Monday, December 23, 2013

Ice bike 2013-14

The old Shogun. Fixed up proper. Hakkapaelitta studded tires. Mostly new wheels. Old hubs.

That'll do. But I'm going to have to put Noodles on it if I aim to commute on it.

The light is an ancient Lumotec. Good enough for be-seen and general commuting.

Review: Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro backpack of huge love of monstrous proportions

About a year ago, I reviewed the Ortlieb Velocity backpack -- which was a pack I'd been using for a couple years. In that review, I concluded that the main way the Velocity could be improved was to make it bigger, whereupon I discovered that such a pack existed and that's what we're talking about here: the Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro ($195). Full disclosure: I did not buy this bag, but if you need to haul a lot of crap and you do it frequently and in all weather and on a bike, and you'll be doing this for many, many years, then you should consider this bag, because it rules.

Gush-fest is just beginning.

I've been using this bag for about three months, which is not normally enough time to really do a proper review, but Ortlieb has earned the durability pass from me. Based on many years of abusing many Orlieb products, I can say without hesitation that this bag will hold up just fine for a number of years of my abuse. And when something fails, breaks, or is sliced open: it's all servicable and fixable. This is all sensible, practical, well-engineered German stuff.

So all of the stuff I loved about the Velocity is on this bag: the super fat cushy shoulder straps, the padded attempt to minimize sweat and maximize airflow on the back, the broad belt and buckle, and the basic Orlieb Hole™ design.

As much as I love the Hole™ design -- and I do, see here and here -- this particular bag serves up a cavern of monstrous proportions. Unless you are a professional for whom this bag was originally designed, the cavernous size of this hole verges on ridiculous. It's sort of the Hummer of Holes, if you will.

The way the bag is designed to break up the space is smart: there are two plastic dividers that are rigid enough to stand up, but flexible enough to flop around stuff. This creates three sections to organize your crud and the infrastructure does not impose unreasonable limitations on how you pack it in. Smarty pants. A picture (even this crappy one) does a better job of illustrating this:

I love this. I keep my books and computer on the part closest to my back, clothes in the middle section, and lunch and lock on the outer section. It's still crazy deep and without this organizational help, a guy could get lost digging around in there... never to reach the bottom.

A couple other nifty features make this bag pretty sweet. The first is the built-in super long Velcro closure. On the Velocity, this is an add-on extra thing you need to buy. On this bag, it's included, which is nice. But I'd still rather have the buckle.

The other thing I like is the big awesome window on the back. It was designed so messengers can slide advertisements in there -- but I think it  makes an excellent spot for a giant reflective triangle. I'll get one of those one day. Until then, Maddie likes to keep fresh pictures in there according to the season.

Strap extended. Window dressing.
This is a monster bag. According to the website, it's got a volume of 30L. The Velocity, which is a great daily driver for most, has a volume of 20L. I've topped out the Velocity a number of times. By the time I approach topping out the Messenger Bag Pro, I'm scared of the weight, especially if it's a beer-heavy grocery store run. But in the end, I'm loving this the hugeness of this bag, and I'll use it for years.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First real snow

I was hoping to get out to Riverside today for a focused session of riding, but I'm happy with what I got in. I spent time tooling around the 'hood this morning when it was cold and the snow was powdery. That's easy riding.

Where the snow has been plowed, it's denser and takes more energy to ride through.
As the day progressed and got a bit warmer, the snow got wetter and sort of slick.

After a couple washouts, I ended up taking air out of the tires, which helped.

I'm going to go hit the HD trails again and see how they feel now.  I suspect they'll be harder to ride and more prone to front-wheel washouts. I rode on a couple errands -- the streets are easy-peasy with these tires. Until now, my main snow riding bike was 2.3" tires on the Rawland

Perfect cold-weather eatin'. Buddy Stine turned me onto an excellent Korean recipe website with a bunch of videos. Oh boy. This is the Dakgalbi (Spicy chicken/veggies). Damn good. And easy. If you make it: double up on the paste, so you have enough for an easy batch the second time you make it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Ibex Bouclé Cardigan

In my previous work life, I was fortunate to be able to wear shorts and wool tee shirts pretty much year 'round. In the cold months, I could commute in whatever nasty mud-caked warm clothes I had around. Ah... life was simple.

I quit that life about 18 months ago and traded it in for an academic life. In this life, shorts and mud-caked nasty trousers are generally frowned upon. So I have to wear pants. That jarring change took me about year to really get comfortable with. This academic year, I decided to step it up and wear some ties and look a bit more respectable.

I commute home from school about three times a week. It's a 20 mile, fairly boring, mostly flat commute. Figuring out a way to look nice and still ride home without packing gobs of riding clothes has been sort of a challenge -- especially in the shoulder months, where the ride down to the bus (about 3 miles down hill) in the morning can be below freezing and the ride home in the afternoon might be drizzly and 40°F or so. My basic approach is to be cold for the quick commute down to the bus in the morning so that I can optimize for not over-heating on the way home.
Commute format: wear it o'er a thin wool shirt.

So that's the back story for why this cardigan has been a great thing for me. The folks at Ibex sent this to me at the beginning of the school year, so I've had a couple months to work it out.

The verdict: it works well for me.

The specs: this is a US-made (from New Zealand wool) cardigan that retails for $175. Reading the Ibex site for this sweater, I'm noticing that it's specifically made/marketed for cyclists, which explains how I ended up with it.

First off, the fit is a bit snug. I'm a big large and this cardigan keeps me standing tall in its slim-fittedness. But I'd not want it much bigger since it's nearly always a mid-layer on the commute to the bus in the morning.

It's super nice looking -- finished in that Ibex-perfect way: big smug buttons and even faint elbow patches. A half century ago the guy buying this would want to accessorize with a pipe and ascot. But today, the website shows a hip looking brickwaller sporting a beanie and perfectly-coiffed whiskers. Apparently times are a-changin' in the cardigan world.

Anyway -- as for function, this cardigan delivers as Ibex almost always does: I can roll down to the bus in the morning wearing this over my fancy shirt/tie combo -- generally, I'll have a vest of some sort over this combo.

It's pretty thick wool by most Ibex standards, so I don't wear it indoors often. But during normal shoulder-season temps, it's a perfect only-layer for tooling around campus. For the ride home, I'll swap out the fancy button-up shirt and tie for a thin wool t-shirt. So with thin wool under this sort of thicker wool cardigan, I get warmth with tons of breathability. If things get too chilly, I always have the super-amazing, can't-shut-up-about-it Houdini shell in my bag, which makes for a perfect commute setup in temps over freezing but under 50° or so.

As for care: it's wool -- it's easy. I wear a backpack on my commute now, so there's always some sweat happening. This cardigan has seen its share of sweat, though I've never soaked it out completely. I just hang it out to dry. I've not washed it and it's still passable in the increasingly cultured company I am keeping.

I'll have this for a while.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More on-carrying about the Pugsley

Click for big: I've never been on a mountain bike ride with this many people. I'm about mid-pack here. There were 19 of us on the HD trails Saturday morning, for the grand opening ride of the new LBS in the 'hood (which, btw, DOES have beer thank you very much): This Bike Life. It's a great shop, designed around the idea of building a little bike community. Very cool.

Anyway: I showed up for this ride on the Pugsley and in my jeans, expecting a chillaxed ride around the hood to the trails. But as kitted up dudes and their super bikes showed up, I got the feeling we'd be taking a real ride. The Pugsley did not slow me down.

The Hozan Rock Ring Wrench. If that's not great I don't know what is.
That is so great.

Fetish bike photo.
So, before I got this bike, I had the same misunderstanding of the capabilities that most bikey casual observers have -- and it's this: that the Pugsley is really for snow and sand. And that for everything else, it's just ok. I'm here to tell you: this bike is fun and super capable for all sorts of trail and dirt fun. I've taken to bombing a couple of my favorite sections of the HD trails in the last week. I can bomb on the Pugs, like I can on no other bike. There are two reasons -- that work together to make bombing super rad: zero worry of pinch flatting + monster grippage afforded by the ridiculous knobs/contact patch.

Hear me now or hear me later. But hear me!

Your basic falls photo. This trail just got knocked in. I'm thinking you'll be seeing a lot of folks lining up for photos in the future. I wanted to have the first Pugs shot.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter bikery

I'm a big fan of fixed-bike with studs for ice biking. Huge fan. Monster fan.
My ancient Velocity Deep-V gave up the ghost last year. So I'm waiting on spokes to build up some CR-18-rimmed wheels for this one. 

Midge. Not high enough. But good enough for 3 months of use. These bars may end up on the Pugsely. Sorry Glen.

First ride on the Pugs. Hard to tell from the pic: but it's cold as shit here.

Cold here too. About 10F. That's Joe. The tiny dot in the distance is Glen.

Hap-hap-happy with a frozen tear in my eye.

"Engage with the statue Maddie!"

Sign this

If you think the City of Spokane should have a rationalized plan for implementing bike/ped stuff.

I've actually got a lot I could carry on about with this whole deal, but I don't think my carrying on would actually be beneficial. There's complexity and history here for me that makes teasing out a rational stance super difficult -- what I like about Barb's petition is that it doesn't seek to force the current "we're killing the bike/ped position" into a binary battle that demands a single solution -- the petition requests a plan and some specified leadership/vision from those eliminating the position. The current rationalization (essentially: "we're eliminating redundancy; we think bike/ped planning should be integrated into all of the job descriptions of planners/engineers in the city") is pretty much the reason a bike/ped position was created in the first place -- the story has ALWAYS been from planning/engineering that bike/ped is part of their jobs... which didn't exactly put Spokane on the bike nirvana map... aaaaaaand here I am carrying on. 

Numbers matter here. This petition needs at least 1000 signatures to have impact. I'm pulling that number out my arse, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the number is probably too small.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Because Stine asked...

... how I like the pugs so far.

Here's my response:

The pugs is great. But the attention to tire pressure cannot be overstated.

I took it out on the HD trails yesterday morning – tire pressure was prob around 6psi – fairly soft.  On dry trails that made for a sluggish ride: soft cornering, squishy stops… and damn slow. I just chalked it up to the “fat bike” thing and I figured that I’d get into it and really  love it for the snow. But it was hard to love.


We all went to 7 mile for Global Fat Bike day. Pat checked my psi and suggested higher. I ended up with 14 in the rear and 12 up front.  It was like a different bike. Fuckuing rad. Riding trails was a lot like it is on a normal bike – except the contact was insane. You can totally rail into corners because there’s a monster contact patch with huge stiff knobbies spaced far apart. Same with climbing. You can climb up everything w/out spinning out the rear tire. It was amazingly fun. Glen and I were both surprised that fat bieks are actually fun on normal trails.

Trails at 7-mile are great – as you know – lots of rock gardens and blowing a line doesn’t throw you off a cliff (like at HD) and it’s mostly flat, so you can tool around forever. As for lines – you don’t have to be so precise, which lets you go faster and get into cornering, which becomes the best part on these bikes. I never got even a hint of drift or tire rolling… good stuff.

(this part was not in my response to Stine)

After our ride, we stopped at Flying Goat. It was about 2 ish and fairly mellow in there. We told the front desk person were 10 people or so -- she said 30-40 minutes wait and walked away. 

We noticed a big-ass fire outside the bar on an attached patio, which looked like a pretty ideal place to hang out and drink beers. We asked the server about it, he said, "you can go out there, but I won't serve you."


Then we went out there and stood around the fire and noticed a friggin service window -- that goes right to the bar. Attached to the window was a curious sign: "This is not a service window. Please come inside for service." Attached to another door was another sign about how you shouldn't expect service -- or something similar.

It warms my heart to see the Bennidito's business model ("you don't really want beers and food do you?")  is sweeping the city, soon the nation... and eventually, the globe!  Of course this approach drives Pat insane, which is always fun to witness. So we had to take a pic before heading to No-Li, where we drank beers for a few hours reliving the epicness of our 1.5 hour bike ride.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My new bike

Thanks Glen.
story here.


This week of school is about as hard as any week I experienced in my previous life... well, the one before the most immediate previous life, which was chillaxville.

I dug out the yellow bike for my coast down to the bus this morning.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Store run in the snow

MB-2 in winter mode.
The Hakkapaliittas are going on their 6th or 7th winter. 

Looking thrilled!

Middle trail.
Close to Glen's Waterfall.

Minor route from middle to top.

And we rode

The Black Friday ride happened and it was hard.

Too hard. I was blaming too much Thanksgiving cheer. And I think that played a part. But really: my milquetoast commutes have slowed my cruising pace and I rarely go all-out on rides anymore.

I need to do harder rides so that when rides like this pop up, they are more fun. While I enjoyed hanging and riding with the BF'ers, it wasn't as fun as it should be, mainly due to my wheezy, cooked-to-soon, tired arse.

The trails were in good shape. Icy stiff pine needles in some sections make for challenging cornering and climbing.
I took one picture.
This is it.

We went bluff to 57th to Pines development to White road trail climb to Eagle's Ridge cliff to Few driveway-down-to-the-cemetery, over the creek, following the creek trail to pop out at the junk yard across 195 through Vinegar Flats under Highbridge to Sandifur to river trail to Mega church (expect a post soon asking the person/people who are paving the Mega Church section of the river trail to frigging stop!) to Nunnery trail across the bridge up Patrick's climb through the city to River City Taproom.

Gage, who has done this ride, and is also the owner of River City Red, opened up his tap room early just for us. He's got an excellent space there and great beers, which are priced super affordably, especially the "Child's Portion" four-ounce pour: $1. Hello.

Here's Hank's take on the ride, with more pictures.

Until next year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BFF BF 411

Weather is looking kind of just right.

Expect a socially-moderately paced sort of technical ride.

Deets here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bike box

When I went back to school last year I planned on a multi-modal commute. I live about 20 miles from campus. As a student: you get a bus pass. This is a no-brainer for me. I'm amazed by how many people drive their own cars out to school every day.

If you just calculate that cost based on the IRS 2013 mileage reimbursement rate of 56.5 cents a mile, I would be looking at a cost of $22 a day to drive! Assume you drive daily, that's over $100/week. For a school year, you're looking at around $3500. After a four-year degree? Hello: around $14,000.

And as a student, you're already paying fees to cover a bus pass. So why throw this money out? This is easy math. I realize that everyone has different circumstances that dictate what and how they do stuff... but I digress.

So when I started going back to school, I was aware of the bike boxes down by the park and ride. I assumed there would be a huge waiting list because they're so rad. When I investigated I was astonished to find that they only cost $5/month and that not only did they have a box available at the freeway park and ride, but four of the six were available and had been for years!!


Bike boxes are f'ing awesome. Every quarter is different, but for example, this quarter: I ride home from school three days a week. This means, I ride to the bus in the morning, put my bike on the front, then ride home.

The other two days, I ride down to the park and ride, put my bike in the bike box, then hop on the bus. Sometimes on those days, I catch a ride home with a buddy and we stop at Bennitidos for a beer. Then he drops me off at home. No big whoop: my bike is safe and I can pick it up some other time. (Yes I see the mild irony of relying on my driving buddy here... whatever, it's for a noble purpose: accompanying him for a beer).

For $60 a year! Crazy. And I have never ever seen evidence that any of the other bike boxes down by the freeway are even being used. Whatevs...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not my picture

This photo is from today's Surly blog post. Since Pat drifted off, I think the Surly blog is becoming my new favorite.

If that picture doesn't make you want to ride a fat bike, or at least just ride, then nothing will.

Plus it was 27° F on my commute this morning. I froze my ass on the way down the hill. And that picture there just makes think I could've spent even more time playing in the water last summer.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bicycle commuter mug - Roast House delivers JoeMo

The setup

Last May, I petitioned the Online Council of Supreme Bike Nerds for a commuter mug recommendation. This was my request:
I’m looking for the perfect commuter mug. Here’s the scenario:

  • I ride (coast) to a bus stop about 3 miles away every morning.
  • I usually put my bike in a box, but  sometimes, I put it on the bus for the evening commute. That’s kind of immaterial though.
  • Ideally, I’d spend my 25 minute bus ride drinking a hot coffee. 

I want an ideal mug.

Must haves:
1.       No plastic touching the hot coffee (stainless inside is a requirement)
2.       Good insulation – my coast is often into freezing winds. If coffee isn’t screaming hot and black, I don’t want it.
3.       I can drink from it without disassembling stuff (i.e., I don’t want to unscrew lids) – think one-handed operation
4.       It must not drip/splatter/leak while in commute mode

Nice to have:
Fits in a water bottle cage

I’m finding Requirements #3 and #4 make for tough bedfellows.

Much discussion and sharing ensued, as it often does when one asks for recommendations from bike nerds online. Existing resources were shared. One of the most Supreme of Nerds had even written a small dissertation of his own on this subject.

Other excellent solutions were offered : thermos, another thermos, Sweda, and an Oxo.

But the one that I set my sights on was this one, from a Nerd known as "Lee:"

Hey John, I use the JOEmo, which I found at my local hardware store:
I've had it for several years now which I guess is a good recommendation as it means I haven't unconsciously lost it yet. I can say that it does keep the coffee hot for at least the length of my 1hr+ multimodal commute and it's been leak-proof over all of that time. I wrapped a band or two of cloth handlebar tape around it so it fits snuggly into my cheap ass PlanetBike bottle cage. The tape is now grimy and gross, but the coffee still tastes good and hot.

It turns out you can have no screw-on lid, or you can have no drip, but not both. I know folks will say they have a cup they've used for years that beats this system. OK.

The deal

I'm in with the folks at Roast House. Mainly, I know Bill (pictures here) as a main, go-to cycling -- and now running -- partner. Somehow I met Debbie at some bike-related thing and we became easy chums. Just about everyone at Roast House is a daily bike commuter, ironically, except for Bill, who has to deliver coffee all over town.

So when the Nerds gave me the recommendation, I gave that to Debbie, who went and found it and got it badged with her logo. Now she's selling them for $20.

I bought one.

After a couple weeks: I'm sold. Thanks "Lee."

If you get one, the first thing you must do is soak the drinky-spout thing in super hot water for a 1/2 hour or so. Then do that again. That process blows out the faint plastic funk flavor. Deb recommended that -- it's a good recommendation.

You push that button on the drinky-spouty thing and coffee can pour out. It's a standard coffee mug design. And when closed, it holds the coffee in there. I wouldn't go tossing it in my bag, but if I were a drinking (coffee) -and-riding type, it would work great. Maybe I'll become a drinker-and-rider-of-coffee.

The second thing to do -- assuming you want to put this in a bottle cage, is to wrap it with bar tape and/or rim tape at the cage contact points. You could probably also find a good plastic cage that would hold it well, but the tape solution works for nearly all normal cages AND it makes it yours!

The money piece. It makes the solution a two-handed thing, but it's worth it.

Because I trust it will never spill and I want to maintain as much coffee heat as I can, I've been throwing it in my bag (willy-nilly) with my laptop, papers, clothing, etc.

If you bike and you coffee and you commute on bike with coffee, this is a good thing.