*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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Samantha Szczur - Chapel Hill, NC

My favorite trail is about thirty pedal strokes from my front door. That’s thirty pedal strokes with a 32-tooth chainring in the front, whatever cog in the back, and moderately strong legs. I include that bit because if you’re reading this, I assume you care. But I digress. Some things you expect and others you don’t. Begin pedaling and anticipate busted lungs and scorching legs. The embodied suffering is part of the allure of course. Cyclists tend toward masochism but play it off as obsessive or better yet, “fitness.” What’s more interesting, at least for me on my ride is the not so expected. Like the clashing sensation of having a roof over your head while outdoors. Or the feelings of utter vulnerability and total empowerment. And as the pain begins to surge and the leaves on the trees blur, that’s when the trail starts to talk. “So it’s you again. How’s your back?” “Terrible, as usual.” “You need a new stem.” “Ummm.” Trail thinks it knows everything. Hasn’t it ever heard of teeth-gritting tenacity? “Haven’t you ever heard of proper bit fit? “Ummm.” Back around to the loopy part that flattens out. One of the very few places rocks and roots have ignored. I love the ferns that grow here. They’re so green. Just, GREEN. Speaking of ferns, “Where the Red Fern Grows” is a great book. “Yeah, I love that book.” “It’s kind of heartbreaking.” “I know, can you believe they call that a ‘kids book?’” “Ridiculous.” After churning through fernland, the trail spits you out onto the fireroad. What a nice time to catch your breath. But not for long because you’re headed out to the section back by the lake. I hate that off camber techy climb with the funky root at the top. Unless I clean it, then I love it of course. That lake is pretty gross. Who built that? And why? It’s a nice place to rest and get some water though. And that’s what I do. The weathered remains of a case of beer suggest that I’m not the only one who stops here for drinks. My heart slows as I look at the still lake. The water in my mouth is delicious. The water in the lake looks disgusting. The juxtaposition, even more than the water, is refreshing. Sigh. “My cat almost died a little bit back. It makes me sad to think about.” “Oh,” answers the trail and then sends the mosquitoes out. They only get you when you’re stopped, never when you’re moving. And you only think about dying cats when you’re stopped, never when you’re moving. It’s a good friend that doesn’t let you think about those things too much; a friend that toes the line but knows the difference between “enough” and “too much.” “Stupid mosquitoes!” “Better get going then.” It’s not so much the expected as it is the unexpected. I expect the lake, I expect the sensations in my body, I even expect certain thoughts. But the unforeseen is what really makes it interesting. Even though you anticipate the bends and swoops and momentum of the ride, it’s never the same trail twice. You know the mechanics of how you move over this or that obstacle . . . until the obstacle has changed, or there’s a new one, or the old one is gone. This reminds me of a book I read a couple months ago . . . THWACK! BAM! “Don’t be so pretentious!” “What was that?!?” “It was the meeting of your handlebar and that tree!” “What?!?” “You know better than to think about French philosophy when you ride. There’s more to life than poststructuralism.” Ahh . . . the startling reminder that sometimes you’re better off with dirt between your ears. Pick up the bike. Brush the tree bark out of the wound and mount up. Shake it off. Get a sip of water. At least it wasn’t an endo. “Jeez, guess I’ll just think about dreams then.” “Dreams are fine, but no Freud.” “Fine. Deal.” But seriously, there’s a bike shop that exists in some dusty part of my mind. I only go there in my dreams. It’s always a pleasant experience going to the bike shop. There’s no infectious egos or any other such posturing, not to mention the rotating selection of sick bikes. One time I went there with my parents and they left with a pair of BMXs. Imagine that, Bob and Sherry on a pump track. Or better yet, some trails. “Why’s that so weird?” “It’s not, really. It’s just, you know, my parents. It’s like thinking about them, you know. All that pleasure. Ugh.” As if pleasure’s a bad thing, right? Why is it that we have such a hard time allowing ourselves to feel good? There’s lots going on with pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. What is riding your bike through the woods? Pleasure? Pain? Both? Neither? It depends? Oh relativism, sometimes you’re a savior. All this flip-flopping makes me tired. Out of the woods then. Turn the crank until I’m propelled from the woods. I’m sweaty, a little hurt, satisfied, exhausted . . . happy. But wait, I’m forgetting something. I have my water bottle and my bike satchel. There’s nothing else I could be missing. Oh yeah, except for thinking about my mission. I’m missing my mission! Yikes! Guess I’ll just have to write about today then. My mission is as varied as my moods. And I am a VERY moody person. It is sometimes to be versatile, nimble, efficient and stable. Other times it is to be limited, gawky, futile and rickety. My mission is to punish myself for the pints of last night or to reward myself for abstaining. Or to figure out what was going on that time I ran over a snake and couldn’t decipher if I wanted to cry or throw up, but ended up doing neither. I ride to think and not to think. Or maybe to think about not thinking. I ride to remember who I am, or rather, who I’d like to be. Or maybe more importantly, who I wouldn’t. Sometimes I ride to be the fastest in the group. And others, so I can fit into my fall jeans after a summer of eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer. I ride to forget dying cats and remember my parents that live far away. To remember my dreams both literal and figurative, restoring faith that the latter could come true. I ride for the most violent of falls and the most graceful of movements. My mission is to understand paradox—both from within and without. My mission is to meet trails personified. And talk to them. And listen.