Thursday, February 28, 2008

Moose Drewl

Damn, I'm out of shape. It's time
to get crackin' on some mileage.
I think I'll head up to the Mad-Zoo Valley
this weekend for the Moose Drewl ride
put on by Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers.
Yeah, I'll suck. But the shame
will provide motivation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Very beary trail

The March issue of Bike magazine lists the Russian Lakes Trail among 50 incredible trails in the the nation. That's a fair assessment, I guess.

I rode the trail last summer and wrote about it here on the blog. Posted some pictures, too. It's a wonderful trail. Hell, it's so great that even bears love it, and all the ripe salmon that swim beside it. As I wrote last summer, we counted 64 piles of bear shit in only 22 miles. That's a lot of feces from a very scary species.

Bike pays brief lip service to the "buddy system" in mentioning the bears.

I might have worded that a bit more strongly, if I'd written the piece. I would have stated something along of the lines of, "Forget your water. Forget your food. Forget your first-aid kit. But whatever you do, don't forget your bear spray."

Besides, if you carry a can, and you ever have to deploy it and miss the bear, you can just spray one of your riding partners.

Then hope the bear likes the spicy taste of sweaty enchiladas.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back home, and needing a ride

I'm finally back in Alaska. Unfortunately, all my luggage is in Denver, so I'm not catching up on laundry just yet. It's time to dig through a pile of mail, go back to the office, spend some time with the family, think about riding a bike again, and catch up on reports from the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

It sounds like trail conditions are fast this year, so it should be a good race. Let's just hope the mail plane arrives in time to replace Pete's broken pedal and keep him in the hunt.

Here's the leaderboard.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alex floats a wheelie

I was looking for a place to eat dinner
Wednesday night when I came across
Alex, a 16-year-old guy from Santa Fe,
riding wheelies down San Francisco Street
on his twofortythree.He made several passes for me
so I could shoot photos, and he held
a wheelie for 60 or 70 yards each time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Well, maybe just one

Madrid, New Mexico

I'm spending this week in a workshop, trying to become a better photographer.

Because I usually shoot so many bike photos, I vowed to avoid them this week and not present any for our daily critiques.

But I didn't vow to not post one on the blog if I just happened to come across one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Susitna carnage

80 racers signed up for this year's Susitna 100.

72 started.

52 scratched.

20 finished.

Congratulations to Pete Basinger (right), the first bicyclist across the finish line. His time was 1 day, 1 hour, and 30 minutes, putting him in second place overall, behind skier Chet Fehrmann with a time of 20 hours.

Sounds like it was a death march for most folks, with a lot of pushing. Everyone who tried deserves some respect. (I was perfectly happy to be warm and relaxed somewhere else.)

Things weren't much better in the Little Su 50k. If I counted right, the shorter race had 34 DNS entrants, 24 scratches and only 37 finishers.

Something tells me there's gonna be a lot of ibuprofen consumed over the next couple of days.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Form over function

I recently saw this picture from the North American Handmande Bicycle Show when Jeff posted it on his blog, and immediately had one thought (which was quickly echoed by Erik, whose site I visited after he posted a comment here):

Damn, that looks impossible to keep clean.

I mean, seriously. How many of us even floss regularly? Who has time to deal with this thing?

Can you imagine taking this sucker down a trail? You'd need dental picks and Valium just to get through the post-ride cleaning. And don't even think about not cleaning it, 'cause the crap that would accumulate in that freakish exoskeleton of a frame would more than make up for any weight savings achieved by using less tubing.

I'll tell ya one thing, though. I'd like to hear the sound that sucker makes when it's on a roof rack flying down the highway at 70 mph.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coolest jersey ever

I'm about to get outta Dodge for a couple of weeks, and blog updates will likely be infrequent. But before I split, I've got to say thanks to Nick from The Sock Site. He runs a small outfitting company in Utah and recently expanded into cycling jerseys. Once he found out I'm a longtime Deadhead, he hooked me up with this Steal Your Face logo jersey that instantly became the coolest jersey in my closet. He has more jerseys to check out at the link above, or from "Cycling Jerseys at The Sock Site," which has been in my permanent links at the right side of this page for the past year or so.

And thanks to Anka from Crank Bros., who forgave me for busting a pump I admitted I was using "outside the design parameters" at 15F below zero. I asked for a couple of new parts, and she sent me a whole new pump. Good service from a company that also makes my favorite pedals and trail tools. Sweet.

The snow is fallin' and I'm headed south to eat some green chiles, tip a few beers with some old friends, and to spend a few days learning how to take better pictures. I'll post to the blog a time or two if I can, and resume the rest of this nonsense when I get back.

Speaking of all the falling snow, good luck to everyone signed up for this week's Susitna 100. The weather forecast looks ominous, and this might not be a good year for the bike riders. I hope that's not the case.

Manny, Oscar, Mike M., Tony and all the rest: Be safe, and happy trails. May they be smooth and fast ... or at least rideable.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cycling Vocabulary

"I'm out of shape"
Translation: I ride 400 miles a week
and I haven't missed a day since
the Ford administration. I replace
my 11-tooth cog more often than
you wash your underwear.
My body fat percentage is lower
than your mortgage rate.

"I'm not into competition"
Translation: I will attack you
until you collapse into the gutter,
babbling and whimpering as if you've
been watching Celebrity Poker.
I will win the town-line sprint
even if I have to hook you into oncoming traffic.
I will crest this hill first even
if I have to grab your seat post,
spray an energy drink into your eyes
or ask you how to program my DVD player.

"I'm on my beater bike today"
Translation: I had this baby custom-made
in Tuscany using titanium blessed by the Pope.
I took it to a wind tunnel and it disappeared.
It weighs less than a popcorn fart
and costs more than a divorce.

"It's not that hilly"
Translation: This climb lasts longer
than a presidential campaign. Be
careful on the steeper sections
or you'll fall over—backward.
Oh, you have a 39x23 low gear?
Here's the name of my knee surgeon.

"You're doing great honey"
Translation: Yo, lardo, I'd like
to get home before midnight. This is
what you get for spending the winter
watching football and gobbling
sausages. I shoulda married
that cute Cat 1 when I had the chance.

"This is a no-drop ride"
Translation: I'll need an article
of your clothing. It's for the
search-and-rescue dogs.

"Aw, come on, it'll be fun"
Translation: Assuming you survive.

"It's not that far"
Yes, it is.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A bargain at twice the price

I saw a post in an online forum today from a guy who wants to calculate how long it will take for his new bike to “pay for itself.” He’s measuring the distances of all his errands and trips as a way of figuring out how much money he saves by riding instead of driving, and when those savings will equal the cost of his bike.

On one hand, that’s a pretty cool idea. You've gotta love seeing someone get excited about his bike’s utilitarian value. Parking your car so you can pedal a bike is a beautiful act.

On the other hand, measuring a bicycle's worth in dollars and cents would—for me, anyway—detract from the beautiful act of just riding the thing. I know I’m saving money when I ride to work or the grocery store, and that’s part of why I do it. But only a small part.

As soon as you start talking about quantifying all the benefits of riding bicycles, you’re on a slippery slope toward measuring carbon footprints, calculating insurance and vehicle-maintenance costs, fuel prices, yadda, yadda, yadda. Next thing you know, you’re creating spreadsheets and printing pie charts—the kind of stuff that many of us like to escape by riding bikes.

I’m probably just lazy. I’m glad there are people who want to figure that stuff out and provide stronger arguments for bike commuting. But I’m not gonna do it. The older I get, the more I'm content to simply measure my rides in smiles, stories, scars and post-ride beers.

Hey, I’m a bike geek, too. I can stand around for hours talking about my bikes and how much they cost.

But what they're worth isn’t printed on any receipt.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


One afternoon in late August a few years ago, when I was in the best shape of the season, I felt a painless popping sensation in my abdomen. A little Internet research sent me racing to a doctor, because it didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out I had developed a hernia. Turns out, I had three hernias.

Why was I in such a hurry? I had a trip to Moab coming up in eight weeks, and it takes six weeks to recover from hernia surgery. I threw myself onto an operating table, looked at my gut cutter and said, "Take me, I'm yours. And make it snappy, big fella." Next thing I knew, I had a belly full of staples and a new understanding of pain. About three days after leaving the hospital, my wife forced me into the car and took me to Potter Marsh to walk and loosen up. I held onto the wooden railing along the boardwalk as I shuffled along in short steps like an old man.

One week I was rippin' down trails and feelin' fit, the next week I could barely move. It was a shockingly abrupt transition. I felt like I'd been mugged (and then handed a large bill). My point is, this kinda shit happens quickly.

That's sort of how things have been for the past five or six days. It's been a great winter for riding, and I'm in better shape than usual for February. But since last Wednesday night some damned virus, a critter too small to even see, has been kicking my ass so hard that walking up a flight of stairs leaves me as gassed as pedaling up a hill. The closest I've gotten to a bike was when I had a brief window of energy Sunday night and finally made a couple of derailleur adjustments on my Pugsley before stashing it away again.

I've often heard people say we should "count our blessings." That's always sounded a little corny and I never liked the religious connotation, but point taken.

Occasionally, I'll remember to be happy that I'm having an illness-free, injury-free day. And I especially like to savor those days when my bike is running smoothly and silently, performing like a perfectly tuned machine. Those days are sweet.

When I finally get on a bike again, I'm going to gasp and cough as I clear the crud from my lungs and try to get back in shape. But I'm going to make a point of enjoying the fact that I'm on a bike at all.

Because germs lurk everywhere. And they're out to get us, the little buggers.

Germs suck.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Goodbye, Sheldon

Sheldon Brown has died.

He loved bicycles and
his mind was a treasure trove
of bike-related knowledge.

He built his life around our sport,
and inspired others to do the same.

We need more like him.

Go kiss a trail

My life has turned into a steaming pile of suck. Instead of riding bikes and having fun, I spend every night sitting up alone, coughing and enduring what some might call post-nasal drip. I call it a snot hemorrhage. It makes sleep impossible, and fistfuls of drugs don't help, so I cough, sniff, and surf the Internet.

A few nights ago, I came across an unusual post on the "Passion" forum. The guy who wrote it happily recounted driving for three hours and paying a $20 admission fee to ride an indoor mountain bike park in Cincinnati.

Sorry, but "indoor" and "mountain bike" just don't belong in the same sentence. Haven't these people heard of warm clothing and studded tires?

Concrete floor, plywood, steel roof supports, walls painted with someone's perverse idea of what a pine tree looks like ... my list of reasons for being glad I don't live in Ohio just grew.

Some people complain about riding indoor trainers. I'm happy that I've used mine damn little this winter, because I've spent more time than ever riding outside on ice and snow, among trees that didn't come out of a paint can. But if I thought the only way to ride in winter was to spend several hours driving to a warehouse that charged admission, I'd rent a few DVDs full of cool explosions and hot babes, and I'd ride that trainer like a meth-crazed hamster on an exercise wheel.

The next time you wipe out and get covered with snow or dirt, or rain falls on you, or nettles scratch your shins, or your new jersey gets splattered with mud, or you get lost for an hour, be happy.

Remember this picture, and be happy.

Saturday, February 02, 2008