Friday, December 26, 2014

Pugsley'ing Saltese

Glen, Pat, and I took a lap around the Saltese Conservation area this morning. I rode out there for the first and only time about a year ago. At that time, we didn't do the full lap. It's not a huge lap. Map is here. I'm guessing it's about a 6 mile loop? It was a 45 minute ride: you ride generally up most of the time, then you descend back to the trailhead. That's my kind of ride.

But the ascent was a beautiful thing. I'm thinking the total elevation gain is only 400 feet or so, but the trail is so moderate and perfect. We're all wintery and out of shape, and the climb is perfect for that. And if a guy was in good shape, the hill would be a great climb on a CX bike: standing and slowly grinding the pedals for a nice clip up the hill.

I sort of had a religious experience climbing up that hill this morning. For one: xmas holiday this year has been a bit rough for a number or small reasons. Overall: life is good for sure. And climbing up a hill like that in the dense fog with a couple of my best friends really forces right and good thoughts into my head. And the fog was so great. Visibility was about 75 feet. So climbing up the twisty turny single track, I'd glance to the right and see a cyclist in a spot that didn't make any sense as far as I could figure. This happened a bunch. And of course it was Pat or Glen. But it was sort of trippy and surreal and happy time for me.

Jamming down the hill was fun too. Glen and I are pondering the handling characteristics of the Pugsleys. Our consensus is that the tires make for great XC-style descending, but the front-ends of the bikes fight against predictable and normal handling behavior.

Pat is on his new Bucksaw and pretty damn happy with that. I rode it for a hundred yards or so and found it to be frigging sweet. Pat remarked about how the Bucksaw just stays glued to the ground. I'd have to concur.

I think a guy could make the Pugsley into a good-enough XC mountain bike by putting a suspension-corrected fork on it. This solution is not my invention. According to Pat: lots of guys have done this. Putting a big honking tall fork on there would pivot the bike on the rear axel and slacken out the steepish HT/ST angles (70.5 degrees and 72 degrees, respectively), into something that should rock the descents much more effectively.

In fact, about 4 years ago local fat bike guru, Mr. Nelson, let me borrow his Pugs. Interestingly, he had a suspension fork on his bike. I want to find that fork. And I want it on my Pugs. And I really need to bite the bullet and put some hydro brakes on that sucka.

Monday, December 8, 2014

HD stroll

Light was right and weird warm winter make for nice colors and misty fog.

For years I mostly rode the trails on a cross bike. But in the last year or so,  I've pretty much ridden the HD trails on mountain bike or fat bike only. Obviously the riding is totally different. Mainly the hydro brakes, front suspension, and fatter tires make the descents really fast and fun. Climbing: not so much.

Taking the cross bike out again after a year of crashing through the trails made for an interesting ride. On the curvy switchy descent by the power lines I blew through two turns when my brakes didn't respond as I'm used to. I've also really gotten used to the fat contact patch of the mountain bike and the fat bike tires when cornering -- as a result, the way I approach, rail, and exit corners is totally different than it used to be.

On the cross bike, I have to be much more deliberate in my steering, leaning, and correcting. It's fun in a different way, but right now I'm enjoying mountain biking more than ever.

Maddie likes oysters. We're going on a bike trip next summer. We're aiming towards the oysters. Via Highway 20. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interim bike

This bike popped up on Craigslist last week. It's a Novara X-R. This is the third configuration I've seen this bike in.

I bought one years ago -- 700c, fillet brazed, Tange tubing, with LX components, crazy track bars and bar-end shifters. Then I saw one a couple years ago at the bike swap -- even more interesting: 26" wheels, fillet brazed, etc.

Turns out that Glen sort of perked up with these bikes too -- he ran across one a few months ago and bought it (the 700c track bar version). If I didn't have a bunch of bikes and a couple similar bikes that I don't ride enough, I would have pestered that one out of him. Instead, it's hanging in his shop, awaiting its fate.

This version (the third that I know of) of the X-R is much different than the others... and older maybe by 8 years or so. It's basically a mid-80's mountain bike with drop bars. Japanese. Lugged. Tange Infinity. Shimano DX, shimano barcons, Araya rims. There's a little sticker on it that says it was "Designed by Scot Nicol." That's the Ibis guy.

So, when Glen saw this little bike on Craigslist, he bought it and he decided to make a few changes to it and let Maddie ride it for a while. This will be Maddie's bike until next spring when we figure out the next bike. She's outgrown her righteous Grape Bike. And we're talking about some multi-day (week?) road touring next summer, so we'll need to figure out that deal.

He put some old chestnut wheels on there. These are Mavic MA-2 rims laced to Shimano 600 hubs. But these aren't just any old MA-2s. See the Bontrager sticker? Mavic did not make these rims in 559 way back when. But mountain bike racers wanted this style of rim. So Bontrager had a business (in which Glen was a cog) rolling down and re-welding the 700c rims to 26". 

Sugino Maxy crank with Mavic rings. Another chestnut from Glen's stash of cool old shit.

Click for big and dig that crazy-ass lacing on that wheel. Glen didn't have a story there.  He also put some sweet rubber on there: Schwalbe CX Pro.

Modern Ritchey drops and a stubby stem. In true 80's mountain bike style, this bike with a 48 cm ST has a 57 cm TT.  Glen also swapped out the weird-o Shimano friction barcons with some 8-speed indexed versions.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Black Friday -- the 5th year

We're on again for the Black Friday ride.

The plan:
  • Leave the The Scoop at 9 am
  • Do the first chunk of the NW passage +Mega-church section of the river trail.
  • Land at River City Brewery at around 11:30

That's it. You can read more about this ride by browsing the commentary from past years' rides

I think we'll see some fat bikes this year. I'll be on my mountain bike, which is a change -- as I've always ridden a 'cross bike. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Parts and stuff

You wouldn't know it by reading this blog, but I do still ride a bit. I don't have a lot to say about my riding, because I feel like I've said it all before a few times. And I'm not in the mindframe of late to talk about policy stuff. So that pretty much leaves gear discussion for the time being.

Lately, I've been into the mountain bike. It's a fall/spring thing I guess. Glen told me a couple weeks ago that he had some tires for me. I finally picked them up today: they are Schwalbe tires -- Rock Razors - 650Bx 2.35".

I've only got one High Drive ride on them so far, but I immediately noticed the cushy volume difference compared to the 2.10" Maxxis I had on there before. I liked the Maxxis, but I was drifting a bit too much on the wet trails this past weekend and was looking for a bit more grip as the moisture settles in for the season.

You can see the big honking knobbies on the edges of tire -- this is what Glen liked about them and after an hour of farting around on the wet trails, I can see his point. As noted, I also really appreciated the volume - they've got reasonably soft sidewalls for a mountain tire, and I like that. The center has a bunch of small knobbies -- sort of Thunder Burt-ish, but a bit bigger and more spaced out, knobbie-wise. So they roll good-enough on smooth trails and pavement.

Take note of the sparkly white bike. That's not just picture-clean. That's the new John... Glen sort of busted my ass about wanting a white mountain bike since I'm not known for fastidious (or any) post-ride wipe downs. But that's the old John. The White Elephant will always be white. Disclaimer: the new John approach to post-ride fussery does not extend to other bikes btw... that's just too much work.

Fenders went on the Legolas. And by fenders, I mean a rear fender and a front coroplast fender. This is a temporary state. I sold the Purple Elephant to fund the parts for the incoming stock NFE. When the new NFE comes along, the Legolas will go back to normal mode. Great bike. Notice the platform pedals on there. That's another gear change that I'll discuss in a future post. It's a big change for me. 

The sharp observer will notice that the orange saddle pack is becoming the standard tool bag on my bikes. It's a cheap, just-big-enough solution for carrying the basic tools/tube. I like it because it's tiny and holds tight to the bottom of the saddle and doesn't encourage me to bring the kitchen sink, which I am wont to do with my previous solutions.

This bag change has actually been precipitated by my saddle changes. I'm done with Brooks. I have one on my beater bike, but otherwise -- I've decided not to care about saddles. I want cheap and plastic. And it's liberating. The saddles on the Legolas and the White Elephant are both XLC -- which is the cheap knock-off Seattle Bike Supply house brand. I dig them.

I just cleaned my workbench about 2 weeks ago. I cannot keep it managed for the life of me. I may change my saddle, tool bag, bike-cleaning ways, and pedals, but I can't seem to get the trashed bench thing changed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some pictures and updates

I'm riding home from EWU three times a week. I usually ride my pink Elephant. But about 25% of the time, I ride the Rory Lego Cross bike. 

The normally soul-sucking ride is made good this year. On Mondays and  most Weds, buddy Stine, rides home with me. Here's a picture of us hitting the FLT wall. Of course we had to turn around and go back to the road to get through it.  It's times like this that I really miss the old FLT.

But the FLT still shows excellent fall colors.

Glen is knee-deep in the stock NFE project. These are about half the fork blades.
Batch 1 is on track to ship in December. Batch 2 will likely go in early spring. 

I've had a handful of productive mornings up at the river.

And a lot of blessedly unproductive time.

I'll be getting a stock NFE. So this beauty is on the block. I think it's sold already. I don't like turning around Elephants that quickly -- I've only had this a couple years -- but I have sell this off to finance the parts for the disc NFE.

I often roll the Pugsley on the HD trails on the way to the S. Shop. This super sweet hunk of sculpture showed up there one day. 

Lovely Liza.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Biking and fishing

Buddy Mike came up to the river this weekend and did a bunch of tree work for us.

He also gave me super pro advice for dry fly fishing a favorite stretch of the river. I've caught a lot of great fish this year, but they've all been hooked with live bait and a variety of simple spinning doodads The 12" rainbow I caught yesterday was the first time I'd caught a fish with a fly. And it's a great thing. There's a place for all of these methods of fishing. And they're all rewarding in different ways. It's like mountain biking vs road biking vs fat biking or whatever.

Anyway, I'm super excited to apply a few of the dry fly tactics that I learned this weekend next summer. There are a couple things that I like about fly fishing: 1) using dry flies makes different parts of the river accessible in a way that I've had a hard time working with live bait. 2) Even though there's a bit more fuss around rigging up the fly rod, line, and overall setup, once you're out there, it's really straight-forward. Mike is convincing me not to even bother with a net... having less fishing crap hanging off you on the river makes getting around easier and it leaves more pockets for beer... if necessary.

And by tree work, I mean the real deal. The tree on the left had a bunch of scary looking straggly huge branches sort of precariously dangling over the command center. He was about twice as high on the left tree as this photo shows him on the right tree... if you follow.

And in other news. Rocinante, aka Liza's Truck, is mostly dead at the moment. As I pulled up to the river place, it exhibited the signs of coolant in the engine: plumes of steamy funk pouring out the exhaust pipe. After restarting, poking, smelling, listening, and pondering, we're thinking it's a header/gasket issue and not a full on warped and twisted cylinder engine replacement scenario. And by we, I mean Glen and me. He's not committing to anything here, but he and Mike did help talk me down from the ledge of giving up on the poor truck. And really: I just can't. It's too rad. It's not a looker, but Rocinante, which is the name that Liza's dad gave it, is the perfect name for that truck.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


 Who woulda thought? The commute from Cheney to Spokane can be enjoyable.

It takes a friend though.

Stine -- minding the signage.
Stine's commute home puts her on Gov't Way, so we chiseled out a commute that puts us on the super excellent descent down Assembly/Indian Canyon Drive. I can't remember the last time I descended that hill from the top. It's worth seeking out.

In other news --- I figured out the obvious as I sat at The Scoop the other day and stared at the Pugsley. The reason my rack often rubs is because the rear triangle is asymmetrical. Duh.

Pat and I plan on remedying this situation when we stiffen this cheapo rack up with a bit of triangulation and the addition of fixed mounting stays. Hells yeah!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A blog post

It's been a long time since I posted regularly. Lots of reasons. None of them particularly interesting.

I still take pictures all the time with the phone, so here is a dump of mostly-bikey pictures from the last month or so. 
Glen at Elephant Bikes has been a busy dude this summer. What you're looking at here is a chainstay prototype for a contract build he's doing for a shop on the East Coast. I like those bends. The dropouts are the new-ish Tange slider. Good value those.

And this is a unicrown disc fork for the same project. Not to be confused with the stock NFE project, which will have a lugged crown.

This was the tube for the river cruiser. It was the last tube up there and it split of old age. I found an old Velox sewup kit and I stitched it up, then patched it. Didn't work.

I've been loving the shit out of this Pugsley. It's the best river fishing bike ever. 

I'll be taking my first proper fat bike sand trip in October.


Liza. Flying a kite. She's really that chilled out a lot.

This summer Maddie spent two mornings a week with her Nonna -- I'd often drop her off in the morning with the car, then go ride up and bring a bike to pick her up. This is not an ideal way to carry a bike. I nearly crashed a couple of times when some part of Maddie's bike jammed up my steering.

Best rainbow of the season. 

We went on an apple picking run last week. See that tiny little basket on the back of his bike. That was his loot hauler.

Justin had two panniers for loot. And he was rocking the trails with the low riders and drop bars.

My haul.

And with Maddie's plums...

We made a big arse batch of apple/plum sauce and some apple/plum butter. That stainless bit of ordinance there is my Sicilian MIL's electric food mill. I think it has more horsepower than our Subaru and it makes seeding, skinning, and coring of boiled fruit a breeze.

Liza and I sat and watched folks at the fountain yesterday at Riverfront. That's a great way to blow an hour.

Swing bike. I wasn't quick enough on the draw to get a photo of her riding it. She's the original owner and she's had it since 1971.  She can ride that thing.

Maddie. She's pretty much done with this bike. We're going drops for next summer's bike. And we're gonna do some time touring... weeks hopefully.

She rocked the Highdrive trails in her flip flops. A responsible parent would see to more sensible shoes. But in the memory of my father, who used to horse-log in flip flops (really think about that), I have to appreciate the flip flop approach.