Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wintertime Pump Track Rumination

Not sure about the idealized part - it was pretty damn rad. Maybe it will be again. Not sure about that either.  The only thing I'm clear about is that right now it's definitely not. Rad.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rackufacture: Reclamation Mods & A New Budget Porteur Bag

There's no popular demand, but the Rackufacture series is back, whether you like it or not. I don't have anywhere near the free time I've had the last coupla winters, but I'm managing to squeeze in a little rack activity where I can.

I guess I'm not happy unless I'm trying something different and about two years ago, I built this nutty-looking job. It's actually a modular rack that consists of a smallish pretzelized portion designed around a specific bag that carries things like jewelry and keys and looks like a man purse but is definitely not, and then a second removeable portion that looks more like a normal porteur deck for carrying bigger stuff like cases of beer and XL pizzas.  Posts on the original builds are here and here.

Some of the rack experimentation I've done to date has worked out pretty well, but this one has turned out to be kind of a pile.  For one thing, the deck is big and has lots of big gaps and is not very useful for hauling bags of groceries or the type of stuff I need to move around the neighborhood.  A good, functional porteur bag might help solve the problem but I've been too much of a cheapskate to spend the coupla hundred bucks on a proper one and I haven't put forth any effort towards figuring out a home-brew solution.  For another, some dopeshit mounted the light right behind the potential porteur load, which totally limits what you can haul after dark.

So it has long been my plan to do some corrective hacking to make this mess a little bit more functional.  I've been able to enact the plan over the past few days.

My search for a budget bag hack led me to Cabela's.

I've been here twice before - once shortly after it opened just to see what all the hysteria was about, and one other time when I was looking for what they might have to offer in terms of bike camping gear.  What they sell just has very little overlap with my interests - the majority of what's inside has to do with getting geared up to go out and kill animals and that's not something I would ever think of as fun.  Nothing against anyone who does, just not my thing at all.  If I had to hunt or fish in order to survive, I would Nike up and just do it of course.  Luckily, I live in a time where someone does all the dirty work for me.  Where I'm going with this I guess, is that through my glasses, it's a pretty interesting walk through this mega-store.

Yes they are all real.

Real dead, that is.

I'm not strictly anti-gun or anything, but it does scare me a little bit about how gun crazy we've become.
I mean, when you can't sell guns fast enough and have to put a first-come-first-served
 take-a-number system . . . well, it just gives me pause.

I do think this is not my last visit to Cabela's in search of some bike-nerd/outdoorsman-nerd crossover gear.  Case in
point is this day-glo hi-tech fabric vest.  I've been feeling the need to make myself a little more visible during National
Forest rides, during which time I'm sharing space with hunters.  Plus I could stash all kinds of cool shit in the pockets.

So anyway, here I was again, looking for something bike related that I wanted and maybe only these guys could help me with.  In this instance, it was fishing bags, and I wasn't disappointed.  Don't they look a little bit like something you could strap on a porteur?

 I know! Totally!  I am so smart.  I scored this one for forty bucks.

Buying the bag was the easy part. In order for it to be a workable solution, I'd need an easy-on, easy-off budget hack mounting system.

In a long-ago post that I don't wish to spend any time searching for, I talked about unraveling one of the nets on
the left and ending up with the righteous roll of bungee cord on the right.  I even found where I had put it.
Then I scrounged up some fender washers.

Few things in life are as exhilarating as drilling holes into something you just bought.

This is the inside of the bag, with the aforementioned bungee cord sticking through the fender washers and tied off.

These are new bungee loop posts.

Those are bungee cord finger loops, for hooking your primary bungee cord loops over your bungee loop posts.
I know you are basking in the terminology.

Stretch and hook.  So easy, even a baby could do it.

Hooked in, ready to roll.

That problem solved then, next under the knife was the light mount.

New mount.

As it should be. (What in the hell was I ever thinking.)

But what to do with the old light mount . . . mmm.  Hack it off?  Neh, too much work.  Why not turn it into a bell mount.

Never owned a bell before.  Oh the joy that must await me.

I thought about maybe sharpie-ing down the volume on the bright yellow embroidery, but hey, these guys
provided the solution.  So for the time being I intend to wear it proud, wear it loud.

In case you are even wondering, please. Don't insult me. Of course my new Cabela's gear will enable me to bag
a half rack. Hmmm. Maybe I have some of that hunter gene in me after all. No, wait.
Bullets + beer bottles = bad business. Guess, I'm a gatherer, then.

All up, I'm pretty excited about these mods . . . I think the bike is gonna be way more useful and therefore way more fun.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Look directly into my eyes and listen carefully. I am in control, you are powerless. You shall pedal, I shall run. Any attempt to ignore these instructions will be futile.

I'm waiting.

Friday, January 27, 2012

All My Other Bikes Look Funny

It's more than a little creepy: My fatbike now looks to me like a bike should look. All the others look like anemic freaks. I sort of sense that I'm unbalanced, but not quite ready to accept it. So just shut up.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Studded Up, Platformized and Bootiful

I honestly thought we were gonna get through winter in this town without having to worry about snow and ice. I really did. It just took so long to get here that I'd somehow convinced myself that we had moved through and past it. Apparently then, I was in error.

Don't get me wrong - I'm on record in multiple posts wishing, longing, praying for snow. No need to remind me. But it was the light, fluffy idealistic kind that I was dreaming about. Not this real shit.

In the course of the last coupla days, I've been slapped around a bit and forced to deal with reality. I've hit the deck more than once. I have impressive bruises to show for it in places that you don't want me to photograph. Now I remember.

But it's not a bad thing, where my head has adjusted to - it's just where it must be:  Stud season is here. I accept  it: Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. Meh. As of tonight I'm back to sporting carbide.

And also, in the never ending internal conflict of platforms vs clipless, my pendulum has swung way to the platform side over the last 3 days, after falling over on the fatbike a coupla times. Which I attribute to not being able to get clipped in or out fast enough.  Fair or not, I'm rolling with that excuse. So platforms it is on all my bikes for now and ever more!  Or until I change my mind.

These are the pedals John gifted to me one day when I was wishing out loud for something grippier for the pump track bike but which I never had the balls to use once I looked at the take-it-to-the-bone nature of those studs.  In winter, with multiple layers and the legitimate need for some grip, they don't scare me quite as bad.

Now that I am fully committed to flats, I needed boots with a stiff sole. Cheap bastard that I am, they couldn't cost an arm and a leg. Fortunately, they were on sale.

So this is now the sum of my bike plan about how to get through the rest of this winter.

Big and little.

It would appear that some kind of adventure must certainly lie in store.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Fat Snow Ride Report

After all the buildup, I dare not let you down. Read on, then . . .

'Twas a glorious eve! John stopped by and we fat-tired our way acrest the silky blanket of newfallen wonder, down acrost the flowing hills of the southland and unto the den of Glen.  The hang hung heavy with calorific and culinary delight, and the conversational content was in no way compromised. After some time, we high-tailed it back up the hill, albeit with heavily heaving hearts.

Sorry about the lack of pics, but with the quality of prose at hand, do you really even need them? (Don't answer that.)

I arrived home, supremely satisfied and starved for suppination.

But Brandy brashly reminded me that first snowfall is cause for supreme celebration and how could I possibly hang that fabulous orange bike up without first taking my damn dog down to the park??

The fact that my damn dog complimented my bike left me momentarily shocked and devoid of a come-back. So back out into the wild winter weather we went.

No regrets so far. About the bike. Or the dog. I dig the dog and the bike.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's Coming

Ace knows it.

NOAA definitely knows.

Maybe life's not so unfair after all. I can feel the bitterness beginning to evaporate even as I type.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Patty and I are so busy at work these days . . . we're super grateful to be vital cogs in vital organizations but holy hell, sometimes we arrive home on Friday just totally work-week wasted.

We always sit and talk for a bit about each others' days, but afterwards, our coping mechanisms are different.  She retreats to various indoor comforts while I head out to the cold-ass shop (she's obviously a lot smarter than me).

Tell ya what, though - cold as it may be, Friday night solo shop time is about as sweet as it gets . . . coupla beers, good music,  thinkin' all of life's troubles through, no pressure to get anything done . . . jeez, my problems just melt away, if only for a short time.  Heaven on earth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I haven't built or even thought about building a rack for months. The rack activity last fall-winter-spring was pretty insane, what with my own projects and trying to do classes. There were a lot of mornings worth of dragging my exhausted ass to work after having stayed up way too late working in the shop. The whole deal was cool and I was all crazy inspired, but by about April or May, I wasn't sure I ever even wanted to look at one again. A lot of great work got done by me and a lot of other people, but the weather was beginning to turn and it was obviously time to give it a rest and bump up the obsession a notch by constructing a pump track.

At the time I suspected I'd probably give a krap about rack-building again at some point, but I didn't know when and I didn't really care. That motivation is something that you should just let come to you, given the amount of time and energy it demands.

Well apparently, it finally did. Come to me. I had 4 or so hours of free time today and racks was how I found myself wanting to spend it, so I busted out and dusted off the gear. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I even remembered some of the important stuff about how to use it.

Turns out though, I was able to knock off most of the rust and pick up where I left off. Sort of. Thing is, I was in a way different place with my life last year than I am this, and time is currently super-premium and especially with the perspective gained from having buried myself so deep into it last time around, it's a little different activity now:

Last time, it was a lot about art; now I only have time for good structure and good function. I still want things to look good, and they will, but there's no time for fussing with the fine stuff. I wish there was, but there just isn't. No full-sized computer-generated layouts. Simple sketches will do just fine.

A lot of hours, thought and energy went into the 'o-matics. Designs that were pretty successful and details that won't ever have to get re-hashed means that getting them out was pretty sweet. They're down and ready.

This is the end result of 4 hours of rack time.

It's not particularly pretty, but it's good and square and very sound and that's mostly what I care about. I don't know where the many other hours to get it finished will come from or how I will be able to help other people build racks, which is important to me. I just have to believe it will all somehow work out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I'm Not Bitter. Really.

I don't think we're gonna have winter this winter. I got home a little before 7 tonight and I looked at the thermometer and it said 47 F. I'd felt pretty warmish on the way home - guess that explains things. About an hour later I looked again and it said 48. Wrong direction. Jan 4. Right on.

We could still have a snowfall or two, but the 7-day forecast doesn't show any signs of hope and that pretty much puts us into mid-Jan and by the end of Jan it's pretty much over, except for maybe a coupla fast-melt snow days in Feb and then it's pretty much totally over.

Look, just because I bought a stupid-ass snow bike does not mean I am totally pissed. Really.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Adventures Shared With My Copilot

This weekend was a four-dayer for us, and was designated as chill time. Some deliberate downtime between a very busy 2011 and what looks to be the same kind of 2012. A few to-do's got done, but the list didn't own the weekend and most were left undone. What did take some of the priority was a bit of riding and thinking about riding. And what I'm obsessed with lately, bike-wise, is hitting some of the area's unimproved railbeds on the new bike. I know it's a me-problem, but I'm just smitten with the history of these corridors and with the public access to miles and miles of stunning natural and man-made scenery.

I'm generally not so hot on driving to ride, but in this case, I'm pretty happy to get in the truck and lay down some miles in order to put myself in position to experience some meaty railbed. Roaming out to these areas on a fatbike isn't really an option - it's too far and honestly, riding one on pavement is about as exciting as cardboard, IMO. On any other surface, though, let the fun begin.

And my mood for the weekend was super low-key . . . I just wanted to pedal around in this crazy dry weather amid the sessions of sunshine and enjoy looking at stuff. It would be so rad if I could take my dog along.

I don't have a fatbike rack option figured out yet, so for now I'm just piling the damn monster in the back of the truck.

Trouble is, that's Brandy's domain. Which leaves no other option except for her to ride shotgun. She seems to dig it, so I guess I can deal with the dog hair and bad breath.

On Sunday, we headed to Rosalia, to check out and do a bit of riding on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. The remnants of the line are pretty prominent features of the area.

The signage on the gates that's now pretty familiar to me states that a permit is required and I had intended to just not worry about it and lightly poach, but when we got there, there was just too much population and visibility and I just wasn't in the mood to push it on a relaxed Sunday morning in rural Washington. We ended up just driving around and exploring the landscapes and hitting a few different road crossings of the trail. Despite the fact that we never pulled the bike out, we had a great time just banging around, and learned a lot about the lay of the land. And oh yeah, we got out on a couple occasions and did some good work sniffing around and peeing.

Today, we headed west on I-90 to Sprague - about a 40 minute drive from home, including a stop for an Egg McMuffin, which we shared. Not that bad (the eggamuffin or the drive). The destination was the end of the tame portion of the Columbia Plateau Trail and the beginning of the wild part. At a trailhead called Martin Road. The signage was unbelievably awesome and there's no way we could have not found it.

We were lucky enough to get a parking spot.

My new camera has a razoo timer feature that allows you to set it for up to a 30 second delay and then take 10 consecutive photos, spaced at about 2 second intervals. We dinked with this thing for a while and took a buncha shots - some of the sequences were pretty hilarious . . . this dork and his dog and his fancy-ass camera ride-posing in the middle of nowhere and failing miserably. A couple turned out okay, though.

The unimproved railbed is pretty gnarly - it would suck on pretty much any other bike and is one of the kind of surfaces that people talk about when they say that fatbikes allow them to ride places they couldn't before they got their hands on one.

The ballast was pretty hard on Brandy's pads, but at times there were cow trails along the edges (this is bigtime cattle grazing area) that gave her some relief. And me too - I'd ride there sometimes to mix it up.

The way the fat tires handled the ballast was pretty amazing. Don't get me wrong - it was 5-7 mph stuff, but it was comfortable and not that death-grip, wear-ya-down kind of experience you'd be having on a normal MTB. One of the things that I know second-hand is how tune-able the "suspension" of these bike is. But most of the pressure gauges that are attached to pumps are not accurate or reliable in the pressure ranges that these tire run at, so you have to have some means of measurement. I bought this gauge a coupla weeks ago and was finally able to get some firsthand experience with the feel of the bike at different pressures. Dropping both tires from 14 down to 10 totally changed the ride. For the better.

The other part of the big air equation is a portable pump that's up to the challenge. Damn, these balloons take a lotta air! What I picked up is a Lezyne high-volume morph-style pump. While the pump is nice piece of hardware, the plastic mount that comes with it is a flimsy pile of krap. You can't see it in this pic, but the base bangs against the frame and I had to protect it with some electrical tape. Stylin. I'll figure out a better way to mount it in due time.

This is more of the kind of garbage that would not be so much fun to ride through on a normal MTB, but was a blast with the fat.

What kind of bike adventure would be complete without a flat. Changing it takes a little longer than your normal-bike flat. I hope I get faster, 'cause I think there are a few of these in my future. I thought that maybe this was a pinch flat due to the 10 psi, but it was just a puny thorn. These tires don't have much in the way of flat protection - you wouldn't want them to - they need to be as flexible as possible to provide that cushion and grip that is so amazing.

The noise of these tires against the ballast, getting echoed off the walls of a rock cut is righteous . . .

I understand that this stuff (fatbike and/or nasty rail trail) is not for everyone, but I'm afraid I'm a little hooked for the time being. The majestic scenery and the freedom of exploring these historical wonders via pedal is messin' with me bigtime.