Kona Ambassador Brooklyn Bell is no stranger to fighting the good fight for diversity and inclusion in the outdoor industry. As a woman of color, Bell has dealt with the broad spectrum of challenging treatment from racism to tokenism. Teton Gravity Research sat down with Bell to figure out how she’s paving the way for others, as well as how media, brands, and individuals can provide a more welcoming and empowering environment for everyone.
Bell says in order to bring more diversity into the fold there are several things that have to happen. Personally, she wants to be present and be a voice. She is a representative of the people and her presence helps to change perspectives. “I try to give people opportunity. I try to open doors I’ve been walking through and bring people with me. I send other athletes to companies that want me to be an ambassador,” she says. “There’s not just one thing I do, but there’s a lot of different things we can do together. I can’t do it all myself.”
The feeling that this trip might not go as planned stuck with me as I drove, white-knuckled, down the highway towards the snow-covered Green Mountains. The roads were obscured by wet ice and slush, and I could feel the car sway in the wind. I originally thought it would be nice to head up into the hills for the weekend to get some early season gravel grinding in. Usually, our spring is wet and windy in Quebec, but this was not typical spring weather. Earlier that week, I had made a blanket call to friends to see if anyone wanted to join me. There were no takers. They had obviously seen the weather report that I missed or at least refused to believe.
Welcome to the Eastern Townships of Quebec: where the gravel is loose and abundant, and the landscape diverse and rolling. I was headed to the small town of Dunham, an area southeast of Montreal, close to the Vermont border, that is the gateway to the Green Mountains. The region is known for its agriculture (specifically apple orchards), wine vineyards, and microbreweries. I booked an overnight stay at the Boho Boutique Hostel, which is conveniently located next to one of the most creative beer producers in Quebec: Brasserie Dunham. When I pulled into the parking lot, the town was tucked under a blanket of snow, maybe six inches deep. The sky was grey and billowing, the light dark and flat. As I sat in the car, the windshield wipers mixed with Leonard Cohen’s voice seeping out of the speakers, lulling me into a trance.
Everything will be fine, I reassured myself. The snow will melt, and you’ll have the roads all to yourself. After mustering up the courage to step out of the car, the gracious hosts let me check into my room early so I could throw on multiple layers and get ready for my ride. The warm room looked great: a big bed with fluffy pillows and a duvet that could swallow you whole. This wasn’t making it any easier for me to face the storm outside and hop on the bike. Maybe I should just leave it in the car, grab a couple of bottles of beer from downstairs, and spend the day dreamily in bed. But I had come too far to just sleep the weekend away.
The whole point of the trip was to explore, with no real agenda other than having fun. So, I decided to head out and see where my new Kona Rove NRB DL would take me. I threw my camera in my bag along with some locally made flatbread, sausage, and cheese. I also had a few oranges, homemade oatmeal energy cookies (recipe below!), and my beat-up Thermos full of hot chocolate. I kept things light, as I knew I wouldn’t be stopping anywhere for long in this sort of weather. I started rolling out of town just as the snow stopped. I quickly turned east to head towards Selby Lake. While the road was slick, my whip was surprisingly nimble in the snow and ice. I reached the top of the hill, watching my heavy breath drift across the road over the snow banks. It was cold, but the view was so beautiful that it took my mind off of the frigid temperatures. I giddily glided down into the valley below, past frosted apple orchards and classic wooden barns. I thought I saw a crack of blue sky, and the sun even shyly poked its head out for a brief moment.
This was my first real ride on gravel and in the big hills with the Rove. It was blowing my mind how comfortable and confident it was. The descents felt exciting, but controlled and smooth. The climbs were effortless, even while down in the drop bars. And the 650b WTB Horizon tires were really the star of the show. They were both supple and forgiving. I had no problem gliding through the slush, rolling over the choppy ground, and hopping out of ruts. They were deceivingly smooth and gripped the ice like a tiger all at the same time.
I turned down a few more country roads and started to climb up a large hill known as Pinnacle. It’s a decent climb on a good day, and the adrenalin that had built up from the excitement of the ride was starting to dwindle. I jumped off the bike to warm up my feet a little and grab some snacks. I walked down the road a bit to see if I could see any signs of wildlife in the bush. There wasn’t much to see, other than the imaginary fluffy bunny shapes appearing in the clouds above. I realized that I couldn’t make it all the way to Sutton and back at this rate (which would have been about an 80km loop in total), and I started to think that I should have brought a Kona Wozo fatbike instead. I checked my location on Google maps. If I backtracked a bit, I could still cut across some nice terrain and be back in time for an early happy hour at the pub.
After munching on a bit more sausage and cheese and a few more sips of warm hot chocolate, I set off in higher spirits. Then, magically, as if the beer gods had heard me, the sun fully broke out, and the sky started to clear into a brilliant blue. Things were looking up, or so I thought. With the warming light also came slushier and softer conditions. Potholes started to fill with water, and mud started to gather on my bike. The brisk northern wind was still cold, and the mixture of water and mud started to freeze to the frame, drive train, my legs, and my cycling shoes. I started to miss the earlier roads hardened with ice and snow, but it was still amazing just to be out riding in the country in the sun, and I was enjoying every minute.
I was almost back to Dunham with warming thoughts of the pub when my drive train froze—literally. I came to a halt immediately. I looked down and the build-up of ice and mud had become so thick that it fused my chain to the chain ring and derailleurs. My crank just wasn’t moving. I tried to chip the ice away, but it was solid and wouldn’t budge. I looked at the map: only 3km to go. I would have to hike the rest of the way into town. To be honest, it wasn’t such a bad time to go on a bit of a stroll to warm up my frozen toes. The sun shining down was pure bliss, and it was the first time in a while that I was actually feeling warm. I strode down the tree framed lane, past old horse barns and Victorian mansions. A few old men passed me walking up towards their farms and gave me funny looks, but they waved and smiled nonetheless. “Une autre semaine!”, one of them yelled. Did he mean another week of snow or only another week until spring arrived?
Finally, I could see the two church spires looming over the town below. I looked at my phone and had made it just in time: it was beer o’clock! I slid down the hill and pulled up to the century-old coach house where my warm room and dry clothes awaited. But first, I needed to celebrate my return. I popped into the brasserie, sided up to the long wooden bar, and ordered a refreshing Dunham Saison, along with an order of crispy fries and a side of homemade beer mayo—a Belgian favorite. The golden hour was shining its beautiful light through the foggy windows, and I was soaking it all in. I began to understand what my fellow Montrealer Leonard Cohen meant when he sang, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Cracks are essential for the light to shine through the darkness. You have to push through a little bit of the madness and hardship in order to get the reward.
Chewy Oatmeal Energy Cookies Here’s one my favorite recipes for energy cookies that are better than those hard to eat bars – perfect for those cold rides out on gravel! Prep Time | Cook Time: 15 minutes | 9 minutes Servings 18 cookies Calories 207 kcal
INGREDIENTS • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened • 1 cup dark brown sugar • 1 tablespoon molasses • 1 large egg • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract • 1 cup all-purpose flour • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves • a pinch of ground ginger • 1 tablespoon of cricket powder • 1 tsp each of ground flax, ground pumpkin seed, hemp seed • 1 3/4 cup rolled oats • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter until smooth with a hand mixer. Butter that’s been out of the fridge for about half an hour works best for this recipe. If it’s too soft and the cookies will spread too much.
Add the brown sugar and continue mixing on high speed until the butter is mixed in well.
Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is combined.
Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, flax, pumpkin seed, hemp seed, oats and cranberries.
Mix on low speed just until the flour disappears and everything is well combined.
Roll the dough into balls just larger than a tablespoon. Press each ball down onto the baking sheets to form a cookie shape, leaving enough room between the cookies for them to spread slightly.
Bake at 375ºF for about 9 minutes or until the cookies just lose their shine on top. Let them cool on the pans until almost completely cool, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store the cookies in an airtight container, or a Ziploc bag on the trail.
Words and photos by ambassador Seb DeMeris, who has a pretty big quiver of Konas! Our second theme for the ambassador program was “Light.” To see all of the “Winter” submissions, please click here.
Light is what is missing during the winter when the days are short and dark. It’s then something I need to take with me every morning to be visible when I ride to the university. And I need to put them on the bike again when I go home at the end of the day.
Light in the day during spring becomes longer, which means more time to ride!
And shape too!
Light and heat during summer can be avoided by riding
in the fresh air of the woods.
Light in autumn is something we have to enjoy until the rainy, snowy and dark months of winter.
Light and shades in the forest is something I could
stare at all day long.
Light is what my Process 153 wasn’t at the end of this enduro race (by the way I hope it’s the last time I’ll have
to run to finish a special ahah) .
Light can come from a bonefire after a ride, and mean
goodtime with friends.
Light mean beautiful landscape in the morning and in the evening.
Light is something you can look for when you’re in the
Light is what I would have need to continue that way. It sometimes limits the possibilities.
Light on a trail can sometimes be magic, and forces us to stop, have look and enjoy the present!
light become longer, let’s enjoy this on bike !
Trevor Browne of Messkit Magazine (and also a Kona Ambassador!) took the time to interview our marathon-man, Cory Wallace about his adventuring and what exactly fuels him on his trips. Cory relies on a wide array of foods and powders to make it through his mega expeditions. He also loves to sample the local street foods in the exotic countries where he rides.
Whether in Nepal, Bhutan, Chile, Cambodia or wherever far-flung place he rides, you can rest assured food is the top priority for making it through big days in the saddle. Jump in to see what’s in Cory’s messkit!
Kona Ambassador Ryan Lindsay Bartz has the good fortune to be able to travel around the globe with her Kona Sutra. For the past several months she’s been touring through Asia and taking in the sites and sounds afforded by a gorgeous, colorful culture. For her “winter’ project, Ryan focused on the transition of winter to spring during the Chinese New Year.
“Touring on the road can bring a different form of winter than you’re used to. That’s something I love about travel. For me winter this year came in the form of raaaainy days. Though milder than usual, winter seemed to quickly turn as Chinese New Year approached. The days went from dark and grey to bright and RED. This is winter in Southern China.” –Ryan Lindsay Bartz
Kona Ambassador Erkki Punttila has contributed quite a bit to Kona over the years. He’s the face to our Not Far From Home Series, which takes a look at bikepacking around the Lapland area of Finland, has penned several posts for the Cog, given us lots of great photography work. One thing we did not know is that Erkki is also a phenomenal artist.
For his winter submission, Erkii drew this really cool picture featuring his bikepacking rig- the Big Honzo. ” I wanted to create something a bit out of my comfort zone, so I picked up a bunch of markers instead of the usual camera. Here is my Big Honzo on a winter bike packing trip to the mountains. The outlines and shading are done with 0.3 and 0.1 liner pens and the colouring with Copic markers. The background aurora borealis photo is from Unsplash.com created by Isak Dalsfelt. ” Erkki Punttila
Kona Ambassador Kate Meyer is no stranger to ripping DH laps. The Bend, Oregon racer has been turning the heads of photographers with her effortless style and aggressive riding for years. We are thrilled to have Kate riding an Operator CR this year because we know she’ll do it justice. Kate recently paired up with Bend photographer Trevor Lyden to show off her gorgeous Dream Build.
I’ve had my eyes on the Operator for some time now, but at 5’4” I was worried the medium frame would be too big for me. I decided to just go for it and create my dream build.
The 2019 Operator CR comes specced with 29″ wheels but can be converted to 27.5” thanks to chainstay adjustment and a flip-chip on the rocker link. So I had some Spank 350 Vibrocore hoops built up with Hope Tech Pro 4 DH hubs and switched over to a Fox Factory 40 27.5” fork.
I set the eccentric headset cups to the backward position to minimize the reach and swapped the stem out for a 40mm Hope Tech stem.
I added the sexy PNW Components Range handlebar and the tried and true Hope Tech 3 V4 brakes with 200mm floating rotors (in all black, of course)
I’m trying out some Panaracer tires and always have my CushCore tire inserts. And the cherry on top… a Wu-Tang sticker to remind me to always keep it gangster.
Barry McWilliams is an American graphic designer living in Berlin. A long-time cyclist, he cruises all around town aboard his Jake, and soon will be on a Libre DL. Barry put together these cool little graphics to help illustrate how he stays warm while riding during the winter months.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of the word “tour” is : a journey for business, pleasure, or education often involving a series of stops and ending at the starting point. I suppose this definition accurately breaks down the components of why I am addicted to bike tours and ski touring.
First, I can say the business of both is to challenge my physical and mental strength. Staying fit as I grow older, held down with work and obligations, becomes more of a task that I must strategically integrate into my lifestyle to maintain success. So why not ditch the car or chairlift and earn those turns!? The business of sitting in traffic jams and long lift lines is also not something that I care to engage in.
Next, the pleasure of a tour is indeed hard to deny. I am of the belief that there is nothing more pleasurable than feeling my heart pounding while I torpedo down black, brown or white POW. On tours, adrenaline-endorsed hill bombs and terrifyingly steep couloirs and cliff drops are brilliantly complemented by the long and meditative journey to the objective. Allowing my mind to clear and focus on sounds of my own breath, the stroke of my pedals and the clicking of my splitboard bindings while I quietly travel through space gets replaced by the scream of rushing wind and the mental silence of pinpoint focus as I fly down mountains on my chosen toys. It is the journey that provides me these juxtaposed pleasures for the mind and body, both of which remind me how brilliant it is to be alive.
Finally, the education of a tour is something to not glaze over. On bike tours, I am acutely oberving and engaging within the changing environments and ecosystems I pass through. My body feels nuances of the terrain and climate, while I simultaneously absorb the diverse sights, sounds and smells of a place, reviving golden senses that I so frequently sacrifice to technology and automation. Likewise, a ski tour encourages me to study terrain and climate in a scientific demeanor that is lost to the average lift rider. When we ski tour, we assess slope aspects, snow quality and climate trends. We scrutenize our surroundings as we punch through fresh snow and we listen for movement. Touring provides me opportunities to intimately engage within and learn from these magnificent environments in which I play.
Above all, I find that I am most drawn to the element of simplicity that pairs both bike touring and ski touring. The ability to carry all that I need to eat, sleep, live and play on while moving through vast lands at moderate speed with a quantitively low expulsion of energy is just plain magnificent. My scrappy legs transform into powerful pistons that can take me to far more interesting places than a car or lift will ever be capable of. In turn, when weather windows open and ice clears from the roads, There is nothing more pleasurable than strapping my splitboard, hammock and Jetboil onto my Kona Sutra and venturing to the hills.
Freeriding in an area which is normally not rideable but smoothed by tons of snow? It makes more sense with skis but let’s try it with the bike.
Together with photographer Christian Frumolt I travelled down south to check out a cool area in Graubuenden, Switzerland close to the Berninapass. Chris knew that place from a Photo trip he did a year ago. With the idea to ride some freeride lines I brought my Operator for this trip to the high alpine mountains.
We were on our way to the zone after an early wake up alarm. As we stepped out of the car we got freshed up by a heavy wind. With the rising sun the wind calmed down a bit and we started to shoot. The warm days, the wind and the cold nights packed the snow well, which helped alot to make it possible to ride down on top of this deep snow.
The hard surface was grippy but at the same time
it was tricky not to catch some soft spots and get thrown over the handlebars.
A few hours later the sun was high up and we called it for that morning
After a short Coffee to warm up we drove to the next spot. There is this red train which winds its way through the mountains. It´s called the Bernina express. We wanted to get a shot together with the train. After we checked the timetable we had a time window for when the train would come.
It was a mean waiting game with the heavy cold wind and the below-freezing temperatures. Chris and I were freezing cold and I wanted to quit… but Chris was sure that the train would come the next minute. And so it was. I rushed back and rode down. In the end the shot came together.
The next day we went skiing on that white stuff and enjoyed another facet of the winter.
Telluride, Colorado is an old mining town tucked away in a box canyon within the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Hidden away from mainstream Colorado, it is the winter gem of the western slope. Telluride is a dream for any winter enthusiast with an amazing resort constantly recognized as one of the best places to ski in the country, epic backcountry runs, miles of Nordic recreation, and a community full of talented athletes. Although this quaint town is a skier’s paradise it does push you to be creative in order to train for a bike season. After many winters spent in this small ski town I have created a training program to help myself get ready for the up and coming bike season.
The first part of my training plan is to transition from riding bikes into snowboarding. Luckily for me Telluride’s resort is full of steep terrain with plenty of hike-able areas to keep my legs strong all winter. When the snow is good I always hit the slopes. Tree runs are my favorite and I never seem to get bored of Telluride’s rugged runs. Once the snow settles and the storms die down a bit I typically switch gears into more touring and splitboarding than resort riding. This is my favorite outdoor recreation and reminds me so much of enduro racing because you can spend hours hiking up a hill for one epic run down. I love the feeling of earning your turns and touring at 10,000 plus feet can really get you in great shape quickly.
The second part of my training is cross country skiing, more specifically skate skiing. When the resort is crowded and sunbaked, the backcountry is unstable and I’m looking for something outside to do, I turn to skate skiing. I live right across the street from some awesome nordic trails and we often take the dogs over for a ski. This style of skiing works out muscles you never knew you had and is a fun way to get in a good workout while soaking up the bright Colorado sun. Here in Telluride, we have multiple Nordic trail systems making it easy to sneak in a quick workout wherever your day takes you.
Next up on my training plan are gym workouts and spin classes. I am religious about these workouts and keep to a strict schedule. We are fortunate enough to have a twenty-four hour gym called FUEL and a spin class studio called Pedal Den. Spin classes are taught by local powerhouse ladies who can kick your butt no matter what class you jump in on. These classes are crucial for me to keep my riding legs under me since riding outside daily is impossible. In addition to spin I frequently train in the gym as well. I have had several bad injuries throughout my years of biking and playing college soccer, including breaking my back which has forced me to become as lean and strong as possible. My go-to exercises consist of kettlebells, plyometrics, stretching, and running.
Lastly, I try and ride my bike whenever I can and am constantly on the lookout for dry trails to ride. Living on the western slope puts you a few hours from Grand Junction and Moab making it easy to get away to ride for a few days. I also make weekend trips to Salida, Colorado, where I live during Summer, to find rideable trails. This winter has been harder than most due to the amount of snow, which means little riding and a lot of winter sports. As the snow dries up in the surrounding area I will find more and more trails to ride to get as much time in as possible before spring.
Telluride and the surrounding area also put on fat bike races throughout winter, such as the Silverton Whiteout and the Lone Cone Challenge. This year was my first time competing in a fat bike race and I was stoked to win the Lone Cone Challenge, a 25 mile fat bike race through the backcountry of Norwood, Colorado. Although training for bike season in a ski town can be difficult, with a little creativity and a lot of inspiration it’s more than possible to get ready for the upcoming season.
I have about a month left of the ski season before I head west to California to hang out with my brother, and fellow Kona Ambassador, to get some pre-season riding in and kick off the bike season with the Dirty Sanchez Enduro.
Brooklyn Bell is a Kona Ambassador that is pushing the boundaries of comfort and expectations on a daily basis. Aside from cutting her teeth on a mountain bike as a Kona Supreme, Bell is also a widely-recognized artist, public speaker, and stellar athlete. In fact, she just competed in her first ever Freeride World Tour skiing qualifier contest in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Bell’s art is a direct reflection of her experiences in life and it’s one of the reasons her work is so vibrant and powerful—because she is also vibrant and powerful. For her “winter” ambassador assignment Bell created this gorgeous drawing, pulling from her experiences at Mt. Baker this season.
She had this to say about her piece.
“I made this piece of art during January. During that time I was mountain biking on wet and warm days and skiing on the dry days. This piece to me represents the special dynamic that happens between skiing and biking, sea level and being at 6,000ft. They somehow magically co-exist in this place. They are different in so many ways, yet so similar. Their landscapes seem to have contrast but also flow seamlessly into each other.”
You can see more of Bell in this month’s Patagonia catalogue in the mountain bike section. To view more of her incredible art work please visit her website.