I recently had the opportunity to help with promoting The Moment - a documentary about the history of freeride. Most of the people I reached out to were thrilled with the idea of the film and with having a showing in their town, but a few of the responses I received back surprised me.Read More
A report released earlier this year stated that Vancouver residents alone had reported over 10,000 bike thefts in just 4.5 years. The Internet is full of statistics on bike theft – worldwide, a bike is stolen every 90 seconds and only 2.4% are returned to their owners. The question now is not so much if your bike will be stolen, but when.
According to the Vancouver Police Department’s website, in the summer months an average of nine bikes are stolen every day – an average of 2000 every year. ‘On the flipside, the VPD recovers roughly 2000 bicycles in a year. Unfortunately, the majority of them will never be returned to their owners, as their serial numbers have not been reported to police, making them untraceable. These bikes will end up at auction, but we'd rather return them to their rightful owners.’
Belonging to a community like the one we have through mountain biking, we benefit greatly from the inspiration, influence, and individuality of others. But we also suffer enormous losses and feel these losses very deeply. For all the positives we gain, we also surrender to great sorrows throughout our lives simply due to the enormity of our collective.
It’s no secret that the beginning of this year has been complete shit when it comes to the untimely deaths of great people. Both Kelly McGarry and Stevie Smith passed away far too soon, but each touched our lives by showing us what was possible. In bearing witness to their accomplishments and setbacks, we took from them the inspiration to push our own boundaries. We love them as much for who they were, as we do for how they made us feel about ourselves. And whether we knew them personally or followed their strong media presences, we lived vicariously through their passion and traveled the world through their eyes. We are all affected by their loss and the loss of all heroes like them, but we are also united as a community in sorrow.
The first time I wrote an article for the Internet I was called a slut and a whore in the comments section. The topic of the article? Mountain Bike culture. It didn’t bother me, as baseless bullying directed at me on the Internet does not bother me to this day. (To clarify, in grade school I had braces, wore gumboots to school, and had a pet duck that lived in my bathtub. I was intrinsically raised to not give a f*ck about what other people think.) But that’s me, it is not everyone – and it shouldn’t have to be everyone.
It was not the last time that negative comments designed to elicit humiliation and shame would be attached to my articles, but I remain a fan of a format that allows readers to comment. It is a place where people can share ideas and information, post entertaining, witty banter, and connect in a supportive and positive way within our international community. One of the unfortunate side effects, however, in having a worldwide audience in today’s culture, is that it also gives a platform for those suffering from feelings of entitlement and inferiority to vent their hateful rhetoric.
To define trolling is a challenge. While cyber-bullying has become a plague, there is a vast grey area somewhere between the right to express opposing opinions and exercise free speech, and the unrelenting abuse that has on occasion driven people to suicide. Somewhere amidst this are the random and callous personal attacks, the derailing of conversations, contradicting purely for conflict, and offensive and nonsensical provocations all meant expressly to insult and provoke a host of negative feelings and reactions in others. These are trolls that live below the threshold and their comments are never helpful, witty, or intelligent. They are abhorrently cavalier in the delivery of their insults, displaying a cowardice made possible through the protection of the Internet and the seclusion of one’s own home.
Four years ago I spent five minutes not remembering who I was – and then I spent six months worrying that I would never be the same again. When I came to after my crash my helmet was broken and my brain was bleeding internally. Breaking your brain, in an instant or cumulatively over many small bumps, can forever change who you are and how you deal with your reality, and progressively we are learning about the dangers involved with concussions. To date, this has mostly been through research funded by other professional sports, but when parallels were drawn between Dave Mirra and the NFL players who have suffered with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), it brought the reality of brain injuries squarely to our two wheels with an urgency that would be foolish to ignore.
The problem with the human brain is that it is extremely complicated. If you compound fracture your leg you can look down and using your healthy uninjured brain think ‘well, shit, that’s bad.’ When you bump your head however you may look completely fine – but be completely f*cked. It is also important to note that the brain doesn’t have the pain receptors our limbs have, injuries to it may not be immediately felt as they would with a broken bone. Everything from how many concussions you’ve had previously, to the shape of your skull, damage from drug or alcohol abuse, and the force of the impact itself can all play a role in the level of resulting damage. Even how well you have weathered life’s traumas in the past can dictate how much your brain can withstand.
My road to Rampage started in Moab when I drunkenly arranged to become a stowaway in the Fox van. For more than six hours on the Monday before the event I stared out the window as the terrain changed like channels with scenes from “Indiana Jones” to the sand people from “Star Wars.” Each time the van braked, I expected to see a cartoon roadrunner being chased down by a coyote. I focused on being a good passenger, tried not to think about how much I had to pee and giggled quietly as we passed through Beaver, Utah.
At the beginning of the summer my mom asked me to help her pick out a new bike. Currently she has a sweet pink cruiser that was meant to be a typical mom bike; I thought that maybe she would add a basket and ride it to the fruit stand down the beach from her Mexican villa on Sundays. Nope.
Averaging about 12 miles a day, my mom has spent three years turning her cruiser into a mean performance machine. Every year when I visit something else has been changed; the seat has gotten wider and skinnier, harder and softer, taller and lower and at one point exploded into a multitude of parts, probably an expression of protest over its many adjustments.
When I arrived to the Outerbike site to help set up at sunrise on Friday morning, there were already eager riders waiting in line, a full two hours before the gates would open. This event is to middle-age men what Miley Bieber is to pre-teens or Neal Diamond impersonators to lonely women in Vegas. They are groupies, fans, enthusiasts and bike nerds. Every fall, the fine folks at Western Spirit build a bike industry version of Burning Man in the desert just outside of Moab, and mountain bikers from all over make the pilgrimage to ride the newest, best and weirdest bikes on the market.
Everyone has a friend like Jessica; whenever you are together chaos and adventure ensue. One minute you are meeting up for a drink and the next thing you know you are passed out on an inflatable dolphin in Mexico. There is a reason why Jessica and I do not hang out all that often: self-preservation. We ran into each other at a barbeque last week and today we crossed the finish line at the Tour de Victoria in the little-known-because-it-does-not-exist category of “Fixed Fifty.” Our victory came with Chuck Taylors so full of water that fish could have lived in them and two fixed gear bikes that didn’t quite fit in. Saying that we were unprepared for this epic event would be an understatement.
When the last downhill race of the season happened this past weekend, as a community, we were saddened. We felt the immediate void of anticipation for the next event. Practice and training suddenly took on much longer-term goals and the memories of the good times shared would have to suffice for the long winter months. Especially lost and forlorn were the racers’ parents, while they too look forward to the next season, they also feel the time slipping away. After another season spent driving their kids from race to race, investing time, money and moral support, it was over. And it might never be the same again.
Kelli was 23 when she started mountain biking, 26 when she started racing and 40 when we hit the road to celebrate her milestone birthday with a few days of riding that included a heli-drop and an unplanned campsite eviction. A lot can change in seventeen years and as someone who works in the bike industry (Kelli and her husband run a mountain bike tour and instruction company) her identity is strongly tied to riding. Priorities change throughout our lives and, at points, bikes often end up collecting dust in the garage, waiting for years when work isn’t so busy or the kids are ‘old enough.’ But when it is as entwined in our lives as it is in Kelli’s, giving it up is not an option. Changing our perspectives is.
Photo: Paris Gore
Rob Warner is a legend whose World Cup commentary is as worthy of your attention as the racing itself, Seriously, when was the last time you heard an announcer state, “He’s all over the place like a monkey dry-humping a football!”? When I found out that Warner was in Whistler for Crankworx, I had to get an interview with him.
Naturally, I followed the standard journalistic protocol for such matters, which is to say I propositioned him in the line-up for a bar. Like a creepy groupie violating a restraining order, I blurted out, “You’re Rob Warner! Will you go on a date with me?”
Surprisingly, that approach didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. Two nights later, with some solid work from two wingmen (apparently I can’t even pick-up for a fake date on my own), I got Rob to agree to an interview over dinner with me.
A DH race weekend is a magical world, the kind of place you find if you stumble through the back of a wardrobe or fall down a rabbit hole. Only the Cheshire cat would be wearing a pajama suit and Alice would be manically adjusting her tire pressure. Men run around in women’s clothing, scale buildings naked and drop their pants on course like baboons in heat. The scene is a bit like a redneck uncle; there is a lot of drinking, swearing, and punch lines that make you cringe. Regular life is game-off and conversation alternates from hot girls, to meat pies, to race lines – women, food and going fast.
Bamfield is not a city. It is more of a small town or village. You can not pass through it to go anywhere and you are lucky to arrive there, over the logging road, with your car intact. This is where I grew up. It is where I learned the value of being a part of a community. Our commonality was our location and, as a result, we also shared the desire to survive the winters of isolation, power outages and harsh west coast storms. Some of us are drawn to Bamfield, some driven to it. Some long for a simpler existence, some are social outcasts, others are retired, or entrepreneurs, and still others have been there for many generations; the reasons that their families originally called it home, long since forgotten.
We form a motley and mismatched extended family. All ages, ethnicities, denominations, opinions (of which there are many), and abilities exist within our community and because of that we function and we have identity. I grew up learning from people I may never otherwise have had the opportunity to meet and I enjoyed a sense of safety that came from many caring eyes, which was great unless you were trying to get into the community hall dance underage.
Hypoglycemia goes by a few different names; ‘hitting the wall’ conjures up images of men running marathons in headbands and short shorts circa 1982 and ‘bonking’ makes me think of people in spandex slumped over their handlebars trying to remember where they went wrong with their carb intake from the night before. Neither of these two descriptions are what I experience. I get ‘hangry’.
Hangry is described on the Internet as ‘a state of anger caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.’ Well ‘a negative change in emotional state’ may be an understatement. I have shredded my share of purple pants while attempting to throw my bike in a hulk-like rage. At best, when my blood sugar drops, I sever all communication and focus the energy I have left, drawn from the depths of my glycogen stores, to find food. I communicate only in grunts, head nods and spontaneous tears until I am fed. I, all but, foam at the mouth.
Whenever a racer shakes my hand and compliments our professional event, I have to stop myself from gesturing over my shoulder and asking, "but didn't you see the bearded woman over there?" Yes, we have the ultimate singletrack, which goes without saying, but it's the band of misfits that create our traveling circus who make each year a unique experience. We don't offer our crew any cue cards or give them 'smile' signs while they are making your foot long sandwiches. The BC Bike Race brand is personality and people; it’s about who owns a chicken suit, plays the drums or cooks the best bacon. Even our trails represent the personalities of the people who design them.
Secret trails are something of a currency in the bike world and about the only thing that makes our sport remotely punk rock. We trade them for cool points or hold on to them, dropping subtle hints in conversations to elevate our perceived social status. “If you don’t know about it, you shouldn’t ride it.” Mountain biking is not sexy, so secret trails cascading down our mountains like the phantom octopi tentacles is about all we’ve got. People go hunting for them like treasure. And develop feelings of ownership, much like Gollum and his precious. Joeys shouldn’t ride them, but they always do. So who tells them where they are and why shouldn’t they? Who actually owns a secret trail? With hands raised, there is the trail builder who doesn’t own the land, the landowner who didn’t build the trail, the inner circle of the first riders to know about it (who didn’t build the trail nor do they own the land) and the community as a whole.
Showing up at the basecamp for the first of the Oregon Enduro Series was like walking into a post apocalyptic Mad Max world where only MC Hammer back-up dancers had survived. The goggles, the fanny packs, the spandex, the neon, the helmets that made them look like children clinging to the edge of an ice rink all gave off the impression of a new sport where no style based on utility had yet been proven. We could only hope the fanny packs wouldn’t get winning times. I had set off on this road trip weekend to Hood River to answer the question of what exactly is 'so enduro, bro?’
This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Jessamy Carmen Tippie, the heiress to the Brett Tippie legacy and 4-year-old mountain biker. She was the Lance to my Oprah, but unlike Mr. Armstrong she wasn’t afraid to answer the hard questions as we tackled everything from wheel size to unicorns.
I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel about the future of women in mountain biking at the MTB Tourism Symposium in Sooke, British Columbia. The answer to many of the questions posed was simply that we need more women to ride. So how to do get more women involved? Some of us are fortunate to live in areas where women’s riding clubs, groups and lessons are readily available, where it feels like you see just as many women out for a ride as men, but to affect change we need to close the gap on the percentage split between male and female riders. To do this we need to encourage grassroots action, each of us needs to participate. While more women are joining the sport, the number of people mountain biking is also growing in general, and so we are only maintaining our percentages.