Saturday, March 31, 2007

OTM April: Carrying Stuff

The April issue of Out There Monthly marks my entry into the world of (non-geeky) print publications. I'll be writing a monthly column called "Everyday Cyclist." My first article was about how to carry a couple bags of groceries on your bike. It's pretty hard to give the topic complete treatment in under 900 words. Luckily, there's no limit on this blog; I can be as verbose as I want. Lucky you.

There are a couple additions I wanted to make to the article here. I want to get pictures up of all the options mentioned in the article and I want to mention a couple other cheap options that I didn't have room for .

But first, if you're interested in carrying loads and city bikes, you should know about Bicycle Quarterly, which just published a whole issue dedicated to city bikes. Specifically, in the Spring issue, they review the Breezer Uptown 8, the Jamis Commuter, and the ANT "Basket Bike." The issue also includes an article by Liza where she writes about her favorite bike, which is a city bike we built up from a garage sale mixte. In my opinion, Bicycle Quarterly is far and away the best cycling periodical in print today. The quality of writing and overall content is just superb. If you only subscribe to one bike-related magazine, it should be Bicycle Quarterly. I have no financial tie or interest in the magazine; I just would love to see its readership grow.

Anyway, here are pictures of each rack solution mentioned in the Out There Monthly article.

Milk crate

Wald basket

Bucket panniers

Fancy panniers

As I mentioned in the article, there are tons of solutions for carrying groceries and loads on bicycles. But a couple other easy and not too expensive solutions to consider are the front basket and the saddle bag.

Front baskets are nice because you can keep your eye on the load. A good front basket should be easy to pop off and take into the grocery store. Some bikes handle better than others with front baskets, but as an easy solution to carry smaller loads on most bikes, a front basket can be a great solution. Again, I have to go with the Wald here. Wald makes a nice basket that is easy to put on most bikes and has a super simple quick release mechanism built right into the handle. A net is essential for front baskets, as stuff tends to bounce around quite a bit. A net is nice too since it allows you to cram a bunch of stuff in the basket. Here's a not-so-great photo of a stuffed Wald basket.

Saddle bags are great too. A saddle bag is a bag that attaches to the saddle and hangs over the rear wheel. Rivendell Bicycle Works has been pushing saddle bags for years and was the company that introduced me to the practical goodness of the saddle bag. Most saddles made today do not have saddle bag loops, but some still do. You won't find much for saddle bags in any of the local bike shops. Online, Rivendell is a good source, as is Wallingford Bike Parts.

I like saddle bags because the weight is right under the seat. They're typically not waterproof, but since they're right under your butt and body, you block a lot of the rain. Plus, I like the way they look... distinctly not cool and not aero and not racey. Of course the milk crate has that going for it too and it's way cheaper.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Waiting Through the Big V

The long-awaited update on my personal reproductive heath status: I got the big V today. One perfect child is enough. Now I wait to ride. The doctor says one month. I think he's suppossed to say that. My plan: play it by the book and be super hard core with the ice pack for 3 days. Minimize the movement and maximize the frozen pea contact. From there, we'll see where we're at. In the meantime, I can think and plan about the riding I want to do this summer.

The Basics
To start, I'm going to kick up the gear on the fixed gear. Since I busted my 40t chainring, I'm going to inch up to a 42. At the moment, the smallest 110 bcd chainring I have is a 46t biopace. I've had that on there the last couple days and that's good for a vigorous heart-attack-inducing workout. I may keep it on for a while though. Keeping such a high gear on the fixed will pretty much keep me off the single track for a while, but it may be just the ticket for getting my fitness level up a bit to the next level. I'm not really a whacko about "fitness levels" but I do feel like I've been in a rut the last month or so, unable to really enjoy the longer non-fixed rides as much. It's weird because the harder I ride the fixed, the more fun and chilled out the non-fixed rides are.

The S24O and Family Camping

I think I'll start doing at least a once-a- monthly S24O in March. S24O == sub-24-hour overnighter. Grant Petersen over at Rivendell has honed a basic overnighter idea into a very compelling story with a cool name: the S24O. I did a few last year and I want to do more this year. It's still freezing at night. I think 40F will be my threshold for low temps. So we'll be good to go in a couple weeks. Last year I did Bald Knob on Mt Spokane, Williams Lake, Hunters, and a couple at Riverside State Park. There was one S36O up at Pioneer Park too. This year, I'll do Bald Knob again; I want to explore some areas on the Spokane river between the confluence and the Tum Tum area. I also want to check out a potential spot in the Badger Lake area. I'd also like to find someone who knows the Selkirk range area and get up there.

As for family camping, we'll be picking up Maddie's tandem next week, so we'll have a good bike that we can load up with equipment and do a run to Riverside State Park. I'm hoping to get some other families going this year too. So, if you have a young one or young ones and want to give a family overnighter a shot, get in touch. The ride to RSP is about 10 miles from the South Hill and this year the park will hopefully have Hiker/Biker sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Longer Tours
Last year I was only able to get in one longer tour. I went with a couple buddies up to Vancouver Island and had a nice ride around the southern part of the island for about 4 days. This year, we're planning on tooling around the rural highways and logging roads of Mount St. Helens for 5 days.
The picture there is our planned route. This will be a fun ride. Lots of dirt roads, lots of swimming, lots of great views and remote camping.
Liza and I are also going to try and squeeze in a 3 or 4 day ride up to BC. The idea will be to drop Maddie off at the Grandparents' Speare house up there on the Kettle River and ride up to Castlegar, then come back through the US around Northport and do some dirt roads back to the Grandparents house. This will be a "credit-card" type touring trip, where we'll stay in hotels and B&B's instead of self-contained, where we camp and stink more.

We'll also try and get a weekend or two up in Bayview where we have access to a float house. We did this last year. Although Bayview isn't our favorite place in the world to hang out, we've found a pleasant route up through Athol that puts us in Bayview for the first night. The next morning we ride down to Coeur d' Alene and spend the day tooling around the city, have a nice dinner, then ride back to Spokane the next day on the Centennial Trail. It's a nice two and half day jaunt.

Finally, there's a chance I may take a few days in September with another buddy who wants to try some loaded touring. I'd love to hit Hiway 20 that time of year, but I think we'd need longer than I'll be able to take from work at that point. I think a loop up to upper Priest Lake and over to Metaline and back would be a fun ride, especially if we could find some cool logging roads on the way back.

It'll be a fun summer.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Well, today was a day of firsts. I busted a crank. A crank! And I had to call Liza for a ride -- I had a mechanical malfunction that I couldn't fix on the road. That was also a first.
I guess I'll need to start packing an extra crankset and chainring in my tool pouch if I want to be REALLY self-sufficient.

I got this crankset just over a year ago. I put it onto my old Trek a couple weeks ago. They are Sugino XD's. If you're keeping score.

As I walked the bike out of the trails to meet Liza, I tried to figure out how many miles this crankset has on it. It's hard to judge: I ride a bunch of bikes and I never track my miles. I'm not a super mileage person. I ride a lot, but not long miles on a regular basis. The fixed gear has certainly gotten the majority of my time, if not miles in the last year. And much of the riding is very hard. I'm heavy and I'm a grinder and I love racing around on the fixed on the high drive trails and any other single-track that looks interesting. My guess is that these cranks lasted somewhere between 1200 and 2000 miles. Not much.

This calamity befell me as I was mashing up the single track there kind of north of the doomsday hill bridge on the single track that follows the west side of the river -- going towards bowl and pitcher. Anyway, the chain popped off on a grind up a steep little climb. I walked to the top, put the chain back on, then started going down a bit of a hill and back pedaling. Then ca-chank! The crank is done. Sheered. Lame.
I may be ultimately to blame though. I had a bit of chicanery going on with my set up. To get a good chainline, I put spacers in between the crank spider arms and the chainring on the inside of the arms. I think this localized the stress on the spider arms more than they could handle. If the chainring had been seated up against the inside of the spider arms the load would be spread a bit more across the chainrings, bolts, and arms. That's another theory I came up with on that walk out of the trails.

We took a great walk/hike on the highdrive trails this morning. Damn, I love those trails.
Here's Liza: bikes locked up and all ready to roll. Maddie was already halfway down the trail at this point.
And there's Don and Maddie. Post-hike. Maddie ran the entire way while explaining/singing something important (and in great detail) that we didn't quite catch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Here's an Idea

Sometimes when I take a long ride some germ of an idea gets planted in my head and I work on it. Mile after mile, the idea grows and grows. In many cases, the idea eventually turns into a wild fantasy: I've built and grown a bike shop; I've spent the rest of my life riding around the world with my wife and daughter; I've created a community cycling center; I've started a bike fabrication business that employs a hundred Spokanites; I've convinced the world that bike lanes are not the only answer to "getting your mother out on the roads."
My latest fantasy keeps coming back. I don't know why. Maybe because I have a 4 year old daughter whose future I ponder, and that I think about there is a significant shift in our lifestyle that is eminent. It may be 5 years, it may be 20, but it will certainly come and it's not likely to be a pleasant shift for most. I refer to this future thing simply as "Peak Oil." For anyone that cares to look or examine the realities the global economy, Peak Oil is obvious and well-understood. Peak oil brings with it some pretty grim economic baggage. There are signs that we are already entering a global recession, though it would be hard come to this conclusion if your only source of information is the mainstream media.
Anyway, the last time this country was hit hard economically was in the thirties. I'm no economist, nor am I a historian, but I do think it's hard to ignore the effects of the New Deal and programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps. Roosevelt, or his handlers, saw that we had all of the natural and human resources we needed to build a great country. So, he made the government useful in a way that we've not seen since: he took care of the people, which is what a government should do that is run by and for the people. Among other things, he built the national park system, provided power to rural areas, built public works projects (not the Interstate -- thanks Steve) -- see a full list of New Deal Programs here:
He put America to work by making America better. Folks that could not previously find work were given work that made America a better place to live and do business.
It seems very likely to me that we could enter a similar economic recession in my life -- and certainly in my daughter's life – where we may actually need to once again rely on our government to look out for all of our economic interests, not just the interests of the biggest campaign contributors and insider pals. As cheap oil becomes not cheap, and an entire global economy that relies on cheap oil adjusts, we'll have a few years, maybe a generation, of transformation. This would be a good time to implement my latest fantasy.
In this fantasy, the idea of driving a car every day, with a single occupant, to and from work -- over 20 miles or so, will be a luxury only the very wealthy will indulge in. Cities will have to become more compact; the suburbs and exburbs will revert back to locally-grown agriculture; and regional transportation systems will become requirements.
Utilitarian bicycles will become worth their weight in gold. Bikes that are well-integrated machines that can haul a child and groceries through the rain over tough surfaces, and at night will be required. The silly racing bikes that are ubiquitous today will have no place in this fantasy.
A forward-thinking president, or his/her handlers, will see the obvious American industry: producing a utilitarian bicycle for the masses. Manufacturing and delivering cheap bikes from China and Taiwan will not be economically feasible. Further, the department-store-quality bikes that have traditionally been delivered from these countries will no longer be suitable for people who must rely on them day in and day out as reliable transportation.
The president will create a program to produce an American-made, high-quality, high-performance utilitarian bicycle. The bike will be a steel-framed bike. It will take disc brakes, so different size wheels can be swapped out on it. It will have integrated lights, racks, chaingaurd, and fenders. It will have high-output, low resistance hub-driven generator lighting. It will have an internally geared hub for low maintenance. It will come in multiple sizes and in a mixte version and in a multi-rider version. It will excel at hauling loads. Every part and piece of the bike will be made in America and it will be heavily subsidized so every able-bodied person in this country who wants to ride a quality bike can own one.
Anyway… back to the world of dreams.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You're Invited...

Liza and I are going out Saturday night. We've got a sitter. Liza works until 5. We'll eat, then digest, then we'll go for a ride. We'll ride to some bar a few miles away and have a drink. Then we'll ride back downtown and settle in at the Baby Bar.
It happens to be St. Patrick's day, but we're celebrating Liza's new job and her new bike.

If you are interested in a night-time ride and some revelry, meet at the carousal at 7pm. We'd love the company of other night time riders. If you come: be comfortable (and visible) riding at night -- on the street.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rolling Along

This has been a good bike weekend:
1. Liza started working at Two Wheel Transit on Thursday. She's legit. She likes it so far. I think having a knowledgeable woman in a bike shop can only help sales. I guess we'll see. Maddie and I had a great time on Saturday while Liza was at work. We rode in circles most of the day in the Wilson playground or on our back patio.

2. I took a nice shake down ride on my new Trek with David on Friday. I wanted to get some trails/rough surfaces in. We took the Fish Lake Trail out to Cheney, had a cup of coffee and rode back on Curtis rode. That is still one of my favorite rides. The Trek is great. David asked me if I could really feel the difference in the low trail as I hoped I would, and I have to say I don't. It doesn't feel bad. It certainly doesn't feel like my Atlantis, which is super trail, but I can't detect the "low trailness" of the ride. I'm not disappointed, but I think I'm a bit surprised. I also think we just adapt to different nuances in bike handling pretty quickly and I don't have the experience across a wide range of bikes to feel such subtleties. It rides nicely and I am beginning to drink the 650B kool-aide: there really does seem to be a nice balance of cushy-fast there.

3. We had some friends over on Friday night who are really interested in building some tall bikes. We've got a good pile of steel frames that I wouldn't feel awful about cutting up and we have access to some torches and welders. We may just start hacking something together here. I sure would like to find some other like-minded freaks. We've got a group of four now.
4. My buddy Alex picked up our new-to-us tandem in Seattle. We'll be getting it in April. The tandem we have now is just too big -- for both Liza and Maddie. It could work, but the Bike Friday is a great little tandem and they are super reasonable when you buy them used. Out of the box, the bike is ready for Maddie; no fussing required. It's pretty nifty: it has a Sachs internally-geared 3 speed hub with a 7 speed cassette attached to it. So all the shifting is in the rear wheel and it has the same (or similar -- I don't know the exact range) as a 21 speed. It breaks down into two pieces so you can carry it in standard (no extra fee) airline luggage. Maddie and I looked at the pics of it this morning and we're both pretty psyched.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Lots of Long Lunch Breaks Today

What an amazingly beautiful 55F-degree day. At about noon I decided to take a lunch break ride. My plan was to ride a package to the post office for mailing. When I went outside and began shedding my layers that I now put on in auto-pilot, I knew I'd have to hit the trails instead.

I usually hit the Highdrive trails about twice a week this time of year. I rarely see anyone and I never see cyclists. Today, I saw 5 cyclists on the trail, 4 walkers, and 4 dogs, one of which was actually on a leash!

I have figured out a neat little loop on the trails that allows me to stay on the trail and gives me nice downhill and good climbing without riding all the way down to the bottom of the trails. It's about 4 miles and about a 1/2 hour ride or so. I'll GPS it next time around and post it. It's a perfect lunch time spin.

Here's some pics of Liza's new fixed gear. Just finished. She built the whole thing up -- built the wheels, wrapped the fancy bar tape. She's legit now. Dang it -- if we only would've sourced some pink Deep V's instead of those boring old Mavics.

Monday, March 5, 2007

NAHBS Report

I went down to the North American Handbuilt Bike Show in San Jose this weekend with my buddy Alex. All of the pictures I have here were taken by Alex. He's really good at taking bike shots. More of his pics of the NAHBS can be found on his Smugmug site.
Here's some stuff:
It's back. Finally, and what took it so long? The bi-plane fork was all over the place on the 29er's down there. And rightfully so. It's such a cool design.
Pacenti is selling this beauty. Long Shen is making it. It's about 60mm wide -- which is great for big downhill mountain bikes, but I'm hoping he'll get some 50mm's in for the rest of us that just like fatties on our "road" bikes. I don't really think there's a huge benefit to the design -- some kind of built in "spring" is the claim, but it just looks cool. Sycip actually had a bike with an original Ritchey/Bridgestone bi-plane fork crown on it.

Deep V's and Track Bikes == Peas and Carrots
First off: there were a zillion track/fixed gear bikes. A lot of mongo 29ers too. Cool if you're into that, and I am kind of, but me thinks these groups are overly represented. That said, I'm into the bling that is Deep V rims on fixed/track bikes. I'm not a huge blinger, but going to this kind of show there is a ton of bling everywhere and you start thinking about your bikes as sort of an accessory to your whole image -- and the fact that you do portray and image. Like it or not. It's weird. But it can't be denied.
The Deep V's are super strong and actually make sense for "urban" riding. That's in "quotes" because it's a funny and overused and kind of markety word. But the point is that you want strong rims for bouncing around the city -- and of course you don't want to shy away from the occasional single-track or trail riding either. A little bling never killed anyone either, and the Deep V delivers. The bummer for me is that I had just ordered a Deep V before I went to this show and I got boring black or silver-- can't exactly recall. At the show, I saw white, pink, yellow, and gold. And red. Alex was the picture taker and I didn't bug him to take pics of the super bling deep V. There's always next year.
The City Bike: are we on the same page here?
Shimano has been doing a competition among bike builders/manufacturers to build the best the bike around it's commuter/city-bike gruppo, the Alfine (al-feen-ay). This is a polished up version of the Nexus dynamo hub and the Nexus 8-spd internal hub. The gruppo may include the shifters and lights.
This bike here is a "Bill Rider." He nailed the main stuff that matters: full fenders so you can ride on wet streets/rain and not get mucked up. Lights integrated into the rear stays. Nice. Sturdy racks. The rear rack is built with hefty tubing and will haul a good pile of crud. A nice rake to the front fork. The bag there is attached and stays attached to the front rack. It's main purpose in life is to carry a heavy lock. Good kickstand. Only thing missing there is a chain guard, and if you want to get super picky: a skirt guard.
Ok, the guy who won, did not only NOT have fenders, but he built a custom rack in such a way that you CAN'T add a rear fender. And there was no front rack. Huh? He said racks "mess with the lines of a bike." Second place, or was it third? Whatever: it had those funny little half-fenders and no racks; and the light was sort of tacked on at the end; pointing nearly into the wheel. Gimme a break! C'mon Shimano people: give the awards to the people that make a functional bike first.
Big Bikes that Haul Stuff
Lots of cool stuff going on here.

Sycip had the monster truck bike. This was optimized for motorcycle panniers made by Ortleib. In addition, this is the first bike I've seen that has built in provisions (as in brazed on bits) to support the stokemonkey. Looks like it would be fun to ride.

I think Fraser is going to be more well-known in this tiny niche of a niche market of big/long bikes. They are from San Diego, and I could definitely see the well-heeled 30-somethings riding down the beach path with this bike loaded up with kids and crud... check out the built-in foot rests. These are well-thought-out bikes.

Coolest Innovation

I got lucky a couple weeks ago when Hairy Gary pulled a 94 BCD NOS Ritchey crank from his stash and sold it to me. If he hadn't, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be shelling out $270 for these beauties.

This is the White Industries crank. Alex's notes on this picture say it all: "Outer ring is splined and available in many sizes. Inside ring uses any 5-bolt BCD. Great for compact doubles. $275, 108mm bottom bracket."

I love stuff like this. It is SO stinking simple. It's the kind of thing you look at and think, "damn, I could've thought of that."

Wrap Up

There was a huge collection of Bruce Gordon bikes. I think the earliest one was from 1974. The guy really is ahead of the curve. He was doing what we would call "29'ers" many years ago. It was also really fun to browse his 30 or so bikes and just look at component changes over the years. He's known for being kind of a grump. I told him I really enjoyed looking at his bikes and what a cool perspective it was to see them all together. He sort of grunted at me.

The builders at NAHBS represent such a tiny tiny fraction of the bike market in this country. Likely less than 1% would be my guess. And the majority of that is because "Seven" was there, so with out the representation of Seven, we're talking about an even tinyer minority of bikes. These guys that do this for a living do it because they love it. Maybe Richard Sachs makes a few bucks. Some day I buy a custom bike. If I do, I'll stay local and have Hairy Gary do it. Cause he's local, and he's good.

There was a rumor going around that NAHBS will be in Portland next year. That would be so perfect. We'll see. All in all, a fun show. If you're into bikes or just into seeing really well-made stuff made by real craftsmen, it's worth a trip.