Saturday, February 14, 2015

River recon

My river trail over-wintered well.

Pugsley loves this area. Man does it love it.

Maddie is doing the no-hands thing now. This is how she does it. I've tried to explain the idea of just hovering the no-hands above the bars in case things go sideways.

This is her just as things went sideways. She did the hop, jump, and skip-off dismount.
It was pretty pro.

Lots of run-off up there.

Big sky.

Liza had her hands and bucket pannier full as she did her first trash round-up of the season.  

Some snow still on the banks.


My bucket overfloweth with trash.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


Spy photo: Me. Skiing with prototype invisible skis.

I like it. I want to get better at it. I want to get all backcountry about it.

I got these skis a few years ago for big snow commutes when I worked about 3 miles away. I did that commute on skis exactly twice. I've taken them up to the local park a few times in the last couple years on big snow days, but I've always wanted to dive in more.

My buddy, Kaaren, took me up to Mt Spokane this morning and let me loose on their nordic trails. I really suck at the basics, but I love the whole thing: super quiet, hearty workout, and lots of skills to develop. I'm in.

You may wonder how I took such excellent photos all alone up in the mountains?

I used my monopod:

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: Surly Pants aka WorkRide Pants

I've got a stack of pants that I've been wanting to write about here for a while. The Surly WorkRide are my favorite.

The upshot: the folks at Surly get the essentials of what a casual pant for riding needs to get right. In the monointernetculturetechnospeak of our day: Surly nailed the platform. As for implementation, not quite. If you're on the fence about these pants, you might consider waiting until v2. But if you can handle the failures these pants exhibit -- and I can for sure -- then get them and be at peace.

I've had my eye on the Surly Pants (MSRP: $95) since they were announced about a year ago. I like canvas pants for riding. I loved the roomy-thigh-sort-of-water-resistant-gets-softer-the-longer-you-own-them Carhartt Dungarees for the first few months. But the ass blows out prematurely. And that's a bummer.  

The Surly pants appear to have a similar Carhartt vibe going, with the color, the canvas, and the monster thigh room. And even better, the ass is reinforced and stitched in a way that doesn't put a seam under one's sensitive areas.

So that's really the thing: these pants fit perfect for riding; they're made of the right stuff; and they have a fix for the premature ass-blowout issue. That's what makes them the perfect platform.

Then the Surly people started adding a couple bikey-specific features which just close the deal on the sale... on paper. But here in the material world, they pretty much screwed the implementation pooch on both of those features. 

These are one size too big for me. They fit a bit better at the height of holiday debauchery.

And before I start railing on this, let me remind you that I love Surly. For so many reasons. Here's a few: the bikes are smart and a great value. I give them a big chunk of credit with contemporary mainstreaming (and more importantly, manufacturing components for): single speed mountain biking and road biking. Fat bikes. Did they invent that shit? Nope. But they doubled down and put the engineering and money bets into those areas. And yes, it's all Q's money, but that doesn't matter one bit to me. As an organization, taking risks, making smart shit, and disregarding the nabobs is highly valued. I love their website, especially their font, but their overall info organization and presentation is f'ing good. And their catalogs are righteous in both copy and design. Got it? I dig these guys.

But the bikey features of these pants are shit.

Why yes, that is an NFE.
One thing I was excited about was the little built in rivet-snaps for pulling the pant leg out of the way. As a solution, this appeals to me way more than some velcro or other strappy thing: it's simple and won't flop around when not deployed. But alas: all pants with waists 34" and bigger have inseams of somewhere around 38". Think about how long that is. It's ridiculous. They sort of Surly-acknowledge that on their site, but they don't own it.

The potentially-super-useful snaps live near the bottom of the pants. So by the time I chopped off the bottom of the pants so they fit (I paid a tailor $15 for this), I only had one snap left and it was in a location that assumed there would be another snap further down to make a snug fit. So that feature died on the cutting room floor. 

A rivet-snap used to live in that hole.
How about that nifty bike lock holder pocket strap deal?  I'm guessing that whoever put this project together found a really good price on those rivet snaps. And it turns out the reason those little snappy button things were such a screaming deal is that they're really chintzy. A week after wearing my pants a couple of the rivets started peeling away from the canvas. And one in particular didn't peel in away in a quick and fall-away sort of fashion. Instead, it bent on the way out, which left a sharp, thin rivet edge sticking out of my pants right at the ass. I didn't notice this slow failure. I tend to sit on my ass on chairs. Turns out that even hard, antique oak is still not harder than cheap rivet steel. 

See that scratched up section of chair? That's the handiwork of a cheap rivet-snap.
Dudes! That chair tied the whole room together.
Once I figured out that the rivet was tearing up my chair, I inspected other rivets and found that a few of them were in similar shape. So I yanked them out with pliers. 

Ok. So those are the big failures. But here's something I love: the front pockets. They're frigging huge and deep and wonderful. I carry a lot of shit in my pockets (right this second: knife, wad of cash, headphones, phone, pen, stack of wallet-related-cards-in-a-rubber-band, a small note book). Dainty pockets drive me nuts. This pocket thing, again, is part of the platform, which these pants nail.

And aside from the failed features, these pants are quality and there's a great attention to detail. Darted knees. Fancy ass reinforcement in a nice shape. Lined waist. Thick belt loops. Triple stitching. Good stuff.

That strap hanging down is supposed to hold onto your u-lock. It's a cool idea. And I used it a couple times. But the strap had a failing  rivet-snap in it that pulled out when I unbuttoned it one day.

I wanted to love these pants. And once I got over the disappointment of the faulty bikey features, I have found love. True love, really. If you know me and you've seen me since mid-November, then I've probably been in these pants. I will be watching for v2. And when it comes, I will get a new pair.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Coming soon!

A flurry of posts...

not really.

But I have stuff (things -- material bits if you will) that I want to carry on about here. In no particular order:

- Pants. Been wearing them and been pondering them. These are the "bike" pants. Some Levi, some REI, some Surly. I got thoughts. And I'm going to put them here.

- NFE -- Elephant National Forest Explorer stock bike. the project. the bike. the glory! But first the bike. I want to carry on about this bike. Glen built me one. It's my third NFE for f's sake. And this one hits all the marks.

- Bikey plans for the year. This one is not like the others. And by "this" I mean line item, because it's not a thing, it's a plan. Whatever. Aside from some standard events (Orcas Hang, General Issue River Riding and Hangs, etc), I am putting most of my emotionally-laden planning eggs in the "gonna tour with Maddie this summer" basket. While pondering it mightily, I am trying desperately not to overthink it. If you've already guessed that I'm failing at that, you may be not surprised to be not wrong. Verily!

This awaits you. And much more! (not really, in fact, if anything, it will be much less).

Stand by!

Monday, January 5, 2015

A flurry of snow

Glen at Riverside State Park

Yesterday it snowed all day: excellent light powdery snow. Glen, Joe, and I took a spin around RSP. My plan was to wake up early this morning and do some x-country skiing around Manito. But after gearing up and opening the door, it's clear the snow is now on the way out. It's like 40 degrees out there. The snow is mushy and wet and shitty. Shoulda taken the ski option last night.

Instead, I'll post some pics. There has been much Pugsley'ing over the last week or so.

Maddie was at Schweitzer with her cousin for a week of snowboarding. Liza and I went up and hung for a couple days. I brought the Pugs to try out the Nordic trails there. It was not rad. I think mainly this is because I rode the trail after a bunch of snow dumped on it and before it had been groomed. The views and scenery were beautiful, but I'm wishing I would've just skied.

Liza: bringing a gun to a gun fight.

I also broke a chain while out in the wild. It was a brand new SRAM chain. As I had in the past, I was carrying the trusty CT-5 chain tool. Which, again, saved my bacon and provided an opportunity to wallow in smugness... all for about $12. What a value!

The best part of the Schweitzer trip was riding down the 9-mile descent from the resort to the valley. I left at about 9 in the morning, so there was essentially no traffic going down the hill. There were approximately 1 million cars going up the mountain at that time though. There were patches of snow and gravel and ice and all sorts of funnery on the road down.

The road has a handful of serious switchbacks. I'd like to report that I railed into those turns at speed, but with the stream of traffic in the opposing lane, I figured it wouldn't be a good thing if I missed the line or drifted through the turn into (or under) a luxury SUV. So I played it cool.

And then there was yesterday's happy fun snow time with Glen and Joe. This was great because it was driving snow. Generally, I like the Pugs for dirt time more than snow time. But the conditions yesterday -- about 4-6 inches of freshly fallen snow -- were pretty much perfect for low-pressure, fat cruising.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Pugsley'ing Saltese

Glen, Pat, and I took a lap around the Saltese Conservation area this morning. I rode out there for the first and only time about a year ago. At that time, we didn't do the full lap. It's not a huge lap. Map is here. I'm guessing it's about a 6 mile loop? It was a 45 minute ride: you ride generally up most of the time, then you descend back to the trailhead. That's my kind of ride.

But the ascent was a beautiful thing. I'm thinking the total elevation gain is only 400 feet or so, but the trail is so moderate and perfect. We're all wintery and out of shape, and the climb is perfect for that. And if a guy was in good shape, the hill would be a great climb on a CX bike: standing and slowly grinding the pedals for a nice clip up the hill.

I sort of had a religious experience climbing up that hill this morning. For one: xmas holiday this year has been a bit rough for a number or small reasons. Overall: life is good for sure. And climbing up a hill like that in the dense fog with a couple of my best friends really forces right and good thoughts into my head. And the fog was so great. Visibility was about 75 feet. So climbing up the twisty turny single track, I'd glance to the right and see a cyclist in a spot that didn't make any sense as far as I could figure. This happened a bunch. And of course it was Pat or Glen. But it was sort of trippy and surreal and happy time for me.

Jamming down the hill was fun too. Glen and I are pondering the handling characteristics of the Pugsleys. Our consensus is that the tires make for great XC-style descending, but the front-ends of the bikes fight against predictable and normal handling behavior.

Pat is on his new Bucksaw and pretty damn happy with that. I rode it for a hundred yards or so and found it to be frigging sweet. Pat remarked about how the Bucksaw just stays glued to the ground. I'd have to concur.

I think a guy could make the Pugsley into a good-enough XC mountain bike by putting a suspension-corrected fork on it. This solution is not my invention. According to Pat: lots of guys have done this. Putting a big honking tall fork on there would pivot the bike on the rear axel and slacken out the steepish HT/ST angles (70.5 degrees and 72 degrees, respectively), into something that should rock the descents much more effectively.

In fact, about 4 years ago local fat bike guru, Mr. Nelson, let me borrow his Pugs. Interestingly, he had a suspension fork on his bike. I want to find that fork. And I want it on my Pugs. And I really need to bite the bullet and put some hydro brakes on that sucka.

Monday, December 8, 2014

HD stroll

Light was right and weird warm winter make for nice colors and misty fog.

For years I mostly rode the trails on a cross bike. But in the last year or so,  I've pretty much ridden the HD trails on mountain bike or fat bike only. Obviously the riding is totally different. Mainly the hydro brakes, front suspension, and fatter tires make the descents really fast and fun. Climbing: not so much.

Taking the cross bike out again after a year of crashing through the trails made for an interesting ride. On the curvy switchy descent by the power lines I blew through two turns when my brakes didn't respond as I'm used to. I've also really gotten used to the fat contact patch of the mountain bike and the fat bike tires when cornering -- as a result, the way I approach, rail, and exit corners is totally different than it used to be.

On the cross bike, I have to be much more deliberate in my steering, leaning, and correcting. It's fun in a different way, but right now I'm enjoying mountain biking more than ever.

Maddie likes oysters. We're going on a bike trip next summer. We're aiming towards the oysters. Via Highway 20.