Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quite frankly the conditions outside are abominable. It is hot and normally that’s something I can deal with. However, the acrid stench of smoke and the dry burning feeling that starts to coat my throat when I breathe outside right now are not. So for a bit, I’ll be riding with a respirator. A dense smoke advisory has been issued and below a picture from the Arctic Web cam. The scene doesn’t look that bad, but please take note that you can’t see any of the buildings past the initial two across the river. Trust me; it is like visibility in a fog, only it hurts to breathe.

All that being said I am feeling a bit lazy, so I'll leave you with a couple of quotes.

"The more you can disconnect from mechanical and gravitational forces, the more you cease seeing trails as problems to be solved, and the more you will transcend the forces of gravity and mechanics. When you finally disconnect, the trail will look different. There will be no obstacles. You'll see it like a canvas or a piece of paper on which you can express yourself." - Bob Roll

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride." - John F. Kennedy

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mother Nature can wreak havoc on our favorite trails, down trees and impassable bogs in the spring are just the beginning. If trails are poorly constructed, they can be wiped completely off the map; leaving areas that are less traversable than before trail construction. IMBA travels the country giving lectures and teaching classes on building sustainable, low maintenance trails. Then again occasionally Mother’s touch can make a trail twice as interesting while nearly destroying it.

Sunday was again finally shuttle day. It’s been awhile (sadly) since Snarksy and I went and shuttled Alder Shoots and the Secret Trail. Because there was some climbing involved on the Secret Trail, we decided to use hardtail 29’ers, although that also could have been because it was early enough in the season that my weak arms may not have been able to even lift my downhill sled. Today was finally about busting out some big travel, diesel dropped badassery. I drove the first run and when everyone started arriving among the tailings, I could tell something was different. The first half of the trail is the same this year, lots of rock gardens with a ridiculously steep loose gravel grade leading down to the halfway mark. The bottom half is now completely different. What was once a long rolling downhill speed way on fire road and double track is now technical.

While there was the occasional washout previously (I think there were two), they were shallow (maybe six inches deep), and contained to one side of the trail or other. Big travel bikes allowed you to sleep through the bottom half of the trail; now they allow you to not die when you miss your line around or over (the only option in a few places) the now two foot drop-offs and washouts completely littering the trail. Seriously I just missed the first big one (I was following some flipping teenage BMX kid who I had no business going as fast as) and nailed the second one. Hitting a washout that is eighteen inches deep and three feet wide and littered with nice sharp rocks is one of those awesome puckering moments that we all hope to live through, preferably without shedding blood. In my case, the money spent on my bike more than made up for my near complete lack of skill. Thanks so much Kona.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


We love our bikes for many reasons, and on my ride to work this morning I was contemplating one of the more shallow reasons I love mine. It is made up of lots of little shiny expensive parts. The fact that I got to pick and choose from all the parts out there and come up with a configuration that is uniquely mine gives me little jolts of joy whenever I get around to thinking about it. The fact that I assembled the thing with parts from more than a dozen different companies and it still works together in unison is an amazing feat of modern engineering. The high end bicycle industry is an amazing mix of standards that allow this level of customization and interoperability coupled with a desire to innovate and constantly produce a new level of performance. I was thinking about the restrictions that have been on motor racing for years and wondering if it has stifled innovation. The same styles of rules are slowly being incorporated into road racing, time trial, cyclocross and track.

While that theoretically may make the sport more entertaining (it is the athlete who is winning the race, and not the technology they are piloting), I am not sure it is actually good for the sport. I doubt few people have bought a vehicle with the idea that at some point it won a race. Mainly because mainstream racing vehicles are so unlike what you can purchase, you know there isn’t even really a comparison. With a bicycle, on the other hand, you can pretty much put together and race whatever your favorite rider is palping, if not buy it direct from whomever is sponsoring them. It may be a bit expensive, but it’s very possible, and more to the point, many riders do it. We all like to make fun of the guy with the team kit and completely tricked out bike that’s being ridden like a beach cruiser. It happens enough that we have all seen it. When was the last time you saw someone in your town with a decked out “stock” car? Probably never. Not only because it wouldn’t be legal, but also because there wouldn’t be anywhere for them to open it up.

Mountain biking and racing is still evolving at a pretty high rate of speed. The leaps made in suspension even in recent years are astounding. It might not be long before do everything bikes that actually climb like a hardtail and descend like a downhill rig will be fully realized. And unlike the mainstream road scene, where weight limits have pushed the majority or R&D away from ultra-light, mountain bike parts can continue to get lighter so long as they remain strong (although they certainly won’t also be cheap).

I hope that the regulations they put on road racing don’t get any worse, and I certainly hope they leave the loose restrictions in place for mountain where they are. I’d like to see bicycles continue to evolve at the pace they are currently rocketing along at. I can’t even imagine what I’ll be riding in a decade.