Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Signal Figured Out

The first week Maddie learned to ride her bike she tried signaling and nearly went down hard. Since then, she's been strict 2-hander on the bars at all times. Today she tried signaling again and found it pretty easy. She signaled for most of the ride today.

She also did some off-roading along Manito Blvd. The curb hopping exit:

Speaking of signaling, rules of the road, and other bicycling niceties, the guy who I buy my knickers from wrote a good piece about modeling good behavior and "fixie punks" the other day on his site. It's a provocative piece that twists perception around a bit and worth a read in my opinion.

Finally, the WSDOT is sponsoring some bike traffic counts in Spokane over the next few days. They need volunteers to count bike traffic at these locations:

  • W 4th Ave and S Washington St - 4-6 PM

  • W 2nd Ave and S Howard St - 4-6 PM

  • E Mission Ave and N Perry St (Centennial Trail) -4-6 PM

  • W Buckeye Ave and N Post St - 7-9 AM & 4-6 PM

From an email by BAB'er Bradley Bleck this morning:

If you want to see state money flow to Spokane to improve the bike/ped infrastructure, this is a great way to contribute.
Please, please, please, bicyclists in Spokane need your help and they need it now! If bicyclists don't step up to contribute to our own success, we can't expect others to do it for us. If you have any questions, please email me. (bleckb3 AT comcast.net)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Pics

Quick post.
Going to school.
Mr Blaine flatted by this nail.
Ben and Jake look on as David changes the flat.
David explaining his next organized race to Jake. It's going to be a great ride.

More tooling around the Palisades area.
I went here a year ago. Almost to the day. The graffiti has been updated.

More apple picken. I picked too many. My back is killing me.

Lunch at Natural Start. I love this place. I went to One World this week too. I'll follow up on both of these place. Add this to the tiny list of small local yummy cheap places that make real food with local stuff.

I met Liza as she got off work. She had to eat before the climb home.

Standard Liza reaction to my phone camera. Name that intersection.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lofty Goals

This is Cedar St at about 12th ave. These pictures are very good at illustrating why we need a culture shift in the engineering/public works department.

You can see in these pictures that the street is being repaved. For the majority of this repaving project, the bike lane is not being repaved. It is distinctly left out of most of the work here.

Anyone who bombs down Cedar/Maple on a regular basis knows how bad this stretch is. Going north from about 14th to 8th you are at speed (it's down hill). As you can see from the picture above, the bike lane is made up of many layers of asphalt, some finished/feathered better than other layers. In the rain or in the dark/dusk hitting these these variances at 30 mph or so can take you down if you are hitting them incorrectly.

The good news is that they covered that huge dip created by the man hole cover in this stretch. But the bad news is that they didn't extend the nice new pavement to cover all of the variable levels in the bike lanes throughout this section.

These are the kind of decisions that are made "on the ground" or by the engineering department without oversight. This is hard stuff to codify and is a good example of why we really need to have a different way of thinking in these departments.

Engineers that actually cycled for utility would see this kind of stuff immediately. An enlightened public works department would encourage such engineers to bring this kind of issue up and evaluate the cost/benefit to resurfacing the lanes.

We (BAB) are making progress in getting in on more of the decision making at the project level for street work, but stuff like this, where it's really up to the discretion of the project manager and engineers on the ground to make a call, requires a shift in institutional thinking: away from the "move as many cars as fast as possible" approach to "engineering." It requires real leadership at the highest levels of the engineering and public works to value all modes of transportation.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Four-and-a-half years ago Liza and I decided to move back to our hometown of Spokane to be closer to our parents. Another huge reason was to slow down and really be mindful about how we lived.

Our goal was to own as much of our own time as possible. We wanted to have time to enjoy raising Maddie. We vowed never to live in a house that required driving for basic necessities. This need for a slow, human-powered pace was a requirement that fell out of our awful car-centered, huge-commute-time lifestyle that we'd devolved into on the west side of the state.

Largely, we've succeeded in the overall goal of slowing down by riding bikes and walking more. But the more we rode, the more we thought how crazy the rest of the world was for not riding more. This thinking led to getting involved in the Bicycle Advisory Board. It also led to spinning up Pedals2People. It also led to Liza going to UBI and then getting a job as a wrench at REI.

Fast-forward a few years, and we're still mostly getting around by bike and by foot, but we're busier than ever with a bunch of bikey stuff. Any modern family knows how easy it is to get totally carried away in the day-to-day machinations of living your life. So much so that you forget the point of it all. As a result, our little family sort of hit the wall a few weeks ago.

We were all grumpy and generally just not the happy campers we should be. Chatting on the issue over dinner one night, it became clear that the issue was our schedules. Kids have a way of cutting to the core issue.

So Liza and I decided to clear the calendar as much as we could for one month.

Basically: any event that interrupts our morning breakfast and walk/ride to school with Maddie or that interrupts our dinner and evenings and weekends together is being canceled.

We've got a ton of commitments, so we can't can everything, but we've done pretty good. I bailed out of the BAB meeting for Sept. Liza changed her availability at work to go in a bit later. Her super righteous shop-mates also backed her up so she could take some Sundays off for a month. We've been minimizing our time at the P2P garage as much as we can without over-loading our friends that also volunteer there. I'm not taking on morning commuters for the Commute Project for a month.

It's been really hard to clear all of this stuff. But after just about 10 days the difference in our quality of life is huge.

I don't think the long-term answer is to cut everything out completely. I think this time is showing us how living mindfully -- once again -- is the key to a quality life. What you do; how you spend your time; what you eat; the friends you keep; what you buy. The list goes on. These are all worth thinking about and worth making explicit decisions about every day.

Sorry about the low bike content here.
Our neighbor took some great photos of our canning and gnocchi operation last weekend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Short Sunday morning ride in the rain

I can always count on Joe to take a ride in crappy weather with me. We went up to Palisades and he showed me a new-to-me road into the Indian Canyon section. I went to this area about a week ago for the first time. There's a few trails in there to explore. When I have a few more hours and the knobbies on the Rawland, I'm going to see if I can get through all the trails.

Check out this cool old sign that's on a closed road in the park:

Powerful sign. It's good to see it still standing. And sort of amazing.

I was surprised at the lack of cyclists riding this morning. I take a quick ride just about every Sunday from 9-10:30 or so. I've been seeing tons of cyclists every Sunday since May or so. I figured rain would keep a few people out, but not all of them. The only cyclists we saw this morning were a pack of grade-school girls who braved the rain to go to The Scoop.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shipped Out

Volunteers John and Jason load em up.

P2P shipped out the Village Bike Project bikes today. This is a big huge deal for the organization and there'll be more on the P2P blog in the next day or two.

Today we had about 10 volunteers show up at the Mountain Gear HQ in the Valley. We loaded exactly 200 bikes and a bunch of parts into a 26 foot Penske rental truck. The bikes are headed to Ghana along with a pile of bikes from Moscow, ID.

2 Events this Week

There are a couple potentially interesting events going on this week that are bikey.

#1 Willie Weir
Weds, Sept 24th, 7PM
South Campus Facility, Riverpoint Campus

From the press-release ...

Seattle-based Willie Weir has bicycled off-the-beaten-track to the mountains of India, war-ravaged Bosnia, the deserts of Turkey and the jungles of Southeast Asia. He recently returned from pedaling in Venezuela and Colombia.His human-powered travels allow him to smell the local scents and mix with villagers from Laos to South Africa.

Weir has put together a montage of a number of different performances and named the presentation, Scooters in the Bike Lane. The show is a benefit performance to support the Bicycle Alliance of Washington's mission to open an office in Spokane.

Tickets are $10 in advance (or $12 at the door) from North Division Bicycle Shop, 10503 N. Division St., Spokane, 467-2453

#2 Downtown Alternative Transportation Trade Show
Thursday, Sept 25th, noon-6pm
River Park Square Atrium

From the website...
If you get to work in a single occupant vehicle and and have been considering alternatives, check out your options at the Downtown Alternative Transportation Trade Show! The show will not only exhibit how to get around Spokane at lower cost and impact right now, it will also showcase future alternative transportation technology being developed right here in the Inland Northwest. From scooters and Segways, and bicycles, to bus and vanpool information, even microcars like the Tango will all be at this event.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Next Wheel

Rim: Velocity Blunt

Spokes: straight-gauge 14 gauge DTs

Hub: Sachs Torpedo Duomatic -- 2 speed kickback

I'm going to give this a try on my 720 this winter. The last couple years I've run my 720 with studded tires. It's a fixed gear, so this combo makes a great bike on ice. But I've wanted to try a coaster-brake set up for a while, and the 720 is my most hacked bike, so it will be the one to be converted yet again.

I've been hording this hub for a couple years. It was on a Raliegh 20 that I bought a couple years ago.

The only bummer about this set up will be the rear triangle on the 720. It's set at about 132mm right now. I'll need to set it at 117 or so to make this hub work. I recently attempted to do some rear-triangle work on my RB-T and ended up kinking the chainstay. Ouch. I know cold setting the frame doesn't do it any harm, but it bugs me all the same.

The RB-T is my CX bike and it's now at Hairy Gary's being repaired. I'm actually using the 720 (with a freewheel) for my CX clinics at the moment. Lately, I've been slogging up the side of the bluff carrying the 720 in my lame attempt at "training."

Anyway. That's the plan for this wheel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gearing up for the cold season

That big ass Lake box holds my new winter cycling boots.

I've been thinking about buying real winter cycling boots for a couple years. I've tried to make sandals work, but there's a critical weather range where the sandals just don't work. It's that mid-30's to mid-40's wet range that is killer. I've moaned about frozen toes to Joe a few times in winter's past, but it was a failed solo attempt to Colville last April that finally drove me to the decision to buy Lake boots.

Mr. Blaine has been telling me for at least a year, if not more, to bite the bullet and get these boots. It's funny, because I'll buy a bunch of overpriced bike stuff, but for some reason spending $250 so I can take long rides in the cold was just more than I could accept.

A couple months ago, my buddy Mike -- who has heard my story of frozen-toe-woes and how I'm too cheap to spend the big bucks on the boots -- saw the boots at Spoke-n-Sport and told them my story of woe. The boots were already on sale for $200. He talked them down to $175 and got them to write that on a business card. He gave me this coupon-biz card about 2 months ago.

I finally cashed it in today. I'm really happy I did. I have a fat-tired, disc-braked bike for the deep snow, and my studded fixed gear for the ice. Warm, SPD-compatible boots were the final missing piece to happy winter riding.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Trail Riding

Since building up the Rawland, I've been spending more time riding trails than I normally do. Mr. Tobin recommended that I check out the trails between Indian Canyon and Rimrock. So Friday, I did.

It was nice to take a solo ride. I didn't go far, maybe 30 miles or so, but it was good clear my head after sort of a frustrating week.

The area I started my ride in is called Palisades Park. I thought Palisades Park was just the area behind Rimrock, but it's not. There's a whole section of park and trails south of where Greenwood climbs up to Rimrock.
One warning Ben gave me before I explored this park was to watch out for the sections of trail under the tree canopies. He mentioned something about thorny trees. That was the understatement of the year. Pushing my bike up a steep rocky climb I ended up with a bunch of chunks of branches stuck in my front tire. Turns out each one was attached with a thorn. All up: 6 punctures in the front wheel. Zero in the rear wheel.

I patched a couple holes on the trail. As I waited for the second patch to dry, I inspected the inside of the tire and found 4 more thorns stuck in the tire. So, instead of attempting to patch all 6 punctures on the trail, I spent my time making sure all the thorns were out of the tire and swapped in a new tube. That way, if I got another flat, I'd at least have some patches left.

After patching, I decided to go out to Riverside State Park, but I wanted to take dirt/trails that I'd never ridden before. My first detour was behind this abandoned rail bridge off Houston Road. I've noticed this little path many times, but I've never taken it. It's an old, steep, concrete driveway or perhaps a road. There also appears to have been a sidewalk at some point along the path. Unfortunately the path just loops around and pops out up higher on Houston, but it's a neat little bit of history.

I think my favorite kind of riding is when I find overgrown and abandoned roads.

I jumped on the Centennial Trail and went past the Military Cemetery -- down the steep hill. I climbed the big apple tree at the bottom, stuffed my pack with apples, then rode back up the other side of the hill. From here, I was temped to take the trail that follows the river, but it's verboten. The "no bikes" sign has been removed by vandals. I used to take that trial all the time when I was in high school. It's a great trail and I'd like to take it again.

Instead, I took the road just north of the trail. This was the new-to-me route. I noodled around the trails and old roads and ended up popping out across the river from the Riverside State Park campground.

From RSP, I came back on Aubrey White Parkway for a couple miles. At the sewer treatment plant, I tried one of the trails that goes up the hill to Northwest Blvd. That was another new-to-me path. Most of the climb is gradual and pretty easy. Right at the end the dirt gets deep and the path gets steep.

I rode back into town across the north side and popped out at Natural Start Bakery for lunch. From there, I tooled around the East Sprague area. While attempting to pick my way down a steep path by Browns Building Supply, I crashed -- went sort of over my bars and kind of ran/stumbled/tripped/somersaulted to a stop.

With a half hour to wait for Liza to get off work, I stopped at Madelines and had a cup of tea. Where I ran into Richard and Klay. If I stop at Madelines on a Friday. I almost always run into Richard and Klay. It's just one of those things.

This picture only shows Richard. Klay is there too, but she's wearing her invisible cloak. I'm a ghost in the reflection.


FBC rides Monday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

CX 101, second class

Picture sniped from here.

Today was more mounts, dismounts and some run-ups. I over-did it last week with the running and jumping and tonight my leg was killing me. Running was painful, but jumps were nearly unbearable. According to the drawing above, it's that longish tendony-muscley looking thing called the Sartorius: right at the top. It feels stressed, torn, ripped, lame.

I had to take it easy and kind of sit out and not ride much. That kind of made me grumpy.

On top of that, I was riding my Trek 720 set up as a single speed. I screwed up my black RB-T by doing my own metal work on it. I'm not really ready to talk about it yet. But it's at Hairy Gary's getting repaired. That made me grumpy too. There's no way I could do this stuff on a single speed.

Speaking of single-speeds, Travis showed up tonight on his single-speed Crosscheck. He's new to this too and he was rocking the obstacles by the end of the night. Really good sprint/jumping form. Dang. Some guys are naturals I guess. I've never been a natural at anything that requires coordination.

That's ok. It's still going to be fun. Once I get my leg and my bike back.

The coach du jour was talking about racing and how to get in your pack during the first 10 minutes. From there, find your pace and enjoy the ride and race against the few people that are around you. That's a cool way to think about it. That made me less grumpy.

I'm going to make sure my leg is better by next week.

This morning, as I rode to school with Maddie I did mounts and dismounts and some easy running. I think I'll keep that up. I'm also going to stretch daily and keep popping my vitamin I. Hopefully by next Thursday I'll be able to do some short sprinting.

Horn Tooting

If you're not in Spokane but you're curious about the state of cycling here as viewed from one local media source, check out the article that ran last week in the Pacific Northwest Inlander. It's horn-tooty because I'm in there, as is P2P and Liza. My buddy Alex suggested that even if it was horn-tooty, it still may be interesting to non-local readers of this blog as the article does a good job of laying out the story of bike progress in Spokane over the last couple years. So here it is.

Monday, September 8, 2008

SpokeFest v1

With 1200 riders the first year, this event was an unqualified success.

The vision for this event was from Bill Bender. Bill is a morning ride guy. In fact, I think it's his ride that he started 18 years ago. This is a ride that hammers the Hangman loop at like 5:30 AM. Bill's day job is neurology. He jumped into the SpokeFest thing head first and just started making it go. He pulled together a board of people; got sponsors; and generally did stuff. I've talked about idea guys before. Bill is a doer. I'm impressed with his ability to pull this together.

The range of cyclists that attended this event was impressive: from the fully kitted out team cyclist to the "this is the first time I've ridden my bike this year" family guy.

I'm curious to see how this event shakes out for next year. It should be clear to the sponsors, cyclists, and vendors that were wary of participating in the version 1 SpokeFest, that there is interest for this event and that it's likely to be a successful yearly event.

I hope the various segments of the cycling community are able to engage earlier in the planning so that we have an even broader range of cycling representation at the expo.

As I think about the expo/finish line, I'm hoping we'll see a much bigger swap and more (and healthier) food choices next year.

I want to see more bike shops there. Given the timing of SpokeFest, this is a golden opportunity for bike shops to come out and strut their new bike models for the upcoming year.

Bike manufacturers, vendors, and service providers that are local or semi-local (Hairy Gary, Atoc racks, Raliegh/Novara/Redline design teams, Silver Tours, etc) should have a booth there.

A BMX and dirt jumping demo would rule. Maybe a small CX demo course for people to try out. A track stand competition and free style competition would be fun to watch.

Gather a bunch of different load hauling bikes so people could get a feel for how different bikes handle loads.

It would be great to have a booth where the local clubs/teams (SRV, FBC, Spokane Bike Club, Emde, etc) could tell their stories and cultivate new members.

BAB should be there with educational material and with maps and an updated story about the overall Master Bike Plan progress.

BAW should be there in a similar way. This year they pushed the swap, but next year we should see a booth that explains who they are and what they do to get more members signed up.

P2P should have a bigger presence. P2P was there swapping, but fielded way more questions about what we do and where we do it and how people could get involved.

I'm starting to sound like an idea guy here. I haven't even gotten to the riding part...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

CX 101

Thanks to Pat Sprute for catching me on one of the few where I didn't fall on my face.

I had a great time tonight at the CX clinic. I love having a whole new chunk of bike skills to learn. Tonight we did dismounts and mounts and running over obstacles.

I learned a lot:

  • I need to slow down and learn the technique. I tend to rush through this stuff, but I really need to grow into the speed part. I fell a couple times; I had a full on ass-over-tea-kettle wipe out, and I knocked over the obstacles (PVC pipe numbers) a bunch of times. I'm pretty sure I was the klutziest one there. No surprise.

  • I jump/hop over the obstacles. It's better to sort of sprint over them. I was kind of getting that near the end, but it's hard. You really do have to sprint to make it work.

  • I suck at bunny hopping. I tried to bunny hop the obstacle and ended up breaking one of the pvc joiners. That made me feel like a total jerk.

  • I get the Lycra thing. Trying to run and mount with my baggie-ass shorts is dumb. How could I not think of that? Somewhere I have some proper Ibex cycling shorts. At least they're wool.

  • There's that running thing. I can ride all day. But if I try to run a block I'm ready to fall over. I need to do some running. Local mountain biker Ben Tobin has suggested running the Peaceful Valley stairs. 5 times in a session. Hmm.

  • My bike is a mess. I need to get it super dialed in. Replacing the spindle has screwed up everything. Hopefully I can get the PITA stuff (mainly new shifters/running cable/handlebar stuff) done this weekend and use the next month to dial it in.

  • I love this stuff. It was fun because I'm so raw at it. There's so much room to grow.

The rookies this year only race 30 minutes. Which is good. But as Mike S pointed out, that means it's faster. So there's that.

First race that I'm interested in is October 19th at Farragut St Park. That gives me over a month to practice, loose another 10 pounds or so, and try some running.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gearing up for my first CX race

About a month ago, I reported that my beloved black RB-T had a cracked bottom bracket. Turns out: no crack. The paint had cracked. Hairy Gary removed all the paint from the bb shell and sure enough, no crack. This is great. The old campy bottom bracket that was in there had sort of fallen apart, so that accounts for the crappy shifting and crunch-squeekies that came out off the area. Turns out sugino still (thankfully) makes a square-taper 103mm bottom bracket for their track gruppo. No one else is making this spindle.

I put some of Maddie's clear enamel (with sparkles of course) on the bottom bracket to keep it from rusting. I took a quick loop on the High Drive trails this morning and it's great to ride this bike.

I think I want to be buried with this bike. Is that weird?

The fact is, the bike is too small for me. I prefer a bigger frame, but I love riding this bike. It always feels right. And the more crud I take off it (fenders/rack came off about a year ago, then the lighting system, now the frame pump and cages), the more more I enjoy riding it.

I plan on giving cyclocross racing a try this fall. And this is the bike I'll be riding.

I'll probably do two races in the rookie category. My buddy Alex tried this a few years ago before blowing his knee; his only goal was not to come in last. That's a great goal. I'm going to adopt that.

As for the bike, I'm going to swap out the dura ace bar-ends for some old suntours. The Shimanos are just too stiff. A guy in Thailand is sending me a NOS XTR rear derailleur as a trade for some old forks -- that derailleur will make a nice addition to this bike. I found a NOS XTR 8-speed cassette at 2 Wheel Transit a few weeks ago, so that went on there.

I also need to lower the brake levers. They're weird high and sort of make my shoulders hurt. Loosing a bunch of weight over the last year has really effected my bike fit. My saddle height has raised at least an inch across the board; my saddle is now flat (where it used to be nose up); and I want to stretch out more: I want more reach and lower bars.

I think there is about a 50/50 chance that I'll break the frame this fall. But Gary can fix it if I do. He already suggested filling in the rear dropout windows. He told me he's seen the old suntour dropouts fail when you beat on them. I think I'm also going to have him give me a hair more tire clearance in the rear. But all this will wait until the winter or until I bust it. For now I just want to ride it.

I've been nursing a hobbling foot/calve thing for about a week. I've been taking it easy. I'm hoping to go to the SRV Cyclocross Clinics to learn how to mount/dismount and do run ups and all that -- since I don't know how to do that stuff. The first clinic is tomorrow night. My foot/calve are feeling way better today, so if I'm mellow today and tomorrow, I should be able to do the clinic.

I'm hoping the local CX schedule will include a Highbridge Park and the 7-Mile courses this year. From a spectator's perspective, those looked like the most fun. And if there is one up at Farragut, that might be worth driving to also. But so far, the CX schedule at the Emde site is still pointing to the 2007 season. So I don't know dates or courses yet.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tooling around Turnbull

Click for more pics of the Turnbull adventure

Liza, Maddie, and I drove out to Turnbull today and rode the "Auto View Loop." The auto view loop is a 5.5 mile loop around a small piece of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

It's mostly flat; traffic is one-way only and very sparse. A perfect ride for a little girl on a single-speed that weighs half as much as she does.

The highlight of the trip was riding up on a bull moose. Yesterday, up at Grandpa John's on the Kettle River, we happened upon a skunk in the same way. We're tooling down the road, chatting and enjoying the scenery when an animal just appears and takes us all by surprise.

We handled them both in the same way: "Maddie stop." (skid). Wait. Look. Take a pic, then slowly back out. Except we didn't have a camera with the skunk incident. Dang.

Maddie kept a mental list of all the animals we saw today at Turnbull: turkeys, chipmunk, osprey, flicker, moose, dragonfly, grasshopper, wild duck. I expect Maddie will produce a number of drawings and stories that capture these creatures. I blog. Maddie is more old school: documentation and sketches are her methods of journaling.

Maddie had to remind me to slow down and enjoy the ride. It's difficult to gear down and take 2+ hours for a 5.5 mile ride, but it's an important thing to do. Especially today: when we have rare day when we didn't have anything pressing on our time.

For some reason it's sort of hard to accept, but Maddie (as all kids -- I expect) has lessons to teach us if we're willing to hear her. Once I stubbornly accepted Maddie's overall pace: ride a mile; hang out; look at stuff; walk a while; play; then ride again -- I enjoyed it and had a really nice time. Liza, of course, is totally and completely able to just chill and go with it.

The last 1/4 mile was tough. It's deeper gravel and a hill. Thank god for big bike racks. I hauled Maddie's bike, while Maddie rode side saddle with Liza.