Sunday, December 31, 2006

Maintenance Matters

Liza and I had a night out last night. After Maddie fell asleep, a babysitter came by and sat. We headed downtown. The picture here is not very good. Not to make lame excuses, but it was taken while going up Adams street (good climb on cobblestone) with a camera that has no view finder. I took about 5 of these. This was the best one.

Anyway, it was about 20F last night and patches of ice, so Liza rode her studded Fuji fixed and I rode my studded, geared bike (the Shogun). I re-learned a couple lessons last night.

1. Riding a fixed gear in super cold weather keeps you warm on the downhill rides. I knew this, but the lesson was driven home last night. Our house to downtown is about a 400 foot elevation drop over about 2 miles or so. On a fixed gear, you're backpedaling and engaged with the hill -- you're working a bit and keeping the blood circulating. On a geared bike, this is a coast. You're just sitting there, literally just sitting exposed in the cold and getting colder with the wind making you colder yet. Man! I froze on the way downtown last night. Dang.

2. Coasting doesn't require pedaling. When you pedal, you will notice potentially bad stuff in the chain, gear, and shifting departments right away. Not to mention that the gear and shifting departments are non-existent on a fixed.

I've been riding my Shogun lately on longer snowy rides. I typically come home and leave it in the cold garage. The drive train, the rims, everything is packed with snow and ice. Eventually that melts and takes all the grease/oil with it. Riding home last night, I couldn't get over how noisy and chunky the chain was. When I shifted down the rear cog, a mousy squeak complemented the grindy chunky chaconne (I've been waiting to use "chaconne" for a long time ... years actually). Aside from the noise, I could feel it: that unsettling notchiness feel -- like a cup and cone bottom bracket that is too tight; or a chain link that is halfway busted and just ten pounds of torque away from popping off.

Then I checked out the chain this morning.

Chains are not supposed to be orange and dry. I've never been much for maintenance, but I've got to do better than this. It would not have been a good thing if I had popped a chain link at 11:50 PM, at 20 F, with no cell phone. Of course I carry a chain tool and an extra bit of chain. But when it's that cold, and after a couple drinks, and under the stress of babysitter overtime, that's about the last bit of bike work I want to attempt with numb fingers, with the exception of maybe, say, building a wheel.

So, I fed the chain this morning and it sucked up gobs of oil. I tried the "wet" oil this time. Does it really matter what kind of chain oil we put on these things? If everyone has their absolute favorite that they "swear by," and each sworn by oil is different, then how can it really matter? On a ride out to Liberty Lake a couple months ago, I heard the little mouse squeak symphony warming up on my Atlantis. I ended up stopping by the QuickLube and borrowing a tablespoon of oil from their overflow bucket. Worked great, whatever kind of oil it was. My buddy Alex keeps a tiny bit of oil in a "Beano" container when he tours. That works too. I recently found a small eye drop container that looks like it may be suitable for carrying some oil. At some point I'll get around to filling it up and adding it to my fussy, long-haul tool kit.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cycling Italy

Liza's mother is from Sicily. Her father is from Monza in northern Italy. Liza had not been back to Italy for about 10 years. She brought our 3 year-old daughter over there to visit with family for about a month last spring. She wrote up a small account of the bicycling part of the trip on Bicycle Fixation. There are pictures too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More Snow

Although winter officially just happened on the 21st, it's about this time of year when it feels like the winter part of the year has lost its charm. I think about riding in the summer in a t-shirt a lot this time of year. And how nice it is to just be able to jump on the bikes with the family and go. Riding in the winter requires gobs of suit-up time. At 4 years old, Maddie tires of riding in the Burley trailer -- she's actually a bit big for it now. She can no longer stretch out her legs in there. Hauling the trailer through snow is a work out. On ice, it's slow and deliberate.

For Liza's 33rd birthday yesterday, we loaded the bikes on the bus and went downtown, rode to the MAC, then rode to a new Indian place for lunch buffet. The arterials are clear, with slush and ice on the side of the roads. The secondary streets are a combo of slush, ice, packed snow, and slippery man-hole covers. We had a great time and ate way too much for lunch, but riding this time of year is now getting a bit tedious.
We woke up this morning to about 3 inches of new snow, with new snow still falling. Maddie and I got up early and shoveled and enjoyed the brief quiet. Predictably, the quiet was soon broken as folks fired up the snow-blowers to clear their 20 feet of side walk. We've got to the point in America where every single outdoor chore where folks used to get some basic exercise has been replaced with loud internal combustion 2-cycle engines. It's such a bummer: snow blowers, lawn mowers, leaf sucker-blowers, hedge-trimmers, weed eaters, edgers, pressure washers, etc. Think of how quiet the neighborhood might be if gas shot up to $10/gallon.

Maddie and I decided that walking to Manito Park to sled didn't sound like fun. But our neighborhood is flat. So, we rigged up the bike-sled and took a couple laps around the block. She was singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of her lungs the whole way. That's good neighborhood noise.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Nimrods Please

It's rant time.
One of my biggest frustrations while riding in town is when car drivers stop to give me the right-of-way when it's not my legal right-of-way. I think most car drivers do this out of courtesy, in the same way they stop for pedestrians. I also think they do it out of fear; you just never know what these freaks on bicycles are going to do.
In the courtesy case; it's frustrating, and I used to wave them on, which took a lot of standing and waiting and waving. The driver would ususually shake their heads in frustration and speed off. Now I just go; I don't give them any kind of recognition; no waves or sneers or anything.
In the fear case, I can't blame them. You see cyclists do some weird-o stuff. My wife and I were driving on the north side yesterday. We were approaching a guy on a bike. He was a commuter: he had the blinky, the safety vest, helmet, rear bag. We always smile when we see these guys, as they are still a novelty in Spokane. He was doing pretty good on the road. It was a 4 lane road with pretty quick traffic and no shoulders. He was riding in the lane. The light ahead was red and three cars were backed up at the light waiting. The guy hopped up on the sidewalk, overtook the line of cars, and jumped right in front of a right-turning car. Holy crap!
What is up with that? It's nimrods like this that make cycling hard for all of us. This is why people unexpectedly stop on a busy arterial and stop 4 lanes of traffic so I can cross. I hate that. But how can you blame them? Maybe a cyclist just pulled a maneuver like this guy did on them.
If you ride a bike in traffic: follow the traffic laws. Be courteous. Be consistent. Be predictable. Don't be a nimrod. Errg.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Making the Perfect Bike

In the last year or so, there has been a bunch of real and virtual ink spilled on the merits of low-trail bikes. The catalyst for all of this is Jan Heine, who publishes "Bicycle Quarterly," which in my opinion, is the best bike magazine around by a huge long shot.

Anyway, Jan's a huge proponent of low-trail bikes. "Trail" has to do with the front end geometry on bikes. It's the result, mainly, of head-tube angle and fork rake. A low trail bike tends to feel a bit "twitchier" compared to high trail bikes, which feel more stable. These are all feelings, and likely, riding any basically normal bike for a couple blocks will result in the rider making adjustments. So... you'll get used to any of these bikes. And "twitchy" has a negative connotation I guess. So, maybe "lively" is a better word?

The majority of production bikes sold today have high trail. In some cases, like with my 1991 Bridgestone RB-T, the trail is in the middle: not really low or high. In fact, I don't know of any low-trail production road bikes by any manufacturer. I'm not sure why high trail bikes have now become the norm. Apparently, most French bikes up to the 70's or so were low-trail. English bikes tended to be high trail. This makes sense when you consider where the cyclists in these countries tended to carry a load. Bikes optimized for front-end loads perform better (easier to go no hands, quicker turning, etc) with lower trail. Apparently, French riders/cyclotourists tended to have front bags mounted above the front wheel. English riders were big on saddle bags. Loading up a high-trail bike with a saddle bag makes for a smooth ride. My high-trail Atlantis excels with a fat load in the back. It does well with a load up front too, since high-trail bikes are OK with loads up front, they are just better with loads in the rear. My mid-trail RB-T is a nightmare with a load up front. Just awful.

Anyway. I picked up a 1983 Trek 520 about a year ago and let it sit around. This bike is a low-ish trail bike with standard diameter tubing and a geometry very similar to the French bikes of old. My buddy, Alex, who lives in Seattle has the same bike. I actually spent about 40 miles or so on his Trek when I realized how much fun it was to descend on. In addition, the bike felt just wonderful on climbs. Very similar to the feel of my RB-T. I had a very hard time figuring that one out. I assumed it was the shorter chainstays. But in measuring them and comparing them to my other bikes, the logic didn't add up. It turns out, the standard diameter tubing was the reason climbing and accelerating felt so wonderful. The majority of steel bikes produced today use over-sized tubing. Apparently, as diameter of steel increases, the stiffness increases exponentially. So, that "thing" I was feeling was flex. Or what Jan Heine calls "planing." Whatever. It's real and when I'm on an bike with OS tubing, that "thing" is not there. By the way, I'm in no way a fast, racer-type rider. So feeling this "thing" was a new experience for me when I first rode my RB-T. The "thing" combined with the quicker handling on descents was a huge deal when I rode the 520.

So, I came to the conclusion that what I wanted was a low-trail bike made with standard-diameter tubing. There is no production bike today that fits this. Kogswell is dang close, and I've riden the P/R about 50 miles. But when riding the P/R, I didn't feel that "thing." My guess is that it's the OS tubing, but maybe not, because there is a very vocal group of P/R lovers on the Kogswell mailing list that absolutely love the bike. Maybe it's all in my head.

Anyway, the 1983 Trek 520 is just about the right bike, but it is missing a lot of key components that I must have in a bike. The main ones were the ability to fit fat (well, bigger than 28mm) tires with fenders. I also have a thing for canti brakes since they just make sense to me in so many ways. The 520 had low trail, but not low enough. I wanted 40mm of trial, as that's the "magic" spot according to those who I trust. I also wanted the bike to be an everything bike: it must haul a good load comfortably; it must be good for all day rides. So, I decided to take the bike to local frame builder Hairy Gary and have him re-work it. Here's the list I gave him:

  • rake forks to 58mm (this will result in 40 mm of trail)

  • spread rear triangle to 132.5

  • braze-ons: water bottle mount to seat tube; 3rd water bottle mount under down tube; cantilever posts for 584 wheels; pump peg; attachment points for mini-rack on front fork; down-tube shifter mounts; rear brake cable stop bridge for canti-brake; rear-rack (chain stay) barrels; add'l eyelet on front fork for rack (on front side of fork dropouts)

  • strip/paint

He's also brazing me a custom rack that I can attach (sans tools) to the Nitto mini rack I will have on there. The custom rack will be a big-ass platform that I can strap big stuff too. Like a giant Wald basket. Or a huge package. Or who knows what.

So, he's so close to being done. The pictures here show where he was at this morning. Hopefully he's done with the fork now and the couple other bits. With some luck it will go to the powder coat guy this week. I asked him to surprise me on the color. Sparkles are good. Pink would be too surprising. Other than that, go for it.

Seeing the frame in the nude with flux and brazing goo on it really got me excited. I have the bits I need to build it up: typical used 90's mountain-bike parts and fenders and a B-17. I'm ready.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

OT Post -- Bread Here, Bikes There

OT item #1.

David Blaine has a cool local food blog. He's a cyclist. He did an OT post where he mentioned my blog. When I posted my "tried and liked" list, he sent me his "tried and liked" bike list, with the regrets that he couldn't do another OT bike post on his blog. Well, I'm happy to post it. So, if you are interested in what local chef David Blaine has tried and liked in the bike-part of his life, go to the old site and check it out:

OT item #2.

Liza and I make bread. We've spent some time trying to streamline the process so that we can put about 20 minutes a day into it and doesn't require throwing out a bunch of flour that natural starter requires.

The process provides 3 small loaves every 2 days. As we have developed our bread/process, we have given a lot of bread away. Folks are always asking for the recipe/method. So we wrote it up. It looks long and laborious. But it's not. The description is just verbose. Once you get in the groove, this bread just becomes part of the background of your daily stuff. So, here's the recipe:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bicycle Delivery Potential in Downtown Spokane

I had lunch with some buddies yesterday at the "High Nooner" downtown. I'm notoriously early for everything. I've learned to always give myself 15 minutes to deal with bike issues. And I rarely have bike issues, so I'm usually early. We were to meet at noon. I got there at 11:50. As I sat outside the 'nooner waiting, I watched the delivery folks run back and forth to their cars. I counted 4 delivery people, but there may have been a fifth. In the 15 minutes I waited (car people are always always late... 5 minutes late, is late ... aren't I an annoying bastard?), I saw two of the 4 return and go out again. This means they are doing some short downtown deliveries.

Downtown Spokane is an ideal bike-delivery area. I sat and waited. My mind churned on the idea of converting the downtown deliveries to bike delivery.

The delivery area: south to the hospitals (8th or so); west to Brown's Addition; North to, say, Indiana; and East to Hamilton or so -- but maybe further east into some of the Industrial Park area off Mission/Trent. Note: no huge hills. In addition, most of this area is traffic-lighted (and timed lights at that), so with fit riders, you're not looking at a huge difference in delivery time.

The bike: a portuer, like Kogswell has just made.

A portuer is based on the design of French bikes made in the early-mid part of the last century. They are optimized for handling a front-load. Front loads for this kind of stuff is nice, so you can see it as you bomb around and it all lays/stacks flat and wide. Notice the big old rack on the front of that bike in the picture. Build a rack like that that fits the little bus tubs that High Nooner packs their lunches into. Make them stackable and you're good to go. Drinks may have to be canned instead of foutain. Instead of a derailleur system, use an 8 speed internal hub for easier maintenance. Dynohub lighting, integrated front wheel lock, and center kickstand would complete the package. An easy-to-ride, park, and lock bike.

The money part: Converting car-drivers to riders is surely cheaper in the "true-cost" sense, but who knows what kind of arrangement "High Nooner" has with their drivers. If they are simply paid an hourly wage to deliver with no compensation for insurance, gas, car maintenance, then the owners would not save money with bikes. But again, looking at "true cost," where those costs are not absorbed by the workers, even with the cost of the bike (around $1200 complete) would pay off in the long run. And if you really wanted to get down to brass tacks, there is a cost to having 4-5 more cars on the road for two hours every work day. That cost is absorbed by all of us in health, taxes, wear/tear on roads, insurance, etc.

By the time my buddies got there and we had ordered and sat down, I pointed out the delivery guys running in and out of the building. (These folks also take precious parking spots in open meters in front of the building as well as in the full parking lot on the side of the building). I mentioned to my buddies that this place should consider converting some of the downtown deliveries to bicycle delivery.

My buddies are used to hearing me mention this kind of stuff -- where everything should be done by bike -- so, I got the courtesy nod and smile and we were onto other matters.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tried and Liked - Aught Six

One of the ways I waste a gob of time is reading bikelists online. My favorite is the iBOB list. Google it for more information. Anyway. Every year about this time, people on the list send out the "tried and liked" lists. The title is self-explanatory. Here's my list:
Ride abouts:
Kind of a silly name, but that's what I've been doing a lot of this year. Longish day rides where I don't have a route picked out, just a general destination where I've not been before or in a long time. Things like weather, hunger, flats, sun sets/rises, etc change the course and overall flavor. The general goal is to explore and find new dirt roads -- so these are mostly rural rides.

Bike camping with daughter:
My daughter was 3 years old last summer. We had a few great bike/camping trips at a local campground that's about 13 miles away. We froze on the first one and had a great time when we went with mom on the next one.

Solo S24O (sub-24 hour over-nighter):
Did 3. Loved them. Plan on doing at least one a month for 6-7 months starting in March.

100+ mile day rides:
Did 5 or 6 of these this year. The hardest/longest being 140 taking the "long way" to my father's house up north. I really like this ride and plan on doing the "long way" a few times next year.
That's a picture of my dad there tooling down the "fishing road" on what used to be 395 many years ago. He lives up on the Kettle River. A perfect century (the short way) away.


Just jumped in about a month or so ago. I like it. I decided to just write on what I know, and that's cycling in Spokane, WA.( What's cool is that I was out the other night and I ran into a cyclist who owns a bar downtown and he was telling me about this cool blog he was reading... turned out to be mine!
I got a Rivendell Quickbeam about a year ago, set it up fixed, and I've not rode much else for the last 6 months or so. I'd ridden fixed a bit in the past, but this year I've really enjoyed riding the fixed bike on long day rides. I also find riding single-track to be a much more interesting experience on a fixed gear.
  • Bug tent: ( Rain in the Spokane summer is pretty rare. If you know there won't be rain, this thing is a great replacement for a tent where bugs and creepy crawlies roam.
  • Jet boil: ( -- lots of virtual ink spilled on this on the touring list. I have the small one. When I go on a longish ride this time of year -- it's with me. A hot ramen with hot tea this time of year is wonderful on a long day ride. This pic was at lunchtime. It was about 35 degrees out all day and I had a great ride.

  • O2 rain jacket: ( - Kent has talked this one up a couple times online. He's right. For $35 you can't find a better/lighter jacket that actually-mostly breathes. The Burley may be for sale next year if it continues to go un-used.

  • Rack-top front bag with decaluer. ( After touring with Alex and seeing his "pre-release" Ostrich bag in action, I got one. It's the perfect size for a long day ride where you need food and rain/cold weather is threatening. With the decaluer, it's just super easy and usable. It does require either really high trail, or low trail for decent handling. Handling on my mid-trail RB-T with this bag was awful. It's ok on the Quickbeam.

Music: Wayne Krantz - yowsa. This guy and his players are amazing. I'm on week 4 or so of "Greenwich Mean," and I'm just figuring most of it out now. The musicianship is insane.

Food: Bumblebar - ( another great thing introduced to me by Alex and his touring buddy, Larry. The Bumblebar is made in my hometown and is a great tasting alternative to the awful "power"type sawdust bars out there.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Back from the Coast

Two quick bits:

1. I've been traveling for the last week or so. It's good to be back in cold Spokane. As I mentioned in the previous post, I travel to the Seattle area for work about once a month. One part I always enjoy is commuting from Redmond to my sister's house in Woodinville on the Sammamish River trail. That's a pleasant ride. The ride south, over I-90 is a much more dynamic route into Seattle than the northern route... but going south from Redmond to get to Woodinville is a long ride.
Anyway, I was just looking for an excuse to share this picture; nothing ground-breaking, but it's likely the primary reason I don't live in the area anymore.
What's odd, is that King county is considering converting an existing rail way (with tracks) that parallels the 405 corridor with a multi-use trail. I'm all for bike facilities, but this picture is a typical morning on the 405 corridor. Wouldn't it make more sense to keep the tracks on there and build a commuter train? Yowsa that's some traffic.

2. And much more importantly... the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board website is live. Nothing exciting, but it's up. If you ride, especially if you commute, and especially if you are good with HTML and want to donate some time -- consider getting involved in BAB. Here's the site:

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Car'ing your bike

I really hate hauling my bike on my car. For so many reasons. Probably the biggest reason is that I just think "driving to ride" -- in most cases -- is just a silly thing. In most cases there's great riding out your back door if you're willing to explore. Recreational riding that requires driving to the "riding destination" is an easy fix. Especially, *especially* in Spokane, where you would be hard-pressed to find yourself more than 20 riding-minutes from any kind of riding you want: rolling hills, single track, trails, country roads, logging roads, etc etc. Riding through town, going somewhere closer, leaving the car parked... these are all good things.
Anyway, I go to the Seattle area about once a month for my job. Typically, I fly in and my buddy Alex hooks me up with a bike. But sometimes I drive with family and haul a bike on the car.

Usually, it pours down rain and the speed of the car drives the water into every deepest nook and cranny of every bearing race. So, this time it was sort of a nice change to see the bike turn into a giant ice sculpture.

In other news. William, who runs the site at 63.xc asked me to write up an account of my Fuji. You can see the write up here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Yowsa. So, we had about 4 inches of snowfall a couple days ago. Then it got to about 40F that night. Everything kind of half melted into a mess of sno-cone-like slush. Then, it froze. I don't think it's gotten above 30F in the last couple days.

Here's what the street in front of my house looks like:

It's not obvious from the picture what's going on here. The ice is solid for sure. It's not a clean, smooth sheet. It's rutty and bumpy. At the moment it's snowing lightly, so there's a film of snow over the top of that.

This makes for really interesting riding. We took two rides today: first, we took Maddie to school. Liza did great. She was on the Fuji and hauled Maddie. No issues. We took it nice and slow. Then, I rode to the doctor's office this afternoon. I tried going a bit faster, maybe 10 mph? I went down in a flash. I guess my front wheel just slipped out from under me. It was sudden: one second I'm just riding along (JRA), the next second my bike, my frozen-solid water bottle, and I are having a little skate down the road -- sliding silently and effortlessly.

Riding on this stuff -- even with studs and on a fixed gear -- really takes equal parts of luck and skill to get around on. I took a spill, I messed up my pants and my knee a little; no harm to the bike. But really, given the overall distance I rode today (probably about 6 miles), and the fact that I'm pretty new at this, I'm pretty pleased with my accident to miles ratio.

I'll be keeping it much slower until this ice melts away. 5 mph tops.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Yay. It finally snowed with some authority today. Looks to be sticking too. The last word I heard on weather was that it was now going to get very cold. Right now it's just over freezing, so we're getting a bit slushy. It should get down to about 25F tonight, so that will freeze everything up nicely for Monday morning. I'm happy that I ride a bike on days like tomorrow will be... but even happier that I work from home.

Here in the Speare/Mattana household we'll be running fixed gear bikes with studded tires this winter.
The picture above there is Liza getting her snow legs worked in. That miserable Fuji does well in the snow, even though it feels like it's just sucking away your energy at twice the rate of any other bike we own. What a dog.

I also hit the trails on the bluff after the snow had piled up for an hour or so. I was not the first cyclist to hit the trail with snow this year, as I followed some wide mountain bike tracks for a good portion of my ride.
We're running the Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 studded tires on both the Quickbeam and the Fuji. The tread and stud pattern is optimized for city riding, with a row of carbide studs essentially down the middle of the tire. So, on trails, I wouldn't mind a few studs sticking out of the side of the tire to grip the side of the hill, but overall, these tires are great and I wouldn't want the extra studs on the road where I do the majority of my riding. Tires with carbide studs cost about twice as much as those with mild/normal steel studs. The carbide wears much longer. My neighbor, Dennis, is a year-round commuter, who has about a 20 mile round trip commute. Last year, he left his Nokian's on his bike for about 4 months, so these tires rode on a lot of non-snowy/icy pavement. Last time we chatted about these tires, he said he couldn't even tell the wear on them.
It's going to be a great winter.

Friday, November 24, 2006

If I was the king of the world...

I would require all citizens to have at minimum, one bike outfitted with a basket capable of transporting at least one half-rack of bottled beer.
Such a bike, especially if ugly and not-steal-worthy, is an essential component for all households.
We have this old Fuji outside, under a tarp, at the ready at all times. It's really uncomfortable to ride for more than a mile or two, but it's perfect for quick grocery runs and for hauling our daughter in a trailer.
Many "serious" cyclists only have their 'road' bike and their 'mountain' bike, or maybe their 'rain' bike... typically such a bike requires the usual ritual to ride: suiting up, special shoes, etc. You miss out on a lot of spontaneous riding opportunities when you are required to "gear up." Additionally, a beater with a basket is made way more useful when you put fenders on it. Come to think of it, all bikes are way more useful when you have fenders on it... At the moment, I don't own a bike that doesn't have fenders. Seems like an essential piece of gear that is just crazy to go with out... yet 90% of new road bikes do not have room or eyelets for fenders.
So, if you don't have a beater, spend some time on craigslist or at Goodwill and pick one up... get a wald basket and some fenders and you're ready for a ride at the drop of a hat.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

High Drive Trails

I don't know what folks call the trails that have emerged off the west side of the High Drive bluff. There is a name; I've heard it, but I can't recall it.
Growing up on 16th and Adams ST--which was pretty close--we simply referred to this area as "the bluff." About twice a year, I would pack up lunch and fishing poles and take some friend down the bluff.
We'd go down at about 21st Ave. There were no trails, but there was an old access road, that you can still see today. The best part was jumping down the side of the bluff where the long sandy hills emptied into the river below. It was an all day journey.

Since moving back to Spokane about 3 years ago, I was thrilled to see that someone has created a wonderful network of trails. I've actually met a couple guys that have confessed to much of the work. They do it primarily by kicking out trails with their boots; since it is a county-owned park, they don't want to get "caught" with tools. In general, they make good decisions on where to put trails, though I do occasionally see posted signs from other trail users asking the trail-builders to stop making new trails. Those posting the signs, cite concerns about erosion.
There is a network of trails directly south of the Bernard/Highdrive area, then there are 3 tiers of trails that run sort of north/south along the High Drive side. I've spent a bit of time in the network section, but the majority of my rides are on the long flat tiered trails that travel parallel to Latah (Hangman) Creek below.
I enter the trail now at the top of Bernard and Highdrive. If I'm just out for a quick lunch ride, I'll take the trail down and I'll pop up on 29TH AVE. That short loop, from my house, takes about 20 minutes. If I have more time, I'll go all the way down to Polly Judkin's Park on 14th. That's about a 40 minute ride.
The trail is wonderful. Except for weekends, it's virtually empty. I rarely see anyone on the trail on my lunch time rides. It's clean. It's got amazing views of Vinegar Flats and the Latah valley below. It's kind of technical, in that you have a lot of different surfaces to handle and some tight weaving with long drop-offs that can be a bit distracting. I typically ride it on my fixed gear, which makes for a much more interesting ride than the mountain bike that I used to ride. The trail network is a wonderful thing to have a mile from my home. I am grateful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Private Property

I took a ride out to Liberty Lake yesterday to check out some of the small gray lines that are shown on my Spokane County map. I search out the small gray lines, which are dirt roads. And even better: small gray dotted lines, which are trails or just super-old roads. I enjoy doing long rides that include paved back roads, dirt roads, and if possible, some trail riding.
So, according to my map, there is a single gray small line that feeds into the Liberty Lake Regional Park at the northwest corner of the park. The gray lines work through the park and pop you out near Mica peak. Sounds like a perfect ride to me. I know you can access the LLRP by riding around the east side of Liberty Lake and going into the proper entrance to the park. But, I've already ridden about 20 miles by the time I get to Liberty Lake, and the map tells me there is a way around the west side. So, if it's there, then I want to find it.

As I had suspected, Liberty Lake has grown quite a bit since my grandmother rented a place on the lake out there about 20 years ago. Anything small and quaint appears to have been replaced by big and blingly. So, as I travel further southward, on the west end of the lake, I am increasingly wary of what I might find at the small gray lines that supposedly lie ahead.

Sure enough, the closer I get to the LLRP, the more "Private Property" and "No Trespassing" signs I see. The road ends at someone's "ranch". Errg. Of course I have no way of knowing if a public easement runs through the ranch's property to the road on the other side. And there is no way I'm going to ride through the "ranch's" property to find out.

My sense is that the owners of the "ranch" just put a "No Trespassing" sign up and were never questioned about it, thereby shutting off the only western road access to LLRP. I could be wrong. Maybe the right of way was never public. Maybe they tried to let folks respectfully cross their land to reach LLRP and they were burned by jerks tearing things up and leaving trash. I don't know.

I've made this mental note before; once again: I want to find an authority in Spokane County that I can get quick answers from. How can I find out if there is a right-of-way here?

I see this kind of stuff all the time as I search out my small gray lines. I've learned that "Roads" are always public, and "Lanes" are always private. So, "No Trespassing" signs posted on a "Road" can be ignored. I know that landowners routinely put up fences and signs on adjacent property or public right-of-ways when they want keep people out. Seeing some of the dumping and trash in the "gray line" areas: who can blame the landowners for taking matters into their own hands?

Sometimes I trespass, but I don't today. There are three opportunities that look really tempting. The most tempting is the one I take a picture of, above. Another one is right by the "ranch:" a single track trail meandering up the side of the mountain. Instead, I go down to the marsh and attempt to find a way into the park at the elevation of the lake. I end up on a beaver trail. Further along I am blocked at the pond Mr Beaver had built. It's too cold to go tromping around in the muck. In addition, the only viable trail out of the muck has multiple trees laying across it. The beaver has been busy.

I backtrack a few miles out of the south-west corner of the lake. I take a beautiful ride up Molter Road and have lunch looking over the Saltese Lake valley. From there I find Linke, a nice back road that is paved for a few miles then turns to dirt and warms me up with a gentle climb. Linke pops me out in Mica. From there, it's about 15 miles home -- a few muddy miles of which, I spend on "Summer Roads," which are like adding the perfect cup of coffee to a perfect chocolate dessert. A ride can be great without Summer Roads, but a great ride with Summer Roads is unforgettable. More on that later.

Friday, November 10, 2006

1st Post

The purpose of this blog is to record some thoughts and happenings related to bicycling in and around Spokane, WA. I love cycling here.

It's really ideal in many ways. First, you get four seasons; I've always loved that about Spokane, and it's wonderful for cycling. You get hot hot dry summers; amazingly crisp, colorful falls; lots a snow in the winter; and soggy, cool springs. Each of these seasons are fun and challenging to ride in. And just as you're burning out on the same old same old of a season, a change in weather comes.

Right now, I'm relishing in unpacking the layers of wool it takes to stay warm for multi-hour rides. I love this time of year because I get to wear all sorts of wool all the time. I'm also battling the frozen toe problem again. I can't wait for some good snow. Here's one of my favorite pics of all time:

Liza after her first long ride in the snow last year.

Secondly: I love riding in Spokane because in 15 minutes -- and I mean this -- not the "15 minutes from downtown" type hype that you read in a real estate ad -- in 15 minutes I can ride from the door of my house to absolute rural, no traffic, dirt roads. Which are pretty much a must-have for any ride over 2 hours. In addition, I can leave at noon or so on a Friday, ride for 5 hours and be camping at some amazing place: the Columbia River; atop Mt Spokane; on a deprecated campground on a small lake... then home by noon on Saturday.
Third: traffic. It's light, for now. And streets are insanely huge and wide. And if your predictable, visible, and courteous -- drivers are great here. There are very few places I will not ride my bike in this town. In fact, given the right time of day, I can't think of any where I wouldn't ride.

Anyway, the deal with this blog, is that I ride my bike quite a bit in Spokane and think of all sorts of stuff to go on about as I ride around.

Here are a couple of things I've thought of recently:


Bernard Street, from 14th Ave to 29th Ave, was just resurfaced/paved this summer. It's a wide street. Not wide enough for 4 lanes, but wide enough for two, huge, fat lanes. It's typical of many Spokane streets: lots of room for cars and bikes to travel without the need for bike lanes/signs, etc. During the resurfacing, it was striped with parking strips. Almost no one has ever parked, or has started to park (since the striping) on this stretch of road. So what used to be a usable, fat lane for bikes and cars to peacefully coexist in, is now a confusing, under-utilized parking lane. A buddy of mine followed up with the city to get the scoop. No one seems to know who okay'd the striping. It's just there, messing everything up.

Cyclocross in Spokane Valley
I went to my first cyclocross race (as a spectator) this week with my wife. Very cool. Man, that looks like fun. Too bad I'm such a slow turd. I think I have the technical chops to maneuver a relatively skinny-wheeled 700c bike through the course, but I'd last about 1/2 lap before collapsing. That could be a good goal...

The woman in the picture there is a friend. The bike is a custom painted pink Crosscheck. She calls it the "Girly Surly." She (her name is Cari, but I'm not sure if it's spelled Cari, or Kerry, or Keri...dang me) did really well. By my count, she came in 4th, but I don't really know what division she was racing in, and the races contained mixed divisions racing in the same races... so maybe she did better than that.
The race was promoted by There is another round of local cyclocross this weekend. Check out the link for more info. We'll be there.