Sunday, August 18, 2013

Beam Me Up

Whenever I come across one of these relics, I think it should have a sticker that says, “My Other Bike is a DeLorean.”

Allsop dreamed up the suspension “beam” 20 years or so ago, in an era when the concept of suspension was so new that many people thought it would be cheaper and more efficient to “suspend the rider, not the bike.” Hell, I worked with an aerospace engineer in those days, and he knew I was a bike geek, so he once excitedly told me how he thought this was a brilliant concept, and he had ideas on how to do it. He thought it was the future of mountain biking.

The problem was that such well-intentioned folks didn’t realize that suspension is about more than rider comfort. It’s also about control and performance at speed, and that means keeping the tires in contact with the ground. You can’t just have a bike bouncing all over the damned place, even if the rider is comfortably cushioned by a flexible carbon-fiber beam and a spring-loaded stem. 

But you have to respect Allsop’s commitment. I mean, look at that bike frame. It was as if someone said, “Seatposts? Bitch, please! Our idea is so damn good, you’ll never need one. We’re goin’ balls to the wall and building a bike that is 100 percent dependent on a $200 doo-dad that’ll float your ass in ‘Softride’ comfort, dude! Seatposts are SO ’80s. Fuck ’em!”

This stuff was either going to be The Bomb, or it was simply going to bomb. We all know how that turned out. Allsop now manufacturers towing accessories, and bike racks for cars.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Time to ride

It has been all mountain bikes, all the time since I put away my road bike after the Fireweed, and anyone crazy enough to occasionally check this blog might recognize that my neglect is a sure sign of a good summer.

Heather just can't get enough of her bikes.

Who has time to blog when the weather's warm and the trails are dry? Hell, I haven't had much time to think of many blog topics, much less write them. Anchorage trails, Crescent Lake and Resurrection Pass have all been getting my attention, with Lost Lake and a couple more on my to-do list.

Last weekend, friends and I were in Hope for the annual sufferfest known as the Soggy Bottom, which lured Moab's coolest fifth-grade teacher -- Pete Basinger -- back to Alaska for a visit. 

Pete goes hunting for some mayhem.

I chatted with Pete after his sub-11-hour finish, when he looked relaxed and unmarred despite a hard crash. He chronicled the whole thing over on his blog, which is actually up to date. Go check it out.

Monday, July 29, 2013

From Paris with love

Just when this ol' blog was dying on the vine because we're having a killer summer and I've been too busy riding to screw around on my laptop, we have a new submission to the Fabulous Finger Gallery, and it comes from Oscar the Grouch, who was recently in "gay Pair-ee."

Lest ye think this is another example of Americans misbehaving in a foreign country and giving the French one more reason to hate us, I remind you the photographer is a Spaniard. On the other hand, I think I know whose finger that is, and she could be stirring up trouble.

There's just something about vacations that bring this shit out of people. Hell, time in Paris even knocked some of the Grouch out of Oscar. He sent this photo with a note that said, "From Paris with love. Or something like that." 

I felt a little tear in my eye.

Right back atchya with a wink, Big Fella!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

90 percent mental, half physical

Now that a few days—and a couple of “recovery rides” have passed—the Fireweed 200 is starting to seem like a fuzzy, demented memory. My body feels normal again, and I’m riding my mountain bike on singletrack, which is why I got into this sport in the first place. Road riding? What’s that?

Heather and I re-enter the wind tunnel.

But I keep seeing this picture that my friend Julie shot during the race, and it brings things back.

Heather and I were rolling back onto the Richardson Highway after a break. We had about 150 miles behind us. The headwinds were beating us to a pulp. And there, in the mountains, was a huge blanket of fog draped over Thompson Pass (in the upper-right portion of this photo). That’s where we were going, and pretty much everything about that portion of ride was already a big bucket of suckage. That high, looming fog reminded us that things were going to get worse before they got better.

Most of my epic rides have been in the mountains, where quitting isn’t an option. If you want the pain to end, you have to get your ass to the trailhead. But I’ve never really been sure what keeps a road rider going when the suffering gets bad and he could simply say, “This isn’t fun. This is stupid. Fuck it.”

People have told me that it’s all mental, and I guess it is. For months, I kept reminding myself that the Fireweed was going to hurt, and there would be times when I’d question the point of continuing. I knew that if I’d quit, the feeling of failure would have haunted me all winter. So I didn’t allow it to be an option. There was no doubt that we’d get to Valdez if we could just cowboy up and keep riding.

It hurt, and we suffered in those headwinds. But in a weird way, sitting here in the comfort of this chair, it doesn’t seem like it was that bad.

But that could just be the wine talking because, as Leonard said this week, “That ride was a head-windy bitch.”

Monday, July 15, 2013


Ken and Julie rock the SAG wagon.
The Fireweed 200 ain't easy. Rough pavement and hard climbs beat up your body. Brutal headwinds punish your muscles and your morale. Huge, nasty, wheel-grabbing cracks in the asphalt never let you relax. But a good crew can keep you going with calories, electrolytes, painkillers and encouraging humor.

This year's event is history, and I'm sure I'll have another blog post or two as I sort through the memories, but for now I'll just say thanks to the crew that helped Heather and I keep pedaling when the shit hit the fan. (And it was a big fan, that blew hard.)

Ken is the guy who lives with the mixed blessing of being married to Heather. It's a mixed blessing because he's lucky to be married to her, but he also has to occasionally put up with her agreeing to do silly shit like this with me. 

Julie is the kind person and tough athlete who happens to be one of our best friends. She didn't have to be there on Saturday. But she was, and I was very grateful.

Until a person has experienced endurance events from both the saddle of a bike and the seat of a support car, it's hard to fully appreciate the importance of a good crew, and how hard they work. They do selfless work, tolerate racers' mood swings, and put in long hours to help friends reach the finish line. They are indispensable.

Saturday was a damn hard day. These two are a big reason Heather and I got through the longest ride of our lives.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On the road again


It's time to do this thing. Road bikes have been devouring the summer while my Fireweed partner Heather and I have prepared for the 200-mile event this Saturday. But the training rides are done and it's time to git down to bidness. 

One more long day in the saddle, which should be made easier with the great crew of her hubby Ken and our friend Julie, then it'll be all mountain bikes, all the time for the rest of the season. I might not see a 23c again until next April. 

There are two things I expect in this ride: Good times, and bad times. And as my ultra-distance-freak friend Leonard has often pointed out, neither one will last. Good times come, and they go. Bad times come, and they go, too. 

The best we can hope for is that Heather will be strong when I'm weak, I'll be strong when she's weak, and we'll both arrive in Valdez tired but safe. At the end of the day, it's all about the ride, and the cold beer after the finish. 

See you in Valdez, muthafuckas.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Chasing Trail

Nothing I could write tonight would be more entertaining than this new video starring Anchorage's Kevin Murphy riding the shit out of the singletrack at Kincaid on a fat bike. Treat yourself to an awesome couple of minutes.

Chasing Trail | Alaska fat bike on Pinkbike