Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Making The Best Of It

This time of year, and especially considering the winter we're having, it's essential to keep your bike life fun. Don't beat yourself up. If you don't feel like riding, don't sweat it. A little time off will whet your appetite for next spring.

On the other hand, if you're so inclined, there's fun to be had. Don't let the winter bike heroes drag you down with how you need to get all crazy serious. Remember your first bike ride? Remember how much fun you used to have in the snow? Summon your inner kid and go play!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Screw The Weather. Let's Ride.

After yesterday's warm bath of self pity, I was feeling cleansed and ready for a new day. 2-4+ overnight, as predicted. Couldn't sleep, so I was up early to get the shoveling done. Good thing, too, because I finished just in time to take advantage of this unique, time-sensitive, internet-only offer (click to enlarge):

I arrived at The Shop 15 minutes late, and collapsed just inside the door. I had just ridden about 2 miles, all downhill, at max heart rate. An injection of caffeine brought me back to life.

Joe got called in to work and nobody else showed, so it was just me and John. Fortunately, the roads were in much better shape downtown - still not plowed (didn't see one of those all day), but more packed and less loose.

Parks had done a fine job clearing some paths through Riverfont and we had the playground to ourselves. It felt like the perfect venue for a snow crit.

Good boys who work hard deserve rewards:

We'd been worrying about the return trip up the hill all morning, but in the end, the biggest challenge wasn't the roads, but the massive burritos sitting in our stomachs. We rode Cedar to 14th to Lincoln to home.

I hereby proclaim winter tamed, for this one day at least.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Bastard's Grinding Me Down

Old man winter, that is. And we're only 5 days in! I pretty much feel exactly like John. Nothing in my stable will go through this garbage. I wish they'd plow my street, but with another 2-4 on the way tonight, what would it really matter. All my winter cycling preparation does nothing for me right now - Spokane's true 4 seasons that I love so much also make any kind of legitimate riding pretty much impossible for a few days every year. I wanna be outside. Can't believe I'm actually hoping for frozen rain.

So, it's apparently time for a heap of that "patience is a virtue" krap. Luckily, I scored a couple of things this Christmas that are really gonna help out: Jacque got me a bottle of 12 year-old single malt scotch and Patty got me a just-published coffee table bike book that I had no clue even existed. What a great surprise.

The book is fascinating. The scotch is compelling. The shoveling is incessant. That should get me by for a coupla days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This Weekend . . .

. . . was really good. Even though Spokane was a way different place than when I left a week ago, and even though it was a thousand times colder than the place I came from, Spokane holds everything I love. Home sweet home.

By some miracle, I arrived relatively on time, at 8:30 on Friday night. The airport was totally littered with luggages that had become disconnected from their peoples. Patty faded not long after we got home and I was left with myself to endure an evening of zombie time-zone-change fun.

First order of business: Stick the new tires on the monkey. These are Nokian Extreme 294's (meaning 294 studs per tire). The tread pattern is way over the top agressive for what I need, but choices are pretty limited for 29er bikes. My whole winter philosphy is based on float and this is what's available in the float department.

The Nokian slogan exactly captures the way I feel about this company's tires. They're the best, and if you're gonna put yourself through everthing that winter riding entails, you deserve a pair of these. This is the third pair of Nokians I own.

My plan this winter was to go studless and get as much float as possible. Why? The lone reason is that studs are as slow as molasses. The weight and drag are unbelievable. But in the end, I chickened out. I'm old, and everything breaks easier and takes a lot longer to heal. So slow is good. But if I could place a Christmas wish for the bestest winter tire, it would be the Schwalbe Winter Marathon, except instead of the available 40 mm's, I would like it in a 60 mm (2.4"), please. I promise to be good for one entire year, Santa, if you will bring this to me next December.

When Scott set my bike up, he made it so that I could seasonly vary the gearing by using either a 33 or 36 tooth chainring without modifying the chain length (thanks Surly, for the long dropouts!). This is 33 weather, for sure.

If you're a newb to dyno hubs, dont' be a dork like me and forget to disconnect the wires before you pull the front wheel!

Mounted and ready to roll, at long last. (I won't even begin to tell you about the trauma of dealing with the Alfine rear wheel. Serious love-hate stuff going on here.)

The maiden voyage was a run to the park to play frisbee at somewhere between 2 and 3 am. Brandy's a born-ready, 24/7 dog. Let's roll!

By far the highlight of my bike weekend was the Saturday ride with Mike and Alan. These guys are exponentially more athletic and faster than me, but we all love to have fun on bikes and sometimes it works out that we can ride together. Saturday was one of those special days.

Tonight, after another round of dog fris, I headed solo into the park. I was jacked to see that some other bikes had rolled through. Until, duh, I realize those were cross-country ski tracks. Who in the hell would be dumb enough to ride a bike through here in this kind of weather?

This x-country skier single-track looked sweet to me. But those guys have no idea how to pack a trail and I crashed about 3 seconds in. Skiers and snow-shoe'ers rule this snowy kingdom tongight. I'm hike-a-bikin'.

Breaking trail just about exploded my heart. They say that every winter mile ridden is good for three on dry ground. I believe it's closer to 7:1.

Winter's an ever-changing adventure and it's hard to say what Christmas week has in store for us, but we'll figure it out. See you on the snowy streets!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome Home, Studley

Last Friday, as in a week ago, just as the sky was about to dump the season's first good batch of crystal ice, and the mercury was doing a righteous butt pucker, I bailed out and jumped on a plane for warmer climes. Well, it wasn't exactly like that . . . it was a planned business trip, but excellent timing, if I do say so myself. (It would have been perfect, if you bastards would have gotten this ridiculously cold and snowy stuff out of the way and ordered up some decent weather before I returned. Isn't a week of this krap enough for you guys?) Anyway, I lovingly reminded Patty where the snow shovels were as she dropped me off at the airport. Not sure if that had anything to do with the fact that the locks had been changed when I got home.

But anyhoo, . . . back to bikey stuff. In a moment of semi-panic, and just because I was already late, the last thing I did before I left for the airport was to buy a pair of studded tires online. It wasn't exactly an impulse buy, because I had been contemplating the purchase more and more seriously as the weather reports became more and more ominous and I was thinking about last winter and even though you delude yourself into thinking winter is one way when it is really the other way when it gets closer and then finally gets here you can't hide from the truth and you have an idealistic idea but in your heart-of-hearts you know better because you've been-there-done-that and you know it's going to get ugly and you start remembering your cracked ribs glare ice crash and you begin to need studs and this sentence pretty much describes my thought process and did I mention I think I really need studs and so then I finally hit the 'buy now' button and I could finally be at peace and all it took was some money which I can't take with me anyway and now I can get on the plane that doesn't have internet and not have to ask the flight attendant for Nyquil so that I can go to sleep and go across the ocean without the torment of knowing that I finally decided that I really need studs and can't buy them and why the hell didn't I just get them coming when I had the chance???

Done deal. And as planned, they arrived in time to become a "welcome home" gift to myself. All is well.

So. Mounting them took WAY longer than I planned. Thank you Shimano for the fine engineering you call Alfine. Whatever. They're now mounted up and even though it's 2:09 am and Patty went to bed many hours ago, my body clock says it's 2:09 pm and time for a ride so I'm headed out and if you are sitting at home in your pathetic warm living room then you are soft and not at all what this nation was built on and all I can say is see-ya-wouldnt-wanna-be-ya, which in less than 10 minutes will become see-ya-wouldnt-wanna-be-me and all I can hope is that when some freak pounds on your door at 2:15 am you will open up and let the comment about how you are soft slide just this once and let me step into your living room and use your phone and then hang around and lie down on your sofa and wrap myself in your blanky while I wait for my wife to come pick me up. I'm not asking, but if you have some hot chocolate I wouldn't turn it down. Ride on.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crispy. Frosty. Dry & Chilly.

In a coupla days, all the poetry will evaporate and the adjectives will become reactive and adversarial and sometimes even downright violent. Normal life, but especially bike life, will become more harsh and less forgiving. The rules will totally change. Not necessarily good or bad, just how it will be. Tonight I'm savoring the peaceful remnants of our long and wonderful fall season.

And the plan at this point in the post was to shut up and insert a video of tonight's crispy, frosty, dry and chilly ride, accompanied by some music I have been saving for just such an occasion. But alas, my first attempt at night video was a full on crash and burn - black screen with strange bike and human noises. You win some, you lose some. Losing is okay, and even beneficial, as long as you don't make a habit of it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ode de Basquette

(I never claimed to know anything french, so give me a friggin' break)

I have a basket on my bike
It works for me, it's what I like

I go for milk or bread or beer
I ride from here to there to here

I throw stuff in and off I go
In day or night or sun or snow

I have a case of basket love
Compared to bags they're heads above

So when I pass you on the road
And both of us are packing loads

You'll notice that I have a smile
Cause baskets shorten up the miles :-)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What's A "Pogie" ?

This is a pretty much all-work-no-play weekend for me, but you can't ask a question and then not answer it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Would Rate This Evening As Sew-Sew

No way sewing is kicking my ass, brah.

Turns out my problem was that I had gotten hold of some sissy sewing gear. I swung by Hancock Fabrics at lunch and righted that wrong.

Then I pumped some worthy light into the kitchen along with some other guy security blanket stuff (utility knife, small piece of 2x4) to ease the sewing intimidation factor. That soft-landed me onto Easy Street.

Sewing 'buttonholes' into foam-backed stretchy fabric must be something you get to in Level 4 sewing class. I could care less that it looks like I chewed through the fabric. I cordially invite anyone with critical comments about my sewing skills to pound sand.

I hate sewing more than ever and now that this project is complete, I am looking forward to a raucous solo celebration over the next 20 minutes or so.

Have a good night and thanks for letting me call you brah.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Seam Rippin'

Sometimes your bike life takes you into the dark world of sewing. A sewing class is on my bucket list, but it's nowhere near the top. I might get to it at about year 102. I know the many tricks of the trade might make this form of witchcraft less evil, but it will always be evil to me. Unfortunately, there are times when no amount of tape and cable ties will do, so you have to bite the bullet.

The first thing that I can tell you is that there is not enough light in the world to put thread through the eye of a needle. Maybe when I was eighteen. Certainly not now. Bring me something halogen please. And if there is any way to sew with something reasonably substantial, like say twine or rope, please let me know sooner rather than later.


There's been a fair amount of time that has elapsed since I wrote the previous part of this post. At that time, I was in a reasonably optimistic mood. Things have gone from worse to bad and I am defeated for tonight. There are people who do this shit for a living and right now I would gladly pay them obscene amounts of money. Or maybe there is a certain amount of tape and cable ties that will do the trick after all. WTF-ever. Arrgghh.

Deep breath. Exhale. Chill. Wait for new day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Ya Gotta Do Is Ride, Jacque, Ride

Eric Clapton's words, not mine. Or something to that effect.

Jacque says she's pumped about going fixed this winter. Music to my ears - I'm all about providing some gear to make it happen.

My first pair of Nokian studs that I bought in 2001, after moving from Seattle back to this winter wasteland.

The right lube for this particular job, I think. Zero maintenance - put it on, let it collect garbage and repel water like there's no tomorrow, and replace the chain next spring. Oh yeah, and keep your pants away from it.

This is the stickiest, weirdest chain lube ever. Click the pic and check out the spider webs.

I sacrificed my most prized acrylic platforms for this project.

In the process of converting this lone family fixie to suit her needs over the last coupla nights, I was dealing with her Novara Buzz, so that I could get the lights to pop off one bike and onto the other. And I noticed how thrashed was the Buzz. Especially the drivetrain. Seems like yesterday that we cleaned and tuned it up. And as I was cleaning it up, I got all filled with pride and stuff, because a thrashed bike is a bike that's getting used. The only reason for a clean bike this time of year is that it's parked and collecting dust or that someone is way over-the-top anal. Jacque is neither. She rides.

Since moving from Browns Addiction back home so she can save some money for ongoing dental bills and her next career move, she's had to face additional transportation challenges. Yup, she has to borrow a car every once in a while, but she's committed to not owning one, and she's braving some nasty weather on the bike.

Great job, Jax. Go girl.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

When a Dead End Is Really Just The Beginning

Even though we had family staying with us through the long holiday weekend, I was able to get out for some type of ride each of the last four days and still maintain my stellar reputation as the hostess-with-the-mostest's obedient other half who does exactly what he's told. (When he's not riding.) Needless to say, I'm enjoying a fabulous state of mind right now. (No, not because the in-laws have left. C'mon! It's the riding! ;-)

Today's ride was the way funnest of the four. The mental slate was blank (fancy term for brain dead) and after tossing around a few ideas, I decided to go in search of Spokanarama's stretch of the Ben Burr Trail. I did a quick Google search. Nothing. And that's as close to asking for directions as I get, because, well, I'm a guy. So I bid the IL's farewell and headed off into the glorious fog.

The section of Ben Burr trail that I'm familiar with is between Liberty Park on the west and Ray Street (roughly) on the east.

It ain't paved and it pretty much Dead-Ends into a residential chain-link, where you can then drop down on single-track through a wooded section and get back onto pavement. Instead, I skirted the north side of the fence. On the other side of this property, I was truly at an eastbound Dead End, so I cut south on what looks like an easement and landed back on the street. I crossed Ray and Freya and wound up in this neighborhood.

View Larger Map

At which point I pretty much forgot all about the BBT thing. I was in my rideabout mood and while I've passed through this neighborhood lotsa times, I've never stopped to play.

What's cool about this neighborhood is that is that it's all up and down and a whole bunch of the N-S streets are steep, rutted, dirt jobs.

And it's full of empty lots you can ride through.

A lesser man would dismount at this point. That's mister lesser man, to you.

And the more you ride here, the happier you are to see the next Dead End sign.

Because you start getting more and more confident that there's fun on the other side.

But then things get serious when you get to the NE section of the map, cause that's where there's some undeveloped land. I didn't see any 'no trespass' signs, so I invited myself on in.

Man, if I lived adjacent to this, and assuming the owner was cool with it, I'd build the coolest-ever track and live the life of a king. Right in the damn middle of the city!

But maybe the best part of this find is that it's a killer route between 14th/12th and Hartson/8th. One of my staple W-E routes involes scooting down Carnahan between these two streets. But going up Carnahan sucks big, so I take a different route going E-W. Now I don't have to.

On the way home, this stairway stood between me and my house on the hill. Fortunately, I'm fully trained in shouldering techniques, so I hoofed it on up.

Anyway, I give. Uncle. Can somebody tell me where the newly paved section of the Ben Burr is at?

Signing off for Nov. Cya in Dec.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

First Snow

. . . ready or not . . .

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rainy Day Project

Since I was under the weather this past weekend, I couldn't ride and I couldn't build. So I needed a project. Here's what I came up with:

Friday, November 21, 2008


Tonight I visited the trading post and secured the provisions I will need to survive the next few long winter nights. Pretty sure it's gonna get worse before it gets better. I feel like garbage. On the bright side, Beer-Quil shooters seem to help, if only temporarily.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Take On Tonight's Meeting

Tonight I attended the Master Bike Plan Open House. For some reason, the meeting became this week's focus of my bike life and so in my usual obsessive fashion, I printed and read documents and maps and killed time surfing the city website, getting a little immersed in trying to understand this process and what the plan means for Spokane and it's cycling community. Even with a little preparation, I didn't really know what to expect. I had been to one previous open house, but that wasn't enough to get things clicking in my head.

A lot of people showed up with the idea of commenting on specific routes and specific preferences, and of course there were the requisite idea guys/gals, along with those who want immediate results. And I love that everyone showed up and I'm not complaining in any sense because it's so great to see the passion and involvement in our burgeoning cycling scene, but that wasn't at all what tonight was about.

Tonight was about a collection of really smart, seriously thoughtful people with tremendous vision, who have been passionately involved in moving cycling in Spokane progressively forward, holding a meeting that was a necessary part of a process that spans many years. Laying a foundation for change. The specifics will be more easily achieved and more fully defined within the excellent framework that is being established. If you don't already get where I'm coming from, I believe that these folks are on exactly the course that can best achieve results. Seriously intelligent and focused, man.

I'm sad to say that I am feeling a tremendous pull towards involvement. Sad, because I have a lot on my plate and my history of over-commitment puts a lot of strain on things. But I sense that this is truly a unique group of movers and shakers in a truly unique time of change in the Spokane cycling landscape. Spokane's cycling stars are sort of aligned and energized and how can you not be a part of that in some larger or smaller way. It's just the place I'm in, but it feels like put up or shut up time for me personally.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Like This Video

See what you think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grossed Out and Full Of Questions

A couple of local blog posts by David Blaine and Jacque got me thinking about the west end of town this week, so this morning I flipped a two-headed coin to help me decide between yardwork and a ride. I hadn't been on the Fish Lake Trail for a couple of years and wanted to see what it looks like these days, so I started at the current far west end - 13th and Lindeke.

It was the first real chance I've had to take the monkey off pavement and I was being blown away by how well those massive tires were just rolling over everything in their path and the stability of the whole setup, and I was also seriously enjoying riding in daylight. So by the time I came to what looked like this muddy section, I was feelin' my oats and decided to just power through it. It wasn't until I got to the other side that I became aware of the stench. The smell and the texture of the goop were just so out of place that my mind was having a hard time processing it.

I rode on to the Fish Lake Trailhead. The ride was full of wonderful scenic distractions, but I still couldn't stop thinking about the mud bog. Was that horse shit I was smelled? I know enough about horse shit to know that it smelled like horse shit. In fact I could still smell it because it was all over my bike. I was denying it for all I was worth, but the realization that I had ridden through a pond of liquid horse shit was setting in. WTF.

By the time I came back through, I was beginning to accept reality. It was at this point that I began to feel very sorry for one of the riders before me that obviously hadn't made it through.

But to be honest, I didn't have much time for sympathy, because I was overloaded with questions. How and why is this poop pond sitting in the middle of the FLT?

I got off my bike and headed off trail. The liquid poop mess was coming from the uphill side of the trail (seriously good detective work here). There's a house (horse ranch?) directly above the cesspool and there is goop all over the hillside. I don't know enough about the operation of a ranch to know if there is some common method of dealing with manure that involves suspending it in liquid and then flushing it down a hill next to your ranch. It is hard for me to imagine that this a-hole could possibly be oblivious to what he is doing, so is it intentional? Is he anti-FLT and this is his form of protest? Hmmm. Wow. Hmmm.

I decided to take some deep breaths and let it go. (Actually, the deep breaths were involuntary. But I did let it go.) I came off the FLT and since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to figure out exactly how flawed the advice was that I offered Jacque, regarding his route to work. He's been trying to pedal a trailer full of fireman's gear up the Sunset Hill without ending up plastered to the grill of a Yukon. David Blaine and I volunteered basically the same alternate route.

But as I was looking at the map, I realized that I had never ridden all the way straight up Rosamond, which judging from the map, feeds right back into Sunset Hwy at the top. Sweet! I must have missed the Dead End sign.

You can keep going, sans pavement, but probably not if you're pulling a trailer.

I did complete the loop and suspect that this is headquarters for talking down 747's.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Goin' ?

Dunno. You goin' ? Not sure. We have lots of time. We'll decide later. And so it went.
Here's the story: When I got home from work tonight, I found out that Jacque and I were thinking about the same thing. We had never once talked about it. She heard about it from her friend Aaron. I knew about it from Spokane bike blogosphere. She saw me fiddling with my bike, as usual, and asked me if I was going for a ride tonight. "Not sure." As we talked, it became apparent that we were both thinking about the same thing - the Fiasco. We himmed and hawed some more. I finally threw down and she enthusiastically accepted. At ten after eight, we were on the road, destined to be fashionably late.
As fate would have it, we pulled up behind Aaron, Melanie and Eric on our way down the hill and rode on to the Swamp together.

There is nothing that you own that comes anywhere close to being as cool as Melanie's boots.

It was great to run into Scott and Brenda and their friends at the Swamp. Scott built my Karate Monkey. I got so busy yapping that I forgot to take a picture. After much beer and super-salty popcorn, we headed out, en route to the Globe. It's always fun riding downtown, but super way more funner when you're riding with bike friends.
At the Globe, I got to meet the man who hatched this grand plan, along with my old friend and veteran fixie rider Hank. Jacque mentioned that it was so cute to see us nerdy bloggers getting together. I'm deciding here and now to take that as a compliment and just move on.
It was fun to hear the stories about the modest early days of this ride and then see the evidence of the Spokane bike event that it has become.

We ran into Joe on the way out and got a chance to chat, which was great. Then Jacque headed off to the Baby Bar because she's young and hip and full of energy. I headed home because I'm a Bar Baby who needs sleep. I'll have to peel myself off the mattress in the morning, but it was well worth it.