I went riding with a beast.

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Fresh off his dominating participation in the Tour Divide 2014, Mr. Dan fucking Hensley decided to let me ride some bikes with him. I met up with him at his place in and we talked a little bit about his experience before heading out into the oakland wilderness.

 

So I will provide a little background on things.

1. Dan is a general badass who likes to do badass things, like the Arizona Trail Race, Trans Iowa among other things.

2. The Tour Divide is a pretty badass thing to do. (if you don’t know what the tour divide is, click on the link)

3. Most people complete the tour divide on a fully geared bike, and a lot do it with suspension, and most have some sort of support along the way. Because, ya know, humans need help riding 2,700 miles.

4. Dan decided to ride this monstrous race, on a rigid single speed. And as if that weren’t enough, he did it unsupported, and just for fun. (and to raise money for Ride for Reading <— CHECK IT OUT)

5. Dan is a beast

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Some things I learned about the Divide from Dan.

1. During the Divide, all you do is mash, from sun-up to well-past-sun-down. You mash until you can’t ride any further, and then you collapse on the ground to get a couple hours of sleep.

2. The Divide is lonely. There are stretches of road where you go a hundred miles without seeing anyone. (sounds amazing to me)

3. You can eat whatever the fuck you want forever and take the Tour Divide Diet and lose every pound of fat you ever had. Dan ate ice cream and pizza and beer leading up to the race, gained 20 lbs. and still came out of the race under his usual weight.

4. Do it single-speed, do it rigid. If you want to go unsupported, through 3000 miles of rough terrain – you need to minimize the risk of failure. One gear means no shifty-do-dads with 1,000 plastic pieces to break. No lube on squeaky pulleys, no extra cables for shifters, no failure. A full-rigid bike means you can go across the entire country without losing a single ounce of effort to a fucking bouncing bike.

5. It’s not easy. If Dan says it’s not easy, it’s not easy. There are a lot of great things about this race but Dan told the honest truth about all the shit you encounter along the way. Don’t ever go into this race thinking it is some kinda gran fondo across the country. This shit is real, and not for the little sissy-girls.

6. The Divide makes you go absolutely crazy. Dan went the entire ride without finishing a six-pack. What the fuck. What does that to a man?

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Dan invited me out to ride some of his local trails. I heard there is some great riding to be had over in Oakland but never thought much of it. Oakland=City. City=No good riding. We met up and Dan lent me a ride. A beautiful little Surly 1×1, which after the ride I concluded to be one of the best bikes I had ever ridden. We cruised though the streets of Oakland on what I figured to be a never ending promenade to the quarter mile of single track Oakland has. So we finally get to this gnarly climb in the middle of a cute little neighborhood. This hill doesn’t end. Ever. Up and up and up on the pavement until we finally reach some park. Through the park and then into the trees. And then, bam, single track. What? In Oakland? Yeah. I would compare it to a mixture of Sutro and GGP here in the city. Winding single-track on a hill, with loose dirt everywhere. I was surprised that it just goes on and on and on. Not only was it pretty cool that there was this much riding so near to the city, but it was also some of the best riding I have done so close to the city. I’m no dirt jumper, and I usually like to keep at least one wheel on the ground at all times, so these trails were great for me. Quick, winding, just challenging enough to give you spurts of adrenaline at every corner – but also not enough to fuck my shit up. We rode for a good while, and Dan owned me every descent and ascent. The guy just wouldn’t stop and I was lucky to survive. After the ride we went had some beer and lunch and all was good.

I can’t wait to get back over to Oakland and ride some dirt with Dan. It was a great time and I look forward to discovering more rides in the East Bay.

 

That is all.

 

Also, this gallery is some shitty photos of the Ant that he rode in the Divide. And this LINK is his map through the Divide.

i’m still here! shitbike lives on!

I do my best to put out content consistently so you guys can waste a little bit more time not doing the things you are supposed to be doing. Unfortunately, lately I haven’t had the time to help you out. Two jobs and full-time school will do that to a guy. So I decided to take a little chunk out of homework time to present you with… a shit load of random photos. Here’s what I have been up to.

riding with skinny tires

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riding some more with skinny tires.

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Getting my horseshoe on with Timbuk2

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Getting my drink on with Timbuk2

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Rinding with the lady friend

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Riding some more skinny tires, getting my #trainingbro on.

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and hating bike thieves. because they suck.

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So that all for now. I should resurface in about three weeks or so. I promise some more substantial stories will come after my miserable semester. And they will most likely involve a motorcycle.

woah, a mountain biker.

There is almost certainly no community like the one which exists atop two wheels and a frame of steel. Those who cycle their way through life, see it differently at every turn. Those who grasp tightly at the handlebars and trust the machine as it pulls them forward, will breathe the fresh air of new experiences. Seek out the new trails and trust the wheel in front of you.

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It was Sunday. It was hot. It was time for a hotdog. We drank a beer and waited in the shade. Rested our legs before another climb. Saddle up, move forward. We reach the halfway point on White’s Hill where the entrance to Tamarancho Extension is. We lock the bikes, and start our hike. Up a little ways and up a little more. Sun is a bit stronger here.

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Mountain bikers are a different breed all together. Defining characteristics include: manly arms, wide-set shoulders, hair everywhere, and the ability to ride downhill. It was interesting to say the least, to sit and watch these strange creatures take to the hill climb known as the Dead Heifer. Huffing and puffing, sweating and digging deep.

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They make their way up and down the killer hills of Tamarancho Park, including a couple gnarly climbs and a flow track. We saw the pros. We saw the non-pros. We saw the badass motherfuckers riding single-speed. John and Cubby showed up, and showed ’em up in t-shirts on steel frames. They were the only ones to hit the flow track properly. How does one aim a bike? I wonder as I watch them race down the hill.

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I want another beer. We hike down the mountain, unlock our bikes and ride. We ride down first and then climb another huge ascent to a grassy meadow where we find the pack of wild mountain bikers. They sit under tents sipping Gatorade. We sit in the shade of another generous tree and wait a while as the last finishers make their way through. After getting the race recap from John and Cubby, we saddle up once again, and fly down the fire road into Fairfax. I white knuckle the entire descent, and the others jump potholes and wheelie corners. Exhilarating, and suicidal.

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Fill up on a burger, some Pepsicola and a Corona and try your best to survive the trip home. Walk through the front door and collapse on the ground. Mission success.

 

shitbike rides with some makers

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I was sick, hungover and should have been working on finals but simply could not miss out on the Sacramento edition of Meet Your Maker Tour. shitbike has been out of commission since last week so I loaded up the ‘goose, downed a couple espresso shots and hit the road.

Robert Ives of Blue Collar bikes headed up this round of the tour, and – whoa – what a great job he did. We all met at his unofficial headquarters, a bar named the Hideaway, and prepped for the ride. Within five minutes there were enough people to rival the largest MYM already, by the time we left it was well over the last MYM attendance.

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The plan was a quick and easy loop around south Sacramento. 50 miles, no hills and “most of it will be a tailwind”. The huge group rolled out around 10 and we spilt immediately into a a mess of cyclists storming through the neighborhoods. Cars are pretty nice in Sacramento, but I still wanted to get out of the residential areas. After some time taking left and right turns trying to meander out of it, we came to a freeway and some open road. It was a good time to make rounds through the group, meet new people and check out some bikes.

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I rode with a couple builders during the lulls and learned a lot about what it takes to start and maintain a small frame building company. These guys are ridiculously passionate about what they do, and their love for creating always trumps their desire for payment. They work hard to create bicycles that their clients will love a cherish forever. That’s not to say it’s an easy job. Every guy I talked to mentioned a time at which they didn’t know if “the whole bike-making thing” was going to happen for them. Some keep a part-time (or full-time) job while laying the foundation, some still have to supplement income with side jobs. Others are in the shop countless hours pumping out beautiful bikes to we can go ride them while their still in the shop making the next “big thing”. No matter what, each has a smile on their face when they describe their latest project. Each has a prideful grin as their name is called, preceded by the title “Frame Builder” at the start of the ride. These guys are an inspiration, in the creative realm, the business realm and in life.

This is why I go to Meet Your Maker. This is why Meet Your Maker exists. You get a chance, and the builders get a chance to come face to face with the other side. The builders are doing it because they love to make bikes, and you ride their bikes because they make riding more fun. To see these two heads meet makes for a an awesome ride. Everyone is happy to be out there. Its like a flurry of appreciation being spewed out from all angles, that and beer.

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The ride was mixed terrain, hitting mostly asphalt with the occasional gravel section and even some railroad. I definitely picked the wrong bike for the job but committed and had to suffer it out. The bulky Mongoose made for an extra effort up every levy and through all the “tailwind” we were riding with. Sacramento has a strange feeling to it. One second you are in a nice shaded road with generous vegetation on either side, and the next second you are in the middle of a dry desert praying for water. We made our first beer stop about twenty miles in and I couldn’t be happier. A tallboy in my hand, the sun in my eyes and only 30 miles to go.

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At about mile 21 is where I lost it. I don’t know if it was the Mongoose, or the sun or the ridiculous headwind, but I was pretty beat and just wanted to get back for some pork and beer. I decided the best way to do this would be to put the hammer down, to cruise in faster so as to eat sooner. After another stop where we fueled up with licorice and beer, I put it in gear. I rode with Mr. Klein on a dirt section and he distracted me with some good conversation. On the next portion of the course I tried to stay with Curtis Inglis, but that badass was on a quick-as-lightning  show bike and I was almost died trying to discuss his recent trip to Sweden. We finally made it to another stop and I stuffed a doughnut in my face before heading into the last leg.

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Ah, finally the skyline emerged from the trees and I knew we were close. At the last regroup I switched bikes with Darin who had just put together his brand new Blue Collar Cross with all the bells and whistles, and let me test it out. I rode that thing into Sacramento and it made the last five miles so much easier. Rigid as i-beam and light as a feather. We rolled past the capitol and the ATOC setup. We rode back into the neighborhood and down the last stretch to some bbq sandos and beer. At the Hideaway again, we all rack up the bikes and line up for lunch.

 

After a couple of beers refueled each rider, we all sat inside with little red tickets in hand waiting for Robert to call out the winners of the huge raffle he organized in support of the Chako Pit Bull Rescue. I didn’t win anything but I drank a few more beers, and thats winning for me. In size only, this MYM was one of the most successful. In community and charity, this MYM was far above the rest. We came together with the same intent of all the MYM tours but with the added intent of helping out a part of the builder’s community. We came together to have the same fun we always do, did it better, and even helped a worthy organization. Robert did a great job and I am looking forward to the next time I can get up to Sacramento to drink a beer with him.

 

Stinner Stinner, bourbon dinner.

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About a week ago I went to see Aaron Stinner talk a bit about bike building at Mission Workshop.

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A ton of great people showed up to the event. Who wouldn’t when it’s sole advertisement was “Free beer and bourbon”? We mingled, drank, mingled some more. I was only hanging out for about five minutes before someone dropped one of the Stinner frames right into my beer, this party was officially on.

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Aaron’s work has grown in popularity following a 2012 NAHBS Rookie of the Year Award and his sweet Mudfoot project that we all know so well. Stinner’s frames have been ridden by some of the best, and only Ty Hathaway was man enough to break one. His frames are simple and built for a purpose (as are most customs). Aaron talked a lot about what inspires him and keeps his business moving. It was interesting to have a Q&A setup, he wasn’t just giving us a shpeel. It was like a good conversation over a couple(dozen) beers.

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All in all, it was very much like hearing any builder talk about their business. Working hard, staying true, making beautiful things. It was great to see the frames up close and hear all about the process A-Z. Most of what I loved about that night was all the great people who showed up. It was nice to see friendly faces, meet new folks and talk a bunch about what we love most – bikes. I had the chance to talk to Victor from Archive, Brad from Bicycle Coffee, met Storts as he farted and walk away from the scene of the crime, glanced at Ty Hathaway from GSC, Erik from AWOL and Mr. Brian Vernor(because I’m not cool enough for that crowd), and chatted up a bunch of old friends. It’s events like this that make San Francisco such a great place to live in. Take a central location and cram as many rad guys and gals as you can – who all love bikes – and just chill and drink free booze.

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Cheers to Aaron Stinner for coming down to share his experiences, it was a great event. I am already looking forward to the next Mission Workshop event, and all the free beer.

a night in the woods

After taking a little trip to Rivendell Bikes, I was inspired and suddenly filled with a compulsive desire to head for the woods. On the BART ride home, I told my friend, “This is happening, I am going camping tomorrow.”

There comes a time in a guy’s life when he has to stop talking about adventures and lurking on other people’s blogs wishing he were awesome enough to take adventures like them. That time for me was friday night. Many things lead up to the decision to go camping alone, for no reason, on a random Saturday night. A lot of philosophy books and too many hours at work were involved in that equation. All the candid adventure photos hung up at Rivendell were fresh in my mind and I felt the need to get out of Dodge. I had a couple of problems though; no tent, no sleeping bag, no racks, no panniers, no nothing. I needed some gear, and needed it quick. Fortunately I have some of the coolest cats as friends and they hooked me up with everything but a sleeping bag (I planned a trip to REI the next day for that.) I threw everything on the Mongoose and started freaking out with excitation. That bike is heavy without load, that bike is a lead sculpture on wheels with just overnight provisions. I was packed and ready to go. Lark and I hit the park the next day to photograph her new bike and celebrate a friend’s birthday, all the while I was itching to hit the road. 3 o’clock rolled around and it was time to start my solo adventure.

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I had a late start and had about thirty miles to put in between me and the city. I was racing the sun from the time I crossed the bridge. If I was going to make it to the campground before dark, it was time for a little hammerfest. I know it’s not really in the spirit of bike touring to mash to your destination but an inexperienced camper such as I really values sunlight when setting up camp. I took the same route up to Sam P. Taylor park as Bret and I did on the last trip, through Fairfax and Lagunitas up into the trees. I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the corner store, and grabbed myself a handful of chocolate for good measure. I hit the winding fire road that leads to the sites and was impressed how well the bike handled and how awesome it was to bomb downhill with so much weight. I arrived at the campground just as the sun dipped below the hill, and was comfortable with setting up with the remaining light. Tent went up without issue, mat was inflated and sleeping bag spread out. Time to eat dinner, roasted turkey and cheese on sourdough with a can of Dr. Pepper. I was finished, and the sun was gone. The fog hid the stars but gave a glow to the forest for a couple minutes. I sat on a nearby picnic table and listened to the creek and felt the cold air fill in. The reality of my solitude set in, the darkness surrounded me and thoughtfulness ensued. I guess the only thing you should do at this point is open a book written about the many theories of human perception in context to the fight between Realist and Idealist philosophies in the 1800s. Yeah, shit got deep.

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I snacked on whatchamacallit and swedish fish, read a couple lines of philosophy and enjoyed the beginning of evening alone. I was only alone for about 30 minutes before I was joined by the most fearless, almost domesticated raccoons sneaking up on my tent looking for some food. They did not blink when approached, did not shoo when shooed, they were insistent little creatures. Finding nothing but the rubber of my tires, they became uninterested and left. I was greeted not two minutes later by flashing lights and blinding torch light of an unhappy Park Ranger. Seems I set up camp in the one spot I shouldn’t have, go figure. She told me I had to move my stuff about a half-mile up the road to their new designated Hike and Bike camp ground. Fuck. Disassemble everything and pack up? Nah, I picked up the entire tent and shouldered the thing dragging my bike beside my in the pitch black, searching by the light of my headlamp for the landmarks only vaguely described to me by Madam Trooper.  It was quite a trek, up a hill. My legs were not having it. My arms were not having it. Finally I figured out where to go and got there. A busy little circle of campsites, I definitely wasn’t alone anymore. Dogs barking, children screaming in cold showers, middle aged men laughing and exchanging barbecue recipes by the fire. I was directed by the ranger to Campground 26, a tiny piece dirt already occupied by one other tent, leaving only an off camber section of ground by a table for me. This was a bit different than my original setup.

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Tent back up, sleeping bag spread out again, lights, books, action. It’s time to get deep again. … Nah, I’ll have a beer. I pull out the three road sodas graciously gifted to me by the good peeps from the birthday party earlier that afternoon and simply sat and enjoyed. I chill out a bit after the first can and can stomach some Emerson before I hit the hay. Another two and its time to sleep. I get into bed, and immediately slip down the mat to the edge of the tent. Every angle is downhill and there is a hole right in the middle of where my tent is set. Note to self: next time get your ass to the campsite with some light left and find yourself a proper piece of dirt. I find a sweet spot pushed up against the food box and it’ll have to do. I close my eyes and try to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to bids chirping and the ever so elegant sight of the sky filling with light. Color slowly making its way across the sky and into the forest. Blue fog rolled over the hills and you could hear the first stirrings of life in the camp. I went for a walk. I took some photographs. I thought about nothing. My mind was blank. I could not be more content. I stood in the company of the trees, with the song of the birds in my ears and the cold hand of the fog on my neck. I walked slowly up and down the road. I watched as the light changed, as the dark patches of leaves became the backdrop for a perfect morning. My mind at rest, I ventured further into the woods. Up a path away from the campgrounds, covered in thick leaves and fallen trees. Calm. Unconcerned with where I was going, not a worry about what was next. Time was suspended here with me, it waited while I rediscovered what had been lost for too long. It’s strange, that feeling you get when you see something familiar for the first time. A man can prance by a hundred trees when preoccupied with the troubles of living life, but can’t take their eyes of a single one when confronted with nothing but its majesty. I stopped and stared at them, up and down their branches. I observed their moss covered extremities, the protruding fungi at their base, pondered the stillness of their existence. I hadn’t thought about a tree like this in a while.

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It was time to pack up and go. I put the tent away, stuffed my sleeping bag and loaded up the bike. I took it slow, really slow. I was freezing but I embraced it. I looked everywhere, I looked for every detail that wanted to be seen. I stopped whenever I got the chance, just to look or take a photo. I wasn’t going home, I was going to experience the cities and towns dotted along the road back. I’ve ridden these roads and seen these buildings, all through the blurry eyes of a training athlete making his way hurriedly through a workout not paying any mind to what is actually going on here.

I saw a boot at some point.. I couldn’t get enough of the boot. I didn’t understand what that boot was there for. I was perplexed. So I photographed it.

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Slowly, slowly, slowly, I made my way down that long stretch of road. Stopping for coffee, and some more coffee, a bagel drenched in butter and a blueberry coffee cake the size of my head. I watched the cyclists pass me by. They all seemed to struggle in each stroke forward, grimacing with pain and hatred for their ride. I have a deep love for the pain-of-the-ride and totally understand it, but it seems to overwhelm some riders and they can only think about the wattage, the effort and the minimal gains. I want them to understand what their landscape has to offer them, I want them to see what I am seeing. These roads aren’t a gym, these roads aren’t a monthly membership payment. There is a reason cyclists don’t subscribe to that manner of exercise, we need to be outside where we can see and feel, experience the world. Bike’s are meant to take us places. A simple commute, an epic adventure, a workout, whatever the ride, it’s outside in the elements. What is outside if there is nobody experiencing it? If all you do is stare at a computer and pedal, might as well be in a fucking gym. There is a lot to learn about life from the road, look up every once in a while and just take it in.

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All that sappy stuff about life and love of bikes put aside, it’s probably a good idea to sit and stay a while in each town you ride just to get to know it. I stopped to have a coffee in a couple different places and just observed that daily life unfold. It gave me a completely new perspective about these towns that I ride through constantly. They have personality and character, each as different as the next, no matter the proximity to the last.

I learned a lot of really important lessons on this trip. One being that I should really bring my own coffee set-up, nobody outside of San Francisco understands the concept of a properly brewed cup of joe.

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After my cup of dirty water in San Anselmo I continued down south. The sun came out and I was riding in shorts and t-shirt soaking it up. The heat was tightening my skin and lifting my mood. I whipped out my electronic-music-playing-device and chugged away to Thee Oh Sees. I stopped some more. I took some more photos of more random things. I pedaled for a bit, sat for a bit, ate a bit of beef jerky and rode on.

I’m running out of things to say. At some point in the ride I decided to put the camera down and observe everything with my eyes and ears only. I knew it wouldn’t last forever so I wanted to feel it while I could. Down the bike path to Sausalito I was wishing for a couple hundred more miles of dirt roads. My cadence slowed even more as I neared the city, not wanting to end the ride. I moseyed over the bridge and hit some more dirt along Crissy Field, yah boi my last stretch of awesomeness. I turned into the mess of a city and mentally finished my epic miniventure.

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So I did it. I successfully completed a spontaneous, poorly planned, and somewhat irresponsible trip to the woods. I don’t have a bad thing to say about this method of adventuring, in fact I guarantee this will be a reoccurring modus operandi. Traveling via bike, and sleeping under the stars is a cleansing experience I’ll have to fit in every month or so. More random adventures on bikes coming soon. More loaded Ron Burgundy and philosophical statements about Garmin junkies. More shitbike and bad ideas.