Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Running red lights

While we officially have three more weeks of autumn, my numb fingers from this morning's commute tell me that winter weather is officially here.  Winter makes for some frigid morning commutes and today it took 10 minutes for my fingers to thaw out before I could use a computer. 

When the mercury drops I tend to be more likely to treat stop signs as yield signs, and treat stop lights as stop signs.  Sometimes it is just too cold to wait for a light to change, and if there’s no traffic coming, I say “Why suffer?”  But don’t forget to check for police cars behind you before you run the light.  I made that mistake once and got this little memento to show for it:


Some states, including Idaho, allow cyclists to roll through stop signs and stop lights after yielding to other traffic, and if Representative Carol Spackman Moss gets her latest bill through the Utah Legislature, Utah cyclists will be finally be able to do it legally too.  There’s a good article about the bill here.

Moss’s reasoning:
If we want people to use bikes as alternative transportation, if we want this to be a bike friendly place, because people speak about Utah more and more and move here for recreational activities, we ought to make that something that we really focus on, making cycling safe.
Moss’s bill would make great strides in eliminating some of the hassles of bicycle commuting and likely would induce more people to commute if they weren’t required to come to a complete stop every block.  Sometimes the safest time to pass through an intersection is when the light is red and no cars are coming.  Think of running red lights and stop signs legally as rewards for good behavior that benefits us all. 

If you think this is a good idea, I suggest you call Representative Moss and tell her you support it, even if you don’t live in her district.  You should also call your own representative and urge her or him to support the bill.  Don’t know who your representative is?  Find out here

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Poison Spider Mesa

At 7:32 PM I realize how scared I am when I call my wife.  “Mags,” I say, “I…I…I’m lost.”  I stammer and I fight back tears.  

Earlier that afternoon I had set out for a ride across the Moab
desert.  My plan was to ride from Gemini
Bridges to Poison Spider, via Gold Bar Rim and Golden Spike trails, for a
heavy dose of classic Moab terrain.  At 1:40 PM I still
had four hours of daylight, plenty of time, I thought, to complete the
ride before darkness set in.  But just in case I
packed a good headlight and a blinky red light for riding the ten miles of
pavement at the end of the ride to complete the loop.  The forecast also called for rain after 5:00 PM,
so I also packed a rain jacket.  I also
had three energy bars, two bananas, four bottles of Carbo Rocket and a
plasticized map.  

The first two hours go by without incident.  There are two ways to get to Gold Bar Rim,
and I take the longer way, miss a turn, but find my way before losing much time.  At 4:30 I’m at the top of Gold Bar, looking
over the cliff at the town of Moab below. 
Descending Golden Spike and Poison Spider won’t take much more than an
hour, will it? 

I stop to mount my light around 5:30.  I am somewhere near the end of Golden Spike
or the top of Poison Spider.  It’s
unclear on my map where one trail ends and the other begins.  There is no sign of the rainstorm yet, but
the winds are picking up.  With my
Princeton Tec Switchback 1 lighting my way, I press onward toward the Poison
Spider trailhead.  There is a documentary
on the Miss Navajo Pageant showing at the Moab Library at 7:30 that I want to be
back for. 

This is when things start to get confusing. 

Pts1 Trails in Moab are marked with paint where they go over
sandstone.  Sometimes the markings are
pictures like dinosaurs or little jeeps, but on Poison Spider Mesa they are
just white rectangles, spaced every 50 feet or so.  I’d followed trails marked with these
splotches dozens of times before, even on Poison Spider Mesa once or twice, but
never in the dark. 

Is that paint on the rock, or just a white lichen?  I follow it, then see another splotch 50 feet
away.  I follow it to the edge of the
sandstone, looking into the sand.  Yes
there are tracks there; jeep tracks, motorcycle tracks, mountain bike
tracks.  In fact, there are tracks
everywhere.  How am I supposed to know
which track to follow? 

I pick a track and follow it as long as I can, but
inevitably it leads to another patch of sandstone.  And again I am left to wonder, are those
paint marks or splotches of lichen?  By this
time I am walking my bike, studying each splotch, looking for straight edged
paint marks, and feeling for that smooth, painted feeling.  But how long has it been since I saw a paint
mark that I was absolutely certain was not a patch of lichen?  20 minutes? 
30 minutes?  An hour?

Now I am at the top of a steep sandstone hill.  How far down is it?  I cannot tell, but the paint marks go
straight down it.  Would the trail really
take such an unsafe route?  No.  Those are lichens.  They must be. 
Back to the edge of the sandstone again. 
But which way did I come from?   I
can’t find the trail.  I can’t find the
f*cking trail!  There are no tracks now,
no white paint marks anywhere, white lichens are everywhere.  It’s getting late.  I circle around the sandstone.  Where did I come from?  How did I get on this rock?  The wind is getting stronger. 

I wander in search of a track for—how long?  I look at my cell phone—7:32 PM.  Two minutes past show time.  I have one bar so I call my wife, who is at
home cooking a hot dinner for herself and our niece.  “I’m lost,” I say, “I can’t find my

I’m not really lost, I know exactly where I am on the
map, and know exactly where I need to get to, but there are cliffs and ledges
everywhere.  I can see the glowing lights
of Moab just over the horizon.  I just
don’t know how to get from here to there because I don’t dare to hike
cross-country in this terrain in the dark. 
“I may have to spend the night out here.”  I tell Mags, 
I’m going to look for 30 more minutes for the trail. “If you don’t hear
from me it means I’ve come down from this high place, have found the trail and
don’t have a cell signal.  If I decide to
sleep out here I’ll call and let you know.”

I say a little prayer. 
“God, please help me find the trail.” and He does.  I follow it easily now, and have learned how
to distinguish paint from lichen. I should be out in no time, down to the
highway where the pedaling is easy and the route easier.  I’m hungry and am looking forward to the
pasta I am going to make for dinner. 

9:03 PM.  I see a reflective Carsonite sign.  ‘Poison Spider Route’ it
says, then a little further on, spray painted onto the sandstone is a big arrow
pointing in the direction I had just come from, and next to it the word

Jeep_maps.Par.72821.Image.500.400.1.gif I have been here before. 
Probably two hours ago.  Somehow I
have walked a giant loop and am still several miles from the trailhead.  I consult my map, more anxious than angry,
and set off for the trailhead.  But it
happens again, only this time it’s a smaller loop, but here I am again,
standing in a spot I had stood in only 30 minutes earlier.  Just like in the movies, I am literally
walking in circles.  I come to a T-intersection.  Now which way?  I consult my map again and make sure I pick
the right direction.  Ten minutes later I pass
an intersection that tells me I made the right choice. 
30 minutes after that I pass Little Arch, which tells me I was

Now I’m on the right trail but walking in the wrong
direction.  I’m six miles from the
trailhead now.   According to the map ,
there’s another junction ahead, and the trail on the right  leads to the Portal Trail.  I’m afraid of the Portal Trail because
cyclists have died on it, but if I make it down it’s an even shorter ride on
the pavement back to my car.  It’s worth
the risk.  I plod onward, now getting
further from where I had originally wanted to be, but also confident in knowing
where I was going for the first time in three hours. 

I see a trail on the right. 
Finally, I have found the way to the Portal Trail.  Oops, that’s not it, but 20 minutes are
wasted getting back to the real trail. 
Now here’s another trail.  Nope,
that’s not it either.  Another 15 minutes
down.  Oh, now here’s a big wide trail,
with lots of tracks in the sand.  This
has to be it. 

Twenty minutes later I’m standing at the edge of a
cliff.  The view is beautiful, but for one missing feature.  I can see the Holiday Inn in
Moab, but not the Portal Trail.  It is
somewhere directly below me at the base of this cliff.  I have a strong signal on my cell phone
now.  It’s 10:32.  I have been wandering in the dark for five
hours.  I call my wife again.  “I’m going to spend the night” I say.  “The temperature will be in the thirties
tonight,” she says “and it’s supposed to rain after 5AM.”

“I’m afraid I won’t recognize the Portal Trail when I come
to it” I say.  I don’t want to walk past
it and spend another five hours searching. 
I walk down the slope and find a small sandstone shelf, eighteen inches
off the ground.  It’s just big enough for
me to squeeze underneath to get out of the wind. 
I put on every piece of clothing I have, eat my last energy bar, lean my
bike against the shelf to keep the critters away from my head, say another
prayer and slither into my hovel, pulling my map over me as a blanket.  It will be light in eight hours. 

I’m surprised that I’m actually able to sleep.  Not a good sleep, but sleep nonetheless.  I awake every couple of hours, because my hip
aches from the rock I’m curled on.  I get
up to pee, and to circulate some blood. 
Then I slither back in and shiver convulsively until sleep sets in
again.  I repeat this four more times
during the night:  11:24, 12:17, 1:38,
3:54.    Sign on the Portal Trail

5:44 AM.  I get up
again.  This time while I’m doing my calisthenics
it starts to rain.  The sun won’t be up
for another 45 minutes, but I’m not going to sit here and get hypothermia.  I continue down the hill in the dark (my
light was still shining brightly after all these hours) and find the Poison
Spider trail.  Within 15 minutes I come
to another trail on the right.  This one
is clearly marked ‘To Portal Trail’. 

6:47 AM.  I’m standing
on the cliff edge again, looking at Moab below me.  I switched off my light 15 minutes ago.  I can see the pile of uranium tailings below
me, where cleanup activity is just getting started for the day.  The Portal Trail is easily visible to my left
and to my right.  I call my wife
again.  She didn’t sleep well

7:53 AM.  I’m at the
junction of US 191 and S.R. 279.  I call
my brother.  He and Mags almost drove to
Moab last night to look for me. 

8:34 AM.  I’m in my
car at the Gemini Bridges trailhead, feasting on canned peaches, cottage
cheese, an avocado, chocolate milk, sliced bread and Tostitos tortilla

11:08 AM.  I stop in
an empty parking lot in Price to take a nap. 
My sleeping bag is luxuriously warm.

2:28 PM.  I’m home
again.  Mags and I share a long embrace.  We go out to the yard to rake leaves together.       

Monday, November 2, 2009

'Cross round up


I’ve been doing a little cyclocross racing the past couple of weekends.   My first race was a sloppy mess but I did better than expected, which is pretty easy to do when you have expectations as low as I do.  I still can't get past the absurdity of riding a bike with skinny tires and drop handlebars on trails better suited for a mountain bike (or occasionally cross country skis).


My second race was on Halloween and rather than exert effort in putting together a new costume—I don’t exert effort in preparing for cyclocross, not even for a costume—I decided to dig out my Little Bo Peep costume again, which I must say was remarkably comfortable for racing in.


The short skirt was never in the way during my mounts and dismounts, and the ample bust was a perfect place to store the cash Chris was handing out mid-race.  I’m afraid to admit this because normally I tuck cash, wrappers, tools, etc. in my shorts but, wearing the dress, I instinctively put the dollar where my boobs were supposed to be.  What exactly does it say about me that I do this on instinct?


Shortly into the race, on my third time up the run-up, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring.  Argh!  Not again.  From then on I couldn’t pedal with much power.  I thought about dropping out, but remembered that I race cyclocross strictly for fun and to develop bike handling skills for mountain bike season.  Fortunately it was just a twinge and not a pull, so I soft pedaled my way around the course for the next 40 minutes.  Besides, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of pictures like these.  Don't you just love the perfect balance of strength and femininity? 


Speaking of strength and femininity, Mags raced on Saturday too.  In her first ever cyclocross race, she flew over the trails on her way to a second place finish on her heavy mountain bike.  Maybe it was the wings:



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hipster sighting

Last night while riding home I came upon a hipster riding a 20 inch wheeled bike with sissy bar and big, but not quite ape hanger, U-bar handle bars.  While I didn’t get a photograph of him, if you can envision this urban lumberjack:


riding this bike:

then you get the idea.  Besides, if you’ve seen one hipster on a bike, you’re seen them all.  Hipsters have a tendency to express their individuality in highly conforming ways. 

This particular hipster was furiously spinning his tiny cranks by Liberty Park last night, likely on his way to the Coffee Garden at 9th and 9th.  He had a Chrome brand messenger bag [Full disclosure—so do I.], a tweed cycling cap, and rolled up, skin-tight jeans.  When I stopped behind him at a stoplight we exchanged pleasantries, and then he said
I've been riding a 56 centimeter track bike for like five years, so I'm used to spinning fast. 
I resisted the urge to laugh at his need for validation, or at his beaming pride in riding a fixie since way back in the George W. Bush administration, or at how he betrayed his efforts to show how little he cares about being fashionable by excusing himself for riding such an unfashionable bike. 

Instead of laughing I said something nice and polite like “Well, at least it gets you around.”  But what should I have said?  Maybe something like

No kidding, 56 centimeters?  How ironic that you’d ride a bike that’s actually your size.

And what do you think was this hipster’s point?  Was he worried I would deem him un-hip?  Or embarrassed that a guy with fenders and a hi-viz jacket was faster than him?  Please help me out with this.  I live in a neighborhood full of hipsters and while I may not run across this particular hipster again, I’m sure to have encounters with others of his ilk.  What can I say to earn myself some cred? 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

<em>La Diabla de Rojo</em>


There is a trail called Rojo in eastern Utah that makes it way up Red Mountain.  It’s somewhat of a favorite among the locals, what few locals there are out there.  The rest of you have probably never heard of it, and the locals prefer it that way.  RyanThey ride up an ATV trail to the top of Red Mountain and then ride down Rojo to make a loop out of it.  But the locals are doing it wrong.  The only way to enjoy Rojo is to ride up.  

 Rojo is a short little trail, just three or four miles long, but what it lacks in length it makes up in technical difficulty, chest pounding climbs and aesthetic beauty.  It starts in a wash next to the ATV trail, deliberately difficult to find to keep the throttle twisters off.  Then it immediately begins making its convoluted way to the top.  It doubles back on itself twice, flirts with the edge of a cliff three times and crosses a normally dry wash four or five times.  All along the way the trail steps up, down and across sandstone ledges, cobbles and potholes.  Rojo is every bit as good as the Zen Trail in southern Utah, if only a little shorter, and Rojo is way better than Gooseberry Mesa in that there is no eight mile drive down a washboard road to get to it.  The road to Rojo is paved all the way to the trailhead, but I have never, ever, seen another car parked there.   

Endo I said going uphill is the way to enjoy Rojo, but I might be wrong.  I really don’t know.  The truth is I’ve never gotten to ride down it.  Well, at least not in an enjoyable way.  Aaron, Ryan, Mark and I have attempted three times to ride all of Rojo—it’s become an annual event—and we have failed three times.  There is a devil living on Red Mountain and she does not want us to ride Rojo. 

 In 2007 we underestimated the difficulty of the trail and started too late in the evening.  Then Aaron hurt his knee and we had to turn around and pick our way down in the near-darkness.  Aaron’s knee was better as soon as we got off Red Mountain.  The devil, la Diabla, has power over our sinews. 

RainIn 2008 we arrived at the trailhead under cloudy skies.  La Diabla turned on the rain and immediately turned the wash into a small river, the sand into quicksand and the slickrock into, well, slickrock.  Dejected and cold, we turned around again.Smith

2009 was supposed to be our year.  We attempted Rojo in August instead of October.  We started early in the evening so we’d have enough light to get to the top.  It was 90 degrees in the shade but the trail was dry—like a desert trail should be.  Everything was in order to finally ride to the top of Rojo.  We made it 90%, 95%, then 97% to the top.  We were within 200 yards of finishing, easily within shouting distance so la Diabla would hear us celebrating our triumph over her evil. 

HangerLa Diabla does not give up easily.  Right as we started the final push to the summit she reached out her fiery talon from under a bush and snatched my rear derailleur. It disintegrated upon her touch, and it happened so fast that Aaron, who was immediately behind me, saw nothing but the aftermath. We walked to the top and I coasted, sans chain and with a little help from my friends, down the ATV trail.  We were doing the locals' ride in reverse.Help 

We don’t give up easily either.  We’re going to try again in 2010.  But please tell us, la Diabla what do we have to do to get to the top?  Should we pour tequila on the trail and put habanero sauce in our water bottles?  Is this a punishment because on the night before the ride I put Ryan’s chamois in the freezer?  Oh please, how could you even know about that? Just tell us what we need to do and we’ll do it.  We’ll give you whatever you want, your evilness, because Rojo is worth it.

  Frozen Chamois


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A race I can win


The last part of the Intermountain Cup race season was a bit of a blur.  I started out great in the State Championships at Solitude, but missed a turn in the first lap and lost about 7 positiShanee ons.  I did it again in Jackson, this time leading two other riders off course in the third of four laps.  Sorry Brandon.  Sorry Rich.  Then at the series final at The Canyons Resort—By the way, who’s brilliant idea was it to start a race at high noon on the first day of August?—I had put in an effort I could feel good about and was coming down the final descent with Brandon Firth hot on my trail.  I was certain I could hold him off since I’ve been working on my descending and can now descent faster than my eight-year-old niece.   However, in typical fashion I was also letting my mind wander.  Gee, I thought, I’m going to make it through this entire season without a single flat tire.

Walking finish Moments later I whacked my front wheel hard on a rock and heard the ominous burping sound of air escaping my tubeless tire.  I stopped and quickly gassed it up, surprised that it sealed, and hopped back on.  I had probably only lost about two minutes, but that was enough time for Brandon to pass me. 

My tire was flat again by the time I got to the bottom, I guess it didn’t really seal, and I nearly went down at the final hairpin turn before the finish line.  Rather than fight it, I just got off and ran the last fifty feet to the finish line.  I suppose finishing like that is some sort of metaphor, but I don’t like its implication so I’ll just leave it out there. 

So it’s been nearly three weeks since the final ICUP series race.  I finished in a respectable fifth place overall in the pro men field.  Not bad, I suppose, but I just don’t understand why the series has to end so soon, or more specifically, why there needs to be five races in May and only one in August.  The Mountain States Cup Series in Colorado runs through mid September.   The Wild Rockies Series in Idaho finishes in late September and the Wisconsin Off Road Series has two races scheduled for October. 

The end of the season has given me a case of the doldrums.  Normally by now I’m shifting my focus onto some longer distance races and my plans this year were no different.  I was really looking forward to racing the American Mountain Classic stage race again, and the 12 Hours of Bear Lake seemed pretty appealing too.   Then there was one more Pro XCT Tour series scheduled in Las Vegas in September where I was hoping to redeem myself after my lackluster performance in Colorado Springs.  But all three of those races have been canceled.

There was also the Leadville 100 last weekend, to which I was denied registration due to the Lance-factor.  Speaking of Lance Armstrong, he won that race this year, but he needed the help of some teammates to beat perennial winner Dave Wiens.  That speaks volumes about the 44 year old Wiens and what it takes to beat him, and about Lance, especially after he tirelessly worked to divide his own team at the Tour de France this year simply because he wasn’t the team leader.  

Lance’s use of team tactics to win at Leadville also says something about the race itself.  Mountain bike races aren’t team events.  The Leadville 100 is a dirt road race.

So no AMC, no Pro XCT, no 12 Hours of Bear Lake, and no (not ever?) Leadville for me.  To add insult to injury, Fish has scheduled his luau for the same day as the 12 Hours of Sundance.  I’m still wrestling over that decision.  

Grocery bikeMaybe I’m just bitter but it’s not all bad.  There is one bright spot this time of year.  It is harvest season and the farmers’ markets are in full swing.  I try every August to eat my body weight in locally grown fruits and vegetables. 

 Last weekend Mags and I went to the People’s Market on the west side of SLC.  On the way back we came upon an older couple riding bikes in the same direction.  I was on our Grocery Bike, albeit with only partially loaded baskets, unlike in this picture.  The woman was on a fancy new bicycle.  Electric bikeIt looked like one of those GoCycles.  It was Fancy because it was electric and new because she was proud of it, as evidenced by what she said to me as I came by:  

“Wanna race?” 

“You bet.” I said as I mashed the pedals.  She throttled her electric motor and the race was on. 

I pushed hard, wishing Mags hadn’t lowered the seat on the Grocery Bike.  The old woman and I were still even.  I pushed harder, and nosed into the lead, but my opponent countered by starting to pedal.  Oh that was ruthless, how was I supposed to compete with motor and muscle?  

My only chance was to shift gears, but the shifters are mounted on the stem, and reaching for them meant pulling one hand off the handlebar, possibly allowing my loaded basked up front to cause dangerous speed wobble—we were reaching speeds in excess of 10 miles per hour!—leading to the doubly embarrassing likelihood of crashing and losing to a gray haired woman on an electric bike. 

2005-06-30-lance-lookI risked it.   My hand shot like a flash to the stem, pulled the rear derailleur lever up two notches, and flashed back to the bar.  I gave my opponent a  Lance-inspired steely glare and rode on to victory.  As she rode by a few seconds later I heard the woman (remarkably clear despite all the wind noise from our high speeds) say to Mags “He’s faster than me.” 

Yes finally, a reason to feel good about my race season. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

National Watermelon Day


Mags and I bought our first Green River Watermelon of the season on Friday, just in time for National Watermelon Day today.  Why this tasty gourd has its own special day goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway:  It’s refreshing, it ripens at the height of summer, it’s so messy that you ought to eat it outside, and so big that there’s always enough to share with you neighbors who see you out there.  It’s also a good source of lycopene, something Wikipedia says can ward off cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. 

I can not think of a better way to eat your thirst away.  

Viagra-picture As if that weren’t enough, Watermelon has been shown to share some of the same effects as a certain little blue pill.  In other words, it might make you a faster cyclist

For all of these and more reasons, watermelon is my favorite food.  Yes, that’s right, it’s my favorite food.  There’s nothing I would rather eat, and there’s no better watermelon than a Green River Watermelon, grown in the sandy soil of Southern Utah, with warm nights and hot days, and plenty of irrigation from the nearby Green River.  

Wat My insatiable thirst for watermelon is genetic. How else do you explain that my brother chose to be married on Aug 3, a day set aside [probably by a consortium of watermelon farmers] as a day to commemorate the many facets of this delightful fruit (or is it a vegetable?)?  And it is also no coincidence that my father was born on National Watermelon Day, and that he asked us to decorate his grave with watermelon instead of flowers.  

Don’t worry Dad.  I’ll personally see to it that your share gets eaten. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009



One, two, three, four, 
Tell me I won’t break four more.

I cracked another Taiwanese mass produced aluminum Paragon frame.  That makes four, in case you’re counting.  I’ve had this frame since November, and it lasted six weeks longer than I predicted.  

I like the complete bike overhauls that a broken frame affords, but this is getting old. I wonder if it’s time for an upgrade:


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ozone season

Ozone smog

Last week, during our tour around the Central Wasatch, Mags and I were lounging in the shade in front of a grocery store in Park City, when we saw a woman park her SUV in the fire lane.   She got out and went inside without turning off her engine.  The air quality Nazi in me took over and I got up to kill the engine myself.  Fortunately I saw the two teenagers in the back seat before my hand touched the door handle.  

I abruptly altered my course and pretended to look in our panniers for something important.  The woman returned five minutes later with an iced cappuccino from the Starbucks inside the store.  "Gee," I thought,  "I hope she recycles that plastic cup, because she’s got a duty to uphold Park City’s environmentally conscious reputation." 

I wanted to confront her about idling her vehicle for so long; to tell her she was getting zero miles to the gallon, and that her punk kids would be better off getting outside experiencing the real world instead of sitting in the air-conditioned SUV texting and zoning out with their iPods.  But, as you might have guessed, I tend to get a little passionate about this.  I couldn’t have that discussion without getting angry and possibly making her more apt to idle her vehicle in the future, just to spite Greener-than-thou freaks on bikes like me.  I decided to write this blog post instead.  

Why shouldn’t you idle your car?  We’ll there’s lots of reasons, like it being a waste of gas and money, but right now, in the heat of the summer, the primary reason is ground-level ozone.  Yes ozone, the same stuff that blocks some of the sun’s harmful rays in the upper atmosphere.  Ozone up high is good.  Ozone down where we breathe is bad.  Ozone is a lung irritant, it makes us more susceptible to other respiratory diseases and more susceptible to allergens.   It also makes up most of the smog we see over our cities every summer, like the layer visible over Salt Lake City in photo at the top of this page, which I took last Sunday.   You have felt the effects of ozone pollution if you’ve ever felt like your lungs were sunburned after a hard ride during a hot summer day.  

The cappuccino sipping, SUV idling, PC mama wasn’t letting ozone spew out of her tailpipe though.  Ozone doesn’t work that way.  Ozone is what they call a secondary pollutant, meaning that it forms in the atmosphere from the chemical reaction of other, primary pollutants.  The reaction is faster in sunlight and in higher temperatures, but ozone only lasts a few hours in the atmosphere before it breaks down.  In other words, ozone concentration is highest during the hottest sunny summer days, and drops off after the sun goes down.  

The primary pollutants responsible for ozone formation are hydrocarbons—we call them Volatile Organic Carbons, or VOCs, in the air quality world—and nitrogen oxides, which we abbreviate NOX.  VOCs come from lots of sources, but primarily from cars.  NOX also comes from various sources, including cars.  

Let me say this very simply: Driving a car causes ozone formation, which is smog, and idling a car makes smog for no good reason.  

So what are we to do?  I’d suggest the usual remedies if they would do any good, but I’m losing hope in Americans’ ability to alter their lifestyle for the betterment of all.  I certainly wouldn’t ask you to sit in a hot car without air conditioning—that would be as unreasonable as expecting you to turn off the engine, park the car and walk inside instead of going through a drive-thru window, something that Melva Sine, president and CEO of the Utah Restaurant Association, says actually causes more pollution. Apparently, corporations like McDonalds have done studies that show it does not reduce emissions when customers walk inside, which proves you can do a study to show just about anything.

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

Nor would I ask you to actually drive at the posted speed limit as a way to conserve fuel because who am I to keep you from speedily getting to McCafĂ© for an iced mocha?  I wouldn’t ask you to carpool or ride the bus because then you might have to turn off your iPod and actually interact with other people—face to face.   Finally, I would never ask you to walk your kids to school or chain your trips together instead of making separate trips for every errand, because you are an American, and Americans demand lives of convenience.   

But what about cyclists, runners, kids, the elderly and everybody else
who still wants to enjoy the summer in spite of this corrosive air? 
There is a way to avoid the sunburned lung feeling.  Before you head
out for that ride or run in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, I
suggest you visit the website of the Utah Division of Air Quality,
select your county, then click on ‘Trend Charts’.  The second graph
from the top on the resulting page is the current ozone concentration. 
OK, the data is usually about two hours old, but that's pretty close to

Ozone thursday

The most relevant line for you is the blue circles.  How far below or above the federal standard (the orange line) is it?  More importantly, are concentrations going up or down? I would consider staying inside if concentrations are above 0.06 ppm and/or rising.    In the graph above, which is from Thursday afternoon, the concentration at 1PM was 0.07 ppm, which is below the federal standard but still unhealthy.  I wouldn't go for a ride until after 7PM on a day like today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Central Wasatch Tour

Acoustic Motorbike
It’s been five years since Mags and I dipped the back tire of our tandem bike into Puget Sound and set out eastward for a zig- zagging tour across this great country.  To celebrate that anniversary we loaded up our acoustic motorbike again on Friday morning for a two day tour around the central Wasatch Mountains.  Would it be possible to replicate all of the experiences of our twelve week cross country tour in just two days and 120 miles?  Nope—we checked the weather forecast Friday morning before we departed: Thunderstorms Ominous.  A flash flood was one experience we didn’t want to repeat.  We decided to postpone our departure one day.

Just five miles into our ride we did replicate one of the most common feelings of our cross country tour—the feeling of being stared at when arriving at a social gathering in stinky spandex.  Mags’ cousin was getting married on Saturday, and while we hadn’t planned on attending the wedding breakfast, our unplanned route through the maze that is SLC’s southern suburbs took us right past the park where it was held.  Mags’ parents were arriving at the same time we pulled in, and they cajoled us into going in and saying hello.  I was just a little self-conscious about my odor as I hugged my mother-in-law, but much more so when I hugged some of my wife’s cousins whom I hardly know.  They say the further you are from your bicycle the more ridiculous you look in cycling clothing.  A wedding breakfast is about as far from a bicycle ride as you can get. 

Central Wasatch Tour Our route took us over Suncrest to American Fork Canyon, up the Alpine Loop to Cascade Springs. I knew we’d be climbing slowly, but climbing American Fork Canyon was a little too similar to hauling our fully loaded tandem over the Cascades, the Rockies (three times), the Appalachians, and hundreds of other mountains along the way. 

Tandem bicycle + Gravel road + 10% grade = Slow

The climb from Cascade Springs to Midway was similar to riding the Mickleson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota, only steeper, but the reward of fajitas and mole from Tarahumara in Midway was far better than the Chinese buffets that were all we could afford five years ago. 

We camped outside of Midway behind some scrub oak that protected us from view from the roadway.  Nothing about that experience has changed.  With a bicycle, you can camp just about anywhere. 

From Midway to Park City via Guardsman Pass was more grueling climbing up a steep gravel road, but this time with washboards.  We bought lunch at the grocery store in Park City, and remembered how, along with a public library, a grocery store was an oasis in the desert that is the American highway.  They offer air conditioning, clean public restrooms, friendly faces and a chance to rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day. 

From Park City we continued north to Jeremy Ranch and the gravel East Canyon Road.  Mags replicated her perfected back-seat driving here as I leaned deep into some of the sandy corners on that road.  From there, it was another grind up Big Mountain Pass, punctuated by chubby guys wearing dew rags and goatees riding Harleys waving to us as they blasted past us. 

There are two kinds of bikers:  Leathers ride loud, stinky machines powered by fossil fuels and adorned with chrome, tassels and American flags.  Lycras ride silent, emission-free machines fueled by Mexican food and Power Bars and encumbered only with water bottles and a shiny coat of paint.  

There is a Brotherhood of Bikers that Leathers share with one another.  Some Leathers include Lycras in that Brotherhood, especially Lycras with panniers, what Leathers call 'saddlebags' because Leathers have an aversion to all things French.  Leathers figure there is a connection between anyone who chooses two wheels over four.  Lycras generally don’t feel the same way toward Leathers, but don’t tell them so because Leathers are mean.  Or maybe they just look mean, whereas Lycras look like fairies with their tights and shaved legs.  We saw two Leathers wearing skins and furs, with horns.  Now that's mean. 

From Big Mountain Pass it was a quick ride to Emigration Canyon and to our home in Salt Lake City.  Total distance was 122 miles ride time was just over 11 hours. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Colorado Springs

SC 1
I set myself up for the ultimate irony at the Sand Creek race in Colorado Springs a week ago, but first let me tell you about the course.  Most of it was smooth, hard packed, wide singletrack.  It was smooth enough that I joked with Ryan about how I should have saved some weight by bringing the rigid fork from my single speed.  

Then, as if to mock me, the trail led us into the first rock garden.  This one I could ride, but there were some sections I couldn’t.   A lot of the next mile consisted of rock gardens that I could ride during my warm up, but never under hypoxic race conditions.  To make a long story short, the course did not play to my strengths.  Put another way, my strengths do not play to finesse riding.  

My inability to descend gingerly notwithstanding, I had two aspirations for this race. The first was to not finish last, which was [relatively] easy.  I finished in front of 11 riders, and there were another 20 or so that didn’t finish at all.  By the way, when 90 racers are trying to get up the same trail and so are riding wheel to wheel, if one of the guys in the front dabs his foot everyone behind him gets stopped too.   So, to the guy behind me that yelled when I decided it was faster to run than wait for a literal traffic jam, if you’re reading this: Don’t be myopic, look up, look around, and quit staring at my hub. There’s a race going on.  

My other aspiration was to pee in a cup, or get tested for drugs.  I failed in that regard, or at least I hope so.

When I crossed the finish line I had only one thing on my mind, and it wasn’t to find out what place I’d finished or if I’d been randomly selected for drug testing.  No, I was thinking of getting to Coors Field and watching Ichiro Suzuki, the galaxy’s most gifted, graceful and gracious ballplayer, slap another base hit that doesn’t make it out of the infield.  

So Ryan and I loaded our bikes into the truck, and thanks to a 45 minute rain delay, we made it in time for the second inning.  It wasn’t until later that night, after the Mariners had blown two golden opportunities and thus the game, as I was finally drifting off to sleep, that I realized that I’d forgotten to check if I’d been randomly selected for drug testing.  

Missing a drug test is as bad as failing a drug test in the eyes of the USADA.  The irony of hoping to be selected, getting selected, and then skipping out on the test would be too much to bear.  So, to the USADA, if you’re reading this, and if I was selected: I’m sorry, but Ichiro is leading the American League in batting, and I hadn’t seen him play for five years. I’m begging for a little leniency here.  I’ll pee in that cup any time you ask.  I promise all you’ll find is some flax seed, chocolate milk, and if I’m desperate, maybe a bit of Mountain Dew.   

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What am I thinking?

US CUP I’m leaving this afternoon, with pro license in hand, for Colorado Springs and the Carmichael Training Systems Sand Creek International Classic.  This will be my first race on the PRO XCT Tour so I only have two aspirations:

1)    Not finish last
2)    Be asked to pee in a cup

Cross your fingers. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A horse is a horse

Horsesense One morning when I arrived at my office with my fourth different bike in as many days, I was greeted by a co-worker saying “Jeez Chad, how many bikes do you need?” 

This co-worker is probably the closest thing to a real cowboy you’ll find in this day and age.  He competes as a calf roper in regional rodeos, he wears skin-tight Wranglers, and is fluent in the local dialect of Mountain English.   And in case you still had any doubt about his authenticity, he wears a big bushy handlebar moustache.  Incidentally, he is also my supplier of free range, grass fed buffalo meat, which he raises for practicing his calf ropin’.  [There are no –ing words in Mountain English]. 

So anyway, when my cowboy co-worker asked how many bikes I needed I replied in a way I knew he would understand.  “Different horses for different courses” I said.  He was satisfied.  After all, how could he not be?   He owns something like a dozen horses.  He has not mentioned my numerous bikes since. 

This has got me thinking.  What is the real meaning of that phrase?  Is it ‘different horses for different courses’?  Or is it ‘different courses for different horses’?  They’re not the same thing. 

One implies that, given a certain course, you need to select the right horse for it.  The other implies that if you’ve only got one horse, you’ve got to find a course he’s well-suited for.  Either way you’ve got your work cut out for you. 

If it’s the former, you’re going to have a lot of horses to feed.   If it’s the latter you’ll spend a lot of time seeking out the right course for your horse.  And how will you ever know you’ve found the right course?  You won’t, of course, so you’ll just have to keep searching.  

I hear there are good courses in Driggs and Durango, and of course I have ridden horses in Moab, Fruita and San Jorge, and found pretty good courses at all of them.  Also Hood River, Hilo, Hanover, Friday Harbor, Bar Harbor, Santa Cruz, Santaquin, Maah Daah Hey, Monterey, North Bend, Bend, Boise, Trapper Creek, Talkeetna, Black Hills, Fountain Hills, Fountain Green, Green River Utah, Green River Washington, but not Green River Wyoming,  Anchorage, Austin, Smithville, Millville, Harrisville, Harrisburg, Alton, Elko and Ely.  All have good courses, but I’m not sure if any of those is the right course for my horse. 

So naturally I’ve turned to filling my stable with different horses.  I won’t list all of my horses; suffice it to say they comprise a small herd.  I will warn you however, that owning multiple horses is not enough.  You are also going to need Wranglers for cold weather and others for warm weather.  Baggy chaps for dusty trails and the tightest Wranglers you can find for days you pretend to be a jockey.  You might need some balm for long days in the saddle, but I don’t recommend it.  Different horses also call for different sorts of cowboy boots, but whether or not to use spurs is completely up to you.  Keep your horses well fed.  Oats and hops will keep horse and rider healthy and happy.  Finally, every horse will need shoes that match perfectly the course you intend to ride him on. You wouldn't ride roughshod over a smooth road would you? 

As you can see, owning lots of horses is every bit as complicated as owning just one horse.  So whether you decide to keep just one horse and cart him everywhere in search of the ideal course for him, or keep a herd of horses so you’re ready for all kinds of courses, I hope this discourse on horses and courses provides you with a little horse sense on the matter.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see a man about a horse. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's official

It’s been a while, I admit it.  I’d apologize but what good would it do?  I just haven’t been feeling any blogging mojo.  And it’s not like you can’t find narcissistic ramblings anywhere else on the interweb.  Quite frankly, I’m very surprised you’re still hanging around.  Haven’t you got anything else to do?  Well, I don’t feel any remorse for leaving you without your weekly dose of circular logic and nonsensical observations.   Besides, I’ve got a couple of lame, but nonetheless official, excuses…

It all started last autumn when USA Cycling announced it was going to dissolve the semi-pro category.  For 2009, all semi-pros would have the choice of moving up to pro or going back to the expert category (renamed Cat 1).   In other words, USAC told us to choose between being USAC-Sanctioned Sandbaggers or perpetually losing to guys that don’t have real jobs, get paid to ride, have team mechanics and don’t know the value of their equipment because they never buy it for themselves.  Easy choice, right?

For me it was less a decision to turn pro and more of a decision to not go back to Cat 1.  Remember how I worked extra hard last season to upgrade to semi-pro?   OK, it wasn’t that much work, but it did require a trip to Phoenix and lots of riding in circles.  This time around my upgrade came not from my own effort, discipline, hard work, sacrifice, training, sweat, etc.  This upgrade came my way via the action of a faceless bureaucracy. 

To make it official, this arrived in the mail earlier this spring:

The best part is that it says while I may be good enough to ride pro in the dirt, at least according to USA Cycling, I’m still a beginner (Cat 5) on a road bike.  Yeah, that seems about right, although others might argue with that statement. 

So with a bona fide professional license in hand and in need of a healthy dose of reality, I set out for San Diego in early April for race number 3 of the Kenda Cup West Series where I finished a respectable 19th in the Sage Brush Safari.  Respectable yes, but there were only 34 starters. This pro racing game, I realized, is going to take a bit more effort.   MBA

So that’s what I set out to do—try harder.  Maybe I’d even learn to ride downhill.  But that’s when my academic life reared its ugly head, in the form of a macroeconomics class.  I’d been cruising along in an MBA program for over 3 years, and now, suddenly, I was expected to put forth a lot more effort.   It was like riding in the foothills all day then, when you think you’re almost done, the road turns up a canyon and you have 3,000 more feet to climb.   

Anyway, several thousand IS/LM curves later, I finished, and a couple of weeks ago I made it official:

So now I have two masters degrees but not enough work experience, a pro license but no winnings to speak of, and I still can’t ride downhill. 

I officially need to come up some new excuses. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sasquatch. Yeti. Red Beard. Cro-Magnon.

Red Beard

Sasquatch. Yeti. Red Beard. Cro-Magnon.  These were all names I was called at the
Desert Rampage in St. George two Saturdays ago. 
It seems I had forgotten to shave my face while shaving my legs in preparation for the first race of the 2009 season. Chops

I did finally get around to shaving, but I seem to have
missed a few spots. 

There’s not much more to say about my race.   I prepared the way I usually do,  (by going bowling on the Thursday before),
warmed up on the morning of the race, then relaxed until just before the start.  I raced well and finished 12th out
of 27 pros and quasi-pros like me.  I was
happy that I finished strong, my lap time on the fourth lap was only about a 90
seconds slower than my first lap time. 

There are, however, a few things that need to be said about
Mags’ race on the same day.  There were
18 sport women racing against her, and she beat every one of them.  She was nervous at the start, but she has recently renewed her commitment to
the hooptedoodle training plan: ride your bike to work.  She takes the commuter train to O-town every
day, then pedals her very heavy commuter bike from the train station three
miles up to the University where she works. 

So when she gets on her lightweight mountain bike with
hand-me-down, gently worn in, and race proven parts she climbs like gas prices climb
in the summertime.  I like to pretend
that I taught her how to climb, but unfortunately, that would also mean I’ve
taught her how to descend, and that’s like taking ethics lessons from an
Illinois politician. 


Oh, there’s one more thing she’s been doing that helped her climb to the top of the podium.  Remember how I tried to convince
people that you can in fact shop at Costco on your bicycle?   Well, apparently I have at least one

Mags costco

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dog days of winter

People have accused me of being a dog hater.  It’s not true, but much of the time perception is stronger than reality .  Truthfully, I’m not a dog hater, but I’m not a dog lover either.  I will admit that I hate interacting with unleashed dogs that I don’t know, especially when I’m approaching them rapidly on my bike or skis.  I think I’m pretty justified in this hatredRyan is too.  

To prove I’m not a dog hater, or maybe because my therapist says I’ve got to make peace with the canine species, I did something Saturday morning that I never thought I’d do. 

I went Skijoring.  

More specifically, I participated in a Skijoring race.  The race was put on by Racer and his wife, Maren.  They told me I could borrow a dog and all the equipment I’d need.  Maren also promised to give me a dog that knew what he was doing, to make up for my not having a clue. 

So Mags and I waxed up our skis and made the drive to Park City Saturday morning.  We quickly met Amy and her two Malamute puppies, Wilson and Brutus.  Here’s a picture of Mags with eight-month-old Wilson.  I think Wilson outweighs Mags.
Mags and Wilson

Mags and I spent about an hour trying to get Wilson and Brutus to pull us around, and had the most success when Amy ran in front of them.  Maren said I could use a second dog during the race that should work well with Brutus. 

Meanwhile, Aaron and I got interviewed by a reporter from Park City TV.  I think he was a bit disappointed when we told him this was our first experience skijoring.  I also doubt that clip will ever make it over to YouTube. 

One minute before the race started I was introduced to Zilla, my second and supposedly well trained dog.  We hitched her up alongside Brutus and they immediately started to wrestle.  They were more interested in playing than in pulling me around the two mile course. 

After about five minutes of trying to cajole them into working, I finally gave up on Brutus and sent him back to Amy.  Zilla and I then took off up the hill.  Zilla was a good worker as long as she didn’t get distracted, which initially was every 30 seconds. 

Eventually Zilla got the message and we started passing people.  She pulled us all the way into fourth place—good enough to win me a pair of socks. 

After the race, Zilla and I went out for another lap, just the two of us.  You might say we bonded. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bicycle transit center open house

This short article inviting public comment on a proposed bicycle transit center was in the Salt Lake Tribune today:

I will be at the open house tomorrow night, not because I support the idea of a bicycle transit center, but because I want to find out just what a bicycle transit center is.  The article mentions a facility for rental and storage of bicycles at the downtown transit hub, but I’ve also heard talk of showers, a bike shop and an information center. 

Those all seem like reasonable ideas, but I can assure you this bicycle commuter is not going to reroute his commute just to pass through the transit center.  And who’s going to want to take a shower at what is essentially Salt Lake City’s Grand Central Station [which is just around the corner from the Salt Lake City Mission]?  I think the money would be better spent retrofitting TRAX cars to accommodate bikes, putting more bike racks on buses and making more room for bikes on FrontRunner.   

I really want to know what kind of commuter the proposed transit center would serve. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

A first time for everything

I've been called lots of things, from Hippie to Elitist, and almost everything in between, but nobody has ever accused me of being a roadie...