Well, well, well, I’m back. I don’t have to say what’s been going on in my life that has kept me from writing. I could just say, “2020.” But honestly, other than the fear of contracting Covid-19, 2020 has actually been pretty darn good. It’s given me more time to focus, read, work from home, spend time with Chelsea, and ride my bike.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the way things used to be. You remember, back when they were normal. That was some stuff. I think that I’ve changed. My priorities are different, my views are more defined. I have more compassion and understanding for others as a result of the extra time that I’ve had to think. So, 2020 hasn’t been all that bad. It’s sort of been a good restart. Yes, I know I’m not the only one to say this but personally, I’ve turned a corner. I’ve grown disenchanted of traditional beliefs and the ascribed values that accompany them.
Because I’ve grown tired of consuming the negativity and seeing the awful I thought that I’d start using my blog as a place to share the happy and good that I see. To start putting joy into the world in hopes of brightening someone else’s day. My plan is to gradually leave the politically co-opted social media sphere and use the blog as a place to share. I’m not going to promote this at all this time around. No goal of this becoming a monetized side hustle. Just a place for honest, outside-focused, dirty fun! I may do race write ups, trip reports, gear reviews, recommend adventure spots, or just tell stories. I’ll probably also share too much.
So, here’s to a new beginning. Things are probably going to get worse in our country and world before they get better but at least we can spread some joy in the healthiest way possible. That’s the goal. Elevate the global joy, fun, and health level.
The stack of files is towering over my head and my desk chair is really cramping my style on this particular morning. My back and shoulders are super uncomfortable under my pressed white shirt and my tie is cutting off the circulation to my brain. You see, I’ve spent the weekend surfing, riding/racing bikes, and/or fishing. Oh bliss of bliss; having a life full of passions that involve entanglement with the natural world in ways that encourage mastery and conquest while never ceasing to remind you that you are only a mortal. The weekends come and I try my hardest to be wild and rad; to escape, and yet here I sit on an ever widening rear end; back to the grind.
Seventy-two hours ago the texts started rolling in: “4 hours until go time!” “Finally getting out of here!” Pictures of gear jammed into vehicles, grocery cart of weekend fuel, and trail maps blow up all of the phones on the group chat.
The stoke is high. Cars start pulling up and we can all feel the week’s stresses start to ebb away. Crack a beer, eat a coma-inducing meal, more maps, youtube slopestyle videos on the projector, finalize plans, water, bed.
Fourty-eight hours ago we debated the merits of a light breakfast during gear checks and coffee. Toys in tow we head to the trailhead and strap up and prepare to let loose.
It’s go time, the moment that everyone has been waiting for all week. Sure each and everyone of us puts in a few after work laps of some sort but this is the chance to shine. This is the opportunity to not be overworked or crunched for time. Today is the day where we can play ’til our hearts are content. We shred all the gnar; seek out the secret trout spot; and maybe if the wind is right we catch a wave or two.
Twenty-four hours ago I cheerfully whipped up a camp style breakfast of churro crepes and eggs while my wife and friends played with Copper; everyone anxious for one last late morning session.
We all knew what was coming the next day so we pushed ourselves one last time. But Sunday rides are sad. Not like pointless sad, you know? But everyone plays it safe. We make loose plans for the next round of awesomeness (at an undetermined future date), and ease back to the tame, civilized, version of ourselves.
Monday: The lunch hour comes and goes and still my bike rests in the back of my car. Another training opportunity squandered. On top of the missed ride I also smashed a fistful of redvines and another cup of office coffee. Refined sugar and caffeine: great fuel for the after work ride which will serve as a release and reminder of what I am and what I could be.
So what do I do? Well, I certainly don’t quit my day job because no one is going to pay to support a middle of the road weekend warrior’s pursuit of action-adventure sports mediocrity. (If you are willing to do this, and why wouldn’t you be, please slide into my DMs and we can talk).
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That leaves one real option: keep giving it hell. We’re not called weekend warriors for nothing. Not only do we train and strain for age group podiums, Strava KOMs, and the well-deserved beer and burritos which follow, but we also have to crush a full-on work week on top of it all.
So instead of a lament, let’s hear a battle cry from all of the weekend warriors out there. Get out there and do your thang you well-adjusted, slightly above-average doers!
So, that’s a wrap. The inaugural HAMR weekend is over. How’d it go? In a word: wild. We were up in the wilds being wildmen (and women) having wicked type-two fun.
Since I am only a little bit of a masochist I opted for the Team HAMR race this year. My partner and dear friend Adam flew in from Colorado to suffer right along side me.
The concept of this adventure was simple: 7 checkpoints total in a cool passport; 4 mandatory, 3 optional. The more checkpoints you hit the greater the time bonus when you hit the finish line. Twelve hours to get them and get back. Random wakeup time. Ready, set: GO. Part adventure race/ orienteering and part endurance cycling. Sprinkle in a little knowledge of the area and you have yourself an adventure.
My pre-race prep involved eating a burrito, drinking a few beers, and stuffing half a watermelon down my gullet.
Spoiler alert: I was one of the first people up to use the two porta-johns. This race-prep worked out well as I discovered the lights on in the race tent and some of the volunteers scurrying about. Win for Team Dirtbag Yuppie!
You see, the start time was random and my bubbly belly served me well by forcing me out of bed early.
“Africa” softly wafted through the loudspeaker while racers rubbed the sleep from their eyes. This song was the harbinger of things to come. Those blessed rains would come soon enough.
Adam and I took off toward the old 510 Bridge checkpoint in the same direction as the SledgeHAMR racers. (Those sick puppies did 186 miles). We rolled down to the checkpoint just as the sun came up, punched our passports and headed up 510 in the general direction of the next checkpoint. The watermelon demon again raised (or rather lowered) its ugly head and I was forced to make a pitstop at the pullout just before the new 510 Bridge. (Thanks MDOT for providing that one).
We headed north of CR 510 toward the Red Road.
The next checkpoint was south of Mosquito Gooch in the Mulligan Plains and the Red Road was the only way to get there. The steady light rain tamed the otherwise sandy road and made it nearly enjoyable. However, every time I started to get into a decent cadence I would get sucked into a sandy spot and reminded of the shortcomings of my 2.3″ tires. Adam and the fatty pounded on, mostly unfazed by the loose spots. Riding in nasty sand can be quite taxing and the roadside was loaded with wild blueberries so Adam and I took full advantage of nature’s bounty whenever we felt our energy dip. You know… every 5 minutes or so.
We turned north toward Mosquito/Mulligan and were immediately delighted to find that the road grew firmer with every rotation of our tires. We arrived at the very picturesque second checkpoint, punched our passports, and took some quintessential photos:
Surely, we thought that it would be time to start piling the miles on again now that we had solid trail under our tires. Unfortunately, we were sadly mistaken. We began to notice that we were climbing, which was to be expected, as we are in the Huron Mountain Range after all. However neither of us was prepared for what we encountered partway up the hill. As the road deteriorated into rubble we started pushing more and more.
Here’s Adam; he is suffering up some rocky crap. We saw many footprints of those who came before us. I thought it’d be fun to take a cute picture of him suffering. Shortly thereafter karma struck and mother nature rewarded me for my hubris. On the first descent following this enhanced climb, I tried a stupid shortcut. ‘Why ride around solid-looking mud when I could probably ride right through it?’ Big mistake. I shoulder-checked that mud puddle after going OTB. Rich, black, backwoods mud covered my helmet, jersey and most of the integral moving parts on the front part of my bike. Adam only heard my very manly screams as the mud consumed my pride. I washed my sins away at the Yellow Dog River crossing and we motored on.
After getting on the AAA road the checkpoints seemed to tick off with greater frequency. As we headed south on CR 510 on our way to the Wilson Truck Trail the rained picked up. (It rained about 5 of the 11 hours that we were on the course) After 15 minutes of hard rain on the well-packed CR 510 I turned around to apologize to Adam for dragging him out of sunny Denver to slop around in the cold wet midwest. My spirits were lifted and I knew that I picked the right co-pilot when I saw the smile on his face. He was soaking up the rain and sucking down gels with a side of sand.
We thought that we had lost our way en route to Wilson Truck Trail but ended up righting the ship with a little help from some friends on a tandem. (Thanks, eh?) There are few activities where competitors will come to each other’s aid. That’s one of the main reasons that I love riding mountain bikes and events like this.
Heading down, or east, on the Wilson Creek Truck Trail was a blast. We thoroughly enjoyed the creek crossings and even made a few stops to snap some semi-rad shots.
Letting gravity do the work in this section provided a welcomed reprieve from pedaling and gave us some time to recharge, chat, and eat more sugary gels and bars. This was also about the time that we both became oddly infatuated with the bag of Lays that was nestled in the van back at basecamp. We totally forgot about the free pasties but more on that later.
The last 22-ish miles and checkpoints 4, 5, and 6 are sort of a blur. This is mainly due to the fact that they were quite consolidated and close together compared to the first three checkpoints. The one that sticks out the most is Top of the World. Chelsea and I have made several trips out here and it was really cool to be able to show Adam the killer view of Lake Superior from this point.
After the final checkpoint dubbed “Chunky Summit” on some strange snowmobile/atv trail we emerged onto the Noque ski trail somewhere around the 17km marker. We made our way to the basecamp along a freshly flattened trail through the overgrown grass. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t sink mid-thigh in the “wet area” just before the bridges… At this point we were both rightly soaked and honestly I didn’t even notice the extra 3-4 pounds of mud that clung to my body and bike. (Why was I the only one that looked like an extra from Swamp Thing?)
The finish line at the basecamp came up quick and we had our passports cleared just shy of 11 hours in the saddle. Because we got 6 of 7 we received a 3 hour time reduction and ended up placing 5th of 20 teams. Not too shabby for all of the berries that we ate.
We finished up the party with a pastie, a gallon of ketchup, and a few bags of candy from our wives.
Something tells me that HAMR isn’t going anywhere. Like many endurance events, this one will probably get its own cult following and serve as jewel in many future crowns. I’d like to thank Beardsley and Todd for putting this great event on. I’d also like to thank Adam for making the trip out to ride bikes in poor weather, on an un-marked course, with this strange little man in the woods. Chelsea–thank you for supporting my childlike dreams and for putting up with my super loud trainer rides while you are trying to do yoga and achieve inner peace. Kathleen, thank you for the moral support, encouragement, and forcing Adam to pose for pictures. Michele, thanks for the Garmin and tutorial. Finally, thanks to Velodrome for allowing me to ride on Team Tamp Stamp and that dope little packet of instant coffee.
Oh yeah, that snorkel? The one from the famous #snorkdangle?
We didn’t friggin’ use it for anything substantive. We took a picture. I cannot wait to see what they make us carry next year.
The demands of modern society tether many of us to offices, desk chairs, and cubicles. These restrictions slowly nip away at your soul and cause serious burnout and mental fatigue if not treated properly. The mandatory course of treatment involves a release of some sorts. Breaking away from the day-to-day monotony that we are conscripted into. We need to connect to our inner animal, get back to to nature, and generally have fun with greater frequency.
I have been scratching that itch with microadventrues and everyday adventures. Initially I thought of these as staycations but have since expanded them into further-reaching places. Alastair Humphreys has written some truly inspirational stuff on the microadventure. Microadventures and everyday adventures have saved many workaday dudes and dudettes from lives lived only to fill up retirement accounts and garages with unused crap. I highly encourage using microadventures and everyday adventures to break life up. Doing so will greatly increase the quality of your life and truly allow you to lead a more inspired existence.
How the heck do you this?
Start small and do what you know. Week long trips are amazing. Weekend trips are great too. But what if instead of lamenting on how you only get one big trip a year you focused on your ability to do several lunchtime activities each week? Say you cut out a few minutes early and get a solid jog or spin around town in.
Make time for yourself. I totally get it; you need to respond to just one more email and refresh your Instagram feed just one more time before you go, and it is far too easy to schedule “working lunches,” but you need to carve out some “you time” more often.
Don’t spend extra money. We could all use lighter gear and that would surely make us faster which would definitely lead to sponsorships and the ability to shove our jobs and do _______ professionally… hold your horses man. Why don’t you start by strapping on those perfectly good running shoes that have seen more bar rail time than trail time and just get out there. No matter what the pro shop bro’s tell you, new gear will not greatly enhance your experience. Commit to the bit and then upgrade as necessary.
Keep it local. Sure a yearly ski tour trip or backpacking excursion that you painstakingly plan and save for for months are great. But you would be amazed by the extra outdoor time you could log if you focused more of your time on enjoying those things which are just out your backdoor. Super cliche, I know; but face it: those 50 trips to the local, bombed out single-track will keep you out of the gym and in prime shape for your big trip to climb fire roads and blast the descents. Furthermore, by increasing your local participation you get a chance to shape the local scene and increase the experience for everyone.
Research your options. Make sure you have a general idea before you dive in. But pay special heed to the next point.
Stay out of your own way. Don’t get hung up on the fact that you haven’t biked, hiked, jogged, fished, skied, swam… in weeks or months or ever. Just do it. The first few times will suck and then it will get better, I promise. We put up far too many mental road blocks and yours are holding you back.
Turn your notifications off. No explanation needed.
Do things by yourself. Getting together with other people to partake in your favorite pastime can be a reward thing, it can also be distracting and difficult to organize due to everyone’s tight schedules. This often leads to people giving up altogether and not doing anything. Wrangling your own schedule can be enough hassle: so get it under control and just get out there. You will be surprised by what solitude will do for you.
Get a headlamp and use it. The Earth gets dark; don’t let that keep you from enjoying yourself.
I personally like to hit the trails before work. I find that it sets a good tone for the day. If you get after it early in the morning it puts your head on right for the rest of the day and everyone around you prospers from your enhanced mood and vibes.
I have also been trying to insert microadventures and activities into my daily life as often as possible. This can include a simple walk to the lake at lunch, mid-afternoon bike ride or ski, or an early morning session at the river before heading into the office. Sometimes you have to just book off a day and really get out there though and we do that once in a while too. I admit that this is much easier given my occupation and the beautiful area in which I live. The Upper Peninsula and upper Midwest just lends itself to the microadventure state of mind.
It’s no secret that I love Michigan. The Great Lakes play a large role in that equation. Their vastness and depth are a mirror for the soul. Many a writer has attempted to put their beauty into words. Few have come as close as Jerry Dennis has with The Living Great Lakes. (TLGL)
This book is an informative series of tales woven into the narrative of the author’s trip through the Great Lakes on the Malabar, a tall ship out of Traverse City, Michigan.
Dennis, an accomplished American author, writes rather matter of factly in a manner which feels like a regular guy telling you of his travels over a beer. He gives lessons on the history of man-made features as well as the geological happenings and cycles that shaped the region. His use of everyday language makes TLGL approachable, understandable, and very pleasant. The reader learns and is entertained at the same time.
I especially appreciate how he explains what certain groups are doing to protect this awesome ecosystem! His lauding contains subtle warnings about environmental issues plaguing the Lakes without being too preachy.
I read this book with a map pulled up at all times on my computer, I loved to find the places that he was talking about, then I would Google the story, or the area that he was describing and get lost researching the topic. While the book reads quite quickly, if you take the time to delve into the side stories and look up the events that Dennis writes about you will find yourself taking a little longer than usual. The extra time is worth it because it will only enrich your overall experience.
Since reading I have amassed a list of places and events that I would like to check out due to their descriptions in the book:
The Witching Tree
The Snow Wasset
More of Sleeping Bear Dunes
The Manitou Islands
and so many more…
This book describes the Great Lakes region with such familiarity that any reader will feel at home, even if you have never been near them. The familiarity is achieved through anecdotal additions which cause each story to ring true. I especially enjoyed the references to the places where I have played since my youth: Manistee, Arcadia, Traverse City, Mackinac, and Leelanau. Now that I have moved to the Upper Peninsula I am rereading the book to see what new flames it stokes.
Guests to the area: I suggest you read this on your trip or before, it will provide you with a wealth of information and history of the area. It may also serve as a jumping-off point for your trip.
Residents of the area: I suggest you read this book, enjoy it thoroughly and research the stories. You will discover things about your town/ area that you would never have found before.
Pick this book up as soon as you can; read it; get inspired; start exploring.
The weather has started to turn in the northern regions and no doubt you are starting to think about putting your bikes away for the winter. You may be considering giving fat biking a shot because they seem to not be a fad and let’s face it; months of hanging out in the gym just isn’t the same as outdoor exercise. I needed to keep my spinning outside in order to maintain for next season.
I was at that same place last year. While I love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, neither of them provides me with the same pleasure as biking.
After seeing fat bikes on the trails and all over the internet I thought that I might like to give them a try. I researched them online, went to local bike shops to drool, and finally came to two conclusions: first, I had to have one; second, I could not afford a brand new name brand bike. I searched the fat bike classifieds on Facebook and my state mountain biking forum (check this place out if you are in Michigan or the surrounding states, it is very well organized) but could not find anything suitable or more importantly in my price range.
After much thought and time I succumbed to the allure of Bikesdirect.com (BD). I have been led to believe that these are garbage bikes with all knockoff parts and factory seconds that will crumble underneath you leaving you alone in the woods. This was probably perpetuated by my much older biking friends who had seen many local bike shops close up with the rise of the internet bikestore.
Against their better judgment and with the mindset that it was better to be out riding than sitting around waiting for something to fall into my lap I took the plunge. I looked at the specs on their site and cross referenced it with many posts from the MTBR Sturgis Forum and finally came to the conclusion that the Motobecane Sturgis Bullet w/Bluto could not be beat.
While most of the offerings from BD use more economical technology like QR axles, square-taper bottom brackets, and loose-bearing hubs, this was not the case with the Sturgis Bullet. The Bullet is not the entry-level Sturgis (but even that bike comes with a much better component setup than most). An updated component list can be found here. (PS looks like if you pick up a 2016 model year you can save $200!)
Shipping was much quicker than BD approximated which was welcome news to me. I rushed home on my lunch to unbox my new toy. Assembly was very quick: bolt the front wheel on; adjust the stem and bars; and check and lubricate the moving parts. It took me about 45 minutes but if I wasn’t so interested in inspecting each part it would have been more like 10.
I started off with a simple shakedown cruise on the beach along Lake Superior. I braced myself but was quite impressed at how the fat tires floated over the loose sand.
Since that initial ride I have taken my Sturgis across many different types of terrain on many rides. The only changes that I have made have been to the fit, I am constantly adjusting all of my bikes in this department. Other than that I have found the stock components to perform very nicely. The thru axles provide stiff, reliable handling even on the flowy trails in Marquette. The Bluto fork is really all that it’s hyped up to be. As if the big tires aren’t plush enough a little bit of suspension goes a long way when climbing and descending chunky rock sections. SRAM x7 provides a hardworking, no-frills drivetrain option. This year’s version comes with NovaTec hubs however it comes with lighter MuleFut hoops.
I was initially worried about two things when purchasing the Bullet: the tires and the brakes. The tires are Vee Rubber Snowshoes. They are allegedly 4.8″ but I measure 4.5″. They are not aggressive by any stretch of the definition. While on the road in between sections of trail they definitely have some rolling bias which makes me feel uneasy. Not that they are going to pop out from under me but at high speeds they tend to wander a bit. On dirt single track the tires perform fine; stable and predictable with low rolling resistance. On the snow however, they are quite bad. The tread pattern is not wide nor aggressive enough to give any bite. On truly hard-packed snow they will start to spin when climbing, especially if you get out of the saddle. On bermed and unbermed corners they slip from time to time. The real shortcoming is that their pattern lacks the ability to really tear through and give you dependable purchase in the snow. This winter season I will be switching to something with bigger knobs.
Tektro Draco brakes were definitely one of the areas where BD economized to get this build under budget. Brakes are normally something that I upgrade because honestly your life depends on them. I have had multiple sets in my cart and different times for the Bullet but after a full year of use I will not be changing the Draco out any time soon. After the initial wear in they have proved themselves to me. They lack the subtle modulation of more expensive brakes but give quite a bit of confidence in all conditions. I was more than a little nervous that they would fail me in some of the -15F conditions but they continued to work through the ice, wind and salty road crossings.
It rocks every season and most conditions. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. This bike has been ridden pretty hard this year and continues to hold up. It corners surprisingly well and is extremely playful for such a fat pig. Once I upgrade the tires it will be ready for another Winter of ripping. This is definitely a gateway bike. It showed me that fat bikes are totally capable and fun to ride year round. I am considering a full suspension fatty next. The Farley EX is currently on top of the list, any Trek riders out there?
We are also looking at the new Motobecane Sturgis NX. Chelsea has ridden mine and finds that the Bluto adds too much height for her to comfortably ride. This year’s version contains many upgraded parts and we cannot wait to check it out. Once we pick that up we will compare and contrast.
TL;DR: Great high-performing, economical way to get into the fat bike market.
Please feel free to ask questions or add your own comments or recommendations below. Fellow Sturgis riders, what changes have you made to your ride?
This morning while going through my mail I came across the cable bill. Instead of just eyeballing the charges and paying it I decided to do something that I should have done a long time ago. I decided to cut the television portion of the programming. We couldn’t afford to have television and internet while in grad school so we went for many years without. However, when we purchased our home we were lured into a sweetheart deal combo-pack with television and internet. I never felt like I really got my money’s worth out of the television portion of the package because we only watch a half hour of local news, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
So, having thoroughly assessed our television usage and weighed the costs we decided to get rid of television. The customer service rep at the cable company was very nice when the conversation started. She offered to cut the cost by $35 while still offering the same package. When that didn’t work she offered other lower level packages to try to keep our television box humming. Finally when I said that all I want is the internet and no television for the 9th time she asked me the most absurd question: “what’re you going to do when you get home from work?” She was very concerned about whether or not I would be able to discuss Game of Thrones at the watercooler, or how I would find out which team threw a tanned piece of animal hide through the other team’s goal. The fear and urgency in her voice was a terrifying marker of our society’s leisure-time activities. To be honest, her simple question really hurt my feelings; did she really think that we would sit at home and have staring contests while slowly losing our minds waiting for the next “tv+internet bundle” to come out?
Me, clearly waiting for the new season of Catfish.
If I hadn’t been so shocked by her question I would have had a much better answer for her. Instead I told her that I like to spend my time away from the office outside playing, riding my bike, and fishing. I should have asked here what she does when she gets out of work. I should have invited her over for a weekend to see how to LIVE a little bit.
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This is how we do.
In retrospect, her question ignited a little introspection which lead me to this: What do we do when we get home from work? Well, for starters we:
squeeze every last little drop out of the time that we have been given;
seek out out-of-the-way places and experiences and try to inspire others to get outside and enjoy our great creation;
geek out over outdoor gear;
read a book;
do some self-directed study; and
support local businesses, causes and environmental groups;
In short; we are going to LIVE our lives and we hope that you will too. Get out there and experience things. But always remember that Netflix and Hulu will be there for your cheat days.