Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Maddie's latest road find

Maddie has been tearing up on the chilly rides to school the last couple weeks. So it was a good score this morning when she found these kid sun glasses. They even have flames on them.

Mobile post

Monday, October 27, 2008

More on the 747

747 refers to the tubing used on this bike. The tubing is standard diameter. By the numbers, standard is actually non-standard now. Almost all non-custom steel bikes are made with over sized tubing, which is still called over sized even though it's the standard on nearly all steel production bikes.

I like standard steel tubing because it flexes a bit more, well, a lot more in my opinion, than over sized tubing. I've talked about standard tubing before -- see item #2 where I go on about Alex's Ivy Cycles bike.

Anyway, both of my RB-T's use standard tubing. So does my Trek 520 and my Trek 720. In all those cases, the wall thickness of the tubing is 9/10ths of a mm at the end and tapers to 6/10ths of a mm at the middle of the tube. This tapering is referred to as "butted" in the bike world. So, when referring to the tubing wall thickness on these bikes, you could say they are 969's. (Actually I think the 1983 version of the 720 may have been 858 -- and I sometimes wonder if the 520 is 181).

In any case, that's where the 747 comes from. It's really thin-walled tubing. In today's world of ultra-stiff over sized aluminum bikes, this 747 would likely be referred to as "noodley." I love the way that feels and I no longer try to convince people of its greatness. It's a bike that gives back when you climb. It feels right to me and the first time I really felt it was on my 1991 RB-T.

So the goal with this 747 is to have a fast bike for long day trips with minimal stuff. It will have fenders and it will have a small rear bag. It's 73 HT and 73 ST with 50 mm of rake, so it's a solid mid-trailer, which will hopefully mean lost of fast and fun cornering.

I still need brakes for it. So I've not ridden it yet.

Dig this:

That's Scott and Oscar's new fancy tandem. I was at 2 Wheel Transit during lunch time today and saw this beauty ready to roll. It's the Co-Motion Periscope: a full size tandem that can fit just about any sized person on the stoker seat. In addition to a super-sloping top-tube, the rear stoker seat telescopes to fit someone as short as 3' 6" to a six-footer.
It's a great tandem for these two. Oscar is about 7 now and has totally outgrown the trail-a-bike.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This is the replacement for the RB-1. It was a test bike for the Bike Quarterly "double blind planing test". Built by Jeff Lyon. I'm excited to get it built up.
Mobile post

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Call it culture, call it community... whatever

It's growing. I guess it was inevitable. Maybe Mariah is onto something.

Two interesting bikey things happening. Well, if you count Jeff's continuing and unfolding masterpiece, then 3.

Wait, there was also about 200 cyclists/pedestrians/interested people at the SmartRoutes rally downtown yesterday. SmartRoutes is about getting people out of cars, but the thrust of the initiative (cash) is bike related. So there's that.

There's a lot of bike activity going on in Spokane. There has been for some time, but the difference now is that we're seeing some numbers at these events.

Anyway, the two interesting items that I discovered today:

Interesting item #1: cruiser/vintage bike rides

I see these events pop up on Craigslist about once a month. A neighbor buddy of mine loves these rides. And in fact, he doesn't think that people who don't ride vintage bikes should even be allowed (if that makes sense). Anyway, someone posted pictures of the ride on Shutterfly.

This is a good turn out. This would not have happened on a chilly Sunday 2 years ago.

Interesting item #2: Fixed/Single Speed Race
Simon is really interested in getting the fixed crowd racing. This has been tried a few times and is likely happening today under the radar. There's lots of reasons racing fixed gear bikes through the city streets should be under the radar, so I admire anyone willing to stand up, print a flyer, and pass it out. And it sounds like he's got the Hanger 57 people on board. They'll be selling $1 Pabst. Because, what's a fixed event without Pabst?
This just in: Simon will be premiering the movie, Fast Friday, at Hanger 57 after the ride. Fast Friday is a documentary about the fixed culture in Seattle.

Did you know that all the way up into the early 60's there were frequent amateur bike races in Spokane? I don't know much about them, but I do know that they were free-for-alls, and that streets were not closed down, and a common finish line was Manito Park. If you know of anyone that may know more about this, please send them my way. I'd love to learn more. Whatever I learn, I'll post.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No longer a virgin

Stuart and Travis bask in glow of victory

What a great thing cyclocross is.

The picture above was taken after the race. Stuart won handily and Travis came in second -- single speeds both. I think there were about 10-12 rookies racing. I landed squarely in the middle - I think I came in 5th or 6th. If so, I'm happy with that.

Stuart is great. He called me last night and asked if I still had a bike he could use. I had offered him the 720 a couple weeks ago. When he called last night, it was missing a crank set, tires, and a saddle. It is set up as a single speed, so finding a crank with a proper ring was also a requirement.

Stuart rode up to my house this morning at 8am. He built up the rest of the bike with just enough time for us to hop in the car, pick up Liza and drive out to Farragut.

He's raced in the past, but he never raced CX, so mounts, dismounts, run-ups, etc were all new. Aside from being a single speed, the bike had some handicaps for Stuart to overcome: it's a low trail bike (40 mm) which he found a bit twitchy. And the brake levers are reversed, which is hard to get used to - especially as you race. I love that he just came out and won the rookie race with all this back story.

Travis is just a great rider too. He just goes hard and doesn't stop. He took a bad fall on the second lap and still rallied for 2nd place. I love that. I got a great photo of his bloody stump of a knee, but I need to find just the right home for it.

I knew the race would be hard, and it was. I don't think I've ever maintained that kind of heart rate for 1/2 hour. And the thought of doing 45 or 55 minutes of that kind of pace is frightening. I've still got the hiccups and my lungs feel like I smoked a pack of cigarettes last night.

But dang it was fun.

Here's the woulda-couldas -- on the first lap, there were some horse riders on the trail in the hidden back-woodsy part. Flippen horses! At this point, the pack was still mostly together. I think it was. I was about 10 yards behind Travis. Stuart, Travis, and one or two others blasted by the horses, one of which was doing the Lone Ranger nervous dance. I stopped. Damn me. After that I could never close the gap.

It's ok though, because what ended up happening was that about 4 of us ended up with our own little sub-race. It was cool. We stayed together till the end then two of us broke out and battled it out. I stayed on the guy's wheel until the last straight-away, where I took every last bit of oxygen I could find and attacked. It was sooo weak. I attacked too early and he still had some left. He stepped on it and I couldn't get him.

Damn it was fun though. What a thrill. So I really want to go again and see if I can stay with the front pack or if I'll have to lean on another horse-story...

This year I've only been able to clear the calendar to run 2 races, maybe 3 if things fall the right way. I may prioritize this higher next year.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Palisades Detour

Piled up logs: a good sign that the trail is closed.

I had big plans to continue my Spokane perimeter trail today, but I ended up petering out. I was just a bit pinched for time so I didn't feel like I could really get out north, search for some east-bound trails, find them, get lost, enjoy them, etc and still be back in town in time for my lunch appointment. So, I ended up going to Palisades and checking out a new section of the trail up on Rimrock.

About a week ago, local cyclist, trail builder, and Pugsley owner, David Nelson sent Mr Blaine and I a note about some trail work he'd just finished up at Palisades. Here's the meat of the e-mail (with some bits chopped out to keep it brief-ish):

I’m sure by now that if you ride in Palisades much that the section of trail 101 just north of the intersection of Greenwood and Rimrock has been closed by the private property owner who owns the land a 100 yard section crossed. One of our club members (Monica Spricker) surveyed the boundary of the
parcel and I marked a new route around it that has already been somewhattrampled out and I’ll be improving it over the next few days...

... it will make things much easier for everyone if people stay off the old section of trail. I’m going to reclaim the old section of trail so that hopefully people won’t even remember it’s there but it seems there are always one or two that can’t keep out...

Don’t worry; the re-route won’t be along Rimrock, in fact I think it’s going to be pretty fun and I tried to keep it on somewhat high ground because Palisades gets pretty swampy in the spring.

I went and rode the new section today. It needs a lot more traffic on it to get it worked in. It's a bit hard to follow, so if you want to check it out, keep an eye out for the little green flags. I GPS'd the section in question and posted it on Bikely for those who really want to be sure.

As I enter the realm of mountain biking I'm getting much more exposure to the ethics, issues, and realities of the public vs private land. It's becoming an interesting subject for me. I've exchanged some e-mail with Rich Landers this week on the issue and spent a bunch of time talking to Jon over at OTM about it too.

There's an article or a series of blog posts on the subject likely at some point, but the interesting bit to me is that there's a bunch of trails that traverse private and public property in and around our city. There are many many sympathetic land owners that allow cyclists, horse back riders, and runners to use the trails. Most of the trails are not well-known and are used by a very respectful set of recreational users. On the other hand, there are trails that traverse private land and are well-known, so well-known, that they're basically public trails. And there's trails, like this Palisades bit that have been around forever and cross private land and for some reason, the land owner doesn't want people crossing it. It's hard to really give this subject a full and in-depth treatment since the last thing you want to do is expose a bunch of trails and ruin things.

Anyway... here I am going on. The point for this particular section is that we know the land owner doesn't want us there, so as recreational trail users, it's super important that we respect that wish and use the new trail.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Cyclocross Career Begins on Sunday

Cyclocross started about a month ago elsewhere, but the Inland NW Cyclocross Series starts this weekend. The first race is Saturday at Liberty Lake. Then on Sunday, there is a race at Farragut State Park.

The season's schedule is on the Emde site.

All up, I'm really looking forward to my first race. I'm not really very close to where I wanted to get fitness-wise for the race and I've rediscovered what an awful runner I am. Sprinting? Ha! In the end, I just did not prioritize training. I'm not the training type I guess.

But that's okay. My goals: don't come in DFL, and have fun. Luckily, the Rookie class only races for 30 minutes, and we race against starting juniors -- like 12 year olds and maybe younger. So hopefully, I'll achieve both goals. The practices were a lot of fun, and that course sucked hugely (all hill and grass), so I'm thinking Farragut and the 7-Mile races will be pretty fun.

As I've attempted to train and prepare for my first race, my beloved RB-T has undergone some transformations yet again. I swapped out the compact double for a single 39 chain ring. That simplifies things a bit.

The picture above shows the up-side-down shot. Hairy Gary worked his magic on the stays after I totally screwed them up. He gave me some more tire clearance (brute-force-hockey-puck method), then re-aligned the rear triangle and squared it with the front triangle.

I still need to finish taping the bars. Oh yeah, and I have a plastic saddle on there. That's new. But I don't want to trash my Brooks. It's ready to roll.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gasworks Park

Alex and I rode to Ballard today from Redmond. We went the I-90 route, which is a great ride.
When we got to Ballard, we went our separate ways for dinner, then met up again on the way back. 

He brought me to Gasworks Park and showed me the view.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chain Cleaning

It's nice having Liza work amongst real bike mechanics at REI. She brings home all sorts of interesting and useful information. The latest is a method for cleaning chains. Like most bike stuff that I learn, this is probably a trick that is well-known to most, and certainly well-known to real bike mechanics.

I've always used some kind of degreaser like simple green or some other bio-friendly crud. (On a side note: does it really matter if it's bio-friendly? After you soak a grimy greasy chain and other petro-based gunk in bio-friendly stuff, is it still bio-friendly?)

The trick Liza taught me was to warm it up. It's just like doing dishes: grease and gunk cleans off a lot better when you use hot water. I have an old butane burner thing that my mom gave me from her catering company. I put some simple green and water in an old ruined saute pan and fired it up.

It's amazing how the crud just falls off.

Dig this.

Here is the chain before cleaning.
Here is the chain after about 5 mintues in hot simple green/water solution. Hard to tell a big difference, but it's cleaner.
Here's the chain after about 10 minutes of light wiping/scrubbing with a Little Mermaid toothbrush. These pics don't do it justice. This chain is like new: even in between the links, where I can never ever get the gunk out.

I've never really done very well taking care of chains. I think maybe it's because I'd go through all the fuss and muss and the chain was only marginally better when I was finished than when I started. This method is extremely satisfying. I may just start taking better care of my chains.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Spokane Perimeter Trail Ride: Part 1

I want to find a way around the perimeter of the city using as much trail and dirt road as possible. Ben and I staked out familiar territory today: from the South Hill to Palisades.

Our next segment will be Palisades to 9 mile. From there, we'll need some northsiders to help us move east to west across the north perimeter of the city. Got any ideas? Lay them on me.

And if you're interested in riding these with us, let me know. We ride on Fridays. From around 9 am to whenever.

Ben showed me a couple new trails today. One from Eagle Ridge down to the cemetery on Cheney-Spokane road that really makes me happy. That was a big piece of non-dirt in my preliminary route.

I went over my bars twice. Twice! The second time was super lame. I was eating an apple and being a dork and not paying attention. I shanked my front wheel. Damn it!

Ben had to use his zen voodoo wheel beating magic powers to make it ridable again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

More Pants Stuff

After posting on Rick's Knicks, Liza persuaded me to post about my new wool pants. These are Value Village pants: perfect fit and a nice thickness of wool. They're not as thin as fancy slacks, but not super crazy Swedish Army Wool Pants thick either. Really good for riding in the 30-40F range.

I made a quick modification to the cuffs to velcro them back. I stole Grant's design from his MUSA pants. (Which, at $40, are about the best deal on US-made cycling pants you can find.)

That's the velcro design. I sewed some reflective fabric on top of the grabby side of velcro. Simple and easy. Total cost: about $8.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Review: Rick's Knicks from Bicycle Fixation

(Dear Rick: if you see this, don't delete or move this image off your site -- I'm referencing the URL cause I'm lazy)

I've been meaning to write up a post on these knickers for about 6 months now.

I post a fair number of posts bitching about stuff that breaks so I'm trying to balance things out by reviewing stuff I like lately. And I like these knickers.

Wearing knickers for the first time takes just a pinch of chutzpah. You feel a bit wanky walking around in knickers at first, then you ride in them and realize how they make gobs of sense. I figure anyone who wears wool socks with sandals is not going to be accused of being a slave to fashion. And when I wear my knickers with wool socks and sandals that notion is thrown right out the window and we enter the realm of fashion nightmare. So my point: who cares. I wear what works.

These knickers are hemp. Hemp does a lot better than cotton, but not as good as wool, at dealing with moisture and to some degree, regulating temperature. Hemp is supposedly a really tough fiber.

The first pair of knickers I got from Rick failed -- they ripped in the crotch and developed holes where my butt bones sit on the saddle. They failed pretty quickly, and at $100 I asked Rick -- the guy who owns the company -- about the failure. He asked for some pictures of the failures and without question, sent me a new pair and a bit of hemp fabric to patch up the existing pair.

He mentioned that he had some issues with one batch of the fabric and that's what lead to the failure. The replacement pair he sent me is a bit thicker, and he's working on another version that will use even sturdier fabric.

He also sells wool knickers. The wool versions come in two styles: fancy and like the hemp ones (called "city" knickers). I recently ordered the wool city versions for fall/winter. So far so good.

The knickers were developed by Rick, who is a daily, non-car-having cyclist from LA. They're sewed in LA and are worth every cent. They have excellent detailing: little darts at the knees, ample thighs, fancy pockets inside the pockets, adjustable tabs at the waist. They rule. It's nice to wear real clothes made for cycling designed by a cyclist. If only all cycling clothes were this well thought out and nice looking. If you order some, they run a tad big so if you're not sure, order down.

His website is http://www.bicyclefixation.com/index.html. While you're there, check out Liza's photo essay of her trip to the homeland a couple years ago.

For what it's worth: I have not received any favors (aside from the excellent service noted above) from Rick.

Public Meeting Tomorrow (Weds, Oct 8)

The City will be having a public meeting tomorrow at the South Hill Library to present and receive feedback on the planned construction for 37th Ave from Perry to Ray.

Part of these plans include putting in bike facilities per the comprehensive plan. Specifically: this section (as is all of 37th) is designated as a bike lane. Putting these lanes in will require on-street parking to be removed.

Removing parking is traditionally met with resistance by some property owners. Most property owners understand how the addition of bike lanes improves the quality of life for those that live on the street, and thereby increases the value of the property.

If you are a cyclists that likes bike lanes and thinks the city should bake bike facilities into these types of projects, then your voice is an important one, especially if you live or ride in the area.

The meeting is from 4-6pm at the South Hill Library. More info here. Please attend if you can.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Grand Bois Hetre

I ordered some Grand Bois Hetre tires from Bicycle Quarterly just over a month ago. When I ordered, Jan had the black ones, but was out of the red-treaded version. I figured for $60 a pop, I would hold out for the bling.

Damn these are nice tires. These are hands-down-no-question the best tires I have ever ridden. Cushy poofy fast grippy. I'd do a commercial. These tires really complete the Rawland as the go-anywhere super John-bike.

The vast majority of cyclists I know judge the quality or greatness of a tire by its ability to withstand punctures. The other ones still cling to the myth that rock hard, high-pressure tires are "faster." It's a damn cryin shame, because both camps (and there's plenty of overlap here) are really missing out on riding great tires that offer both cush and speed.

But no puncture protection.

For the flat-tire-fearers: practice fixing a flat until you can do it (including the patch, which takes 5 minutes to dry) in under 10 minutes. That solves that issue. Riding awful tires like Armadillos misses the whole point of pneumatic tires. (For the 1/2 of 1% of you that ride daily through goat-heads, please don't flame me: I get it, you need flat protection.)

For the "must have hard tire" believers: read some of the work Jan has done on the "hard tires are fast" myth in BQ. And/or ride some Grand Bois Cerfs or some Panaracer Pasalas or some Avocet FastGrips. I'm a believer.

Anyway, back to the glowing review. These tires are great on the road. At 60 psi and 42mm wide, they float over the big cracks and crevices that crisscross our lovely Spokane "streets." They are grippy in their fast descent cornering, and they are good enough for the majority of trail riding I'll be doing.

I went on the White Road trail this morning, up the one side, then over White to try out the rocky-ledgy section. As slicks, they skid quickly on fast rear braking, but that's expected. They're cushiness (still at 60 psi), provides a wide enough contact patch to grind up hard pack and to soak up the rocky baby heady stuff.

I still want some mid-40mm semi-knobbies -- and I have the giant neomotos for snow, but otherwise, these tires will be daily drivers.