Friday, June 30, 2006

Vive le Tour?

Some people said Lance Armstrong's retirement would bring excitement back to the Tour de France. They said we'd have a real race again instead of sitting back and yawning while Armstrong kicked the shit out of everyone over, and over, and over and ...

Personally, I was OK with the way things were the past seven years. Love him or hate him, Armstrong was a racer for the ages. We were all lucky to have been here to watch his era, just like we were lucky to watch Indurain's run, and people a bit older than me were lucky enough to watch all of Hinault's or Merckx's victories.

And it was a hell of a lot better than the debacle this race is turning into. Ullrich, Basso, Sevilla and Vinokourov all axed before the prologue? Holy shit, is there a race left worth watching?

The way I see it, this means several things:

#1: I'm really glad I don't bother to subscribe to cable TV.

#2: Pro cycling may be the most fucked-up of all professional sports when it comes to doping scandals. And that's a big statement. "This is worse than 1998," said Caisse d'Epargne sport director Eusebio Unzue. "Cycling is at the point of death."

#3: It's time for Landis and Hincapie to ride 'em like they stole 'em, because the race is ripe for the picking, and we might as well keep tweakin' the frogs by winning their favorite race.

#4: This is a really good time to be the owner of Jan Ullrich's favorite hangouts, because what else does he have to do in July besides go back to stuffing himself with schlachtplatte before hittin' the clubs, poppin' some Ecstasy and running his BMW over bicycle racks?

Avalanche of ignorance

My latest Dumb Sign of the Week
comes to us from the rear window
of a big ol' SUV.

Whoever made this sticker
is a idiot.

He apparently never read
an grammar book

(Sorry, Scott D., I couldn't
resist using your window sticker.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


One of the things I always missed when I lived in Phoenix was a meaningful connection to nature.

The grass there grows on lawns and manicured golf courses, which shouldn't even exist in the Sonoran Desert. The birds are mostly skanky pigeons. Wildlife? You might see a rattlesnake or a coyote, but probably only if you live on the edge of a suburb. If you want to get out and stomp the terra, you'll be driving at least an hour just to get out of town. And unless you really work to find a remote spot, you'll be stepping in the tire tracks and footprints of thousands of other people.

I'm spoiled. I can pedal out of my driveway and, in a few minutes, be riding singletrack through quiet woods where I encounter bears, moose, eagles and all sorts of other critters. I don't think I could survive going back to living in an environment of asphalt and concrete.

That's why this image struck me as I pedaled along the bank of a canal running through the heart of urban Phoenix a couple of weeks ago.

A young guy was sitting in the early morning sun and trying to catch a fish. Out of a featureless, artificial stream. Beside the freeway that towered over him. No grass under his feet. No gentle waves lapping at the shore. No breeze blowing through trees.

He had his folding chair, his cooler, a tackle box. He even had a modicum of solitude as speeding motorists rumbled past behind their concrete wall, unable to see him. I sort of had to admire his quiet determination to enjoy tossing a line into water.

But mostly, I just felt bad for him.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Fast racers crank out 50-minute laps on the 24 Hours of Kincaid course. I’m not a fast racer.

Two years ago, during my first 24-hour race, my best lap on the nearly 11-mile course was about 1:07. Last year I pulled off a 1:03. This year I was hoping to crack an hour, but moved my PR to only 1:02, and I nearly knocked myself out trying to go faster.

Then I had a lap that felt perfect. I was shifting well, railing the turns, bombing the descents … and bagged a 1:04. That’s when I came to the liberating realization that I can’t fight fate. Whatever the excuse is—too big, too lazy, too old—I'm just not very fast. Might as well stop thinking about speed and surrender to fun. Besides, I was the token geezer on this year’s four-man team. I can write the whole thing off as a "senior moment," right?

So what if I never clock a 59:59 lap? Never did it before, why worry about it now? Better to just ride fast but fun, and savor the taste of a cold beer afterward. That’s why I started mountain biking in the first place.

Team Megasoreass logged 18 laps this year and had a good time in the process. Rob G. made us a kick-ass team banner, and DaveIT flew a rainbow-colored Italian peace flag that kept our hordes of groupies at bay by making our camp look like a gay-pride festival. Frigid Bits race organizer Carlos Lozano set up camp with us and helped us with everything from bike repairs and bad jokes to middle-of-the-night cheeseburgers (with an assist from Amanda, who made the burger run) and tasty post-race brats.

Here’s the breakdown of my laps:

#1: Le Mans start. Jogged to my bike and was glad to find it still there instead of already on the course under the guy who had parked his white Epic with Egg Beaters only a few feet from mine. Rode in traffic for most of the lap before everybody became completely scattered by the second lap. I think this was the lap on which I recognized fellow bike blogger Bosskat from pictures on his site, and said hello as he passed me. Finished with a modest PR of 1:02 and change.

#2: Went for broke, and nearly ended my race. I figured this was my best chance to beat an hour, because my legs were still fresh. Tried to hop over a log with more speed than I’m accustomed to on that particular obstacle, and apparently slammed my rear wheel into it. At least I think that’s what happened. It all unfolded too fast. Next thing I knew, I was body-slammed into the trail. Punch to the kidneys, hard whack to the back of the helmet. Managed to finish the lap with a piece of plastic flapping from the side of my helmet and my glasses so mangled I looked like a nerd who got his ass kicked on the way home from band practice (which is exactly what I felt like). Somehow, I still clocked a 1:04 and change. Then I started popping ibuprofen and headed to the optical department at Costco for emergency repairs.

#3: Late evening ride. Everything felt great. I was using gears well, nailing turns, yadda, yadda, yadda. Didn’t let myself check the time on my computer until I rounded the turn coming out of Dark Alley to kick down the homestretch. I was at 1:01. Shit. Ended up with a 1:03 or 1:04 and knew that there was no way I could come up with a faster lap.

#4: Overnight lap. This is always the nasty one. Two-thirty in the freakin’ morning. Lots of moose on the trail. Some porcupines. The ground gets damp with dew—slip out of the skinny dirt rut while flying down one of Kincaid's wide x-c ski trails, and that wet grass is slick as snot. I forgot about the clock and set a goal of avoiding injury. Came in feeling good with a lap of 1:15.

#5: All the guys on the team were tired after four laps each. Dave wasn’t eager for me to get back and send him off for his fifth, and I was in no hurry. My hands went numb on the root-covered singletrack and I couldn’t feel my fingers for a few minutes. Couldn’t tell if I was actually braking until I felt the bike slow down, so I got a little worried that the signal from my brain might stop reaching the muscles in my hands. Stopped to eat a Gu before dropping into Big Niagara, then briefly picked up two recreational riders on Mize Loop when they asked if I knew where people race at Kincaid. I yelled at them to follow me, so they got on my wheel and the guy with a southern accent started trying to have a conversation about bikes. I wasn’t feeling chatty, but told them they could pull ahead of me and just follow the flags to stay on course. I pulled into the finish area with a time of a little more than 1:13.

(A couple of minutes later, one of the guys rode up to me and explained they hadn’t realized I was taking part in a 24-hour race when they asked for directions, they just wanted to know about the Tuesday night race series.)

Scott, Dave and Rob, thanks for the good time. It was great racing with you.

Carlos—our “fifth man”—thanks for keepin’ a watchful eye on Team Megasoreass and our bikes all weekend.

And, of course, thanks to Reggi Parks for puttin' this whole circus of pain together one more time. Good job as usual, Reggi.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's Pete's world

... the rest of us are just riding through it.

Another 24 Hours of Kincaid is in the bag, and this year it belonged to endurance-racing monster and Paramount Cycles wrench Peter Basinger, who not only broke his old course record of 21 laps by winning the solo division with 22 laps of nearly 11 miles each, but did so on a singlespeed. Then he showed up at Guido's for Sunday night's pizza feed and looked normal. He could sit down, stand up, walk around, raise food to his mouth, all that stuff.

I can't even comprehend what he did. It's easiest just to chalk it up to him being some sort of alien.

A big congratulations to fellow bike blogger Jill Homer, who showed up for her first 24-hour event, raced solo and racked up 16 laps. Before climbing into her car to spend five hours getting home, she even walked up to the Team Megasorass compound for a post-race chat.

And a huge thank you to that red-hot babe Mother Nature, who sandwiched a beautiful, sunny weekend between two rounds of rain.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gimme a vowel, Vanna

Another gem from the municipal sign department.

Next post: A report from the 24-hour race. I'll
write it whenever I can once again lift my hands
to the keyboard and form semi-coherent

Better yet, maybe I'll write it
under the influence of painkillers and rum.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The clock is ticking

Hold on to yer butts, kids, 'cause we're gettin' down the nitty gritty in just three more days. No more time for long training rides (not that we did any) or losing weight. The 24 Hours of Kincaid starts in less than 72 hours.

Team Megasorass is on the job. I don't know if we're up for the job, but we're definitely on it. I've been wrapping up my preparations by taking a 10-day vacation. DaveIT has been entertaining guests and drinking beer, which means he actually stepped up the exercise a bit, because hosting visitors is a tad more strenuous than his usual regimen of just drinking beer.

I have no idea what Rob and Scott have been doing, but if they're anything like me and DaveIT, their training programs could probably be described as "not very damned much."

That's OK, because Team Megasorass knows what 24-hour racing is all about: ridin' bikes, hangin' out, and watching all the solo psychos suffer.

And a cool T-shirt, of course.

After weeks of wondering how the race course would be affected by the city's construction of a small freeway disguised as a bike path, Reggi got the final word this week that the bridge over the park road is passable and she can hold the race on the same course she used the past few years.

That's good news for me, because after three summers of riding the damned thing, I've actually learned a few moves and I might suck less than I would on a revised course.

Anyone still thinking about signing up should get busy. Anyone else should stop by between noon Saturday and noon Sunday and say hello.

Bring doughnuts.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Me and the F.P.

Enough of this vacation crap. I need to go home and catch up on sleep. My wife and I are flyin' outta here Tuesday morning and leavin' the kids here for a few extra days.

I dropped the Fat Possum at the bike shop on Sunday so that I could spend today floating down the Salt River on inner tubes with my kids, a small herd of nieces, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Brady and the rest of the friendly guys at Bicycle Showcase have been awesome. They set me up with a sweet demo bike and were a cool crew to visit with during several visits to the shop. Anybody visiting Arizona for some riding should stop by their shop at Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard. Great crew.

My blog had a hit today from somebody searching for a Fat Possum review. Maybe I'll write up some thoughts on the bike in a week or two when I get caught up on things ... and if I survive another 24 Hours of Kincaid.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

White cat

Today's installment in our Dumbass Sign of the Week series falls under the category of "Why the hell don't these people ever take down their signs?" This thing has been up since last winter. Sorry dude, your cat is either dead or moved on. Now get past it and clean up the neighborhood.

I mean, what's the big deal with these people? Why can't they get their fat asses out of their cars and walk 10 feet to tear down their old signs? Last month, I finally took down a "Found: Mountain Bike" notice that was taped to a stop sign near my house all freakin' winter.

At least I can still enjoy this lost-cat sign. I still smile when I ride past it because of the memory in conjures up.

Shortly after it was posted last winter, I was driving to work early one morning and my daughter was going with me to hang out for a little while before I took her to school. Everything was covered in snow and ice, there was fresh snow falling and it was still dark as hell at 8 a.m.

We were both still sluggish and riding along without talking until I drove by this sign and my daughter broke the silence by casually saying, "Bad time of year to lose a white cat."

I don't care who ya are, that was funny shit.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Let's call it carbo loading

Back in Phoenix after a coupla days in Las Vegas.
Time to get back on the Possum
and pound out some sunrise miles.
Only a week to go
before the 24 Hours of Kincaid,
and I'm spending the afternoon
sittin' by the pool with a cold beer.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Sitting here in limbo,
Waiting for the dice to roll.

Sitting here in limbo,

Got some time to search my soul.

Blasting through northwestern Arizona in a rental car. Jimmy Cliff on the iPod. Saguaro cactuses and Joshua trees flying by outside the windows. Headed for two nights in the world’s largest full-time state fair. Viva Las Vegas.

Lots of time to remember what I miss about the desert and hate about life in the frying pan known as Phoenix.

Coming back is always sweet. Desert mountains, the smell of sage. Heat on my skin, the cool water of a backyard pool with a cold beer nearby. Dark nights with stars, and warmth. Lots of people wearing very little clothing, and many of them actually capable of pulling off the look.

Still, I miss cool, uncrowded forests and loamy trails that aren’t full of flesh-shredding rocks.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Dead Fish and a Fat Possum

So I go out for a little trail ride Thursday night and run into Rick Shaw of Ready to Race while I’m rollin’ down Rover’s Run. A little later, we meet again and start chattin’ with Rio over on Gasline, and Rick finds out I’m headed for Arizona without a bike. He drops a couple of e-mails and—badda big, badda boom—Brady Gay at Bicycle Showcase in Scottsdale is hooking me up with Gary Fisher’s new all-mountain ride.

Some smoked salmon and cold Alaskan Amber found their way to the shop, and there’s a Fat Possum XT in my sister-in-law’s laundry room. Looks like I won’t be spending my vacation drinkin’ margaritas and gettin’ fat. Well, at least not the latter.

That's OK. I can sweat out all the toxins. We fly out of Anchorage in 50-degree weather, and by Saturday afternoon we’re sizzling in 102-degree heat.

So much for sleeping late on vacation. Tomorrow I plan to ride between 7 and 9 a.m. just to survive.

Hmm. How long ya think a 40 oz. Camelback is gonna last in this stuff?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

School of Jack

Sports Illustrated: What do you consider
your greatest athletic achievement?

Jack Black: One time I rode my bike 16 miles.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Open fo bidness

Thanks to the efforts of a bunch of folks, Brown Bear Trail is finished and ready to ride. It's pretty technical and still has a few sections that need to be refined, but there are some great challenges, nice flow and a way-cool wooden ramp.

Best of all, it's the first trail in town that was designed and built by and for mountain bikers, and will help show other local user groups what kind of trail features mountain bikers enjoy.

If you're in Anchorage and need details on how to find the trail, drop me an e-mail—the link's on the right-hand side of this page.

If you like the trail, consider investing some of your time and/or money to help Singletrack Advocates, the group that made this happen. I'll be glad to tell you how to get involved, and donations are always appreciated.

Singletrack Advocates
PO Box 240574
Anchorage, AK 99524

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pass the pepper spray, please

Heads up if you’re riding in the area of the Campbell Creek Bridge / Homestead and Viewpoint trail intersection during the next day or two.

I received an alert this afternoon from folks at Parks & Rec saying a runner pushing her kid in a jogging stroller was charged there yesterday afternoon by a large black bear with three cubs. The bear charged twice to a range of about five feet. Yeah. Five feet. That’ll pucker ya right up.

Land managers are putting up signs and trying to determine whether the sow’s just passing through, or hanging around.

Is the sky falling yet?

Dang. Here we are, halfway through 6/6/06 and the shit hasn’t hit the fan. The world hasn’t ended, and Satan’s a no-show, that pussy. I guess that means I have to keep updating my blog.

My little slice of the bike world is quiet this week. I’m squeezing in rides where I can, doing some work on my Epic and prepping for a trip to Arizona. Gotta get the trail bike dialed in now, because I’ll be traveling until four days before the 24-hour race, and the Epic’s been hurting lately—noisy disc brakes, shifting problems, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I think I've got all the problems fixed except for a little tweaking of the front brake after I pick up a batch of shims. I want everything running perfectly for the race so that everyone will know my lap times aren’t my bike’s fault, I just suck.

The latest Dumbass Sign of the Week comes to us courtesy of the Municipality of Anchorage. This labeled bike route from Klatt to “O’Mally” Road is a block from O’Malley Centre and two blocks from O’Malley Road. Maybe that’s too far to drive to look up the spelling.

(Thanks to Michael at BikeBlog for the cool Tom Waits video link.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Last winter my friend Sue gave me a T-shirt that says, “I love the smell of a bike shop.” The smell of my bike shop—a.k.a. my garage—is the aroma of citronella.

Some people think citronella stinks. They don’t work on mountain bikes in an Anchorage garage during summer.

Citronella smells like a flower. A big, beautiful, mosquito-free flower. I like to light a big candle and let it smoke up the garage before I start working.

I finally recognized the beauty of this stuff a few years ago during a trip with Sue. We pedaled round-trip between Chitina and McCarthy, and the mosquitoes were relentless. They’d suck blood right through the backs of our gloves while we were riding.

And they know how to draft. When I hear somebody describe a bad experience as “a bite in the ass,” I sometimes think that the phrase must have originated with someone who experienced a swarm of mosquitoes in a holding pattern right behind his butt while the little bastards took turns tapping his cheeks through the Lycra.

The day we rode back to Chitina was 61 miles of dusty, washboard gravel road, and we were loaded with gear in Sue’s panniers and my BOB trailer.

We stopped at a little lakeside place where travelers who drive the road can buy a cold drink and get their flat tires repaired. A couple of guys with rubber-stained hands sat outside in the shade and read a newspaper while we walked into their tiny shop to grab some chocolate bars and frosty Cokes. They had a bunch of mosquito coils burning in the place, and it reeked of the smoke.

It was heavenly.

I started burning citronella in my garage after that trip. From May until September, those candles are as important as anything in my toolbox.

I've found that it’s much easier to repack bearings when I'm comfortable and relaxed instead of half-insane and slapping my forehead with greasy fingers.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Help wanted

Singletrack Advocates last year created Anchorage’s first singletrack trail designed and built by and for mountain bikers. It’s unlike any other trail in the Anchorage Bowl, and has some really nice flow and technical challenges. But it needs a few final touches.

Tomorrow is National Trails Day and STA’s goal is to complete what we left unfinished last fall after we ran out of good weather and sunlight after many weeknights and Saturdays swinging Pulaskis.

I have to miss this one because of prior commitments, but if you have some time to contribute, here are the details from crew chief Christopher Souser. Give a few hours, then feel good riding Brown Bear Trail the rest of the summer:

“Just a friendly reminder that tomorrow June 3rd is National Trails day and we really want to have a strong showing so we can complete Brown Bear and officially call the trail ‘done.’

“The Anchorage Daily News will also be out there so it will be a great opportunity to show that mountain bikers show out in force for maintaining and creating local trails.

“So please show up, even if you can only give us an hour or two. Even if you can't do 'heavy manual labor' we will have work for you.

“Meet up at the east side of the Hilltop Parking Lot at 8 a.m., or 8:15 at the woodchip pile on the Gasline. We will be working until at least noon and want to make the most out of the four to five hours we have to work on the trail.

“Bring gloves, a wheel barrow, Pulaski, a shovel, a pick, McLeod, or an old backpack that you wouldn't mind hauling a few rocks in.

“WE REALLY REALLY need someone to bring a large chain saw!

“A few of us will be out there a little before 7 a.m., so you can show up early too if you wish to help.”

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Signs of trouble

Bike commuting is hazardous for a guy like me. And I’m not just talking about the dangers of cars, moose, unleashed dogs and the distraction of cruiser bikes bearing well-stuffed spaghetti-strap tank tops on hot summer days. (Don't laugh. That last one is going to get me killed one of these days.)

No, my problem is that I'm an editor, so I can't help noticing bad signs. Street signs, business signs and all the others. That's why I photographed the sign in my previous post. As Adam pointed out, it's redundant. It also happens to be placed next to a bridge on a public street. Doesn't that make us all authorized?

Fortunately, the sign in today's photo actually amuses me because of the apparent lack of imagination behind it. I see it on my way home from work as I cross a street that enters a new subdivision.

I assume that someone just thought it made sense to name the entryway “Entry Way.”

But signs with dumb names are entertaining. Other signs are annoying, even depressing. America is full of people who can’t spell and who have no idea of how to use punctuation—especially the apostrophe. Don’t believe me? Go the grocery store and see if the folks in the produce department have any “banana’s” or “apple’s” on sale.

I bet they do.

I sometimes enjoy ignored signs. My route home also takes me beside Taku Lake, where there's a sign that says, "NO SWIMMING."

It comes in quite handy. People park their bikes against it while they swim.

For several months, I’ve been making mental notes of signs with misspelled words, dumb messages, confusing content, etc., and I’m going to try to photograph as many as I can this summer. I'll try to post one per week and see how long my supply lasts.