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The Summer I Learned to Ride a Bike

DeSalvo Custom Road Bike

DeSalvo Custom Road Bike Ready for LotoJa

Salt Lake City, UT, 5 September 2014 – The summer of 2014 will go down in my personal history book as the summer I learned how to ride a bike. Not that I didn’t already know how to get started, balance, and pedal without falling over at every corner, but rather I learned new skills that improved my performance. Until this summer I’d been riding the DeSalvo for almost 9 months and had plateaued. My Strava segment times were stuck in neutral and riding was becoming a chore.

You might remember I had a love-hate relationship with Strava but have since learned to embrace the data collection and comparison features of the app. I no longer, mostly, get annoyed when I compare my segment times to other riders although there will always be that one virtual competitor whose segment improvements irk the crud out of me. But no matter how much I compared or how much I thought I was trying my riding was going nowhere.

Being on the DeSalvo means I don’t have to have a relationship with anyone but the bike. The bike doesn’t complain or tell you what you’re doing wrong. The bike usually takes what you give it and makes you a better person if you take care of it. As I’m sitting here writing I realized this is no different than any other relationship. But I’ve always been a little one-off when it comes to personal relationships. I usually have a difficult time starting a conversation and even harder time staying interested long enough to hear the end of a story. And because of this I’ve had a difficult time making and keeping friends. Greg has pushed me to find people to ride with in order to improve my cycling skills. But for a loner like me the thought of asking someone to ride with me was scarier than open-heart surgery. Though I’ve had chance meetings with many people while riding I’ve never felt a strong desire to ask them for their contact information so we could ride together. The nearest I’ve ever come to teaming up with a group of riders was after an invitation to ride up Emigration canyon with a group of people who meet every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Emigration Canyon Road is the place every SL,UT rider cuts their proverbial teeth on hill climbs. Most Saturdays the canyon is bustling with every style and experience level of cyclists, which is why I tended to avoid riding there. The day I almost got the nerve to go out and ride with the Tuesday/Thursday group I decided to leave very early in the morning, before 6 am, so I could do the canyon without any competition. I didn’t want anyone knowing I owned a pricey bike but was only a mediocre rider. Thus my life as a vampire in Emigration Canyon began most days before 5 am.

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Because the canyon is such a popular bicycling destination an unofficial sub-30 minute Strava milestone exists for the segment. For many cyclists, getting to the top of little mountain summit within 30-minutes is akin to reaching the North Pole. And as long as I’ve used Strava to gauge my riding proficiency that goal has been in the back of my head — only in the back of my head because no matter how hard I thought I was trying I couldn’t do the ascent in less than 32:30.

Since I didn’t have the nerve to find a riding companion I’ve used Strava to find them virtually. I’ve tried not to only follow people I know as friends but I’ve also included people who I knew were better riders than me so I had lofty goals to pursue. I wasn’t so jaded that I thought I’d ever be as good as they were, but these virtual competitors were there egging me on to try just a little harder. Which is how we get to June of this year.

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Early this year, I started following a rider, A.K., on Strava who is a significantly (perhaps not so “significantly” anymore, but we’ll get to that) better climber than I am. And like any good follower I gave him Strava “Kudos” for every ride he did. He must have noticed and then done some searching on Facebook for my profile where he “liked” all of my posts about same-sex marriage and my relationship with Greg. So when he invited me to connect on Facebook I couldn’t help but wonder whom this guy was. We live in Utah, after all, so the chances of meeting someone who approves of our alternative lifestyle and who rides a bike are slim, though perhaps not improbable. I did what any curious person would do and accepted his Facebook friendship. Then, after complementing A.K. on his riding skills, I asked some general questions about his belief system. No red flags popped up and he was easy to communicate with, as much as texting is considered actual communication these days. Then, because I was a bit emboldened by the fact A.K. wasn’t uptight about my living arrangements, I asked if he would be interested in riding one day. He may have been a bit apprehensive and certainly was not interested in riding before the sun was fully up in the sky, but he accepted my request.
The day we met to ride A.K. asked me how we knew each other. I quickly ran down the Strava and Facebook connections to get to where we were standing on the side of the road at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. After I finished connecting the dots, he said, “Huh,” and then started talking as if we’d known one another for years. We clipped into our pedals and started up the canyon. A.K. told me about his racing and his philosophy about riding and he started working on making me a better rider. For the most part this happened without my even realizing I was improving. On our first few rides I tried to absorb everything I heard and remember everything I saw him do.

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The first thing A.K. told me was to lose the 11-25 cassette. Being situated in the intermountain west, the geographic area between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Sierra Nevada range to the west, SL,UT, I learned, is not the place for manly feats of gear mashing on an 11-25 tooth cassette. The funny thing is years ago, the first thing I did to upgrade my bike was to remove the 11-28 cassette and put on a more manly 11-25. Then I spent four years mashing gears to climb every hill I could find. Suddenly, I felt like a fool but quickly understood A.K.’s reasoning, which goes along with the second part of learning how to ride.

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By our second ride I was no longer climbing Emigration Canyon in the large chain ring. I learned to increase my cadence by pedaling in the small chain ring and a larger gear. A few weeks into riding and my cadence was nearing 90-100 rpm as we climbed the canyon. I realized when we reached the top of the canyon that I was not completely exhausted from mashing gears. On the way down the canyon I noticed almost every rider heading up was doing exactly what I thought was the right way to climb.
Having learned the basics of gearing and cadence my tutor changed tack. As we rode he picked a speed slightly faster than I was used to riding and would continue talking as if I was riding next to him. I quickly learned if I wanted to be part of the conversation I would have to speed up. He never pushed hard enough to completely wear me out but I could sense when our speed increased. When we ride together I keep my Garmin set to any screen other than the speed because I find I obsess over my speed rather than focusing on my riding.

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I also learned to save some energy for the end. Before I realized what A.K. had said made perfect sense, many of my high energy rides started out with a bang and ended with a bonk. I usually had nothing left for the end of the hill climb or the end of a long ride. Soon, I was wistfully pedaling up hills, my legs spinning gleefully and painlessly to the top. I found I had extra energy to do one last hill or even one fast race downhill. I also learned to get up out of the saddle for the last push to the finish and to get in the drops on every downhill. And I learned to eat. I now have at least one energy bar on every ride and usually at least two bottles of water. I have more energy and more fun on my rides.

More importantly, I learned a little about nurturing relationships outside of my personal relationship with Greg and the importance of balance. My outlook was so positive on a recent ride I told A.K. one of my goals by the end of the year was to finish a sub-30:00 Emigration Canyon climb.

Last week I hopped on my bike and pedaled up to Emigration Canyon alone after work. I was feeling pretty good about my riding and thought it might be fun to see just how much I’d learned and how much I’d improved. As I entered the canyon I put my head down, hands in the drops and took off. As I sensed the grade shift I shifted up and down with the flow of the land. Suddenly I realized I was further into the canyon than I expected to be. I told myself not to give up and to maintain my pace as I reached the last hairpin turn. I’d tried to reserve a little for the last climb, then got up out of the saddle and gave one last push to the finish. As I started to go down the backside of little mountain summit I noticed the time on my Garmin said 56:04 and realized I may have come close to my sub-30:00 goal. Then, for a split second I thought how pissed I would be if I was one or two seconds short. But in the end, after seven weeks of summer school training and bike riding with A.K., I had achieved a goal I’d never really believed I was capable of achieving. Just to make sure this wasn’t a fluke, I did the same ride again finishing within 3 seconds of my personal best time.  Because of A.K.’s tutelage and his patience, I had become a much better rider.

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In the end, the most important lesson I learned from this guy whose life was forever altered by spending several excruciating seconds as the hood ornament of a car that drove into his path is no matter what life throws at you never give up.

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Utah gay marriage ban overturned; state plans appeal

Utah gay marriage ban overturned; state plans appeal.

Salt Lake City, UT, 26 June 2014 – Six months after Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling, and the decision by salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill to allow Utah County Clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Shelby’s ruling nullifying the state’s ban on such unions. Sadly, the state of Utah has decided to take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final decision.  One must ask whether Utah Governor Gary Herbert believes he can win this appeal or is simply pushing forward as a means of becoming the man who fought for (and hopefully lost) the right of states to define what “marriage” means and continuing to deny its citizens equality.  Certainly, Herbert stands to improve his political stature with the GOP by standing up for what even conservative Senator Orin Hatch has said is a losing battle.

Rockwell Relay Bound

Green River, UT, 12 June 2014 – on the road to the Rockwell Relay from Moab to St. George, Utah. Everyone in the car is pondering their assigned legs; each about 50 miles in three legs for four riders on 535 miles of southern Utah roads.

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Happenstance on a Bike Share Bike

©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Salt Lake City, UT, 7 June 2014 – While walking back to my car after having left the Utah Pride Festival tonight I passed a gaggle of girls who were out for a little post-festival fun by renting GREENBikes from the Salt Lake City Bike Share program.  Granted it was 10 p.m. so I assumed they were a bit tipsy after perhaps enjoying the libations being served at the festival.

Who would ever think you could purchase alcohol at a festival in Utah of all places?  Believe it or not this desert city is not dry after all.  Utah knows how to paaarty.

As the girls started to ride past me I quickly whipped out my phone and took a few shots wishing I could take a better group shot to post here.

©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Luck was on my side when they stopped near the next corner to take an obligatory selfie.  So as I walked up I asked if they wanted me to take the picture for them.   They were thrilled and so was I.

©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

In fifteen short minutes I learned they were all in high school and would be seniors in the fall.  I learned a little about each one and how we share some very personal connections.   As Disney says, “It’s a small world  after all.”  And during our short conversation on this night when Utah celebrates its alternative side I was reminded how much we are connected as a community and how close we are as a collective family.

©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Ride safe Girls.

Making New Friends at NAHBS

NAHBS Charlotte Photo Studio Crew ©Weldon Weaver

NAHBS Charlotte Photo Studio Crew
©Weldon Weaver

23 March 2014, Charlotte, NCNAHBS is certainly the place to experience the most stunning custom and handmade bicycle innovations you’re not likely to see at your local bike shop.   And it’s a great place to meet some of the giants of the industry like Tom Ritchey and Chris King who manned their booths during the recent show in Charlotte.

Photo Studio NAHBS Charlotte ©OneOffTwoWheels.com

Photo Studio NAHBS Charlotte
©OneOffTwoWheels.com

But the handmade bicycle business is about more than just the bikes.   The annual NAHBS show recently ended its tenth edition gathering custom bike aficionados from across the globe for three days of bicycle bling.  As much as each of the builders at the show is an artist with a unique and different perspective on bicycle building aesthetic they are also very much alike.  If you took a moment to pause on the show floor this past week you would have hear the unmistakable clamor of community.

Calfee Anodized Cassette ©OneOffTwoWheels.com

Calfee Anodized Cassette
©OneOffTwoWheels.com

Although the bikes are the main focus of the show something more important happens in this tight knit community of artisans; new friendships are made and old friendships are rekindled both on the show floor and at the parties after day’s end.

Shamrock Cycles Disc Cross ©OneOffTwoWheels.com

Shamrock Cycles Disc Cross Bike
©OneOffTwoWheels.com

NAHBS sponsors team up to put on some of the best parties in town during the show weekend.  This year’s NAHBS fell on Saint Patrick’s day weekend, a fitting backdrop to Shamrock Cycles green clover-draped cross disc show bike, in Charlotte where the worlds largest pub crawl highlights the Luck o’ the Irish festivities.

Shamrock Cycles Disc Cross ©OneOffTwoWheels.com

Shamrock Cycles Disc Cross Bike
©OneOffTwoWheels.com

And not far from the uptown Charlotte St. Patty’s crowds NAHBS attendees put on a hoedown of their own sponsored by Oskar Blues Brewery and a local fiddle band.

NAHBS Charlotte Hoedown ©OneOffTwoWheels.com

NAHBS Charlotte Hoedown
©OneOffTwoWheels.com

This year Greg ran the photo studio where a show bike was set up and photographed every six minutes.   This is a daunting task for the best photographers but with the help of an army of dedicated volunteers the bikes were photographed and sent back to their booths unscathed in record time.  Seasoned bicycle race Photographer Weldon Weaver worked closely with his volunteer crew to create the official photoset of award entries.

Weldon Weaver at Work ©OneOffTwoWheels.com

Weldon Weaver at Work
©OneOffTwoWheels.com

If you love bicycles and are even remotely interested having a chance to be around some of the best custom bicycle handwork in the world we encourage you to head Louisville in 2015.   If you go, remember to take a moment to meet the builders as well as ogle their bikes.  You’ll quickly learn this is a gathering of artists and a community of people who’ve come together for ten straight years to share their visions.   In the end NAHBS is as much about the people and having fun as it is about bicycle innovation.

NAHBS Charlotte Photo Studio Crew ©Weldon Weaver

NAHBS Charlotte Photo Studio Crew
©Weldon Weaver

Its a place where friendship and community come together to share bicycle dreams.

A Small World

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18 March 2014, Salt Lake City, UT – Home for two days and recovering from NAHBS. We enjoyed living a different life for a week and we are grateful to our NAHBS family for their hospitality but it’s nice to be home.

A crazy week of bikes and people. Said hello to Mike DeSalvo though I didn’t photograph his latest bikes. I have one and can tell you the guy knows how to work metal.

We took a ton of images that we’ll post once we get back into the groove. Until then the picture here is the tear down and load out of NAHBS Charlotte.

And finally to illustrate how small the world is we made a surreal connection when we stopped at the local supermarket on the way home to restock the fridge. Looking like two feral cats, she asked us how our day was going. We told her we just landed from Charlotte and were exhausted after the world’s biggest pub crawl. She said the next time we go we should stop into Connolly’s Bar because her grandfather was the proprietor years ago…

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One Year Old – OneOffTwoWheels

The Satisfaction of a Job Well-done ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

The satisfaction of a job well-done
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

8 March 2014, Salt Lake City, UT – Every project should start with a plan if you expect something of value when the endpoint arrives.  Unlike cooking dessert a website does not have an endpoint unless the author stops writing.  Each article is merely one more meal for readers to devour while patiently awaiting the next course.

We made these blitzes from scratch for Greg’s birthday last year first making the crepes, then the filling, and finally frying the packets of blueberry and cheese-filled pillows in rich butter. The process is not unlike writing. You take raw words like flour, milk, and eggs to make a batter that has to be caressed in a properly prepared vessel where the ingredients, like sentences, morph into a cohesive palatable product; this step usually takes a good quantity of butter both when writing and cooking to reach a satisfactory end-point.

Step One - Crepes ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Step One – Crepes
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

I find making blitzes to be a painful endeavor because there are so many steps to the process.  And getting started is always difficult because I tend to look at the many steps involved as roadblocks to the endpoint.   But once I’ve taken a moment to realize that the three most important people in my life–my partner and our two kids–will adore me for about an hour after we’re done, the process seems less daunting.

Frying Pillows of Love ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Frying Pillows of Love
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Similarly, writing OneOffTwoWheels has gotten easier as this year has progressed because I’ve learned to face each post with a passion for delivering a satisfying read.  As many other bloggers can attest there’s usually so many topics one wants to cover its difficult to focus and finish one post that will have meaning.   I have written many posts that because of the timeliness of the topic, like lumpy crepe batter, never were completed because they did not meet my expectation of perfection in pressing words together.  In order to add a more interesting perspective, my goal for the next year is to get Greg to write some pieces for OneOffTwoWheels.  His viewpoint about life would be a positive addition to the site.

We started OneOffTwoWheels because we wanted to make a connection between being same-sex oriented and bicycling sport-loving humans; a connection I rarely see in mainstream bicycle websites unless the focus is on the innuendo built into wearing lycra shorts that expose one’s anatomy for all to see.   It would be easy to pepper this blog with photos and comments about how men in spandex fill out their Assos S7 Kuku Penthouse bike shorts, but we wanted to have a bit more class in our approach to bicycling.   Basically, I’d rather be cooking at the French Laundry than some fast food joint.   And hopefully our writing expresses some level of New York Times-style Op Ed.  And after years of not using my degree in broadcast communications I can finally tell my kids college does have value.

The Final Draft ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

The Final Draft
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed our work thus far.   Next week we’ll be in Charlotte at NAHBS, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, as assistants to the show directors so we’ll try to give you a behind the scene look at how this show comes together.   The people who run NAHBS are dedicated to giving people a glimpse of some of the best custom bicycles your hard earned money can buy.  The work that goes into the final product is really incredible.

As a happy birthday gift to all and a thank you for reading, here’s a photo of the mismatched helmets worn by the Polish National Bicycle Team.

Polish Bicycling Team - Their helmets don't match. Image From the Internet

Polish Bicycling Team – Their helmets don’t match.
Image From the Internet

Saddled with Love

Saddled with Love

Salt Lake City, UT, 24 February 2014 – I know many of our readers wonder how we manage to survive as a same-sex couple in Utah.  And many others wish they had it so good, you know, sharing domestic tranquility and all of the ups and downs that come with holy matrimony.  Here in Utah, because we were married within the seventeen days that mattered, when same-sex marriage was legal while the Attorney General’s office was too mired in controversy over his corruption to remember to file a motion for a stay to Judge Shelby’s ruling against Utah’s marriage laws, we run and hurried to pick up a marriage certificate of our own.  In so doing, Sister Holland (my betrothed, Greg; yes, I owe you an explanation) and I filed joint taxes for the first time.   Nothing compares to the pain one experiences when the free online tax software tells you you’re paying the marriage penalty and that your once lofty refund has dwindled to mere pennies. But we may have found something that comes incredibly close, as you’ll soon see.   In years past we lived like Egyptian Pharaohs after Uncle Sam deposited our check throwing parties even The Great Gatsby would envy.  This year I wasn’t even gifted a new pair of Assos kukupenthouse Equipe bib shorts after the drop dripped into the proverbial bucket of our tax refund.   No, instead we paid off a credit card.  How’s that for marital bliss?  Are you jealous?  Want marriage so bad you can taste it?   Trust me, gurl, ain’t nothin’ to want that bad.   The saying goes, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  We got it.

Let’s just say you live in one of those bleeding heart liberal states where you have all the freedoms the constitution says you should have and still you don’t have anyone to drag to the alter.   I’m not trying to make light of the issue; the reality is you just haven’t found anyone who can tolerate your crazy like I’ve found.   Don’t despair.   You will find true love.   I waited 40 years and made some mistakes along the way to my current cohabitation situation.  But while you’re waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to show up at your door a temporary solution to your more innate needs seems to have surfaced on the market.

The Essax Shark Saddle may just be the thing to help you forget your status doldrums.  I’m not going to go into the details or post an image of this new product here because after you click on the link, you’ll understand completely.  Suffice it to say, I don’t intend to test this innovative saddle myself, but the idea may have some merit.  After all, keeping oneself centered in life is often difficult in the good times, never mind trying to do it on a century ride.   The Essax Shark Saddle could be just the thing to keep you busy while you’re cycling down the road to true love.  Enjoy.

Tripoli, Libya – Hotel del Mehari

Tripoli, Libya, 22 February 2006 – In a previous iteration of my life I traveled the world doing a job that was at once a dream job and the job from hell at the same time.  The dream was being able to go places like Libya while my boss did his job.   During the Winter Olympics in Torino we made an overnight trip to Tripoli, Libya.  It was a time when the diplomatic status of that country was warming with the U.S. Government and with it opportunities for business ventures.

©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Flying into Mitiga International Airport over Tripoli harbor in 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

We landed at a Mitiga International Airport, a former military air base.  I will never forget seeing the carcasses of surface-to-air guns rusting in the fields between the runways as we landed and taxied.  They were stark reminders of the sordid history of the country.  I wish I had the nerve to take pictures as we taxied.

After securing the plane we were met by our handlers who spoke little English.  And as we passed through Customs government agents retained our passports, which was not at all comforting even for our very experienced flight crew.  On the ride to the hotel our driver pointed out some of the local sights.  I recall most clearly a large palace where he said people enter but were never seen again.

We stayed at the Hotel del Mehari a hotel that appeared to have stopped in time from the day it was built.  In researching the history of the hotel I learned that in 2009 it was completely updated to the Radisson Blu Hotel, a five-star resort.

My room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya 2006, appears to have stopped in time. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

My room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya 2006, appears to have stopped in time.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

The telephone desk next to my bed at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

The telephone desk next to my bed at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Unfortunately, because security was tight we were told we should not leave the hotel unaccompanied so the only images I have of the city around came from my room balcony.  What I do remember about the hotel was the food was very good and was a mix of both local cuisine and Italian and French dishes.

The pool at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya, 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

The pool at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya, 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

View from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

View from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

View from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006. ©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

Views from the balcony of my room at the former Hotel del Mehari, Tripoli, Libya in 2006.
©2014 OneOffTwoWheels.com

My boss’ meetings did not go as planned so we were heading back to the plane by mid-morning the next day.   The lasting impression of Libya I have is of the Customs agents rifling through a cardboard box filled with passports.  In a heated conversation the two agents would pull a passport from the box, open it and compare the picture with our faces.   The longer the process took the more nervous we all became.   Finally, with passports in hand we were back at the plane and in the air in record time back to Italy.

No Red Flags for Disc Brakes

In contrast to the weather pounding the east coast, we’ve been experiencing unseasonably warm weather in Salt Lake reaching 60 degrees mid-day for the past week.  These recent weather patterns illustrate how unpredictable our weather can be in many parts of the U.S. has become.   In Utah one common adage is if you don’t like the current weather conditions wait an hour and the weather will change.

Winter Storm PAX that pounded the east coast with ice and snow in February 2014.

Winter Storm PAX that pounded the east coast with ice and snow in February 2014.

A recent ride last week was the perfect example of a trip that might convince any rider disc brake equipped road bikes are the future for the bicycle industry.

I’ve been housebound this winter for many more days than I’m used to and on Thursday last week I decided it was time to make a break for the hills on two-wheels so bolted from work at 1:00 p.m. driving home under sunny skies intent on getting on the bike for a nice long Emigration Canyon ride.

Sunny skies over Salt Lake City on 13 February 2014, 1:00 p.m. From Weather.org historical maps.

Sunny skies over Salt Lake City on 13 February 2014, 1:00 p.m. From Weather.org historical maps.

Puffy white clouds dotted the horizon over the mountains signaling prime weather for pulling out my bib-shorts.  But I hadn’t shaved my legs since early January so I ended up wearing a pair of long-leg tights instead.  I wasn’t about to be seen with hairy legs sticking out of my shorts and as it turned out wearing long tights turned out to be a fortuitous decision.

I was the happy recipient of a Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Jacket  for Christmas that I’ve been wearing with one or two layers of Lycra base layers all winter.  The jacket is so warm I’ve ridden with both front vents open for ventilation in temperatures below 30 degrees.  This jacket is probably not the best choice for winter riding since it holds most of the moisture a rider generates during heavy exertion inside the jacket, but I noticed the vents help push most of the moisture out keeping me warmer than I expected from what appears to be a thin single layer jacket.  The P.R.O. Barrier WxB Jacket is designed for wet riding conditions with the added advantage of a Pearl Izumi Minerale™ technology, a waterproofing and heat retention coating that happened to come in handy on my canyon trip.   The jacket has become my go-to winter top layer.

The 30-minute ascent up my chosen ride for the day, Emigration Canyon, is followed by a 17-minute high-speed descent back into the valley.  A fit rider can average  30+ mph all the way down the canyon.  On cool days the descent can be miserable if you’re sweaty from the trip up.  Since the temperature in the valley was almost 60 degrees I figured a single layer Lycra base layer would be sufficient underneath.   The combination of the Lycra and the P.R.O. Barrier WxB Jacket were just right for the long climb up the mountain.

Sunny skies over Salt Lake City on 13 February 2014, 2:00 p.m. From Weather.org historical maps.

Sunny skies over Salt Lake City on 13 February 2014, 2:00 p.m. From Weather.org historical maps.

I was on the road by 2 p.m. with slightly cloudy skies overhead.   I rode with an easy pace up the canyon while the temperatures were cool enough that I didn’t break a sweat.  For part of the ride I kept pace with a trio of local racers but lost them as the slope of the road increased nearing the hair-pin turns to the summit.  And as I reached the top of Little Mountain summit I lost all sight of them.  I usually ride a few miles down the other side of the mountain past the reservoir so that I get a solid 30-mile ride out of my Emigration Canyon trips; which I also did on this trip.   And as I turned around to head home I noticed a few drops of rain hitting my sleeves which by the time I was almost to the top of Little Mountain Summit the drops turned to a steady drizzle.

Sunny skies over Salt Lake City on 13 February 2014, 4:00 p.m. From Weather.org historical maps.

Sunny skies over Salt Lake City on 13 February 2014, 4:00 p.m. From Weather.org historical maps.

And finally as I reached Little Mountain Summit for my ride down the canyon and home, the drizzle had turned to a shower so I stopped to change into a set of warmer gloves, a pair if Assos FuguGloves, and put on a Pearl Izumi Barrier WxB hood under my helmet.  I’d brought the hood “just in case” and was glad I had as the weather was getting worse by the second.   After changing my gloves, tightening the hood over my head, and closing the jacket vents I started down the mountain.  The first flash of lightning lit over my head as I clipped in and that was followed quickly by a loud crack of thunder and the rain became a deluge turning to a mix of hard rain and hail that pelted my face.  My lips were burning from the sting of the hail as I gingerly sailed around the first two hairpin turns down the canyon.  Every few hundred feet I pulled the brakes lightly to keep my speed down afraid the road would be slippery with the icy rain.

Not long into the descent I was soaked through my tights and could feel my shoes getting wet while my head and upper body so far seemed dry.   The lightning, thunder, rain and hail continued for about half the trip down. By then my gloves as well as my feet were waterlogged.   All the way down the mountain I kept pulling lightly on the brakes to keep my speed around 20 mph; a safe speed in the driving rain and fast enough to get me home so I could warm up and dry off.  If the rain wasn’t seeded with hail I would have been moving faster but my face felt like I’d been sunburned from the sting of the icy pellets.  When the discs are wet the brakes will squeal as the water dries but as soon as they are sufficiently warm to stay dry they are quiet; even in the driving rain that was beating on me soaking my legs, feet and hands, down the mountain I was confident the bike would stop on a dime if I needed it to do so.    Finally, as I passed Hogle Zoo the rain was gone and the sun was shining through the clouds in the valley.

When I arrived home and finally stripped out of my clothes I noticed my head and upper body, protected by the WxB Barrier Jacket and hood, were dry.   The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Jacket had done a great job of keeping me dry in rain conditions most riders don’t often experience.  It’s nice to be certain your gear will protect you when the conditions turn from bad to worse.

I know from experience riding in similar conditions with clincher brakes on my CAAD9 that I’ve wondered if the bike would stop as I was descending a hill.   I clearly recall pulling as hard as I could on the brakes hoping they would dry off and stop the bike.   I can only imagine how I would have felt if I had a pair of carbon clincher wheels on my bike in the conditions I experienced on this recent ride.

True, the first iterations of road bike disc brakes affect the aerodynamics of the bike, but few of the millions of riders who buy road bikes for pleasure and even for racing will ever notice the slight difference in wind resistance.  But what these riders will get from disc brakes is the security that if they’re riding in wet conditions there’s no question the bike will get them home as safely as possible.

Though many writers are loathe to join the disc brake bandwagon by continuing to question the need for this technology, there simply is little evidence that disc brakes are a vast improvement over clincher rim brake technology that was invented in the 1880’s.   After over a hundred years of innovation there’s just not much more that can be done to improve them.   Disc brakes move the braking surface away from the rim giving wheel designers and manufacturers an open field to design wheels they’ve only dreamed of.   The introduction of an innovative product often means changes we don’t comprehend when it first appears but as time moves forward we look back in wonder asking, “How did we live without this?”  I have to run now, my iWatch is ringing.

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