The Torqued Wrench: Cheers to the dirt

With dirt on his mind, Caley Fretz pleads for riders to forget their specs and cliques and get out the door together

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Editor’s Note: The Torqued Wrench is a look inside the mind of tech writer Caley Fretz. Every other week he tackles the rumors, trends, innovations, and underpinnings of the tech world — or something else entirely. You can submit questions to Be sure to check out Caley’s previous columns.

Lying in the little window seat of our mountaintop condo, feet up on the wall in the vain hope that gravity will pull the pain of a three-hour cross-country race out of my legs, I hear a knock. Half asleep, I ignore it. Probably got the wrong door, I figure. All these condos look the same.

But the knocker is persistent. The rhythm is desperate. My brother calls from the shower, where he is scrubbing off a few hours worth of North Carolina mud: “Get off your ass and get the door!”

Peeking through the peephole I see a man in red, white and blue, jumping a bit. He seems fidgety. He’s kitted out in a skinsuit with shinpads. His bike, a Giant, leans against the outside railing. I can’t make out a face, but open the door.

“I got to go, dude,” Giant man says.

“Go where?” I ask, still dimwitted from bonking at the end of my own race an hour earlier.

“No. I got to go. Can I use your bathroom? I race in 10 minutes. Super-D starts right over there,” pointing across the ski slope.

My brother is in there taking a shower, I explain. He is undeterred. “Nine minutes man; don’t have time.”

Sticking my head around the bathroom door, I explain the situation: “You’re going to have some company. Just stay in the shower, OK?”

“Company?” My brother sounds incredulous. Giant man is now hovering behind me.

“Adam Craig needs to do some business. It’s time sensitive,” I say. “Stay in the shower.”

A few awkward minutes later, Craig is back out our door. He yells “thanks,” hops on his bike and pedals straight to the start house, lining up with moments to spare. Uncharacteristically, he bobbles and finishes third. Perhaps his warm-up was not ideal.

I have no idea if he even remembers this moment, but it has provided laughs between my brother and me for the better part of a decade. I tell the story because it embodies everything I love about riding dirt, and it feels fitting this week as we move mountain bike stories back to Removing the barrier between tire and Mother Nature seems to do a wonderful job of eradicating the potential for pretentiousness.

For all the disparity in apparent solemnity, Craig comes at his sport with the same dedication as any roadie. He has completely different angles of attack, yes, and distinctive goals. But he goes through the same efforts, the same pain. Like any rider, he gets out exactly what he puts in.

Too often, the gulf between factions can seem insurmountable: the fan bases entirely different, the other side’s equipment unfathomable, the participants at fundamental odds with each other. Cycling can seem split, cliquey, like a high school full of cool kids and nerds, punks and hordes of skinny hipsters.

In recent years it’s spiraled into madness. Not just roadies or mountain bikers, we’re now labeled road racers, endurance riders that love tall head tubes, time trialists or triathletes, cyclocrossers, lovers of short-travel cross-country bikes, hardtails, slopestyle, dirt jumping, trail riding, downhill or all-mountain, whatever the hell that is. We ride 700c, 650b, 650c; 26er or 29er; 23, 25 or 32mm; 2.0 or 2.3 or 2.7 inches. These things try to define us, and we clump together with others dedicated to the same figures. Too often, anyone that picks a different set is ignored, shoved aside, left to his “own people.”

Of this, I am certainly guilty. We all are. But it need not be so. Everyone in the Velo office rides just about everything with a saddle on it, and we know many of you don’t stick exclusively to the road or dirt, either. Let’s back off the madness a bit, and remind ourselves that bikes are bikes, and we all get out what we put in, regardless of what we’re getting it on.

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