Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The most important ride of the year


This weekend Mags and I are doing our most important ride of the year.  The Josie Johnson Memorial Ride is a sub-20 mile, leisure ride from Sugarhouse Park to Mill Hollow Park.  In years past there have been hundreds of cyclists, most of whom seem incapable of riding with a group, enduring cold, wet weather to honor Josie Johnson and other cyclists killed or injured on Utah roadways.   

It’s short. It’s slow.  It’s chaotic.  There’s a 40% chance of rain.  So why is this ride so important?  The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness of, as well as among, the cycling community.  Cyclists are equally responsible as motorists to know and follow traffic laws.  If cyclists know and obey traffic rules, motorists are more likely to respect our rights on the road.  If motorists see thousands of cyclists out on the streets on Saturday morning, they’re more likely to keep an eye out for us at other times.   

So if you live or ride in the Salt Lake area, you should join Mags and me at 10:30 Saturday morning at Sugarhouse Park.  We’ll be cruising our tandem. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

<p><del>12</del> 9 Hours of Sundance&nbsp; </p>

I raced the 12 Hours of Sundance as a duo with my teammate Aaron on Saturday.  The first 8 hours were great.  The course was just less than seven miles, with 900 feet of climbing per lap.  Clouds loomed low all day, and there was a bit of rain here and there, but the trails were in great shape. Aaron and I were a well-oiled machine; we never lost so much as a second in any of our transitions.   Josh Wolfe and Matt Harding were giving us our stiffest competition, but we took the lead on our fourth or fifth lap and settled into a steady rhythm after that.  One of us would ride a 35 minute lap while the other rested.  Then we would switch.  It was like clockwork. 

On our fourteenth lap the heavens opened and the rain finally made good on the threats it had been making all day.   We were 8 hours into the 12 hour race.  When Aaron met me at the transition area he told me it was slippery and sticky, but when I went out for our fifteenth lap I didn't think it was as bad as he had described it.  This is until I got to one of the service roads that we had to climb.  Both wheels were bound with mud within seconds.  I tried to carry my bike but it weighed about 50 lbs by then.   I pulled some mud away with my hands and pushed my bike up the hill where I could coast down the other side.  But I was losing valuable time. 

About a quarter mile from the lap area the trail turned uphill for about 50 feet.  I foolishly tried to shift to a lower gear (I had been having all sorts of shifting problems in the mud) and my derailleur shifted into the spokes, which sheared the derailleur hanger clean off.   I had to get off and push again to the top of the hill where I stopped and pulled the derailleur and chain out of the spokes so I could coast down the paved road to the end of the lap.  I had to kick at the ground like I was on a skateboard a few times to get across the line.   I was thinking I was lucky to have my brother's bike there as a backup but Aaron met me at the line in his street clothes and without his bike, and told me the race was over and we had won. 


It was a sloppy, sticky good time, but all I won was a silly medal, which when I went up to accept, someone shouted “Give him a derailleur.”  I owe a big thanks to Mags and my mom, and Arthur, who provided support for us.  Maybe I should give them a chunk of my medal. 

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pure hooptedoodle

like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the
guy looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.
. . . figure out what the guy's thinking from what he says. I like some
description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break
loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or
sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I
don't have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the

    Spoken by Mack
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck.

There is a
group of us at my office that likes to go on lunchtime rides. We don’t go far, 20 miles or so, but we go
three or four times a week. One of the
guys in the group is named Zane. He’s a
very fit, highly cynical, fifty-something triathelete. He likes to talk politics on our rides, which
used to really annoy me until I figured out that he can’t talk politics at
speeds above 23 mph. I’ve turned it into
a motivator to take long pulls on days I don’t want to hear his political

Sometimes Zane
falls over with no apparent reason. One
time he was bringing up the rear on a brisk ride with a tailwind when we came
to a stop sign. Those of us in front
heard a crash and a thud as we slowed down. We looked back and saw Zane picking himself up off the road. Naturally we circled back to see if he was
OK, to which he nodded in the affirmative, but he didn’t say anything. He just got on his bike and we continued

Last week
Zane fell as he was trying to open a gate through the airport bike path for
us. Most of us can open these gates
without putting a foot down, open it enough to get through and give the guy
behind a chance to make it through too, but Zane just wasn’t in his rhythm that
day. I watched him miss the gate, then
miss his handlebar, then fail at getting out of his pedals. His fall wasn’t terrible, but it must have
hurt a bit. Once again, he didn’t say
anything. He just got back on and
started riding.

I used to
think Zane fell down because of the aerobars on his bike. But seeing him miss the gate showed me
otherwise. Now I think he’s just trying
to give me some hooptedoodle to think about when I ride my bike.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The girl, the moose and the lost keys


Today’s post was supposed to be about how, near the end of our weekly Wednesday night ride last night, Aaron and I had to don our arm warmers for the final downhill.  And about how that was the first time I had done so since sometime in May, and how doing so signified the end of summer and the onset of autumn.  That’s what it was supposed to be about, but that was before we saw the girl pushing her bike downhill, and the moose, and the guy who lost his keys. 

The girl
Our ride had taken us up Millcreek Canyon, down the Ridge Connector trail to Park City’s Mid-Mountain trail, which we rode for a bit before turning around and returning the way we came.  Near the top of the Ridge Connector we came upon a girl pushing her bike—downhill.  And she looked exhausted.

Normally when we see somebody trailside working on their bike we stop to check if we can help.  We’ve fixed flats, adjusted brakes and tuned shifting for countless people on the trail.  One time Leif and I spent an hour reassembling some kid’s rear derailleur.  But last night when we saw the girl pushing her bike downhill toward Park City we figured she knew where she was going.  We wish we had stopped, she wishes we had too. 

The moose
One mile later we came around a bend and came upon a moose and a calf standing right on our trail.  We stopped and considered our options.  A third rider joined us and we decided we weren’t going to get the moose and her calf to move so we walked our bikes up and around them, keeping at least 30 yards away.  The cow watched us the entire way, and took a couple of steps toward us once or twice, but she let us get by. 

The lost keys
Another mile later we came upon another guy going uphill.  He asked us if we had seen his friend, the girl we saw pushing her bike. Aaron and I stopped and told him what we knew, that she was still heading toward Park City, that she looked pretty beat, and about the moose (what’s the correct plural of moose? Meese?).  He (Jared) told us that she (Amber) had missed a turn and in the meantime he had somehow lost his keys.

As we were considering what to do we heard Amber coming down the trail.  She was crying.  No, she was sobbing hysterically.  Jared went to comfort her and Aaron and I decided to skedaddle rather than witness the awkward exchange. 

It all comes together
Then on our way down we realized that Amber and Jared still weren’t out of the woods yet, so to speak. It was dark by then, and they had no lights.  It was getting cold (remember that this post was supposed to be about me putting my arm warmers on?) and they didn’t have keys to their truck.  So Aaron and I turned around and started back up the trail.

When we found Amber she was with three other bikers with lights, but they didn’t know where Jared was.  Amber showed us why she had been crying.  She had tried to walk around the moose like we had, but the cow had charged her and actually kicked her on the back of the leg.


Fortunately Amber was able to get her bike between her and the moose and get away.  I wonder why the moose charged Amber and not us.  Was Amber too close?  Or was it because she was alone and we had numbers?  Or had we exhausted the moose’s patience?

Jared showed up a minute later with a twisted chain that had kept him from riding his bike.  He would have to coast or push his bike all the way down.  The three bikers with lights continued their ride up the trail and the four of us started down with one little light among us.  It was mountain biking by Braille.

Eventually the three bikers with lights returned to light our way and we all made it down safely.  Amber said she still loves mountain biking.  You can read her version of the story here.   

Monday, September 10, 2007

Vive le Velo!


Mags and I recently spent some time in Montreal.  In 1999 Bicycling Magazine rated Montreal as the number one cycling city in North America.  But we didn’t go there for the cycling, we went for the French pastries, the poutine and the feel of a European city just north of our border. 

While we were duly impressed by what we went for, we were truly amazed at the number of bikes we saw.


There were bikes locked to every stationary object. 


There were cyclists on every street.


There were bike paths throughout the entire city.  They even had their own traffic signals. 


There were all kinds of people riding bikes.


We looked at a few thrift stores for bikes we could ride, but quickly discovered that even the junkiest of beater bikes sell for a premium.  A rusty, but functional department store bike would go for about a hundred dollars. 


I even saw a Huffy mountain bike with a $65 price tag.  After seeing that I knew it was time to rent.

We  Americans have a few things we could learn from our neighbors to the north. 

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I'm a doper

Among the souvenirs Mags and I brought
home from our backpacking trip through Wet Beaver Canyon
was a mild case of swimmer's itch.


Well, I thought it was swimmers itch,
but it didn’t appear immediately like it’s supposed to. It didn’t itch irresistibly
either. Then when Mags’s rash subsided
after a week and mine persisted and got maybe a little worse, I decided to see a

At first blush the doctor thought I
had scabies, but he ruled it out. Next
he suspected poison oak, but ruled that out too. He examined it under a microscope and saw
some filamentous ‘things’ but he couldn’t make a confident diagnosis.

So he did what any other doctor would
do. He prescribed medicine to treat the
symptom. You know how it is, a pill for
every disease, a disease for every pill.

In my case the pill of choice was
prednisone, an immunosuppressant used to treat various kinds of dermatitis like
mine. It’s also a glucocorticosteroid. Baseball fans might recall that prednisone is one of the steroids that
Barry Bonds has admitted to using. He’ll
‘fess up to that one because its use is not prohibited by Major League Baseball,
only anabolic steroids are. Barry uses prednisone
to alleviate pain in his legs, which is caused mainly by the tremendous weight of
his excessively large head, which is due, of course, to his prolonged use of
steroids of the anabolic (banned) variety.


When I picked up my steroids I asked
the pharmacist if they were going to help me hit home runs. “Nope” she said. “What about climbing Little Cottonwood Canyon
in the big chain ring, will they help me do that?” “Sorry.” She said. “What kind of steroids
are these?”  I wondered.

At home I popped a couple of the
innocuous little pills and looked them up. Turns out, the use of glucocorticosteroids by athletes is in fact banned
by the World Anti Doping Agency. According
to the WADA website, glucocorticosteroids can produce a ‘feeling of euphoria,
potentially giving athletes an unfair advantage,’ In other words, athletes
respond to glucocorticosteroids such as prednisone like children respond to red

So if the next time you see me on my
bike and I’m laughing uncontrollably, you’ll know it’s not the fruity red punch
in my water bottle that’s doing it.