Angry letters.

While riding with Fish and Carlos the other day, We were discussing a topic which some folks might be familiar with. The short version is that there were some mountain bikers in the Berkeley Hills who were attacked by a ‘crazed trail nazi’ named Mike Vandeman and as a result, a fair bit of media focused on the occurrence. Sides were taken, battle lines were drawn, a court case happened, and it’s all mostly been forgotten about.

I had mentioned to them that last winter I had written a letter to BIKE in response to their article on the subject, which was (interestingly) never printed. Fish reminded me that I have a website and maybe I should post it here, which is what I’m gonna do.

“I have some thoughts regarding Peter Frick-Wright’s article on Mike Vandeman’s battle against mountain bikers in the Berkeley Hills. I had the misfortune of running into Vandeman one day about seventeen years ago just below where the opening photo was shot. We engaged in some light verbal sparing as I pled my case. He wouldn’t budge and went so far as to tell me the only way I would continue with my ride was to knock him off the trail. Clearly that wasn’t going to happen, so I turned around and continued my ride elsewhere.

This trail was a special place to me, as it clearly is to him. It was the place that I had cut my teeth on a mountain bike and I was always conscientious of other trail users as well as the health of the trail network. In the very early 90s I spent as much time as I could up there. From the top to the bottom, it was a sublime and brilliant ribbon of singletrack, that was well maintained and seemingly used respectfully by all groups.

Then shuttlers discovered it, and the trails widened and grew in number. What were at one time loamy foot-wide paths became muddy ravines. Eventually I became aware of outlaw downhill races being held there, the organizers actually shooting and distributing video footage of the events, which in trail access battles were used against us. The last time I was through there I saw that people had gone so far as spray painting arrows on trees to mark their courses.

I don’t defend Vandeman’s actions, but I can say without reservation that as someone who was equally impassioned about the original pristine and quiet beauty of the trail network, I was profoundly disappointed by the disrespect that mountain bikers had exhibited.

It was thoughtless and undeniably careless members of our clan who lit Vandeman’s fuse. It was only a matter of time before he exploded because of it.”

Last year I was accused of being sympathetic and supporting Vandeman’s attacks, which couldn’t be further from the truth. However I do side with his disgust of what became of that trail due to the abuse and neglect by cyclists.

Frick-Wright’s article paints a picture of cyclists who were simply happily riding along when they were attacked by a crazed lunatic. ‘As mountain bikers, we love nature and were just enjoying the great outdoors when this insane person with a long standing hatred against our ilk unleashed his wrath on us.’

Again, I don’t side with Vandeman’s tactics, but I can sympathize with his perspective. Like Dr. Phil says regarding stories like this, “no matter how flat you make a pancake, there are always two sides.”

That’s right…. I just quoted Dr. Phil.

My point in finally publishing the letter I wrote is simply to express that as much as we’d like to believe the contrary, cyclists were not totally infallible in the fracas.

Relating to this topic only in as far as respecting our trails and treating them as a resource, The Dirty Biker posted some thoughts recently on Drunk Cyclist which is good medicine;

Tuesdays with Dirty: Good Advice.

What resonates most with me is ‘singletrack is best when it is single’.

It’s perfect the way it is.

Much like my rant on how to properly run a bike shop, the solution for people on both sides of the issue is a reasonably simple one.

Don’t be a dick.

Relating to dicks… Or jerks as the case is, Jeff from both Bike Jerks MPLS, as well as All City Cycles made contact in order to gain some traction on his new Bike Jerks kit project;

“Could you do me a solid and throw a dude some press?”

I can and I did.

In other news regarding to the Portland East area- They are currently celebrating the work of three of my favorite non-dead artists, Ken Avidor, Andy Singer, and Roger Lootine;

Many years from now, art historians will most likely write many wordy papers as to why of the three, Roger is the only one to be happily escaping peril.

For more information, please visit St. Paul Bicycle Coalition page.

Let’s see… What else do I have? Ah yes, from Yafro I got this compelling article on ride apps;

“I couldn’t even read the whole thing without my eyes glazing over but since you also dislike this type of shit I thought you’d like to have some additional ammo for talking bad about it (deservedly in my opinion).”

The ‘thing’ to which he is referring of course, this piece on the B.R.A.I.N. website.

In response I replied thusly;

“It was like doing homework in highschool. My eyes would pass over the same line fifteen times before I even realized I wasn’t reading anymore.”

Like all other forms of computer technology and social networking before it, I have crossed my arms in a huff and refused to play ball, with the exception that in this case, I vow not to budge.

I despised computers, and saw email as the nail in the coffin of handwritten and thoughtfully drafted correspondences. We all see how that worked out for me, but I have to be disciplined to continue to maintain the form.

Twitter I saw as a venue for people to butcher what I feel to be a preexisting piss-poor ability to communicate. Then I took it as a challenge to write complete thoughts in 140 characters or less.

Like for example;



and even most recently;

See how much fun it can be?

But ride apps? I’m afraid that’s where I’m going to have to draw the line. Perhaps at some point I can snort a bunch of crank and actually make it all the way through that B.R.A.I.N. link and have an epiphany as to what the hubbub is all about.

Or maybe I’ll just write them an angry letter.

Spread this like it's sick

Leave a Reply

35 Responses to “Angry letters.”

  1. Teamfubar June 11, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    I’ve got friends on Strava that keep hounding me to join and just for that reason alone, I refuse. We’re gonna track and measure and KOM ourselves right out of the enjoyment of pedaling our bikes…

  2. STOOPZPOOMZ June 11, 2012 at 4:59 am #


  3. Fdub June 11, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Friends don’t let friends Strava.

  4. dayton June 11, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    Strava is no worse than heartrate monitors and speedometers. There will always be a cyclist type who will be the uber-competitive, number crunching type, waiting to tell you about their latest accomplishment and ask you how you compare. Even if you’re not this type, you know you speed up when you see someone on the road/trail ahead of you.

    Strava just takes it online. For my part, I’ve actually met new people through the app, in my little burg, finding someone who is willing to ride & hike 50 miles of steep, overgrown trail and ill-maintained jeep road isn’t that easy – but that strava thing put us in touch and illustrated that we’re the same type of crazy.

    Do I think all rides should be on Strava? Hell no. Numbers can take all the joy out of a ride. But do numbers sometimes have their place in our competitive sport? Sure. Bike Racing wouldn’t exist if that wasn’t the case.

    Long live bikes, and take or leave the numbers as you will. I may or may not be riding with my GPS, and I’ll see you on the trail (sure to speed up when I do)

    • phatty P June 11, 2012 at 7:07 am #

      “50 miles of steep overgrown trails” you=Epic!
      Strava,KOM,PR’s lulz…………
      geeks and their gadgets
      As much time uploading (then gloating ) then linking to facebook and twitter as riding.
      Then posting the “epic” pictures @twitter with the wanna be pro call outs-@cliffshot @trekbikes @primalbikewear etc,etc….
      But the best is the mid pack banter about your stravaing–
      I just put in ear buds and crank OFF! till i get away from these donkeys then remove earbuds and enjoy the ride, not the results-

      • dayton June 11, 2012 at 10:34 am #

        enjoy the ride, not the results. Word.

  5. Mike June 11, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Does anyone know how I can get the Facebook on the Garmin so I can post pictures of Peachy Canyon while I’m Stravaing the shit out of it?

  6. Jen Dial Santoro June 11, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    To the above poster… Heartrate monitors can stay to one side of a line that Strava can’t. Some people use them to train, other use them to monitor themselves because of a health condition whereby they can enjoy their bike without harming themself. Once you upload that monitor to a social site, THEN it becomes a Strav-like entity. And then, as someone else recently uttered, you can forever ruin bike rides.

    Stevil, I so get your point about trail destruction. I rode off-road for the first time 20 years ago this summer on trails that are now banned for use. I was the only person out there in Cleveburg on those little ribbons of dirt and I didn’t have a soul to tell about it who would have owned a mountain bicycle. Now I watch sadly as the awesome trails outside Salt Lake become miserable rutted disasters from shuttlers with really good brakes and no skills. Pretty soon I am going to be that dude on the trail going berserk, but I am not that big, so I might need backup.

  7. Ben June 11, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    If they don’t already, every ‘bag in Boulder will be on Strava by the end of the year, ’cause, you know, they take that shit seriously. Is it a prerequisite to have already lost the joy of cycling in order to get on that wagon? Now you can be just moments away from becoming a screaming trail nazi lunatic with a bike because all those other pesky cyclists and hikers who are enjoying the trail are screwing up what could be a “winning” time to the top of “I don’t know how to have fun anymore hill”.

    • Stevil June 11, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      I understand a number of trail conflicts have already occurred in this area due to people riding well above a reasonable speed in order to beat someone else’s time or whatever. And of course I already mentioned that folks are posting rides on illegal trails… All of this technology and not much brain power with which to use it.
      And I’ll agree with Dayton. Like any tool, it can be used and abused. The constant abuse is what I take exception with.

      • Ben June 11, 2012 at 8:49 am #

        Agreed. However, I’ll still be the guy sitting in the shade at the top of a big climb after walking up it slowly and enjoying the scenery.

        • Bbo June 11, 2012 at 10:03 am #

          Like I said to a guy telling me he can’t singlespeed because he needs gears to get up the hills, “hey man, you either ride it or you don’t, right?”

  8. sheep June 11, 2012 at 7:26 am #


    • phatty P June 11, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      posting the obvious=ooooHreally

      • sheep June 11, 2012 at 11:24 am #

        ok, your right. it’s just another manic monday.

  9. Dennis June 11, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Stevil. I am sad to say I have become a Strava nerd. I went well over ten years without using any sort of computing/bike ride measuring device. I guess I needed a change. They only thing I can say that is any sort of defense is….

    I smile everyday when I check my segments and see how I did on the “Coyote Point Reach Around”

  10. Crank June 11, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    I miss your unerring and provacative views on balls. Especially the tennis variety. I myself have owned a few balls, but they were taken away from me by my dogs, and partner in life. I miss the good old days, mountain biking on an old Schwinn beach cruiser with a shitty ass stem and worse tires. Politics and crazy land “ownership” aside, there should be a mid point between use, and sustainability. Perchance we could all just try to get……..oh ya, I forgot to say, “Strava my ass”. Just enjoy the fact that you are healthy, capable of affording a bike, no one is shooting at you, there is food on the table, and people that care for you. GO ride, eat a bug, piss in an inappropriate place, and clean your chain.

    • Stevil June 11, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Words to live by indeed.

  11. Viper June 11, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Does Strava calculate shreddingness or slayage?

  12. TB June 11, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Pretty sure there was a time when it wasn’t so damned unholy for a group to do a little self-study. I think your criticism of the actions of mountain bikers, or at least some mountain bikers, was dead-on accurate.

    I rode with Critical Mass in Buffalo, NY a few times. One time there was a huge uproar over some police intervention into the ride; namely, that BPD officers were punching some of the riders who were ‘resisting’ for having ridden on sidewalks and having broken other local ordinances ( Sides were taken in the aftermath, and naturally, bicyclists claimed that they were completely innocent of any wrongdoing. Except that they weren’t. They weren’t following the rules of the road as they claimed: they were riding several bikes abreast. Riders intentionally (although not really maliciously) made it difficult for cars to pass. Marijuana was being passed around the group at one stop. Who knows what really happened with regard to the incident itself – certainly the BPD officers vastly overstepped their boundaries; but were the bicyclists completely innocent of any wrongdoing in the eyes of the law? Nope.

    Apparently gray areas don’t exist anymore.

  13. Brij June 11, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    What a great letter. It’s too bad how trail-use issues quickly polarize, although I’m won over to the impending Pogonip trail. …Never did feel right about riding Side-O, but watching what it became was truly a bummer. I always thought of BTU pioneering it and got nostalgic.

    I think I’ll put this on my imaginary custom jersey: “Strava, like anyone gives a fuck.”

    AHTBM: the Voice of Reason, who knew?

  14. Captain Penguin, PhD June 11, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    In other news… Any word on the bandit jerseys?

    • Stevil June 11, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      The order window closed on the 23rd of May. From that point I have been told it’s a 60 to 90 day turn around. Fingers crossed that this is fact.

      • Captain Penguin, PhD June 11, 2012 at 11:28 am #

        Woo hoo! I have been dreaming about this jersey every night

  15. Andrew Warren June 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Is the comic sans on that poster used ironically? It should be appropriate because it is used in the context of comics, but I thought that font was such a no no at this point that its use was always mocked.

    • R June 17, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      You are correct.

  16. db June 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I’ve never met Mr. Vandeman face-to-face, but I had the unique pleasure of arguing with him online on occasion. He very helpfully linked to his own pseudo-study (I can’t find it online anymore) as irrefutable proof that mountain bikes caused more trail damage than all other user groups combined, including badgers equipped with pipe bombs. He was, at best, a very sad, irrational old man.

    That said, you are right on in your letter. I see trail damage from fellow cyclists riding when and where they shouldn’t, and I see litter that most likely came from us and not other users (like that CO2 cartridge). In that way, we created Vandeman and others like him. Thanks for reminding us.

  17. Michaelk42 June 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Oh man. I haven’t seen mention of Mike Vandeman since I stopped reading alt.moutain-bike around 2002. Looking at Google groups, it looks like he’s the only one left there, taking glee in posting articles about bad things happening to mountain bikers. What an exceptionally miserable, bitter old man.

  18. Nived June 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    The don’t be a dick could be another line of stickers.. You stepped up and helped up here in Lacrosse County when we came under fire.. And still to this day it is more important than ever to be kind to other trail users.
    I can remember when I was living in Flagtown and we were getting some anti-cyclist burying thumbtacks under the top layer of trail. Ribbons of single track are what keep me going and would be sad to see them go…

  19. jBay June 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Strava is the modern day version of comparing video game high scores at the arcade. You are right, some do take it a little too far, like when they track races…

  20. Colin M June 12, 2012 at 4:56 am #

    I like to Strava my dirt bike rides when I poach your singletrack.

    😉 Strava is how I track my mileage now. I never liked cyclocomputers, watches, or whatever needed that stupid magnet to be perfectly aligned with the receiver that always slipped or rotated.

    I didn’t need Strava to let me know I am faster than you.

    (ego post) :p

  21. nowheels June 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    no strava, maybe if I was fast???
    I use gps on my phone and I find it useful to see where I rode or show a friend who is looking to do the same ride. Checking it on google earth has also increased my sense of direction.

  22. Benny June 16, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    In an attempt to embarass me on a recent visit to my parents, my Mum produced scrap books of writing and ‘art’ that I had produced growing up so my girlfriend could look at them. The comment my girlfriend made was ‘wow what nice handwriting you had when you were younger’.

    From 0-18 I learnt to write, from 18-33 I learnt to type and now my handwriting is terrible and illegible because I try to write at the same speed I type!

    I find I enjoy cycling more when I don’t know how fast I’m going, equally I don’t care how fast anyone else is going. The feeling of either staying with someone I know is a better/stronger cyclist than me or the humbling experience of them leaving me in their wake is much better than numbers/charts on a screen. Plus you get to have a conversation occiasionally!

  23. Mike Vandeman February 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Too bad you don’t even have the guts to admit that mountain bikers shouldn’t ride where bikes aren’t allowed. Or ANYWHERE off of pavement, for that matter. Thanks for proving my point.

    • Stevil February 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, but your idea of gutlessness is apparently my idea of diplomacy. As always, it’s all about perspective, though your comment only serves to make you look like the rash, and hysterical individual the media portrayed you to be.