Even Flow

WORDS BY
Pete Harrington
PHOTOS BY
Matt Clark

“I was hanging there, wondering when the heck I’d be getting back down, or even where I was. Everything was ghostly white, and my GPS had stopped working. All I could hear was the whistling sound of my breathing and the fabric above me flapping in the turbulence.”

As a metaphor for recent times, former US National Mountain Bike Champ Sam Schultz’s account of getting lost in the clouds while paragliding in Mexico is as good as any. And for a man more used to community, races, event repping, as well as helping young rippers get started with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) League in Montana, not doing a lot has taken some getting used to. But at least he could ride.

“It’s been different, that’s for sure,” Sam says with a grin during a recent catchup over video. “There hasn’t been much to do but ride.” And paraglide, presumably. “Ha, yeah, that’s super fun – just not when you get stuck in clouds,” he laughs. “Hiking to the top of the local hills here and seeing where I can fly has been a good way to forget the craziness of everything. It’s kind of like riding in the sense of the flow, working on getting smooth and settling into it.”

And he knows all about flow. Since retiring from racing and representing his country at the Olympics, between work commitments, community and living Van Life with his rescue dog Pancho, Sam has turned his attention to honing his never-shabby trail skills. “I’ve got a pretty adventurous set of riding buddies, and we’re always pushing each other,” he says. “A lot of the stuff, like jumps, laying it out on the corners and letting it slide, comes from practice and not being afraid to fail. Getting back up again is the best way to get better!”

SAM’S KIT PICKS

As to the kit he’s been wearing the past few months, Sam’s been stretching out in a few new season pieces, and relying on proven staples. “I’ve been really into the 3/4 length lately – the Optic Shirt,” he says. “That’s been my go-to for the season so far. It fits great, feels nice, and I got a bunch of compliments about it!” And when it gets a little cooler on the trail? “I’ve been reaching for the Compound,” he says. “It’s a pretty sweet top; nice to have that wind blocking on the front, and as a long sleeve.”

Sam rocking the Optic Shirt

But at the end of the day, it’s been hard for Sam to stay away from his beloved Desperado (available for men and women). “I’m a diehard wool guy,” he admits. “The Desperado….it just works in pretty much every condition.”

After a few seasons rocking 7mesh on the trails, Sam’s selection of outerwear goes deep. But for spring and summer, Gore-Tex isn’t his first thought. “At this time of year, it’s nice to have the Northwoods Windshell on hand, packed down in a pocket,” he says. “It can even do well on the chill days of fall. But for severe weather, I’ve got a Guardian Gore-Tex jacket (available for men and women) from a few seasons back that’s still going strong. It’s my most worn piece, and feels completely at home on the bike, but looks and acts just like a normal jacket when I’m ski touring in deep winter, or heading our for groceries – which is awesome!”

Sam Schultz, riding in Idaho in the Guardian jacket

In warm weather, it’s shorts or nothing (preferably shorts), and according to Sam, the Slab, new for 2020 (available for men and women) sits at the top of the pile. “It does a really good job of beading up some of the moisture, without soaking out,” he explains. “I’m dreaming of those fall rides of lush vegetation, moisture in the air and on the bushes. I’ll definitely be pulling on the Slab for those rides.”

Maybe they’ll even do double-duty in the air, too.