This story originally ran at The Toast about four years ago. A slightly different version ran in Adventure Journal Quarterly. What I love about it now, actually, is that some of the commentary about culture and gender seem almost out of date. Like ideas about women and sports and what we can and can’t do, that terrain is shifting fast. So I guess what I’m saying is maybe there’s a glimmer of hope in these things. Either way, I still like this story. It has a lot of bikes in it. And bikes are good.
I’m working in my kit again. I thought I could escape, but then the phone started nagging. So I sat down to answer it and to answer that other thing, and to edit that one thing and to make that other thing. Sitting still is hard. I just want to go ride. The internet is such a dick sometimes.
So here I sit, my padded shorts feeling like diapers in my cushioned office chair. On the bike, I don’t notice the padding. Off the bike, it shifts and bunches like an over-sized maxi-pad. Finally, I pull up the straps on my bibshorts and zip my jersey.
If you’ve never seen bibshorts, they look like shorts with suspenders attached. Before the time of lycra, cyclists wore wool shorts with actual suspenders. These days bibshorts are a weird, one-piece contraption, the parts sewn together painstakingly by women in a factory somewhere in Romania. The sewing process is not easy. The lycra is pieced together and the seams placed just so. No one wants a seam in the vagina.
I’m a Title IX girl. I swam in college, my team funded because the law required it. Eventually I got bored of chasing the pool’s black line and turned mountain bike racer. My friends and I used to say that women’s participation in sports was one of the last battlegrounds of feminism. We were more optimistic about feminism then, and in truth, about life.
The wheels thunk as I ride down the stairs to the sidewalk and shoot through the grass to the street. The bike doesn’t really stop. Somewhere between the emails and interview transcripts and editing corrections and can you just do this one thing, I need to adjust the brakes, but I haven’t gotten around to it. It adds excitement to the whole thing to ride a bike that doesn’t really stop. You just go faster.
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.
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/
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.
One of my favorite parts of Sea Otter is hanging at the Little Bellas lemonade social. Lea and Sabra Davison founded the group which aims to bring more girls into mountain biking. And it totally rules. At Sea Otter, the Little Bellas cheer at the races and there’s a meet-up where a group of pros answer whatever questions the girls can throw their way. Also, I take notes, because some of their questions are better than mine. There’s also jersey signing and rap battles and hella sweet lemonade. It’s a pretty good time.