The If You Didn’t Suck We’d Have No Fun Imperial Throne: Gravity. When I think about the possibility of living someplace with all the elevation variance of a bowling alley I realize how much my personal enjoyment of cycling owes to the effect gravity exerts over me as I go from low to high and then, more enjoyably, back down again. Of course, gravity’s costar in this little production is the magnificent folding and undulating of the North American plate here in California. After all, Fred Astaire needed Ginger Rogers, McCartney needed Lennon and Willow Creek would be a lot less interesting without the weak force.
The Thanks But No Thanks Sweaty Handshake: IMBA. In coming out against the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act, IMBA went from being that guy at the party who stays at the shindig exactly until its time to clean up to the guy who goes full Keith Moon on the contents of your home. I considered calling this the “With Friends Like This Faked High Five” but I can’t seem to find anyone willing to call IMBA’s leadership friendly to mountain bikers. This is achingly sad as I hold Dave Wiens in especially high regard. He has given back to the sport in a way no other rider of his generation has. That IMBA could lose the plot so thoroughly defies comprehension.
The On-Call Technology Embroidered Baseball Cap: Scott Sports’ TwinLoc gets this one. I’ve ridden a bunch of different mountain bikes this year. I’ve reviewed some, but many were encountered in circumstances too unfamiliar for me to feel like I had their measure. In each circumstance my ride was always prefaced with, “You’re going to be impressed with how well it pedals.” Yawn. What impresses me is being able to be on exactly the right bike for the terrain I’m on. Locking out the rear suspension on a smooth singletrack climb gives you a level of efficiency that every suspension system on the planet envies. And having a short-travel bike on flat but bumpy terrain is Boy Scout helpful. Yet nothing stokes me like opening up the suspension and having unconstrained travel for the trip down. Why that system isn’t better respected is as hard to understand as the flat earth bunch.
The Everyone Could Use One Platinum Crown: It took a while to reach the market, but FSA finally got their subcompact crank into production and even offer it at multiple price points. For riding road bikes on unpaved roads it’s the best thing to come along since the 40mm tire.
The Welcome Home Bearhug of Awesomeness: Jim Cummins and LeLan Dains get this for not just putting on the single most legendary gravel event on the planet, one that has done everything necessary to earn its many accolades, but for making Dirty Kanza a true opportunity for Maslowian Self-Actualization, capital S, capital A. The thing is, Cummins, Dains and a handful of other people from the event’s inner circle stand at the end of the finishing chute and personally greet each and every finisher. It’s a flavor of accountability that is perfect in its sweetness, yet is savory the best post-ride beer ever. Nothing makes the experience more real than being validated at the very moment you finish.
The That Was So Yummy I’ll Have Another Gold Tooth: The good folks at GU Energy have taken an increasingly creative (and zany) approach to introducing new flavors of gels in their lineup. Sure, they’ve got standbys like Mandarin Orange and Vanilla Bean, but more recently they have indulged those urges that turn up at midnight as you’re watching Jaws for the 36th time and even though you know Quint is about to get it, you take a spoon to the leftover cake frosting in the refrigerator. I mean, unless you’ve lived moments like that, you don’t come up with flavors like Toasted Marshmallow, Campfire S’Mores, Cola and my ultimate fave, Salted Caramel. Srsly, no one else has made not bonking more enjoyable.
The Holy Cow Biblical Deluge of Generosity: That goes to the readers of RKP. I put out the request for cycling gear in the wake of the North Bay wildfires with all the nervousness of a teen boy asking a girl to prom for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect and a “no” would have crushed me. Instead, to continue the metaphor, the nicest girl in class told me I was cute and gave me a kiss. I’ve relished the opportunity to tell people, “No, seriously, you should take more.” And I’ve been more than humbled when someone has pulled me close and given me a hug as their eyes well up. My life was turned upside down for weeks. I encounter reminders of the fires daily. And yet, I know that I got off easy. In acknowledging how disorienting the fire was I chart that against what it must be like to lose your home. Not just all your bikes and assorted gear, but family photos, the majority of your clothing, your library, family heirlooms. All of it reduced to ash. Wrestling with the insurance companies has sucked, but when they visit me the clothing you kids sent they get a welcome reprieve from filling out forms and running numbers. Thank you.