Tuesday, March 29, 2011


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The beloved MB-2 with Pasalas.
A bike that expects no commitments.
I'm just going to do commuting this week. No extracurricular rides.

Next week, we'll be SoCal. I may just rent a cruiser while I'm there if I feel like riding. I don't think I'll bring a bike.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tired and lame: Hang is at Jone's Radiator tomorrow. 8pm

I looked up "walking pneumonia" on wikipedia. I don't have a fever or chest pain or difficulty breathing. I'm not coughing.


I wish I had something to blame my lazy tired turd-like sluggishness on.

The only time I feel "strong" is after a few beers. Riding up the south hill after a Monday night hang at Jone's Radiator is consistently the best ride of the week.

Is that a problem?


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Early season Temple Road: the wrap up

Pick a line!
I like the Temple Road loop. (Bikely route). I ride it at least once a year. Here are a few write-ups from the past:

We rode it a bit earlier last year, but it must have been a milder year, because this year, we pushed our bikes through snow for about a mile.

We fell a lot too. But it was slow speed stuff. The worse part was my cold toes. Damn sandals!

Bill was on his new Elephant, shod with 35mm Pasalas and digging that set up.

The Verita
This was a good trip to test the Verita rain jacket. (Full disclosure: This is a sample jacket from REI.) The temperature ranged from low 40's to maybe 50. We had sprinkly rain, solid (though not "driving") rain, snow, and even a tiny bit of sun. We rode moderately and did some climbing. As a breather, I'm impressed with this jacket. I wore one layer of medium wool under the jacket and I was happy all day. During some climbs, I unzipped a bit to let some air in.
And most fortunately, I even wrecked -- with a tumble -- while wearing it. I muddied it up, but no rips.

Friday, March 25, 2011

RB-T gets an insurance weld

No obvious crack, but it's just a matter of time. And Glen had it all ripped apart.
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Temple Road

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's that time of year

That's right... I may be pushing it a bit, but today, I broke out the sandals. With socks of course.
The Season of Nerdom has begun.

Yea. Verily.

And of course the (socks with) sandal season coincides with the apres le diner ice cream run. Since The Scoop is on a slightly different schedule -- I think they start "summer" hours at the end of the school year -- we're forced to BR for now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm a wanker prima donna tire snob

It's true. It must be like fine wine or high-performance cars or other wanky high-cost pursuits of the privileged class: once you get into fast cushy tires, it's hard to go back.

These blingy white Challenge Grifo XS tires are the new "daily driver" standard.

They're super supple cush fasty-enough for road/commuting. And they have just enough bitey-tread for dry trail riding.

Mud? Forget it -- they suck.
Close up of tread.
Courtesy of the Challenge website.

But for the majority of "riding season" on the High Drive, dusty-ass, dry-with-a-bit-of-loose-dirt-on-top trails? Perfect.

I deem these the best all around 700c tires. For value, you still can't beat the (non-tourguard) Pasalas. But for performance, these high-zooters rock. It's only taken one ride to work and one ride home on the trails to make this bold statement.

And to be clear: I got nothing here! No freebies!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Commuting home on the HD trails

It's been a few months since I could reliably take the long way home via the High Drive trails.

So lovely. I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world when I get to take the long way home on the trails. Simple pleasures, man!

Riding the old RB-T is a great way to bring in the trail-commute season. There's this one hard switchback from the middle trail up to the top trail that I can only pull off on the RBT.

Very satisfying. So of course, that's the route I pick (instead of Glen's Waterfall) to get from the middle trail to the upper trail.

For the super attentive: it's not the same as this route, which is also a mid-to-upper route.

The RB-T is running 32 mm Pasalas at the moment, which rule, but I want a tiny bit more tread without giving up too much cush and speed on the road. So, in my never-ending quest for the perfect and appropriately ultra-expensive tire, I scored a set of the Challenge Grifo XS.

Yes. They're white. Of course.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bike Hang at Huckleberries this evening - 8 PM

See you there, and bring some goodies to ogle (Bill, that means you and your fancy new machine).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

L'ala Carte

I've been watching ebay and craigslist for a while -- looking for a Voodoo Bizango frameset or a Jamis Dragon Pro. I like these bikes because they are straight-up 26" hardtail bikes made with nice steel. I really like the Jamis, because it comes ready to roll, out of the box: Fox forks, hydraulic brakes, XT stuff. I kept hoping someone would unload a Dragon Pro that was a few years old with lots of life left.

Instead, I chanced upon this Salsa. It had nice bits (Raceface cranks, XT derailluers, Juicy Three brakes) and straight-up hardtail geometry with nice steel (OX Platinum). Out the door for $475. I found new 80mm Fox forks on ebay for $330. All up: not cheap, but a great value, considering the Jamis Pro retails for about $2500 and it's pretty much comparable.

The old 7-speed XT thumbshifters will index-shift 8 speeds.
It's true.
The best of all worlds: 8 speed, indexed, proper thumbies.
I took it for the inaugural ride this morning: the standard HD loop where I drop in at 25th Ave, go down Glen's Waterfall and to the tracks, then come back up "the easy way." I've done this loop a bunch on many different bikes, so it's easy to assess what I like about a given bike by riding this.

Here's what I dig about this bike:
  • Hello descending. I don't have suspension forks on any bike. I learned this morning that suspension does make a pretty huge difference in that department. I always enjoy descending these trails on any bike, but on this bike, I was able to roll out farther onto the flats due to the speed I gained on the hills. Any time you're descending it's fun. But this is more fun. I look forward to doing some other standard HD loops.
  • Climbing is not bad either. It's a different game on this bike. This bike doesn't want you to stand and grind, it wants you to sit and spin. And I found that following this rule pays off. I was able to climb all the hard little short steep twisty turny bits on this bike that I can do on my CX bike or the Rawland by standing and grinding.
  • One-finger braking. Again -- this is really related to descending. But with super high-zoot hydraulic brakes, you can hang on to the bars while braking with a single finger. Lovely.
  • More nimble than I thought. I was expecting to have trouble turning into tight corners and staying up -- both on the way down and the way up -- but by observing the "stay seated" rule on the way up, and by turning sharp on the way down, I hit all the same corners that I don't really have to think about on my steeper-front-ended bikes. So there.
  • The tires rule. I sprung for some Maxxis Aspen tires, which I think are perfect for the HD trails: they like hard pack, or maybe hard pack with a bit of sand. They're not crazy about mud. But neither am I. They roll great for 2.1" mountain bike tires. The flat part -- by the RR tracks -- from Polly Judd to the electrical station was super fast and easy. I think, because these tires rule, and that dang suspension just soaked up all the rocky turds. Crazy, man! I'm talking like a mountain biker!
Stuff I'm not sure about:
  • This whole flat bar thing. For descending, it rules. And for climbing, I think I'm kind of getting it. But I really prefer having my wrists oriented so that they are vertical. I'm going to stick with these bars for a while though. Many months.
  • That carbon post. Seems like a stupid place to have carbon. I may replace it with a Thudbuster, but the bike is pretty light -- by my standards.
  • The front disc caliper. Man. It seems way too close to the spokes. It's about 2mm away. I ran into Geoff, of Two Wheel fame, on the trails and inspected his caliper-to-spoke-distance (CSD), and found it to be the same. So that makes me feel better. But man, I'd rather it were like 5mm.

That's it. I'm looking forward to lots of trail riding on this bike.

Friday, March 18, 2011

MC spring recon

Bill and rode half the Midnight Century route today. It was the hard, first half. Lots of climbing.

With the exception of a small chunk of summer road off of Bruna, the roads are in way better shape now than they are in the summer. The dirt roads are packed and not too dusty and very little deep gravel.

My view whenever I'm climbing with Bill.
But the paved descents have a lot of gravel on them. So there's the trade off.
Bill's new Elephant. Build-up finished while we were on our ride today.

My new-to-me mountain bike.
 It still needs some brake tweaking before it's ready to roll.
Hopefully I'll get that squared away this weekend.
More to come.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

HD trails are in good shape

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Since I've got nothing to carry on about... (I do, but I'm holding back some rants)

Here are a couple bikey events:

1. Bike Commuting 101 at Sun People Dry Goods
March 26th (Sat) 10-noon

If you read this blog, you may or may not benefit from this event. But if you know someone that is uneasy with urban cycling, or wants to jump in the fray, they will probably benefit. So pass it along.

The class will be a handful of people giving quick (about 10 minutes) presentations on various aspects of bike commuting. Paul Turner, former walker turned cyclist, will chat about his conversion. Eileen Hyatt will discuss how to approach cycling in traffic. I'll talk about routes and working your way around the city. Barb Chamberlain will talk about being a normal person who cycles (as opposed to a bike nerd -- who is expected to ride a bike). Then some P2P'ers will be there to show you how to take basic care of your bike.

All the proceeds go to P2P.

Sign up at Brown Paper Tickets. Or call 509-368-9378

2. Trail building at Beacon Hill
April 23, 10 AM at Camp Sekani parking lot

Build trails with the pros. Then eat free BBQ afterwards. If you ride those trails (or any local trails) consider it your yearly tax.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For the record...

Liza *digs* her new bike.

This was not a given. She didn't want a new bike and she didn't really approve of me pushing the XO-1 project along.

But she's spent a bit of time on the bike now that the weather is clearing up and tonight, she fessed up to loving and it looking forward to riding it some more. "It's fast... and everything works well."


Ideally, I'd have a picture of her happily riding her bike.

Unfortunately, I only took one bikey picture this weekend.

From this morning's SOS ride:

Yep. Fresh dogshit messing with my bling. Sweet.


Friday, March 11, 2011

New climb

The "10 mph Turn" sign always marks a good climb.
Bill and I took a ride today. We climbed the hill from Valley Chapel up to Mt Hope. If you are a roadie rider, then you no doubt have climbed this many a time. But for chumps like me, this was a first. It was a nice climb and I look forward to climbing it more in the future. It's a perfect hill in its commitment to a consistent grade.

The hill is also way closer than I thought. In my mind, this climb was like 30 miles out or something, but in reality it's around 12 or so. As a bonus, I think I may be on the cusp of a game-changer in the climbing-technique-department. Bill suggested that I put my weight back a bit when I stand on climbs. Right away, stuff happened: mainly, less weight was on my hands/wrists (duh) and also, there was some weirdo efficiency thing going on as I put more weight directly over my pedals.

Whatever. This kind of nit-picky theory is not my deal, but some little thing happened there that will fun to experiment with over the next few months.

After the climb up to Mt Hope (that's what I'm calling it -- if there's a proper name for that area, feel free to educate me), the famous Palouse wind kicked in. Blech. I hate the famous Palouse wind.

Pictures cannot do justice to lame Palouse rollers + wind.
So we did rollers for about 10 miles into a wind that was about 40 mph... well, maybe it was like 15 mph. But whatever. That part sucked.

Otherwise, the ride was good. We took a chunk of the midnight century route out of Spangle -- on Jennings road, which is in way nicer shape (even a tad wet) than it is in August when it's washboarded and gravely.
Jennings Road.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Turning off the music

Nearly three years ago I started listening to music when I rode. This habit started when a really great friend of mine died. Previous to my friend's death, I would listen to music periodically when I rode trails, but after he died, I started to listen to music whenever I rode alone, which is most of my riding.

So, on my daily commute. On trips to the store and other errands. On long solo Friday rides. On quick spontaneous trail rides. Firing up the music has been part of my pre-ride routine for the last two+ years.

A little over a year ago my dad died. And my mom died about 6 months ago. And so I just kept listening.

I tend to listen to an artist's entire collection of music for months on end. First it was Bjork. Then it was Doc Boggs. Then it was Hobart Smith. For the last year it's been Bad Religion, which has been my favorite diversion.

But I think I've had enough noise for a while. The music helped me throttle the thinking that tends to snowball quickly. So the music was a good thing, but I miss thinking. I'm going to unplug again and see what rattles out of those deep corners of my brain.

That's the deal there.


The studs of Omelas

Photo from January. That snow is gone now!
It's cold, but it's nice. There was sun yesterday and it looks like it may be sort of nice again today.

Every fall, I get all jittery about winter and put the studs on my bike way too early, assuring that winter and ice will take forever to come. Now as spring approaches, I am dying to take the studs off my winter bike. I want to turn it into the chilled street bike with 1.75" (non-tourguard) Pasalas. Bitchin.

But I know that as soon as I put the slick tires on it, we'll get dumped on. It's my duty to hold off the snow by keeping those confounded studs on my bike until May.

You're welcome.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Car Post

Cool house on Mission Road
Good god it's come to this. But someone out there must have a good answer for me.

As I sit and obsess about the pending bike camping/exploring season, I keep coming back to the Westfalia as the ideal base camping machine. I'm aware of all the other options. I've been trying to push the idea of a Westy out of my mind for 2+ years now. I think I'm about ready to give in.

Today's Sunday bunch
The $10,000 dollar question: is there anyway to get a semi-reliable Westfalia for under $10k? Is it possible? I just need a range of 100 miles that can haul 3 guys and 3 bikes. Would it be stupid insane to find a sub-$4K air cooled Westfalia instead? I so don't want to spend time working on a VW again. Been there. Not into it.

People who know: please advise.

Baby Bar Bike Hang - Monday - 8 PM

See you there!
UPDATE! Jon emailed me a notice that the Baby Bar is home for a music show this evening. We'll hit the burrito area and if the bar line gets too long or the music too loud, we'll crash...something, somewhere.
To the Baby Bar!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bike fussing

Ugh. Bleh.. I think there was a time I enjoyed working on bikes. Now it drives me nuts and usually puts me in a foul mood.

I brought the Elephant and my cycle truck over to Glen's last night -- he did the heavy lifting -- he swapped out a headset on my Elephant and then swapped out my forks on the cycle truck.

I'm trying a Solid headset on the Elephant. Solid is a BMX company. It's a roller bearing headset and it's made in US. Which is cool, but the design is a bit weird in that it has a pinch bolt for tightening/pre-loading the bearing cup, which in theory should be perfectly round on the steerer tube. By pinching it, it becomes, in Glen's words, "not round." As a result, the final adjustment, with play removed, is a tad slow. Not buttery. But I want to tame some low-speed-no-hand shimmy on my bike, and I'm thinking this is the headset to do it.

Unfortunately, when I rewired the light on my new rack, I didn't pay attention to the amount of wire to account for turning the bars all the way. As a result, the wire snapped right at the internal-wiring port of the down tube. ugggh. Pushing a tiny wire through a tiny tube into my bottom bracket is exactly the kind of tedious shit that drives me nuts. If the bike wasn't built by Glen and if I didn't hang with him on a regular basis, I'd probably just wrap the wire around the tubes and call it good.

But alas, it wasn't so bad. I dripped some toxic gunk in the tube to flush it out and the wire was pretty easy to shove in there.

And since I'm running a cup/cone bottom bracket, I was able to splice the wires in the bottom bracket instead of having to re-wire the chainstay section too. That was a hair saver. With a cartridge bottom bracket there's barely enough room for the wire.

Then I put the fender back on the cycle truck. Somehow, the new fork has less clearance than the old fork. I couldn't get the wheel to spin with the big turdy PB fender in there. BTW: not a big fan of how these fender connect to the stays. At all. PB is a cool company though.

So I ended up hacking the front off the fender and calling it good. You know what they say, "when your only tool is a hammer...." But what the hey, there's a giant platform there for spray off the front of the tire.

I still have one thing on my short list: swap out a shifter on Liza's bike. But I don't have the shifter I thought I had. Her fancy new SLX indexed shifter already broke. It's getting replaced with a proper old top-mount friction thumbshifter, which is the way god intended us to shift the front chainring on a flat bar bike.

Now I need to take a ride to shake this creeping malaise.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winter commute mitten gloves

Dear glove and mitten manufacturers,

Here's my take on the perfect winter commuter mitten glove. This doesn't exist. In my experience, the only bike-specific winter gloves I've tried have too narrow of a useful range. The PI Lobster Claws, and Novara winter cycling gloves work for dry and cold from about 20F to 35F. Lower temps, my finger tips freeze and higher, they melt.

Commuters are different than club/road riders that suit up and hammer for hours in the cold. They're different than hard-core epic Alaskan mountain bikers.

Generally speaking, commuters stop more often and sometimes need to quickly remove a glove or otherwise user their fingers to do stuff as they are stopped at a light. They typically spend shorter bursts on their bikes than the aforementioned groups for which most gloves appear to be optimized.

These gloves would be ideal for commuters in northern-US commutes where typical winter day-time lows are above 0F but below freezing. They would also work well for the edges of Fall and early Spring.

My current hacked solution. REI convertable mittens with Smartwool liners. I sewed a little wind/water block on the front. I wish they were a bit warmer but they do OK for about an hour down to the teens F. 

Functional Requirements
  • Easily exposed fingers: commuters need exposed fingers for unlocking and locking stuff, picking at face, taking pictures, answering phone, fussing with MP3, etc.
  • Mitten style: true mitten style. Not lobster-claws. The lobster claws I've tried are the worse of all worlds: no warmer than cheapo mittens and still crippling in the "answer your phone" department. You can shift just about any system just fine with mittens. Some brifters are challenging, but not impossible, and I'd argue that most winter commuters are not running brifters. They're running fixed, single speed, thumbies, or bar-ends. And a handful are running brifters.
  • Water-resistant: waterproof is nice if you can really get them to breath. For freezing commutes, where snow is more likely than rain, waterproof is not as important as breathable -- but they should keep from wetting out for 20 minutes or so of hard rain.
  • Short cuffs (not gauntlet style): most working people wear a watch and need to check it. Gauntlets are nice for snowmobiling, but overkill for most commutes.
  • Room for thin glove layer: just like everything else, you should be able to layer your hands for varying conditions.
  • With liners, the mittens should be warm enough down to 0F for an hour. Without liners: they should work up to 40F and with exposable fingers, you could push that to 50F. Liners should be optional, not included. There are plenty of thin wool or plastic/poly glove options out there for people to choose from.
  • No buckles, clasps, velcro closures: the mittens should be easy to pull on with your teeth and should slip off easily.
  • No pockets or other silly add-ons (like goggle wipers). Who uses a pocket on their glove?
  • Snot spot: they need that fleece backing on the back of the thumb of both gloves. The larger the patch the better.
  • Normal looking. Black please. But bonus points for some reflective bits to highlight turn signals.
That's about it.

I'm still using my REI glove hack that I created a couple years ago. But I'm embarrassed to admit how many gloves and mittens I've bought and tried in the last year or so -- but I keep going back to these.

I just found a set of these gloves on sale at REI, so I'll be hacking another pair for next year. The next pair will have the water-resistant/wind-blocking piece all the way around the fingers, not just on the outside.

okay. I'm ready for Spring

This part of winter takes forever. We're still a solid month away from semi-consistent non-snowy weather.

This icy snowy gunk will be slushy crud by noon. Then rain. Then a bit more snow tonight. Then some surfacy icy gunk by tomorrow morning. Repeat.

Cold? Tiger is a nonplussed puss.
I'll thread the needle by taking a bike with slicks to work. This means no hard banking into turns on the way in -- straight lines are more prudent -- but I'll be able to actually ride normal-like on the commute home.