Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fish Lake Trail

There's a well-coordinated and supported effort to pave the Fish Lake Trail from Fish Lake to the Centennial Trail. Personally, I'm sort of in the middle on this one. One of my favorite quick runs is a ride through the unpaved portion of the Fish Lake Trail. I have it documented on Bikely.

I really enjoy riding Thorpe Road, which is a nice dirt county road, and hooking up to the trail at the top of the hill on Thorpe. The trail is some single-track, double-track, and contains all sorts of surfaces: sand, hard-pack, pebbles, "rail" rock. It's an interesting ride -- and fun. Right now the pavement starts about 2 miles out of Marshall and goes for about 3 miles, where you end up on a Burlington-Northern access road, cross two sets of live tracks, and then another mile to the Fish Lake Trail head parking lot, where the trail is paved to Curtis Road/Cheney. I enjoy taking a fattish-tired road bike or fixed gear on this route. So as I think about FLT being paved, it kind of bums me out, because today this is a quiet, under-used, no-traffic bike route.

Folks pushing for pavement here suggest that this will be an ideal commuter route for Cheney-Spokane commuters. Maybe so. The Cheney-Spokane Road is a good route for that too, although there are some pieces that are a bit tight.

The major cost of the project is not in paving, but in putting up overpasses over two live railroad tracks. I can't remember the numbers exactly, but what I seem to remember is that there is about a $6 million cost for this project; $4 million of which is for the overpasses. That's a good gob of money.

It's interesting what draws bike-related money -- people love the idea of multi-use paths with no traffic. I understand the draw, but if I had $6 million for bike-stuff in Spokane, I'd be pretty satisfied with the Centennial Trail. If you're a recreational cyclist; Spokane is great. You've got to be happy.

On the face of it, it sounds crazy, but, thinking about it, I'd blow most of that wad on education: teaching drivers and cyclists that it's ok and normal and lawful for cyclists to use the road. Like the "seat belt saves lives" campaign when I was a kid. There was a time no one wore seat belts. Then we were clobbered for years with TV, radio, print ads that told us to wear seat belts. In addition, there was a threat of fines if you didn't wear a seat belt.

What if we did the same for cyclist/driver-education? What if the message: "cyclists have the same rights to the road as a car; bikes are vehicles; cyclists have the same responsibility to follow the rules of the road as car drivers" was pounded into us everywhere we turned? What if we taught our kids, in school, how to safely ride in traffic? What if parents rode their kids to school, on bikes, while following traffic laws? What if the WSDOT manual and related driver training had more emphasis on bikes-as-traffic? What if your traffic violation doubled if cyclists were in the area, as we do for work zones? What if cops busted cyclists for traffic violations or riding on the sidewalk?

Eventually, I think we'd see a lot more folks riding their bikes in traffic and a lot less need for more multi-use trails.
Oh yeah, and if there was any money left over; I'd be painting some sharrows.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's All About the Kids

I am on the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board. We advise the City of Spokane on things related to bicycling. Seeing change and the effect of our work is a long long process -- measured in years. So I was pretty skeptical when I wrote off a quick e-mail a couple weeks ago to the park manager at Bowl and Pitcher (B&P) State Park suggesting they add bike/hiker camp sites.

B&P is a great local thing to have: basically a full-service campground on a giant river with hundreds of acres of unique topography just a couple miles from downtown. If you look around Spokane, you see a lot of amazingly cool things like this (trails on the bluff, Fish Lake Trail, Minnehaha, Dishman Hills, etc etc) -- but anyway. The great thing about B&P is that you can kind of spontaneously decide to go bike camping with the family on a Friday or Saturday afternoon: load up your bikes with the minimalist gear in an hour, then a short ride (a good chunk of which is on the Centennial Trail) and you're camping. There's swimming, hiking, exploring and just general camping/outdoors stuff.

So anyway: the email. I'm getting there. Last year, Maddie and I did one of these spontaneous deals and showed up at B&P on a Friday afternoon and the place was full. I was shocked that they turned us away -- two people on a bike. Our overall footprint was one 2-person tent and the bike. The park is sprawling and huge. They wouldn't even let us set up in the day use area on cement! Policy is policy. We ended up going further down the river and camping in the bush, which is fun too, but with Maddie, we would've been happier in the campground.

Anyway: I sent an email to the park manager/ranger, Rene, who emailed me back the next day informing me that the park officials were about to meet to discuss issues for the upcoming season. And then about a week later, she emails me back:

Hello John, We are going to establish two

hiker/biker sites that are on a first come first serve basis.

They will be located at the Bowl and Pitcher.

I'll let you know the locations when we receive

the approval from our parks planner. Thanks Rene'

That may be my biggest and best contribution to the world of cycling in my life. And I want it documented here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Weak Contribution to People Who Want to Fix Thier Broken Brooks Saddle

That there is a picture of a Brooks b-17 saddle that is about to be man-handled by two hairy men for an hour. When it comes to re-railing, that B-17 is one tough customer.

I busted the rails on it last summer when I was riding around Vancouver Island. It's a bummer, because the saddle was only about 3 years old and just starting to break in. I ordered a replacement frame for it about 6 months ago and just got around to fixing it now. My plan was to take photos along the way as we fixed it. If you lurk around the iBOB or Touring bike lists as I do, you'll come across a number of folks who have broken the rails on the Brooks saddles that have the copper-coated rails. So, I was thinking I'd be doing a great public service to sort of document and photo the re-railing of the saddle for the benefit of mankind. I didn't do too well on that account.

The reality is, you just have to brute force that sucker on there. The deal is, is that the leather is really stretched over the frame. There's quite a bit of tension there. As we figured, you have two options:

1. Fit the nose hardware in the front and attempt to pull the leather over the rear of the saddle while you punch in the rivets, or

2. Punch in two of the rivets in the rear, then figure out a way to jam the front hardware into the nose.

Option 1 seemed impossible. We had some extra rivets so we decided to go with Option 2, figuring that we could drill out the rivets and go back to Option 1 if we totally hit the wall.

As I mention, it took about an hour. It's brute force and some filing and squeezing the front hardware in a vise to shape and squish it a bit. There's some wrestling, some swearing, some head scratching, and a large rubber mallet involved as well. If you have a saddle with a broken rail and you are trying to get it repaired, all of this non-precise instruction will make sense. Granted, it likely won't help much, but it will make sense.
After you force the front hardware into the nose, punching the rivets is pretty straight forward. It's also a two person job. One person to hold the saddle and the punch and the other to strike the punch. I'd love to see some pictures of the folks at the Brooks factory putting these together. They must have some pretty specialized vices and hardware.

Bike swap will be next year. There's a back story there, and it will be told. And I will tell it. But not now.

I've been riding the Trek and it's everything I want it to be. It's back at Hairy Gary's getting fit for a convertible rack. He says a week. I say I'll start bugging him in a week. It is a really fun bike to ride.

Liza is Certified
This should be the headliner -- Liza did her 2 weeks at UBI and just got her test results back today. She is officially a Certified Bicycle Technician. She took lots of pictures of bikes and there's a couple shots of her at UBI here. UBI is not an easy course -- Liza didn't have a ton of mechanical experience going in, so she had to work super hard. And she did: staying late, going in on the weekend to practice.
She rules. Since she's been home, she's totally reworked our little shop into a pristine workshop; she's built two wheels; overhauled her daily driver; swapped out a crank set and handlebars on my buddy's RB-T; and has a bike to-do list a mile long.

Bicycle Advisory Board
Next Meeting. All meetings open to the public: Tuesday -- Feb 20th, 6PM in the City Hall, bottom floor in the Council Briefing Chambers.