Sunday, June 28, 2009

So now I'll find out ...

if all the dirt really was the only thing holding my old commuter together. Yup, it finally got washed on Sunday. And why not? I think a hard-working bike deserves a good washing once a year, whether it needs it or not.


I'd like to offer a big congratulations to Yrjo, who—I'm told—turned in a badass effort and took third in this weekend's 24 Hours of Matanuska ... on a singlespeed. (A beautiful Moots that is now for sale, by the way.) Good work, Dutch.

And congrats, as well, to my friends Jules and Amber, who cranked out 72 miles each during the 12-hour race on Saturday. I'm sorry I missed the event, but I did the roadie thing on Saturday, then slept for 11 hours and felt good about it.

Speaking of rest, my daughter and I are hittin' the road for a family reunion down in Mootsville. If things go well, there'll be some trail time involved, and some bike pics poppin' up on the blog over the next few days.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Illegal Smiles

And you may see me tonight
With an illegal smile.

It don’t cost very much
But it lasts a long while.
Won’t you please tell the man
I didn’t kill anyone?
I’m just tryin’ to have me some fun.
—John Prine

Earlier this week, a guy named Adam posted a comment, saying he had just found my blog and was jealous of where I get to ride bikes. Adam, my man, go back and read the winter posts, then see how you feel, OK?

I don’t set out to inspire envy, but I’ll happily admit that revel in it when it happens, because I’m one of the lucky people who get to live exactly where they want to be. Long ago, I decided to always try to reside in places where I would happily take vacations. That way, I get to look up from the trail at least a couple of times a month and just smile until I steer off into the weeds. It’s a good feeling, except for the crashy part.

So here are some fresh pics from the past week to fill the ol’ blog while I'm busy this weekend.

Guess what I'll be doing.

Heather on Johnson Pass Trail last Friday.

Jules and Heather on Devil's Pass Trail last Saturday.

Jules on Devil's Pass.

Crossing an avalanche path.

Maura on Kincaid singletrack Wednesday evening.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maura meets a moose

One of many chance meetings
during tonight's trail ride at Kincaid.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Genetically coded for fun

Heather and Julie approach Devil's Pass.
Click here for Julie's side of the story.

One of my next-door neighbors is building a new deck. I drove home from the grocery store today and saw another guy unloading lumber from his minivan. A nearby neighbor is in his usual summer mode, working his little green thumbs off to grow flowers that’ll be dead in three months.

I never got the manly home-improvement gene. I’d rather work with cone wrenches than a power tool any day. Hell, last week I had a root canal and found it more enjoyable than any hour-long trip to a hardware store. (It helped that a cute endodontist is way hotter than some unhelpful guy in an orange vest full of ink pens and safety-training buttons.)

Some guys love all that hardware/home-improvement stuff. Give 'em some tools, a project and some beer, and they’ll pound away all day. Then there are guys like me; the ones who think college was invented to make us employable enough that we can occasionally afford to pay a contractor's bill.

As this past Sunday wound down, many families were enjoying the results of weekend projects: new decks, freshly painted kitchens and beautiful gardens.

I had a garage full of wet camping gear, a trashed mountain bike, a pile of stinky-ass clothes, and a happy smile.

I love being unskilled.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

brown bears.

stellar trail rides.

great weekend serving as a reminder
of why fun riding partners
should never be taken for granted.

I'll sort the rest out later.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Break time

It's time to go riding. Blog updates
will return next week.

We now return you
to your regularly scheduled life.

Monday, June 15, 2009


A sure sign of a good summer weekend in Alaska is to find yourself yawning a lot on Monday morning. If you happen to be a bicyclist, and you combine the yawns with spent legs, you know you used your time well.

My weekend was spent riding trails on Saturday and roads on Sunday. The problem was what to call the Sunday ride. Looking for a fairly long course, Heather went online and grabbed the map for a 100-kilometer brevet recently held by the Alaska Randonneurs. Those guys use a lot of funny measurements and European terminology but, hey, it's their route, so we called it 100K.

I’ve been known to razz people for using the term “metric century,” which has always struck me as a questionable way for an American to claim a “century” ride. So when I mentioned via Facebook that I was going to ride a 100K with friends, my brother and The Grouch both jumped on it.

Normally, the closest I get to the metric system is frequent use of the term “metric assload.” You just can’t win with this liter/kilometer/centimeter shit. Refuse to use the metric system, and you’re a stubborn American. Use it, and people accuse you of trying to make your ride sound bigger by saying 100 kilometers instead of 62 miles.

I’ll try to be more consistent with my units of measurement in the future so that it won’t look like I’m using the metric system to my advantage. For the record, I rode exactly 60.00 American miles yesterday. On a course with 4,260 feet of climbing.

Those hills would ordinarily be hard on a fat-ass like me. Fortunately, I now weigh only 95 kilograms.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Snobs suck

The latest issue of Outside—the official magazine of yuppies concerned with which overpriced brand of outerwear is fashionable for the rigorous adventure of driving a BMW to Starbucks—contains an essay from a writer lamenting the loss of bike-shop snobs. Modern competition, he argues, has made shops friendly and welcoming, thereby robbing cyclists of the valuable initiation process of feeling inferior and having to earn knowledge and acceptance.


First of all, bike-shop snobs haven’t completely disappeared. Even here in little ol’ Anchorage I hear frequent complaints from less-experienced riders about their encounters with one particular shop, and there’s another place I virtually never go into because it employs an arrogant prick.

But if snobbery is generally on the wane, I say good riddance. I still remember the conceited jackasses I encountered while shopping for my first mountain bike back in the '80s. Those dudes all seemed to think they were the next Greg LeMond.

I endured them because I was dying to get a bike, but not everyone is committed to making a purchase. Snobs intimidate the casual shoppers who would just like to give biking a try. And that's not just bad for business, it's bad for the sport.

Treating customers badly isn’t cool. It’s stupid. In any kind of business. Why drive a customer away just because you think you know more about wine, car parts, widgets or bicycles than he/she does? Why turn them off on bicycling—or scare them off to Sprawl-Mart where they’ll buy the kind of junk that will convince them we’re all crazy for riding bikes?

Do that, and the next thing you know, they’ll decide it's easier to read Outside than it is to ride outside.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ridin’ with the Roadrunner

Bike commuters can become a bit evangelical about the advantages of getting around town without a car, and with good reason. The advantages are nearly endless. One advantage that is often overlooked: Better lunch hours.

Some people bag quick trail rides or road rides during lunch. Many of us just spin down to a local lake or park and brown-bag it on the grass, or pedal to a nearby restaurant for a bite. I’m lucky enough to work two blocks from a paved bike trail, and 15 minutes from Arctic Roadrunner, a 45-year-old hamburger institution on the northern bank of Campbell Creek.

Each summer, the owner—Dick Sanchis—is nice enough to drag a couple of old, roughed-up bike racks into high-visibility parking spaces right next to one of his dining areas. A few years ago, he saw a co-worker and I locking up our bikes, and he walked over to ask if we liked the racks. “You know, people spend a lot of money on some of these bikes,” Sanchis said. “They need a good place to lock ’em up.”

To this day, he’s the only local business owner I know of who devotes prominent parking space to customers’ bicycles. I make a point of thanking him for it every summer.

A juicy burger and an outdoor table beside the creek are good enough reasons to pedal over for lunch a few times every year. The fact that Sanchis takes an interest in his two-wheeled customers almost makes eating at Arctic Roadrunner obligatory for Anchorage bicyclists. I highly recommend stopping in for a cheeseburger and/or some onion rings.

Ask for Dick, and tell him his bike racks sent you.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Taint misbehavin’

Every sport is made better when it inspires improved technology and brilliant accessories that make participation more fun. Cyclists are the fortunate recipients of one of the oddest products out there—crotch cream.

I don’t know who first walked into work one morning and said, “Hey guys, let’s market a lubricant that bike riders will buy to squirt in their pants!” but I’m glad it happened. Anyone who has ever ridden a hundred miles on a dry chamois appreciates the euphoric comfort of a crotch full of slippery comfort cream, butt butter or whatever else you’d like to call it. It’s nirvana for the nether regions.

A couple of years ago, friends who were still somewhat new to biking thought I was a weirdo for espousing the wonders of this stuff. They were squeamish about the very subject, and repulsed by the idea of shooting a load of chilly goo into their shorts before pulling them up. Every time I mentioned chamois cream, the Queen of the Middle Finger looked at me as if I were giddily describing the details of a prostate exam.

These days, not only is she convinced, but her husband waxes poetic about his favorite menthol variety. And when I recently became a “fan” of Chamois Butt’r on Facebook, she posted a comment saying, “I will never again minimize or ignore the sheer genius of this product.”

So today, Bicycles & Icicles salutes chamois creams and all who make them. To all the workers who toil in factories producing these slippery gels of joy, we say thank you from the hearts of our bottoms.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tune in, turn off and drop in

Mountain biking isn’t an activity made easier by deep thought. That’s one of the reasons people love it: Singletrack clears our minds of all the crap that’s usually so hard to escape. It’s almost meditative in the way it focuses our vision and forces us to live in the moment. Excessive thought is rarely rewarded. Instinct and muscle memory usually are.

Many of us think far too much while riding our bikes. I do it all the time. The eyes see an obstacle, and the mind registers signals of pain and doubt. Next thing I know, I’ve gone all chickenshit and I’m walking over a log or rock that I should have ridden.

That’s why I drove home happy Wednesday night after my first seriously rooty trail ride of the season. Somehow, I had managed to turn off part of my brain and let my body take over. I was riding with a group, most of whom I’d never met before, so when I found myself at the front, I felt a self-imposed pressure to hold the pace and keep the flow going. Call it ego, male pride or the threat of swarming mosquitoes. Whatever.

I rode over root balls that normally would have sent doubt through my mind, and a foot toward the ground. I easily cleaned four or five technical features on Brown Bear that I’d never been able to ride before. I was hooting and hollering in spots where I normally grumble profanities. Not all my moves were pretty, but they kept me upright and pedaling.

Years ago, I read an interview with some downhill racers talking about danger and speed. One of them said something along the lines of, “Some days you just leave your brain at home and have a really good run.”

I’ve got to capture the magic that visited me Wednesday night, and try to hold onto it all summer. My brain can be a shitty riding partner. I need to leave it at home more often.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Russian (River) Fingers

Photo by Sean

Is this any way to treat one of the top 50 cycling blogs in the world? I think not.

But it’s what came out of last weekend’s mass assault on Russian Lakes Trail after our group of 10 riders split into two end-to-end trios who did a car-key swap in the middle of the route, and these four clowns who did an out-and-back ride from the Russian River end.

When they weren’t flailing themselves on rocks and logs at all the technical sections that I safely (i.e., sheepishly) stepped over, these guys obviously had time to practice their sign-language slang and create the newest entry in the esteemed Bicycles & Icicles Finger Hall of Fame.

Speaking of fame, London Cyclist has named this pimple on the ass of the Internet one of the top 50 cycling blogs in da world.

No. 36, to be exact, thanks to “a number of elements such as Google Pagerank, Twitter Rank, Alexa Rank, number of comments and Technorati Authority.” I don’t even know what all that means, but it sure sounds important.

Something tells me that if they analyzed blogs written by people whose friends like to flip them off, I could move up about 35 spots in the rankings.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Huber's rolling sofa

Huber makes the approach ...

inflates his cheeks to 35 psi ...

and cleans it.

I swear, that bike gets more travel action
than a slutty stewardess.