Kali Journal

Santa Dan Drives the Mountain Biker's Sled

We roll up to the Big Rock Shuttle and we are surprised to be greeted by Santa Claus, Santa Claus Dan, to be exact. Even though it is summer in Utah, Santa Dan is dressed in red and is as jolly as ever. Leading up to this, we even made sure we had been more nice than naughty knowing he would be the one shuttling us to the single-track. Kali: Santa Claus Dan, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where you're from, how you got to Utah and how did you end up running shuttles?Santa Dan: Why, I am Saint Nicholas aka Santa Claus from the North Pole. I make wooden toys for children that I give out at Christmas. I fly into SLC every other day to hone in on my sleigh driving skills with Big Rack Shuttle Service. (Really I'm from Iowa, raised on a farm in the 60's and 70's, I moved here with my wife in 1992 to raise our 5 boys.) Kali: Do you have any crazy stories about clients on the shuttles? Santa Dan: Crazy stories about clients, hummm! Well, nothing really comes to mind outside mountain bikers in general seem to be pretty crazy to ride some of these trails. I had a lady all excited about going one morning to find her and her friend on the side of the road wanting a lift back down the canyon. When I stopped to give them a ride she said she had sprained her shoulder possibly on a close turn through the trees and hit her handlebars. Not that her injury was funny but that when riding up in shuttle she said that she disliked this part of the trail. Karma? Kali: What is your favorite thing about running shuttles? Santa Dan: I love to drive, see the beautiful scenery and enjoy meeting different people from all walks of life and being a part of another person's adventure with mountain biking. I'm 61 with bad knees and an ailing back so this type of biking is out for me but listening to those who can endure this activity is heartwarming. I used to ride quite a bit when I was younger. Now I have a nice 7 speed beach cruiser. Still enjoy biking only horizontally. Kali: What's your least favorite part about running shuttles? Santa Dan: Least fun part of running shuttles is hitting my shins on the metal rack on top of the van. Ouch. I have the scars to prove it. Kali: If you weren't running shuttles, what would you be doing and where would you be doing it? Santa Dan: Well, well! I will be making and wrapping presents for all the children ages one to 92 to deliver on Christmas Eve. Silly question if you ask me. HO, HO, HO! Merry Christmas in July! I personally make wooden toys in my woodworking shop and have for years. I always enjoy the smiles and giggles of those who receive my wares.
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Sun Valley is a Pedaler's Paradise

Sun Valley is a strange place. It is the perfect intersection of cowboy hats and lycra tights. The land where the lifted 4x4 lives harmoniously next to the Audi RS Q8. It is a place held in time by traditions, like the rodeo, but being pushed forward by the influx of minds and money. The landscape is now scattered with amazing modern architecture blending somewhat seamlessly with the traditional. The writer's conference, music festival and "Billionaire Summer Camp" bring crowds from all over the world.  And the biking is out of this world.  The gravel riding is extensive, varied and goes on in all directions for miles and miles. The mountain biking is flowy, ample and grin-worthy, whether you love your dirt flowy or deep  and steep. If you prefer a little lift, Sun Valley offers gondola rides to the top of Bald Mountain for a more gravity fueled day on the bike.  "So what did we learn today," said my riding partner after our attempt to ride up Bald Mountain. "We learned just because a ski slope is super easy coming down does not mean it is super easy riding up." Now, if you’re a roadie, you might want to pick a different destination, as the paved bike paths are fairly extensive, but in our estimation the road riding takes a back seat to all things gravel and dirt. We were fortunate enough to be invited to visit Sun Valley and the amazing new house of some close friends. If they didn’t profess they had more company on the way, we’re pretty sure we would have never left.  Our first ride found us on the gravel bikes, rolling past the Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Skating Rink and heading West out of town along Warm Springs Creek. There was a fair amount of 4-wheel-drive traffic traveling up and down this road, some friendly and some not so much, but as we climbed up past Bald Mountain it was clear that a fair number of them were in search of one of the many natural hot springs found along the route. It is one of the trips great regrets we didn’t stop and soak in one of these exquisite river respites.  The elevation of Sun Valley, at just shy of 6,000 feet, did play some havoc on our breathing and sleeping, but our friends were kind enough to remind us to stay hydrated, but they weren’t sweet enough to let us believe we were fit enough to actually ride with them. Advantage goes to actually training and living at elevation.  An additional fun fact about the region is there are 7 peaks in the Sawtooth Range of Idaho all with an elevation over 10,000 feet, making this a skiers, hikers and, yes, bikers paradise.  We can highly recommend the Clubhouse Louis at the Sun Valley Club, the whole trout or the half chicken at The Covey and just about any cocktail served up at the Pioneer Saloon, a good old fashioned watering hole where you will wash your hands with the fishes.  The shopping in downtown Sun Valley has a little bit of everything for everybody, from cowboy attire, secondhand stores, art galleries and various knick-knackeries.  If you’re the type of person who likes to plan things out, we highly recommend you put Sun Valley on your list for next years' July 4th weekend. The rodeo down the street in Haley, Idaho is perfect way to spend the holiday and the fireworks show is a great way to top off a week or weekend of riding the miles and miles of all Sun Valley has to offer.  Do it.  
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Dave Sheek: The Other Half of Team Tuff

We recently spent some time riding the beachy, pumice terrain of Mammoth Mountain and it got us thinking about the crazy pair of Kali athletes, Amanda "the Panda" Nauman and her somewhat silent-partner Dave Sheek and their crazy gravel event, Mammoth Tuff. With just about a month away from go-time, we met up with Sheek in Mammoth, CA. to find out a little bit more about about the man, his love of cycling and this adventure they have conjured.  Kali: David, do you remember your first bike and are there any interesting stories about that bike or your very early days on the bike? Sheek: The first bike I really remember was a BMX bike my dad got me for a birthday. I was young, it was shiny and awesome. But, the story got better as I learned more about what really happened. He had a successful night at the blackjack tables on a trip before my birthday so I got the new whip. Maybe the gambling part is bad to share but it still makes me laugh. Kali: Can you tell us when you realized you love riding bikes, if in fact you do? Sheek: I loved my bikes from a young age and learned to just go explore on them. I grew up in Mission Viejo, Orange County, CA when there were still farms, cattle ranches, and we still had orange groves. This was where the 1984 Olympics were held and it was an amazing experience to be ten years old and watch the road race descend out of my neighborhood. This was all before the Irvine Company turned it into a complex, on a complex next to a complex, so I learned to love the bike and adventure. I would put on a backpack loaded with gear and go find trails to get me to a lake to fish, or that lead over a hill and through parks to get to the beach. There were days I remember skipping school to ride 20+ miles to the beach, body surf, and then ride home before the end of the school day. (Not recommended kids, stay in school. -DS). Kali: Do you remember your first race and what were the early days of racing like for you? Sheek: The first races were MTB when it was huge in the 90's at Snow Summit Ski Resort in Big Bear, CA. They had an amazing amateur cup series, and the World Cups were in California as well. I learned about mountain biking in the late 80's and got motivated with some friends to start racing. We thought we trained back then doing a loop at the mountain bike park or riding a long distance on the mountain bike. But, again, it was more about the adventure to go ride where the races were and explore somewhere new. Kali: At some point you added coaching to your riding portfolio. How did this come about? Sheek: I was teaching until about 2012 or 2013. Loved sharing knowledge but more breaking things down so people didn't waste their time on the bike or as an athlete to get results. I have always been an athlete and questioned how to improve performance, no matter what I was doing. After too many years getting hurt on snowboards and a lot of PT, I started riding again and eventually training with other coaches and racing. Naturally, I continued to learn more about the sports science side of endurance sports and the nitty gritty of racing bikes, so I then began working with CTS in 2014. Kali: What is the number one piece of advice you give someone who is thinking about signing up with a coach? Sheek: Make sure the coach-athlete relationship is good, choose someone you can trust and listen to. It is okay question things to understand why you are doing it, but if you don't trust the person, you will never allow yourself to get uncomfortable and explore your boundaries to make new adaptations. Kali: Mammoth Tuff seems like it is going to be tough, did you hold back on the route or is this just about as tough as anyone would want it to be? Sheek: Amanda and I are holding back a little, but it is extremely TUFF. The short route is one of my go-to rides when I have four hours in Mammoth to go for a ride. The long course will be one of the TUFFest 100-ish mile events anyone has tackled. It will be an amazing experience with the full range of emotions and extraordinary sights people will experience through the day. Kali: Why Mammoth Tuff, not only why you named it Tuff, but why would you invite people to come do such a tough thing? Sheek: From the Mammoth TUFF site...Tuff (tŭf) is a general term for all consolidated pyroclastic, volcanic rocks. The name, Mammoth TUFF, is a nod to the Long Valley Caldera and the volcanic stone that defines "gravel" in the area. The caldera was formed about 760,000 years ago in a volcanic eruption from which the magma still underlies it, heating underground water and fueling hot springs the event will ride by. The short course is around 45 miles with 2,000 feet of climbing and will circle the famous caldera. The long course is around 100 miles with 8,000 feet of elevation gain and travels through the Volcanic Tableland formed by the Long Valley Caldera. Prepare to be transported back in time on routes used by miners and even further back. We are inviting people to come do such a TUFF event because it’s where Amanda and I fostered our success at gravel events and where we’ve created many great memories. Its beauty is so unique, but the views are hard earned. We loved the beauty and the beast aspect that the area has to offer. Kali: What sponsors do want you want to shout out to who helped you make this a reality? Sheek: There are a lot of sponsors that are helping put this event together and the Town of Mammoth Lakes through Visit Mammoth is first. Without them, this event would never have come to fruition and they believed in our vision from the beginning. Monster Energy - Monster Hydro have been big supporters of what we have done as endurance athletes and ambassadors for so many years with the goal of pushing their enhanced water. They also believed in this event and want to be there to help riders reach their full potential. Kali Protectives, of course, is a brand that has more to offer a rider than most realize because the world of sports is all marketing. Small brands don't have the dollars to compete in this world all the time, but the technology from Kali emphasizes safety and it’s the number one reason we have stayed loyal to the brand for so many years. None of this matters if we can’t keep the noggins safe! Thanks, Brad! See also: Niner Bikes, Rene Herse Tires, Knobbe Martens, Floyds of Leadville, Kelly Painting and more. Head to the site to see the brands you can help us support. Kali: What does the future look like for David Sheek? Sheek: For now, the future is the Mammoth TUFF and building the TUFF brand to introduce some TUFF gravel camps and eventually a TUFF trip or two. More on that in the near future…
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Life Upgrade Unlocked, Utah-Style

Sandwiched in between living in Africa as a kid and spending the last four years in the heat of Arizona are the 40 years, I spent in California working in the bike industry working as a sales rep for various brands. With California being one of the many bike hubs, you shouldn’t be surprised to know that mountain bikers often refer to California as the “Gold Coast”. With the amount of riding between San Luis Obispo across to the southern Sierras, Mt. Pinos, and the Santa Monica Mountains, you can always stay busy and trail satisfied. I eventually made the move with my family to Arizona, working remotely, and traveling the country for four years as Kali’s tech trainer, POP installer, and general schmoozer. Arizona was good to us but not great. While there were some good rides, they weren’t nearby, and the desert is quite inhospitable. I broke my shoulder, collar bone and many ribs within my first few months in Arizona which made for a not-so-great introduction to my new home state. Fast forward a few years and suddenly my wife, Nancy, is laid off after 10 years with the same company. Seeing this as an opportunity to change things up, my extremely motivated, highly employable, wife and mother to my children made the mistake of asking me where I want to move to next. Without even thinking about it I said Utah. As a lover of all things mountain bike and snowboard, Utah is the mecca. She got a great offer, made it happen and before we knew it, we were packing our family up and making the big move. I have only been here for two weeks and have already ridden so much goodness at Sundance, Deer Valley, as well as a handful of runs on the Wasatch Crest Trail. Big Rack Shuttle really makes it easy and hard to pass up. For $15, Santa Dan picks me up 10 minutes from my house, loads my bike on the van and takes me to Guardsman Pass at 10,000 feet. This 22-mile descent winds right back to my car. I do the ride and can get back to my desk, ready to work just in time for the Kali Protectives office in Morgan Hill to open. Even the easy weekday ride here in Utah is more epic than most enthusiasts are lucky enough to experience.  Nancy is adjusting well and hitting it off with her new work peeps. My kids, the Tornado Twins or Tsunami Sisters, are loving their camp that offers ice skating and swimming. You also can’t go wrong with neighbors that do a “house crawl” by cracking beers and sampling whiskey on a Sunday afternoon. I think it’s safe to say my neighbors are rad. There is so much to do, see and ride and I have barely scratched the surface. We are 20-25 minutes from four major ski resorts and with the trails so close, I hope to experience a new one on dirt or snow every week of 2022. Keep an eye out for that story next.  
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From Red Zone to Wine Zone

Our Italian friend Paolo Ciaberta could probably be mistaken for a gypsy or a drifter, butin reality we believe he is just a man built for adventure. He photographs and writes for publication around the globe and as far as we know he has never said no to a single assigning editors crazy requests for content. We know the Italian lockdown was playing havoc with his mojo and that of i suoi amici in bicicletta (his bicycle riding friends), so we made sure when they came out of lockdown he was prepared to tell us the tale of being back on the road. We have left his somewhat strained English in place, because we couldn't bring ourselves to change a word of his story. We hope you enjoy it, as much as we did:  As often happens, the idea was born in the evening. Simone called me and said "the time has come," after months of confinement at home, early darkness, too many evenings watching Netflix and days planning future trips, it's time to get back on the bike to travel freely outside our city. For the most part of world population, spaces had been drastically reduced as the possibility of traveling: global society, founded on movement, was confined at home. Only time advances undeterred and spring with him, and was the spring that welcomes our first bike trip after too many months of inaction.   We are in the heart of Piedmont, a few kilometers from Turin in a territory with a deep-rooted local identity that has its roots in the remote Middle Ages and this, ladies and gentlemen, is the Roero. The Tanaro is a river that cuts a territory in two parts, creating two separate worlds that look at each other with some suspicion, challenge each other, each perch around their bell towers according to the best Italian traditions: Langhe on the right bank of the Tanaro and Roero on the left bank. Identity: "It's not Langa, it's not Monferrato; the Roero is a place unto itself ». Roero slow, because here the hills are gentle and invite you to enjoy the expanses without haste, without the obsession of the clock and the hassle of returning to the city. Roero of hills planted with wineyards, but not only. Certainly, however, that without the wineyard the Roero would not exist, and it's a matter of culture and passion, on these same hills today the symbolic wine of Roero is born, the white Arneis, a cheap wine born of a poor agriculture of pure subsistence, now has become the emblem of an oenology that challenges the noble competition of the Langhe? But Roero is all here? Only rows, cellars, wine bars, distilleries, villages, bell towers? Wrong, because if it's true that the hills are gentle, this land that has always been a transit and crossroads of different roads suddenly turns out to be harsh, bizarre and wrinkled when you approach the so-called "fortresses", fissures formed in the ground at the time of the glaciations, morphological oddities due to the synergistic action of the earth that split and the water that washed away, an extraordinary paradise of contrasts in which you pass in a few hundred meters from the sand to the swamp through the vineyard and the wooded expanses. Here once was the sea, and the fossils that emerge from the ground are the silent but eloquent testimony. We have chosen this area for the landscapes, for the wines and for the excellent gastronomy but above all because the conformation of the territory is perfect for cycling. An infinity of hills that chase each other in a continuous ups and downs ( in Italy we call it “eat and drink”), between roads that seem designed specifically for a nice ride, steep climbs but just as short, surrounded by vineyards and their fruits, in spring still little ones. After such a long time, finding ourselves among friends chasing the wind could only fill us with energy and joy, when you are used to freedom you do not even realize how important it is except when you are deprived of it and this applies to everything, for a lunch at a restaurant, to feel the wind in your face, for the scent of the flowers and then also for the healthy tiredness of the legs, which after months spent on a sofa them thanked us. We need a few things to live well and the freedom of cycling with friends is certainly one of them. I don't think this pandemic will change mankind but certainly some habits have changed, I personally have noticed the "backyard"; it is not necessary to go far or look for the exotic to experience adventures, to immerse yourself in beauty, to discover new places, beauty is close to us and is often underestimated. Travel is not only measured in distance but also in depth.   Italiano Come spesso accade, l’idea è nata di sera. Mi aveva appena chiamato Simone, il compagno di scampagnate e ci siamo detti “ è arrivato il momento ”, dopo mesi di reclusione casalinga, di buio presto, di serate davanti a Netflix e giornate a programmare i futuri viaggi è arrivato il momento di tornare in bici per viaggiare liberamente fuori dal nostro comune. Per la maggior parte della popolazione mondiale gli spazi si erano drasticamente ridotti, così com’era svanita la possibilità di viaggiare: la società globale, fondata sullo spostamento, era confinata in casa. Solo il tempo avanza imperterrito e la primavera insieme a lui, ed è proprio la primavera ad accogliere il nostro primo viaggio in bici dopo troppi mesi di immobilismo.  Siamo nel cuore del Piemonte, poche decine di chilometri da Torino in un territorio dalla radicata identità locale che affonda le radici nel remoto Medioevo e questo, signori, è il Roero. Il Tanaro è un fiume che taglia in due un territorio creando due mondi separati che si guardano con qualche sospetto, si sfidano, si arroccano ognuno attorno ai propri campanili secondo le migliori tradizioni italiane: Langhe da una parte, riva destra del Tanaro e Roero dall’altra, sponda sinistra.  Già, l’identità: «Non è Langa, non è Monferrato; il Roero è un luogo a sé». Roero slow, perché qui le colline sono dolci e invitano a gustarne le distese senza fretta, senza l’ossessione dell’orologio e l’assillo del rientro in città. Roero di colline coltivate a vigna, ma non solo. Certo però che senza la vigna il Roero non esisterebbe, ed è una questione di cultura e passione, su queste medesime colline oggi nasce il vino simbolo del Roero, il bianco Arneis, vino da quattro soldi figlio di una agricoltura povera di pura sussistenza, ora diventato emblema di una enologia che sfida la concorrenza blasonata delle Langhe.  Tutto qui il Roero? Solo filari, cantine, enoteche, distillerie, villaggi, campanili, torri? Errore, perché se è vero che le colline sono dolci, questa terra da sempre di transito e crocevia di strade diverse si svela improvvisamente aspra, bizzarra e corrugata quando ti avvicini alle cosiddette "rocche", fenditure formatesi nel terreno all’epoca della glaciazioni, stranezze morfologiche dovute all’azione sinergica della terra che si spaccava e dell’acqua che dilavava, straordinario paradiso di contrasti in cui si passa in poche centinaia di metri dalla sabbia alla palude attraverso la vigna e le distese boschive. Qui un tempo c’era il mare, e i fossili che affiorano dal suolo ne sono la muta ma eloquente testimonianza. Abbiamo scelto questa zona per il paesaggio, per i vini e per la gastronomia d'eccellenza ma sopratutto perchè la conformazione del territorio è perfetta per andare in bici. Un'infinità di colline che si inseguono in un continuo sali e scendi che in Italia chiamiamo mangia e bevi, tra strade che sembrano disegnate apposta per una bella pedalata, salite ripidissime ma altrettanto brevi, circondato dalle vigne e dai suoi frutti, in primavera ancora piccoli. Dopo così tanto tempo ritrovarsi tra amici ad inseguire il vento non poteva che riempirci di energia e gioia, quando sei abituato alla libertà non ti accorgi neanche di quanto sia importante se non quando ne vieni privato e questo vale per tutto, per un pranzo al ristorante, per sentire il vento in faccia, per il profumo dei fiori e poi si anche per la sana stanchezza delle gambe, che dopo mesi passati su un divano ci hanno ringraziato.  Abbiamo bisogno di poche cose per vivere bene e la libertà di una pedalata con gli amici è sicuramente una di queste. Non penso che questa pandemia cambierà il genere umano ma sicuramente alcune abitudini sono cambiate, io personalmente mi sono accorto del “giardino di casa”; non è necessario andare lontano o cercare per forza l'esotico per vivere delle avventure, per immergersi nel bello, per scoprire posti nuovi, la bellezza è vicina a noi e spesso la si sottovaluta. I viaggi non si misurano solo in distanza ma anche in profondità.   
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Rolling Large in the Land of Lincoln

Greg Molnar and I decide to meet up at the trailhead early to beat the heat and humidity. There was a deliciously classic thunderstorm over Chicagoland the night before, so the bike ride will be more of a photoshoot.  Molnar makes it clear he won't be difficult to spot at the Raceway Woods Forest Preserve parking lot. "I am easy to identify at 6'7"," quips Molnar, as he pulls his pimped out Turner titanium mountain bike off his One-Up rack.  We hunted down Molnar becuase he was one of the first people to purchase one of our new Kali Grit helmet and we wanted to actually see a Grit out in the wild.  Molnar has a very easy-going, Midwestern vibe going and he immediately launches into tales of rides, riders and the difficulty a man of his stature has in finding proper bicycle attire, in particular finding shoes for his above average size feet. It is not difficult to understand how he is a valued member of the Chicagoland cycling community and if we lived a little closer we would certainly be spending some time turning pedals and telling tales with this big-hearted, large-hooved cyclist.  Kali: Greg, tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what you do for work, family, etc... Molnar: I grew up in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago and still reside there today.  I work selling Cloud Technology for Google Cloud.  I been married to my wife Jamie for 29 years and have 3 daughters and one dog a 14 year old hound dog Copper.   Kali: Can you remember your first bike? Molnar: Ha, my first bike was a red Schwinn Stingray that eventually was converted to a BMX bike.  Kali: Did you fall in love immediately or has it been an up and down relationship? Molnar: I've had a life long love of riding but really became much more serious again when I turned 40 to get into shape.  My primary passion is Mountain Biking and have been dipping my toes into Bike Packing. I also ride quite a bit of Road and Gravel.  Kali: Can you share one epic bicycle story with us? Molnar: Some friends and I did a ride lasting 12 hours last year covering 75 miles on the North Country Trail from Traverse City, MI South to where we were going to camp.  The conditions were harder than anticipated and it rained for at least the last quarter of the ride.  We bailed on camping and stayed in a hotel to dry out.  Kali: We are meeting up on one of your favorite local trails, can you tell us about it and why you love it. Molnar: Illinois is considered flat, so no great mountain bike riding.  Raceway is an example of the local community building a fun trail with enough up and down to be interesting. Plus it is close enough to home for a spur of the moment ride.  There is a great Brewery, Scorched Earth, nearby for post-ride refreshment. 
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