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.

 

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it had been a week since i was on a bike and i was itching for radness. i needed to get out, i needed some dirt, i needed a climb.

Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf had jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are the things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow. But of course, without the top you cant have the sides. It’s the top that defines the sides.

-Persig

i have always loved climbing mountains. even at a young age i hiked the canyon near my home, during grade school i climbed the hills with my classmates on field trips, later in high school i rode my bike up the mountain to the north. i think often about what draws me to the climb. is it the challenge? the reward? the process in itself? Who knows really, but something is evident- i love a good challenge. there is one mountain available to me on any day, mount tamaplais. good ol’ mt tam. the birthplace of the mountain bike. the mountain on which dreams are realized, and crushed all in the same ride. i’ve ridden tam countless times. up and down her sideways and backwards. though i’ve yet to learn her dirty ways. her dirt trails that is. so brett and i saddled up our twenty year old all terrain bicycles (as the forefathers called them) and went to discover what the mountain had to offer in the ways of trails and fire roads.

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it’s true what persig says about the sides of the mountain. its the journey up the mountain that teaches you more than anything the top has to offer. though often we seek to get to the top, all the way assuming it has something to share with us- a gift, that will make all this torment worthy. on most mountains we get to the top and take in the majesty of an awe inspiring view, breathe the fresh untainted air the swims over the mass of earth. but at the peak, if you take just a second to look at what you have conquered, you realize it had very little to do with the top. it is the top where you have stopped yes, but it is the entire mountain, the sides, that got you here. your pain and struggle. your experience and emotion. all of your actions remain on the sides of the mountain, evidence of your adventure to the top. nobody gets to the end of a hill climb and thinks only of the top, for the top would not mean anything but for the actions it took to get there. the climb defines the mountain.

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this mountain is my old friend. this mountain is my enemy. this mountain is my teacher. mt tam has done so many things for me in my past that i cant give it one definition. i’ve donated a fare share of blood sweat and tears to the roads along the climb, a good amount of metal shavings on the dirt too. i’ve experienced it in almost every way possible. saturday was yet another way to change my perspective. saddled up on old atbs and carrying non-necessities like beer and thin mints, this was a different kind of ride than what the last bit of rambling was about. there was to be no suffering, there was to be no blood or tears. i was staying out of the pain cave, that was for sure. i wanted to really take in what the roads had to offer.

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so to the dirt we went. entering the fire roads and making our way up the good ol’ mountain. there were a bunch of people out enjoying her bosom as well. the day was beautiful and the path was dry. everywhere you look you find a carved out line that hundreds before you have taken. the last riders are leading you up the mountain. it’s not without it’s surprises. given the will, you can take one of the many mystery off shoots along the way. off a cliff? over to the other side? who knows? try it out anyway. we made easy work of the climb to the top. not much more than a long cruise. the grade is easy, but the length really tests your motivation. by the time we got to the top the sun was out and it was definitely time for a brew. while sitting near the horse shoe pit, we sipped on pbr and snacked on girl scout cookies and oranges. The perfect summit.

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it was time for the fun part. single track all the way down to highway one. i’ve ridden it once before on shitbike and i still feel the rattling in my bones to this day. the path is heavily rutted and sprinkled with large stones. i figured my “mountain bike” would make the way more manageable and pleasant. boy was i wrong. i learn a lot of information about the history of bicycles through riding really shitty bicycles. this lesson was called: front suspension 101. you take a couple turns down the road and pop over a hill funnelling you into the single track leading down the mountain. before you know it you are hauling ass and flying through the curves left and right. you hit the ruts almost immediately and they begin to shake your whole body right down to your soul. at first it’s amusing. then it becomes a little bothersome. and then after a hundred feet of the vibrating roller coaster, it becomes intensely painful and distracting. you’re white-knuckling it, and trying to let go at the same time. you’re flying over the ruts but feeling every last one of them. for the bad mountain riders like me, this can only last so long. i knew if i didn’t brake, my bike would. soon enough i hit an edge, heard a bang, and felt the slithering of an empty tire beneath me. flat. i was happy to slow down for a second. we sit. i fix my tire. we take some photos. see a deer. we’re on our way again. down cobblestones’ big brother. don’t get me wrong, this was the most fun i have had in a while. it was as much radness as my mind could accept at any time, i was on overload and it was amazing, and scary. some people swear on rigid forks, i would have given anything for a tall boy at this point. i learned real quick why the suspension fork was invented, and why it is still being reinvented every year. a little while after my incident i heard another crunch and skid up the path. there stood brett in the middle of the path, not saying a world but looking at his back wheel. his derailleur had disappeared up into his cassette and we were both scared it had been severed completely from the hanger. a closer look revealed the problem. brett jiggles his derailleur a bit to see if it will come down, and out pops his pulley wheel. the pulley had become completely detached from the derailleur and one last bump had ejected it out of the arms and into the chain/cassette where is magically stayed until brett dislocated it to the ground. we look down knowing the nut and bolt are gone and we start coming up solutions in our heads. brett fumbles around the drivetrain for a second and whattayaknow, nut, bolt and bearing are all just sitting peacefully under the  back tire. the great mountain bike gods were having pity on our poor souls, allowing us to survive the mountain in one piece.

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bad times averted, we carry on down the mountain. a couple more ruts and then we are on the 1. there is a short and steep descent down smooth asphalt to another trailhead that takes us to another climb. the mongoose is like a motorcycle through the apexes and never lets go of the road. speeding down the hill like butter is an amazing contrast to the bike breaking mess we just came out of. we’re at the trailhead in no time. a perfect photo opportunity. brett reaches for his fanny pack (which by the way, is corduroy and matches well with his corduroy cutoffs) to find an open pocket but no phone. so that’s two rides, and two phones lost, a great record. the last place he remembered having it was all the way back on top of the hill. we turn around and start our trek up the mammoth climb. the sun is really coming out now and we are sweating our asses off lugging the old mountain bikes up the road. it’s like the brakes are on. the bikes are stuck in an invisible sludge, not allowed to move forward with any sort of ease. we summit and head for the trail hoping the phone is in the open, and still in one piece.

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we encounter a couple of smart mountain bikers (those with springy things on their fork) up the way a bit and inquire. they smile and point immediately, “the two guys there! they have it!” two hikers are almost out of site, walking away from us up the hill. brett races toward them and starts yelling at them, in a polite way. we catch up and the hikers are as surprised as we are at the serendipity of it all. brett accepts his phone and offers his greatest gratitude and we are on our way again. down the water slide descent one more time. on to the trail one more time. we keep our phones pocketed, just in case.

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there was on more hill to climb. this one was a bit more arduous than the last couple. this climb rises higher and faster than what we have been riding all day. we get in our little ring. or we try. my chain loves to just shift over and ride on top of the teeth of the chainring. it does it on purpose I swear. a little twitch and a bit of wiggle, and the chain falls into place. brett would be lucky to get that far, he sticks his foot in the drivetrain and kicks his chain over until it catches. we’ve got some work to do on the beasts, but for now it works. up the hill. the pain starts about three strokes in and continues as we rise up following switchback after switchback. up, up, up, up. it just goes up. i decide it’s time for another photo break and we stop. we eat the rest of the melted thin mints and breathe in the fresh air. time to move on. we’re treated to a rolling single track when we hit the first downhill. a crisp dry trail winding through what small amount of trees there are on the hill. a quick boost and then back to climbing. i know from before that we had only a small distance left and so i put my head down and trudged the rest of the way. we hit the peak, and it’s a glorious relief. the trail shoots straight back down so there’s no work to be done. we let the bikes take us to where the trail meets the 1. back on pavement. and back home.

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another successful ride. another hill climbed. anther experience had.