Paul Andrews

Archive for the ‘Mountain Biking’ Category

Why Fewer Women Riders? Wait a sec…

In Mountain Biking on February 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Angela taming a log roll in St. Ed's

Why are fewer women cycling? asks BikeRumor. Well, er… are there actually fewer women riding? Most data in urban areas suggests the opposite. And on the trails, there’s a real explosion in women mtbers (granted the base was small). On Twitter and Facebook, more women riders all the time. Still, it’s worth a read…

Case in (counter)point: Angela Sucich takes the Diamondback Lux Sport out for a thrash.

Gregg’s Cycles in Seattle has reprised W.O.W. — Women on Wheels, a Ladies Night Out. Mark it down: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4, at the Green Lake store.

And at 86, still pedaling.

Then again, Martin Krieg, the “FarthingPenny” guy, checks in with this report:

“Who should roll up but Ellen Fletcher, America’s first politician/bike activist. And the woman for whom America’s first bike boulevard here in Palo Alto was named. Ellen asked me how our ride to Boston was coming along, and among other things, told me she had seen our bus parked on the other bike boulevard, Park Blvd, at Park Automotive Services. And as she pedaled off, I felt the need to corroborate her age for Chris and Caroline, the passer by who took the below photo. Ellen had to stop to get enough wind to answer me. She was still on the mend from having had a cancerous part of her lung removed.

“Eighty two”, she answered. She got back on her bike and pedaled away!!”

Alice Telford rides like ... a girl!

A less encouraging case in point: Woman rider clotheslined in steep gully.

Don’t forget the always cyclesque Kate Hudson!

And then there’s “Women of Dirt,” which is getting premieres all up and down the West Coast. The Cali premiere is this Sunday in Santa Cruz, rain or shine.

Which brings us to the subject of the bizarre dreariness and slop of this winter. In Vancouver they’re sweating in sunshine but the SF Bay Area can’t buy a ray. The big question-mark this weekend is the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival. “Women of Dirt” will show, but the rides and events planned around the festival aren’t being helped by the wet. Mark Davidson & the gang at Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz have put together an incredible weekend, with more than $15,000 worth of merchandise to raffle off. At last tweet everything is still on, Soquel Demo ride and Jump Jam included! Got my ticket from Another Bike Shop in Santa Cruz and am ready to rumble!

“Women of Dirt” Santa Cruz premiere: Hot deals!

In Mountain Biking, Videos on February 16, 2010 at 1:18 am

Could be yers, ALL yers, dude...or dudess!

The big “Women of Dirt” California premiere is two weeks away, and Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz keeps sweetening the pot. Titus has emerged as the lead sponsor and is offering up a killer bike, the El Guapo, for raffle giveaway. Plus Black Market Bikes is offering 10 percent off in-stock items purchased from its online store. And the general raffle includes “an Intense 5.5 EVP frame donated by our good friends at Trailhead Cyclery, a Fox 36 Talas RC2 donated by Fox Racing Shox, a BlkMrkt Bike Mob frame donated by Black Market Bikes and many, many, many items,” MBOSC says. Tickets are at most area bike shops, grab ‘em before they sell out like they did in Seattle Feb. 5th!

NorCal trails drying out, just not fast enough

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on February 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Clogged derailleur notwithstanding, the Firebird performed

Rains have abated at last and a touch of spring seems to be in the air, albeit on the cool side. (Allergies are acting up.)

At Arastradero, which I use as a benchmark indicator, it is still sloppy in parts. The ground is just too saturated on certain switchbacks and shaded sections. It sucks…figuratively and, in the case of a rear wheel trying to ride through, literally.

Even the fully exposed northern section of the park has “issues.”

Hello mudder, hello fodder...

I will say this: The Pivot Firebird is a mudder! I rode through some mucky sections in low gear that felt like climbing Alpe d’Huez, just churning to stay upright. But the Bird did not flinch or waver. The Nevis held their own as well — surprisingly, since they’re not known as a mud tire.

Before you flame, I was riding only open trails, and the damage was from horses, not mtbs.

Closed to all users! Except heron and coyotes

I did see a couple of huge majestic heron, quite unwary, meandering about the open fields. And a coyote sauntered past, barely giving me a glance. The sun was out, it was quiet and calm, and despite the mud it was a great riding day.

Weekend outlook is for more sun!

That said, I’m staying on pavement for another couple of days at least. Sunshine is supposed to hit full bore by weekend and we’ll give it another go then. Stay tuned!

News Cycle: Bike freeways, Dirt Bowl, new Banshee site, Fork drag & more

In Mountain Biking, News Cycle, Videos on February 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Jacquie Phelan on Sunday’s Dirt Bowl fundraiser in Fairfax.

How the premiere of “Women of Dirt” in Seattle last Friday evening went, here and here.

Banshee Bikes, winner of our Top 10 Bike Names of All Time citation, has a killer new Web site. Unfortunately, someone forgot to renew the bansheebikes.com URL. We’ve messaged them and will alert when back up (unless they’re changing domains, but even then they need pointer).

You’ve felt it, I’ve felt it. You lower the travel on your fork on a long fire road climb and immediately the bike feels more sluggish, like brake drag. RC speculates on its origins but, like every other explanation I’ve seen, doesn’t quite nail it down. Should be a simple matter of physics. Get MIT on the case! Why is this so hard?

Where does your stolen bike go? Trek-Livestrong theft shows up in flea market in Mexico, sans wheels.

Normally when a car runs down a cyclist, it’s by accident. But not always.

BOOKMARK this link: Bike footrests not same as metal knuckles, court finds. For the next time you get stopped for carrying assault weapons on your BMX.

Can the Prime restore Hayes’ disc-brake glory? I rode Hayes, the industry standard, for years till their weight, grabbiness and lack of adjustability drove me to Magura. Plus they really needed to do something about ease of pad replacement. Lots of buzz about Prime, which seems to address most of these issues, but we’ll remain skeptical till we see the things. Strokers just did not turn the trick, and at this point it’ll take a lot to win me back from my Martas and Louises.

Bicycles should have their own freeways? Why, certainly. With a car lane on the right-hand shoulder of course.

News Cycle: Setting record straight, Rider hit while … mountain biking? Thievery & more

In Mountain Biking on February 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm

A blog correcting mainstream media for irresponsible and misleading reporting? Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around? (That’s what we’re told, anyway… by mainstream media… so it must be true.) Kudos to Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org for staying on the case like the journalist he is.

The tagline on this story, “Woman hit by van while mountain biking,” caught my eye because I gave up road riding two decades ago in part to avoid getting hit by cars. And wonder of wonders, it worked. I can honestly say that while mountain biking, I’ve never been in danger of being hit by a car. A deer, maybe. Bears. Hail. Large rocks. A badger. Snags. Mud clots. But never by a car.

How disappointing, then, to read the actual story.

Memo to bike shops: Watch the inventory.

I had one of these once. It was stolen in 1996 in downtown Portland, double-locked (cable & U-lock) to a rack on my van,

Back in the day, it ruled

during noon hour, on a busy street, by thieves working from a van that blocked street view in the seconds it took them to free my bike. Coincidentally, my bike was multi-color as well (rastafarian theme). I wish I could say that was the last bike I had stolen … but I will say this: I haven’t had a bike stolen since I went to Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit.

To clarify the above remark about road riding, I still ride on the road…and streets. But I ride a mountain bike — and yet never has it occurred to me to consider commuting by mountain bike to be “mountain biking.” Can’t think of why not…

Before “Women of Dirt,” there was “HardiHood”

In Mountain Biking, Videos on February 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

“Women of Dirt” is enjoying a much-deserved smash debut, with its worldwide premiere having sold out Friday night in Seattle, forcing addition of a second show opening night. And then came word of a new all-women Beti Bike Bash on June 12 at Lakewood, CO.

But one point needs clarifying. There’s a general perception that this is the first film about women and mountain biking. That’s not true: Nearly a decade ago, there was “HardiHood.”

The title came from a Susan B. Anthony quotation about women being persons — something no

Mountain biking suffragists

male, no matter how misogynist, would have the “hardihood” to challenge. The quote set a decidedly feminist tone for the movie, which featured what might be called the early suffragists of mountain biking.

These women — Jacquie Phelan, Missy Giove, Cheri Elliott, Elke Brutsaert and others, but especially Phelan — had to endure a lot of second-class treatment in a male-dominated sport. Without them, the generation of younger riders featured in “Women of Dirt” might never have gotten exposed to mountain biking. In many ways, “Women of Dirt” and its cast are the children of “HardiHood.”

“HardiHood” got minimal attention when it was released (there’s not even a mainstream publication quote on the case) and sank like a stone. A Google search turns up a lot of linkrot. I managed to track down a copy on Amazon but had to wait three weeks to get it.

In contrast to most — make that pretty much all — mtb films, “HardiHood” focuses on (as the title quote suggests) the person, not the athlete. The opening sequence shows Phelan philosophizing about breast cancer and life’s meaning. The always voluble Giove is shown chatting and chopping veggies far more than riding her bike. Elliott talks about what it’s like being a mom and caring for a child while on tour.

Although the feminist undertone is there, “HardiHood” isn’t dogmatic. Its director, Nicole Hahn, uses the film as a vehicle to get into the minds and lifestyles of the riders — the whys and wherefores that led them to get involved in such a male milieu in the first place, how they stuck with it, and what it’s meant to them. Phelan, winner of the first three NORBA national women’s titles, especially comes across as ruggedly dedicated. Her cameos teaching women mountain biking in Marin, playing banjo and revealing what it took to beat most of a male field of riders are priceless.

While a lot of mtb DVDs over the past couple of decades have promised this kind of behind-the-scenes look, the fact is that the riding action always dominates. If a male rider has ever discussed cancer, fatherhood, or the rigors of travel on any of them, I missed it. However spectacular their aerial and speed skills are, male riders are like Her Majesty in the Beatles song: Pretty nice guys, but they haven’t got a lot to say. At least, that’s the way they come across in the films.

One problem may be the predictable, formulaic script of mountain biking/freeriding films. You get stunts, stunts and more stunts, accompanied by music soundtracks that range from awful to pretty good. You’re in awe of the action, but like too much of anything, it gets repetitive and humdrum. To some extent the Collective films, especially “The Collective” and “Roam,” step back for a reflective look. And Clay Porter’s perennial series on the World Cup, particularly “The Tipping Point,” captures more culture than most. (Not to neglect either “Klunkerz,” Billy Savage’s superb historical documentary on the roots of the sport, or “Tread,” the first and maybe best mtb film ever, which had women and men.)

But the focus is generally on the riding.

Would it be possible to get into riders’ heads today the way “HardiHood” did? “HardiHood” not only captured women’s perspective in a sport, it captured a moment of time in an ongoing evolution. Mountain biking was something no girl had grown up ever thinking she would compete in. There were no role models, there wasn’t even a sport. Phelan studied medicine; Marla Streb was a biomedical researcher. Streb has even written an autobiography, something few other riders male or female can claim (Phelan is working on one). The “HardiHood” riders had depth, character and life views shaped by a whole set of issues and values that were considered passe by the time their successors came along.

Several upcoming mountain biking DVDs are being promoted with the line that they’ll break the mold and bring us a much-needed alternative perspective. Nothing new there, it’s been promised annually since most of us tired of gap jumps and back flips. Whether the focus is on women or men riders or both, a mountain biking film today that incorporated the sensibilities of “HardiHood,” released way back in 2001, would indeed represent something “new.”

Elly Blue: “My year as a woman in a city of bikes.”

Mud: A regional roundup of Northern California biking trails

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on February 5, 2010 at 1:28 am

The Northern California rains of recent weeks have taken a grim toll on mountain biking trails. Erosion is severe in many places. Blowdowns, while not as widespread as might be expected, have kept trail crews busy. And some trails are just plain under water — a rarity for the region, but fact nonetheless.

The practice of riding in the goo has some folks, including Santa Cruz Bicycles marketing maniac Mike Ferrentino, a bit on the dispeptic side.

Riders gear up for Skeggs

Why anyone would want to defile Nature, their pivot bearings, and common sense to ride in this stuff is beyond me. What, they don’t allow bikes in the Calistoga mud baths?

The good news is that in recent days there was a marked shift in trail integrity. We’ve been riding the mid-Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas and can report that most trails were drying out nicely — before last night’s deluge, at least. In contrast to the Pacific Northwest, where we hail from, Cali trails drain pretty quickly. Sun and warmer temps help. But the soil is far more porous in California, at least in most places. Plus trails in NorCal are well built.

Upper Alpine Road trails are hurtin'

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it should be noted that California is not out of the woods yet weather-wise. Rain continues to plague the forecast like a bad case of shingles, coming and going without much notice. El Nino or Nina or Nano, whatever it is, has things all bolloxed up and down the coast. The jet stream continues to play havoc, keeping storm patterns intermittent over the next 10 days and perhaps beyond. Everyone talks about how much the region needs the wet because of recent years’ drought. I have to explain that where I come from we have 121 synonyms for rain and no synonyms for drought. Drought itself isn’t really a word. Saying it sounds strange on our lips, like that clicking sound Aboriginals make.

Bridge no longer over troubled water

It’s a shame to interrupt the trails’ recovery. We rode in Wilder Ranch State Park at Santa Cruz Wednesday and found things in great shape, especially for a rider with Seattle roots. Although the locals (a surprising number were out) complained about splatter, I explained that these trail conditions would be heaven in the Northwest as late as mid-July. Most of the trails were perfectly dry, not even leaving tracks. Only in some drop-ins, post holes and gullies was there surface water. We weren’t complaining.

Eucalyptus, Baldwin and Wilder Ridge loops were in fine shape. A bridge had been removed at one water crossing and there was evidence of erosion on the steeps, but nothing like the blocking blowdowns, fallen limbs and what have you we would find in the Northwest. Zane Grey Cutoff had some issues in a couple of the wetter switchbacks, as did the main lower trail that cuts off from the fire road climb. At one point I wheelied over a wet spot, only to land in the biggest sucking sound since Ross Perot’s flip chart. The bike just door-stopped, dumping me over the side into a grassy bank, laughing like a maniac.

Plastic flap on Baldwin Loop

Baldwin Loop was closed, kind of, with flexi-posts, but the trail was pretty well all dry. The main road loops were dry except in upper flat areas, and even there was just oozing drainage, not puddles.

As long ago as last Sunday, Forest of Nisene Marks above Aptos was equally recovering, although the tall trees and lack of light were retarding its comeback more than Wilder. I mentioned in my Titus Rockstar 29er review that a couple of places were actively running water. But most of the lower trails (riding on the uppers was discouraged by rangers) are bouncing back.

On the mid-Peninsula, Arastradero was in fair shape on Monday, although a couple of shaded trails were closed. (Check the kiosk at the main parking lot before heading out.) Arastradero has great exposure and good drainage and recovers more quickly than most.

A ride up Alpine Road to the Stevens Creek network on Tuesday was less successful. The singletrack off Alpine was really mucky and will take some time to recover. I didn’t make it across Page Mill, but from experience know that the Stevens Creek trail itself gets closed in this kind of weather. Monte Bello has much better elevation and exposure and usually fares well.

I haven’t made it to Skeggs or points north for exploration yet but will try to get to Mt. Tam and Tamarancho this weekend, weather permitting. Bryan at Fairfax Cyclery (a great shop just to drop in and schmooze) indicated that China Camp, Pine Mountain and Mt. Tam trails were serviceable, the exception being Camp Tamarancho, which got a check mark in the unrecommended column. The shame is that the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s Dirt Bowl fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Fairfax and environs don’t get slammed too bad beforehand.

As for Wilder, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz president Mark Davidson was not optimistic and “will probably” cancel the club’s weekly Wilder ride for tomorrow (Saturday). “We don’t recommend people ride wet trails,” he said. Having formerly lived in Vancouver, B.C., where NorthShore sprouts raging rivers this time of year and mountain bikers have to fight off kayakers for trail access, Davidson qualifies as a trusted name in soil integrity. When he says “wet,” we hear “aquatic.”

There hasn’t been a really good stretch of weather in the Bay Area since the turn of the decade. That may sound worse than it really is, but for NorCal it pretty well puts things in perspective. Let’s hope for a turn for the better asap.

News Cycle: Women of Dirt premiere, Pedaling consternation, Rider Ryder & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, News Cycle, Obama Bikes, Videos on February 5, 2010 at 12:53 am

Reminder: World premiere of “Women of Dirt” tonight in Seattle! The DVD is out btw and can be ordered online.

Washington’s “Vulnerable User” legislation is already further along than a similar bill made it last year.

Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org raises the question of why a local newspaper seems deliberately provocative (one might say antagonistic) on the issue of the city’s 2030 Bicycle Plan:

“Instead of helping to foster civil public discourse about a very important plan for our city’s future, I’m afraid this story will only serve to intensify the “bicyclist” versus “motorist” sensationalism that The Oregonian has admitted to “overplaying” in the past.”

As newspapers (the ones that survive) continue to focus on their natural constituency, that being local communities, our hope is that they’ll show more sensitivity and receptiveness to the bicycling community in the transportation matrix. The perplexing irony in this case is that The Oregonian has on staff one of the nation’s experts on just this subject — Jeff Mapes, author of “Pedaling Revolution.” Maybe he could persuade an editor or two at his newspaper to read his book?!

For your good deed of the day — heck, the whole weekend — take the Bicycle Leadership Conference survey.

We like Ryder Hesjedal for two reasons: First, his mountain bike heritage. Second, his first name. Keep an eye on him in the 2010 season.

Have a great weekend! Hopefully the weather will let you Get out ‘n RIDE!

News Cycle: Ghost bikes, RUI, Utah won’t yield & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, News Cycle on February 4, 2010 at 2:32 am

The Ghost Bikes Film Project that Bike Intelligencer subscribed to failed to reach its fundraising goal, but Meaghan Wilbur says she’ll soldier on and do the documentary one way or another. Best of luck to her!

Man riding a bike in Naples, FL gets a “DUI” for being intoxicated. $7,000 bail. Chicago DUI Lawyers is watching the case, so maybe they could tell us if, technically, the guy was “driving” while UI.

Utah considered a progressive law to allow cyclists to yield at stop signs instead of having to come to a full stop. It died in committee in part over fears that cyclists would sue when run over by drivers. Now there’s a perfect get-rich-quick scheme. Get a bike, watch for a car at an intersection and ride in front of it! No more worries over money — you’re set for … life!

In Marin County, the celebrated birthplace of mountain biking, where legendary Mount Tam and Repack and Tamarancho draw mountain bikers from all over the world, the local newspaper is running a poll asking how much trail access mountain bikers should get. And mountain bikers are getting hammered.

Fun story from totcycle on “Why We Drive.”

Not so fun story (with fortunately happy ending) from Cyclelicio.us about his encounter with a left-turning vehicle.

Rockstar the bike (not the rider)

In Mountain Biking on February 3, 2010 at 2:56 am

There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding the 29er “revolution,” especially since the mere existence of 29ers gives us bike geeks a chance to mull yet another arrow in our quiver. I mean, I love my Ibis Mojo. But now Ibis has come out with the Mojo HD, and since I have an HDTV … well, I have to have a bike to match, right? (This is what my wife piquantly calls “bike logic.”) The trouble is, the HD only adds .5 of an inch of travel, so functionally at least I’d have almost the same bike, just with a beefier build. That and a white paint job that is the absolute bomb.

With a 29er, though, there’s no such splitting of hairs. It’s a whole new world, those bigger wheels — at least, that’s what they say.

To find out for sure, we went to the Titus Demo Day at Forest of Nisene Marks in Aptos (near Santa Cruz). Beautiful day, at least above ground level. At ground level, well… more to come.

Titus Rockstar 29er: Making the rider look good

The brightly bannered demo trailer was parked with a bevy of beauts behind the Epicenter Cycling store in Aptos. You had to feel for Titus. Rains have turned the region’s trails into seasonal creeks. Titus faced the double whammy of few riders showing up, and those that did trashing out brand new frames.

No one was around except Mike Wirth, in charge of the festivities. I had no trouble scoring a Rockstar 29er full-suss rig, with Manitou 4-inch travel up front and RP23 rear (the current spec calls for Fox up front as well). It was a medium, which made it slightly undersized for me. But with the long stem and bigger wheelbase I figured I wouldn’t be too cramped.

Mike slapped on some Eggbeater Acids, tweaked the shock and seatpost, and I was ready to go.

I love riding in Nisene Marks, but the previous week’s downpours, capped by a real wringer the night before, led Mike to caution me about trail condition. Above the steel bridge, he said, the rangers were issuing tickets. I figured OK, I wasn’t going to try anything too challenging anyway. My only regret is that I wanted to do some extended climbing on the 29er, and below the bridge there just ain’t any.

But there are plenty of risers and drops, and twists and roots and rocks. There’s even a makeshift teeter and some ledge launches. What the heck: I wasn’t going to do any of the upper gap jumps on a 29er anyway.

So I headed up the road and, at the first trail, sped up for the little 2-foot root-ledge drop-in to the left. Whee! Whoaa! Acckkkkkk! Bleaahhh! The trail below was a freakin’ lake! The bike handled great, but the splash and roll was something out of cable TV’s mud wrestling channel. Five minutes into the ride and I was already looking like a Jackson Pollack painting in brown and black.

For a good 50 feet beyond the trail was completely submerged. I didn’t know it then, but that’s as bad as it got. I rode through, rejoined the road and cycled up to the bridge. On the way I played around with seat height and suspension to get a good feel for the bike. I also looked for logs, rocks, berms and other things to test the handling.

Covers a lot of ground

What I noticed right off is how much more ground a 29er can cover. As a reformed roadie, I shouldn’t have been surprised. But you tend to attribute a road bike’s speed to the skinny tires and kind of forget about wheel diameter’s role.

Titus makes great bikes, but even so I was impressed by the Rockstar’s tight handling. They’ve obvious dialed the suspension and geometry to the point where, I have to say, the bike itself doesn’t feel that different from a standard 26er. The standover height is decidedly not an issue. You’re slightly aware of being higher off the ground, but I never experienced the tippiness or instability I expected. Instead the bike whipped nicely around turns and over obstacles and tracked straight through everything, even sloppy mud.

Then there were the steeps. Nisene Marks has some full-bore G-outs — big gullies you then have to climb out of. Going up, you realize the full advantage of 9er wheels. Step-ups, roots, rocks and other impediments that would require thrusts or churns to get over on 26es just disappeared. Going down, same thing. The sketchiness of rocks and roots, even drop-offs, was a no-brainer. I rode off some pretty good drops with no problem — the steeper angles of the 9er gave me plenty of cockpit control, and the Nevies (my tire of choice) held true.

Tight switchbacks were no sweat. Again, Titus has the geometry dialed: I really could tell no difference in hard angle turns from my 6-inch-travel Pivot Firebird.

Conventional wisdom is that 29ers benefit riders 6 feet and taller the most. I run slightly over 6 feet and can see the logic there. But I also see kids riding 9ers after high school and even up at Whistler (not on the extreme stuff, just tooling around), and they seem perfectly comfortable. It may be just a matter of orientation.

I will say this: I probably wouldn’t choose a 9er for freeriding. The higher BB and riding height make it slightly less desirable, although again, the Rockstar held lines mighty well. So far no one is making freeride and downhill models in the big hoops, although one version of the latter was shown at Interbike last fall. If 9ers make it into the long travel categories, I’d be up for another look. I’m not sure how bike makers will conform the bigger wheels to long-travel geometry and frame clearance, but am intrigued to see if someone tries.

As it stands, I can see big pluses to riding XC on a 29er full suspension. You cover more ground, you roll over anything a typical cross-country trail can throw at you, the steeps are no prob, you blow through swtichbacks. And you do it all with less work. Most of all, a 29er is a great excuse to buy another bike, and you know that can’t be bad.

Erik Orgell rode the Rockstar the day before and reviewed it as well.

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