– And so we find ourselves in Park City, UT. Our people, our inventory, all our things professional and personal are now surrounded by mountains I formerly only knew as Alpine. The Wasatch lords over everything here like an ocean — heavy, majestic, and eternal.
For the road-mad amongst us, Park City is a storied place. The Tour of Utah prologue is a hillclimb to the top of the ski jump hill at the Olympic Park. The Richie Rich hideaway Deer Valley has hosted Nationals umpteen times. And students of ancient history know that in 1991 Lance Armstrong acquired one of his first National Championship jerseys in a Park City satellite neighborhood called Glenwild.
While the road scene here is second to none, it’s nearly impossible to summon adequate words for the mountain biking. Park City’s lifeblood is skiing. As a consequence, for six months out of every year hundreds of miles of XC ski trails become the world’s greatest singletrack network. Bring me the most dyed-in-the-lycra roadie snobs and I guarantee that they will fall under its spell. In the last three weeks I’ve ridden more miles on a mountain bike than I’ve done over the last five years.
Flauhutes can’t flow is a mantra I’ve been trying to punch out of my brain. I’m braking less through the rock gardens and misreading the switchback berms less often and now only infrequently crash uphill at 5mph thanks to the strange magnetic force of off-camber singletrack.
Flahute, for those of you who aren’t members of the roadie tribe, means different things in different places. In Belgium it’s an all-purpose rider, someone beefy enough to withstand the pavé, but lean enough to power up the 15 percent bergs. The flahute is all about raw power, not nimbleness. In the US, especially amongst the Cat 3 ranks where roadie snobbery is at its greatest, the word is prized by crit riders too porky to climb and too lazy to put in the miles to overcome it. Sadly I know where I fall in the continuum between Belgian and American.
The late-season trailside growth further complicates my navigation of the singletrack. Is anything as exhausting as a two-hour ride where your depth of field never extends more than four feet ahead of you? Bike riding as eye exam. It’s a new world here.
Speaking of autumn, one other new thing here is the late-season pressure to ride. I moved from a place where October means hanging up the bike, watching football, and gleefully eating like a zoo animal in anticipation of starting base mileage at Thanksgiving. Clearly there’s a different itinerary in places with a real winter. The poetic theme of autumn as metaphor for death has its own meaning here. Park City buzzes about the looming weather and the imminent end of the riding season. I’m reminded of a phrase — ‘…the secret ministry of frost.’ The result is a near-frantic, April-like urgency to pile on miles before it’s too late. No doubt just another small lesson in my Utah education.
– Singletrack pleasuredome this place may be. But I’m nonetheless arming up for the spring road campaign. The build process is imminent. Record 11, don’t you think? Expect a detailed review soon.
– If the audience size of eBay isn’t what you’re looking for. If the pricing on Geartrade isn’t low enough. If your hunger for an all-new way to buy or sell a used bike then Park City’s own Bicycle Space Ship might be for you. Blessed are the entrepreneurs: for they shall see God. In the meantime, I’ll stick to what’s been my favorite Spaceship for years.
– We’ve finished building the greatest mostly-custom bike assembly facility in the world. We’ll run the dozen build bays and two boxing stations on two full time shifts giving us the ability to meticulously build and ship 60 custom bikes a day. Our goal is to mate scale with precision. So far, the plan has come together magnificently. The only downside, it seems, is the tall ceiling. While it creates a gorgeous flood of natural light, the acoustics are terrible. That’s much to the detriment of arguments about religion and music, which are the lifeblood of any bike shop whether it builds 100 or 10,000 bikes per year.