Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Memories of 2008

The cold-as-hell, way-too-fast-but-still-fun
New Year’s Day ride.


The Frosty Bottom 50.


The pain of spring road rides, and that
damned late snow that brought the fun to a halt.


Riding Whitehorse with my daughter.


The heartache of a ruined race, and the solidarity
that strengthened the local bike community afterward.


The Fireweed 200 with Team Uranus Titans:
My throbbing achilles, the mutant squirrel,
the brutal winds, and The Bike Monkee’s screams.


Construction of new singletrack
designed just for us.


My daughter’s smiles
at the end of her all-girl rides.


Seeing a lot of new bike commuters
when gas prices skyrocketed.


Fingers. Many, many fingers.


Clouds, rain and The Summer That Never Was.


Arriving at Devil's Pass trailhead to find
all our gear soaking wet because some dumbass
leaked water all over the back of my 4Runner.


Picking up my too-light Camelbak
and realizing the dumbass was me.


Petra Davis’ beautiful smile at the end of July.


The mud, blood and general carnage
of the Soggy Bottom.


Being ready for winter, because
summer’s weather sucked.


Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Mesotony with your nose so bright ...

(Tell your kids they'd better behave,
or Santa might show up with this dude tonight.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter break

It’s time for a little break from the blog. Other than a couple of posts I’ve already written and scheduled to automatically publish over the next couple of weeks, there won’t be any new stuff here until the first week of January.

Enjoy the holidays. Eat a lot. Ride a lot. Have fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Way better than marshmallows

The Frigid Bits Burn Barrel is more than just a source of heat. It’s a gathering place, a shrine, an altar for those who worship mountain biking.

We flock to it for salvation on dark winter nights when we gather for the fun and lunacy of riding through super cold air with only a small bubble of battery-powered light to guide us.

And on our coldest nights, we rely on the FBBB for one of its most important functions: Keeping the damned beer warm enough to drink. Where else are you gonna find people holding their brews directly over open flames between sips?

While bike riders in other parts of the nation and world are worrying about how to keep their beer cold, we worry about ours turning too slushy—or worse, freezing solid. And there’s nothing that disappoints a person like popping the cap off a bottle of brew and taking a great big swig o’ nuthin’ when you tip that sucker back.

Keep the beer fires burning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Somebody stop me

"You may ask yourself, am I right? Am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?"
—Talking Heads, "Once In a Lifetime"

Holy shitballs, I must be out of my mind.

After years of calling singlespeeds a dumb fad, I've broken down and converted my old Stumpjumper so that I can see what all the excitement is about.

I'm not a convert, just an experimenter. Like most people, the first bikes I rode as a kid were singlespeeds. We didn't call them that, they just were. And I remember pushing a bike up a steep hill every hot summer afternoon on my way home from the town swimming pool.

That's why I place good derailleurs somewhere up there with vaccines and indoor plumbing. They make life better.

But I've known too many people who added a singlespeed to their collection and found that they loved it, so now I have to give it a try. They say this will make me stronger, and I like the sound of that. I'll have to wait and see how my knees like the extra work.

My goal is to make it through the sloppy mess of spring without worrying about gunked-up derailleurs, and then decide how I feel. For all I know, the new Surly Singleator and other bits will be in a spare-parts box by July, and I'll be pulling out my cable cutters and re-installing a drivetrain for sane people.

For now, well ... it does look kinda cool.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Frozen Chosen

At -12F, my front wheel looked like it was steaming. In the soft, ambient light reflected off the trail, thousands of sugary snow crystals were briefly sticking to the tire and then blowing away in a delicate shroud that wrapped itself around four inches of spinning rubber as Tony, Steve and I rolled up Rover’s Run.

I turned and steered down Moose Meadow, then picked up speed, ducking under snow-laden branches and carving through turns on the packed, sticky surface of the trail. The moon shined bright enough to light up the forest. We had already seen skiers materializing out of the darkness, running without headlamps to enjoy the natural light, but the trails were mostly empty. Only the truly devoted had ventured out.

Tony rolled up behind me when we reached Viewpoint Trail, where we saw the lights of another rider rolling toward us—it was Oscar, riding from home to pick up the crew and join us back at the burn barrel. A short distance later, we found Jeff, a new transplant from Fairbanks who had four cans of beer strapped to his rear rack because he knew about our ride and figured he’d find us sooner or later. And if he hadn’t, at least he’d have something to drink.

We aimed our fat bikes north on the Tour trail, gaining speed and eventually catching Steve, who had turned back earlier. The front of my jacket covered in frost from my breath, the moon still glowing, our tires crunching on the trail, bottles of beer clinking in Oscar’s panniers—it was a fine winter biking moment that brought out the biggest smile my face could manage while encased in an icy beard.

As we rolled up to the roaring fire back at the parking lot, Rio put a big bottle of Panty Peeler ale in my gloved hand. And it was good.

Winter riding isn’t easy. All the extra gear, the brutal brain-freeze headaches, the frozen drinking water. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s damned hard.

But it's beautiful.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shiddy, version 2.0

A couple of years ago, I compared a shitty commute
to a giddy commute. It’s time for another installment.

Shitty commute.

Potentially really shitty.

Giddy commute.

I mean, seriously, why would anyone
drive unless it was absolutely necessary?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Time for a break

Be it hereby resolved that the individual who designed slotted chainring nuts, and is therefore to be held responsible for the existence of the accompanying shitty chainring nut tool, is to be: caned; stretched on a rack; burned at the stake; boiled in the urine of a yak; fed live to rabid ferrets; subjected to no less than 900 consecutive hours of high-volume Barry Manilow recordings; dragged through cactus; ordered to imitate live pork during a Georgia canoe trip; administered high doses of salt through open wounds; and, last but not least, sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life with slotted nuts.

That is all. Carry on about your business.

I'll be in the garage.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Spring skiing?

OK, so we’re a long damned way from spring, but it was freakishly warm Friday when I saw this girl hauling her skis up a hill near Westchester Lagoon. It’s always cool to see a teenager using a bike for transportation, but it’s especially cool to see a kid hauling gear on a bike and keeping a pretty smile on her face.

I shot the photo on my way back to downtown Anchorage after a ride with a new friend named Aidan, who recently flew over from the U.K. to spend a few days training for this year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational. Aidan and I split up near REI so he could stop to buy more gear, and I pedaled on to my car. By the time I loaded up my slush-covered bike and peeled off some sweaty layers, I had ridden a little more than 21 miles in a little less than four hours.

Yeah, I’m slow anyway but damn, it’s soft out there with these warm temps. All you can do in these crappy conditions is let some air out of the tires and accept the fact you won’t be making good time.

Thursday night’s ride was nasty. Hoping to show Aidan some great winter singletrack, EndoRando and I took him on a tour of some Hillside trails that hadn’t seen any real traffic since the last snow fell. For someone with Rando’s bike-handling skills, it wasn’t so bad. For a slob like me, it was a constant challenge to stay on the trail. There was a good bit of bike pushing involved, but it was only a tiny taste of what Aidan and the other Invitational racers will face later this winter.

It’s unusual when someone flies to Alaska just to ride a bike this time of year. I wanted the guy to see that we have some fun terrain, so I was bummed about the crappy trail conditions, and frustrated because I was struggling to ride decently. I was grumbling and cussing, but Aidan seemed to be having a relatively good time.

We may both be bike junkies but, given the event he’s planning to do, his idea of fun surely covers a much broader spectrum.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Stupidity rules

An imaginary conversation
between two Anchorage snowplow drivers:

Fred: “Hey, uh, boss? This street’s kinda narrow.
Where you want me to shove all this snow?”

Boss: “Ah, hell. Just push over there
on that bike path.”

Fred: “But, uh, don’t it look like
Harvey already plowed the bike path?”

Boss: “Screw that. We get paid fer plowin’ the street.
Them little fairies in their funny pants
don’t wanna walk through snow, they should buy cars.”

Fred: “ Dude! This is kinda fun! Check it out, boss.
I shoved a great big ol’ pile o’ that
white shit right in their way!”

Boss: “Ya learn fast, kid.
I think ya got a future in this bidness.”

Monday, December 01, 2008


My friend Manny shot a bunch of nice photos at Saturday's Stud Slutz Criterium on Goose Lake. But this one was my favorite, because it shows another friend, Rob, out there riding on behalf of the denim industry and old-school mountain biking.

Check him out there on the right side of the photo. Rob's rockin' his work gloves, his Merrell mocs, and some blue jeans with one leg rolled up to keep his pants out of the drivetrain. He seems to have forgotten his race number. If I know Rob, he probably showed up just as the race was starting, and was too busy assembling his bike to bother with details.

A few years ago, Rob and I made up half of Team Megasorass in the 24 Hours of Kincaid. When we decided to hold a team "training ride" that spring, Rob arrived with his wife's bike, put tires on it in my garage, then did the ride wearing sandals and using platform pedals.

The guy's no gear snob. He's just a bike junkie with a wicked sense of humor. He's a reminder of what mountain biking is—or at least used to be—really about. And that's a fine thing to be these days, when the Frigid Bits field contains a smattering of local team jerseys.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a sponsored rider, but I don't remember ever seeing someone show up in team kit and then hanging around for a post-race tailgate party. Those guys probably have to hurry home to drink Cytomax and upload their heart-rate data to spreadsheets.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who shows up wearing colors should have to buy beer for everyone else.

And there should always be some guys like Rob around to drink it.