7 Guys, 7 Single Speeds, 1 Perfect Day at Gooseberry

You know, I’m a very fortunate person. I have a great family, a bunch of very good friends with similar interests as mine, an excellent job, good health, and — believe me, I appreciate this — a blog that a lot of people read and tell me they enjoy.

Also, I have all these things within easy driving distance of a ridiculous number of mountain bike Meccas:

  • The Ridge Trail Network: Out my back door.
  • Moab: 3-hour drive
  • Fruita, CO: 4-hour drive
  • Gooseberry Mesa: 4-hour drive

Yesterday, Kenny, Brad, Botched, Rick M, Dug, Gary and I got out our singlespeeds, and left Utah County at 6:00am for a one-day roadtrip to Gooseberry Mesa.

It was a perfect day. Really. And the fact that there were several flat tires, a (hilarious) mechanical, and a gasp-inducing fall only made it more perfect.

Here are some pictures and moments from the day.

Big Moves
I’ve only ridden my singlespeed a handful of times, so really didn’t expect that it is even possible to do big ledge climbs, drops, or otherwise handle seriously technical trail. So I was astounded at what my friends are capable of doing.

Please note: all of us were on singlespeeds, so the photos you see here are — without exception — of guys doing stuff with just one gear.

Let’s get started with what I consider my best photo of the day. Here’s Dug, evidently defying gravity. His front tire is not touching rock, and he’s behind his rear wheel. Certainly, he’s about to tip over backward, right? Nope. He’s actually mid-wheelie, has serious forward momentum, and will clean this move.

And here’s Rick, just finishing a tough, long vertical move. This photo isn’t fair to him; you’d have to see the eight feet below he just cleaned to get to where he is to really appreciate the insanity of what he’s just done.

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but this is BotchedExperiment’s first extended ride on a singlespeed, ever. That didn’t stop him from consistently cleaning moves on the first try, usually before I had a chance to get my camera out. And in fact, this is the second time Botched did this drop (please note this is a fully rigid hardtail, folks). I made him do it again, so I could get a picture.

Botched routinely did drops off walls and ledges that nobody else would even consider. Once, very early in the day, he did a drop that I wouldn’t have even thought possible. “That was kind of stupid,” said Botched, and then he went and did it again. Meanwhile, I had poop in my pants.

OK, here’s Kenny and Brad, each dropping down off a freaky scary wall. In each case, I was tracking them with my camera, trying to get a shot as they went down. Both times, sadly, I did not get a shot of how far down they had to go. (I have a lot to learn about action shots.) You can get an idea of how far they have to drop, though, by looking in the bottom-right corner of the photos. See the plant, there? That’s the top of a tree.

Rick’s Crash
One place we always spend a lot of time at in Gooseberry is a move we have dubbed, “The Toiletbowl.” You drop about 15 feet on a steep slickrock incline into a sandy flat, where you then have to execute a sharp 160-degree turn and try to climb back up another way. So far, nobody has been able to complete this move on a singlespeed, though many of us have made it numerous times on geared bikes.

After you climb out of the toiletbowl, you’ve got to muster enough energy for a sprint up an 8-foot-tall ridge, with total vertical exposure on the right.

Rick made us all think he was a dead man when he fell off that part, bouncing his head on the rock below. Amazingly, though, he didn’t break anything, with the only obvious results of the crash being a busted helmet and a scraped-up leg:


Dug Does an Imitation of the Exxon Valdez
A couple days before the trip, Dug turned his bike over to Brad to try to tweak his bike into being a little lighter (Dug’s Surly is probably the heaviest singlespeed on the planet, close to 30 pounds). One of the things Brad — a self-taught mechanic — did was remove the V-brake bosses from dug’s suspension fork. What good were they, after all? Dug has disc brakes.

Oh, well it turns out those bosses also hold the stanchions together. Here’s Dug, unhappily realizing his fork is coming apart, midride.

We turned the bike upside down, hammered the stanchions back into place with a rock (“I wonder if this voids the warranty,” quipped Dug), and then — lamely — tried to thread some extra brake cable through where the bolt would normally go, hoping that this would hold the fork together.

It didn’t. At all.

Soon, the oil started bleeding out of Dug’s fork, leaving a puddle everywhere he momentarily stopped (you can see the oil on his rim and tire in this photo). This oil did a fantastic job of keeping his front disc lubricated, rendering the front brake completely useless.

Within an hour or so, all the oil had bled out and the fork would move up and down freely, making the “clang” of a hammer on anvil whenever Dug wheelied up onto a ledge, which is pretty much constantly on this ride.

Also, a completely-compressed fork changes the geometry of a bike pretty significantly, giving Dug a leaning-forward, eager-to-endo look.

To his credit, Dug did not complain about this at all.

This Place is Beautiful
Looking at my pictures, you’d get the impression that Gooseberry is just another Slickrock trail. But it’s not. Connecting up the slickrock playgrounds is a beautiful — meaning not just that it rides well, but is genuinely eye-poppingly gorgeous — desert singletrack network. The thing is, when you’re on your bike and zooming along, you don’t feel like stopping and snapping a photo. So I didn’t. I wish I would have, though.

There are gorgeous vistas from the top of the mesa, where you can look out and see Zions National Park, the Vermillion Castles above the Virgin River, and an enormous valley that stretches on forever. If I were a good photographer, I’d be able to show you what I mean. But I’m not. I’m a guy with a point-and-shoot digital camera. Still, you get some sense of what we saw with this shot, which also features Gary eating lunch (salmon, for crying out loud) and trying to cool down a little in the shade — it got into what felt like the low-to-mid-90’s.

But What About Me?
I was pretty timid yesterday, not trying a lot of the moves that my friends were doing. I did, however, try and succeed at a couple, and I did ride the whole trail, which is pretty darned technical in its own right.

I had a great first long ride on my singlespeed, and think I’m beginning to see what my friends love about it so much.

And today, my arms are so tired.

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