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22 Oct 2012

Hoopla!

Posted by mercieb. 1 Comment

JUST IN —- FROM LAST YEAR… HA! (suppose I should update this thing more often)

Ok, ok, it’s been a while… How have you all been? Summer good? Fall good? Good rides? Great adventure? I sure hope so.

As for me, it’s been a busy summer and suddenly it’s fall here in the northwest… sigh. Not that I can complain. Taking a moment to look back in my calendar, it seems my spring and summer spent running around the west would look something like splatter-art if it were documented on a map.

Fortunately for me, the sun followed me around – mostly. Early spring was a mess of snow and storms in MT & ID but after that the sun was with me the whole way. There were 4 trips to N. CA, 2 trips to HI, and various work things in Vail, Sun Valley and Vegas. I managed to sneak in a few days of flying through the air on the big bike in Whistler and somehow lived through a bike race in Idaho. Hawaii was, well, tropical both times (imagine that) and CA was just good not-so-clean fun. Vail, as always, was outstanding. So yes, no complaining on my part.

The time I did spend here at home, it was dry, warm and amazing. I’m told we had only 3 weeks of summer this year. Now it’s in the 40′s at night and after coming back from Kona last week, I’m just downright cold. Tan and cold. Weird. The leaves are turning colors and my favorite trails are getting some snow. I am so not ready for it.

Aside from the weather and travel, I had the distinct pleasure of having house guests from all over sprinkled into the mix of comings and goings. That was good fun. Crazy but good.

I think I’d promised to write an update on the Super D race at MTB Nats in Sun Valley. They should call it “Super Fun!” Lift-assisted XC racing totally kicks ass and considering I’d never raced one before, I’m very pleased with my 6th place finish. However, being 7 seconds off the podium was slightly disappointing and anyone who knows me knows I’m competitive to the core so I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t giving myself a hard time about those 7 seconds. Not that there’s time but I really enjoy racing. I should probably do more of it.

What else?

I hear there’s protest happening all over the country (and now the world) started by Adbusters, which cracks me up because they are based out of Canada. The US political rhetoric is laughable at best. Commentators on Fox “news” can only seem to say, “We don’t get it! What is going on and what do these people want?” Hmmm… Right. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

It’s ‘cross season, which means the cold, wet, muck and misery are just around the corner. In my opinion ‘cross starts way too early around here but then again Ma Nature has a way of never doing the same thing twice in a row so it seems like it doesn’t really matter when ‘cross starts. It’s still funny to me that ‘cross season started during our “3 week summer.” Typical, but what do I care? I don’t race (suffer) the ‘cross. Usually, I work/spectate these events which is just fine by me. It still equates to wet and cold. I think there may be nothing worse than being covered in mud in 30 degree weather and being expected to get off your bike and run with it – except for maybe having ants in your pants.

Speaking of ants in your pants and cross, the Single Speed CX World Championships is upon us once again. This year the hosting city is San Francisco and I, for one, am eager to see what sort of party, ummmm, race they put on. If you’ve never had the pleasure of attending this event and you are anywhere near the Bay Area, I highly recommend this absolute spectacle of mayhem and bike craziness that’s sure to leave you hungover within an inch of your life and asking for more.

Past events and courses have featured a Holland-style windmill sure to take your head off if not timed correctly, a giant wall of bubbles, a bacon hand-up and a stripper bus short-cut. Bring your favorite Mexican wrestling mask (or any other costume that makes you giggle), a bike with one gear and get ready to have the time of your life. Leave your good-girl at home and be prepared to wonder what happened when it’s all over. You and Golden Gate Park are sure never be the same after this.

Now that you’re all wiggly from the thought of having ants in your pants, I bid you farewell and promise, (one I never keep so don’t bother holding your breath), not to be so delinquent in my updates.

9 Jul 2011

On Racing & Whims or On a Wing & a Prayer…

Posted by mercieb. 2 Comments

I was notified a while back I would be required to attend Mountain Bike Nationals in Sun Valley, ID. I was also informed it would be a mess of work, days stuck in the booth and advised not to expect to have much fun… Seriously? I laughed a little and then sobered up when I realized the info I was getting was for real.

Yippee-kai-yay.

I’m sorry but bike races are fun. So I went to work on a plan to insert some fun into my days in Sun Valley. Riding would be involved, as well as copious amounts of alcohol (just being realistic) and plenty of sun. I mean it is Sun Valley after all. But how to carry out my solo-fun plan?

And then it came to me… in a flash, I found myself registering for a USA Cycling license and paying money to race.

Aw crap.

The race I didn’t have to qualify for was the Super D, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve never actually raced a Super D but I like them. There is not one thing wrong with gravity-assisted XC racing. The one glitch in my plan is I haven’t raced at all in 2 years and thus have no gauge for my fitness level, how fast I am these days or what the rest of the field will be like.

Not to worry, right? Right. It’s only Nationals. On the advice of a close friend, I was told to, “KILL, KILL, KILL.” Killing is not really my thing, but when it comes to competition I do know what to do. Unlike some, I have the competitive bone and I enjoy it very much. This sort of whim is right up my alley but I will be a basket case until the race.

Tire selection, course re-con, and getting my head in the right space will take over my every waking moment until next Sunday. Forget training… that window closed a while ago. I have no illusions of having a stellar race or that I’ll win anything. I do, however, have expectations of having some fun and, at the very least, having an excuse to get out of the booth.

If I live, I’ll let you know how it went.

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2 Apr 2011

Stand with Your Steward-April 8th Noon Olympia WA

Posted by mercieb. 4 Comments

Let me start by saying I’m a Union Kid. My folks worked for the Santa Cruz Metro for my entire adolescence. My mom, dad, step-dad, uncle and all of our friends drove city buses – it was truly a family affair. In 1980 they went on strike for better wages, better hours and a better standard of living. At the time, we lived a couple of blocks from the bus yard and what eventually became the picket line. Our house was the unofficial crash pad for those picketers 24/7.

At the age of 9, I had a front row seat to a union in action. Yes, I walked that picket line. Heck, our dog Rosie (The Best Dog Ever), is famous for walking that picket line; she made it into the paper wearing a strike t-shirt. I also remember a lot of the stress and strife in those days with the drivers out of work and trying to manage while taking a stand for something better.

The buses quit running and the citizens of Santa Cruz County were outraged but ultimately very understanding and supportive. Their lives were completely disrupted but the whole community got behind the drivers.

This was all pre Silicon Valley, pre dot com, pre high zoot and high priced living in Santa Cruz. In 1980, the majority of Santa Cruz residents were middle-to-mostly-lower class on the economic scale and a lot of the community rode the bus. We were just average people trying to make a go of it in a really fantastic place.

And then our life changed. No, we didn’t get rich… The drivers walked out for 18 days in October. After 18 days of negotiating, management couldn’t take it anymore and my family and our friends had higher rates of pay, health benefits and retirement plans. They didn’t get everything they asked for but most of us Union Kids went to college, live lovely lives and have a work ethic that, I hope, lives up to what the labor movement has been fighting for since the late 1800′s.

Yes, I have a unique understanding of how unions can help the general work force do better, live better and provide better. The labor practices and standards we all enjoy today, and likely take for granted, have been accomplished through hard fought battles sometimes resulting in lives lost and torn apart in the struggle. There were times in labor movement history that were violent and scary. A lot of good people have put it all on the line to make work for you and me as unlike being a slave as possible.

I don’t know anyone outside my own family who’s ever walked a picket line. I can tell you it’s a humbling yet empowering experience to walk off the job to make a point with the hopes someone will hear you. The experience my family went through is one which continues to shape me many decades after the drivers went back to work. This was a defining experience in my learning to ask for what I want in life: Ask for what you need. Negotiate. Take a stand. Do whatever it takes not to be railroaded and still be reasonable.

So with that, I’m going to lay some info on you that’s happening in Olympia, WA April 8th at high noon. It’s a We Are One rally to support state workers in Wisconsin and workers everywhere. If you don’t know what’s happened in WI, their state Assembly passed a bill which strips state employees of their right to collectively bargain for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. The bill also requires workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health care contributions. Basically, it all adds up to an 8% cut in pay. All in the name of closing the $137 million budget gap. My thoughts on this are probably best saved for another post…

I am so very proud of my dad, Eric, who is currently a Steward of PTE Local 17. Below is an email I received from him. His words are passionate, direct and very much remind me of the urgency I sensed as kid during the 1980 strike. The last 2 paragraphs fired me up and I hope you enjoy his words as much as I did.

If you are in Washington, I hope you can join us.

Local 17 members and other friends,

I’m making my personal appeal for your participation at the We Are One rally on April 8th at the State Capitol.

The rally is: We Are One

Friday April 8th

Meet at 11:30 a.m. outside the Capitol Campus Visitor Center. Expect the rally to go from Noon to 1pm

You will need to use leave if the rally happens during your work shift. Include travel time. Please let family and friends know what’s going on so they get direct information about these issues.

If you can’t be at the rally please give 5 minutes of silence from noon to 12:05 on April 8th.

Here’s a link to the rally flyer. Please print and post at your cubicle and your bulletin board.

http://www.ifpte17.org/PDFs/wis_rally_flyer.pdf

For more rally information and other ways to participate see Local 17′s new home page – http://www.pte17.org/

Why am I asking you to make this commitment now?

We are living at a key time when worker’s security, rights, and respect are under political attack. Yes I do mean union state workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere.  I also mean all of us trying to earn a living in this economy, not just state or union workers.  The poor economy has affected so many families. Productive employees providing security for their families play a key role for the future of businesses and communities. Respect for employees is just as important.

Almost 100 years ago workers standing up for their rights built the American labor movement. They risked their lives and families because their lives were so hard. They did not give up or yield to intimidation and violence. Those union members succeeded and earned us a legacy of respect, fair wages, reasonable hours, and security for our families. Many of us had grandparents or great-grandparents among those members. We are their family, their younger generation. We are also professional, responsible employees with strength and integrity.

Let’s stand up to their legacy – our future.

Now is the key time to participate. Please join me on April 8th.

Eric Quinn

ODO /HOV Steward

25 Mar 2011

Dirty Di2

Posted by mercieb. 7 Comments

Speaking of XTR, here’s a little sneak peek of what’s being affectionately referred to as “Dirty Di2.” This is the MODUS Demo Team Project 1… new 10 speed XTR retrofitted with Di2 (electronic shifting Dura-Ace).

“My friends at AceCo Sport Group have been busy, they have repackaged and spliced buttons and wires, built a rear der. cage to accommodate off road requirements and 36 tooth cogs. 1st impression is incredible. Flawless shifting front and rear, consistent and quiet, quick and dirty. Bike will be at Sea Otter, check it out there.” – AG

Really, what can you say? Bike people like to tinker with stuff. This is some major tinkering.

MODUS Demo Team Project 1

From concept to CNC milling to trail in 5 hours

mtb tubulars

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12 Mar 2011

Heart be Still, I am Weak in the Knees

Posted by mercieb. 1 Comment

Ok, it’s time… this post has been marinating for a while now. The lack of new posts to this blog is mostly due to my waffling between writing a very technical wrap-up and an all out gusher of my newest ride. I just wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it but it’s time to get it out. Plus, my riding partners have to be sick of listening to me freak out over the bike every time we hit the trail. So, here it goes… let the technical gushing commence.

Yesterday, I was up in Bellingham with the chance to grab an hour of trail at Galbraith and once again was reminded how incredible my bike is. From the first moment I snapped into the pedals a few weeks ago, I was in love with this bike in every way and every time I ride it, I fall deeper in love. Call me a sucker but this bike has me wrapped around it’s little finger.

From a previous post, here are the specs:

Full 10 speed Shimano Dyna•Sys XTR on an Intense Tracer with Shimano M980 10×2 cranks (38×26), XTR trail brakes, XTR rotors, M988 XTR trail wheels, M985 XTR trail pedals, M980 RD & FD, PRO Atherton hb & stem, PRO XCR grips, PRO W’s Condor saddle, Crankbrothers Joplin sp, Fox Talus RLC with FIT damper and Float RP23 shock, Schwalbe 2.4 Rocket Ron tires.

I’m sure I’ve said it before but can you say, “Oh my goodness!”? Yes, on paper it looks like a very nice bike but actually riding it is another story entirely. The ride is, well, perfect.

For a 6 inch bike, she rides like a full on XC rig going up. Easy and light, technical climbing is a breeze. In fact, normally the main climb up Galbraith kills me. It’s sustained with tight switchbacks, sections of wet slippery glazed roots and steep little jaunts that usually make me want to throw up after going deep into oxygen deprivation. That climb is really no way to start a ride, but as Malkmus say’s, you have to pay your dues before you pay the rent. So it goes with mountain biking.

On the Tracer it was, by my best approximation, easy. I got to the top of the hill and wondered aloud to myself, “How is it we’re at the top already?” Can a bike do that for you? I’m certainly not in peak condition after having spent most of the winter healing up from a crash that literally left me unable to hang onto a handlebar so there is no good physical reason on my part I should be feeling this good on the bike.

Honestly, I should be suffering big time. My legs should be yelling at me to stop. My lungs should be popping out of my chest. I should be totally cross-eyed and seeing stars from breathing through my eyeballs and my head should feel like it’s about to explode. None of this is happening. With each ride I continue to be in total awe of my little nugget of perfect bike. It’s like the universe aligned all the stars on this bike and said, “Let’s make it the best thing ever,” and then proceeded to make the best thing ever. See, now I’m gushing…

I want to attribute the magic to the 10th cog. It’s the perfect jump shifting both up and down. It feels just right and it’s there when you need it the most. I still haven’t had to drop into the small chainring as the 38 is simply right for everything in our neck of the woods. When you think you just can’t take the climb anymore, you have one more cog to go to and when you do it’s like the heavens open up, the birds start singing, the day gets a little brighter and your legs thank you for the good fortune that is the 10th cog. Brilliant.

But it’s so much more than the 10th cog. It’s no secret I love wheels and in my opinion, wheels are the most overlooked and underrated piece of gear in general. Wheels have the ability to change lives. You can take an otherwise very nice bike, throw some crappy wheels on it and effectively turn it into a very unenjoyable experience. Kind of sad so many bikes come with shitty wheels. Conversely, the same is true with great wheels. Take a so-so bike, swap the crappy wheels with good one’s and that so-so bike becomes a bike worth riding. My point is, wheels should not be discounted. After all, wheels are your connection to the ground.

Now, I happen to know that the guy who designs the wheels for Shimano is an ex-pro road racer and designs wheels with ride quality in mind – ride quality being the way the ride feels. I love that philosophy of design. The XTR trail wheel (23mm rim) is not the lightest thing ever but rides like it is. There is a supple finesse to this wheel which make those 2.4′s feel like 1.9′s. Who wouldn’t want that? Coupled with all that finesse is the bomb-proof nature of Shimano wheels. Hard hits, smacking stuff straight on and generally riding with total reckless abandonment is not something I would choose to do with just any wheel. That’s a recipe for eventual disaster but these wheels will take it all and still deliver a ride with grace and elegance fit for a king, (or a queen in this case).

Shoot. I’m gushing again. As if enjoying the climbing weren’t shocking enough, coming down the mountain is ridiculous. Ridiculous fun, that is. The Tracer dances. I continue to find myself pedaling through sections I’d normally coast through. The first time this happened, I chalked it up to being a good day on the bike but the more time I spend on this bike, the more I find I’m pedaling through sections of trail I really have no business pedaling through. I don’t know if I’ve ever consistently gone this fast on a bike beacuse I’m a ‘braker’. I like to fly into stuff at full-speed, jam the brakes and shoot out the other side. Not the best method for maintaining speed through turns but I like the way it feels. Human sling-shot style, yo.

Now with these completely redesigned brakes, control is the name of the game. The tiny little brake lever fits perfectly into my index finger and the response is so quick and sure, I truly only use the one finger for braking. I’ve never really gotten to experience the joy of one-finger braking because my hands are small and I could never get a good grip on the old levers with just one finger. Two-finger braking is now officially part of my past and I’m not looking back, ever.

As if the lever by itself weren’t perfect enough, it feels like most of the time I only have to think about braking and suddenly I’ve managed to scrub enough speed to make it through everything at mach speeds. Hence the pedaling instead of coasting scenario. These brakes inspire confidence with their super powerful, super light touch and exerting less energy to keep the bike under control is a good thing.

1100 words into this and I could go on and on about each individual component but it occurs to me it’s all of it together. It’s the total sum of the parts that makes this bike a dream come true. Pedals that don’t clog with mud, smooth, quiet and quick shifting, Kashima coating, spectacular suspension and suspension design, wide cockpit, super stiff head tube… it does goes on and on. Like a great meal leaving you with a very satisfied happy feeling knowing you’ve just experienced something special, this bike satiates on a level deep inside. I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be good but I had no idea how good it was going to be.

12 Feb 2011

Midnight

Posted by mercieb. 1 Comment

Midnight run on the cruiser.

Why? For no reason at all. Mild weather. Cool but not cold. Bundled up just right. Cruising. Wind through the hair, alone on the streets with a lovely little bike who likes to get off the porch once in awhile… A bike with one gear, coaster brakes, and flats. Not kitted up. Runners on feet. Casual and easy. No plan. No place to go. Just riding around for the fun of it. Fleeting thoughts of riding all night.

Eventually, promises of the ride tomorrow settles in. Headed home. Headed for bed. Back to the porch for you little cruiser.

19 Jan 2011

True Story

Posted by mercieb. 5 Comments

The phrase, “Like a rabid pack of dogs,” popped into my head this morning. I woke out of a dream where I was trying to explain to someone what I feel like when I’m not riding. Apparently I’m getting desperate for a proper fix of adrenaline and endorphins so I’m seriously considering going for a run. Ick… but the words echoing in my head this morning reminded me of one of my favorite stories from the Western Hemisphere Bike Expedition.

In the summer of 2000, Scotty and I landed in Prudhoe Bay, AK – also known as Deadhorse. Prudhoe Bay is an oil field on the arctic ocean and it’s as far north as you can go on a road in Alaska.

The Haul Road and the Pipeline from the plane into Deadhorse

How and why we found ourselves there with our touring bikes and gear is another story entirely. After many weeks of traveling down the Haul Road, through Fairbanks, out the Parks Highway into Anchorage, we met up with a friend who told us he had a place for us to stay in Anchorage.

This long leg of sleeping outside in the pristine and sublime wilderness of the Arctic had us pretty excited for the chance to have a roof over our heads. Being smarter than the bears was a full time job and the idea of not having to worry about our food as well as ourselves becoming bear snacks for a night was a nice thought. Up to this point we had done a good job. In fact, the scariest thing that happened on the trip to Anchorage involved a mama moose and her calf. Again, a story for another time.

Loaded up on the North Slope - 15 degrees on June 1st

The weather was terrible when we rolled into Anchorage. Torrential downpours, deep black-blue clouds cracked with thunder and lightening and crazy wind swept through the city. It was the middle of the day but it felt like the middle of the night, which was also weird because the sun doesn’t go down in the summer. We found our friend, Mark, at the REI where he was working and living in the back of his truck in the parking lot behind the store, (not at all uncommon in AK). After an afternoon of tripping around town with Mark he took us to where we’d be sleeping that night.

Mark in his house behind the Anchorage REI

It was never clear to me who’s house we’d be crashing at but it was crystal clear they’d left in a rush for a climbing trip. It looked like a bomb had gone off inside the house. Every surface, including the floors, was covered in stuff and after a few uncomfortable moments it became clear Mark didn’t even know these people. They were friends of friends of friends or something like that. Awkward.

Normally we would have gotten on our bikes and moved on but we were in the middle of the city, the rain was coming down in buckets, we were tired and there was no real possibility of getting to a campground that night. So we carefully pushed aside the piles of things on the living room floor to make enough space to put out our sleeping bags and tried to get some sleep.

Certain the occupants were about to arrive home at any moment, I slept with one eye open. Fitfully tossing and turning in and out of slumber I listened to every rain drop hit the deck outside, every whistle of the wind through the cracks in the house and every leaf rustling on every tree. And then I heard steps on the stairs but it wasn’t just steps, it sounded like an army was running up the stairs outside to the front door (the main entrance to the house was on the second story with a flight of stairs for access).

In the haze of my half sleep I heard the front door crash open. I fully awakened to 5 huge dogs, (some mammoth-mutant breed of Husky), running wildly in circles in the front room around us. 10 red eyes filled with rage looked down on us eagerly waiting for the nod from their leader to attack. It was like a tornado of 2000 wet tasmanian devils spinning out of control.

While still in the warm cocoon of our bags, it occurred to me we were in a very compromising situation. We were about to be eaten alive by a wild pack of dogs in a house in a neighborhood in Anchorage. Think of the headlines after our bodies were discovered… “Man and Woman Devoured by Unknown Assailants – Neighbors say they saw Aliens.”

A millisecond later I was on my feet. I stood up tall, squared my shoulders, pointed to the door and shouted in a very deep and loud voice, “Everybody OUT!” The leader of the pack stopped, looked me straight in the eye and turned toward the door. The rest of his buddies followed him out. Scotty later said he’d never seen me exude so much authority and was completely awe-stricken the crazed dogs actually did what I asked. Needless to say, I was surprised as well.

Running to shut the door behind the last evil dog, the reality and weirdness of the event started to settle in. How did they get in? What were they doing out there? What on earth just happened?????

There was a little window in the front door and I peeked out to see what was going on. I was met with a giant menacing dog face pressed up against the glass. Standing taller than me, the alpha dog was up on his hind legs leaning into the door and pushing hard. I could feel the door jam start to loosen and I yelled at Scotty to find me something to put against the door or these dogs were getting back in.

After securing the door, we took stock of the situation. There was much discussion about being dog food and we finally decided there was nothing to do other than try to get a few hours of sleep. The plan was to get out first thing in the morning. Those dogs were milling and puttering around outside on the deck for the rest of the night. I remembering asking Scotty how we were going to get out of the house if those crazed dogs wouldn’t leave? We were trapped and would be dead meat for sure.

We woke up to blood curdling screams of a woman’s voice down on the street.

“CALL YOUR DOGS OFF! Oh my god, they are attacking my dog! CALL YOUR DOGS OFF!”

I didn’t know what to do. Images of blood, hair and body parts strewn down the street rushed through my head. I cracked the front door open enough to stick just my head out and yelled, “They are not our dogs!” This was the distraction the lady needed to make her escape as the pack of insane dogs came sprinting back up the stairs to my voice.

Great. Now they were back up at the front door instead of down on the street where at least there was a possibility for distraction creating a window of opportunity for us to get out in one piece. I was pretty certain we were not getting out, ever. Finally, after getting our stuff packed up, we decided we had no choice but to make a run for it. We were determined not to be a headline in the morning paper.

When there seemed to be a lull in the commotion outside, we grabbed our stuff, hauled our bikes and trailers down the stairs and rode as hard as we could in a direction we hoped, but didn’t know for certain, was away from the dogs. I heard them behind us but never saw them. I couldn’t get myself to look back for fear of slowing down and giving them one last chance to get me.

Obviously, we survived but the hair-raising lesson here is cities are dangerous places and you should sleep outside whenever possible. Don’t worry about the people; they are, for the most part, ok but watch out for the dogs. For me personally, I learned my voice is a powerful tool in times of danger and distress. Maybe more importantly, it’s good to remember life can throw you for a loop when you least expect it. I seem to keep learning that one over and over again.

** For those of you who know me, I apologize. I’m sure you’ve already heard this story a million times.**

15 Jan 2011

The Pitter-Patter of Love & Memories that Were and Will Be and other Rambling Rants

Posted by mercieb. 4 Comments

It’s been 3 weeks since my last post… Sad to say I haven’t been on a mountain bike since that post was put up. My body, with the exception of my hand, has forgiven me for crashing and healed up nicely. I’m still waiting on my hand to give in and just get better, (I would love to put on my socks without wimpering).

I find it funny that everyone has a diagnosis coupled with some sort of advice. It’s as if the whole world were made up of magic doctors with x-ray vision superpowers. It usually goes something like this: “Ooooh, definitely broken,” or “You should really get an x-ray,” or my favorite, “You should put a splint on that.”

I’m sure it’s all good advice and when it’s coming from people who obviously care about you, it’s hard to be irritated but it’s a strange affliction of humans to want to fix everything. Not that I don’t want my hand fixed but I’ve been crashing and hurting myself long enough to know my hand is not broken and it’s just going to take time to let my body do it’s thing.

That happens to be the hard part. Time. I’m not good at waiting in the first place, then take riding out of the picture and I turn into a basket-case of epic proportions. Ask anyone who’s had to hang out with me over these last few weeks. It’s not been pretty.

To make things worse, I found myself in Santa Cruz last weekend for a work thing. Now a work thing might not sound too exciting except if you consider what we in the bike industry consider work… one day of meeting and 2 days of riding. The ‘worse’ part is, I wasn’t riding. I did, however, get roped into driving the shuttle.

I made the best of an unfortunate situation and while trying not to feel sorry for myself, I throughly enjoyed the down time by sitting in the sun in the Santa Cruz mountains being surrounded by incredible redwoods, majestic oak, beautiful smelling bay trees and rambling manzanita with Beach House blaring down the canyon. Having grown up in Santa Cruz, it was great to get back into those mountains. Moments like that are food for the soul even if there was no riding involved.

Sitting in the sun in the SC Mountains

While everyone else went home, I stayed an extra day to hang out with long lost friends. Catching up after more than 20 years is a surreal experience to be sure but for some miraculous reason not a lot feels different from when we were all 17. I’d forgotten how easy it is to get free drinks in Santa Cruz and ‘sharking’ unsuspecting pool players is still as fun as it was when we were teens with nothing better to do. We won a dollar off a guy who had no idea what he was getting into… I’m certain there was more money we could have taken off that guy but we’d made our point while everyone was still having fun.

Good friends, Advil, Jack & Coke... it's all good

Speaking of fun, I have a little request for those of you who travel… please don’t complain about the amazing places you get to go to. No one wants to hear it. If you have gone to Spain on vacation to climb and ride, I don’t want to know that you hated the food and it was cold. If you have the good fortune to get paid to go to South Africa, I definitely don’t want to hear how much you hated it because there was so much work to do. If you go somewhere in Europe, I don’t really care that you couldn’t figure out the train. Please just tell the world you had an amazing adventure because complaining about being some place cool just isn’t cool.

Ok, rant done. Glad to have gotten that off my chest.

And speaking of more fun… This is the new addition to the family.

The Blue Bombshell

She’s just sitting there watching me salivate while my wrist decides to heal up and I’m just sitting here, lovingly looking at her while I wait for my wrist to heal up. To keep myself from going completely insane, I’m making minor changes and tweaking stuff. It’s taking a while with an injured paw but lord knows I have the time.

Here are the specs:

Full 10 speed Shimano Dyna•Sys XTR on an Intense Tracer with Shimano 980 10×2 cranks (38×26), XTR trail brakes, XTR rotors, 988 XTR trail wheels, 985 XTR trail pedals, 980 RD & FD, PRO Atherton hb & stem, PRO XCR grips, PRO W’s Condor saddle, Crankbrothers Joplin sp, Fox Talus RLC with FIT damper and Float RP23 shock, Schwalbe 2.4 Rocket Ron tires.

Oh my god! You don’t have to tell me how lucky I am. Now if I could just ride the lovely Blue Bombshell… soon… reviews to follow. I’ll be gushing for sure. She’s already making me feel a little pitter-patter in my chest.

Yes, most of my bikes end up with a gender and a name… not always the most creative but it’s for this very reason that I have such a hard time selling off old gear to make room for new. I have relationships with these bikes. The shared adventures and sagas make for great memories and story telling. If there was no connection between body and machine, why ride at all? Just sayin’.

On a side note, do yourself a favor and check out Broken Bells. Dude from the Shins and Gnarles Barkley… Sounds like a weird combo but it’s quite good.

Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I’ll have ridden a million miles of trail on the Blue Bombshell and I’ll be oozing with optimistic commentary on how great life is. Till then, keep the rubber side down and enjoy your adventures – whatever they may be.

24 Dec 2010

Walking Out

Posted by mercieb. 2 Comments

Flying through the air, I had that instant when, “I’m fucked.” rolled through my head. I hit hard and yes, I am fucked…

A ride sounded good. Just what the doctor ordered after last week’s 5 day sales meeting in Denver that entailed being stuck in a hotel for the full of those five days. A ride was needed in the way you need food when you’re really hungry.

It’s just Duthie. Been there a million times and I know the trails pretty damn well. It was wet and I was stuggling a little getting my tires hooked up but I was getting there. We started off with Bootcamp, the way every Duthie ride starts. I had some good flow on the last section which always makes me smile. Railing berms at mach speed is so fun and satisfying. We headed for Ryan’s Eternal Flow and I cleaned it all no problem.

Off Ryan’s you can cut into the middle of Step it Up and catch the start of Ryan’s again. We did that – loopdey loop. Off the starting ramp… berm… table top jump to a beautiful right hand turn that shoots down and then up to a very lovely step-up. This is my favorite series in the whole park. So flowy and with no brakes it’s fast. The step-up can be huge if you let it.

From the step-up, you land in a left-hand berm. It was at this moment when I had the “oh shit” conversation with myself. I was coming off the step-up sideways – a good thing if you are at the correct angle to the berm but the bike was pitched in the opposite direction it should have been going. At the bottom of that berm are a few wooden planks to help with drainage. I’ve never even been close to those wooden planks but today I hit them square on with the bike going the wrong way. The instant the tires hit those wooden planks, the bike was gone out from under me. Just simply gone with no chance in hell to bring it back. Wood is perplexing that way.

Suddenly the sound of my helmet hitting the ground was echoing at deafening decibels in my head. I hit the ground fucking hard. It was like being picked up and slapped into the ground. Like when you roll up a wet dish towel and whip somebody with it.

I knew there was someone coming behind me so I yelled, probably not very loud, “hold up.” Luckily he saw me as he came over the step-up. My handlebar was jammed in between the planks in the trail and it was becoming clear things were not good.

My right arm immediately starting yelling at me and as I managed to extricate the bike from the planks of wood, my hip and calf started letting me know all was not well in my world. I was asked if I needed help. No, I didn’t think so but I alerted my riding party that I would not be continuing on with the trail. Weird. I’ve never done that before. Things must be really fucked up. I told him I’d meet him back at the main area as I was going to cut the trail and walk out.

WALK OUT???? I’ve never walked off a trail in my life. Broken ribs? Head first into a tree? Falling 5 feet off a trail??? I’ve never walked out. All of a sudden I was walking out. I couldn’t breathe. Gasping for air as my right leg all the way up to my hip was dragging behind me. I could only push the bike with my left arm because it felt like I had been shot on the right side.

Holy shit. My riding party let me go after many assurances that I could get myself home and I WALKED back to my car. I knew there was no way I could hold onto the bar let alone get my fingers to compress the brake lever. The pain was getting worse and I wasn’t even doing anything.

Bike on rack… ow.

Gloves off… Oh my fucking god, shoot me now.

Wow, that hand is huge.

Shoes off… how am I ever going to make it home?

Finally, after bundling myself into the car and feeling grateful for having an automatic, (this might be the only time), I was ready to make my way home where clearly things have to be better than they were at that moment.

JW rolled up as I was pulling out. He took one look at my right hand and said, “Broken.”

Noooooo…

Not one to readily take other’s advice on medical issues, I thanked him for his offer of left-over Percocet and attempted to make the most excruciatingly painful drive of my life toward home. 20 minutes seemed to take 20 hours. Hand and arm throbbing at different intervals. Hip and calf crippling as I attempted to use the brake and accelerator.

All I could think was, “How am I going to cook Christmas dinner with one hand?”

I was trying to gauge the pain in my hand by comparing it to the pain in my hip and calf. I knew my leg was not broken and if my leg was not broken and the pain was similar between the two body parts, then my hand was going to be ok, right? Seemed to make perfect sense at the time.

I did make it home but by the time I got there I was wishing for someone to chop my arm off. Just make it go away. I handle pain pretty well – ask anyone who knows me. Despite my high threshold for pain, I’ve never felt pain like this. I was seriously considering JW’s Percocet at this point.

The bike is still sitting on the on the car. 8 Advil and couple shots of whiskey seems to have taken the edge and some of the swelling off the whole deal but the stairs in my house now look like Mt Everest. Looks like I’m sleeping on the couch tonight.

I’m seriously fucked and unless there is some sort of divine intervention, I’ll be off the bike for a while. Lame. Or as a close friend tells me, “If you throw down (the way you normally do and regularly without consideration for your bodily safety…) this is gonna happen once in a while! Not lame – more a testament to your badassedness.”

Cheers to throwing down.

22 Dec 2010

Wrapping it Up

Posted by mercieb. No Comments

It’s not often, if ever, my taste in anything match up with any sort of “best-of” list. In fact, it’s been brought to my attention that my likes, dislikes and general slant on things pretty much don’t match up with anybody else on the planet; I like things other people hate and hate things other people like. It’s not my intention to go against the grain but in my defense, I simply know what I like.

With that said, I was poking around Pitchfork looking for new music and The Top 50 Albums of 2010 caught my eye. Curios but not hopeful, I browsed the list with mild interest and then I got to the top 10… Wait a sec. Hold the phone. What’s this? 3 of my favorite albums I’ve been listening to this year are in the top 10????

Either I’m getting normal or the world has lost it’s mind. Never mind, don’t comment on that.

Much to my surprise, I found these on the list:

#3 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

#5 Beach House – Teen Dream

#6 Vampire Weekend – Contra

**other notables in the top 20 include: #11 Arcade Fire – The Suburbs; #13 No Age – Everything In Between; #17 Caribou – Swim**

6 albums you would actually find in my library in any Top 20 list has got to be some kind of record.

Oh, I could give you some lovely detailed reviews of these albums but knowing how people feel about my opinions, please do yourself a favor and don’t take my word for it. Instead, trust Pitchfork not to steer you wrong. New music is fun and these albums are really great – especially Beach House’s Teen Dream. You should check them out if you have the time or inclination.

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