Monday, May 30, 2011

And so it begins

I'm gonna miss Jules and her Monkee Man this summer.

Summer is officially under way, and my unplanned hiatus from blogging appears to be over. There’s been no action on the blog for 10 days or so, because real life kept getting in the way. Then an extended holiday weekend got in the way. Sunny weather and a few vacation days are not conducive to pissing away time on the laptop.

For once, I loved those pessimistic weathermen being wrong. Memorial Day weekend was as warm and sunny as the weather can get in Southcentral Alaska, so I squeezed in a trail ride on Friday before my sister and brother-in-law arrived for a brief visit, then the three of us got out for a nice cruise on Sunday morning before I joined friends for another trail ride and then met up with everyone for food and beer on the sunny deck at Midnight Sun Brewing Company.

And that shit, my friends, is what a good Sunday is made of.

May it last all summer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Anyone Can

Always read Frazz. It'll make you a better person.

For Bike to Work Day, I’m getting my car back.

Last August, I wrote about my daughter’s need for a car to get to her various classes and appointments during the school year. Riding the bus or commuting by bike were not options because of her difficult schedules, multiple locations, materials for her various classes, not to mention winter weather. I’m a winter commuter, but it wasn’t realistic for her.

I wasn’t ready to blow the bucks on another car, so I gave her mine for the school year, and committed to riding to work every day. On days when I truly needed to drive for at least part of a day, she and I made it work by taking turns dropping each other wherever we needed to be. I think I’ve driven to work less than five times since the end of August.

The school year just ended. And you know what? It has been easy. I haven’t missed the option of bailing out and driving to work.

Sure, I had a couple of advantages and caught some breaks. We didn’t have a snowstorm big enough to stop a fat bike; I had a studded bike ready when things got icy; my commute is short; and I dodged any nasty cold or flu that would have made riding in nasty weather unbearable. (Of course, the riding probably played a big role in keeping me healthy.)

And, though it might have been inconvenient, I had access to a car if I truly needed it. As I pointed out last August, owning a car can be a good thing, because riding to work is more fun when it’s a choice, not a necessity.

Other than owning a couple of good bikes that are specifically designed or set up for the task, there is nothing special about me as a year-round bike commuter. I’m just a 48-year-old guy who sits at a desk and needs to lose 20 pounds. If I can ride every day, most people could, if they tried.

If you’re pedaling to work today, don’t make this the only day of the year that you do it. Bike to Work Day isn’t about the free coffee at an aid station, or the T-shirt you might score for being part of a team at your office. Those are just nice perks. It’s really about learning that you can leave your car at home and be just fine.

Make it a habit. Everyone will benefit. Most of all, you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ride to work. While you still can.

People I would never invite to dinner have been telling us for weeks that the world will end this Saturday, so I guess Friday’s official Bike to Work Day is more important than ever. Get your ass on a bike, because if the nutjobs are right, this could be your last chance.

Friday is the day most of us will find our commuting routes busier than ever, but don’t you worry your pretty little heads. Most of the bikes you see that day will be safely stowed back in their garages come Monday morning, and you’ll have the bike paths to yourself again.

I make fun of Bike to Work Day every year because I know that most of the participants won’t ride to work more than a handful of days each year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t support the idea. If anyone who tries bike commuting that day decides to stick with it, that’ll be progress. I would be thrilled to see 20 riders on my commuting route every morning instead of the two I see now.

Bike to Work Day is a good thing, and Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage—a great group—is celebrating it by organizing the BCA Bacon Station on the Chester Creek trail at East Chester Park, east of the tunnel under the Seward Highway. Spenard Roadhouse will cook the bacon, Raven’s Brew Coffee will brew the coffee and Great Harvest Bread will bake the cookies.

If, like me, you don’t pass anywhere near that station while riding to work, there are more options for getting a free cup of coffee or a light snack during Friday’s morning commute. Thanks to Dawn at BCA for providing the following information:

Chain Reaction Cycles will be at it again with the station located on Elmore at the Elmore/Abbott intersection. Their station will be sponsored by House of Bread.

CRW Engineering Group and DOWL HKM will put aside their rivalry for one day—and one day only—to offer a joint venture replenishment station for Bike to Workers. Stop by the northeastern corner of Tudor Road and C Street (in front of the big red fish) for treats and prizes.

South Central and ANTHC will again have a station outside of the ANTHC building (near Elmore & Tudor).

Thompson & Co. Public Relations will be providing goodies and coffee from Kaladi Brothers Coffee at 9th Avenue and E Street. The Anchorage Downtown Partnership will be there with raffle drawings for dining certificates at downtown restaurants.

For those who fear they may get sweaty, all the Alaska Club locations are offering free showers to anyone who brings in their bike helmet on Friday.

Those free showers could be especially handy for sinners who are sweating bullets about Saturday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Road Train to Texas

Keith the Ham
Photo by Tony A.

Riding out toward Chugiak today, I noticed a guy taking a break beside the bike path. It’s hard to miss a guy pulling two BOB trailers at once. A few minutes later, he caught up to our group after we took a snack stop.

His rig was a spectacle: A Rivendell Atlantis towing two trailers, one of which had a somewhat large, flexible solar panel draped over its load. This was a long-haul set-up. A very heavy long-haul set-up, from what I could tell. I pedaled beside him for a minute to ask where he was headed with this huge load. The answer? Fairbanks ... then Texas, where he said he hopes to arrive about five months from now.

I needed to start catching up to Carl and Oscar, and the road traffic was too loud for more questions, so I didn’t ask about the solar panel. Probably for a cell phone, I figured.

Yeah, not so much.

Turns out, my friend Tony had run into this guy, Keith, as he was passing through Anchorage earlier in the day, so Tony got more information. The dude’s traveling with a ham radio, for crap’s sake. And there might be a laptop in there, for all I know. So, what the hell, if you’re driving up the Alaska Highway this summer, you can try to give him a call on the radio. (Or you can stop and hand him a cold beer if you see him laboring up a big-ass climb with his road train.

You can follow Keith’s progress via
his blog, and check out his radio set up by going here, and searching for "KE1THR."

Keith, may the road be kind, and the hills gentle. I hope to read five months from now that you’ve put down the kickstands on those trailers in Brownsville. And if I do, I'll know it's you because, before today, I've never seen anyone who used so many trailers he actually needed kickstands on them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's only a bike ride

I don’t follow road racing much these days, but Wouter Weylandt’s fatal crash occupied my thoughts for much of the day on Monday. The death of a cyclist always strikes a chord, but when it happens in a major pro race to a young athlete, the resulting media coverage can be riveting.

The details come more quickly, the rider’s personal life is splashed all over the Internet (to know that Weylandt’s girlfriend is expecting their first child in September made me wince) and, of course, there’s video.

I’m not ashamed to say I searched websites for footage of Weylandt’s crash. Some people may consider that distasteful, but I didn’t have a morbid desire to watch a young man die; I just wanted to understand how he could. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to learn from it because I ride bicycles, too.

It’s the same reason I scour news reports for details after bear maulings. I want to know what happened—and why—because I ride in bear country all summer long. Learning from someone else’s experience might make me a little bit safer.

Conflicting stories have made it hard to understand the exact circumstance’s of Weylandt’s crash. I’m still not clear on whether he went over a stone wall and fell a significant distance, or simply clipped the wall with a pedal and hit the pavement hard because of his speed. What I do know is that his death makes me question why recreational riders like me are willing to indulge in the thrill of high-speed descents.

I prefer to not think about the consequences of a crash at 45 or 50 mph. I just like to go fast. And for guys like me, going downhill is the only way we’ll come anywhere near experiencing what a pro feels on a bike in the mountains. I really don’t want to stop doing it.

But things can turn to shit, and they can turn to shit fast.

I’ve always liked to think that, for guys like me, there was nothing at stake during a ride except the stories to be told over a post-ride beer. But there’s a lot more on the line.

Maybe tapping the brake levers a little more often wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Fat-bike karma can run over your Dogma

This bike makes my pants wanna get up and dance. Seriously. I want to straddle that sucker like other aging schlubs like me want to drive a Lamborghini with a Playmate in the passenger seat. If I could afford a midlife-crisis road bike, the Pinarello Dogma would probably be on my short list of hot things that are faster than I deserve.

But I call bullshit on the ad campaign Pinarello is using to market this lust-worthy machine.

They're calling it "the world's first asymmetric bicycle." What the hell?

I guess they've never heard of the Wildfire Fatbike, or its better-known clone, the Surly Pugsley. You want asymmetry? Try having your seat stays drop about two-thirds of the way to the axle before detouring a couple of inches to the right.

Fatbikes might be the chubby chicks who never got invited to the prom, but they were proudly letting one side hang differently than the other for years before Pinarello started flashing its lopside Italian D cups.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Desert Rats

Shortly after I posted last week's addition to the Fabulous Finger Gallery, I received the following message via e-mail from a Bicycles & Icicles reader named Tomasz StudziƄski:

"Don't you forget about guys out of Eastern Europe. Flip off procedure far away from home. Syrian Desert. Right on time."

In the annals of serial flinger flipping, I have never looked at my inbox to find a photo attached to the words "Syrian Desert." Nor have I ever seen two guys in more dire need of some fat bikes and a snowy stretch of singletrack on which to cool off.

Tomasz and his friends took this photo during a trip that started and ended in Adana, Turkey, and passed through Syria and Lebanon. They got the shot on their third day of pedaling straight ahead while crossing the desert.

They might not have felt like it at the time, but that's pretty badass, in my book.

Strong work, gentlemen.