps on taking ... your self-confidence. Each look at this endo sculpture will remind you of the perils of mountain biking, which you've probably experienced first-(broken)-hand. And as the saying goes - once bitten, twice shy - remembering all those painful crashes will erode your confidence until you find yourself at the first ride of 2008 as timid as a kid who just had his training wheels removed. So give this gift to your rival who always seems to outdo you on every ride - s/he won't be so gung-ho next year with a shattered ego.

Like displaying a rainbow flag, this Sprocket Doorbell tells everyone coming to your home, "I'm proud to be completely obsessed with bicycles!" Studies show visitors to your home will drop by 34%.

Ride Redo for the Birthday Girl

It's Jolene's birthday and she wanted to mountain bike and go out for dinner. Being the good, selfless husband that I am, I complied with her wishes.

Around 10 am she decided not to ride because it was too cold, but around 2 pm she decided to go for it so I left work and we were on the bikes around 3 pm. From our house we pedaled the few blocks to the Orem Cemetery then took the service road up into the mouth of Provo Canyon. We saw a group of 3 other mountain bikers coming up from the old race track trails. We met them at the trail fork, said hi and kept rolling. This section of trail is fairly new and it's much nicer than the old way up which featured a steep, loose section that is near impossible to ride up.

Soon enough we came to our fork. This is the section of new trail I did last ride. Jolene had a little crash on the first climb - it's narrow, steep and rooty. At the Tee we went left just to see where it was headed. Within a few yards we came to an intersection of several trails. I'll have to explore these some other day.

We turned around and went back and took the trail I rode on Saturday. We saw some deer and passed through the two nice clearings.

The little climb beyond the second meadow was good. Once on the ridge I went up a bit further to look around. I found another trail that looked promising. This place is loaded with trails!

We took the same new-looking trail down and Jolene liked it too. We picked our way down the newly graded service road, then took the canal trail back home.

After the ride we got cleaned up and went to Happy Sumo for dinner. We usually just get sushi, but I tried an entree this time - trout with shrimp and scallops - plus sushi. We got four rolls: Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Utah and Samaria. Good stuff!

I got her a rose and card, and we ordered a Twin Six jersey for her. A very nice afternoon and evening with my lovely and loving wife. I'm very grateful she likes to mountain bike - it's made for a lot of good memories and enjoyment we continue to share.

Humble Pie

On Thanksgiving I had pumpkin, apple and strawberry-rhubarb pie. Today I had humble pie.

Yesterday I thought about trying cyclocross by racing at Wheeler Farm. I doubt I'd really dig cyclocross, but I'm interested enough to want to try it, and who knows, maybe I'll like it. But I had other ride ideas spark my interest so I bagged it. Then I read Sly's report about all the goathead thorns at Wheeler, and since I don't run sealant in my tubes, it's very likely I would have flatted and that's really not fun in a race. (Thanks for the 411 Fox!)

I thought about doing the full Alpine Loop on my road bike, but with temperatures in the valley in the low 40s, I think the cold would have made it less fun - especially on the long descent down American Fork Canyon.

So I decided to take the mountain bike and go play in my backyard (Provo Canyon and the Orem foothills). The thought occurred to me that I've never tried to go up Frank. Frank is a trail that goes up from Canyon Glen Park, past Johnson Hole and up a minor ridge until it joins the dirt service road 500' above the park. I've come down it many times and it's a fun downhill romp.

I never know what to expect from trails that I've come down and then try to go up. Sometimes they are surprisingly good to climb, and other times they are more difficult - rarely do I peg them accurately. Another factor was the hint that Kenny goes up Frank as a training ride - not that I'm in the same class as Kenny, but it meant that it can be biked. Well Frank was more difficult than I expected. It's loose, but I was doing OK maintaining enough traction to keep going forward. I just didn't have the gas to make that first climb up to Johnson's Hole. Not even close. I didn't make the switchback and pushed the bike up the 3 steepest spots. Well, I gave it a good try, but I came up short. And even though I didn't let my expectations get too lofty, I thought I'd do better and I was humbled to discover: 1) I'm not as strong as I thought I was, 2) even though I've conquered other climbs, Frank gives me a new goal to reach for, and 3) I'm loosing fitness and need to get stronger. The ego took a hit today, but hopefully this wake up call will motivate me to train this winter.

From Johnson's Hole it's not as steep and it rolls more, but it's still a good climb. I did better, but still walked 2 times. Another serving of that humble pie. But I cleaned a few tricky and steep slopes and that made me feel like I wasn't a total hack. On the service road I put it in the middle ring and cruised along pondering the decision I needed to make.

What I had completed was lower Frank, and the start of upper Frank was coming up quick. Although lower Frank had worked me over pretty good, I had recovered quite a bit and decided that if I was going to up Frank, I might as well go for the whole thing. I started up and was feeling OK, but I was working too hard and when a steep slope came I couldn't do it. I climbed most of it OK, but had to push the bike 4 times. The last 2/3 of this upper Frank were just steep enough to keep me at that uncomfortable level of exertion - it seemed to never end. I finally made it to the 4-way intersection. There's usually a big pile of rocks here (often called the Altar), but it's been knocked down. Decision time again.

I thought about going straight through. It's a nice trail with some climbing, but nothing brutal, good views of the valley and a fun descent into Dry Canyon. But daylight was wanning (it was already 4 pm) and I wanted to hit some trails off the downhill trail I hadn't visited in a while. The gully crossing was better than usual - looks like someone cleared away most of the loose rock. The trench is still the same and I took the trail to the right to avoid the nasty washed out section below. I noticed a thinner trail staying high where the main trail drops steeply, but I passed it by - next time, I thought. Not far from the bottom of the slope I saw a trail heading right and I just had to see if it was the thin trail I saw above. It was and it ascends much more evenly and will be the route I take from now on. I went back down again and came to another fork.

I'd seen this fork many times and just never taken it. Today I was in the mood. It came to the foot of a hill and cut across it into a small gully where it came to a Tee. I turned right and climbed back above where I had been. Four deer watched me approach from a small clearing until they got spooked and trotted off. The trail meandered along this bench of sorts until it came to a nice little clearing complete with fire ring. The trail climbed a bit steeply to gain the ridge and a view of the valley below. It was a great trail and I couldn't believe I hadn't tried it sooner. But there was more.

As I pedaled toward a minor ridge to the west, I crossed a trail that caught my eye. After taking in the view from the minor ridge, I backtracked and turned down the trail I crossed. It was a bit rough and thin and in some places it was no more than cut grass, but in a dirt spot I saw knobby tracks so that gave me some assurance it wouldn't get too hairy. Eventually it joined with an established trail I recognized. I caught some air off two little humps and soon enough I was on the service road above the water tanks (above the Orem Cemetery). The road had been recently graded and it was very loose so I took it easy on the way down.

Near the bottom I passed two young guys on mini-motorcycles - I shook my head at them, but they ignored my meaning. It bugs me that motor-powered folks still poach this area - it's been closed for years and many of the dug-up spots are starting to recover. If they'd stick to the roads and more sturdy trails, I wouldn't care, but they seem unable to resist the urge to wander all over the hills, spinning their tires and tearing up the ground. This is my backyard and I hope that before I die the ugly spiderweb of two-tracks all over the foothills will be erased and reclaimed. I called the cops on them when I got home.

All in all I enjoyed being out on the bike - after Thanksgiving, no less! It was cold, but sunny. I got humbled and a good work-out trying to go up Frank. I explored some new trails, which is something that always turns my cranks - I'm excited to get up there again and explore a few more forks that intrigued me. Being the season of Thanks, I'm grateful for this network of good single-track only 10 minutes from my house - one of my luxuries, for sure!

Blogger Slideshow

Blogger has a new Slideshow page element I added to my blog (top of the side menu). It's pointing to my Moab photo album now, but I'll change that to a new album of favorite cycling photos eventually. I've been meaning to put together a "best of" set of photos for a while, so this new slideshow will motivate me to actually get around to doing it.

Update: The slideshow is now of my favorite mountain biking photos. It took a while to put together. First I had to organize all my photos (create a better directory structure, rename files, then move them into the proper directory) then sort through 1,200 photos to pick out my 83 favorites. It took several hours, but it was worth doing. Looking through all these images brought back a lot of good memories and reminded me how thankful I am for all the joy mountain biking has brought me.

Bad Food, Good Food

Todd picked the perfect time to start ranting about unhealthy food - right before Thanksgiving. It won't spoil my Feast of Thanks, but it got me thinking about my diet (what I eat and drink). After reading Todd's first rant I came across a post on BoingBoing about diet and fat which linked to an article, What if it's All Been a Big Fat Lie, that challenges a lot of notions most Americans have about what constitutes a healthy diet, especially the notion that fat is bad for you - definitely worth a read. My wife read the article too and we had a good discussion about it. Here's my favorite quote:

If you work out the numbers, you come to the surreal conclusion that you can eat lard straight from the can and conceivably reduce your risk of heart disease.
So now what?

In my late 30s I started getting a little pudgy. Not a big deal to most people, but I have always been thin and blessed with a metabolism that would allow me to eat most anything without gaining weight. But the unmistakable message from my body was: "I've been spoiling you all these years - now you're on your own". As I enter this phase of life the choice is mine to ignore or heed this message.

I've taken a few small steps toward a better diet - I've cut down on soda pop and other sugary drinks, switched mostly from white to whole or multi-grain bread, try to eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water. Good stuff, but I could, should do more - Todd's rants and the other reading I've done have given me some prodding.

From the Big Fat Lie article I'm less concerned about fat and more concerned about carbohydrates - especially highly sweetened and processed foods. My wife and I read up on the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL)and browsed through a table of common foods and found some surprises. Most people would suspect sugary foods as having a high GI and GL, and this is generally true. But mashed potatoes can be higher - the simple starch elevates your blood sugar level higher and faster than table sugar. In general, raw fruits and vegetables are low but cooking usually increases their GI - explains why mashed potatoes are high, but raw or boiled potatoes are pretty low.

Well, obviously there is a lot to learn about diet, and since the body is so complex, not all of the data agrees. But in general I'm going to work on making small changes to eliminate bad foods and add good foods. For instance, I'm addicted to cold cereal for breakfast. I'll start by replacing the sugary cereal I now eat, with healthier kinds. Maybe some day I can go off cereal altogether and switch to unsweetened yogurt and fruit. But for now, baby steps. This is not the year for Tofurky.

Night Rider

According to the weather forecast, this is the last warm day for a while. I took my mountain bike to work, but forgot my cycling clothes - doh! Tonight we had a family get-together at the in-laws. When we got home after 9 pm I felt I had to go for a ride since it was still 58 F and I wanted to give night riding another try.

If you remember, my first attempt to ride at night didn't go so well. This time the battery was fresh off the charger and I drove up to the trial head to make sure I had maximum dirt time.

I put the light on medium and had no trouble seeing as I rode up the trail (BST from above the Orem Cemetery). The pool of light on the trail was much brighter than it appears in the above photo. I couldn't see every tiny rock and stick like during daylight, but I could easily see enough detail of the trail to ride pretty aggressively. In fact, I think I rode faster because of the light - it's like I was trying to catch up to that spot of light ahead on the trail. I got a good workout going up and the few downhills were fine.

After the climb past (north of) Dry Canyon, I turned around for the (mostly) downhill. I kicked the light up to high to give me the maximum light for the higher speed. It worked pretty well. I'm sure I can ride it faster in the daylight, but I cooked along OK. I hit 17 mph and averaged 10.8 mph on a fairly narrow trail with lots of sidehill.

The verdict: Night riding is fun! Just as Sly said. I kept expecting to see some critters, and I finally startled some deer on the way down - seeing glowing eyes looking at you is a bit eerie. The city lights looked cool as I rode along, but this photo doesn't do the view justice. I'm looking forward to my next night ride.

Family Sunday up AF Canyon

While this blog is mostly about my cycling (habit), I want to mention the nice Family outing we had up American Fork Canyon today. Again, I must note that it's November and there was no snow on the ground and we only wore light jackets (temperature in the 50s).

Saturday, after our mountain bike ride, Jolene and I noticed a trail that crossed a bridge opposite the Timpanogos Cave visitors center and we decided that if the weather were nice, we'd come back on Sunday to check it out with the family. Sadly, the trail wasn't very long. We thought it went up the side canyon, but it only went down to the Swinging Bridge picnic area (note: we saw no swinging bridge). Still, it was fun to get out. We went down to the river, wandered around the paths and made our way back along the trail to our car.

Then we drove up to Tibble Fork Reservoir. It was colder here with a cold breeze blowing down from the mountains to the north. It's a pretty place. We skipped rocks, went up a trail along a small creek, and walked along the dam to see water flowing down the spillway. Kade got cold so I gave him a piggy-back ride back to the car and we went home. A nice little family outing.

I was going through some photos tonight and thought I'd share a few of our youngest, and only boy, Kade:

Future lady's man? (Practicing his wink on Mom.)

Robo-boy! (I was installing new ducts on the dryer.)

The Creature from the Pile of Leaves.

Bi-Bicycle Saturday

This morning I took my road bike for a spin up the South Fork of Provo Canyon. It was a nice 20 mile ride with some moderate climbing. The temperature was nice and I played a little game to keep the speed in the double digits all the way.

This afternoon Jolene and I road the mountain bikes up American Fork Canyon. The Alpine Loop gates are closed so we had to start at Pine Hollow and pedal up the road to the Timpooneke trail head. Two weeks ago when I rode these trails there were a few wet spots, but today it was wetter and even sloppy in a few spots. I felt bad riding the soft spots, but it shouldn't cause any permanent harm. We just rode out on the Ridge trail a ways then reversed course. Yet another gift to be riding in the mountains this time of year, but this may be the end (although I said that last time).

Super Blood

Forget EPO and blood transfusions, enter oxygen therapeutics - substances that can carry 4 times more oxygen than red blood cells. Right now it's in clinical trials to treat stroke and brain injury patients by carrying oxygen past blockages. But it hit me that this stuff would work for cyclists to carry more oxygen to the muscles during a race. It lasts 4 hours or so and eventually works it way out of your body through natural processes. However, it should be easy to detect in blood or urine samples so it's not a stealth performance enhancer, but for cyclists willing to take the risk they might try to use it between doping checks. If a pro cyclist shot up with this stuff I bet it would be like a nitrous boost to a hot rod. Oxygent is one oxygen therapeutic in clinical trials.

I found this while looking around the WIRED Science website after I caught one of their shows on PBS. I've seen 2-3 of these shows now and they're quirky, but cover cool science and technology like a table-top touch-interactive display and how to put up your own satellite (they didn't really do it, but they went through the process). They have most of their program segments online so go check it out, if you're interested.

I also caught the NOVA Science Now show about Epigenetics. I'd never heard of this field, but the basic idea is that there is more diversity in life than can be explained just with the genetic code. One analogy is that the genetic code is like a book and epigenetics determines what parts of the book are read. Epigentics explains the apparent paradox in genetics of an identical twin that develops autism (or cancer or other such health issues), but the other twin does not. Researchers are already experimenting with epigenetic therapies for cancer with some sucess. Fascinating.

The Competition Trap

The 2006 Frozen Hog was my first mountain bike race. 2005 had been a good cycling year for me and thanks to spinning sessions after work during the Winter, I was feeling pretty strong. The Frozen Hog came up in conversation at work and a few of us decided to do it. I didn't really know what to do, I was nervous at the start, then I just pedaled hard until the finish. It was a heady experience and I wanted more.

The next race was Lava Rama (held at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho and part of the Intermountain Cup Race Series [ICup]). It was a tough race, but still thrilling. The competition inspired me to push myself hard and it felt good to probe my limits.

I attended most of the races that year. I was just in the Beginner class, but I placed well in most races and was having fun until the last few races of the season, but I chalked that up to burnout.

The next year I moved up to Sport (I wanted a longer race and felt like I was ready for it) and raced the first ICup race, the Desert Rampage. I liked the longer distance, even though it was more trying. I finished in the bottom half of the pack, but I expected that. It felt good to get out and ride and the race provided a great excuse for a road trip.

The next race, the Cholla Challenge, beat me up pretty good. It was a long course and I fizzled at the end, going slower and slower, but I finished. I think it was this race that I started losing my excitement for racing.

I did the next race, Showdown at Five Mile Pass, and did OK and enjoyed some of it, but my racing fire just wasn't there. I did the Draper race, but the race mojo was fading.

I reflected on why I lost my enthusiasm for racing. The thought that surfaced the most was, I missed trail riding. Racing had taken me away from what I've enjoyed about mountain biking for 15+ years - exploring new trails and revisiting old favorites, grinding up a climb just to see if I can make it, taking on technical challenges, flying along sweet single-track, and bombing downhill. Sure many of these elements are present in racing, but for me, in the rush to go fast they lose their sweetness.

I also couldn't ignore several annoyances that are a part of racing. In general, the best race courses are also the worst and least scenic trails (i.e. Five Mile Pass). And conversely, the races on good single-track aren't good for racing (i.e. hard to pass). The expense was also an issue - for $35 I can buy enough gas to get me to some really good trails where I can spend the whole day riding. (And if my wife and I both race, that's $70!) Time was also a factor - the race would only last 2 hours tops, but with the pre-race prep and the after race awards it seemed to consume most of a Saturday - and Spring/Summer Saturdays are precious! Now had I really been into racing, these issues would not have mattered. But because they annoyed me it was a sign I just wasn't a racer at heart.

About this time I read an article in Cycling Utah that spoke to me. The cyclist recounted his experience of loving to do long climbs on his road bike. He got pretty good at it and decided to see how he stacked up against other climbers so he started racing. At first it was fun, but then as he focused on racing, he found his love of riding soured. He realized he needed to make a change so he stopped racing and came back to climbing solo and found his love of cycling returned.

My experience was similar. I found that when I put the brakes on racing and went back to trail riding (and other forms of recreational cycling), my enjoyment of cycling was there. I still plan to race a few times each year, as I do enjoy some of the aspects of racing. Like most things, it's all about finding the blend and balance that works for you.

Here is a brief list of things I enjoy about recreational riding:

For the mountain bike it's cruising sweet single-track, tackling some technical terrain, hitting my stride on a long climb, being out in nature (even if it's just the foothills), Moab, etc.

For the road bike it's finding my pace on a long country road, climbing the canyons, tucking a fast descent, motoring along at 25+ mph in a clockwork paceline, socializing on a century ride, etc.

Many would say that the pinnacle of cycling is racing, but I disagree. Sure competition has many positives aspects, but it has negatives too. Many racers enjoy the challenge of competition and pushing ever harder. But racing can also spawn an obsession with wining. Just today I read about an incident of poor sportsmanship at a cyclocross race, resulting in this rude gesture from one teammate to another. Nice.

No absolutes here, just find what works for you and don't be afraid to dump what doesn't work.

Adventures in Wheelbuilding

I've never built a bicycle wheel before, but I'm giving it a try. I figured it would make a good Winter project. But first the backstory:

My current mountain bike is a 2005 Cannondale Prophet 800 that I bought used last year. It had a few problems, but I got a good deal on it so I budgeted in some repairs. Both wheels were not true and when I tried to true them, it became apparent the they had been bent badly enough they couldn't be fixed by truing. So I bought a 2nd set of wheels that were cheap and OK quality (I'm running them on the bike now), but I wanted better wheels eventually.

I've been slowly collecting the parts. I found some Mavic X223 rims for cheap on eBay months ago. I wanted a better rear hub, but couldn't stomach the price for the good/light ones so I settled for a Shimano XT freehub - tough and reliable, but not light. With the rim and hub chosen I used SpoCalc to determine the spoke lengths I would need. As of Friday I had all the parts so today I decided to assemble my new rear wheel.

I used Sheldon Brown's article on Wheelbuilding as my guide. His instructions are pretty good, but a few points were unclear and I made a mistake somewhere along the way and had to tear the wheel down. But the second time I got it right. Here's the wheel with the right and left trailing spokes installed (feet shown for scale - hehe):

And here's the wheel with all the spokes installed:

Yes, this wheel isn't going to win any beauty contests. For looks I should have gone with a black hub and spokes, but silver was available now and at a better price. As if it isn't obvious already, I'm going for value with this wheel, but still trying to use decent components.

I'm also planning to run this wheel tubeless. I'm going to use the yellow 3M tape as the rim tape / rim sealing for tubeless. Mike did and it worked well for him.

The next step is to true the wheel. Hopefully Yamabiker will have some time to help me with this - he has a truing stand, dish stick and spoke tensiometer.

When this rear wheel is done I'll start on a new front wheel. I have the rim and spokes and I'll rob the Lefty hub from the old, bent wheel. Lefty hubs don't fit in truing stands without an adapter - I may buy one, or jury-rig something or take it to a shop to be trued. The front wheel will also be tubeless. I'm looking forward to running tubeless next year.

Once this wheelset is done I'll even take a stab at bending the old rear wheel (rim) back into shape. I've got nothing to loose - if I can get it true I'll have another spare, if it breaks I'll have a spare rear hub (maybe I'll build a new wheel from it).

Mid Mountain in November

The plan was set to ride the Mid Mountain trail in Park City today. But when I looked outside this morning, the road and lawn were wet. Looking up at Timp it was freshly frosted with snow.

I feared the weather had betrayed me and the ride would be off. I called Mark and he said it was dry at his house and Park City hadn't received any precipitation. Perhaps the rain and snow I was seeing was just a localized phenomenon. So, the trip was on.

I met Mark at the Park City Mountain Resort parking lot. It was cool, but not cold - being November I can't complain about the temperature. We made our clothing choices and headed out. We took Silver Spur to Spiro. The ground was wet in spots, but never really muddy. We chatted some, but the most notable aspect of the climb was the quiet and stillness. Not even the slightest breeze and we only heard a few birds. Very peaceful.

After the climb up Spiro and a short jog on the Powerline trail, we headed north on Mid Mountain - we decided to at least climb to the ridge / overlook and then determine our next move from there. This section of trail is so nice.

At the top we took in the view then decided to take Mid Mountain back to Johns, since we didn't feel like hauling clear over to The Canyons. The ride down is even better than the climb. I caught some air on one nice bump in the pines and enjoyed swooping along the curves and dips in the trail.

Heading south from Powerline the Mid Mountain trail is still sweet. Riding through a thick stand of Pine trees, popping out of the trees to cut across a grass-covered ski run, rolling along the side hill cuts - fantastic.

Where the Mid Mountain jogs down a service road, we kept going down to jump on Johns trail near the top of the Payday lift. A steep little climb gets you to the trail head.

I'm sure Johns isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's one of my favorite trails. I feel like a kid at recess riding it. I smile the whole time as I thread the tree trunks, bounce over the roots, and round the many turns. My goal is to not dab (touch a foot down), and I did it this time (I've done it a few times before). Just icing on this year's mountain biking cake.

Unfortunately Mark took a spill on Johns and he wasn't liking it as much after that. I know how that goes. Sadly, there was more technical riding ahead. Mark toughed it out, but wasn't into it like I was.

Where's Mark?

I had high hopes of cleaning a few tricky spots on Sweeney Switchbacks, I made a few but I still failed on the harder ones. After one wrong turn (why do I always get sucked into these nasty trails at the end of Sweeneys?), we got dumped out onto a street and rode a short ways back to the cars.

We had the after-ride lunch at the same BBQ place we visited last time. That salmon wrap hit the spot.

It was a great ride and a real gift this time of year.

Read Mark's account

Nice November Lunch Ride

I met up with Sam and Jeff for a lunch road ride. I haven't ridden with Sam for months so it was nice to hook up. Jeff is on the same cycling team as Sam. We met at Jeff's work (1-800-CONTACTS) and rode together from there east through Draper.

It's always fun to meet another cyclist and so it was with Jeff. He's on the Draper City Council so we talked about roads and trails. Draper is doing a fantastic job preserving open space and creating parks and trails. Their trail network is really good and only getting better as they add more trails.

OK, back to the ride - when we hit the foothills we took Highland back. I didn't feel like hammering and I'm glad we all felt like a mellow ride. At I-15 they took the Frontage road and I continued on back to work. The temperature was a bit cool, but still enjoyable. A nice Friday ride.

Tomorrow morning the plan is to meet Mark in Park City and ride some route involving the Mid Mountain trail. I'm still shocked that these mountain trails are open - gotta ride while 'em while I can.

I check in with several cycling blogs - some daily, others less frequently. Most are locals, but a few are out of state. A few months ago I started reading Bike Snob NYC and found I enjoyed his witty writing. Today's post is exceptionally good - I laughed out loud several times.

The video below amazed me. I've heard of bike polo, but not cycle ball. These guys are incredible - the way they move so freely, it's like the bike is a part of them. In that wonderfully viral internet way, I found it on KDay's blog and he heard about it from Tolbert.

AF Canyon in November

Everyone say "hi" to Mike:

With the gates closing off the Alpine Loop, this is what the Timpooneke trail head parking lot looks like in November. Not another soul. Mike and I carpooled up from mouth of American Fork Canyon and parked at the gate where we met Todd at 12:30. I was expecting cold air, but it was warm - felt as warm as the valley. We biked up the road to get to the trail head. I took up my position in the rear since Todd and Mike are considerably faster than I am. Generally good trail conditions - there were some muddy spots along the Timpooneke trail, and we felt a bit bad riding on it, but we only sunk down 1 inch or so which shouldn't cause much damage. At the top of each climb I'd see Mike and Todd waiting for me. Then I'd see them for a while until they left me behind. Not a big deal, I just rolled along enjoying the ride. I was feeling pretty worked - not sure if it was because I was trying to keep up or if yesterday's climbing during the lunch road ride wore me down. Maybe both.

I've done this route many times, but it still satisfies. Nice climbs, Pine Hollow hurts me some. The Ridge is entertaining and the views are great. Ripping down Deer Creek South Fork I noted how good this section of trail is - I'd rank it in the top 10 in the state.

About half way down I caught up to Mike and Todd who were stopped. Todd had a rock flip up and nail him in the shin - dang, those hurt. Made a nice lump.

The climb up Deer Creek South Fork was OK. I wasn't very strong, but I was warmed up. Had to hit the shame gear (granny) a few times. We talked about going down Tibble Fork, but we were running out of time so it was just out the Ridge then down Pine Hollow and back the way we came. Todd and Mike let fly and I went fast (for me). It was a fun downhill romp. I missed the first bump/jump in Pine Hollow, but hit the next one for a little air. Carving down the trail - way fun. I was tired and not in the mood so I wasn't surprised I didn't make the bridge.

We zipped down the road with a few attacks here and there just for kicks (I hit 40 mph, Mike had 43). Saw 3 roadies coming up - great day to do the road Loop. And that was that. I went back to work, but the ride kept me pumped for the rest of the day.

This Can't Be November

Last week had mild temperatures, and this week has been the same so far and looks to continue through Saturday. It's bonus Fall biking!

Pretty crazy weather. But I'm not complaining - I'm riding as much as possible because it's not going to last. Even some of the mountain trails like Glenwild, Mid Mountain and American Fork Canyon are open. I'm going to take half a day off tomorrow and hit AF Canyon with Todd and Mike. Ya, I'll be playing catch-up the whole ride, but I'll be happy just riding good mountain single-track so late in the year. In fact, we're talking about hitting it Friday as well. And my wife and I are planning to do some Mid Mountain Saturday.

Today I did a nice solo road ride. Just 10 or so miles at lunch over in Draper. I did the climb up Rambling Road and didn't feel very strong. I hope I didn't toast myself for the ride tomorrow. But the temperature was perfect - cool enough I didn't overheat, and I didn't get cold. This kind of weather could go all Winter and I'd be happy.

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Weekend in Review

Housework Saturday morning, then some mountain bike riding at Lambert Park at 4 pm. We took our neighbor, Matt, with us. He's been riding more this year and we've tried to get together with him for a ride. We did Jolene's standard route: Rodeo, River, Poppy, Ziggy, High Bench, Spring, Upper Rodeo, Rodeo (one more time!) then Rodeo Up. I think Matt had a good time. I mostly rode mellow, but poured on a bit more gas up Poppy and even more up Spring. Just some nice riding.

Day Saving Time (DST) should be abandoned. The original ideas behind it's inception make some sense, but these days most of those ideas don't hold up. I wish Utah would drop DST like Arizona. We can keep the two dates for going on and off DST, but just go to work an hour earlier in the Spring instead of changing the clocks. Changing clocks is a pain and so un-modern.

I knew the rear brake on my mountain bike needed attention from the White Rim trip. I tried to install some new pads before the ride on Saturday, but ran out of time and put the old ones back on. Today I got it fixed. The pads were worn out, but the outboard piston was not retracting far enough to allow the new pads to fit. I tried prying it back, but it was jammed. So I took the whole caliper off and by working from the other side got the piston retracted and the new pads installed. Now if I could just get the front brake to stop squealing. Todd said he's had KoolStop pads do this so I may need to try a set of Shimano pads.

This evening I decided to go for my first night ride. I rigged up the high-powered halogen head lamp and rode from my house headed for the BST. I had been on the paved roads for 10 minutes and just started down the single-track when the light shifted down from high to medium light output. It was still enough light to ride and I recall the manual said I should have 20 minutes so I kept going. Not a minute later it dropped down to low. I guess the battery had lost a lot of charge from sitting for 3 weeks. I took the hint and turned around only to have the light shut off only 20 yards down the trail. It's a good trail and I know it well so I just rode it with no light back only 100 yards to the trailhead. There I pulled out my trusty Petzl Tikka XP and it provided enough light to get me home. So my first night ride didn't go too well. The battery is charging and I'll try it again tomorrow or the next day.

Draper Trails Lunch Ride

Update: Make that a Draper double-header! Mark inquired about my lunch ride and I guess it got him thinking. Next thing I know he's asking (via instant messaging) if I'd like to ride after work. What kind of friend would I be if I said "no"? We needed some trails close to home (south end of Salt Lake Valley) so the choices was Yellow Fork or Draper. Draper won out.

We started at the equestrian center and biked up lower Corner Canyon then took the BST north to Bear Creek Canyon and back. This is such a fun section of trail. It is fairly flat but rolls a lot and is fun to take fast as you use some of those taller gears. I enjoy swooping the turns and catching some air off the many bumps. Just above lower Corner Canyon we take a newly cut trail that took us up to a bridge. The trail continues up to the bottom of the Ghost Falls trail(s). But we took a right and came out at the bottom of the Silica Pit trail then continued down a ways and took another new trail on the left. It side-hills along the west side of the gully. It's a bit rough, and had some too-tight-for-me switchbacks, but overall it was a good ride. Near the end of this new (to me) trail, we crossed the creek on a new bridge and went down the trail we came up at the start.

Near Highland Drive Mark noted that he'd always wanted to try riding down the stone stairs there. So we rode down the serpentine section and I just went right down the stairs. They did look a bit sketchy from the top, but I was rolling so I just kept going. Mark stopped to get a good look at it, then downed it. Then went back again up higher to take it on the roll. I'm glad I got to take the lead this time as I blew my chance on the Bobsled ladder drop and got to return the favor of Mark's lead on that one.

What a great day of riding it turned out to be! I was going to do a road ride tomorrow morning, but with the two rides today I think I'll skip it and sleep in. My wife wants to go ride Lambert Park tomorrow so that will be enough.

Original Post: The snow storm a few weeks ago has me fearing that any day now Winter will arrive and put an end to dirt single-track cruising (and make put a damper on the road riding too). So when Todd posted that he wanted to ride some of the Draper trails at lunch today, I was in.

We started at the Draper Pool and rode up the Oak Hollow trail then when it hit Mike Weir Dr we took the road to Coyote Hollow Ct then jumped back on the dirt taking the Silica Pit trail over to the bottom of the Ghost Falls trail. Todd was intrigued when Mike said it would be tough to make it all the way up without putting a foot down. It started off OK, but got steep quick. I walked 3-4 places. I think Todd made it without stopping. Mike only stopped once or twice.

Then we rode up the dirt road and took Clarks trail down. Todd and Mike ripped it up, I took it easy - my back brake didn't feel right and I was feeling too mellow (or pooped) to open it up on the downhill. At the bridge they continued on the BST while I headed back to the pavement to shave off some time (I needed to get back to work). But I couldn't take the roads ALL the way back down - I was on a mountain bike! So I took Oak Hollow down to the car. As I was driving away I saw Mike and Todd coming down the trail. What a great way to spend a few hours on a nice Fall day.

Read Todd's report.

Epic Failure

I received this in an e-mail a few days ago, along with a few other Demotivators. Here's my current favorite: