Here’s a little glimpse into how distorted my priorities are. For the past few months, I’ve been working in a new job, getting a house ready to sell, selling that house, packing and moving out of the old house, finding a new house, driving from Washington to Utah, and—yesterday—closing on the new house.

That’s not the “distortion of priorities” part. This is: throughout all of this, the main thing I’ve been getting excited about is my new bike commute. Twenty miles each way. I start the ride to work from my house in Alpine (which I move into tomorrow) by climbing a mountain pass (I’m guessing about 1500 feet of climbing), then descending into Draper and riding another ten miles or so to my office in Midvale. On the way home, I reverse the route, ending the ride with a big climb back up that mountain and down the other side to Alpine.

To conclude: forty miles each day, with about 3,000 feet of climbing. If it weren’t for my complete lack of self-discipline foodwise, I wouldn’t be able to help but get into extraordinary shape. Presuming I could climb them at all.

So yesterday afternoon, I just couldn’t wait any longer. I had to see what those climbs were like. So I drove out to the base of the mountain and started riding up.


27 Is a Wonderful Number

Here’s something that’s different between Washington and Utah. In Washington, I only rarely went into my granny gear. Most of the climbs are brief enough around where I lived that I could power up in second, third, or fourth gear—hey, I powered up 12% grades on my 16×48 fixie, knowing that the climb would only last half a mile or so.

Here, though, the climbs just go on and on and on. And on.

As I spun up Traverse Ridge Road, I didn’t take too long to shift into my lowest gear. And not too long after that, I started thinking: I’m really glad I have a 27-tooth cog on my cassette. You wouldn’t think those extra two teeth would make a big difference in perceived effort, but on a long, sustained climb, they definitely do.


Thinking Ahead

I rolled along, noting that because of the way the road curved oh-so-gently to the right—eventually nearly completing a giant “U,” I could see what looked a mile of climbing ahead of me. “This,” I thought, “is going to be an incredibly fun descent.” I put my head down and spun, zoning out for a big chunk of the climb.

From the base of Traverse Ridge Road to the apex is about three miles. A good climb, but not something I couldn’t do on a daily basis. I hope.

I felt good enough that I decided to drop down the other side of the mountain, planning to climb back up. I expected I’d get massive speed going down the four mile descent, but it didn’t work out that way. The headwind was strong enough that I actually found myself pedaling most of the way down; I don’t think I went any faster than 35mph.

I’m not complaining about a downhill headwind, though; downhill headwind = uphill tailwind, which is definitely where I need the help.


Two Words

I zoned out during the climb back up. Which made me wonder: Do I zone out because of the hypnotic effect of a sustained hard effort? Is the “zone out” thing something my brain’s doing to shut off the pain? And do I slow down when I’m zoned out, or go faster? 

My reverie ended as the wind got stronger. I’m pretty sure it’s always windy up there. I wondered if the residents of the Suncrest subdivision tell each other, “But it’s a good wind.”

And then it was time to descend.

I was looking forward to the giant sweeping downhill on Traverse Ridge, and I was not disappointed. A tailwind pushed me along, I got into a tuck and went into the middle of the road—I figure that when I’m going faster than the speed limit, I don’t need to ride on the shoulder anymore.

My nose was about an inch from my bike’s speedometer, so I remember very clearly how fast I was going when the tailwind turned into a crosswind: 48mph.

That is a somewhat scary speed to suddenly have a strong force trying to push your bike sideways.

By the way, the previous paragraph is an example of understatement intended to intensify my point. My point, by the way, was that I was terrified.

In practical terms, I was trying to keep my bike on this left-sweeping arc, while the wind was much more interested in pushing me hard to the right. The front wheel shuddered a little bit as I tried to cope with these competing forces.

Meanwhile, two words went through my head: “Joseba Beloki.” Thanks to endless replays of his horrific crash during the 2003 Tour de France, I have a crystal-clear video of what a high-speed high-side crash looks like etched in my brain.

You know what? That shuddering-wheel effect goes away when you get down below 30mph. Which is the speed I took the rest of the downhill, and will continue to be the speed I take downhills coming down from this mountain.


Pre-Commute Post-Mortem

So after my twenty mile ride—ten climbing miles, ten descending miles—I still felt great. For some unknown reason, the change in altitude doesn’t seem to affect me. So Friday—the day after I move in to my new house—my new commute / training program begins.

It’s going to be the best commute ever.


  1. Unknown

    Sounds like a great ride.  I live on the west side of the SL valley and bike to work downtown nearly every day all year.  That pass may be tough in winter though, even if they do keep it plowed pretty well.Welcome back.

  2. Unknown

    I wind up riding the North to South route of your commute a few times a week (which is the difficult way, the climb South to North is substantially easier). It takes me about 1.5 hours. My knees hurt for about two days everytime I do that climb. Lately I’ve been riding all the way around the mountain to avoid the climb.
    P.S. I could not agree more with Keep YerBag; in the winter you’re going to have to wear a parka to keep from freezing on the descent off of traverse mountain.

  3. barry1021

    Wow, Dug, what a coincidence, your life seems to mirror FC’s exactly!!! Oh sorry that was you FC, I just assumed that when you returned you’d give a quick thanks to Dug for preventing your blog from self-immolating. My bad.
    <<I zoned out during the climb back up. Which made me wonder: Do I zone out because of the hypnotic effect of a sustained hard effort? Is the “zone out” thing something my brain’s doing to shut off the pain?>>
    Actually neither. It’s due to your helmet strap being too tight. The lower humidity in Utah allowed the sweat in the strap to finally dry out, and the mold and fungus falls off and allows even more contraction. It’s your first adjustment to Utah that you need to make. The second is to stop making fun of Mormons. 
    <<And do I slow down when I’m zoned out, or go faster? >>
    This is the cycling equivalent of the tree falling in the forest when no one is around. There is no way to actually know. Once a cyclist claimed that he could actually watch himself pedaling from above when he zoned out, but it turned out it was not an out-of -the body experience but a bad case of gas caused by, well, a pre-ride meal not unlike the one you usually have.
     <<That shuddering-wheel effect goes away when you get down below 30mph>>
    There are actually two methods to get rid of the shimmy. The first is to put your knees tightly against the top tube. This can be effective but pretty boring. The second is to immediately unclip from the pedals, extend your legs as far to the side as possible and grab your ankles with your hands. The shimmy is bound to stop some time in the next five seconds.
    <<That is a somewhat scary speed to suddenly have a strong force trying to push your bike sideways>>
    Headwinds are a bitch, tailwinds are a gift from God, crosswinds are just f***ing dangerous. Personally, if I am ever faced with a crosswind (?), I just pedal sideways.
    Hey, welcome back!

  4. Unknown

    A 27 tooth cog?  Geez.  Or should I say, Geezer?  Serious though, congrats on the job, house & commute, sounds great until your wife realizes you just finagled your way into at least four hours of riding every day.  You may want to keep that Pista around for a while longer, just so you and the dogs aren’t the only ones in the house that can be laughed about as having been "fixed."  It’s like the Sino-Russian figure skating star, Mei Howshi Kutznutzov.   
    On the head shake, make sure the headset is rock steady and true and not worn in the slightest.  If they are good, clamping your legs on the top tube might damp the oscillation; keeping more weight over the front wheel, perhaps by riding in the drops but more upright, with a little more weight on your arms and feet, less on your seat, might prevent it.  Be very careful about trying these things though.  Your mileage as well as your chance of a firey crashing death, may vary.  If you have deep aero rims, you may want to ditch them as well, to cut down on the side wind problems.

  5. Unknown

    i have a suggestion for your downhill-at-speed-shimmy problem: stop being such a f*&^&ing pussy, let go of the brakes, and ride your bike down the hill.
    i have seen very few cyclists blown into the guardrail on the suncrest hill. i have seen a few cement trucks go right over the side, however. eww.

  6. Unknown

    I wear my daughters soccer shin gards when I drop that north side.  When the crosswind hits (and it usually does on that corner), I feel much better knowing I could hit the guardrail and use the shin guards to slide along side of it.
    Dug will tell you to ride through it.  Dug is not normal.  Just last week he was telling me about a bearded man dressed as a woman with a pet moose….
    Rick S.

  7. Tyler

    I’m sure you know West and East Valley Highway.  At one point between Auburn and Lake Tapps, there’s a 11%, 1-mile road up to, among other things, my favorite pizza place in the area.
    I thought of Senor Beloki as well as I descended it recently.
    Lake Tapps Pkwy basically off falls off the side of the hill, which means the wind bounces off the hill, too, creating fun left-then-right crosswinds.
    It’s on concrete, and I could only try to remain confident that my tyres WOULD continue to stick as the speedo said "75-80-85-90-95"
    Okay okay okay, so that’s KPH — but it’s 56 friggin’ miles an hour!  Dude in the SUV behind me gave me this look like the guards in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Now, wait a moment, you’re not suposed to…"

  8. BIg Mike In Oz

    The thrill of the descent should not be diluted by using the brakes.  If worst comes to worst, skin grows back.  Usually.

  9. Ariane

    Nah, dug’s right. Where’s your inner Berkelian Idealism? If no one acknowledges the shimmy, it ceases to be there. Someday, when I can actually go fast enough to make my own shimmy, I’ll show you what I mean.

    PS: Glad the move went well!

  10. uncadan8

    Barry is milk-through-the-nose funny. You need to start a blog, dude. Or get a TV show. Or keep coming here. Whichever.

  11. Unknown

    Hey, this shimmey thing sounds fun, how do I get my bike to do it?
    Shimmy, shake, jive
    P.S. I never shimmy or jive, but I have been known to shake. Just a little.

  12. Jsun

    You’re not the real FC, go away you imposter, I want the O-riginal blogger back, he was funnier and had more insight into the subtleties of life
    Don’t listen to those poofters about riding that commute in the winter, they’re just jealous because you’re a hard, seasoned athelete not afraid of a little cold, or heat
    I was just riding in Canyonlands last weekend and your state sure is warm, with lots of headwinds,  you will be the greatest cyclist ever

  13. Unknown

    Hey Fatty,  🙂
    Welcome back, glad that the move went well.
    I looked up Traverse Ridge Road on Mapquest,(by the way, it looks like a squiggly U shaped road).  I am pleased to note that you are not going up and over the point of the mountain next to I-15.  For a moment I though I would need to give you warnings about big dump trucks and gravel . . . but since it looks like you won’t be going near that road.  Happy riding!
    And don’t worry about the snow, after major storms the roads get cleared pretty quickly, you’ll just have to worry about the cold bitter wind sweeping down the mountain!  🙂

  14. barry1021

    Well golly Gee Uncadan 8, thx for the compliment (I think), and may i say you have an amazing intellect and subtle yet fully developed sense of humor. As for your suggestions, there are solid reasons why option 3 is the only viable one. Once in a while, when the light is just right and Jupiter aligns with Mars, i can write something that would be a "4" on the FC and Al M Comedy scale (which for some unknown reason goes from 1.75 to 10.58). However if I HAVE to write something for deadline, my fingers twitch, sweat begins forming in pools at my feet, and i fart uncontrollably. Also I believe bloggers should not only be entertaining in style but also content, and sadly, I lead an unbelievably boring life. The culmination of my biking experience was two weekends ago when I completed my first road century (thank you, thank you very much), an event that would fail to make the Top 500 FC rides of all time. The biggest highlight was 6.5 hours in the saddle and not peeing once!! See what I mean? And biking is the most exciting part of my life. Sad, but true.
    As for your second idea, well it is said the camera adds 10lbs, so we have to rule that one out right away.
    So with the powers that be permitting it, I will toil silently here, hoping someday to win something which I shall never receive. Life is good.

  15. turnonthejets

    Too funny!  I thought of the same two words as I read it…and while I decended recently.  I moved from flat Ottawa, Ontario to very very hilly Western Newfoundland and had an experience not too different.  Keep the meaty side up!

  16. Born4Lycra

    I enjoyed a shimmy last weekend. The bottom half ofmy seat stem decided it was not talking to the top half so they parted company as I and the rest of my bike went through a roundabout.Normally I would have gone round it but somehow screaming and swearing (well high pitched swearing really) just seemed to suggest It was more appropriate to go through it. I shimmied myself big time.
    Avanti warranty came through tho so I’ll be back again tomorrow.
    Cheers – welcome back Fat Man and thanks to you Dug.

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