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Through the Grapevine: BRAIN's print column goes digital

Published November 12, 2018

Editor's note: The Grapevine column has been in every issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News since our third issue in 1992, when it shared a page with the latest news from Barracuda Bicycle Company. Now called "Through the Grapevine," it's evolved over the years from personnel news and gossip to news tidbits, to very much an editorial analysis and commentary column. While Barracuda is long gone, the Grape', as we call it here, remains in each issue, and will also be available on the website starting now. 

The company you keep: My mama used to say that individuals should be judged by the company they keep. Think of that admonition as a dual warning: Be careful of the friends you make and keep a sharp eye on your friends’ friends. Not bad advice, really. With that said, let’s take a peek at the policies and predilections of Tom McClintock, who, it’s fair to say, inhabits the far right wing of the Republican Party and who claims to be a friend of the industry. I find McClintock an interesting politico, particularly so since Ted Stroll, the leader of the Sustainable Trails Coalition, has made common cause with McClintock — each wants to open federal wilderness areas to mountain biking. More on that later. Think of wilderness as akin to the Statue of Liberty. That copper statue is irreplaceable, much like our wilderness. Just as immigrants entered New York Harbor to free themselves from the strictures of a less hospitable homeland, we enter wilderness to free ourselves from the strictures of 21st-century life.

Keeping an eye on friends: Tom McClintock entered Congress in 2009 after some years as a California assemblyman and later a state senator. He took a stab at the governorship, but the Terminator terminated him. Today, he represents California’s Fourth District, strung out along the Sierra Nevada foothills from just north of Truckee to south of Fresno — the spine of California’s Central Valley. Depending upon how one looks at a map of the Fourth, I grew up on a farm that’s a speck in McClintock’s district. This district is as red as a split-open watermelon. The Fourth is also home to three national parks — Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. I spent a lot of time in those parks. As a kid, I spent winter weekends shoveling snow at Yosemite’s Badger Pass, staying in heated tents near the village. Later, as a young newspaper reporter, I was tasked with keeping tabs on Kings Canyon and Sequoia. Not a bad beat. I spent a lot of time with park rangers and hiked and skied that pristine backcountry until my career shifted to the East Coast.

Pick your friend, pick your politics: In earlier times, we’d call McClintock a “carpetbagger,” having left White Plains, New York, for warmer climes and politics. After some book learning at UCLA, McClintock began his political career at age 23 — elected chairman of the Ventura County Republican Party. McClintock is a career politician who’s fed at the public trough most of his adult life, having won 15 out of 20 races for public office (I find his lifelong desire to keep his snout in the trough amusing given his conservative bona fides). So here’s a snapshot of McClintock’s 39 years of political history. At age 62, he’s earned a top rating from the American Conservative Union as the most conservative Republican in California. In almost 10 years in Congress, Govtrack credits him with just four pieces of legislation: He named one mountain peak and two post offices, and put four acres of public land in trust for California’s Miwok Indians. His ranking among conservation groups is near zero — surprise, surprise. And Planned Parenthood would give him a minus zero if it could.

STC and its political friend: A quick review of McClintock’s legislative track record should give Ted Stroll and his followers concern. He’s an avowed climate denier and signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity to fight any legislation that smacked of global warming concerns. He’s an anti-tax zealot and pro-gun to the max. He opposes same-sex marriage, favors logging in Yosemite, and backs oil drilling off California’s coast and everywhere else for that matter (think Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). And don’t even mention the word “amnesty.” No point helping anyone with Mexican roots. I could go on, but I’d say that’s a fair political profile of Ted Stroll’s friend.

You are who your friends are: Stroll and the STC membership have picked a loser to shepherd their cause to allow mountain bikers access to America’s wilderness. Of course, McClintock did have two Republican Utah senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, introduce a companion bill in the Senate. For those with a short memory, it was Hatch and Lee who led the shrinkage of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, garnering effusive praise from President Donald Trump. Stroll told High Country News (I am a former HCN board member) that the three legislators are simply taking a stand for mountain bikers on principle. “We’ve had extensive talks, and I don’t perceive that they have ulterior motives,” Stroll told HCN. Well, Ted, that’s just goddamn poppycock. Wake up and smell the oil, the minerals, and the trees that the likes of McClintock, Hatch, Lee and others would love to extract from wilderness areas. For them, mountain bikes in the wilderness is a stalking horse for bulldozers, fracking rigs, chainsaws and other extractive tools best left outside wilderness areas. So don’t listen to what they say; watch what they do. As for myself, I’d stay as far away from McClintock and his ilk as possible. My mama had it right: You’re judged by the friends you keep. And these are no friends of the bicycle industry.

Got a tip for our Through the Grapevine writer? Email Marc Sani at

Related: BRAIN Guest Editorial by Ted Stroll, August 2016

From the June 1992 issue.

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