Fall Moab '06, Part IV: Redemption on Slickrock

A note from Fatty: Before I get started today, I want to call your attention to the shiny new Vicious Cycles ad over there in the sidebar area. Vicious Cycles has very cool bikes and the most exquisitely outrageous paint jobs in the world. I’m excited to have them in the Fat Cyclist Ads-for-Schwag program — we’ll be running the first weekly schwag contest giveaway next week. Meanwhile, take a moment to check out the Vicious Cycles site and see what they’ve got, would you?

Dug’s Video, Part II
Dug’s uploaded part 2 of his Fall Moab ’06 video. I highly recommend you watch it, for the following reasons:

  1. It gives you and idea of how long we’re willing to stick around and try a move. The video shows at least twenty attempts on what we call the Gold Bar Crux Move. And you can bet that’s only a small fraction of the actual number of attempts made.
  2. The video has a few really great falls in it (one by Bob, two by Tom), including one which I cannot believe he didn’t break his wrist.
  3. It shows me cleaning some moves, though it’s hard to tell it’s me. I swear, though: it’s me.
  4. It shows Kenny’s bare butt.

Really, what more could you want?


Last-Day-of-the-Ride Resolution
As I mentioned yesterday, I was a little bit disappointed in my sissiness on Gold Bar Rim. For the final day, I decided, I would ride the Paragon so I’d have the advantage of gears. And I would try every move.

When I got to the trailhead, though, my geared bike just didn’t look like the bike to ride. I wanted to ride my singlespeed again. There’s no rational reason why singlespeed riding is so much fun, or why people who start riding them start to ride them exclusively. There’s no argument to be made for why riding a singlespeed is better or more fun than a geared bike. There really isn’t. And besides, I love my Paragon — it’s light, fast, it fits, and it works great. But I like riding that singlespeed even more.

And then we got to the first move — a zigzag, off-camber, climbing move with a U-turn that requires you to duck your head at the top to avoid hitting the overhanging rock. I’ve done this move dozens of times. It’s not easy on a geared bike, but it’s do-able. Nobody had every cleaned it on a single, though.

Until I blasted straight up the thing, eliminating the U-turn through sheer power.

Just kidding. It was actually Kenny who did that. But that set the tone for the day.

If there’s one thing at the Slickrock trail I look forward to most, it’s a naturally-formed halfpipe. It has a lip at the top, making it so you can’t quite see what it looks like at the bottom. As long as you stay to the left of a painted line, though, it curves out nicely, then turns vertical up the other side.

Doing this drop means you have to have a certain amount of commitment, because you’ve got to let go of your brakes to have enough speed to coast up to the top. And there’s a brief moment of what feels like freefall as you begin. Then, before you know it, you’re flying up the other side, as if gravity no longer applies to you.

It’s terrifying and thrilling in much the same way a rollercoaster is, except for two things:

  • You’re the pilot instead of a passenger
  • There’s a much better chance you’ll crash.

For what it’s worth, I have never crashed on the halfpipe. I’ve seen someone crash on it, though. He went too far right of the white painted line, where the rock formation stops being a nicely shaped parabola and starts being a slope that terminates in an uphill wall. When the guy hit that wall, his front wheel taco’d unlike any wheel I have ever seen. It was like the way the front of a car crumples when it hits a telephone pole.

Here’s me riding the halfpipe. It looks (and feels) much steeper in real life — ask anyone who’s ridden it. Look for the white line in the video; you can see how nasty it might be to crash if you’re on the right side of it.


And, just for fun, here’s a good photo of me dropping down that halfpipe. This photo gives you a better feel for how steep it is:

Fatty on the Halfpipe

Kenny had a very close call, by the way, on the halfpipe this year. As he got to the bottom, his tire compressed down to the rim, nearly folding off, and burping out the Stan’s Tube Sealant. The back of his bike slid sideways and I thought Kenny was going to do a high-speed, downhill high-side. Kenny kept his head though, corrected, and rode away. Whew.

The Wall
Right after doing the halfpipe, there’s an off-trail move that just scares everyone. It’s a 30-foot (I’m guessing) near-vertical sandstone wall that terminates in a bed of sand and cactus.

The trick for this move is to stay waaaay back, keep your speed down, but don’t lock up your tires. And don’t endo at the bottom. 

Last year I tried this move and supermanned right into a cactus, which left me little prizes I’d be picking out of my hand for the next six weeks.

This year, like every year, people stood at the top of the move, looking at each other, trying to get enough courage to make the drop.

And that’s when I had a strange out-of-body experience. Without saying anything to anyone, without thinking about the consequences, without giving myself time to freak myself out about it, I just clipped in and rode down it.

Clean as can be.

You can see it on Dug’s video — though, again, for some reason video makes stuff look not-as-steep as it does in real life. Right afterward, thinking something along the lines of, “Well, if Fatty can do it, it must be easy,” Bob headed down.

Then he slid out sideways and crashed hard in the sand. Sadly, Dug doesn’t catch what happens immediately after: Bob picks up his bike and walks away, head down, to spend some time by himself.

You have no idea how happy it makes me to be able to say that not everyone in our group would try that move this day. Including people who are by far my technical superiors.

There’s probably a lesson in there for me: when it’s time to do a move, I need to just turn off my brain and do the move, not thinking about consequences.

But that’s usually not an easy thing (for me) to do.

Into the Sandpit
The Slickrock trail has a series of uneven ledges that drop into a sandpit; Dug’s video has shots of several people trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to climb out. Before you do that, though, you’ve got to drop in. Until last weekend, I have never managed to drop those ledges without doing an endo at the bottom.

This time, though, I got it on my first try. On a fully rigid bike, mind you. And furthermore, I rode through the whole sandpit, a not-minor thing (though I credit the big wheels for getting me through the sand).

Yay for me.

Wedge Move
Up next, there’s a sandy ledge move, with exposure on the right and a wall on the left. To clean the ledge without scraping on one side or falling off the other, you’ve got to ride up not just with power, but with control.

I tried that move half a dozen times before I almost got it. One more pedal stroke and I would have been up at the top, ready for the freaky drop that is on the other side.

So on the (approximately) seventh try, I put a little more juice into it. And I got it!


Right at the top, I could feel myself stall out. I tried to turn the cranks over, but just couldn’t get one more.

And that’s when I started sliding backward. I fell against the wall, still clipped in and sliding, then kept sliding back down, tangled with my bike, eventually arriving at the bottom of the move in a twisted crumple.

Observers say my fall lasted 15 seconds. I do not doubt it. I didn’t resent the crash, though, because — finally – I had irrefutable evidence that I had been pushing my limits. Here’s the bruise I got just below my right butt-cheek (even now, I sit awkwardly):

Just below the butt-cheek

And here’s my left arm:


It’s official: the trip was a success!

Penultimate Move
On the way back to the car, you’ve got to go through the sandtrap one more time. I usually don’t even try this move, and have never come close to it — if I couldn’t drop down those ledges, what chance did I have of climbing up them?

But I was having a good day.

Let me say this: I am lucky to have patient friends. By the time I had tried this move ten times, they had every right to say it was time to move on. But they didn’t. They let me plug away at it until I had satisfied myself.

And, finally, I got it right. I climbed that ledge.

I was having a banner day.

Big Finish
Having cleaned stuff I never have before, on the way back to the parking lot I decided to try the wedge move a couple more times.

My second attempt, I got it. From far away, Dug even got it on video tape — it’s the last move you’ll see in his video.

You know, it’s nice to have a good day.

What Now?
I’m going to spend some time getting this site up to speed, doing all the things I said I was going to do. And I’m going to gain weight (I have already made significant progress on that front, actually). And I’m going to think about getting my shoulder fixed.

The season’s over.

And what a great finish it was.

Fall Moab 2006 Group Photo

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