Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Keen SPD Sandals: Follow Up

Three months ago, I reviewed my initial impressions of the Keen SPD Sandal. That post has generated a bunch of traffic and comments, so I figured it was worth a follow up.

The bottom line on these sandals: I will not be buying another pair of these sandals until Keen fixes two main issues:
1. Width

2. Durability

The width is too small. E-mails to Keen on this issue will get a canned reply about how bike shoes need to be narrow and that's how the world works. Reading some bike lists (iBob, bentrideronline, etc) or look at the comments on my original post and you'll find plenty of people who say this sandal is just too narrow.

Looking at the sandal as it clips into my pedal, it's clear there is a good 1/2 inch of space to work with before it starts rubbing on the crank. The Shimano sandal is nearly a full centimeter wider at the widest part of the sole (~102 mm to ~111 mm). It would be interesting to measure the widest part of a Lake winter boot. My guess is that it's pushing 115 mm or maybe even 120 mm. The point is: there's room to grow here without rubbing on the crank.

I think cyclist that wear a sandal, generally, wear a sandal because they value comfort and versatility over speed/performance. I think Keen should recognize that and build an SPD sandal from their normal sandal footbed. That's what most people are expecting when they think of Keen sandals. That's what I was expecting.

This has been a huge disappointment for me. I wear shoes hard. I wore my Shimano SPD sandals every day for a couple years. They failed eventually, but it took about a year before I saw actual failure. In the first couple weeks I had this failure on my Keens:

A chunk of the sole, from the tip of the toe box peeled off. I tried Sho-Goo'ing it but it didn't hold so I had to chop it off.
To Keen's credit, they were quick to offer a replacement pair of sandals. So that's good. The bummer is that I wouldn't get a replacement for 3 months (they are due "in May" -- I've not gotten a replacement yet). So it's cool that they fessed up and will replace them, but come on, with a $110 retail cost, waiting 3 months for a single pair of replacements, is cheesy. They are clearly putting me behind the queue of the retail outlets. I'm not feeling the love here.
If that was the only failure, I'd be sort of ok with it -- even with the slowboat replacement policy. But after two and a half months I started to see stitching coming undone around the heel strap on the left sandal:

As I said, I'm hard on shoes. Which only means I wear them daily. Again, I think Keen needs to better understand the users of their SPD sandals. They're comfortable shoes; I love walking in them. When I wear my Shimanos now, I feel like Frankenstein clumping around in them. My bike is a part of my day. I will not buy an SPD shoe/sandal that doesn't work with my daily life. My goal is to wear the same shoes/sandals all day so that when I hop on my bike, I don't need to change. This means they need to be built for daily use.
In my opinion, the v1 Keens are not there yet. I'll wear these until my replacements come. Then I'll wear my replacements until I kill them, because they are damn comfy. If it turns out that I just got a bum pair and the second pair last forever, I'll post about it here. Otherwise, when they die, I'll go back to my Shimanos and wait for the wider, more durable version.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Master Bike Plan Feedback

For the last couple months I've spent some time going to a few neighborhood meetings and talking about the master bike plan. In one meeting, I got pretty chewed up by the usual nay-sayers and car-centric approach to "planning." I've talked about the faulty anti-cycling infrastructure arguments before. You hear them a lot.

Bicycle Advisory Board members serve 3 year terms. The most you can serve consecutively is two 3-year terms. I had began to think about bowing out at the end of my first term, which ends in December.

I was getting tired of working hard, along with many others, and hitting this same wall of resistance. And there's so much other fun bike stuff to do. I figured getting the master bike plan pushed through into the city's comprehensive plan is a great accomplishment, and I'd let the next round of people deal with implementation and the money part.

The last week or so we've done our 3 open houses for the Master Bike Plan. At these meetings I have seen bike people crawl out of the woodwork to provide thoughtful, enthusiastic, and really valuable feedback on the plan that we've come up with so far. And by "bike people," I'm talking about a lot of citizens that want to ride their bikes but just want some basic infrastructure and fixes to help get them out there more. There were also commuters, recreational riders, people that want to ride with kids. The range of people and input was broad.

Many people told me and the other city staff and BAB volunteers that they are interested and stand behind the vision of the plan. There seems to be a bunch of momentum. It really has made me realize that there is a very interested and potentially vocal part of the community that will back us as we dive into the implementation piece.

I am reinvigorated. I find the advocacy stuff very trying and way more work than I'd planned on, but seeing folks interested and looking to back the plan is a huge vote of confidence.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wild horse wind turbines

They're flippen huge. My lame phone cam doesn't even come close to capturing their ruliness.

To make this a bike-related post: the wind farm entrance is located on the old Vantage highway between Vantage and Ellensburg.

If you ever get the urge to ride the John Wayne trail east-bound from Snoqualmie pass to the Columbia, and you're not riding a Pugsley, then get off the trail in Ellensburg and take the old Vantage highway. Do not attempt to cross the Yakima Firing Range. I speak from experience on this.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sweet Air

I'm stealing an idea from Metro's "guess the intersection" posts.

Any idea where I took this photo? There's a bit of dirt jumping infrastructure going into this area. I'm looking forward to getting my mountain bike, but I don't think I'll be hitting this guy anytime soon.

Any guesses? Or is it obvious?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It takes more than good ideas to build stuff

In my various bike-related groups and local activities I sometimes run into the "idea guys."

"Idea guys" are always guys. They are the ones that tell me "what Spokane needs" when it comes to bike stuff: races, bike lanes, no bike lanes, bike swaps, velodrome, bike education for drivers, bike education for cyclists, etc etc.

There's nothing wrong with ideas, but what makes an "idea guy" different than a person just making a wish, is that the "idea guy" is typically indignant and angry and sort of expecting me, or some organization I'm involved with to take this idea and run with it. The "idea guy" has done his part by simply supplying his brilliant idea... which usually ends with an overly-simplistic plan to fund the idea: "and just sell t-shirts to cover the cost..." or something similar.

I always make a point of responding with a specific action the "idea guy" can do: "Bike races are a great idea, did you know there is an effort at the moment to build a bike event in the fall? All the same issues that will need to be worked out for a bike race (closing streets, contacting/working with vendors and sponsors, etc) are happening now with this event: by helping with this event, you'll get great experience and contacts for giving races a shot... Every one wins!"

That pretty much sticks a fork in most idea guys.

The fact is, all great bike ideas take time and money.

On the time side: my personal opinion, is that bike-related volunteer time is pretty extended at the moment. Maybe I just feel that way because I'm involved in a few different bike events and it's always a challenge to find volunteers.

On the money side: things are getting a bit tight. The corporate sponsors that are typically the targets for money are tightening their belts a bit for whatever downturn/recession/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that is coming down the road at us.

If we want bike stuff, especially bike events, we must build it and pay for it.

If you've got time, the best place you can help in the next month is probably with Bike to Work.

If you've got money, the best place you can help is to throw into SpokeFest. If we can pull off year one of SpokeFest, we can do a better second year... then it builds from there. Bloomsday had 1300 runners the first year.

Click the SpokeFest Logo above to go to their site. Become a founder for $25. If that's not easy money to spend, SpokeFest will also need a army of volunteers to make it go too. Reliable volunteers are worth their weight in cash.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Your Part

This week and into next week, you can provide input on the Master Bike Plan for Spokane. I've written about why this is important many times, so I'll spare you the sermon.

The bottom line is that without citizen input and feedback throughout the process, then the plan is doomed from the start. We must have active input if we want to build a better bike town. The main piece of the plan right now is looking at a draft of some maps and ideas. It's fun stuff to look at and exciting to think about the potentials.

The format for this input is open houses. That means you can show up during the window of time, look at maps, ask questions, get clarification, and provide input. This is not about sitting through some long boring presentation.

There are 3 open houses:
  • Tuesday, April 22, Southside Senior Activity Center, 3151 E. 27th Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 24, at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt, from 7 to 9 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 29, at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The astute reader will notice that the locations correspond with council districts. I'll be at each one. This is a great exercise for me in practicing humility and respect for people that don't agree with my view of the world. Stop by and say hi .

If you absolutely cannot make these meetings then you can fill out a survey. Actually, you should fill out a survey in any case.

And if you really want to make an impact, contact your council representatives. Just calling/emailing your council people and telling them that bike and pedestrian amenities are important to you will make a huge difference. At the end of the day, the council must adopt what we're building here. The council people generally like to be re-elected, so they are going to vote for stuff that's important to the people in their districts.

Don't know your district or who your council people are? Go here and look it up.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Ride-About

8 AM: Off to pre-school. We've been walking to school a lot lately. Maddie prefers to walk and sing, but on the mornings where she wants more time to draw at home, we leave later and take the bike.

8:30 or so: Rare day -- Liza doesn't have to work until 10:30. We've been wanting to go and try the Natural Start bakery for a while and we finally got in there this morning. My new favorite. My daily shop is The Scoop for the best drip coffee (Bumper Crop) in town and my ritual multi-grain bagel with peanut butter and banana. But I will be making special trips to the Natural Start bakery. It's exactly what you want in a bakery: yummy, home-cooked, healthy food. They go out of their way to source local and organic ingredients and products. The vegan morning glory muffin was the bomb. I also had their Shepard's pie. Liza had a cookie and quiche. It was all fantastic. They also have a good out back picnic table deal going. They're on Hamilton (1718 N Hamilton to be exact), so it's just off the Centennial Trial. Hours: M-F 7-6; Sat 8-5; Sun 9-4 (? I think -- that's from memory).
After our breakfast, we tooled around, hit the Sandifur bridge, rode around Summit ave, and dropped Liza at work.

10: 45 - Lehman Road

I've been feeling like a hotshot lately after loosing some pounds and racing around on my fancy new bike. I wanted to see what Lehman hill felt like with my new setup. Lehman is a good barometer of where I'm at fitness wise and hill-mentally-wise. I've written about it before.

Well, my hotshotiness went away about 1/4 of the way up the hill. I swapped the 53/39 chain ring on the RB-1 for a 48/34 this winter. That didn't help here. This hill crushed me and nearly made me turn around. The only thing that kept me going up the hill was thinking about descending down Forker, which is so much fun on any bike, but I'm really learning to enjoy fast cornering on the RB-1.

At the top of Lehman, I took a right on Fruithill Rd, thinking that would take me to Forker. It doesn't. It takes you to the Cliff House, where I filled up water at the visitor center and talked to a cool guy named John who used to race. He was into the RB-1, so he won me over right away. The descent down Fruithill is not so great. Too many hairpin gravel-laden turns.

Noon: Lunch at Vien Dong's with my Vien Dong homies

I love Vien Dong's. I love the block it's on, with Bay Market and the Checkerboard Tavern. I love the Vien Dong coffee with condensed milk and I love menu item #36. Jon and Brian are great company for lunch too. They both have ridiculous looks here. Poor bastards. That's the John-tax: the phone-camera is going to come out at some point.

2: 30 Pick up Liza and try some wheat grass shots.

Fusion is another local business. Liza has been wanting to try this place for a while. They gave us 3 samples as we stood there wondering what to order. Wheat grass shots are like drinking a concentrated summer day. They come with an orange-juice back to combat the grassy flavor.

Good day: lots of good food and good riding.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Another Trail to Explore

My buddy Joe and I discovered a new-to-us trial on the High Drive network the other day. It's another low one. It's narrow and it's softer on the edges than the others. I guess that means either it's new or just not well-used. My guess is that it's not well-used. Because it's so narrow, it's actually sort of technical.

The picture above is sort of south-west facing. The little glob of non-trees just left-of-center is the Latah strip mall area. In the center/right of the picture is the private bridge over Latah creek.

It's impossible not to notice this little private bridge if you're riding from Latah valley up to the South Hill. You can see the network of High Drive trails snaking up the side of the bluff, and the only obstacle to getting to them is the river. But that private bridge is right there. If open to cyclists it would make the ride home a lot more fun and probably quicker too.

I've thought of sneaking over the bridge but he's got some serious signage and the bridge is often blocked by a locked chain link gate.

I'm going to get back down on the new-to-me trail in the next few days and map it.

Speaking of the next few days:


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's a Car, Car, Car World

Anyone see the letter to the editor in the Spokesman-Review this morning: the guy that wants adult bikes to be licensed and pay registration fees? He paid .50 cents when he was a kid. He's suggesting a $33 fee per bike. He also states that turning four lanes of traffic into two (as was done on a small section of 29th) creates more emissions and is therefore not green.

Argg. I'm positive that guy was at the last neighborhood meeting I talked at.

This is really a common line of thinking for drivers. I used to get angry with such perspectives, but now I just am trying to find a way to actually educate these folks in productive and respectful way. Often, it's just a different view of the world that cannot be reconciled. But sometimes, you run into thoughtful people that can stand back and look at the big picture a bit objectively.

Here's the flood of thoughts that come to mind as I read the letter this morning:

  • Most adult cyclists own cars; from a fiscal perspective, when a car-owning cyclist rides on the street, the cyclist is subsidizing car drivers.
  • I'm not familiar with a road in Spokane that has lost lanes and now results in gridlock, or even slowed traffic. The piece of 29th that lost two lanes is always moving. I live 3 blocks from this stretch of road and ride or cross this stretch nearly every day.
  • The cost of implementing and enforcing licensed bikes will far outweigh the fees collected in any scenario. Registering cars is more about identifying owners to cars, which can be deadly when used incorrectly and are also useful in the commission of crimes. Bikes rarely run down pedestrians or are used for get away vehicles.
  • In any case, I-695 basically stripped any excess revenue out of registration fees that may go to roads. If there's any thing at all left (doubt it) vehicle registration is one small part of taxes that help pay for roads; others include property tax, general tax revenues, and gas tax.
  • The physical impact a bike has on our road ways is negligible. So from the infrastructure impact perspective we have another subsidy: most adult cyclists own cars and homes and otherwise input taxes into the road system that their bike does not affect.
  • As for the cost of bike amenities; striping a lane cost money, but it's often in place of parking. How about instead of a bike lane, we charge for parking on all public streets? If you own a car, you should pay for parking it, especially if it's on a public right-of-way.

Many of these points are heresy to car drivers. We grow up in a society where driving a car and many of the costs associated with it are subsidized to the point of entitlement thinking.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How Many Bikes?

What a weekend. I can't believe it was snowing just over a week ago. It's 72F as I write this at 7:30 PM.
The streets and trails of Spokane were crawling with bikes.

It's short-lived, as mid-30's and rain is on the way starting tomorrow. Oh well, it was worth it: riding in short-sleeves and with no gloves or hat -- just for one great weekend.

I just got back from a ride and noticed that 4 of my bikes had gathered into an orderly stack over the weekend. Looking at them, I realize once again what a typical consumer I am. I see huge differences between these bikes, and I appreciate riding each one. And while there are much worse ways to spend your money, I have to remind myself how fortunate I am and how really unnecessary all of these bikes are.

I know a few few folks that attempt to have a single bike, but the middle-class daily cyclist with really, truly, only one bike is pretty rare. My "real" bike-count is at 7 right now. Not counting loaners. But I'm only riding 5 of them regularly.

I'll be adding a mountain bike to the pile this summer.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

S24O: Badger Lake

Best destination so far. This will be even better when it's warm enough to swim.

Mobile post.

More photos here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Still There

I wrote about this bike a while back. It's not moved, though it looks as though someone has read my note.
The day of decision is coming.

Monday, April 7, 2008


The idea here was to show the before and after. This is where the phone cam falls a bit short in the fidelity department.

Take my word for it. The bike on the left is muddy and dirty. Really. On the right, it's sparkly and clean. (Ding!)

Note the hose. I almost never clean my bikes, but when I get that nice wet mud everywhere it sprays off very easily.

So I took advantage of the wet mud coating I got yesterday on the High Drive trails and gave the old RB-T a spray down.

If you spend anytime on the various bike lists and forums online, "cleaning your bike" thread will pop up at some point. While it's not nearly as ubiquitous and predictable as the helmet vs no helmet threads, it's interesting to learn how different people clean their bikes.

Some people clean their bikes after every ride. Others have a routine schedule ("every 1000 miles I do x, y, and z") for cleaning and maintaining their bikes. Others rarely do anything. And there's a bunch of people in between that.

I tend to wait until the chain is orange with rust or the rear cassette is so caked with dirt/grease that's it's shaped more like a smooth cone, rather than a defined set of sprockets.
Instead of removing and cleaning the chain properly, I'll typically just get as much crud off as I can with a rag and a chain cleaner tool for 5 minutes or so, then re-grease. This is not a best practice.

But I see this type of "maintenance" as a benefit of running friction shifting. Given that none of my shifters match my derailleurs or chains or cassettes, being able to not properly maintain my bikes make them nearly as maintenance-free as an internally-geared hub set up.

A couple times in the past, I've brought my bike to a self-service car wash and hit it with the high-pressure hot-soapy stuff. This is a particularly painful method for some folks to even think about. Using hot, high-pressure, soapy water to clean your bike has all sorts of potential bad endings: getting water in the bearings, peeling paint, removing the lube from the chain links. The list goes on. But damn the bike sparkles when it's done. And it's so easy!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spoke-n-Joe's is Open

Two Joes drinking some joe.

And it's cool. And I wish Joe the best. If he can get a hold of the daily stream of roadies that hit the Hangman loop in the nicer weather, he should have a good shot at making it. In the pic above you can see the work bench. He's also got a full espresso bar. There are some lockers and a meeting area in the back. The windows are big and unobstructed so you can keep an eye on your bike as you hang out. Cool place.

It's at 57th and Regal. Next to Zip Trip.

I was happy to have a place to go and gripe about the weather with other cyclists... even after I griped Elissa's ear off at The Scoop.

I attempted the Colville ride this morning. I got about 10 miles out when I hit my usual frozen toe issue. Then the fingers went. This is absolutely the worse kind of riding weather: mid-30's and wet.

I am giving up. I'm going to get Lake boots.

As for hands, it's hard to find a mitten/glove that will hold the water out and keep you from freezing without sweating and getting cold from the inside out. Keeping your fingers warm at 15F for multiple hours is much easier than keeping them warm at the mid-30's and wet for even an hour.

Friday, April 4, 2008

This just in...

There is a Pugsley in Spokane. I knew a bike shop in CdA had a one, but apparently there is a guy in Spokane with a Pugsley.

And my source tells me he's down with letting folks give it a spin.

I shall find him. I shall beg to ride his steed.

Maddie with compass. Leading the way.

Usually on Fridays I ride my bike. But it's spring break, so Maddie and I spent the morning at Dishman Hills hiking. We made a pitstop at Nonna's for some minestrone and then went and explored the High Drive trails.

We had a blast. That kid just runs the whole time. Man alive. The energy in that girl is just non-stop. I love it.

I think it's time to think about some hiking overnighters with her.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Bike Shot and Playfair

Two different journalists from two different papers both told me about all the bikes in front of the apts on 1st and Cedar. I don't know why they didn't take this photo...

If you go to 2 Wheel Transit or the Rocket there on Cedar with any frequency, you've noticed how these bikes locked to the meters have really been multiplying over the last couple years.

Hey Wells: how about a rack, man? (this one specifically)

Not that a rack is really required, the meters do fine, but a little bike infrastructure would be a cool thing to see a downtown developer invest in.

Item #2. Mr Blaine, I know you have a lot on your plate with training for the GDR and all, but it seems that the old Playfair track is just aching for a bike race. The track is just a mess and would make a great CX loop race or maybe 500-style or BMX style race.

And if you believe what you read in the papers (dang you SR and your log-in requirement!), our time to play here may be coming to an end soon. We don't want to regret missing the opportunity to ride this track before it's gone forever.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another New Thing

Last fall I found a great deal on a bike that I've wanted to try for quite some time. I did a super quick blog on it, but here's the not-so quick story.

The bike is a 1993 Bridgestone RB-1. For two years Bridgestone made this bike in my size (57.5). The 93 has the fancy Ritchey crown and 130mm rear spacing and ishiwata 22 tubing. There. That's the technical info I cared about. Well, and it's yellow. That matters too.

When I bought this bike I weight about 240 lbs. Big fat dudes in spandex who ride crazy race bikes are referred to as "squids" by some folks. Although I don't (and god help me if I ever do) wear spandex, being a big fat dude on a fancy bike like this is just not something I could bring myself to do even if being a squid didn't do the trick.

So, I made a goal to get to 190 before I rode it, as that seemed like a reasonable weight for me. I finally got within striking distance of that goal in the last couple weeks by hitting just under 200, so I've been riding the RB-1.

It's a lot of fun. There's some new stuff for me going on with how this bike handles that I'm excited to explore and get to know more. It just wants you to lean and dive into corners, none of this long swoopy arc-type cornering. Scary and fun all in one. Like all bikes I end up riding a lot, it encourages you to stand on climbs.

I unwittingly found myself on some barely technical single track today on this bike and a steepish/rocky descent was a rush. Like, that "first time" kind of rush that is so rare in life.

If things align right, I'll be taking the first trip up 395 to Colville this Saturday. If it's not a rainy pissy mess, I'll be on the RB-1.

BTW: the way to loose weight I have found is pretty simple. There's the low-hanging stuff like eating normal amounts of sensible food, drinking tons of water, and moving more. But the clincher for me was: no beer. As in: you get no beer until you hit your goal. That is a motivator.