Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What the hey? Sun Spider AT

Out of the box with a Sturmy-Archer 2-speed kick-back coaster-brake and 3-piece BMX crank. Basic angles nailed (72.5/72). 4" no-name tires. Huge-ass no-name rims.

Retails for about $550.

It's a Sun Spider AT.

With a couple modifications (canti posts up front, some space bars, new saddle, etc), this mutha is a cheap alternative to the Pugsley.

What's going on here?

How can one possibly resist this?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Maddie's first solo HD trail ride

I think Maddie was about 4 years old when she rode the front of the Xtracycle on the trails. We'd coast down from the Bernard/HD put-in and pop out at 25th -- that's the standard "coaster" route. She loved it. I remember her squealing with delight as we swooped along the trails the first few times. After a while the novelty wore off. We probably took our last ride there when she was about 5 or 6 on the funny tandem.

So this morning, on our way home from the Rocket on 43rd, I was surprised when she wanted to take the trails home. I've made a point of not pushing the trails on her. She knows I ride them all the time, but she's been pretty vocal in her fear of the "big drop," whenever we walk the trails.

We took the top-top trail, which is really just a bunch of trail chunks that peel off the side of the shoulder on High Drive, dip down a few feet off the side, then pop back up after a while. When we got to 29th, we took the mildly-technical descent to the top trail, then popped out at 22nd.

She did really good. I think she's gaining some confidence from her time on the pump track. I know she is actually. At each bail-out junction our trail ride, she opted to keep going. Cool.

Most of these pictures were taken over the shoulder, so they're blurry and lame. But they rule. I'm proud of Maddie. Hence the dork pic of me at the end.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A few pictures

I don't have much to say lately. But I've taken some pics.

Glen and I hung out at the 24 hour race last night and I took a bunch of pictures. There are also a few low-light pumptrack pics in here. And some other random bikey pics from the last week or so.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What a difference a properly adjusted headset makes

A while back I remarked on how I replaced the headset on my Elephant. I mentioned how the headset had a weirdo pinch bolt thing that made getting the perfect adjustment basically impossible. Too loose and you get that unsettling rocker-motion when you brake. Too tight and everything binds up. But if you have to choose, you should err on the side of tight.

So for nearly 3 months, I've been annoyed at the stiffness of the steering in the Elephant. What's worse, is that I also got super sick and always tired at about the same time I swapped out the headset.

So for the last few months, every time I rode the Elephant, it sucked. Which is NOT how it's supposed to be on any of my bikes, let alone the Elephant. I internalized this and was secretly afraid that maybe the magic had left the Elephant. Every time I rode it, it just sucked the life out of me. It was almost as bad as Pat's tamper.

A couple months ago, a guy in Seattle bought a big box of NOS Stronglight roller bearing headsets. They were made for tandems (hence the 1 1/8"). He was selling them on the Rawland google list. They're perfect for standard-gauge tubing bikes where you want to haul stuff in the front. Such bikes like to light up a bit (that is, shimmy) under certain conditions and roller bearings make a big fat difference.

Incidentally, the guy I bought the head set from is name Fred (a perfect name for any cyclist). I met him at my Ebey hang last month. He's one of those slightly nuts young guys that rides everywhere on any bike with silly loads at any hour of the day. He's also deeply nerded out in his exotic knowledge of technical bike minutia. He's got that look in his eye. A perfect storm of good Fredliness.

Anyway, the point: I finally got Glen to swap out the headset (I only change flats now). He said it was a non-standard, slightly screwy set-up, but he approved of the design.

And the bike rides like new. I took it on our S24O the other night and I could tell already it was way better. No hands with a load at normal speeds was easy and shimmy-free. But it took a standard commute to work this morning to reveal just how wonderful that bike is to ride (again). Bunny hops, jumps, descents, climbing, easy track standing. It's all back.

The lesson here is that these little seemingly inconsequential tweaks matter a lot. A properly adjusted headset totally matters. Here endeth the lesson.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2 unrelated things

Joe took me to Beacon Hill today for the non-SOS ride. It was rad. We rode out, climbed to the top, then snaked down on twisty, swoopy, super-fun single track. Beacon Hill is great. I think this is my third time there. I think Joe and I went there about 5 years ago and tooled around. I went there with Ben Tobin and a demo double-boinger and he tried to kill me a couple years ago. And then today.

I gotta say, the pump tracking is having an impact on my skills. In this short time on the pump track, I've gone from mediocre bike-handling to mediocre+a bit better bike-handling. Seriously, the banked turns coming down a couple sections of the Beacon descent were smoother than they would otherwise be if I hadn't been shredding at Pat's. Of course, most of the banked corners I still hit too hot and screwed up the exit, but I nailed a couple 90 degree turns.

And I can breathe again. Which is so wonderful.  And by breathing, I mean "on-bike recovery." Lovely.

All that charred vegetable matter will be a salsa tomorrow.

On an unrelated note. I fired up the super inferno back woods home jobber char kit this afternoon and burned off a bunch of stuff for Ben's hang tomorrow night. This is an official appeal to my normal bikey buddies that I hang with -- and have hanged with in the past (you know who you are) -- please come over tomorrow at 6. There's food and beer. I told Ben I'd do a big fat hang here and it would just suck royally if no one showed up. So be rad and back me up here!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: GoLite UltraLite 3-Season Quilt

Pic sniped from GoLite site
The more bike camping and S24O'ing I do, the more obsessed I'm becoming about dialing in the perfect sleeping solution. The "sleeping solution" is defined as: shelter, sleeping bag, and pad. When I'm hauling my sleeping solution (as opposed to base camping, where we drive in, set up a super luxurious campsite, then do day rides), I want as light and non-bulky as possible.

In the past few years, I've gone from tent, to Hennesey hammock, to REI minimalist bivy. My sleeping pad has shrunk from 3/4 fat Thermarest, to regular ultra-light Thermarest, to 3/4 REI pad, and finally to the crazy light-but-still-puffy regular NeoAir Thermarest. The only constant has been my trusty REI Sahara 30F down sleeping bag. It's been a great bag: small, light, and good to about 35-40.

Last winter, the PR people for GoLite contacted Out There Monthly and I ended up receiving an UltraLite 3-Season Quilt to review.

First off, I'd say that at $275, the 3-Season Quilt is probably not something I would've gambled on had I actually been spending my own money. The idea of a quilt is that it's just intended to cover the top of your body -- since in a traditional sleeping bag, you're compressing the down that you're laying on, and therefore negating any loft or insulative value -- what's the point of adding that extra material and down? So, a quilt is basically a blanket with a foot box and straps to wrap around the sleeping pad. Without using a quilt, and at nearly $300, the concept is a gamble.

Winning combo: GoLite Quilt + NeoAir

But the fact is -- is that my bike camping is very 3-season. Maybe once or twice a year I'll have a night that dips below 30 F. Usually the norm is lows of about 40-45 F for most nights I'm sleeping outside. This is perfect quilt weather.

The quilt is 1.5 lbs. It's 800 fill down and rated to 20F. It stuffs down into a bag about the size of a football. Compared to my current REI bag, the quilt is about 1/2 pound lighter, about 1/2 as bulky, 10 degrees warmer, and about twice as expensive.

Yep, pricey. But the fact is, this is the kind of purchase where you spend the money to help shave the last pound or so and reduce the bulk from your sleeping solution.

So far, I've used the quilt 3 times and I've been impressed. The lowest temperature was just shy of 40F. I slept with a stocking cap, shorts, mid-weight wool socks, and a mid-weight long-sleeve wool shirt. I was happy and warm. I'm pretty sure for freezing weather, that piling on some heavier clothing layers would get me happily through a cold night.

In all cases, I slept on a regular-sized NeoAir Thermarest pad, which is a great pad. Same deal on the NeoAir though: it's super pricey but shaves off the bulk and weight in a smart way, as it's also way more comfortable than the shorter, less poofy, less R-rated pad that it replaced.

The GoLite Quilt as a waterproofed foot box and waterproof fabric around the top of the bag. That's smart -- given that these are the areas where condensation builds up -- either from having your feet hang out somewhere or as a result of being in a bivy.

I was skeptical that a quilt would keep me warm, and I still wonder how well it would work with a 3/4-length not-so-great pad -- so I do have to give credit to the NeoAir here too -- which I did buy at full retail -- if you're keeping track. I think a good pad is essential for this quilt to shine.

So, it's warm. It works. But here's the biggest and best part of the quilt that I hadn't thought of: movement and sprawl. I'm so used to being Tutankhamun'ed in my mummy bag, that it never occurred to me that a quilt would allow me to sleep more like I do at home: which is sprawled all over the place. That's the money piece. If the quilt wasn't warm, it wouldn't matter -- but it is. And the fact that I can sleep in my normal sprawl seals the deal.

Sleeping solution in the rear sack: GoLite Quilt,
REI Mimalist Bivy, NeoAir Thermarest, a bit of tyvek.
So, would I spend my money on this quilt?
Knowing what I know now, I would. My sleeping solution now fits in a medium-sized rear saddle bag on my bike. It's nearly $500 worth of sleeping solution, so it's not without a huge cost, but it's dialed in and it's light and it's comfy. In the summer on for-sure-dry-nights, I'll replace my bivy with a bug net. But otherwise, I'm dialed in.

1st S24O o' 11

May 20th is pretty late in the year to take the 1st overnighter. In 2010, I went in April. I think in 2009, the first was actually May 25th, but I may have taken one earlier and not noted it on the blog. 2008 was a banner year, Brent and I got out there in early March. It was a long haul, and it snowed a bit. 2007 was May.

Anyway. Jon, Jordy, Pat, Rachel, Justin, and I went a super quick  overnighter last night. We left Rocket Market on 43rd at about 6:45, rode a few miles south, camped, hung, ate, slept, and were at Hogan's having breakfast by 8:15 this morning. Not bad.
Puffy light stuff (down quilt, pad, bivvy) in the back.
 All the rest (clothes, food, beer) in the front.
Like an inverse mullet.

Rachel. Pat, yo.

Jon: happy camper.



Day-glow Justin and Pat. Justin's hat was attracting bugs like a light.
But here, they're pondering why they didn't each pack a Ten Fidy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Multi-tasking Pat

Timer in one hand, camera in the other.
Blog gold like this doesn't just happen ya know.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday morning

I took an early morning trail ride. The HD trails are down-right pretty this time of year. And busy.

Rich Landers wrote a really interesting column last weekend in the SR about the history of the high drive trails. I can usually take a coaster ride down the top trail after dinner from the trail head at Bernard and pop out at 25th. But this week, with the sun and the renewed interest in the trail, it's been too busy for a post-dinner coaster. Tons of walkers, bikers, dogs.

The middle and lower trails are less busy.

Liza went to a sub gig up at Chase Middle School and Maddie has late start on Thursday, so we enjoyed a ride down to Lindeman's for breakfast. Charmed life or what?

On the way back, as we pedaled through Manito, Maddie asked if I'd ever ridden my bike down the huge sled hill. She wanted to try it. When we got to the top, her eyes got big, and for a moment, she had second thoughts about the idea. But then she told me to go. I went. Then she went.

I wish I could've caught a photo of her smile as she bombed down the hill. It was tentative at first, then ear-to-ear by the time she got to the roll-out at the bottom.

We squeezed in another run then went to school.

After I dropped her, I took the trails back downtown, getting a pinch flat along the way, and made sure to acknowledge my gratefulness for such a happy sunny day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Disintegration of my Shimano Ultegra Hub

Mile 12 - Something feels a bit amiss. Stop and spin the rear wheel. There's a bit of a wobble, but all the spokes are tight. I'll check it when I get home.

Mile 20 - Stop and give it another spin. It's now got enough of a "wow" that I have to open the brake a bit and a couple of spokes sound a bit funny. Oh well, not far to go.

Mile 32 - Well, there's the problem.

I weight 210 and have put 28,642 miles on it, so don't think I will be sending it back for warranty replacement.


Sweet bike display at Riverpark Square

Wheel Sport is showing off their goods at Riverpark Square for bike to work week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eat Liza's cookies

Liza is baking ginger cookies for tomorrow.

For tomorrow, Pedals2People (Liza, Pat Rick, Maddie, and I) will be hosting an "energizer station" for cyclists on their way to work.

It's at 25th and High Drive. From 6:30-8 or so. Please stop by! Visit us!

June 2006: Liza's riding a bike I wish we didn't get rid of (Novara X-R)

Pat Rick, of Scoop fame, will be providing (Bumpershoot) hot coffee. There's another reason to go out of your way.

So, cookies and coffee; it's not the spread we laid out last year, but that would be hard to beat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bike to Work Week Kickoff Breakfast

The cold and wet weather didn't deter all of the bike riders from attending the Bike To Work Week Kickoff Breakfast at Riverfront Park but it did substantially cut the numbers down. It's easy for me to believe that lots of people are fairer weather riders and choose an alternate transportation mode when the weather is unpleasant. And that's okay. Not everyone has to be a hard core rider.

(Disclosure: Although I risk distancing myself even further from hard core status--not that I was that close to it anyway--I ruefully admit I didn't ride my bike to the Bike To Work Week breakfast. For my penance I will climb Lehman Road from Wellesley to Fruit Hill Road three times...um...just as soon as it's warm and dry outside.)

In spite of the weather, one characteristic that was common to the riders that did attend were the smiles on their faces. Kudos to the many volunteers who worked so hard to make this happen.

BTW volunteers showing off their T-shirts.

The good folks at Pedals2People set up and manned a bike corral.

Roast House coffee provided some much needed warmth.

This was a breakfast. Mountain Gear made pancakes. Lots of people ate them.

REI set up shop and provided some free mechanical assistance.

Mayor Verner addressed the group. It was great that she hung out with everyone in the rain.

Pedal with The Politicians Ride with Councilmen Richard Rush and Jon Snyder.

One of the many hard core who wasn't about to let the weather interfere with his fun. Or breakfast.

Need we say more? Spokane Bikes!