A Discussion – Bicycle Commuting

Yesterday I drove 50 miles to the car dealership to drop off my car for service. Rather than having my wife follow me in her car I decided to make a day of it and ride my road bike over our mountain passes to get home. I’ve never been afraid to use the bicycle as a means of transportation; bicycle commuting is my most common way to get to work. With fuel prices and the resulting pollution, riding a bicycle is much more friendly on both environment and wallet.

High Mountain Pass at 9000′

The ride home started off pleasant, as all rides do but I needed to climb 5700′ vertical over 43 miles. The pitch basically ramps up steeper and steeper as the day wore on, the cool air turning warm with sun and elevation thinning the available oxygen…

Seriously, elevation gain

Although I was home by noon, I was useless in regards to getting on with my day. The commute took 4 hours, the climbing unrelenting. But I made it home. Get this, I rode an 2001 steel Bianchi to do the job. Think of it this way, instead of using the bike for fitness and recreation, why is it not used more often as a primary means of mobility?

Bicycles can be more for just the occasional business professional or everyday college student. Bicycles should possibly be used every time we go out to dinner, the movies, shopping.. sure, it takes more time and more planning, but you end up with just the essentials when shopping, a bigger day floating the river, and a nice way to get home after sitting in a theatre for too long in one uncomfortable chair.

You and I might say that a lot of folks do this. Well it isn’t enough. Imagine having to go into the city with your bike from your rural home. It could be a long way off. You make a day of it. In Europe there are trains to help people move about in this way. Between Heber City and Salt Lake City, Utah, there are no such options. So.. We ride our bikes over mountain passes?

I don’t know the answer here. But I’d like to think that it’s possible, with proper planning to be able to do bigger and badder things in the name of simple economy and saving the world from the effects of all types of pollution. We might spend more time shopping local, buying much less of the things we don’t need, living healthier lives with our bodies in motion, and other things.

We could spend more time breathing the air rather than polluting it. Anyhow, check out The League of American Bicyclists page. It may help you out.

Fat Bike Packing day 1 of 3

Headed out from home in down town Heber, Utah, I was in the completely wrong hour of the day and I knew it. The sun was in its full strength for the day and it was near 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I knew the hours following the ride would be fitful and I was right. But that could mean anything from a minor headache from the heat to full blown heat exhaustion. Whatever awaited me at the terminus of the days’ ride would be acceptable. It was time to head out.

With everything packed and my shift done for work all I had to do then was kiss my wife goodbye and hit the road. I left her with all the maps of the areas I’d cover, which Forest Service roads I would be on and what timing to expect. At the end I would meet her in the high alpine area of the Mirror Lake Highway through the Uintah Mountains, a location approximately 60 miles from home. I would either find her or her car. We had radios for getting in touch once I was close enough to where she would be in the mountains on Sunday.

She watched me ride off in a romantic kind of way, sweet and exciting. “I’ll see you in a couple of days,” she said with a kiss. Or that’s how I remember it. Anyhow, it was me and the open road. Traffic on surface streets was light. I was on the most rural roads of our rural city. It was hot. After 7 miles the pavement ended. It was all dirt from that point. I took a photo of the bike all loaded down to mark the occasion.

I had lightly chosen my gear for this, based on the availability of Specialized’s bike packing bags and my experience in backpacking. The “Specialized Adventure Gear” suited me well, was up to the task, and looked good. However I would like a different choice of color than black… my lightest and most minimal gear was with me. I had a few things along I wouldn’t take again.

The view from my route

With water and repair gear I had 34 pounds added to me and the bike. My final post will be a gear review. For now, on with day one’s ride. I made the dirt road by 5:00 PM. That was an hour later than I had hoped. I was also hoping that the canyon I was going to be climbing would be sheltered from the sun. Disappointed as I found no shade. Fortunately the road had been recently graded and relieved of most serious ruts. Once the road pitches up it doesn’t relent. I had programed the route into my GPS which has this annoying yet informative feature that shows where you are on the elevation profile, in real time.

I realize the chart doesn’t do this climb justice, but the brute of the climb was over the last 8 miles climbing 3500feet with a bike that was 34 pounds heavier than normal. The benefit was knowing when to anticipate breaks in the climbing which would last for mere seconds. The last climb of the immense slog appeared to have no end, at no point could I estimate a break or relief, it just kept on climbing. And the hours were passing. I knew that there was no way for me to make Wolf Creek Pass that night. I had half an hour of daylight by the time I finished the climb.

With a heavy bike and tired legs I finally hit a plateau in the climb and the ridge line riding started. I needed to find a camp so I wouldn’t be setting up in the dark. The place I found was next to some drunk bow hunters. They went on into the night. “Remember that old time back at Stinky Springs?” and other nonsense that they reminisced sung across the gentle breeze of the cool mountain air.

My one man tent was a great shelter and pretty comfortable. I was a 15 mile bike ride from home. I had a nice phone call with my wife, something that surprised us both because of the seemingly remoteness of my location. We said good night and I turned in, sleepily hearing the nonsense that my drunk neighbors were rambling.

But sleep was fleeting. The exertion and heat had rewarded me with a moderate headache. It was the price for traveling when I did. It made it near impossible to sleep. My heart rate wouldn’t settle either. I promised myself that I would sleep in if it were possible but when morning came I couldn’t’ help but leave that camp. Adventure awaited me and I knew it.