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.

Fuck.

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.

Experience

 

watts dixon holiday wishlist for bikerumor 2017

That’s easy. All I think about these days… is getting back to Grinduro Scotland.

watts dixon holiday wishlist for bikerumor 2017

Jess (@lapsandlanes) careening down the munro, sans brakes

riding photos from grinduro scotland epic gravel road ride

Totally rideable.

Or… just to Scotland in general.

photo: Satchel Cronk

It’s multifaceted.

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.

Are ya dancing?

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)

photo: Kyle Kelley

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.

Please.

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 CrossKeystone 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.)

Mountain Bike

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?

Probably. photo: The Honorable Rev. Chris Merriam

(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 counted 23.

Or…

Orrrr….

… 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.

e-Bike

Are… you shitting me?

No.

Components

 

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.

Umm. Since when is a  trainer a “component?”

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.

This guy is actually probably 1000% cooler than me.

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.

preorder or the reorder coming son

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.

Shoes

Meh. Pass.

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.

Like Paradise, KY. Mr. Peabody’s coal train really did done hauled it away.

Finding good options for the hightop is hard. Something like this… as spotted at Grinduro Scotland.

Anyone know whose van this is? And where I can find this rack set up?

 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.

photo cred: (I’m looking. Any help would be appreciated. Thx!)

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.

We’re number one!

27 comments

  1. Sport on

    Dang, you may want to see if any of those gravel roads leads to a therapist. That being said, you made the most sensible gift guide of them all!

    Reply
  2. Dr Sweetschlitzstein on

    My favorite crassmas scree for the last few years. I’m looking forward to making it up the shop in the next few months whilst en route to see some punk rock trash in RVA I’m probably too old for. Happy New Years to ya and thanx.

    Reply
    • Watts Dixon on

      Tell me more about this punk rock trash in RVA, Doc. Because I’ve been looking for a reason to get back there. And you’re welcome anytime.

      Reply
      • Dr Sweetschlitzstein on

        Pissed Jeans whom have become one of my favs of the last few years are playing the Broadberry 3/3. I will be rolling out of north ATL on 3/2 and plan to make up your way in time for Fuck Ron’O clock. Thereafter onward to RVA that evening or the next morning depending on my state. Bringing my bike (duh) to roll the trails I cut my teeth on in the early 90’s when I was a naive schmuck at VCU with old friends and hopefully imbibe enough not to care about my questionable life choices since. We’ll talk. Party.

        Reply
    • Watts Dixon on

      Because hopefully, as sad and disappointing as it is, my written legacy strives to reflect real life (however poorly.)
      And also because I. Can’t. Seem. To. Stop. Myself.
      Help.

      Reply
  3. Sport on

    Crude & tmi, but at least honest. It feels like every time I look at a bike site I’m being sold some brown nosing b.s. marketing crap about ‘vertically compliant, new disc bb standard boost smile-inducing fat bike thru axle confidence-inspiring plus size’ bulllllllllsh*t!!!
    Shoot it straight bike industry!
    Make good products for a good price, and knock off the marketing bullsh*t.
    SHOOT IT TO US STRAIGHT !!!

    Reply
  4. Freewheeler on

    Watts… I think I may know what you need. And it’s because I needed the same thing, and finally did it. I prefer to remain anonymous, but we’ve met, at one of those ubiquitous bike industry gatherings. We haven’t talked much, but we have a lot in common. Age and generation. Confusion. Anger. A lifetime of doing bike industry stuff, for better or worse.

    I decided that on that last point, it was finally, plain and simple, for the worse. Worse for my health, worse for my friends and family, worse for my sanity, worse for even my love of bicycles. So after 20 years working for/owning shops, I ended it. Got out. Did something different, which I couldn’t have even imagined a year prior. It took several months to remember how I used to be – happier, more social, less “over it” concerning just about everything. Holy s#!t – I didn’t realize how far down the hole I was until I got out of it. You appear to be in that same place, and have appeared so for quite some time. You deserve better, simply because any person does.

    So, not to be presumptuous – but I know you’ve considered selling/closing/burning your shop to the ground (listed in order of good-idea status). Pick one and do it. The modern bicycle industry – particularly the retail side of it – is poisonous, particularly to the old guard. No matter how much we think we understand the new landscape, it’s never not going to suck when we get pumped for decades’ worth of experience just to have that guy show up on the shop ride with internet gear we recommended he buy (to use just one of a hundred scenarios we’re both all too familiar with). I have more dignity than to give my knowledge away when warm fuzzies don’t pay the rent, and so do you. I feel bad for my few, loyal, former customers – I truly enjoyed having a personal relationship with them – but not bad enough that it was worth continuing to ruin my life over. Let the “modern consumer” deal with the “modern shop” they’re creating. Few decent products, even less knowledge, and incredible amounts of marketing BS via the ever-market-share-consolidating large corporate brands that, well, specialize in selling less for more and having top-notch legal departments.

    Anyway. Something to add to what you’re already chewing over internally. Take it as you wish.
    -Sincerely, a former (and recovering) shop lifer

    P.S. If anyone takes offense to any of this, including Watts, BR, or members of the general public, I could not care less. It’s just my extremely well-informed and very personal opinion, and a genuine attempt to help a fellow human. If you’ve got some bone to pick, piss off.

    Reply
  5. myke2241 on

    Wait BR takes down every post with swearing it but they post a picture of a guy giving readers the finger…. come’on BR poor taste!

    Reply
  6. M-D on

    Really enjoyable read sir! Kind of hit a personal note for me because after a fair bit of time dragging my feet to the steel road bike party I bought the All-City bike you mention and show and have also enjoyed it about 1000 times more than I wanted to.

    Reply
  7. Alex on

    Nice, always enjoy reading what Watt’s has to say. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. Have fancy carbon mountain bike, really enjoy riding my old rigid steel Karate Monkey just as much, and it just looks so correct. My steel road bike with clearance for big tires and older 10spd components that can handle dirt paths is getting more saddle time than the carbon 11spd fancy euro road bike. Did any of the new stuff make my riding more fun? Keep up the good work man, don’t let the bastards drag you down.

    Reply

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