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MAKING AWESOME HAPPEN ONE BIKE RIDE AT A TIME

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The Revolution Will Be Decriminalized

Posted by on 8:46 am in Cycling, Essay, Feature, MTB, Singlespeeding, Ümabomber | 1 comment

The fallout from my story earlier this week about poaching trails in an iconic city park, has been interesting. Predictably, the general bike-hating population want to run me over with their motor vehicles, saying I don’t deserve to live. Other opposition is less openly hostile, but still deeply offended by my actions. And many, many more are offended by my unladylike language, my nickname, and the sexualized content. Most of these comments have not been direct—which I’m sure would be a different matter if I were male, but that’s another issue for another time.

Others—MTB advocates, I’m guessing—have suggested I should be more ladylike in order to be more effective in my advocacy efforts. Did they not think I hadn’t considered exactly what I was saying?

As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history.

Historically, Portland mountain bikers have been given the middle finger by its ruling classes. They make noises about wanting to work with us to come to some agreement, but then yank the rug out from under us every time, year after year after year. As PP&R’s recent decision to arbitrarily ban bikes from River View clearly points out: We don’t have a seat at the table. And even if we did, we are WELL below the salt.

As with any movement for social change, there are conformists, agitators and civil disobedience factions. I’ve tried working with the conformists but, well, I’m not insane enough. What I mean is this: if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, well…We’ve been doing that for years in Portland, to no avail.

International Trail Symposium Portland

To add insult to injury, next month Portland is hosting the American Trails International Trails Symposium. The promotional text for the symposium reads:

We are extremely excited about the opportunities for new and exciting workshops, an exciting new trade show and sessions highlighting the challenges and rewards of building, designing and maintaining trails in the varied environs around the country.

The subhead on the promotional graphics is “Solutions for Success”. Oh, oh oh… the irony! I nearly peed my pants laughing so hard.

I have mad respect for pro trail builders. Great trails that stand the test of time—and use—involve so much more than clearing brush and moving dirt around with shovels. There is engineering. Science. Sexy stuff.

I fully intend to assemble the ranks for another protest ride during the symposium. Portland has blackened its own eye as relates to its bicycle-friendly status. And until something changes—I don’t mean funding for a Master Plan that buys the city another couple of years of inertia with no net gain to bikers—I’m going to do my best to make sure the entire world knows that PORTLAND IS A SHAM.

Loves bikes? DON’T MOVE HERE. Even the infamous road-cycling infrastructure is collapsing. Anyone who’s ridden up the clusterfuck North Williams has become since the city “reengineered” the bike lanes knows what I’m talking about. Wherever you are (unless you’re in Boulder) you probably have better access than we do.

Stand With Me

Purchase one of these fine new tees and tell the anti-bike world you’re fed up and you won’t take it anymore. The fight for trail access in Portland is nothing short of epic (and embarrassing), but these access issues are happening all over the country, which is why I’ve made them non-geospecific.

All proceeds benefit my imaginary legal defense fund or whiskey fund—whichever is needed most—as I continue carrying the torch for fair and equal access to public lands. Shirt are Next Level (similar fit to American Apparel) and true to size.

mens MTB anarchy tee womens MTB anarchy tee

 

 

 

Sizes




#mountainbikingisnotacrime #freeforestpark #portlandhatesme

Free Forest Park Protest Ride photos courtesy Ruandy Albisurez.

Popping My Trail Poaching Cherry

Posted by on 10:28 am in Cycling, Essay, Feature, MTB, Singlespeeding, Ümabomber | 6 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. I’ve been an outspoken advocate for bike access on trails since I started riding dirt. I’m a noisy upstart, an outspoken firebrand, and I rail against the machine. I’m good at rallying the troops and making noise, and with a name like The Ümabomber (I’m actually nicknamed after a 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 if I go against the rules. Partly, it’s that I didn’t want my actions to negatively impact the work others are doing to create positive change. 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 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.

When we ride bikes we are perceived as less human. We are perceived as earth-raping, road-sucking monsters whose only purpose is to create havoc and ruin other people’s lives. We are in the way. We are obstacles to other people’s enjoyment of reality—or their escape from it.

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 against the machine.

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

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

I took about 55 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.

We were courteous. We made way for people to pass. We said hello. We didn’t descend upon them—wheeled hellions from the sky—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 or rapists instead of people who ride bikes, that’s how much hate mainstream 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 sweet-ish. The purpose was to show our numbers and to take the trails with the same unapologetic ownership 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 probably do more trail work than you do. And we build better, more sustainable and environmentally beneficial trails than you do. 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”. The truth is, Portland is “bike-friendly” if you are a commuter, sort of. Certainly, Portland does not deserve the League of American Bicyclist’s “Platinum Status” for Bike-Friendly Cities when she systematically and repeatedly refuse to accommodate or include 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 “Wets”. Here in Portland, as mountain bikers, we are under siege by a new breed of “dry crusaders”; conservative 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.

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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.

mayorhales-letter

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 | 1 comment

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.

 

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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.

The Bullshit of Wisdom

Posted by on 1:31 pm in BikeYoga, Cycling, Essay, MTB, Singlespeeding, Ümabomber | 3 comments

Once upon a time, in a zip code not too far away, in a bizarro alternate reality, there was a version of the Ümabomber who dropped badass spiritual wisdom on people for work. Part social psychology studier, part boot camp ass kicker, and part stand-up comedy act, I donned my wizard robes (actually, brightly colored stretchy pants) and gave inspiring and humorous lectures and lessons full of insights gleaned from many trips around the solar system. I also kicked major butt in the workout department.

I attracted kindred spirits: graduates from the School of Hard Knocks. Underdogs. And really, really smart people who wanted nothing to do with wispy feel-good new ageisms. As a yoga teacher, I was nurturing in a tough love way, grounded, serious, but playful as well. I held people’s feet to the fire. Yoga—at least the way I understood it—and had learned it from master teachers was a tool for self-knowledge. Sure, there were the physical benefits—strong core, flexible limbs—but the real benefit for me was more psychological than anything else. On the whole it is a practice of self-mastery.

As soon as yoga became mainstream, it jumped the shark. It was no longer a discipline, now it was A LIFESTYLE, complete with overpriced, proper apparel, extreme dietary restrictions, and smug, self-righteous pop culture vocabulary. And Lord Shiva help you if you didn’t selfie your handstands all over Instagram.

The shark jumping just happened to occur right around that time that a movie called “The Secret” came out. Coincidence? Methinks not.

Namaste

As soon as The Secret started circulating, there was a massive shift in the entire culture of yoga. For years I had been teaching at a very high level—I don’t mean trick poses. I mean life-changing, mind-blowing paradigm shift shit. I was renowned for my direct, no-nonsense, assertive style. It wasn’t for everyone. It was physically and mentally challenging. If you wanted someone to stroke your hair and hold your hand and tell you fluffy feel-good affirmations, I wasn’t the teacher for you. But if you wanted someone who would hold the space for you to get really real with yourself in a grounded, supportive way, and get some great physical therapy at the same time, The Ümabomber was your girl.

Once the shark was jumped I was expected to speak in weird, passive language using soft, feathery words. Words like juicy, blossom, shine. These words were to be delivered in hushed tones, breathy whispers with extremely dramatic sibilance. I was to be more “suggestive” instead of directive. And rather than educating people by dropping knowledge bombs them I was now supposed to just make them feel good. I was—in fact—not just supposed to TASTE the rainbow, I was supposed to BE the rainbow.

anger in our thighs

The next yoga teacher I hear say something idiotic like “we store anger in our thighs” is going to get slapped upside her head. And then I’ll just shrug and say “you must have manifested my anger…namaste!” via Buzzfeed.

What I mean is, it was now required to BE POSITIVE at all times and in all ways.

Dog just died? BE POSITIVE! Boyfriend dumped you? BE positive! Cancer diagnosis? BE POSITIVE! Filing bankruptcy? Be POSITIVE! Lost your job? Be positive! Cancer diagnosis, job loss, bankruptcy, and dead dog all in the same week? Be SUPER posi! And my what crappy karma you have! You should chant OM to your chakras to realign them, try this juice fast I’m starving myself with and for fuck sake SMILE.

This surge in positive thinking using the Law of Attraction looks very bright on the outside, but there’s a dark underbelly to it all. Denying others—or even ourselves— the right to feel sad, lonely, unhappy or scared isn’t enlightened, or generous, or kind—all qualities the practice of yoga is supposed to engender. In fact, denying others’ feelings and insisting on bright, positive energy all the time is one of the worst kinds of self-righteousness, steeped in delusion and arrogance.

I’m not alone in my assessment. While I’ve been agonizing over whether or not to publish this article, I received an email from Mark Manson, entitled “The Staggering Bullshit of The Secret”.

Manson cites multiple studies that debunk the whole “Law of Attraction” theory and explain why it seems to work.

“This is kind of my theory for why this strain of thought has persisted across generations; it’s a psychological pyramid scheme of sorts. You take one person who decides to ignore reality in favor of feeling good all the time. This sort of self-absorption then turns off anybody who is content and rational, and instead attracts the most desperate and gullible. This person, delusionally positive to the brim, then ironically attracts and surrounds themselves with other delusionally positive followers. Years later, one of these delusionally positive followers then decides to “manifest” their dreams by spreading the law of attraction further to other desperate well-wishers. The chain of positivity carries on this way through the generations, where each author, blogger or seminar leader who speaks ardently of manifesting one’s purpose, or believing oneself to happiness and bliss, or listening to The Universe, generates a new population of delusionally positive followers who then go on and do the same thing all over again.”

What Manson describes is exactly what I observed in the field of yoga. It began to feel like some kind of weird, feel-good self-help cult, than the disciplined, reality-based practice I had learned many years ago. The insistence on pathological positive thinking began to make me feel like I was part of some fundamentalist religion than a tool for self-discovery.

Sure, sure…there are many great teachers of yoga who are true the original intent, purpose, and practice of yoga. I’ve trained with some of the best. But for myself, yoga—the thing I once credited with saving my life—was now a straightjacket of conformity, neurosis and ruin. And yeah, I was angry…I had practiced my own version of this delusional thinking; I spent my life savings filling in the meager income I received as a yoga teacher so I could keep doing what I loved. I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to what I needed, I was focusing on what felt goodGuess what? It didn’t work.

After teaching for 15 years, setting down the torch I’d carried was akin to a divorce or worse. It was an excruciating process that took years to complete. Ironically, one of yoga’s central teachings is about not identifying with concepts and ideas, but I’ll admit it—I was deeply attached to my identity to being a yoga teacher, a guide, and a healer. Over the years I’d taught thousands of students, helped them become kinder, more loving, stronger versions of themselves, while I became the most stressed-out, broke, neurotic person in the yoga studio.

a little push the umabomber

I felt as though I was attending my own funeral in some ways, day after day—a sort of morbid Groundhog Day. Worst of all were the feelings of isolation, fear and loneliness that came when my former peers sat in judgment of me. Granted most of my critics were exactly the uber posi-tribe Manson points out, above. They insisted I just needed to change my attitude, ask the universe, BE POSITIVE, and The Universe would provide…namaste.

Instead, I quit.

It was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. It forced me to get serious about my writing work, which I had a great deal of insecurity and fear around. It forced me to take chances, to risk real growth and change. And it forced me to reclaim yoga as the word I use to describe my own relationship with life.

Many of my former peers and probably not a few students would read this and label me a hater, and they’d be right. I hate ignorance and willful disregard of common sense. But I have never advocated building an altar to pain and suffering (unlike certain schools of yoga). Still, I would rather have the richness of experience that comes with allowing myself my pain—as well as my pleasure—than to reject anything but a sort of false happiness.

“My teachings are easy to understand and easy to put into practice. Yet your intellect will never grasp them, and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail. My teachings are older than the world. How can you grasp their meaning? If you want to know me, look inside your heart.”
—LAO TZU, TAO TE CHING

From the ashes, the Phoenix. The Ümabomber is nothing if not scrappy and resilient. I am still purpose driven. Still realism based. And still passionate that survival is not enough. Existence is not enough. We are here to live meaningful, happy lives. Those lives must contain sorrow, nervousness, pain and other “dark” emotions. Without them life has no depth, no resilience, and no growth. Even the most esoteric spiritual traditions nod toward the “wisdom” of the natural world; contrasting energies are the pulse of reality. That’s not woowoo magic. That’s science, baby.

I am still a “believer” in yoga. Or—it would be more accurate to say I’m a fan of yoga. I don’t really believe anything I can’t experience directly. But real yoga doesn’t require belief. It requires doing. It requires honesty. And it requires broad-mindedness not empty-headedness.

cheers

People constantly ask me if I still “do yoga” now that I don’t teach much. I tell them I do, but it’s not what you think of as yoga.

The open road and singletrack trail are my yoga. Learning to dirt jump at the pump track—this is my yoga. Writing every damn day in a variety of mediums and forms—both for money and for love—is my yoga. I still teach yoga, but the medium is different. This blog is my teaching platform. I’ll come out of retirement now and then to show bikers how to fix their janky hips and strengthen their core. I’ve even got another BikeYoga book coming out soon. And like Lao Tzu, my teaching is easy to understand and easy to put into practice…

Life is short. Don’t count the moments, make the moments count. 

I know that those who worship in Church of Bike don’t need preachin’.  We need more saddle time. More time spinning circles outside. More getting up to go down. More brappin’ and less yappin’.

In other words if riding your bike is the place you feel most alive, RIDE MORE.

Don’t wanna pick up what I’m throwing down? Try this bullshit…and SMILE.

 

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Need some knowledge dropped on you? Email The Ümabomber your burning questions about bikes, business, boys, girls, 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 give up their secrets.

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.

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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 | 1 comment

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.

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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 | 5 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.

Sizes

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.

Sh*t or Get Off the Squat Pot

Posted by on 9:47 am in Cycling, Essay, MTB, Ümabomber | 1 comment

free forest park
Ahhh, Portlandia. Whenever I am feeling cheeky—which is most of the time—I cannot refer to my hometown by her real name, but instead automatically default to the nickname given her after the IFC hit comedy show starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.

Anyone who’s lived here long knows the TV show is really not stranger than fiction—it’s damn near a documentary. I love/hate this about Portland. After all, there is never a dull moment in this city where bearded hipsters and semi-retired baristas are the ruling class, and the DIY renaissance is alive and well.

We are a city of trend setters, too. And what do you get when you combine trendsetting and do-it-yourselfing? You get squat toilets. In fact, after an article about squat toilets appeared in the local tabloid this week, I predict we will see squat toilets popping up at overpriced lumbersexual joints like Old Salt and Beam and Anchor.

All teasing aside, squat toilets truly are “the shit”, to put it coarsely. I first encountered a squat toilet while traveling through the South of France, and while the public commodes were often filthy, they were less worrisome to me than many American public toilets. I mean think about it, ladies. You’ll never have to touch another toilet seat!  In fact, once places start installing squat toilets I may never poop at home again.

What does any of this have to do with bikes? I’ll get there in just a minute, but first I need to wax appreciative of my fair city otherwise I’ll be branded a hater, again. And as much as I like to poke fun at her—so much low-hanging fruit!—Portland is a gem of an urban environment.

st john's bridge bike ride

For one thing, she is gorgeous. Emerald green all spring and summer, with incredible city view, and show-stopper urban and private gardens. With the rugged Oregon Coast to the West and the majestic Columbia Gorge to the north and east, not to mention snow-capped volcanoes providing stunning views year-round. Urban architecture lovers dig on the cities numerous beautiful bridges. And even though Portland has lost her crown to New York as the most bikecentric city in the country, there is still plenty to appreciate here in terms of bicycle infrastructure…except when it comes to mountain biking.

cat six mt hood mural

Mt Hood inspires many a bike rider to hit the road for the epic views—and inspires mural painters, as well.

As it is Portland has about six (6) miles of legal singletrack up her skirts. Pittsburgh, PA has more off-road trails for urban dwellers to get at. So do cities like Boise, Vancouver BC, and Fort Collins. According to Velo Cult shop owner, Sky Boyer, even Los Angeles—Boyer’s childhood stomping grounds—offer hundreds  of miles of singletrack tucked into the canyons around and throughout the city.

For a city which is regarded nationally as a gateway to the rugged Pacific Northwest, this is, well—to flog an analogy to death—crap. And it stinks.

The Northwest Trail Alliance (formerly Portland Urban Mountain Pedalers, or PUMP)is working hard to change that. The all-volunteer advocacy group works tirelessly to advocate for more and better trails within the urban growth boundaries. The very visible work the group does is evident at every trail work party in the region, when hundreds of members show up, shovels in hand, for trail building and maintenance.

What most people don’t see is the very unglamorous, unsexy work the NWTA does, tirelessly attending city planning meetings, talking to council members, department managers and anyone in local government they can reach. Hundreds of hours each year are logged in these bureaucratic activities for which advocates receive little recognition and almost no thanks.

About a year ago I stepped up from my peripheral involvement to offer the group my digital media, communications and marketing expertise. I was able to see more closely the intense commitment and dedication these folks bring to their mission. In 2014 we grew membership to just under 1000 members and rallied record numbers of local mountain bikers to attend important public meetings. Advocacy for any cause is a dirty job, but someone—actually everyone who’s a stakeholder—has got to do it.

This week the NWTA delivered a petition with over 2,500 signatures of local riders, requesting a citywide Off-Road Cycling Master Plan be implemented. Commissioner Fritz herself said this step was necessary before the city could allocate resources to building, upgrading or adding off-road access in Portland city limits.

From those of us over here at the Ümabomber Intergalactic Headquarters, we’d like to just put it a little more succinctly:

Portlandia, when it comes to urban off-road cycling access, it’s time to shit or get off the pot.