Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First week of a snowy riding

The last week has been a great intro to snow riding. We've had super cold single digits to provide the ice-like experience and we've had good quantities of snow to provide a good range of road surface.

In terms of surface, it's full-on winter mode now. On my commute to the office today, I rode over ice, freshly scraped streets, accumulated/trodden-upon roads, and even some deep uncut snow. I also have a pedestrian over pass that is salted on the ends and provides a nice steep slippery climb and a sleddish descent.

I have three winter bikes going this year: a single speed mountain bike with 1.75" studs (the MB-2), a CX bike with 700x38 studs (the RB-T), and the Rawland with 2.3" fatties.

I like the MB-2 because it's got lights, racks, and fenders, which makes it a nice daily driver/grocery getter/bar bike. I can muscle it through most moderate snow. But once the snow piles up too deep I have a hard time floating the front wheel over the sandy stuff.

The CX bike with knobbies is just for ice. On our BF ride last week we had a couple guys show up with narrow-knobbied 700c bikes and they held up good. Both guys are in good shape aerobically, which I think is the primary reason they held up, but they also had good handling skills, and the snow was relatively fresh, which is easier to cut through with narrower tires.

Once the snow piles up and there are multiple layers which have been driven over, the surface can act weird and grab your front tire. You've really got to finesse the front end/steering in these conditions and narrower tires, I think, increase the finesse factor. Which, of course, makes you a better rider.

The Rawland is great. I think if I had to have just one bike this winter, I would go with the Rawland with the fat knobbies. I really fought the soft spots on the way home last night when I was riding the MB-2. The front tire just kept getting away from me.

Since my commute home last night, it's snowed more and the Rawland just eats it up. As long as you hit deep stuff with decent speed and your weight back, you can power through just about anything on the Rawland. I really enjoyed the ride to work this morning.

I would love to try a Pugsley for a week or two for this kind of commuting. I wonder how long I can put off buying a Pugsley? Especially now that Surly has a built Pugsley that retails for about $1550. And Salsa has the Mukluk, which I can't find a retail price for. But as I've noted before, the more the better -- we want a rich used market for these ultra-fat-tired bikes.

If I could find a way to use the Pugsley in non-snow, I might swing the justification. Maybe if I ratcheted up the Nat'l Forest camping a bit to go more trail than road? What's it like to ride 40+ miles a day on a Pugsley? How does it like moderate loads? It probably likes loading over the back wheel. How about as mountain bike? I think my SOS Sunday ride would not be ideal for a Pugsley. How about a generator hub? Is it possible to swap out the axle on a generator hub and add spacers so it can span the 135 mm OLD of the Pugsley fork?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cargo Turd

Rory just sent me pictures of the finished Cargo Turd. I love how this bike has stuck around. This frame was once mine -- I originally bought it at a garage sale for $5 and I rode the crud out of it before handing it off to Rory.

For more history, I have a fuji turd label on this blog. With this post, the fuji turd label has 19 posts! A proud history indeed.

Great looking paint job. I like the twin stays too. Nice touch.

Rory has been working on this project for a few months with Alex. It's the same basic design as the cycle truck that Alex made for me. More on Alex's blog.

Review: Patagonia Micro Puff Vest

I'm pretty sure this vest is my favorite clothing purchase this year. The goal with this vest was to find a super light and packable vest for overnighters. It's nice to have an always-warm happy upper body solution to put on after a long ride. This is especially true when cycling in the mountains or at the edges of the seasons where night-time temps can get under 40 F. So having a compact piece of warmth to put on for hanging out around the camp and for summer-sleeping-bag-supplement is a great thing.

Originally, I was keeping my eye out for the Patagonia down vest. But then I saw the Micro Puff on ebay for $40. Micro Puff is not marketed as synthetic down, but that's how I think of it. It looks and acts like down. I've always been wary of synthetic down just because the real stuff is so magical. I didn't want to deal with the inevitable let down (pa dum pum) of the fake stuff.

Anyway, at $40, I took the bet and I've been surprised at how wonderful this little vest is. I wear it all the time on the bike and off. It's amazingly warm for how small it is. It does ok in light rain too. For super cold (single digits and below) riding, I go: two micro wool long sleeve shirts, this vest, then a hooded shell. Works like a charm.

It wads nicely

If I continue to use this vest like I have been, I may just swear by it. Time will tell.

I can't believe how often I grab this vest. For any longish ride where I wonder if I might possibily potentially be in cold situation, this vest is in my bag. Look at how tiny it balls up?

Durability wise, I've had it for about 6 months -- no rip yet. Pretty good for me. But I've not crashed in it yet.

Hanging out at CDA Nat'l Forest in my comfy vest after an all day ride.
Explaining something really important after drinking a TenFidy.
Photo by Alex Wetmore

Looking at the Patagonia's site, it looks like the latest version of this vest is baffled on the outside, but otherwise, looks the same. It's also $130. But for some reason, you see these pop up on Ebay where you don't see the down versions.

This whole synthetic down thing really opens my mind to trying a different sleeping bag too. I love my 30F down bag, but I have gotten stuck with some wet clumpy situations a couple times.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Perfect kicksled conditions

It snowed a bunch over the last week. Then it got to about 36F today and the wet snow was compacted by traffic. It's about 25F now and super slick.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Ken Paulman Memorial Menudo Ride

The back of KP's head.

This weather just begs for a Sunday morning ride out to De Leons (North) for huevos rancheros.

Leave the fountain at 8:42 AM this Sunday.

1st Annual BF ride report

I took one picture and it was lame. I stole this one from Pat and made it my own.

All in all, it was a good aerobic event. I think it was about 5 miles. With two coffee shop stops. So 5:2. Not quite the golden ratio... we'll call it the BF ratio.

I was expecting 3 people, but 7 showed up: Pat, Hank, Steve, Bill, Eric, Dylan, and Joe.

It was fun and relaxed. We'll do again next year. The weather will dictate the ride.

Update: With Pat's, Hank's, and my blog post on this ride we've reached the miles-to-blog post golden ratio of 5:3.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


With Liza on there it's a good workout. With Maddie it's just fun.
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Black Friday ride update and general carrying on about snowy cold riding on Thanksgiving morn

I can't get around on the trails. I tried just riding through the snow of Cannon Hill Park last night and it was not rad.

And there's more snow a-fallin, so it won't get easier. But it's going to be warm!

So, ride has been downgraded from a trail ride to a ride-whatever-we-can-get-through-ride.

And we'll leave at Scoop at 8:00-ish.

I made a store run yesterday on the Hakkapeliita-shod CX bike. The streets are basically compact snow that acts like ice. With studs, it's like normal riding. Except yesterday it was about 3F.
My thinking was that it would be lovely to have gears -- since my proper winter bike is a single speed. But, I never really cleaned up the CX bike after the last cross race I did, which was rainy wet lame sandy. So in about 3 blocks of riding yesterday in the freezing temps, my CX also became a single speed. I wanted to blame the brifter, but my guess is that there's water in the cables under the bottom bracket and water in the housing by the rear derailleur. And probably water in the brifter. And any water anywhere certainly froze solid.

Last night was a Benniditos/Park Inn run on the winter bike. That was lovely.

I'm trying to talk Liza into hooking up the kicksled to the winter bike today before we get the turkey on the grill. In any case everyone who is able aught to do a pre-Thanksgiving meal ride.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rocking the kicksled

Great day today. The first good snow commute was fun. It's days like this, where it's nice and cold and the snow is light and powdery where I love riding a bike like the Rawland. The deep snow likes to engulf the wheels, so disc brakes are nice. I have the big honking 2.3" Neo Moto super turd knobbies on there -- they do great in the snow.

I concede the disc brake superiority now in 2.5 scenarios: deep snow (and that weird icy, wet, 'tweener stage of freaky rim-encrusting-slushiness that happens here about once every two years but happens at least once a winter in Portland) and fast trail riding.

But whatever. I fell once on the way to work today. Re-opened a scab from last summer on my knee. Dang. Other than that, the commute was fun.

I love wintery snowy nights. This is the second night in a row that Liza and I have been able to get out and enjoy the snow. We've made two trips to the grocery store. With one more trip, we'll have all we need for Thanksgiving.

Fresh fallen snow, even with some nice packed stuff under it, is not the best kicksled scenario. We really need a little warmer temperature to melt the snow a tad, then a good cold blast to harden it. That's perfect kicksleding. But we had a good workout tonight. And it was beautiful, and cold, and quiet.

With the snow still falling and the temps nice and low tonight, cross-country skiing looks promising tomorrow. I suck hugely at cross country skiing, but I plan on working on my form. I have the day off and a few hours to hit the park. I shall get better!

About this whole Black Friday thing. Every time I look at the weather prediction it changes. I've seen predictions for a bunch more snow. I've seen predictions for really low temps.

As it looks now, if the snow doesn't get too deep, we may be able to get a few miles in without blowing up. But if it's deep snow, we'll transition to something else. Either skiing, sledding, or just going to the boozer and talking about what we could do.

Props The Those Hardy Souls

I saw this gentleman riding through downtown this afternoon.

Waiting for our late-arriving bus after work, a number of us were hunkered down like Emperor penguins patiently waiting out a storm. The biting cold wind was merciless and the snow crystals gathered on our leeward sides. All we could do was alternate between squinting through the flurries at the clock above the Sterling Bank and the headlights coming from the west on Riverside hoping to see "124 North Express". Hurry!

Only One More Week To Play Transportation Planning Game

Okay folks, your time is running out to express your opinion on the future of transportation in Spokane. You've only got one more week to play 'A Thousand Visions- A Transportation Planning Game.'

The game is part of our Transportation Vision Project that is aimed at developing a long term transportation plan for all of Spokane County, including an implementation plan. It's online here, on the Transportation Vision Project website.

The game lets you decide how much you're willing to be taxed, which dictates how much money you have to spend on transportation 'improvements.' From there, you work through a list of possible future projects and 'fund' the ones that are a priority. And for you bicycling fans, there are several non-motorized projects included.

Results from the game will give us an idea how people want their transportation dollars spent in the future. The game is online through Monday, Nov. 29. I figure it's kind of like voting; if you don't do it, you can't complain later if things don't go your way.

And don't forget that there's something in it for you. If you complete the game in its entirety, your name goes into a drawing for a TomTom GPS unit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Liza bike

It still wants fenders, rack, and light. Jury is still out on the bars.
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Steph's new Elephant

Maddie and I stopped by Glen's today to press a headset and drop off some Maddie-school-fund-raiser-chocolate.

And there stood Steph's new Elephant CX bike. Good god. That is the best paint combo yet. And it's no accident. Apparently Steph really wrung her brain finalizing the decal color. It's striking. I so dig it.

The crappy cell phone camera shots don't show the nice brown that the paint is. It's called bronze. But it's just a really nice chocolate-ish brown. Lovely.

Since Steph wasn't there we got to try it out. Maddie stood over it. She's got a bit of growing to make it work. But my pea brain got burning pretty hot thinking about Maddie-Elephant solutions as I stared at this bike. I also took it for about a 20 foot ride.

Cool fact: the rims are from Glen's Bontrager days -- they are Super Champions that were rolled down from 700c to 26" in the Bontrager garage many moons ago. Sweet.

I'm not sure if he's going to keep these rims on there or build her up a new set with AeroHeat rims and pull-through hubs (which were damn light). In any case, Steph will be rocking a bitchin wheelset.

It's probably against some blogging law to post pictures of someone's bike before the someone has even seen it. It's at least bad form, but I can't help myself and Glen said it was ok.

Hopefully Steph will be racing this bike tomorrow. And hopefully she'll post a report here when she's done. No pressure though!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mini Velo

I'd love to get my mitts on this bike for a weekend in the summer. I think it would be fun for trail bombing on High Drive. It's all slack and weird looking, but I'm thinking those 20" wheels make it fast and nimble.

My buddy let me borrow his Swift folder for a few months. That was a fun trail/dirt bike too. As an added bonus, it was set up in fixed (aka Tarik) mode.

There's something about 20" wheels and bombing that makes sense. My childhood calls back to me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Black Friday ride

Last August I mentioned a Thanksgiving day ride. Barb commented that doing it on Black Friday instead might be a better idea. She was right.

So I'm not crazy about rides where many random people show up that I've not ridden with, so I don't know what I was thinking, but friends keep asking me about it so we'll give it a shot.

It's not like I don't want to meet new people. But I don't like huge group rides because if everyone is trying to be nice and amicable and patient, then you end up waiting forever for stuff: the random flat, the friend of a friend who is on his way, the weird-o mechanical failure, an unfortunate spill, etc. Then people feel bad because they're holding everything up and some people just want to go and it can be weird. Maybe we can find a way to avoid that weirdness.

Anyway, the plan is to leave The Scoop at 7:30 AM on Black Friday. We'll do the NW Passage loop.

I don't know if the Scoop will be open at this time on this day. It's just a handy spot to leave from.

Apropos of the weirdness mentioned above, let me just throw some stuff out here:

  • This is a mountain bike ride. I would call it moderately technical and moderately fast. You should be comfortable bombing around on stuff like the Highdrive trails and Riverside at a moderate speed. That said, this ride doesn't require a dual suspension bike. A CX bike or hard tail will work fine. I'd definately have some tread/knobbie on whatever you ride though.
  • I hate the idea of a drop ride: where people who aren't keeping up, are dropped and left for dead.
  • I also really don't like the idea of a no-drop ride if there's a lot of people going different speeds.
  • Maybe I'm over thinking this. Probably. But what we may do is group at specific spots. Like, the first section would be to drop down into the flat behind the cul de sacs and meet on Hatch and Tomaker. Wait. Regroup, then do the Pines section, then meet at the bottom of White Hill. If that makes sense. So, we're not doing a turn by turn wait, no drop thing, but we are regrouping. Whew.
  • Another idea -- let's say the freaks show up. Guys like Ben and Jake for example. They can take a fast and knarly group. I could take a moderate group. Then we'll find a stopper-and-smeller-of-roses to lead the rose-smelling group. That could kind of work.
  • There are many bail out options. If you're worried that you ate too much tofurky and won't be able to keep up, but you dig the idea, then at least join in for the first few miles, which is all down hill.
  • Not sure how far or how long we'll go. I'll need to be back home by around 1 or so, but enthusiastic folk can keep going. It may make sense to ride until 11:30 or so and end up at Benniditos. Or something.
  • This is just a ride with friends... at your own risk, as they say -- don't go showing up and hurting yourself and suing me. You should be self sufficient in the flat-fixing, mechanical department and all that.
Man, I can really kill the idea of a fun ride huh?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Deck is nearly done

Just needs clean up. Hard part is next: stays.
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The wrong bolt for the job

This bolt (without a washer), ripped through my Honjo fender. Lesson: use a washer. I fixed it with a longer piece of thin steel plate.

2nd Avenue - public meeting tomorrow

Project: 2nd Avenue from Howard Street to Arthur Street.
When: Wednesday, November 17, 2010, starting at 4:30 p.m.
Located at the Spokane Public Library, 906 West Main Avenue, Room 1-A.

This is the east half of the 2nd Ave project, to be completed next year.

All the players that are making decisions on the current 2nd Ave project will be in attendance. We could do a lot better on 2nd Ave.

Public meetings matter. Some day in the future this phrase may be uttered to defend a poor design: "We had a public meeting on this -- it's been vetted..."

If you can, show up and ask the obvious questions.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cyclocross At Liberty Lake

The skies were cloudy but the rain held off. It was a good day for racing. Here are a few shots.

The sand before and after going through the lake was tedious.

Stephanie going through the lake.

The great leap forward.

From those that reacted, the water was very cold.

More sand.

It was great to see racers of all ages and skill levels.

Sunday part 2

I rode with Alex and Rory... on Rory's Legolas. Sweet bike.
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Sunday morning in Seattle

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

My brother is building a stinking plane!

Thankfully he's not the hack mechanic that I am.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Albi's on the tandem

I'm thinking through my list of winter fussing projects at the moment.

And I'm pondering putting Albatross bars on the tandem -- for el capitan (me).

Liza really wants to emphasize chilled out rides and my back always hurts after man-handling that thing around, even for just a few miles. The Albi's may be just the ticket.

It's a super pain swapping out the bars on that tandem. If I do the swap, I think I'll put couplers on the cables and use a faux-threadless setup so I can use a stem with a removable face plate.

'Course putting Albi's on the tandem will require swapping the B17 from the tandem with the B67 that's on the cycle truck. Not sure how I feel about that.

The goal is to do at least one 2-night "tour" on the tandem next year, but hopefully a 3-nighter or a couple 2-nighters will happen.

Just thinking out loud here.

Nov 9 - rack progress

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hang plan

It's time for hang season.

Last year we met at 5:30 on Wednesdays somewhere on the south side.

And drank beer. And shamelessly talked bikes and bike-related nerdom without fear of boring each other. It's a lovely thing for bike nerds who are oppressed daily by their "well-rounded" partners, friends, and family.

High priest of the hang, Glen, has submitted a request to hold the hang on Monday nights instead.

There are two key hangers that can't do Mondays unless it's later (post 8 pm).

I know there is no perfect time, but I'm all about inclusion, so I don't want to leave anyone out to hang on their own.

Is Monday post-8pm better than dinner time on Monday or Weds?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sneak peek

I finally convinced Liza to let me build her up a fast bike.
She prefers a 52cm -ish frame and she likes 26" wheels. She's not a low trail fan, but she likes a quickish front end.
I've been working this deal in the background for a while. It took me some time to find the frame. When I did, it was sound, but not pretty. With some bartering, trading, and just $40 cash, we'll end up with a freshly powder-coated frameset.
Very green apparently.
We'll be picking it up later this week in Seattle.
I've given enough hints for the bike nerds to make a reasonable guess on the frame make/model. So, I won't be a bore and lay it out there.
More to come.

Weird spoke failure

I've busted a handful of spokes over the last few years. In almost all cases, they snap at the bend. I've had a couple break at the nipple too. But I've never had one break like this -- about 20mm away from the head.

Weird, right?

This break was on the cycle truck. Maddie and I really beat the heck out of that bike. It's shifting weird now and it's bugging me. It's doing that think where it won't settle on a gear on the rear cassette if it's mid-to-low range. It's really frustrating. The chain and cassette are nearly new, so it's not a wear issue.

-Some numbers: this is the 802nd post to this blog.
-More: November 10th is the 4th anniversary of this blog's existence.
-Even more: Two years ago on November 9th, 2008 my grandfather, John Speare passed away. A year ago, on November 9th, 2009 my father, John Speare passed away. Let's hope that tomorrow, November 9th, 2010 goes better for this John Speare.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Saw these two piles of car window glass in the trail head parking lot at Fish Lake the other day.

Two theft prevention tips you have probably heard before:

1 - Don't leave anything of even remote value visible in your vehicle. There are people who will break your window for a quarters worth of change (or even an eight track tape).

2 - Don't wait until you are at the trail head to hide your valuables as thieves might observe you securing items making your vehicle a desirable target.