Thursday, February 24, 2011


While creating a new post a few weeks ago, I noticed I was nearing the 1,000-post mark. I made a mental note to mark the occasion when it came up. Then I forgot.

I noticed a couple of d
ays ago that I had already written number 1,002, so I’m celebrating 1,003! (Insert confetti and applause here.) Who knew this pimple on the ass of the interwebs would last this long? Not me, or I would have been too lazy to start the damned thing.

Writing a blog can be a strange thing. One day you’re amazed to have a dozen readers, and the next thing, you know, there are hundreds. Because of Bicycles & Icicles, I have friends I’ve never met face to face. In a few cases, I’ve actually shared rides and beers with them.

Hell, I even gained my 100th “follower” a week or two ago. Some bloggers have several times that many, because they’re informative, positive and/or inspirational to others. To hell with that. I don’t do warm and fuzzy. I just vent about bike-related stuff. Or annoying stuff that affects bike riders. I rant.

For the most part, this blog remains what it was originally meant to be—an outlet for the crap I want to get off my chest without driving my non-biking wife batshit crazy. She still endures far more bike-related conversation that she ever wanted to hear. (And it sometimes drives her perilously close to batshit crazy.)

Thanks for reading this stuff. And thanks to everyone who ever met me on the road or trail and said, “Love yer blog, man!”

You obviously have too much free time on your hands, but I appreciate you anyway.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Seriously, people?

Is it really that difficult for the municipality and the state to coordinate snow removal from streets and bike paths? We've been talking about this for years.

It’s simple, folks. Even a dumbass like me can figure it out: Plow the streets first, then the bike paths, because you clearly can’t grasp the concept of not heaping snow on top of already cleared pathways. This one on my commuting route is so moronic, I made a point of carrying a camera today.

Not only did the driver of a road grader put a small mountain of snow directly across a bike path, but he did it at an intersection that’s already among the most dangerous in town. And the bike path was cleared days ago, so no one's coming back to remove this thing.

This kind of crap ensures that bicyclists who are crossing the scary C Street to O’Malley high-speed auto chute have to dismount and lift their bikes over this icy beast. It most cases, such a thing is highly annoying. Here, it adds to the danger of a poorly designed crossing. Any pedestrian with mobility problems is doubly screwed.

I'm startin' to think you guys will never get it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Badasses All

This was the weekend of the Susitna 100, which meant I went to a fun party, took a little trail ride, and frequently went online to look for updates on my much tougher friends.

I’m not sure what makes someone want to endure that many hard hours on a bike, but I admire the endurance of those who can do it. So here’s to all the finishers, especially those with whom I’ve shared rides over the past year or so, resulting their pictures residing in my laptop. They're all tough buggers.

Carl Battreall: 16 hours, 9 minutes

Sean Grady: 17 hours, 6 minutes

Next Saturday, Sean will start riding to Nome
in the Iditarod Trail Invitational.

Leonard Fancher: 21 hours, 8 minutes

Mike Morganson: 25 hours, 7 minutes

This was Mike's 14th Susitna 100 finish.

Julie Perilla: 28 hours, 7 minutes

Julie Malingowski: 34 hours, 29 minutes

They've all earned a cold beer and a good night's sleep.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The New Fatback

I got home from the first singletrack ride on my new bike the other night, and I found myself sitting in the garage just staring at it. I was still trying to sort out in my mind what had just happened.

When I decided it was time for an updated snow bike, I was willing to look at everything but knew I had a bias toward the locally designed brands. Two shops in Anchorage are staffed with people who ride and produce their own bikes. Both brands are popular, and I have friends on both brands who tell me they love their bikes.

I asked questions of a lot of riders, including strangers I met on trails. I rode friends' bikes. One real test ride on a Fatback convinced me I was finished with offset designs. Wheels and spokes sit dead-center in the Fatback frame, and it was the first time I'd pedaled a fat bike that handled like a regular mountain bike.

But my test ride was misleading. The first half was with a slower rider, and the second half was done with legs that were tired before I'd left the house.

When I hit singletrack on Tuesday night, realized what I'd gotten myself into. I rode harder than I'd intended, because it was fun to pedal this bike with intensity. I felt faster. And don't even get me started on what it was like to aim it downhill on a twisty trail. It was a freakin' thrill to not be countering the "steer itself" effect of the Pugsley's offset design. The bike actually went where I wanted it to go.

And it gets better each time I take it on the trail.

A month ago, I was looking forward to the beginning of spring. Today, I'm dreading the end of winter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No waxing up north

I've been so busy this week that I haven't even taken pictures of my new bike. Fortunately, my new friend Julie—who I met through my old friend Julie—just sent me a picture of her new Fatback, which is sporting one of the farthest-north "No Waxing Required" stickers. Julie is one of only two riders in Fairbanks (that I know of) with stickers from this here blog, so I'm proud to see one on her fine bike with its sweet new carbon fork, which was added just in time for this weekend's Susitna 100.

Both Julies and our mutual friend Carl will be racing. Good luck to all of you. Have fun, and come back with all your toes.

And speaking of the new bike, I definitely will post some pics in the next few days, because holy shit is it ever a hoot to ride. After two days of commuting, I took it out for its first singletrack run tonight. I don't think my test rides did it justice. It's stiff, fast and fun, and corners like crazy.

I'd also like to offer a reminder that a new forum called is now online to replace its defunct predecessor, and offer my thanks to Jordy B., the guy who established and salvaged all of the old forum's content and placed it on the new site.

Bike forums can be pits of sophomoric humor and trash talk—I know this because I'm often right in the thick of such shenanigans—but they also accumulate loads of useful information. It would have been a shame to see years of user-generated content flushed down the toilet, so kudos to Jordy for pulling off the technical voodoo behind the new site.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New forum

If you're a former user of, and you've been waiting for news of an alternative since the old forum went dark, it's time to move to the new!

Ready to roll

On Saturday, the weather was sunny and beautiful,
but I spent the afternoon in the garage.

I didn't mind.

On Sunday, I got up early, did a 50K ride,
then returned to the garage. Tired. And I
still didn't mind.

On Monday, I'll ride to work on my new
Fatback. And my 16-year-old daughter
will get out to ride hers.

After building it herself.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Riding for a reason

Broken Toe Joe on the Fatback he'll ride to McGrath

I’ve never been a fan of fundraising rides. The causes are usually good but the big, nationwide events tend to have an unsettling amount of overhead in the form of advertising, staff salaries, insurance and promotional doodads. And the organizers never seem eager to reveal what how much of each donated dollar actually ends up in the bank account of the beneficiary group.

But I do respect grassroots efforts with little to no overhead, and high-efficiency transfer of your donated dollars to the causes they celebrate. That’s why local bike racer “Broken Toe Joe” Pollock is the focus of today’s post.

Joe—who finished fifth in last summer’s Fireweed 400 solo—has decided to tackle the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350-mile winter race from Knik to McGrath, and to use it as a way to raise money for the Alzheimer Disease Resource Agency of Alaska. Joe is paying all his own expenses, so 100 percent of every donated dollar will go directly to the nonprofit agency. No ad fees, no T-shirts, no brochures, no bullshit. Just a guy riding a bike and asking for donations for a cause that matters to him. He has already passed his original goal and very well may exceed his current target of $8,000.

Joe’s grandfather, J.R. “Tony” Pollock, died just over a year ago after struggling with Alzheimer’s for years, so Joe understands the long-term effects the disease has on its victims and their families.

“I met with development director Fran Kelly and toured their facility,” he said. “I was really impressed by the care they give their clients, as well as their families. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that impacts the whole family over a long period of time,” he added. “Many families struggle alone for years trying to manage it and simply need more help.”

The agency has set up its website to make donations simple. You can make a secure donation online here, or send a check to ADRAA, 1750 Abbott Road, Anchorage, AK 99507 and include a note to let them know you are sponsoring Joe Pollock. Alaska residents can donate a portion of their Permanent Fund Dividends to ADRAA through the "Pick.Click.Give" program by selecting the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska District 1, 3 & 4 when you apply for this year's PFD.

The ADRAA website has more information about its work at All donations are 100 percent tax-deductible.

The ITI will start February 27. Bookmark this page to follow Joe’s progress during the race. You can also follow him Facebook at "See Joe Ride."

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Worshiping at the house of the Sunday-morning flip-off.
Breakfast at Luce's Lodge last weekend.

My friend Heather accuses me of being full of shit when I blame my irritability on a lack of singletrack. Don't listen to her. This is a woman talks more trash (to me, anyway) than most pro wrestlers. She isn't sensitive to my needs.

My riding routine has been unsteady for weeks. By Tuesday night, I was about ready to rip doors off the kitchen cabinets over minor irritations while making dinner. That's a sure sign that I need to drop everything and go for a ride, so I announced that on Wednesday evening I would be occupied elsewhere.

When you've gotta go, you've gotta go.

A couple of winters ago, I was renting a bike in Wellington, New Zealand, so that I could get out for a couple of hours of sanity-restoring exercise. The shop guy recognized my symptoms. "You really need a ride, don't you?" he said. "I completely understand."

A few minutes later, he sent me out the door without taking a dime of my money for a deposit. He didn't even ask for my name or a credit card number. He simply handed me a bike, and told me to knock on the back door if I got back after the shop had closed for the day. He knew I could have pedaled away and never returned. He also knew I wouldn't.

After only a few minutes, that guy in a bike shop diagnosed my affliction with as much accuracy as any doctor ever could. Not everyone could have done that.

Fortunately, we bike junkies are pretty good at treating ourselves.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Game? What game?

Luce's Lodge on a fat-bike kind of morning.

Here’s what I saw of the Super Bowl: Seven seconds left, the clock running, and Packers starting to celebrate. Game over.

There was still some pizza on the table, so I didn’t miss anything important by arriving home late Sunday afternoon. Besides, the “big game” seemed to reduce snowmachine traffic on the frozen Yentna and Susitna rivers, so the trail was firmer much faster than it ha
d been during Saturday’s 25-mile ride to Luce’s Lodge on the Yentna, where we spent the night before riding back to Deshka Landing.

Rush hour on the Susitna River.

For my money, a sunny day riding with friends will always beat anything on TV, especially when there’s a clear view of Denali and a four-time Iditarod champion says, “Amazing!” when I pedal by him as he adjusts the load on the trailer behind his snowmachine. (I always knew Martin Buser was the nicest guy in the Iditarod.)

Luce’s was the site of a virtual fat-biker’s convention on Saturday night after our group of five riders encountered friends in a three-person group near the confluence of both rivers, then found four other local riders at the lodge. It was the last big weekend for training before the Susitna 100, and I was probably the only rider out there who wasn’t preparing for either that race or the White Mountains 100. I was the lone slob, training for nothing but fun.

Julie M. and Carl, with Denali on the horizon.

Like I told Queen Bee as we pedaled upriver, the only thing I do to prepare for a 100-mile winter ride is a 50-mile winter ride. That’s always enough to remind me I don’t want to do a 100-mile winter ride.

Speaking of fat bikes, this trip might have been the Pugsley’s swan song. New bike plans is in the works. If all goes well, I should soon be posting pics of a new fattie. Anybody want to buy a nice, sturdy Pugs?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Winter exposure

Photo from "BLM Alaska Frontiers"

Winter biking is getting some nice exposure in the winter issue of BLM Alaska Frontiers, a newsletter about public lands administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

A copy of the newsletter was passed along to me because of the cover story with the unfortunate headline, “Winter Biking—A Possibly Crazy Alaska Tradition.” I call the headline unfortunate because the story, written by BLM staffer Craig McCaa, makes the case that winter biking isn’t so crazy after all.

McCaa points out that winter biking in Alaska dates back to 1897, when participants in the Klondike Gold Rush had the idea of riding hard trails packed by dogs, horses and foot traffic. But even better, he writes about the White Mountains 100, a race that debuted last winter on BLM lands north of Fairbanks in the White Mountains Recreation Area.

Positive coverage of bicycling is always good, but it’s a rare treat when it appears in official government publications mailed to land managers. Those are the people we need on our side. Or, at the very least, we need them to see mountain biking and winter biking as popular and legitimate uses of public lands.

Eventually, they might stop thinking of us as crazy.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ice claws

Julie on Portage Lake. (1.15.11)

I'm not ashamed to admit it. Ice scares me. It can be an amazing riding surface, and it sometimes carries winter bikers to stunning places, but that stuff creaks, pops and groans, all of which serve as reminders that it can break. And when that happens, especially in remote places, you can die.

The best you can hope for is a whole heap of hypothermic misery as you get out of your wet clothing and build a fire—but that’s only if you manage to get out of the water. So I set up a little one-man assembly line last weekend and started making ice claws for an upcoming trip on frozen rivers. I should have done this a long time ago.

These self-rescue devices may not be pretty, and they have some minor impalement potential during a dry-land crash, but they’re cheap and easy to make. And if you ever have to use them, they could be priceless.

If you ride on ice, check out these instructions and videos on making and using ice claws. The information is from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesotans have a lot of experience with ice, given that the state has cold winters and bills itself as "The Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

That has prompted Alaskans to brag that we have 10,000 unnamed lakes. People here routinely travel over frozen lakes and rivers on skates, skis, bikes, snowmachines and in cars and trucks.

Which raises the question ... why doesn’t Alaska have an ice-safety website?