the ümabomber



Spoke Noises, Demystified

Posted by on 7:00 am in Ask Üma, Cycling | 0 comments

Dear Umabomber: Why do spokes make pinging sounds? Are my spokes going to break? I know I gained a few pounds this winter drinking too many IPAs at my local brewery, but surely a few extra pounds isn’t going to matter, right? Do I need tougher wheels or should I start drinking light beer?
—Beer Suit on a Bike

Dear Beer Suit:

You’re right. A well-built wheelset will accommodate for normal fluctuations in rider weight. And I can almost certainly assure you that you haven’t crossed some maximum rider weight threshold; it would take over 200kg (440 pounds) of force to snap a spoke. Your entire wheel would taco before a single spoke would snap under such extremes.

That’s not to say rider weight has no bearing on wheel life or stability, but really the problem with breakage is usually more about the quality of materials used or the lacing pattern and construction than merely adding a few pounds of rider weight over the holidays.

But don’t take my word for it. I spoke (pun intended) the pro wheel builders over at Sugar Wheel Works, to get a pro spin on it, so to speak.

“Most of the time when a spoke breaks it’s simply due to metal fatigue,” said Jude Gerace, owner of Sugar Wheel Works. “With each revolution of the wheel, spokes are subjected to a repetitive cycle of loading and unloading tension which results in tiny cracks in the spoke. This is what people are referring to when they refer to metal fatigue—the microscopic wear and tear.”

umabomber ksyrium SL wheels

Most people believe incorrectly that spoke noise—those sometimes alarming pinging sounds—are the result of too much tension, but it’s just the redistribution of tension as the wheel rotates. Counterintuitively, lack of tension creates more severe wear on spokes because it permits a greater degree of movement, resulting in reduced fatigue life.

Another key factor that directly affects fatigue life is load distribution. For example, for a wheel built with 36 spokes supporting a rider weight of 220 pounds each spoke will support roughly 6.6 pounds of that weight, whereas the same load, if spread across 18 spokes would support about 12 pounds of the load. Fatigue life and number of spokes have a logarithmic relationship, which means that a spoke in the 36 hole rated to last 10,000 miles, will only last 1,000 miles best in the 18 spokes wheel.

It is true that heavier riders put more stress on their wheels, and wheels built specifically for the “Clydesdale” category of cyclist are built with this in mind. Without knowing your actual weight and the kinds of wheels you’re riding I can’t say specifically that you’re headed for imminent spoke failure.

But if you’re really nervous about a lot of pinging sounds, you might want to take your wheels in to the shop, or a local wheel builder for a quick check up to make sure they are still at optimal tension.

As for the light beer question, that’s a no brainer: Stick with the good stuff. Life is too short to drink crappy beer.

Oh yeah, and of course, RIDE MORE.



Send me your burning questions about bikes, life, love, and the pursuit of pedal-powered pleasure. I don’t claim to have all of life’s answers, but I definitely know how squeeze the crap out of the questions and make them squeal. To send me a secure email, click here.

ÜMABOMBED: The Revenant aka Die Hard Origins

Posted by on 9:50 am in Essay, Feature, Reviews | 0 comments

diehard-revenant-origins copy

Critics are raving about the The Revenant—a remake of DIE HARD set in uncharted wilderness in 1823. Leonardo DiCaprio stars, playing a very hairy and rugged frontiersman named J̶o̶h̶n̶ ̶M̶c̶C̶l̶a̶n̶e̶ Hugh Glass. Glass and his half-native son are working with a crew of hunters and trappers based in Fort Kiowa, when Glass is brutally attacked by a bear after stumbling upon her cubs.

When the hunting party finds him mauled half to death, they agree to carry him home on a stretcher for a hefty cash bonus. One of the crew, John Fitzgerald, kills Glass’ half Native American son, drags Glass into a shallow grave and partially buries him, leaving him for dead. Although Glass has multiple wounds from the bear—wounds that go to the bone, all the way through skin and muscle—and although his ankle is either broken or dislocated, and in spite of the face that the bear slashed and/or bit a hole in his throat, effectively giving him a tracheotomy by canine, Glass manages to crawl, then hobble back to the fort to confront Fitzgerald and enact his revenge.

Along the way, Glass beats death-defying odds repeatedly—very much like Die Hard, minus the explosions. Glass plunges into freezing rivers, where he is tossed around in Class IV rapids like a rag doll. Miraculously,  he manages to not get his brains dashed out on a rock or down. He also miraculously doesn’t freeze when he climbs out of the icy river, and a small fire somehow miraculously dries his numerous fur pelts overnight. Glass fuses his the gaping hole in his neck by pouring gunpowder into the wound and applying fire to ignite it. Despite being very hungry and beat to crap, Glass liberates a native woman being raped by a French trapper, and steals a horse, only to be chased by the woman’s tribe. He charges the galloping horse off a cliff and plunges 300 feet to his…PSYCH! HE’S ALIIIIVE, MIRACULOUSLY!

The horse, of course, is dead as a pile of bricks.

At this point DIE HARD 1823 morphs and becomes STAR WARS, THE EARTH YEARS. Glass guts the dead horse, pulls out the entrails, strips naked and climbs into the warm carcass to weather a fierce storm setting in. The next day he climbs out of the fleshy tent to a bluebird day, and resumes his trip back to the fort.

Fitzgerald freaks out when he learns Glass is alive and is arrived at the fort. Fitz robs the fort, steals a horse and heads for the hills. Captain Andrew Henry plans a pursuit to bring Fitzgerald to justice, insisting Glass stay behind and rest from his injuries. Miraculously, Glass appears to be healing in record time, despite the fact that bandaids and ibuprofen haven’t even been invented yet. The two pursue Fitzgerald, until Glass says “I’ll head East and you head West and then we’ll get him real good.”Or something like that. The captain runs into natives who kill and scalp him. Glass continues, undaunted, and stages a very clever ambush. He and Fitz have one final fisticuffs and savagely beat, bite, and repeatedly stab and even slice whole pieces off each other. Glass wins, and shoves the dying villain into the river, before seeing a vision of his wife in the trees. The film ends ambiguously suggesting Glass goes to trapper heaven to join his wife.

This ridiculously graphically violent film is 32% longer than it needs to be. Leo is great in it—a force on the screen—but I couldn’t help but think that Tom Hardy steals the show. After the 3rd or fourth near-death experience/assault/trauma, I found myself laughing out loud in the theater. Had the filmmakers left out even just two of the near-deaths for Leo, there would still have been at least 3 or 4 gruesome and comically implausible survival scenes.

Yes, the movie was very well produced, without CG, which is quite a feat. And honestly both main characters were very well portrayed by DiCaprio and Hardy.

Rumors were floating around a few years ago about another Die Hard installment; Die Hard VI would be an origins story. The only real explosion in The Revenant was the scene where DiCaprio blasts his own throat with gunpowder, but other than that, it follows the absurdist action film formula.

I haven’t even mentioned how the film barely resembles the book—the only thing the book and film have in common is the bear attack. Taken on its own, the film is silly, overly macho, an all-you-can-eat buffet clichés. It is visually mesmerizing but emotionally devoid and although the scenes themselves were well-directed, in the end film suffers from another director’s  inability to leave anything on the proverbial cutting room floor. The result: a film that starts out strong and sensational, but ends up feeling rather dull and vapid by the end.

But hey, it’s Leo’s sevent Oscar nomination. All I can say is “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker. Yippee-ki-yay.”

Booty Is In the Eye of The Beholder

Posted by on 5:44 pm in Cycling, Essay, Feature, Ümabomber | 0 comments

Dear Ümabomber:

My exhaustive research, that has taken place over the last 12 years, has concluded that all asses look better while on a bike seat. Since I do not have the time to undertake Phase II of my research plan I am instead going to ask you: Why? What makes bike butts look better?


Dear BB:

Funny you should ask that. Just this weekend the World Naked Bike Ride took place here in Portlandia, where I saw many, many naked butts on bikes. Thousands, to be honest. Actually, more than 10,000 people rolled through the city, supposedly as a peaceful protest. What is being protested depends on who you ask. I talked to a few people, and came away with the notion that it’s sort of a protest free-for-all.

“Corporate personhood!” yelled one pasty-white, buck-nekkid rider. “Rape culture” said another woman, resplendent in green and pink body paint. “Oil dependence!” hollered a guy wearing combat boots and nothing else. According to the Portland event Facecrack page, the WBNR is a show of “support for human-powered transportation, safe streets and body positivity.”

By Surefire (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons

By Surefire (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons

Personally, I don’t see how getting naked on a bike makes the streets any safer or promotes human powered-transportation in any real and significant way, but that’s another story for another time. I predict many, if not most outsiders see the World Bike Naked Rides as debauchery on wheels. Indeed, many people seem drawn to it as a way to cast off inhibitions, get drunk and party—kind of like a sports ball tailgate party, only everyone’s on bikes instead of pickup trucks. And naked.

I think many of the can’t-look away/must-stop-gawking voyeurs who flock in droves to annual WNBR event, with their folding chairs and coolers full of Coors Light secretly worry that attending the WNBR will somehow make them want to also become gay. I mean, if Obama’s homosexual chemtrails haven’t done the job already.

READ: Obama’s New Homosexual Chemtrail Superweapon Tested on America, Causes Entire Country to Turn Gay

What makes butts on bikes look better? I thought of your question as these many clothing-free butts rode by. And while most of them were quite shapely and lovely, if we look at this from a body-positive perspective I have to ask you a question in return: Booty is in the eye of the beholder, no?

For example, I’m drawn to toned and athletic butts, personally. But I know plenty of men (and women) who like bigger butts with a little extra padding. More bounce to the ounce, you know?

Big Butts: A Bum Rap?

A guy I recently dated (very briefly) actually preferred a woman with no junk in her trunk. Now, I have a pretty plush posterior. Sure, I could probably drop a few pounds, and be more muscular and defined, but frankly I rather like my body the way it is. It’s not super chiseled, and I’m what most people would consider average build, but taller than average, standing at 5’10”. I’m pretty muscular and hella strong—especially on a bike. But the only way I’m going to have a ripped 3% body fat ultramarathoner physique would be to eat nothing but celery sticks and lettuce and drink only light beer (eeeuuuw, shudder) and run ultramarathons every day and what fun would that be?

Doesn’t each one of us deserve to be accepted and appreciated for our own unique physique? I thought about whether or not the quality of my life would vastly improve trying to measure up to this guy’s ideal, and in the end decided it wasn’t worth getting all butthurt over, so I gave him the boot. After all, my male friends tell me I’m a hottie, and it wasn’t like HE was a rock star Greek god.

In other words, one man’s junk in the trunk is another man’s treasure, right? When you say butts look better on bikes, I wholeheartedly agree they do. But maybe it has less to do with folks’ rumps, and more to do with the fact that bikes automatically make their riders appear sexier all over—sort of the ultimate accessory, one that’s both functional and fashionable.

The Science Behind the Behind

From an exercise physiology perspective, riders who rely solely on their quads to push the pedals are missing out on the powerhouse muscles of the glutes.  The largest muscle of the buttocks, the gluteus maximus, extends the hip, providing power with each pedal stroke. The smaller gluteus medius and minimus muscles make up the hip abductors, which allow for external rotation of the femurs and lateral movement of the hips. These smaller glutes don’t deliver power during the pedal stroke but provide stability, overall, and definitely contribute to a toned, shapely butt.

Casual recreational riders won’t necessarily experience the same booty-building benefits as hard-core enthusiasts or competitive cyclists. Regardless, nearly ALL regular riders will notice a more shapely behind, as regular exercise not only helps tone muscles, but also helps with weight loss.

Casual riders who want a more toned butt will have a hard time getting that effect unless they are doing significant climbing or riding out of the saddle. To improve glute strength (and shapeliness) just about everyone would benefit from adding squats and lunges to their daily exercise repertoire (for an extra fit fanny, leg presses and hamstring curls add even more definition).

Here’s the perfect soundtrack for your next training ride or dance party, with special Ümabombed lyrics, below.

I LIKE BIG BIKES and I cannot lie
You other suckers can’t deny
That when a bike drops in with a whole lotta travel
Ya get jiggy and come unraveled
I get sprung
Wanna pull up tough
Coz I’m shredding that trail so buff
And yo, those berms you’re roosting
Railing trail you can’t stop boosting
Oh baby, wanna hit those jumps
And drops and gaps and pumps
Are you pickin up what I’m throwing down
Time to schralp some browwwn powder
So, fellas! (Yeah!) Fellas! (Yeah!)
Has your girlfriend got the bike? (Hell yeah!)
Tell her to ride it! (Ride it!) Ride it! (Ride it!)
Ride that big phat bike!
Baby got bike!


Popping My Trail Poaching Cherry

Posted by on 10:28 am in Cycling, Essay, Feature, MTB, Singlespeeding, Ümabomber | 0 comments

free forest park protest ride
I’ve been a cyclist for over 25 years and a dedicated mountain biker for the past 8 years. I have ridden trails all over the Western US. And I have never poached a trail that was closed to bikes. Not ever. Until today.

Today I popped my poaching cherry.

People who know me can’t believe I’ve never poached a trail. I’ve been an outspoken advocate for bike access on trails since I started riding dirt. I’m also a noisy upstart, an outspoken firebrand, and I rail against the machine. With a name like The Ümabomber (the nickname comes from the Marzocchi Bomber suspension fork), it’s easy to see why people would expect me to ride rogue.

But I’m also possessed of some weird conscience that feels horribly guilty when I go against the rules. In part, it’s that I don’t want my actions to negatively impact the work others, like the Northwest Trail Alliance, are doing to try to gain access to more urban trails. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

But there’s a problem with that problem.

The problem is The Problem is manufactured. The problem is a matter of perception. Mountain bikers (and cyclists in general) are perceived as threats and/or nuisances to most non-bike riding humans in the United States. People—especially anti-progressive people—love to hate what they don’t understand; gays, people of other nationalities, other belief systems, other social classes, bike riders.

As soon as we throw a leg over a bike to ride, we are perceived as less human. On the trail, we are perceived as earth-raping, nature killing monsters. On the roads we are perceived as obstacles to other people’s enjoyment of reality—or their escape from it. At best we are perceived as being in the way, a nuisance. At worst, we become targets for impotent and misplaced anger and rage. Read the comments section of any newspaper any time a cyclist is murdered by an inattentive driver. It’s a horrifying display of the absolute worst of humanity, and for many cyclists, it’s a big reason why they turn to off-road cycling for fitness and recreation.

After the recent Portland Parks & Recreation decision to ban bikes from a trail system where bikes had not been identified as threats to the preservation of a large city park, it was clear that railing against the machine would no longer be enough. It was time to ride.

So, today I took my bike to the trails in one of the largest public parks in the country, on singletrack that is closed to anyone except hikers, their (illegally) off-leash dogs, and uber-fit long distance runners.

Frustrated mountain bikers stage protest ride in Forest Park (video).

I also took about 65 friends with me. My deflowering was public: the loss of my poaching virginity made the evening news. Even more poignant, the trail is named Wild Cherry.

Together, we pushed our bikes up one patch of singletrack. We were courteous. We made way for people to pass. We said hello. We didn’t descend upon them—wheeled hellions —screaming blood curdling death cries, snatching up their soft, furry canines in our talons to rip to shreds and feed to our young. We didn’t hate.

I can’t say we met the same courtesy in everyone we encountered. And don’t look now, but according to the comments left on the news reports of our ride, there are many, many people who feel they can and should run us over with their cars and trucks and murder us in cold blood…simply because they hate us. You’d think we were pedophiles instead of people who ride bikes; that’s how much hate vitriol America has in their hearts for us.

Protest riders walking on single track

Protest riders walking on single track

As rides go, it was anti-climatic. Short and bittersweet. The purpose of the ride was to show our numbers and to take the trails with the same unapologetic ownership the other user groups take for granted. As we headed out for the trail, I climbed up on a garbage can and delivered our message:

Dear Portland: We’re here. Our numbers are growing. We are not terrorists. We are people who ride bikes. We live here. We work, and pay taxes, and volunteer in our communities. We vote. We do more trail work and volunteer more than you do. And we build better, more sustainable and environmentally beneficial trails. You need to stop treating us like we are some kind of criminal class. We are going to ride. Get used to it.

the prohibitionists: Fritz and Fish

As Vernon Felton mentioned in his recent article, Portland does not deserve to be awarded any kudos for being “bike-friendly”. Portland is bike-friendly if you are a commuter, sort of. Certainly, Portland does not deserve the League of American Bicyclist’s award of Platinum Status for Bike-Friendly Cities when she systematically and repeatedly refuses to accommodate and actively discriminates against an entire user group.

I propose a new designation: Prohibition Status.

In the 20s, prohibition supporters were referred to as Drys and anti-prohibition adherents were called Wets. Here in Portland, as mountain bikers, we are under siege by a new breed of “dry crusaders”, anti-progressive NIMBYs who reject reason and logic and refuse to share what isn’t even theirs to give. (Incidentally, on this day—April 7th—in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the first step toward ending Prohibition by allowing people to buy and sell beer.)

So while I applaud my local trail advocacy groups for their letter writing campaigns and ongoing conversations with city policy makers (and especially for filing suit against the city) I think my days of playing nicey-nice with the Drys are over. I simply refuse to be part of The problem any longer. I refuse to play into the expectations forced upon me by other, more entitled user groups, these new prohibitionists.

See, I’ve had my trail poaching cherry popped. Amanda Fritz made me do it. And now there’s no going back. I’m going to ride more…dirty and wet.

Thanks to Ruandy Albisurez for the lead photo.


PDX MTBers: Free Forest Park Protest Ride

Posted by on 11:27 am in Essay, MTB, Singlespeeding, Ümabomber | 0 comments

free forest park

Not too long ago I wrote about the crappy stance the city of Portland takes when it comes to mountain biking.

Then in early March, as if on cue, Portland Parks and Rec took another dump on area cyclists by banning bikes in one of the few public areas where bikes had been allowed on trails.

This is not the first time the City has yanked the rug out from under advocates, planners and builders who  dedicated extensive resources over the past couple of years. Numerous MTB advocates have attempted to work with the city in good faith, to try to craft a solution to include more trail access for bikes in Portland.

What really stinks about this latest maneuver was how and why the City turned tail. I’m not going to detail the particulars about this betrayal of public trust; suffice it to say city Commissioners rather arbitrarily and capriciously decided to cut off a mountain bikers (which had not been identified as a threat to the areas conservation goals), while simultaneously taking no measures to address actual threats that had been clearly identified by an advisory committee. In other words, Portland hates mountain bikes.

On March 16th, a ride was scheduled to protest the River View decision and the city’s abandonment of public process. Organized by local rider and racer, and fellow bloggerati, Charlie SponselThe River View Protest Ride drew over 300 riders. Ironically, the ride happened on city streets, circling the River View area as heavy rains in the days before the ride rendered the trails vulnerable. To demonstrate mountain bikers’ commitment to good trail stewardship, the decision was made to stay off the trails, and take to the streets.


The protest drew attention from dozens of media outlets—both national and local—who covered the event, and within days the city was shifting in its seat, made uncomfortable from all the heat. Pressure from International Mountain Bicycling Association, People for Bikes, and League of American Bicyclists, in the form of a letter sent to Mayor Charlie Hales and all four city commissioners. Portland’s status as a “Platinum Status Bike-Friendly City”—as anointed by the League of American Bicyclists—is in jeopardy, as hundreds of cyclists of all stripes insist Portland no longer deserves the title. As Vernon Felton points out in his article which begs a redefinition of what a Platinum Status Bike-Friendly City is, Portland really never deserved the title in the first place with these policies and attitudes. (And have you been on Williams Avenue since the city turned it from a perfectly functional and useable bikeway into a clusterfuck of a rat maze death trap for both cars, bikes and pedestrians alike?)

Other municipalities across the country have been able to accommodate similar user groups, with minimal or no user conflicts. Yet Portland’s elected and appointed officials have—for far too long—catered to certain well-funded, elitist NIMBYs who have negative and inaccurate perceptions of who mountain bikers are and what they’re about.

Fair and equal access to public lands is all Portland mountain bikers are asking for. Scratch that—we aren’t asking anymore. We’re demanding. We live here. We pay taxes. We volunteer in our communities. And we vote. But what the City of Portland needs to recognize more than anything these days is we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

River View was the tipping point for Portland area mountain bikers. It’s just the beginning. Both IMBA and NWTA encourage riders to keep up the letter-writing campaigns, and I support that call to action. But I also suspect this is Portland’s reaction to such efforts:


portland city commissioners at work

By all means, keep writing those letters. And as soon as you’ve mailed them off, get on your bikes and ride. Because we need to be visible. We need to make a big noise. And we need to keep the heat on the city for as long as it takes to effect significant change.

Next week we take the battle to Forest Park. One of the largest city parks in the country, Forest Park offers 70 miles of trails spread out over 5,000 acres—yet a mere 1/3 of a mile of the available singletrack open to mountain bikers. And what happened at River View happened with Forest Park time and again over the past several years.

Next Monday, April 6th at 6pm another protest ride is scheduled and open to participation. The first FREE FOREST PARK RIDE will meet at the Thurman Street gate at Leif Erickson, rain or shine. Ride details will be revealed at the start of the event, but it should be noted this ride is intended as an act of civil disobedience—not a joy ride.

To add your voice—and your bike—to the mix, rsvp on the facebook event page here. And if you can’t be there, please share this event and help spread the word.

forest park hates mountain bikers


#freeforestpark #portlandhatesme #portlandhatesMTBers

MTB Rx: Ride Goofy

Posted by on 8:35 am in Ask Üma, Cycling, MTB | 0 comments

Dear Umabomber:

I read your story about being struck by a car while riding and how that changed you from a hard core roadie to a mountain biker not because of a fear of traffic, but because mountain biking hurts less (I’m paraphrasing). I find your story very resonant. Last year I crashed out in a criterium and damaged my lumbar spine (soft tissue damage to the ligaments and tendons in my right hip) and I haven’t been able to resume road cycling the way I have enjoyed for the past 15 years. Unlike you, I’ve been a mountain biker most of my life, but it was second to road riding and racing. My weekends used to be characterized by 60-100 mile road ride or race on one day, and a mountain bike ride with a regular group of guys on the other. Now, I can only do short road rides before my back starts seizing up and I definitely can’t race. I can ride my MTB all day, though. What gives? Why does one form of cycling cause pain and the other—the supposedly ‘harder’ kind—doesn’t? Any suggestions for how to get back to doing road rides longer than 40 miles? I look forward to your response.

—Crashed Out in Cali

Dear Crash:

I’m sorry to hear about your ongoing struggle to find your way back to what you love. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said mountain biking hurts less. I mean, I’ve fallen down plenty over the past few years…enough to know that there is plenty of hurt mountain biking. And yet, just the act of pedaling hurts more on the road bike more than it does on the mountain bike—particularly after a significant trauma.

You have a leg up on me because you already mountain bike. I have a theory as to why MTB is easier on the body than road riding—at least for certain conditions and injuries.

If you visualize what your skeletal bones are doing when you are riding your road bike, most of the time you are seated in a fixed position, with your femurs moving up and down repeatedly about 4000 times an hour, give or take, depending on cadence. This femoral movement tracks more or less in a straight line. Remember basic anatomy: the muscles that lift your knee up on the upstroke actually attach to your lower back, and pushing down on the pedals involves not just quads but also the gluteal muscles. So from an kinesthetic viewpoint if we’re talking about the movement of the femurs, we’re also talking about hips and lower back.

With road riding, rarely do you get out of the saddle unless you’re sprinting, climbing, or working on specific out-of-saddle drills. Maybe now and then you might stand up just to stretch out the legs, but it’s very natural for many people to just sit and spin. A road racer is more likely to be out of their saddle than a recreational rider—for sudden accelerations— but on the whole, most roadies’ sit bones are firmly planted on their saddle more concretely and longer than their mountain biking counterparts.

sandy ridge ride trail

Even the mellowest mountain biking is much more dynamic. The rider is constantly shifting weight—forward and back, and side to side, to navigate terrain that requires a different form of bike handling. These tiny balancing movements challenge your core on a low level and necessarily engage core muscles more. Mountain biking tends to rely not just on leg strength, but is more of a whole body engagement.

In both forms of riding, the repetitive stresses of pedaling for hours pull on the major joints of the hips and spine; if core strength is lacking, imbalances and overuse can end up placing stressing nerves or compressing lumbar disks, either of which may cause pain.

My first recommendation is to do some focused core work to to to strengthen and stabilize your lower lack and lower abdominals. Planks, sit ups, crunches, and TRX-type workouts work well for this. You should also make sure you’re pedaling in circles, still. Sometimes, after injury, our pedal stroke takes a hit and we favor our good side, creating even more imbalance. Spend some time revisiting pedal stroke drills to be sure you’re not pedaling squares with one leg or both.

You also might have to reexamine your bike fit on your road bike—what used to be perfect might not work any longer. I had several professional bike fits done after my accident, all using different methods to arrive at “the ideal fit” for my situation, but the absolute best fit was one done by Bill Larson over at Cyclepath in Portland. Bill uses the Retul method to measure imbalances in pedal stroke efficiency (and it’s a super cool, nerdy, data-driven method). After making a few adjustments here and there, I hit the trail and was a much happier camper. In fact, the fit felt so good I set up the rest of my bikes to match—including my road bike—and was able to extend my time on the road bike significantly.

There’s a therapeutic section in the BikeYoga book which focuses on addressing many of these issues you mention. More physical therapy than stereotypical “yoga”, this sequence works on three levels: by strengthening core muscles and lateral hip stabilizers, loosening hips and lower back muscles, and relieving stress from upper back and shoulders. It takes about 15 minutes to do all the movements and poses in the therapeutic sequence. I’d recommend giving it a try—daily—after a ride, or as a stand alone therapy on days you don’t ride. I sometimes do it as quick morning “wake up” routine while the coffee’s brewing.

There’s also a few “trailside stretches” that can be performed to relieve stress during a ride, at a rest stop. These aren’t deep stretches, just a few simple movements to help release accumulated tension in key areas—hips, low back and neck and shoulders. On anything longer than 50 miles I must stop and do a bit of stretching. I just need a minute or three and then I’m good to go another 20. Maybe these sort of structured breaks on the road bike will help you as well.

Often, I end this column with the pithy advice to RIDE MORE. In your case, I’d say SPIN MORE (mash less) to reduce strain on back muscles and do some focused training to strengthen your core.

One last consideration for someone like yourself with asymmetrical soft tissue damage: As mountain bikers we tend to ride with our dominant foot forward, putting uneven strain on the pelvis and lumbar spine. Practice switching your dominant foot back when coasting or descending. Off the bike, do more lunges with your non-dominant foot forward. These simple tweaks will help balance out the innate imbalances that start to add up over time for almost all riders, not just those of us who’ve had a bad crash.

In the martial arts classic, The Book of Five Rings, master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi offers up some sound advice that benefits mountain bikers as well. In talking about balanced efforts, Musashi suggests the samurai should be “neither right nor left footed”. Remember this on your next few trail rides and practice switching foot position to balance yourself out. It feels weird and awkward, but it’s essential to correct muskuloskeletal imbalances on the bike.

In other words, RIDE GOOFY.




Send me your burning questions about bikes, business, riding, life, love, and the pursuit of pedal-powered pleasure. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I definitely know how squeeze the crap out of the questions and make them squeal. Send me an email using this secure and anonymous email form, here.

Race Your Strengths, Train Your Weaknesses

Posted by on 9:46 am in Cycling, Essay, MTB, Ümabomber | 0 comments

Back when I was still a hard-core roadie, our team met every Saturday at a café for a “base miles” group ride. About 20 of us—men and women—would arrive early for a fancy cappuccino and hang out for a bit before heading out for 4-5 hour long ride. No matter the weather—rain, sleet, snow, snain—nothing kept us from riding together. I was preparing for the coming early season races and had my goal set to go to Nationals that summer. My winter “off-season” training consisted of about 3 rides a week, a day of skiing, a couple days of indoor rock climbing, and a daily yoga practice. I’d never been more fit, and coming out of that winter riding with the team I was strong, fast, light. I went to bed early, arose early, and drank beer and ate desserts only on weekends.

My coach disapproved. “Why are you doing these long rides in winter?” my coach asked, disapprovingly.”You’re not training for endurance races. Just maintain your base this winter, then start with intervals in early Spring. These long rides just make for more recovery. It’s wasted energy. Junk miles. You should stick to the training plan.”

I ignored my coaches advice and came out the next spring stronger and leaner than ever. I prided myself on only doing one ride indoors that winter. All my training rides—about 3-4 per week—had been done outside.

This year I’m coming back after a pretty wretched 2014. Injury and illness robbed me of much of my season last year, several key races and packed on about 12 pounds I don’t need. Pushing extra weight around is a game changer in terms of regaining fitness.I’m also dealing with a lung affliction that makes riding outside in the cold challenging if not dangerous. In fact, I’ve never had to work harder to get “in shape” coming out of the holidays. The solution isn’t as simple as it would seem: more calories out than in and riding smart, not necessarily more.

Since I can’t really get out there for rides during the week, I’ve begun doing training sessions at The Lumberyard, an indoor bike park in Portland. There, I can get a great workout in that targets core, glutes and quads—like going to the gym and working on leg presses and squats—but much more fun.

Some (many) of my riding buddies tell me pumping laps at the Lumberyard is a waste of time. Junk miles. They tell me I should be out doing night rides on real trails or even doing road rides for training. But riding at the Lumberyard not only affords me a great workout, it also provides opportunity to work on skills. And hey…junk miles was a fantastic strategy in the past, despite what my coach said.

Where my coach my have been wrong about junk miles’ impact on my racing fitness, she was right about one thing. It’s relevant for just about any sport at any level. It’s s training strategy reduced to its simplest terms.

Race your strengths, train your weaknesses.

Anyone who’s ever ridden with me knows I ride with a lot of heart. I love to go fast. I’m less excited about taking chances. It’s been an issue, particularly after last year’s injury. My heart? Well… that part’s just fine. I’ll race on heart, this year, as I have every year previously.

As for those weaknesses? Junk miles.



Send me your burning questions about bikes, business, riding, life, love, and the pursuit of pedal-powered pleasure. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I definitely know how squeeze the crap out of the questions and make them squeal. Send me an email using this secure and anonymous email form, here.

If Time Was a Jelly Bean

Posted by on 5:11 pm in BikeYoga, Cycling, Essay, Ümabomber | 0 comments

Here at the Ümabomber Intergalactic Headquarters we are so busy making awesome happen that we sometimes miss other awesome things that others are making happen. And sometimes, we become deeply saddened when we hear or see bad, unawesome things happening in the world.

Cancer is not awesome. “End stage” is most definitely not awesome. These words were delivered to a loved just a few weeks ago. I cannot imagine what hearing those words must be like. But I know the meaning of our lives cannot be measured or dictated by others. Medicines and therapies can affect the quality of our lives, but they cannot enliven us. We do that for ourselves. If we are too ill, or too depressed, or too lost, then we let ourselves be carried by others for a time. Being cared for by others? Pretty awesome.

While we are able to, to the extent we are able to, we owe it not just to ourselves to do make awesome happen, we owe it to the world. Because when we get to the end of our days, how we have lived will have made an impact on others.

In other words, it is not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.

If you’re reading this you’re probably a rider. Or maybe a paddler. Or a climber. Or something along those lines. Awesome—for you—involves sun and wind, sky and earth, movement and breath.

So as we head into a weekend, this little bit of awesome is for you. Yeah… you.

Fat Bikes or Fad Bikes?

Posted by on 8:00 am in Ask Üma, Ümabomber | 0 comments

Dear Umabomber:

I fancy myself an avid cyclist. I enjoy both road and mountain biking. I’ve got 4 bikes right now—a hardtail mountain bike, a full suspension bike, a 10 year old road racing bike that I now use for recreational and fitness rides, and a cross bike I use mostly for commuting. I’ve been thinking about getting a bike to do more comfortable off-road-but-not-quite-single track bike trekking adventures. I’ve been looking into gravel bikes for this purpose, but lately I see more people getting fat bikes and using them in the same way. Which—if either—is better? Should I just modify my cross bike to be able to tour on it? Aren’t gravel grinders just another industry niche product manufacturers are using to sell more specialty bikes? Are fat bikes really just fad bikes?
—Don’t Wanna Fad Away


Dear Don’t:

In a way you’re asking the wrong person, but in a way you’re asking the right person. I’m the wrong person to answer this due to the fact that I have neither fat nor fad bike. I have limited exposure to both gravel and fat bikes, so it’s hard to share from direct experience. I’m the right person to answer your questions because I am weighing those options as well.

Innovation for the sake of innovation is called “marketing” and really doesn’t offer great gains to consumers. But if there are real gains to be had through innovation, I’m all for it. Those gains should be both quantifiable and qualifiable.

Personally, I’m all about the right tool for the job. That being said, I’m also known as something of a pro-level MacGuyverer. Innovation starts when the current resources fail. And I’m a long time proponent of N+1 being the correct number of bikes. But whether something is a fad or not, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

The differences between a “gravel bike” and a strait up cross bike arenÆt huge—bigger tire clearance, better stability, slightly more relaxed geometry and a more relaxed riding position—and sometimes it’s not even that. Can you do light touring on a cross bike? Absolutely! You’ll probably need to swap out parts to make it more comfortable for longer distances, but many people do it successfully.

Fat bikes on the other hand, are completely unlike anything else you’ll ride. They are heavier and much slower handling than their skinny counterparts. The extra wide balloon-like tires are perfect for rolling over shifty surfaces like sand or snow, but on firm ground that cushiness becomes horribly inefficient.

For gravel or dirt road touring, my advice is to go with a cross or touring bike with fat, smooth tires. Even a 29er mountain bike with slicks would work fine.

But don’t just take my word for it. I asked the boys at Limberlost—a Portland-based adventure touring outfit—about their preferences to get a second opinion. Here’s what co-owner Gabriel had to say:

Fat bikes are gobs of fun on sand dunes or snowmobile trails but you don’t need that much cushion for exploring dirt roads. Using them for most bikepacking trips is going to be overkill. While it might be FUN overkill, it won’t be efficient and efficiency is definitely a factor in bikepacking. I used my Surly Krampus on the Oregon Outback because it’s what I had. And I put the lightest, narrowest, smoothest tires I could find on it: Schwalbe’s 2.5″ Super Motos.

Coming back to the right-tool-for-the-job ethos, a fat bike is the right bike if you’re touring the Sahara or Gobi deserts or riding around Nome, Alaska in January. Otherwise, go gravel grinder (if you must).

Is it a fad? If it is, it’s one of the most well-adopted, quasi-mainstream fads in the history of the bike industry. According to a recent article in Alaska Dispatch News, the fat bike-to-skier ratio around Anchorage is 10 to 1. And new crops of Fat Bike races continue to pop up all over the country every winter.

A year in Alaska has been on my bucket list of life experiences for many years now. Until I head north for that adventure, I’ve decided I’ll probably get a gravel bike for off-road touring or throw gears and skinny tires on my singlespeed 29er. But you can bet your ass the moment I have a chance to ride and race in snow… I’m getting a fat bike. Fad or not.



Send me your burning questions about bikes, business, riding, life, love, and the pursuit of pedal-powered pleasure. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I definitely know how squeeze the crap out of the questions and make them squeal. Send me an email using this secure and anonymous email form, here.

Free Forest Park Tees For Sale

Posted by on 5:10 pm in Cycling, Feature, Gear Review, MTB, Singlespeeding, Ümabomber | 4 comments

Here at the Ümabomber Intergalactic Headquarters we know we are not the center of the universe, even if we do talk about ourselves pompously in the third person.

We know singletrack access, planning and building takes a village…unless we’re talking about Forest Park, in which case it may take the entire bike-riding population of this and the 3 nearest solar systems. The fight for trail access for mountain biking and off-road access in Forest Park—and other park lands in Portland—is ancient. Keeping up the fight is a difficult battle which requires constant diligence, patience and commitment.

free forest park tee shirt frontfree forest park tee shirt back
Through the years, the Northwest Trail Alliance has remained dedicated and engaged in this battle for more and better trail access for urban riders. That is why I encourage everyone who rides mountain bikes, cross bikes, cruiser bikes or any others bikes in Portland metro to support NWTA.

Originally designed a few years ago by NWTA member Dylan VanWeelden, these rad tee-shirts not only look good, they let you wear your heart on your sleeve. Back by popular demand, proceeds support the NWTA’s ongoing work to represent for urban off-road cycling opportunities; the cost is $20 plus $5 shipping and handling.

This is a limited edition design so order now; supplies won’t last long! Shirts are from American Apparel and fit true to size.

FREE FOREST PARK! Can’t stop. Won’t stop.


The Northwest Trail Alliance Mission: To create, enhance, and protect mountain bike riding opportunities: to advocate for trail access; to promote responsible mountain biking; and to build, maintain, and ride sustainable trails.

Get involved. Volunteer. Donate.