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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

MY hometown trails

“You can come over and check out MY local trails.”

Often you say this phrase to a friend, and you can barely contain your words, cut short by excited breaths of gushing pride.

Just last week, I invited friends from L.A., some of them expert racers on Team No Brakes, to come up and ride some of my local jump trails.

This gem of a riding spot, which shall remain nameless, is not actually in my hometown, but a couple towns south. So really I wouldn't be responsible if the place weren't up to snuff. But relative to the distance that my visitors were driving this was my hometown spot as far as they were concerned. So no excuses there.

marla streb
Marla's secret hometown spot...

Immediately after setting the date and time, I realized I hadn't seen these trails in a couple months!

Visions of a newly paved cul-de-sac leading to grumbling bulldozers scooping up the last landing of my prized 8-pack flashed through my horrified head. Or an even worse scenario, it could have remained unridden all summer and the take-off lips might have eroded! Oh, the horror!!

My only recourse would be to go there a few days ahead of time, and take a look. I'd bring a good shovel, a rake, and a sickle (that's like an old-fashioned, human-powered weed wacker, for you kids out there). And I'd cross my fingers and hope for rain the night before my visit.

It's amazing the amount of work one will do to defend their hometown jaunty, snaking little prides of joy. You imagine your buddies will be hooping and hollering while they pedal and carve, declaring loudly through their helmets, “these are the best and coolest trails I've ever ridden! Therefore, I think you're cool!!”

Okay, I wouldn't go that far. But you know what I mean.

So I get up to the trails and much to my disappointment, I see a brand new fence surrounding the site. There are No Trespassing signs posted clearly. Darn, that means we'll have to climb over.

I walk up the hill, and peek over the fence and I am relieved to see the jumps are all still there, just badly eroded like I feared.

But I had my rusty shovel, my i-Pod, and a Red Bull coursing through my veins and I was going to fix every one of those key sections: every run-up, transition, face, lip, table top, landing, run-out.

And I did. After 5 hours of weeding, chipping, digging, shaping, caressing, breathing hard with hands on hips and staring at each section for its aesthetics, I was done. I was ready to show off my hometown jump spot.

Even if it was just a deserted lumpy junkyard with a bunch of dirt mounds and rutted with tire tracks.

Ah, hometown pride!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I took last week off from blogging, but not from riding.

I was in Baltimore for a family emergency, and best thing in world for stuff like that is a couple of hours in the woods on the mountain bike. The riding at Patapsco State Park just outside of ‘Charm City’ is pretty good. Trees with fall colors. Muddy trails. Sharp flinty rocks, a cool autumn morning.

As it turned out I would have a riding partner. A few months back, I had donated a “ride” to a good cause to be auctioned off as a fundraiser. The highest bidder was from Washington, D.C. so it was easy to arrange to meet up in the parking lot.

Hillary had just turned pro as a downhiller, but on the phone I assured her that I could still show her a few things on a cross country ride that might be helpful. Skills are skills.

marla streb
Neo-Pro Hillary Elgert...

Heading out to Patapasco in my 800 dollar, ghetto sled, 1986 Ford Escort LX with my 3,000 dollar Blur stuffed into the hatch back was an escape from the kitchen table family discussions of the past week.

I became excited thinking about the best way to demonstrate cornering in mud. A baby head rock in the middle of the trail is all you need to teach someone how to speed jump. The difference between a two foot drop off and a ten foot drop off is merely relative, so learning on a small one is five times easier. I’ve won downhill races on a Blur, so on it I felt like I could give a decent clinic even if we were on pretty flat ground.

Opening the dented door of my Ford, I immediately recognized a familiar face. Over the phone I hadn’t made the connection. I’d actually ridden with Hillary before! And raced with her too at the US Open and a few NORBA’s.

I began to panic. She was pretty good. I’ve seen her race on some gnarly DH courses. There wasn’t much I would be able to show her here on these cross country trails on short travel bikes during a two hour ride. What could I teach her? How could I feel like she hadn’t overbid?

Pulling on our riding gear and setting up our bikes, Hillary quickly put me at ease. “I’m already a pro,” she explained. “My riding will improve with training and practice, so I really don’t want to pick your brains about braking or line selection. I want to pick your brains about sponsorship. I’ve already got a bike sponsor, but what I want is a Pro Ride, the full deal. Travel and a salary. You know, a Real Pro.”

Unfortunately, I can’t squeeze a two hour Sponsorship Seminar into a 500 word blog. But I hope the promising neo-pro feels like she got as much from our ride in the woods as I know I did. Good luck Hillary!

NOTE* And I apologize for missing the CORBA bike festival in L.A. last weekend. I’ll make it up to you guys, I promise!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Just got home from...that place in Vegas. You know. That big hotel thingy where they put on the bike trade show. Every year about this time.

I know it. I know what it is called. The name is right on the tip of my tongue.

Years ago I even went to the one in Anaheim. At night they closed down Disneyland to the general public and reserved the whole park for just us bikers. That year it was the best!

marla streb
Phelan and Sher at the show...

This year was pretty fun, too. I was just there... just can’t remember the name. Katerina Hanusova came straight to the show from the Czech Republic where she just got married. One doesn’t often see genuine emotion in Las Vegas.

Anyway, I ran into a lot of friends that I haven’t seen in a while.

Saw Lisa Sher. She stopped DH racing last year. I thought she was gonna show up at Mammoth and win the National title. She told me she’s getting out of LA and moving to Vancouver. She looks good.

Ran into Mr Dirt, Bob Barnett. He is a crazy genius with access to too many machine tools. In the magazines I see his brake levers on all the top pros’ motos. With his hair cut shorter than before I almost didn’t recognize him.

Shared a cab from the Airport to the hotel with mountain bike icon Jacquie Phelan. I don’t see as much of Jacquie as I used to since I’ve been living on the Central Coast. When I was living in Marin I used to see Jacquie ridng her bike with her banjo slung over back all around town. She’s working now with some people in Portland trying to get kids to ride bikes more.

Spent three days at the show signing autographs at the Clif Bar booth. And the Santa Cruz booth. And at the Mavic, Sugoi, Vetta, Six Six One booths. I smashed a Pinata at Fox Shox. Sampled some very fancy hors d’oeurves at a very fancy Red Bull party.

Saw way too many people whom I knew. People who I rode with. Or worked with. People who helped me out with parts, or accommodations, media. Without helmet and eyewear some were just hard to put a name to. Maybe if I could have seen them with their bike it would have helped to remember.

Even with names printed on their credentialed pass dangling on a string beneath their chin didn’t help. Was this the Michael Lenkauskas from the “All Sport Bike Shop” that lent me a tube before a race? Or did I give him a tube during a ride at CrankWorx? Am I thanking him or is he thanking me?

So many nice people. I do feel bad about forgetting a name, or a ride. Or a clean shaved face. The only consolation is that more than a few times while I was handing out posters with my Luna Teammates guys who hadn’t slept in three days greeted me with, “Hey Shonny, how about an autograph?”

That’s Interbike.