Sonya Looney. Photo via Topeak Ergon.
Cyclists love to grimace. It is, in part, because pain and suffering have been venerated in cycling culture to the point of fetishization. Entire clothing empires have been built on marketing the nobility of suffering on a bicycle. But it’s also because racing and riding hard just really, really hurt sometimes. From the pro peloton to local cat 4s, people tend to scowl and frown in race photos. Then there’s Sonya Looney. The professional endurance mountain biker is smiling so often in race photos it’s slightly disconcerting. She says it’s because she just has fun on the bike. I suspect endurance athletes have some sort of subconscious love of hardship. Either way, Looney has parlayed her endurance talents and smiles into a successful race career. Her specialty is 100 milers and multi-day mountain bike stage races. She’s notched podiums at the US National Championships, Breck Epic, Mongolia Bike Challenge, Trans Andes, BC Bike Race, and many other races around the world. I spoke to her about her foray into endurance racing, that smiling-while-racing thing, the business side of being a professional racer (and the need for a side business), adventuring around the world, and much more.
Posted in Interviews, Mountain Biking, Racing
Tagged badass women cyclists, breck epic, endurance mountain biking, mongolia bike challenge, mountain bike stage racing, nepal race, sonya looney, topeak ergon, yak attack
Shannon Galpin mountain biking in Afghanistan. Photo by Deni Bechard.
Most cyclists would agree that the bicycle is far more than the sum of its parts. As a means of transportation it has implications for climate change, socioeconomics, equity. As a sport it is medicine for our mental and physical well being. As a culture it connects us to people far and wide. And though it touches so many facets of our lives and is an important tool for change, most of us in developed countries would stop short of saying that bicycling is revolutionary. In a country such as Afghanistan however, bicycling has the potential for revolutionary transformation. It is, as Shannon Galpin discovered, a metaphorical and literal vehicle for improving the lives of women and girls living in a country consistently ranked among the worst on women’s rights.
Galpin first traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 as as founder and President of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in conflict zones. Her work initially involved a wide array of arts and education projects. Then in 2009 she brought her mountain bike to the country, went for some rides, sparked the sort of conversations with locals she needed to have about why women weren’t allowed to bike, and found the new focal point for her mission. The intersection of bicycling and Afghani women’s rights was further solidified in 2012 when she met the newly-created women’s National Cycling Team. Now Galpin is working to support the team and use cycling as sport to shift the cultural taboos about women biking for transportation and fun. Along the way, she has written a memoir, helped produce a documentary, given TED talks, and continued advancing Mountain2Mountain’s mission. I spoke to Galpin about her work in Afghanistan, breaking norms as a woman on a bike, projects with Mountain2Mountain, the National Cycling Team, and much more.
Posted in Advocacy, Cycling Media, Interviews, Mountain Biking
Tagged afghan cycles, afghanistan, bicycles and women's suffrage, mountain2mountain, shannon galpin, strength in numbers, women and cycling, womens cycling team in afghanistan
Photo via pinkbike.com.
Mountain biking is awesome. Dogs are awesome. Ergo, mountain biking with dogs must be doubly awesome. That’s certainly the impression given by these two short videos of trail dogs who shred just as hard as their owners.
Mike Curiak at an Iditarod race in Alaska. Photo by Chris McLennan.
From the early rebels racing down the Repack to today’s craziest freeriders flipping off massive cliffs, every era of mountain biking has needed pioneering figures to push the boundaries of what’s possible on a bike. In endurance racing, Mike Curiak was one of those key people who helped define just how long and far the human body can go on a mountain bike. He is best known for his exploits at Alaska’s brutal Iditaraces. Over his 17 year race career, he won numerous iterations of the 225-mile Iditasport and 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, set a course record on the 1,100-mile Iditasport Impossible, and later completed the 1,100-mile race fully self-supported. He also helped organize the first successful Great Divide race, won the Kokopelli Trail Race, and was a nominee for the mountain bike hall of fame among other palmares.
Curiak retired from racing almost 10 years ago after winning the 2005 Iditarod Trail Invitational. These days he says he’s focused more on fun, though it’s his version of fun, i.e. multi-day bikepacking trips that require packrafting across lakes and down rivers and other adventures like that. He’s also focused on his well established Lace Mine 29 wheel-building business. I spoke to Curiak before he set off on a three-week packrafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We talked about his early entry into endurance racing, endless laps on 24-hour race courses, his experience racing in Alaska, helping create the Great Divide race, his disappointment with the direction endurance racing has gone recently, and much more.
Posted in Adventure, Interviews, Mountain Biking
Tagged 29er, endurance mountain bike racing, fat biking, great divide mountain bike race, iditarod, iditasport, kokopelli, lace mine 29, mike curiak, mountain bike pioneer, packrafting, snow biking, tour divide
One of my qualms with outdoors sports such as mountain biking, skiing, hiking and climbing is the need to hop in the car and drive to do them. Though there are plenty of towns with great trailhead access out the front door, the majority of us make a few hours of driving part of the equation each weekend to participate in the sports we love. A little bit of driving is never the end of the world, but it certainly contributes to it. As such, it’s exciting to see people using bikes for adventures in the mountains. These three videos document a few different mountain climbing trips by bike, from the Great Divide mountain bike route to the high alpine in Kyrgyzstan. All of them center on weeks- and even months-long tours–certainly not practical for the day to day–but inspiration nonetheless about the possibilities for human powered adventure.
Sam and Kurt are riding the Great Divide Mountain bike with trad climbing gear in tow.
Posted in Adventure, Bike Touring, Cycling Media, Everything Else, Mountain Biking
Tagged adventure cycling, alex honnold, blackburn rangers, car-free gnar, cedar wright, frontdoor adventures, great divide mountain bike tour, human powered adventure, kyle dempster, mountain climbing by bike, rock climbing