Day in the Life 9; BMX Photographer Rob Dolecki

BMX riding is one of the most difficult sports to master- it takes crazy skills that are only perfected with great risk. Like skateboarding, there is no safety net and the slightest error can lead to injury. It’s physically and mentally demanding, to say the least. The variety within BMX is also huge- imagine becoming an expert at every single soccer position- most BMXers ride skateparks, street and BMX trails. It’s also a sport with very little recognition- sure there’s the X Games, but that’s not what most BMXers are interested in.  As cliche as it is, those who do it absolutely love it.

And our newest athlete in the series, Rob Dolecki, is a case in point. He simply loves BMX and bike riding.  The man is humble and not quick to talk about himself.  I think the only reason he agreed to this is because of how strongly he feels about veganism and because we’ve been friends for nearly 20 years! Rob is a full-time BMX photographer for magazines like DIG BMX, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped riding- even at 40 years old!


I love how Rob is a quiet, positive example of veganism, which is exactly what this project is about. He knows that the best way to influence others is by showing what’s possible in life- whether that’s smiling while jumping a 20 foot gap on a bike or finding food while on the road in the South America. Rob shared his tips for traveling while being vegan:

Road Trip Vegan Food Tips

Be flexible! You may not find your favorite or the healthiest foods on the road, but sometimes you have to just eat what’s available and vegan. What’s most important for your long-term health is the food choices you make most often. Don’t stress over eating eating less than ideally while on the road!

Be prepared.  Learn about the food choices where you are headed.

Plan ahead. Can you carry food with you while you are away from resources?  Some easy choices while traveling-

Fruit– Dried or fresh.
Nuts– High in calories and important nutrients, these are a life saver when spending long periods of time between meals on the road.
Bread and nut butter– Vegan bread is easy to get,  add some peanut butter and you have a filling, tasty meal to hold you over.

Be sure to check out Rob’s exceptional photography at Thanks Rob for spending your day with us and getting me out on a BMX bike again!



I often express how fortunate I am. I’ve good health and the time and energy to make use of it. But sometimes I feel extra fortunate. Like ‘I can’t believe I get to do the things I do!’ fortunate.  Sasha Perry, my partner for the Day in the Life project, Megan Dean, close friend and builder of Moth Attack! Bikes and I recently went to Colorado to film for Day in the Life and it ruled beyond belief.

Sasha takes some well-earned time off from behind the camera to ride the Dizzy Drome

I knew we’d meet phenomenal vegan athletes. I also knew it would be beautiful, as I’ve been there before. But for this trip Colorado really pulled out all of the stops!  Every where we turned were people stoked to meet us and hang out. We worked full days most days, and then hung out hard with the people we had worked with. Could not have asked for anything better. A few people need to be thanked:

Handlebar Mustache for putting us up and letting us cuddle their five dogs

Ritual Chocolate for giving us a tour of their vegan chocolate factory

Girl Bike Love for the hangouts

Boulder Indoor Velodrome for letting us film and ride every where

Nederland Mountain People’s Co-op for having the biggest AND best vegan blueberry muffins ever

Chris for filming (who also just had a Kickstarter reach full funding!)

Eric at Ground Up Custom Bicycles for building a pump track, a dizzy drome, rad bikes to play on AND being so stoked on me riding them.

And finally we need to thank all of the individual athletes who let us invade their life for a day, or sometimes longer. I promised Sasha I wouldn’t give too much away so I can’t actually thank the athletes by name! You’ll see before too long, I promise.

Meanwhile, enjoy a few videos of me riding during our down time!

Day in the Life on Kickstarter!

After much work, I am so incredibly excited about the launch of a Kickstarter Fundraiser for our Day in the Life series! I always hate asking for money. I’m too punk and too DIY. That’s one of the reasons I never do any of those charity rides. But this project has gotten bigger than we can afford out of our pockets. It’s a nice problem to have. We’ve set up a bunch of great rewards for people who have the means to donate like a one-of-a-kind print, a True Love Health t-shirt, copies of Appetite for Reduction signed by both Isa and I, a dvd, personal consultations…check out the Day in the Life Kickstarter page for all the info! Also note that I don’t get any of the actual money- 100% of it goes to production costs. We’ve some pretty outstanding athletes in mind for the next few episodes. Help us get to them!

I know not everyone can donate money, but you can help out by promoting our page through whatever channels you have at your disposal. Twitter and Facebook are obvious, but what about email-lists and people you work with? Also consider the ShareThis links below this post. Everything helps and I’m super appreciative of the positive feedback we’ve already received. Thank you!

And for fun here’s a music video I did BMX stunt work for in NYC  way back in 1998 (I’m one of the three guys doing the tricks- while wearing suits!).  If you look closely you can see the three of us BMX kids dancing awkwardly at the party on the boat. So fun!

Bike Night at the Hammer. RAD. So rad.

My love for bikes started really young. I was riding without training wheels at 3 and racing BMX by 4. I was in the 5 and Under category at my local track where an adult helped you push your bike up the starting hill and then held your rear wheel so you could balance against the gate. You got to ride the same track and jumps as the older kids! I thought it was best thing ever and it didn’t take long before I was finding or building jumps in the woods and trying to ride skateboard ramps. I had two concussions before I was 7, but that didn’t stop me from riding all over my neighborhood and beyond. Once my neighbor found me 3 miles from home riding off some curbs. She was so exasperated that she put me and my bike in her car and drove me home!

I wasn’t that interested in traditional sports or being told when and how to do something. BMX was an outcast thing to do, like being punk or vegan, and even at 7 years old you have an idea of this.  Then in 1986 the movie RAD came out.  BMX on the big screen! Sure, there was BMX Bandits (with Nicole Kidman!) before that, but BMX was an aside, it wasn’t about BMX. RAD is. And it’s as cheesy as it is amazing to a 7 year old BMXer.  My friends and I studied that movie. We looked up the stunt doubles in BMX magazines. We learned the names of any of the tricks we didn’t know. We built bigger jumps. We felt like bad-asses tearing around on our bikes doing tricks.  Hell yeah I’d skip the SAT’s to ride Hell Track!

So my good friend Lisa Auerbach, who crewed 508 last year and took all of those great photos, organizes Bike Night at the Hammer museum every year. She picks a bike film to show in the theater and has drinks and vegan food beforehand. In 2009 it was Breaking Away and last year it was PeeWee’s Big Adventure with Paul Reuben there to introduce it! So fun. This year she chose the movie RAD. It also happens to be the 25th anniversary! The Hammer searched high and low to find possibly the last remaining 35mm print, the Director will likely be introducing it and the original BMX bikes will be there on display. Seriously, does it get any more rad than that?

Thursday, April 14th at 7pm. Details on the Hammer website.  Also check out RAD: The Movie.  Please pass this on and help promote this super rad (okay, last time) event. Trailer below.

Risk is Real. Use it.

One of the main themes in the college course I teach is risk. What risk means, what actions have more risks and how to weigh the risks of what we do day-to-day. Some are obvious- like running red lights at rush hour on your track bike. Pretty clear risk involved.  Less obvious risk is being sedentary.  My students struggle to understand how being at home on the couch can be risky- because the world around us is so dangerous. Aren’t we avoiding risk and danger by being ‘safe’ at home, in front of the tv?

Goran Kropp bicycled from Sweden To Nepal (roundtrip!) and climbed Everest solo w/o supplemental oxygen. I found his book when I was hit and nearly killed while riding cross-country in 2001. He died while rock climbing in Seattle in 2003. This organization exists in his honor.

The answer is complex, but I stand by mine: no. Being physically inactive is an independent risk factor for every major chronic disease from type-2 diabetes to cancer.  This we know. But I posit that being active runs deeper than that. Evolution has given us phenomenal bodies. We can run. We can bike. We can swim. At (relatively) fast speeds. For incredibly long distances. We can sleep for a night and get up and do it again. Or not sleep for a night and still do it again. This resonates metaphysically and benefits our mental health. I tell my students that we aren’t designed to sit in offices all day. And I mean more than our bodies when I say this because our brains also have (need!) larger ambitions.

So getting out and being active is necessary for our health. Short term and long term. Physical and mental. But how much and to what capacity? At what point do the benefits out weight the risks?

The other night I had a long conversation with my close friend Mark Fillebrown. Mark was something like a mentor when I was a teenager. I met him when I was 14 through BMX bikes back when BMX was all I thought about. Being a few years older than me he had experiences I only dreamed about. He lived in California half the year. He rode with BMXers I only read about in magazines. He dropped out of high school (I wanted to). After riding one day he let me borrow some cassette tapes (!) of his favorite punk bands. He moved to New York City when I was 15 and I use to go and hang out with him in the Pre-Guillani NYC of the 90’s that you can only read about now…

Mark this year at a Pomona Flat Track race. He snuck me into the racers area where I hung out, in awe.

These days Mark is a flat-track and endurance off-road motorcycle racer. He is one of those people who puts absolutely everything into what he loves. In that same college course I use him as an example of Obsessive-Compulsiveness. He told me once that he got home from his job as a motorcycle mechanic, ate dinner and went to work on one of his bikes in the garage. Next thing he knew the sun was coming up. ‘I had to shower and eat breakfast and get to work! Didn’t realize I had worked all night.’ He’s that dude. If his thing was business he’d own a Fortune 500 Company. If it was law he’d have appeared in front of the Supreme Court by now. But it’s motorcycle racing that he loves and obsesses over. Which brings us back to risk.

Six weeks ago Mark was in a crash that nearly killed him. He had just raced the insane Baja 1000, a 1000-mile off-road race through the Baja Peninsula. The day after, someone was lost and he was out looking for him with a group. After locating the missing racer, Mark was riding his motorcycle up the road to tell the other group he had found him and to slow down. But the group had just stopped and in doing so created a dust storm. Mark never had time to react and went off the road into a rock-filled canyon. He wasn’t going very fast, he wasn’t racing or doing tricks or anything risky. Just riding.

The fall nearly killed him. Mark doesn’t have many sponsors, but does have a helmet one. His top-of-the-line helmet was completely smashed. He had all of his protective racing gear on from the day before, normally he would not. Still, he broke ribs, his arm, punctured a lung and got a severe concussion. When the first person got to him he wasn’t breathing. Luckily that person has emergency training and got him breathing again. The group sent out an emergency call and a helicopter was there within minutes. If it was not for the race infrastructure still being in place, there’s no question he’d be dead right now (or ‘on the wrong side of the dirt’ as he put it).

He doesn’t remember the two weeks after the race. Six weeks on and he is still mostly bed-ridden. His memory goes in and out. His brain is playing tricks on him. But he is expected to make a full recovery.  Upon reading this many people would think, ‘that’s it, no more motorcycle racing.’ That didn’t even come up. He just said it’d be awhile before he can race again. We both know he will.

Jure Robic won Race Across America 5 times. He was killed this year while cycling near his home in Slovenia (photo and more here).

It reminds me of a tragic BMX crash when I was a teenager. A local rider named Jeff Crawn (video) broke his fork on a routine box jump at a skatepark. He hit the ground hard enough to paralyze him. He remains paralyzed today. My friend Taj Mihelich witnessed it and later wrote how he didn’t know what to do. His friend was taken away in an ambulance and would never walk again from riding BMX. Yet the only thing he knew to do was to keep riding, which he did. What would you do?

Everything has risk. Driving in a car. Living in a city. Being a political activist. Being an environmental activist.  We can be killed (or injured or jailed…) at any time and there’s only so much that we can do. After I spoke with Mark and when I think about Jeff it makes me want to hide in my bed. The world is dangerous and the risk of death is very real, every day. Then after awhile that fear turns to motivation. Because death is so real it makes me want to live more. It takes a lot of courage to be honest about the risks we face every day and to still take them. Most people are frozen by these very real fears. The people who do amazing things are not without fear, but understand it and use it as motivation. I have some crazy ideas for 2011, some with real risk. For my physical and mental health I have to understand these risks AND take them. It’s the only way to truly live and I’d be miserable if I didn’t do them. The death and injuries I know about force me to be as careful as possible, to always appreciate my health, and appreciate having the ability to do what I do.

I wish you the best in doing the same. Thanks for reading and happy 2011.

Ps. You can donate to Mark’s medical bills here.

Fragility and Fun

Every once in awhile I think about all of the stupid shit I did as a teenager-wait, even before that considering I had two concussions from bikes before I was 8- and am thankful to have a functioning body. My friend Brad sent this clip and said, ‘this made me think of you.’
Into the Void – Johnny Devlin from Shadow Conspiracy.

It has been a long time since doing any of that on a bike came naturally or with ease. And I’m talking the ‘easier’ stuff, none of this 180-ing into rails and then 180-ing out that I’ve never been able to do. Bikes. Such a medium. Meanwhile though, I fall off of my road bike doing wheelies. So dumb because I actually hurt myself. Had my hands on the brakes, was three pedals in and WHAM! I’m on my ass. Thud. I thought I broke my tailbone. It still hurts ten days later and I have been beating myself up over it. How could I be so dumb? Why do I do these things? How did I let myself fall?

But I’m over that. If I start self-restricting risk and danger it would require an alteration of my entire life. Every day I’m on my bike is a risk. Whether I’m cruising along on the Eurotour or splitting lanes at 20 MPH on my track bike. If I didn’t mountain bike and jump stuff I would go insane. I self-reflected on this in my Dan Cortese vs Noam Chomsky post last summer.

Those who take less risk have said, ‘Just stop doing what’s dangerous then you don’t have to worry.’ What’s the exchange for that life and is it worth it? So much is dangerous. ‘How do you think we can get up there?’ comes up far too often. The blizzard on the East Coast reminds me of high school where we drove around 6 deep in an SUV with shovels and ladders finding our way onto buildings to jump off into snow piles. The time I jumped off a three-story building over a road and that feeling still gives me chills…

I am scared to death (which is a funny statement right?) of being seriously injured or killed. Not a day goes by where I don’t take a deep breath and think, ‘Wow, that could have killed me’. Not long after I watched this video and fell I heard the news that an ultra-cyclist named Bruce Taylor died from his injuries in a bicycle crash here in Southern California. We’ve done the same events. I’ve ridden with him. He was on a bike path. Safe, right?

Weighing risk is the basis of public health. We all do it. But knowing what is in us and how we want to act when not restricted is fundamental in understanding what ‘danger’ is and how we use it and feel it. I’m watching this (on mute with Jay-Z playing: better):

and thinking about the summer while nursing my injury…which really is pretty minor so why worry? Is death and injury a reminder of our fragility and a sign to live more or a warning to take it easy? I’m pretty sure I know the answer and I have the French to thank for articulating it:

We want nothing of a world
in which the certainty of not dying from hunger
comes in exchange for the risk of dying from boredom.

2009 Mammoth Mountain Bromance Slaycation

I don’t know about everyone else, but often I feel pulled in multiple directions at once. Because I’ve put so much emphasis in my life on being an example, politically, ethically, etc, this struggle manifests itself daily. Hourly? As an activist, professionally, intellectually, personally, athletically, spiritually, adventure(lly?)….all of it gets rolled into the ball that is my life. Sure, it feels great to ride my bike with my housemates over to the Eco Village to pick up our bulk Dr. Bronner’s, organic dry beans, hemp milk, etc, but there’s a part of me deep down that misses BMX. Not just the riding, but the whole lifestyle that ruled my life from pretty much age 12 to 20.

Gondala ride to 11,000ft. The faces they are making is a movie reference I didn’t get.

It wasn’t all narcissistic and ‘extreme’. My friends and I would do anything for each other and we worked hard to build all of those trails and to travel the world to ride our bikes. We really were part of an international community and it forever changed my outlook on the world. Since then there have been some issues where overlap occurs, for example I regret being too punk in college to buy a mountain bike. State college is a great place to ride, as I experienced when I was there last summer, but I thought I’d be giving up my activism by spending time and money mountain biking. Glad I got over that!

I get a lot out of riding my track bike in the city, mountain biking local single track, etc, but lately it’s just not felt like enough. As I’ve gotten older, despite still dressing like a teenager, I’ve suppressed this part of me. It’s as if there is a continuum with Dan Cortese (mtv sports!) on one side and Noam Chomsky on the other. You’ve got to choose your spot! If you are more Dan Cortese than you are less Chomsky! Silly, I know, but I feel like a lot of people think this way and I’ve internalized it and have quieted my inner Dan Cortese.

Leading into the last weekend of August (of summer?) Mike, Max and I went to Mammoth mountain, rented freeride bikes, got lift tickets and had a Dan Cortese hell of an extreme time. I won’t deny it!

At the end of the day we hit some double diamond trails that had gems like this. I wish we had photos of some of the drops and bridges, but we were going too fast to try and stop and go back.

The day we left we took our ‘normal’ bikes out and rode some of the trails lower on the mountain. This is the same trail as the other wall-ride/berm I posted about.

These were the types of jumps I hit when I was 10. But with a hydration pak, clipped in and a road helmet it felt appropriately sized.

My friend Stephen, who let us crash, scored us lift tickets and took some of the photos, had just written a short story about another friend of ours first time on a freeride bike. You can read it here.

Have a great week and please don’t forget about your inner Dan Cortese AND Noam Chomsky. They can get along just fine.

yes, there is a wallride in the woods in a magical place called mammoth

Just returned from back-to-back trips, one of which was Mammoth for some mountain biking. I’ve got photos, etc from the day we rented big hit bikes and got lift tickets (thanks Stephen!), but couldn’t wait to post this video from us playing around the morning before we left. This is a trail called shotgun that we rode to from our friend’s house. This just exists in the woods! Unbelievable.

While we were ‘sessioning’ this lip to wall these dudes on crazy DH bikes and full gear would come roaring down the trail. Every time we’d start yelling for them to hit the wall ride, but only like 1 out of 4 would. How could you pass this up?

What’s distracting me this morning

Reading is something I look forward to every day. Like my friend Stephen says, ‘His writing is better than what multiple cycling magazines with editors can produce.’ I agree. Yesterday’s post discusses death and how cyclists occupy a middle ground,
‘…the death membrane has extraordinary wicking properties, so sometimes all you need to do is touch it in order to wind up on the other side of it in a puff of vapor like an evaporating bead of sweat.’

On one hand we use every bit of caution available riding to and from where we need to go to avoid death. Then I watch something like the video below (ripped from Trackstar(r) they should put two r’s on there Gangstarr style) and I see how others walk right up to it and say, ‘I don’t give a shit, I’ll tailwhip out of a manual and 360 both ways down stairs.’