Dropper Seats & DIY Arm Warmers

This post is all about saving you money (and life).

As some of you may know (though don’t feel bad if you didn’t, cuz now you will) when you are about to ride a bunch of downhill on your mountain bike, it’s common practice to lower your seat. This is done for a handful of reasons that I’ll get into at another time – but trust me, it’s just better. When the downhill is done, you move your seat back up to your ‘normal’ riding height for climbing or cross-country riding. It’s way more comfy that way.

My first few years riding, I just opened my little quick-release lever on my seat post, pushed/pulled the seat to the right height, locked it back again and was on my way. No biggie, right? Totally. Which is why the first time someone told me about dropper-seats on mountain bikes I thought it sounded ree-diculous. (What’s a dropper seat? Well if you haven’t been to my handy-dandy-factually-questionable Glossary, you should pay it a visit. You’ll learn about everything from dropper seats to when it’s best to Ride the Lightning©.)

Okay, so Ridiculous Dropper Seats. Who needs em? They sound all fancy pants. They sound like something that would break easily. They clearly aren’t necessary since I’m already able to raise and lower my seat just fine. Another bike gadget that this pragmatic gal will pass on – thank you very much…

How wrong I was. Dropper seats are gonna save you money, and save your life.

Whoa, hold up – how does spending between $150-300+ (installation not even included!) on a stinkin’ seat post end up saving you money?! Here’s how. When you have to stop and adjust a seat by hand, sometimes you do it and sometimes you don’t. Which means not as much fun on the downhill, and (this is where the savings come in) doing a number on your knees by riding with a seat that’s too low for too long. Over time, that damage accumulates. Before you know it, you’re turning 40, 45, 50. You have regular appointments with a physical therapist. You’re buying neoprene sleeves to wear on your achy knees. You’re stocking up on Ibuprofen and drinking more beer to help ease the pain as you reminisce about the good ole’ days when your knees didn’t hurt after a ride. It’s all money down the drain, and it’s all because you wouldn’t invest in that damn dropper seat post. Not only that, you start adding up the seconds it’s taking you to adjust your seat manually – minutes if you have friends there heckling your analog ways – and you are literally losing bits of your life each and every time. You deserve better.

So next time you go to grab that quick-release lever, remind yourself that you’re worth it. Go get a dropper, save some money, and save some life.

And here’s a little bonus tidbit of goodness…

Now that you’re buying dropper seats, it means you’re probably also buying yourself expensive wool socks. And then, because you don’t have that many pairs of $20+ socks cuz that’s a lot of money for socks, you wear that one pair all. the. time.

And then, before you know it, that one pair gets a damn hole in the toe and you’re like, “What the hell, these are $22 socks! They should last forever!” And you feel like crap and can’t even imagine throwing them away, but you’re not gonna darn them anytime soon (do people still darn?) and so you think you’ve just poured money down the drain, but you haven’t!

Go grab a pair of scissors, snip off the toe, give those fancy wool socks new life and put em on your arms for chilly rides. Now you’ve got yourself some sweet, super fashionable, highly functional, bad-ass arm warmers! The heel of the sock even fits real nice on your elbow. And every time you look down at those cool sock arms as you push the button to lower your dropper seat you’ll feel proud.


Logging in Upper Post Canyon

Logging has begun in the Post Canyon neighborhood of Dirt Surfer. I don’t know the upper trails that well, but you can see in the photos/video where we finally ran out of trail and met the clearcut (which was in progress this morning, Sept. 24, 2016).


I’ve not had a chance to do much research or thinking on the topic of clearcuts and our mountain bike trails, which is what I’d want to do before I say much more. But I will point you to an older post (2012) by Temira (an excellent source of all things outdoor/play/weather in the Gorge) that takes a deeper look at logging and trails. I’d be interested to hear thoughts/facts/experiences from others who follow this more closely.

And, it’s a great reminder for all of us riders/hikers/runners who use these trails to give some time or money to HRATS (Hood River Area Trail Stewards) – who do so so so much to build, maintain, and advocate for our amazing trail system. Just consider the number of hours you spend on our trails, multiply that by the health benefits, whoops of joy, and good clean fun that these trails provide us all and it’s worth every darn penny.


Siouxon/Huffman Peak Loop

First things first. I don’t have a Twitter account, but if I did I would be using LOTS OF CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!! in my tweets (how many characters do I get?) Because, for all you rad riders who’ve been surfing the end-0f-summer moondust on our local Hood River trails, the tide has turned! Our rain dances have paid off. There’s some tackiness on them thar trails. So get out and ride my people!

Yes, fall, sweet fall, has finally arrived. Our trails renewed, our souls rejoice. A truly magical time of year in our Pacific Wonderland. But, as with all things, there is a downside. With fall comes the eventual snow, which means the end of riding high-elevation trails. So, keep an eye on the blog for some trip reports in hopes that you’re able to escape to the epic highlands before winter descends.

TRIP REPORT: Siouxon/Huffman Peak Loop

Just as I was re-discovering my love of Falls Creek Falls, I was goaded into heading even further afield to ride the Siouxon/Huffman Peak Loop up in SW Washington. I went to sleep assuming I’d be heading up to FCF the next day, and awoke to a text from my riding buddy informing me she was on her way and the plans were set for Siouxon.

“No rush!” She said. “And, no choice”.
Followed by, “I have cookies.”

Peer pressure + cookies. She knows me well. So off we went to Siouxon. Before long, we were winding our way on gravel backroads into the hills of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This felt epic! Out in the middle of nowhere! Huge, axle-sucking potholes to navigate! Not another soul in sight! Team Intrepid, bada bing bada boom!

And then, just as quickly as it had come, our Spirit of Adventure began to fizzle. Around the bend we go, and there’s a cute family camping. A few more turns, more campers. Then a group of 6 cars. Then more cars coming and going. And finally, oh finally, the Siouxon Trailhead. Totally packed with cars. Where the hell had all these people come from? It is so deflating when you are sure you are Living on the Edge, only to find out that so are grandmas with walking sticks, a handful of small children, and a bunch of perky families and their dogs…geesh.

Okay. Okay. Time to regroup. We would not let this get us down. We’d driven too far. We’d somehow found a parking spot. So we loaded our bags with plenty of snacks and
water. And hit the trail.


Oreos shoved into the mesh pocket on the side of your pack seems like a really bad idea…until you’re a couple hours into a 22 mile ride.


Finding toy cars in your bike bag –  standard practice.

It. Was. Beautiful. Flowing single-ish track (a bit wider perhaps). The occasional fun root section, not much up, not much down. Waterfalls. Big trees. And a whole-lotta people. We passed only one other biker – he was on his way out and said to us, a bit too loudly, “It’s not worth it. There’s just too many people.” Determined, we carried on and soon came to a bridge, followed by a creek, and then a waterfall. Hmmmm…things were getting good. With icy water up to mid-calves, we crossed the creek and headed up to a trail junction. (Be sure and bring your maps and directions, folks. We left ours safely in the car and had to snap a photo of one courtesy of a friendly hiker.) Just a handful of miles into the ride, and the crowds had entirely disappeared. Now, this is what we’re talking about.

You may have noticed that in the name of this ride there are 2 words, Siouxon and Huffman, followed by the word, peak. As you might imagine, anytime you have the word peak preceded by multiple names, you are gonna do a helluvalotofclimbing. In this case, almost 6000 feet of climbing. We knew this was coming and now, just as the crowds had dissapated, the incline had appeared.


The great thing about having to walk your bike is you can take pictures at the same time.

Still fresh, we started to ride up the hill, but it wasn’t long before we had to dismount and walk. This might be a good time to let you know the definition of hike-a-bike. Hike-a-bike is when you go on a hike and bring your bike along. It’s kind of like bringing a dog on your hike; it keeps you company and you don’t have to worry about picking up poo. It’s also what you do when the trail is so darn steep, or you’re so whooped, that you just have to walk along pushing your bike. For those venturing to S/H Peak, plan on a lot of this. Even you super fit folks will find plenty of opportunity for head-down bike-pushing.

So right now, as you sit back in your chair, wondering why anyone would bump their way to a far-off trail, packed with people, to walk their bike up a 6000′ of incline, I want you to consider something – this is exactly what makes mountain biking so friggin’ incredible.

Regardless your skill level, your fitness, your age, whatever, mountain biking will get you out exploring places you might never go to otherwise. And with your 2-wheeled stallion, you’ll be able to go further, faster, even if you have to hike some.

After enjoying the view from the top of Siouxon Peak (well hello there Cascade Mountains) you will soon begin your descent. And, as you may have guessed, if you come up 6000 feet, you will also get to go down 6000 feet. Swooping turns, massive trees whizzing by as you rip-roar through a gorgeous forest on flowy singletrack. Any doubts you had about the ride will disappear. With one final stream crossing you’ll do a bit of up-and-down over drainages as you make your way to your car (note: the Siouxon/Huffman link above suggests parking at a different location that’s before the official trailhead. We, however, preferred the route we got by parking at trailhead, in which you’d take a left instead of a right at the junction following the final creek crossing. Either way, you ride it all, it’s just a matter of when you’ll ride the section that goes up and over multiple little drainages – at the start or the end, as we did, of the ride.)

By the time we were done, we wondered if Siouxon/Huffman Peak trail might be a bit like labor; you do it and then you say “boy, I never wanna do that again.”

And then, before you know it, you find yourself thinking..hmmm…that wasn’t really so bad. In fact, that was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever done…I think I might just do it again. 

(*Thanks Kristen. And a very belated happy birthday. Next time we’ll hike…errrr…ride this together.)

(**No Mom, the final sentence about labor and babies is not me telling you that I’m pregnant. nor planning to be pregnant again.)

Getting Pumiced and Folked Up in Sisters + Sandy Ridge Bonus Ride

** Join Tracy, (a fantastic first Guest Contributor on Learning to Ride!) as she heads to Sisters, Oregon and then the Sandy Ridge Trail to celebrate
a couple o’ decades of sweet sweet love’. **

Hi! I’m Tracy, Sarah’s mom friend who she sees at Drop Off and Pick Up, and at Andy’s 40th Birthday Party. Sadly, those aren’t trail names, although Andy’s party was an epic ride. We know we’ll ride together soon, but til then, I’m “writing” with her on her bike blog about a little trip my husband and I took to Sisters and Sandy Ridge!

A little bit about me and mountain biking – I have been learning and re-learning to ride mountain bikes for 20 years. My aptitude for riding varies on any given day based on the length of time since having had a child (I have 2 kids, and no more on the way, so hopefully this aspect is waning), thoughts in my head, fire in my lungs, mercury’s position in the night sky, the amount of moisture in the dirt, the amount of steepness of the curve, the hurt I want to feel, or the chillaxin’ I need to do. In general, I ride today so I can ride tomorrow. I like to climb til my heart is beating in my ear drums and go down in a controlled and cautious manner, unless I’ve been practicing and the dirt is tacky. Then I’ll let ‘er ride.

Ten years is a long time to be married, and twenty years is a long time to be together. My husband Tyler and I reached these milestones last weekend and marked the occasion with 2 nights away from the kids.

We were handed this shiny gem of an opportunity only a few days before so didn’t have a solid game plan for what to do with our time. We wanted mountain biking and live music. I was trying to go see De La Soul or Ice Cube, both of whom I had just missed in Portland and Tyler is still mourning Wolfmother’s break up. So while we weren’t typing “nearest folk festival” into Google, we stumbled upon Sisters, OR which looked cute, has trails, camping and is home to the Sisters Folk Festival. As we’d never been, and we are into reconnaissance missions, and the live music in Portland looked terrible, we were in.

Rolling into Sisters, Siri decided to take us on the “washboardy” road route. Tyler was only mildly amused and I defended her with the fact that it was extremely scenic. We ended up camping on Suttle Lake at Blue Bay Campground. Spoiler alert: the lake has swimmer’s itch. Ew. But super pretty and worth checking out next summer. There is a gorgeous lodge that was recently restored by the guys who own the trendy Ace Hotel in Portland: Suttle Lake Lodge.

Our anniversary dinner was at The Open Door. Check it out! Sweet spot with a gallery and amazing patio. While we didn’t have tickets to the Folk Festival (over $100 each), one can totally wander the streets and listen in on the open air venues dotted all over town. The Village Green hosts the mainstage and there were many sisterfolk sitting around outside the tent taking in the concert. Vendors included Deschutes Brewing, Breedlove (I swoon!), Humm Kombucha, and other fun-to-browse tents. Even though there weren’t any 90’s hip hop acts, we had a great time.

Ok, so by now you’re probably saying to yourself “what the H*LL, Sarah’s friend??!? This isn’t a touchy feely blog about your anniversary trip to some podunk town in Oregon. It’s about riding things!!!”

AIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT… MY BAD. Here’s the riding part… 🙂

The obvious choice of what to ride near Sisters is the Mackenzie River Trail, Peterson Ridge or Kings-Castle Rock. We’ve ridden the McKenzie River and while it’s fun and all, I wanted to get out and see something new. So we chose something a little more off the beaten path; the Upper Metolius/Windigo Loop.

We weren’t expecting this to be the best ride of our lives, but picked it more for the general location and possibility of views and because Metolius is in the name, which is a super cool river that bubbles out of the ground at some points. The trail is on the Sisters and Redmond High Desert Trail Map. It’s rated as Moderate-Strenuous aerobically, and technically advanced. But it’s mellow at 11.1 miles and probably less than 2000’ elevation gain. It starts at Upper Three Creeks Lake Sno Park and climbs a double track road for about 5 miles before hitting a high point at Park Meadow Trailhead and descending on fun technical singletrack. The ride up on the road was really more like riding doubletrack, which I was fine with. Tyler, however was less intrigued and decided we should cross over to the trail and climb the single track instead. Twenty years into hanging out with Tyler I should have anticipated a curve ball like this. He always opts for the road/route less traveled.

Unless you’ve been training on the flanks of Mt St Helens or the beaches of Hawaii, you will find riding uphill in 6-8 inches of loose, powdery pumice to be hard, and annoying and tiring and you might say some untoward things to your life partner who opted for this route. Perhaps the trail just needs a little rain and it all evens out but our experience was that of spinning our tires at some points in the ride, making a small incline feel more like a Mt. Everest summit attempt. At 6,000-7,000’ you also got to feel the elevation a bit in your lungs. I had to dig deep and find my dust skills, and remember in deep dirt that you have to sort of skull your front tire to get a little traction and keep it from careening whichever way the deep dirt track takes you.

A great distraction from the dirt conditions was the near 90 degree sunny day and the almost constant view of the 3 sisters. I was hazy on the mythology behind the mountains and so could keep my mind busy trying to remember the folklore. Was the south sister mad at middle and north sister? Is that why there’s a gap between her and them? Was she having a love affair with Mt. Bachelor? Oh ya, and how come Jack has only 3 fingers, how does that story go? Read it here if you want to entertain your kids during long drives to Bend.

You cross Snow Creek a few times and at one point it’s deep enough to get wet. We stopped to soak our shirts and douse our heads.

The scenery on the way up is largely vast views of the Sisters through forest fire-burned trees. The black and silver monoliths are almost spooky at times.

The descent was good fun (of course). Channel your dirt demon and throw caution to the wind. You can wipe out pretty good in the deep volcanic slough, but choose to ride it like powder, because the landing is soft if you do wipe out.

Post ride, apologize to your honey for the uncouth things you said on the way up, because now it’s all endorphins and smiles. Enjoy a solid dirt tan and then head up the road 10 miles to Three Creek Lake. It’s perfect for washing the pumice away.

7 6** Sisters Dirtbag Tip: How to score a free shower **

Park on the edge of Creekside Campground in town. Walk across the footbridge into the campground. Duck into showers (pray for a door to be ajar, or be prepared to to try crack the door keycode or grab it as someone is coming out). If there is not a Folk Festival in town, this process is easier. Just find a shower at the coin op ones in the Village Green.

Refuel on nachos and up to 6 different kinds of margaritas at Rancho Viejo back in town on their sweet patio. The “Yellow Thunder” is about as close to the taste of Baja as I’ve found north of the border.


A few notable acts at the Folk Festival… Did you ever think you’d hear “Lullaby” the pop hit from the late 90’s live…? (“Ever-ry thing’s gonna be alriiiight, Rockaby…..Rockaby….”) Neither did we until Shawn Mullins, an otherwise perfectly respectable country/folk singer started belting out his grammy-winning hit on the mainstage. Much to Tyler’s horror, I wasn’t going to let the moment pass without singing along like no one was watching.  

The New Orleans Suspects brought the funk to the people and schooled us on the Creole culture by playing the classic cuts (Iko Iko) and original stuff that had strong danceable beats from “Mean” Willie Green who was the drummer for the Neville Brothers for over thirty years.  

The town’s energy on a clear moonlit night with live music wafting from every corner and converging in the Village Green was festive, fun, and perfectly civilized. As far as music festivals go, it was totally my speed as I consider myself a fairly crowd averse person. As soon as the same format pops up for hip hop acts, I’m there every year!

The clear night turned Gorge-like windy by about 10pm and Tyler and I barely got a wink of sleep with the wind howling through the trees and gusts hitting our tent at irregular intervals and directions. In the AM as we had to build a shelter for our camp stove to keep it lit for coffee, the camp host came by and told us that was super rare for that neck of the woods.

We hit the Sisters Bakery on our way out of town for sugary treats and a baguette for lunch and headed to Sandy Ridge. We figured we deserved a well known ride that we’d never done as a finale for the hot mess of a recon mission we had done the day before.

Thanks BLM, IMBA and all who helped build this little Disneyland for grown ups! Gorge-ites – this trail is not that far from home. You could make it a day trip easily. About 70 minutes there, 70 minutes back. And you might even make it home before 2pm pick up. It’s just past Government Camp, easy to find and so well signed that you don’t have to spend your first ride constantly referring to the map.

We started our ride at 11:30 and were home by 4:30. We rode the paved road up (about 40-60 minutes depending on your uphill frame of mind). We opted for the straight-forward Hide-and-Seek trail down.

Hide-and-Seek is divided into 2 parts. The upper part is more technical and rated a black diamond by the map. I would concur, in that there are roots and rocks and drops. Knee pads wouldn’t be a terrible idea. My style on a first descent of a trail like that is a lot of cautious dabbing. Tyler was annoyed as he said it was all within my riding ability. But me and mountain biking seem to have struck a deal; if I give her the space and respect she deserves, she lets me ride another day.

9The lower section is flowy and fun and more my kind of riding. Gorge riders, think Float On and Klee Way. The dirt is in perfect condition on all parts of the trail. A welcome change from our pumice-fest in Sisters. Go now!

Had we not had to pick the dog up from pet camp by 6 and retrieve our kids in time for dinner we would have ridden back up and done the lower section of Hide-and-Seek one more time, as the road intersects it right where it turns from technical to flowy.

All-in-all, our 10th anniversary celebration was a perfect opportunity to get back a glimmer of how our lives were 10 years ago. To play all day and ride to exhaustion. To only have yourself to worry about. Your schedule, your wants, your needs. Even though those days are done and dusted, the good news is, whether you do it in small chunks or big blocks, riding is still amazingly fun. It still connects you to nature and friends, and pushes you into good moods and bad (uphill in pumice). It pushes you to push yourself and when you’re doing that, it’s all good. Or as Shawn Mullins would say, “Ever-ry thing’s gonna be alriiiight, Rockaby…..Rockaby….” For anyone itching to go play in Sandy Ridge, hit me up! I’ll bring my autographed copy of Shawn Mullins’ CD and we can rock out!



On Wednesday nights my sweet love and I have started getting a regular sitter to hang with the kiddos while we go on a date. We consider it cheap marriage therapy. Not long after we had our second kiddo, a friend gave me some great advice . She said that it’s important to have some “side-by-side time” before you have some “face-to-face time”. This epiphany occurred to her after she found herself going on post-kid dates with her hubby and sitting down to dinner, speechless. The pressure of the moment,  the desire to make adult conversation and not focus on the kids, was overwhelming. Instead of reviving their youthful love, they sat quietly across the table from each other, not quite able to get into the flow of their renewed, freedom. It freaked her out. Was their marriage failing? Doomed? Not meant to be? With a slight tweak of the night, going on a hike or bike or some sort of adventure together before dinner, they changed everything. That “side-by-side time” lubed the gears and got things moving by dinnertime.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the energy for that tonight. After hanging with my (amazing and energetic) kiddos today, I should want to hop on my bike to ride, but I felt exhausted and guilty that I wanted nothing else than a nap. I’m more of a morning exerciser. By 6pm I’ve got a pretty long list of reasons why I shouldn’t go sweat it out. So I talked us out of a ride (despite perfect weather and tacky trails) and instead we drank margaritas and beer, and ate Mexican food. Now I’m capping the night off with some Milk Duds and Sour Gummy Bears. Oh my.

That’s reality for us everyday folks. An imperfect commitment to our passions. I have a ride planned for tomorrow morning at 6:45 am. Gross. I will curse myself in the morning – and be so glad I did it when I’m done. So consider this a little long-distance-interweb show of support from one to another. Do what you can, and don’t worry about it when you can’t. Tomorrow is a new day. Whew. I’m off to bed.

UPDATE: I made the ride. We did it. 6:45 am came a bit too quickly, but thanks to the support of some good girlfriends I was pedaling away by 7:10 and breathing that crisp fall air. I was greeted with a steaming morning latte (thanks Jos!) and a tupperware container bursting with moist carrot muffins (you’re a dream KK!). It’s easy to forget feeling sorta crappy when you get to start your morning with folks like that.


So if last night was ‘reality’ then this morning should be ‘rebirth’. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but listen…when you’re draggin’, and wondering what the hell you’re doing, huffing up a hill on 2-wheels, and then you come around a corner and the morning sun trickles through the trees and lights your path just as your Endorphins (and that latte and muffin) finally kick in – you can’t help but feel that life is looking Pretty. Good. A simple, fresh start that gets things reset and ready so you can go after it again – whatever it is. Trust me on this one.

Learning to ride, no, really.

At a local trail, there is a curvy skinny made from a cut log. For 35 feet it winds around about 15 inches from top to ground. I had been riding for a year or so, but had never attempted to ride said skinny – that is, until a stinkin’ 8 year old (or so) rolled right up to it, zipped up on it, and rode it no problemo. I knew then and there I’d need to give it a try, bruised shins be damned, ego winning out…thank god I made it. And thank goodness for that darn kid.

I didn’t go on my first mountain bike ride until I was in my mid 20s. I didn’t even know the sport existed and the 2 rides I went on weren’t much fun. It took a re-introduction in my late-20s to make me fall in love with dirty singletrack. That’s why I’m particularly amazed to see our youngest, who’s just a wee past 1.5 years old, riding a strider bike, sans parent.

And then, to pull up to her tiny daycare (newborns to 4 year-olds), and see 3 other little bikes parked out front.


I look forward to the day I can go on rides with my kiddos, and I wonder how long I have before they’ll be teaching me how to ride.