Without further Mountain Dew, the winner of the What's Your Mission? contest is none other than SAMANTHA SZCZUR of CHAPEL HILL NORTH CAROLINA! SAMANTHA SZCZAR, COME ON DOWN! Or wait a minute - we will contact you shortly to discuss your winnings and make arrangements for your mission to Las Vegas and Interbike. Samantha's winning entry can be seen right here.
Congratulations Samantha and thanks to everyone who entered and shared their missions with us. Deciding on one winner was no easy task since there were so many good entries, so I was very glad that the decision was made by a panel.
No matter what the reason is that you ride or what your favorite part of each ride is, we hope each of you will enjoy every ride you go on.
*A trip for two to sunny Las Vegas, entry to 2007's Interbike and the chance to ogle all the new cycling goodies slated to hit the shelves in 2008*
*A 2008 Mission 3, Diamondback’s versatile all-mountain machine. Nimble, efficient and stable, the Mission 3 features Shimano’s new Deore XT components, including the Shadow rear derailleur and high power disc brakes.*
*15 minutes of fame in a Diamondback ad that will appear in Dirt Rag featuring the winner on their new Mission 3.*
*Swag from Dirt Rag, Diamondback, Fox Racing Shox, Rockshox, Shimano and WTB. *
*A 2008 Mission 3, Diamondback’s versatile all-mountain machine. Nimble, efficient and stable, the Mission 3 features Shimano’s new Deore XT components, including the Shadow rear derailleur and high power disc brakes.*
*15 minutes of fame in a Diamondback ad that will appear in Dirt Rag featuring the winner on their new Mission 3.*
*Swag from Dirt Rag, Diamondback, Fox Racing Shox, Rockshox, Shimano and WTB. *
To enter, simply go to diamondback.com and click on the “What’s Your Mission?” button to submit your all-mountain inspiring description and photo.
You will also find the fine print there, too, but here’s some to get you started: No purchase necessary to enter or win. One entry per person. Void where prohibited by law. Contest submissions will be accepted from May 1 through August 1, 2007. Entrant must both author their description and take the photo submitted
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Favorite ride is out of commission, refer to photo. Biking is where it's at. If I'm not walking somewhere I'm biking but in need of a new ride u fortunately. Send help immediately so you can spin my wheels again!
Hi guys. I recently picked up a copy of Dirt Rag magazine and found the “What’s Your Mission” contest and thought to myself, as good as this old mule has been to me for so many years it might be time for a more modern stud horse (I think the new MISSION3 falls into that category) for the diverse mixture of wooded trails, county roads, bike paths, city streets, and citizen’s lawns that comprise my daily commute. Oh, and I almost forgot, one fast stretch of beautifully groomed highbrow country club downhill, with a devoted greens keeper with a BB gun. I’m not kiddin’ and he’s getting better with it. The assignment sounded pretty simple … describe your favorite trail or part of it. Well then, the theme would be all too obvious to anyone who’d ever bluffed their way through a term paper, “there’s no trail I would rather have ridden then the one I was riding 5 minutes ago.” While it might have earned a low, passing grade, it would have had all the originality and pizzazz of your uncle Bob’s Ford Taurus. I think the truth is everybody has found that one trail whose only explanation for existence is: it was gifted to mankind on the eight day by God himself. Each ride was so personally gratifying; nobody else could have possibly ever been there before. Because then I’d no longer be the only one here, and it would be so packed full of yuppie scum, and then we’d have to name it Yellowstone. If somebody actually printed such a copout, the first reader would say “Ya deud! I know that trail! This guy would load his shorts on the trails that head out of my side of town.” This only means that each rider’s fun meter is equally important as the next’s. From the sponsored-gladiator types to the guy who lost his drivers license and quickly discovers that for years he has forgotten something truly great. Trail Mission? – well those days when we would all motor travel to a sweet location to ride for recreation are likely gone forever, as most of my old buddies (at this very moment) being harshly reprimanded for something stupid. I commute under my own power because I can. I quit my truck driving job to do something less environmentally obtrusive. One year later I have lost 90 pounds, and I feel dirty when I have to start my pickup (13 miles per gallon)! My favorite trail is not so much a defined trail; so much as it is a variable route and an eventual destination. Geography dictates that I will climb 2 hills on any day that I go to and return from town. I guess I try to think of them as 2 very tall friends, with a forgiving loyalty like the world has never seen. Each night I mistreat and abuse them, only stopping for a moment to demoralize a sweet old ladies flower garden. Then I get right back to the relentless pounding and merciless belittling of my 2 friends. Sometimes when they think I’m through with them, I turn around and beat on the bigger one some more, just for good measure. When I have satisfactorily bolstered my own self esteem (at the expense of my 2 pals) I ditch’em outta sight, gone! Faster than a scalded crackhead. Yet each day I see them outside, just waiting for me to spend time with them. Don’t believe that load of crap about good friends being hard to find – they’re everywhere! And that golden rule garbage, I say pound on your friends today for a healthier tomorrow. Thanks, M. D. Jackson
I have written this 5 times and always come away wanting. Wanting for prose, wanting for emotion, wanting for talent. You see, I enjoy ambiguity to an extent however in this case I find it distracting. I have worked in the bike business for 19 consecutive seasons and never “made the show” I was always the best tech/salesperson/manager and therefore could not be sent. With so much on the line, I would cheerfully ride over a corduroy road paved with the limbs of your entire readership for this chance to get to the big show in Vegas, but I digress. I have in many cases written with passion about my mission, as have many of my fellow DirtRaggers. The challenge to write about it for fun and prizes seems still quite unwieldy but interesting, like broad swords or classic Cadillacs. I will say this about passion when I was six years old I laid on the couch watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and for the first time witness through the camera the drama of the Wolves chasing Caribou. I was enthralled with the caribou herds evasion, their bobbing and weaving, their speed, their grace. Minutes ticked past in slow motion as the race for life and survival was played out for us in Technicolor. In the end however the wolf leaps, the caribou falls. I was on my feet cheering and as I turned around to share the moment with my family they all stared in horror. I knew then I was different. Very different. I envied the wolfs autonomy, ability, instinct and aggression as a way of life. The simplicity of their waxing a waning ballet was romantic and pragmatic all at once. When I rode my first mountain bike, I knew how that wolf felt. The speed, cunning, all terrain, everyone I shared the roads with was my next victim and if they left the road I was undaunted. I was free. Free to hunt without reservation, hesitation or explanation. The one trail that keeps me coming back is Coppermine in Fundy National Park, Alma, Canada. This trail is the first single track I even rode way back in 1981. I’ve been returning ever since as the inaugural ride off road for every Mtn bike I’ve owned since then. The trail is intermediate to advanced, depending on your dabs. (A dab is touching a foot or hand for balance or safety as per my trials days) There are always walking sections since the trail can be delicate based on the time of the year. This trail was closed to cycling in the mid nineties due to poor judgment of riders by following the ridiculous notion that ridding through the middle of wet spots is fine. We ALWAYS dismount and walk all wet sections as this prevents rutting and leaves no trace of the riders whatsoever. The Fundy motto is “If anyone can tell you rode this trail you need to work on your technique.” Wheel draggers and mashers need not apply. I have brought hundreds of people to Fundy over the years and each one of them remarked how quiet, beautiful and challenging the riding is. In Fundy, one is either climbing or descending due to its amazingly tight topography. If your idea of riding is spinning the big ring, ever, this is not your spot. We only use our big rings to keep the chain noise down and to set up on the fire roads for 40 – 45 mph runs back down to the cars. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I will leave you with two (Coppermine Then & Coppermine Now) and this thought. Mountain biking is riding up and down with skill, grace and guile. If these describe you maybe you should come ride in Fundy!
Last year while riding at Devil’s Backbone in Loveland, CO, after a tough section of technical single-track, a Zebra appeared on the east side of the trail, just fifteen feet from me and my bike. I had been floating that day, present in every sense, the rocky single-track disappearing under my wheels. Confused by the anomaly, endorphins pulsing, I laid my bike in the middle of the trail and tried to get closer to the animal. With each step forward the Zebra moved cautiously away, always keeping an eye on me. I followed it into a small valley and up the other side, losing sight as it bounded over the crest of a hill. I walked slowly back to the trail and continued the ride, but couldn’t shake the vision. Something magical happened. The euphoria producing, technical single-track elixir of riding magically peaked that day. Other days are different. I struggle to find the line; the zone sits just out of reach. Last week, in the middle of the day, two small yellow-bellied birds with black wings burst into the air ahead of me. I was powering through waist high grass that reached into the trail, grabbed at my legs. Tiny butterflies darted in and out of my peripheral vision, performing some sacred dance, and I swung the bike side to side, avoiding the beetles crossing my path. Karma. Sweat stung my eyes with every pedal stroke. Deeper into a trance I fell, my bike and I becoming one, jumping lightly over rocks, floating. After jumping a boulder and landing on the edge of the grass, I heard the tail of a rattlesnake shake. Every uphill has a downhill; it’s expected, and always delivers. Mountain biking can be relied upon. Two days ago I ran over a rattlesnake. Didn’t hurt it, just went right over it. Lately they’re everywhere. You get to meet nice people out there too. Yesterday my partner and I got lazy and decided to forgo driving 30-minutes to Young’s Gulch in the Poudre River canyon, a climb that snakes up a gulch with numerous technical river crossings, exciting stuff. Instead we stayed in town and did the Shoreline trail at Horsetooth Reservoir. We were an hour into the ride, a ways away from people, when a female jogger with her Yellow Lab approached us. She quietly flagged us down as if she didn’t want to bother us, asking if we thought getting bitten by a rattlesnake was bad. We asked her to hand over the dog and I got to stay with her while John busted ass to the road to get help. She ended up getting a very expensive helicopter ride, but got to live. They even put our picture on the front page of the local paper. A little divine providence, and proof that mountain biking even saves lives. Mountain biking is a communion with the creator, the closest I get to a house of worship. If I had to list what really gets me going, I’d list everything. Smooth and fast descents down fire roads, twisty single-track, technical rock gardens, long climbs. I’m an all-around kind of biker. I do understand downhill. I mean I love going down, but I like to earn it, and I’m too old for that 50-foot drop shit. In fact I owe my life to mountain biking. Back in ’94 I was pretty heavy into drugs and kind of switched to biking at some point. I tried combining the two but it didn’t work. Devil’s Backbone is still a favorite ride. I took a friend the other day that didn’t like the large number of rocks, and for a minute I couldn’t understand, but everyone’s got their thing. The Zebra however hasn’t made an appearance this summer. I won’t stop searching though.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
My favorite trail is about thirty pedal strokes from my front door. That’s thirty pedal strokes with a 32-tooth chainring in the front, whatever cog in the back, and moderately strong legs. I include that bit because if you’re reading this, I assume you care. But I digress. Some things you expect and others you don’t. Begin pedaling and anticipate busted lungs and scorching legs. The embodied suffering is part of the allure of course. Cyclists tend toward masochism but play it off as obsessive or better yet, “fitness.” What’s more interesting, at least for me on my ride is the not so expected. Like the clashing sensation of having a roof over your head while outdoors. Or the feelings of utter vulnerability and total empowerment. And as the pain begins to surge and the leaves on the trees blur, that’s when the trail starts to talk. “So it’s you again. How’s your back?” “Terrible, as usual.” “You need a new stem.” “Ummm.” Trail thinks it knows everything. Hasn’t it ever heard of teeth-gritting tenacity? “Haven’t you ever heard of proper bit fit? “Ummm.” Back around to the loopy part that flattens out. One of the very few places rocks and roots have ignored. I love the ferns that grow here. They’re so green. Just, GREEN. Speaking of ferns, “Where the Red Fern Grows” is a great book. “Yeah, I love that book.” “It’s kind of heartbreaking.” “I know, can you believe they call that a ‘kids book?’” “Ridiculous.” After churning through fernland, the trail spits you out onto the fireroad. What a nice time to catch your breath. But not for long because you’re headed out to the section back by the lake. I hate that off camber techy climb with the funky root at the top. Unless I clean it, then I love it of course. That lake is pretty gross. Who built that? And why? It’s a nice place to rest and get some water though. And that’s what I do. The weathered remains of a case of beer suggest that I’m not the only one who stops here for drinks. My heart slows as I look at the still lake. The water in my mouth is delicious. The water in the lake looks disgusting. The juxtaposition, even more than the water, is refreshing. Sigh. “My cat almost died a little bit back. It makes me sad to think about.” “Oh,” answers the trail and then sends the mosquitoes out. They only get you when you’re stopped, never when you’re moving. And you only think about dying cats when you’re stopped, never when you’re moving. It’s a good friend that doesn’t let you think about those things too much; a friend that toes the line but knows the difference between “enough” and “too much.” “Stupid mosquitoes!” “Better get going then.” It’s not so much the expected as it is the unexpected. I expect the lake, I expect the sensations in my body, I even expect certain thoughts. But the unforeseen is what really makes it interesting. Even though you anticipate the bends and swoops and momentum of the ride, it’s never the same trail twice. You know the mechanics of how you move over this or that obstacle . . . until the obstacle has changed, or there’s a new one, or the old one is gone. This reminds me of a book I read a couple months ago . . . THWACK! BAM! “Don’t be so pretentious!” “What was that?!?” “It was the meeting of your handlebar and that tree!” “What?!?” “You know better than to think about French philosophy when you ride. There’s more to life than poststructuralism.” Ahh . . . the startling reminder that sometimes you’re better off with dirt between your ears. Pick up the bike. Brush the tree bark out of the wound and mount up. Shake it off. Get a sip of water. At least it wasn’t an endo. “Jeez, guess I’ll just think about dreams then.” “Dreams are fine, but no Freud.” “Fine. Deal.” But seriously, there’s a bike shop that exists in some dusty part of my mind. I only go there in my dreams. It’s always a pleasant experience going to the bike shop. There’s no infectious egos or any other such posturing, not to mention the rotating selection of sick bikes. One time I went there with my parents and they left with a pair of BMXs. Imagine that, Bob and Sherry on a pump track. Or better yet, some trails. “Why’s that so weird?” “It’s not, really. It’s just, you know, my parents. It’s like thinking about them, you know. All that pleasure. Ugh.” As if pleasure’s a bad thing, right? Why is it that we have such a hard time allowing ourselves to feel good? There’s lots going on with pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. What is riding your bike through the woods? Pleasure? Pain? Both? Neither? It depends? Oh relativism, sometimes you’re a savior. All this flip-flopping makes me tired. Out of the woods then. Turn the crank until I’m propelled from the woods. I’m sweaty, a little hurt, satisfied, exhausted . . . happy. But wait, I’m forgetting something. I have my water bottle and my bike satchel. There’s nothing else I could be missing. Oh yeah, except for thinking about my mission. I’m missing my mission! Yikes! Guess I’ll just have to write about today then. My mission is as varied as my moods. And I am a VERY moody person. It is sometimes to be versatile, nimble, efficient and stable. Other times it is to be limited, gawky, futile and rickety. My mission is to punish myself for the pints of last night or to reward myself for abstaining. Or to figure out what was going on that time I ran over a snake and couldn’t decipher if I wanted to cry or throw up, but ended up doing neither. I ride to think and not to think. Or maybe to think about not thinking. I ride to remember who I am, or rather, who I’d like to be. Or maybe more importantly, who I wouldn’t. Sometimes I ride to be the fastest in the group. And others, so I can fit into my fall jeans after a summer of eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer. I ride to forget dying cats and remember my parents that live far away. To remember my dreams both literal and figurative, restoring faith that the latter could come true. I ride for the most violent of falls and the most graceful of movements. My mission is to understand paradox—both from within and without. My mission is to meet trails personified. And talk to them. And listen.
Today, life in America is a snooze for anyone who can afford it to be : computer servers retrieve and deliver information straight to our eyes, and cars takes us across roads reaching from the Pacific to the Atlantic. A man's pulse only has to beat hard enough to get blood to his head and finger tips to make a living these days. Before I could drive, turn on a computer, or ride a skateboard, there was one machine that gave back all the heart I put in - and that was the bicycle. At first I had trouble peddling fast enough to maintain balance, these days my gears don't crank low enough (On the flats and downhill at least, uphill can be just the opposite). Gas prices are high for a reason, most people aren't willing to exercise their bodies for motion. They may only look forward to the destination, unaware of the journey waiting to be had within the bike lanes of the streets they travel. Driving a car completely lacks the stimulation, sense of speed and sense of accomplishment from conquering a hill, only to fly down the other side five times faster than the ride up it. If I rode a Harley I might appear tough, when I ride my dad's old Apex (released before shocks became popular) I know I'm tough. The only ass I'm kicking is my own, peddling up long narrow trails, half-standing on the downhills, using all the muscle and weight I got just to keep up with the turns of the trail. My favorite ride is to a hill called Lizard Rock, named after the rocks at the top shaped like the head of a lizard (not to mention all the lizards inhabiting the area). This hill is in the protected open space of Thousand Oaks, CA, in a multi-acre nature park called Wildwood. Whenever I'm feeling low, all I have to do is take out the Apex, pedal for a mile and a half and I'm at the entrance. It really is like a roller coaster, the first part of the trail sets the mood for intense uphill riding. As I slowly defy gravity, I am reminded the journey to the top of lizard rock isn't going to be handed to me. Real focus comes into play, the second I loose it or think that I own it is when it goes away. I maintain my pace and reach the first peak, it sends me off down a rock-path hill. There is usually foot traffic on this opening, I use as little braking as possible. I need all the speed I can get, but never at the cost of a collision. There is a series of down and up hill straights, overall it is bringing me higher and higher after each extended mogul. I come to a fork in the road, I can go straight to Lizard Rock or I can pass through Paradise Falls. Lizard Rock is a dedicated uphill ride, while Paradise Falls is insanely pleasurable downhill which leads me to the very bottom of Lizard Rock. If it is before sunset, I take the Paradise Falls path. After I turn on the path I am sent down a hill, if I keep up my momentum the following hill requires no gearshift! This is where constant peddling really begins to pay off. The trail leads to an Indian TP, I choose the path on the right which is the trail from picture one. It's a windy gravel trail, it feels like riding an accelerating dirt bike going down, braking is definately necessary, but the less used the more fun! Thankfully my dad's apex is equipped with Shimano brakes, which I have trusted my life with many times. I wouldn't ride this with anything less, knowing that the end is a sudden stop with larger loose rocks on the trail. I continue down the path up a less defined trail for about a quarter of a mile, and this is where picture two begins. It is a slow, demanding ride up on top gear, a true test of strength and will power. My mind can't wonder around, I must affirm my intention to peddle all the way up, otherwise I find myself walking my bike. That's not how I want to reach the top, but I have turned to it before. As I become a stronger rider, I ride more and more of the path. After each stretch, I must rest to regain strength. It becomes more difficult to start each time, I try standing to peddle but my back wheel spins out. I know now the right way to do it is to ride it all the way through, it is possible. By the time I reach the top, I am far enough from the world to be anyone. After such a ride, I am not so anxious about the opinions of others, truer confidence in myself has been earned, if only for a few hours. I sometimes stand at the top of the rock and yell in celebration, there's not a single human in sight to hear me! I feel great usually, my stomach is fit and mostly vacant, having burned any food I brought with me. After this awesome feeling of accomplishment, the only thing left to do is ride down Lizard Rock. Riding down Lizard Rock is the whole reason I ride up it! On the paradise Falls ride, the momentum can't be transfered past those large rocks, down Lizard Rock there are no obstacles! After a couple sharp turns, I let go of the brake and trust the path. I zoom past coyotes on an awesome downhill adventure. All of the energy put forth on the way up is given back to me. With peddling, gravity sends me on a fast paced two mile ride back to the entrance of Wildwood park. I swear, the bicycle is the greatest invention of man. All it takes is man! Until I discover a more awesome trail, Lizard Rock has to be my favorite. After writing about my experience on it, a new bike isn't nearly as important to me. I can relive Lizard Rock any day of my life on a trusty, proven Diamond Back. The Mission 3 must to be a joy to ride, it has twenty more years of engineering technology and all the features I would look for in a bike today, including rear suspension and disc brakes. But when it comes down to it, the Apex has been doing the same job for years. If I did win the Mission 3, the first thing I'd do is go riding with my dad. He'd be better off riding bikes again than paying personal trainers. Trouble is, his friend who he used to ride with overdosed two years ago. I say its time to get back on the bike, I'll tell him about the Mission 3.
Monday, July 30, 2007
In a single ride I can experience exhaustion, exhilaration, rejuvenation, fear, and amazement. No matter how many lumps the trail leaves me with, I always return feeling renewed. There are few pursuits which provide the same versatility and none which provide it with such vigor. I do it because I love it. I love those moments of seclusion when all that can be heard are the gentle mechanical sounds of the drivetrain mingled with the sound of my tires gliding along the trail. I love the synergy I feel when my breathing seems to compliment the rustling of the wind in the trees. I love it when I’ve been grinding out an ascent and my helmet shifts just enough to send a torrent of sweat off the visor. When I reach the point of sheer exhaustion and step off the bike, I love the feeling that my legs are made of Jell-O; That moment of serenity, fueled by endorphins, when I collapse in the bushes and a wave of relaxation floods over me. When I get back on the bike, the pedaling is so effortless that I feel like nothing could stop me. I thoroughly enjoy this feeling even though I know that within moments I will be abruptly reminded of reality. I love it when I’m grinding up around the corner of a steep switchback and the front tire starts to float just above the trail, but somehow finds it’s way to just the right spot when it comes back down. It puts a smile on my face when I round the corner of an unfamiliar trail and find that I am going just the right speed and in just the perfect gear to provide a burst of speed which seems to defy several physical laws. I love it when I’m taking a corner hard around a tree and I can hear and feel the tires slide, when my sleeve just touches the tree and I know that there is no way that corner could have been taken any faster without crashing. The sense of accomplishment is unmatched when I’m in good enough shape that I can climb up a physically demanding section of trail and still have enough in reserve to bomb down the next technical section without even slowing down. I love that section of trail where there’s no turning back once I’ve committed; Where it is steep enough, and technical enough, that it would be impossible to stop without crashing; Where anything less than absolute attention to the trail would have disastrous consequences. It is exhilarating to be in that moment when I am not focusing on any one thing, but take in absolutely everything that is immediately pertinent to maintaining some semblance of control; To feel myself reacting, effortlessly and precisely, to feedback from the bike and the trail without even thinking about it. I love how alive I feel when I’ve pushed my limits; In that instant, like when you lean just a fraction of an inch too far over the edge of the roof, my stomach drops and my face flushes. In that moment I am reintroduced to that line; The line that begs me to come right up to it, maybe even lean over, but never fails to punish me, sometimes harshly, when I trespass on the other side.
He was near the source. This tattooed stranger. His road-hardened face told the story of sunsets and breakdowns. Underpass rainstorms. Bombing through the desert late at night to avoid the sun. He worked on his bike, a big hardtail chopper. Suicide shifter. Not made by a TV personality, and he wasn’t a CPA or a surgeon. He built it himself. It was immaculate. He was not. “What’s your mission?” He asked handing me the heavy air cleaner cover that reflected a distorted world. The sun, his face, mine, all in a brilliant chrome flash. I was a 10 years old kid, fresh from the suburbs on a national parks tour with my parents. He saw a person, not a little kid. It was a vote of confidence. That question got its barbs me. I am 45 now, with two kids. It has been a long time since a mission has ripped me from the cocoon of day to day living. My Mission: Canada to Mexico by mountain bike through the mountains of the Great Divide in the summer of ‘08. Self supported. Thirty days is the allotted time. Thirty days is what came flying out of my mouth. That is what I told my wife it would take, when she came down to find me with Great Divide maps covering in the dining room table. It was 3 am. “You’re serious about this aren’t you?” Now I wonder at the foolishness of it, averaging 80 miles a day for 2,500 miles, off road, in the mountains, loaded with enough stuff to survive. No days off. Total immersion. A total of 200,000 feet of elevation gain. That’s five times the elevation of Mt. Everest. This former racer is biting off a lot to chew. Cool Hand Luke eating fifty eggs come to mind. Friends whisper, “midlife crisis”. The idea of one lunar cycle dedicated to something other than going to the office, continuing education, or rehab. It is just not done. I think this trip beats a red convertible in the driveway. It’s a simple plan. It has my eyes open. My rides are different now. Each ride this summer is puzzle piece of the ‘08 mission. I am looking for a moment. One Zen buzz. That moment is somewhere, out there on the trail, between Canada and Mexico, buried in those thirty days. This trip will be a new fulcrum for my life. When I am done, I will tell the story. Words on paper. A story for publication. An Article , maybe a book. Get some other middle-aged guy to grit his teeth, throw the remote out the window, and pull his dusty bike out of the garage. June of ’08 will find me on a trail that spans our country through some of its most remote areas. Paper directions tell the way. Maps. But the soul of those places remain secret. Maps don’t show the shape of my shadow on the ground as I climb the day’s last slope in the low light, looking for a place to hide out till dawn. Fresh bear shit in the trail. Grizzly country. Maps don’t tell of night and its unclear borders. Noises outside the tent in the dark, how morning, and he promise of camp coffee, is far away. The flashlight beam shows the trail as a wiggly colored line. Mexico is many miles away. The path is full of things I can’t hope to find on the map. Things about this land. Things about me I don’t know yet.
I just got home from Sun Valley Idaho tonight, after a weeklong family vacation. My friend Chris has lived there for 15 years now and I usually see him twice a year, in the spring for one day of skiing and in the summer for one day of riding. Now Chris and I have been riding together since the late 1980's and we had a few memories between us. Riding with Chris was only part of what makes this my favorite ride. He is sort of a side story, the real story being my six year old son Clayton learning to ride. What has turned out to be one of my favorite and most memorable rides is Adam's Gulch/Fox Creek in Sun Valley. Chris came by for our annual ride last Thursday at 4:00 after he got off work. He decided to do Adams Gulch with the possibility of adding the Fox Creek loop if we have time. So he picks me up and we start to do the usual recall of rides and bike past and for some reason today was just super cool. We started to remember my old Bridgestone MB5 with Exage shifters and Bio-Pace chain rings, his old off the floor KMart special and the way we rode those into the ground. And we moved onto the better bikes like my MB2 and his Trek 880(?) with the hot pink letters on the black paint and how we used to do these epic rides out in the boonies and how that one time we came accross this guy fishing for this legendary diamond ring in this pond by the side of the road, and how on the descent my front wheel (Ritchey Vantage) lost spoke tension and how our friend Dan (who raced against Greg Lemond as a junior) tensioned and trued the wheel on the trail and how I never had to touch that wheel again, and how from there we took that wheel building class at Wright Brothers here in Seattle and built up the bomber Araya RM 20'S with the XT hubs that lasted forever and how I still have those hubs. He talked about how hard it was to destroy those old Bontrager cut down rims. I talked about building my Bontrager into a SS and how fun it is to ride and how he is going to do the same thing with his, but that this old Race blade fork he has is about 1 inch too short in the steerer. So we get to the parking lot and its really relaxed. I guess I forgot to mention that Chris has alwas been strong as a rider and has towed me around on many occasion, and I have been known to complain without knowing it so I really just wanted to focus on just riding and keeping my mouth shut. After all, the trails there are pretty damn sweet, so other than never being as fit as I want to be, there is nothing to bitch about, In fact it had rained all day, stopped ay 3:30, the sun was out and the temp was perfect, and the trails were buffed with no dust. The Ride. It was epic. The trails were in great shape and the recent rain made most of the ride super sticky and all of the climbs rideable. I remember doing this ride about 10 years ago and suffering miserably but for some reason this time, the legs and lungs were there. The last little grind up Fox Creek was definately tough on my sea level conditioned lungs but I just suffered through it. The downhills were soulful and smooth, like riding a rail. A ride to remember. (the pics from the ride are on a disposeable camera that I have yet to develop so I didn't include them) Post Ride. This is where it gets better for me because my 6 year old son gets into the act. Chris gives me a ride back to the condo. We have a beer and my boys (ages 3 and 6) are milling about and showing off on their scooters, bikes and whatever else is handy. Chris is talking to my In-Laws since they knew his parents when they were kids. But you see, my 6 year old just had me remove his training wheels on his sixth birthday, July 11th. So he is still sort of "scootering" around on his bike but not pedaling. So Chris leaves, and I am still basking in the glow of a really cool ride and as I am telling my Father in Law about it, I look up and my son is pedaling his bike onto the grass. The look on his face was indescribeable. My son looked right at me and all I could see in his eyes were pure joy and alot of pride, Somehow, Grandma has convinced him that if he falls on the grass, it wont hurt. Now please keep in mind I have been trying to get him to do this off and on for about two years. He rides up, stomps on the brakes and says "Dad was right!". I assume it's because it was not as hard in reality, compared to what he was thinking in his mind. So now it's look out, full speed ahead. He is riding around the driveway, on the street, over the gravel shoulder, and wherever his wheels will take him. His face continues to beam for the rest of the night and we could hardly convince him to come inside. This continues through Friday and Saturday with the highlite for me being Sunday. You see, I could have gone on another big ride on Sunday but Clayton says he wants to go on a mountain bike ride WITH ME! I am far from dissapointed. I have been waiting for this day for six years. The only place I can think on is Fox Creek since I was just there and I really dont know too many other flat sections of trail. I park near Hulen Meadows, which is at the foot of the hills and has the trail access to the ride. This is a ride of many firsts, first time on the road together (to access the trails) first time on dirt together, first single track. So we head up the hill on the road into Hulen Meadows and as we crest the top he says, "Dad, it makes my legs hurt", but he is a trooper, and as I drag him around looking for the trail he chatters on about how this is the best ride ever and how when he grows up he is going to have a house here and take his friends riding. He filled his dad with pride and I hadn't even found the trail yet. So after about a half hour of riding around the neighborhood on the road, I finally find the trail. As we enter, he is a little nervous and does not want me to get too far ahead in case "something happens". Pretty soon he is ahead of me and I am trying to dig the digital out of my pocket, and I accidentally take a video and swear into the camera as I figure out the settings. In the mean time he is churning along on his ride, apprehensive at times, confident later when he figures out how it all works. I let him tell me when to turn around and after about 10 minutes he decides he wants to go on a side trail to the Big Wood River. This is where the single track comes in. So he walks down a steeper section, hops on and grinds through some sand as we make our way to the river. I am stingy with my comments, trying not to coach but to encourage and give him confidence. We come to a bridge, he looses his balance and falls into the angle iron rail. I see him wince, but he instantly proclaims "I'm Okay" and pushes his bike the rest of the way over the bridge. We turn around and it is time to wrap up our journey as there are other errands to run this afternoon. He makes his way back, never complaining at any step. As we get back on the road to the car he proclaims it the "Best ride with you ever!" We hit the short down hill and his confidence is flowing out of him. He is singing as he rides, a nothing tune, just sounds of joy. We conclude and I take a few more pictures of him with his bike. He tells me he wants to do the kids race at the Labor Day Cyclocross race. His confidence in all of his activities has increased the last few days The pictures I really want to include are also of him on the disposable as it was the closest camera at hand when he made his first pedal strokes three nights before. I was trying to use it up but now realize how lucky I was to have it in my pocket. I will get it developed tomorrow, but I wanted to get this submitted tonight while it was still in my head after a 10 hour drive. I should have stated the obvious in the beginning: I am a very poor writer. There are so many more aspects that I want to include but I would be here all night. I apologize now for any typos or grammatical errors. I will not apologize for being a proud father. I hope that if only one person reads this' that I was able to convey the pure joy and freedom that my son felt in learning to ride his bike if by way of an indirect story. All of the great cycling joys I have had over the years, I could see in his face in that brief second on his first pedal stroke. I heve been trying to educate him about what cycling is but I knew it would have to be on his terms. I now know to stand back because there are many more journeys and explorations ahead for him on this two wheeled steed. I cant wait to watch it happen. Go Clayton go.
Cruised Iraq on my Diamondback No better way to get fit in the fight for freedom than biking. In today’s military we have to be fit to do what is expected of us. I feel that biking is one of the best ways to get a good work out and have fun. I’ve rode several bikes in many different places. I have taken many different types of trails and I have enjoyed every moment of it. I bought my diamondback in Balad, Iraq. I needed something to keep up with my exercise program. I have ridden the trails and mountains in Korea where I logged over 4,000 miles in 11 months. I have traveled the mountains of New Mexico and Georgia. I have to say that my diamondback has seen more miles in the 3 months than any other bike I have owned. There are not many trails here. We have to be careful where we go and how long we are out. I feel so much better after riding my bike. I know that I am getting a good workout. I have ridden my bike over 550 miles and my goal is to ride over 2000 miles before heading home. I can only imagine how many more miles I can put in and enjoy the exercise at the same time. I have enjoyed riding the Diamondback Response. I have planned an excursion with my son to hit some of the trails in NC, VA, and GA. What a souvenir for my son to receive and enjoy ripping up the trails with, a Diamondback Bicycle straight out of Iraq. Being able to enjoy what you are doing for a workout is one thing but to be able to share that type of fun with your son is something else. Being fit to fight is very important, not only does it benefit me but it also has lasting effects on people around you. I want to be in the best shape possible and riding my diamondback bike will help me succeed.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
What turns my crank? Riding in El Tour de Tucson with sudents who have never ridden a bike more than two miles. I am a teacher at a high school in Tucson. I, along with another teacher, are sposors of the Road Warriors. For the last 7-8 years we have been training students to ride from 35 to up to 109 miles in this annual ride. We have aquired donated bicycles from the local bike club, the neighborhood bike shop and unclaimed bicycles from the fire and police departments. Just about all the students who join the club ride a loaner club bike. Through tax-credit monies we have purchased clothing, equipment, made repairs on the not-so-new bikes and purchased jerseys so that the kids look like a team. We train on Sunday mornings for the 8 weeks before the ride. The sudents learn to ride in a group, learn to ride safely and learn to fix any repairs needed when they are on the road. To answer what turns my crank? It is not my personally riding in El Tour de Tucson. I have ridden it in about 12 times. It is riding in the race with students riding in it for the first time. I get excited watching them ride. I have to smile when they get excited the day before the race and can't stop talking about the ride. It is so endearing to hear that they have butterfilies in their stomaches, that they are nervous before the race. What a grand feeling when they have finished the race and they are jubilant that they finished, that they are part of an experience that they never would have participated in if Pueblo High School didn't have a bike club. They display such pride and joy when they wear their medals (everyone who rides in El Tour gets one) to school the following Monday. I enjoy riding my bike. I enjoy riding in El Tour de Tucson. But I especially love to ride with my students; they are the reason I ride every year. (In the attached picture, I am the last one on the right. The picture was taken at the beginning of the race.)
In Northern Vermont we have a trails that will scare you, trails that will wear you out, and trails that beat up your bike. But one trail here claims a special identity – everyone loves it. Her name is Flo. Flo is located in old hillside farmland abandoned decades ago. The farmers worked hard to clear the land and remove the rocks. The trees have returned but now the woods floor is smooth and fun to ride. Flo runs for miles. For novice riding friends who ask if I’ll show them what mountain bike riding is about, Flo fits the bill. The trail rolls and winds through forest, overgrown meadows, and even along a woodland pond. Stop anywhere for a rest and enjoy the woods. It is beautiful. The smooth riding is interrupted with some short technical sections, a couple mud holes, and a leg-burning climb. Those sections are challenging enough to make the novices walk and decide they need to come again and practice for the day they can ride everything. Unlike more difficult trails that wind up scaring them away from mountain biking forever, Flo works her magic on them and they come back for more. For the expert rider Flo is equally challenging and addictive. Forget the granny gear and start building speed on this narrow singletrack and everything changes. The trees are much too close and there is no room for error. In some spots there are fractions of inches between the end of your handlebar and the tree trunks. Are you going to slow down and walk like a novice? The answers lie in the scars on the tree trunks and riders. Sweeping between the trees the trail zigs, zags, has sharp 90 degree and 180 degree turns with drops and climbs that keep you out of your seat and up on the pedals. Straight-aways are few and far between. You ride with your fingers always on the brake levers while accelerating, braking, turning, climbing, or brushing shoulders with tree trunks. It is an exhausting work-out that punishes errors painfully and you can’t wait to do it again. From the new rider to the expert, everyone loves Flo. You see her mission accomplished at the trailhead. Everyone is smiling and making plans for their next ride. Flo reminds us that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been riding or the gear you ride on… we are all out here to have fun.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Careening around sandy banked corners, hopping over fallen logs, balancing across narrow wood planks above rocky creeks, splattering mud, and gliding through long rollercoasters of pine needle trail, I'm concentrating intently at every moment of riding through Big River. A maze of tight single-track trials wind through over 8000 acres of forest, wetlands and sand dunes: getting lost here is a popular excuse for being late to the bike shop where I work. This sea level New England deciduous forest is so different than the western Cascade landscape I grew up in—where rocky precipices towered over evergreen woods; still, biking through here I am transported to a childlike feeling of endless possibility. I could play in these woods all day, undefeated by exhaustion and unaware of obligation. Today the weight of summer humidity and heat has lifted. The low angle of the sun filtering through the trees, the specific birdsongs in their branches, and the smell of dry foliage in the air foreshadow autumn’s imminent arrival. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. The cool nights and windy days carry excitement. Watching my friends, Mike and Lynn, flying off the tops of whoop-dee-doos, I remember at 7 years old building jumps in the yard out of cinder blocks and scrap-wood from the barn, and competing with my little brother for bravery points. I see the same gleeful enthusiasm in my friends' riding today. Approaching a steep rocky descent I tense up, “I can’t!" then focus and relax, "I will. I’m doing it. I did it!” My forward momentum carries me past self-doubt. It thrills me to see my skills improve every time I ride in the woods—I take a rough downhill more quickly, hop a log more confidently, carry more momentum through a technical climb. Trusting my bike, I learn to do things I didn’t know I could. It puts a big goofy grin on my sweaty muddy face.
Friday, July 27, 2007
My favorite ride was in the philippines in the northern part of luzon island. My friend and I spent 9 days riding through the mountains. We spent all day riding muddy roads with great scenery. We passed by rice terraces that were created thousand of years ago. The climbs and descents never ended we even cycled as high as 2000m a.s.l. Often times the road would be intersected by river crossings or waterfalls. In the evening we would stay in guest houses or in the houses of the locals. The food included pork or dog meat tons of rice and all this washed down with beer or gin. This ride was the ultimate test of bike component quality my bike barely survived. I litterly coasted to the airport at the end of the trip.