Dirty Words: The Naked Truth About Marla Streb
By Sal Ruibal
One of the great things about mountain biking is that you can talk about the “good ol’ old days” and they happened just a few years ago. The hardtail mountain bike is a time machine that’s stuck on 1991. The dinosaurs still walk among us.
The men and women who first discovered that fire could weld metal tubes into a gizmo that would take you to places both physical and metaphysical might live down your street, if you live in Santa Rosa or Marin. I can go to East Coast races and see Gunnar Shogren and wife Betsy still ripping away wins from kids just out of college.
Beneath all of that is the ethos of constant progression. Who would have thought that 26-inch wheels would be extinct before Ned Overend?
But I come not to praise the past, but to honor the present. Today’s present was seeing an email from the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame that said my friend Marla Streb was selected to the 2014 Hall of Fame. Marla has won races that go up, races that go down, races that get lost in jungles and emerge on the gritty streets of Baltimore.
Kids can tell her kids that, “Yo Mamma manuals like a monkey on marshmallows.” I’ve seen Marla Streb get hit by a car, roll over onto the street, change the bent wheel and proceed to ride into my local woods and come out 20 minutes later with 30 people I’ve never met riding behind her.
Yes, she has a closet full of medals and championship jerseys and yadda-yadda-yadda.
Every year there is a new champion, but every year Marla is somewhere, somehow showing somebody how to ride a bike. She sailed to Costa Rica to show the Ticos how to build trails in the jungle for a mountain bike resort that will bring gringo dollars to their towns.
The craziest thing she ever did (that I know of) was to pose buck naked for a Yeti poster. Crazy like a foxy fox. I have a lot of bike posters, medals and memorabilia in my basement bike room, but the first thing anyone notices is the huge photo of a gorgeous woman with an amazing, athletic body flying on a mountain bike.
Who wouldn’t want to ride with her?
Cross-country racing has gone stale. A bunch of skinny euros Frooming around on three-pound 29ers with 45 psi of helium in their tires.
Mountain biking needs more Marlas. Marla was freeriding when she thought she was just riding back to the house. She rides downhill like it was flat and like flat when it is uphill. She’s a scientist (not like that meth lab guy) and a classical pianist.
So let me rejoice in the fact that my friend Marla is now a neighbor in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Come up and see our two-dimensional selves in Crested Butte some time. She’ll be the naked one.