Friday, December 16, 2011

Touring the Newfies

Mark and I were sitting on the railroad tracks when the first man on a four wheeler rolled up.  The road west along the tracks was closed in six miles, a Union Pacific sign courteously but sternly warned us.  The road south to the Newfoundland Mountains, our desired destination, was too wet and goopy for our bikes.  We had just pedaled over 80 miles across the Great Salt Lake with the intention of climbing Desert Peak and seemed now to be thwarted just ten miles from where we could start hiking.  In those moments of indecision we had hidden our bikes behind an embankment and were considering starting our hike from there when instead we decided it was a good time for lunch.  We had not seen a train for over an hour.  When the first ATV rider arrived I was sitting on the rails munching on a cheese and mustard sandwich so I let Mark do most of the talking.  After exchanging a few pleasantries Mark asked the man about the roads in the Newfies.  We were learning about a ride he’d done down the east side, over a low pass and back north on the west side when his partner rolled up on a second ATV.

This time there were no pleasantries.   “How the hell did you get out here?” the second man asked as soon as there was a lull in the conversation.  We told them about our bikes and secretly wished we hadn’t as they could steal them and leave us out there to die in the desert.  Then Mark turned back to the first man and asked more about his ride around the Newfies.   We were particularly interested in the road around the southern end of the range, though the Air Force’s bombing range.  If that road was passable then a circumnavigation of the Newfies by bicycle was a distinct possibility.   After a minute or so there was another pause in the conversation.   The silence of the desert hung in the air.  I started to peel a tangerine.  Mark looked at the railroad ties, then at me, then at the first man.  I might have heard a coyote howl.  The second man couldn’t take it anymore.  He had to be sure, he asked, “You mean you rode your pedal bikes all the way out here?” IMG_4393 

Indeed we had.   We camped two nights on the mudflats near the Hogup Mountains, far enough from the railroad tracks not to be awakened by passing trains but not so far that we couldn’t walk over after dinner one evening to put railroad spikes on the rails to watch them get squashed by freight trains bound for the ports in California.  We raced our bikes across the mudflats, marveled at the enormity of Governor Bangerter’s pumps on the Lake’s western shore while debating the futility of that attempt by man to control his environment, and watched with curiosity as backhoes and bulldozers built miles of dikes to parcel out more of the Lake into evaporation ponds so Great Salt Lake Minerals Co. can produce and sell us more salt to sprinkle on our roads, salinate our rivers and farmlands and be pulverized into dust we can breathe in our winter air.   The west shore of the Lake is changing.  

Indeed, even the desolation that draws us out there is at risk.  On the morning of our return we met a Union Pacific employee who was out inspecting the track.   IMG_4420We hoped he wouldn’t notice our collection of squashed railroad spikes but he seemed more interested in telling us about the other cyclists he’s seen out there.   He’d noticed our tracks on the causeway on his way across the Lake that morning and figured he’d run into us sooner or later.   “Most of them are out lookin’ for Jesus, I guess.” he says of the cyclists he sees out there all the time.  “Are you heading back today?  Well, watch out for trains.”

IMG_4439“Yes sir,” I say with a smile because he has implicitly given us permission to ride across the privately owned causeway, which we were going to do anyway, “we’ve found our Jesus and are ready to go home.”  As we turn away and pedal for home my smile turns to a frown because he has also implicitly stated that Mark and I are not the only nut jobs who ride out there.  As much as I’d love to see more people out enjoying the Lake, I want to keep that most desolate part of the Lake just for us.  I decide not to believe him.   As far as I am concerned, we are still the only cyclists who ride out there.    DSCN0400

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Utah Thief Picks Wrong Bike to Steal

SB Bike
If you're going to steal something to pawn, pick something with a wide market appeal.  More here



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cycling Great Salt Lake

Sunset The other day I got an email from a guy who had read about my ride around Great Salt Lake.  I had emailed one of his colleagues about a project at work and that colleague forwarded my email on to him.   In his email response to me he answered my work related questions then finished with this:

In a funny coincidence, I was talking to some co-workers today about bike touring and I told them about a Cycling Utah article I had read four years ago or so about some crazy dude who rode his bike around the Great Salt Lake. I had remembered a few things -- it sounded very rough and he ran out of water. I wasn't sure it sounded fun.

So I googled some stuff, found the article and guess what?


It seems that I’m getting a reputation for being ‘that crazy dude’ that rides his bike around Great Salt Lake.  While ‘crazy dude’ is not a status most people, myself included, aspire to, I have done little in the past to dissuade people from thinking otherwise about me.  Today’s post can only make the matter worse and will probably solidify my position as the world’s preeminent crazy dude that rides around Great Salt Lake.  

During the summer a friend of mine met a woman who was devoting her summer to exploring Great Salt Lake.  She and another woman had been swimming in, sailing on, hiking along, flying over etc. etc. around the Lake and were writing about their experiences on a blog called Summer of Salt.  My friend, doing his part to ruin my reputation, said something like “I know this crazy dude who rode his bike around the Lake.  You should talk to him.”  So a few days later I got an email from Heidi and we arranged to meet for lunch. Nicole, her partner in the project, came along too and we all swapped stories about our travels around the Lake and discussed why so few people appreciate and recreate on it.  I felt good talking with some fellow Great Salt Lake lovers and wished there were more people like us.  We decided that one way to make that happen would be for me to write a post for their blog about why I rode my bike around the Lake, and why I keep going back.   

You’ll find the introduction to my post below but you’ll have to visit Heidi and Nicole’s site to finish it.  When you’re done, do yourself a favor and spend some time reading some of their other posts. I recommend the one on the Bear River and the one on the Sun Tunnels.

Let me make one thing clear from the beginning: The cycling opportunities around Great Salt Lake are terrible. There I said it, but it’s a lie. Great Salt Lake is the last destination in Utah I would recommend for a cycling adventure. For that Utah has Moab, St. George, Vernal and Park City. Those places have buff single track, paved rural roads, ideal weather and communities that cater to cyclists’ needs. Great Salt Lake has none of that.  Instead it’s got horseflies that bite through spandex, a complete and total absence of shade, awful roads that rattle loose every bolt on your bicycle, and the real possibility that the most minor of mechanical failures, or even just one too many flat tires could put your very survival in question…click here to continue reading.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Second Tandem Bicycle

I won the greatest prize of my racing career on Tuesday night, both in terms on monetary value and sheer awesomeness. 

I’ve been doing most of the Tuesday night races this summer because they’re a great way to maintain your top-end fitness levels without the drudgery of intervals.  The races are typically an hour long so if you want to compete you’ve got to red line it from start to finish.  I actually won the series last year—and won a wad of cash in the process—primarily due to my amazing ability to show up every week.   But this year the series is a lot more competitive so instead of focusing on overall points I’ve had my eyes on the prize that matters most—The Post-Race Raffle.

Tuesday night was a special night because, among all the usual bicycle wares up for grabs, was this deluxe acoustic motorhome:

When the time came to raffle the tandem I was busy being distracted by my buddy Matt, who was…well, I’ll just let the pictures tell the story.









The only thing it needs is an iBert Safe-T-Seat so our whole family can ride.  Whaddya say Mags? 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pierre's Hole 100

Finally my efforts get the attention of the “national” press are starting to pan out.  I got interviewed by a guy from Cycling News after the Race last week and I did my best to not sound like a doofus. 

See how I did - I don’t appear until 15:50.   One more NUE series race for me this summer, then I’m calling it a season, maybe even a career.


Read the article here

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fatigue Limits

I’ve been a dad for a week now, so I now know a few things about fatigue.  For instance, it can be caused by 2am feeding sessions followed by 3am diaper changing sessions.   It can also come from all of the visits we’ve been having from family and friends which stretch well into nap time.  I might have to establish—and strictly enforce—visiting hours so Mags can get some sleep.  Fatigue also comes from cycling, and I don’t just mean riding your bike.  I’m talking here about the periodic loading and unloading of a material, for example, the aluminum in the fork on my cyclocross bike.  

I like to ride my cyclocross bike this time of year because most of the trails are still muddy or covered in snow, and with all the rain we get in the spring, it’s nice that I can fit fenders on it to keep my arse somewhat dry when I ride on the road.  Last week, in one of my final pre-fatherhood rides, I went up Emigration Canyon and beyond to see how high the snowline was.  What by all accounts was an uneventful ride was almost ruined at the top of Little Mountain Pass when I saw that my odometer had changed to 9,700 miles. 

100_0773 “Wow, 9,700 miles”, I thought as I descended into Emigration Canyon at 30 mph.   “I’ll turn the thing over in just a few weeks”, I thought as I rode over a few bumps and watched, as I have been doing on this bike for eleven years, my fork flex up and down.  I used to joke that I get almost an inch of travel out of it.  Then I thought about the Strength of Materials class I took in college where I learned that aluminum has no fatigue limit, meaning that in can develop microscopic cracks that enlarge where loads are applied repeatedly.  Eventually the crack becomes so large that sudden fracture of the material occurs.   Fellow enginerds wanting a geekier explanation of this phenomenon can scratch that itch over at the Sabrosa website because, thank goodness, I’m not that kind of engineer.

00116200461 Now exceeding 40 mph I thought back to all the great rides I’d done on my cyclocross bike.  I rode it on my longest day on a bike—211 miles from Seattle to Portland.  I loaded it up and toured the San Juan Islands on it.  I’ve raced cyclocross on it.  I’ve ridden it around the Great Salt Lake twice.   I’ve put countless (well, 9,700 miles actually) miles commuting to and from work.  It’s always been my go-to bike in the worst weather because I wanted to preserve my road and mountain bikes.  Rain, snow, salty roads, tours, muddy cyclocross courses, I’ve ridden it in some of the worst conditions possible. 

What do I do?  Is 10,000 miles too much stress on an aluminum fork (not to mention the aluminum frame)?  Is it time to retire one of my favorite bikes?  A sudden failure of my fork at 40 mph, or 40 miles into the west desert could cause my boy to grow up fatherless.  [I could probably survive a sudden fork failure 40 minutes into a cyclocross race, so should I save the bike for racing only?] 6a00d8345214b769e2014e8842bef2970d

Sometime while descending the canyon I convinced myself that 9,700 miles is a lot less than 10,000 miles and I am somehow safe for another 300 miles.  So when I got to the mouth of the canyon I turned onto the Bonneville Shoreline Trail for a little single track on my ‘cross bike with skinny tires. 

Anyone want to buy a used cyclocross fork?