I woke up last night drenched in sweat.
True, I’d consumed more spicy lentils and injera bread than any human ever should in one sitting (ever), and had spent the last few hours effectively dutch-ovening myself into a near coma… but it wasn’t that. I’d awoken with numbers etched in my head. Negative numbers. The carbon shadow of a bank-statement blasted across the crumbling brick wall of what passes as my brain. A balance in bold red, punctuated by a minus sign. This miasma of failure following me out of sleep into wakefulness. Real or imagined, it didn’t matter. It was there to stay.
I flipped the pillow over, briefly pressed my cheek into its coolness. Tried to think about sunshine and skin and flirty, complicated smiles. And finally sat up. I wasn’t going back to sleep any time soon. So I turned on the bedside light and, in one of the small moleskin journals I carry everywhere, made a list. Things that mean something and things that don’t.
Sunshine and skin were on the former. Money and “stuff” were on the latter.
Nonetheless, here’s a list of stuff. Albeit mildly abstract. Because apparently, ’tis the season.
Goddamn, the holidays stress me out.
That’s easy. All I think about these days… is getting back to Grinduro Scotland.
Or… just to Scotland in general.
To say that I’m disappointed and disillusioned in my country at the moment is understatement to a degree I can’t effectively communicate. And I’m not a particularly political animal, regardless of whatever poorly informed opinions I express to the contrary.
But the fact is… I don’t really feel at home here anymore. I just… don’t.
That could be me just being the feral dingus I am. I don’t feel at home anywhere, if we’re being honest (and we are).
But it’s also Scotland.
That place… that wet, craggy, irascible fucking place… It wedged its way into my head and chest. And I say that as a person who, above all else, craves heat and exposure. Sun and sky. Not protean dreich. Of all the places that move me, the desert is pinnacle. Red rocks and sun baked scrub. But damn… Scotland. I admit, I fell in love a wee bit. So much so that the girl I live with (underwear dancing Instagram sensation, @darahands) and I have recently begun to talk about finally getting married.
To other people.
Specifically, people who live in Scotland. (Now accepting applications)
We’ll figure the rest out once we get there.
In any case, that event… that wet, messy, beautiful shitshow of a bike ride around the Isle of Arran… was one of the absolute highlights of my year. The people I met… the landscape… the format… the whisky drenched dance party in a high school gymnasium afterward… I loved every fucking minute of it. Even when I was shaking so hard from the cold that I could barely hold my beer.
I don’t doubt that the California event is amazing in it’s own way. But I’m not a part of that cool-kid cabal. It doesn’t resonate.
But Scotland does. Midges be damned.
(Look for my upcoming feature: Grinduro Scotland: Pure Heavy Beautiful Here Man)
Road, Gravel or Cyclocross Bike
I have a complicated relationship with gravel.
I love it. But goddamn does it vex me. Which is to say that I love the act: Falling apart on a dirt road. Exploring where they go (even if it’s just a dead-end at a not-quite-abandoned methlab.) The lack of traffic. The solitude. Even.., the “challenge.
But come on…
Even when I’m feeling at my most blindly euphoric (rarely) and hopelessly emo (often) about being lost on a gravel road, I still recognize how ultimately selfish an endeavor it is. Please let us not use it as yet another bullshit way to self-aggrandize who we are and what we do as hairless apes. Please let us not pretend that we accomplished jack-shit aside from the successful killing of yet another day in an existence the prime tenor of which is absurdity. Please let us not make it into yet another hipster Joel Osteen sermon in the already ubiquitous feel-good-about-ourselves Cult-of-Entitlement.
Ahem… that said, (whatever that was) I will lovingly and joyously be participating in numerous gravel events this year… among them The Croatan Buckfifty, The Bootlegger 100, Dirty Kanza, (where’s MY trading card, damnit?!) Pisgah Monster Cross, Keystone Gravel. (along with my long standing threat to show up at Rebecca’s Private Idaho…)
…and what I really want is for Mark Weaver to build me a bike to do them on.
Singlespeed ready (but easily gearable, if so desired). Segmented steel fork (I’ll accept carbon, but “meh…”) Thru-axle front and rear (for some reason?) Paragon rockers (I guess?) Four bottle mounts (daddy’s thirsty?) Clearance for up to a 45 (or whatever). Then I want Snakehawk (aka @champagne_rodman) to gussy it up with a Keith Haring meets the Illuminati motif.
Then, there’s this thing.
There is, I am fully aware, the distinct possibility that some (if not most) of my animus toward gravel comes from the complete lack of any easily accessible length of it in my neck of the woods. And what’s there is rapidly disappearing. Which is problematic, right? Because where are affluent white people supposed to ride their expensive bikes and feel good about how super brave they were by doing so?
Regardless, road-riding proper is still a huge part of what I do. And I admit… I liked the All City Mr. Pink approximately 1000 times more than I wanted to. (Paint job be damned.) Light and snappy enough to try and beat the shit out of your friends on a hill-climb… but sensible enough to be made of steel and run 28’s with ample clearance. It’s the perfect bike for the kind of riding I typically do… which transitions between 70% road and 20% gravel as I try to get lost in the sprawling ranch-house-hell of the Piedmont. No easy task. (The remaining 10% is a mystery.)
I get the new geometry… I do. Long and slack and tight and tukt and whatthefuckever. It’s fun. It’s playful.
But as undeniably goofy a character as I may be, I am neither fun nor playful. (Ask anyone.)
And as ever… I seem to want a thing that doesn’t currently exist. At least, not anymore, and not in a widely available form. Like wanting a live stegosaurus.
I want a quality steel singlespeed. Rigid. 29er. Made, ideally, of Reynolds 853. Thru-axle front and rear. Easy clearance for 2.4’s. It can be boost, sure. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be routed for a dropper post, but I’m probably not installing one. Did I mention rigid?
Why is this so hard to find? Did Dicky and I effectively kill singlespeed at TSE this year?
(Look for my upcoming feature: The Transylvania Epic: Singlespeed’s Not Dead, It Just Deserves to Die.)
The closest thing to what I want, currently, is the Surly Karate Monkey. A bike that has been out for approximately 1000 years and honestly answers the question: What kind of bike should pretty much everyone on the planet ride?
I just… don’t need all those nipples. Goddamn this bike has a lot of nipples.
… I can just get Circle A to come out of anarcho-retirement and build me a gravel bike (so that I can, you know… smash it up). And then I’ll get Mark to build me this bike instead so that I can “win” TSE again this year. Because I don’t know if you know this or not… but I’m a “badass on a bike.” I know it’s true because I read it on ALL HAIL THE BLACK MARKET.
Are… you shitting me?
Confession: I’ve been riding the trainer lately. A lot. I know… you think I’m a “ride outside or die!” kind of guy. But the fact is… in the winter, I actually enjoy the trainer. Yeah… Enjoy.
I harp on about this often, but winter in this region is not punctuated by any real change. I don’t get to transition into fat-biking or snowboarding. It’s just more of the same… but colder. The trainer is some level, however depressing, of change.
I can’t imagine a world in which I purchase a smart control trainer… or get on zwift… as that seems like TOO much of an investment in tethered cycling. But I do have a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine with a little power doohickey stuck to the back.
And I dowloaded this INRIDE app. And…well… I’ve been kind of digging it. Because if I have limited time, I can pick some random bleed-out-of-your-eyeballs-hard interval workout from the app, and turn myself inside out for an hour while I listen to a podcast or watch an episode of Black Mirror. And for the moment at least, I like that more than yet another stopsign cruise through garbage suburbs. You know?
So, for two months out of the year, yeah… I ride my trainer a few times a week. With “power.” The only time that word enters my vernacular. And then, once it gets warm out, I stop. Because… why? (Also because I don’t have air conditioning in my house. And that shit gets hot real fast, let me tell you).
(Breaking news: Apparently I’ve been riding the trainer so much lately that I now have a hemorrhoid. So may you all.)
(More breaking news: It might not be an actual hemorrhoid. Developments as they arise)
Clothing & Gear
Sometimes I feel like a hold out… in that I still like riding in a kit. Which is a little odd, I suppose, considering how much I resisted the spandex thing when I first started riding. Cutoffs and a t-shirt were sufficient. Vans in toe-clips. And when I got hot, I’d take that t-shirt off and tie it around my handlebar. You know… so that I could work on my sweet tan.
And sure, it’s a little ridiculous to dress up like a superhero every time I ride a bike more than 20 miles. But it’s better than looking like you’re going to a fucking paintball tournament.
I love a good kit. And I love designing them, even when I don’t have the money to make most of them actually happen. Like my super-limited release “kitchen-wallpaper-from-the-house-I-grew-up-in” kit.
On the apparel front, I’m currently crushing pretty hard on the ORNOT stuff. Simple but striking. Made in the US. Mix and matchable.
I just hope I look as good as they look in it.
Off The Bike
I want some sort of roof rack, side mount or otherwise, for my van. Some easy way to carry surfboards to all the beautiful places I travel.
Finding good options for the hightop is hard. Something like this… as spotted at Grinduro Scotland.
Three Small Things
Zandar and Zarana.
I was fairly obsessed with toys as a kid. Especially what I called “figures.” The more ancillary and odd the character the better. And to this day, if I come across a yardsale bucket of 80’s toys, more often than not, I can’t help myself. I will pillage it looking for Powelords, Star Wars, Blackstar, He-Man, GoBots, Dungeons and Dragons, Micronauts, GI Joe, Crystar, Shogun Warriors…
It’s… a problem.
But I have yet to stumble across these two anywhere.
Oh, come on… you know Zandar and Zarana? You have to. Color-changing siblings of Zartan: Master of Disguise? Leader of the Dreadnoks? Ring any bells?
Jesus… Act like you know.
A Chest Piece.
You know. The one I’ve been overthinking for the past ten years. The one @champagne_rodman and I can’t seem to find time to get together to draw on my gnarly, overpec’d, yet strangely collapsed chest. A big sprawling Melville inspired tattoo.
And if Casey and I can’t get our shit together, then maybe just a tattoo from Daniel Higgs. You know… of two pants fame?
Also of Lungfish fame? .
Or at the very least, a beard like Daniel Higgs.
An end to the race to the bottom.
Can we either just fucking get there already, so that we can dig ourselves back out?
Or just… stop?
Can online discount fucks stop devaluing everything they sell in the name of a quick buck? And can vendors stop enabling them?
Can we stop pretending like soulless lack of contact with other humans is really the direction we want to see commerce go? Or that it’s healthy or even viable in the long-term?
Can we stop chasing dollars (you fucks!) and start chasing connections? Because that’s pretty much all the human race has going for it.
That and the infinite amount of wisdom I personally have to offer, of course. Join me.
Merry Xmas, y’all.