Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good Lord!

Hey, it's me again.  Been gone for a while but I'm back.  Like I said, I had a big "announcement" of sorts to, well, announce about 10 days ago, but I never got to it.  Part of the reason why is that I'm currently busy tending to other things, and can't always access the internet.

Originally, in this space, I intended to fully disclose my whereabouts.  Instead, I'm going to play a little bit of a game, giving out hints as to where I am, pictures at times, and descriptions of areas I'm visiting.  For all intents and purposes, it will be the "Where's Waldo?" version of my life.

The first hint is that I'm not anywhere close to the United States at present.  That's it.  I'll be gone for approximately 3 months, give or take.  Good luck.

In the mean time, I'm following my passion (and if you know me, you know what that is), writing about it, and having a great time.  Part of this adventure will be the basis for a project I'm working on, but again, I'll save the details for coming posts.  I do need to give my few readers something to look forward to.

Otherwise, ride your bikes if you ride, run if you run, and swim if you swim.  If you're a crazy triathlete, do all three in a day and then blog about it.

Until next time...

Monday, May 7, 2012

One more day...

Until the big announcement!  One that will rock the world to it's very foundation! One that will take you by the neck, shake you like a rag doll, and leave you feeling beat up and used on the side of the road.  That, or you really won't care and you'll go about your business like you aways do.

In reality, nothing in anyone's life but my own will change.  There are times in life when people say they want this, or say they want that, but never really make the leap to take charge of their own lives and manage their risk on a higher level.  Sure, making big changes are risky, and sure there is a chance that you'll fall flat on your face and return home to loved ones with your tail between your legs.  There's always a chance of failure, whether we admit it or not.  We know deep in our souls, no matter how much we deny it, that the possibility of not reaching our goals is there.  It is at that point that we have to move past the negative thoughts and break into the realm of what could be.  In that instance we've got to follow dreams, believe in our abilities, and let ourselves go.

As simple as it is, and as cliche as it may be, I'm at the point in my life (albeit a bit late) when I need to be pushed from the nest.  Comfort is something I've come quite accustomed to, and unfortunately, without a dramatic change, I will become content, and be left in the rut that I've dug for longer than I want.  And that's IF I ever get out of it.

When I was playing football in high school, one of the only speeches I remember our coach giving lead to the point of "never being content" with where you are.  At the time I, like the rest of the pimply faced teenager thought nothing about how we might apply that to our lives in the future, but rather what it meant at that point.  I thought to myself that coach was talking about being content with losing a game that we more than likely would.  In hindsight though, I now see where he was going.  Advice given from elders is never about the moment.  It's about what you'll do with it when you're at the point in your life that you're smart enough to realize what it really means.  I'm at that point now and I'm about to take hold of my life.  I'm about to be the bird being pushed out of the nest, only armed with the blind faith and belief in himself that he will fly instead of landing on the ground below, planting his head in the earth and exposing his grey matter for the vultures to eat.

"I'm a peacock captain, you gotta let me fly!!!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bucking the trend

In bikes, as in life, there are times when we give in to peer pressure, do what the magazines say, and buy equipment based on looks and popularity rather than form and function. Sure, 'x' product may work better for you, but 'such and such' pro was riding it, so that means it must be better.  Or my favorite, when 'racer-guy x' justifies spending a month's wages on 'carbon part x' because it will save him 20 seconds over the course of his next race.  What he doesn't realize, of course, is that going to bed early or eating better or training smarter might save hime 40 seconds rather than 20, and if he is to do any or all of those things, he's going to save himself some cash in the long run.

It's only natural that we get caught up in the hype.  Living in a progressive society during one of the most fast moving technological eras in the history of the world has us used to attaining information at a ridiculously fast rate.  I can think back to the days when I would actually have to wait for the new "California Cheap Skates" catalogue to come in the mail to see the newest skateboards.  I would cherish that little booklet, keeping it in my schoolbag and pulling it out to take a peek at any opportunity.  It would end up dog-eared and crinkled from thumbing through it so often.

These days, kids just have to Google their favorite company and they instantly get the latest models and the best price to be had.  It has been said that advances in travel have made the world smaller.  True, but now, more directly, the internet has made our world not only smaller, but more unified as well.

We get minute by minute updates of the latest news, gossip, sports scores, etc.  It's amazing how quickly information moves in this day and age.  And, like I've stated, bikes, like life, are not immune to this.

Every time I pick up a new mountain bike magazine (yes, I'm old fashioned and still actually read print material), I'm treated to the latest and greatest gadgets, pro reviews, new bikes, and writers opinions on what is better than whatever else.  In a lot of ways it's terrific to see how much the bikes of the mid 90's (when I got my first mountain bike) have progressed into the near space shuttles of today.  Back when I got my '95 Trek SingleTrack, suspension wasn't even a standard feature on bikes.  Steel hard tails that more resembled road bikes than what we know of mountain bikes today.  They were heavy, clunky, and anything but nimble, but still people managed to shred on them just like they do today. Maybe the jumps weren't as big, and the rock gardens not as gnarly,  but guys still got their 'gnar' on and slurped Mountain Dew while doing it.

Fast forward to today, and you've got a nearly infinite selection of categorized bikes to choose from.  For the cardio geeks there are Cross Country bikes; for those that want to enjoy long days being in the woods on comfy bikes there are Trail bikes; for those wanting to go up and back down the mountains, riding everything in between, there is the All Mountain bike; and for those seeking ultimate excitement and adrenaline pumping action, there are FreeRide and Downhill bikes.  All these different bikes are meant to be better at performing their designated duties than the others, while some are even supposed to be Jacks of all trades.

When looking at the bikes, you'll be hit with more marketing hype than is possible for any human being to process.  With the advances in technology comes infinite amounts of "This bike will do this," and "This bike is a true quiver killer."  It's all in an effort to sort out which rider belongs to which bike.  The good news is, for just about every rider and ever style there is a perfect bike.  The bad news is that it's going to take some time to get to that bike.

It's important when considering any bike you ride, whether it's deciding between what you've already got, or picking out a new rig at the bike shop, you absolutely must remember what you like to ride, how you like to ride it, and what you want to accomplish.  If you're goals include racing cross country, you'll put higher priority on things like weight and rolling resistance.  Likewise, if your goals include hulking off the biggest drop in the park, you'll be looking more for durability, strength, and suspension.  The key in all of this is to get what works for you, and not what works for the guy on the cover of the magazine.  Even more, you must not fall into any of the hype regarding certain products that may be the best thing since sliced bread this season, but will never be seen again soon after.

For me, I've been struggling lately between two bikes that I've got.  They both do the same job, just in slightly different ways.  They're very similar, so much so that if they were fighters in a boxing match, there would be no clear favorite.  All too often, I allow my mind to run wild with the pros and cons of each bike, creating a needless battle of "which bike is better" in my head.  The end result, always, is that I wind up realizing that whatever bike I'm currently riding is my favorite.  I'm happy with either bike, and the 'battle' I just had in my head, melts away the moment I begin to turn the cranks.  All the hype be damned, riding makes it all go away.

The point of this all is to listen to your body.  Ride the bike that makes the most sense when you are on it, rather than when you are thinking about it.  Things like air shock versus coil, long travel versus short, and even 29er versus "real" mountain bikes (only kidding all you 29er dorks!) are irrelevant if they don't feel like they should when you're using them.  For as much as you can say "My style is this," or "My style is that," it all means nothing if you feel like garbage on a bike that you thought was your style.

Ride what you like and don't worry about the hype.  In the end, that's really all it is anyway.

Another day closer...

To my BIG announcement!  Not going to let the cat out of the bag yet, but as I've said in a previous post, there's something brewing.  At this point in my life, it's put up or shut up, so I'm going to try my best to put up before I get shut up.

Thinking about life, you have to realize how short things are.  I'm 31 already.  Still not old by a long shot, but where the hell have the past 30 years go?  Seems like I was just 18 and heading off to college yesterday, not I'm taking on a new path and grabbing control of my life.  I'm not saying that what I'm undertaking is going to change my life permanently, but I'm not saying that it won't either.

The fact of the matter is,  everyone has to challenge themselves and break out of their shells at some point.  Each person has their own way of doing it, and they'll make it happen in their own time.  A lot of the time, this 'shell breaking' if forced on us, and we don't recognize it when it happens because we're going with the flow.  Other times, like mine, we've stayed stagnant for too long, and have to actively choose to make a difference in our lives.

For me, it's a scary proposition, but knowing myself, that's where I tend to achieve the most-when my back is against the wall.  It's not that I'm someone who will sit idly and wait for something to come to him, but I need to be challenged sometime to make the right choice.  Right now, it's been more than long enough of doing the same things over and over.

Many great people have said that you never get anywhere until you do something that scares you.  After all, how do you really know who you are if you've never been tested.  I'm reminded of the scene in the film "Fight Club" when Tyler Durden explains, "How much can you really know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?"  Absolutely true.  This is my fight and I'm excited to see what I'll learn about the man I am.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gettin' that feelin'

So in getting my new camera yesterday, I'm pretty stoked (that's "excited" for all you non-mountain bike, surfer types) on photography, and spent a good portion of my Friday night reading up on techniques, styles, and the art of taking pictures.  I've got to say, having been a film student in college once apron a time, I probably should have gone the photography route.  In the end, they are both hard to get jobs in when you graduate so I would had been no worse off than I am today.  As it stands, I still have yet to make a single dollar off the 4 (or 6!) years I spent watching movies in college.

The most interesting thing I find about taking photos, is that the story needs to be presented in a specific way.  Just like a short strory is to writing, so to is a single photo to telling a tale.  There's no time to beat around the bush,  You've got to present as much information in as small amount of space as possible.  It doesn't need to be immediately obvious, but you need your viewer to ultimately uncover the meaning or story in your work. If this doesn't happen, you've wasted their time and yours.

It's a challenge and I'm bound to suck at it at first, but in the attempt to broaden my interests, I'm happy to pick up the camera and learn.

Friday, May 4, 2012

First Pic

Pay no attention to the fact that the pic of me on the mountain bike that accompanies the title of this blog is shot the same way, using the same color scheme.  I happen to like the way that looks, and, after all, it is my blog!  Anyway, first pic of many to come with the new camera.

New Camera

I was going to post something I was working on yesterday, but instead I'm gonna let that sit for a day or so.

Anyhow, I got a new camera today-a Cannon Rebel Ti2.  It's my first 'real' camera and I'm going to put it to very good use over the next few months.  Lots to take pictures of, plenty of subjects to examine, and lots of creative juices to get flowing.


Photography is something that has always interested me, but it's only now that I've chosen to actual pursue it.  I've got a lot of future projects planned, and using a camera for them is a no-brainer.  Between all the riding I'll be doing, landscapes I'll see, and subjects I'll shoot, I'll have plenty of awesome content to be shared here, on twitter, and on Facebook.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I'm going to go grey with all the stress I'm dealing with today. I have an important announcement coming up, but I'm going to keep all of my 2 readers on the edge of their seats until Monday.  With said announcement, I've been running all around, setting things up, getting work done, and taking care of responsibilities that need to be tended to before things go down.

I'm not the type that handles stress well, and the fact that I'm usually over-caffieneated doesn't help manners.  I like when things are on an even keel, and disruptions in the matrix don't sit well with me.  I've been working on this, but at times like this, with so much going on and so much at stake (at least in my head), I tend to shit the bed with anxiety.  Not to say that there aren't moments when I'm cool under pressure, but this is certainly not one.

By Monday, everything should be done, safe and sound.  This is a biggie, so make sure to check back for it.  It does involve bikes, fitness, and fun, so it's nothing out of the ordinary for me.  Just enough of a change to make me start to take on new avenues in my life.

On another note, my foot is still slowly but surely getting better.  I'm feeling no pain, and the wound is closing nicely, though I still think I'm going to take my time getting back to full strength up on the bike.  I've done nearly nothing physical in the past 3 weeks, and though I'm starting to get fat (for me), I've still remaind strong by lifting on occasion.  I had planned originally to be very dedicated to my gym work during this layoff from the bike, but the fact is that I'm not very keen on only lifting weights, and for the most part find it to be incredibly boring.  There may come a time, I suppose, when I get back on the hog and lift like I did when I was in my early twenties, but this sure ain't the time.  

As much as it kills me to be 'less than fit' at the moment, I know two things: 1) within a week or two of being back to riding, I'll be fit again, lean again, and feeling good. And 2) this time away from the bike is good for the body and soul.  In the past years of riding, I've seldom if ever taken solid time away from being on the bike.  Even with the terrible winters we've had, with snow covering the trails from December to March,  I still found the motivation to get on the indoor trainer or rollers to keep my fitness and satisfy my urge to pedal.

With this being a mild winter, and the trails being in superb condition throughout, I never got off the bike. I suppose this is my penance to pay for having the luxury of riding whenever and wherever I pleased all winter long.  If that's the case, it's a small price to pay.

With the doctor's recommendation of "one more week" drawing to a close, it's tempting to try and test the foot to see where things are.  It feels so good right now I'd like to do that, but being smart will pay off for the future.  If all goes well, as I hope it will, I'll look back at this time off the bike as a well needed rest that recharged both body and soul.  Or I'll look back and think about how much is sucked not to ride.  Either way, I hope when I do, I'll be riding.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Picking the "One"

No, I'm not talking about what comes out of your nose. Get you mind out of the gutter.  What I'm talking about (surprise! surprise!) is bikes.

Recntly, I've been contemplating my bikes-it's the only thing that I can do while I wait for my foot to finish healing.  I've been thinking a lot about the types of bikes I ride, the style of riding I do, and what my strengths and weaknesses are.  I've come to various conclusions, and I'll get to those at the end, but let me begin with breaking it down for you.

Types of bikes I have:
I've been fortunate to ride a lot of bikes in my time.  I've had triathlon bikes, road bikes, xc mountain bikes, trail bikes, and all mountain bikes.  Being that I presently have only mountain bikes, I'll zero in on those for now.
I've got two bikes in my stable right now, an all time low.  They're both Specialized, an Enduro EVO and a Stumpjumper FSR EVO.  The Stumpy is a 2012 model and the Enduro is a 2011 model.  Both feature Specialized FSR suspension (full coil setup on the Enduro), Sram components, Avid breaks, and Mavic wheels (well I swap the same set of Crossmax SX's between the two bikes-I ain't made of money!).  Both bikes share a decently laid back geometry, with the Enduro being more of the downhill beast than the Stumpy.  The legs on the Enduro are also a bit longer, featuring 170mm up front and 160mm in the rear, while the Stumpy has 150mm of travel front and rear.
Both bikes are very well balanced and climb very well for what they are.  The Stumpy, of course, with it's more aggressive geo and less beefy frame gets to the top first, but the Enduro is not far behind.   I've ridden both bikes on the same trails and they have both performed well.

Style of Riding I do:
Simply put, All Mountain.  Though I feel that's a very vague description of what many people do, it does describe what I like.  I ride anything and everything I can.  For me, the most enjoyment comes from actually riding things, though I do spend a little time in the air, and don't mind the occasional drop every now and then.
Rocks, roots, and steep trails make me smile, and the more gnarly things are, the better.  I enjoy the skill it takes to tackily rollers, bridges, skinnies, and the like, though I try to keep things reasonable-I'd like to go home at the end of the day.
Most importantly, my style is all about having fun.  I'm decently graceful, though I do like to just hammer down any line I wish some of the time, and the bike I ride must compliment this.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
Being that I come from a Road and Triathlon background, my greatest strength is strength.  I have a lot of power in my legs and that allows me to get up stuff with bigger bikes that might not be possible for others.  With that, I've also got a lot of upper body strength from the sports I played through college, and like to use that to my advantage when I can.
While I'm a very good rider, I do tend to be less than graceful, and not entirely smooth all the time.  I ride hard, and expect my bikes to take some of the punishment I bestow upon them.  I don't dog my equipment, but I feel that it's a bike and it should get dirty, dinged, and beaten on every so often.  For the money I've spent on these things, I feel I deserve at least this much!

After looking at the above, I've come to two conclusions.  One, I have the perfect bikes for the riding I do. When things are pretty mellow, and I'm riding the local trails,  all of which are smooth, with some flow, I reach for the Stumpy.  And, on the other hand, when I travel a bit, and ride the more technical, grind, rocky, rooty stuff, I reach for the Enduro.

"Ok, but wait," you're saying.  Wasn't the point of this post to narrow things down to "one" bike?  Yes, you're right.  I think the biggest factors in my choosing a clear 'winner' has to be my strength and my occasional lack of smoothness. While the Stumpjumer, with it's lighter weight and more aggressive geometry is a great grab for the smoother trails that don't require smooth skills over rough rocks, the Enduro handles my rugged riding without compromising too much on the climbing side of things.  It's tough, burly, and climbs technical sections almost as good as the Stumpy, but still allows me to conquer just about everything, and shred the downhills that I really enjoy the most.

The Enduro is the "one" for me.  Though it's weight might be an issue for some, I'm not afraid.  It's coil suspension, being plush and long, allows me to go over and almost through things that would stop the Stumpy in it's tracks.  And, being that I care more for the downs than the ups, I don't put a high priority on getting to the top first-it gets up there eventually and that's all that matters.

So, while this might have been a simple decision to some, I'm a bit more picky.  Fact is, I LOVE both my bikes and wouldn't trade them for any others I've ridden.  Through the long process of owning and selling so many bikes, I've finally narrowed it down, and in the process learned about myself as a rider.  If you're looking to do the same, I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself.  It's not always about what the guy you met at the trail that can shred is riding, it's more about who you are, and what kind of rider you are.  After all, you're going to be throwing a leg over you're bike, not his.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Still on the mend...but that's ok

Warning: if you are getting sick of me whine about how much it sucks not to ride bikes, you can stop reading now.  This isn't going to be another post about me complaining, but rather another post about me hardening the fuck up, dealing with it, and moving forward.  If you want to keep reading, take what you will from this-it's mostly me just thinking out loud.

Another day and I'm still on the mend.  Things are slowly getting better, and I'm slowing gaining confidence that I'll ride again sooner or later.  As the time since I last rode pass, I'm growing more and more comfortable with not riding.  It was difficult (as I've more than illustrated in the posts of the last two weeks) in the beginning, but I'm getting the hang of being just a normal dude, who rides his bikes when he can.

I thnk the 'type A' athlete in me wants to avoid getting fat, out of shape, and actually resting my body for once in the last 20 years.  The fact is, even when I'm healthy, I have to question the actual 'health' part of that statement.  Sure, I'm lean, I feel energized, and I'm able to ride my bike like a demon, but in a whole-istic way, am I really healthy? Am I really putting a priority on my mental wellbeing as well as my physical? And equally as important, am I taking responsibility in all aspects of my life?  Are my priorities lined correctly?

I'm afraid to say that the answer to many of those questions isn't optimal.  In more than one case, it's "no," and that's not acceptable.  To be obsessed with one facet of life over another, regardless of what it may be, is never healthy.  There must be a flow.  There must be a balance.  If I've learned anything through athletics it's the fact that you must have equal if not greater time to recover from hard work than not.  In order to progress and grow from hard work, you have to allow your body and mind to recuperate.  If you fail to do this, you'll be chasing your tail in circles, never truly reaching your potential.

The same, obviously, holds true in life away from sport.  Getting your life in order is just as important as any training, playing, or practice.

In so many parts of my life, I've achieved laser like focus, only to come up short time and time again in the goals I had set.  It's taken me until now to realize that this was, in most instances, the direct result of neglecting other parts of life, that on the surface, didn't seem so important at the time.  Simple fact, when you mind is clear, responsibilities are addressed, and the proverbial "ducks are in order," you're going to be able to take what you thought was laser-like focus and throw that bitch into death ray mode, crushing your goals and achieving your greatest desires.

The lesson in all this is to play just as hard at life as you do at sport.  Don't forget that it's the simple things that make the difference between achieving and coming up short.

Like I've said, this ordeal with my foot has taught me a lot of things, and this has been one of the most important.