I’m sorry, HOW many vertical feet in HOW many miles? …

Henry W. Coe State Park. Photo: Bruce Dorman

Henry W. Coe State Park. Photo: Bruce Dorman

This was the first time I was riding with a new mountain biking buddy, and his usual route was WAY out of my usual element.

I climb to descend. I’m not so much the shuttling type, just for two simple facts:

  1. I like to earn my climb, because that means more beer and burritos at the end of the ride.
  2. If I don’t climb, I don’t feel warmed or on my game fully enough to descend, resulting in my eating of all of the WRONG type of things, like dirt and rocks and trees. (Ingesting these things may be low calorie but causes massive digestive problems and often external bleeding. Nobody wants that.)

And so, I was nervous but kind of stoked to try out this different death march.  

It turns out that the elevation gain we collected in 3.1 miles was basically the same amount of elevation that I had gotten the day before, on my 17.8 mile ride. In a word: OOF.  

I suffered, no doubt. I sweated, profusely. My legs cursed at me with words I didn’t even know existed. I had to walk once or twice – but NEXT time, I won’t. Or at least I intend to get further before I do. I chose the wrong line on a fire road, which is no small feat.  But eventually, we got to the top of the climb. The overlook was astoundingly clear and beautiful. Once I had time to catch my breath, I could also reflect upon how beautiful the climb up had been, too. (Mind you, when one’s brain is oxygen deprived, vision becomes “crisp” or bright, resulting in a euphoric awareness of surroundings. And then you pass out.)

Fortunately, I stayed in the euphoric zone and never passed out. That would’ve been embarrassing on a first ride with someone.


Everything about the ride was different from the rides I would usually choose to do. And it was great. Habits are powerful things, and sometimes it takes stepping away from one to even realize that it IS a habit. This latest adventure has me pretty stoked to keep putting my tires into unfamiliar dirt and growing my cycling consciousness, so to speak. It won’t always be comfortable – in fact, usually it won’t be. But the view is worth it (as long as you don’t pass out.)


​Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to ​keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singlet​rack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)