This is Max when he was a puppy. He is our first family dog, and he grew to be my riding companion. I think I started to take him with me when he was about two. We had some rough patches when he would take off and sniff other dogs and ignore me, but he eventually learned to listen to me and ignore them. I took him out this morning for a cold nine mile ride, and he doesn’t care that it’s cold. If he sees me get my mountain bike clothes and turns into a tornado. He gets mad if I ever leave him home, so I take him as much as I can. One thing I love about mountain biking is I can go alone or with other people. It’s mostly alone these days, so it’s nice to have Max along. It’s entertaining to watch him chase rabbits knowing that he will never catch one.
Overall I could go faster if I left him home, but it’s nice to have the company. Max beats me on the climbs and I beat him on the downhill. He is much more obedient and calm after a ride. He needs the exercise and he loves being outside, so ride time is good for him. Life is a lot more enjoyable when you have people to share it with. Sometimes it’s a best friend, a spouse, or a child. Like my rides with Max, sometimes I have to adjust things, especially if I am doing something with my kids, but it’s nice to spend the time together. They make me laugh, and hopefully I am teaching them something along the way. The ride is mutually beneficial, just like my rides with Max.
When I started to mountain bike in 1994 I realized that it would be a good idea to carry an extra tube and a few tools, so I bought a Mountainsmith lumbar bag at REI. I added a few things like an emergency blanket, that I almost had to use in Briones one evening. Those were the days of drinking warm water from a muddy water bottle. When I moved to Utah I went to Gorilla Bikes and the girl was quitting, so she sold me a Camelbak MULE for $55. That changed everything. It kept my water cold, and I could carry a windbreaker and other gear. I have since passed that MULE on to my son and bought this orange MULE, which has a bigger storage area. It also doubles as a spine protector during crashes. Bonus. I carry a tube, CO2 inflator and cartridges, emergency bag, signal mirror, duct tape and a few zip ties.
I read an article in the last year or two that suggested only carrying enough water for your ride to help lower the weight of the Camelbak. I think that is a stupid idea. First of all, I might change my mind during a ride and go further than I intended when I left. Secondly, it’s only a few pounds. You are better served by losing the body weight than your water supply weight. Thirdly, I know a guy named Royce that crashed and broke his neck on a ride. He was partially paralyzed and couldn’t walk or ride home. All he could do was drink from his Camelbak for four hours until his friends came to find him. Carry plenty of water.
The Camelbak is a symbol of preparedness. It is important to be prepared for as many unforeseen circumstances as possible. Four years ago I was stuck in my car for four hours because of snow and high winds. All the roads in Utah County were shut down. I realized I was not prepared to walk away from my car and make it home in dress clothes. I packed a bag with warm clothes the next day. Sometimes we only have the resources to prepare on a small scale, but that is better than nothing. Being prepared gives you a sense of control and safety that can help us stay calm during trying situations. It’s all about the gear.
This is the 220 drop in at the Eagle Mountain bike park. To the left of the picture is a pretty sharp berm, which actually scared me more than the drop in the first time I did it. I was afraid I would have too much speed from the drop in and miss the turn, flying down the hill. I did the drop and locked up my brakes and stopped before hitting the turn, and I’ve been hitting the drop and riding the 220 trail ever since. The scary part about the drop is that you can’t see the landing until your front tire is rolling off the wood ramp, so it gets your heart racing if you haven’t done it for a while. You have to commit to the drop or risk injury trying to avoid it. I’ve seen people ride up to the edge and stop, nearly falling off the ramp. Too many people only put forth partial effort, and that rarely yields any meaningful results. Mountain biking, like life, requires you to go all in when you face an obstacle. Failure to do so can lead to painful results.
That first ride with Bevan in American Fork Canyon really turned me off to the area, but thankfully I went back in drier conditions and really liked it. I started to spend a lot of time on the Ridge 157 trail because it was beautiful and had a great mix of climbs, downhill and technical sections. There are a few hills that are a challenge, and I worked toward doing the whole ride without stopping to test my fitness level. It was a good test, but after surgery took me off my bike for 10 months I realized that I was racing passed my reason for riding in the first place. I love to be out in nature, and I wasn’t stopping to enjoy the view.
This picture is the type of thing I would see from the Ridge 157 trail.
This is the view from Porcupine Rim in Moab. It’s a pretty brutal climb to start the ride, so we always stop at this overlook to rest before we do the downhill section. Plus it is a beautiful view of the desert landscape I love so much. I reminds me of a Louis L’Amour book.
Stopping on Porcupine Rim made sense because we were tired and needed to eat before finishing the 17 mile ride, but I was missing out on other rides like American Fork Canyon. There is nothing wrong with stopping to enjoy what is around you. It doesn’t detract from the health benefits of riding. It probably increases it, and it makes it more enjoyable. It’s easy to keep pushing forward in life and miss the view entirely. Isn’t the view the point of the journey?
I was riding with Nate McArthur and James Hoffman about a year ago when I ended up in a bad spot. It was an early spring ride and we were riding in snow and mud. It got so muddy I couldn’t shift, and I eventually broke my derailleur for the first time in my riding life. I had to walk out a few miles until James was able to get back to his truck and come rescue me. The Fezzari bike shop was able to later hook me up with a used derailleur for $25 and I was back at it. I’ve been in muddy areas like that before on my Trek, but got out without any damage. I won’t ride in areas like that again. Muddy conditions can cause problems long before it is severe enough to break parts. A dirty bike won’t shift properly and can cause braking issues. It’s important to keep your bike clean so it will perform properly when you depend on it. Our minds, bodies and spirits get muddy and must be cleaned from time to time. There have been times when I depended on caffeinated soda to function. It’s a horrible feeling and I stopped drinking soda on December 29, 2012, with no plans to go back. I eat more fruits and vegetables and have cut back dramatically on junk food and dessert. I think clearer and feel better. We have to cleanse our spirits by spending time in nature, connecting with family and friends, meditating and expecting God, the universe or karma to interact with us. Things can’t function properly when they are dirty, whether it is a bike or a person.
This one should be obvious, but it happened to me this morning and Tuesday. When I was riding on Tuesday I got stuck in a deep rut on a short hill. The rut was deep enough that I couldn’t pedal and had to walk up the hill. Today I crashed while trying to get out of another rut on the same road. Everyone gets in to a rut from time to time. It could be a dead end job, a bad relationship or slacking off. The best thing to do is stop and pull your bike out of the rut so you can get back on and start pedaling and moving forward. You have to change the thing that put you in that rut so you can move forward successfully.
This is me riding in December 2012. It’s snowing again today, and it feels like it did in this picture. I thought today was an appropriate day to talk about weather. I usually stop riding when the snow starts to fall or the temperatures drop in late fall or early winter, but in 2012 I rode until the end of the year. I put down a lot of miles in the snow, wearing shorts and a balaclava. The coldest ride I did in 2012 was 13 F. That was cold. The temperatures dropped even further and I decided to declare an end to the season. I rode once in January and a few times so far in February, but it just got too cold. It isn’t fun to ride when everything is cold. Even though I rode more than normal in 2012 there is still a season. Our lives have seasons. Sometimes the seasons are sickness or injury. Sometimes it’s a new job or a growing family. We can’t always do what we want, when we want, so it’s important to enjoy our beautiful experiences while we have them.
Sometimes I listen to music when I ride. I have an MP3 player, but the earbuds wouldn’t stay in place very well, and I didn’t like to have my hearing impaired while riding. Now when I want to ride with music I will play in on my iPhone. Music is a good motivator, but sometimes it’s nice to enjoy nature’s silence. Sometimes I will ride without music so I can focus on something or so I can see if God has something to say to me. In December I was asked to speak in Church, but I wasn’t given a topic. I rode in silence so I could be given the topic, and He gave it to me. Tuesday when I was riding I chose silence and that’s when I discovered the connection between things I have learned riding and how they apply to my life.
There is a lot of noise in life. Some of it is good and some is bad, but it’s important to seek the silence through reflection or meditation. Some of my best ideas or discoveries have come when I turned off the noise. Quiet reflection gives us time to reset and focus. It’s good for our minds and bodies.
The first time I rode in American Fork Canyon was with Bevan Erickson. Bevan and I grew up together in California, and we were both in the Provo area during college. He had ridden the Ridge 157 trail a few times and raved about how great it was. It was an overcast day, and we were hit with low clouds and rain, making the trail a muddy mess. I had clipless pedals at the time, which means my shoes had cleats that clipped in to the pedals, attaching me to the bike. Road bikes use clipless pedals to maximize pedal stroke effort. It takes a while to get used to it, but it makes a difference in pedal stroke and control. The trail got so muddy that I couldn’t clip my shoes in to the pedals. When I finally did, I couldn’t get out. I actually spun out at one point and fell over, so Bevan had to come help me get back up, shoes and pedals still welded together in mud and grime. As we took the cut off to Tibble Fork Resevoir, we hit a section with 2-3 foot drops, landing in rock gardens. It was the opposite of my ideal landing, but the rain and mud made my caliper brakes fail. I had the choice of walking miles back to the car or taking a chance and jumping the drops, hoping I wouldn’t crash. I didn’t crash on any of the drops, but it scared the hell out of me. I haven’t ridden that trail much since then, because I prefer the cut off that goes to Cascade Springs, but my current bike and I could take those drops all day. I was a new rider and didn’t have any suspension, so I was riding beyond my skill level that day. Now I love drops like that. I am a better rider for that experience, even though I didn’t enjoy it at the time.
Life has a funny way of pushing us beyond our current capacities. We overcome obstacles or trials that seem to be crushing us at the time, but we emerge stronger. I am a stronger rider and a stronger person for the experiences I have overcome, and the ones that have beat me. I needed help getting up when I crashed, but Bevan was there to help me. We need good people around to help us when we fall, and we just keep jumping until we get to the end of the trail.
On Sunday we talked about teaching our children to work. I shared a story of when I was young, and my mom gave me the choice to do my chores, then go play with my friends, or play first and come home to work. I chose to play first, then was called home to work while the rest of my friends got to stay and play. I hated it, but it taught me to get my work done first when possible, and I will be able to enjoy my free time without working hanging over my head. I mentioned how I love to mountain bike because it is work and fun. I work and get my exercise when I am climbing hills or pushing hard on a flat section, and I have fun on the downhill sections. Cody Andreason made a comment about life lessons, which got me thinking this morning. I took my dog and put down nine miles this morning. It was a little cool, but the sun is coming up sooner, and I am anxious to ride like I did last year. I decided not to listen to music, but to listen and see if God had anything to tell me.
I have been mountain biking since January 1994. I rode my Trek 850 hardtail until I was able to find a Cannondale Gemini that I could afford on eBay about 8-9 years ago. That is the bike I currently ride. I used to do several sports, but I have cut down as we had kids, and circumstances have changed, but I have never stopped riding my bike. It is my favorite sport. I got a Specialized Roubaix road bike 2-3 years ago, and that has really helped my conditioning. It’s fun to go fast and put down big miles on the road bike, but I won’t give up mountain biking for road biking. Mountain biking puts me in the mountains, lets me see animals, and helps me connect with nature. It’s the one sport I don’t want to stop.
As I rode this morning, waiting to see if God had anything to tell me, I started to think about how mountain biking is like life, and what lessons I have learned over the years. I hadn’t put this in context before today, but I think it was a good exercise to remember what I’ve learned without knowing it. I am going to take a lesson each day and explain how I learned it and how it applies to our lives.