Pipeline Campground Cycle Camp, Labor Day 2012

Cycling to American Falls On Frontage Road

Cycling to American Falls On Frontage Road

My usual cycle camping buddies (Travis Poppe and Dan Lloyd) and I were eager to do an overnighter soon, and Labor Day weekend was approaching.  Recently, Jeff Selfa had joined our circle of geeky beer drinking cycling folks and Travis had gotten himself a girlfriend, Justina, and they both wanted to come along as well.  Jeff is a very experienced cyclist and has the ability to blow us all out of the water in terms of speed and skill as well as sheer coolness factor of the bicycles that he rides, so I thought he was going to be bored to tears for this event.  Justina is pretty new to cycling so I was worried that this 60 mile round trip ride was going to make her hate cycling for the rest of her life.  Ah, well, I was interested to see how things were going to turn out!  And you never really know how a cycle camp is going to go anyway, to be honest.  But that’s how adventures are supposed to be and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

We all gathered at Travis’ house at around 9:00 am on Saturday, September 1.  It was a sunny day and the temperature felt perfect.  Dan and I were towing trailers, Jeff and Travis had their panniers packed, and Justina carried a bottle of water.  ;-)  Yes, we knew what Justina was in for, so we thought we’d better assist her the best we could.  She seemed very happy and enthusiastic about the ride; I hoped this would carry her through when things got tough for her ahead!

A Dock On The Mighty Snake River

A Dock On The Mighty Snake River

Soon, we were all cycling along Highway 30 at a moderate speed, chatting with each other and enjoying ourselves.  By about mile 20 we were all ravenous for Tres Hermanos, our favorite place to eat in American Falls.  A few miles later we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, went in, got our food, and began shoveling tamales into our faces.  There’s nothing like authentic Mexican food after 25 miles of riding.  :-P~~

After we ate, we picked up some food and beer at a local grocery store and cycled the remaining 5 miles or so to Pipeline Road.  Jeff and Travis decided to cycle down the dirt road to see how crowded it was since many locals love to have one final camp for the year over Labor Day weekend.  After a while, Jeff cycled back to us and announced “we’ll have to share the campground… with the birds!”  The campground was completely empty!  We all cycled down to the campground, had a look around, cracked open a few beers, and relaxed.  The lush greenery, massive Snake River, pelicans floating by, and the surprising absence of bugs made this area seem like such a paradise.

Next, we set up our tents, made a fire, drank more beer, and started cooking some food.  Shortly thereafter, dark clouds started coming in, the wind began to pick up, and a few sprinkles began to fall.  Dan shot a video of it!

 

Storm's A Brewin'

Storm’s A Brewin’

The rain started getting a bit harder, but I just stood there like an idiot, shirtless, drinking beer and enjoying myself.  The temperature hadn’t fallen much and I have a layer of blubber that keeps me warmer than other people, I think.  Dan and Jeff put on their rain jackets and Justina turned herself into a burrito with a sleeping bag.  Next, the wind and rain started falling way too hard for comfort, so I dove into my tent!  I was sure to take some beer with me, though.  I’m an expert at outdoor survival, I’m sure you can tell.

The rain stopped after about 30 minutes or so, so I emerged from my tent and went back to the campfire.  Jeff and Dan had apparently weathered the storm by standing around the campfire with their jacket hoods cinched up.  We cooked more food, ate plenty (mostly thanks to Jeff and Dan’s instant add-boiling-water meals) and took some lovely shots of the sun setting across the Snake River.  And then we headed to our tents for bed.

And it was at this point that poor Jeff discovered that his bivy sack and sleeping bag were completely soaked.  He decided his best choice was to cycle home through the night.  Dan volunteered to go with him since drivers probably aren’t used to seeing cyclists pedaling along the back roads in the middle of the night.  I loaned Jeff my headlight blinker and he and Dan pedaled off into the night.  Jeff wrote a brief but vividly written article entitled “The Pipeline Deserter Branch – s24o Labor Day 2012” about his experience that night.  Tis a good read!

Mist Coming Off Of The Snake River

Mist Coming Off Of The Snake River

The next morning, thick fog rolled in and mist was coming off of the river.  It looked like like an enchanted scene from a fantasy movie.  I walked out onto the dock and basked in the sounds of fish jumping and water birds talking to each other.  As soon as Travis and Justina were up, we cleaned up the camp site, packed up, and headed back towards American Falls.  There, we stopped at a cozy diner called Casey’s Lounge, ate a hearty breakfast with plenty of hot coffee, and then headed back to Pocatello.   Hot coffee and breakfast is so fantastic and delicious after camping overnight, isn’t it?

The ride home was pleasant except for the fact that we were all tired of sitting on a bicycle saddle.  And the temperature had risen a lot, so by the time we were nearing Pocatello, I was ready for a long shower and more beer!  And that’s exactly how I ended my journey.  Oh, and Justina endured this whole trip like a real trooper!  She did amazingly well for her first long bike ride as well as being surrounded by beer swilling barbarians for 2 days straight and we’re all very proud of her!

Here’s a link to all the photos we took!

And here’s a short video taken by Travis at around 7 am on Sunday morning (September 2):

 

 

Bicycle Speed Comparison

Booth Drive to the end of Pocatello Creek Road

Booth Drive to the end of Pocatello Creek Road

I’ve been riding a touring bike, road racer, and mountain bike for the last 5 years and each one feels different in terms of riding position, speed, and maneuverability.  The touring bike has a long wheel base, 32 mm tires, and is about the best combination of speed, aerodynamic riding position, and comfort of all my bikes.  It just feels good to ride, but this may be due to the fact that it is the bike I ride the most.  My road racer has the average road racer frame geometry, skinny tires, and is good for a no-frills, minimalist bike ride where the objective is to get from point A to B in the least amount of time.  On the other hand, it has a rear rack, a granny gear, and some low gearing so it isn’t exactly the raciest road racer.  The mountain bike has fat, knobby tires, disc brakes, and compared to the other bikes’ riding positions it feels like you’re riding a tricycle.  The riding position is quite upright and it feels slower than beans.

So just for fun, I thought I would ride all three bicycles along the same route on 3 different weekends and compares the times!  This way, my legs would be fresh each time and all variables would be mostly constant.  My cycling buddies thought the results wouldn’t be very accurate due to different weather, wind, how Korey was feeling that day, etc.  But, hey, it’s the best your average recreational cyclist can do, OK?  And besides, I’d be burning calories while experiencing an interesting experiment!

The route I selected was an out-and-back gradual climb of about 900 feet starting at the intersection of Booth Drive and Pocatello Creek Road to the top of Pocatello Creek Road and back to the intersection for a total of 11.8 miles.  I chose this route mostly because it’s close to home, so I can do the whole ride in under and hour.  Even though the route is far from flat, it is out-and-back so that any climbing slowness could be made up for with a speedy decent.  And at the same time my lightweight skinny-tired road racer should be able to climb faster and descend faster, thus magnifying the speed difference between it and the other bicycles.  On the other hand, this route snakes through a canyon so that top speed on the downhill cannot be reached without the risk of losing control around a bend.  Ah, well, enough of the pros and cons, let’s take a look at the results:

Uphill Downhill Total
Bike Time Speed Time Speed Time Speed Notes
Touring 30 min. 11.7 mph 13 min. 27 mph 43 min. 16.3 mph Nice day, wind calm.
Road racer 27 min. 13 mph 16 min. 22 mph 43 min. 16.3 mph Wind blowing up hill.
MTB 33 min. 10.6 mph 16 min. 22 mph 49 min. 14.3 mph Wind blowing up hill; I pedaled hard on the downhill to try to offset wind and knobby tires

Please note that the total speed averages take into account the time spent on the downhill and the uphill; I didn’t just add the uphill and downhill numbers and divide by 2.  Also, the table shows the order in which the rides were done.  So by the time I got to the MTB ride, I had some experience with the road and the stiff wind that seems to blow up the canyon all the time!

I guess my cycling buddies were correct in saying that the wind speed would affect the results.  I think the wind blowing up the canyon really improved the road racer and MTB uphill times by a few minutes, and really ruined the downhill.  I was tired of bucking the wind on the downhill, so when I got to the MTB ride I really gave it hell on the downhill, especially since I had to overcome both wind and knobby tire rolling resistance.  And I guess that paid off since I got the same downhill time on the MTB as I did on the road racer.

Anyway, there you have my less-than-perfect experiment results!  I actually had a lot of fun with this and I highly recommend that you time yourself on your bikes with different routes and such.  You never really know how well a bike performs or how well you perform until you get out there and do some timed cranking.  Gee, maybe I should do another experiment where I keep the bicycle constant and then cycle while tired, drunk, and hungover and then compare those three results!  Or maybe keep the bike and the rider’s condition the same and do a ride at 60, 70, and 80 degrees!  Ah, so many experiments to think of!  :-)

The Elegant, No-Engine, Reel Lawn Mower

Reel mowerAnd here we have my first non-cycling-related article on this blog, which some of you might find a pleasant relief.  However, it is still somewhat related since the subject matter is still about human-powered machines, the “simpler is just as good or maybe better” concept, and being environmentally friendly.  This article is about how I mow my lawn!

Many years ago, back when I still lived with my parents, my mom decided to buy a reel mower.  She hated smelly lawn mower exhaust and she was a big fan of peace and quiet, so she read up on reel mowers and decided to have her son (me, the family landscaper) give one a shot!  After getting used to the feel of the mower, I found that I liked it better than motorized lawn mowers for a number of reasons:

  1. No more burning sinuses.  Mowing for thirty minutes while breathing in exhaust never made my nose feel very good.
  2. I didn’t have to take a shower after mowing.  Sure I was a little sweaty, but I didn’t smell like I worked at a mechanic shop or petroleum refinery.
  3. Modern engine-less mowers are very lightweight and easy to push.  I find them much easier to push (especially uphill) than hauling around an engine on a mower.
  4. You can stop mowing whenever you want without wasting gasoline, having to restart an engine, or getting shot by something flying out of a grass chute.  Stop anytime to move something out of the way, pick up some trash, go get a drink, whatever.
  5. Reel mowers are safer.  The blade is easy to see and therefore easy to stay away from.  And the blade stops quickly and easily—you just have to stop pushing the mower!  Also, it’s virtually impossible to injure a foot while mowing since the grass cutting happens in the front of the mower, not the rear.  And even if a body part somehow got into that area of the mower, the injury would probably result in only a deep cut, whereas a motorized mower would most likely deliver a much more serious wound.
  6. No having to run to get more gasoline, no oil changes, no service and maintenance, no fuss, no mess (lots of cash savings over time).  Reel mower blades are scissor-action, so they sharpen themselves.  As the blades getting trimmed down over time, you simply give a little turn to the blade adjustments screws, and you’re back in action and your mower feels brand new again.  Oh, and I guess you have to apply a bit of oil and grease to the moving parts at the beginning of each mowing season.
  7. Reel mowers start out at only $150.  Try finding a brand new motorized mower for that price!

Reel mowerYears later when I purchased my own home I bought my own reel mower, pictured in this article.  This is my first home and doesn’t have a lot of grass to mow, so a reel mower is ideal.  If I ever buy a home with a massive yard, I might consider buying a different kind of mower, but using a reel mower on a small to medium sized lawn is quite easy.

Reel mowers are very simple machines, so they usually have no problems or repairs for many years.  After using my mower for 6 years, however, the handle decided to snap off!  After calling around to all the local stores that sold mowers, I was told that replacement parts didn’t exist for any kind of reel mower than they knew of and that I’d have to just buy a new one.  I thought this was ridiculous, so I called around to some repair places, looked on craigslist.com, and I found that I actually had a few options.  I found a handyman who said I could go buy a pipe from a local hardware store and he would bend it, drill it, and that should work fine as a handle.  There were also a few people on craigslist.com selling ancient reel mowers for a few dollars, and from the photos it looked like I could probably fit an old mower’s handle onto my mower with a little bit of finagling.  That weekend, my wife and I went to a friends’ yard sale that was going on, and lo and behold an old fashioned reel mower was there for sale!  To make a long story short, I bought it for the low, low price of $5, took the handle off of it, bent it a little to fit my mower, and I was back to happily mowing in no time!  It sure beat buying another mower!

Reel mowerAlso, before taking the handle off of the old lawn mower, I actually tried a bit of mowing with it.  I was horrendously astonished at how heavy and stiff it was to move, as it weighed about 3 times as much as my modern reel mower.  Whenever I talk to anyone about my reel mower, the first thing they always say is “haha, I’ll bet that’s a workout!”  Well, they’re probably remembering the good old days of these Fred Flintstone models.  Reel mowers have changed a lot, folks.  They are no longer made out of anvils and boulders, and are now made with lightweight steel and modern components; so I suggest you head over your favorite hardware store and give a new one a try before spreading anymore hate and discontent about these wonderful machines!

Lastly, here is another benefit of reel mowers from the lawn mower Wikipedia article:

Of all the mowers, a properly adjusted cylinder [reel] mower makes the cleanest cut of the grass, and this allows the grass to heal more quickly. The cut of a well-adjusted cylinder mower is straight and definite, as if cut with a pair of scissors. This clean cut promotes healthier, thicker and more resilient lawn growth that is more resistant to disease, weeds and parasites. Lawn cut with a cylinder mower is less likely to result in yellow, white or brown colouration as a result of leaf shredding.

Cool!  :-D  Happy mowing, everyone!

Scout Mountain Cycle Camp 2012

Travis' Hennessy Hammock

Travis' Hennessy Hammock

For those of you who just want to browse the photos taken at this cycle camp, here is the gallery!  The photos were taken with cell phones by various people, most likely while under the influence.  ;-p Also, I was too lazy to put the photos in chronological order in the gallery.  Sorry  :-(

So, we (myself, Travis Poppe, and Dan Lloyd) decided to do an early spring cycle camp, and in Idaho, by the way, “early spring” is May.  April is rather chilly and snow is still usually plentiful above 7,000 ft. or so.  We felt like camping somewhere fairly close and with some trees so Travis could try out his new Hennessy Hammock.  Dan knew some other folks who also wanted to camp with us, so we conveniently took advantage of the SUV they were going to drive and made them haul food, water, and firewood.  I guess we kind of cheated.  :-)

At this point in our cycle camping career, we are pretty accustomed to how to load our bicycles up, and soon the three of us were at Travis’ house and comparing equipment and so forth.  Travis had his usual setup of 2 massive panniers, I had my usual child trailer, and Dan also had a child trailer.  I hoisted both trailers to compare weight and Dan’s probably weighed about 70 lbs at least while mine was probably only 20 lbs!  Dan is always going the extra mile.  I was seriously wondering how he was going to pull off a 1600 foot climb up to Scout Mountain with all that weight and was anxious to see how he did.

The camp site

The camp site

Cycling up to the base of Scout Mountain wasn’t too bad.  I actually stopped by a gas station on the way up and picked up a six pack of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and threw it in my trailer just to try to even out the weight difference between mine and Dan’s trailers!  But then came the steep 5 mile climb to the camping area of the mountain.  I shifted into my lowest gear, relaxed, and enjoyed the scenery for the most part, but I could tell through the last third of the climb that Dan was having a tough time.  After pulling into the parking lot at the top, I quickly laid my bike down, grabbed a beer out of my trailer, and stood there slurping my beer while waiting for the others to arrive just to make their experience a little more frustrating.  Bwahaha.  :-)  I then saw Dan walking his bike and trailer the last few feet up to the top and I thought he must be really, really having a tough time.  Poor guy.

Dan’s friends had arrived about an hour before us, so they met us in the parking lot and led the way to the camp site.  We then began drinking more beer, setting up tents, taking some photos, and having a good time.  Dan, however, disappeared into his tent to lie down for a while and eat a few pieces of watermelon that his friends provided; yeah, he was definitely suffering from exhaustion and not feeling like partying much.  Meanwhile, Travis took great glee in busting out his new hammock, tying it to a couple of trees, and figuring out how the rest was supposed to be put together.

Scout Mountain scenery

Scout Mountain scenery

After an hour or so, Dan was back to his usual self and was eating and drinking with the rest of us.  Everyone then decided to take a walk and look for some geocaches.  We actually found a geocache, an old abandoned amphitheater, and lots of great scenery.  Later in the evening, more friends of ours drove up to the campsite and hung out with us.  The most important event of the evening was the camp stove cook-off!  This is where Travis, Dan, and Brian (one of our visiting friends) all took out their various camp stoves and saw who could get water to boil the fastest!  Travis and Dan both had some sort of little propane fueled contraptions whereas Brian had one that required him to burn some twigs, while a AA battery powered fan blew upward beneath the burning embers.  It looked like an episode of Science In The Great Outdoors or something.  Congratulations to Travis who won with his Jetboil stove!  After hanging out with more visiting friends, we all settled down for bed around midnight.

The next day, we had a breakfast of coffee, omelettes, and sausage (thanks to Leslie for showing us how to cook eggs in a plastic bag!).  Dan’s friends decided to drive home so we helped them pack up, and Travis also decided to go home since he was hungover  ;-)  However, Dan and I wanted to do a short hike before heading home, so we took off to the south and saw some spectacular scenery.  We definitely want to devote more time to hiking around Scout Mountain.  It is a big mountain and there is a lot to see!

Then Dan and I wandered back to the camp site, made sure everything was packed up and the site was clean, and took off for home!

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays from Korey Pelton

Trails Near Idaho State University

Trails near ISUThank goodness for Google Maps, especially their satellite view!  It makes looking around for interesting places to cycle quite easy.  Also, it’s fun to check out recreation Web sites such as BLM.gov and then look around on Google Maps to see if you can get an idea of where a campground or trail system is located.  The BLM Pocatello Field Office page is a good resource for those looking for a place near Pocatello to do a cycle camp or trail ride.

So as I was looking around the Pocatello area on Google Maps for interesting places to ride my bike, I noticed a collection of trails just east of Idaho State University.  A few days later I hopped on my mountain bike to go have a look.  Between Alvin Ricken Drive and American Road are a few interconnected trails that stretch about 1.25 miles.  Kind of a nice place to go to practice your mountain biking skills without going very far out of town.  These trails are used quite a bit by walkers and runners, so don’t get too crazy.

As you can see on the map to the left, there are three paths that go east off of American Road.  The north trail is a nice, wide trail that goes up to the top of Chinese Peak.  The middle path is a private road, according to the sign I saw while cruising along American Road on my bike.  And the road on the south end of American Road is Barton Road which is paved all the way to the main trail head of Chinese Peak.  I’ve been using Barton Road to get to Chinese Peak for years now, so I’m glad I found the trail on the north end of American Road.  Actually, I remember hiking this trail many years ago, but I’ve never biked it.  I’m going to give it a shot in the spring!  I actually road a bit up this trail and took a few photos.  The lure of a trail head is a powerful thing.  :-)

Associated photo gallery.

Riding The Tour De Vins 54 Mile Route

Family Services Alliance of Southeast Idaho puts on a yearly bike ride called the Tour de Vins and they have a variety of routes that can be taken.  The routes range from “kid friendly” to “one heck of a 3 hour workout”.  Naturally I had to sign-up for the most difficult one (see route here).  I’ve been cycling for 4 years now, I think I can handle it!  Here are my personal and bicycle specs so that you can compare with your own:

Mercier Galaxy Steel

My Crazy-Fast Road Racer!

Bicycle Specs:

  • 2007 Mercier Galaxy Steel
  • 58 cm Reynolds DB520 steel frame and cro-moly fork
  • 52/42/30 tooth crankset, 11-30 tooth cog set
  • Shimano Sora front derailleur, Shimano Deore rear derailleur
  • 26 mm tires inflated to 120 psi

Cyclist Specs:

  • Height: 6 feet 0 inches
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • Training style:  commute to work by bicycle, do long, hard rides on the weekends when time allows
  • Diet: mostly healthy stuff, probably too much beer  :-D
  • Cycling strengths: holding momentum after a downhill followed by flat terrain  ;-)
  • Cycling weaknesses: hillclimbing!  It hurts, it hurts, boo hooo.  :-(
Korey the cyclist

A photo taken on a completely different day. I didn’t dress this way on this ride. Honest.

The Route:

So, How Was It, Korey?

I pretty much knew what I was in for with this route since I’ve cycled around the area a lot.  Before this ride, the only time I cycled over Buckskin from the southeast direction was when I was coming back to Pocatello from Inkom, not from McCammon.  Yeah, this was going to be hard.

I felt really good that morning, and I cycled out to McCammon from Pocatello in about 1 1/2 hours.  16.6 mph average, not bad.  The day was pretty cool (I had started at 8 am) and I had only drank about a half liter of water by the time I passed through McCammon.  I started feeling pretty hungry on the way back to Inkom, so I stopped for a peanut butter sandwich break, which is my preferred cycling food ;-).  I was still feeling pretty good by the time I reached the Inkom park to refill my water bottles.  I only filled my 1 liter bottle at the drinking fountain thinking that cycling back to Pocatello over Buckskin wouldn’t require any more water than that.  And this turned out to be a mistake!

My legs were pretty fatigued after a few miles going up Rapid Creek, but I kept my gear low and paced myself.  I knew it was going to get a lot steeper.  I’m used to going up and over the steepest part of Buckskin going back to Pocatlello, so Hoot Owl Road on this route was a welcome relief.  By the time I was in the middle of Hoot Owl Road, the temperature was getting close to 80 F and the humidity was 30%, especially in the lush, green Buckskin canyon.  Soon, I was drinking water and sprinkling some on my head.  This road kind of seems endless when you’re tired, doesn’t it?  There’s a lot of bends in it that look a little similar, so it plays tricks with your mind.

Soon, I only had a small amount of warm water in the bottom of my bottle and I still had some climbing to go.  I was longing for a full bottle of ice water to dump on myself.  Yeah, I really should have filled both bottles before attempting this slow, long, hot climb.  My legs were dead and I was thirsty, but I’ve been in this situation before and the best thing to do is to go at a very slow, steady pace.  I looked at my speedometer and it said “4.5 mph”.  Yeah, can’t go much slower than that.

Eventually, I recognized the houses near the top of the climb and I painfully picked up my pace.  Ah, the downhill, how I have missed you!  It felt really dang good to finally get some wind whipping past my roasted body.  I new that only 1 hill-climb remained: East Terry St.  I was seriously considering just zipping down Parks Road instead.  But I knew that a good, long downhill can really give you a big boost of feel-good chemicals, so doing Terry probably wouldn’t be too bad.  And it wasn’t.  The elevation of Buckskin road is about in the “middle” of Terry Street’s elevation, so there really isn’t that much of a hill climb to do, even though hill climbing at this point is a very undesirable thought.

I was glad I successfully completed the route, and I’m actually looking forward to doing it again for the Tour de Vins!  Only this time, I’m going to make sure I have 2 bottles of water before Buckskin, especially if the temperature is over 70 F.  Temperature and water quantity are proportional.  :-)

Making Use Of My Bicycle Child Trailer

Child Trailer Fun!

Child Trailer Fun!

One of the best purchases I’ve made is my bicycle child trailer.   Not only is it fun for my daughter to ride around in, but it’s great for going on pizza runs, hauling camping gear on cycle camps, and transporting around other items that aren’t easily bungeed onto a bicycle rack.  At first I was a bit hesitant to buy one, thinking that it would make riding slow and clumsy, or that I’d side-swipe things on the side of the road with it.  But, it really isn’t much wider than my body is, and keeping a few more inches away from parked cars and such leaves you plenty of room for error.  For those of you wondering what model I bought, it is the Kid Karriage from Nashbar.com.  It is very affordable (only $99) and it has really good reviews, particularly about it’s child safety features.

My Daughter

My Daughter

Several sources online say that child trailers are safer than other child carriers for bicycles, mainly because the child is close to the ground and has no risk of falling.  The Kid Karriage holds 2 children and has a capacity of up to 100 lbs.  This is a good thing since every now and then I like to haul a bunch of bulky, heavy stuff.  Once I hauled a full propane tank and a 30-pack of beer.  Thinking back on that now, I think that was a safety hazard and it is not recommended that you haul flammables or explosives by bicycle.  ;-)

The main things to do when toting your children around in child trailers is the following:

  1. Use a brightly colored safety flag.  Every child trailer comes with one.
  2. Cycle on low-traffic streets as much as you can.  Using a trailer makes you slower and wider, so it’s courteous to keep out of the way of traffic as much as you can.
  3. Take the lane.  Do not take a chance on getting crammed between traffic and the curb.  It’s just not worth it.   Child trailers are very common nowadays and people will make way for you.
Later, dudes!

Later, dudes!

Other than that, there’s really no other difference with towing a trailer than with regular riding.  Trailers greatly extend the use of bicycles for all kind of errands and I recommend you get one!  Throughout this article are some photos of my daughter and I going to a local Easter egg hunt in April 2011.  Enjoy!

Another side shot

Another side shot

Stylish Helmet!

Stylish Helmet!

Bicycle Handling And Technique

Throughout my approximately 4 years of recreational and commuter cycling, I’ve mainly concentrated on getting faster, buying better bicycles, getting better at hill-climbing (haha!), vehicular cycling techniques, and other main staples of cycling.  These all sort of come naturally over time.  Some of the things that don’t come quite as naturally to me are bicycle handling and mountain biking technique.  And I’m sure easy and difficult aspects of cycling vary from person to person.  I’m not the most graceful person at mounting and dismounting, track stands, braking, navigating tricky areas of trails, and other technicalities.  However, mastering such minor details make a big difference overall, especially in improving your confidence.

I find cyclocross, fixie tricks, mountain biking techniques, and other YouTube material really entertaining, actually.  And it always makes me wonder how in the world such people were able to attain such mastery of their bicycle and how long it took them.  Achieving such a level of technique must really improve a lot of different areas of their cycling.  So while flipping through the nifty cycling videos on YouTube, I stumbled across a series of videos done by Expert Village (a subset of the massive eHow.com collection of videos) done by Mickey Denoncourt.  He really goes into some good detail about a lot of technique that new cyclists often wonder about.  Without further ado, here are the YouTube links.  I’ll post the main eHow page link, the playlist, and all the individual links.

So, after watching this series, my mountain bike and I went out to a local, grassy park and practiced some maneuvers and techniques.  It was a actually a lot of a fun and a pretty good workout.  I made a lot of goofs, but I had a good time and there was lots of fluffy grass to land on!  Anyway, I highly recommend this kind of exercise in bike handling since it is a good way to find out what your limits are on your bicycle and how you can control your bike by shifting your weight around.  Give it a try!

Edit, 10/10/2011 – Found another similar series by Kurt Exenberger of Austria!  Enjoy!

Desert Cycling In St. George, Utah

Desert view along Red Hills Parkway

Desert view along Red Hills Parkway

Every few years, I join my family for a vacation at my grandmother-in-law’s house in the town of Washington, a suburb of St. George, Utah.  And this year I decided to bring along my touring bicycle to do some exploration and photography around the area, and to see what it was like cycling in the desert.  I nearly bit off more than I could chew!  For those of you who do not know, St. George is Utah’s hottest place and regularly has highs around 105 F in the summer.

Beforehand, I had mapped out a few different scenic routes to take, both being about 50 miles round trip.  So early on the morning of June 22, I got up, got my gear together, and set out on the open road at about 7:30 am.  It was already 75 F outside.

Rock overhang at Pioneer Park

Rock overhang at Pioneer Park

I cycled out onto the long Red Hills Parkway and enjoyed the awesome views of rock formations, desert plants, and bunny rabbits hopping through the brush.  I stopped at Pioneer Park along the way which features some amazing rock formations.  You can see my bicycle underneath one of the rock overhangs in the photo gallery.  I was feeling good as usual this early in my ride, but my throat felt sort of scratchy and dry no matter how much water I drank which I thought was odd.  Ah, this must be one of the rigors of surviving the desert, I thought.

My plan was to head out into the Snow Canyon Park area, so I cycled on thinking there would be a fairly obvious sign directing me there.  Well, the sign was pretty obvious, but I missed it and ended up cycling out about a mile or two too far.  After cycling about 15 miles, my 2 liters of water were close to being empty so I asked a passerby if there was somewhere I could fill up.  The area I was in was known as Ivins, and I hadn’t seen any gas stations or stores around.  The passerby said that Tuacahn was the nearest place he could think of, which was a outdoor amphitheater about 2 miles down a road.  Checking out Tuacahn was pretty awesome, so I was rather glad I made this a water stop.

Next, I cycled back from Tuacahn to the road going to Snow Canyon Park.   Snow Canyon Park has a forest service station at each end of the park where you must pay a fee to enter.  By then it was about 10 am and I was considering heading back home, knowing that the high temperature for the day was going to be over 100 F.  Cycling in anything over 80 F is very exhausting and can be downright dangerous.  I noticed a couple of other cyclists had also arrived at the station and were paying their fees.  One of them called to me and said, “We can have up to 8 people included in our fee!  You’re in our group, ok?”  I thanked them and cycled on with them.  I made small talk with them and discovered that one of them was from Pocatello and had graduated from my high school a year earlier than I.  Small world, aye?

Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon Park is very scenic and features sand dunes, jagged mountains, and vertical cliffs everywhere.  I parted ways with my fellow cyclists, paused to take some photos, and then I cycled up a trail.  I cycled back to the main road and began looking around for a source of water again.  It was amazing how quickly I was going through my water!  I found the one camp site in the park that had running water, which was a small drinking fountain covered in wasps.  Through a combination of blowing them off of the spout while trying to turn the spring-loaded faucet, and dancing and running around like a idiot, I was able to fill up my bottles.  After sitting in the shade, calling my wife on my cell phone, dumping water on myself, and refilling my bottles again, I decided to cycle through the park and then ride back home on Highway 18.  I knew it was going to be hot, but I was a seasoned cyclist and had dealt with high temperatures before.

Cycling the road through Snow Canyon proved to be very difficult.  There was no wind at all blowing through the canyon, it was about 80 degrees, and the grade was very steep.  I had moments of dumping more water on myself and thinking that maybe this road was a lot longer than I realized.  I finally made it to Highway 18 after a good 45 minutes of laboring up the canyon road.  I turned onto Highway 18 and cruised down the long decline, which felt absolutely amazing.  I mostly coasted in an aerodynamic position to conserve energy and to rest up for the hills on Red Hills Parkway.

Red Hills Parkway seemed so difficult and endless, whereas it had been such a happy journey just that morning.  Perspective is everything, isn’t it?  I was quite exhausted, extremely hot, my water was almost empty again, and the little water I had left was hot.  I was sure that the temperature in the sunny, treeless environment was something close to 100 F in the sun.  After cycling up and down about 10 hills on that road, I stopped at a crossroads for a moment and check the maps on my cell phone, thinking that I had gone past my turn.  This was of course ridiculous since Red Hills Parkway turns directly onto the street going to grandma’s house.  I trudged on.  There were a couple of times when thoughts went through my head along the lines of, “I should call my wife to come pick me up since you’re supposed to do that BEFORE something bad happens to you.”  But after a few more miles, the area became more recognizable as being near grandma’s house, and I felt extremely relieved.

I found grandma, my wife, and my kids all hanging out on the back porch.  I took my shoes and shirt off off, drank some water, grabbed a couple beers, and relaxed!  I had ended my ride at 12:30 and the temperature was 90 F.  Next time I will try to leave earlier!