I often joke that the correct number of bikes to own is N+1, where N is the current number of bikes in your garage. I can’t take credit for this idea, in fact I think I saw it in an ad for a t-shirt on-line somewhere. Never the less I have always found it useful as those who love biking tend to love bikes and can almost always rationalize the purchase of yet one more. The principle of N+1 is not lost on corporate marketing departments of course as they are constantly coming up with new names and categories to satisfy our insatiable love for bikes. 

Several years ago the mountain bike industry was plateauing. Gone were the days of Olympic showcasing and high-profile athletes with big-time contracts. Sadly, the marketing world was done with “extreme sports” and the dream of the 90s seemed to fade to mid-life mediocrity. Bike technology continued to progress of course, but incrementally with a few more inches of travel here or a little more carbon there. The industry was consolidating and everything seemed to be as homogenized as the current SUV market. At some point sales must have slumped low enough that the numbers guys began really pressing the engineers for something new and exciting. Somewhere in the darkness of an office after way too many Redbulls, it dawned on one of those guys “why don’t we change the size of the wheels?” BOOM! Evolution. 

For decades mountain bikes have come in a standard 26” wheel circumference. Yet no one asked why or whether that was the best idea. Bigger is better right? Well, that’s debatable and nothing spurs ingenuity…and sales, like a good old fashion debate. Bike companies started coming out with every iteration of wheel size – 29”, 27.5”, plus size, and of course, the fat bike. It was then back on the marketing guys to convince the masses that indeed they need just one more bike and so we had a bike for every possible riding scenario. Cross-country, downhill, freeride, trail, all-mountain, enduro, down-country (perhaps the dumbest concept…unless you ride in Florida), and bike-packing. On and on it went and of course being the bike loving lemmings we are, we bought into it hook line and sinker – N+1. 

While the explosion of bike categories is pretty meaningless, the concept behind changing wheel sizes actually has merit and I must admit that when it came time to purchase a new bike, I went with a 29er. Now the current state of division in our politics is pretty bad, but wheel size might just be a close second. And like my political stance, I am a moderate when it comes to wheel sizes. As long as it performs well on the trail, I don’t care the size of the hoops. There is an exception to that of course. The fat bike.

Fat bikes as the name implies are mountain bikes with clown-esk wheels reminiscent of that bar hopping beach cruiser you ride into town on Friday nights. The theory behind the fat bike is that the wide tire and low pressure allows for greater surface contact in soft conditions, such as sand and snow. So as one might imagine the number of scenarios in which a fat bike is the right tool for the job are few and far between, which means the marketing guys have to work extra hard to make the case that enough of us need a fat bike to make this category viable. Luckily for the marketing guys the formula N+1 is born out of an affliction suffered by many bikers, which continuously finds them justifying yet another bike purchase. On numerous occasions I have talked to or overheard a fat bike owner explain to a curious observer the necessity and advantage of their purchase “Well the trails here just get SO sandy in the summer”, “I don’t need that heavy suspension, these tires just soak up the trail”, “Winter is the best time for riding bikes” (Said no one who skies). 

Now I am not holier-than-thou and must admit that I have thrown a leg over one of these ballooned beasts on several occasions. I will admit too that under the right circumstances a fat bike can actually be fun. By fun of course I mean like trying to ride home from the bar through a sand pit at a Belgian superprestige race. The massive tires and atrocious turning radius make these bikes about as appropriate as riding a Clydesdale at the Preakness. Still there is some entertainment in trying to keep these behemoths churning in a straight line through a snow covered forest. The key to that previous statement of course is snow, which only occurs part of the year, in certain locations, and in variable quantities. So why do I see so many fat bikes around? Turns out marketing guys are good at their jobs.

While I may not be scouring the Pinkbike classifieds for that full carbon fat bike, I am not immune to N+1 either. There is a bike barn in our backyard for “town-bikes”, bikes in the shed, and the basement. I have a beach cruiser, and my commuter is an early generation Bianchi Grizzly that I spent months looking for. I try and moderate my obsession, I call my cyclocross bike my duel-sport as it serves as both my road bike and cross bike. Yet when I find myself in need of a little mindless internet I forgo the Tic-Toc and scroll through Craigslist or Marketplace. If you know anyone looking to sell their steel hardtail -preferably a 29er – have them give me a call, I’ve been looking for one for summer riding in the lower foothills. 


A Little Help From My Friends

I originally wrote the following for my running group’s blog (https://boisearearunners.org), but it was a fun project so I thought I would share it here as well.

For runners New Years is often less about resolutions to start working out or to start running, and more about training plans and filling in a fresh calendar with race dates. If you are like me though this New Years has been a bit different, and not because we had to watch a virtual potato drop. 2020 was a year to forget in many ways, but as runners it was the year of busts. Just about every event was canceled or postponed… and then canceled. For many runners training plans were scrapped and trip plans canceled. Michael Ford jokingly told me recently “My investment portfolio is heavily weighted towards airline credits right now”. While we all could (and probably have) still run virtually let’s be honest, running with a number bib along the Greenbelt on a Tuesday just isn’t the same as lining up with a hundred other nervous energy souls at a start line or the crowd cheering you home across the finish line.

I recently found myself staring at the blank pages of the calendar, pen in hand, still shell-shocked from last year’s rollercoaster. I sat there unable to bring myself to write down race dates and events that might happen this summer. Pessimistic? Perhaps. I prefer realist. I sat back from the table and sighed, my motivation and creativity for planning the coming year had decided to take a rain check. Then, an idea came to me. I remembered the lyrical wisdom of the Beattles “I’m gonna get by with a little help from my friends”.  I decided to reach out to my fellow BAR members and see what running goals they wanted to accomplish in the coming year. 

After a recent Thursday night run I posed the question to the group and I was surprised at the answers I got back. Some folks kept it simple saying they wanted to stay injury free or to be more consistent with their running. Others held out hope that we would once again be able to gather at the start line and race. Some of my favorites were those that took a more creative approach to setting personal goals, like running 2021 miles and making at least four new running friends. Over-all the responses were the motivation I was looking for and got my own mental gears turning on what I wanted to accomplish with my running in the coming year. 

Beyond this self-serving endeavor, what really inspired me was how the diversity of answers reflects the breadth of our running community. From walkers to competitive racers, road warriors to trail trotters, newbies to veterans, we all share the common passion for running. Through all the turmoil and uncertainty, the BAR has been one of the few constants over this past year and it is this great group of people that really gives me motivation and hope for 2021.

So, what is my 2021 running goal? A half year of half marathons – six officially unofficial backcountry trail runs. Random? Absolutely, but it reflects what I love about running and gives me something to work towards. 

How 2021 will unfold is anyone’s guess, but I know that no matter what I can count on my fellow BAR members to keep me motivated. So, a big thank you to all of you and I wish you all luck in reaching their goals in 2021.

Happy Trails, 


2020 Year in Review

2020 Year in Review

What worked

It is hard to image it’s possible to say anything went right in 2020 what with a GLOBAL PANDEMIC! Trips were canceled, events postponed…and then canceled. It would be easy to say not much worked this year, but as a young padawan who still has much to learn, I found the vast amount of free time a great opportunity to build my knowledge base. As we all entered the virtual word, I was happy to see the amount of educational opportunities out there. If you have never been on Creative Live, I highly recommend it. I took courses by Corey Rich and Michael Clark, two adventure photography heroes of mine. I also dug into some photographers who were willing to share (for free!) their thoughts and experiences on some of the more philosophical aspects of photography. I highly recommend giving a watch, listen, and read to David DucheminSean Tucker, and Dan Milnor.

At the beginning of the year I set out several goals, one of those was to push myself to shoot more and produce 100 “print worthy” photos. Images that I felt I would be happy seeing on a wall or in a magazine. Not only did I hit the mark in terms of producing the images, but others actually agreed that they were print worthy. One of my images was voted best wildlife image at an annual photo competition held at Studio Boise. Another appeared in print in the third issue of Outdoor Idaho Magazine – a first for me. While small victories to some and certainly not my main objective, it is nice to have my work recognized by others.

What didn’t work

This past year I tried to put some solid thought time into what type of images really excited me and that I want to be making more of. I came to the realization that the images that I really admire and that I get excited about are those that combined with word to create stories. While this realization might not sound like a bad thing, the problem is that I probably came to it about 20-30 years too late. As I talked about in my last post, this past year brought the demise of two of my favorite magazines in BIKE and Powder. A disappointment for sure, but not necessarily a surprise as print magazines have struggled to find the magic formula for sustainable existence in the digital age. Sure, there is still opportunities out there for storytelling in digital format, but I don’t think there is quite the appreciation for long-form stories, nor for printed imagery. Steve Casimiro creator of Adventure Journal provided a great summary of the current state of print on my favorite podcast Mountain & Prairie that is worth a listen. 

New Year – New Ideas

Even though print appears to be a dying art form, it is one that I am really drawn to. Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about visual storytelling and it is something I intend to spend more of my time and effort in. I think stories will help to focus my work and provide the motivation to keep pushing myself as a photographer. To that end I have come up with several personal projects that I will work on over the next year. One is a large-scale project that will take me at least a year if not several. Others will be shorter in duration and will likely appear here on Trailside. A story a month is my goal.

Another idea that I hope to pursue more in 2020 is what I’m terming adventure portraiture. It is an idea I’ve had for a while, but one I hadn’t put into practice until my local mountain bike organization held a fundraiser. The idea behind adventure portraiture is that many of us love outdoor sports and want to capture that passion in images, so why not have something nicer than your friend’s crappy super saturated i-phone picture? Why not have something you might want to hang on your wall or on your desk? That’s the idea of adventure portraiture, to capture folks’ passion for their sport in the environments they love. I’m throwing it out there, so we’ll see if anyone else thinks it’s a good idea too.

The last project idea I have for next year is actually a merger of two that I have struggled to put into motion. Two years ago, Dana gave me a halve dozen rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film, which I was really excited about as I had wanted to get back to the simplicity and methodical nature that film provides. I even went so far as to buy a 35mm manual focus lens for my old camera to really take it back to basics. Yet, I haven’t really shot much because I want those frames to be intentional and not 36 frames of randomness. Like writer’s block, I have struggled to decide what to shoot. The second idea that has never come to fruition is a 365 project, which is to take at least one photograph a day for a whole year. I have always liked the idea of a 365 project, but again have struggled to come up with themes or focus areas that aren’t me taking the same photograph over and over. So for 2021 I’ve decided the best thing to do is cast aside the self-imposed pressure embrace the uncertainty and see what happens. I give you the 2021 – 365 Film Project! The parameters will be simple – good light, creative composition, at least a frame a day. As most of my other goals and ideas for this year are to help focus my work, I’m hoping this project will spur creativity and new ways of seeing things. It will be like a photographic scribble book and I’m excited to see what the end result looks like.

So there you have it 2020 year in review. Like most of you I am not sad to see the year come to a close. While I don’t think we are out of the woods yet in terms of the pandemic, I am hopeful for what lies ahead in 2021. 

Happy New Year everybody

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