I think this is the first time that I've been the subject of a video interview! It was both nerve-wracking, as I had no idea how it would turn out, but simultaneously an enjoyable time to talk about a career and lifestyle that I'm passionate about. A big thanks to Scott and Diane Cotter for helping make me look good!

To many, mountain biking is about having fun and enjoying the great outdoors in a healthy way. There are many different sub-sets of mountain biking and many different reasons why people ride, but I think the very core of why we choose to ride is because we enjoy it and it makes our lives better.
If mountain biking is all about having fun, why are mountain biking forums and websites full of some of the most hateful people around?

Over time, I’ve gradually nurtured what’s now an extreme aversion to people telling me that I should do things. In the past couple of months, it’s come to a head. Now, whenever I hear or read that word, especially when it’s in the phrase “you should X,” my body tenses up and I am now doubly inclined to do the exact opposite, consequences be damned. (With the one or two obvious exceptions, because everybody has to answer to somebody.) But I’m not sure exactly where this aversion has come from. Granted, I’ve always been a bit anti-authoritarian in a subdued cuss-out-the-teacher-behind-their-back sort of way, but why this relatively recent aversion to the word “should”?

I think it has to do with the phraseology. If someone just asked me to do something, I could say no. Or I could say yes. The ball’s in my court.

When the word “should” is brought into the picture, the implication is that I should have already done this, and that the reasoning why it’s important is so self-evident that the shoulder doesn’t feel the need to even craft an argument defending their assertion.

Finally, the biggest problem is that because of how the shoulding is structured, it’s as if the person has automatically deposited yet another item onto your mile-long to-do list. Since they assume that the conclusion is forgone, it’s common for the shoulder to come up to you later and say, “so, did you do X?”

And when you say “no,” inevitably they’re disappointed in you and let down.

This rule of shoulding applies to menial things that I don’t want to do:
  • You should write an article about X.
  • You should read this book. 
  • You should follow this regimen.
  • You should eat kale.
  • You should lift weights in the winter.

It also applies to important things that honestly, maybe I should in fact be doing. But someone telling me that I should doesn’t help the matter any:
  • You should give to the poor.
  • You should volunteer in your community.
  • You should go to Africa and help dig wells.

So the next time you’re tempted to say “should,” try rephrasing your assertion into a question. “What if you tried…” “Would you be interested in…” “Will you please…”

And then if I want to say “no,” I can let you down immediately.
In our teens and into our 20s, we often feel invincible. I know I did as a high schooler on downhill skis. No cliff was seemingly too big to huck my meat off even though, in Northern Wisconsin, we were usually hucking to ice sheets instead of powder landings.
I remember one day specifically when we had a dusting of an inch of fresh snow in the woods. We scraped together enough snow to build a one-foot-wide run-in that measured maybe 10 feet long, leading into a 10-foot cliff drop. The catch? There wasn’t enough snow for a landing. Instead, we were hucking to a leaf pile.
We were 15, semi-talented, and 100% fearless.
The thing is, if you play in the mountains long enough, injuries will catch up to you eventually.

When the news broke that IMBA had testified against a proposed bill, HR 1349, that would remove the blanket ban on mountain bikes in Wilderness areas, the vocal reaction of mountain bikers on social media was swift and fierce. While IMBA didn’t immediately share that testimony on their own Facebook page, many riders heard about it via other sources, including Singletracks. The comments section on a simultaneously-timed announcement of the recent IMBA Epic trail designations turned into a train wreck of negativity.
“Not going to be very many, or any, ‘Epic’ rides left if IMBA continues to support the blocking of human powered bicycling on public lands,” said Aaron Edwards in the #1 upvoted comment, with 76 reactions.
“Imagine how hikers would feel if you supported blocking their access to the mountains? That’s what you are doing in our eyes IMBA. Either have a major change of heart, or simply cease to exist. We are not asking to ride bikes on all of the trails in the wilderness. Just some, maybe just a few. How is ‘none of them’ the stance you support?
“Wilderness mountain biking is wildly compatible with other user groups and accepted throughout much of Europe, Central America, New Zealand, and our cousins to the North, Canada. Time to not fear standing up for something that matters IMBA!”
In response to the outcry, Dave Wiens, the Executive Director of IMBA, released a lengthy statement detailing IMBA’s approach to Wilderness. While some riders appreciated the response and the approach, again, all of the top-rated comments on IMBA’s Facebook page in response to Wiens’s statement took a negative turn.
“‘IMBA’s mission is to create, enhance and protect great places to ride mountain bikes. The word ‘protect’ guided and motivated us and made it imperative that IMBA not be silent on this bill,'” Brad Shelton quoted from Wiens’s statement.
“See how it says ‘protect great places to ride’? You didn’t vote to protect great places to ride, because you can’t ride there.
“Between this and the eMTBs you have completely lost your way,” Shelton concluded, in a comment that received 84 upvotes.
But as I’ve attempted to digest IMBA’s initial testimony and their subsequent statements, some issues still weren’t clear to me. Why did they testify at all? What does IMBA have to gain from this testimony? So, I reached out to IMBA in an attempt to clear up the confusion.

The mountain bike industry is healthy–possibly the healthiest it has ever been! Or so say a dozen odd people across the industry that I’ve interviewed on the topic over the last couple of months. While the sport and the industry might be in a good place, that doesn’t mean we’re not facing challenges… and perhaps some of the biggest challenges our sport has ever faced.
While it’s human nature to want to separate these challenges into individual obstacles that need to be overcome, checking off one and then the other in sequence until we’ve created an invincible industry, the reality is much more complex. As I slowly sifted through a series of sometimes convoluted interview responses, several common threads emerged. But these various threads twisted together, one wrapping around the other, eventually tying into one giant knot of a challenge. Here, I hope to tease out the individual threads, the individual challenges that face the mountain bike industry in 2018, and how they’re related.

Photo: Mike Harris

Sometimes you don't know the true value of what you have until it's gone. 

As such a core human experience, we've created innumerable cliches to explain it. But that doesn't make the experience any less real or any less true.

I've observed so many people pining away after something they don't have--living in a different place, working in a different job, being with different people--that they don't ever truly live in the moment by enjoying and appreciating what they already have. And sometimes, when they finally do make that jump, take initiative and make a change, they realize that what they had hoped for and wanted so badly isn't quite so incredible after all.

I've tried to take that to heart in my own life. 

This realization plays out in a number of ways, the chief one being an attempt to appreciate and fully embrace every moment for the joy that it can provide. 

Second, I try to be very careful when I hope and dream about a change, thinking that it will seemingly fix all the "problems" that I'm experiencing in life. We think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (there's one cliche), but when we actually cross the fence, it turns out there are way more weeds in the grass than we could see before. As a result, I do my best to temper my enthusiasm when dreaming about a change. Some changes do result in incredible things, whereas others... the weeds tend to crop up.

What motivates these thoughts today is the truism, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." (What did I tell you about cliches?) As I carefully weighed whether or not to under go ACL surgery, I knew from experience what I'd be giving up for a period of time--possibly a long period of time--in the hopes that life would then be better. Would the grass really be greener on the other side of the fence? Or would I just be trading one problem for another? Eventually, I had to take the leap. 

While I was as prepared as anyone could be for what I'd face on the other side, after four weeks of sedentary, indoors life aside from the occasional bit of physical therapy (hardly qualifying as "exercise"), my longing to get outside and adventure in the mountains has only been rekindled and stoked into a flame that never dies. 

While experiencing that passion and drive anew is agonizing in the moment as I can't act on it (I tried to walk the dog a couple days ago and managed a 0.4-mile round-trip jaunt), I know that when I return to my activity and venture back out into my mountains that the experience will be fresher and sweeter than ever before!
I have a question for you today: How do you define success in your own life? If you read nothing else in this column, I still invite you to scroll down to the comments section below and share your definition of success.
This is a question that I’ve been grappling with lately because, while perhaps there are societal norms of what makes a person “successful,” I think that we can each individually choose how we evaluate success in our own lives. We can create our own definition of success that is determined by ourselves, and ourselves alone.

Racer: Nino Schurter. Photo: Armin M. Küstenbrück / Scott Sports