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summer cruisin’

My friend Katie, making Malibu look like a dream come true.

why is there no women’s tour de france?

The Tour de France is a sprawling pandemonium of bike racing, product launches, and roadside parties. But the sport’s biggest event, the Tour itself, has largely left women riders out of the festivities. This year, they’ll participate for just two days, in a race called La Course, which runs ahead of the men’s race.

Why is there no Tour de France for women? Ask 12-time World Champion Marianne Vos, and she’ll laugh and say in her distinctive, Dutch-inflected English, “Well, that’s going to be a very long answer.” — Read the story A Chronicle of Persistance over at Bicycling.

july

The Tour de France is winding through France’s flat farmlands, as it does every year around this time. Want some reasons it’s cool? I contributed to a list thingy for Bicycling.

I also wrote a story about sprinter Mark Cavendish, which was pretty ruthlessly overtaken by events. Thanks to some quick work with my editor, we managed to salvage it, but it was a close run thing. Honestly, I just needed the guy to finish a safe fourth. I feel like that should not have been too much to ask. But it’s the Tour, so you know, you rarely get what you ask for.

If you read fiction at all — and really, you should all read fiction of some kind of another, because it’s fun. It’s the most fun you can have with words, on the whole. Except maybe poetry? Poetry is pretty fun with words, too.

Grab yourself a copy of David Conventry’s novel, The Invisible Mile, about a Tour de France during the 1920’s. It is way more interesting and beautifully written than that description suggests. Way more. The writer has the ability to describe racing and riding a bike in ways I’ve never thought of — and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain racing and riding bikes. It’s true in the way that the best fiction is.

stinner frameworks

I did a feature with framebuilder Aaron Stinner for Mountain Flyer magazine. We did a long interview. Then I cruised around the workshop and made pictures. I still had to portraits, which I get weirdly nervous about. I like doing them! But I still get weirdly nervous. The light was doing its shitty coastal fog thing and not in an interesting way. Coastal fog can be good, but this was not good coastal fog.

So we went out to the roof, because that seemed like it could be cool, but the light was still bad. I tried this and that and tried to be patient like, maybe this’ll work out somehow? I really need this to work out somehow. Then light got all soft and I made Aaron laugh and we got pictures on the roof. If you want to read it and see more photos, go here to buy a copy, http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/

If you aren’t familiar with Stinner Frameworks, they make beautifully painted steel and titanium bikes. Check their ig @StinnerFrameworks for some eye candy. If I win the lottery, I’m totally buying one.

I’ve never had a custom bike and it would be a rad project to dial in a custom geometry. I have… weird proportions. For bikes! I fit in water great. Bikes, not so much. I’ve always wanted to do a custom road bike that would fit just that little bit better than the stock bike I ride now — which, is by no means terrible. I don’t need a custom bike. But it would be amazingly fun to build one. Amazingly nerdy fun! Which in my opinion is the best kind of fun.

freeways and freight trains

It was the day after the election and I went down to Rincon. We were all a bunch of zombies stumbling around on Mars, but the surf was firing. In California we build freeways next to beaches, which is a weird sort of habit, but so are a lot of things. On the wall beneath the freeway, someone had voted with a spraycan. They wanted Tom Curren, local legend and three-time world champion to be president, instead of the guy who’d won the election. Pot smoke hung languid on the breeze, unthinkably beautiful waves rushed down the point, a luminous orange sun slid down the sky. And in that moment, it felt like nothing had changed at all.

sun hats

The coffee shop had a drink called the Trophy Wife, a sure sign that I’d strayed a long way from my usual neighborhood. Which, is not to say that there are no trophy wives where I live, just that none of the local coffee shops had ever seen fit to celebrate them with a menu item. I never did find out what was in the Trophy Wife, though as it turned out, there was also a Gold Digger. I just ordered my usual espresso. It was correctly pulled ristretto which shows that while they may not think much of women who marry for money, they do know their way around an espresso machine. You do you, Trophy Wives, you do you.

Meanwhile, I reviewed some clothing from Rapha, http://www.mensjournal.com/gear/articles/cycling-style-watch-raphas-new-lines-collection-is-awesome-w486471 and a couple of surf backpacks, http://www.mensjournal.com/gear/articles/surf-pack-showdown-two-essential-packs-to-carry-your-gear-w488249 I am especially stoked on the Da Kine pack, which is super roomy and totes waterproof. Not in the story: I use the laptop sleeves to carry bikinis. I’m sure the average dude would find this advice helpful.

On the way home, I drove through Malibu. The surf was flat, but a horde of people in sun hats were sitting in the line-up, enjoying the day. There are worst ways to waste away an hour or so.

Further up the coast, it turned out that there was more to do than sit around in sun hats. The best days are the days when Surfline gets it wrong. Instead of a crazed swell-seeking horde, a bunch of giddy locals and random passersby romped up and down the point and giggled liked fools. The sun was out and there were waves in an expected place. There’s nothing not to like in a set-up like that. By chance a friend from up north was passing through, and she got to experience a magical day. Good things are even better when there’s someone to share them with.

sediment sandwich

Even when I write about mountain biking it somehow ends up being about surfing. A few months ago I went out to the desert to ride. It was all dry washes and twisted juniper and layers of ancient rock stacked up one on the next like a sedimentary club sandwich. I rode some good trails and some not that great trails.

When I came home, I got invited to join in Joe Parkin’s guest-edited Dirt Rag issue. So I wrote about mountain biking in the desert and somehow it ended up being about surfing. There are bikes, too, of course. I mean, I did actually ride mountain bikes in the desert, but it’s sometimes hard to escape the obvious metaphor when your rolling single track through what was once a prehistoric sea.

Thanks to Joe for letting me do my thing without imposing all that much in the way of boundaries. Or really like any boundaries at all. Write like Chas Smith is pretty much an invitation to mayhem. I did my best. Here’s more about the issue, which includes way more talented people than I am, and how to grab yourself a copy. Yes, single issues are available over there at Dirt Rag. http://dirtragmag.com/dirt-rag-issue-199-is-here/

drive

I did a little road trip up the coast last week. I had a work thing to do in Napa, but I decided to take the round-about way to get there. I drove to Santa Cruz, then up highway 1 to Pacifica. If you need a place to stay within reach of San Francisco, but not in San Francisco, Pacifica is pretty great. It’s stupid scenic. Stupid.

Also, the Holiday Inn Express is super clean and overlooks the ocean. The lovely man at the front desk gave me a room upgrade which is pretty much the best thing ever. I got a sandwich at Dinosaur’s with tofu and other things on it and some spring rolls and it ruled the world. The only thing missing in Pacifica is solid espresso, but really, you can’t have everything in life.

So yeah, drive from Santa Cruz to Pacifica sometime. You can see the weird old bunker at Devil’s Slide and a whole bunch of ocean. Very cold, windy ocean. Which is alright, really. You’re not actually going to go in it, you’re just going to look at it. And it’s scenic as fuck.

After the scenic, windy, freezing ocean part, I drove through San Francisco, where I cruised the Great Highway and saw more freezing, windy ocean parts. Also, I guess some sharks live there, but I didn’t see any.

#novanlife

ghostbikes

The ghostbike dedicated to Salvador Barragan leans locked to a palm tree in Oxnard, California. Unbroken lines of cars stream down the four-lane road past the stripped-down, white-painted bike. A faded tag on the wall recalls a turf war, likely long forgotten by now. The wall, built of pale pink cinder blocks, is a typical sight in California, dividing backyards from roadways, preserving the illusion of tranquility against the rush of suburban life. Barragan died after he was hit by a driver making a u-turn.

Ghostbikes are fleeting, ephemeral memorials to cyclists killed by cars while riding their bikes. The bikes, their parts removed, are painted white and placed on the roadside. Most ghostbikes are removed very soon after they’re placed. Maybe it’s easier that way. On rare occasions, a ghostbike may stand for many months, a stark reminder of a last ride and a life cut short.

A while back, I did a photo essay for Bicycling on ghostbikes and it’s now live. The first ghostbikes were placed in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003 and they’ve since become a near-universal symbol for a downed cyclist. I interviewed a pair of activists in Southern California and photographed a series of memorials for the project. Head to Bicycling.com to see the story.

Of course, there were way more photos than we eventually ran, because that’s how it always works out. If you’d like to see the rest of the images, I put a ghostbikes gallery over on my photo site.

we like bikes

We like bikes. Especially blue ones. Obviously.

That’s one of the rad new bikes I saw at the Sea Otter thing. Maybe you’d like to see more?

Go over to Men’s Journal and have a look.