Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year

The winter-bleached dumbass behind
Bicycles and Icicles riding Mack Ridge, Fruita, Colo.

May, 2005

Most memorable
bike-related moments of 2005

Riding The Edge Loop outside Fruita, Colorado
The kick-ass fun of descending
Moab's Porcupine Rim
Missing two weeks of riding in June—JUNE!—after surgery
to repair an injury
Hearing Sue say, "That's a big fuckin' bear!"
beside Campbell Creek,
and looking up to see that she was right
Unlocking the secret to a previously unrideable (for me)
section of singletrack on the 24 Hours of Kincaid
course, and then cleaning that section the rest of the summer
Riding through the high-country fog
near Lost Lake on the Kenai Peninsula
Descending Primrose Trail and
recovering from all the near-crashes on wet roots
The helmet-cam videotaping session
up and down Powerline Pass and Llama trails
Riding Mack Ridge outside Fruita while getting punchy,
and realizing for the first time
how my new full-suspension Epic is
The Master of Savin' My Ass From Disaster
The roller-coaster contours of Upper Spencer Loop
The mental image of my white bike frame against the blue sky
as I crashed on the down-slope side of Mary's Loop
Hearing the woman behind me on Mary's Loop ask,
"Did you wonder how far
you'd go before you came to a stop?"
and me answering, "Um, yeah."
The wonders of carbide-tipped, conical studs
Starting a blog about bikes
Thanks for reading
Bicycles and Icicles in 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Piss off, thank you

Riding to work this morning, I watched a FedEx driver negotiate a four-way stop in the early morning darkness while holding a clipboard and reading his list of deliveries with a bright interior light over his head, further inhibiting his ability to see what was near his truck.

Then I got to work and had to replace the bulb in my desk lamp. The packaging claims the new bulb will last one year before burning out, at which point (according to the fine print) "Lamp replacement is the sole remedy available."

Shit. I thought I could get a second year out of that bulb by paying a repair shop 20 bucks to fix it.

Some days it seems there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are stupid, and those smart enough to think everyone else is stupid. Watching that dumbass from FedEx made me feel smart enough to compose the following lists during the rest of my morning commute.

Screw you . . .

. . . distracted FedEx guy

. . . teenage punks who yelled at me from the other side of Dimond Boulevard a few nights ago and called me an asshole for the egregious offense of being a cyclist riding riding home from work on a winter evening

. . . all you drivers who are in such a hurry that, even though you see me just off your right front fender as I roll down the bike path or bike lane approaching an intersection, you make your high-speed right turn and cut me off to save yourself three seconds

. . . motorists who pull out of subdivisions without checking for traffic on the bike path that intersects your street every morning and every afternoon of the entire year—and screw you twice for idling your car directly across that path while you put on your makeup, unwrap your breakfast burrito, talk on your cell phone or wait for a break in traffic

. . . every drunk and/or delinquent who enjoys breaking liquor bottles on bike paths—if I weren’t an atheist I would pray for you to spend eternity crawling across broken glass, with occasional, 15-minute breaks spent patching tubes and re-inflating two-inch knobbies to 50 psi with mini-pumps while mosquitoes swarm you

. . . every desperate-for-attention Harley owner who tampers with your exhaust system until it’s loud enough to make my ears bleed as you pass

. . . every short guy who compensates for a small Johnson by driving a big pickup and having an attitude—tall chicks will never dig you, so get over it

Thank you . . .

. . . motorists who, when you see a cyclist approaching, stop your car before crossing the bike path or, better yet, go to the trouble of backing up to let us pass after realizing you’re in the way

. . . Keira Knightly, for reasons stated previously (and a photo so good, it's worth using twice)

. . . every driver who has ever given me a little extra room, a friendly wave, a smile or otherwise shown courtesy instead of malice—you outnumber the jackasses, they just cast a longer shadow

. . . the smokers who often hang out behind my office building and like to hold the door open for the crazy guy from the third floor who rides his bike to work—I don’t understand why you’re killing yourselves with those things, but you’re nice people

. . . the machine-shop worker who stopped shoveling snow one recent morning to smile and say, “You guys are amazing” as you watched me ride past in the dark—you made me feel like an Alaska hard guy instead of a hopeless bike geek (and I was actually OK with the hopeless bike geek thing)

Osama's winning

You should be reading this today.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Winter training aid

Bicycles and Icicles indoor training tip No. 1:

The playing of a DVD in which Keira Knightley
is prominently featured makes a 90-minute trainer session
pass more quickly.

I don't just make this shit up.

Life's full of little lessons. Some enjoyable, some painful.
Like forgetting to air out sweaty clothes after riding to work.
I rode home last night while composing baiku in my head:

Wet balaclava
left undried, smothers my face
like a bloated goat

Monday, December 26, 2005

Skid kids

Contrary to what my family and several friends believe, I'm not so obsessed with bikes that I see them in my sleep. Usually.

A few nights ago, I had some vague dream about skidding. I woke up remembering how fun it was to skid when I was growing up in the Midwest. Parents—who tend to look at bald tread and see dollar signs—usually discourage such behavior, scolding their kids and telling them not to shred their tires. On the rare occasions I've caught my kids burnin' a little rubber, I've tried to bite my tongue. A few rubber knobs are a small price to pay for good childhood memories.

The mid-1970s were pretty medieval, by today's adolescent standard: VCRs, personal computers and gaming systems hadn't yet been invented, and no kid that I knew had a TV in his room. Why bother? Our small town didn't have cable yet. Youth rec center? Please. We had a little mom 'n' pop burger joint on the edge of town, where we could ride our bikes to enjoy a jukebox and a pinball machine. At one point, the latest owners who had decided to get a taste of indentured servitude for the privilege of breaking even on the joint decided to go upscale. So for a while, we had two pinball machines. On a good week, they both worked.

I think you get the point. We had to make our own fun. Fortunately, the street in front of my house was flat, and Schwinn made cheap bikes with nearly indestructible coaster brakes. A few hours of boredom, a few kids from the neighborhood and, voila, a reason to lay rubber.

A couple of dozen yards of hard sprinting and a violent slam on the back pedal would yield a glorious black mark that, if you were lucky, would be a foot or two longer than everyone else's. A really good skid would send up a little puff of smoke behind the tire, which was the coolest possible result, regardless of distance.

This wasn't just thoughtless play. We developed technique. We knew smooth tread was best. Covert "borrowing" of a sibling's bike was acceptable if it had better performance. We figured out that shifting our weight forward would lighten the rear wheel, extending our distance and putting some style on the skid. A little bit of drift looked cool.

Then one day we tried it before the street dried after a rain. That little bit of lubricant on the ol' rubber made it a more satisfying experience all the way around.

Of course, this meant that bragging rights for longest distance were accompanied by an asterisk in the record book of our brains. Get in someone's face over your claim of the best skid, and he'd quickly remind you that his was on dry pavement while you had the benefit of recent rainfall. The merits of long skids were hotly debated, with arguments based on the conditions under which they were done.

To my parents' credit, they usually bit their tongues when they pulled into the garage after driving over the evidence of our tire-destroying afternoons. And my old red Schwinn's coaster brake never failed. That was back when owning a Schwinn was a point of pride, not the cheap-ass stigma it is today.

That sturdy old steel frame served both me and my younger brother well, and eventually went down in a blaze of glory after we moved beyond skidding and discovered one of the facts of life: Dads leave scrap lumber and concrete blocks in garages. The kind of scrap lumber and concrete blocks that, when correctly configured, can help launch helmetless kids into the wild blue, weld-splitting yonder.

Why lay rubber when you can catch air?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

One for the locals

I just sent an e-mail to my brother that included the word "bullet" twice (don't ask). As I finished typing it, I thought to myself, "Holy crap. Some text scanner at the NSA will pick this up and next thing I know, I'll be hearing funny clicks on my phone line." After all, we have to fight terrorism, right? Far be it from me to complain about a little minor violation of my constitutional rights. How can we defend freedom if we expect to keep some?

Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what your country can do to you.

Fortunately, I'm the kinda guy who's a pretty quick thinker, so I just went back through the e-mail and added a few words that should get it filtered out as a normal American e-mail that's expected to include some mention of ammo: Deer Turkey Bass Duck NASCAR Bubba Momma Budweiser Truck Chew Alan Jackson Git-r-done

Heh, heh, heh. That oughta do it. I tell ya, sometimes I'm so smart, I excite myself.

It's time for a little overhaul of the links on this blog. I asked myself yesterday why I'm linking people to Specialized, Sidi and Giro instead of our local talent. The big guys don't need an occasional hit from this tiny little speck on the ass of the Internet, and besides, I only put up the commercial links to help fill space when I started blogging last summer. We have some deserving talent right here in the frozen north, so there's now a links section just for Alaskans and Alaska-related stuff (all bike-related or of interest to cyclists, of course).

As for the big guys, I'll move 'em down the page a bit, but leave the links. Why waste all that work?

The local-links idea occurred to me after I stopped by Paramount Cyclery to say hello to Rose Austin. She's a WOMBAT, a trail activist, a shop maven and the woman who wrote the book on Anchorage Trails. Her excellent book "Mountain Bike Anchorage" is available from Near Point Press.

My wife and kids just gave me a jersey designed by Kathy Sarns, an Anchorage artist who, when she isn't exploring new ways of traveling by mountain bike with her husband, Pat Irwin, creates Alaska bike jerseys.

And, of course, there's Wildfire Designs, which I've linked to previously. Cool bikes made for hardcore riders by a guy who rides in Alaska what he makes in Alaska.

I'll add more as I think of 'em.

Some people make fun of women drivers. I, however, being a sensitive and fair-minded modern guy, would never do such a thing. But male drivers should probably make sure their skills are up to par by taking this driving test on how to pass a cyclist. Thanks to gwadzilla for the link.

Today's photo? My snow-packed hub after riding home from work on Friday. The weather man's 2 inches of snow turned into 6 or 7 inches by the time I decided to call it a day and start the holiday weekend a couple of hours early while I still had a chance of making it home.

The trippy colors are courtesy of my tinkering/editing with iPhoto. Knowing just enough to be dangerous. Story of my life

Friday, December 23, 2005

The fat man's comin'

Happy Festivus. Merry Christmas. Happy Whatever You're Into.

May your cooked animals be juicy, your drinks be cold
and your stockings full of carbon fiber and chocolate.

Remember, don't drink and ride. Or do, but find a soft trail.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Frigid Bits redux

Anchorage Daily News reporter Kevin Klott, one of the racers in last weekend’s Frigid Bits Crit (and the only one crazy enough to ride without studded tires) has published a write-up on the race.

He even mentioned Bicycles and Icicles. My cover is blown! Even more people will now be exposed to this online foolishness.

For those of you who noticed that yesterday’s post had disappeared, it has now been restored. I was updating the post to correct a typo yesterday afternoon, and didn’t realize I had removed the whole damned thing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Heart of darkness

Put down the pistol and back away from the vodka, Marge, I think we're gonna make it through this.

That's right, baby. It's the winter solstice. We're still riding through the darkness, but today we know that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, this is the shortest day and longest night of the year. Sure, we'll have less than five and a half hours of daylight (and I use the term "daylight" loosely).

But tomorrow will be a few seconds longer, and every day after that will give us a little more precious light until that cursed day in June when all the pseudopagans celebrate the summer solstice with festivals and silly rites as if it's some cosmic touchstone. All it really means is that, just as we reach the full glory of summer, we begin losing a few seconds of light every day. Facing this sad fact on the leading edge of the best season is like showing up at a college party only to hear your buddies say that the keg's dry and all the girls just left.

Summer solstice should pass without notice. It's a buzz kill. The glory months should be soaked up lustily and without thought, as if there is an infinite supply that will never end.

Winter has its beauty, but it's a season of milestones on the path to the Holy Grail we call summer. To me, Halloween means winter has arrived. Thanksgiving nails that fact home. Rolling into a new year provides a step in the right direction. February means I'm a year older, but will hopefully receive some bike-related gift that distracts me from creaky joints and reminds me a new riding season is just around the bend.

March brings the Iditarod, the last big event of winter in Alaska. When those little mutts and the zombies they're towing hit Nome, we know we're in the home stretch. Time to hang up the studs and start getting the summer bikes ready for fun. Time to put in a few weeks on the trainer while waiting for the spring slush to melt away so that we can ride dry streets and bide our time until the trails dry out by the end of May.

They say junkies and drunks can't get better until they hit rock bottom. Well, today we bottom out. Shift her down into the granny gear, kids. We're startin' a big pull up a long hill, but the view from the top kicks ass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Do you ever wonder . . .

. . . what the car people think of you as you ride along
in the dark, holding a camera at arm's length,
taking pictures of yourself and your bike?

No, no, me neither.
I was just asking for "a friend."

This morning's commute was a dream.
Back to normal with 18-degree temps
and refrozen trails that are hard and fast.

Last night was the annual office party,
so there was little time for
blogical creativity. But two links must
be shared.

Here's another kid who
gives me hope.

And please, don't forget to send
yourself that e-mail reminder. Go
ahead, do it now. You can thank
me later.

Much later.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Frigid Bits

It was a busy weekend, so I'm just going to dump all the stuff I need to get out of my brain. First off, the inaugural Frigid Bits Crit was held Sunday afternoon on the frozen surface of Goose Lake. I had hoped to check out the course and maybe get a little photo goodness for the blog, but my two-and-a-half hour drive back from Soldotna got me to the lake just as the race ended. Bagged a photo of the finishers, though.

Everyone enjoyed the course and rode off the lake with smiles on their faces. I just might show up with a bike next month. What the hell, I already buy ibuprofen in bulk. Might as well put more of it to good use.

Quick update on the Banjo Brothers messenger bag I'm testing this winter and sort of "reviewed" here a couple of weeks ago. I exchanged some e-mails last week with the Banjo boys, who are working out some kinks and gearing up for production. It sounds like they're on top of all the little things I've found to nitpick about, such as the poorly positioned shoulder-strap pad. My early sample bag has a few glitches that Eric and Mike are correcting for the new line of bags due in 2006, and Eric assured me that these minor flaws are already being tweaked and won't appear in the final version. If you're in the market for a big-ass bag from a blogger-friendly company that won't leave you broke, check it out. Hard to beat 2000 cubic inches for $80.

Deadhead extraordinaire David Dodd is my hero of the week for spending the past 10 years annotating the lyrics of the Grateful Dead. His website at the University of California has long been a useful reference for reading up on the eclectic array of material behind a deep well of wonderful music, and now it's available in book form. I've said for years that one could teach a college course on American music history just by drawing on the Dead's repertoire. Now Dodd has written the textbook.

And in the teach-your-children-well category, I was reminded this weekend of how happy I am to steer my kids toward sports like bicycling. All the adolescent little hockey hellions who invaded our hotel on Saturday typified much of what I hate about mixing kids and team sports. They were arrogant, ill-behaved, poorly supervised brats. Call me hockey bigot, but that sport seems to attract more budding goons than any other.

Here's a hint: Any sport in which pro teams hire certain players purely for their fighting ability might not be the best character builder for your kid. Oh, and actually calling your 12-year-old by the nickname "Thrasher" in public? Mmm, that might not be sending a really productive signal. Unless you're trying to raise a sociopath.

The management must have dealt with their ilk a few times before, because a sign was posted at the front desk: "Hockey sticks not allowed in hotel." Unleash those little demons indoors with sticks, and by morning the whole place would look like Chechnya on a really shitty day. Chunks of sheetrock, broken lamps and other debris would litter the floors. You'd need to drive a Humvee through the front doors and across the rubble-strewn lobby with a bad-ass Ranger on the 50 to take out hostiles. (OK, so maybe I kind of fantasized about doing that anyway.)

The whole thing reminded me how nice it is to see "Bikes Welcome" signs on hotels in bike towns like Moab and Fruita, and how pleasant kids usually are when you encounter them at trailheads and mountain-bike races.

One of Anchorage's promising young bike racers passed a friend of mine last summer during the 24 Hours of Kincaid. This is a girl who is growing up in a bike-racing family. She's a good rider and I'm sure she knows it. She could be an arrogant little brat, but she's not. She didn't blow my friend's 42-year-old ass away until after saying, "Um, excuse me. Could you move over please?"

That's going above and beyond the call of decent behavior, especially when a good old "On yer left!" would have been enough.

You've gotta like a kid like that.

I'm pretty sure she never played hockey. She's one of us.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Spotted in the men's room of a roadside rest stop on the Kenai Peninsula, where someone had written "JESUS SAVES" on the wall. With someone else's clever editing, it read:

With just a quick call
you 10 percent or more
on your car insurance.

White trash

There's just no gettin' around it. I'm being inundated with Christmas-themed stuff everywhere I look. Let's get on with 2006 already. We have a few more days of this holiday stuff to endure, though, so we might as well make the best of it. Besides, some of this crap is actually worth sharing.

George the Bike Riding Donut Guy posted this link to "White Trash Christmas," and I promise that if you watch it, you won't have to hear anyone singing that stupid song about a reindeer running over grandma. I thought the video was so funny, I didn't even mind that it made fun of my man Willie.

Meanwhile, some of the listers on the Icebike Mailing List have composed a song for winter cyclists, sung to the tune of "Winter Wonderland"

"Chain links ring, are you listening?
On my back snow is glistening.
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Biking in a winter wonderland.

"In the lane my studded tires chatter
It's so quiet nothing else can matter.
A beautiful sound,
From my wheels on the ground
Biking in a winter wonderland.

"In the basement we can build a beater.
Add disc brakes and Nokians to go.
Doubters sneer that we will need a heater,
But we'll be fine in fleece and polypro - ho, ho!

"Later on we'll conspire as we dream by the fire
To ride unafraid in the tracks that we've made
Biking in a winter wonderland."

Yeah, baby, that's classy shit right there.

Of course, a fellow Alaskan (and the man behind Wildfire Designs) offered his own little ditty on our local forum:

"Jingle balls, jingle balls
Please excuse my prose
But oh what fun it is to ride
When your private parts are froze."

Let's see an overpriced ergonomic saddle fix that.

In keeping with the white trash theme of today's post, let's all have a little sympathy for the old Amish dude who got scammed by his favorite hooker. Don't think he deserves sympathy? Just be glad he chose to go to a prostitute instead of following the example of some of his brethren.

Moving right along . . . I've had Big Bill's Big Barbarian Bike Blog bookmarked for a couple of weeks and have been meaning to mention it for my fellow Clydesdales. Looks like a lot of helpful information on heavy-duty bike bits. Fortunately, I'm at the low end of the Clydesdale scale and don't seem to break as many parts as others seem to do. That's probably due to my exceptional steering skills and natural grace on the trails. I would never (cough, cough) clunk my wheels into big rocks or accidentally fly off small, unseen drops.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fallin' madly in lava

"I don’t know where I’m a-gonna go when the volcano blows."
—Jimmy Buffett

Just to keep things spicy during the dark months, we now have three volcanoes listed at yellow on the “Current Level of Concern” chart, and two of 'em in are in Cook Inlet—including Mount Spurr, which is right across the water from Anchorage. Mount Augustine down in Jill’s neck of the woods is the most likely one to put on a show. To me, volcanoes are like hurricanes: very fun to watch. From a distance.

I had the chance to spend a few days on Augustine with some volcanologists a few years ago, so it’s fun to watch the reports and check out the aerial photos to see what’s happening in the areas where I camped and hiked. If lived a bit farther south, I might be checking prices on dust masks about now.

Quick clarification on my previous post. If it sounded like I'm against people riding electric bikes, it shouldn't have. I think they're silly, but I'd rather see people riding them than driving cars. I just don't think very many people want to ride them, which is why I think they're a bad idea to produce. They've been marketed for years and how often do you see anybody riding one? There's probably a reason that the easiest place to find one is at an RV dealership.

The biking has been slow the past week or so. First we had the Big Thaw, which turned everything to icy slop. Now we have snow but my schedule hasn't been conducive to bike commuting. Gotta get back on track in the morning. Most importantly, I'll remember to ride with pants.

Wasn't that a graceful transition? Yeah, I don't have much to post tonight, so I'm just gonna share some stories I found interesting. Your trip here won't be wasted. Seriously. It'll be more fun than working.

As mentioned in previous posts, my wife recently gave me an iPod nano. The first time my mother sees me use it, I'm sure she'll tell me that loud music is going to make me deaf. She has been telling me that since the '70s—especially after the time in high school when I backed my car out of the driveway with a metal garbage can rolling under my rear bumper. I pushed that sucker across the street and into the neighbor's ditch and never heard a thing.

And yeah, I had my windows rolled down. So what? I had the tunes crankin' baby! Ted Nugent, wherever you are, it's your damned fault that my kids roll their eyes when I say, "Huh? What? Stop mumblin' and speak up!"

And before anyone posts a comment about Ted Nugent, just remember it was the late '70s and I was a teenager in the Midwest. I was a Butthead before there was a Beavis. Like you don't have any skeletons in your closet.

Now they sell us iPods and Alabama 3 music. It's a conspiracy. Really. They're even encouraging us listen in our underwear. Is that an iPod in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Which reminds me, if you happen to get in the Christmas spirit and build a big snow unit in your front yard, don't forget to put up a sign telling the cops to stay the hell off your property.

Just because I've mean meaning to link to it, I'll mention that I don't always understand what I see there, but I always enjoy checking out the astronomy picture of the day. My daughter and I sometimes wade through the archives to see a couple of weeks worth of photos at a time. Shots like this composite image of Europe at night make the site worth regular visits.

That's about it, other than nominating Bretton Barber as Teenager of the Week for his knowledge of the First Amendment, standing up to The Man and being a good judge of bad character.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Leave it alone

I've been seeing some goofy bike-related inventions lately, and that has me thinking about all the ideas that are dreamed up to "improve" the bicycle.

Now I'm not talkin' about the guy in the photo that accompanies this post. When he and/or his buddies welded up that Dr. Suess contraption, they probably had little in mind except the enjoyable buzz they had going, and a fuzzy vision of the stares their stack o' frames would attract. Or maybe they just figured that ridin' that baby past all the half-naked vegan chicks at Burning Man would have the same panty-dropping result as idling a Trans-Am near a sidewalk full of White Snake groupies. Totally understandable.

The point is, they probably weren't looking to start a bike company. They wanted to have fun. I respect that. Creating a strange bike for laughs while under the influence of recreational chemicals is a good thing. Especially if you're a single person in your twenties and you think people of the opposite sex will dig it when they're high. But you climb onto a slippery slope when you wake up the next morning and decide to market the results.

Don't get the impression that I'm against change. Some brilliant ideas have come from strange places and even a grump like me has to admit technological evolution is a good thing. Sure, I bitched about the death of thumb shifters. Yes, I resisted giving up my toe clips. I complained when suspension forks showed up and made me feel like I had to buy a new bike.

But I eventually adapted and learned to love the new stuff. And look at me now: I'm a laptop-usin', iPod-wearin', full-suspension ridin', gray-haired wonder. I'm so hip I excite myself. Except for when I'm grousin' about rap, heavy metal, cable television, vegans, body piercing, and a couple of dozen other things.

No, I don't mind innovators. The people I have a problem with are those who just don't understand why people ride bikes. I'm talking about those half-crazed tinkerers who come up with an idea (or steal and old one and update it) and then convince themselves that it's so brilliant that consumers will flock to stores and buy it. It's like mental masturbation for guys who spend too much time in lonely workshops.

The latest contraption I've seen is the StreetSurfer, a creation that is at least as useful as a Billy Bass. I won't even link to the manufacturer's website, because the damned thing's not operational. Imagine that.

And then there's the Treadmill Bike, a little product made for people who think that walking on the ground is just so last year. Even if some fool bought it and took it out for a spin, he'd probably get his ass kicked by some homophobic NASCAR fans in Chevy pickups. (There's a redundancy in there somewhere. I'm still trying to narrow it down.)

But my all-time favorite—for it's sheer staying power—is the electric bike, or it's deformed twin, the bicycle motor. Why doesn't something as practical and non-polluting as an electric bicycle catch on?

Because it's a profoundly stupid idea, that's why.

The electric-bike people just don't comprehend the fundamental truth about bikes. People use them for the experience of going somewhere under their own power. Otherwise, they could buy mopeds or cars, or get on a bus. It's about more than getting somewhere. It's about how you get there.

Put a motor on it, and you not only make the machine something different, you destroy the experience.

Thanks for listening, doctor. I feel better now.

No, no, no, that's OK—go ahead and up the meds. I might relapse.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Carbon lust

The forecast is looking up. Snow tonight and tomorrow, they say. Last time I checked, it was coming down as sleet. Sleet and fresh snow atop the glare ice that formed over the past week. That should make the Monday morning commute interesting. I don't want to say it's slick out there, but a road grader took out our mailbox this afternoon before nearly sliding into a neighbor's car. And the grader was running tire chains.

Luckily, was able to flag down the driver to let him know the ass end of his grader had hip-checked the mailbox I was picking up out of the snow. I had just finished a 90-minute session on my indoor trainer, so I got to waddle across the ice in a T-shirt and my manly Lycra shorts. Yeah, that was a special moment. Turns out, the guy used to live a couple of houses away, so he has seen me around the neighborhood enough to know about my bike fetish.

I also had some time to flip through the new issue of Dirt Rag and ogle some bike porn like the new Ibis Mojo Carbon pictured above. Talk about lustworthy. I'm a married man (to both my wife and my Epic) but I don't care. There are things I'd do to that little number. Unmentionable things. Dangerous things. The kind of things young children shouldn't see. Or try at home. Oh, c'mon. Take a close look at those thighs and tell me you wouldn't cheat on your bike with something that fine.

I also read an interesting review of the new Carver 96'er. A twenty-niner up front and a twenty-sixer in the rear. Different, but hey, if the whole alternative lifestyle thing happens to be your bag, who am I to judge? Looks like a fun ride.

Got a nice e-mail this weekend from Tom, who is a Bicycles and Icicles reader with his own blog. I figure if he reads my stuff, he must be a damn fine person, and he writes about bikes, so what the hell, check it out and see what he's up to.

What can I say? I'm a slut. Tell me you read my blog and I'll pimp yours.

Unless the Ibis gets to me first, in which case you'll have to leave a message, because I'll be "indisposed" for an extended period.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

And then, cabin fever set in

The poetic Old Bag keeps her blog interesting by coming up with material like baiku: haiku about bikes. She even has her neighbor over at Two Cities, Two Wheels doing it.

When I found myself starting to post a T&A shot to keep the blog going during our temporarily aborted winter,
I decided it was time to try baiku. It was 47 degrees when I drove to work Friday morning, which means Anchorage is still a miserable blend of glare ice and filthy puddles. (Go for a ride, and you'll come back looking like you work in a very wet coal mine.) I've gotta do something and I can't afford therapy.

I'm still posting the hot pinup girl. Call me a pig, I don't care.

Damn, I really need a bike ride.

December thaws suck
Slush and slop stop bike riders
I whine, and risk scorn


Studs need cold weather
My blog stagnates, uninspired
You didn't notice?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Federal health alert

The federal Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new and virulent strain of sexually transmitted disease. The disease is contracted through dangerous and high-risk behavior. The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim and pronounced “gonna re-elect him.” Many victims contracted it in 2004, after having been screwed for the previous four years. Cognitive characteristics of individuals infected include: anti-social personality disorders, delusions of grandeur with messianic overtones, extreme cognitive dissonance, inability to incorporate new information, pronounced xenophobia and paranoia, inability to accept responsibility for their own actions, cowardice masked by misplaced bravado, uncontrolled facial smirking, ignorance of geography and history, tendencies towards evangelical theocracy, categorical all-or-nothing behavior. Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed at how this destructive disease, which originated only a few years ago from a bush found in Texas, has spread throughout the country.

(Received from a friend via e-mail)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hot ’n’ bothered

Rain. Temperatures in the 30s turning the riding surface to mush. Back to driving to work. I’m pouring pools of sweat onto the mat under my trainer. Cranking tunes on the iPod while spinning my legs like a meth-crazed hamster.

When I lived in the desert, December was for riding rocky singletrack while wearing shorts and cotton T-shirts. Those were the days: Rigid bikes. Thumb shifters. Toe clips. Cheap hiking shoes. Cold beer—or maybe Christmas dinner—at the end of the ride.

Who knew I’d end up living in a place where the perfect winter temperature is 18 degrees? Cold enough to keep the trail firm, warm enough to ride.

Come March, warm winds are welcome. Weeks of slush are tolerable when you know dry trails aren’t far behind. In the dark days of December, moods go down as temperatures go up.

Splashy bad. Crunchy good.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Does this bike make my butt look big?

There's a woman in my office who thinks I'm odd not just because I ride to work all year, but also because I eat the same lean lunch nearly every day. She made a wisecrack yesterday about my size. At least it was a flattering comment—she joked that her left leg probably weighs more than I do.

I looked at her and said, "Uh, how much do you think I weigh?"

"Mmm, about 165," she replied.

I haven't seen 165 since about 1978.

She's not nuts; people usually think I'm a lot lighter than I am, unless they've waited for me at the top of a hill. I guess it pays to be tall and spread out the weight.

I'm a Clydesdale. That's life.

Small people smoke me on climbs.

Damn you, small people.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bag o' stuff

I’ve been using my Banjo Brothers messenger back for more than a week now and it has been interesting to see all my stuff in one big pile rather than divided among the compartments of my rack trunk, and occasionally a fanny pack. Several times I’ve looked at it and throught, “Holy crap, I’m carryin’ a lot of stuff!” So I decided to inventory all the junk, er, equipment in the bag because when one has a blog, one must find shit to write about.

First the bag. When they shipped it they included a note saying that, to keep water out, they make the outer shell from a tarp material, and that it might stiffen up in cold weather. I haven’t notice much of a problem in that area, and I’ve used in in single-digit weather several times.

The bag is huge—2000 cubic inches. Big enough to carry some really bizarre things, but we won’t go into that. Banjo Brothers designed it for their 2006 product line and even included a padded laptop insert for those brave souls who trust themselves to carry a laptop on a bike. The white interior seemed a little odd at first, but has been handy for finding things in low-light situations, which are the norm in Alaska this time of year. Two interior pockets help with the smaller stuff and a couple of clips for keychains, etc., are a nice touch. The metal clasp on the chest strap makes it easy to drop the loaded bag off my shoulder instead of lifting it over my head. The only changes I’d make are a slightly longer pad on the main strap to give my shoulder a little more coverage, and a suitcase-style handle for lugging it into the house or downstairs to the garage before I’m fully layered up for a ride.

It has a big reflective stripe across the cover flap but because I commute in the dark both morning and afternoon this time of year, I added a flashing strobe and a reflective leg band that hangs on the exterior of the bag. What can I say? I’m a flashy guy. I even mixed some epoxy and affixed reflective strips to the back of my winter riding boots. Chicks dig that kind of stuff.

I’m curious about what people carry on their daily commute. Looking in someone’s bag is like snooping in a medicine cabinet or purse. Not that I’d do that, of course. Here’s what I carried Thursday, when it occurred to me to make a list:

Polypro helmet liner
Polypro balaclava
Midweight gloves (These first three items were in case of rising temps; if it climbs into the mid-teens, my heavier morning gear can be too much for the ride home.)
Glove liners
Fleece vest
Miscellaneous chocolate for my office stash
A Clifbar
A novel for lunchtime reading
Earbuds and USB cable for my iPod
Mini tripod
Sandwich ingredients
Zip-Loc bag of carrots
Four spare AA headlight batteries
Tiny, waterproof flashlight

I also carried a small digital camera, a cell phone and my iPod, with the camera and iPod (never used while riding) stashed in Zip-Loc bags in the pockets of an inner-layer fleece jacket. Body heat protects them from the cold weather, and the bags protect them from the steamy body heat. And we all know that guys with reflective strips glued to their boots put out a lot of steamy body heat.

Don't miss this story about Alastair Humphreys' bike ride around the world. He splits for a four year bike ride, and his girlfriend is still interested in him. She's a bike geek's dream.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Buckwheat hits D.C.

I know some of my readers are in the D.C. area so, if you are and you're available Tuesday night, head on over to Finn macCool's for a show by my man Buckwheat, who is currently walking from Miami, Fla., to Alaska to raise money for the clinic in his little town of Skagway. He's a great guy and a natural-born performer who is well-known for his shows built around the poetry of Robert Service. The show is free, with donations accepted for the clinic if you choose to open your wallet for a good cause.

You can read about Buckwheat and why he has undertaken his walk across North America by clicking over to this story (originally published in Alaska magazine) on his website. Check it out. And if you make it to the show on Tuesday night, say hello and tell him I sent ya.


The view from my back deck on Saturday.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Zen moment

A pretty picture to fill space while more intriguing, stimulating, captivating, titillating, oscillating, vibrating, rotating and Wonkalating posts are fermenting in my brain. Sunset, snow, trees, clouds and all that pretty scenery shit. I could have written a haiku but that would have required deep thought and the counting of syllables. Too much to expect from a guy who spent Friday evening sipping wine and laughing at .mp3 files of prank calls made with soundboards of Jack Black, Napoleon Dynamite and that psycho drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. You want depth? Homie don't play dat. Not today.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rollin' through the boneyard

Time to get back on the subject of bikes. Today's photo was taken as I rode through a cemetery near my house a few days ago. When I saw the nice shadow being cast across the snow, I turned around and made a couple of passes to shoot pictures.

If you haven't voted for your favorite bike blog, hurry on over to Cyclelicious and throw in your two cents' worth. I learned about the survey on Gwadzilla's blog, which is one of three I nominated for recognition. His series of photos of D.C.-area cyclists is one of the most interesting things I've seen any blogger doing recently. If you haven't been checking them out, click yerself over there and give 'em a look.

One of the coolest things in the bike industry over the past couple of years has been the BikeTown program sponsored by Bicycling Magazine and the manufacturers that have provided bicycles to help people start riding. Now they're expanding it to Botswana, where a bike can truly make a difference. The folks at Kona are even developing a bike designed to meet the specific needs of cyclists there. You can check out the development of the AfricaBike online.

In a place with few paved roads and little transportation infrastructure, a bike can change a life. A worker with Secure the Future told Bicycling's editor that giving a bike to the average African is like giving a helicopter to an average American. (Only with a lot less crash-related carnage, I'm sure.)

This blog gets a few hits from Colorado so, in the interest of bike advocacy I want to pass along a link for anyone who lives and/or rides there. A new State Patrol policy would ban some of the biggest bike events in the state, and could threaten smaller ones. If that's your turf and you haven't yet heard about it, read up. Thanks to Drunk Cyclist for spreading the word.

That reminds me, I'll try to start adding those little "NSFW" warnings on links that might not be safe if you're reading at work. I don't think I've linked to anything all that edgy, but my bike buddy Sue has balked at a couple of unexpected destinations. Then again, she said she liked this blog because it allows her to keep up with me without seeing me, so maybe I should lead her down some troubling paths just to see what happens.

For those who read and cared about yesterday's post regarding the Grateful Dead and file sharing of live shows, there's good news. It turns out there is disagreement within the Dead organization and the shows recorded by fans are again available for open sharing. Those made from soundboard tapes are not, which is unfortunate, but at least there's room for discussion now. Major thanks to Phil Lesh and John Barlow for keeping the vision alive and standing up for the culture they helped create.

Lesh said it well in this interview: "We are musicians not businessmen and have made good and bad decisions on our journey. We do love and care about our community as you helped us make the music. We could not have made this kind of music without you."

I'm disappointed in some of his friends and bandmates, but Phil proved the old bumper sticker right: "Lesh is More"

Thanks for droppin' in. Have a kick-ass weekend.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Where's Captain Trips when we need him?

I first saw the Grateful Dead in concert during the summer of 1980. I was 17 years old. It was a pivotal experience in my life. The band's music, particularly the songs written by Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter, have been a big part of my life ever since. Garcia could play notes on a guitar that would put tears in my eyes. His death in 1995 remains the only time I have ever felt personal loss over someone I never even met. Whatever the remaining band members decided to do, I knew that my ride on The Bus was pretty much over.

Now we have proof that the soul of the band died with him. Despite decades of a liberal policy on Deadheads' sharing of concert recordings, the Dead organization has moved to stop downloads (NYT registration required) from the Internet Archive, a virtual treasure trove of live shows.

The band's mouthpiece, Dennis McNally, gave the official line: "One-to-one community building, tape trading, is something we've always been about. The idea of a massive one-stop Web site that does not build community is not what we had in mind. Our conclusion has been that it doesn't represent Grateful Dead values."

What a load of horseshit. What doesn't represent the current values of the Dead is competition with the official vault releases they grind out on three-CD sets every month. True Deadheads have always traded live recordings and still commonly bought official releases from Grateful Dead Merchandising.

We believed in these guys. We went to the shows, we traded the tapes, we bought the albums and took pride in a relationship of trust between the band and its fans. Now we have to face the fact that Jerry was the spiritual leader of the group more than we ever knew. When he died, he took the heart of a wonderful 30-year experiment with him.

It wasn't always about greed. This was the band that paid college tuition for the children of its office staff. They founded and funded The Rex Foundation. They were the first band to provide medical and dental benefits for their staff and crew. They kept concert ticket prices at a fair level. Hell, they once played a show just to raise money because one of their roadies needed money for a down payment on a house.

Next thing we knew, Jerry was gone and they were fighting over his guitars.

I've already signed the online petition protesting this latest development. If you're a Dead fan, you should too.

Jerry, we miss you more than ever.