the ümabomber

MAKING AWESOME HAPPEN ONE BIKE RIDE AT A TIME

ÜMABOMBED: The Revenant aka Die Hard Origins

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.”

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From Epic Fail to Rad Trail Rail

Every mountain biker does it at one point or another. We forget something critical to our highly anticipated epic MTB ride and don’t discover our error until we arrive at the trailhead—often after a long drive—open the trunk and feel our heart sinks with the realization…we forgot X. No ride for you. Do not pass go. Do not shred.

This time, it was my turn. As I rolled into the parking lot at Sandy Ridge, the sun was shining, the sky a dreamy, cloudless blue. Birds chirped overhead. Spring was springing. I grinned in anticipation, took the bike off the rack, popped the hatched and peered into the place where my shoes should have been.

My brain frantically went into search mode. Were they in the garage? Where did I leave them? When was the last time I rode?

trailhead sign at Sandy Ridge

Most of the time my helmets, shoes and gloves live in my car. As I’ve been searching for a new house share in Portland where the vacancy rate is a mere 2.5%, I began carrying most of my riding gear in a box. This way, I could easily throw a bike on the roof and hit the trail after work, which is 25 miles from where I currently live. I dream of #vanlife, and while my Subaru Forester isn’t quite large enough to live out of, I like having my stuff handy. I’ll always need a home base, but I love road tripping. I need road trips, but love having a home base. You get the picture.

This time my preparation fell short. I returned the bike to the rack, changed into street clothing again, kicked the seats back in the car and settled in to have a nice nap in the sun. No sense driving back into town during rush hour. It was over an hourlong drive, even without traffic. I facebooked my stupidity, then kicked back, baked into slumber by the warm rays of rare April sun.

The unmistakeable and attractive sound of a DT Swiss freewheel hub buzzed me awake. I sat up, and looked over at the guy parked next to me. He was returning from his ride, splattered with mud, sweaty, disheveled… and looked content as a Cheshire Cat.

“Did you have a good ride?” I called over to him.

Grinning, he responded, “Oh yeah. Hero dirt out there!”

I nodded, grimly. “Sadly, I won’t be able to sample it today.”

“What’s up? Mechanical problems?” he asked as he began stowing his gear in the car.

I laughed. “More like user error. I forgot my shoes.” I felt flush with embarrassment. Hastily, I added “All these years of riding and somehow I’ve never forgotten shoes before!”

“Oh no! That sucks. We all do it…once.”

I eyed his shoes, greedily. He saw my hopefulness and offered them up but he was running Crank Brothers pedals. Not my thing.

The phone rang and I answered. “Tyson! Please tell me you’re on your way to Sandy Ridge and just happen to have an extra pair of size 45 Shimano SPD enabled shoes with you!”

He wasn’t and he didn’t. We chatted for a few minutes as I recounted my epic planning fail. DT Swiss Guy overheard me and walked over with a pair of flats in hand, offering them for my use. My eyes grew wide with excitement, then darkened as I considered the inappropriateness of my footwear. I’d worn a casual dress shoe to work—a sort of Mary Jane clog with a 2.5″ heel. Visions of a painful, bloody demise as the shoes slipped off my feet or the pedals at an critical moment ran through my head.

I waved off the flat pedals, politely declining, chatting a moment longer…until I came to my senses.

“Uhhh… Hey man. Let me call you back. I might just have to give this a go. If you don’t hear from me by tomorrow, it means I was, in fact, a Darwin Award candidate. Send out the search crews.”

Shimano Saints MX80
I replaced my SPDs with the flat pedals, and tested them in the parking lot. The soles were a tacky rubber, not unlike many DH or dirt jump shoes. They’d stay put on the pedals, for the most part, but I was still concerned they’d slip off my feet. The vecro strap across the top of the shoe was mainly for decoration, and completely unreliable.

I wrapped a few layers of electrical tape around my instep, effectively lashing the shoes to my feet, and was ready to roll, albeit nervously.

redneck watch me

I got more than a few odd looks as I rolled out toward the trailhead. Groups of dirt jumper guys out to play on Little Monkey gave me the once over. I looked like a goober wearing my knee high cep compression socks with my baggie capris . I figured the socks would help with recovering from the numerous bruises, gashes and general carnage my unprotected shins were about to face. It was really more of a psychological layer of protection than physical, but goober or not, I was determined to ride, dammit.

I pedaled up the paved road 3.5 miles to the trailhead without incident. It’s not a particularly strenuous climb, but climbing has always been my weakness. I did notice something new riding these flat pedals: I was using more quadriceps to ride, and less hamstring and glute strength. By the time I got to the trailhead my quads were shaking a bit. I sat there for a few minutes, ate a cookie, and contemplated which trails I felt I could safely tackle with my potentially stupid setup.

A trio of riders I’d seen in the parking lot rolled up a few minutes later. Canadians on their way home from a Moab trip, they asked for trail beta and I described the various trails and their features.

“Yeah. Cool. What are you going to ride, eh?”

“I’ll probably take it easy since I’ve never really ridden on flat pedals. Maybe 338 to Two Turntables to lower Hide and Seek, with a Flow Motion loop thrown in there. I think I’ll skip Rock Drop, because…” I pointed at my shoes. They laughed, concerned or possibly impressed. The electrical tape/clog combo turned the dial on the redneck “watch me” factor to 11.

Umabomber rails Two Turntables
“All the trails take you downhill, eventually. Whether you go left or right at a trail junction, you’re always going down,” I assured them and turned to drop in. I imagined them all making the sign of the cross over me as a blessing, praying for my safety.

The trails were perfect. Work crews had labored to do some spring cleanup just the day before. As I pedaled up to the Rock Drop junction, I somehow forgot about my “take it easy” declaration. I found myself airing out small kickers and carving aggressive turns on perfectly bermed, curvy trail. Approaching Two Turntables—a personal favorite of mine—I paused for a moment to savor the view of a snow capped Mt Hood in the distance. A moment later, the 3 Canucks rolled up so I dropped in, shouting over my shoulder, “This is where it gets really good!”

Two Turntables and a Microphone is named after the detritus found on the mountain when they were building the trail. Unlike much of the rest of the Sandy trail system, it features straight side-cut lines, littered with loose scree and baby heads. Only a few switchbacks punctuate the trail, making it a capital-Z carved into the side of the mountain. It’s a mach speed, no brakes sort of run, with small kickers to air out here and there. Big grin terrain for me. I railed it.

I was nervous about the transition from the technical upper trails to the silky smooth, fast flowy lower trails via a boulder staircase which ends in a sharp right onto a bridge crossing. I always clean it, and it’s not a difficult transition, but still I doubted the shoes. Okay, I confess… I doubted myself, not the shoes… the shoes were just a masquerade, an excuse for doubt to rear its ugly head. No time for doubt. It was game time. Time to play through. Time to trust the bike…and the years invested in learning to ride.

Never have I rolled through that transition so fluidly. Time slowed, and I practically floated through the sharp turn onto the bridge, and wheelied out of it. It was one of those perfect zen moments. Perfect presence, precision, awareness…bullet time, for you Matrix fans.

The rest of the ride was a blur. I carved, jumped and manualed down the mountain. Pinning and grinning and panting and pumping, I whooped and hollered, my nervousness about the shoes gone, offset by my comfort at pushing harder into turns with my inside foot free. I remember shouting a robust “YEAH DUDE!” to no one in particular.

I rolled into the parking lot, laughing out loud, wildly satisfied. I sported a huge grin, aware that I’d not only survived unscathed—I had not a single nick, bruise or gash on my shins—but I’d just had one of my best rides ever at Sandy Ridge. Necessity—that mother of invention—had pushed me into a challenge I’d been putting off for years: Flat pedal riding. My brain and body lit up with new insights. I had a new relationship with my bike and with gravity. And my shopping list for bike parts just got a bit longer.

The 3 Whistlers—Brad, Brad, and Kirk—rolled in a few minutes later and offered up a cold beer.

“So, how’d it go, eh? Looks like you survived.”

“That was possibly my best run ever out there on Hide and Seek!” I exclaimed.

I chuckled, shook my head in disbelief and pointed to my MacGuyvered shoes.”Run what ya brung, eh?”

Ü

A big shout out to my hero Jason Curnow who hooked me up with the loaner of his bomber Shimano Saint PD-MX80s, thus enabling this dirt junkie to get her fix. If you’re ever rolling through Woodburn, OR, stop in at the Pearl Izumi Factory Store in where Jason’s the store manager and give the dude a hive five for me. Also, score yourself some smokin’ deals on all things lycra for your inner roadie. ;-) 

 

 

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Sea Otter 2014 Review: Seat Odder?

Last week I attended the cycling industry season kick off known as the Sea Otter Classic, and am at this very moment penning a riveting accounting of that event. I can absolutely guarantee 100% said report will not utilize the word “epic” except to describe the sunburn I received on my sub-suprasternal notch area also known as my chestal region. I cannot guarantee the phrase Sea Otter won’t be replaced with “Seat Odder”, which is how my voice-to-text memo on my so-called smart phone translates.

However, we interrupt our regular non-epic event review to bring you this fresh video dispatch from our friends at Swobo and Bicycle Times, featuring the illustrious (and I mean that in more ways that one) Stevil Kinevil.

Movers and Makers Vol. 2 Stevil Kinevil from Swobo on Vimeo.

Kudos to Swobo and Bicycle Times for producing this fantastic look into the mind of the man behind the madness that is All Hail the Black Market.

I now return to my regular write-up of Sea Otter 2014, featuring numerous other industry legends, luminaries and myths. Back later…
Ü

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