Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Ladies, say goodbye to a Rock Star! My man Hecklejack goes off the market on Friday. Yep. He's gettin' married on Windmill Island in three days.

That dude is one fast as hell hollander. He's won a lot of races. And he's still a young buck. The photo above is Mark getting a "podium shot" after winning the Athens Twilight Crit in 2007.

I got plenty of stories about this guy. But I think he probably remembers that night in Athens more than any crazy shit I could tell you about him. Like a bone-headed ride late one winter at a secret training camp in North Carolina. I had to rescue his big ginger ass from the top of a mountain with my Subaru Outback. The Dutchman was wacked, it was 45 degrees and he sucked down a dozen donuts on the ride back to the cabin. Or the time I dropped him (the only time I ever dropped him) on a ride up Yellow Creek road. Ha Ha.....

Those were the days. But no more. Hecklejack is a legit pro, I'm a fat old man and I don't think I'll be dropping him on any ride ever again.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ain't No Warrior

I don't care what anybody says, all men like to think of themselves as warriors. Guys want to pretend that firing up their X Box or playing golf on the weekend gets them in touch with their aggression. I can buy that some if you're talking about blood sports maybe, but even killing a deer ain't much of a sport when you're using a rifle and scope.

Mountain bikers like to think of themselves that way. Ever seen a couple of Sport Class dudes scream at each other at a mountain bike race? It's quite a sight. With all that weekend warrior testosterone oozing from their chubby pores, the antics of a 15 mile mountain bike race can set a dude on fire. Cut em' off on the trail or worse yet, be some unlucky slower chick blocking Joe Racer's path to glory and you're gonna hear it!

All dudes think they're warriors. Me included. But the truth is I ain't no Mickey Ward. I'm the dude who ducks under the table in a bar fight. I can get amped up for a race, though. I've talked wild shit because of it. One year I told everybody all summer that I was going to win the Wilderness 101. Instead I got schooled by Mike Keefer and Skip Brown and ended up just far enough back not to make it into the Wilderness Wiki. I ain't no warrior.

Last weekend I found myself on the line at the Stony Creek marathon. Still too far out of shape to line up with the big dogs in elite. But I hadn't lost any Expert races yet this year. Three laps in and right on the tail of some dude who should have been racing in Elite I went down on a wood boardwalk and hit my ass so hard I almost crapped myself right there on the trail. At the three lap mark (halfway) I bailed.


The little lady pulled off a good one, though. Maybe she's the warrior.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Michigan Hardcore

What does it mean to be hardcore?

No, this isn't another one of my punk rock posts. Hardcore means taking the hits. It means getting back up and doing it again and again until you stick the landing. Evel was hardcore. Had to be. How many times did he crash? How many times did get right back on the bike!

Hardcore means pain. Tons of pain. Trainloads of pain. Pain from one end of your body to the to other. You can't be hardcore until pain has crushed you. It means giving failure the bird and dealing with the consequences. It means breaking your bones and gettting back on the bike. Hardcore is the difference between ordinary or being fucking amazing.

My wife is Hardcore.

I'll leave all the details to her. She tells the tale of the 2009 Lumberjack like it was another day at the races. Like it was just another podium finish. But the truth is that the difference between a good mountain biker and a great mountain biker is that the great one can take a thousand times more pain.

Each lap was 25 miles long and after the first lap Scott informed me that I was in 3rd place and 4-5 minutes behind Betsy Shogren (the female race leader). I wanted to make up time in the 2nd lap and tried to pick it up a bit. I was having a little too much fun on the downhills and hit one downhill WAY too fast. The bottom of the downhill had a bunch of wet roots that you had to turn on and you can probably imagine the rest...

65 miles later she finished in third and after the obligatory podium photos we drove to the ER in Manistee so she could have the dead tissue cut away from her knee. 2 hours after that we were back in the cabin in Brethren with Jeff, Chris and Roger (from Trek) and Nam and Eddie (from Topeak/Ergon). Talk that night was about that long day, Jeff's second Lumberjack win in a row. How bad ass Danielle was riding 60 miles with a smashed knee. How great Michigan micro brew is. How Jeff and Chris are going to kick ass at the BC Bike Race.

You can check out my "official" full race report at mtbracenews.com .

Another day at the races. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Breaking Away

Nice pic, eh? Look at all those scary skinny Euro dudes climbing a mountain during this year's Dauphine, reminding us why they're worth millions of Euros a year in salary and endorsement deals. Just look at that field! Right there, all the way on the right in the black and white BMC kit is Brent Bookwalter. Brent is from the 616. He rode for my old shop team when he was in high school. He's won multiple National Collegiate championships. That dude was kicking my ass on a mountain bike when he was 16 years old. And now the kid is mixing it up with the big (er little) guys back in the old country.

Give em' hell, Brent!

The Long Hangover

After game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals I couldn't bring myself to update this freakin' blog. Looking back at the playoffs I realized that I'd skipped at least 4 rides over a three week period (so i wouldn't miss the start of several playoff games). I was pissed. Man, I was pissed! I came out of the NHL playoffs with what felt like a Hockey hangover. One that didn't go away until several days of work, rides and ample amounts of IPA.

The hangover is over. This will be my last Anti Penguins (and Hockey) post of the summer. Now, back to my regularly scheduled Program.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wizard of Oz

Yeah, I bailed. There was an actual mountain bike race on a sweet trail up north (Hanson Hills) and I bailed. Saturday night I stayed up late to watch The Wings humiliate The Penguins in game 5. After that and a growler of Centennial IPA I didn't even bother setting my alarm. A lot of other guys showed up, though. Despite a night of thunderstorms and morning forecast of chill and wet, a crowd of hardcore mountain bikers managed a pilgrimage to Grayling Michigan and and kicked some ass. Mad props to Mike Anderson. The 20 year old, too young to even drink his sponsor's beer, took top honors the Elite Men's race.

Catch ya next time, guys.

Speaking of The Red Wings..... Tuesday night could be the night. Wings up 3-2 versus Penguins. The Game is in Pittsburgh but Detroit has the Wizard of Oz.

You're thinking, why the hell does he keep posting all this crap aboot hockey? Cause this is Michigan. And here in the 616 it's hockeytown west. We're all crazy here. Don't worry, though. By the end of this week Lord Stanley's Cup will be decided for one more year and I won't have any excuses left to skip another race.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

La Grand Vitesse

Fresh on the heels of last night's debauched ride/bachelor party for "Van Candy" Dan, there's a lot going on this weekend.

For starters the Western Chapter of the MMBA has organized a trail work dat at Luton Park. The plan is build 1-2 miles of new trail this weekend. The trail network at Luton is quickly becoming a local gem. Check it out.

The Hanson Hills Challenge is Sunday June 7. Hanson has long been one of the best XC events of the Michigan racing calendar.

There's a skinny tire highway bike race this weekend too. The Duck Lake Time Trial is Sunday.

The biggest event of the weekend is the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts. Here everyone refers to it simply as "Festival." If you've been craving Elephant Ears (funnel cake) cruise downtown this weekend to the Calder Plaza. But don't ride your bike. The police have been ticketing and harassing cyclists downtown for years during Festival weekend. Amazingly, after 40 years of closing the center of the city to cars one weekend every summer the powers that be still don't get it when it comes to bikes.

The center piece of Festival every year is one of Alexander Calder's pieces which resides in downtown Grand Rapids. The sculpture was the first piece of public art commissioned with public monies via the National Endowment of the Arts. While the sculpture is classic Calder, few of the locals even know that it has a name, "La Grand Vitesse." Around these parts most folks just call it "The Calder."

For a small city there is a lot of art in Grand Rapids. There's a brand new Art Museum. There's the sculpture park at the Fred Meijer Gardens, which is hosting a Calder exhibition that focuses on La Grand Vitesse. There's also the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, as well as Kendall College of Art and Design. Despite all of those institutions, it's Calder's sculpture that has become a visual icon for the city. So much so that it appears on everything, including the city's logo and flag.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Keep It Real

You wanna get to heaven? Mail me a $100. Or better yet use my Paypal account, cause most of my mail is junk and I rarely open any of it. Just don't fuck with Michael Dean Damron. Cause that dude is the real deal and something tells me he doesn't take well to being messed with.

Talk about the "real deal", I'm hoping soon to catch a new flick called Veer, a documentary about the growing urban cycling culture in the United States. There's a little piece of that culture festering here in the 616. Like the Tuesday night group rides at the brewery. And the Wednesday night road racing out at Gratten Raceway. And there's the over active local chapter of the MMBA, which just hosted Midwest Mountain Bike Summit. But there's also a lot of hipster kids getting into the swing of things. There's a weekly fixie night ride downtown, and they've found the Youtube and figured out how to sell T-Shirts online.

It's hard to tell how much of the "new" cycling culture is here to stay. I've seen a lot of trends come and go. Trends can vanish overnight. Skinny jeans and American Apparel Ts will disappear one day soon. But it's unlikely that it'll take the rest of our cycling culture with it. The folks who dedicate their time and energy into fighting the Horse Menace have already shown that they're in it for the long haul. Some of them have been fighting the good fight since the 1980s. Something also tells me that the commuter guy who rides down my street every morning at 7 am and every evening at 6 pm isn't riding his bike to work for the style props.

Like Michael Dean Damron belting out wicked tunes, there are those that will forge on for the love the bike. They ride because they have to. It becomes who they are. It keeps them sane. At the same time the trendy bits of cycling culture can't totally be written off. While a lot of those fixie kids will probably finish school and put away their track bikes in favor of conformity and suburban sunrises, some of them will get hooked. Like a punk in a high school garage band they won't be able to let it go.

On top of that there's the reality that can't' be ignored. The dominance of the car culture is on the wane. Peak oil, global warming and a seriously screwed up global economy may have finally turned the tide. Change will still come slowly. But it feels almost inevitable that car culture, once driven by the dominance of General Motors, will never been what it once was. Public transport and human powered transportation will fill in the gaps. The flavor and feel of cycling culture 20 or 50 years from now is anybody's guess. But when we finally get there I hope people look back fondly on these times, when cycling was small, fun and still something of a counter culture.

Until then, keep it real and don't forget where you come from.