Tuesday, May 28, 2013


A lot of people have worked hard in recent years to make Anchorage a more bike-friendly city. And we may not be a great biking city just yet but a lot of progress has been made, and the League of American Cyclists has recognized that fact by presenting its silver level award to Anchorage.

If you want to help celebrate the achievement, pedal on over to Cuddy Family Midtown Park tomorrow afternoon at 5:30. The muni will serve some snacks, some suits will speak, and you’ll probably have a chance to thank some folks who have been working to make your daily commute a little easier. 

Try to corner the mayor and tell him you want a gold award to be next, and that he should support pro-bicycle efforts. What's good for bikes is good for communities.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I think it was about the time my hair on my head fell out and my beard turned gray that I started appreciating things that are well-worn, but not worn out. Funny how that distinction suddenly became important. 

But I love old stuff that still works. I can be fiercely loyal to a good piece of gear, sometimes even using it past the point at which it should have been tossed in a trash bin. I’ve been accused of being cheap – and maybe I am – but I enjoy the patina of hard use. I also feel good about using stuff for a long time instead of being quick to dispose of it. Call me a greenie. I hate waste. 

A couple of weeks ago, the zipper pulls finally snapped off the old neoprene shoe covers that I use in the fall and spring. I fixed one by attaching a zip-tie to pull the zipper up and down. The other zipper was so trashed that I resorted to operating it with pliers. I’ve been keeping a multi-tool at my office so I can take off my flippin’ shoe when I get to work. 

There’s something that’s just wrong about that. And something that’s just right.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Harden up and ride your chopper

Here’s the thing about bike commuting, especially in Alaska: Sometimes, the weather is far from perfect. And that’s OK. You can ride anyway.

Friday is Bike to Work Day, and the amazing people at Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage are already giving pep talks and encouraging riders not to give up just because the weather forecast looks cold and wet. We should all do the same. If you know someone who is second-guessing his or her plan to ride, give them The Speech. You know what it is.

Bike commuting looks cold when the weather sucks and you’re looking out a window at someone else on a bicycle. Remind your friends and co-workers that with good clothing and a healthy attitude, they’ll be plenty warm enough to enjoy the fun of being part of the crowd in bike lanes and bike paths, and stopping at Bike to Work Day stations for coffee and snacks.

Plus, as BCA already pointed out in its Facebook pep talk, anyone who can toughen up a little and ride on wet days will find the perfect days that much sweeter.

The revolution will not be motorized. Get on your bikes and ride.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Campy Keys

Few names in the world of cycling have the history and cache of Campagnolo. The company’s high-end bicycle components have been a huge part of the sport for decades, and have been ridden by the likes of Coppi, Merckx, LeMond and Indurain.

They haven't been ridden by the likes of me, however, because I’ve never been able to afford fancy Italian bling.

The chance to own a Campy doodad was one of the reasons I was eager to get
my hands on one of these cool key rings made from recycled toe clips by Maya Beck and her husband in Colorado. Other reasons include the fact that I’m old enough to to feel a little nostalgic for the days of metal toe clips, I like stuff made from old bike parts and – this is the most important – these things just look really cool.

Maya told me the idea came from the remnant of a broken Campy clip that her husband carried on a keychain for years. Last year, they found a supply of old toe clips on eBay, so they snatched them up and started making these little babies by cutting them down and polishing the edges.

Maya said the keychains are made from vintage toe clips for small feet, so they're no longer a huge seller in the cycling industry. 

"We buy them from someone that (I'm guessing) got them on closeout," she wrote in an email. "So they are new in the package when we buy them, but we give them a second life. If we didn't buy them, I'm sure they would be sitting in a warehouse collecting dust for many years to come."

A cool new product that makes bike riders smile and makes use of obsolete parts. What's not to like about that? Scoot on over to Mara's Etsy site and snatch up a couple.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Make mine extra spicy

Every time I get near the end of a new bike build, I go through a period of feeling like I need to wrap up a dozen final details. Trim this, tighten that, attach the other thing. But this is how I know when the bike is really done: The bear spray goes on.

This is Alaska. We have bears damn near everywhere, and they hate surprises. Mountain bikers move fast, and often surprise the hell out of bears. Big bears. Brown bears. Or, as they’re called in many places, grizzlies. Surprise one at close range, and you could find yourself in the house of pain.

For years, my strategy has been to carry pepper spray in a bottle cage on my bike frame. For one thing, it’s not attached to my body, and I like the
thought of separating from it during a crash that could trigger an accidental release. I also like the idea of a non-lethal deterrent, because bears are cool and shouldn't have to die just because I like speeding through their living rooms.

Best of all, this system allows me to get to the pepper spray quickly, which is vital. When you need this shit, you need it in a freakin’ hurry and a bear isn’t going to wait while you take off your Camelbak and dig out your defense.

Unfortunately, not all of my fellow Alaskans feel this is important. This is gun country, and many folks think the best protection against bear attacks is a big firearm. As this (totally unscientific) poll in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner indicates, about 50 percent of the newspaper’s online readers put their trust in guns, while less than 15 percent carry pepper spray.

The real statistics, however, tell a different story. In their paper “Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska,” noted bear biologists Tom Smith and Stephen Herrero explained that in an exhaustive study of attacks, “firearm bearers suffered the same injury rates in close encounters with bears whether they used their firearms or not,” and that “bear spray [has] a better success rate under a variety of situations ... than firearms.”

You may think you’re a badass with a gun, but unless you are highly trained, have experience staying calm in high-stress emergency situations,  and practice regularly to maintain shooting proficiency, you’re kidding yourself. When a bear is charging you at high speed and you’re about to shit a brick, you’re unlikely to stop it with a bullet.

Hitting it with a broad blast of nasty pepper spray from a can that resembles a small fire extinguisher is far easier. And it's more effective. The numbers don’t lie.

Another bear season is here. Be ready. Be safe.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Joining the Cult of 29

The beast is unleashed. And damn, it's sweet.

Nothing else feels quite like riding a new bike and knowing there’s a summer of singletrack ahead. So here is the unveiling: Pivot Mach 429 (2012 frame) with a Fox 32 Float CTD fork with 120 mm of travel. Salsa carbon handlebar; Race Face Deus crankset; Shimano XT derailleurs; GripShift shifters; Cane Creek headset; Thomson seapost (with a Thomson stem to come after I perfect the fit); WTB saddle; and Avid BB7 brakes.


The wheels are handbuilt -- with thanks to Leonardo -- using Stan’s Archer EX rims around Hadley hubs with DT Swiss spokes and anodized red nipples, and finished off with tubeless Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires. 

 It’s official, folks. I drank the Kool-Aid. Maybe even gulped it a little bit. I ride a 29er.