Black Friday Mountain Style

You know riding a road bike in the winter is tough enough. Getting out on the road and running in the freezing cold is enough of a challenge that you would think that I feel pretty satisfied. Hanging out at my cousin’s house for Thanksgiving yesterday her husband ended up convincing me that mountain biking in the cold and snow is no big deal. So we arranged to meet for a ride today. So while all of the sane people were out at Black Friday spending two month’s salary at amazing “sales”, Dave and I hit the mountain.

Now just so you know, Dave is an amazing mountain biker. His technical skills are light years ahead of mine and he has the type of endurance that is required for riding technical single track up the mountain. He taught me today what it is like to be “that guy” who everyone waits for and wonders how he made the invite list. Usually they swear that for the next ride that guy won’t be on the invite list. Here is an actual picture of Dave when I told him I wanted to go with him again next week…

Driving over to Dave’s I called up a couple of the more hardcore mountain bikers that I know. I peppered them with questions like how to safely descend in the snow (there is no technique for riding in ice), what to do at hairpins in the snow (you just keep riding straight and hope there is a bank on the turn and it stops you), and what the protocol is for making snow angels once you hit the top of the mountain (just don’t do it in yellow snow). All of the people I talked with pre-ride got a good laugh out of the mental images of me trying to make it down the mountain on a technical single track in the snow. Those same images inspired fear in my mind.

Dave and I finally got started and I could tell I was going to be in for a rodeo today. In road cycling, I typically will ride with my psi as high as the tire recommends. Apparently in winter riding on your mountain bike (or any riding for that matter) you ride with your front tire much lower than your rear. After a couple of crashes Dave recommended that I deflate my front tire and once I had, my bike handled much, much better.

I would like to say I held my own with Dave, by the guy is an animal. Apparently road cycling fitness does not equal mountain bike fitness. My legs were fine for most of the ride, but balancing on the single track was more difficult than I remember. My upper body was taking a beating and after a while I was having a tough time staying up. Balancing on single track is not easy, and I was feeling the difficulty in my shoulders, chest, and arms for the entire ride. I fell no less than four times, and one was an awesome fall on the downside of the mountain. I swear it was all in slow motion, and my bike landed on me and my feet finally came out of the clips. The bike then continued to tumble a little more. The great thing about this crash is that Dave saw it all. He said he was impressed with my agility.

I was a lot slower than I thought I should have been. Dave and I finally made it up to the top and sat a chilled for a little. My son calls Dave “Uncle Dave” and we love their family. It was fantastic to sit and listen to him and just talk for a couple of minutes. I was grateful for the rest. This is a shot up at the top of the hill.

Trek Mountain Bikes

I love how blue the sky is in the winter at elevation. Usually the only time you can see sky this blue is on a clear day at the top of Snowbird of Solitude — two of the best ski resorts in Utah. If you enlarge the drivetrain, you will notice I am in my smallest gear in the front and the largest in the back. It was just that kind of day.

Coming down was unbelievable. I love descending on a singletrack mountain bike trail. This really was the perfect way to spend Black Friday — trying to connect with the outdoors when most people are fighting the mobs indoors. We really had the trail to ourselves because nobody else was crazy enough to get out in the 20° weather. As you would expect, the uphill was plenty warm and the downhill was as cold as I like to get.

When we finished I thanked Dave profusely for his patience. He could have gone twice the distance if he would have just ridden solo today. I also told him that it may take me three days to get to the top of a climb, but I will never quit. My bike may get tired of waiting for me and start up alone, but I will make it to the top. The takeway from this ride is I have a lot of improving to do on the mountain bike. A lot. But as long as there isn’t too much snow on the trail like you see in the photo, I think I am going to try and ride with Dave for the winter. Give me a single track and a good friend, and I am happy to spend all day with them.

What did you do on Black Friday?

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...