Friday, March 31, 2006

Don't forget to hydrate

"Mmmm. Beer."
—Homer Simpson

Don't drink and drive.
Drink and ride.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A reason for hope

My last post lamented the miserable slop of spring. The ice, mud and slush combo doesn't really last all that long, but it sure seems to when you're waiting it out. It makes a person's mind wander, because all you have is memories of past rides and dreams of future ones.

I spend a lot of time remembering past rides anyway, but especially when I'm stranded by weather, injury, or anything else that keeps me off a bike. So last night I browsed through my iPhoto library and savored a few shots from last year's trip to Fruita. Why not post one to help fill the blog in these dull days?

This one was taken by my brother Matt as me and another rider climbed down the waterfall on The Edge Loop after lowering all three of our bikes. The dude in the yellow vest was doing the ride solo and partnered up with us a couple of miles before the waterfall so we could all work together to get past it. Good thing he did; I don't know he would have lowered his $6,000 Moots rig and then climbed down alone. As it was, we put my brother at the bottom, Moots Guy halfway down, and me at the top to tie knots and start lowering the bikes one at a time.

The Edge Loop is IMBA's original "Epic Ride" and a Fruita classic. It's a 35-mile loop ride around the Bookcliffs mountains with huge scenery, world-class singletrack, long climbs, wicked descents and no escape routes. Once you start, you either finish the loop or backtrack the way you came. The crux is the waterfall, where locals have left a couple of fixed ropes. When you finish this sucker, you've earned a big plate of pasta and a beer at the Fruita Brew Co.

After exploring Fruita's trail network for several days, we did the Loop on a Thursday and then drove to Moab and rode Porcupine Rim the next afternoon.

Two classic rides in two days.

That's the stuff summer is made of.

And it's worth the wait.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Breakup is the worst time to be a cyclist in Anchorage. The riding surfaces vary from dry pavement, to wet pavement, to ice, to slush, to pools of water containing chunks of ice the size of basketballs. And that’s only in the first block.

The picture above? That’s the entrance to my cul-de-sac. Every spring when the first warm weather hits, water pools and threatens to flood a neighbor’s garage until a city crew shows up with a steam wand to open a drainage ditch that they’ve clogged with a winter’s worth of snow from the street.

Even if I wanted to try, I couldn’t pedal out of here without submerging my feet. And before I could get far, I’d be swamped by a wave of muddy water thrown up by car or pickup. (Maybe I should quit whining and buy a wetsuit.)

This is purgatory. No-man’s land. The big thaw. The great unrideable goo. There’s nothing to do but bide my time on the trainer and wait for conditions to dry out. If the weather holds, it should take only a couple more weeks. Things should improve just about the time I have to leave for a bikeless week in Juneau and Sitka.

Inspiration for the blog might suffer during these difficult days.

Bear with me. Be gentle.

I’m fragile right now.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Weekend by the bay

I spent the weekend in Seward with my wife and kids. I didn't ride a bike, and didn't have any deep bike thoughts to write about. Didn't have deep thoughts of any kind, really.

I thought about the quiet little harbor outside our window and the seal swimming around in it. I thought about walking around with my kids. I might have slipped a couple of times and thought about how much I want to go back and ride Lost Lake Trail just outside town, but it wasn't a deep thought. Just lustful. That's a really nice trail. I rode it last summer with Adam and another friend, Pat. I slowed them down but, damn, it was fun.

My son drove us home on Sunday (he's on a learner's permit and needed the highway experience) so I had time to ponder all the motorheads on the highway near Turnagain Pass. It was a beautiful spring day, so the high country was full of the usual parade of big pickups pulling trailers loaded with snowmachines (snowmobiles, to you people who live outside Alaska). There were gas-sucking, avalanche-inducing, noise-making machines all over the place.

One guy's truck was parked just off the road and surrounded by mini snowmachines and dirt bikes. Just doing his part to raise another generation of motorheads, I suppose. Although where he and his crew intended to use dirt bikes in the soft, spring snow is a mystery.

It all made me think of the cartoon above, which I found this past winter on Martino's Bike Lane Diary. And it made me glad I never got the gene that makes so many men love gas-powered machines.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Real treasure

People always talk about how fun it is
to find 10 bucks in the pocket
of a coat that hasn't been
worn in months.


I get excited about the chunks
of forgotten chocolate that appear
in my Canari jacket just when I need them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Best damn bike story of the week

"Back in the day, I always had a unique capacity for making fart jokes during the most serious and serene of moments. I never quite 'got it' when everyone else would 'feel' stuff. ... Being out there alone in extreme conditions makes me take life, myself and my place in the world seriously. It quiets all the noise and lets me think, focus and relax. My mind wanders and thinks big thoughts out there. The kind of thoughts that could either be a gift or a burden if you thought them everyday."

Last month, I cheered for my friend Adam Bartlett as he raced 350 miles to McGrath in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. OK, it wasn't really cheering; I drank in his honor and hoped he'd do well. Or at least come home with all his fingers and toes.

Now that he's had time to consider the experience and sort out his thoughts—from the reflective to the comically absurd—you should read them here. (You might need to be a registered user but, hell, all mountain bikers should be anyway.)

And don't forget to check out his photos from the trail.

How far did you go on your last ride?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Somebody find me a therapist

I think I have "issues"
with my parents.
I'm still mad at them
for not giving me the wheelie gene.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spring takes a break

They called it the first day of spring.


All that new snow didn't make it look much like spring during my ride to work Monday morning. A couple of miles from my house, the build-up on my bike was so bad that my brakes barely functioned. I had to use the ol' Fred Flintstone technique to keep from running into a light pole at one of the intersections near my office. One of these days I need to build up a real winter bike with disc brakes.

Anyway, the weather could be worse. A few years ago we got 3 feet of snow in 24 hours on St. Patrick's Day. At least we aren't suffering alone this year. All over the country, people are gettin' slammed with one kind of crappy weather or another.

Enough already. The weather people say temps will soon be in the 40s. Anchorage will be one big, slushy pothole when that happens. That's OK, though. On the other side of the slop is the real spring.

Let's get it on, spring. Take me, I'm yours.

I was checking out Cycle-licious yesterday I came across this cool story about a federal prosecutor who rides his bike to work. Even when court happens to be several hundred miles away.

I bet the security guards don't hassle that dude when he rolls his bike into the building.

Too bad the prosecutor works in Tennessee. He has a fellow bike commuter in Connecticut who's in need of some prosecutin' and time in the Gray Bar Hotel. Or the mental ward.

Thanks for stoppin' by.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wastin' away again

The festivities have begun. My kids
are out of school. People in my office
have scattered to Hawaii, Las Vegas
and Jamaica. Drunken college students are burning
through cases of beer and
boxes of condoms from Cabo to Daytona.
Well, I can't go to Hawaii this
year. But I
can go to the beach.
Let all those softies* lay in the sun
and kick-start their skin cancer.
I'm doin' spring break right here.

I went back to the coastal flats Saturday
with my friend Lisa. Conditions had shifted
since last weekend. No more
sun to warm us up. The dry,
fluffy drifts had crusted over so hard
that we rode across some of them without even
breaking through. The north wind was blowing off
the bluff pushing the 14-degree temp to at least zero
with the windchill. A little new snow
was falling sideways. A lot of
old snow
was swirling across the ground.

We rode among the ice plates, we pedaled
over the glare ice and we churned
through drifts. We froze our faces
until they were numb.

Jimmy Buffett once said
Margaritaville is nowhere
other than your mind
or at the bottom of a Cuervo bottle.

I say the beach is what you make it.
Welcome to Margaritaville.

Drink up.

*a.k.a. Lucky Bastards

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Keep the kids inside

Cleverly modified street sign
spotted during a ride
through South Anchorage

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Grab something worth reading

It's not often that I read a news story that gives me a reason to feel good, or to think that people can still look at a problem and come up with a thoughtful, reasonable solution. So I'm going to deviate from bike stuff tonight and offer a big public thanks to the Limestone District School Board in Kingston, Ontario, for making my day.

The Canadian Jewish Congress asked that a book called Three Wishes be removed from school shelves. The group was concerned about how the author dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and questioned whether elementary school children could handle it.

The board read the book. The board thought about the book. Then, instead of banning it, the board told teachers to read the book and discuss it in the classroom as a teaching tool. The book stayed on school shelves. Everybody was happy.

If you haven't read a banned book recently, go grab one and read it in celebration.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Poetry day at Bicycles and Icicles

I love the snow, the crumpling snow
That hangs on everything,
It covers everything below
Like white dove's brooding wing,
A landscape to the aching sight,
A vast expanse of dazzling light.

From "The Winter's Spring" by John Clare,
from Poems of John Clare's Madness.

Check it out at The Writer's Almanac.

(OK, OK, snow is pretty, yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm ready
for some dirt, dammit! Let's get on with spring.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cruising the coast

Winter riding in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
can be fun or it can be miserable. On Sunday,
the conditions were ideal: temperatures in the teens,
the sun shining, the boggy and muddy ground
frozen solid, and the wind-swept snow
dry and powdery.

Here and there, a deep drift forced me
to walk a few feet, but most surfaces
were easily rideable, including the maze
of ice plates blown into the extreme
high-tide zone of Turnagain Arm.

Occasionally, old layers fractured as my front tire released
the elastic energy stored in the snow.
The loud, swishing sounds started beneath my bike
and shot to the left and right like tiny fighter jets.
On a steep slope, that could be the the sound of impending death.
On the flat coastal plain, it’s just an adrenaline rush.

If you’re local, get out there while
the good conditions last. Don’t worry about trails.
Just aim your wheel and start pedaling.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Nice parts

During dinner one night about 18 months ago, I mentioned the idea of a new bike at the absolutely perfect time: My wife was in a good mood, and was surprised I hadn’t brought up the idea earlier. Besides, our son had recently outgrown his bike. This way, she said as we drove home from the restaurant, I could pass my old M2 Stumpjumper to him, and she could have the bike he had just outgrown.

I should have known she was out of her mind when she agreed to the full-suspension idea when we were still eating the appetizer.

No way was he getting my beloved hardtail. The kid doesn’t ride much and, when he does, it’s just to get around town. I said he could have my old Trek commuter bike and I’d convert the Stumpjumper for me to ride to work. My wife and our two kids couldn’t comprehend my resistance. Why go to the trouble of modifying the Stumpjumper, she asked, when the Trek is already set up for commuting?

After a few minutes of trying to explain, I finally got exasperated and blurted out, “You don’t understand the relationship.”

At this point, she and our kids exploded in laughter. “Relationship?” they cried. “It’s a bike!”

You would think my wife, of all people, would appreciate my loyalty to a bike I’d been with for a few years.

I get attached to my bikes. I don’t buy new ones frequently, so I spend a lot of years on each of them. I do my own maintenance and repairs, so I know each one inside and out; its quirks, its strengths, its weaknesses, its fears, its deepest desires whispered late at night over wine and candlelight, and … uh … I mean, I was talking about a friend of mine and his bike.

So anyway, with three of 'em in working order we have “open” relationships, but my bikes and I share close bonds. But this is the time of year when my fidelity is tested.

I blame porn.

Bike porn.

New bike magazines have been arriving in my mailbox, and they’re full of annual buyer’s guides. Everything’s shiny and new. All the parts are fresh, perky and perfectly proportioned. Carbon fiber whozits, aluminum whatzits and titanium thingamabobs. It’s like a big pajama party at Hef’s place, if Hef owned a bike shop.

A guy’s mind can start to drift, no matter how hard he tries to be true. Sure, my Epic’s still young and hot, but my older bikes have been around the block a few times. They’ve got quite a few miles on them, if ya know what I mean. And one came to me after a prior relationship, so it was already starting to show its age when we got together.

This is a tempting time of year. Lust flows through my veins. I have to remind myself that I’m not as young as I once was, and I've never been all that fast. These sexy new things aren’t meant for me (at least not this year) and, besides, such a relationship brings a lot of pressure. There are always evil guys who want to steal the hot, young things away from you. And you feel like you have to take a little better care of the new models. Scrub them clean more often. Make sure they’re warm, dry and tuned up. You feel bad if you ride 'em hard and put 'em away wet. All that stuff is a lot of work.

If you’re gonna have a harem of bikes, maybe it’s better to keep a few trusted old rides in the mix. Too many fancy things can lead to trouble.

At least that’s what I tell myself as another drop of drool falls onto the magazine page.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mmm, pizza

Saturday night’s event was the Race of the Disappearing Peloton. I don’t even know if a mountain bike race can have a peloton, but I think that name sounds really good, so cut me some slack.

And I learned from this race. I learned that there are a couple of items I need to add to my wish list of bike-racing attributes. Now the list is: trim down, speed up, buy better lights and (here’s the new stuff) develop some cunning and strategy.

I’d say I knew I was in trouble when I got to the parking lot but, hell, I always say that. And it's always true. I'm in trouble in any race for which I'm dumb enough to show up. Once again, fast people were there. The pace was high from the start and it didn’t take long for me to settle into sightseeing mode.

Well, that’s not entirely true. It was dark. My sightseeing was limited to the faint spot of light my LED lamp was putting on the trail while I saved my halogen juice for Rover's Run.

I knew there was a group of nine or ten riders ahead and we were on an out-and-back course, so when I encountered the leaders on Rover’s, I braced for an onslaught of oncoming traffic.

It never came.

Four riders blew by, then nothing. The main group had obviously taken a different route back.

See, while I use my imagination to entertain myself during the ride by thinking all sorts of strange thoughts, some people use their imaginations to read between the lines of the race rules, and come up with faster routes. The rules told us how to get to the Hilltop chalet. They said nothing about how to get back to Goose Lake.

Turns out, I could have cruised back via Campbell Airstrip Road instead of fish-tailing my way back down the Tour of Anchorage trail.

I still would have finished near the back, but I could have saved time and reached pizza heaven sooner.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Last race of the season

Race master Carlos on the Tour of Anchorage Trail

As I mentioned earlier this week, Saturday night
is the final Soggy Bottom Production
race of the winter season.
Goose Lake to the Hilltop chalet via
the Tour of Anchorage Trail and Rover's Run,
and then back to the lake.
Three people rode the course Friday night and
reported great conditions. The trails are
packed and ready to ride.
Beer and pizza after the race,
at a joint to be named at the last damned minute.

For more information, check out the mtbr forum
or post a message here.

Hey, like Bluto said, "Don't cost nuthin'."

Say it ain't so

Please tell me this isn’t what our society has come to.

I walked into the kitchen area at my office a few days ago and found this abandoned Pizza Hut box covered with tips to help families start dinner conversations. Hey, parents, at a loss for how to talk to your child while eating this slab of grease? Here’s a neat idea! Ask him what his favorite color is!

Jesus H. Christ on a unicycle. If your relationship is so tenuous that you can't talk to your kid without help from a Pizza Hut box, your whole relationship is in serious trouble. You done fucked it up already.

And you have crappy taste in pizza.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Goin' to New Jersey

I've never been one for flashy, colorful jerseys. But I'll make an exception for this one. My mother-in-law sent it for my birthday a few weeks ago. I'm 43 now, so maybe I need something colorful to make me feel fast. Besides, the ASU jersey has been on my wish list for a couple of years. I'm a Sun Devil, class of '87.

For years, especially when I lived in Arizona and New Mexico, my friends and I were old-school, dirt-bag mountain bikers. Cotton T-shirts, decent shorts and some gloves got us far. Later, I learned to love moisture-wicking jerseys, but I didn't stop being a cheapskate. Eighty bucks for a shirt? Solid-color jerseys from Nashbar and Performance are good 'n' cheap. Who needs graphics?

I'll be stylin' this season. My wife gave me an "Gold Rush" Alaska jersey by Kathy Sarns for Christmas, as well as a fire engine-red jersey from Sugoi for riding in cold weather. Her mom sent me a flashy yellow shop jersey from the Bike Barn in Phoenix. That was my old neighborhood shop back in the '80s, before it had a website and neon shop signs.

Which is another reminder that the birthday numbers are climbin' up there.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Poetry in motion

I sometimes refer to myself as The Dumbass Behind Bicycles and Icicles. You might think that's because I'm a humble guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

You'd be wrong.

Sunday afternoon I went for a trail ride with Carlos, Shelby and Steve. That's Steve ridin' Rover's Run in today's photo.

I felt good. I felt strong. I felt like bein' a nice guy. Even toward Nordic skiers. So when I had to cross a set of classical tracks, I thought I'd do a little bunny hop instead of cutting a tread mark across 'em.

After leaping off your platform pedals is the wrong time to remember that your Egg Beaters are sitting on the workbench at home.

Oh, yeah. I'm the Mikhail Baryshnikov of mountain biking, baby. Pure grace.

But there’s an up side to being bad at bunny hopping a mountain bike—I don't get very high when I try it without being clipped in. I managed to land on the pedals instead of making a snow angel the hard way.

We were riding trails and checking out the route for the new race Carlos has planned for this Saturday night. With a few details still to be announced, what we’ll basically do is start from Goose Lake, ride through the university area, pick up the Tour of Anchorage Trail to Viewpoint and Rover’s Run, ride north on Gasline to the Hilltop ski chalet, and then turn around and go back to the lake.

After that, it’s time for beer and pizza, yo. Clear your calendar.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Ridin' home from work
with my light turned off.
It's a beautiful thing.

And riding snowy trails
on Sunday afternoon is a
beautiful thing. And spending
the evening with a couple
of glasses of wine. Having
the energy to write a full blog
post would be a beautiful thing.
But beauty lasts only so long, you know.

Pete Basinger has scratched in Takotna.
Not everybody can say that. I've
scratched many places,
but never Takotna. Ned Rozell
and Andy Sterns are making time
and closing on McGrath. Hardcore.
Congrats to both of them.
And to Pete, for making it
farther than anyone else.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Adam reaches McGrath

Congratulations to Anchorage endurance monster Pete Basinger for reaching McGrath in 4 days, 17 hours, and to Adam Bartlett for bagging sixth place this morning at 2 a.m. with a time of 6 days, 12 hours. I'm sipping a glass of Alaskan Amber for both of them.

Pete arrived in McGrath at the same time as Rocky Reifenstuhl of Fairbanks, but that's not the whole story. Reifenstuhl put on an impressive show but, for him, McGrath was the finish line. For Basinger, it was only a checkpoint. He took a four-and-a-half-hour break and then rode on; he's racing to Nome, so he's only one-third of the way to his finish line. Go, Pete, go!

Somewhere out there, skiers Ned Rozell and Andy Sterns are still working their way up the trail. They left Puntilla Lake yesterday morning with 165 miles behind them and 185 to go. They've now been racing for a full week.

Brutal. And amazing.

Friday, March 03, 2006

good name for a punk band.

bad name for a bike sticker.

can you say "jaws of life?"

can you say "frame ripped to shit?"

Mr. Frigid Bits

Give a man a snowblower, a frozen lake and a dream, and you never know what'll happen.

You just know it'll be strange.

And potentially dangerous.

Race organizer Carlos Lozano is the guy who got some of us off our butts and out of our warm houses this winter so that we could spend our afternoons and nights hurtling around a frozen lake on our bikes. Didn't matter if he called it the Frigid Bits, the Chilly Willy, the Stud Slutz, or anything else (although when he attached "Sphincter Cramp" to the name, we knew things would get dicey). He set the course, cleared the snow and counted the laps.

Hell, he even inspired DaveIT to talk of getting an "FB4L" (Frigid Bits for Life) tattoo. Double hell, he even gave us free rolls of toilet paper at one race! It just doesn't get any better'n that unless the TP has George Bush's face printed on it.

So this is the official Bicycles and Icicles salute to Mr. Frigid Bits himself. Thanks for all your hard work, Carlos.

It was the most fun I've ever had with a frigid Goose and a guy in a bear suit.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Drinkin' one for Adam

We’re overdue for an update on the Iditarod Trail Invitational and our man Adam Bartlett. After all, we did promise to cheer and drink him all the way to the 350-mile finish line in McGrath. But this ain't no Susitna 100 thing where we can just dive down into the slothful muck and wallow around in it all day. This is serious endurance stuff. We have to pace ourselves, but we're doing our part for our homeboy.

Adam’s near the front of the main pack and looking strong. At the last update, he was on his way to Rohn, which is way the hell out there.

The true mutants are running in a three-man dash a couple of checkpoints ahead of the chasers. Fairbanksan Rocky Reifenstuhl led out of Nikolai this afternoon, followed by longtime Paramount Cycles wrench and Great Divide Race veteran Pete Basinger. Along with Jeff Oatley, they’ve been swapping the lead for a while now.

Here at Bicycles and Icicles Word Headquarters (a La-Z-Boy recliner that used to have a nice little table to hold my beer, until my daughter stole it back to hold her guinea pig’s cage) we’re cheering for Pete and hoping he'll drop those dudes when the time is right.

Skier and Alaska magazine columnist Ned Rozell and his buddy Andy Sterns appear to be suffering off the back. They might be the last skiers still on the course. (Do any of you locals know?) In any case, they’re hanging tough in a race that clearly favors the bike riders this year. The skiers and runners starting bailing out at the first checkpoint when trail conditions deteriorated last weekend.

Ned and Andy are hard guys. I have no doubt they’ll go as far as they can as fast as they can, but this year’s race is looking like a festival of pain for skiers.

Adam, Pete, Ned and Andy, here’s to ya.

Bottoms up.