Sunday, October 26, 2008

Birds Of A Feather

On a recent trip to Seattle, Jacque met Ona, the girlfriend-of-a-friend, who also recently lost some teeth in a bike crash. Somehow, they had the presence of mind to pop out their false teeth and pose for a pic. They could do a meth commercial, if they didn't look so damn happy. Hilarious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bridge Doctors

The I-90 ped bridge at Freya is on the road to recovery.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What I'll Be Wearing This Winter

Remember last winter?

It'll be here again before you know it. I've been thinking about it for months. Last year, I quit riding in Jan and Feb. That bugs the hell out of me and this year I wanna do better. I'm motivated and for maybe the first time in my life, I've actually planned ahead.

Winter riding is a real challenge and not something that you can master in one season, IMO. Every year I have a new theory, complete with new gear. This year is no exception.

There was an epic local discussion about winter riding a while back on the Cycling Spokane Forum. I'm sure there are lots of hard-core winter riders around, but three that I am personally acquainted with that walk the walk - Mike, John and Joe - chimed in and I paid close attention to what they said. It reinforced a lot of what I have learned from my own experience and read elsewhere.

And so I set out to define the bike necessary to mount my assault on Spokane Winter 08-09. The list of wants and needs:
  • Mechanical disc brakes (non-negotiable)
  • Fat, floaty tire capability (non-negotiable)
  • Internal gear hub (negotiable, but not very)
  • 29er (negotiable)
  • Dyno hub (negotiable)
  • Steel frame (negotiable)
  • Bombproof and low-maintenance (fairly non-negotiable)
  • Some sense of style (non-negotiable)

I looked at what was available in stock bikes. Everything on my list was available, just not on the same bike. Stuck between the 29er MTB and city bike categories. Once again invoking the greatly over-used "you only live once . . ." justification, I decided to go ahead and build it. Or rather, let Scott at NDBS build it for me.

The frame choice was easy - local guys Joe and Jon both have Karate Monkeys and seem to really like 'em. The internet is plastered with happy KM campers. Definitely the frame for me.

A Rohloff 14-speed rear hub coupled with Schmidt dyno front would have been the bomb, but I'm not working with that kind of budget. I found out that Shimano makes a group called Alfine that, as far as I can tell, is very similar to the Nexus. The Alfine rear is an 8-speed and the front is a standard 6V/3W dyno. And it's available in black. Cool. More geared toward the commuting and cruiser markets than MTBers, but from what I could find out I think it's relatively robust. If I blow it up, I blow it up.

And I would need Avid BB7 brakes. I gave Scott my budget and let him fill in the rest of the blanks. The only other thing we spent a little time on together was the bars. I considered doing midge or moustache or something along those lines, but decided I really wanted to stay with a mountain-style bar for the time being. Something with sweep and some sense of ergonomics would be nice, though. We finally ran across the Titec H-bars. Perfect.

The build was plagued with pesky little problems. The forks fell out of the box in transit, lost forever. Had to order new ones. Rims that were no longer available. Parts coming in the wrong color. On and on. Scott began to refer to it as the bike that didn't want to be put together. But he kept at it. I've been super busy, so it was easy to be patient. That is, until he emailed me pictures on Thursday night. They got me badly jonesin'. All we were waiting for was the shifter. If it came in Friday, he could finish it up. It did and he did. Driving to the bike shop to pick up your new ride is a damn nice way to end the work week.

I wear the pants in my house and I proclaimed that this bike would spend it's first night in the living room. Luckily, Patty granted me permission.

Here it is, the way I picked it up. 28 lbs. Not bad for a tough steel bike with internal gear and dyno hubs. This is the last time it will look this way. The saddle, tires and pedals are temporary. Lights to wire, racks to install. Lots of fun tinkering ahead.

I would have preferred just about any color but black. So naturally, my choices were black and black. All the blue '08s are gone and the red '09s won't be ready until sometime in December.
Black it is then. And as long as I'm going there, I might as well go stealth.What about riding a pitch black bike in the dark doesn't make sense?Hey, it'll stand out against the snow, right?

Planet Bike Super Flash. Black body version. Sweet.

I love the new Cateye Strada Wireless. This is my third one. Super easy to set up, and even simpler to use. Even with gloves on. Just the basic data. They did this one right.

As I was tightening the last cable tie just before 11:00, I realized that we were out of sour cream and mozarella cheese. Holy krap! I don't hunt, but I take my gathering responsibility very seriously. No way I would feel right waking up tomorrow without these things in the house. I was gonna have to go out and get the job done. It was warm last night - perfect for flip-flops on the platform pedals that will soon be going away.

I extended my journey by (sub-consciously?) forgetting my wallet. Home again. Back again. Looks pretty good in my standard parking spot at Super 1. (The best bike rack that's not a bike rack.)

I would like to tell you that it was the best ride of my like, but it wasn't. Good, but not great. The gearing isn't right. The Paselas are wrong for this bike. All kinds of shakedown stuff that will be fun to sort through. But I already have mad love for two things about this bike - the frame geometry and the bars. Good times ahead.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Feel Like Getting Lit

If you're an 8-to-5 stiff like me, there's not a lot of daylight riding left, at least during the week. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing - I'm your textbook night person and a for me, a good night ride is hard to beat.

I'm no expert on lights, but I've goofed with them a bit. Earlier this year, I was a frustrated all-work dull boy and to preserve my sanity I resolved to ride every day, starting on March 1st. I didn't make it anywhere near Jason's 150+ days, but I did make it over 3 months and most all of that was after long work days, and therefore, in the dark. That kind of repetition was key to finding out what does and doesn't work for me as far as lights go (And also led to some adventures like ending up crashed and half-submerged in a huge puddle in Manito on a frigid March night, but that's a story for a different day).

So now that lights are again parked on my frontal lobe, here are some random thoughts . . .

I bought my first serious light as a fairly green commuter in Seattle. I researched the hell out of it, all on company time. I bought a Light and Motion Solo Logic. Halogen handlebar mount with NiMh bottle-cage battery. I've stayed loyal to Light and Motion ever since - I love that company - the'yre the littler guys that make a great product and provide even better service.

I vividly remember my first ride with this light at about 11 pm on a weeknight down the Soos Creek Trail in Kent, turning night into day. Whoa. This is a great light that would be everything I ever needed in a light, if only I wasn't such a gear junkie. I haven't used it for a while and as a matter of fact, Jacque was by tonight and is going to try it out. I don't know if it's what he's looking for, but he seemed extremely pleased to see where he was going as he was headed out.

I got tired of the minor inconvenience of moving the Solo Logic from bike to bike and thought the L&M Vega would solve all my problems. It's cool because it has a self-contained battery (cords are a major nuisance for me) so it is extremely portable. The mounting bracket can be moved from bike to bike without tools and it is compact enough to stuff in your pocket while you head into the tavern. Unfortunately, the light output is low and the battery life sucks. Great concept, bad execution. Sorry L&M, nice try. I'll hang onto it, though, because it gets Patty up to the Rocket Market with me sometimes.

Then I decided I was gonna ride with the hardcore TNR (Tuesday Night Ride) group. These are the folks that ride MTB's year-around, every Tuesday night, rain or shine or snow or WTF-ever. Riding in pitch black woods requires serious lumens and so I bought the mother of all lights, the ARC Li-Ion. HID (high intensity discharge - the name alone is scary). I quickly found out that there was no way that I could hang with these guys but that as a consolation prize, I could burn their retinas out with my light. Serious night-time MTBing is about the only legitimate use for this light, as far as I can tell. It's just too much and too obnoxious for city riding. Picture parking a Humvee in Riverpark Square.

Which brings me to my current fave - a helmet-mounted Stella-L. This is an LED light with a Li-Ion battery. I've mounted it on a dedicated helmet, so it is always ready. No matter what bike. Grab and go. It has a 5-6 hour battery life on the highest light setting. The whole thing weighs 22 oz, which is not feathery, but really manageable. I love not having to charge it every time I go for a ride. I also really like being able to direct the beam with my head. There was a period of time last spring when it seemed that I was having a close call with cars every time I went out, due to the fact that motorists just don't expect to see bike on the road in the middle of winter. With the helmet-mounted light, I am able to get their attention by shining the beam in their direction. Slightly alarming and obnoxious, but effective, safe and therefore justifiable.

For rear blinkies, it's the Planet Bike (another great company) SuperFlash. Hands down. $24 and worth every penny. The first time I turned one on at the LBS in broad daylight I ended up seeing spots for the next 10 minutes.

As you can see, I'm a battery light guy, so far. But I'm expanding my horizons. John and others espouse the virtues of dyno lights, so I'm trying those out this winter. All the best ones come from Germany, complete with German-language instructions - yay. My light arrived yesterday. It's a halogen, which is quickly becoming old school. L&M just re-vamped their line and all they offer now is LED. The LED technological advances of late are pretty staggering. They're most definitely the future - low power consumption combined with ultra-long lamp life and now super light output.

Here's a sneak preview of my new dyno hub.

Bring on the night (t0 steal a phrase).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stranded In The Bikeless Desert

Nothing bikey's going on . . . 24/7 house stuff lately. It's how it has to be, but it's mighty hot and I sure could use a drink.

I've decided that 26InchSlicks will remain bike-specific (mostly). The house project now has it's own blog, which is a photo blog, because time for more writing just ain't comin' my way anytime soon. I don't plan to do much cross-posting, 'cause that's kinda tacky. That said, something major-significant happened about a week ago. Here's the story.

Good news is, I'm pretty sure some bike stuff is going down this week. I've been mapping out my winter strategy for literally several months and the hardware should finally be in my hands this week. NDBS is doing the build. I'm goofing around with the minor, fun ancillary stuff in my . . . umm . . . spare time. I'm excited with my small, but deliberate pile of goods:

Yep, 29er fenders. Good eye.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Managing My Bucket List

The bucket list . . . all those things you want to do before you kick the bucket.

When we moved into our house six years ago, there was already a neat tree house in the back yard. Our only daughter is already grown, but the nephews and neices love to play in it when we have get-togethers. My favorite memory is of my nephew Angus, a budding comedian, performing "Comedy Hour" from the tree house with his audience seated on the back deck. Patty's favorite is of nephew Christopher's birthday party: We sat him in a chair under the railing and lowered his gifts down to him one by one with a rope and pulley.

I've always wanted to haul a sleeping bag up there and spend the night. For six summers I've thought about it. Geez, you'd think I could have made it happen just once. Now the opportunity's gone forever. Coupla weeks ago I tore it down to make room for the new garage. Just another example of the importance of seizing opportunities and taking time to really live life. Damn.

During the teardown, I took a break and rode over to pick up some stuff at the LBS. On the way back, I rode by one of the Olmsted Triangle Parks - the one where 25th intersects with Garfield. If it's not the smallest park in Spokane, it's gotta be a very close second. Nobody every goes there. What the hell. It's a great little park and I've had this idea for a while that I need to organize a bike picnic there. Bikes only. If you drive a car, you have to park two blocks away and walk. Now I just need a cargo bike worthy of hauling a grill, some buns & burgers and one of those mini Heineken kegs. Or make friends with someone who already has one. Hmmm.

The lonely, littlest-sister-in-Manito's-shadow . . . it would make her day. Next summer for sure . . . not gonna let this one get away.

Tree house sleepover deleted. Bike picnic at Olmsted Park added. Bucket list updated.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Ominous Sign

Jon, a friend at work (not Crazy John, but a different Jon), won the award last year for getting to work using a transportation alternative more days than anyone else in the company. His only mode of alternative transportation is a bike, and he beat out all the carpoolers, walkers, bus riders and telecommuters. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it's probably not the first time he's won it. We park our bikes in the men's bathroom and his is as much a fixture as the sink or mirror.

When I pulled in on Monday, my bike radar immediately went off: Jon's bike was wearing studded tires. Of course I gave him the obligatory krap about his lawlessness, considering that studs are not legal on Washington roads until a month from now.

Yeah, it's a touch early - they're brand new and he's just breaking them in on dry pavement, like the manufacturer recommends. But still. Forget about squirrels and nuts. This is proof positive that winter is on its way.