Where to begin with this story? I guess like most stories from the beginning. The beginning for me has been well documented. Norcal. SF in the late '80s early '90s. It was a magic time for me. The foundation for who I am as a cyclist and person was all laid in stone way back then. I was taught what it meant to be a part of a community. To build a community. To take care of each other. All before the internet. How the hell did that work right?
The internet is not a "bad" thing. After some early dust ups the #NECX has really grown because of the 'tubes. I suspect we would have grown into this big family on bikes regardless if we had a daily water cooler named Twitter to share stories, heckle, entertain, plot and scheme the next ride etc but I sure think Twitter has helped bring us together. I think back to the early days and the fundraisers, rides etc that grew out of someone throwing an idea up on to this virtual water cooler and the action that would come out of it. The #NECX has each others back. Period. Sometimes we may get into some crazy twitter fight about whether cats rule and dogs drool. Or whether society as we know it will crumble because of the introduction of aero helmets. No matter the "fight" we are always friends. Its part of being passionate about something. I have never had such friendships in all of my life. And I thank the #NECX and yes partly Twitter etc for allowing me to get to know people I never would have been so close with.
Ok onward and upward! Fast forward to yesterday. Most of you who read this know Russ. Everyone in the #NECX sure does. For those who don't let me introduce you to my good friend. Russ makes my attempts at helping others seem like amateur hour compared to what he does. He is a race promoter, PRO photographer, maker of radness and all around great human being. He never says no to anything. He helps at every race we put on or attend. He is part of the MRC (Minuteman Road Club) which puts on countless bike races. They are one of the clubs who really dig down deep and provide high quality events for all of us to enjoy. But he doesn't just help on his races or his clubs. He is at all the races. Working. Shooting photos. Making ALL of us look fantastic. I am a troll of a man. Well, I prefer Hobbit. But still they aren't know for their looks. Russ takes photos of me that don't make me want to hide in a darkened room. Those are just the things we see. Russ is always there for people who need him. Whether its to take someone on a ride or just talk with them. The man is a Saint. He also is a 100% badass. I call him the Chuck Norris of the #NECX. Mostly because he is indestructible. And also because like Chuck he has a tendency to get his butt kicked a tad by the bad guy before getting up and finishing off his rival with a flying round house kick to the head. Russ gets bloody. A lot.
I forget who coined the term "Don't Ride That Russ" But it became a slogan/hashtag what have you. It was a gentle heckle at Russ's both fearlessness and his ability to mess himself up. The more I wreck the more fearful and tentative I get. Crashing only seems to motivate Russ to ride more sketchy stuff. Which as his friend is petrifying. So about two weeks ago I decided an intervention was required. I emailed a few friends to see what they thought. I pitched the idea of what if we made a rad tshirt and raised money for Russ to get a new bike. Everyone was beyond enthusiastic and supportive. The overwhelming response blew me away. The great thing about the Bike Industry is it doesn't take much for people with rival brands etc to come together for a common cause. I contacted all my friends. Most who rep competing brands or work for competing retail bike shops. No one blinked. At the end of the day the timing worked to go with Landry's who happens to be MRC's main sponsor. Again I was impressed that there were no hard feelings. Everyone who I asked donated. To ensure the big unveil was a secret I had to keep it a pretty small circle. I still don't know how we kept it all a secret. It came close to unraveling a few times believe me. There were some close calls.
So thanks to MRC and Landry's we were able to order the bike almost instantly. The bike gods were with us the timing couldn't have been better. Weird how that works sometimes. But we now had two weeks to keep it together. And in those two weeks we had some pretty high profile events on the horizon. The first test was Gnar Weasels. I now was in fear not only that the secret would get out but that Russ would die riding his Jankmobile in the time it took to get his new Party Bike. So I lent Russ my Honey. Which was good and bad. I always forget how short I am. Russ somehow made the bike work. And kept raving about it. It was killing people to keep their mouths shut and not leak it. Then Russ started asking people for spare parts to upgrade his 7 (editors note: Russ just told me its 17 yrs old!) year old Jankmobile. The Jankmobile is a (1)7 year old aluminum Specialized with v-brakes. Part of what makes Russ so great is he has NEVER complained about that bike or used it as an excuse for a crash or race result. People could all learn a lesson from Russ. When I finally looked closely at his bike I could only shake my head.
When I arrived at Russ's house with his brand new Trek Superfly FS 8 he was literally beating a dent out of his rear wheel with a 2 x 4 to get it rideable. So many people made this happen. David Deitch took the idea and ran with it. He designed an amazing tshirt and sticker pack. And he just kept getting me stoked. He ordered the bike and figured out sizing through some old fit data Landry's had of one of Russ's other bikes. The Jankmobile was useless as a sizing tool as it was about 2 sizes too big and had some crazy 90 degree rise stem on it. Carrie Mosher and Brandon from the Westborough Landry's were huge as well. After riding with Russ this Monday and literally almost seeing him die. I decided we had to do the unveil on Tuesday. Russ's schedule also dictated that Tuesday was the window. But it was tricky. Russ knew something was up. We ride about once a week but two days in a row? I tried to play it cool. But man I was FREAKINGOUT. I am not good at secrets. Horrible actually. So I just played it really low key. "Hey how about we ride your trails we always ride mine" He said he was busy. I said "Well anytime works for me do you have a window?" Again he was suspicious but he is so great he probably just thought I needed to hang out so he didn't even hesitate and said sure meet me at 11.
So it was on. I had some harried talks with Brandon and Carrie and David. Arrangements were made. I drove out to Westborough and picked it up and loaded it in my van. Then headed to Russ's house. The entire drive I was losing it. Wanted to cry cause I was soooo happy that we did it and it was about to actually happen. Then I got wicked nervous. I am so lame with the feelings sometimes. I didn't know what Russ's reaction would be and am not Dirtwire.TV. I know people wanted the moment captured for them. I wanted to capture the moment for the ENTIRE #NECX. I felt guilty that everyone wasn't with me to see Russ when he first saw the bike.
So I pull into his driveway and like I said he is literally beating his bike with a 2 x 4. I get out of the van and say " Russ you don't need to do that anymore" And he looks at me and tells me he has to if we want to ride. And I say, "The #NECX has sent me to do an Intervention. We feel its time to retire the Jankmobile" He looked at me funny and said "What are you talking about?" I said come here. And opened the van and unveiled the sickest Party Bike ever. He was floored. All he could do was thank everyone for doing this for him. It was amazing. And yes there was hugging. Lots of hugging. Then we took all the reflectors off and the pie plate. Put on some Ardents and video's of his first wheelie attempt and then headed out for one of the best rides I have ever gone on in my life. It was pure magic. Really what all rides should be. The bike was PERFECT. Deitch nailed the sizing. Which was causing me many sleepless nights. We stopped for a few little adjustments but man when we hit the first section of trail Russ took off! He was flying up and over everything.
He took me on some great trails. What blew me away was how free he was to just let the bike GO! We came around a corner and saw a two week old Fawn. Did you know Fawns say "Ma" when startled it was wild. Then we came across a Copperhead. I didn't believe it until I checked later. The woods Spirit Animals were with us. We took many hug breaks while riding. Now Russ is not a hugger. He isn't as bad as Jerry. But not a hugger. #NECX prepare to be hugged for the next six-months when Russ sees you. Russ and I are fairly close in ability on a mtn bike. He has zero fear and I wreak of fear constantly but its close. And our fitness ability is pretty close. On this ride it wasn't even remotely close. He dropped me so bad on a few climbs I could only laugh. And the downhills weren't even close. Luckily he waited for me at the intersections.
We had such a great ride. It was pure magic. Then we got to hang out and have a burrito and a 'Gansett and talk about life and bikes. Everyone should have a day like this. HUGE, HUGE thanks to everyone who made this happen. Someone asked a very fair question on twitter once it was unveiled. It was asked very nicely (which is unusual for Twitter with all its snark) and just out of curiosity. To paraphrase the question "Was it just because? Like a random act of kindness (or shredness)" I actually liked that. A random act of shredness. I think we just created a new thing. A random act of shredness. We need to do these things large and small more often. In fairness we really do. The #NECX is so special. Everyone does so much for each other. I feel so lucky to be a part of this and have so many amazing and talented friends.