Thursday, December 17, 2015

Maxxis' 'Babe' Problem

Edit: shortly after hitting the 'publish' button on this exhausted missive, I came across one of the best summaries of this issue on RKP (RedKitePrayer). Patrick talks about how our outrage can drown out the amazing women who are kicking ass in the industry and highlights two of my favorite people ever... And he's right. I absolutely agree. Please check it out. In fact, if you read anything, go read this. Don't waste your time here. It's more of the same about economic patterns and whatnot. So. Go over there

...But if you're hell-bent on reading my words, then by all means... Continue. 

Another day, another exhausted crop of commentary on the sexist marketing campaigns within the bike industry. "But it's for charity!" no longer makes the grade and now we're left with more of the same internal debate between the people who want to see the sports market move past sexist advertising and those who cannot see the forest for the trees. There are those who focus on the positive things in the industry and the women doing these amazing things, and I applaud their attention to those. I try to share as much of that on my Facebook page and Twitter and IG, so please, please click on those links when I do -- they are the invaluable proof of the tireless efforts of the women who inspire me and those are not a wasted click. Just trust me on this. 

I wasn't planning on saying anything about Maxxis' 'babes' calendar. I truly wasn't. I've avoided the conversation entirely because, quite frankly, I cannot fight every single battle. I'm not going to shoulder every burden, combat every attack on women or comment on every act of bad, success-killing behavior exhibited by those in the bike industry who should honestly know better. I can't handle that much nuclear rage or that much unlimited stupidity. I'm so sick and tired of being sick and tired over the ridiculous amount of gender inequality within my sport. I'm exhausted over having to talk about the same damn thing, over and over and over again because it feels like these marketing people will never get it. And so I was going to ignore it... Until a friend mentioned me in a comment today on Facebook, lauding my own efforts to raise the level of dialogue and of working towards a better future for all cyclists, as well as those of the other women talking about these things. 

Shortly thereafter, someone replied with a comment about how this 'isn't really sexism inside of mountain biking' because Maxxis doesn't offer pro forms to mountain bikers.

And in that moment, I realized that this topic IS something that needs my perspective. This is the big white elephant in the room that we're not talking about: cyclists (and the larger sports world in general) would love to pretend that sexism outside of their sport doesn't involve them. Some cyclists even believe that sexism inside of their sport doesn't involve them because they don't experience it. 

I am here to tell you that this is everyone's problem. Why? Because, as I explained to the Facebook commenter, sexism anywhere is sexism everywhere. 

"Sexism in any industry is still sexism, regardless of the marketing department. Any action sport being marketed through sex is still a failing sport, whether some asshole at said company wants to admit it or not. And whether you see this as 'sexism in cycling' or 'sexism in _______', the bike industry still has a massive issue with how it sees, markets, values and uses women. As a member of that industry, Maxxis has a responsibility to its customers and the market. Do they make bike-specific items? Yes? Then they are a bike-industry company. They sponsor teams within the bike industry, they have a booth at Interbike, and they have quite a following within the cycling industry. That makes this sexism within mountain biking. It's pretty simple when you look at it from a wider perspective. Just because individuals would like to make sexism complicated doesn't mean that it's actually all that difficult to comprehend; it just means that the individual would rather find semantics to debate over rather than address the actual issues at hand. Also called a 'straw man' argument. 

So. 

Please stop with the apples and oranges bit. Sexism is sexism, plain and simple. And sexism and misogyny devalue women and degrade their efforts in any arena, so let's focus on fixing that, shall we?" 

It doesn't matter in what sport the female body is being prostituted and objectified -- it simply screams that this particular sport cannot sell itself on the merits of that activity alone and has to sell sex and skin as a motivating agent to attract the lowest common denominator. And, interestingly enough, I don't want cycling to be moto or car racing. 

Just like you wouldn't walk into an office party and take off your pants or hump your boss' leg, there are new rules being formed within cycling. There is a new generation of cyclists who see their female counterparts as equals, and our generation is creating rules of what is an isn't acceptable... Like treating everyone equally. A calendar of scantily-clad (or nude) women by a company involved in cycling isn't acceptable within these new boundaries, and if you do want to be successful, you'll stay within them. 

This is good. 

We need new rules. We need a shift in the consciousness of what and who we are as cyclists. Are we dopers and cheaters or will we insist on clean racing and improved testing and timing? Are we women-beaters and cocaine addicts or do we step up and demand the respectful treatment of those in our community? In our world? Are we bill-jumpers and responsibility-shirkers? Or are we citizens seeking to improve the happiness quotient and health of ourselves, our communities and our world? Are we environmental stewards or an entitled, wasteful generation hell-bent on self-destruction? We have to decide what and who we are. 

This decision isn't just about women, either. It's not only about equality. These issues also arise because of the financial and economic stability of the sporting market in the decades to come. As I (and others) have repeatedly said, the disproportionate gender ratio on this planet is rapidly widening, which means that due to inheritance, economic probabilities and birth rates, the majority of the world's wealth will be controlled and possessed by women over the next decade. Is this really a demographic you want to alienate because the plumbing is a bit different than your own? 

Mark my words: if we fail to include women in our strategic branding outlook, companies will fail. Betting on the continued devaluation of 2/3 of the global population is not a healthy, successful business practice. If we learn and seek to serve individual customers, we will thrive. But these objectifying 'babe' calendars? I doubt many women will be hanging them on their office walls. Let us sell products and services, not skin. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Worthiness And The Plight Of The Fog

I've often imagined my sense of self to be sort of like a howitzer tank: immovable, unbreakable, and highly dangerous when engaged. 

Over the last year, however, the charming cracks in the wall became more akin to chasms than chipped paint -- a damaged tank, no matter how sturdy, will break down with enough bombing. And with every mortar round, with every strike of the shrapnel, the tank is weakened a little more until it's weathered and worn into a ghost of its former self. 

And knowing who you are doesn't mean you don't get lost. 

There's this fog of unworthiness that haunts me. I can't tell you where it comes from, but I can guess... Friendships gone south, selfish decisions I've made, unfair calls, ruthless action. More judgement than compassion, more anger than understanding. More justification than solution. Injuries, losses, too-little-too-lates. Missed opportunities, squandered chances. 

All wrapped up in a fortress of 'fuck off'. Cemented with the nagging feelings of inability, unworthiness, self-hate. And for what? Because I'm not perfect? Because I know this, I preach this, but cannot escape my own expectation of it? 

I'm standing over here, shouting "HEY! I'm okay! I'm just fine the way I am! Fuck you!" while everyone around me is saying "Yeah, that's what we keep telling you", but all I can hear are the echoes of my own screams that somehow, come twisting back as "You suck."

They say we don't see the world as it is, but as we are. 

And right now? I don't see myself as good. I don't see myself as useful or productive. 

My microscope may be a little too sharp... But it's pretty fucking accurate. And I see myself making a whole lot of noise about something that's important, but nothing is being done about. Why? Because it's easier to make noise than sit still and wring my hands in my lap... And I haven't done enough with my career or my life to do much more than either of those. 

And I need validation. Like every other late 20-something, I need to know that my life matters; that my existence isn't meaningless. And so Tinder, and Twitter. And social media out the fucking wazoo. And this stupid, vapid fucking blog where all I talk about is me.

Good god. I've turned into the worst thing ever. 

My ego has become a monster that will destroy everything in its path... It's no longer my quiet, satisfied sense-of-self.  
It's a narcisstic Godzilla incapable of actually changing the world because I'm more obsessed with how i'm seen by people who I've never met! 

Sheesh. Clearly, the frustration isn't entirely with the world. It's very much with myself.

And yes, I'll cut myself some slack: there did need to be some standing up and throwing down. That needed to happen and it should have happened years ago, long before I even entered the picture. But it didn't. And once I 'cowboyed up', as they say, it was go time, all the time. 

But I can't go full gas all the time. I couldn't stand up for everyone and fight every battle without it somehow becoming less about change and more about 'losing'. And reading enough PB comments, it's pretty fucking clear when it became more about me not 'losing' some stupid imagined ego battle than it was about my contributions to a growing industry. 

That's what kills confidence right there -- knowing I'm sliding, but not being able to stop the slide until I'm off and over the cliff. Not moving, not stopping the deterioration of the tank until every last piece of armor is gone. 

And that doubt kills everything. It kills performance, it kills belief. It kills purpose and hope and optimism. The doubt that comes from an ego slide is the fastest way to bottom out a career... Because you get desperate. You get greedy. You take chances you don't need to take, and spiral into a pattern of ego-fueled injury and self-hate. And why? Because my feeling of unworthiness, of stagnancy? Lack of productivity? 

Well. As long as we're here, at least we have a direction: UP. 


Monday, November 16, 2015

Athletes, Writers and the Tales of Other Raging Egomaniacs

Show me a writer and I'll show you a narcissist.

Give me any successful athlete and I'll reveal to you a show pony.

Introduce to me a politician, a doctor and a scientist, and I'll greet you with a control freak, a god complex, and the eternal doubter.

We all have our fatal flaws. Most of us (aka, the self-important egomaniac writing this shit) have more flaws than redeeming qualities. We think we matter. We think we're 'making a difference'. We're the exception to the rule, above criticism, and everything we say or write is taken out of context.

Of course it is.

That's what humans do.

But it's always easier to point out someone else's flaws than reward the behavior we respect and attempt to emulate, and that's the key to survival in a content-fueled, self-promoting world -- appropriation.

Not that everyone intends to be content-regurgitating robots. They don't. We don't. But in a world where nearly everyone has their own brand of publicity whoring, I'm rarely surprised at the depths athletes/models/public figures will stoop for more attention (thus: money and love). Myself excluded, of course, because I AM NOT DOING THIS TO BUILD A BRAND.

Oh, wait. Yes I am. Everyone is, whether they know it or not.

I'm just trying to do it a bit less sleazy of a way than most so that I can do what I love: ride bikes and shout at the kids on my lawn.

It takes a bit more time and ingenuity to create (and is more susceptible to hatred, criticism and people wanting to kill you or attack your character), but I think it's worth it if we can prove that a career can indeed be built on something other than mediocre skill and sex appeal. And if I can't? Well then, we'll just produce a memoir in 20 years about how I was secretly fucking my way to the... Middle of the lowest category in the pack?

Until then, enjoy the train wreck that is me trying to string together a series of actions in an effort to make the world a better place. Because, naivete.

But really, is there anyone who's moderately successful who hasn't figured out how to market themselves? Is it narcissism or is it a belief in one's own potential? Is it sharing experiences in a way to relate to the world or is it a shameless attempt to broadcast how much one knows? Is there a difference? Does the type of content matter or is it the individual broadcasting? Is showcasing potential less to due with potential or more to do with showing off? And here's a real doozie: does it depend on the gender of the person creating the brand?

Venus Williams notoriously said "A champion believes in themselves, even when no one else will."

Think about that... Now either get out there and blow some fucking minds while you work your hands to the bone or go attempt to at least make someone else's hard-won effort seem like it was your idea first. You're welcome, you lovely humans.

Sincerely,

The World's Most Self-Important Douchenozzle After Trump


PS: The first Ask Amanda video is going live Friday, November 20. Go to this link to submit a question for the Ask Amanda videos, to the same page for the upcoming video collection (52 a year!) or THIS LINK to watch the weekly Ask Amanda video. The videos on my site won't always be updated weekly, but it's a good hub to stay with for all things hilariously honest and completely uncensored.




Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rules Of Success, Ep 72


I was recently had the great opportunity to be on the Rules Of Success podcast with Bryce Prescott... In short, I had a blast. I wish we had been able to record our first pre-production call as well as it seemed less about me and more about the business side of the cycling industry, but Bryce is an amazing guy and a fabulous host who had me opening up and getting a tad more personal than I thought I would. If you'd like to listen to me drone on, check it out. Lots of fun, and massive thanks to Bryce for having me on!

One thing that had me thinking during our conversation was the definition of 'success'. After Bryce and I chatted about the 4 pillars of success that his show is based around in our pre-production conversation, I had the chance to sit down, doodle on my post-it notes and ruminate where my life falls in each category. Health/Fitness, Relationships, 'Being' (spirituality, sense-of-self, identity, etc), and Financial/Business/Funding. I'm going to be honest here and explain that I don't feel I'm necessarily proficient in any of these areas. At certain times I'll crush one area to the point that the rest will fall apart, and I'm left wondering where my belief in balance has gone. Others, I'm so completely immersed in two or three and the other area is... Less strong. But as I reflected on the last couple of years and its challenges, work, joy and my growth, I've discovered that there's often a little bit of everything involved in every action I take; for instance, I don't make a business decision without ticking off every other check box. Does this decision honor my beliefs? Does it fall within my personal acceptable level of risk? Will it hurt my relationships? Is this going to stress me out to the point of being unhealthy or causing other issues, physically? Where is the benefit, financially, emotionally, socially, mentally?

I can easily say that the choices I've made without consulting this list haven't turned out well. But the choices and moves I've made that fall in line with my personal list, despite the outward appearance of rash or dangerous, usually work out quite well in the long run. The older I get and the more experience I gain, I'm coming to an understanding that no matter what, I have live with my choices and the consequences of those decisions, for good or bad. And some days it's about being able to roll with the punches. Some days (or weeks or months), I have to choose to take a few punches. Occasionally, I decide to throw my own. But every punch has a ripple effect.

As I look back through the rules of my own definition of success, I see areas that need to be worked on. I need to fix relationships, burn less bridges and work better with people. I could use some tone moderation when it comes to working with people -- my outright aggression can be greatly beneficial in certain situations, but it can be alienating and discouraging when I don't temper it with compassion and empathy... And that includes myself. I forget, physically, that I have my limits. That my body won't respond to an all-out assault, all the time. I forget that I need to treat myself with kindness and not just demands. But these are areas of growth reflected by my list of rules. And so long as I keep checking in on them, I think the kids'll be alright.

What are your 'rules'? What steadfast values do you hold that dictate your own version of success?


Sunday, November 8, 2015

...

i found the song. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Selling Sex Is For Morons

There are few slogans on the planet that rankle me quite as much as 'sex sells'. I know, I know -- I've beat this dead horse into the ground.

But. 

For whatever reason, there's a fringe segment of uniquely stupid (or stubborn) marketers inside of the bike industry that seem to be ignoring every sign, pattern, writing and shout from their market, and they're hell-bent on delivering the same lazy, overused, undereffective approach to us. Don't ask me why. I don't know. For the life of me, I don't understand why ANY creative director, marketing executive, or art supervisor would ignore the market demands, advertising effectiveness studies, educational theories and continue to publish the drivel that has seeped to the surface this year.

I cannot comprehend the sheer stupidity of it. The utter ignorance. Why would ENDURO magazine publish this? Why would Superior Bikes not swap 'female' for 'recreational'? Why would any company choose to do this in 2015? Or this? Or (f*cking hell), THIS?! 



A photo posted by Amanda Batty (@abattycakes) on


The only answer I'm repeatedly coming up with here is that there are not, in fact, humans running these companies or marketing departments. They have to be monkeys. Or owls. Or bunnies... Yep. That has to be it. Rabbits seem to be the only species this obsessed with boinking and/or projecting the image of boinking. But rabbits seem pretty clever. In fact, if there were indeed rabbits in charge at all of these companies that have created and released sexist or sex-based advertising campaigns, those bunnies likely would have researched their adverts before going live.

Yes, there has been research on this topic. Shocking, I know. But if you think about it, advertising is extremely profitable when it's successful. Advertising is driven by selling people your product by exploiting their wants and desires. Therefore, knowing what people want is, potentially, ridiculously lucrative. How do we find out what people want? By studying them, of course! Seems pretty straightforward, yes?

No. 

Because all of those companies missed this study featured on Havard Business Review. And that one. Oh, and the French and British ones from 2013, too. I found them pretty easily on Google, so my hypothesis is that there are rabbits who cannot use Google running these companies.

And yet, these are the marketing efforts not only seen by those of us inside the cycling industry, but outside as well. And from the looks of things, the mainstream doesn't like what it sees. When Glamour magazine, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, CNN and other large, far-reaching media outlets take issue with what's going on inside of our niche sport, it's time for serious review

If this awful content was actually an attempt to sell a product, I would understand. But it's not -- none of these campaigns actually market or sell a specific product outside of sex. It's not a real advertisement. Rather, my guess is that this is a woefully inept attempt to maintain the status quo and keep these ego-driven creators employed in a rapidly changing economy. My guess is that this isn't about cycling whatsoever, but about the insistence of these marketers to hang on to an antiquated, overused business model in order to relive and recreate the days when they were relevant (and/or sexually virile). Yes, I went there. Because this isn't about what the customer wants, the product they're selling or the industry demands. This is about the people directly responsible for this so-called 'marketing'.  

And despite what many people have claimed, this isn't about me. It's not about me playing victim. This isn't about my career, my racing, or the sexual standards I'm expected to uphold all while being 'the cool girl'. Hell, remove all of the women (feminist or otherwise) from this equation. Remove the future generations of girls on bikes. Take away our female athletes' involvement in any sport. It comes down to smart business. This is about taking stock of opportunity, looking at the industries that it hasn't worked for in the past and figuring out what we can sell. This is all about why cycling is special and why anyone should want to get involved. 

Figure out what people want. Cater to the market that is buying. Find out why we're here. Question your own motives for being on a bike. If you're here to get laid, I'll tell you what: you picked the wrong damn place, my friend. We're all just a bunch of overly-passionate nerds riding around on motorless toys that cost more than a down payment on a nice home. I'm not here because it makes me feel sexy. I'm not here because there are attractive people. I'm not even here to get fit, for christ's sake! I'm here because it makes me feel strong. It makes me feel weak. It makes me work hard, and it rewards my hard work. I'm here because of the immutable laws of gravity, of velocity, of force. I'm here because it hurts and because it heals. I'm here because there are days, weeks, months where the only thing that makes sense is the revolution of my tires and the sweat dripping into my eyes. I'm still here because nothing is more real than the second I make contact with the ground.

This is what we sell. And if you can't understand that, maybe you shouldn't be here; it's not about tits, it's not about ass. It's about how a bike makes a person feel. And that's it.
Sell that. 

And if we can't sell that, we clearly aren't hiring the right people to sell it. 











Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Art Of The Slut-Shame (Or Lack Thereof)

I recently posted an image of my abs on Instagram, and not because I'm a fitness personality (I'm not) or trying to brag about my body (I don't) or even trying to gain more followers (fuck that). I posted this image of myself in running shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt for one reason: to refute the claims of the haters.

"Aren't you the fat chick that got kicked out of Canyons?", "You're just mad because you're ugly" and "The only people who have a problem with it [the commercial sexuality within biking] are the obese and ass-faced chicks" are all things that have been said to me because of my stance on the issues surrounding #AbilityOverAesthetics. And I laugh. Why? Because fuck those guys, that's why -- they'll never have the opportunity to meet me to find out who the person on the other end of the screen is, and that makes me giggle. It's not about what I look like anymore than it's about what other women do -- none of that has anything to do with our skills or abilities around sports and cycling... Just because we are able to exploit our sport doesn't mean we should. 💥 #crushlife #hatersgonnahate #tatersgonnapotate
A photo posted by Amanda Batty (@abattycakes) on

Why would I post this for the haters? Because they're wrong about me on so many levels, but often in ways that I'm unable to factually disprove without opening my life up for total examination or wasting my breath (and time) trying to explain why.

Over the last few years as I've made strong statements about the value of women, our ability to avoid commercializing sexuality and turning the women in our sport into sexual objects, the one 'insult' and completely wrong statement has been that I'm A: fat or B: ugly. These haters claim that the only reason I'm openly and aggressively against exploiting the sexuality or the appearance of women in cycling is because I cannot do that for myself. Their claim is that because I'm too ugly or fat to commercialize my appearance, I speak out against it.

I am not.

Obviously.

But I didn't post this photo only to refute that. I posted this photo as a means of showing that if these trollish idiots were wrong about my appearance, what else are they wrong about? If these men (and women) are so vastly ignorant of what I actually look like, how unfamiliar must they be with the rest of me, including my actions, words, passions and goals? And if they are ignorant of that, they clearly cannot intelligently or logically refute the things that I say that ARE based in fact, logic, studies and education. They simply cannot.

And so I posted it with what I assumed was an obvious caption. The last line in my caption read "Just because we are able to exploit our sport doesn't mean we should." I left this here as a very blunt indication that I had chosen not to exploit myself or my sport and that it was indeed possible to be successful without doing so. It seemed pretty damn obvious.

Clearly, based on the overblown reactions and messages I received later, it was not.

I was slut-shamed.

And it shames me to say this, but I wasn't targeted by the haters or the models from the ads or marketing I've so vocally opposed. Instead, it came from a woman who claims that she's about empowering women. It came from someone who coaches other women in programs like Vida MTB series, the Cycle Effect and 'backcountry babes'. This message claimed that the photo I posted showed me 'taking off my pants' and that I was wearing booty shorts, and that I should delete the photo and let my riding speak for itself. I refuted her claims and explained my stance, and she fired back with how much respect for me has been lost by her and so many others.






To that (and to anyone else), I will say this: FUCK. OFF. I don't care if you respect me or not. My actions and entire existence are not to validate the goals you or anyone else has. My actions are solely mine and a reflection of who I am as a living, breathing, duality-having human with depth, compassion, imperfections and intelligence. If you try to put me into a box, you will not only be greatly disappointed, but you will fail. I cannot be defined by the limits you try to impose on society and my boundary-breaking personality IS THAT because of who I am. I don't play by your rules, and I'm certainly not living to earn anyone's affections or respect; I learned a very long time ago that if you live for that, you aren't living at all. I learned it the hard way when I lost everything because of that -- not just everything that matters, either. I lost it all. And from then, I have always lived for one reason: myself.

The person I am has to fight for change, for improvement, for compassion. Who I am isn't based on the value you assign me because I happen to play into your politics for a brief moment or because you've deemed me as 'hot' or 'ugly'. Who I am is based on everything that is inside of me and the mind and spirit I have, boiling hotter than a nuclear reaction.

And yes, this matter has been rolling around in that magical lava cesspool that is my brain, and I decided that I don't like this for one reason: you cannot define another human being, and how dare you attempt to do just that? How dare you approach me and accuse me of taking off my pants when, in all honesty, you're the one with the reading comprehension problem? I was clearly addressing the people out there that would determine a woman's value only by her appearance and those who have dismissed my opinions (and mounds of marketing, logic, evidence and economic science) because of their beliefs about my body type and face shape?

When you are the side that cannot see my post for what it is -- my joy in the strong, capable, athletic, powerful body I've been blessed with -- it's not I who has lost the respect. I have respect. I have respect for myself, for my body, for my industry, for those who follow me. I have respect for the girls who look up to me, for the women I coach. I have respect for my fellow racers and riders, and THAT is the reason I posted this.

Just because you have allowed yourself to be defined by others doesn't mean I will. I am not fat, ugly, a slut or an object. I am human with duality and intelligence and humor.

And I will never fit in that box you've built.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#ProvingPossible Program

To my #ProvingPossible ladies:

I'm sorry. 

Oh, goals. What to say about them. They're often lofty, beautiful and clever, but when the execution isn't strategically planned down to the last detail, we run into trouble. 

My goal with #ProvingPossible was to get more women into DH racing through funding, coaching and excellent support. Unfortunately, for a lot of you, it hasn't worked out that way. I dropped the ball.

That cannot be refuted. I didn't plan for the sheer volume of participants, the workload, mishaps, alternate expenses, or a change in scheduling... And it left a lot of you out in the cold. 

I'm so sorry.

I was injured at the beginning of the season in late April and missed the NW cup/ProGRT stop coursewalk and clinic; however, the program experienced difficulties before that -- at Sea Otter, four entries were paid for, a clinic and course walk was put on, but not a single entry showed up for either one, and three of the four race entries were wasted when those members didn't race. 

But a month later at the Sundance stop, despite my injury, some complications and a decent bit of rain, we put on the #ProvingPossinle clinic and it went extremely well -- 7 women came out to the course walk and the clinic. Nearly most of you raced, we all got to meet and chat and talk bikes. It was awesome. I was blown away at the excitement. However, again, I dropped the ball after Sundance about new contacts, upcoming races, fee reimbursement and responding to emails.

This would be indicative of my entire season. I'll be honest: the Sea Otter failure dampened my enthusiasm for the process I believed in. BUT. The response to the local race at Sundance renewed it quite a bit, despite being overwhelmed with my surgeries, the crazy expenses, a fraudulent issue with my PayPal (yay!) and the sheer volume of participants, as well as everything going on in my career at that point with leaving Pinkbike. 

I'm not sure why it matters so much to me, but I know that I fucked up. I didn't plan this program well -- idealistic goal-setting never really goes as well as I'd like it to. I let a lot of ladies fall through the cracks at clinics, with race entries, with email or phone contact, and I hate that. I'm sorry. 

I'm sorry that I wasn't prepared for the size of the workload, the immensity of the clinic need, the scheduling conflicts or the level of contact that would be required with each of you. I'm sorry that I didn't provide the support you wanted and needed and deserved from me; I'm so sorry I blew the committment I made to so, so many of you. I'm realizing that big goals are wonderful and can change the world, but only if the projects are manageable enough to execute properly. The scope of this project was too big for me to handle alone, and it failed because of so many different reasons relating to that. I didn't have contingency plans for any 'if's, let alone 'when's. 

However, I'm hell bent on not making this your burden anymore than it has been. Please give it one more shot and reach out to me if your emails have gotten no response or if you still haven't been paid (!) for your race entry. The goal is to get everyone taken care of by the end of this week and to close the program indefinitely until a better strategy can be fleshed out and put into practice. I'm sorry that I failed to toe the line, ladies, and I'm sorry that your DH racing experience began like this. 

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions -- yes, sincerely. 

All my best, 

A.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Thoughts About Trash.

A little known fact: I run whenever I can, which is a LOT. Five days a week, usually. I often run at my local park just down the street; it's a nice loop for speed work with quick access to the hills should I feel inclined to crush it and run sprints (which only happens after quite a bit of caffeine). Because this park is so nice, there's always a crowd. With crowds comes clutter and debris; I think it's a universal law of humanity at this point. We're such messy creatures. But I love my park. I always have. I've loved this particular park since moving to Salt Lake at 15 and now that I live so close, I feel a fond mix of gratitude and responsibility. And so while I'm out on my runs, I'll swerve to pick up trash. I'll do a little half-stoop jog while I snag the remnants that were blown into my path, and eventually find a can for them. 

To be honest, I'm not sure why. There are people who get paid to do this. This trash isn't even mine. No one has assigned me this job and I'm sure that if I added up all the seconds it takes to stop and do this, it would equate to a significant amount of effort. I should be grumpier about it. But the funny thing is this: I'm not. I consider it part of myself. It's just something I do. 

In recent months (or years), I've come under criticism for responding to internet trolls and negative or hateful comments, both about me and not. Unlike my trash gathering on my runs, I've always viewed this as a negative habit I just cannot seem to quit, but as of late, I'm realizing that it comes from the same place as my desire to make sure my park is clean: my heart. 

See, I don't fancy myself a savior (despite some claims that I do), but I have realized that part of being a good human is knowing that even if something 'isn't my job', sometimes there is no one else that is going to clean it up. Sometimes there is and they've been there before me. Sometimes there are other trash-elves out at the same time I am and together, we manage to put quite a dent in the refuse that litters our community. It's a powerful effect. One that I would hope random passerby would see and be inspired to do a little tidying of their own. But unlike my runs, the Internet usually shouts at me when I address the virtual trash problem. My attempts to put the nonsense cruelty in the bin are met with condemnation, disgust and ridicule. "Why do you even bother?" "You're wasting your time refuting these comments." "Why do you care?!" "Fuck off!" "Get a life." 

But I still do it. It's a major part of why a lot of people really detest me, this habit. But the thing is this: we invest our time into the things we truly care about. And for me, I obviously care about cleaning up my community, both online and off. The environment and atmosphere of both my park and my MTB forums matter to me. I believe that everyone should be welcomed without the blight of unseemly clutter and that, if we all pick up a few pieces of trash here and there, there's a good chance that others will take notice and clean up more of the mess. Call me idealistic, but that's how we get cleaner communities. 

And yes, I know that these comments will never end as the Internet seems to give birth to more trolls in one day than a lifetime marriage between Darth Vader and Dovregubben would, but trash doesn't just disappear. We have to put out more bins. Set the bar of expectation. And if those of us in the online MTB community refuse to tolerate the trash, I truly believe that it will act like a virtual littering fine. If we speak up and say "Excuse me, but no. That won't fly here", I honestly think that our community will be better off. 

And that's something that IS worth our time when we step back and look at the larger picture.

Call me crazy, but I'm just cleaning up the trash. 




Friday, October 9, 2015

Passion.

There is something deep within me that demands fuel. Like a spark, it needs only fuel and oxygen. 

Maybe it's the ashes from a childhood spent in lonely limbo between 'troublemaker' and 'prodigy' or the still-hot coals from a tumultuous teenagehood. Maybe it's my 'potential' finally showing up to the party and deciding to remodel the entire house, guests be damned. 

This passion is my wildfire. It's burned through fears. It has burned me out of relationships, burned me into deep depressions, burned between jobs and travel and new opportunities. My passion isn't my weakness, but it brings me to me knees often enough to make me wonder if I'm not a slave to a fickle master. My passion isn't my heart, but it beats strongly and wildly enough that it feels as though it powers the gravity that makes my world spin. And it hurts. It bleeds when I feed it, it bellows and spits when I don't, demanding more... More fuel. 

And I expect things from it. This fire flickers behind my eyes... But it isn't mirrored in the eyes I stare into. I've searched for it. I've prayed. I've tried desperately to stoke some sort of... Interest, interest in life, interest in the world, into the people around me. Curiosity. I've tried to ignite fires with emotional lighter fluid and have even used gasoline from time to time.

But it's not enough. My ashes, my coals, my spark... My flames, burning at their hottest, aren't enough to catch. 

I wonder if fire ever gets lonely.

I'm curious about those smoking coals... Will there be enough fuel? This spark is hungry, and oxygen isn't enough. Freedom and fuel must be endless to keep it burning. But how many miles of forest can a spark burn through before it moves on? 

Because it will burn. And maybe I'll burn with it. That's what fires do, don't they? 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

If You Don't Like It, Leave

Dear Steve Tofan, 

You seem to be rather unfamiliar with the cycling industry. Or rather, your company's behavior seems ignorant of the developments and trends within the cycling industry, something that a former outdoor industry rep's company should never be. But. It seems as though you are fairly uninformed about the issues within cycling, which is why I'm writing this letter. 

Steve, the problem here is that your company, Save Our Soles, made socks for the cycling industry's annual North American show, Interbike. As such, you chose to represent that show. And you made a terrible choice by putting an objectifying image on socks. It's okay. We all make terrible choices. But your company did one even better: when members of that industry voiced their concern and dissatisfaction, you told us that if we didn't like it, we didn't have to keep the socks. Steve, that's not how this works. 




Whether a tradeshow is in Vegas or on the moon, making socks for any industry that represent the seediest, saltiest qualities of Vegas is simply inappropriate, but especially in an industry where half of the population is actively working to rid their market of sexist, objectifying material. I know of plenty conferences and trade shows that will be in Las Vegas this year, including a computer technology one and a human resources conference. Will you make them ass socks as well, then blame it on the location? Steve, let's be honest: it's a bike show IN Vegas, not ABOUT Vegas. Those socks are no more closely related to cycling than cats in wizard hats are. And yet, you chose those socks to bear the name of an industry show. Strange. 

Steve, the issue here isn't the socks. It really isn't. It's the fact that your company, based in Denver and fairly close to the cycling community, was so ignorant to the issue that you thought those socks were a good idea. Even  more of a problem? Your company issuing a statement reeking of #sorrynotsorry. You should be sorry, Steve. Because we won't keep your socks; not even Interbike, the company you probably paid, wants those socks. That's a preeeeetty bad sign. 

My point in all of this, Steve? Women in the cycling industry matter. We're spending, growing and developing faster than any other market segment, and your brand has failed to notice any of that. According to Havard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2009/09/the-female-economy), the global economy has shifted -- the long and short of it? Their prediction is that women will control a vast amount of global wealth within the next decade. Between more employed women than men, more wealth inheritance to women than men and more involvement in spending, one would think that not dismissing and objectifying your ideal market is an important part of owning a sock company.

But. There are still men in the industry, although those men often know and love other riders who happen to be female. They respect women. They have wives and daughters and sometimes (gasp!), girl friends, female friends, and all sorts of vaginally-inclined members of their inner circles. What I find, Steve, is that this leaves you and Save Our Soles with a very small portion of the market that is uninfluenced by women. Of that portion, few are mysogynist or sexist enough to buy socks from a company that doesn't give a damn. There are other sock companies out there, Steve. They are GOOD sock companies. Companies who have built their brands on catering to customers who like bikes, beer, unicorns, going fast, insulting friends, sriracha, traveling and even leprechauns... But none of those companies are built around selling sex and especially not on objectifying the very customers they are targeting. 

Steve, socks matter. Most of us (the non-crazies) wear them every ride. I love fresh socks. Nothing quite like a brand new pair, either. And to a cyclist, what we wear on our feet is as clear an indication of who we are as the components we have underneath us. Some of us advertise only black, others their preferred brands. This is why they're such strong promotional material -- WE LOVE SOCKS. And even if we hate a particular pair of socks, they'll go into a collection and when all the others are sitting in a filthy, stinking pile next to the washer, we'll pull those socks we hate out and we'll rock them like there is no tomorrow. And it's free advertising. But your socks? Your unapologetically sexist socks? Not even my hardcore buddies wanted those socks. Not even my wealthy, unmarried, cad-of-a-beautiful man pal Jared (who makes jokes about my gender and pokes fun at my feminism) wanted your socks. If even Jared doesn't want your socks, you have a problem. 

Regardless of your personal feeling about socks (which I'm assuming is positive; you do own a sock company, after all), you also have to look at the big picture: thousands of buyers from all corners of North America received these bags. These bags represent the bike industry in no small way -- they are handed out to everyone, from the most clueless of Walmart buyer and that guy from Target to the specialty shop owner and the multi-sport big box stores. A small joke to you about the seedier qualities of Las Vegas makes the bike industry look like a bunch of drooling, sex-frothed monkeys with nothing better to put on our socks than SEX! in bright neon letters. And that's not what we sell, Steve. We like sex, but we're in the business of selling bikes here, and that's what we should be adorning our ankles with -- the things we love. 

Steve, think about the concepts of cycling: challenge, endurance, performance, adaptation and FUN. How is any of that represented by a few ass cheeks spread naughtily across the tops of socks? 

Perhaps you're under the impression that bad publicity is good publicity; I'll tell you right now (from personal experience) that it isn't. And from here on out, you now have a massive purchasing group that is hell bent on never buying your socks... And I'm going to help that along. I'm going to do my personal best to make sure that your company, Save Our Soles, never is brought up in conversation without this story attached. And frankly? I don't care if your socks are the best. Why? 

Because your practices aren't. 

And we won't tolerate that here, not in the bike industry. If you don't like it, leave. 

See that? It works both ways. 

Best, 

A. 

 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Do You Even Adventure, Bro?

With the advent of 'adventure lifestyle marketing', my Facebook home page has gone from humdrum updates about babies and sandwiches to a 24-hour hardcore adrenaline video feed. Blame it on GoPro making the smallest wearable high definition cameras on the planet (or on our constant need for validation and attention), but I've been left with a nagging poke at the back of my mind for the last few years: is the new 'adventuring' like a tree in the forest? Can you actually say you had an epic adventure without documenting, editing and uploading it to the internet? In order to successfully, social-media-style 'adventure', are we required to prove that we are another marketable unicorn, the one-person reincarnated mashup of Gisele/Paul Bunyan/Bear Grylls?

This question comes after a day spent at the bike park with fun friends pulling hot laps, shouting laughter and advising on elbow-stitching, where we decided to take a photo stop during one run that, in my opinion, interrupted the fun. I've always felt that true adventurers are too busy adventuring to worry about batteries running low on a camera -- in a life or death situation (or one where I'm genuinely worried about getting eaten/electrocuted or am shaking in fear), I don't think I've ever paused and asked "Is it on?!" into a glass lense.

And maybe that's the kicker for me: adventures that I label as 'adventures' generally border on complete chaos. These are the experiences that I reflect on with a 'WHEW!' and a grin about that choice that wasn't too brilliant... You couldn't plan these if you had a crystal ball and magic glasses. Like last weekend with my little brother where we decided that overshooting jumps in a massive meadow on downhill bikes during a crazy windstorm was a great idea. The giddy high fives and relieved hugs that ensued (and his gleeful "I thought you were gonna die!!!") after the sketchiest run in recent memory quantified it as more than an adventure: it truly could have gone sideways rapidly.

Maybe adventures stem from conditions beyond our control (weather, wildlife) and maybe they appear out of thin air with the incredibly stupid choices we make (sure, I can totally make that river gap), but to me, the word 'adventure' refers to the unplanned. Sure, I'll stop to 'take a picture' if we have time (while using it as a guise to cover up me greedily sucking in oxygen) or film a really cool section someone has never ridden before, but for the most part... I don't stop. Why?

Because if I have a camera strapped to my chest and we're heading out 'into the wild', it feels a bit more like a 'mission' than an adventure. I suppose that's why I'm so jaded about these planned, over-hyped edits from everyone looking to make a buck or two to fund their 'adventure lifestyle'... It feels staged. It really looks and feels as though it's part of a crazy reality show designed to elicit the most shocked response from a targeted audience. It doesn't feel like an adventure. If we're stopping and redoing a shot a million times over to get a certain 'look', I like to call that 'work'. And maybe it's my compartmentalized thought patterns demanding to be satiated, but I've never been in the middle of some rowdy fun and decided "yeah, we should TOTALLY snag this and try to sell it!" Despite the oft-explained narcissism of my writing, I don't feel like humans are the end all be all of the planet. I don't feel like the world revolves around us. The world keeps moving, things are dying, reborn, growing. Trees really do make a sound, even if no one has a POV camera to record it. Now, I'm not denying the practical uses: I have definitely filmed DH practice runs before a race to figure out what I'm doing wrong (or right) and how to eliminate what went wrong and repeat what went right. I'm also not saying that cameras are always bad to have around (ie, my recent Instagram video post about the mid-trail conversation that was filmed in Whistler -- hilarious). They're great and fun and a little ridiculous with how much they can capture and what we can show each other about the cool parts of our lives. But how much is too much? Are we over-editing our lives because of social pressure or does social pressure exist because we're editing even our adventures?

I've really been trying to live more in the moment and enjoy the little stuff; presentness, I've been told, leads to more happiness. I've had this goal of just be here, now, and 'don't worry' for a few years... But I feel like I still stress out a lot. Like, A LOT. But maybe my goal of being able to live in the moment isn't really a worthy goal because I'm already doing that by avoiding stopping to film it all. Maybe I live so much in the moment that I know that of all the photos I keep and look back on fondly are the ones that don't really turn out. They're blurry or foggy or full of chaos because the horses ran off in the middle of the posed shot (THAT was funny as hell) and everyone freaked out.

And guess what? All we have are the memories of that. A blurry photo and ridiculous stories from every person's true point-of-view because not one person had a GoPro. And all I have of my windy bike run with my brother are memories. But they're enough -- because whenever I miss him or wish I were riding bikes, I pull those out of the back of my mind and, in the sparkly hue that memories take on as our minds edit them, I'll flip through it. I'll flip through that one time we hiked a 14,000 foot peak in the biggest lightning storm I've ever seen and had to hunker down in a low tree line where we were eaten by mosquitos. I'll scan that camping trip where my friend fell into the lake backwards while fighting off moths, turn up the one where I shouted at a cluster of rattlesnakes in sheer terror and laugh over the time I almost burnt my parents' back yard down with a flaming container of gasoline. And though all of it would probably have made me famous for being a total idiot that I could have cashed in on harder than 'Jackass' did, I'm glad no one has that footage, despite sometimes wondering how high those flames really went (my brothers said it was to the top of the shed and that I screamed like a stuck pig)... I don't need to have my fun quantified.

In my opinion, my main issue with the proliferation of POV highlight reels is the projected perfection of these videos. They make 'adventure lifestyling' (whatever the hell that even means) into something that's unflawed, finely tuned, and perfectly edited. It seems like it gives the viewer a false sense of outdoor ease or that 'adventuring' is simple. It never is. That's the point of adventuring -- it's total chaos. The best moments are those that are unscripted, unedited and unrefined. It's getting to Moab in the middle of the night with a new boyfriend and having such explosive diarrhea that you end up sleeping in the dirt to avoid getting out of the tent every 20 minutes. Not only do you have to burn your jeans before you leave camp, but , for the next five years that you're together and the three after that, said man jokes about it on every bike trip and desert campout. Adventure is just about as perfect as choosing ceviche at a roadside Mexican food cart in a landlocked state happens to be. It's not. And it's amazing and overwhelming and so wild and so beautiful that you don't even think about messing around with a camera. And that's what adventure is. It's not always an adrenaline-fueled GoPro promo video with hugging lions, skydiving and fireworks shows, and it isn't about proving that I'm living the best life or marketing my lifestyle or editing it into a sweet YouTube video for millions of views.

And I plan on leaving it that way, because I like living the adventure, not watching it through a tiny screen.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teach The Girls.


This post... God. So much of this post makes me cry. And I cry because there are so many moms who aren't teaching their precious daughters this. I've steered clear of the Duggar nonsense, but I will dip my toe in here because... This:

I know everybody is laughing about this Josh Duggar story. Oh, a DUGGAR on Ashley Madison, it's so rich! I wish more...
Posted by Jessica Krammes Kirkland on Thursday, August 20, 2015


I have to quote this mom: "Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren't given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don't have to marry a man their father deems "acceptable" and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must."

And she closed with "As for my girls, I'll raise them to think they breathe fire." 

With the rare exceptions of mothers (and fathers) like this, we are failing our girls.

We are teaching them to be objects, to be ashamed, to be afraid. We have taught them that they are princesses, victims, pawns in a game. We have told them that they need to fit into a certain sized jean to be loved, they need to have a certain hued hair to gain approval and that their lips and eyes and everything else needs to constantly be on show for them to register as 'human' on an nonexistent scale.

We are teaching them that what's between their legs is more powerful than what's between their ears. We have shown them that it doesn't matter how awesome you have are, how intelligent you have made yourself, how hard you work, they still are less because they are female.

We have given them no reasons to not accept behavior like Josh Duggar's with a wince and inevitable forgiveness.

We tell them to be quiet, to sit down, to be 'nice', to be polite. And what are they left with? The world doesn't give a damn about a woman who knows how to set a nice table, parents. The world will eat your daughter and her salad forks without thought, and it will chew her up and devour her hopes, her dreams and her potential. As PARENTS, we take on the mantle of protecting and teaching and loving these little beings will all of our souls... But how can we do that if we don't build our daughters into beings?! How do we feel as though we've done right by our daughters unless we teach them how to be themselves and, most importantly, how to honor themselves? We say we need more wives and mothers, but do we? Do we need broken mommies and sad wives who subject themselves rather than celebrate themselves? I don't think so. I think that's how we build a tragically broken society without conscience.

Teach them, my friends. And let those around you help. Teach your little girls to breath fire, to rain hell and to refuse to be anything other than her incredible self. And show her how to lead others. Teach her compassion, kindness and strength. Teach her hard work, honesty, bravery. Teach her to be aggressive, but teach her strategy. Teach her words so she may communicate. Show her science and technology and art and history so that she can understand the human condition and her place in this world and so she can wonder. Teach her curiosity. Teach her everything you know and more.

And then let her go. Let her make mistakes and stumble and fall and rise again. Let her find her way, let her choose her life, let her decide who she will be. Let her create and fail. Let her love and live. And let her love you. Because, mom & dad, these are the most precious lessons you will ever teach.



Monday, August 24, 2015

The Manifesto.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the personal success versus business success contrasts, and the one thing I've realized is that in my personal life, I don't really have a manifesto. I've written one for every business plan I've ever created and yet, for my own plan, I have failed to create something solid that I can refer to when questioning my 'purpose'. Yesterday, someone sent me an image that struck me nearly speechless and inspired the following paragraphs; I was going to share it on Instagram but as it took shape, it was not only extremely long, but would be difficult to tie to any one image alone. 



My life has been an exercise in sincerity... Even when I'm seemingly insincere. My personality is an illustration of inner authenticity, even at the cost of my ambition and commercial success, and despite the humor in my words or actions. As I've gotten older and have less patience and time for inefficiency, I've begun to realize that my bluntness isn't a shield, but the core of who I am. And it's a powerful core when combined with passion and the eternal spring of optimism. 

When I say that women have a larger place in this world than as objects or placeholders or prizes, I mean it. When I speak about how female athletes have an obligation to be more than representative of a 'look', I speak with full conviction. When I expound upon the idea of companies promoting the health of an industry through equality and skill instead of a false idea of ownership and inferiority, I speak the truth. There is nothing in this world as valuable as building and creating and progressing in positive ways... And it is time to make that more than an idea and into the standard. We are the deciders. We are the creators of our fate and the builders of a future... Not just for athletes. But for women. For girls. For all those who dream of possibilities that aren't dictated by their gender or appearance, but their skill and effort and work ethic and passion.    Those who insist on 'playing the game' are part of the problem, not the solution and prevent progress instead of pushing it. I may just ride a bike, but I'll be damned if my life and my career are summed up as such. There are plenty of remarkably accomplished but unremarkable cyclists out there, my friends, and none of this is about what I accomplish on the bike. It simply isn't. Race results are forgotten, photos are misremembered, teams crumble and careers fade away... All we have are the dreams we enable in those who come after us, the happiness we make for those around us and the gratitude we recognize in every day we're able to see. And my purpose is to do just that. To inspire that, to create that, to leave that... Even though I am so flawed and so human. My job is to build something not made of ego, but of kindness. Of hope. Of gratitude. 

And I hope my legacy is filled with all of that, with enough emotion and failure and irreverence and reckless curiosity that it fills a ship. I hope that what I leave behind is bigger than my name; I hope that my legacy is so large that my name becomes forgotten in the midst of all of the laughter and thought and living that is done after I am gone. And I hope that this is possible because I pushed over a chair in the barroom of someone's mind and leveled a wall in another. I hope that the damage I cause is that of a whirling tornado: jagged and sharp and angry until it takes on a new shape as improvements are made and dreams are built again. I hope that those walls, those bridges, those ramparts... I hope they are the barriers of the past that has held us back for so long and that my collateral damage isn't that of other humans, but the relics of those hateful traditions which have limited humans thus far. My only hope is that my existence serves a purpose. That my life, in the blip that it is on the infinitesimal scale, will have made waves enough. And if it does, if I succeed in that one singular effort, it will have been a life well led. An existence worth existing for. A humanity unwasted. 

May I be a building block in the beautiful, disheveled castle of human history. And may my existence inspire, upend, fortify, infuriate and fire up those around me until they too have dreams of being larger than themselves. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Adapt Or Die: The Battle Of Online vs. Local Bike Shops

With the announcement that Trek is opening an e-commerce operation, the internet once more exploded in a fury of comments about online bike dealers (OBDs), local bike shops (LBS) and how one is quickly replacing the other in the infinite battle for the almighty consumer dollar.

And I, of course, have an opinion on this.

As someone who has raced for multiple local shops (still do) but is employed by an online bike dealer, it's an interesting contrast to have between price and service. It is, ultimately, a choice that millions of bicycling consumers make many times over every year. But does it have to be?

I don't think so.

I truly believe that the claim of OBDs closing good LBS' is false. Why? Because if it's a good LBS, an online dealer cannot close it. So many studies inside of the industry (and out) have shown that an involved, decent bike shop is not only an economic boon for the community, but a sign of a healthy town. Good local bike shops do more than sponsor racers or change out junior's tire, however -- they provide valuable jobs, insight, programs and services to communities that might not necessarily have them. Here in Salt Lake, we even have community bike programs that save lives, teach independence and offer new opportunities to those who have little to go by. This sort of immense value cannot and will not be replaced by an online bike dealer. Why? Because they are irreplaceable.

However (of course there is a 'however'!), a bad or less than stellar bike shop can quickly damage a bike community and foster a sense of mistrust and devaluation. This is the sort of bike shop that is not long for the world, methinks. This type of shop is the one that is being replaced by online bicycle dealers and for good reason: they suck.

That may sound harsh, but let me put it to you another way: a bike shop that whines about not being able to compete with an online bike dealer has forgotten that they hold the most valuable card at the table in their hands: service. No matter how they try or what they do, online bike dealers will never be able to provide the kind of service to a customer that their local shop can. Regardless of how much an online bike dealer attempts to provide continued service and hand-holding, they simply cannot -- they're online! And while door-to-door bike service is still growing, online dealers can't compete with the impulsiveness of customers and the randomness with which bikes break; this is cycling, after all. It would take an army of tiny magical mice in the millions to service those online customers, and this ain't Cinderella, cowboy.

That's where a local shop makes their money.

Think about it: a mid-range mountain bike might cost $3000, but what good is that sale when the customer needs a new set of wheels because she's just destroyed hers and the warranty is going to take 8 weeks? What good are we when that fork needs to be serviced, when that bottom bracket needs to be repacked and that handlebar replaced? The onus (and opportunity) suddenly falls to that customer's welcoming, warm, smiling local shop. And therein lies the rub, my friends. Think about the local shops you know. How many of them would welcome you through the door with a conspiratorial grin? How many of them ask how your day is? If you have a shop that does that, GO THERE. Right now. Buy something. And thank them.

But if you don't have that strong local resource, think about the people who are like you. Maybe their shop closed when Wal-Mart came to town. Maybe their shop sucks. Maybe the owner of their local bike shop has refused to get social media, has refused to set up a website, has refused to train and hire skilled employees who have any customer service skills, so that owner just collects the scant amount of extra money that comes in each month, then wonders why the cash flow is so low. But maybe that local shop owner is simply that -- a shop owner who happens to think that money isn't coming in because of the OBD.

Let me tell you something. As a business owner, an athlete, a pariah and the usual mayhem and trouble maker, there is nothing I know better than work. If any of us want to make money, we have to work. It's that simple. And if we want to make money out of a bike shop, we have to work hard. It requires a willingness to invest in that shop, that brand, that community. And it's not easy. And there are politics and pressure and you may be barely scraping by, but if you're in this to be a millionaire, you may have chosen the most difficult road to get there. But it is WORTH IT.

Because this is the day and age of adaptation. The market has changed. And dealers must change with the market or risk extinction. All of us have to carefully and critically examine what we're doing as people, as companies, as an industry and decide whether or not our actions and words contribute to the sustainability of an entire sport. It's a big decision. It's a heavy call to make, to be that one person. But the kicker is this: if we don't make that call or choose to be better, someone else will. And they will shape our industry. They will be making those decisions, for better or for worse. And those decisions will make or break us, kill us or ignite us. We have a chance now to step up, provide some killer service, create a smarter, more efficient industry and sell some fucking bikes or... Not. Don't get me wrong. We can certainly continue on in this mediocre vein, infighting and battling over scant amounts of cash, but we will die.

Don't sit on that stool and tell me that OBDs are killing the local bike shop. Because if anything, they're helping the good shops, and those shops know it. Sure, the OBD might sell parts for a little less to the random price cruncher, but a good local shop has employees who do a damn fine job of putting those parts together. That owner cares so much about those customers that the owner charges them premium prices for that premium labor. And guess what? That customer pays. Why? Because it's worth it. Because, like a good car mechanic, that owner guarantees the work. Those mechanics make enough money to love what they do and they do a job worth being proud of. But paying paltry wages and screaming at employees and focusing on 'selling' rather than 'servicing' won't do that. And the good shops know this. The good online bike dealers do, too. And together, they're working towards an industry that is focused on making bikes (and bike parts and bike service) more accessible and more fun.

After all, isn't that what we're really looking to do here?


Sunday, July 26, 2015

My 'Women Specific' Problem

Hide your children, hide your pets, because this is going to be a rant.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS A 'WOMEN'S SPECIFIC BIKE'?!

No, but let's be serious: I'm a woman. And most 'women's specific' shit doesn't fit. So... Does this mean I'm an alien? Am I an anomaly? Does this make me less of a woman?

I got a call from a woman today asking me why we don't carry women's specific road bike frames. I'm sorry, but do women ride road bikes differently than men? Last time I checked, those 'male-specific' frames fit my needs perfectly. Call me crazy, but those frames also work for thousands of female professional road cyclists, too.

My point? There is no such thing as a bike made for women. There are small accessories, there are pink accessories, but those are aftermarket additions that could be put on for any rider with certain needs. For example: a saddle with a certain amount of padding may fit a pelvis of a certain angle that has sensitive tissue, but a women's saddle it does not make. I've sold lots of 'women's saddles' (with horrendous names like the 'Diva') to embarrassed men who simply found them more comfortable. I also happen to have a best friend who is 5'3"... And male. And he loves small bikes. But does that mean he needs a women's specific bike? Hell no! He needs a small bike. Does that make him any less of a man, a human or a rider? Uhhhh, no.

I know that lots of marketing brains have put together this ideal of what a female (or male) rider might be, but let me tell you something: we are not amalgamations of someone else's 'ideal'. We are us. We are individuals with individual needs that don't discriminate according to gender. Not all women need small grips. Not all men need 500 lb titanium coil springs. And women most certainly do not need different frame geometry. Some humans need lower top tubes. GREAT! We can accommodate you. Oh, you have a shorter torso? Tighter hip flexors and limited flexibility? Long arms? Wider hips, a prosthetic leg, a sensitive bottom? Awesome! We have many bikes that will fit that particular need or that can be adjusted to be the best bike for you. But what we don't have is a women's bike. We have men's bikes with smaller grips, different saddles and 'female friendly colors' (whatever the fuck THAT means; I like black. I like purple. I really like black.), but we do not have a bike that is going to fit everyone of one gender. Guess what else we don't have? Gay bikes. We don't have bikes for black people, either. We have bikes for people. People of any gender, any size, any age. We have accessories for people. We even carry a wide selection of special items for special people that we keep in a bin in the back marked 'special'. But your gender and genitals doesn't dictate what bike you need, and it CERTAINLY doesn't dictate the bike I'll ride.

I don't want your female-specific bike. I don't need it. Why? Because my identity doesn't exist solely around having a vagina. I don't ride like a girl. I ride like me. I need me-specific bike parts, and that means that they're generally expensive, tough and black. For someone else, that could mean light, cheap and shaped like an elephant. I DON'T KNOW. And guess what? Neither do bike companies. And so telling someone that they need a 'women's specific frame' or 'women's specific tires' is just bullshit. I'm sorry, but that's what it is. B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T. Does a pink bike ride more gently than blue bike? Not when you ram it into a tree or attempt to play chicken with a fleet of semi trucks. Does the road ride differently for women than it does for men? Are my pedals female-specific? Do they reflect the magnetic power of my vagina?! No? Oh. Well then. I need some girl pedals.

If we want to make lasting, sustainable change inside of the bike industry, we need to stop pretending that there is a defining line that separates these false categories we've thrown each other into. We have to stop creating room for shit that doesn't matter in areas that are irrelevant. Women on bikes matters. More women on bikes matters. But that's not what we're creating. Instead of building a culture of inclusion and equality and addressing the matters that really DO affect our sport (like equal payout, misogyny, sponsorship, participant numbers, spectator attendance), we're building an entire world around something that simply does not matter. There are smaller grips. There are shorter cranks. There are softer saddles. There are pink helmets and blue trails and red lights and fiercely powerful riders of ALL genders. But there is no such thing as a women's specific bike.

Monday, July 20, 2015

MTB Nats And The Avalanche Of Stupid

It's a post-race weekend Monday and for me, that often means one of two things is happening: gratuitous gloating over the superhuman feats of strength and power I performed or a few stormy days filled with brutal workouts, tearful cloud bursts, self-flagellating and abusive brain language that I would never dare spew at another human.

Today is the second half.

I sucked this weekend, guys. It was a a full on suckfest. It sucked so much that I feel like I spent the weekend with my mouth glued to a glass window, like a starfish at the aquarium. That's the level of suck displayed.

Sure, I could blame my lack of positive race result on the course, but I won't. I could blame my level of failure on USAC routing an entire Enduro field (and the accompanying 29-inch wheels and fistfuls of terrified braking) down the DH course, but I'll save that for later. Instead, I'll be honest: it was a great fucking course. It was probably the best nationals course we've had in a very long time and it was brutal. It was technical and fast and loose and it made almost every single pro look like a bunch of silly beginners... That's how amazing it was. And guys, it was faaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssst. Like, so fast your hair blows back with how stupidly fun it is to go that fast but you probably should slow down because this corner is loose and oops, there goes all of the skin on your elbow. That's how fast it was. And loose. I will never give my cat a funny look ever again when he climbs out of the litter box with tiny pebbles stuck between his paws -- I'll be dumping rocks out of places I didn't even know existed for the next six months.

I had fun. I really, really did. Despite my level of irrationally fearful suck, I still had a lot of fun. But I really did suck. I balked at the bottom of the first rock garden where I injured my back two years ago, I shied away from commitment at the ledge/kitty litter pit, and I refused to send some baby root gaps closer to the bottom. I could blame it on being 9 weeks out of a horrendous collar bone surgery that included two plates, a lot of screws, a hinge, and some pins, but my shoulder felt great. My body was ready. But my brain?

HA! I think my brain said 'adios!', hopped a plane to Cabo and took the week off. Because nowhere in my mind was the usual devil-may-care sender dumbass. Instead, I was replaced by an annoying four-year-old version of myself who threatened to tattle every time I thought about trying something dangerous or remotely risky. "I'm gonna tell mooo-ooom!" she would chant. (You know the tone.) And it worked. I would shy away from features that I wouldn't normally even slow down for. I yanked on my brakes and stumbled over lines; I washed out in the slow sections and balked at the fast ones. I was a wreck.

Would I have preferred that USAC hadn't decided to send multiple trail bikes down the same route for their first-ever sanctioned Enduro race for a fairly empty title in a discipline they don't oversee? Sure. Would I have liked it if the terrain had been left natural and/or less-manufactured to reflect the true spirit of the mountain? Of course. But those things happened, and as racers, we learn to deal with them. I didn't, and that put me .036 second off the damn box.

And I wasn't not on the box because of the course or the technical values. I wasn't not on that box because of USAC. I wasn't not on that podium because of equipment failure, injury, or a life-threatening disease. I failed to make it on that box because I chose to go around the rock garden, chose to hop through the second ledge and basically, went really fucking slow. For whatever mental, physical, emotional, intellectual reasons, I failed to perform. And that's the kicker of racing -- I'd love to make excuses for why I was almost 52 seconds off Jill's pace, but there are none. I failed to adapt and converge with conditions. I failed to go fast enough. I failed. And that's something I get to live with for another year.

That's racing.

And that was the avalanche of stupid.

#gofasterdummy 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"The World Doesn't Reward Mediocrity" II...

If the world doesn't reward mediocrity, how do you explain the number of 'ambassadors' in mountain biking? Not athletes who actually win anything, but folks who's looks, connections and/or behavior have somehow made them appealing to the ridiculous masses who would admire a burning shit covered in fur and then complain about how expensive tickets were.

Explain. Because that's mediocre as fuck. #justsaying.

Also: justify this blog. Because it's mediocre as fuck, too.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Why Does Downhill Racing Need USAC?

As of late, through injury, race breaks and lots of time spent on the interwebs (clearly), I've been ruminating on why exactly I'm a continuing member of USA Cycling. As of today, I'm examining that a little closer, given the announcements made here: http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/11/news/usa-cycling-license-fee-changes-for-2016_389916

Am I a member because of the UCI points? The access? The promotion? The standard of the tracks? The payout? The insurance? No. The sole reason at this point would be to maintain eligibility for the UCI. But. We all know I can't seem to start one of those. (Har har)

As a pro downhill racer, I spend a hefty amount of my time, energy and financial resources on racing. In 2014, over the course of 8 months, I spent nearly $20,000 on downhill racing and related costs; that figure excludes medical bills and related expenses. As the second-ranked female racer in the US as of the 2014 US Gravity National Championships, you could say I was heavily invested in what eventually became little more than a detrimental hobby with a very high price tag.

For some background: USA Cycling (often referred to as USAC) took over the now-defunct NORBA series in 1996 after what had been a remarkably successful run for the National Off Road Bicycling Association. With downhill and gravity racers coming from all over the world to race US-located races, the NORBA Nationals series was most comparable to the current IXS DH Cup in Europe, if not larger. With event and series sponsors including corporate contributors such as Jeep, ChevyTrucks, VISA, Reebok and Maxxis, athletes of all abilities and ages were practically guaranteed a good time. Mountain resort villages were packed, pro fields were deep enough to hold qualifiers for the top 30 women and prize payouts for the fastest racers often covered their bills.. On the road and at home. Former racers describe bustling pits with full-factory teams boasting rosters 6-10 riders deep with coaches, mechanics and physios considered par for the course. The mood was electric.

But not everything was peachy. Behind the scenes, NORBA was struggling to retain its authority through the later years as individual sanctioning bodies began popping up with their own races after the USAC takeover in 1996 and subsequent decline of support and race events. Former racers and organizers describe the decline begging with the acquisition and when the NORBA National series underwent various marketing changes and leadership swaps. These swaps were rumored to have alienated longtime members and racers, eventually leading to the scrapping of the NORBA name for good in 2004. What changed? According to industry insiders who wish to remain anonymous, everything changed.

In a 2001 article about the departure of then-managing director Leslie Klein, VeloNews.com cites a membership drop of 39% between 1997 and 2001. Why such a drastic drop?

Former racers describe the pits and corporate sponsorships going from 'full-tilt' one season to 'almost empty' within the next two. Teams changed hands, title sponsors pulled dollars, and focus seemed to wander as USACycling diverted valuable man hours into the quickly-growing gold mine that seemed to be US elite road racing. 

Even non-US athletes who traveled across the globe to earn their winnings (or wheels) on American soil at the notoriously fast tracks seemed to taper off; maybe they opted to stay closer to home or, beginning in 2002, try their hands at the other gravity disciplines then gracing the UCI World Cup stops. Dual-slalom evolved into four-cross and the hard-charging athletes seemed to find their niche alongside their beloved downhill.

But interestingly enough, 2002 was the same year that, for the first time in almost a decade, there wasn't a single American female represented in the top three WC overall DH standing. Between Kim Sonier, Missy Giove and Leigh Donovan, the US had been well-represented amongst the strongest female riders in the world.

It was even worse for the American men; between the last American-held podium with Mike King and Myles Rockwell in 1995 and Aaron Gwin in 2010, the US would go for a long fifteen years without a top-three placement in the international series. 

So what changed? Why? 

And why do these dates suspiciously correlate with the changing of hands of an entire cycling federation, the near-death of a sport, and the current climate of squeezing blood from the members of USAC's most under-developed discipline?

How does a well-loved niche sport go from being a six-figure income for riders one year and within a few short seasons, practically bankrupt?

I cannot personally speculate on the details of why or how. But I can say this: stepping away from the minutiae of day-to-day industry news and operation to take a look at the bigger picture won't hurt us. Being able to piece together both our history and the patterns of where we've gone off track as a sport will enable us to have a future. How? By not making the same mistakes again. 

Just today, USACycling released a new breakdown of the fees and costs associated with licensing for mountain biking, which included exorbitant fees for anti-doping regulation. USAC claims that this increase is to more tightly control doping due to an increase in amateur and elite doping, yet they haven't released numbers as to how many American amateur gravity athletes (or MTB in general) have tested postive for performance-enhancing drugs. The last publicly-identified gravity racer suspended for failing a drug test tested positive for cocaine... Three years ago? Two? I don't know of a single US gravity athlete within the last ten years that has tested postively for doping, and yet our financially-beleaguered discipline gets to bear the brunt of yet another overreaching USAC policy, as well as a licensing fee increase for 2016?! 

This is absurd. For any federation it would be absurd, but especially for a cycling federation where the prize payouts for the national series races are notoriously sparse and rarely cover racer expenses, if that.

So my question to you tonight is this: How do we move back to a rider- and results-based race economy built on sustainable growth and progression of the sport? How do we reward race hosts and organizers for their time and risk? How do we adequately insure riders and event managers in the case of a catastrophe so that we are able, as a community, to take care of our own? Because right now, any pro athlete on the gravity circuit in the US likely has a USAC insurance horror story; these stories are, unfortunately, not few nor far between. 

Gone are the days where we get to hand the reins to the adults in the room. We are the adults in the room, and we have to start behaving as though this is our livelihood. Unless you want to continue living four-deep with your buds and your bikes until you're 60, it's time to look at downhill in the US as more than a weekend hobby. This is a business. But we happen to be in the business of selling the best sort of fun. What's cooler than that?! 

However, our current situation isn't working. The races, the underwhelming 'programs', the U23 advantages (oh, sorry, guys -- that's this program for XC racing), the lack of responsible stewardship... It's stunting the development of an amazing sport that, at one point, we were highly dominant in. And why? Because our federation claims 'money issues' or 'lack of membership involvement!' or 'declining race numbers'... And yet we have zero insight into the role outside sponsorship plays in the gravity-specific disciplines? But why would USACycling have any interest in exerting effort to secure the same moneyed sponsors that benefit from marketing DH to the masses on a daily basis? After all, this is the same federation who, despite their lack of authority or history or involvement or investment or INTEREST in the discipline, crowned multiple US Enduro National Champions in 2015. Why would a federation with zero experience with enduro suddenly feel it appropriate to crown a US National Enduro Champion? How is that expense or effort even relative to the many disciplines they already have made commitments to? And why are they looking to make money from participants of a discipline that they don't care about? 

Maybe they've lost their way. Maybe the bank account and moral compass are spinning so far in the wrong direction that our federation doesn't even know which direction is 'up' anymore.

Because maybe it's time that the gravity world part ways with USACycling. 


xx. 




PS: Thoroughly interested in exploring the possibilities of a North American Gravity Association. Anyone else game? Ha!