*A trip for two to sunny Las Vegas, entry to 2007's Interbike and the chance to ogle all the new cycling goodies slated to hit the shelves in 2008*

*A 2008 Mission 3, Diamondback’s versatile all-mountain machine. Nimble, efficient and stable, the Mission 3 features Shimano’s new Deore XT components, including the Shadow rear derailleur and high power disc brakes.*

*15 minutes of fame in a Diamondback ad that will appear in Dirt Rag featuring the winner on their new Mission 3.*

*Swag from Dirt Rag, Diamondback, Fox Racing Shox, Rockshox, Shimano and WTB. *

To enter, simply go to diamondback.com and click on the “What’s Your Mission?” button to submit your all-mountain inspiring description and photo.

You will also find the fine print there, too, but here’s some to get you started: No purchase necessary to enter or win. One entry per person. Void where prohibited by law. Contest submissions will be accepted from May 1 through August 1, 2007. Entrant must both author their description and take the photo submitted

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mike C. - Reno, NV

Hello Mission Submission Team, My mission is to get people to rethink the strange divide that's developed between biking and wilderness advocates. My story is probably a little longer than some of your other submissions. I beg your pardon, but I'm not sure I can tell it much shorter. Here's the gist and quick quote to give you an idea of what this mission is all about--Nevada is home to over 300 mountain ranges and barely any protected wilderness. We're trying to protect as much of it as we can, but need to survey all of the boundaries. And as I mention in the story below: "it seemed to me the height of hypocrisy to burn gallon after gallon of gasoline in a highly motorized attempt to create wilderness—one of the last bastions of silent, motorless peace. That is why I decided to complete my survey work by bike." If you don't have time to read the whole thing, the first 3 paragraphs and last 3 should give you a pretty good feel. Can't wait to check ou the other submissions on your blog. Thanks for asking a good question. Mike _________________________________________________________________________ Bike Mountain, Make Wilderness “Wilderness,” by both popular and political definition, is a large physical space devoid of the artifacts of human interference—no occupied permanent structures, no motors, no roads. To be something eligible for protection under the law, Wilderness must be a concrete thing, something that can be measured and documented. But in the wide-open stretches of Eastern Nevada, this much is obvious: “Wilderness” is limited only by imagination. It is a state of mind, a reality that can be entered with an odd mixture of choice, conviction, and surrender. And contrary to popular belief, you can go there on your bike. The Kern Mountains are tucked away in one of the most isolated corners of Nevada, a state that itself lays rightful claim to being out in the middle of nowhere. I volunteered to spend a month in the Kerns surveying potential wilderness boundaries for the Nevada Wilderness Project (NWP). Though not officially designated as such, the Kerns are under consideration for wilderness protection. My work would help determine if the effort is worthwhile. Typical survey work is conducted with a sturdy truck, a couple of gas cans, and a LOT of extra water. It’s long and monotonous work, requiring countless hours and hundreds of miles of driving on often horrifyingly bad dirt roads. Mapping wilderness boundaries is also incredibly resource-intensive, requiring more gasoline in three weeks than most people use in an entire summer. It is impossible for most vehicles to carry all of the gas and water needed to complete a typical survey project. On average, a truck-based surveyor can stay in the field for about a week before returning to refuel, rehydrate, and re-beer. I signed up for this work at a time when special-interest-fueled politicians are spouting all variety of appalling solutions for energy independence, including petroleum extraction schemes in some of our country’s most remote and wild landscapes. With this in mind, it seemed to me the height of hypocrisy to burn gallon after gallon of gasoline in a highly motorized attempt to create wilderness—one of the last bastions of silent, motorless peace. That is why I decided to complete my survey work by bike. Using a bike for this project allows me to assert my energy independence, but it’s also a chance to hang out in the gray area that’s been created in the inexplicably black-and-white debate over bikes and wilderness. In the course of considering the place of bikes in wilderness, it was somehow decided that you’re either pro-mountain biking or you’re pro-wilderness. Those of us who have strong feelings about both are forced to take sides, something that feels contrived. Being on a bike and being in the wilderness are two complementary experiences that have been inappropriately pitted against each other in an increasingly politicized argument. When I want to free myself of the politics that affect so much of our daily lives, I hop on my bike or I head to the wilderness. So now, while I still can, I’m doing both. Idealism and inspiration aside, my bike strategy is governed by at least one sober reality—my Subaru is ancient and has a gas tank about the size of a Dixie™ cup. It takes just about a ½ of a tank of gas to get from the nearest gas station out to the Kern Mountains, which leaves approximately ½-tank of gas to either 1) perform my survey work, or 2) promptly return to the nearest gas station. Including the food and water stops that need to be made when I go back to civilization, refueling is an 8-hour round trip. Bike failure would have serious consequences out here. Remote Nevada dirt roads are often little more than twin shadowy lines of heavily rutted singletrack. Hiking some of these old mining thoroughfares can be an adventure on foot, let alone two wheels. The bike had to be able to carry me, one-week’s worth of food, a minimum of two days supply of water, and all of my gear—a combined payload of about 400 lbs.—over roads that are often more scary than most hometown singletrack, and it had to do it without any problems. At any given time, I would be two days from my car, double that to the closest paved road. I chose a Surly Instigator built with an Xtracycle Free Radical for the job. Through the gracious support of some amazing guys at SRAM and Bike Mine, the bike would sport a Rock Shox Reba fork, SRAM drive train, fat Continental Vertical Protection tires, and up front, an Avid Juicy 7 brake with a rotor the size of a dinner plate. With the bike built and the project outlined, all that remained was to get my bike and I into the middle of nowhere. * * * Bikes and wilderness share an unlikely bond that doesn’t find its way into most conversations: they are a highly achievable means for the proletariat to incorporate freedom and adventure into their lives. Before wilderness is even designated; before the high-tech, ultra-light, polyester pioneers wage their weekend assaults; before most folks even know it’s there, wilderness bestows upon us its quite blessings of clean air and fresh water, anointing the impoverished and imperial alike. On an individual level, true indulgence in wilderness takes little more than a pair of shoes and a willingness to go for a walk. Like wilderness, bikes are easily accessible. Outside of walking, bicycles are the world’s most universally available means of transportation. Their special transport offers all who ride them a unique gift: most anyone who has ever ridden a bike can tell you about one ride when they felt, for a moment, the closest equivalent to flying that most ground-bound beings will ever know, short of leaving the earth. Implicit in bike and wilderness experiences alike are the twin spirits of freedom and adventure. These two spirits, more than any other, are what buoyed weary pioneers across the endless seas of waving grass and burning desert. The fevered rush of exploration and discovery spread across our country’s prairie, mountain, and tablelands like spilled water, and the aching desire for freedom, and unquenchable urge to know genuine adventure did not expire when the driven masses reached the golden shores of the Pacific. When once that frontier had been closed, those same spirits forced open the doors of possibility in other frontiers at home and abroad until, it seems, the explorations had been executed, the discoveries made, and the adventures had all been plucked while still ripe with hope. Our modern understanding of wilderness, and much of what compels us to protect it today, stems from a desire to preserve the landscape that shaped such an important part of our American identity. * * * Morning. Day one. Light unfolds across the canyon like the slow-motion snap of a dusty blanket, alternately hiding and revealing a phalanx of gargoyle shadows cast by the infinite, fantastically shaped granite domes and towers that make up this mountain landscape. The route I will be biking disappears quickly above my camp into a shadowed archway of ancient and aromatic mountain elderberry lined with countless granite sentinels. Just below camp lies a broad sweep of velvet green meadow ringed with aspens, leaves manicured to an even height by the elk, deer, and few free-range cattle that move through these mountains each season. I’ll be leaving the car here, and setting out by bike as soon as I can organize my gear. Packing takes longer than expected, as I sort through the month’s worth of rations I’ve loaded into my car. I pack and repack my clothes, fold a map to funnel spices into small plastic bottles, and review my first week’s rations one more time to cull unnecessary weight. Though at this point I’d give anything not to have to sort through all of this, I know I’ll need every bit of this food before I can entertain thoughts of heading back. I had test-ridden my loaded bike on one of my regular back-door circuits of singletrack before leaving home, and it had felt surprisingly lithe and manageable. Despite this, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of my now fully loaded behemoth. I am definitely exceeding manufacturer’s maximum payload recommendations. The map indicates today’s mountain pass lies at approximately 9,100 feet. Bowels shiver. There’s nothing to do at this point but start pedaling. Moving this bike up a mountain pass is like pedaling a bowl of water along a fencerail. The load feels completely unsteady, but it’s not long before I realize it’s me, and not the bike. It can handle it. Aside from the purely mechanical serenade of chain, pedals, and tires, I cannot hear anything over the sound of my internal dialog. “What the hell were you thinking!?!” it screams. Over and over. I fight the sounds of doubt by settling into a slow, but maintainable cadence. And then I hit the first washout in the road. This isn’t just any washout. It’s a cataclysmic rend in the earth’s fabric, a gaping void where once, not long ago, lived a perfectly passable road. This is nothing a vehicle could navigate, and nothing I can approach from the other side without at least two day’s worth of travel; there is no ‘going around.’ Navigation of the washout is far from easy, the only reasonable choice is to completely unload the bike and ferry it and my gear down the embankment, across the stream, and up the steep and sandy far side. The entire process takes 40 minutes. I cover 30 yards. The road on the far side of the creek steepens sharply on the other side, and I can’t get started on the bike. Head down, straining, I dig in and push upward. Careful attention goes to each and every step, making sure the steepness of the grades doesn’t send the bike reeling back to topple me. After a deep grind up to more level terrain, I get back on the bike and start pedaling. Again, I find momentum just as I reach another creek crossing—and another complete washout of the road. The maps do not say anything about washouts. This is why I’m here, to find things like this and document them. So despite the most immediate need to get up and over the pass before dark, this is where I’ve got to stop, take stock, and properly document the facts of this place. My argument, when I return to town with completed maps and photos will be something like this: Is it really worth the time, expense, and trouble to maintain roadways in a place where nature asserts itself so aggressively? Does this road serve a greater good that justifies its existence, or are we better off leaving this landscape to its own devices? Pictures taken and coordinates plotted, I’ve got to get down to the real business of crossing this creek. Steep embankments and deep sand be damned, the last thing I want to do is spend the next hour covering a measly 20 – 30 yards. Against better judgment, I point the bike over the edge and let gravity do its work. It’s not that bad, really. Once set in motion, 400 lbs. tends to hold a line. But I don’t make it far up the other side before I’m reminded that 400 lbs on two wheels does not float over sand. I manage to stop and hold the bike in place before I lose any ground, but it takes everything I have to keep it there. With a mighty shove, I bear into the bike and gain a precious couple of inches, clamp down on the front brake, and pause. Breath heaving, I remind myself how much I do not wish to be belly-up under water with this thing on top of me. And so it goes—push, brake, rest . . . push, brake, rest—ratcheting up the bank inch by difficult inch, until somehow, miraculously, the front tire finds its way up and—yes!—over the lip of the embankment on the far side. A couple more deep digs and the rest of the bike follows. I slump down next to it, wasted, and take a break. I finish 70-mile MTB rides back home with more energy than this. According to the map, I’ve gone less than ½ mile. It’s an uncomfortable time to remember that I chose to be here, and I chose to do things this way. So I make a new choice: I’ll try not to think about the 200+ miles of roads I have ahead of me. As night creeps down upon the range, I’m nearing the top of the pass and thinking about the weeks ahead. Before this trip is over I’ll have crossed 4 more passes and survived just as many barreling freight-train descents. I’ll scare the living bejesus out of scores of elk, a bobcat, a mountain lion, and the ever-present coyotes, and I’ll witness a hawk and eagle pitted in a mid-air duel. I’ll become hopelessly lost and then found again, cover over 200 miles of utterly remote and often unmapped roads, and stumble across a thriving polygamist colony. I will unknowingly evade a three-day sheriff’s manhunt (of which I’m the quarry) and eventually return to find my car broken into and the 12-pack of Tecate I left behind untouched and ice-cold in the nearby creek. For now, head down, I keep pedaling upward and thinking about why I’m here. Is it just to be alone? To prove a point? To find some trace of freedom and adventure? To find which side I’m on-- bikes, or wilderness? I love riding my bike, but I need to know that wild places exist. Freedom still comes easy on a bike. But in these days when outdoor lifestyles have become more image than everyday reality, we live far-removed from the land that stills sustains us. And precisely because we’re so suburbanly sprawled, genuine adventure is becoming as endangered as the creatures who call our dwindling wilderness their home. The heave of my breath and the creak and strain of the bike startle a pair of golden eagles resting in tall meadow grass near the top of the pass. They lift from the grass and swoop toward me, dwarfing me in the sunset shadows of their enormous wings. They’re near enough to touch. Remembering an old Zen proverb, my desire for the relentless climb to end evaporates in their presence: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” We must do what sustains us. But what to do if there is no wood to chop, nor no drop of water left to carry? The eagles slowly rise, becoming black stars above the ridgeline, and I return to my work. I’ll keep biking this mountain, hoping that in its own small way my choice, my action, will make a new wilderness.