100 Miles of Nowhere

Posted by on Jun 4, 2012 in Bike | 12 Comments

Riding a bicycle up a mountain is painful, but it never hurts.

When an email arrived from Fatty, inviting me along for his annual 100 Miles of Nowhere, I couldn’t think of a good reason not to ride. The proposed route was ridiculous: American Fork Canyon, over and over. And over. 11 miles, 2,900 vertical up, 11 miles 2,900 vertical down. In between the bottom and the top are switchbacks, steep leg-busters, and endless scenery. AF Canyon is one of the best road rides anywhere. And anyway, I had already done the climb 3 times in 3 days, so why not continue the streak?

So we climbed. And then descended. Eventually—8.5 hours later—the odometer ticked over 100. In all, we climbed (and descended) 13,600 feet. We rode AF Canyon 4 times. We mopped up the final miles with a couple of smaller descent/climb laps. Afterward, we ate burritos as big as children. The ride capped a rather big week for me: 19 hours, 250 miles, 28,600 vertical, and 9 trips to the top of American Fork Canyon.

100 Miles of Nowhere

If there is one word to sum up a ride like this, that word is absurd. Totally absurd. But its absurdity only exists on paper. The actual riding was anything but. The company was good, the conversation likewise, and the scenery, world-class. The climbing was tiring, but never tiresome. The only hiccups on the day were the various obscenities we heard from passing motorists who were inexplicably in a hurry while driving a canyon road that does not lead anywhere that justifies hurriedness. That is, if you find yourself impatiently speeding up a narrow mountain road, you are doing it wrong. When someone yelled “F— you, get off the road dumb a–!” I realized that maybe we were not the people acting absurd after all.

Alas, that’s cycling. Or rather, that’s cycling on a Saturday morning in a canyon that was overrun by Neanderthals with horsepower. However, not everyone was rude. Most of the motorists were courteous and encouraging.

Later, I wondered if riding up and down the same canyon was really all that different than any other ride we do. That is, bike riding itself can be rather absurd. But that’s also why it’s so enjoyable. More practical minded people (“Get off the road!”) see cycling as a meaningless endeavor for people who shave their legs and wear pink lycra. They treat it as a hinderance to their more important pursuits, and an activity reserved for those not tough-enough for motors and guns and obscenities. But while the roundabout nature of riding a bike vexes the impatient and agitated, it relaxes and enhances those who actually pedal their bikes. If there is such a thing as utopia, bicycles are a part of it. Dystopia, on the other hand, is a world of grease and oil and metal.

More people riding bicycles is never a bad thing. Everyone who recreates in American Fork Canyon (or any canyon) ought to pedal up the road at least once. Not (only) to experience the impatience of passing motorists, but rather, to truly experience the canyon itself. To hear the rush of the river, to fight the headwind (or enjoy the tailwind), and the gravity, and to appreciate its steepness, scope, and grandeur. Riding a bicycle slows us down. Pedaling forces us to listen and to see, and helps us to appreciate the absurd.

And maybe more absurdity is exactly what the world needs.

American Fork Canyon






  1. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJill)
    June 4, 2012

    I’ve ridden American Fork Canyon a few times before, and I have to say that Fatty is really stretching his definition of “nowhere” these days. But that does sound like an awesome road ride. Nice work.

    • Grizzly Adam
      June 4, 2012

      We discussed that on the ride. When does “nowhere” become somewhere? We determined that because we were repeating ourselves, that we were indeed going nowhere. It’s a stretch, certainly, but the rules are soft.

  2. Brandon Banks
    June 4, 2012

    A million thumbs up………………………

  3. TK
    June 4, 2012

    Fantastic writeup.

  4. Ryan Trimble
    June 4, 2012

    Love it! I recently discovered the magic at riding and hiking without music in my ears. I can soak up the sounds and scenery so much better. Your words made me think of what the beloved Edward Abbey wrote regarding the canyon sights of Arches:

    “Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe. Probably not.”

  5. JS
    June 4, 2012

    That’s a great ride and I cant’ say I’ve ridden it 3+ times at once, so props to you! The area we live in is incredibly beautiful and can be so inspiring looking out over summits after an intense climb. I wish that were a feeling I could share with someone who hasn’t experienced it before so they could understand why I love riding, but I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

    This is only an opinion, but phrases like:

    * Riding a bicycle up a mountain is painful, but it never hurts.
    * The climbing was tiring, but never tiresome

    seem like they are reaching too far for depth and meaning, so end up taking away from what you are trying to say. Regardless, thanks for sharing the experience and making me want to head up there again!

    • Grizzly Adam
      June 4, 2012

      I appreciate the feedback. In the case of the two sentences you quote, I actually meant them quite literally. To me, there is a significant difference between pain and hurt, and tiring and tiresome. And you are right! We live in a wonderful place to ride a bike.

  6. Fatty
    June 4, 2012

    That was a great ride, and riding it w/ you made it even better. Thanks for spending the day going nowhere with me!

    • Grizzly Adam
      June 4, 2012

      It really was fun. I loved the various topics of conversation we had: beer making, bike materials, WBR, food, local racing, and a bunch more that I can’t even remember. I do remember talking Kenny’s ear off after I drank a big Mountain Dew. That stuff is pure magical.

  7. jay
    June 5, 2012

    the link in this line: “…me along for his annual 100 Miles of Nowhere, I couldn’t think of a…” is not right, just fyi.

    I did 100 miles on a trainer one year. One year.

  8. Casey Flynn
    July 2, 2012

    It’s amazing how being on the road, in the air, on two wheels, can help clarify what is deemed absurd. Racing through our days in an insatiable rush, always busy and always late, always speeding and always tense… that is absurd.

    I think your ride sounds SOLID. The repetition makes me smile. And I wonder how each section of road changed as you passed it on another lap. I bet it really gave you time to soak up what was happening alongside the road and throughout the canyon.

    I wrote a piece about cycling through Glacier National Park before cars were permitted this past spring, and that gave me the opportunity to really take in the ride, the road and what was off it. If you’d like to read and share it:


    Thanks for a great write-up!

    • Grizzly Adam
      July 5, 2012

      Thanks Casey, nice write up!

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