Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Different Kind Of Hoop-Fest

At the same time as a bazillion-thousand people were throwing a round bouncy ball through a metal hoop a trazillion-thousand times in downtown Spokane, a little over a hundred people were pedalling their mechanical transportation devices that roll on skinny round rubber tires mounted on different kinds of hoops in a large counterclockwise cirle on the outskirts of Spo. They have their Madison Ave mainsteam sport and we have our obscure Euro-ish deal going on, but we are both throwing down. I think we throw down WAY harder, but they'd probably say the same thing. I'm not sure I'd want ours to be all glam. I suspect a lot of us more-or-less like it that way it is and same for them.

My fave bike club hosted the Washington State Masters and Juniors Road Race Championships this weekend. That means that if you are between the ages of 10 & 18 or 35 & dead, this is the race you come to in order to prove you are the best road bike racer in Washington. (Well, it's not quite that simple, but this is my blog so that's how I'm spinning it!)

It was the culmination of a ton of work and planning that started way long ago and a big step forward for the current administration of the club in terms of the caliber of event they aspire to and are able to host. I think they did a damn fine job. There are no single few persons that can do this - it truly takes a club and a whole bunch of other people that are either somehow supporting our club or supporting the cause of Spokane bicycle racing in general to make this happen. You would be amazed at the amount of bodies and effort that if takes to make something like this happen. Thanks to everyone who spent their Sunday standing in the sun in the middle of nowhere in a fluorescent vest with a stop sign in your hand or sitting behind a folding table in a gravel parking lot typing registration info into a spreadsheet on a laptop running off borrowed power.

If I tried to say thanks to everyone I would leave someone out. There are just too many people doing massive amounts of stuff. So this is a shout out and huge thank you to everyone who pitched in today. And that being said, there are two people who deserve a little recognition: Our club president Mike Sirott, and club treasurer Alan Jacob. Mike is the down-to-earth vision-guy. And also energy-guy. Alan is the first lieutenant and fill-in-every-blank-you-can-think-of-and-even-those-you-can't-guy. And also energy-guy. Vision, details, and energy squared. No way this would have happened without those two. Kudos, guys.

My alarm went off at 3:45 am and I was on the course setting up at 5:00. I got home a little after 8:00 pm and spent a couple more hours unloading and whatnot. My day was not even a little unusual. Everyone who worked or participated in this event poured overly-generous amounts of heart and soul into it. I'm positive that I'm not the only one who asked themselves several times today why we are doing this and whether it is worth it. It's the same in a thousand races all over the country every year. The answer lies in the hypnotic, passionate power this simple machine holds over us.

Every time we do a race I am just amazed at the process and I always want to post about it, but I never have the energy because I'm always wiped. This time I wanted to take a good set of pics to document the race, but I was once again just too busy and ended up with a lame subset of the drama, so this is what you get:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dog Is My Co-Pilot

If you go to yard sales looking for some particular item, you're most likely setting yourself up for a big disappointment. Yard sales are more about opportunity. And surprises.

And yet last week, I set out hoping against hope to find one thing in particular: A plastic box.

And on the very last stop, I scored. 3 bucks. Sweet!

The ride home was truly jubilant.

But having a box and using it are two different things. I knew we would have to take things slow. And that snacks would have to be involved. We started with the basics:

And then we took it to the next level:

That is one nervous dog. I was starting to think she was too freaked and that it would never happen, but then a few nights ago we took our first short ride. She was showered with praise and "Pup-Peroni" snacks.

Now it's like we were born to ride.

Oh the adventures we will have!

If you drive a sub-compact drop-kick, just throw it in your back pack. It's always yapping anyway, so you might as well give it something to yap about.

And if you drive a large-breed SUV, a trailer is probably your best bet. Or maybe it will just have to stay while you go.

But if you drive a mid-size American-made mangy mutt, an Xtra and a big plastic tub are your ticket to the good life.


In other news, there's a fab new candidate for the Spokane City Council. Check out the sidebar. This ROCKS.

Patty's Pedals Push Pedro's Pizza

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nature. Umm, WOW!!!

As I write, we're in the midst of a most rad thunderstorm. I'm soaked to the bone because I went out for like 2 seconds. Lighting struck seriously close and I have a metallic taste in my mouth and new cracks in the foundation. Cool.

I tried to take a pic - this is the lame reflection of the flash off of the raindrops.

I finally got a clue and turned the flash off. Best I could do:

I know, I know. This is a bike blog and not the national weather service. Bear with me.

While I'm standing out there getting soaked, somebody rides by! Righteous!!! Hopefully they're home safe by now, drip-drying and talking about their grand adventure to anyone who will listen.

Friday, June 12, 2009


This is a long-ass post. I'm just telling you now. Bail if you want. But if you get all the way to the end and you're all pissed off about how much time you just wasted, don't come whining to me.

So anyway, a while back, buried in a post, I hinted that I was ready to haul some cargo. The desire has been simmering for over a year, but has come to a boil in the last few weeks. Jerry in Illinois apparently picked up on this, and commented with a generous offer to sell me his Xtracycle.

We are all taught that unsolicited internet offers like this are mostly too good to be true. But I have always been a slow learner and this seemed like a no-brainer (my specialty), so I followed up.

Jerry forwarded some digital pics which proved beyond a doubt that he is a super-good guy and that this was the real deal. See for yourself:

Despite my supreme confidence in my ability to judge human character over email, I spent a few restless nights wondering if the reason Jerry offered me such a good deal was because the kids were included.

And it was for this very reason that I didn't open the box with a razor blade. Kid blood stains are the worst.

Anyhoo . . . thanks to Jerry's packaging, the Xtracycle arrived in primo condition. Zero kids in the box. I was all kinds of relieved.

If you're not familiar with the Xtracycle, it's basically a sub-frame that you bolt onto the back of your existing bike. It effectively lengthens your frame and provides a bunch of space on the back of your bike to carry things. That amazing world wide web is chock full of pictures of people carrying all kinds of crazy shit with their Xtras.

I would have loved to put this thing together myself, but I am thankfully, just barely smart enough to know that it would just fall on top of my giant pile of things that aren't getting done. So I relied on the folks at Wheel Sport South to make it happen. Jim and Ryan were excellent to work with, and in the midst of bike shop crazy season, no less.

I really don't need any more bikes and so I decided that the "donor" should be my neighborhood utility bike since that's how I'm going to be using the Xtra anyway. It's a Specialized Hard Rock from the late 80's. I love this bike. Here it is, pre-surgery:

And here, recovering in post-op:

I decided I wanted to do a few upgrades to the bike while I was at it, so I replaced the stock rear wheel and it's 6-speed freewheel with a new Rhyno Lite wheel, 8-speed cassette and Shimano derailleur.

I've always wanted to be hip, so I ditched the gross stock bars for these Nitto Albatross bars from Rivendell and the even-grosser friction thumb shifters for some Shimano bar end shifters:

The bars ends were too long for my liking, so I wacked about an inch off the end.

You will turn from hip to major dork if you don't put the right grips on your Nitto's and I wasn't taking any chances, so I went with cork. First, you have to glue them onto your bars. Then you have to file a groove in the bottom of each grip for the shifter cable . . .

. . . and then you have to file a wider groove around the circumference of each grip so that you can wrap it with twine to keep the cable in place.

No one said hip is easy.

If you're extra, over-the-top hip, you use hemp twine. (I thought the hemp twine was for catching a buzz while you install your grips, so I smoked it. I didn't catch any kind of buzz and wound up with a screaming headache.) I ended up using regular old jute twine, which is still plenty organic, as far as I know.

Once all that is done, you shellac the whole thing:

And this is what you end up with:

The shellac dried overnight and whadya know - Jacque had a yard sale ride scheduled for this morning. I decided it was the perfect maiden voyage.

Jacque, Jeff, Rick, Judy and I headed out from the Scoop at 10ish and rolled up to our first yard sale a few blocks later.

We proceeded to take the South Hill yard sale scene by storm.

Good thing my sister Mary wasn't along. She . . . ummm, well . . . she has this thing about boxes and would certainly have added to her already overly-abundant collection.

2 or 7 yard sales later, we caught up with Greg and Niki. Greg's been riding an Xtra for a couple of years and pretty much said they could take it from him when they pried his dead, cold fingers off the grips. Well, okay. He didn't say it exactly like that.

It's painfully obvious that I'm an Xtra-newb, because I wasn't carrying any long-load flags. Greg pulled one out of his Xtra stash of standard operating equipment and made sure I was legal.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I wasn't carrying any bungees, either. What kind of a dumb-ass takes off for a yard sale ride on his Xtra without a single bungee? Never again, I swear to you here and now. Jacque bailed me out with a bungee out of his trailer stash. By this time my nerves were too frazzled to even figure out how tie my load down, so Jeff took care of it.

There's no way you can't call this day a success, but it's clear that I need to get it together before my next trip out.

Here's the loot I drug home. There are two significant points about this picture:

1. The great thing about yard sales is that you can compensate for all you male insecurites by buying gobs of manly stuff, whether you need it or not.

2. Now, in addition to my main edger, I have a primary auxiliary edger and a secondary emergency backup edger. Pretty much the only thing that can possibly keep me away from edging at this point is a cold beer. Or in other words, this doesn't necessarily mean that I will be edging, just that I can.

I've only taken the one ride, but I already think this bike is Xtra-Special(ized).

Jerry, thanks a million. I'll give it a good home.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Shout-Out To David At REI

Friday turned unexpectedly bikey and before we knew it, we were cleaning up a bunch of bikes at our house. When you clean bikes you have to look at them and in the course of cleaning and looking, Jacque noticed that one of the spokes was busted on her daily driver (a Novara Buzz). The chain was also prone to coming off the big gear.

I could handle the derailleur adjustment, but I needed help with the wheel.

This is a bad time to ask a bike shop to do even a little work. When the sun comes out, everybody wants to ride and the shops are slammed. But even though REI is out until the first part of July on repairs, David (who I had never even met) slipped us in and fixed the wheel while we waited!

Dude, you totally rock. *THANK YOU*

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Patty's been openly jealous of my neighborhood utility bike for 2 or 7 months. It's just that I can't hide the fact that it's the cheapest bike I own and probably the one I get the most enjoyment out of. She wants in on the fun and I can't blame her.

While I have way too many, she has just the one bike - a road bike and a decent piece of equipment. But it's for doing Loreen Miller rides and stuff like that. You can't hang a rack on it and it doesn't do well with any practical bike chores. I've been looking for something that might suit her. I've been pretty diligent, because I wanna cruise with my bride through the 'hood on our dork bikes. But nothing's surfaced. I haven't wanted to push it . . . I want to let this bike come to us, but there does come a point when you start to get a little impatient. With all the great weather we've been having, well, you know. I even started to consider buying her something new at the LBS, but that's not this bike.

And then out of the blue: I get in my truck to head to work this morning. Down the driveway. Right on 25th. Right on Bernard. Rolling down the hill. I'm already late. And then, at about 17th or so, on the corner, they're setting up for a yard sale. And there it is - ugly as sin. I could tell it was the right size. I could feel it. I grabbed the binders, pulled a hard right and parked it. Work would have to wait. I gave it the quick once-over. It looked rough. I knew I should wait for something better, but this was my chance to get the job done. For better or worse. Maybe bike love would tame this beast. The sign said $45. I happened to have $40 in my wallet. We struck a deal.

As I loaded it into the truck, I couldn't help but notice how ugly it was. But still, there was something that made me stop on first impression. I spent the rest of the drive wondering why I was dragging home more junk and how I was going to get rid of it. But now I was committed and determined to make it work. I was scheming all morning and snuck out for lunch to grab some new tires at Wheel Sport East. Then I left early so I could make it down to Spoke 'N Sport, the basket king of Spokane LBS's, before my haircut appointment. I was so preoccupied with this bike during my haircut that Ed could have cut my ear off and I wouldn't have noticed. As soon as I was done, I headed straight for REI to pick up some lights. I now had what I needed and I was headed home.

I had called Patty earlier to tell her that I had a surprise. Girls love surprises and I think maybe she let her expectations get a little out of hand. I told her to close her eyes and then walked her over to the back of the truck and told her to open up and take a look. I'm pretty sure I saw her throw up in her mouth, just a little.

But then things got better. First, we cleaned the drivetrain together. Then she washed it down. We mounted the new tires. It was starting to look pretty good. It became apparent that this bike had hardly been ridden and was in really good shape under the dirt, a diamond in the rough. It had a kickstand, which made her smile. Then, we mounted the basket, and that put her over the top - she could see the grocery-run potential. By this time, it was starting to get dark, so we mounted the new lights, and at about 9:30, we headed off on the maiden voyage to the Rocket Market, to celebrate.

Patty loves, and I mean *LOVES*, this bike. I love it too. Sometimes you score. This bike is what's it's all about. I'm gonna sleep like a baby tonight. Pink cable housing - are you kidding me??? Here are the pics:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hanging Out In The Opium Den

There are some basic no-brainer rules in life. Like this one: Don't reinforce bad behavior. Say for instance, if you get off on robbing banks, your friends should not be felons. Or if you have a drug problem, quit dropping by the opium den. And if you have cargo bike fever, stay away from the Xtracycle Gallery.

I've been counting down from 350 or whatever it's up to by now. I'm at around 115 and I'm trying to quit, but it's not easy. Here's a local guy you might recognize and a semi-local gal you might be familiar with. And Jerry from Illinois, who you don't know yet, but will, by the time this saga is over.

It's clear that I'm running with a bad crowd.