the crazy lettuce
Editorial

The Crazy Lettuce

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We’d just decorated Trevor’s Hyundai Pony with a plump plastic Cactus, generously donated by Taco Time in Chilliwack. It fit perfectly on the end of the passenger-side two-by-four that served as a bike rack atop Trevor’s five-door Korean hot rod. It was 1997 and we were bound for the trails of Rossland B.C. in the southern Kootenays. 

Somehow, in a time before the internet and even before Trail Forks, Trevor had heard about good trails there. Lots of good trails. I had been a mountain biker for more than a decade by that point, and I was keen, but it hadn’t yet become my most preferred activity. 

After we set up our tents in the campground, we saddled up and headed to the meeting point. Earlier in the day we’d dropped in at the bike shop and were told about a local ride we could join. Rossland to this day has a benevolent wild west feel. It’s easy to imagine horses tied up in front of businesses and a time when even Main Street was unpaved. Riding through town in high summer was intoxicating. We rolled up and the welcoming locals seemed pleased to have some fresh blood along.

We pedalled along an old rail grade for a good stretch when the leaders stopped unexpectedly. The locals dug patch kits out of Camelbacks and assembled in a circle. This was not my first safety meeting, but riding under any influence is something I would never recommend,* but intoxicated by the town, the crew and the season, I joined in.

*not publicly

As the crushed gravel cracked under our wheels, I overheard two of the locals talking. I couldn’t quite make the conversation out but the impression I got was that we had partaken in something that was a little beyond the ordinary; this was the Crazy Lettuce

What the hell was I doing? Crazy Lettuce? That seemed a step too far, a bridge I should not have crossed. Jesus Christ! This was a crisis! We started to climb and my heart rate began to outpace our effort, at a time when I was cross country fit. The holder of the Crazy Lettuce was ahead of me. It became clear: the Crazy Lettuce was laced with something sinister. Why else would it be called Crazy Lettuce? I was unprepared for this! My heartrate ramped up five beats. 

“Trevor, what was that stuff?” He looked at me quizzically. “What do you mean?” I felt annoyed at having to explain that the Crazy Lettuce was clearly something dangerous and unintended for city boys like us. “I don’t know,” he said, “why don’t you ask Jimmy?” And then the fun began. 

I had ridden some challenging North Shore trails by that time but nothing that was really steep. As it turned out, Rossland was all steep. Next-level steep. Every rider except one, on a Turner Burner, was on a hardtail, and I had just traded my Marzochi XC 400 for a RockShox Judy with 3” of travel. I had buyer’s remorse. It seemed like too much for my Dekerf, despite the orange colour and the smooth action, but I was stuck with it. 

Despite my unshaven legs and my lack of talent, I had the heart of a racer. Lowering my saddle was out of the question. It was a matter of principle to be sure, but it was also practical; I had to be able to ride everything with my saddle up during a race so why the hell would I lower it in “practice?” How dare you even suggest it. Trevor was far more practical. He could ride more lines and avoid peril and have more fun. These sounded like trivial factors for me. He presented his arguments but was resigned to my stubbornness. He clearly had no principles.

We dropped into the first line and I found I was out of my element. I was used to having my gut on my saddle but I needed to push even further, back to my sternum. It’s hard to say if I was more terrified or thrilled but the experience cracked something open. I had barely survived and my eyes were like saucers. Ho.Lee. Shit.

We descended further and then started to climb again. I finally saw Jimmy in striking distance ahead of me, laughing and smiling despite the effort we were putting in. I pushed a little harder and Trevor and I finally caught up with him on a steep section. 

“Hey Jimmy,” I said, “that stuff we smoked, what was it?”

He laughed and his eyes wrinkled into a smile; “duuude, that was the Crazy Lettuce!” 

Every word that came out of his mouth was peppered with laughter and he was oblivious to my concerns. How was this information helpful? I knew it was The Crazy Lettuce. I hadn’t yet made a complete fool of myself, so I continued; “so what’s in the Crazy Lettuce?” 

“Dude? Huh?” 

Before I’d even thought about my response I was saying the words. And I felt confident saying them. I was using the local term. “You mean it’s just… lettuce?”

Jimmy, who hadn’t stopped smiling for a moment until this point, whose infectious laughter was constant, swivelled a serious chin towards me. I watched as all the joy drained from his face. “No dude,” he said, “it’s marijuana.”

Feeling equal parts relieved and embarrassed, with Trevor giggling by my side, I put my head down and continued to grind. As we reached the next descent, something had softened in me. The locals were all looking at the opening move so I went and peered over the edge. It was steeper than the last, and more exposed. I pulled out my Allen key and pushed my Syncros post down a good four inches, swung a leg over, and dropped in.

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Comments

Tbone
+17 Cam McRae Cr4w Perry Schebel cxfahrer Mike Ferrentino Mammal Jon Harris Pete Roggeman lewis collins Velocipedestrian Karl Fitzpatrick Lee Lau Beau Miller Mike Riemer vunugu Curveball Skibum_JR

Furthur (for you Mike) to Cam's seat post dropping stubbornness I will add my two cents. I was introduced/indoctrinated by Cam and Mike Wallace. They were both racers (or so they claimed) and needed their saddles up to save precious seconds off their novice race times. I had no clue otherwise until I met Dangerous Dan at the top of a trail. He dropped his saddle and looked at me while I just stood there with mine up high. When I told him I had never done the saddle drop he laughed and said that was for racer ______. I dropped mine and could not believe how much better the riding was. I called Cam and raved about the change. He pffted and poo pooed it and carried on. If it wasn't for the Rossland Crazy Lettuce Cam may have spent the rest off the nineties with a saddle in his sternum.

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cam@nsmb.com
+3 Pete Roggeman lewis collins Beau Miller

All true.

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xy9ine
+4 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman Karl Fitzpatrick Curveball

all too familiar. as an xc racer bitd, highposting everything was a badge of honor. so my first rides on the shore were handicapped in the worst possible ways - ie, in addition to the standard short/steep geo & canti brakes, saddle was sky high, stem was slammed & 150mm long, with a flat bar chopped down to sub 24" (with bar ends, of course). 

for a good while, riser bars were looked down on with distain, but i remember the first time riding shore with a new riser & stubby 75mm stem (and seat slammed) - such a revelation!

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SixZeroSixOne
+2 Cam McRae Curveball

Back in around very late nineties or very early naughtiest I "raced" a couple of XC and DH races, on the same weekend on the same bike (a Kona Kilaeau hardtail). XC race Saturday (including a couple of practice DH runs if you had energy left), DH race on Sunday.

Anyway, one memorable race weekend, I was so nervous at the start of my DH race I forgot to drop my saddle and was so focused on not going OTB that I only realized half way down the course.

Needless to say, I held up loads of other competitors by being so slow...and finished last. That was my last DH race...

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DaveSmith
+2 Mike Ferrentino Perry Schebel

You also rode a Trimble...

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xy9ine
0

as a pseudo-softail, was actually not terrible (apart from the geometry, and tendency to break).

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Curveball
+1 Cam McRae

I got gut-punched so many times with the high saddle, it was like going a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. What's worse is that I never raced, but was just plain too stupid to drop the saddle for the steep trails around Bellingham. It was a point of useless pride that I rode everything without dropping the saddle down.

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mikeferrentino
+11 Jimothy.benson BarryW Cam McRae cxfahrer Mammal Pete Roggeman Velocipedestrian Karl Fitzpatrick Beau Miller vunugu Curveball

"Why are we fixing flats at a safety meeting? My patch kit doesn't even have a pipe in it... Crazy Lettuce? What? Loco Lechuga? Puff the Magic Dragon? Ohhhh, you mean Jazz Cabbage? Why didn't you just say so...?"

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velocipedestrian
+1 Mike Ferrentino

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mrbrett
+8 Mike Ferrentino Cr4w Mammal Pete Roggeman lewis collins Velocipedestrian Beau Miller JVP

I remember when mountain biking was weird. And, so were all interactions with weed. 

Both seem to have been legitimized in the last few decades.

Reply

tashi
+4 Mammal Cam McRae HughJass Pete Roggeman

Absolutely wild seeing how mainstream it is now considering what weirdos we almost all were.

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craw
+2 Velocipedestrian Beau Miller

It's funny to see the type of people riding now are the same people who used to sneer at riding as bunch of weirdos wearing hockey pads riding bikes in the scary woods. Now there's enough cultural acceptance and visible public marketing that the normals and joiners feel ok to participate; they needed to be led in by the marketing. It was too fringe until a critical mass was reached to make it something that their peers would recognize and credit them for.

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xy9ine
+6 Cam McRae HughJass Mammal lewis collins Karl Fitzpatrick Curveball

i suppose that's true of most "new" activities - generally populated by cultural outliers. i also remember when snowboarding was a fringe activity (ie, not universally accepted / looked upon critically). the early(er) days (of both sports) were fun; everything was new & exciting. a constant voyage of discovery, as both tech & technique were evolving rapidly, and you felt part of an exclusive club of something special.

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GiveitsomeWelly
+2 Velocipedestrian Cr4w

This is how I still feel for good and bad. It's the activity that made me realise I had 'people'. As mountain biking has grown and life has moved along (friends moving away figuratively and literally), I sometimes (obv. ridiculously) feel that there isn't as much of a 'scene' as there used to be. 

I know these thoughts are essentially a gateway to gate keeping and I love how open the riding community still is whether you're new to it or not. 

The bigger any community gets, the higher the percentage will always be of people who aren't as open or friendly and just a little bit too entitled. My biggest bug bear on the trails.

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craw
+1 Karl Fitzpatrick

When I was younger the whole experience was expanding my scope of experience. Everything and everyone I met was a new adventure. Plus without Trailforks you needed more community for route finding and shuttles. But as time goes on, bikes got much much better, people turn their attentions elsewhere and become less available, trailforks arrived and the average newish mountain biker just isn't that interesting to me. 

Though I find my attitude is shifting as it's easy to get jaded and cranky (see above) and spending time with enthusiastic newer people is actually really good; that's a good sharing between your experience and their vibe.

Jotegir
0

How are you supposed to sell a midsize truck, 'adventure' crossover, or yuppie camping accessories without a bike in the background???

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mammal
0

Well, that was going on relatively early in the mtb game. I clearly remember thinking these were a pretty cool marketing combo at the time:

https://www.autoblog.com/2020/07/31/junkyard-gem-1997-volkswagen-jetta-trek-edition/

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mammal
+4 Kyle Dixon Mike Ferrentino tashi Velocipedestrian

Safety meetings were such a regular part of my rides for the first 8-10 years, that I was eventually shocked it wasn't the case with almost every mountain biker out there.

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the-prophet
+1 Cam McRae

But it is, at least around these parts.

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tashi
+1 Mammal

Might have something to do with the clowns you were riding with at the time…

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mammal
+1 Kyle Dixon

Bingo.

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cxfahrer
+1 Curveball

The real steep parts came where the guy in front took the saddle and post out...

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heckler
+1 Cam McRae

Vegetable of choice is beer at the top of a climb for me. Not sure why I don't get any fitter…

As for seat-posts made of carbon: my Ti hardtail, built as light as possible in 2013 to chase friends with new bikes with droppers, still has no quick release to lower it.

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