Friday, September 30, 2011

Review -- Keen Austin SPD shoe

I wrote this review a few months back. It originally appeared in the Summer 2011 edition of Bicycle Quarterly.

Keen Austin Pedal
Test distance: about 500 km (300 miles)
Cost: $120
Weight: 533 g
Country of manufacture: China

As a daily cyclist who appreciates clipless pedals, I’m always on the look out for “normal” looking SPD-compatible shoes. There seems to be no shortage of SPD compatible shoes in the world, but like Lycra, most SPD shoes do not blend well in casual non-bikey company.
The Keen Austin hides its utility well in a normal looking and comfortable Oxford-style shoe that is fit for daily use on and off the bike. Like most Keen shoes, the Austin has a distinctively wide toe box and a thick black rubber sole that wraps up over the front of the toe. The Austin’s muted tan color is officially called “Shitake.” Thankfully, there are no garish colors or overtly loud labels to distract from the quiet and unoffending design. In fact, the Keen Austin may be the only boring looking shoe that is SPD compatible. But boring is a huge win in this category, and in the end, the Austin blends well with a wide range of casual clothing and performs reasonably well on the bike too.
The Austin is advertised as a “waterproof” shoe, which is not a claim that should be made lightly to a cycling audience. The Austin does not use a waterproof layer such as Gortex to provide its water resistance. Instead, the leather is mechanically impregnated with silicon. So while the shoe is, strictly speaking, not waterproof, it is impressively water resistant. I have been caught a number of times in hard downpours and I’ve commuted through slushy snowy conditions with this shoe. On a bike with full fenders, the shoe will keep your feet dry until water finds its way through the ankle. On a bike without fenders, the leather will “wet out” when the shoe is subject to constant wheel splash for an hour or so. The Austin has a thick removable footbed that when soaked, dries easily overnight if you remove it from the shoe.
Given the wide design of the Austin, it runs a bit bigger than my other cycling shoes. If you are considering getting a pair, I’d suggest finding a place where you can try them on. If you order them online, size them as a normal shoe, not a cycling shoe.
The roomy toe box is a nice feature in cool-weather riding, as it allows me to wear a medium-weight wool sock without compressing the sock. I’ve ridden comfortably around town in freezing weather with these shoes and medium wool socks. That said, I don’t think I would attempt a long ride out of town in freezing weather with these shoes. But for any weather above freezing, the Austins are an easy choice.
As a shoe – to walk in – the Austin feels like a Keen. While the sole sort of squishes or gives a bit, the Austins generally feel well-supported. They are not overly stiff in the way most traditional racing-oriented cycling shoes tend to be. I wouldn’t want to hike for days in these shoes, but as daily, active, get around shoes, they work just fine.
I’ve had these shoes for nearly five months and I wear them multiple times a week as my daily shoe. Aside from some water staining, they show almost no signs of use. At this rate, I expect them to last for a few years.

My only real complaint with these shoes is that I’d like the SPD cutout on the bottom of the shoe to be a bit better designed. The cutout does not extend far enough to the heel. I position my SPD cleats far back toward the heel. When I initially set up the shoe to put the cleats where I like them, I was unable to clip in easily to my standard Shimano (PD-M520) pedals. The pedal would not recess into the sole without butting into the side of the cutout. With some time and a bit of determination, I’m sure I could remove a bit of the sole around the rear of the cleat, but instead, I positioned the cleat as far back as I could while still clipping in easily. If I used these shoes for long rides my solution would not be ideal, but since most of my rides in these shoes are under 10 miles, my slightly misplaced cleat does not effect my comfort.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Legolas - unoffically

-- White tires are faster. It's a fact. And they improve the likelihood of planing.
-- I've got a lot to say about this bike. It's from Rory. It's front-end is different than most of my bikes. It's got super fancy campy shifting (10 speed 8 speed hack works perfectly). It replaces my RBT. It's for cross and commuting and trail riding. I can only do one of those right now. It's fancy.
-- oh yeah: And I wish i could take the trails home today on this bike.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cold-weather cycling gloves

Gloves. In order of warmth.
It's officially not summer. I was wishing I had some light gloves for this morning commute to keep the chill off.

With the exception of the rare CX race, I don't wear "proper" cycling gloves. Especially for commuting. They're just another thing to lose that don't offer me much benefit. I have plenty of high-benefiting stuff to lose (e.g. keys, phone, headphones, knife, money, wallet).

So I have a lot of cold-weather gloves. For two reasons: I loose them temporarily a lot. And they get wet, so it's nice to have a back up. Actually three reasons: And one pair of gloves does not work in this climate, where a given week in the winter can offer super dry cold, lame wet slushy rainy gunk, freezing rain/snow, and warmish cold in the 40's. There are gloves that get close, but the super cold (under zero in these parts) and death zone (wet and near freezing) really test the boundaries of gloves. I offered my functional design services for gloves last year. I'm not seeing any royalty checks yet.

Sorry. There's four reasons: since most of the gloves I like are not cycling-specific, they tend to fail prematurely in the palm. So when I find one I like, I watch for them to go on sale and I buy them. Summer is a great time to buy gloves.

So without further ado. Here's some notes on the different gloves. In no particular order.
Smartwool cheapies. Sold as "liner" gloves. About $12 on sale.
Good: light, super porous. Easy to stuff into a pocket. Wish I had these this morning when it was about 46F on the way to work.
Bad: The palms will blow out after about 20 commutes.

Modified REI gloves. Modification story here.
Good: probably my most used glove the last couple years. Since the fingers part pops off, it has a great temp range, and it allows me to easily fuss with phone, get keys, etc. The thick fleece has held up in the palm over 2 years. Impressive.
Bad: requires modification. The wind-blocker modification is essential for sub-freezing. The pair on the left are awaiting modification. I'll wrap the wind/rain shield all the way around the finger part this year. Not just on the outside.

PI Lobsters.
Good: not much.
Bad: expensive, not warm under freezing, not warm when wet. Not water proof at all.

OR shells.
Good: great in theory. If they were water proof, I'd love these to death. They're not, but they're great with some liner mittens for snowy rides where snow doesn't wet out and cold/windy rides. I wish someone would make a non-gauntlet-style of these in gortex.
Bad: not water proof. Not made anymore.

Dakine Super Fancies.
These were on close out at the end of the season last year. So I'm gambling on these this for super cold weather.
Good: even if the shells suck, the liners are the bomb. I've been looking for simple poly/fleece liner mittens since REI discontinued theirs about 4 years ago. I'll use these a lot this year. I hope the liners hold up better than the REI ones did, cause a super light-weight, simple fleece mitten is a great thing.
Bad: The one time I tried these at the end of the season my hands sweated to death from all the layers of poly. I think you can get away with a layer or two of plastic, but to breath you gotta have gortex or wool somewhere in there.

OR Flurry Gloves
Another close-out bet. I like these. They're wool with poly/fleece lining.
Good: Warmer than they look and they hold up to wet surprisingly well. Good enough for a wettish 30 minute ride. Wool exterior appears to be holding up well in the palm area.
Bad: Nothing yet.

Ibex liners (L) and Ibex gloves (R)
I love Ibex stuff but these liners are always a huge disappointment in how fast the palms blow up. It's a shame they don't do something to reinforce them to make them useful as stand alone cool-weather gloves, cause they're wonderful to wear. I try to save these only for liner duty, but I'm not great at that.
The red ones are just good solid wool gloves. Same functionally as the Smartwools at the top, but these guys have the glue-y little bits on the palm, so they last much longer. My memory is that they cost about $20 on sale? Good buy those.

Cheap rag wool fingerless convertible gloves.
Good: super cheap. Worth having around just in case. Pretty sure I got these when I needed gloves on a shit ride home from Kettle Falls.
Bad: run that wicked piece velcro over your cold dripping nose for a brutal reminder of why velcro should never go there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Favorite bikes

I'm a lucky bastard.
Blue: Jeff Lyon
Orange: Glen Copus

It's cross season. And other stuff.

This incriminating photo is posed. She didn't do this!
 Maddie found the spray paint that was used to vandalize this bridge in a ditch.
She came home and used the paint to mark the inside of her tree house.

I'm tired of my clot and tired of talking about it.

I'm riding to work, which is wonderful. And generally taking easy/moderate rides. Soon I'll be taking harder rides. Overall I'll be sticking to the rules outlined here.


Since I can't ride cross, I plan on being a hanger-on. Tonight for the practice session, I raked. And took some photos.

First race is this Saturday at 7-mile airstrip. My goal is to take some photos. And hang out. I'll be riding out there. Moderately of course. On the Centennial Trail.

If you want to ride along, I'll be departing from the Sandifur Bridge at 10 to make the first race at 10:30.

Midnight Century finishers!
I got some envelopes. If you finished the Midnight Century, send me an email with your mailing address and I'll send you a finisher card. My email is john at phred dot org.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Easy money

Kid for hire.
Here she's sorting bearings for Glen. $20 the easy way. She says she's saving for a microscope.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Here's the short version:

1. I will be able to ride at normal "vigor" within a week or so.
2. I have to be a very careful rider.

The long version.

I'm going to leave out a ton of detail and technical terms, mostly because I'm lazy, but also, this *is* a bike blog.
Item 1: I will ride soon
My clot goes from my ankle up to my thigh.
The way these go away is to thin the blood so the clot stops growing. When the blood thins, the clot will sort of solidify along my vein and my vein and body will slowly absorb it over a few months. The whole "don't ride vigorously" advice refers to the chunk of time when your clot can still form. As it forms, bits can break off. Those bits can mess you up: think exploding brains, lungs, heart messy. So I'm taking blood thinners. Right now, I'm injecting myself twice a day to get my blood level to the right number. A couple times a week, I'll be going to the clinic to get a blood test to figure out the blood thinness number. Once I get to the right number (hopefully next week), I'll quit the daily shots and just take a pill to maintain the right blood thinness.
That's when I'll be able to ride with vim and vigor.
Note I also have some dietary restrictions and a requirement to drink 2 beers a day. Really. The blood thinning medication is sensitive to alcohol. So you have to commit: either no drinking or drink daily. But no in between. And no more than 2 drinks a day.
I'll be on blood thinner for 6 months.
Item 2: I need to be super careful
The whole blood-thinning thing is freaky. The concept is simple: it just means it will take longer for my blood to clot if I bleed. That's not a big deal when you cut yourself and the wound is external and easy to apply pressure to, stitch, or cauterize.
But it becomes a huge scary deal when you consider that your brain is just a big ball of fat floating in a delicate web of blood vessels. Apparently, folks on blood thinning drugs can knock their heads relatively not-hard and get internal bleeding up there. That's freaky. There's additional internal bleeding scenarios that are also freaky, but the brain one is the freakiest.
So, this is where the whole risk thing comes in.
I'm going to ride. From a risk perspective, I don't think it makes sense not to commute by bike, but then go and commute by car instead.
I'm not, however, going to ride a bike in the following scenarios for the next six months:
  • Trail riding/mountain biking. The fact is: the fun of mountain biking for me, is to push my technical limits. As a result, I wreck a lot. Mountain biking w/out going fast/pushing my comfort level, doesn't really appeal to me. This includes pump tracking and drop-bar-off-road-tom-foolery. But it does not include National Forest-type riding, which is really just long rides on dirt roads.
  • Drunk. On a two-day-a-beer diet, this is unlikely, but for the sake of completeness, it should be stated. To be clear, I don't ride around drunk. But one great benefit of being a bike-riding-beer-drinker is being able to occasionally have one too many at Benidittos and burning it off on the way up the hill. No more of that for the next six months.
  • Racing. Cross racing is out. That's a heart breaker. But each season I've raced (and I've only raced a few races a year), I've gone down at least once. I'd love to reason my way out of this, but it's not going to happen.
  • Fast descents. The idea of wrecking in this scenario is scary anyway, but even with a Nutcase dork helmet, going down at 30+ MPH would probably kill me.
So that's the deal. I'd rather not have this freaking clot, but it's not the end of the world. It's pretty painful at the moment, so I don't know how much riding I'll be able to do until blood flow improves a bit.

Also, there are 3 known causes (stasis, trauma, heredity) for blood clots and one unknown (shit happens/life is a mystery).  I can't find anyone in my family that's had a clot before, but the pending blood test will clear up the heredity issue. If it's the unknown kind (and about 20% of clot patients fall into this area), then is more likely than not to be a once-in-a-lifetime issue that will go away if I don't screw up the therapy.

2 final thoughts:
- Cars and driving still sucks. I've been driving all over the place for the last 4 days. It's no wonder our world is so mean and angry and stressed. I forget how much I rely on the bookend rides every day. No matter what kind of gooey shit I have to deal with at work or at home, there's always a bike ride around the corner. Not having it has been lame. And imagining it for months on end was making me pretty anxious.
- My friends and family are rad. Aside from the visible comments on the last post, I've gotten emails, FB posts, and calls from tons of people offering support, electric bikes, weekends of rack building, bourbon drinking, hangs, and just straight-up support and "dude that sucks, get better" notes. It's cool and it really mattered. Thanks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The struggle to re-frame

When lame stuff happens to Maddie and she gets super mad and angry, I try to tell her to re-frame -- that how we react to lame stuff is a choice. And that we really can't control much. So being able to re-frame a crap situation into something non-sucky, is a choice we can make.

That's damn sensible and easy advice to give to an 8 year-old girl with trivial-seeming 8 year-old problems, but not so easy to dish out on my 40 year old self.

As it turns it out, that lame cramping in my calf is a stinking blood clot. Wtf? Blood clots are for old, sedentary people, right?

Friggin heck.

The bottom line is that I'm on blood thinning drugs for 6 months, which means no bleeding, which is kind of side-hobby to cycling for me. Not that I'm awash in blood on a regular basis or anything, but I fall and wreck quite a bit and I get a bunch of little scrapes and cuts on a pretty regular basis. Especially when I'm mountain biking or trail-riding. So 6 months of chilling the frig out is kind of lame.

But here's the kicker: two months of non-"vigorous" activity. Basically, vigorous exercise could dislodge this clot, or a chunk of this clot, out of my thigh and into my blood stream, which could work its way into my heart or lung. That's super bad. So I'm really pondering the idea of "vigorous."

I know what it means to me. Basically, that's a heart rate that makes me pant and puff. The doctor said riding bikes mellow is ok. But no hammering. Liza, of course, asked the doctor what he though about me commuting daily. And specifically, about riding up the south hill every day.

He said that for even fit cyclists, it's probably not a great idea. But he also made a point of saying that he really wasn't sure. Blood clot patients never ask this question and there's zero research on such stuff as it's pretty much impossible to test. I have another pulmonary doc that I'm going to see next week. I'll needle him with this.

But I'm pretty sure that by riding my mountain bike in low gear I could go up the south hill at a just-above-resting heart rate. Certainly nothing approaching vigorous.

Communing is the biggest hurdle I see for two months of non-vigorous riding. The commute angle just sucks by any other means. But maybe I just need to re-frame.

On a side note -- let me just say this: I'm one lucky mofo to have good insurance. The shot that I need to stick myself with for the next two nights costs $1200!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Crappy calf-iness

Hm. well. My left calf is swollen. Really!
And I'm normally a sock-matcher.
I've been remiss about sock-washing of late.

A combination of dehydration and improper saddle height has resulted in a multi-day calf pain episode. I regularly have nocturnal leg cramps in my left calf. Probably once a month or so I wake up in insane pain with my calf fully tensed up and the muscle completely contracted. It's weird.

I strained this poor calf on Tuesday riding my fancy new bike (with a saddle height that was probably about 2 cm too high) on the trails in a mostly dehydrated state. A couple hours later, I met Glen and co for some CX "hot laps" where I could barely do a lap. The pain was just too much.

So I've been trying to take it easy this week. The commute home yesterday though was pretty painful. And slow.
This is where we hot lap on Tuesday afternoons.

So, I'm off the bike for today: drinking electrolyte stuff, hydrating, icing the calf, and eating vitamin I. I'm hoping that will allow me to ride this weekend as normal.

This makes me feel 40. In addition to being more aware of my potassium intake, I'm also pondering yoga.

Thinking. A novel concept, but I've been told that's what 40 year-olds do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bike hang for Richard Rush

If you cycle or walk or transit in Spokane,  and you think the city can do more to make these transportation modes safer, more efficient, and easier, then you should do a bit to keep Richard Rush in his council seat.

Even if you don't live in District 2, where Richard is running for re-election, you benefit from Richard's sitting on city council.

My years on the Bicycle Advisory Board taught me a whole bunch about how city bureaucracy works. And without carrying on about it, cause I can you know, let me say this: having a consistent, rational, knowledgeable advocate like Richard for active transportation at the table is critical.

Until recently, our entire history of urban development, from a transportation perspective, has been focused on volume: how many cars can we cram through a given space and how to we make sure there's adequate parking for them. This perspective is super entrenched and hard to change, since it's not even recognized by those who dictate and drive (pud dum pum) implementation of policy.

(Btw: you can always tell when the big blow off is coming when a traffic engineer starts his/her argument with, "I love riding bikes. And in fact, many of the engineers on our team ride bikes too, but...")

Drifting. Sorry.

The point: Richard is there every day with these guys pushing an alternate and more rational view of how we can move people in an urban environment. He's a super policy nerd and understands how efficiently and safely moving people with various modes of transportation can only improve the economic vitality of urban areas. He's elequent, repectful, and respected by staff. We all need him to stay and continue pushing. And we know how this works: it takes money and volunteers to win elections.

To that end, we're throwing a bike hang at our house next Thursday, Sept 22. It's in our back yard at 6:30.

Pat Rick and Elissa will be here scooping ice cream. They're moving to Japan a week later, so if you consider your self "apolitical," then attend this hang to say your goodbyes and goodwishes to them.

I'll have a few jugs of beer too. Coffee Joe says he has a bit of homebrew he may bring. If you brew (ahem, Chris Lattin, ahem) and you are coming, feel free to bring a jug.

The money-hope is that each person can throw in $25 towards Richard's campaign. But if you can't, that's ok, come by and offer to help out on the campaign instead.

I'll have a handful of shirts left. I'll donate the money sales from shirts sold at this party to Richard.

RSVP to john at phred dot org would be so lovely.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MC finisher art

Dig it.

My buddy Bill has an old school printing press in his basement. When I discovered that I tried to find a reason to put it to use.

The result: a Midnight Century finisher thing. It's a 5"x5" little piece of radness.

There's one for each finisher. There's 34 of them. I've numbered them to 33 (there are two 23's for the tandem guys). I'll give them out according to finishing time as posted here.

If you're a finisher, find me to get yours. John at phred dot org is the way to find me.

Best bike pic of all time?

For folks that have been around a while, this image is apparently instantly recognizable as the Boulder Bike Poster that lived in just about every bike shop in the 80s.

According to those who debated the issue back in the day, this is real. That is, it's not a fake jump.

Further, I think that would be a v1 Fox Rock Shox fork (thanks BDD).

This is the photo that inspired the word RAD.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Follow up on S-A S2C hub issue

I griped about the slipping, lurching, clacking, knocking lameness of the S2C here.

I sent an email to the Sunrace folks (contact listed on Sturmey Archer site), and got a reply that said all the hubs on the Sun Spider AT were screwed.

So they sent me new internals.

And an attachment to the most superb set of bike instructions ever. It's here (650k pdf). Good stuff.

Being the bitchy griper that I am, I can't stop. If the Sunrace guys knew all the hubs that went out on the AT were whacked, why didn't they get in front of this issue? There's probably a rational reason (aside from the cynical and obvious one), and I'd really like to know it.

Anyway -- with the new hub in there, the Spider is pretty sweet. The hub is smooth and creamy and easy and relaible feeling. If I didn't have the super bike going to build tonight, I'd ride the Spider to work tomorrow. Maybe Weds or Thurs.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Suck ass broken binder bolt

Riding a too-low saddle is a knee killer. But it's a lovely ride otherwise.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pump track season is coming to an end

Pat and Patty hosted a great session tonight. As the days get shorter, it's looking like this is one of the last night sessions.

As Maddie and I got home tonight I was thinking that maybe this is what some people go to church for. The pump track is great for pumping and riding and skill building. But there's also a community aspect that just rules. The people that show up and dig it and keep coming back are just bikey people. Many of them come at the bikey world with different, but passionate, perspectives but the pump track is a common draw that keeps pulling them back. Hanging out with these folks has been just as much fun as learning to ride the track this year.

On the way over to Pat and Patty's, Maddie and I ran into neighbor-Greg, who just got a new Elephant. Nice color scheme: bronze with orange decals.

Joe trying out the Spider.

Ben Tobin set a new lap record: 6.25.

Maddie hanging in the middle of the 180.
She pumped 3 laps tonight and time trialed at 13.5 s.

Justin: all smiles after a pretty gnarly spill -- the kind where you don't remember the first minute or so after the wreck.
Jon: wears a shit-eating grin pretty much the whole time he's on the track.
He's gonna love cross.

Normalizing the Sun Spider AT

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I took interest in the addition of a "cheap-ish" option in the fat bike field. It finally arrived yesterday. I've got a lot to say, but I also have a lot of other stuff I gotta do right now so I'll just note the 1st-day modifications, and a gripe.

1. Swapped bars and stem -- from bmx style to Space bars.
2. Swapped saddle for slightly more better saddle.
3. Took off chain guard, which cleared the rolling tire by approximately 1 mm.
4. Added front brakes.

Super gripe: the Sturmey Archer S2C that ships on this bike is a turd, right out of the box. It skips. It slips. It's generally a major disappointment. So far, I'm not finding much love online for troubleshooting, other than some vague recommendations to let it "wear in," which is never a good sign.

Glen tacking on the canti post.
Glen thinks it may be a combination of things: he's not crazy about the chainline. The chain itself looks a bit wonky, though I've not gone through and checked for stiff links.

I'm wondering if the torque is just too much for the hub: the Sun Spider ships with a tiny tiny little chain ring (25t!) and 20t cog.

All I have to say is this: This is my third 2-speed kick-back hub. The Bendix on Liza's old bike, where nothing was optimized on a beat-up ancient bike, worked flawlessly. I also had a Sachs Torpedo. After I ripped it apart and cleaned it: no issues. So, I'm not delighted with the S-A hub at the moment, where it's giving me grief and I've not even had a chance to break it properly.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beth and Mike

Beth and Mike came out for a quick visit to the river.
Maddie stayed home with her aunt.
This is Mike. Going up.

Liza and Beth

Laughing and climbing is highly inefficient

Mike, Beth, Liza, Coke-glasses.

Kelly Hill Cemetery.
This was about a mile down the road from the Pia Mission Cemetery.

Mid-ride drink and lunch at Boyd's Country Inn.
As it turns out, greyhounds are a pretty rad hot-day-riding drink.

Mike fly fishing.

Poison ivy.