Falls Creek Falls

I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but if you’re feeling a bit blue, it’s probably because you haven’t ridden Falls Creek Falls in awhile. And I want you to know I understand. The Gorge is full of great rides or you’re coming from Portland and don’t want to cross the river. But look, it’s the end of August, and time to break out of your riding rut.

Last weekend I got to ride FCF. The 3 ways to do it are as a shuttle (not too shabby), an out-and-back (yuck), or a loop that starts with climbing the road up to the start of the trail(hmmm….)

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A lucky few will get to see an actual old man at Oldman Pass.

I’d only ridden it a couple times before, as a shuttle starting at Oldman Pass, but the gung-ho group I was with convinced me that riding up the road wasn’t-really-that-bad.  Plus, they argued, riding the road took just about as much time as shuttling so might as well earn our turns, right?

 

And while I’d never state this publicly, I actually enjoyed the ride up the hill. Though it certainly helped to have an early start to beat the heat, and great conversation partners.

The singletrack itself is dreamy. An exercise in moderation. No epic climbs. Not too much technical. Just flowy, swooping singletrack through gorgeous forests (a great place to practice your turns!) And sure, there was some dust, it’s mid-August afterall, but there were also sections with a bit of tacky dirt AND huckleberries!

To top it all off, a new, sweet sweet section of singletrack has replaced a big-ol-chunk of gravel road riding on FCF. Have you ever built trail before? It’s friggin’ hard. So go give some of your money to the folks at the Northwest Trail Alliance.

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BB getting ready to check out the new section of trail!

They built the new section (along with fantastic volunteers and partners) and it’s incredible. Banked berms, kickers, rocks and boulders thoughtfully placed, views, benches even! So much more than just connecting A to B. As of August 2016, the trail’s still pretty fresh, which means some extra dust and bumps – even more reason to give it a ride, pack it down, and help it get ready for the glory days. When you’re done, hop in the water to cool off, then grab a beer at Backwoods Brewing. Now, aren’t we all feeling just a little bit better?

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I heard from Mr. Andy Crump over at the NW Trails Alliance. He knows a thing or three about the new section of trail and pointed me to a recent NWTA newsletter that describes this epic, 5 year project to create 3.5 new, awesome, trail miles!

 

 

I’m right. You’re wrong.

I usually ride clipless, but this morning I borrowed a bike with flats. It was horrible. I rode awful. I wanted to blame the pedals. I had to blame me. It’s a totally different experience. I’m used to being connected to my bike. This morning my feet were on their own – free to do what they please – which was to slip and slide all over. When I asked a fellow rider, who prefers flats, for some advice she said that first off, it’s important to get “good pedals”. When I pushed for a bit more info she said that the “little grippers” on the flats can really make a difference. When I pushed a little more info she said “if the little grippers on the pedals hit you in the leg by accident, it should look like a cougar attacked you. That’s how you know it’s a good pedal.” And since she is a scientist, I consider this information to be scientific. But I digress.

Decision-making. We do it a million times a day. What to wear? Who to invite? Where to go? What to eat? How long for this? How much for that? Person to marry? Kids to have? And…then you’re dead.

It’s amazing we get anything else done in life besides decide, decide, decide. That’s why I’m here to help with at least one of those decisions –

flats vs. clipless pedals?

It’s a mountain biking decision as old as the hills themselves. From cavemen riding stone-wheeled steeds, and now, perhaps, to you.

To start, let’s make sure we’ve all got the basics. Flat pedals are flat. Usually with little grippers on them that keep your foot from slipping all over the place.flats_Funn-Funndamental-Platform

You can wear whatever shoes you want with these pedals, but there are shoes made especially for flat pedals (stiffer, grippier etc.)flat shoes_OCDEPClipless pedals are different. First of all, their name is a lot more confusing than flats. You actually do clip into these pedals – the name comes from them not having a toe cage – or toe ‘clip’.

(Clip & Strap sounds like a hipster S&M bar.)

Toe clip with strap.

(Clip & Strap should be a hipster S&M bar.)

 

With clipless pedals, you wear special shoes with cleats on the bottom. These tiny chunks of metal actually click into the pedal so you’re attached to the bike – until you twist your heel outward and disconnect them. Click!

So maybe you’ve done your research, read other blogs, pored over gear reviews, talked to your friends…and now, you’ve arrived here, exhausted and grateful that someone is finally going to just tell you what to freakin’ do!…Well then, you’ve come to the wrong place.

I don’t know what you were thinking. If you wanted someone to tell you what to ride there are two-zillion-gabillion blogs/websites/opinions out there telling you what to do. They’re likely written by folks with a lot more experience, and time to research, than I have. And I can guarantee you that whatever you decide, you will absolutely be able to find whatever reassurance you need to support your decision.

But hey, I did say I was going to help you make this critical decision, so here’s my advice – just get out and ride. If you’re on flats now, spend a week on clipless. If you’re riding clipless, throw on some flats. Borrow a bike, borrow some pedals, whatever. Then you can add your 2 cents to the interweb of opinions and decide for yourself. Now, stop wasting your time reading this blog and go hit the trails!

 

It’s all in the hips.

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I’ve been taking things too slow. Cornering, to be specific. Talk to someone who’s good at cornering and then do the opposite of what they tell you and that’s how I approach bends in the trail. I brake as I enter. I put my weight back. I go slow. Painfully slow. A snowboarding friend once told me to just “whip” the corners – I thought that sounded like so much fun and I imagined myself zipping in and using the centrifugal force to whip me out. Another friend said she’s been told boobs to bar (balls to bar for you gentlemen). But I’m not there yet. I’ve had the bike slide out from under me more than once and I’m a little gun-shy.

But I’ve been asking for advice – from friends, other riders, strangers (you?). How can I get better at high(er)-speed cornering? I wanna make it fun! My latest hope lies in 2 videos. I know, I know, but bear with me, I too, never imagined I’d watch videos about biking technique. But a guy in my office claimed that one of them CHANGED.HIS.LIFE (okay, maybe he just said “changed his riding”…but whatever) I was all ears.

So we’re working away in the office when the topic of biking comes up. Soon we’re talking about cornering, and the next thing I know, this guy is out of his chair, riding an imaginary bike! Okay, not like pretending to pedal it (though, that would have been awesome), but showing us how he’d learned to move his hips when hitting a turn. I loved it. This was the inspiration I’d been looking for! Unfortunately, I didn’t follow a lot of what he said, because I got caught up in trying the hip-shift myself and then it turned into a dance move… But boy did I made sure he sent me the video so I could focus on it at a later time.

Well, after many rides down Spaghetti Factory, cursing myself each time for taking the corners so damn slow, I finally watched the life-changing video.

Spoiler – my life hasn’t changed – yet. But I did learn a thing or two (hey, that’s what this is all about, right?) There’s something to this idea of the bike shifting and us shifting our hips to counterweight. I haven’t tried it much yet, but I’m hopeful.

And, in the process of watching the first video I also came across this one, which is nice because it shows guys actually on bikes, putting the move into action (plus there’s music and some British accents, which we can all agree makes things more interesting). Maybe one of these videos will change your life, or at least your riding. Let me know if they do, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Now, the only problem is my hips. I need to do some stretching.

Notorious R.B.G.

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I recently got to go on what I think is my biggest mountain bike ride ever – 36 miles. I got to do it with a group of amazing gals, which got me to thinking, we should probably talk about badass chicks.

The Gorge is full of them. I’d never met women like this before. Now I know girls that do things like go on 50 mile runs (disgusting!) or talk about twin-tip skis (seriously, I had no idea what they were either.) I have a friend who was an Olympic athlete, another was a National Team kayaker. I know a fellow mom who can rip-roar a snowmobile through the backcountry then hike for miles like a goddamn mountain goat. And just a couple months ago, a chick buzzed by me on a trail, going uphill – and she was only 14 years old!

So while we’re talking about badass chicks, let’s talk about Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I’ve not met her personally, but I think she’s about 4 foot 3, 200 years old, and one seriously tough gal. She sure laid into Donald Trump, but we all know it takes more than a few saucy phrases to make you truly badass.

Did you know that she was only the 2nd female to be appointed to the Supreme Court? And that wasn’t until 1993! Holy smokes, ladies. And, she fought her way through Harvard Law School with just 8 other women, in a class of 500, becoming the 1st female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review – all while the school’s Dean kept telling them they were taking the place of more qualified males. Boooo.

And if that wasn’t enough, while Ruth was going to law school she was also raising a child! And when her husband got cancer (he was also attending Harvard Law), she took care of their daughter, went to law school, AND took notes for her ailing husband, who went on to beat his cancer, and get a lawyer gig in New York City. Take that Dean-ie!

Still not convinced? Well how about the fact that she was tough enough to be friends with the late Justice Scalia – her ideological opposite? How many of us are friends with someone who’d make most of our other ‘normal’ friends want to vomit? Worried her advanced age has made her weak? Check out her workout program – it includes planks and 20 pushups. I haven’t done those since…

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So I’m officially adding the Notorious R.B.G. to my list of badass chicks (tangent: I find it hopeful that there’s a large enough cross-section of the general public who know both The Notorious B.I.G. and Justice Ginsburg to have had that meme take off). And, it’s because of her tenacity that we chose Ruth as the unofficial totem of our inaugural Epic Chicks Weekend Ride here in the Gorge (thanks ladies!…more to come on that).
See, I told you this blog was about mountain biking.

 

Ouch!

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Love hurts.

A friend once told me that if you don’t fall when you’re riding then you’re not pushing yourself enough. I get what she’s saying, but come on. This humdinger kept me off the trails for 10 days, and I don’t even have a good story for it. I was riding down sweet, sweet Kleeway here in Post Canyon. A trail I’ve grown to love. It was named after Matt Klee – a force for good in the Gorge riding scene, who unfortunately died in an accident before I ever got the chance to know him or give him kudos for all his hard work.

Kleeway is a swooping, hillside ride that moves from clearcut into forest. An alternate downhill route to the ever-popular Seven Streams. I’ve heard some grumblings from folks who don’t feel it’s accessible enough to all skill levels – ie. that it’s more advanced than they’d thought it was going to be – but I beg to differ. I have a blast riding it, even if I roll a lot of kickers and can’t even imagine gapping the gaps. Plus, since it’s a bit wider than your usual singletrack, you have a bigger landing pad when trying some of the smaller jumps.

I’d like to tell you that when I had my crash it was because I was shredding the trail like a pro – but, I wasn’t. I can’t even remember the exact spot where I fell. I didn’t black out, but I hit quick and hard. My bike and body were pile-driving my head into the dirt before I  had a chance to try and catch myself. Ouch. I lay there and groaned long enough to assess the situation. My riding group was long gone and fortunately, no one was zipping down the hill behind me.

I crawled back onto my bike and rolled the rest of the way down Kleeway. Once I hit the upper parking area I stuck to the road until I met my group waiting for me at the bottom. I didn’t feel like being tough and frankly, my knee had a big flap of skin hanging off that was really grossing me out. I got my group’s advice on preferred knee-pads (more on that in the future) and bid them adieu.

At home, my hubby tried to use our hose with a spray nozzle to clean out the wound, but the combination of pain, a messy gash, and 2 curious kiddos crawling on my achy bod, made me realize the job was not going to get done and the flap might just need some professional help. Off we went to the Emergency Room for some family bonding on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The nurse told me my knee looked “gross” and the doctor told me it looked like it had just “exploded” on impact. Thanks to some magic injections, a fancy cleaning syringe, and a tetanus shot, my knee was cleaned and stitched up in no time. And, of course, the best time to take your bike in for a tune-up is when you won’t be needing it for awhile. So off it went for a tune-up to get ready to ride another day.