Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iced up

Damn, the ice-riding stuff just never ends these days. I want to write a blog post about Clif Bars or cactus-needle punctures or why Cannondale gave a $5,000 mountain bike to the Moron in Chief.

Or something.

Instead, I have more photos from last weekend's Portage Glacier ride. These are the shots I screwed up and had to salvage with a little work on the computer. The quality's still sketchy, but the ride was too amazing to not post them. And before anyone fires off an e-mail accusing us of taking unnecessary risks, let me say that the photo of Melissa standing over her bike while surrounded by broken ice makes conditions look worse than they were. All those cracks had sealed up with about 12 inches of new ice. They look nasty, but they were solid.

Speaking of ice bike news, the week wouldn't be complete without an update on one of Carlos' evil plans. This Saturday he'll be staging a "Last Rider Standing " race on the Frigid Bits course at Goose Lake. Riders can choose between 10 laps and 20 laps, and pit crews are allowed. Personally, I want a crew with a pneumatic impact wrench to make loud, Indy 500-like tire-changing sounds when I pull in after every two or three laps.

The 20-lap riders will start first, and the 10-lappers will start when the 20-lap riders have 10 laps to go. The first four finishers in each division will then have 10 minutes for any necessary bike/body repairs, then compete in a five-lap sprint to determine the winners.

Confused? Not as much as you will be after seven or eight laps, trust me.

Sign-up starts at 2:15 p.m. and racing starts at 3.

Providence E.R. is open 24 hours a day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Best ride of the winter (so far)

This one's gonna be hard to top.A month of sub-freezing temperatures and no new snow has frozen Portage Lake hard and smooth. Thanks to a tip from Jon and Rose at Paramount Cycles, I knew the riding conditions were good, so a few of us decided to spend Sunday riding to the face of Portage Glacier and then wandering around on the lake.

The temp was 15 below zero when we started from the parking lot. According to my cheesy little zipper-pull thermometer, it warmed up to -10, then held steady as we spent a couple of hours playing on the ice. What an amazing day. The kind that makes it hard to imagine ever living anywhere else.

Unfortunately, I was so jazzed by all the great scenery, I forgot to check the settings on my camera and all the photos at the glacier came out too dark. I'll have to see if I can brighten them up on the computer.

In the mean time, I bagged a few decent pics on the second half of the ride after Andy and Melissa had to head back to their car because of a committment later in the day. Maura and I did a little exploring among the icebergs (one with a natural tunnel where I threw down my sexy-man pose), ice falls and frost flowers.

Ice rides kicks ass.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pull my finger

Every winter, I hear comments from people as they pass by when I’m locking up my bike after riding to work in the dark when it’s 5F outside. Some people express admiration for the effort to ride through the winter. Others aren't shy about saying they think I'm crazy.

A few weeks ago, a woman who works in the building walked in the back door just as I finished throwing the lock around my frame. “Your sanity is seriously in question,” she said with a smile.

As she continued to talk about the single-digit temperatures and icy streets, I pulled off a glove and told her to grab my hand. As she wrapped her cold fingers around my toasty ones, she was surprised to find that I was much warmer than she was after spending 20 minutes driving to work.

Cold steering wheels suck. Grab a handlebar.

But you can still pull my finger.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I was driving to a meeting tonight when I heard a reporter from NPR say that 31 million Americans will be hitting the highways this holiday weekend. Airports, of course, will be huge mosh pits of stressed-out travelers.

No thanks. Those crowds can have all the highway carnage and TSA madness. I'm staying right here. I ran by Paramount Cycles and picked up all the holiday supplies I need: a couple of rebuild kits for my reliable, neglected Egg Beater pedals, and a brake-bleed kit so that I can start a long list of winter maintenance on my Epic.

Maybe I'll join the weekend race crowd for some silliness called "The Nutcracker." Two laps around the Goose Lake course, followed by a trail ride to the Hilltop Chalet and back, with two more laps around the lake to end the race. That's about 20 miles of riding in the dark, with expected temperatures from zero to 10 degrees.

I just need to make sure there will be a couple of fun guys to hang with in the back, and some liquor in the equation. Otherwise, we might end up looking like our man AkDeluxe here. Come to think of it, the liquor might make us look exactly like that.

I don't care. I'm not taking any chances, and I'm not doing this race on water alone.

Have a safe one everybody. Pour on some extra gravy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

High Frigidity

Gentlemen, start your shivering.
We could use some banked turns, Carlos.
(Photo by Christopher)

It was 4F at the start of Saturday afternoon's Frigid Bits crit. The field included full-suspension mountain bikes, fixies with homemade skinny studs, and the usual assortment of cobbled-together winter/commuter bikes. Just to throw us a curve, Carlos switched directions and made us run the course clockwise instead of the usual counter-clockwise.The fixie crowd, and a couple of other guys.
(Photo by AkBubba)

Twenty five racers started and 21 finished, including Rob G., who didn't show up until the second lap. And no, I don't mean he started slow and found his legs on the second lap, I mean he didn't arrive at the lake until the second lap.
Handsome makes up for slow, right?
(Photo by Christopher)

Somebody won, of course, but I can't remember who it was because I'm never near the finish line when the fast guys get there. I'm always somewhere out on the course working my way through a tight turn while muttering, "Sh-sh-sh-shit! Whew! OK that wasn't too ba ... Doh! Damn it!"

(More photos at Christopher's site.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chick magnet

I've become a big fan of Anchorage's craigslist page in recent months. It helped me find a 4Runner, sell my Tacoma, and unload all sorts of stuff from an old Apple computer to my daughter's guinea pig. And it did all of that for free. But I never spent any time reading the Best of Craigslist until the past few days. There's some hilarious stuff in there, and some of it even involves bikes.

There's the rant from the guy who gives cyclists a bad name. There's the woman who rode a bike to a Subaru rendezvous with her lover. (That one's probably NSFW.)

And, best of all, there's the bottom bracket that's a chick magnet.

Speaking of chick magnets, there's nothing that turns on the babes like fools who ride bikes on frozen lakes in Alaska, so I'll see you locals at the Goose on Saturday afternoon for the first Frigid Bits race of the season.

C'mon, you know you want it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Frigid Bits Season II: Elmo's Revenge

It was 8 degrees with a 30 mph wind out of the north during this morning's ride to work. Oh yeah, baby, winter's back.

And that means the ice is here. It's time to go back to Goose Lake for winter racing instead of subjecting yourself to the agony of da feet, which these poor guys suffered last Saturday night during the death ride down Rover's Run.

That guy in the red helmet? The dude waded through ice-cold water up to his knees in the early part of the race, then kept going. That's OK, though. The temperature was well up there in 15-degree range that night. Go ahead, take a closer look. Then tell your toes you love them and promise to never abuse them like that.

The first Frigid Bits criterium of the season is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. It's the usual drill: Show up a little early to register, then be ready to ride four, eight or 12 laps around a curvy course that was born in the twisted catacombs of Rio's mind.

Anyone with a head-to-toe costume gets a four-minute time bonus, so we can expect Rob G rolling around the course with a smile on his face while his wife, Amanda, stands nearby bandaging the fingers she wore to the bone sewing his latest pajamas while he watched "The Simpsons" and drank beer.

That damned Palmeranian will probably bag the time bonus and win again. But will Carlos take four minutes off my time for dressing like a slow, sloppy-riding fat bastard?


Monday, November 13, 2006

And then my therapist said ...

Singlespeeders often make a big deal about the simplicity and purity of their bikes. No technology contaminates their riding experience, dammit.

Well, actually it does. I know this because I passed the same SS rider three times during one lap in this year's 24 Hours of Kincaid. He was younger, fitter and faster, but he was still riding a device susceptible to mechanical malfunction. And that day, my 9-speed derailleur was working a hell of a lot better than his one gear. Every time he got ahead of me and then had to stop and fix his bike, I felt like my XTR deserved a little tongue action.

But I digress. In a disturbing way. The point is, lately I'm seeing a lot more singlespeeds with disc brakes and suspension forks. Isn't that a bit of a contradiction?

OK, I can understand the brake thing because discs are easier to maintain once they're installed and set up. But suspension forks? They require maintenance. And they make it easier to ride technical terrain, just like gears do. So why is a Rock Shox acceptable, but a shifter isn't?

Seems to me, a true purist and lover of simplicity would ride rigid. Anyone who has a suspension fork and only one gear, well, they're just working too hard to ride up hills.

I don't pretend to be a purist. I'm a technology slut. (Why else would I think of a derailleur and tongue action?)

I give myself to the granny gear and beg for hot, sweaty mercy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poached it

All last week, I was nagged by reports of nasty conditions on the Goober Smacked race route. By Saturday, I had talked myself into showing up just to ride with Rob G. and sip a little tequila. As soon as I filled the flask and set up my bike in the afternoon, Rob bailed out to take care of his son, whom he had already nicknamed "The Vomiteer."

Motivation failed me. Instead of the race, I opted for a solo evening ride that included the soon-to-open C Street extension between O'Malley and Dimond. I love riding new stretches of road before they open. It's the only time to enjoy them without menacing vehicles.

After a plate of nachos and a home screening of Blazing Saddles, I settled in with a glass of wine and checked in via a Gmail chat with Maura, who handled the Goober Smacked checkpoint at Goose Lake.

Is it possible to increase the enjoyment of my evening ride retroactively?

Maura's report from the checkpoint indicated frigid carnage. Frozen toes, pants soaked to the thigh, and racers dropping out.

I've been known to make the decision that leads to pain and suffering. Tonight I enjoyed a quiet solo ride and a few glasses of wine in a warm chair.


Friday, November 10, 2006

“Constantly Moving”

This video is a brief glimpse into the life of Nat and Rachel Lopes, the IMBA Trail Care Crew. They’re two very cool people who spend 10 months a year traveling North America to help build and protect singletrack, and help mountain bikers maintain access to public trails.

While they were in Anchorage last year, two other local riders and I spent several hours riding with Nat and Rachel while Nat recorded digital video with a helmet cam. It was some of the most fun riding I did all summer.

Unfortunately, they didn’t use any riding footage from Alaska, so I'm still waiting for my 1.5 seconds of fame.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Goober Smacked

Carlos is stirrin’ up trouble again. Goober Smacked, the first winter race of Soggy Bottom Productions’ winter season, is set for Saturday night at 8, starting at the Hillside Trailhead parking lot. The course runs to Goose Lake and back using a combination of Rover’s Run, the Tour of Anchorage trail, View Point and Moose Meadow.

As if cold and darkness weren’t enough, EndoRando—who shot this photo on the course last weekend and then posted it on the local forum—reports that there’s slushy overflow at one of the bridges on the Tour trail. This might be a race for the Pugsley crowd, so make a date with Large Marge and her buxom Endomorphs.

Oh, and one more thing. All entrants must bring one apple. Don't ask questions, just do it; you'll find out why at the appropriate moment. Sign-up is at 7:30, pre-race meeting for all racers at 7:45.

And I don’t mean to dredge up the whole iPod-on-a-bike debate again, but I couldn’t resist posting this little number I found on Gwadzilla’s blog.

Actually, that was a lie. I meant to dredge up the iPod thing again.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Wasilla divorce

This "Breaking News" banner on CNN's website means two things:

1. Journalism is in an unrecoverable, downward spiral.

2. Somebody's gonna lose a trailer.


A guy named Eric sent me an e-mail a couple of days ago saying that he's been checking out my blog and was wondering if I'd put up a link for him. He's in a bike club at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

A link for a bunch of local college students who love to ride? Hell yeah, I can do that. Go Seawolves! The club link also has a more permanent home under my "Alaska Stuff" links.

And Darron at Outer Sports Long Johns recently contacted me to ask if I'd be willing to try some of his product and add a link if I like the stuff.

Imagine that: Someone who has actually read my blog offering a product sample for me to review, instead of just asking me to pimp his stuff. Darron even read my Cheap Marketing 101 post, then sent me a full set of polypro long johns—including a pair of sock liners—to test this winter.

With these clear nights and single-digit temperatures, I'll be wearing them soon. Maybe even in this weekend's Goober Smacked race, the latest Frigid Bits production a la Carlos. I'll give more details in my next post, but the Debacle in the Dark will start at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Charge up your batteries, get your lights ready and stay tuned for the course description.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Go read it

"Evolution can go to hell as far as I am concerned. What a mistake we are. We have mortally wounded this sweet life-supporting planet—the only one in the Milky Way—with a century of transportation whoopee. Our government is conducting a war against drugs, is it? Let them go after petroleum. Talk about a destructive high! You put some of this stuff in your car and you can go a hundred miles an hour, run over the neighbor's dog, and tear the atmosphere to smithereens. Hey, as long as we are stuck in being homo sapiens, why mess around? Let's wreck the whole joint. Anybody got an atomic bomb?"
—Kurt Vonnegut
A Man Without a Country

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh, mama

I think I'm about to enter a new phase
of my cycling life: part-time roadie.

This baby just joined the family
of fat-tire bikes in my garage,
and I think it's faster than I am.

It's a Giant composite TCR Composite 1.
Full-carbon frame, Ksyrium Elite wheels
Ultegra and Dura Ace components,
Race Face cranks and BB.

And I got it in November.

It's going to be a long winter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

C'mon, it's not hard

Why don't more people know the difference between "peddle" and "pedal?" This kind of foolishness is especially irritating when displayed by professionals who get paid to know better.

Writers and editors who commit this vile error should have their typing fingers slapped with an old inner tube.

Maybe I should be more forgiving. Because as Steve Martin once said, "Let's face it. Some people have a way with words and others, well ... not have way."

The example above was found on, which deserves at least a little credit for publishing a collection of cycling images.