Sunday, September 20, 2009

American Fork Canyon - Doesn't get much better

One of the best things about where I live is being 20 minutes from the mouth of American Fork Canyon. It's my favorite place to ride. I'm saddened though that with fall and winter approaching, the days are numbered before I'll have to ride elsewhere.

So until the snow falls, I'm determined to ride it as much as possible. This past week, I climbed the canyon twice, once in the early morning and once in the evening. Hopefully I don't bore with the details. If you've ever ridden this ride, hopefully my write up will inspire you to "hit it" hard a few more times up the canyon over the next few weeks.

Evening Climb

I started up the canyon after work. It was a beautiful night with the sunset lighting up the mountainside with a soft golden glow. The wind was hardly a breeze, which I especially noticed on the approach to the canyon, since this portion usually presents a stiff 20 mph headwind.

My legs felt pretty good, so I pushed the pace in hopes of making it to the top in record time. By the time I reached Pine Hollow, it was starting to get dark quickly. However, because I was gaining altitude, I'd go in and out of the low light. Out when on a switchback heading south and then into the light again as I changed directions to the north. I thought of turning around so that I wouldn't be descending in the dark, but I quickly dismissed that idea and continued.

On the last switchback before mile marker 18, I passed a guy walking on the road alone in his street clothes. He definitely didn't look like the outdoors man type. More like the serial killer type. I said hello as I passed him while thinking how strange that was to encounter him there.

Anyhow, I made it to the top in a personal best time (I won't mention my time as it's nothing to brag about). Nothing like that feeling of accomplishment and progress.

Here's the sunset from the summit:

I quickly put on my jacket, leg warmers and beanie hat and started the descent. By then it was completely dark. I thought it was odd how I didn't see the same "serial killer" guy on the descent. Maybe he was just camping off the side of the road near the summit?

I have pretty decent LED bike lights*, but my batteries were low from the previous day's ride, so it didn't take long for my headlight to drop from high beam to low beam and there's a big difference between high and low on my head light.

*I'll do a separate post on my tail light. It basically makes me look like an ambulance (seriously-that awesome).

I was surprised at the number of cars coming down the canyon at night. The descent took forever, but I made it safely to the mouth of the canyon and then back home.

Lesson learned: Make sure your light batteries are fully charged if you're going to descend AF canyon (or any other canyon) at night. I actually really enjoy riding in the dark when I have a bright light, but it's next to miserable with a dim light.

Morning Climb

On Saturday morning I was at the mouth of the canyon at around 6:15 AM. Still dark as the sunrise wasn't until around 7:15 AM.

The ride was pretty cold. I didn't wear a jacket but had my leg and arm warmers.

Nothing too eventful on the way up, except that I passed Chad Lewis (former BYU and Eagles tight end) on his mountain bike. A little bit about Chad Lewis. Chad Lewis is one of the coolest guys ever. I don't know him personally (he doesn't know my name and wouldn't recognize me), but he and I attended BYU at the same time and I used to run into him frequently in the training room and weight room when I was on the track team (yeah, hard to believe I know but it's true). He was always so friendly to me and I've only heard good things about him ever since. He's one of those guys that consistently exceeded expectations. He began as a walk-on at BYU and ended up as a 3-time pro bowl receiver in the NFL. What a stud. What an inspiration for hacker cyclists like me who are trying to get fast and exceed expectations. So, I felt inspired when I buzzed by him. I think I kicked it up a notch too once I was far enough away for him to not hear my heavy breathing.

The descent was cold. I had my wind jacket, full finger gloves, beanie, leg warmers and toe warmers and I was freezing. Next time I'll wear my warm jacket.

Here's a picture I took on the way down the canyon:

I ended up flatting about a mile before the mouth of the canyon. Thanks to the 1/2 dozen people that either pulled off the side of the road or stopped riding to ask whether I needed help.

So, there you go. American Fork Canyon. Pretty awesome place to ride.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Ever felt the urge to draft behind a semi while driving on the freeway?

Well, several weeks ago after I'd just finished a bike race and had been riding in a pack all day, I was zooming along on the freeway in my commuter car, an awesome Hyundai Accent GL, and I just couldn't resist drafting behind this semi.

My Hyundai has been the best commuter car I've ever owned. It's cheap (I paid like $5K for it 5 years ago), it gets good gas mileage, a tire cost less than a bike tire at like $40 at Walmart, it's never been in the shop for any repairs and I can fit my bike in the back when I lay the seat down. My only complaint on the car is that it's really gutless and starts shaking at 75 mph. So, I typically hang out in the far right lane going 60-65 mph. But every so often when I'm running late and need to go faster, I'll just latch on to a speeding semi and draft.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Dirty" Potato Chips

I'm not a big consumer of potato chips (sorry Dad*), but the other night at work I needed something to eat from the vending machine and ended up eating not one, but two bags of these. Since then, I've been back to the machine twice for more**. The cracked pepper and sea salt are a great combination. You've gotta try these, but be sure it's on a day when you ride hard....

*My Dad farms spuds
**Since they installed the debit card option on our vending machines, I've been a frequent customer, since I hardly ever carry cash/change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Upgrades and Late for work

Yesterday morning I was hoping to leave early while it was still dark for a 2 hour ride up the canyon and back, but just as I was about to hop on my bike, one of my friendly neighbors popped into my garage and started asking about cycling and my bike lights (I had to chuckle when he asked whether my lights were battery operated or "powered by the bike"). He's a good guy and is considering buying a road bike, so I offered up some suggestions. Normally when someone who is starting out asks whether to buy a carbon frame or an aluminum frame, I'll tell them to just buy a quality aluminum bike that's not going to break the bank and explain that if they end up really enjoying cycling, they can always upgrade a year or two later once they get some experience and know what they really want.

I agree with Eddy Merckx who said "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." which to me means if you want to be a good cyclist, get out and ride (preferably up mountains) and don't worry so much about your bike. The gains you'll achieve from increasing your level of fitness will far outweigh any gains from an upgraded bike.** Caveat: Of course, if you're a competitive cyclist, then you'd definitely be at a disadvantage if you didn't ride a quality racing bike, but for most people who are buying a bike for the first time, you don't need carbon this and carbon that unless you have money to spend. That being said, I'm the first to admit that I'm very anxious to upgrade my bike.

**To back this up, note the first time I road up the South side of Suncrest when I weighed 30-40 lbs. heavier than my current weight, I did the climb about 15 minutes slower than my current PR using the same bike.

Anyhow, with this particular neighbor, whom I knew to be a successful businessman with extra cash to spend, I didn't hesitate and explained that he should go for the carbon bike. I mean, if you have the money, you might as well, right? It'll be interesting to see how long it will take before I see him cruising around the neighborhood on his new carbon bike.

The rest of the story...

I had a great ride up AF Canyon to the top of the Alpine Loop. It's my favorite ride around here. I saw more cyclists than cars on the climb. The leaves are starting to change colors and the air was noticeably cooler at the higher elevations making the descent a bit chilly. I think next time I'll take my full finger gloves and my beanie cap to supplement my windbreaker and arm warmers on the descent.

By the time I buzzed down the canyon and made it back home, I was already late for work. I rolled into the office at 10 AM. I have no regrets though of being late. It was well worth it. Plus, here at my work people are pretty cool about having a good work life balance as long as you get your work done.