Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

A friend described cycling as a whitestream activity. I mentioned that I saw a lot of poc commuters in the early morning, and expect more as Los Angeles Metro fares go up once again (boo!). But that’s commuting, she said. Of course there would be a lot of poc. Riding a bike becomes “cycling,” a sport or a recreational activity, when you don’t depend on it to get around. Much the same way that walking becomes “hiking.”

She may have something there. After a year of riding, it’s still a nice surprise every time I see other people of color on the trail. There’s a Pinoy group, and a few Pinoy friends and family who ride with me when they can, but mountain biking (and trail running, I think) still seems pretty whitestream. And the less I dwell on the mountainbike boards, where a post asking “Any Pinoy riders in SoCal?” was met with a flurry of “I’m forming a whites-only riding group” posts and charges of “reverse racism,” the better for my sanity.

I snicker at  claims that modern mountain biking was born in the 1970s, when a bunch of NorCal dudes started downhilling Mt. Tam and when road bike companies started manufacturing mountain-specific bikes. As a kid in the Philippines, my partner M used to ride his bike in the fields behind his house. It wasn’t called mountain biking then, of course. Just a bunch of kids riding their bikes where they could, like countless kids have been doing since bikes were invented. But that probably doesn’t count as modern mountain biking. Or as mountain biking, for that matter.

Neither was it called mountain biking in 1896, when 20 Buffalo Soldiers from the 25th Infantry rode from Fort Missoula, rode to St. Louis, Missouri.   This wonderful picture makes me happy:

US 25th Infantry on bicycles

US 25th Infantry on bicycles. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

More pics here.

And they rode wagon trails through the Rockies on steel singlespeeds that weighed about 70 lbs (including gear). Damn. POCs on mountain bikes rule.


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A year of riding

Some things I’ve (re)learned from a year of riding.

The climb is its own reward:

That hubs are spaces of tension. (The graffiti on this one reads “Hike, not bike.” What does that make those of us who do both?)


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A good life

Last spring, I spent a lot (to me) of money on a mountain bike. I have spent the past few months happily developing my climbing legs and literally soaring to new heights.

bikeI’ve also spent a lot of time feeling guilty. That I, a woman of color grad student from the Third World, could possibly spend that money on a bicycle.

How do I justify that? And why do I feel like I have to?


I previously wrote about the dearth of people of color riders on the Los Angeles trails. I have since spoken to other people of color who have been thinking about riding, about spending money on a basic mountain bike, one with decent brakes and some kind of suspension. For many, it’s do-able if (like me) they cut wayyy back on other expenses. But oh the reluctance, since spending the money and actually devoting time to riding is often labeled as unproductive. A waste of time. And maybe, just a bit selfish.

What constitutes a “good life”? For many, the idea of a good life follows a linear progression of childhood, college, marriage, mortgage, kids, retirement. Judith Halberstam observes how this idea of a good life is built around accumulation. Those who live outside this logic of consumption and accumulation are pathologized and vilified.

This dominant idea of a good life already devalues activities like riding and running and  walking and being outside. Because these are pursuits that do not necessarily promote the productivity that “a good life” demands. Instead, they are often a refuge. They are opportunities to breathe, to reflect, and to feel joy outside the consumption-based logic of capitalism.

Perhaps this is a reason why such interruptive and “unproductive” activities are vilified and pathologized in the first place.



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Tour de France was a few weeks ago, and Leadville 100 was last weekend. So all I did in between was scour the internet for cycling news, get stoked, then go out and ride. It’s a thrill each time because while I will never be Rebecca Rusch, I just really really love this shit.

Something that really bugs me, though? Is how often these breath-taking feats of physicality are framed in the violent imagery of conquest.

For example, there’s Lance not conquering Mt. Ventoux, and “Lance conquers Leadville”. It’s common imagery in climbing too. This wikilink talks about conquering and assaulting the “seemingly invulnerable and formidable” Mt. Guiting-Guiting. Two years ago, my excitement over the Pinays who summitted Sagarmatha (woot!) was diluted by the headline “Palace lauds three Filipina Everest conquerors.” That women can be conquerors too counts as progress, I guess. Plus the subtitle “shows women are equal and sometimes better than men” was a nice touch.  And just as a bonus, that last article also touts the three Pinoy mountaineers who, the previous year, had “made history by conquering Everest.”

Good lord. Chomolungma and Guiting-Guiting will be here long after we’re gone. They’ll always have the last laugh.


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