Hanging With A Crankworx Superstar

A few weeks ago Jim asked whether I wanted to shoot some dirt jumping at the Kali Protective HQ. I love photographing new, challenging assignments but to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve really shot anything dirt related. Sea Otter Classic doesn’t really count as shooting dirt. And I hadn’t really shot dirt jumping. I was worried about not knowing what to shoot, much like how regular photographers photographing skateboarding get laughed at by skateboarding photographers for missing the “peak” action shots which actually matter. 

But Jim also said Nicholi Rogatkin was going be in town riding with the local groms. Yes, the Nicholi Rogatkin of Crankworx Joyride fame. So I figured what the heck, yolo. It’s not every day you get to “hangout” with a Triple Crown winner of Crankworx Slopestyle who also happened to pull the World’s first Cashroll on a downhill bike.

The day started out normal enough, photographing Nicholi getting ready, portraits, moments and riding (duh). Things were going as planned until we started doing portraits. It turns out I remembered everything for the shoot, minus my case of lights. Which was a total bummer. I didn’t have enough time to drive home and grab them now. But at least I had one tiny Canon speedlite. I made the best of it and ended up utilizing this set of vintage monkey bars.

It wasn’t long before the kids started to show up. So there we were in a dirt lot turned XL pump track with a bunch of star-struck kids brushing shoulders with one of the hottest riders in the gravity circuit, bantering about tips on how to stop the crankarms from spinning midair, how to approach this one massive jump and running rider train, over-and-over, until well after sunset. 

Speaking of the sunset, someone borrowed a full-blown construction light just so everyone could ride well past sunset. And then it was a twelve-year-old kid who gave me a quick lesson on how to operate a bobcat dozer and casually pointed out what’s wrong with the choking generator connecting to the airbag at the end of the jump.

All that happened while Nicholi was busy launching flips and spins like a walk in the park. It is easy to see why he has won so many contests and is so admired by the dirt jump crowd, his riding is athletic, yet graceful and his personality is equal parts hipster and sweetheart.

At one point, a Mercedes rolled up and out popped a former Powder Puff motocross racer. She saw the riders jumping in the air while driving nearby, and decided to pull in to simply watch. 

It dawned on me that this was completely different from the other “major league” sporting event I am accustomed to shooting. There were no rope lines, no press passes, no media lounge and no pretenses. It was just a real hang amoungst people who came for the love of bikes. 

It was a damn good day, and I’m thinking I should shoot more dirt this year. 

The Kali Invader Is (Finally) Here!

Kali Protectives Invader helmet

Teased since 2017, Kali Protectives’ Invader is finally making its long-promised invasion into the world of full-face enduro helmets.

Kali Protectives Invader helmet

Designed for those all day big mountain rides, the breezy-looking Invader would probably win in the number of vents category with its 35 strategically-placed throughout its svelte frame. So airy as if it was made for the StarWars Scout Trooper.

Kali Protectives Invader helmet
Brad Waldron, Kali founder, rides the new Kali Invader on some of his local trails in San Jose, Ca.

Looks aside, the unibody construction makes the integrated chin bar strong enough to pass the motorcycle chin bar testing. The Invader is by no means a downhill full-face helmet replacement, but it is made for those rowdy trail rides where extra protection would be nice – all without feeling stuck inside an oven when the trail points upward.

Kali Protectives Low Density Layer (LDL)

Since it’s a Kali, there’s also the proven Low Density Layer (LDL) “bumpers” that offer protection against rotational and linear forces by crushing, shearing and rotating during certain types of impact.

Kali Protectives Invader helmet

The $225 Invader also comes with an adjustable visor, anti-microbial pads, a magnetic Fidlock buckle, as well as Kali’s lifetime crash replacement policy where Kali will happily replace your helmet for only the cost of shipping.

Two sizes and four colors are offered starting today. 


Kali Protectives Invader helmet

The World Is A Funny Place

Or at least, my world is a funny place.

In a blink of an eye, I went from working for inGamba Tours and traveling the world with a bunch of shaved-legged, power number crunching, gram-counting, Strava checking, prosecco consuming roadies to hanging out with a bunch of baggie short wearing, hairy leg having, sag checking, flat pedal pedaling, beer drinking, shuttle taking mountain bikers.

Now not all the folks that work at or wear Kali helmets are fat tire fatties, we do sponsor a road team, some triathletes, a few gravel riders and a whole bunch of BMX riders. 

But the culture definitely slants towards the pickup truck tailgate-sitting mountain biker set.

And for me this has caused a bit of a culture shock.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely unfamiliar with the activity of mountain biking. Hell, I bought my first mountain bike before there was suspension and then proceeded to save all my “extra” money to buy a RockShox Mag21, so I could experience this new fangled thing called a suspension fork.

But it turns out, while I have been commuting by bike, riding the road and doing some “mountain biking” in the Oakland Hills, the real world of mountain biking has passed me by. 

I got dropped.

And my attempt to chase back on has been a bitch.

First of all, the trails have gotten deeper and steeper.

The bikes have gotten bigger and more capable of, well, just about everything.

And the riders have gotten more “bruh.” 

Okay, the mountain bike riders aren’t any more “bro” or “bruh” then they were before, but it is just a little bit harder to infiltrate the club now that I’ve been away for awhile and I’ve grown a little to grey.

Now, I’m not talking about the type of mountain biking the “roadies” of my previous life were participating in. You know, the kind where they pull on their lycra road kit, throw their leg over their 20-pound carbon wonder whip and pound out 50 miles of dirt, where the up is almost always more important than the down. 

I’m talking about mountain biking where the riders hire vans to drive them to the top of whatever mountain there is, any pedaling is frowned upon and the riders are more concerned about the alcohol content of their beer, than the calories in their power gels. 

I am not ready for this type of activity. 

My shorts aren’t baggie enough.

My shoes aren’t clunky enough. 

My jersey is a nudge too “aero.”

My legs aren’t hairy enough.

And my bikes not big enough. 

Well, not all is lost, as I have solved the first problem. I’ve bought myself a big ol’ bike to make up for my lack of talent and to try and fit in with my new peeps.

There are plenty more lessons to be learned and shit to buy and this makes me happy.

Let the deep and the steep journey begin.

New Toys For A New Year

The Holidays are in the rearview mirror and now all we have to look forward to is several months of short, dark days and questionable weather.

Sounds horrible.

But wait.

We can still partake in daydreaming, adventure planning and some good ol’ retail therapy. So in the spirit of the Holidays past we bring you a list of items to occupy your mind, enliven your spirit and thin your wallet.

As we head into 2019, with all the struggles of the Stock Market, the bicycle industry and the confusion over tire size, pressure and compound, we still remain huge fans of all things bicycle. And while we are still confused about all this indoor “bicycling” everyone seems to be doing, we hope this will lead us all to more adventures and miles outdoors.

So come on in and check out our Lust List.

Giro Aether

Giro not only sweats all the little details in striving to make the safest helmet, but the Santa Cruz, California firm also understands the importance of aesthetics. Case in point, that new Aether MIPS. Gone is the oft pesky (but life-saving) MIPS plastic liner that we have all come to love and loathe, depending on who you’re asking, but the function of MIPS remains. How? Giro’s engineers incorporated it between two EPS shells, thus making it pretty much invisible, with no obstruction and more comfort. Besides the nine different stock colors, you can also make a one-of-a-kind custom Aether on their website. How about that for a fashion statement?

Kali Protectives Strike Knee Armor

Kali’s Strike Knee Armor has you covered when things start to get a little “gnar.” The Strikes stay in place, are comfortable in the riding position and are slim enough to sit nicely under any and all of our fashionable baggie short choices. While we wouldn’t want to do chairlift runs in a pair of these, we found we had a plenty of piece-of-mind riding our local trails and ripping our local drops knowing we had our knees Kali covered.

Outer Shell Adventure Drawcord Handlebar Bag

Just read Outershells “About” page and, if you aren’t completely jaded by the world, you will just want to throw money at them. And I quote, “The ‘Outer Shell Adventure’ embodies our quest towards spiritual harmony with ourselves, nature and other travelers.” I mean. Come on. They make really sweet bags, have a satisfaction guarantee and will basically fix any problem into eternity free of charge. We threw down some coin on their Drawcord Handlebar Bag in hopes it would be the final dollar we would spend on trying to solve our “bikes and cameras…cameras and bikes” problem. And although we loved the construction and detail put into this bag, our hunt for the perfect camera bag continues. The size is perfect for our micro 4:3 camera, mounting is straight ahead and the drawstring allowed seemless access. We just don’t want our camera in a bag. If you are the type of rider who needs a little more room than your jersey pockets allow and you love to stop and take pictures… this might be the perfect bag for you.

Kenda Nevegal 2 Pro

Born in 2003 and rebirthed late last year, the Kenda Nevegal 2 Pro is back with all the classic stylings and modern accoutrements todays trail riders are looking for. The newly designed tire is fast rolling, protected with K-Armor and is surprisingly lightweight for a tire with this much enduro worthy pedigree. If you love to get after it, but also don’t mind pedaling to get there, this tire should be on your shopping list. If you are a full on Enduro contender, you might want to look elsewhere for something just a touch beefier.

Mission Workshop Traverse XC Short

These Mission Workshop Traverse bloomers are nothing short of amazing. They may lack the neon accents and full on bells and whistles of other shorts in this “segment,” but what they lack in bling they make up for in subtle superiority. The material is ripstopping and confidence inspiring, while remaining in the featherweight division. Two smaller side zipper pockets offer just enough storage for the one or two items you want immediate access to. And the “contoured waist belt” pushes this short from good to great while keeping the short right where we like them even in the trickiest of situations. Bravo, Mission Workshop. Bravo. Now we just need to try the All Mountain version of this short.

Fi’zi:k Aliante Open R1

The Fi’zi:k Aliante has been one very successful saddle since its introduction in the early 2000’s. Its TwinFlex shell is supremely comfortable akin to lounging on a hammock, a heaven for those who prefer to stay seated the majority of the time. The overall concept hasn’t changed much through the years, but Fi’zi;k decided to really shake things up a bit last year. The new Aliante Open R1 retains the gorgeous silhouette of the Aliante family, but adds an anatomical cutout in the center to alleviate unwanted pressure on those sensitive soft tissues. A wider, larger version is also available for those who need additional support. If cutouts are not your thing, Fi’zi:k is also offering a version with its full-length Versus relief channel, or you can always go to the tried-and-true regular Aliante, both also available in two widths.

Go Bag Essentials For The Gnar

I live in earthquake country and sadly I am more prepared to run out the door for a chance at some hero dirt than I am for a big shaker. But then again, maybe it just means I have my priorities straight. Because statistically I feel like I am more likely to get invited to a knobby tire adventure, than I am to be around for the “big one.” This might be foolish thinking and in the end I might regret my decisions, but it is much more fun shopping for new knobbies, than shopping for bottled water and C-rations.

Oddly, I have given this a lot of thought. Since I mostly travel with my road bike I am always trying to find some way to get in a little dirt when I am on the road. This means I have to beg, borrow, plead or rent my way onto a mountain bike. Below is the short list of things I try to pack to make sure I am not only able to ride, but am stoked when the opportunity arises.

Kali, Interceptor $180

Rolling over the top of a blind-pitch, headed to god-only-knows where, the last thing going through my mind is whether-or-not the person who designed my helmet knew what they were doing. Luckily, for me I’m wearing a helmet designed by protection nerd, Brad Waldron, at Kali Protectives. The Interceptor is one of many choices in the newish “enduro” helmet market, designed to give more protection than a weight-weenie cross country helmet, but not the no-holds-bar protection of a downhill helmet. The Interceptor has great coverage, style and plenty of ventilation for all day comfort and just the right amount of “holy shit, about to have an epic yard sale” piece-of-mind for your melon.

Five Ten, Freerider Pro Shoes $150

Sticky feet make for happy trails and the Five Ten reputation defining Freeride Pro is the perfect go-bag shoe. Pull them on, wear them through the airport, out to dinner and onto the gnar from the trailhead. The Freerider Pro is perfect for rolling all over the mountain and honing your mountain biking skills. If you’re not wearing Five Tens, what are you wearing?

Mission Workshop, The Hauser $215

Who knew staying hydrated could be so sexy. So very sexy. Mission Workshop’s Hauser hydration pack falls on the pricier size of packs to strap to your back during your shred and we know form is supposed to follow function, but in this case we wanted a Hauser long before we ever figured out if it was any good. Luckily, for us and for you, this is one quality ripping sack.

To start, let’s get the double bummer out of the way. First, the hydration ready bag, even at over 200 clams, does not come with a hydration bag. It seems a little silly to design a backpack specifically for hydration and to not include a bladder. Fortunately, for me I had one of Osprey’s Reservoirs on the way and can now attest it is one of the nicest and easiest to use bladders on the market. Second, this may not be the best backpack to pack on a scorching hot day. Although, we don’t get many of those here in NorCal, but having this in my go-bag as I prepare for a trip to the Arizona desert has me a little concerned. It just does not vent against the back as well as my Camelbak Mule.

Now on to what we did like about the Hauser. We already mentioned how amazing it looks, but with those good looks comes stellar construction. This pack is built to withstand any major yard sales, comes with an additional tool roll, has plenty of pockets for organization, is waterproof and we chose the larger 14 liter version which sits nicely on the back without hindering mobility. And we would remiss if we didn’t mention these beauties are made right here in the ol’ U.S. of A. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

We like it. And we think it brings out the color in our eyes.

Shimano, Saint MX80 $60

These Shimano flat pedals are not the lightest or the thinnest pedals on the market, but they are reasonably priced and workhorses ready for anything you can huck off of or pedal up. The other nice part about packing these MX80 pedals instead of clipless is they will, arguably, make you a better rider. They will make you find a better balance on the bike, teach you to weight and un-weight more efficiently and will give you more confidence on a strange whip.

DynaPlug, Air Tubeless Repair $74.99

The hardest decision I have when putting my go-bag together is which tool, hell how many tools, do I “need” to feel comfortable on the trail with someone else’s bicycle. The first thing I make sure I have is some duct tape. I usually wrap a nice helping around a hand pump I bury deep in my bag. I then pack a giant multitool, with a chain breaker, into my bag. I love the tools from Lezyne, Park and Crank Bros. Which brings us to the DynaPlug Air and our love of all things DynaPlug and CO2. With this little wonder you just find the puncture, push the repair dealie into the punture and twist on the air. The air plugs the hole and fills your knobbies back to pressure at the same time. Of course, this won’t help if you have a side tear, but that is why I carry a tube, extra C02 and duct tape.

Silca, Maratona Gear Bag $180

I have been using my North Face duffel bag as my catch-all, stuff it full and go-bag for the last couple of years and I have had no complaints. The only problem being that although the duffel swallows everything I can think to throw into it, but that also means I can spend way too much time, sometimes in a panic, digging around in its gluttonous innards in search of this or that.

Along comes Silca’s new Maratona gear bag with a spacious amount of room and ample organizational opportunities. You have the option of three different carrying straps or make the quick conversion to make it a backpack. The Maratona is designed to meet airline carry-on regulations, so whether you are going around the corner or around the globe, your go-bag is ready to go.

Clif Bar, Crunchy Peanut Butter $1.79/ea, $17.88/box of 12

Sure they are better when they are fresh, but even an old Clif Bar is better than no Clif bar at all. Sure you could do a gel or a block or another bar, but I’ve been gnawing on Clif Bars so long they feel almost like comfort food. Ok, maybe not like a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, biscuits and gravy or a piece of pumpkin pie, but these bars have gotten me through plenty of oh-crap-I-am-about-to-bonk situations.

Light&Motion, Seca 1800 $350

Let there be light. With the days shortening, but the weather still within acceptable riding temperatures, it is the time of dawn and dusk patrols. It is also time to break out the blinky lights and headlamps. The Seca 1800 is an excellent choice for these extend the day jaunts. The quad LED array throws enough light to gobble up the dark and make you feel secure in your line choices on any trail you find yourself pedaling. We ran the Seca on our bars and we ran the Seca 1800 (as in 1800 lumens) on our helmet and didn’t feel like we were asking too much of it in either spot. Add in the fact this chubby, but lightweight light is waterproof and it will get you where you need to go, even if you should have gotten there hours earlier.

Giordana. Monsoon Jacket $380

The cycling rain jacket has come a long way in the last 5 or so years. Not that long ago rain jackets made for cycling were basically fancy garbage bags with zippers stitched in for good measure. You basically pulled it on and let the sweating begin. And lord forbid the rain eased before the ride ended and you had to remove your jacket… you were soaked through and through. The new generation of rain jackets is not only windproof and waterproof, but also “somewhat” breathable. The Monsoon jacket is cut plenty long, with great length on the elastic sleeves, taped seams and packs down to a surprisingly small footprint. I also love my Mission Workshop’s The Orion jacket, the Castelli Tempesta jacket and the Shower Pass Club Pro.

Kitsbow, Shorts $125

This is the first version of Kitsbow’s Base Shorts and I keep them at the ready for any last minute rides. They are beautifully constructed, bombproof and super cozy. I’ve put them permanently into my go-bag, knowing full well they are ready for anything the trail can throw at me. If my bits are protected and comfortable, I can always ride in a pair of jorts and a flannel shirt, so as long as I have my Kitsbow base shorts I am good to roll.