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
http://www.emdesports.com/. There is another round of local cyclocross this weekend. Check out the link for more info. We'll be there.