Saturday, May 26, 2012

Strength in Numbers Review: First Impressions

 

In Short:
good but didn't give me the chills.

*  *  *  *  *

Like probably every other self-respecting mountain biker on earth, I watched Strength in Numbers yesterday. I plugged the old lappie into the flat screen at sat back with some popcorn to watch it in all its sometimes-pixelated glory. But who can complain? I was stoked Anthill was letting the world check it out for free. And why not? If you're proud of your creation and you know it's top notch, why not let people check it out and trust that they'll buy it? So for any of you who were living under a rock or recovering from a coma in a hospital or whatever, here's a little review.

I have to say up front that Strength in Numbers is a good movie and probably deserves a place in anyone's collection. But since the Collective/Anthill guys are pretty much the standard by which all MTB movies are judged, I'm taking a pretty critical approach. I only got to watch it once, and maybe after a second viewing I'll come back and change all my failed opinions. But these are my initial impressions. 

I was hoping for a little more. For me, it was just good. It lacked the soul of Roam and the stoke factor of Follow Me, and sits somewhere in the neighborhood of Seasons. Follow Me, while pretty straightforward, had some pretty mind blowing moves on some really crazy features, and maintained a really high energy level that still gets me really stoked to ride.

Maybe it's not fair for me to compare it to Roam, since Roam was the first freeride movie I ever saw and none of their movies have moved me like Roam did. But even though riding and filming have gone up a few notches since then, Roam still moves me. Strength in Numbers reminds me of seasons for a couple of reasons. First, it's another failed attempt at some sort of concept beyond "Hey, watch rad bikers ride rad bikes in rad ways." The "seasons" concept didn't really pan out, and in Strength in Numbers, the whole "community concept" didn't really pan out either.  Yes, you have segments with a really strong sense of community, like Whistler and the Post Office Jumps, but everywhere else, there were these little blips of non-pros talking about their scene for a brief moment. Most of the time these ended up being just sort of awkward moments (Like the Random Nepal guy: "for a long time mountain biking was here...and then suddenly, it was here..." Who was that guy? What was his story?) 

Like Seasons, it wasn't enough of a documentary to be really interesting, but it was enough of a documentary to slow things down and be uninteresting. I'd love it if they did a full on documentary of some of these guys and their lives. But this halfway stuff just doesn't do it for me. Either dig deep and really show us what it's like behind the scenes, or just give us the eye candy. Anthill always seems to mean well conceptually, but it ends up being like the little brother in the back seat while you're with your friends, popping up here and there and bugging everyone.

On to some specifics:

Riding
Other than the Kamloops section where Aggy rides that huge jump trail through the woods, I wasn't blown away by the amplitude of anything. Don't get me wrong, there were awesome moves and awesome trails, but I don't remember seeing really ground breaking. I was impressed multiple times by the speed and control exhibited by downhill and trail riders throughout the movie. Brandon Semenuk rallying Gnarcroft (I think?) is something to behold. Strength in Numbers seemed to be less hucks and tricks and more high speed, gnarly line choice. It definitely made me feel like a hack of a trial rider. Those moments are scattered throughout and they're probably my favorite thing about the movie.

Videography
As I said earlier, it was good. They had some pretty awesome ultra-slowmo stuff going on, and they used it really well. It appeared consistently but not to the point of being annoying. I also noticed some impressive long shots of DH racers. It's seems like those are rare and Anthill managed to get some extended lines that really showcased what some of these World Cup blokes can do. On the other hand, with Redbull on board, I had secret hopes that we would see something on the caliber of Travis Rice's snowboard movies like That's it That's All or The Art of Flight. I guess Redbull wasn't the only source of money for Travis. We'll have to wait for Quicksilver to get in on MTB. But after Lifecycles, which although it wasn't perfect and was maybe  a little too ambitious, I think Anthill needs to further step up their game visually. I know a lot of people didn't like Lifecycles for a number of reasons, but I LOVE watching it. It's amazing to watch. Strength in Numbers was good to watch, but not amazing.

Music
I thought the music was just okay. Seemed like one of those movies where they're struggling to pay for royalties and they end up with some dodgy tunes. Of course, you can be the judge. Here are the tracks:
  1. Send Me a postcard - Shocking blue
  2. Random Hearts - Tom Gabel
  3. Soul of a man - Ramblin' Jack Elliot
  4. Cantara - Dead Can Dance
  5. Write It all down for you - Elliot Brood
  6. Guerilla Radio - Rage Against the Machine
  7. True Believer - The Bouncing Souls
  8. Broken Side of Time - Alberta Cross
  9. Radioactive - Imagine Dragons
  10. Wonderful World - Jimmy Cliff
  11. Failures - Larry Gus
  12. The Ghost of You (Instrumental) - Concordia
  13. Prisoner (Instrumental) - The Jezabels
  14. Let Spirits Ride - Black Mountain
  15. Shave It - Zedd
Without going back and checking out all the songs again, some highlights for me included Rage Against the Machine (gotta give credit for the stoke factor during the Utah segment), the Bouncing Souls (nothing like some classic punk), Imagine Dragons, and the Jezabels. Lowlights included Shocking Blue's Send me a Postcard during the Aptos portion. I get it, they're the Post Office Jumps, and the song is about sending a postcard. Nice idea, horrible song. Cantara, by Dead Can Dance, was a tune clearly picked to match up culturally with the Nepal segment (although the song has more middle eastern flavor than Asian). I'm all for a little culture, but it went on forever and actually started to bother me before it was over. I guess everything else was pretty forgettable. I'll have to go back and check out the tracks to see if there's anything else I liked. Lots of gritty, mid-tempo rock if you're into that stuff. I happen to like electronic music, although I don't think the whole movie should be drenched in it, but Shave It by Zedd didn't get me going.

Random Yea's
  • I liked the integration of the random locals during the Whistler segment. Super cool for them and nice to see good riders who don't do it for a living. 
  • I liked the bike related quotes between segments.I liked the old footage from early days at the Post Office Jumps. When I mentioned a full blown documentary, that's the kind of interesting stuff I'm talking about. 
  • I liked the section where they showed the trail-builders by their trails and with the trail names.
Random Nay's
  •  A Danny Macaskill segment would've really added some umph to this thing! 
  • I don't recall Matt Hunter out-doing any of his past hucks, and that hurt a little.  
  • In all seriousness, I have a crush on BC as much as the next U.S. freerider. But I wish they'd branch out and be less BC-centric. Even beyond BC it's always the same places: North Shore, Whistler, Kamloops, southern Utah, high alpine singletrack in Europe, somebody's dirtjumps, and some random place on the other side of the earth that isn't really that rad but is somewhat interesting. I don't know how to tell them to strike a better balance between the meccas and the new spots. Maybe they can't. I just can't help but think there's more out there...
Bottom line? 
 I'm utterly glad these guys keep making movies. I love it. But I'll probably buy the iTunes version at half the price of the DVD/BluRay.

Strength in Numbers can be ordered on DVD/BluRay here or downloaded on iTunes here.

What did you think?







Monday, May 14, 2012

Kinfolk

This is one of the stories that speaks to the essence of mountain biking, even though it doesn't involve any "epic" pictures or "gnarly" video. No, just a testament to how rad mountain biking is as a lifestyle and community.

I've enjoyed going to book stores and reading magazines for years and years. From snowboarding to music to biking, the topics have changed but the pleasure I take in a few minutes perusing mags amidst the smell of fresh books is one of my favorite things.

This past Mother's Day weekend, I accepted the fact that I can't choose gifts for my wife and dropped her off at one of her favorite shops with a bit of cash while I headed for Barnes and Noble with the kids. With the addition of children to the family, by bookstore routine has only been interrupted slightly: I still grab a couple magazines, but instead of heading for a cushy chair, we march back to the kids section where I sit at the little kiddy table, soaking in the latest while keeping a semi-watchful eye on the little ones.

Our arrival at children's section was quickly followed by a mandatory bathroom trip, so I stashed my copies of Decline and Dirt on a shelf and we made the voyage. When we came back, what did I find to my surprise (much like Goldilocks) but a guy sitting at the kiddy table with two bike mags. At first I thought he had found my stash, but no, there they were where I left them. I grabbed them off the shelf, sat down across the way and said, "I'm glad I'm not the only one"  as I held my magazines up.


The conversation caught and then snowballed. We talked trails, shops, injuries, adjustable seatposts, 29ers...about an hour later I had a new friend and I had no idea where my daughter was. (Don't worry. I found her.) I've been involved in a number of hobbies and pursuits, but none of them seem to elicit the instant kinship that mountain biking does. I love that.



Monday, May 7, 2012

Binary/Instagram Mashups


Most of us at Binary are big fans of Instagram. To celebrate the recent release of Instagram on Android, we invite all the Instagramers out there to be a part of Binary Instagram Mashups, a new collaborative feature we're doing. Here's how it works: we'll ask you to Instagram a picture of a certain thing related to mountain biking and give it a specific hashtag. After a week or so, we'll collect all the pictures and show them as a collage on www.binarybike.com, giving everybody a glimpse of that corner of the mountain biking world.

Round one: Backpacks. Almost everyone rides with a backpack. A good pack with a few essential items can be a life saver; an extension of ourselves that builds character along with us as we ride. Take an Instagram picture of yours, tag it with #binarymashup1, and check back for the collage. That's it!

Let us know what you think in the comments.

TR-250 Stop Motion Build Video

The video that started it all. 

TR-250 Build Video: the making of

THE SETUP

For the last few years I've been lucky enough to snag a new Transition each year through their grassroots/dealer program. Each winter I'd research the build for weeks, finally place my order, and after a torturing wait, eventually come home from work to a big fat cardboard box filled with each individual part necessary for a new ride. Christmas as a kid has nothing on unpacking and building a new bike.

Last year I picked up a TR250 hot off the presses and thought it might be cool to do some sort of video of the build. I ended up doing a stop-animation type video made up of thousand of photos all lined up  and played in succession at a high speed. It turned out pretty cool and ended up getting a pretty descent amount of love around the Internet . After placing the my order this year, the thought crept in, "What can I do to one-up last year's build video?" My initial thought was that I couldn't. And then an idea came (from a little red devil standing on my left shoulder). How do you one-up a stop-motion video of building your bike?

With a stop motion video of the bike building itself.

I immediately wished I hadn't had the idea. I was hammered with how cool it would be if we pulled it off but how torturous it would be to to do it well. Of course, like they say on Inception, once the idea is planted, it's pretty much impossible to get rid of. So it was on. Unlike last time, when I set up my GoPro to take pictures every two seconds while I built my bike, this was going to take multiple cameras, multiple people, and a decent amount of planning. I enlisted my fellow Binary mates (Jarel and Wes) and we started to pull together a plan.

GETTING THE BIKE

According to our plan, my bike would arrive Friday and we'd shoot the video in Jarel's garage Friday and Saturday before Jarel flew to Saudi Arabia for work early the next week. If we didn't get it done before he left town, it wasn't going to happen. It's prime riding season here in AZ, and I wasn't going to let that bike sit in a box until he came back. So, as any self respecting fanatic would do, I checked my bike's tracking number on my phone roughly every ten minutes all week. My excitement spiked when finally, on Friday morning, tracking showed the package was out for delivery.

Imagine my devastation when I checked the tracking number at lunch and it said "Undelivered. No one home."

The package required a direct signature, I was thirty miles away at work, and my wife had to step out for a minute. Just my luck for FedEx to make an attempt just then. Enduring the rest of my workday was an impressive display of discipline, I must say. I drove home in utter frustration, wanting to chew somebody out but knowing I was the only one to blame. I called FedEx three times to see if there was a way to get the bike. Nope.

About halfway home, I had the impression
to start watching for FedEx trucks, with this vague theory that if I saw one, I'd be willing to follow it for some distance. I live in the outskirts of the city, and there's really only one road back, so I knew the FedEx truck with my bike nestled in the back would have to go back the way I was coming. But the thought that it would be going back now, six or seven hours after trying to deliver my bike, was ludicrous.

At one intersection I saw a FedEx Home Delivery truck. I was tempted to follow, but I was pretty sure that was a separate service from FedEx Ground. So I pressed on. About a mile from home, I saw a Fedex truck turning left onto the main road at an intersection to my right. It was about to head the direction I had come from. I thought about throwing a U-turn, dismissed it, thought again, and flipped my CR-V around like a german sports car. Was I really chasing a FedEx truck hoping it would have my bike in it and I would be able to get it? Maybe I need an intervention. I was embarrassed, but excited.

I really hoped the truck would turn into one of the small neighborhoods branching off the main road. How far would I follow this truck back into town? What if it was all done and was heading back to the warehouse? Would I follow it for that long? I didn't have to wonder long. After maybe a mile, the truck turned into a winding neighborhood. I followed, keeping pace as we wound our way into the depths of a housing development. Finally, the truck pulled to a stop in front of a house. I stopped a bit back, wondering if I was making the FedEx guy nervous. When the driver came to the back of his truck and opened the right-hand rear door, I could see one measly little box sitting in the back of the truck. My heart sunk, but I held on to hope. I jumped out and walked up the man. As I did, the view behind the closed left door opened and there, against the side of the truck, was a big fat box with "Transition" plastered on the side. In a fit of disbelief, I babbled out some explanation of how that was my bike. In a  daze I showed the delivery man my ID, pulled the box from the truck, and then turned to my car.

How was I going to put a bike box in my CR-V?

It took a few minutes, but I figured it out. Then the real work began.

ONE OF THE 1000+ PHOTOS USED TO MAKE THE VIDEO

 

 MAKING THE VIDEO

I've dabbled in stop-motion before, but I knew this was going to be a far more laborious undertaking. We had run a few test shots and had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, but we really had no idea how it would turn out. All I knew was that a long night was ahead. After clearing a space in Jarel's garage, we set up lights, laid the background on the floor, and figured out a way to mount my DSLR to the ceiling of his garage. It involved some holes in the drywall, a tripod, and some bungy chords. We ran a video line out of the camera, down the wall, and into a TV so we could see what we were doing, ran some more test shots, and then got to work, all three of us moving a few parts each, bit by bit, using a remote to snap a photo after each move, until the bike was built. Somewhere in the early morning hours we shifted to the riding portion of the video, which had a learning curve of it's own. I spent enough time on my left side in awkward poses that I was pretty sore the next day. We finally finished shooting and made it to bed around 5 a.m.

I HAD SOME PRETTY SOLID BRUISES ON MY HIP AFTER LAYING ON THE GARAGE FLOOR ALL NIGHT

 

THE FINALE

The next day I was able to get a rough idea of how the footage turned out with quick import into Final Cut. I was pretty stoked about the build portion, but the riding portion wasn't quite up to snuff, so we shot it again. It was then that Wes had the idea that we should have the parts explode off the bike at the end. I hated the idea. I couldn't believe they wanted to tear the bike down after building in the most difficult way possible. But, I knew it would be a great way to end. So we unbuilt the bike, picture by picture, and then we built it back up proper. And yes, I have had a chance to ride the bike that I built twice. And I love it.

Nephi's Twist

Justin Olsen doing what he does best.

SOUTHERN UTAH COMES with no shortage of mountain biking fame. From the undulating XC on Gooseberry Mesa to the white knuckles of the Redbull Rampage venue, there’s a trail for every bike amid the red plateaus that make up one of the most unique landscapes on earth. As a native of Northern Utah, road trips to the South were on regular rotation and over the years our crew has sampled most of what made Southern Utah famous. One trip during the winter of 2007 stands out in memory. As bike trips tend to, ours grew from just a couple friends to a large group of acquaintances and strangers all connected by the love of two wheels. The group had spent the weekend camping and riding at the original Redbull Rampage site. Near the end of a good day of jumps and drops, all coated in a fine layer of ginger colored dust, one of these new friends recommended a quick shuttle on Nephi’s Twist.

“Nephi’s Twist?” I’d never heard of it.  Nephi (pronounced knee-fie), is no stranger to the average Utahn. He’s the first character you meet in the Book of Mormon, the curious book of scripture unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) who settled Utah in the 1840s. The book of Mormon opens with Nephi’s perilous journey into the wilderness from Jerusalem, a journey that sort of melded into a line of singletrack in my mind as I asked what this new trail was all about.

“It’s just a quick, cool shuttle down a ridgeline,” came the brief reply.

Quick? Yes. Cool? Yeah. Down a ridgeline? Right again. But Nephi’s Twist also proved to be some of the longest and scariest few minutes I’ve ever spent atop two wheels.

Travelling South from Virgin, Utah, State Road 9 drops down off the mesa into the little town of LaVerkin. Just off the highway to the north lies a pile of wild ridge lines. Somewhere in that pile of moon-like landscape lay Nephi’s Twist.

Between us, our group had an old van with shag carpet, a shiny, new, lifted Nissan Titan, and my 1992 single-cab, 4-cylinder Toyota pickup. I was just grateful that my little truck had made the voyage across Utah, but the true test of my truck’s manhood was about to begin when it was chosen as one of the shuttle vehicles.

“We’ll leave your truck at the bottom,” they said after a couple minutes on dirt roads led us to the drop-in point. But instead of taking the sure route to the bottom via the highway, Rod, (another new friend and over-zealous driver of the Titan), pointed to a dirt road descending into the nearby canyon and said, “I think that leads to the bottom. It’ll be quicker.” I was instantly nervous, since my view of Rod’s sanity was tainted by the fact that he spent most of the weekend drinking Rockstars, firing an automatic rifle into hillsides, and chanting the mantra, “FIST THE BARS!” in an effort to keep any of us from ever touching our brakes.

“You think it leads to the bottom?” I had concerns, but I didn’t have the guts to say it.
My trusty Toyota in the Southern Utah sunrise.

I HESITANTLY FOLLOWED down the rough canyon road as Rod took off at what must have been 40 miles an hour. I did my best to keep up. Before long we came to a section of road that was ultra steep and totally covered in loose rock.

“If this road doesn’t have an output, there’s no way  this truck is making it back up this hill,” I thought to myself as I started the half-drive, half-slide down the hill. As if that weren’t enough, we soon came upon Dan pulling full-on Moab-rock-crawler action through a dry river bed filled with compact-car sized boulders.

More negative thoughts. “There’s no way my truck is making it through that! Does he have no comprehension of what I’m driving?” But knowing there was no way out the way we came, I said a little prayer and went for it. “Fist the bars!” as Rod would say.

I consider the successful river crossing a full-on miracle. I swear at one point my front bumper and my tow package rested on rocks at the same time.

Before long, the road mellowed and meandered out into the open of the trails end. Hallelujah! My adrenaline was drained and I hadn’t even ridden my bike yet. Little did I know how grateful I would be to reach this spot again in a few minutes. Rod drove back up the rocky road at obscene speeds, bouncing off rocks and sliding around corners while I held on in the back thinking, “Who is this guy?!”

SOON, WE FOUND OURSELVES geared and ready to drop in, complete with the butterflies and the vague need to use the restroom that attends the typical trailhead ritual. We stood amongst the sage brush looking out toward the craggy red and grey ridges creeping like devilish fingers toward town, saddled our bikes, and began our descent.

The slim singletrack began on a wide incline covered in red shale and mint-green sage. As we descended, the plain narrowed, and a quick hike-a-bike had us at the top of a ridge facing a 100-foot, super-steep roll-in off the other side; the first of many tests to come.

Nephi’s twist is not a fast, consistent descent. There are small ridges and saddles along the way, which have you sometimes climbing and sometimes traversing. This allows for the kind of speed you maintain with a comfortable, consistent pedal, along with some slow tech sections and point-and-shoot drop lines. Soon, our large group was spread out across the ridge; some riding, some walking, and some doing a bit of both.

Early on, I realized that Nephi’s Twist is the desert’s evil answer to North Shore skinnies. The ridge is usually only a few feet wide, and for most of the way either side is steep enough that if you go over, you’re not stopping until you reach the bottom.

It gets worse when the trail skirts some of the steep little peaks rather than going over them. As I made my way through these sections, I  continued pedaling because there was literally nowhere to put my feet down even if I wanted to. As I rolled around one ridge, I  stole glances at the 70-foot drop literally inches to my left. “If you fall, fall to the right!” I told myself. Suddenly I rolled a foot-wide gap in the trail where the soil has sluffed away, looking between my legs, straight down, 70 feet. There’s Rod in my head again: “Fist the bars!”

Looking nonchalant

With all this looking around,“What if?” begins to repeat in your mind. I had short visions of me and my bike doing cartwheels down the mountainside. As I used all my will power to maintain momentum and look to the outlet, I had the sobering realization that if I slipped up, if I did something silly, I was guaranteed to get hurt and maybe even die.

It’s different than the fear I’m used to; rather than the usual fear of taking a tumble at high speeds or of slamming after hitting a jump wrong, it’s the kind of fear that rock climbing brings: Too much time to look down and let your mind run wild. Never before had the possibility of death by mountain biking seemed so close.  I knew that if you put Nephi’s Twist three feet off the ground it would be pretty typical. I knew I’d ridden in perfect control along miles of singletrack without ever blowing off the side, and I knew that messing up was unlikely, but the potential  consequences mangled all perspective. Like many times before and since, I found myself thinking,“Why am I doing this?” with a powerful part of me saying, “Don’t be an idiot. Walk to the bottom.”

And yet, I had stronger desire to clean the whole trail. There are the riders, and there are the walkers. Which group was I going to be a part of? I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I stopped at a couple different points while this little debate play out in my mind. This, as they say, is where worlds collide; where preservation of life runs headlong into pride. I had to be a rider!

Isn’t it amazing that pathetic pride can outweigh concern for life? We humans are one unique beast!

The mob slowing making their way toward the end of the trail.

HERE AND THERE SECTIONS opened up and mellowed out a bit, like manna from heaven. I basked in them, if only for a moment, until it was time to face potential paralyzation again.

All the way down, I continued to debate the moral rightness of riding the trail.

Cliffsides weren’t the only challenge. Nephi’s Twist also comes with a few drops and technical steeps. Like the rest of the trail, on their own they’re not much to talk about. Four or five feet. It’s the narrow ridge and steep sides that get me. One such rocky steep section extended in front of me, dropping into a saddle running along a cliff on the left side of the ridge. Once again, I found myself questioning my ability to maintain a straight line as I watched my friends disappear over the edge in front of me, each appearing as a speck a little further down. “Fist the bars!” one last time.

Mercifully, the trail soon came to a close (albeit in a violent 50-foot descent) to the level valley below where my little white truck waited patiently. It felt like stepping on land after weeks at sea; like coming back to earth after hurtling through space. I’d never been so happy to see the end of a trail; to feel the sweet relief of gratified pride and preserved life. In a rare coup, they both survived! I could say I rode Nephi’s Twist and I would never have to ride it again.

Phil pondering on the finish line.

IN THE FALL OF 2010 I was wrapping up another mini-tour of southern Utah’s freeride spots. At the end of the day, we were headed out of Virgin toward LaVerkin when I heard myself say to my uninitiated little brother, “Want to hit Nephi’s Twist?”

I will never ride it again. This time I mean it. I think.

San Tans by Moonlight

By Brigham Rupp

With the sun already setting while I placed my singlespeed hardtail over the tailgate of my Tacoma, I'm not sure why I thought I would have plenty of light for a ride. But I thought I would. Five minutes later I was at the trailhead with the sun already well below the rolling desert hills in front of me. Black cactus silhouettes gave way to yellow, blending into pink-lit clouds as I started sprinting through the desert.


By the time I cleaned the main climb and arrived in the depths of the San Tan park, it was well dark. Reason said to turn around and head back, but I hadn't had my fill. I knew it would be tricky, but I'd ridden the trail a hundred times and the moon was at 3/4s. I figured I'd be okay and I continued. Within ten minutes, I was riding primarily by feel. There was enough light to see where the trail lead, but the contours and obstacles were invisible. As I rolled along at a slower than normal pace (that felt faster than normal) The dark desert folded around me, wrapping me in heat and noise. Paranoia started creeping in around the edges of my mind: crickets sounding like rattlesnakes; Cactus looking like a lurking coyotes.

Despite all the times I thought I saw something, the wildlife left me alone tonight.
 

On the home stretch descent, my hands and elbows started to hurt. I realized the pain was from the surprise jolts from unseen rocks and lumps and rises. Then the revelation came. I let out the tension in my arms and loosened my limbs, allowing them to rise and fall with the trail.

Finally, I was really, literally, feeling the trail. Riding by feel! Is this what they mean when they say "feeling the trail"? No longer will my eyes govern the flex of my muscles. My bike will undulate beneath my stance as if on upside-down water. Biking was about to get even more fun!

While coasting through the trailhead and placing the bike back in the truck, I thought about the little piece of earth I had just joined. Me and it alone, in some sort of mutual understanding. I was welcome there, even a part of the desert. The ground was glad to have me. The cacti and bushes were pleased to see me weave around their spines. The mountains felt the tickle of my tires on their backs, and the insects called after the squeek of dusty brakes.


I have to get home, I have to go to bed and get up for work. But I'll be back, friend.

Bikes, Bullets, and Do-Overs

By Sean Rees

Bikes are fun.

It seems like a no-brainer. Somehow that fact eluded me from the ages of 10 to 30.  Last year I bought my third bike ever which was also my first mountain bike, a gold colored Kona Hei Hei 100 XC bike. The previous bike, 20 years before was a silver colored Huffy something-or-other that I named Silver Bullet.

Sean shredding the early years.

I don't remember the exact day that I decided to be boring and stop riding bikes but it is a day I wish I could do over. Maybe I didn't watch the movie 'Rad' enough. If only the present me could go back and tell the past me what a mistake he was making. Then maybe there might not have been such a learning curve when I picked up a bike again last year.
Getting back into biking happened gradually. A few years ago my wife and I lived on the east coast while we were getting our graduate degrees. I started getting emails, Facebook updates and invites from some website called Pinkbike to view photos and videos of my cousins Dave and Brigham doing increasingly awesome things on their bikes. They finally awakened in me something that had been hibernating for far too long; my sense of adventure. In May of last year after moving back to Utah, Brigham helped me purchase a gold colored Kona Hei Hei 100 for a "Guys Trip" to Sedona, AZ. Brigham took me on my first real bike ride in nearly two decades. 5 minutes in I wanted to barf. Doing nothing for so long makes a person weak. The barf feeling slowly melted away to be replaced by a desire to bike as often as possible.

A few of the two-wheeled machines in question


When I got back from the trip I began riding my bike three or four times a week. The last year has been full of flat tires, sprained fingers, shattered helmet cams, blood, cuts, burns and thousands of dollars spent on bikes and gear.
What a great year! Bikes are fun!



Wait a minute. I totally lied. I just remembered two other bikes I had after the silver Huffy; a gray and yellow Haro and a red Robinson. These bikes got use in the early 90's when I was in 6th grade. At this point I lived in Williston, North Dakota. There is currently an oil boom going on in Williston so you may have heard of it. I lived there because of the first oil boom in the 80's. Oil is the only reason I can think of to make anyone want to live there. Its very flat. There are no mountains. There aren't even any hills. Winter lasts for 6 months of the year and I remember temperatures dropping to -50 degrees. Snow would often drift clear to our roof. You know what, It might actually be North Dakota's fault that I ditched biking for so long. Luckily I live in the mountains now and enjoy riding singletrack, ski resorts and dirt jumps with my current bike; a red Transition Covert I've named Hellboy. I look forward to when the snow melts off and I can start riding again, because as I mentioned before; bikes are fun.

the end.

Dirt Obsession


By Jarel Morrow

Dirt: it’s brown, it’s ugly, it makes you cough and choke, and you can’t do much with it. I hate dirt and everything about it. There are seemingly not many reasons to appreciate dirt.  It can be ugly, get in places you don’t want, and cause additional wear and tear on everything you own. Here in the Sonoran Desert there is no shortage of dirt; it is everywhere in this unique landscape we like to call “the valley of the sun.”  It is the first thing people notice when they fly into this area, when all the newcomers exclaim: “look how brown everything is!” 

Several years ago I thought it would be a good idea to buy myself a piece of dirt and build a house.  That was my American dream, to own acreage outside of town where I could be left alone from the HOA’s and gain relief from the rat race. 

So there I was with my very own piece of American dirt.  After we built our beautiful home and then watched the housing market crumble around us, we had no money left to improve our large piece of dirt so we did what most people do that have too much land: we grew weeds on it. There I sat over the years staring at my piece of dirt wondering if it would ever become anything else.  The kids loved playing in the dirt and even building little jumps out of garbage for their bicycles, but a big ugly piece of dirt still remained.

I had a close friend and colleague that was really into biking.  Dirt Jumping and freeriding was his thing.  He talked about riding all the time.  Trips to Whistler and new bikes were all he seemed to get excited about.  I would just role my eyes at his stories because I wasn’t a kid anymore.  I had moved on to "big boy" toys.  He always bugged me about getting a bike but I rode dirt bikes.  I was not into any sissy pedal power! I had been into cross country in the past but it didn’t seem very enticing anymore.  I needed more adrenaline these days. So he comes to me one day and asks, what are you going to do with that big piece of land behind your house? We should build a pump track on that dirt you own.  “A pump track?” I said, “What is that?”  Well, that is when my obsession with dirt began. 

We began earnestly trying to organize all of my dirt into some semblance of a track.  The start of the little track looked kind of cool at first blush but we had no idea what we were in for.  We broke our backs moving dirt with tractors, wheel barrows and shovels.  Piling, packing, watering; piling, packing, watering… we performed these tasks over and over again.  The design was sound, having been put together by my good friend who spent hours researching and designing a solid pump track. After many weeks working after hours and every Saturday we finally finished the track.  The Adrenaline pump track was born, but we soon realized as with any birth, it was only the beginning.  

We hadn’t “earned our eyes” yet and couldn’t yet see the flow visually.  Early on we would have to build and ride and then rebuild.  It took months of going through this until we could start to see how it was going to feel when we rode. We would ride it a few days and figure out the problems with flow and design and start rebuilding.  After tearing out a berm and rebuilding we would realize how it affected the next one and then the next one.  We rebuilt the track over and over again.  Days turned into weeks and weeks into months.  Fall to summer and summer to spring, out on the pump track, riding and rebuilding.  The obsession was a full blown addiction and it was beginning to consume my life as I spent every free moment, just me my friends and my dirt. 

Well, here we are just over a year later.  We have a dialed pump track, a small jump line, a large jump line, and ultimately, the coolest back yard in the state of Arizona.  We get kids from all over coming to ride in my back yard.  We have fathers and daughters, mothers and sons; giving it there best to have fun on this crazy brown stuff we call dirt.

Dirt: it’s brown, it’s beautiful, it makes you laugh and smile and you can do anything with it. I love dirt and everything about it. 

Have you caught the building bug? Tell us about it in the comments.

Permission to Buzz the Tower

By David Rupp
 (Editor's note: At some point during a recent trip, Dave started calling his new bike "the F16." I suppose this story is what was happening in his head that lead him to rename the bike.)

I stepped out and grabbed my gear. Standard-issue fighter pilot stuff: clear goggles, helmet, gloves, and high-top flight kicks. It wasn't a war that I was entering, but it was battle.   


Mostly of emotions. As I geared up on the runway, excitement took over and the thought of quick left and rights, G-ins and G-out's, almost made waiting for my wingman (my older brother) unbearable. Geared up like me, he fisted the grips of his fighter and took the lead.

Close on his wing, we started out slowly, remembering once  again of how to make the fighter jets an extension of ourselves. Unlike most jets these have no motors and require no fuel, except what our eager bodies have to give. The initial stretch of our legs slowly started to warm our bodies, and the endorphins reached our heads and stimulate our brains to push forward.  

The cockpit put me in a position of perfect balance, in and out of each turn and over every obstacle. The flap-lever-pedals were positioned so that my legs effortlessly rocked the bike side to side and up and down. The handle bar was only noticeable in my peripheral as a stability bar holding flashing brake levers at the perfect distance from my finger where they wrested seamlessly.  

Turbulence has been an issue from day one with two-wheeled jets. But with these new models the focus has changed from avoiding all the bumps to using them to find rhythm. Each ledge and drop becomes a symphony of notes extending from flight to flight. The symphony played louder and louder as we roared down the trail.  Each berm and drop precariously positioned to feel and touch rhythm that could only be reached by becoming an extension of the mechanism and ultimately the trail beneath, pushing notes into our ears.  

In time the rhythm slowed and conscious thought began to creep back. The trail was done. There was only one two-wheeled fighter jet that had the power to make symphony like that. Its nimble reactions and tight fit allowed us to navigate through what some would say impossible terrain, especially at speed, and all while making music.