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Travel is Beautiful | 11.14.2017

“Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts” — STEVE JOBS

My cycling history

I love bikes and always have. My first ride without training wheels around the age of four is a vivid memory. I felt like I was flying because my feet were off the ground and I was going fast. For many of us, the first ride is a cherished memory.

In 1960 I started riding a two-wheeler with no gears.  We didn't have cellphones, internet or cable TV. The bikes were red for boys and blue for girls. The fancy bikes had "balloon" tires, no gears and coaster brakes that you needed to pedal backward to use. It was a different time then, and parents had different concerns. We didn't wear helmets. Instead, we protected our heads by ducking under our desks in elementary school during nuclear war drills. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a current event, so parents were concerned with the bomb, not child abduction. Most days I rolled down the driveway and didn't return until dinner time. On non-school days I rode with my friends and we explored the world. Our ballon tire bikes were like magic carpets taking us through the woods. We flew down trails and over jumps with no adult supervision. This was a great time to be a kid. My bike was my freedom. I still enjoy this feeling of freedom when I ride.

In the seventh grade I delivered newspapers on my bike. I had heavy steel baskets installed on both sides of the back wheel to carry the papers. My parents bought me a two-speed bike to help with the heavy load. With the steel frame bike and heavy baskets loaded with papers, that bike probably weighed about 50 pounds! 

Looking back, the idea of riding a heavy bike up and down the hilly neighborhood delivering papers for a couple dollars a day was a hard way to make money. But I loved the experience of freedom and responsibility. My life was complete until I saw a 10-speed. A neighbor on my route had a bike with gears - lots of them. There were two chain rings and a cluster of gears on the back hub and a swing arm with pulleys that could change the position of the chain. This looked cool, and I wanted one. I saved up my paper route money and bought a Schwinn Continental. The Continental's steel frame weighed about 30 pounds (which seems like a lot today), but it was much lighter than my two-speed workhorse. With skinny, higher pressure tires I rode faster and further. So my world continued to expand.

Riding the red balloon tire bike in 1965.

Also during seventh grade I planned my first bike-packing trip with three friends (and no adults). I scoured maps to find a kid-friendly bike route. The trip was four days on the bike and camping out every night. We headed out with our bikes loaded with clothes and camping gear. These days it is hard to imagine four kids riding a couple of hundred miles alone with no adults. Back then it was just part of growing up. Along the way we kept our bikes working and managed to get the supplies needed to make dinner each night. We met people who were interested in our journey and offered acts of kindness. I recall one woman who owned the country store where we were buying food offering her back yard as a camp site. We accepted her offer, and later that night she brought us cake for dessert after we had eaten our campsite dinner. I did a bunch of these trips before I could drive. Each trip brought new adventures as I always explored new roads.

These trips are some of my favorite childhood memories. There is a unique feeling of being "sort of" lost. You don't exactly know where you are, but you sort of know where you are. In this state the senses are heightened as you look for clues to confirm that your suspicions are correct and you are on the right path. With the heightened senses you pay attention. You notice things and you remember things. This experience is one of the reasons I love exploring new roads and trails.

During my college years a bike served as my commute vehicle because it was faster, more convenient, and cheaper than a car. Outfitted with fenders and a rack, the bike was a workhorse regardless of the weather. During my college years bike helmets were invented.

Riding the trails before sunrise.

After college I decided to try racing. I entered my first race with a cotton t-shirt and black socks. Someone was kind enough to tell me I looked like a dork and if I wanted to keep racing I should look like I was serious and get a jersey and cycling socks. At first I was blown off the back of every race, but I kept staying with the pack a little more every time I raced. After a month or so I could hang with the group. I eventually started placing and winning. I upgraded to a more advanced category and upgraded again. Eventually I was a competitive Cat 2 racer. Then my wife and I had kids.

I bought my first mountain bike during our child-raising raising years. I no longer had the luxury of time to train at the level required to competitively race. The mountain bike provided a different cycling experience from race training. It also rekindled the wow feeling I had as a kid exploring the world around me. With my mountain bike I explored many trails in the mountains and hills from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. The San Francisco peninsula has a trail system that extends for miles and miles through the redwood forests. My mountain bike expanded my world to include areas that were previously unknown. I started a morning mountain bike ride through the hills above the Bay Area. We would start in the dark of night using lights to illuminate the trail. As we reached the summit the sunrise would begin. What a way to greet the day. 

Cancer recovery in Moab, Utah

I took my first mountain biking trip to Moab Utah in 1989. Remember Road Runner cartoons? Riding in Moab is just like that. Exploring this area of Utah is surreal off or on a bike.

I had cancer in 1992 and went through four rounds of chemo. After chemo my once strong body was diminished and weak. I used cycling as a means to force myself back to health. A return trip to Moab was my goal.

I rode almost every day and eventually regained my strength. I've treated myself to a Moab pilgrimage with my best bike buddies many times in the past 20 years. All these trips to Moab helped me develop a love for riding in Utah. We moved to Park City less than a year ago, and I find myself riding Utah trails almost every day.

The Park City secret

The locals have a secret. The Park City summers are every bit as spectacular as the winters. Some might even say they are better since there are less people in town. The thousands of acres used for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing transform into forests with hundreds of miles of trails to accommodate mountain biking. You can take the easy and scenic way to the top by riding the ski lift. Or you can pedal up. Either way, riding miles of single track or flow trails is exhilarating. Here is a review of the basics to make your mountain bike experience spectacular. If you have non-mountain bikers in your group, the hiking here is just as good. 

Looking at Park City trail maps reminds me of studying maps for bike trips as a kid. The local Park City Mountain Trails Foundation builds and maintains hundreds of miles of trails here. The trail network is like a spider web connecting sage desert, pine and aspen forests, and rock ridges above tree line. I've discovered hidden lakes and waterfalls and crossed over snow fields in spring time. There are miles and miles and miles to explore.

In addition to mountain biking the area also offers terrific water activities (Jordanelle Reservoir, rivers and lakes), outdoor music concerts, and fantastic food (check out the off-season Park Record dining deals).

Finding the right bike shop

A good bike shop makes all the difference.  Seasoned riders understand the value of a shop stocked with the latest gear along with skilled mechanics who know what they are doing. Fortunately, Park City has plenty of good ones .......Bahnhof SportJansCole SportsPark City Bike Demo, and Storm Cycles, just to name a few. Bahnhof Sport is my shop, and here's why.

As consumers, we generally make two types of purchases. The first are small value items like toothpaste and soap. And we don't generally think much about them. The second type includes high-value items like cars and houses. Consumers generally think long and hard about purchasing a high-value item because what we seek is peace of mind, and we usually want to keep a high-value purchase for a long period of time. In my view, a bike is a high value-item, whether it is rented or purchased.  We depend on our bikes to run well. 

For decades, family owned Bahnhof Sport focused on winter sports. Owner Ryan Smith moved to Park City as a youngster to compete as a top-level skier. So in the winter, Bahnhof focuses the ski and snowboard business. In the summer, Bahnhof is all about bikes.

Josh working on a bike in Bahnhof's service center.

Since this is a family business, expect Ryan and the rest of the staff to greet you with a smile. The shop staff are meticulous and friendly. If you need a trail recommendation, they are happy to help. Whether you rent or buy a bike, you can be confident the bike will run well. Since bikes take a beating while you use them going over rocks and down mountain trails, Banhof's service department is important.

Bahnhof carries a fleet of rental bikes ranging from economy town cruisers and e-bikes to the latest high-end carbon fiber machines that fly down the trails. Exploring Park City by e-bike allows just about anyone that can ride a two wheeler to glide up and down the Park City hills with ease. Bahnhof also provides a van shuttle service if you want to begin at mountain-top trails where the ski lifts don't go.

Where to ride

Get the Trailforks app, which runs on iPhone or Android smartphones. Trailforks uses the GPS of your phone to locate your position on the Trailforks map and it has all the mountain bike trails marked and named on the map. If you are ever directionally confused, Trailforks will help. It also suggests popular trails near you. Also check out Mountain Biking Park City for great set of maps and trail recommendations as well as an interactive map to help plan your ride. Utah Mountain Biking is another useful resource.

Miro riding the Crest Trail.


Take the lift up

In summer, many ski areas welcome mountain biking. Deer Valley, Park City and The Canyons have lift service to the top of the mountains with manicured trails that snake down from the summit. These are purpose-built mountain biking trails with banked corners, bumps, jumps and natural obstacles like rocks and roots. These ski area trails are well marked with the trail's skill level noted on signs and maps. Start with the easy green trails before working your way up to intermediate (blue) or advanced (black) trails. Taking the lifts up is a great equalizer if there are members of your group that have different strength and endurance levels. Years ago I took our young kids up so everyone could have a great time. Ski areas usually have food and other amenities in the base camp area. Riding up a ski lift with your mountain bike is fun, and the ride down is a blast!

Mid Mountain Trail

The Mid Mountain Trail is a 20-mile long singletrack that zigzags the entire length of the Wastach Range high above Park City. It meanders through pine and aspen forests and crosses open fields and streams. This is a world-class singletrack for both the flow and the views. There are several connecting trails from Mid Mountain to the valley floor or to the Wasatch ridge high above. This is one of my favorite rides. You can build exciting rides by stitching together the trails that go up and down from Mid Mountain. A classic short loop is to ride up Armstrong to mid-mountain and then ride back on Spiro. It is about a two-hour loop.

Round Valley Trails

Round Valley is a huge open space preserve right on the edge of town. In winter, outdoor enthusiasts use these trails for cross-country skiing and snow biking, and in the summer they are used for hiking and mountain biking. The Round Valley Trails are a good place to take a first-time mountain biker to learn some essential skills. You can start on wide fire roads and progress to singletrack. My favorite singletrack there is called Rambler, which traverses much of the area. The riding here here is high desert with lots of sage brush.

The Crest Trail

The Crest Trail is epic and runs along the spine of the Wasatch Crest at about 10,000 feet. Starting at the top of "puke hill" above Park City, it proceeds along the crest of the Wasatch Ridge to The Canyons Resort. The trail offers amazing views of both sides of the ridge and flows through aspen forests, fields of wild flowers and pine forests. It is simply stunning.

There are a few ways to get to the top. You can ride up Armstrong to Mid Mountain and then take Pinecone up. This is about a two-hour climb at a good tempo. Or you can take the Park City Resort Crescent lift up from the base and ride up puke hill. Or you can shuttle up (call Bahnhof Sports for a ride) to the top of Guradmsan's Pass. From Guradsman's, take Scotts Bypass Trail to the base of puke hill.

Scotts Bypass leading to the Crest Trail.


Pinecone is also a way to get to the top of the Wasatch Crest. Start by climbing Armstrong to Mid Mountain; turn south (left) on Mid Mountain and you will run into the Pinecone Trail in about a mile. Turn right and start climbing. From the base of Armstrong to the top of Pinecone is about a two-hour climb. If you flip and descend Pinecone, be aware of other riders climbing up. It is about an hour to get to Park City from up there. But it's a fun hour.  If the two-hour climb is intimidating, shuttle to the top of Guardsman and ride Scotts Bypass and puke hill to get to the top of Pinecone. Here is my Strava data for that route. 

Josh descending Pinecone.

The WOW Trail

On the back side of Guardsman's Pass you can take the road to Heber. The name WOW is for Wasatch Over Wasatch, but the trail really is a WOW. It starts in the state park parking lot. WOW is 10 miles of wandering singletrack through high brush, aspen and pine forests, and it finally ends outside of Midway. You can also continue riding singletrack in the Dutch Canyon area to get to town. Use a shuttle. Have someone meet you in Midway or Heber and reward them and yourself with a nice lunch and gelato at the Spin Cafe. Here is my Strava information for the WOW trail.

Flying Dog

The Glenwild area has a large trail system. My favorite loop is Flying Dog, which is about a 1.5- to 2-hour loop. Park by the trailhead or take the paved bike path from town. I like to ride this trail counterclockwise. The climb is high desert, and the descent is through a nice forest and passes a beaver pond. Check out my strava for Flying Dog.

If you've read this far, then cycling is likely as important to you as it is to me. 

Throughout my life I have ridden mountain bikes in many beautiful locations. Park City is in my top five. If you love singletrack riding, you will enjoy Park City. Email me if you come to town, and maybe we can ride together.

This piece was co-authored by Rick Hyman and Cheryl Acheson and was originally published on Travel Is Beautiful. Check out their blog to follow along on their amazing adventures through Facebook and Instagram!


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