Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bulking Up For Winter

I never thought I'd live to see the day that I'd be telling you that Eric's gotten fat. It has always just seemed so impossible.

But ever since our tour across Washington on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail last June, he has had a slightly different purpose in his gaze. He stopped by my house tonight packing a few extra pounds . . . in the form of his new Salsa Mukluk 3. I wasn't home from work yet, so there are no pictures, but Patty saw it with her own eyes and has provided her unimpeachable testimony. It looks just like this:

Eric bought his new bike from Steve, who, as an unfortunate victim of mother nature, brought in both a Muk 2 and a Muk 3 last fall, just prior to our snowless winter. Damn. But on the other side of the coin, positive fortune for Eric, who was able to help Steve clear out old stock at a discount.

Apparently, then, the whole world has gone stark-raving mad with this fatbike nonsense.

(I don't know for sure, but Steve may possibly still have the Muk 2 around, for any local lunatics out there that may care to attend the monster's ball.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday Last, First Person, Realtime

The big-ass van shows up just before eight. The driver remains seated, calmly idling, while every other door explodes outward. My riding-pals-turned-soigneurs burst out of the van and grab my bike and all my krap and huck it through the gaping rear-facing entry and into the cavernous cargo hold.  I frantically pull on one riding shoe, take the last hit of lukewarm java and then one-legged-hop out to the sidewalk with the second shoe in one hand and the last bite of banana in the other.  It's every bit as surreal as it sounds.

The growler's just for show. No beer is consumed in the making of this adventure.

We make one more stop, during which I join the growing legion of soigneurs, and within seconds, we're back on the road. Within minutes, we're entering Riverside State Park.  It's every bit as rad as it sounds.

The man with the van has a plan. I don't know it right now, but this is where we'll be riding.

I stop to admire the sight of my buddies admiring the fogged-in hills from which we have just emerged. These guys don't stop much, so I gotta snap fast when the opportunity presents itself.


I survey Joe's 29er Elephant hardtail and once again conclude that it rules.

I witness Joe and said Elephant on the trail.

"For an area that's supposed to be so damned flat, there's sure a buttload of climbing", I think to myself, repeatedly, during the buttload of climbing.

The payoff is the view from atop Pine Bluff. Joe, John, Glen and Justin, L-R.

I hear someone call me a pornographer. It doesn't bother me at all.

Well, maybe just a little. I take one bikeless shot, just to validate that I am not.

I arrive back at the van sopping wet from my own sweat, with snot dripping from my nose, mud splattered all over my face, and a set of seared lungs. I anxiously wonder how soon I will be able to get back out here and do this again.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Righting An Egregious Wrong

Or 'how I spent my Sunday night'. Whatever, call it what you want. Bottom line is, it's an aesthetic mess I've been needing to deal with for a long time, and that has now been pretty much dealt with.

Full details to follow, in due time. Unless I decide that, given yours and my historically contentious relationship, you don't ever need to know.

I don't think that will happen, though. In fact, I'm sorry. I don't even know where that bit of attitude came from. Maybe the fact the Glen drug me up several brutal climbs this morning during which the lack of oxygen to my brain for an extended period of time fried all my goodwill-toward-my-fellow-man sentiment.

Anyway, the fork belongs to this wheel. When the wheel gets back together with the fork, everything will look prettier and my world will be a better place and I hope to be able to share my joy with you, genuinely,  as my blood-oxygen level will be back to a more reasonable level.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Acquainting Myself

Now that I have a proper mountain bike, I'm super motivated to get to know some of the local stomping grounds a little better. At the top of my list right now is Riverside State Park, an area that I really haven't spent much time at, and therefore don't know well at all. It's a big enough area that it can be kind of intimidating, and so I've come up with a plan for us to get acquainted with each other.

The first thing, of course, is to get out there as much as possible. But you also want to make the trips productive.  There are trips out with other riders that know the area, and these are great because you don't have to spend time sitting around scratching your head, wondering where you're at and you get to see a lot of terrain and people point out different things and use names for different sections, etc.

But I think some solo time is also important, because sometimes you need to slow down and figure out where you're at and yes, even get lost.  It forces you to connect the dots and gives you a greater depth of understanding of the terrain.

In addition to wanting to learn the lay of the land in general, I am totally fired up to the do the 24 Hour Race next Memorial Day Weekend, and so I also intend to learn that course like the back of my hand.  So I've decided that I'll take the course in sections and get familiar with each part of it, and the trails surrounding it.  That'll form the "backbone" and give me some context from which I can branch out.

Today I had a couple of free hours and worked the solo part of the plan. I was able to pull a gpx track of the 24 Hour Course off the internet and load it on my gps, which was a great help.

I basically rode the section of the course from the start/finish line up to Inland Road. I also wanted to check out the new trail that runs between 7-mile road and the top of 5-minute hill, along with the new connector trail between Inland Road and Pine Bluff Road, so I headed out Inland Road, past the ORV park, and hit those trails on the way back.  I'd been on most of this on last week's ride with Dan, Eric and Chris, but I didn't really know where I was or what I was looking at.  Now I get it.

This is the new trail, heading south, just as it is about to drop off the ridge and descend down to tie into 5-minute hill.

This is the actual descent down. This part of the trail is very well built and all swoopy and super sweet.

That's the new trail on the left, just as it spits you out onto 5-minute hill.

This is the connector, peeling off Inland Road and heading down to Pine Bluff Road.  Dave Nelson was out just yesterday working on the trail to open it up and make it more visible from the road, thus the fresh-looking cut. The stop sign in the distance is 7-Mile Road.

All in all, the solo ride today, combined with last weekend's ride with Eric, Dan and Chris, combined with the ride 2 weekends ago with John and Glen are all starting to add up to a very basic understanding of a very small section of the park. I can hardly wait to do some more building on this meager foundation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Whipped Into A Frenzy

. . . from which I was, apparently, unable to escape. Read on.

The fatbike tire choices have just become so luscious . . .

There's a delightful slew of 'em now offered under a variety of brands/badges including Surly, 45Nrth, Innova and Origin8. And I've probably even missed someone. Among those that have had my full attention these past few weeks are the super-meaty Nate:

And the slightly less-aggressive, but theoretically faster-rolling Husker Du:


Hyped-up and hopped-up by chatter on places like, and de-inhibited by a coupla glasses of wine, I totally lost control and instead semi-impulse-purchased a pair of Surly Knards for my 9:Zero:7 tonight. "Semi" because I have totally been craving a new set of tires (the "original" fat tires - the Endomorph and Larry - that I'm currently running still have their place, maybe, but they are pretty much old technology as far as a do-it-all utility fatbike tire), but I truly believed I had the strength of character to hold out for a few weeks, at least until the reviews started rolling in. Guess not.

The Knard is the (so-far) one and only 3-inch wide 29er tire that Surly developed in order to develop their new Krampus around.

Photo: DirtRag. Obviously.
But in their infinite wisdom, Surly also produced a 26 x 3.8 version of the same tire. Surly, you are radder than you have ever been.

Here's what they look like, mounted up. Holy living hell.

Photo: member croation_bear on

I think you can see how a guy's resolve could be crushed.  If not, I think you need to go hang out on a quilting blog or something.

People are always telling me to grow a pair. I hope ordering a pair will suffice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Expansion Plans

I finished Phase I of my backyard renovation-scape project last weekend, just barely before it finished me. It's been going on for a couple or ten weeks, and involved building a new foundation for the woodshed, moving said woodshed, re-roofing said woodshed, laying landscape fabric and "graveling off" a large area that I want to be low maintenance, pouring a concrete foundation for the walkway borders and then laying in the blocks that make up the border, laying the pavers that make up the walkway, building a small retaining wall against the back fence, laying sod . . . and so on. I'm quite pleased with the result. And quite exhausted.

What does this lame domestic topic have to do with bikes? Thank you for asking.

During the project, I hauled in 3 yards of crushed rock, 2 yards of topsoil, 300 sf of sod, around 300 pavers, and many big and small concrete blocks. Most of this material displaced dirt, and the displaced dirt had to go somewhere. Damnit if I didn't have an idea in mind about what to do with it.

Look yonder, there, at the far end of the pump track.

Here, have a closer look:

Okay, I know it's not that much to look at yet, but OTOH, the pictures belie how much work has already been done on the foundation. It's well on its way to becoming something rad. And the rad thing that it is becoming is an extension of the downhill straightaway on either side of the track (assuming you are riding in the downhill direction, of course), and a swoopy, high-banked 180-degree berm to develop some super-fun g's out of that speed. Hopefully.

It needs more dirt. Fortunately, phase II of the domestic project involves displacing a fair bit from its home.

Homeless dirt. Hell. Yes. Onward then.

I'm pleased to announce these expansion plans and even more pleased to announce that as a private entity operating on private property, there will be no public comment period on this project. (Not to say that the public isn't welcome to comment; just to make it clear that I won't give a shit.)

The public is, however, invited to come ride it next spring.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend Warrioring

It's generally understood that "what happens in the woods, stays in the woods." I will admit that this guideline doesn't have anywhere near the gravity of the equivalent Vegas axiom, whereby the "I know we're best friends, but I swear I'll slit your throat with a rusty butter knife if you ever tell a soul about this" situation is common. Mountain biking scenarios don't generally have the potential to blow up marriages and ruin personal lives. But still, you like to tow the line.

Sometimes though, it's necessary to break code of silence . . .

When a certain person, who shall remain unnamed, keeps asking the group with whom he's riding "does this bike make my butt look skinny?", well, I think some disclosure is in order. The answer of course, is yes, and maybe one of the least-talked-about benefits of owning and riding a fatbike. But still.

Kidding aside, I was treated to a ride with Dan, Eric and Chris today, in Dan's backyard stomping grounds. It was some pretty great stuff in the general area of North Indian Trail/Sundance and looping through RSP between 7- and 9-mile. An area which I haven't ridden before. It has a totally different vibe than the area between 7-mile and Spokane, and it's pretty sweet. Tons of climbing, holy hell. There were two fats and two skinnies (bikes, not guys) which proved that they can coexist. Rad.

I crashed and banged up my hand a bit, and I hope to have some awesome, swolen, black-and-blue pictures to gross you out with in a day or two. Something to look forward to, then.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Patty and I have been working a weight-loss program for the last few weeks. I've come to accept the fact that weight management is gonna be a part of the rest of my life, like it or not. I spend a lotta time in thought about the why's and how's of being overweight and how to not be.

I don't have the answer yet, obviously, but continuing to fight back is maybe the most important component. It's been quite a few years, but there was a time when tobacco was my demon and one thing I learned through the epic struggle to quit over multiple attempts that was that you just have to keep getting back in the ring and throwing punches for all you're worth. Defeats are inevitable, but they're also, unfortunately, the only way to learn. Every bout teaches you something about how to come back smarter and stronger. And so it is with food.

What I've learned to date is that the fad stuff is hard to sustain. I was a full-on Adkins disciple back around 2000 and I dropped weight like nobody's business. But then the pendulum swung and I was right back in, umm, business again. And it's not the last time I've done the bounceback thing. No mo' yo-yo, please. Something sustainable would be just really nice.

So anyway, one of the indisputable tenants to eating better/healthier/leaner is to prep more of your food, no matter what the program. And maybe that sounds easy, but it's a bitch, especially when you're busy. It's maybe THE major challenge to any weight loss program. Debatable for sure, but just my opinion.

Anyhoo, if you're with me so far, it follows that you need to be working on ways to get more efficient in your kitchen, so that you can do this thing without it killing every other aspect of your life. There are a million aspects to food prep efficiency, but one that I zoned in on today was my everyday knife. We've had some decent sets of knives around, and I've handled those that I like, but never really dug. I don't watch cooking shows and certainly I should, because I know the answer is there. And of course the pro's know so much about this stuff. But I've just had in mind for a long time what it is that I want in my hand, hack that I am. And today I went after it, at Macy's, which is where I go when I want quality kitchen stuff without getting totally raked over the coals. As in [name shall remain unnamed].

It came out of the package very sharp and very balanced (according to my pedestrian sensibilities), and I am very happy. Hopefully, it contributes positively to the big goal, over time.

How is this bike-related, you ask?

Jeez, are you kidding me?!? Less weight equals faster riding. Duh. Get with the program, man. Let's not have this conversation again.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Managing Expectations

I've been sorta jonesin' to go race 'cross. "Sorta", because I've known I'll get killed, but it's the bug's attraction to the zapper kinda thing. Pretty mesmerizing. I don't really wanna travel very far to get killed and the last "local" race for the next few weeks in the Inland Northwest Cyclocross Series happened today, so I was feeling a bit of pressure. But lazy, at the same time. It was gonna take a bit of work to convert my bike out of commuter mode and into race mode, and I just didn't have the time or motivation for that. So it looked I was gonna pass. Again.

And then it struck me . . . I have another semi-'cross-worthy bike in the stable, that could be race ready in a fraction of the amount of time and effort. It's been for sale on craigslist, but there've been no legitimate bites. So I pulled the add and changed the tires, and in a matter of a few hours, jumping into the race had gone from a pipe dream to a personal challenge. I spent the remainder of last evening and overnight channeling courage from great historical figures who shall remain unnamed.

Back to the title of this post, then:  It's been said that it's the key to a happy life. I think it comes in pretty handy at bike races, too, especially if you develop the skills to adjust your expectations on the fly.

I was talking to fellow bloggers and racers in my division Hank and Scott, about this very thing, just a few minutes before the race.  Hank talked about the pre-race setting of goals and the need to adjust his from not getting lapped to not getting lapped four times during the downtown crit, back in this post. Classic stuff.

I was under no illusion, sitting at the starting line looking around me.  Guys who are racing in the 40+ and 50+ division aren't there for a good time. They're balls-out in denial that they're getting older and intend to prove it by stomping on each other. It was more than a little scary. But I wasn't about to back down from this or any other kind of intimidation! Even with Hanks's experience and good advice basting my frontal lobe, it seemed like a pretty long course, and the race was only 45 minutes and so I decided that my goal was not to get lapped. Even once. Hell yeah!

Two laps in, it was time to modify my expectations. Holy balls, those bastards can fly.

The 40+ group had started 2 or 3 minutes in front of us 50+'ers and it was by them 40+'ers who I'd been lapped. I was thinking that a good and reasonable new expectation was not to get lapped by the  50+'ers. At just about the same time that I was having that thought, it was apparent that it was once again time to readjust my expectations.

Look, I'll spare you the long and tedious narrative chronicalling the landslide of personal expectations that ensued and cut right to the chase: My final, non-negotiable stance was that I shall not get lapped by the entire 50+ field. And that I shall not finish DFL. I think I accomplished both. As far as the DFL thing goes, it's kind of an interpretation issue - I'm pretty sure that some people in front of me dropped out, either because of mechanicals or because they are so ancient that they no longer possessed the will to continue. So as far as riders who actually "finished", yes I may have been last. But I summoned the will to finish last (wait, that came out wrong), and so I hereby proclaim that that this DFL finished ahead of those DNF's. Since this is my blog.

If you're thinking the day was a major disappointment, nothing could be further from the truth. I had a blast. And of course once my race was over, I was free to wander around and snap a few pics. What delightful photo opportunities.

Mr. Brown was locked in an epic three-way battle over the course of this race. I hope he persevered.

I say this at the risk of being very uncomfortable, but check out the veins surfing those guns.

During my wanderings of the course, I crossed paths with Aaron and his Moonlander. The Moonlander came out last year and is the big brother to the Pugsley and all the other "normal" fatbikes, including mine. It sports a tire that's a full inch wider. Holy cripes, it's badass. To my knowledge, it's the first one in Spokane. It's definitely the first time I'd seen one in person.

Aaron's stoked to ride with some other fats, as am I, so it may not be the last time you see him on this blog. The Spokane fatbike contingent appears to be coalescing. And just in time for winter. Kind of exciting.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Clown Bike

Hilarious. Or . . . not. I need to lay off the suds, obviously.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


In the days immediately following any great bike adventure, there's a certain amount of requisite processing.  Whereby your mind is slowly, reluctantly spooling down from its hyper-dose of happy brain chemicals and trying to process the sensory overload that it just experienced.

Facing the fact that you must return to bike-life-as-usual can be painful. One common coping mechanism is to futz with your bike, to the extent that you block the pain from your mind, which can take some doing.  But it can be done.

An alternate and exponentially more emotionally-healthy response is to take all the creative images that you captured during said adventure and meld them into one awesome video. Ward took the high road.

Totally. Awesome.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Of Course There's Video

Oh, so you wanted good video? I'm sorry, you should have said so, back when I could have done something about it. Ever heard the expression "failing to plan is planning to fail?" It's clear that the poor quality of this video is on you, not me. Think about that, then, as you are watching it.

Seashells By The Seashore

Over the weekend, I experienced a buncha 'firsts' - first time riding with another (let alone four!) fatbikers, first time riding in real-deal sand, and first time meeting in the flesh a group of guys that I'd previously met only virtually. The event that drove all this personal growth was the 2nd annual Northwest Fatbike Meet. I was aware of last year's inaugural edition, and probably would have thrown down, except for one minor problem: I was still waiting for my fatbike to be delivered.

I didn't have that particular problem this year and so I was all in. Both the first and second editions were held at Ocean Shores and so a road trip would be in order. Damnit, into each life a little rain must fall. ;-)

FFB ('Fellow Fat Biker', not to be confused or associated in any way with the dreaded BFF) Dan offered to drive and I narrowly avoided biting the end of my tongue off in my enthusiasm to accept.  He showed up at my house just before noon on Friday and we loaded up. A minor crisis ensued whereby there was not enough room left for the bikes once the beer was loaded, but after some creative packing, we were on the road.

The trip was long and fraught with Friday rush hour Seattle-area traffic jams, but we eventually arrived and went through mandatory orientation training.

After which we were ready to, and did, hit the beach. We met up with Dave (who had been waiting for us in the bar, surprise of all surprises), the other Spokane-representin' fatbiker.

No one will ever know the exact details of what happened that night, but it's possible that some beer changed hands under the moonlight.

During the ride, I fell into a very real and deep and filled-with-seawater hole in the earth. I quickly became very wet. Since Dave had been here before, I asked him what it was that I'd fallen into. Without missing a beat, he answered, "that was a 'rip channel'." I was in awe of his knowledge of all things ocean. Only later would I find out he made that up on the spot. Hilarious, the world's full of jokers. Some payback is in order, at some opportune moment in the future.

At the conclusion of the ride, we discovered the single greatest resource at our disposal, as patrons of the Shilo Inn:

Nice catch, mister.

No one got enough sleep, but if we did it wouldn't have been a legitimate road trip, right? So that was cool. I guess. The weather at Ocean Shores was unseasonably and gloriously freaking awesome and we hit the shores with our full contingent of five riders on Saturday morning. It was short-sleeve weather from the word go.

By some strange coincidence, or more likely because it has long been our destiny to be fatbike-cool, no two bikes were anywhere near close to the same and we had all four "major" brands represented:

Dan's Muk

Dave's Pug

Ward's custom

My nine-oh-seven

Ward's other, newer fatbike, and Randy's ride for the day - the Fatback.

Ward is awesome, the resident host. I'm pretty sure, after meeting him, that he has sand flowing in his veins. He's been playing on bikes in the sand for years and was one of the forerunners of the fatbike movement. He was playing with snowcat rims and low pressures long before the Pugsley was even an idea at Surly.

Randy is a longtime buddy of Ward's and was on Ward's Fatback for the day. The rest of us disliked him immediately because he is so skinny and fit. And because he skims across crystal-clear, sparkly water, while we all sink in the same dull, murky stuff.

Meanwhile, my bike was giddy with the enjoyment of being in its element and so of course I had to photo-document some of its joy.

We lined 'em all up for a glam shot. We've probably been watching a little too much TMZ, but hey.

At some point - I don't know how - I ended up with a flask of spirits in my hand. I swear to you I fought the
good fight, but the bastards I was riding with wore me the hell down. Every man has his breaking point.

The tilting of flasks turned out to be almost as much work as the turning of cranks and we were soon famished. Fortunately, we were not far from the Green Lantern, a super-awesome establishment just off the beach.

I'd scraped up my arm on some brush somewhere along the ride in. The pain was excruciating and left me with no other choice than to utter the words I hoped I'd never have to use: "Beer me!" (Better to know the words and have to use them than need them and not know what they are. Or something to that effect.)

After all that I'd been through, I thought I deserved a good meal. Yep, underneath the cheese, onions, chili and ketchup are two hamburger patties and a bun. It was flippin' spectacular and that's a major understatement.

Due the fact that I was experiencing some major digestive trauma, there were very few pictures taken on the return trip. At some point however, the riding ceased for the day and it was once again time to hydrate and bond. We poured every bit as much energy into this task as we did into the ride. Maybe slightly more.

We ended up in a great frame of mind to take in the rad sunset. Kids and birds and all other manner of creature seemed to be enjoying the warm light and warm air of the splendid evening.

Still, the day was far from over. Last stop was Ward's place, and his museum-like collection of past and present fatbike hardware.

There are some major challenges to be addressed regarding the proper future course of evolution in fatbikedom and as a group, it had become clear that the responsibility of pursing and achieving truth -whatever the cost - was paramount. We spent a few moments in earnest intellectual pursuit . . . for the greater good.

And then, apparently, a wave of fatbike hysteria came out of nowhere and swept across us like a tidal wave, and things went totally to hell.

Sean (center) arrived from Seattle, and things went from bad to worse. All hope of reasonable and measured fatbike discourse had disappeared, at least for this day.

Before embarking on the return trip today, Dan and I were able to get out on the sand for another coupla hours - the riding was so good, we just wanted to take in as much as we could.

There always seems to be a lot of interesting sights on any ride along the beach.

We eventually reached the jetty that is the southern terminus of the beach at Ocean Shores.

Dan was representin' River City Red. After a season of looking at those kits around town,
they've really grown on me. I think Gage did a great job with the design.

In conclusion, and to be halfway serious for just a moment, I had one of the best weekends on a bike that I've had in a very long time.  Riding on the sand, even on a fatbike, is huge exercise, of which we got plenty. And then there's the scenery, which is over the top. And good food and great weather and excellent company . . . which makes for an experience that's just about as good as it gets, bike-wise. I feel like one very lucky bastard right now.