Sunday, December 10, 2006

Proof That I Can Laugh at Myself

The Daily Camera marketing department has reached new heights of desperation: they have decided to use US (the humble, badly-dressed, behind-the-scenes journalists) as marketing tools. They seem to think that if readers know who we are, they'll feel more of a connection to the newspaper. (I personally think that if we simply write good stories with the facts straight and everything spelled correctly, and shoot compelling photographs, that's probably good enough, but hell, who am I?)

So we all had to suffer through having "marketing" photos taken of ourselves. I managed to get out of it for a long time, by going on vacation the week the marketing photographer was here to shoot them. I mean, come on, most photographers can't stand being in FRONT of the camera.

But last week the proverbial gun was held to my head, and the result is, as I expected, cheesy. Yes, folks, it's very clear that I'm the "Cycling Columnist!" Now I'M on my way to the gun store, because if this photo ends up on the side of a bus, I'm going to shoot myself.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Marty who?

I know, I've neglected this thing so long that I probably haven't a reader left! But this time of year, with a back injury keeping me from doing much of anything, I had nothing to say; I was too busy taking rides in the Whaaambulance.

Before hurting myself, however, I did some great fall rides. Here's the view from a wonderful solo jaunt in Nederland:

Then the next day I did Kenosha Pass with a group of friends. I had never ridden that trail before, and I gotta say, it rocks!! Fun, challenging riding with incredible views.

The big news is that I changed race teams in a last-minute, nerve-wracking decision. I'm leaving Blue Sky Velo, in spite of the fact that I LOVE the shop and its fantastic owners, because I really, really, want to be on a true mountain bike team. So I will be joining the black-white-and-teal camoflage clan on the Sports Garage Team.

Not pictured are the 15 women on the team -- sweet! It sounds like a great group of people, very close-knit. They all train together, travel to the races together, etc. And every member is required to host a meeting or social event throughout the year. It sounds awesome! Plus it's a Boulder team, so it will be easier to ride with these folks than the Longmont crowd.

I did have a few cool assignments recently, as well...In anticipation of the Dalai Lama's visit, I drove to the Great Stupa, deep in the mountains above Fort Collins, and took pictures of the workers getting ready. The Stupa is a Buddhist shrine, usually a place that contains the ashes of a revered figure in the religion.

Here's the Stupa:

Here's one of the founders of the place, preparing the two-story Buddha for its coating of paint, which is traditionally a vibrant gold:

This was really an enjoyable assignment. It was tremendously peaceful there, and everyone was so friendly and mellow. When I had filled all my digital media, I took a walk in the trees, and accepted an offer for lunch. I like it when I can settle in and really immerse myself in what I'm shooting. Unfortunately, I didn't get to photograph the great man himself (I had the pleasure of photographing him some years ago, though), which bummed me out. Here's Cliff's photo of him arriving to consecrate the Stupa:

I worked on a story about an old part of Louisville that the city council almost designated a blighted area so they could bulldoze everything and bring in a bunch of crappy retail. I had to find people in the neighborhood...

Not only does this guy sport the sexy mullet, he had on - no joke - these skin-tight short-shorts. Yes, WITH the leather jacket. I had to spare the readers that extra detail.

There's also this photo from a parade in Louisville:

So I haven't been a complete slacker...even though I lost a couple weeks of my life in the black hole known as "Shogun." What a great book!! I loved it. It was such a vivid portrayal of medieval Japan that I felt like my real life was a dull dream. I was even hearing Japanese spoken in my head. "Wakarimasu ka?" (Do you understand?)

I was so psyched with it that I bought "Tai-Pan," the writer's next novel, but mentally, I'm not ready to leave those characters just yet. And of course, all this is distracting me from my own writing. But, I've got plenty of dark winter nights at the coffee shop ahead, right?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hubba Hubba

The Maverick climbs so well, I keep looking around to see who is secretly pushing me. I was still pretty tired today from Saturday's race, but still felt like riding the backside of Hall Ranch. And it felt way better than I would have imagined. Love that!

I like these isolated trees you see at Hall Ranch sometimes. The land there is an interesting combination of forest and open grassy meadows. I changed this to black and white because the light was so crappy this morning.

Then I got to enjoy the twisty, rocky descent all the way down without being stopped by a single person. Sweet!!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The New Ride

I got my new bike on Friday evening! It is really, really beautiful:

Here's the fancy Maverick fork. It makes the bike look like a miniature motorcycle. And if you squint, you can see on the head badge, where my friend Frank hand-engraves the frame's creation date and it's individual name. My frame, Basilisk, was born on June 8, 2006.

My very first ride with this bike turned out to be the huge King of the Rockies final race in the Winter Park series. It's 26 miles, with a lot of climbing and technical singletrack. I love it. This race turns you into quivering mush in the best of circumstances; riding a bike that you have not had any opportunity to dial in or have fitted can be a recipe for even more pain.

Here's Cindy getting ready:

Here's me and Basilisk:

I was very happy to feel good and have strong legs. Most of my summer has been lost in a weird bog of fatigue, low heart rates, and subsequent lack of motivation. So I was psyched, for sure. I was climbing well (for me, that is... climbing is not my thing), but the bike was really helping in that regard. It goes uphill so well, with little excess movement in the suspension. And when you stand up, it feels even better. Bubba's one drawback was that standing up tended to feel worse and frequently cause rear-wheel spinout. I always thought that was just pilot error, something I could never figure out how to do right, but with Basilisk it's a cinch. Sweet.
But then on the downhill, the Maverick's suspension was surprisingly harsh compared to the GT. I'm not making any judgement on that yet, though, since I've had zero chance to tweak the suspension. The idea behind the GT and Maverick suspensions are very nearly the same, so I should think that with some knowledgeable help, I can get Basilisk to feel just as good going downhill.

At about the halfway mark in the race, my back started to hurt. This race is so long that it always hurt, even on Bubba, so I wasn't surprised, but I could tell it was going to get a lot worse, since I haven't had a bike fit on the Maverick yet. Sure enough, several miles later I was in some major pain. I had to keep standing up and trying to stretch in every direction. When I got to the final climb, I was so buckled from the pain that I could barely pedal. Luckily, the final, twisty, rocky descent was a total blast, and I cruised to the finish line in 7th place out of 15, a very good result for me, considering how crappy I felt for most of this summer.

I had to strip the final parts off of Bubba today, which was sad. But there's no denying that Basilisk is cool! I'm psyched! I've got one more race in Keystone, but most of my weekends now will be filled with fun rides with friends, my favorite part of mountain biking.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Outta Sight I'm So Behind

Hey there folks, I'm sure you thought I abandoned this blog. But life just got a bit ovewhelming there for a while! But I'm back, and thanks to my awesome brother, I now have a laptop, so I can work on the blog anytime. Sweet.

So, to catch up:

1. I had another KILLER trip to Crested Butte. This might have been the best one yet. I got put in a condo with really fun people, the trails were in great shape from daily late-afternoon thunderstorms, and I finally got to do the last descent on Reno/Flag/Bear/Deadmans.

If you're really bored or trying to avoid work, you can surf on over to Mike O's website and look at a bunch of goofy photos of the trip. It's not too dialup friendly, unfortunately.

2.My teammate Cindy and I went to the Blast the Mass race at Snowmass Mountain. Neither of us had ever been there, and damn, it's beautiful. Snowmass is steep as hell, and the cross-country race was brutal. It was gorgeous, and a real mountain biker's course, with tons of technical singletrack. I loved it, even though it put me in the hurt locker from the get-go. Cindy and I were both pretty hammered by it, but we managed to squeeze in a practice run for the next day's Super D race, and also scope out the Mountain Cross event:

You will be amazed to know that I actually camped at Snowmass. I know, it's a shock. Truly, I love to sleep outdoors. What I can't stand about camping, though, is the claustrophobic feeling of sleeping bags and tents. If I could just sleep on a queen-size bed under the stars, I'd camp all the time. ;) But to my surprise, I managed the camping thing just fine. In fact, the view of the night sky through my tent roof was so amazing that it was the most memorable part of the trip. I'm the background tent:

We dragged our tired asses out of bed the next morning, got stuck on the lift for the obligatory few minutes, and finally made it to the Super D start. For those of you who don't know what that is, I'll explain: It's a race that runs down a ski resort, but also includes a few short climbs. It's usually longer and not as technical as a true downhill race, which these days is extremely rocky and difficult.
I tried to go through a proper warmup, but it was a bit hard to do at the top of a ski resort, plus I was too distracted by watching other waves start. I had never done a Super D, and it's pretty funny to watch if the venue uses the Le Mans style start. This means that everyone lays their bike on the ground, and then from some distance away, when the gun goes off, everyone runs to their bikes, jumps on, and starts riding. You can just imagine the comedy that ensues. And because Super D is still finding its legs in the racing scene, all kinds of people show up. Downhillers in full-face helmets and pads; skinny cross-counry geeks in tight lycra, and everything in between. Watching all these folks awkwardly stampeding in helmets and cycling shoes is truly an amusing sight.

When our turn came, I was actually worried about being dropped during the running portion, since I run as well as a pregnant hippo, but I managed to hang okay. Our cyclocross experiences helped Cindy and I mount our bikes swiftly, but there were some wicked fast downhillers in our group, so they got way ahead right off the bat. And sadly for me, my derailleur, which had flawlesly survived the previous day's five creek crossings and other abuse, decided to blow up during the brief climbs of the Super D. I was further dropped, but still loved hauling the mail downhill, and I finished tolerably well. Conclusion: I think Super D rules!! What a fun event! I'm going to do the last one in Keystone next month.

3. After much stress and unneccessary freaking out, I finally got moved in to my own one-bedroom, for the first time ever in my 16 years in Boulder. What a blessing!!! I love it. It's tiny but perfect. I have a porch where I can see the Flatirons while I eat breakfast, or work on my bikes; a little creek passes nearby, and so far the neighborhood has been very pleasant. (We'll see if that changes when the students arrive in the next week or so!)

The porch:

And the living room:

4. The very bad news is that I lost Bubba. My GT I-Drive, always so dependably fun and nimble, suffered a frame crack, right near the seatpost weld. I'm crushed!! I wanted at least a few more years with that bike, both because I loved it, and because I wanted to actually save up for a new bike, which I was starting to do.
Here's my honey:

I really and truly was saddened by this, for reasons that had little to do with financial issues. That bike was with me through a lot; riding it was my way to escape stress and bring light into gloomy days. I will really miss it, no matter how cool my next bike may be.

I wrote an essay (that became my cycling column for the week) about the loss of Bubba and how it echoed the loss of Z.V.
On a side note, I will probably have to quit my job after it runs, either out of fear that Z.V. or his friends will hunt me down, or because a bunch of weirdos will start hitting on me. That will make life interesting, won't it? At any rate, I'll post a link when it runs.

Well, I've been camped out in the coffee shop for a while now, and the feeling that I'm a pretentious nerd has become overwhelming. I promise to be back very soon with an update on my new bike, which I should be picking up from Blue Sky Cycles later today.

May Bubba go on to Mountain Bike Heaven, which is a perpetual descent down the 401 Trail in Crested Butte.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Off the Back

Geez, I'm way behind with my blog... I've just been overwhelmed with freelance work, househunting, training, the day job, and all kinds of stuff.

So, to catch up a little:

A bunch of us from both Blue Sky the shop and Blue Sky the team went up to Ned a few weekends ago. I only shot photos during the snack break, because I was having too much fun riding. :)

The Shop Guys and Friends on one hand, the Racers on the other:

Rob's a racer, too, actually, but he was just too cool to sit with us.

All's fair in mountain bike racing:

Another crappy view of the Continental Divide:

We sure live in a purty place, all right.

Then, I managed to score second place on the paper's web-hits-of-the-day list with my column on marijuana:

Last, and far from least, was the trip I took to Durango with my brother Joe. We stayed at the Tamarron resort where he played golf all by himself both days. Here's the view from our room above the 5th hole:

The trails were equally empty:

Although I did find a guy to photograph for a future column about Durango:

This area of Durango riding, on the Colorado Trail, seemed like Crested Butte, and then the Horse Gulch area (which I didn't photograph) seemed like Fruita.

I could move to Durango and never need to leave! :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Another Ned Adventure

I wanted to do another epic Nederland adventure, and I decided to spare my car, taking the bus up instead. It was a very... interesting experience.

It was early on a Sunday morning, 8am to be exact, and I was standing at the bus station waiting for the 8:10 to Ned. A bus pulled up, and the driver got off in a huff, catching my attention right away. He was built like a beer barrel, round in every regard. He oozed "East Coast" out of every pore. I can't tell East Coast accents apart, but my best guess was New Joisey. He was obviously deeply irritated, and with a noise of annoyance, began operating the exterior wheelchair lift. At the top of the lift was a guy I've seen around Boulder and Denver almost as long as I can remember. He's basically a "professional homeless person." He scoots around in a battered wheelchair, with all these hand-lettered signs about how he was injured in "the war," and was burned over large portions of his body, etc. His face, indeed, does look pretty scarred. I don't want to cast doubt on the fact that he's not exactly cut out for holding a job, so he's doing the best he can. But I've heard rumors that he actually has a home in Denver, along with a wife and kids. His panhandling on the 16th Street Mall and the Pearl Street Mall is so lucrative that he seems to be making a decent living. He's definitely been around Boulder for at least 16 years in this exact state, virtually unchanged, because he was one of the first people I noticed when I moved here.

Anyway. He was being let down the wheelchair lift, but he was actually standing up next to his chair. I could tell that "Vinny" the bus driver thought he was a total fraud. I spent a few minutes pondering how Americans have an ingrained disrespect for people who don't work for a living. And lots of homeless folks I've talked to (while trying to photograph them for stories) have no interest in working. For them, panhandling in wealthy places like Boulder and downtown Denver is good enough to sustain them.

So the bus driver let the homeless guy out, grunted at me to load my bike, then stomped off to the station to announce the Nederland bus. So I loaded Bubba up:

There were now two hippies waiting to get on, as well... a man and a woman who didn't seem to know each other. And here I thought everyone in Nederland knew each other. Hmmm. The driver got on, changed the readout on the bus from Boulder Local to Nederland, rolled his roundness into the driver's seat, and then finally looked at us like we were bugs to incinerate with the magnifying glasses of his eyes. Whoa. Bad vibes, dude. And it's only 8am on a Sunday, for pete's sake. I made one last check on Bubba while the hippies get on. Vinny yelled at the female hippie for not having her student ID. He made no comment to me as I got on. Since I'm prone to carsickness, I sat in the front seat across from Vinny. We pulled away from the station, and this is fascinating: as we entered Boulder Canyon, Vinny actually crossed himself. No shit!! Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch. Then kissed his fingers. I stared at him in amazement.

Turns out he's a shitty driver. One of those supremely annoying people who can't just smoothly turn the steering wheel when going around corners. He would overcorrect, then jerk it back, over and over in the turns. And since the canyon has about nine hundred turns, this was pretty irritating. I kept peering over the dash to make sure Bubba didn't get jerked out of the rack and flung under the bus.

A while later we encountered a road cyclist riding up the canyon. I have no idea why roadies ride this canyon. Weekend traffic is hellacious, the road has little shoulder, and drivers can be pretty aggressive. And since there are about three other prettier, quieter canyons that will get you up to the higher country, I really don't get it. Well, Vinny of course found himself trying to pass this cyclist just as another car was coming the other way. He jerked the bus around the cyclist at the very last minute, scaring the crap out of me and the oncoming driver. I could see that guy's astonished face for a split second as he whipped past. I started wanting to cross myself, too.

At a stop just outside of Nederland, the male hippie got off. As he went down the stairs, he looked right at me with a big smile, very flirtatious. For some reason, nothing is funnier looking than a scrawny white guy with crappy dreadlocks and frumpy clothes trying to look sexy. Hippies actually remind me faintly of Puritans in their asexual-seeming, devout kind of commitment to wearing natural fibers, eating vegetarian, and being "pure" in their rejection of bathing. I gave him a huge grin because I just couldn't stop myself. He looked so comical.

Here's Barker Reservoir -- Nederland, next stop:

When we finally made it to Ned and Vinny's turning skills had not improved, I was thinking to myself: Wow. Now I really understand my friend who used to say that RTD stands for Reason To Drive.

But then my sense of compassion kicked in. I thought of my dad, who drove for Trailways and then Greyhound for years. He probably spent a lot of time just as irritated as this guy, for good reason. I don't know what came over me, but when I got off the bus, I smiled at Vinny and said, "I bet your day's going to get better." He shot back, "Nah it won't." Classic!! Yo, Vinny, have ya thawt about goin' back to Joisey? It seems like ya belong beaack theah. I stifled a giggle while getting the bike out of the rack. I was barely setting it down on the pavement, and Vinny actually honked at me, gesturing for me to put the rack back into its upright position. Nodding calmly, I complied. I stepped out of the way and Vinny immediately began to pull away. Then suddenly he stomped on the brakes. The door hissed open. He looked right at me. Like a person this time, not an insect. "Thanks," he said. "Really. Thank you." And then the bus swept away, leaving me in the peaceful silence of a mountain morning.

I looked around. Crystal clear sky, without a speck of pollution. Faint breeze in the trees. The sweet smell of pine. I took a deep breath and swung a leg over the bike. The sound of my cleats clipping into the pedals rang out into the quiet. There's no question... mountain biking is a gateway to so many interesting experiences. So is getting out of your car. For good or bad, this day's start was something very different from the usual.

Since it was early on a Sunday, I was hoping to not see too many other people. After a few brief encounters, I climbed out of the low-lying areas and was truly alone, and it was so peaceful and perfect. In the week since I had last been here, the aspens had gained some tiny leaves. Soon this trail will be inside a shady tunnel of flickering, spinning round leaves.

I returned to a place where I'd been doing some exploring before, and found some more fabulous singletrack.

Then I engaged in some self-photographic decapitation:

I explored on and on, not seeing a soul, enjoying the alternating mountain views and dense trees. After about three hours, I got extremely hungry and an energy bar was not going to cut it. So I retired to the Mountain People's Co-op in downtown Ned, for an Asian Cowboy sandwich (BBQ tofu... I like meat, but just wasn't in the mood) and some side dishes.
Ugly day for a picnic:

After some idle conversation with a family of locals, I finally roused myself for the ride down to Boulder, on Magnolia Road to avoid the aforementioned scary-ass Boulder Canyon. Boy, was I in for a surprise. I had only ridden Magnolia to Boulder once before, and it wasn't after three hours of nonstop riding. I had completely forgotten that you have to CLIMB out of Nederland, dragging your full belly, and continue climbing, for quite some time before the road becomes asphalt and then FINALLY, blessedly, goes downhill. Ugh, what a grind. I couldn't even stop to take a picture. I was too busy groaning at every false summit and getting sunburned.

But as always, when the ride was over, I couldn't get the smile off my face. And Vinny, even though your driving sucks and your religious behavior is disturbing, I will still continue to take the bus to Nederland.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Amazing Stuff

Sometimes I am just floored by what people can accomplish. Check this out: this guy is blind, but he competes in downhill races. He follows a guide, and learns what's coming in the terrain by listening to that person's tires on the dirt. He can distinguish the type of soil, if it's rocky, if it's loose, dry, etc. He can hear that person turning, braking, etc. Totally cool!! I don't know if the guide calls out things to him or not... I kinda doubt he could hear the guide with the noise of riding, cheering, etc.

This guy is impressive as well. I don't know anything about him, except that he gets my admiration:

And on another note, here's another funky freaky from the sidelines. How do we get some of these folks at the Colorado races?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

First Ned Ride of the Season

No, it's not a man named Ned, you perverts!! I'm talking about the fabulous trails in Nederland, at 8,000 feet, which are just now getting dry enough to ride.

I headed up there on Sunday, and of course, even though I was looking for a nice steady ride by myself, I ended up running into a group of folks from BMA, the local trail advocacy group. I rode with them for a bit, not wanting to seem rude:

One of the guys wanted to shoot a group shot:

It's Jason, Botsie, John, Gary, Erin, me, and Mike. Several of these guys are board members of BMA. Gary recently got married, I learned, and I wanted to ask,"Does this mean you'll stop staring at my tits?" Because this guy was the worst I have ever seen. I really have to appreciate how young men have learned to leer more invisibly. Guys of Gary's age are just hopeless. But Gary does great work for mountain biking, so I used to always suffer in silence for the cause. Geez.

But eventually I realized I just wanted to ride alone. I usually love group rides, and these are all nice folks, but that day I really wanted to pedal in silence, and not stop so much. So with apologies, I took off on my own. I started climbing and climbing, and found my way up to some snowdrifts:

The weather was wacky! It would be sunny for a while, then cloud over and start snowing in this weird, mini-hailing kind of way, and then get sunny again. Meanwhile, the temperature held steady, so I never really had to put arm warmers on.

The trails were in great shape:

Ahhh, I love Ned. Now I'll be up there constantly!!

This Saturday is my next race, down in Lakewood. I'm going to hang with Joey afterwards. Maybe he'll shoot some photos for me to post!

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I don't usually geek out about the equipment side of mountain biking; I'm usually a lot more concerned with the experience itself, but this time has got to be an exception.

My pal Andy introduced me to Scot Nichol of Ibis Bicycles, who bought back the company after selling it some years ago, and he's busy making some incredible carbon fiber mountain bikes.

Here's the Mojo, which is pretty damn eye-popping:

Here's the suspension link, which to my untrained eye, looks quite similar to the Maverick/I-Drive concept. I gotta go to the website and do my research, since I plan to write a column about all this.

Here's Scot, left, and Andy, holding one of the carbon road frames.

The only bummer about a mountain bike that beautiful is that I'd be WAY too nervous to ever crash it, so it would make me ride like a weenie.