Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Best layover ever

I'm spending this week helping my daughter
move more than 800 miles to Skagway
for a summer job. Needless to say, she's
taking a couple of bikes.

Fortunately, the route to Skagway passes
through Whitehorse, Yukon, which has awesome
trails and great local riders who welcome 
visitors. Riders like Sierra (above) ...

and her husband Tony.

The only thing better than being able 
to ride mountain bikes in Whitehorse is
having local friends with spare beds and 
time for evening rides.

If you've never ridden Whitehorse,
get your ass up here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hard-ass Who Hates Hardtails

Sometimes I worry about the level of idiocy displayed by people in charge of education. And Katharine Pennington, the principal of Kenowa Hills High School in western Michigan set the stupidity bar pretty high this week when she sent more than 60 students home as punishment for a shocking “senior prank.”

They rode bicycles to school.

She said the group ride was dangerous and tied up traffic. (Please, someone, mail her a “We Are Traffic” T-shirt.) Kids who were about to graduate were told they couldn’t participate in a traditional final walk through the school's hallways, and some of them were initially told that they would be banned from graduation ceremonies, although Pennington later retracted that little edict, apparently while cowering under her desk and dodging calls from CNN.

Never mind that the kids had arranged a police escort and many of their parents were lining their route to school. The freakin’ town mayor served them doughnuts! And never mind that this is another example of dictatorial school administrators trying to control students’ lives off school property. Pennington went batshit crazy because … well, who really knows? 

Maybe Pennington never learned to ride a bike. Or maybe she once dated a downhiller. Either experience could ruin a person’s general outlook. It sounds like part of the reason she had her panties in a wad was that she was apparently the only adult in Mayberry who wasn’t in on the plan, and that really pissed her off.

Kudos to the students and their parents for raising holy hell with the local school board over Pennington’s moronic reaction, leading to a letter of apology from Principal Pinhead.

Monday, May 21, 2012


You better think, think about what you're trying to do to me
Yeah, think, let your mind go, let yourself be free
—Aretha Franklin

Everyone wants to let their mind go, and let themselves be free. Hell, that’s one of the reasons I ride a bike, and that's probably true for most of us.

But people need to think.

Like the young mother who stopped her toddler on a tiny bike with training wheels so she could take a phone-camera picture ... just inside a trail tunnel I was entering at a brisk (but very reasonable) speed from a pretty blind corner. I mean sure, the composition of the photo must have been nice, with the light at the end of the tunnel and all that,  but blocking the entire width of the trail wasn’t exactly brilliant thinking.

Ever seen a three-year-old run over by a 200-pound dude on a steel Surly? Neither have I. And I’d like to keep it that way.

Then there were tourists standing all over the trail with their mouths hanging open while fascinated by a passing train. Or the unsupervised little girls swerving from side to side, confused about how they were supposed to let me pass. Teach your children some basic trail guidelines, folks.

Now, lest anyone think I might have curmudgeonly moods, let me say that I actually like busy multi-use trails. Busy trails mean people are exercising, to one degree or another. It means they’re outside instead of watching TV or playing video games. It also means some of them are using the trails to get somewhere, like me. And all those things are good.

But everybody needs to consider other users’ needs, and be aware of how to do a few basic things safely. I’m happy to ride at a safe speed, or brake frequently and wait for chances to pass kids, dog walkers, joggers, or whatever. But I’d like them to not mindlessly block my route, or set up accidents around sharp corners.

After all, I don’t want your kid’s body to knock my front wheel out of true, ya know?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

BTW, it's BTWW

The lead paragraph of this morning's Anchorage Daily News story was perfect for Bike to Work Week:

Detours, lane closures and lower speed limits lie ahead for Anchorage drivers. Road construction projects are gearing up across the municipality, from Bird to Ninth Avenue.”

As usual, summer will bring headaches and frustration to people stuck behind steering wheels. The rest of us will be traveling smaller side streets, trails and bike paths, avoiding most of the dust, noise and ugly orange barrels of construction zones.

Every year I consider not mentioning Bike to Work Week on this blog, because it feels like preaching to the choir. The people who come here are already two-wheeled converts. And I get frustrated every year by seeing a flood of bike commuters for five days, then watching their numbers plummet the following Monday.

But I support this national event, because I’m a believer. I’ve proselytized for years about the benefits of bike commuting. And even if most newbies who try it don’t stick with bike commuting, converting even a tiny number is a step in the right direction.

So we should all keep taking the message to the unsaved who question why we pedal to get places. Stories about construction delays and gas prices are like lessons in sin that we can take to the pulpit.

The next time a friend, neighbor or co-worker complains about getting stuck in traffic or running up a credit-card balance at the gas pump, don’t be shy about telling them you don’t really know what it’s like to deal with that every week, because you get along just fine while leaving your car in the driveway most days.

I don't think that riding to work for a day or a week will ever change as many minds as regular, happy people on bikes will. Go ride, and share the fun.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eklutna weekend

Sometimes you just need to get out of town.
So on Friday night, I left with Jules and the Bike Monkee
to spend two nights in a cabin, 
and to goof around outside.

Saturday's ride was cold and wet, with
a mix of rain and snow.

 The trail wasn't always great, but we had
a hugely fun day, even after we ditched
our bikes in the woods and continued
on foot over our snow-covered route.

That night, during our post-ride drinking, 
the sun came out in an amazing way.

That's when Julie observed that such moments
are why you don't want for perfect weather 
to go outside. You just go out, she said, 
and hope the weather changes in your favor.

Truer words were never spoken.

Friday, May 11, 2012


There is no better way to spend a Friday night
than hanging out with bike friends.

 You can play in traffic on your way to bars ...

ride in the dark without a light ...

 and flip off your friends.  A lot.

Party hard. Ride home.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The future of bike commuting

Nathan and his Novara Bonita
The cool thing about being asked to profile Anchorage riders for the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage website is that I get to meet some amazing people. 

The latest is Nathan, a 12-year-old sixth-grader who bought his own studded tires this winter so he could ride his bike to school every day. I'm postponing the silly blog post I had planned for today — which is Bike to School Day — so that anyone who lands here will go read about a kid who will give you hope.

“There’s just not too many Nathans out there," his school librarian told me.

I think she's right. But that's too bad. Because we need more Nathans.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Spring stupidity

Every. Damn. Year.

Seriously, people, will we ever evolve beyond the need to annually beg, berate, cajole, harass, remind and otherwise tell morons to stay off the trails until they’re dry enough to ride without damaging them? These idiots who shred soft trails embarrass me as a mountain biker.

I hadn’t given it much thought this year until my friend Ryan posted this online:

“"Please, please, please stay off muddy, wet trails! I just ran into some mountain bikers trenching the new STA trails. They are NOT ready to sustain traffic at this point! There is still lots of snow out there and wet muddy sections are plentiful. You all know how hard everyone worked to hand finish these trails, let's not trash them now.”

It’s common knowledge that April and May are muddy months in Anchorage. It should be common knowledge -- or at least easy to figure out -- that riding soft, muddy trails causes damage.

Only two things could explain why the damage keeps happening: ignorance and/or selfishness. The latter is unforgivable and should be repaid with a gnarly endo that ends with a top tube to the offending rider’s crotch.

The former requires the rest of us to educate our fellow riders. If you see anyone riding soft trails, or hear them telling stories about a recent ride, please talk to them and set them straight.

Be calm and polite. People tell me that’s effective.

Please. Do it for those of us who can’t. I just don’t think I could manage calm and polite with these douche bags right now.