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"ride it, don't slide it": on keeping mountain biking wild with tony little

Aug 13, 2019



Tony, one of the models for our recent catalogs, made us want to pack up and move to the enthralling Mill Valley. An avid biker, Tony likes to wrap up his days with a ride around Mount Tamalpais, amidst the towering redwoods of Muir Woods. We quizzed him about the ways bikers can help keep wild trails wild, as mountain biking gains popularity and e-bikes and shuttles start make inroads. Read on to see what he has to say.


In The Responsible Flannel and Salvaged Hemp Shirt Jacket


Tony, how'd you end up in the Bay area?

Six years after moving to Encinitas a chance trip to Marin County left me at an overnight stay in a sleepy little hamlet nestled near Mt. Tamalpais called Mill Valley. Being smitten by the enthralling character of the town I spent the next 6 months dreaming of living in the forest again and longing for copious amounts of free, open space. Serendipitously enough, a girlfriend at the time was accepted to UCSF’s graduate program and invited me to come along with her; I acquiesced, under the agreement that we’d live a short way across the bridge in Mill Valley.

 In The Responsible Flannel 


What's your favorite thing about living there? 

The juxtaposition of being a 10 minute drive from one of the most condensed cities in America to the South, while being a 10 minute walk into near-endless open space to the North. The prolific duality of Marin for someone working in a technology based profession who also values the open expanse of the outdoors is unmatched.

You're a bike racer—do you prefer mountain biking or road biking? 

My heart lies firmly as a mountain biker; nothing beats wrapping a long day in front of a computer like a ride around Mt. Tam. That said, I spend the majority of my time training on a road bike. Luckily, drivers here are fairly compassionate and accidents are somewhat rare. Plus, the roads around here proffer scarce traffic if you ride the correct route.

In the Crossover Pant 


What's your favorite bike trail?

Damn, that’s a tough one! But, probably The Whole Enchilada, Moab, UT. You climb to 11,000ft into the La Sal Mountains SE of Moab. The ride in its entirety is over 40 miles, starting in high-alpine terrain, descending through 4 different climates before ending back at the Colorado River, some 7,000ft later.


As mountain biking gains popularity, what are some ways that bikers can help maintain the character of wild trails? 

Ha, that opens a can of worms with the prolific use of e-bikes and shuttles to ride trails. If you don’t ride much, the problem with e-bikes and shuttling is that it allows a TON of people to ride a trail, primarily downhill. Thus, the trail stays good for a few weeks post-snowmelt and then rapidly declines into a dusty, blown out rut by the beginning of summer. Don’t get me wrong, shuttling is rad and certainly has a stronghold in some facet of mountain biking, but akin to hiking backcountry in the winter to ‘earn your turns’, I think the same needs to be applied to MTB trails. Sometimes, you gotta suffer on the way up to enjoy the downhill. 

To further that sentiment, riders just need to respect and enjoy trails holistically; there’s a common phrase in the community: “Ride it, don’t slide it”. The meaning is obvious, but can be summed up as, don’t ride like an asshole for the sake of everyone who will ride this trail after you, along with consideration for the countless hours put in by volunteers to make the trails exist and stay maintained.

In the Bridgegap Hoodie


You mentioned moving to Mill Valley 10 years after visiting and falling in love with the character of the town. How would you describe that character? 

Mill Valley is nestled at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, minutes away from the storied, towering redwoods of Muir Woods. The town is sleepy; most activity is done by 9pm, though you’ll see people heading out for rides, runs, and hikes at 5am. There’s a Dawn Patrol group who meets at Equator Coffee downtown to summit Mt. Tam just as the sun crests the horizon. Art shows, theatre, and the world famous Dipsea running race all happen here in Mill Valley. The vibe here is almost European, and despite prolific wealth in the area, is mostly devoid of ostentatiousness.


In the Forest Quarter-Button Sweater

The great thing about California is that despite being the most populated state, there are many parts of it that still feel entirely wild. How can we keep it that way?

Oh God, that’s a complicated question. One on hand, I think State and Federal government have done a wonderful job passing legislation to cement land protections and keep the wild land wild. Conversely, especially true in Southern California (namely places like Carlsbad, Ca) open space has always been second tier under business development. What’s transpired over the last 20 years there is incredibly sad, leaving a myriad of small patches of open space barley inhabitable for the (mostly former) wildlife, not to mention hardly a modicum of area designated to hiking or cycling. While frustrating to the outdoor minority, most people in Southern California just want to conveniently go from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Sadly, I think as the eating and living habits of the majority population become so dire that people are forced to start exercising and enjoying the outdoors, the consequent sentiment will be that of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone’, in the prophetic words of Joni Mitchell.

Luckily, there have been a few semi-recent ‘wins’ as far as environmental protection is concerned. When a toll road was threatening the world-renowned surf spot Trestles a few years back, an extremely viral campaign ’SAVE TRESTLES' was launched to save the surf break and creek bed that would have been destroyed in the process. That campaign travelled far and wide, largely on the shoulders of prolific professional surfers social media accounts which carried the message. Being a surfer myself I’m elated by the result, but I do wonder what the outcome would have been had Trestles not existed there. If that just happened to be a closeout beach that nobody cared about, would people still have fought as hard for those who don’t have a voice? I think people are incredibly short sighted when it comes to the holistic ecological impact of major development, especially that of a 12-lane wide toll road. 

So, I guess the answer comes down to education, empathy, and sympathy for the outdoors. Teach students not only to respect their surroundings, but understand cause and causation. Selflessness is a rare quality, and teaching that to the youth benefits us all, not just for posterity.


In the Bison Trail Sock and Forsake Trail Boot

How does spending time in those wild places affect your lifestyle and/or career?

I couldn’t live without it! I’m always addled by individuals who are hyper focused on their career to the point of not being able to truly enjoy anything else. While I do have respect for their tenacity, I simply can’t relate. Just the feeling of standing outside on a sunny day can feel incredibly rejuvenating and healing, but at the same time give me perspective on life as a whole. I can take that inspiration and apply it to a number of facets in life; whether it’s setting a benchmark for happiness, enjoying a week hiking in the Sierras with my wife, or even working with an Art Director on an upcoming shoot that evokes the same feeling to the end-user. I think having admiration for this beautiful landscape will also teach you a great deal about empathy, consideration, and respect not only for the wild landscapes, but also your fellow humans, animals, everything. 

In the Fleet Overshirt and Organic Dyed Chino




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