Sunday, January 30, 2011


Who says teenagers suck?

There’s just nothing like a string of fat bikes lighting up the woods on a Saturday night. We were overdue for a Frigid Bits event, so Carlos thought up a new course from a new starting point, and I dragged my ass out to join the fun. After weeks of simmering in the mid-winter doldrums of too much food, too much booze and too little riding, it was just what I needed.

Our social-ride route was so fun, I went back and repeated much of it on Sunday with my daughter, who has been sampling fat bikes borrowed from friends. Now she’s wanting a new bike. It looks like this could get a tad expensive, but who cares? Not every parent has a 16-year-old kid who wants to go ride with them.

I’ve been considering a new ride myself, so I’m sniffing around the shops checking out frames and rims. My Surly’s a damn fun bike, but a first-generation Pugsley is starting feel a bit dated, given the fat-bike refinements we’ve been seeing over the past two or three years.

Still, I’ve always been kind of proud to ride the original purple. When the time comes, I'll hate to see it go.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bikes under stars

The akspokes forum is gasping for air like a stubborn old geezer after the plug is pulled, and it could go dark at any time, so help spread the word that there will be a Frigid Bits event this Saturday at 7 p.m. It will start and end at the Hillside Trailhead Parking lot. For those of you who have never paid attention to the name—and that seems to be 98 percent of local riders—that's the parking lot on Abbott Road at the entrance to Hilltop Ski Area. (Outside the gate.)

This will be a burn barrel-free event, because of the high-visibility nature of the start/finish area, so dress warmly if you plant to hang around after the ride. For full course details, refer to the Alaska forum at

In other news, I'd like to thank Gwadzilla for turning me on to a couple of new bike-related sites recently, including Rides a Bike, the source of today's photo of El Brendel. Rides a Bike claims to be "the definitive online source for charming photos of old-school movie stars on bikes." And since I don't know of another site specializing in such an uncommon subject, who am I to argue?

For more pictures of people on bikes—people far more attractive than El Brendel—check out Chicks and Bikes and

Just don't blame me for any fetishes that result from such an action.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Portage gets prime

Hannah at Portage Glacier (1.15.11)

I’m generally of the opinion that when life hands you lemons, you should throw them at the bastards who are pissing you off. Screw that lemonade crap. Mother Nature hands you non-lethal projectiles, it's your freakin' duty to use them.

But when winter melts the snow and hands you ice, there’s no one blameworthy to throw it at, so you just have to ride on it. That’s what I did with some friends and my daughter last weekend after I heard—for the first time in several years—that riding conditions were prime on Portage Lake. Riding to a glacier isn’t an everyday opportunity, even in Alaska, so you have to take advantage of it.

A scenic lake ride is a nice reminder that there is beauty to be found even in the darkest, ugliest moments of winter. Plus, it keeps a guy from drinking too much tequila and shooting the trash cans full of holes while waiting for snow to fall.

Take some thick ice and some thick fleece, and mix them with some thick-headed mountain bikers determined to ride 12 months a year, and you can cook up some pretty special rides.

This is the season of big-screen TVs blaring the sounds of roaring crowds and colliding football players every weekend. You can have them.

The booming and cracking of ice is way more interesting.

Especially when you’re standing on it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Banning Bikes

“Dad,” my son said wistfully as he stared out the car window, “we used to ride all over this town.” His voice had the nostalgic tone of an old man, but he was only six or seven years old.

Now he's nearly 22, and the memory of his childhood reminiscing that day still makes me smile

We had moved to Santa Fe, N.M., just before his third birthday. I worked nights on the copy desk at a newspaper, and one of our favorite things to do together most weekdays was to cruise through town on my mountain bike as he rode in a child's seat on the back. Sometimes, we’d stop and share a Coke. Or we’d ride to the Plaza and play in the grass.

Those are of some of my favorite memories as a dad. Later, I racked up more memories riding in Alaska while towing my daughter on her trail-a-bike. I still smile when I remember the sound of her gleefully yelling, “Go faster!” as we rolled down hills on the Coastal Trail. And I’ll never forget the day she realized her own strength and told me to stop pedaling, then proceeded to put the hammer down and propel us both past her unsuspecting (and coasting) big brother.

The look on his face when he saw that his much younger sister was pushing his much heavier dad into the lead sent Hannah into a priceless fit of laughter.

As far as I’m concerned, those are the kinds of moments that politicians are talking about when they spew platitudes about “family values.” It would be nice if more of them understood the term.

We all know politicians are the masters of producing bad ideas but, occasionally, one of them manages to outdo himself.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Democrat, recently introduced House Bill 2228 in the Oregon Legislature, a proposal that, according to the bill’s summary, “Prohibits person from carrying child under six years of age on bicycle or in bicycle trailer. Punishes by maximum fine of $90.”

I cannot begin to fathom the motivation behind such an absurd idea. In a country where obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, and stressed, overworked parents often spend only minutes per day interacting with their children, this guy believes Oregon’s children would be better off not going for bike rides with their parents?

What the hell?

Active kids are shaped from an early age. One of the best things a parents can do for children is to teach them to go outside and play. Kick balls. Sled down hills. Ride bicycles. It teaches them about healthy lifestyles, and helps them become happier adults.

Who knows? It might even help keep them from becoming politicians.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This Makes Me a Little Surly

(Click image for larger view.)

KTUU, the most popular television news channel in Anchorage, ran a story this week on how Alaska is becoming “the winter cycling capital of the world.” Becoming? Hell, most of us thought it already was the winter cycling capital of the world.

It wasn’t a bad little piece, as TV news features go, though I’m always a little disappointed when such stories prominently feature bikes made by Outside companies and ignore the fact that fat bikes were pioneered here by guys like Mike Gronewald and John Evingson, and are being advanced today by shops like Speedway and Chain Reaction, both of which are building and marketing their own brands.

Instead of focusing on the local guys, Channel 2’s story highlighted Salsa's new Mukluk, which is named—not coincidentally—after the traditional skin-and-fur winter boot worn by Alaska's Eskimos. It’s a fine bike, from what I hear. And Salsa will be happy to mail you a catalog if you’d like to check it out. As long you reside in the Lower 48, that is.

If you happen to live in the “winter cycling capital of the world” and would like to get a current catalog, you’re just shit outta Mukluk.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Curtains for

After a short, two-year lifespan, word came this week that the bike forum is shutting down this month. It has been an active forum with more than 1,200 members, so it’s sad to see it go. Efforts to save it, however, aren’t showing much promise.

Plans are being made to establish a new forum if akspokes can’t be saved. So, if you’re a forum member who has been directed here for updates, stay tuned. As soon as information is available on the final fate of akspokes, or the address of a new forum, I’ll post it here to make sure it’s available after the existing forum goes dark.

Anchorage has a small but devoted cycling community, and an online forum is a great tool for staying in touch. With any luck, we’ll still have one in February, regardless of which server it resides on, or what its name is.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Iced up

Vacation took a heavy toll on me. I’ve been back nearly a week but still haven’t gotten back to a routine. Sloppy diet, too much alcohol, yadda, yadda, yadda. My energy level has plummeted. It’s time to suck it up and get back in the game. More riding, less hedonism.

Still, I’ve managed to get out for a couple of mellow rides since returning from Hawaii. Sarah, a college student from Missouri who watched our house while we were gone, had never pedaled a fat bike, or ridden studs on ice. So over the past few days, we made sure she did both. After all, what’s the point of visiting Alaska in the dead of winter unless you get to sample some riding on snow and ice?

The coastal flats in South Anchorage are frozen solid and free of snow, so locals should stud up and get out there while it’s good. Decent ice riding on the coast is always a temporary thing. It would be a shame to waste it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tryin' to Reason With the Shitty Season

I’m back, bitches. And less than thrilled about it.

I don’t mind the occasional bike-free vacation. Really, I don’t. But for shit’s sake, it ought to be illegal for riding conditions to go tits-up right before a bike junkie gets home after 12 days without turning a pedal.

While I was eating and drinking my way across Maui—and hobbling around after my encounter with a nasty kiawe thorn—Anchorage was hit with warm chinook winds that devoured our snow and left everything covered in glare ice.

I had to break out the studded commuter bike to get to work this morning. And if you think the first day of work after a vacation sucks, try starting it by dragging your mai tai-fattened ass to the office on a singlespeed you haven’t touched for two months. Not a cheery way to start a dark morning.

Yeah, I’m burning up a little on re-entry. I think it’s a good sign, though, that I checked out a Maui webcam only once while waiting for the sun to rise over the Chugach Range about 11 o’clock this morning.

Now I’m just hoping the sun will disappear for a day or so. We need snow. And I need some Pugsley time before my gut gets any bigger.