Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seashells By The Seashore, v.2

I'm sitting in front of my computer tonight pretty damned bike-satisfied and quite worn out.  Reason being is that I just got back from the 4th Annual Northwest Fatbike Meet at Ocean Shores, WA.

The last time I attended this event was two years ago, which if you do your math right, was the 2nd Annual Northwest Fatbike Meet at Ocean Shores, WA.  I know you do your math right, but I still felt like I needed to spell it out.  For some reason.  Knowing you as I do.

There were two similarities between the last trip and this one:
  1. The weather was great
  2. I had an awesome time
There were many more differences, which I will get into into as we go.

My partner in crime for the Spokane-based assault on this event was none other than the godfather of Spokane fatbiking, Dave Nelson.  We road-tripped over together in his rig and of course we talked mostly about cooking shows, dog training techniques and local government affairs.


The conversation was bike-intensive, as it should be, and specifically fatbike-centric, as it even more so should be.  Word.

We motored into Ocean Shores at around 3, and some of our buddies had already landed and were out riding and came-a-callin' to the Shilo Inn where we were staying.  So we saddled right up and rolled down to the beach.  At which point I experienced Difference #1 between trip #1/event #2 and trip #2/event #4, if that makes sense.

And that major difference was the moisture content of the sand above high tide level, aka the "dunes".  Whereas last time there had been no rainfall for literally weeks and the sand was pretty much un-rideable, this time it had rained buckets the very day of our arrival and the sand was frickin' soaked and firm as a _______ (fill in the blanks with your own sordid analogy, but please, pick something FIRM).  As a result, the dune riding was amazing.

That's Ward, left, and Dave, right.  More about these cats to follow.
And my other new BikesDirect accomplice, Jeff, just behind Dave.

This picture has no particular significance, other than I like it and want to force you to look at it.
Turns out there is an upside to blogging, after all.

One thing was for sure, after this relatively short ride:  I needed to reduce my rolling resistance.  Holy living hell, was I working hard.  The major component here was that I was running a pressure that was way to low for the conditions, which is a problem that was easily solved.

The other thing though, that was a seed that Ward had planted in my head some days or weeks earlier was the idea of trimming the tread on stock tires to make them more sand-worthy.  I had ordered two new Big Fat Larry tires for this trip that had set me back a total of $260, and the thought of mutilating them was a hard one to get over, but in the end I did the right thing.  You either go big or go home.  And all that nonsense.  But I did.  Go big.

I don't know how it is in the world of hotel housekeeping, but I imagine that given a certain amount of time, one must get to the point where one feels that one has pretty much seen everything.  I am not sure that this particular thing has been seen, though.

On the very last cut, I managed to nick myself, of course.  Which makes the whole episode that much radder, because let's be real, blood always make a story better.

The official gathering time for the meet had been set for 9:00 am on Saturday morning.  During the meet's first 60 minutes, approximately 59 of those contained zero riding and uncontrollable gawking.  An amazingly diverse mix of equipment and individuals had shown up and I think we were all just trying desperately to process everything we were looking at and figure out own our personal identities and places within the eclectic mix.

The trailer and easy-up turned out to be the day's informal headquarters - it was set up by a bike shop out of Roslyn that made the trip over with some demo/rental fatbikes in support of the event.  Rad.

These guys:

We finally rolled out on the ride together and yep, you may have already noticed, but Difference #2:  Last time I attended there were 5 participants.  This time, 26.  Crikey, to steal a sentiment from the late, great, Steve Irwin.

The requisite group shot, then . . .

And the more requisite bikes-only shot . . .

Ball-O'-Bikes . . .

Crossing paths.

Throwing down with the beach art community.

Dead whale.  Dead a long time.

Dead bird.  Dead a short time.
The beach is such a dynamic place in terms of life and death. It's a feeding ground that sustains countless thousands of organisms per square mile and there is lots of living and lots of dying going on, all the time.  Most of the corpses are twisted and inelegant and gruesome to some extent, but this one appears to have died so unusually gracefully that it caught my eye.

The rest stop at the northern terminus of the day's ride - the un-crossable Copalis River, until the tires get a little wider, at least.

So as I mentioned, the bikes, as well as their riders, not only spanned but flat out violated all socio-economic, age, purpose and any other boundaries you can think of.  Which is so unbelievably cool.  Here's a sampling of the bikes:

High end carbon frame, carbon fork Borealis Yampa.  With a heavy sprung Brooks saddle, for a dose of irony.  This is a $5K+ bike, and was one of two that showed up.  A carbon Salsa Beargrease also made it's appearance.

Shawn's awesome home-made fillet-brazed, clear epoxy coated machine.  Fantastical.

Jeff's beautiful BikesDirect beach stomper.

Ward's well-ridden, well-travelled, quickly-becoming-vintage Fatback.

Meg and Steve's demo-for-a-case-of-beer Trek Farley

A Framed Minnesota.  Holy hell, who would have ever guessed that one of these would make an appearance.

This is Scott and his Moonlander.  He just retired from the Navy after 20 years and decided to buy a fatbike and travel around.  Home base is NM, and he was "in the area" and just showed up.  So, so rad.  He killed it in terms of taking personal responsibility for your own enjoyment of life, which is why he shows up multiple times in this post, including the wheelie bit early on.

Ward's first, custom-built fattie with Maverick sus fork, which was in the hands of Meg and Steve for the weekend.

Salsa Muk

Norco Bigfoot.  Right on.

Super sweet, rather high end, late model Fatback.

Dave's high end Titanium Lynskey Stratus with carbon fork and all the amazing bits.  I got to take a lap on it and it's incredible.

The reflection makes it hard to see, but this is an Origin 8 Crawler.  Which comes stock with a Nuvinci hub.  I got to test ride this one, also.  Geez, it was so great to have the chance to play with that hub and its infinitely variable gearing.

Difference #3:  2 years ago, there were basically two mainstay tires available (Larry and Endo), with maybe a third that had recently emerged (Nate).  This time around there were GOBS of different tires showing up.  The tread patterns were all over the board.  It truly is the golden age of fatbiking, with not only all the different tires that are available, but all the different frames and components, as well.

My shaved center tread along with an increased tire pressure made me a very happy camper, indeed.

I spent some time following dune guru Ward's track's, in an effort to learn a thing or two about dune riding.  Then I set about making my own tracks.  I touched upon the zen-ness and I want more.

A major part of the contingent descended upon the Fish Shack with rather ravenous appetites and was subsequently righteously satisfied.  (Not sure what the skinny tired bike was doing there . . . )

Later, a marvelous beach bonfire and bullshit session ensued.

Here are the two guys who have been the instigators and driving force behind this whole event - Dave (L) and Ward (R).  Two amazing guys that I am truly privileged to call friends.  They are both all about spending a ton of time and energy to spread the good word of fat-tired bikes.  Just because it's right.

 The other guy that's a pretty big part of making this all come together is Shawn, who hosts the Northwest Fatbike page on Facebook.  My hat is off to all three of you, gentlemen.

Speaking of Ward,  he's made the commitment to grow his handlebar mustache out for a year without any kind of cutting or trimming and it's getting awesome.  I don't have the picture to do it justice, so this zoom-in will have to do.

Difference #4 was that Dan DeRuyter and Randy weren't at this year's event.  We missed you guys.

Different #5 was that Meg and Steve, ever to be known as the 'Beer Faires', showed up, which was so, so great.  Meg hated every minute of her time on the bike and so I want to compliment her for hanging in there and taking one for the team.

There was a really great young family of five that showed up.  They had four fatbikes between them and the littlest guy rode on the handlebars of alternately mom's, and then dad's bikes.  I regret that I don't have any pictures to show you but trust me when I tell it was flat out awesome.

I am really grateful to the people who conceived this event, and to those who put the effort into planning and promoting it every year, and to those who support it by committing to the time and expense of showing up and throwing down.  It's all really, really good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ratty, Messy, Sexy

There's this whole body of scientific study about how and why we choose our mates.  The conclusions are all contradictory and irrational and every time I read or hear about it, I'm just fascinated.  The latest stimulus on this subject was an episode of "This American Life" I listened to the other day that focused on speed dating and the discrepancy between what men and women "think" they want in a mate and what they actually go after, in the heat of the moment.  It was wildly entertaining to listen to.

I'm wondering, lately, because of 'current events', if there's a comparison to be drawn with how we choose and bond to our bikes.

The pictures don't even remotely do it justice, but this bike has been quite hacked and thrashed already, and I believe there's much more to come.  It doesn't have even 50 miles on the odometer but already it's been grinded on, sanded on, and rattle canned in multiple places.  There's gorilla tape and zip ties all the hell over the place.  I tried to make the blue cable housing thing happen, but the kits I ordered from Sram left me a bit short, so there's one black one in the mix.  Nothing is all that straight and nothing is all that right.  In short, it looks like hell, when you're close up.

Despite all this, the bike is starting to grow on me.  In a serious way.  I'll stop just short of the "L" word.

We've all tried to make a girlfriend or boyfriend into something other than what they were, and have run up against the wall of this futile effort and come away disappointed.  Or been the disappointer.  With bikes, I think there's still a limit, but I think it may be a little more elastic.

The girl from the other side of the tracks is occupying a ton of my consciousness that she shouldn't be and that I know she shouldn't be, but there's that whole visceral black and blue thing that has me blinded to the truth, and which I've clearly done to myself.

I'm obviously conflicted and embarrassed, and so the logical next step was to post it up in the interwebz for all to see.  What a great age we live in.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunlit Ungulates & [Gasp!] Brazing

Yesterday. General vicinity of Loon Lake. Communion with the beasts.

Today. General vicinity of my garage. Communion with the beast.

Crazily, it looks blue, but it's black. Trust me. Or not.

Pull my thumb, says uncle Pat S.