Fat Biker

Fat Biker: A hill grows in Gilbert

In the flat land, a bike overpass is king. Gilbert Az just crowned it’s new “bridge” for bikes and people over the railroad tracks just west of “downtown.”

Summer sunset from the top of the new biking bridge.

The Boy and I waited months for it to open. Before, it was get off the bike, walk across the loose rock and lift your wheels over the railroad tracks. No official crossing. No lights, no motor cars… It fucking sucked.

Cross the freight line at your own risk — cross the switch and spur to the lumberyard too. God knows when a train is coming. We occasionally hear the horn in the middle of the night. I’ve seen a train or two on weekends lumbering down this track with a few cars. It’s the line to almost nowhere. It runs from Phoenix out to Queen Creek and passes through Gilbert. Local traffic only.

The real trains run through Tucson. Phoenix is just a five-stop, freight-only-line off the main tracks from LA to New Orleans. But that Phoenix line cuts diagonally through the suburbs in the East Valley. Blocking side streets and bike lanes. The big roads have smooth crossings at grade so you can fly over the tracks at 60 mph if the arms are up. The highways and freeways have bridges so you can look down doing 80 at the trains passing underneath.

One or two of the bike paths 5 miles apart have asphalt crossings of a few rail points with no guards. Just look and maybe go.

But this, this is a bridge just for bikes. Just the luck of being next to the town’s redevelopment to bring restaurants and bars to what used to be the train station. A bike path for the bloated and the drunk pedaling home in the dark.

Gilbert itself is 70 square miles of pancake. Ride from one end to the other and the elevation never changes more than 25 feet. The remnants of an ancient inland sea leaving behind a flat bed of sand. Almost any elevation change was man-made by the Hohokams and the natives who contoured and tilled that flat sand to bring water and life to the open desert before Christ was born.

Riding a bike around this place, you can’t wait for a hill. Any fucking hill. A chance to shift gears, stand up and change your balance. A chance to roll over the top and “fly down” tucked in like a ski jumper. Set your personal best.

No sooner had we discovered the bridge was open, than there was a segment on Strava and a “line” of would be champions competing to be the King of this measly little “segment.”

The Boy can climb and descend it in less than 30 seconds — it takes me 45 seconds to climb the 27 feet and cover the one-fifth of a mile that is now our “hill”. He’s in the top 5 to be King — I barely break the top 100.

We could do it faster if they had not “tiered” the hill. Every 20 feet is a flatter space. It’s designed to make walking up easier. It’s designed to slow the bikes down as they bump back down the hills and rock like the kiddie-25-cent plastic horse they used to put in front of grocery stores. It fucking sucks.

Tucson tried those tiers on some of its over and under-passes along the river path. Within a few years they ripped that flat shit out to smooth out the hills — better for everyone.

We will see how long these “tiers” last. The over/under is 3 years before some kid biffs it over the handlebars and the lawsuit brings the designers back to their senses.

In the meantime, the Boy will be trying to break 30 seconds and I’ll try to get under 40 — as we “climb” and “descend” the only hill in Gilbert, Arizona. Yeah, as hills go, it fucking sucks. But it’s better than walking your bike over the tracks.

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