Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Great Western Trail: Salt Lake to Boulder--The Gauntlet Thrown Down

I am throwing down the gauntlet. I've been researching and compiling a Great Western adventure. The last one was Mantua to Layton on the worst of possible game trails (see link on sidebar). This new version starts from Salt Lake City and heads into the mountains on single track trails, ATV paths, four-wheel drive roads, and gravel roads, all the way to Boulder, Utah. The route should take 4-5 days with two resupply points.

The first leg of the tour goes through the northern Wasatch via Mill Creek canyon to the Crest, over Brighton and down into Provo Canyon, back up to the southern Wasatch at Vivian Park through motorcycle paths. Camp somewhere in the mountains and head over a pass and down on forest service roads to cross highway 6 at Trucker, Utah (ghost town), and then south on the famous Skyline Drive (see below Google Earth image).

Ride the Skyline drive till you want to camp somewhere, and ride it the next day for about 100 miles, till you meet the fork for the Great Western Trail ATV (GWT) route. Take the route down a huge elevation drop till you run into I-70 and ride about 10 downhill till you are out of the mountains to the town of Salina, Utah. At Salina get a motel, buy a whole pie for yourself at Mom's Cafe, and watch crappy cable TV for as many days as your legs need. When you are ready, head back into the mountains via the I-70 frontage road till you meet back up with the GWT. Head south east on the GWT ATV trail network for 80 miles or so till you roll into Teasdale, Utah. Rest. Go south of Teasdale on 4wd roads up Boulder mountain to Donkey Reservoir and take various forest service roads and trails that rim Boulder mountain till you drop down onto the highway 12 and ride it out a few miles to the Hell's Backbone Grill in time for dinner.

There are a few mystery sections that sources say there is a trail/road there, but I could not spot it on Google earth. And there looks like there are two passes that may include some helacious cross country bushwhacking for a mile or so. More research needs to be done. I have already ridden about 1/4 to 1/3 of the route, and for some of the other places I have a good sense that they are going to be great riding. From Boulder, one could easily ride on Hell's Backbone road all the way to Escalante, and from there keep going on the recently devised Trans Utah Escalante to St. George route listed on and the brainchild some St. George riders at

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Two-Speed Cyclocross Bike

The cross courses around Ottawa ironically have more hills than the ones in Utah. As the weather is getting worse, I needed to take down my rather steep 48 X 18 gearing, which is good for flat courses, to something more middle range for bad mud and steep hills. I had recently got a hold on a Paul Components Melvin chain tensioner that can be used not only for single-speed, but also as a "dingle-speed" two-speed set up, where you employ two chainrings and a single cog. One of my principal and primary reasons for switching to single speed for most riding was because I hate rear derailures. Front derailures on the other hand, I have no problem with, as I've never had one brake on me (in the middle of a 90-mile ride in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of fixing it. Long story, whatever...). The original reason I converted my cross bike over to SS years ago was due to a crash during a race: I broke my rear shift-lever. Shift-levers are obscenely expensive, so I spent a modest amount of money converting to SS (see previous post).

First of all, the Paul Melvin is far better than the Surly Singleator for chain tension. As per my cited post above, the Surly unit needed the help of a Voile ski strap to actually keep my chain from falling off. The Melvin, with its two chain wheels keeps everything real snug, no problem. I had the other still functioning rear shifter and all the cables and housing so it didn't have to take any trips to the bike store. While I was attaching it I said "what the hell" and went dingle. I had mixed feelings about doing it. I did like the simplicity of SS. But purity didn't win out. I am a competitive person, and nobody around here rides SS, and it was getting frustrating racing in a different world from everyone else. I am also somewhat an iconoclast to a fault, and now I have a bike that matches. Also, it was fun setting it up. Now is have a high/middle-end 48 X 18 good for cruising, but still a tad slow for pavement flats, and I have a middle/low-end 38 X 18 for acceleration, bad mud, and hills. The Melvin is supposed to fit a 20-tooth difference between chainrings. With my set up I only have a 10 tooth differential. Paul Components only mentions a two chainring setup, but I wonder if it would work on a mountain triple 44-34-24? That would be a nice maintenance-free set up longer mountain bike rides in remote places...

Regarding single-speed riding, my friend Bobby Hanson once said, and I paraphrase "when I had gears on my bike, I always felt I was in the wrong gear, with my single-speed, now I know I'm in the wrong gear." Now that I have a two-speed, if I feel I'm in the wrong gear, I can go to the other wrong gear.