Monday, December 29, 2014

This Is Motherfucking Mountain Biking.

I wrote this in December of 2014, but after the recent lawsuit against a MTB instructor in the U.K. ended in the plaintiff being awarded £3M (despite eyewitness statements and the plaintiff's claims of experience), I figured that our world needs a bit of a reminder: MOUNTAIN BIKING IS A DANGEROUS SPORT. You may not like the 'tone' of this particular rant but in the words of Rhett Butler: "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." I'm sure someone will come along and remind me that the man injured is now paralyzed, at which point I'll direct them to the legions of MTB athletes who have been paralyzed while riding, but who didn't sue, and who continue to ride for the love of it. 

I'm caustic because, of all the bad things happening in the world, a few shitty people seem to be looking at mountain biking lawsuits like it's their cash cow. It is not. And if you cannot claim responsibility for your own failures, do not pick up a mountain bike. Life is hard, it will kill you, and MTB is even harder. It's that simple. 



Hey guys, guess what? You're never gonna believe it. 

Someone is suing a race organizer because they got hurt during the pre-ride of a Super D race course.Yup. You read that right. 

From the Oregonian Article: "Belair seeks up to $23,307 for past and future medical bills, and lost wages. She also seeks up to $250,000 for pain and suffering." REALLY?!

In my obstinate opinion, I'll say this very plainly: THIS IS MOTHERFUCKING MOUNTAIN BIKING. You're riding a bike. On the mountain. During something called a 'Super D' race. And you got hurt? Because of a log? On a PRE-RIDE?! Bitch, please. 

'Super D' comes from 'Super Downhill' meaning that it's a longer form of the ever-dangerous downhill racing. SURPRISE!

Everything that is wrong with mainstream America is infecting my soul right now, and this cute little lawsuit registers on my Rageometer right up there with trail sanitization and people who call my work and ask for a male bike technician. This makes me seriously angry. 

Why? Oh, I'll tell you why. 

First of all, this is bikes. Any and every activity that falls under 'bikes' will have inherent danger to it. After all, human, you're the moron balancing on a two-wheeled contraption hoping that science will keep you from breaking your stupid arm. THAT IS A BICYCLE. That is bikes (and yes, 'bikes' is grammatically incorrect.. Suck it). 

Secondly, this is not just bikes. This is MOUNTAIN BIKES. What happens in mountain bikes? Mountain bikes are ridden on mountains.

What do mountains have? Mountainous shit. Like rocks, logs, trees, water, bark, bugs, mud, wet, cliffs, bears and sometimes naked humans that think they're bears. That is mountain. Occasionally, mountain includes poison ivy, poisonous snakes, cactus, sharper rocks and coyotes. It kind of depends on the location of said mountain. So when we combine BIKES + MOUNTAIN, what happens? Usually, shit happens. Broken bones, hypothermia, snake bites, poison ivy, rock rash, dirt rash, cactus rash, sunburn, tree rash, pokes, prods and sometimes, all of the above. Trying to keep a two-wheeled machine upright is hard for some folks. Even harder is dodging all of the aforementioned hazards, both marked and unmarked. And even worse? Mix in some pride, some stupidity and some good old fashioned asshat-ness and you have mountain biking.

I love this goddamn sport. I love it so much that my face hurts when I ride, and I get all fiery inside when someone insults it or threatens it. I cry why people pull the rocks and roots out of my favorite trails, and I giggle when I go 'SPLOOOOOSH' through a massive mud puddle. I love racing, too. I love the craziness, the insanity, the unknown and the whole intensified mountain biking experience, and I love going fast. There's nothing quite like racing.

So here's what I propose:

Lady, if you don't like my sport and you're stupid enough to get hurt doing it and then try to SUE someone, get the fuck out.

No, but seriously. GET THE FUCK OFF OF MY LAWN.

I'm all about bringing more people into riding, racing and bikes (!), but if you come into our house and threaten to burn it down, karma has a major bitch slap coming for you. Don't slide, don't walk, don't trot away, just get the fuck out. Sell your fucking bike, get a refund on your race entries and go away. You're not a mountain biker. You're not one of us and you never will be, so stop trying.

Mountain bikers don't sue people when shit goes sideways. Mountain bikers don't sanitize the trail in an effort to make it easier. Mountain bikers don't get hurt and blame it on someone. We sack it up, try it again and heal. We move on. We admit fault, we fix ourselves up and we give it another go. We're mountain bikers playing bikes on mountains. Get it?

Whoops. Another 'oopsie'. Should I sue the rock? 

Sometimes, I land on my face. Don't sue. (Michael Darter photo credit)

Life (and MTB) is tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid and you overshoot stuff. (This is not a wheel failure. This is me crushing a wheel by hucking it to flat)

Photos are of me, the author, and my equipment -- just a few of my many UN-sued disasters on bikes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Holy Shit, She's Nuts..." #ProvingPossible & My Choice To Embrace the Insanity

This blank page is staring at me, and all I can think of are the phone calls and emails that have prefaced this. It's not really the questions that have been asked that I want to answer, but the questions that haven't been.

I guess I'll start with the big one: do I know how I'm going to completely fund the #ProvingPossible project? No, no I don't. I'm assuming it's going to be fairly similar to what the last month has been as I jump into this head first -- a wild scramble of effort, time and sanity. Did I immediately plan for a $20,000 comittment? Hell no. I figured it might cost me around $7-10K. And then I started getting the emails. These crazy, amazing emails. The emails wondering how they could get involved, how they could sign up. And the number changed. Drastically.

That leads to the second question: why? Why the hell would I announce something as crazy as offering to pay for a bunch of race entries for women and girls I don't know? Well, to be honest, it's the only thing I could come up with to answer the spinning questions in my mind. Why don't we invest in our sport? Why hasn't anyone else stepped forward to do something like this? Why don't we give a shit about female racers?

Why don't these corporate companies spend their money investing wisely in this amazing sport instead of pissing millions away in federation costs, travel expenses, useless R&D that never sees the light of day? Why do we take advantage of the athletes looking to contribute to our community and then toss them when they're injured? Why can't we seem to have a fund that gives back instead of constantly taking? Why don't we seem to understand that some addictions will start with the first hit? Imagine if this was your mind -- constantly moving, spotting holes, looking at all of the angles.

And then the words: "Put your money where your mouth is."

It's like a fuse to dry gunpowder meeting a match. Always, I hear the casual offering from professional athletes about how they want to grow their sport and share the love... But how many of us actually pursue that, full time? What if one of us did? What if, say, a female pro, offered to not only coach other women and girls into loving mountain bike racing, but to pay for them to try it? To try giving them the skills to jump in head first? To literally shut up and put up?

I wondered not only what the response would be, but what if it worked? What if this crazy idea based on love and shotgun theory actually bore fruit? That would not only give women inside of mountain biking (downhill specifically) a voice, but a measureable, trackable voice. We would have data to show the corporate number crunchers when they asked for 'demographic interest' numbers to prove the fiscal value of supporting female athletes. Better yet, those numbers would show that these women, these ladies on bikes, not only wanted to try downhill racing but that these girls were committed enough to create an entirely new marketing base. Those numbers would prove that we DO exist and that we are a viable target market. We would be able to create a future for women in our sport and have REAL presence instead of a voiceless, ambiguous fringe-market shape.

From clothing choices to marketing tactics to frame geometry and female companies, the possibilities of impact were endless. And that, the simple possibility, was what got me. What if...? What if this creates an entire generation of racers who race because they fell in love with it? Imagine if there were hundreds of new female racers on the scene, passionate about racing and pushing their own limits?

Imagine all of that. And tell me I'm crazy.

Opening my proverbial wallet is much easier than opening doors and tearing down walls, but it's a step -- if we're going to throw money around, we have to throw money in the right direction in order to get it to work for us. If it means a few years of working my ass off, then so be it. If I have to pick up another job to cover race entry fees, then I will. But I won't turn down someone who wants to try this sport just because they're too afraid or broke (or a little of both) to pony up and get out in front of that laser. It's about not just throwing money at a problem, but investing it intelligently in the future of a sport: women and girls who will suddenly understand the passion and strength and fun of racing bikes. Those who are able to broaden their own definitions of what's possible by trying something outside of their comfort zone can eventually give that to someone else; encouragement, perspective, hope. Those are qualities of someone who has been to the edge of fear and chosen to take the leap. And that's what downhilling has given me -- the courage to eye the landing and just jump.

We can push for more progression, more community, more support, simply by sharing what we love. We can do something that no one else will try for fear of failing or not coming up with the funds. I can do that. Shit, I've failed enough to know that falling flat just isn't that scary... So I'll try. And I'll give it my best, my all, my everything... And hope that it works. Am I human? Absolutely. Will there be some sharp learning curves? Oh, most definitely. But I'm here for as long as I can be, and I'll take the lumps and the wins and the work, as long as I can share what I learn with you.

Because sometimes, someone out there needs to push the limits of what's crazy, of what's nuts, of what's possible.