Monday, December 23, 2013

Ice bike 2013-14

The old Shogun. Fixed up proper. Hakkapaelitta studded tires. Mostly new wheels. Old hubs.

That'll do. But I'm going to have to put Noodles on it if I aim to commute on it.

The light is an ancient Lumotec. Good enough for be-seen and general commuting.

Review: Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro backpack of huge love of monstrous proportions

About a year ago, I reviewed the Ortlieb Velocity backpack -- which was a pack I'd been using for a couple years. In that review, I concluded that the main way the Velocity could be improved was to make it bigger, whereupon I discovered that such a pack existed and that's what we're talking about here: the Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro ($195). Full disclosure: I did not buy this bag, but if you need to haul a lot of crap and you do it frequently and in all weather and on a bike, and you'll be doing this for many, many years, then you should consider this bag, because it rules.

Gush-fest is just beginning.

I've been using this bag for about three months, which is not normally enough time to really do a proper review, but Ortlieb has earned the durability pass from me. Based on many years of abusing many Orlieb products, I can say without hesitation that this bag will hold up just fine for a number of years of my abuse. And when something fails, breaks, or is sliced open: it's all servicable and fixable. This is all sensible, practical, well-engineered German stuff.

So all of the stuff I loved about the Velocity is on this bag: the super fat cushy shoulder straps, the padded attempt to minimize sweat and maximize airflow on the back, the broad belt and buckle, and the basic Orlieb Hole™ design.

As much as I love the Hole™ design -- and I do, see here and here -- this particular bag serves up a cavern of monstrous proportions. Unless you are a professional for whom this bag was originally designed, the cavernous size of this hole verges on ridiculous. It's sort of the Hummer of Holes, if you will.

The way the bag is designed to break up the space is smart: there are two plastic dividers that are rigid enough to stand up, but flexible enough to flop around stuff. This creates three sections to organize your crud and the infrastructure does not impose unreasonable limitations on how you pack it in. Smarty pants. A picture (even this crappy one) does a better job of illustrating this:

I love this. I keep my books and computer on the part closest to my back, clothes in the middle section, and lunch and lock on the outer section. It's still crazy deep and without this organizational help, a guy could get lost digging around in there... never to reach the bottom.

A couple other nifty features make this bag pretty sweet. The first is the built-in super long Velcro closure. On the Velocity, this is an add-on extra thing you need to buy. On this bag, it's included, which is nice. But I'd still rather have the buckle.

The other thing I like is the big awesome window on the back. It was designed so messengers can slide advertisements in there -- but I think it  makes an excellent spot for a giant reflective triangle. I'll get one of those one day. Until then, Maddie likes to keep fresh pictures in there according to the season.

Strap extended. Window dressing.
This is a monster bag. According to the website, it's got a volume of 30L. The Velocity, which is a great daily driver for most, has a volume of 20L. I've topped out the Velocity a number of times. By the time I approach topping out the Messenger Bag Pro, I'm scared of the weight, especially if it's a beer-heavy grocery store run. But in the end, I'm loving this the hugeness of this bag, and I'll use it for years.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First real snow

I was hoping to get out to Riverside today for a focused session of riding, but I'm happy with what I got in. I spent time tooling around the 'hood this morning when it was cold and the snow was powdery. That's easy riding.

Where the snow has been plowed, it's denser and takes more energy to ride through.
As the day progressed and got a bit warmer, the snow got wetter and sort of slick.

After a couple washouts, I ended up taking air out of the tires, which helped.

I'm going to go hit the HD trails again and see how they feel now.  I suspect they'll be harder to ride and more prone to front-wheel washouts. I rode on a couple errands -- the streets are easy-peasy with these tires. Until now, my main snow riding bike was 2.3" tires on the Rawland

Perfect cold-weather eatin'. Buddy Stine turned me onto an excellent Korean recipe website with a bunch of videos. Oh boy. This is the Dakgalbi (Spicy chicken/veggies). Damn good. And easy. If you make it: double up on the paste, so you have enough for an easy batch the second time you make it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Ibex Bouclé Cardigan

In my previous work life, I was fortunate to be able to wear shorts and wool tee shirts pretty much year 'round. In the cold months, I could commute in whatever nasty mud-caked warm clothes I had around. Ah... life was simple.

I quit that life about 18 months ago and traded it in for an academic life. In this life, shorts and mud-caked nasty trousers are generally frowned upon. So I have to wear pants. That jarring change took me about year to really get comfortable with. This academic year, I decided to step it up and wear some ties and look a bit more respectable.

I commute home from school about three times a week. It's a 20 mile, fairly boring, mostly flat commute. Figuring out a way to look nice and still ride home without packing gobs of riding clothes has been sort of a challenge -- especially in the shoulder months, where the ride down to the bus (about 3 miles down hill) in the morning can be below freezing and the ride home in the afternoon might be drizzly and 40°F or so. My basic approach is to be cold for the quick commute down to the bus in the morning so that I can optimize for not over-heating on the way home.
Commute format: wear it o'er a thin wool shirt.

So that's the back story for why this cardigan has been a great thing for me. The folks at Ibex sent this to me at the beginning of the school year, so I've had a couple months to work it out.

The verdict: it works well for me.

The specs: this is a US-made (from New Zealand wool) cardigan that retails for $175. Reading the Ibex site for this sweater, I'm noticing that it's specifically made/marketed for cyclists, which explains how I ended up with it.

First off, the fit is a bit snug. I'm a big large and this cardigan keeps me standing tall in its slim-fittedness. But I'd not want it much bigger since it's nearly always a mid-layer on the commute to the bus in the morning.

It's super nice looking -- finished in that Ibex-perfect way: big smug buttons and even faint elbow patches. A half century ago the guy buying this would want to accessorize with a pipe and ascot. But today, the website shows a hip looking brickwaller sporting a beanie and perfectly-coiffed whiskers. Apparently times are a-changin' in the cardigan world.

Anyway -- as for function, this cardigan delivers as Ibex almost always does: I can roll down to the bus in the morning wearing this over my fancy shirt/tie combo -- generally, I'll have a vest of some sort over this combo.

It's pretty thick wool by most Ibex standards, so I don't wear it indoors often. But during normal shoulder-season temps, it's a perfect only-layer for tooling around campus. For the ride home, I'll swap out the fancy button-up shirt and tie for a thin wool t-shirt. So with thin wool under this sort of thicker wool cardigan, I get warmth with tons of breathability. If things get too chilly, I always have the super-amazing, can't-shut-up-about-it Houdini shell in my bag, which makes for a perfect commute setup in temps over freezing but under 50° or so.

As for care: it's wool -- it's easy. I wear a backpack on my commute now, so there's always some sweat happening. This cardigan has seen its share of sweat, though I've never soaked it out completely. I just hang it out to dry. I've not washed it and it's still passable in the increasingly cultured company I am keeping.

I'll have this for a while.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More on-carrying about the Pugsley

Click for big: I've never been on a mountain bike ride with this many people. I'm about mid-pack here. There were 19 of us on the HD trails Saturday morning, for the grand opening ride of the new LBS in the 'hood (which, btw, DOES have beer thank you very much): This Bike Life. It's a great shop, designed around the idea of building a little bike community. Very cool.

Anyway: I showed up for this ride on the Pugsley and in my jeans, expecting a chillaxed ride around the hood to the trails. But as kitted up dudes and their super bikes showed up, I got the feeling we'd be taking a real ride. The Pugsley did not slow me down.

The Hozan Rock Ring Wrench. If that's not great I don't know what is.
That is so great.

Fetish bike photo.
So, before I got this bike, I had the same misunderstanding of the capabilities that most bikey casual observers have -- and it's this: that the Pugsley is really for snow and sand. And that for everything else, it's just ok. I'm here to tell you: this bike is fun and super capable for all sorts of trail and dirt fun. I've taken to bombing a couple of my favorite sections of the HD trails in the last week. I can bomb on the Pugs, like I can on no other bike. There are two reasons -- that work together to make bombing super rad: zero worry of pinch flatting + monster grippage afforded by the ridiculous knobs/contact patch.

Hear me now or hear me later. But hear me!

Your basic falls photo. This trail just got knocked in. I'm thinking you'll be seeing a lot of folks lining up for photos in the future. I wanted to have the first Pugs shot.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter bikery

I'm a big fan of fixed-bike with studs for ice biking. Huge fan. Monster fan.
My ancient Velocity Deep-V gave up the ghost last year. So I'm waiting on spokes to build up some CR-18-rimmed wheels for this one. 

Midge. Not high enough. But good enough for 3 months of use. These bars may end up on the Pugsely. Sorry Glen.

First ride on the Pugs. Hard to tell from the pic: but it's cold as shit here.

Cold here too. About 10F. That's Joe. The tiny dot in the distance is Glen.

Hap-hap-happy with a frozen tear in my eye.

"Engage with the statue Maddie!"

Sign this

If you think the City of Spokane should have a rationalized plan for implementing bike/ped stuff.

I've actually got a lot I could carry on about with this whole deal, but I don't think my carrying on would actually be beneficial. There's complexity and history here for me that makes teasing out a rational stance super difficult -- what I like about Barb's petition is that it doesn't seek to force the current "we're killing the bike/ped position" into a binary battle that demands a single solution -- the petition requests a plan and some specified leadership/vision from those eliminating the position. The current rationalization (essentially: "we're eliminating redundancy; we think bike/ped planning should be integrated into all of the job descriptions of planners/engineers in the city") is pretty much the reason a bike/ped position was created in the first place -- the story has ALWAYS been from planning/engineering that bike/ped is part of their jobs... which didn't exactly put Spokane on the bike nirvana map... aaaaaaand here I am carrying on. 

Numbers matter here. This petition needs at least 1000 signatures to have impact. I'm pulling that number out my arse, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the number is probably too small.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Because Stine asked...

... how I like the pugs so far.

Here's my response:

The pugs is great. But the attention to tire pressure cannot be overstated.

I took it out on the HD trails yesterday morning – tire pressure was prob around 6psi – fairly soft.  On dry trails that made for a sluggish ride: soft cornering, squishy stops… and damn slow. I just chalked it up to the “fat bike” thing and I figured that I’d get into it and really  love it for the snow. But it was hard to love.


We all went to 7 mile for Global Fat Bike day. Pat checked my psi and suggested higher. I ended up with 14 in the rear and 12 up front.  It was like a different bike. Fuckuing rad. Riding trails was a lot like it is on a normal bike – except the contact was insane. You can totally rail into corners because there’s a monster contact patch with huge stiff knobbies spaced far apart. Same with climbing. You can climb up everything w/out spinning out the rear tire. It was amazingly fun. Glen and I were both surprised that fat bieks are actually fun on normal trails.

Trails at 7-mile are great – as you know – lots of rock gardens and blowing a line doesn’t throw you off a cliff (like at HD) and it’s mostly flat, so you can tool around forever. As for lines – you don’t have to be so precise, which lets you go faster and get into cornering, which becomes the best part on these bikes. I never got even a hint of drift or tire rolling… good stuff.

(this part was not in my response to Stine)

After our ride, we stopped at Flying Goat. It was about 2 ish and fairly mellow in there. We told the front desk person were 10 people or so -- she said 30-40 minutes wait and walked away. 

We noticed a big-ass fire outside the bar on an attached patio, which looked like a pretty ideal place to hang out and drink beers. We asked the server about it, he said, "you can go out there, but I won't serve you."


Then we went out there and stood around the fire and noticed a friggin service window -- that goes right to the bar. Attached to the window was a curious sign: "This is not a service window. Please come inside for service." Attached to another door was another sign about how you shouldn't expect service -- or something similar.

It warms my heart to see the Bennidito's business model ("you don't really want beers and food do you?")  is sweeping the city, soon the nation... and eventually, the globe!  Of course this approach drives Pat insane, which is always fun to witness. So we had to take a pic before heading to No-Li, where we drank beers for a few hours reliving the epicness of our 1.5 hour bike ride.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My new bike

Thanks Glen.
story here.


This week of school is about as hard as any week I experienced in my previous life... well, the one before the most immediate previous life, which was chillaxville.

I dug out the yellow bike for my coast down to the bus this morning.