Friday, September 28, 2007

Art in the Boonies

Sometimes when flying into Spokane (from Seattle), the landing approach requires the pilot to loop the plane around the West Plains, over the Northside and to the airport. Whenever I fly over the SFCC/Gov't Way/Rimrock area, I see this little dirt road just west of the MegaChurch on Gov't Way. The road is parallel to Gov't Way, then cuts west under the railroad. I just flew in from Seattle last week and saw this curious little road and tunnel again and decided that I would go find it on my next ride-about.

Ben and I found it this morning. We found all sorts of cool things. I used to ride around the Greenwood Cemetery years ago when I was a mountain biker guy. I'd forgotten a lot of the trails and cemetery paths until we got back on them today.

The cemetery is huge. We rode all around the western side of the cemetery, which climbs up towards rim rock. Ben said it was like riding in the Twilight Zone, there are little roads and paths and patches of cemetery winding all over the hill side. We got lost in minor little ways a couple times. With all the dead folks laying around there and the little roads and paths, it was a little disorientating.

At a western part there was a cool old bridge that crosses the deep railroad tracks. This gets you out of the cemetery and into some fun, steep, rocky single-track climbs. If you follow the trail downward, you pop out at the tunnel that I spied from the plane.

The tunnel has a bunch of art spray painted on it. Clearly, when a good tagger has time to spend on a piece, their work is can be really nice. And the setting is kind of nice too. Being out in the boonies, where all access roads are blocked by gates, makes for a pleasant viewing.
Continuing through the tunnel (heading east/NE) you pop out at the Evergreen Archery Club. Cool. That road, which is gated, pops you out at Houston/Colville road. Which pops you out right across from the Centennial Trail access there at that little military cemetery.
Looking at Google Maps -- the trail that cuts under the tracks is named Park Road. That "road" has not seen a car for some time.
Anyway, this was a good ride-about: dirt roads; some trails; pavement; closed roads. And I saw a couple other opportunities for future exploration.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Found Another One!

Another Spokane cycling blog debuted today. This is great.

I know this guy too! He was also a commuter guy that I followed -- just last week. His name is Taylor and I made the mistake of showing up to follow him on a fixed gear. His commute (of course) includes the Post hill climb. And of course he's a real cyclist: fast and fit, so I nearly had a heart attack staying with him as he casually strolled up the hill ahead of me. And I'm pretty sure he was being kind and going slow for me.

Anyway, he's got 2 posts... enough for a link in my book.

Check it out:

A New Spokane Cycling Blog!

Corner of Meenach Dr and NW Blvd at 6 AM this morning

Yay! Add another local bike blog to your favorites. And I know the guy. Jason is a commuter that I met on the BAB commuter project. He's been hanging out at the P2P garage building up a beater on a trial run to see if the project makes sense. So far it does.

Anyway, his blog is, and so far it's interesting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

At Least I'll be a Warm Nerd

A few posts ago, I mentioned that the hipsters are coming. I've been reading the Bike Snob NYC blog every day and loving it. It's been making me think about cycling as yet another American form of group-think "unique"fashion expression, and how I'm just as caught up as the hipsters that are routinely kicked around on his blog.

So one of the many cycling stereotypes/groups the guy (at least I think it's a guy) picks on are guys that wear SPD sandals with wool socks. It feels like a personal attack each time I read it, but he's totally on the money in his stereotyping, with me and with the other groups he skewers, so it all evens out.

Anyway. I may have crossed the ultimate threshold of geeky nerdiness with my latest fix. I'm kind of resolute about not buying fancy/expensive SPD winter boots. Mainly, because I can't find the ones I want (Lake) in stock here. I've actually not looked that hard. The core issue here is that my feet are fat and cycling shoes are notoriously narrow. Therefore, I must try on any SPD boots before buying them. I don't want to order them, return them, and fuss. And they start at like $200. So, unless a pair lands in my lap for a song, I'm going to make these damn sandals work in the winter.

This will be my third winter trying to get them dialed in.

So far, the best I've done is about 1/2 hour at 20F or so. It's actually the mid-30's-wet-but-not-snowing scenario that kills me. The picture on the right was a fix I tried about 80 miles out of Spokane in that scenario last year. My toes froze the whole way home. It sucked.
When it's 20F or so, I'll just put on my big-ass boots and ride the turd or something else with platforms. I've worn "SealSkinz," which are waterproof socks, over thin woolies, but there are two problems with this:

1. SealSkinz rule at keeping moisture out, but they don't breath at all. So, my toes sweat, then freeze solid.
2. If I wear any kind of wool sock thicker than the thinnest of liners, the straps on my sandals pop off at the toes from all the bulk.
So, now that Liza is working for REI, I ponied up for some fancy Gortex socks. With the family discount, I got them for about $35. I also bought some nylon webbing and a couple buckles. The plan is to wear a thicker wool sock with these fancy Gortex socks and the sandals. I sewed the extra buckle onto the sandal to keep them from popping open.

The buckle works great. I'm really curious to see how the thicker wool/Gortex outer sock works.

The forcast for Friday shows a low of 35F with rain -- sounds perfect. I'll have to take a nice long ride in the morning and see how long it takes to freeze my toes. I'll be sure to report back on this exciting experiment.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Alex's Kogswell P/R

This is Alex's Kogswell P/R prototype. I was never crazy about this bike. But now, with the front rack on there, and my having ridden it a few times over a variety of surfaces, I like it. This bike is modeled on a Rene Herse (not, Singer -- thanks Alex) bike from the 50's. It's got a similar geometry to the 1983 Trek, which I think, was modeled on the same Herse bike. But that's just conjecture.

The rack is just super handy. This bike has a front-end geometry that is optimized for loads on the front rack -- it's got low trail. I believe the trail on this bike is 40mm. The low trail is really the defining characteristic of this bike. When I borrow this bike, I commute around the Redmond/Bellevue area. I put my messenger bag (containing a laptop and other small stuff -- 15 lbs?) on the rack and secure the bag with a bungee net. It's nice to carry a load up front, where you can see it, where it's accessible, and where -- on a properly designed bike -- the load doesn't screw the handling, but instead, seems to improve it.

A previous version of this post claimed that Alex built the rack. Actually: Alex and Alistair Spence designed this rack, which fits over a Nitto mini front rack. Alistair built it. Alex has since built a couple/few racks and plans to build more.

I've got a rack in his queue; he's going to build me one that is the same platform-size as the rack in the picture, but it will connect to the mid-fork braze-ons. It'll go on my Trek, which essentially the same bike as the P/R, but with standard gauge/diameter tubing instead of oversized.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rollin with P2P

The big P2P organizational meeting was yesterday. Watch the P2P blog for updates around what became of that meeting. After the meeting we had a potluck and took a ride.

Mike and Ken

Ben. Not sure what hurts my eyes more: the hair or the coat?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Transportation Summit

I went to a Inland NW Transportation Summit for a bit this morning. Yow. A look at the "sponsored by" sign and it's obvious these folks are not the bike facilities types.

In fact, a couple times speakers (including the Deputy Assitant Secretary, US DOT -- Robert DeHaan) talked about "getting real results... not wasting money on bike paths..." Kudos to Gordon Black, Director of BAW, who called out the Deputy on the error of his ways, not to mention his logic; which went basically like this: "bike facilities are a waste of money when it comes to relieving congestion. No one rides a bike, no one is going to ride a bike. It's too dangerous and there are no bike paths..." I wish I were making that up.

The basic thrust of the conference was: how can we find more money to build more giant transportation/freight projects so we can move stuff all over the world? It was sort of surreal to sit in a room with 200+ people who all believe that it's a good thing that when you go to McDonalds in South Korea, the fries you're eating are from Washington. That such an unsustainable model, completely reliant on cheap oil is something we should all be rallying behind and finding gobs and gobs of money to build out. It would be interesting for Maddie to watch this conference on a DVD when she's my age.

I stuck around for the "Personal Mobility" break-out session, hoping to find some talk about cycling or at least mass transit. The first 40 minutes was "how do we find money for the N/S freeway." Apparently, the project is broke. It needs like $150 million/year for the next 20 years to finish it. There was a lot of hand-wringing and carrying-on about how important this corridor is for Spokane and the economy and it's bigger than Spokane: it's regional! And it has a bike path baked into it! I had my hand raised to suggest making it a toll road, but there were a lot of heavies in the room (Chris Marr, Gregoire's assistant, Alex Wood, some cranky Republican who suggested -- of course -- privatizing it and taking the "Seattle Ferry money" to fund our freeway) so I was not called upon. The last guy they called on did suggest tolls.

That was it for me. I think they went on to talk about the potential for light rail b/t Spokane and CdA, but I'd had enough. I'm just not cut out for the frustration that is hand-wavey "input." I took off and took a nice ride down Sprague, went to Vien Dong's and picked up lunch, and ate with Jon Snyder in his office.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Up and Coming Work

(clicking the picture will open a PDF of this image)

I've been wanting this mashup map for a while. It shows the bike facilities that are specified in our current comp plan, overlaid with upcoming street bond projects. Thanks to Ken and Katherine who are staffers for the City of Spokane for putting this together.
There's a lot of goo here. I'll go with the bullet list approach:
  • The current comp plan shows a map of shared use lanes (no lines, just signs) and bike lanes (lines on the street).
  • The city and the Bicycle Advisory Board are just now beginning the process of creating a Master Bike Plan (MBP). I've had a few entries that describe it. The MBP is likely about a year or 18 months away from completion. Which means, we're a couple years out from real, on the street implementation. So, one challenge is to continue to push for bicycle facilities as we develop the new plan and make sure that the two parallel efforts are congruent.
  • The "Street Bond Project" implementation is a disappointment. I've gone on about that in another post. The main take away is that we're spending millions of dollars on re-surfacing many roads in Spokane, roads that will not be resurfaced for another few decades, and many of these roads are specified (in the comp plan) as roads that should have bike facilities. However, these funds were locked down by a street citizen advisory committee in such a way to only benefit automobiles: no "amenities" (regardless of what is specified in the comp plan)can be improved or created with these bond monies.

So then why the mash up? The reality is, there are many citizens, city employees, and elected officials that are wise enough to see beyond the short-term costs of providing an infrastructure that encourages non-single-occupancy auto transportation. Smart communities all over the world have recognized or are recognizing that putting money into alternative transportation pays off in the long term. In a nutshell: if it is the will of the citizens, we can get the bike facilities on some of these upcoming projects.

We've been successful with getting some funds to stripe the SE Blvd Project. Now the city engineers are considering signing and "re-centering" a section of North Wall that is going to be resurfaced next year. In addition, the city council is interested in piloting the Bike Blvd idea in the next year or so. Don't know what a Bike Blvd is?

Check out this youtube video and start dreaming of how a side street in your neighborhood would look all decked out.


So, as you look at that map, take a look at your neighborhood and look at the upcoming work. If it's more than a year out AND there are bike facilities spec'd on the comp plan for the work area AND you think bike facilities would be a good idea there, then please contact me or come to a BAB meeting and get involved.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Who is Subsidizing Who Here?

The last couple weeks in the Spokesman Review there have been a few letters to the editor going back and forth about cycling and how the roads are for car drivers. I can't remember if the typical (and completely wrong) argument of "car drivers pay the taxes to drive on the roads and cyclists should not be there" was used or not. It doesn't really matter. I've heard this a bunch of times; I know it's false, but I don't have the specific data to retort it.

Luckily, a guy named David Neiwert does have the data and the time and the eloquence to answer this oft-cited bit of misinformation. Take a look at this beauty at the Seattle PI Opinions page (note: this is a site that does not require you to sign in, which is the way it should be).

The bottom line: cyclists (especially those that own cars) heavily subsidize car drivers.

Mr. Neiwert cites a report, "Whose Roads?" by cycling/transportation advocate Todd Litman.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Newman Lake Loop and Welcoming The Hipsters to Spokane

Liza and I had plans to take a mini bike tour this weekend, but some stuff happened and we had to cancel, but we still had Friday cleared. So, we decided to do one of my favorite loops: The Newman Lake Loop. The link there goes to the bikely map of the loop -- just shows the interesting bit, which is up Lehman Road, to Forker, over the hill via Temple Road and down to Newman Lake.

This is a great ride that I've not done for over a year. Last time I went it was April of 2006 and there was a ton of mud. A truck had just been abandoned on one of the tough sections of road back in ought-six (left picture). The truck is still there, but it's been heavily vandalized (right).

Anyway, this ride is another great "fat-tired road bike" ride. It's mostly road, with a nice 5 or 6 miles of dirt -- some county road, some logging road, and a wonderful section of Summer-Only road. A hard climb. A harder descent. And nice views.

We got back into town at around 2pm and had a snack at Madeline's Bakery there on Main and Post. What a great spot to watch folks. I sat there one morning about 2 weeks ago and was really surprised by the number of early morning commuter cyclists I saw. At 2pm on a Friday, it's a whole different show. We saw a bunch of sidewalk riders -- one girl in particular who appeared to be time-trialing on the sidewalk, against traffic, and slaloming through groups of pedestrians. A lot of older BMX dudes. And one righteous dude on a BMX who was doing power skids and bunny hops while slaloming through walkers on Post. Liza was cheering him on -- especially when he wheelied or did other cool stuff.

But then we saw them. They have arrived: the fixie hipsters. Two of them -- complete with spoke cards, top tube pads, deep v's, the clipped and flipped drops on one bike, and... wait for it... the ultra-short "cause I gotta fit through tight traffic" chopped riser bars on the other bike. I've pretty much become a disciple of Mr Bike Snob of NYC with regard to most of the fixed bikes I see in the online galleries. You never see them around here -- until now.

So here I am calling the kettle black. I love riding fixed and I even have a deep V rim on one of my bikes, but my fixed gear bikes are really dorky. I have brakes and everything. So there. I'm cool cause I'm lame. I'm probably jealous because I'm the nerd that doesn't match anything on my bike or what I wear to my bike or even with the other clothes I'm wearing at the time. And I wear SPD sandals. With wool socks. All nerdy by any standard.

The truth of it is I welcome the hipsters. We have a pretty narrow and sickly bike culture here in Spokane and the hipsters are a critical component to any healthy bike culture. Spokane is usually about 5-10 years behind all other cities when it comes to fashion and fads, so this timing is about right for the fixed hipsters to move in.

That said, it was still a shock to see these well-kept hipsters grooving down Post on their boutiquey fixed bikes. I'm happy that I will have to get used to seeing more. Welcome hipsters. Welcome to Spokane.

Monday, September 10, 2007


On the way to meet a commuter this morning, I saw a herd of deer. I guess they are mule deer? Whatever they are, they'd do well to be a bit more cautious. They weren't really afraid of me. This was near the end of Aubrey White Park way on the west side of the river, where you can see the Bowl and Pitcher campground from the cliffs above.

My toes were cold this morning and I had to put my hat and leg warmers on as I got closer to the river. Yay for fall.

Here's a hornet's nest Maddie spied as we rode down the street yesterday. Pretty cool.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Opportunistic Thursday Ride

Stuff weirdly worked out today where Liza and I got an unexpected couple hours to take a ride. Liza wanted to shake down the new build of the RB-1 before we take a mini-credit-card anniversary tour in the next week or so.

We took one of my favorite loops: Joe's Marshal Loop. This is a great ride: it has dirt roads, some single track, a chunk of rail trail, good climbs, fast road sections, and a nice descent or two. And it's only about 20 miles. I couldn't believe that Liza had never been on this ride before, as I ride it at least once a month or so. But thinking about it, she hasn't had a bike that would be much fun on this ride until now. The "Fat-Tired Road Bike" is the bike to end all bikes in my mind. And Liza is becoming a convert with this 650b-afied RB-1. She had a great ride today and was full of energy while I was bonking and suffering up the last few hills on the way home.

Part of the ride is on the Fish Lake Trail, which is slated for a full paving in the next year or so -- once some more money is secured. It will be interesting to see the bike traffic increase on that trail once it becomes paved. It will be a road-bike highway on the weekends for sure. Hopefully, we'll see some commute traffic on the weekdays too. I'll miss the dirt, but it will make getting out to Badger Lake and beyond a bit quicker for the last-minute S24O.

On the way to school this morning, Maddie said that she wanted "those things" (drop-bar brakes) on her tandem. I think I'll work up some small drops with dummy hoods for her. Yay.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Well-Coordinated Attack

Last time I was attacked, I got hit by a bottle from a passing car. That sucked.

Today, while riding through the refuse and sludge that was strewn all over Riverfront Park (an outcome that is not surprising from an event called "Pig Out in the Park" --ech), I was again the target. I've had bugs fly into my eye before, but I've never had bugs fly into each eye at the EXACT same time. Well that happened this morning. So that was a first. I stayed up, but kind of skidded to a stop and was finally stopped by running into a park bench.

One bug came out nicely in a tear. The other was stubborn and stayed lodged in my eyeball, in the back (brain side -- it felt like) all the way home. After rubbing and squirting water in my eye the whole way home, my eyeball was bloodshot and had tiny bits of dead bug floating at the edges. Nice.

Yes. I know I should wear glasses. And I do wear them when I can remember them. There is a weird little mental block going on here. I suspect that I have some kind of localized damage in the "remember eye protection/glasses" glob of my brain that is responsible for this.

In unrelated news, I invented a new method for making fresh tomato sauce that I'm quite proud of.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Preview of Liza's New Rig

Behold. Liza's tourer/commuter. This is the basic build. Still to come: fenders, racks, lights; all your basic bits to make a bike useful.

The non-dead observer will notice some rather puffy tires on this otherwise racy-looking steed. We 650B'd the old RB-1. 650B refers to an obscure wheel size that is the current trend among the retrogrouchy wankers with nothing else to spend money on. It's likely we'll not be able to find a reliable tire supply for this bike in a decade. All the same: what sense this tire size makes for this frame.
The RB-1 was a race bike: built with standard gauge/diameter tubing, a more "lively" geometry, and room (just barely) for 700 x 28 tires w/out fenders. Liza used to ride this bike as a go-fast speedy bike, and really loved it. But the fact that she couldn't ride it with a skirt and she couldn't ride it around town in the rain, and she couldn't take it out on dirt roads all piled up to make a bike that was fun, but not too practical.

Liza solved most of these issues with her city bike. The city bike is an ideal bike for getting around town. It loads up on the bus nicely, has a skirt guard, chain guard, internal hub gearing, etc, etc. However, there are still a couple issues: it's not a bike that's too much fun to ride more than 12 mph or so -- unless your coasting down hill. And it's not super comfy on longer (10+ miles) rides. Finally: the tires are pretty narrow and are not too forgiving on soft dirt or rough roads.

The 650b'ized RB-1 solves a lot of these issues. The primary purpose of this bike will be long day rides and credit card touring. My guess is that Liza will enjoy riding this bike so much, she'll end up riding it around town anytime she is not wearing a skirt/dress/flowy deal. But we'll see.

As mentioned, the next stage is to figure out how to carry a load. This bike has a geometry very similar to my RB-T, so I'm assuming loads will not be an easy and quick fix. I've never tried a low-rider on my RB-T and I'm thinking that will be the answer on this one. It will take some time and experimentation.