Saturday, July 31, 2010

Screw-Off Saturday

I'm hopin' I can do the Midnight Century. I still don't know if I can make it work with my schedule, but I'm planning for it in case I can. Today was supposed to be Dry Run Saturday. But when I got up it was raining and the weather forecast was calling for a 60% chance of thunderstorms. Didn't take much to talk myself out of riding a course with lots of open areas on Thunderstorm Saturday.

I could have done some other work that needs to be done, but it'll still be there tomorrow, and I decided to screw off instead. First thing I did was sit down and flip on the TV. I hardly ever watch anymore, 'cause I always seem to have stuff to do that's way more interesting than what's on, but as luck would have it on Screw-Off Saturday, I stumbled across "The Birth Of Big Air". It's part of an ESPN series called 30 For 30 and it's about Mat Hoffman, this 38 year-old guy who's the godfather of freestyle BMX. He was friends with the late, great Evel Knievel and he's every bit as banged up. Dude, I was f'ing RIVETED to the screen. You can check the ESPN website to look for the re-run schedule or get it on DVD or download it to your iPod, but you NEED to see this. I have to watch it again myself, 'cause I tuned in late and didn't catch the first part. Anyway, it totally kicks ass, and it made such an impression on me that it has just kind of permeated my whole state of mind all day. Only bad thing is, it probably killed any interest I have in watching any more TV for a long time. It was so well done anad so damn cool that there's just nothing out there that's gonna measure up. So I shut the tube down and headed to the shop for more goofing off.

Even though I wasn't interested in riding the course, I could still do plenty of obsessive thinking and planning. I decided to fix a couple things on the bike.

If I go, I'll be taking my Elephant, naturally. I don't have any decent way to mount a tail light yet. I could do a seatpost or seatstay mount, but I've wanted to do something more to my liking and today seemed like the day. Same thing with the pump mount - I've had it mounted under a water bottle cage and it looks stupid. Here's how I fixed both things . . .

The light is a RADBOT 1000 from Portland Design Works. Just when you thought nothing could possibly ever top the Planet Bike Superflash.
I got it from Larry at OlyBikes. I've had it for a while, but haven't tried it out yet other than to turn it on and stare at it and go temporarily blind for a coupla hours. I was compelled to buy it after reading his post.

So super fun bikey day. Kinda makes me think I should screw off more than I already do.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crisis? What Crisis?

Something super-terrible happened to me last week. Brace yourself: The non-drive side crank arm on the dog bike started to loosen up. So I tried to tighten the nut on the axle and stripped the threads. HOE. LEE. SHIT. Fish need water less than me 'n my dog need this bike.

I hyperventilated all the hell out for what seemed like forever but was probably just a few seconds, and then I got seriously pissed and there was denial and despair in there somewhere too. All the classic stages. Finally I hit the warm glowey realization that if ever there was a golden opportunity to visit Pedals2People, this was it.

It was last Saturday and I had a lot of krap I needed to get done, but nothing was even close to being as important as this, so I shit-canned it all and headed down to P2P. Once inside, I met up with Ryan at the counter and told him my sad story and how I was all desperate for shop time and parts. His enthusiasm took me by surprise and turned out to be the harbinger for a fab experience over the next couple of hours.

He set me up with a stand and got busy lining up tools and showing me how.

There was lots going on, so just as soon as he was done explaining, he evaporated off my work stand and condensed on somebody else's. Modern vernacular would call it multi-tasking, I suppose, but our lexicon is shallow and media-driven and what was happening there was honed and artistic and a few levels higher and makes that term look juvenile. I'm not going all open-mouth on you, but it was pretty damned amazing.

Krappy, worn-out crank arm.

BB parts laid out for analysis, cleaning, replacement, re-installation.

Off the stand, problem solved. Damn, that feels good.

Right is now black and left is now silver, so very cool. I have colors for my feet and that should finally put an end to me riding my bike backwards.

Dog hardware mounted back up. Beautiful to behold.

It's cool that my bike is fixed and all, but that's not the story. The story is what it was like to hang out at P2P for a coupla hours and soak in what's going on there. I don't know anything firsthand about the history of P2P, but I've read some shit and I know some of the people behind it and what integrity and passion they have and I think it has evolved, through some tremendous energy (and certainly the trauma associated with breaking new ground), from what it was originally intended to be into something way different, but far more useful and engaging to our cycling community. It's a damn bike factory that is super-efficient and super-frugal about getting good people who want to ride, and their broken-down bikes, back on the road. There's other stuff going on too, but that't the theme that poked me in the chest.

So like I said, I hardly know anything, but what I do know is that you need to get your ass down there and check it out. Don't just "stop by", though. I've done that before. Bring some interactive hardware and stay a while. I think you'll be amazed at what you see.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Warm, So Let's Be Careful Out There

Super-hot days like we're having now command respect. I'm not talking about hydration. If you don't know about drinking water when it's hot I have no chance of saving you.

But gentlemen, what you may not know is that schweaty balls can nulify your ride. This guy I know was riding with this other guy and the chafing got so bad that he had to call his wife to pick him up. He was wearing cotton tighty-whities, so he's a dumbass, but still. It could happen to you.

Maybe the ladies have similar warm-weather hazards. I don't know. Patty and I don't talk on that level.

On purpose, I'm not posting any pictures. Just think about the words and take care of yourself during this hot spell.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rackufacture: Ostrich Front Rack

Like I realized before, summertime's not rack time. It's time to ride. OTOH, sometimes you need a rack, like maybe when you get a new Elephant and you want to be able to carry your lunch to work. So there's push and pull and then you build a rack.

Mostly what I've built up to this point is military grade rackage and now I have a rad versatile go-fast bike and I need something befitting. A light front bag/rack combo to carry summer-light loads.

I spent quite a while looking at what was available in front bags and getting advice. I settled on the Ostrich. It's made in Japan which is cool because Japan at this point has good manufacturing heritage and I picked it over the competitors like Velo Orange and Acorn and Berthoud because it's a quality bag at a good price point with lots of features I want but mostly it doesn't weigh a ton. I'm not going all weight-weenie on you, but OTOH, weight matters and holy hell, does it ever add up. When you have a bike built for you by a guy like Glen, it's personal. He's seen a bazillion cyclists over the years and probably has pretty spot-on judgement and so even though I'm getting up there in years, it was obvious that what he thought I belonged on was a bike for going fast and wouldn't have built what he built unless he thought I was capable of a little speed and I like the sound of that and I'm damn sure trying to pay attention to what he's handing me and not immediately go and eff if up.

You've already seen that I've hung stupid amounts of weight off this bike, and it's great that it will take it, but that's not what it's optimally about.

That's a bunch of rambling on. Let's get to the pictures.

Meet the Ostrich bag. It's mostly cotton but with some leather.

Fab map pocket on top.

All kinds of leather straps and buckles. Not my thing. Probably all sacreligious in rando circles, but they're mostly coming off.

Strap on the bottom of the bag.

Inside is a shoulder strap, which I'll throw away, and some plastic stiffeners to help the bag keep its shape and which I highly value.

The stiffeners had sharply corners which might eventaully wear on the fabric, so I rounded them off.

Out came the seam ripper. Not gonna need these leather patches/strap-holder deals.

A while back, Alex Wetmore sent me the link to these pictures of how he tied some Ortlieb hardware to a front bag to create a quick-release mounting system. It made immediate sense, but of course I had to put my own twist on it.

Just so happens, the Ostrich has a piece of aluminum flat bar sewn right into the fabric in the back of the bag.

Perfect place to mount the Ortlieb hardware.

Here's the rack coming together. I think you get the picture, so I'll just shut up.

I had to drill into my new Elephant. Just about killed me.

The back of the bag was secure, but I needed some way to hold the front down and keep it from bouncing around. I bought a couple of the smallest nylon cleats you can get, from West Marine. I cut the tails off and mounted them, you get the idea.

The bag and rack combo came in at just under three pounds. Good good.

The shift cables keep the bag a ways away from the bars. So the strut back to the fork crown got a little long and I decided I needed to reinforce with some diagonal stays. Up until this point, the workmanship had been pretty good. Up until this point. It was either slam it out or miss my return to the CDANF, which wasn't gonna fly. So I settled.

Here it is, finished. Probably should have takan a picture with the bag aboard, but you can use your imagination. Yeah, I know, it's a pretty weird rack, but if you don't try anything you don't learn anything.

So far, so good. If you see it in future posts, you'll know it's all good. If not, then you can assume a crash and burn.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

i Heart Sprague In The Valley

Crazy talk, I know. You're like, "Last straw, dumbass. I've wasted countless minutes here and finally I have the excuse I need. I'm so done with your blog."

But hear me out.

Couple or 3 weeks ago I was on my way to work and I had this rad idea for a new shortcut that totally didn't pan out and in fact dumped me out on Sprague with no option but to ride down it.

I'm talking the general vicinity between University and Evergreen. Valleyway is the cat's meow, right? That's what I thought. Secondary arterial, low traffic, bike BUSINESS.

Not so fast keemosabi, it kinda sucks. A million 4-way stops, and crossing Pines can mess you up bad. I need to get to work.

Sprague, OTOH? Serious shit. All the loser streets have to stop for this mofu. Once you're on board the groove train, you roll hard and fast.

Thing is, traffic on Sprague is a bitch, but the other thing is that Sprague is a retail corridor and nobody retail even wakes up before nine. So you have the whole damn thing to yourself if you're riding to work at like any kind of hour that is like closer to morning than like afternoon.

I'll take a way different way home, so I can say this: "Bite me, shoppers. And thank you for letting me use your road this and every other morning."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Return To The CDANF

Ever since my trip into the Coeur d'Alene National Forest with John, Alex and Larry 4 weeks ago, I've been trying to figure out a way to go back. And ever since my first S24O two last year, I've known that at some point I'd need to do one solo. This weekend, both of those things happened.

The reason I needed to go back to the CDANF was because the first trip was a fantastic experience and going back is pretty much all I've been able to think about for the last four weeks. I'd have preferred company, but no one else could make it and I knew that provided me with the opportunity to go alone, which is important to do at least once because when you have only yourself to rely on, you have to do all your own planning and bring every piece of gear you might need. It forces you to cross all the t's and dot the i's and in return, hopefully, you achieve a new level of confidence and competence. If you don't get attacked and eaten by a pack of wolves.

Of all my fears about going into the forest alone, the two most prominent were 1) an animal attack and 2) crashing and getting injured to the point where I couldn't get out on my own power. While the area I'd be riding in isn't all that remote in terms of distance, there are surprisingly few people around once you get into the hills and there's no cell service. I managed to rationalize and deal pretty well with my apprehension about getting hurt, while blowing my animal fears wildly out of proportion.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the forest and scouring maps and looking at terrain over the last few weeks. Just kind of trying to get my head around diffent ways to get in and out by car and what to do and where to go when I got there. For this bike camper at this stage in getting to know the area, the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River and the road that runs along it are the central nervous system of the forest. Here's the River Road Map. If you click on the terrain view, you can see that the river road is flat and low and from here, there are a multitude of routes you can take up into the hills and then loop back down again. Although John, Alex, Larry and I had planned to "tour" the forest (i.e. ride with our gear from campsite to campsite), our trip naturally evolved into a "base camp" style trip, whereby we set up camp on the river and day-tripped from there.

Day tripping makes a lot of sense for a couple of reasons: First, the typical climbs and descents on any of the routes are much more enjoyable without the extra weight. Especially the descents! And secondly, water, particularly at this time of year, is really tough to find above about 3000-3500 feet. If you camp at higher elevations, you will have to carry enough water uphill with you for all your overnight cooking and drinking needs and that can be a lot of water.

That said, I would still love to design an S24O that involves driving in, riding with a light set of gear to a 5000'-ish peak, spending the night there and descending back to the car the next morning.

For this trip, that was too much planning for that and more risk than I wanted to take on a solo trip. So I planned kind of a hybrid. I would leave work at 3:00 on Friday, fly out I-90 to the Kingston exit, then drive 10 minutes up the river and into the forest, where I would park at the Bumblebee Campground. This would be the quickest way for me to get into the forest and on the bike. From there, I would leave the River Road with a loaded bike, climb into the hills and then descend back down to the river at a point farther upstream and camp there overnight. Here's the Friday Night Ride Map. If you click on the summary tab, you can see that it's basically a nine mile climb followed by a nine mile descent. Here's are some pictures from Friday . . .

All set up and ready to go. The bike with rear load weighed 34 lbs, while the panniers and handlebar bag added 27, for a grand total of 61 lbs. Not including water. Holy hell. Way heavier than what I'm shooting for, which is 55. But some overkill stuff for the security of travelling alone and a couple of luxury items put me way over the top. Every trip is another assessment of gear and I'll continue to whittle away at the pounds.

I parked at a no-fee campground. That's me on the far left next to the portable toilet. This felt like a safe place to leave the truck. Coincidentally, Courtney, a friend from work was in the group on the right. I didn't find out until I returned on Saturday.

Once off the river road, the climb started immediately. The road was pretty rutty and rocky to begin with, but gradually improved as I climbed deeper into the forest.

I'd gotten away late from work, it took me longer to drive out than I'd thought, and I was getting a later start than I wanted. That gave me a sense of urgency and put me a little on edge regarding my aforementioned fears. I decided the last thing I wanted to do was surprise a momma and cub/calf of any kind, so I started singing. Song of choice? "I've Been Working On The Mountain". It's hard to sing while you climb and the words quickly devolved into "Mountain, mountain, working on the mountain." Which quickly devolved into "Mountain, mountain." Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Repeat.

During one breathing session, I heard some sort of faint grunt. "MOUNTAIN!" And POW, a small bear shot out of the brush beside the road abbout 30 yards ahead of me, flew about 10 yards up the road and then launched himself over the bank, crashing down the steep embankment. We scared the hell out of each other. I never even saw his head, just his hairy haulin' ass. Needless to say, I bumped the singing up a notch from here on out. But that was the only animal I saw all trip long.

Three hours ago I was sitting in a cubicle looking at a monitor and now I was deep in the forest hanging out with bears and looking at this. That's pretty rad.

This is Laverne Saddle, the top of the climb and the beginning of the descent. That's the road I just came up.

The roads on the descent were sweet. Unfortunately, the 27 lb front load was just too much for any kind of respectable handling and I just had to relax and mozey my way down. Without gear, I'd be bombing this for sure.

Cool bridge over a creek near the bottom.

River road. Now to find a camp spot.

I looked for quite a while, but all the more established sites were taken and it was getting dark fast. I found this flat spot next to the river, but also right next to the road. Any time a car would come down the road, the dust would just about choke you.

I decided to plow into a deeply wooded section a ways down the road. In here it was even darker and I had to work fast to set up.

With no threat of rain, I was able to leave the fly off the tent. I could see the stars through the tree branches and the sound of the river was wonderfully close.

During our last trip, Alex and John exposed me to gravity water filters. These rock so hard that I had to get one.

With the work finally done, I was free to enjoy the rewards of packing my three friends up and over the hill. I made freeze-dried lasagna by headlamp and dined under the stars.

The plan for the return trip was the same as on the way in: Up and over the hill and back down to the truck at Bumblebee, but by a different route with a little more elevation and a little more distance. Here's the Saturday Morning Ride Map. If you click on the summary tab, you can see that the route consists of two climbs. I was prepared for the first. More about the second one in a minute.

The ride turned off the River Road onto Forest Service Road 422 for a short time and then onto the infamous Road 812. This is the road we were supposed to come out on during our last trip, but instead took it in the wrong direction, adding unexpected distance and elevation to our day.

This is my new and improved navigational cockpit. It was totally sweet and the GPS saved my ass no less than two times from going down the wrong road.

The first climb was roughly 10 or 11 miles at a reasonable and fairly consistent grade. I was able to stay in the 6-7 mph range during most of this climb. There were countless awesome views on the way up.

Stull Saddle. From here I would continue on the first climb for a while and then finally crest and descend down to Skull Saddle.

I enjoyed the view down this transmission line because they've clearcut underneath it and it's cool to look at the exposed roads.

Damn nice view from close to the top of the climb.

I finally crested and started down to Stull. After all that work, this is the shit road I get??? What a ripoff. I had redistributed some of my weight to the rear, and along with the losing weight of the beer and food I ate from the front, the handling was WAY better. But I still had to pick my way through this kind of krap, or it would shake me and my equipment to death.

Fortunately, that only lasted about a mile and then some of the drug I crave appeared and I was able to get my fix.

At Skull Saddle, I began the next ascent. I knew about it, but it had appeared on the map to be more gradual. Instead, it was brutally steep. 3 mph stuff. My legs were toast from the previous climb and I was out of water and dehydrated, so I basically just got through it. Getting to the top of a hill never felt better.

There were a few nice sections on the descent, but it was too steep to let the bike run and fairly rocky, so I picked my way down. I'm not complaining. There was no such thing as bad downhill at this point.

I cruised the couple of miles back down the River Road to the truck in the warm sunshine, satisfied, knowing I had made it. I had a nice surprise waiting. Apparently, I hadn't read the fine print about where I could and couldn't park. But it was a warning, not a ticket, so no sweat.

All in all a great adventure in a great playgound. 40 or so miles with what looks like 4600 or 4700 feet of elevation. I continue to be amazed at how few people there are at higher elevations. Excluding the river road, I passed exactly two cars (one group travelling together), one motorcycle and one ATV. The trip was demanding in terms of preparation and it's a mentally and physically challenging environment. I've got my fill and I'll savor the accomplishment. For a while. My next S24O might be a bit more relaxed. But I'm already churning ideas for my next visit to the CDANF.