Friday, February 29, 2008

Euclid Road - The Dirt One

I've always wanted to check out the area up on the cliff just west of the Riverside State Park. From the Centennial Trail around RSP, you can see the homes up on the cliff overlooking the valley below. I found the road. There's a road up there called "Indians Bluff Road." I should've guessed. It's your typical run of McMansions on the hill. I saw your basic 4000 square foot monstrosities that are loosely based, architecturally speaking, on various styles: the Tuscan Turd, the Modern Box, the NW Rugged Getaway. No matter, since all of these sprawling homes are fortressed with various types of tall gates and walls that scream fear and paranoia far louder than the pseudo styles they attempt to emulate.

I'm pretty sure this poor dude was trapped; he was so listless. Or maybe he's their pet? Regardless, he wasn't acting very deer-like as I stood there and photo'd him. The maze of fences surrounding this house was incredible. And they were high.

Anyway, of course Indians Bluff Road is a dead end that terminates in a gated private community. The first house in here was a straw bale house going up. The sign out front said "Sustainable Building." Yeah.

Luckily, backing out of Indian Bluffs Road is downhill, so I made a conscious effort to flush the foul mood that these kind of neighborhoods always put me in.

I focused on this charmer at the cross roads of Euclid and Indian Bluffs Road.

As far as I can tell, it's still being operated as a school.

Euclid Road continues west to Heyford Road, which takes you to Airway Heights. Euclid has some nice dirt patches and there's likely some more dirt roads out here worth exploring. The West Plains is an area that I have not ridden much.
Coming back into town from Airway Heights, I took the Sunset Highway. The piece that comes into town from the junction of Highway 2/Sunset should really go on a road diet. We could have a great route to/from the airport if this section of Sunset Highway was turned into two lanes (instead of four) with a turn lane and big fat bike lane shoulders. All that space made sense when this road was the interstate back in the 50's, but now, with I-90, the traffic volume is just nothing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coming Soon

Cool idea.

Going in a couple doors down from the zip trip at 57th & regal.

Thanks to Jeff at fbc for the head's up.

This is a mobile blog post.

Ready to Ride

Last weekend I had planned to go on my first S24O of the season. I watched the night time temps all week in hopes that I'd get a break. I didn't. I'm good sleeping outside to about 40F; below that, it's not much fun anymore. It's been below freezing every night and I'm just not up for the suffering or hauling tons of crud to minimize the suffering. So instead, I stayed home and caught up on my list of bike fixes that I've been letting go.

The picture above shows all but one of the bikes I made fixes/changes to. From left to right, on the RB1, I swapped out bars, stem, cranks, bottom bracket; on the RB-T swapped out bars, removed fenders, rack to make this years trails/mountain/CX bike; on the Miyata, I put cruiser bars, replaced the chain and pedals; on the blue Univega, I finished a build that's been lingering for a month or so.

The Univega was a donation to Pedals2People. I think it was a frame only. Or maybe the bits that were on it were trashed. Either way, the son of the folks that donate the P2P garage space needed a bike, so we fixed this 0ne up for him.

Over the last couple days there has been an interesting discussion on the iBOB list about how to design a good city bike. The main thread is here. One post yesterday hit the nail on the head around designing good bikes. He mentioned that there were a few critical similarities between the "sport" tourers of the 70-90's; the universal Japanese bikes (UJB) of the 80's-90s, and the interesting French bikes from the 40's on: they all were made of good quality steel tubing; they took fattish tires; they had attachments for things like fenders and racks. Namely, these bikes were versatile. We've heard this before; that under a skilled rider, a versatile bike is all one needs. It's true.

This Univega is such a bike. We set it up as a commuter. It's got Armadillo tires on it so Don will never get a flat; it's got a rack; it's got fenders; it's got a reasonable spread of gears; it's reliable, light, simple, comfortable, and it's really fun to ride. All Don needs to do is get some lights and he's got a bike he can commute on every day.

It's hard to find versatile frames like this today. Off the top of my head, I can think of Bianchi and Jamis that have similar frames. The Surly Long Haul Trucker is another. There may be something by the Soma's and other smaller mass producers. After that, you're moving up the price ladder: Rivendell sells a frame like this. And any custom guy will make you one. But the point is, in a market flooded with speciality mass-markety bikes, finding a good versatile frame like this once-ubiquitous Univega is a task. That's a bummer.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

An Important Route

View Larger Map

In this month's issue of Out There Monthly, I wrote a column about the Iron Bridge. The bridge is a hugely important connection to hook up East Central to downtown for bike/ped traffic. In the map above, I've traced out a route that I think is probably one of the most important bike routes the city could attempt as we build the Master Bike Plan.

The neighborhoods of East Central and Chief Gary can be difficult neighborhoods to traverse by bike. The river, active rail lines, Trent, Sprague, and Mission avenues are just a few of the giant obstacles that make this part of town difficult to get through by bike. Putting in the Iron Bridge is a huge first step to transforming this area, but it's not the only thing that needs to get done. The city needs to capitalize on all of the core pieces of infrastructure that it already owns, and hook them together with the route above.

Moving counter clockwise from the Iron Bridge, go south on Helena. This stretch of road is huge and pretty light traffic. It would be easy to fit bike lanes here and preserve parking and still have room for car traffic. There's a light at Trent, so crossing there is pretty straight forward.

Then east on Riverside: shared/signed roadway to Altamont, where you go north a block to the Playfair site. The Playfair site is so cool. Last I heard, the city is thinking of a prison here. That is so awful and is the last thing that this already-struggling neighborhood needs. Anyway, the city owns this. There should be a big fat multi-use trail through here to the east end where the route would cross Fiske over the tracks.

The Fiske street foot bridge is another hidden gem: a safe/existing way over the huge gash that is the otherwise uncrossable live railroad. This is a hugely valuable piece of bike/ped infrastructure that is already used by commuters today.

Now, the piece from the Fiske bridge to Riverton/SCC is still murky to me. I've ridden around out here and I need to ride the piece that I show here. Crossing Trent here is no picnic and would cost some money to do right, but there are no other lights for at least 1/4 mile in each direction, so there would not be any issue with back ups if you put a ped/bike-friendly signal here.

Once you get to SCC, you can follow the trail that parallels Riverton Ave (amazingly, once again: a critical and valuable piece of infrastructure owned by the city; this is a river front trail we're talking about here -- the city has an easement). Follow the trail back to the city core, where you hit Mission and another live railroad trestle before you connect back with the Iron Bridge.

Aside from the Iron Bridge, going under the Mission street bridge and the other live trestle, are surely the most expensive infrastructure pieces in this route. But doing so makes a clean shot to SCC: from downtown to SCC all on multi-use (no traffic) trails.

This route would open up the East Central, Chief Gary, and Logan neighborhoods to bike and ped through traffic. I think this route would also improve the property values and private investment along the route. Today, traversing east/west through the core of our city by bike is not something new cyclists are likely to try.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Porteur for the Masses

Joel Metz's Kogswell P/R. Click the pic to to Joel's site.

I'm not sure if this is a prediction or a hope or just wishful thinking, but here it is: I think 2009 or 2010 will deliver a mass-produced porteur-style bicycle. By "mass-produced," I would like to think Trek or Specialized, but I'm not that delusional. My buddy Alex has put his money on Surly or Raleigh. Raleigh may be a good bet considering the interesting bikes they've put out in the last couple years, namely the low-trail One-Way and the tourer/uber-commuter, Sojourn -- both of which ship with a Brooks saddle.

Anyway, here's why I think a porteur is ready for the mass market. I think it's an ideal "first adult bike" bike. By that, I mean, the porteur, if executed correctly, could be the bike that the 18-35 year-old, non-bikey folks would buy to run errands and be comfortable with for longer rides. And I think you could do it right for around $1000.

To be clear: I'm not talking about a take over of the mass produced comfort bikes, really, I'm talking about a blip on the overall industry of mass-retail bikes. But look what's happened with fixed gear bikes. Just about every mass-manufacturer has a fixed bike in the game now; just because they are shipping as single-speeds, doesn't alter the fact that the aesthetic/drive behind the bikes is the fixed sub-culture. Let's just hope that the mass producers don't over style the bike as they have with the fixed thing and forget the elements that make a good porteur work: namely low-trail and integrated front rack.

But, for style, the porteur delivers. Check out Joel's bike in the picture at the top; the classic porteur-style bars, reverse brake levers, front rack. It just looks cool, not mean-racey-gonna-intimidate-you-cool, but sensible, urbane, and smart cool.

Alex Wetmore's Kogswell P/R

While the bars, levers, and rack look cool, they also are designed for hauling loads up front. Put a net up there and your messenger bag or any bag, and the bike handles amazingly well with a load. People that buy the porteur can begin to replace short car trips the day they bring this bike home.

Joel's bike doesn't have this, but I think it's important: the bike should ship with an internally geared hub for zero-maintenance and ease of use. Again, talking to Alex about this online, he's convinced that the Nexus 8spd or the Sram 7 speed are the money hubs for this bike. Jamis has shown you can package the nexus in a mass-produced bike and still keep the cost down. In fact, Alex points to the Breezer Uptown as a good example of a bike with an internally geared hub and a generator hub-driven light for the $1100 price point.

The integrated fenders are a requirement as is a generator hub and light. The tires should be slightly puffy for a comfortable, but quick ride. Unlike a "comfort bike" or even the style of the Breezers, which, in my opinion sit you too much upright and make longer trips (>5 miles or so) arduous, a well-designed porteur puts you in a position on the bike that is suitable for longer rides.

Seems like this could ship for the $1000 price point if spec'd smartly.

If we get the Trek Porteur, let's remember where this started as we read the finely honed PR for it: this bike started with the French. In the 30's or so.

But looking at the history in the US, Joel Metz has been riding these bikes for over a decade. He has thrown in tons of input into Kogwell's design of the P/R, which is the first non-custom production versoin of the Porteur. It would be hard to imagine the P/R at all with out Alex, Mark, and Jan at Bicycle Quarterly publishing a bunch of data, photos, and history of the porteur design. Really, the Kogswell P/R has started the grassroots movement of a production porteur, and Matthew Kogswell deserves credit for actually sticking to it and bringing this bike to market.

This last shot is Adam Alpern's Kogswell P/R. Click the pic to go to his Flickr site -- great photos and great hand-made messenger bags.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Chunk of Valley Chapel Will Be Closed This Summer

This just in from the city engineer...

Spokane County has scheduled a bridge replacement project on Valley Chapel Road in 2008. This project will close Valley Chapel Road to all traffic. Valley Chapel Road will be closed 1/4 mile north of Spangle Creek Road starting in April and is expected to be open by November of 2008.

So there's that.

Dirt roads are more fun anyway. Here's one for ya.

***Mid-day Update ***

Oh yeah....

And remember: FBC ride tonight.

Details here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Too Bad Lance Isn't From Spokane

He's building a bitchin' bike commuter station in his hometown of Austin.

Spokane is ready for this. I want this so bad that it hurts.

Picture a building downtown or on the edge of downtown that is the hub of all things bike related.

You could run it like a co-op, where different bike-friendly/related renters that occupy different portions of the building.

Maybe the anchor would be a full service bike shop, where you could buy new stuff and get your bike serviced by professional mechanics. Another piece would be the DIY shop where mechanically-inclined folks could rent shop space by the 1/2 hour and fix their own bikes. Another piece would be a small coffee/cafe place. Another piece would be a bikestation, where bike commuters could rent space to store their bikes and where they could rent a locker and have access to a shower.

Fill up the small office spaces by renting to other bike folks: the Bike Alliance of Washington, P2P, Spokane Bike Club, Inland NW Trails Coalition, and any other bike-related or bike-friendly organization that needs space.

This space could transform a neighborhood that is on the cusp. It would be that third place cyclists in this city need.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Test Run

I'm trying the mobile blog post. Sent from my phone.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm Going to Steal a Bike

This bike has been sitting under the stairwell where I work for more than 3 years. This photo has a timestamp on it from December 2005. It is an abandoned bike. Its tires have long been flat; there is a layer of dust on it. I've been watching this bike for 3 years. I've been thinking about taking it for about 2.5 years.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I asked a woman in a nearby office if the bike had ever moved. She had been there about a year and hadn't ever seen it move. Same with the orange bike you can barely see in the background.

I emailed the facilities folks at work about 2 years ago and asked them what they do with abandoned bikes. Bikes that are abandoned in the parking garages are periodically rounded up and donated to Bikeworks in Seattle.

Bikes left in stairwells are never touched.

Next time I travel to the west side of the state for work, I'm going to take this bike. I'm going to bring to Pedals2People and I'm going to find the perfect owner for it.

It is a great commuter: fenders, cruiser bars, 18 speeds (half-step with granny, no less) with friction shifting. Pump up the tires and add a rack and you're good to go. Not to mention it's just a pretty lugged mixte. It's a shame to see such a great bike going unused and unloved.

Here's the note I left on the bike when I was in town last week:

So, I hope this isn't my gateway into bike theivery. But I just can't stand it anymore.

I guess I could acheive the same end by moving the bike to a parking garage and letting the facilities process run its course. But I really want to see the bike go to just the right person.

Maybe I'll wimp out. Maybe the owner will email me. I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

20 Wonderful Miles

Liza, Spring 07

I don't know how long it's been since I got to ride 20 miles with no snow or ice. Actually, I don't even know how long it's been since I rode 20 miles... I'd say 2 months.

I rode about 20 miles tonight: from Redmond to Woodinville and back on the Sammamish River Trail. It ruled.

On the way out I saw two Rivendell Rambouillets, a blue one and an orange one. On the way back, at about 7 pm, a total of 12 commuters were heading north; all of them had fancy and super bright lights. The trail has been freshly paved in a few sections and some new trees planted in the Redmond part of the trail. There's also work going on to add a section of trail on the west side of the river. It's a nice commuter route, especially for novice riders.

All this stuff reminds me how much more money is in this area than in Spokane. I'd like to think that anyone anywhere can find a bike and just ride it to work and become a commuter. But really: having a paved commuter-friendly multi-use trail connecting useful areas really does make bike commuting so much easier, especially for the novices. Having the money to buy a proper bike with proper lighting makes a huge difference too, though compared to cars, even the fanciest bike is a bargain, they're just not as easy to finance at 0%.

I became a bike commuter on the Sammamish River Trail. Without the trail, I wonder if I ever would have tried commuting from Duvall to Redmond. I doubt it.

Spokane is generally much easier to get around on bike than Seattle, but having the bike infrastructure pieces: racks, trails, striped roads, signs, etc really does make for a more inviting bike-riding community. And inviting does matter; I think it makes cyclist a more normal thing for drivers and pedestrians, which in turn likely makes things safer.

Monday, February 11, 2008


We went up north to the Kettle River last weekend. Maddie must have taken this run about 20 times. It's straight down, with a nice bump as it flattens out at the bottom.
We planted the green sign last summer. The name of the road-to-be is "Maddie Lane." Apparently it's a requirement to have official signs/names for all roads, so there's a sign there for a road that exists only on some legal document.
The Kettle River is a wonderful river. A great destination for a weekend ride; hopefully I'll get more of those rides in this summer than I did last summer.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Back from the powder coater

A couple weeks ago I dropped off a bunch of bike bits at Novation to be powder coated. The plan was to go with a clear powder coat.
First off, let me say this: Novation is a great place to get bike stuff painted. And specifically, Thurman, who is the powder coater, is just a really cool and easy guy to work with. To sand-blast, prep, and powder coat a frame, two forks, a rack, and two sets of cranks I paid $162. That includes tax. A bargain at twice the price.

Anyway, the clear deal didn't work out. Thurman gave me a call last week and had done a couple tries with the clear powdercoat. Due to the metal and how you have to heat the plastic, he said he couldn't get a pristine clear finish. Some parts were baking too fast and cooking before other parts had melted/set. So, he said there were yellow parts from the high-heat areas. Specifically, he said, "it looks like a dog pissed on part of the frame." So there's that.

My guess is that as a painter his eye is a bit more critical than mine, but I'm sure he's dealt with his share of high maintenance fussy paint customers. So we agreed to go with a color.

I asked him if he had any standard colors (cheaper and don't need to be ordered) that had metal flake. I figured if I couldn't go clear, then I'd go bling. He said he thought he might have "Laser Moss Green." He explained it as a dark hunter green with metal flake. Why not.

Well, it turns out he didn't have any of that paint, so he dipped into his private stash. The stuff that he reserves for his own projects and is not standard: "Blue Yellow Chameleon." Looks blue, but shows streaks of yellow under strong light.
Looking at it, it's hard to detect the yellow, but I don't have any sunlight here to really test it, so we'll see. Compared to the last frame I got powdercoated, where lugs sort of disappear under the thick plastic paint, this job is much cleaner. The lug outlines are really easy to see. It's a nice job. And he did a pretty good job masking too.

So, that's the story on the color of my bike and my buddy Wade's cranks.

By going blue, I did break my one promise to Alex on this bike. There will be a striking similarity to the same bike he just finished building:
Click to see pics of Alex's RB-T

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

No Pressure

It's really hard to find a high quality bike for kids without going custom and/or spending a wad of cash. The Miyata in the picture popped up on Craigslist a couple weeks ago and even though it's still about 4 or 5 years away from fitting Maddie, I had to jump on it.

Note the small front wheel. If you want a road bike to fit a small person and you want it to ride like a road bike, you can't spec it with a 700c front wheel. If you do, you'll have to rake the fork and/or slacken the headtube so much that it just won't handle/respond like a classic road/racer bike. That said, lots of companies put 700c wheels on the front of tiny bikes and lots of folks enjoy riding those bikes.

As far as I know, the bike company Terry popularized this design. I suspect the design has been around for many years before that, but as far as I can tell, Terry gets most the credit for making it a popular-ish design.

This is a fantastic bike for a small person: triple-butted steel frame, lugged construction, good-enough mid-grade, 90's Shimano components. I had a similar bike made by Novara in the 90's that I regret giving away, so I'm glad this one popped up, as they seem to be getting scarcer and no other big mass-producer bike company makes a design like this anymore. When the time comes, I'll probably swap out the rear wheel for a more modern/light cassette. Who knows, maybe we'll even powder coat it pink with sparkles.

Since Maddie is still a few years away from riding this beauty, it will be a loaner to a friend of mine who has a daughter. Apparently she's excited to ride it, though a tad worried about the color.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Two SUVs creating a Bike Blvd. No room for cars to pass through here. Only bikes/peds. How ironic.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Captain Bike is Dead

If you spend 2 minutes searching the Internet for any bike-related technical information, you will run into Sheldon's site.

Sheldon Brown died last night of a massive heart attack.

I've never met Sheldon, but I, like thousands of other bike nerds, have corresponded briefly with him or have tapped his vast knowledge, shared for all at hundreds of times.

He always shared his knowledge and opinions freely and without apology or hesitation.

We have lost a huge cultural cycling icon.

Rest in peace Sheldon.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Keen SPD Sandals: Review

May 5 -- Go here for the follow up Keen Commuter SPD Sandal review.
I have fat feet. In general, the cycling industry does not offer much for SPD-compatible shoes for fat-foot-folk like me. For the last few years I've been a Shimano sandal guy. I like the Shimano sandals because they allow me wear a bulky wool layer with a gortex sock for winter riding. This combination has worked well for me down to about 25 degrees for about 1.5 hours. Good enough. I use the sandals year round, and so far I've resisted buying the $200+ winter SPD boots.

Generally, the Shimano sandals are good. The complaints I have about the Shimanos are:
  • While they allow my fat feet to be happily fat compared to other cycling shoes, the designers of the Shimano sandal assumed narrow-footed users. There's not enough strap/velcro to hold the front of the sandal on my foot and it's especially insufficient when I pile on the thick wool and gortex socks.
  • They fall apart. Especially the plasticy weird support piece on the inside of the heel. This always comes unstiched and I must snip it off. I've also spent more time than I think I should stitching up the sandals where seams have come unraveled.
  • Velcro gives up the ghost eventually. As the sandals get older, the straps just stop holding. This leads to nerdy fixes like this.
Finally -- and this can't really be registered as a complaint -- relating to the design of the Shimano sandals, they just don't hold up to the way I want to wear them. Often my rides take me tromping through mud, streams, snow, etc. When I'm off the bike, I submerge the sandals on a pretty regular basis when I tour or take longer rides in the summer.

So that's the backstory. About a month ago, I was excited to learn that Keen had an SPD compatible sandal this year: The Commuter ($120). I've tried the Keen water sandals (the H2) and loved the space in the foot bed. The new SPD sandal solves most of my complaints about the Shimano too: the way the Keen tightens up uses the single-stretchy shock cord, which can be easily replaced if it gives up the ghost. In addition, the construction of the Keen sandal looks like it expects mud, water, and other crud to be a large part of its life.
The Keen sandal is a much better walking sandal than the Shimano. There's a bit of spongy-spring that feels nice. And they're plenty stiff for riding. The fact that the sandal feels so comfy off the bike is a bonus feature in my mind for everyday sandals.
Finally, the toe cap on the Keen is a great benefit, not really as a guard against stubbed toes, but as a wind block. The toes are always the first warn you that you have the wrong shoes on. THe lack of a windblock is the Achilles heel (heh) of the Shimano design for winter riding.

So what's not to like? Uh.
Well, there's a big one here: the width! The Keen folks make the same crappy assumption that all cyclists have narrow feet. This foot bed is super narrow and they only come in one width. Errg!
These sandals on my fat feet are good for one layer of middle-weight wool socks. So I can't layer the thick wool and the gortex. This cuts them out of my winter rides and out of the cold and rainy rides. And that is a damn bummer, because if these sandals used the same foot bed as the H2, these would be on my feet every day of the year, as my Shimanos are now.
The other benefits of these sandals will make them a great fair-weather sandal for me, and I'd probably buy them again, but I plan on sending a piece of email to the folks at Keen to try and persuade them to offer the 2009 model with the H2 foot bed as well. This is where I plan on sending my feedback:
Go here for the follow-up Keen Commuter SPD Sandal review -- 3 months later