Thursday, November 17, 2016

Equity, Equality and the Outdoor Industry

Although it may not seem like it, today was a big deal for equality in the outdoor industry. From Brody Leven's posting about his public support and love for women to the behemoth that is Trek Bikes' taking on the trolls (and handily crushing them), it felt like a banner day.

And then, there were these folks:

Of all the things that Trek Bikes and Outside Magazine publish on their social media every day, why were these the things people chose to take issue with? Why, in an industry that is so full of amazing experiences, stories, people and pursuits, are there so many people so focused on things that have nothing to do with them? Why are there so many folks that are unequivocally against the promotion of female worth?

I've pondered this question more than once. I've beat, tortured and buried this dead horse trying to figure out the 'why's, and I've asked so many different questions that it makes my heart hurt and my head spin. In all of that, I've determined the following:

1: asking why a human being refuses to see something is an absolute waste of time.
2: pondering the existence and depths of human stupidity makes my brain hurt.
3: some people suck.
4: we must stop giving space to this particular infestation in our heads, our sports, and our world.

So I've decided that today, instead of asking questions, I'm gonna lay down a few quick rules.

The first rule: if you are the type of person who believes that inequality doesn't exist, you have no home in the outdoor industry. The second rule: if you are a person who is constantly upset by the efforts of companies and media to improve circumstances for women in the male-dominated outdoor industry, you do not belong in the outdoor industry. Third (and this is really the most important rule of all): if you have a problem with women, with women/girl/female/femme-centric content and with the possibility that not every bit of content is guaranteed to be directed towards you at all times, YOU HAVE NO PLACE IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY.

Yes, I just wrote that. If you do not operate under the belief that women are people and deserve the same opportunities, this is your cue to exit stage left. Now, I promised myself I wouldn't curse in this post because I'm trying to make a point, but if you don't understand any of what I've written or what 'exist stage left' means, GET THE FUCK OUT. (Damn. So much for not swearing.)

Don't pick up your stuff, we'll donate it. Don't say your goodbyes, nobody wants to hear them. Don't make excuses, offer platitudes or pretend that the sexist tropes you offer up are 'just a joke'. We don't care.

We've tolerated the trolls for years. We've stayed while the 'average user' might objectify, demean, underpay, undervalue, insult and even assault us. We've tried not to ruffle feathers when you offer us subpar gear at inflated prices, or when you hire models instead of female athletes. We've even tried to be 'cool' under the immense amount of unrealistic pressure heaped upon us as we battle (politely, of course) for equal air time, for equal page time, for equal camera time, for equal _____ time. We've built programs to encourage girls and young kids, we've written books for parents navigating their way through the darkness that is girls' outdoor and sporting, and we've done our very best to (quietly) build from the inside and shed light on the possibility that yes, we have a problem.

But not anymore. Not for me. I'll stay, but you won't. I will speak so loudly, so truthfully, so angrily that you will shatter in your insecure shell and wander away. I will highlight so many women doing the same thing that you'll feel outnumbered by a million times. I will mock you. I will demean you. I will 'chick' you. And I will laugh. Not because I'm angry, but because it is time that you understand that this is not your house. We've kicked the door in, brought our friends, and we're gonna have ourselves a goddamn party.

This is not your world anymore.

This is OUR place. This is the place where people come to feel whole, to be capable, to progress and work and to do it all in the most beautiful surroundings. This is a place where capability rules, where adaptation wins, and where our willingness to work hard dictates our success, not our gender. This is a world of equality and promise now; unless you're willing to live by that code, you're welcome to see yourself out.

There is no place for you anymore.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

No Honey, No Vinegar. I am fire.

The most corrupt, dishonest, unsuccessful candidate the United States has ever seen became president-elect in the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

I sobbed as I watched the scene unfold in front of me, then curled up on the floor as the ramifications of this night would bring washed over me in oily waves and friends began messaging and calling, asking me in terrified tones what was going to happen. 

There were no answers to give.

The next morning, social media was something that can only be categorized as a digital war zone. People I loved were on both sides of the fence, some gloating, most mourning. As I read through my notifications on things I had posted the night before, I was horrified to see the casual cruelty and complacency displayed by humans I respected, revered. 

Statuses and tweets about 'grow up, stop crying', comments to my own worries, condescending and loud, about how corrupt Hillary was, about how we didn't want a criminal in office, now did we? From every angle, bragging about how they didn't vote and didn't care. One young friend of mine shared a status about the danger to women and minorities, only to be shouted down by his friends, told to 'shut up and go back to school', called a 'p**sy', and demeaned. He's 18 and one of the most respectful and curious young men I've ever met. I was floored. And I was angry. 

All of this demanding from people not at risk by this new terror-spectre, telling everyone who was how they should feel. Excoriating us for mourning in 'their' space. After posting my own emotions missive asking for space and emotional respect from these people, i received a private message from a close friend. He explained to me that he respected me, but that my negativity about this fresh situation was alienating and off-putting. He told me that he valued my voice as an outspoken woman and my ability to educate others, then advised me that my swearing and anger weren't productive. He spoke about using 'honey instead of vinegar' to make my point.

I have been told this my whole life. The only problem? 

I am neither honey, nor vinegar. 

I am fire.

I am a fire that burns so brightly I cannot be extinguished. I am fire that may flicker, but will not go out. I am a fire that can light torches, burn structure, lay waste to entire systems. I am fire, and I am a woman. 

So many of us, as women, seem to have forgotten this. 

53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. 53 percent of us voted for a sexual harasser, a business failure, a fraud, a racist, an abuser, a liar. 

We voted in a man who has publicly bragged about the size of his dick, who has bullied, mocked and directed vitriolic hatred towards women, people with special needs, Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, people of color, the poor, veterans and even fallen American heroes. 

We voted in a man who encouraged his supporters to beat up people they don't agree with. WE, AS WOMEN, HAVE VOTED IN AN ABUSER. A man who bragged about sexual assault, a man who called a convicted rapist 'a close friend', and an individual who said he would date his own daughter and who touches women and little girls inappropriately in public... ON CAMERA. 

We did this. Fifty-three percent of white American women support this. 

And yet we tell our daughters that they are princesses, that they are valued, that they are loved, that they can be and do anything they can dream of. We fight for their equality and safety day in and day out, and yet we just handed their lives and futures over to an abuser. But not just their lives... The lives of little girls around the world. The lives of little boys, the minds of the easily-influenced. We have made it okay, given permission to those who would hurt them... And us. We have given a nod to the man who follows us home, to the enraged ex boyfriend, to the angry acquaintance. We have told them that as white women, we approve of and accept this behavior, and that its's still okay to be president of a superpower even if you're a total piece of shit. 

There is a woman who has been outspoken about her rape while in the military. Yesterday, she received messages of violence and hatred from 'men' who felt emboldened and empowered by their newfound invincibility. She is one of many for whom the floodgates of hell have just been opened. 

And we did that. 

It's not about emails and you know it. It was never about emails to you, the white woman who voted for Donald Trump. It was likely an echo from society about how a woman doesn't need to be a leader, about how she should be able to control her husband from cheating. You may have voted based on pressure from your own husband or family or perhaps from your refusal to do your research, or maybe it was just your complacency, your ignorance, your unwillingness to see what and who he is. 

White women voted for Donald Trump because we are the silent controllers of society, even as much as we are victims of the system. White women voted this way because we don't care what happens to others, as long as it doesn't mess with our own families or livelihood. 

White women didn't vote for Donald Trump because they care about politics or change or what's going on in the government. White women voted because, more than anything, we want order and 'peace'. White women voted for the most idiotic and dangerous moron in this country's history because we don't believe that we can handle conflict, that we're capable of sorting through chaos. 

We voted for Donald Trump because, even after a century, we still don't believe that we deserve to have an equal voice. 

But let me tell you a few things, white women -- in the coming years, you will need your voice more than ever. As you fight for insurance benefits for your aging parents, for medical decisions for your children, for your own dignity in a climate you just radically changed, you will need your everything. 

As you grow frustrated with the economy and your tanking benefits, as you worry about education and the price of gas, you will need no honey, nor vinegar... You will need fire. Whether it's a month from now or a year from now, something will wake you up to the horror we have all ushered in, and you will either wilt or you will fight. 

I recommend doing it sooner, because you have a job to do. You have to spread that wildfire far and wide. You must ignite the fire in your daughters, so that they can demand equality and respect, so that they're able to make the right decisions for themselves when it counts most. You must light the fire in your sons, so that they want to fight for the people around them. 

Your decisions on Tuesday will affect them for decades to come. Whether it's their healthcare, their education, their societal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it has been compromised... And we did it, us white women. And like ripples in a pond, as we compromised their futures, we compromised the future of children and women around the globe.

And now? We must burn brighter to fix the disaster we just birthed. Whether you see it in yourself or not, you have to find that flame inside of yourself. Stop nodding along. Stop living in your fog of self-delusion. You are not different from the women around you because of your skin color or class... You are a woman, and you will be seen as only that when reality crashes down. You are a woman, and you can either hide the fire or use it.

But you need to decide quickly.

We need you in this fight, my sisters. We need your help to overcome the violence and hatred and economic burdens in our society. We need your compassion, your love, your ability to see the world with wide eyes and a soft heart. We need your anger, your rage... Everything you have been told to suppress for so long, we need you to free it, and we desperately need you to free your fire. Let it burn. The world needs you. 

Now, more than ever, the world needs your individual power. The grace, the strength, the kindness. We need your ability to assimilate, to identify, to share and encourage. The world needs your support. 

Women were bless with our advanced conflict-avoidance instinct to protect their young and stay alive. That sense has evolved into a supreme benefit in modern day by helping us navigate the many pitfalls. But it only works when used correctly, and right now, it needs to be used. Avoiding conflict now by supporting and enabling a sick and demented abuser won't lead to success or survival late -- we all know that only lasts for so long. So somewhere inside, find that protective instinct, and allow it to take over. 

We must burn the bridges we've built with complacency, and replace them with iron gates of equality. 

The very future depends on your flame. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The MTB Front Derailleur Needs To Die


After selling my trailbike frame in September, I was on the road a bit and decided to borrow a few random 'enduro' bikes in order to prevent the oncoming insanity resulting from my lack of riding. I decided to see what current bikes were on the market demoed each bike from a different, local shop in three separate states (UT, NM and CA).  With the daily demo rate ranging from $65 to $95, it seemed like a great way to jump on a different set of wheels without committing to anything (my biggest fear).

Upon renting and picking up each 'high-end demo bike', I was shocked to find that all three bikes had been outfitted with a two-ring crankset and *gasp* a front derailleur.

Now, I rocked a FD for a long time. As someone who pretty much despises climbing and wants to do it as easily as possible, I was always a big fan of the granny gear. In fact, I rocked a FD until I was nearly forced to stop by the mockery of my fellow bike dorks at the last bike place I worked... In 2014. But I held out for a really long time. As early as 2009, commenters across forums were remarking on the simplicity of 1x9 and discussing the race results on such a setup... Three years later, SRAM would bring their first 1x groupset to market with XX1, a 10-42 cassette. I, however, didn't jump on the train until two years after the bike media gods had named it the next 'big thing'. By that time, SRAM had already come out with their expanded line up of one-by drivetrains (along with moving up to 11-speed), including CX1, X01, X1 and they were getting ready to release GX, a solid one-by groupset that retailed at similar prices to their lower-end two-by offerings like X5 and X7. Shimano began selling their own 1x drivetrains mid-2014, with full expansion in 2015, and had a seriously competitive response to SRAM's headstart for 2016 and '17.

Whew. Needless to say, it's all been around a while. As it stands, we're looking down the barrel at 2017 right now, with websites across the globe being updated, next year's offerings being shown off, and bike nerds chomping at the bit to get their proforms in before Turkey day.

So the question is (the questions always bring me back), with alllllllll of this technology that's now five years old, why are Giant and Trek and Specialized still selling $5000 mid-travel enduro bikes with front fucking derailleurs?

Every single bike in a rental fleet shouldn't have a front derailleur. A shop shouldn't be forced into buying entire ranges of bikes that are spec'd with a front derailleur. And an intermediate, advanced or expert rider shouldn't have to walk into a shop and be confronted with the ghostly spectre of a front derailleur. Why? Because they suck. And because, for one reason or another, shops aren't equipping mid-travel enduro bikes with chain guides. Technically, should they? Sure, if customer experience was first priority. But technically, penguins should also be able to fly. They're birds, right? Yeah, well, they don't. And expecting shops to front the cost for chain guides is just dumb -- that's extremely cost prohibitive.

But expecting a $5000 bike to have either a chainguide or some semblance of relevance in the applicable componentry spec doesn't feel very dumb. In fact, expecting a Trek that retails at $5300 in the US to actually come with a drivetrain that makes sense seems very realistic.

"Well, Amanda, what's your beef with the front derailleur? You ran it for a long time. Why do you hate it so much?" Well, I'll tell you why -- because, on every ride I went on with these demo bikes in September, I lost a chain... Multiple times. Every ride. Do you know how frustrating that is?!  To be riding along, just having a blast, then WHAM! You can't pedal, you can't rotate your feet, you basically can't do anything because, yup! That damn FD has thrown the chain again and now it's in knots around your crank arm (true story. It happened. And then I almost threw the bike off a mountain.) Now, when I was young and dumb and full of... stubbornness, I think dropping a chain probably seemed fairly normal. Actually, I don't really remember dropping chains all that often, nor do I recall being so enraged after dropping a chain. Come to think of it, I also sucked. As did my bikes by today's standards. I also went over the bars a lot more. Hmmmmm.

However, this isn't 2012. This isn't even 2014. It is, as I angrily told my shell-shocked boyfriend, two-thousand motherfucking sixteen. (His shock wasn't really at the front derailleur situation, but rather my (second) enraged tantrum over the repeated chain retention failure. But I digress.)

It's 2016 bearing heavily down on 2017, and we still have high-end, purpose-built mountain bikes built with front derailleurs. More specifically, we have high-end enduro bikes being spec'd and sold with front derailleurs. That is crazy. Those bikes aren't built primarily for climbing. They are 'enduro' bikes. They have six inches of motherfucking travel, people. YOU DON'T PUT A FRONT DERAILLEUR ON A BIKE BUILT WITH SIX INCHES OF TRAVEL. Why? Because anything with more than five inches was built for rallying, often towards lower ground. Usually over rocks and trees and other rough stuff. What happens to a front derailleur and chain when you rally downwards over rough stuff? The front derailleur cannot retain tension on a chain and you lose chains. And losing chains makes people (aka, this person) into the big green angry Hulk monster.

Who don't throw bikes. Ever. Nope. Not ever.

With this in mind, after three experiences riding three different bikes from three separate (and equally clueless) companies, I must ask: are you people demented?

No, but really. What is being smoked in that office back there when going over future bike specifications and componentry setup? Are you doing this because it's cheaper (can't possibly use that, because GX is pretty fucking cheap)? Are you doing it because you think the US has all that many $5K bike buyers who want front derailleurs? Do you spec these monstrosities because you think we have the Alps? Or are you building these shitty combinations because you never tire of the YouTube videos where we're all throwing these $5000 rigs into the air and screaming wildly, like wounded bears?

Here's the thing: I know product directors who are smart and careful about this stuff. And I have spoken to these product genii, and they spec builds with chain guides and work ISCG mounts into enduro frames because they ride bikes. They seem to genuinely understand and appreciate the nuances of a bike built for a specific data-set. These same product directors and managers also know that their decisions will directly influence how a bike rides -- for an entire year. And as often as they are meticulous basket cases who obsess over the smallest details, they're the unsung heroes of the end-user experience. Why? Because they know better than to build $5000 enduro bikes with a front derailleur, especially in the day and age of NX 1x/SRAM Eagle (1x12), and the reasonable sanity of demo-bike borrowers everywhere.

For the love of pete, people... Stop putting front derailleurs on anything with more than 4.5" of travel. Please. Can I propose that the FD be relegated to special-orders only? Can we just shove those fuckers into the back of a storage room somewhere in Italy? Let's be honest: the front derailleur is dead.

Stop trying to resuscitate the zombie.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I'm Coming Out...

I've an admission to make: I have been ashamed of who I am. 

BUT NO MORE! Today, I announced my undying love to the world, consequences be damned! If it's estrogen that makes me feel this way, so be it. If it's the beautiful autumn weather, crunchy fall leaves, or scent of wood smoke in the air, I will acquiesce. 

I love pumpkin pie spice with all of my soul. 

It's gotten a bad rap over the last few years as Starbucks has, essentially, glossed over what exactly it IS in that wonderful flavored coffee-type of drink (coffee is black... And that's a different matter entirely), but PUMPKIN PIE SPICE IS MY LIFE. I don't really love pumpkins, either, which is a great thing because pumpkin pie spice has nothing to do with fucking pumpkins. 

It's simply a beautiful combination of delightful spices that, when added to anything (or even just snorted when one is running short on time), makes the eyes twinkle and the sun shine. It's what gives car commercials their 'oomph' in the fall, it's what makes decomposing leaves smell so wonderful (because hello, those are just some dead plants, folks) and it makes kitchen everywhere smell like a page right out of Martha Stewart's most recent release, 'How To Be Awesome And Not Kill People'. 

I know these things because I have secretly and selfishly hoarded them to my pastry-making self for too long, and now I am unveiling my closeted love for Pumpkin Pie Spice in a desperate hope that everyone, everywhere will rush to get some of their own super-secret fairy elixir. 

Pumpkin Pie Spice is the unicorn dust for food. Don't like meatloaf? PUMPKIN PIE SPICE. Despise salads? Throw summa that magic right on top. Can't cook, just lost your boyfriend/dog/house? PUMPKIN PIE SPICE CAN FIX THAT. No, it's not 'pumpkin spice'. I don't even know what the shit that means. Pumpkin Pie Spice is what we put in pumpkin pies, but someone much smarter and efficient than I decided to make large batches and put it in tiny little jars (pretty sure their last name is McCormick) in order to make a baker's life much, much easier. 

What's in it? 


"Wait, that's it?"

Yeah, that's it. Notice how there's no pumpkin anywhere? 

Good. Now i'ma go get me some nice black coffee to drizzle over this here pile of fun. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Feed The Trolls

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster." - Nietzsche

As a regular internet contributor, you could say that I've seen my fair share of trolls. As an outspoken female writer, industry critic and professional athlete, I've also had the pleasure of experiencing the worst of them. From the laughably weak personal attacks to the truly deranged death threats, the insanity spectrum is wide, deep and often colored with different shades of psychopathy.

I've learned to laugh. My sense of humor has become sharp, my perspective truly macabre. I often assume that every engagement will turn sour, and a disagreement is never a disagreement. I await abusive messages in my inbox with a mix between trepidation and rage, then laugh at the expectedly rudimentary and simplified criticisms from (mostly) men who delight in not only telling me how to do my job or what to think, but also how dumb or stupid or useless I am. 

It's become the one constant in my life. 

But there's another side to this issue, on which I continually battle myself: to engage or ignore? 

Now, a lot of trolls are put in their place by simply ignoring them and deleting their comments. Their egos are crushed by the fact that I simply do not care, and they fade back into the dark spaces from whence they came, only to emerge somewhere else. A few others are easily moderated by the audience of a community, quickly cowed and put back into their place by people dedicated to keeping a certain site or page friendly and open and free of hatred or nonsense. 

But there's always one or two I can't resist knocking down myself, and there's where my personal mire begins -- I'm unable to resist. Chalk it up to a belief that bullies only respond to strength (or a firm, fact-based bitch slapping), but I often find myself pulled into some entirely worthless waste of time, explaining the truths of the universe to someone too stupid to understand them in the first place. 

Why do I do this? Why do I, despite my logical and very comprehensive understanding of the pointlessness in getting involved, still get involved?! 

I think it's very likely because 1: I'm stubborn, and 2: I'm an optimistic idiot who thinks that every monster can be fought. I also believe in defending myself. I don't think enough women do. I don't think that enough female contributors stand up, say their piece and then continue to fight for their right to say it without abuse. I stand up and continue fighting my detractors because I don't see enough of it -- I don't see enough women dedicated to themselves enough to not tolerate the bullshit. 

But I also see a dangerous double-edged sword. I see women who write something and then fade into the ether, terrified of the abuse, only to get more vitriolic hatred because they're perceived as 'weak' for not fighting back. I've been there. I've written something and then stepped away for weeks at a time with the full intention of not engaging, only to be yanked back to reality by hateful messages to my website or to be warned by one of my team managers that they've received some startlingly scary correspondence about me. Not addressing something or someone is an invitation to escalation, apparently. 

The second is the overtly aggressive tactic: go on the offensively defensive side and scare everyone enough that they're terrified I might eat them for breakfast. As you might expect, that doesn't end well, either. Escalating every situation into conflict where I end up using the combined power of the Internet and my extensive vocabulary to humiliate and break someone down just makes me look like an asshole. Actually, it makes me a real asshole. I become the troll, battling it out with the random jackass who, in other people's eyes, should have just been ignored. And it makes me feel like a jerk... Every single time. Exposing the details of what makes someone else into a bully or a troll isn't fun, and it isn't right. In the day and age of Google and unlimited information, it's always fairly easy to figure out and exploit someone's motives and weaknesses, but it's not okay. Taking what hurts them most (because that's usually the behavior behind bullying) and using it to hurt them again? That's wrong. It doesn't ever get easier to do and it never creates a better outcome. It doesn't foster positive commentary and it certainly doesn't create a stronger online community. It isolates and alienates, until the only people who want to interact are the trolls and miscreants because they haven't yet experienced someone who will shut them up. And that sucks. I don't want to be the last door to hell for anyone. That isn't my job. My job is to share my sport, promote healthy growth, spread stoke and build a sustainable, productive industry that continues to inspire people to ride bikes. 

At the same time, I can't just sit back and allow myself to be one more voice that's been drowned out by the idiot masses who would rather scream profanities than tolerate a different perspective. That's the goal -- to silence dissent and to quiet intelligent and critical thought. To troll is an effort to make others stop expressing themselves for fear of abuse or being ostracized or laughed at. And once those voices stop speaking, we get what we currently have: unproductive and unsustainable group-think that leads to the death of an industry. 

In the end, it's always a lose-lose-lose for me. As an athlete, as a professional, as someone who believes in standing up, I'll lose. As a human who believes in treating people with compassion, I lose. As someone who doesn't want to even deal with this crap, I still lose. Either way, I'm weak or I'm mean. Helpless or 'too aggressive'. Pitiful and open to even worse, or 'indefensible' because my behavior is no better than theirs, and ultimately hated, regardless of my actions.

So what's a girl to do? 

If you figure it out, let me know.