Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stop breathing Pete's air, dammit

I said it before and I'll say it again: It's Pete's world. The rest of us are just riding through it.

He reached McGrath at 7:40 p.m., setting a new record for the course. Just a shade over three days to pedal 350 miles across the Alaska wilderness in February.

The suffering and accomplishment are hard to comprehend, but I'm sure celebrations are occurring on Pete's home planet. Wherever the hell it is.

Awesome job, Pete.

How do you feel about opera?

Somewhere out there along the Kuskokwim River west of Nikolai, Pete Basinger should be starting the final 50 miles of the Iditarod Trail Invitational along about now. He has been running like a machine for three days. If he reaches McGrath by about 8 p.m. Alaska time, he’ll not only win the race for the second time in a row, he’ll set a course record.

Hell, why not? After all, it’s been at least a week since he won the Susitna 100. It’s time for the boy to get off his ass, or we might think he’s slackin’.

As Dave Byers pointed out on his blog, the rest of us have spent the past three days sleeping in warm beds, going to work, buying groceries and eating hot meals. The racers, meanwhile, have been pounding the pedals and running on damn little sleep in temperatures reaching 30 below zero.

Pete called race headquarters from Nikolai just before 10 a.m. to report that he had reached the checkpoint after contending with cold temperatures, a bumpy trail and a few inches of new snow. He spent much of the night falling off his bike when he hit tussocks hidden by the powder. He caught about 40 minutes of sleep at Bison Camp, and planned to catch a little more sleep and eat some food before leaving Nikolai.

Those of us following the race now have to sit back and quietly root for him as we sit at our computers and hope for a new course record. His chasers have to follow his tracks and hope for something to happen that would put them back in contention. That’s not likely to happen.

The trail conditions ahead are unknown, and many things could stand in the way of a record, but with Pete’s Pugsley pointed toward McGrath, I'd say the fat lady’s warming up.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Time to get fat

My ancient winter bike needs to be taken out behind the barn and shot like a crippled old hog.

I spent four hours riding with Maura on her new Pugsley on Sunday afternoon. Four hours of watching her happily hum along on the snow-packed trail while other people ogled her bike. One stranger asked if she could try it, then dropped her skis in the middle of the trail, jumped on and pedaled around with a big smile on her face.

I can’t live with the lust any longer. I’m going to start shopping around for a frame, Large Marge wheels and that big-ass bottom bracket, then build that sucker up before over the summer. Hell, I have half the parts laying around in the garage.

My wife’s OK with the idea. She figures that once I have a Pugsley, I’ll have my “perfect four” combination: summer trail bike; road bike; dual purpose (winter/summer) commuter; and a winter trail bike. After that, she says, what else could I ask for?

I genuinely think I could be done buying bikes at that point.

Well, for a while anyway.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Movin' on

OK, I don't know how anyone else feels, but this has been one weird week. After that Daily News story appeared on the front page yesterday, about 500 people checked out this little blog, most of them never to return. Now I can get back to the kind of odd material that means little to anyone who doesn't know a QR skewer from a star nut, and interests only a few of those who do.

It's time to dive into weekend chores and hope there'll be enough time left for a ride.

It's also time for the annual Tour de Surreal, aka the Iditarod Trail Invitational. This one's for the true hardcore crowd. The kind of people who like to hallucinate without the benefit of drugs. The guys who like all that finding-what-they're-made-of, testing-themselves-against-the-elements shit.

Me? I'll be at home trying not to cut my finger on that little aluminum thing they wrap around the top of the bottle of cabernet.

Go, Pete, go!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


"Using that photo obviously was a mistake on our part and we regret that."
—Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, Tennessee Department of Tourism

Finally, somebody admits they made a mistake.

All it took was a long day of reading things like this. And this. And this. And ... oh, forget it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


My wife says that if we decide to vacation in Tennessee anytime soon, we're ordering the tourism brochure under a fake name. Since the Tennessean published this story on the contents of yesterday's post, the little photo scandal has hit blogs, forums, websites and news outlets in the viral fashion that only the Internet can create. When I start getting calls from reporters, you know something weird is happening.

Bicycles & Icicles is getting its 15 minutes.

Stay tuned. We will soon return to our regularly scheduled, bike-related silliness.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Y'all wanna go fer a ride?

I was flipping through the latest issue of Outside magazine today when I came across this ad inviting mountain bikers (and their money) to visit Tennessee. Sorta makes you want to hop on your bike and hit the trails, huh? Them there southern trails is real purty.Well, not so fast. I happened to recognize the photo at the top of the ad, and it ain't from Tennessee. After work, I zipped home and pulled out an old copy of National Geographic to confirm that—for once—my memory wasn't letting me down.
The photo is from right here in good ol' Alaska's Lake Clark National Park. It was published in the May 1997 of National Geographic with an article by Roman Dial about traversing the Alaska Range by mountain bike.

So go riding in Tennessee if you're into that sort of thing.
You won't even have to worry about grizzlies.

Just don't expect it to look as good as Alaska.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Catchin' rays

The first day of riding home without turning on a headlight is always a nice sign of spring. Even if spring is still weeks away.

Sure, the temperature was zero when I pedaled out of the driveway this morning, and the first half-mile from my house was still covered with Friday's loose snow. But by the time I left my office a little after 5 p.m., it was a pleasant 15 degrees and sunny.

Yes, sunny. It was awesome. My hope was restored.

We've almost made it through another winter.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My feet, and other odd thoughts

It has been a long, bloody week here at Camp Bicycles & Icicles but we're going to stay the course, call in more troops and refuse to consider the possibility that we shouldn't have invaded the blogosphere in the first place.

At least our feet our warm, thanks to some new swag from Darron at The Sock Site. (Don't you love that "we" stuff? I sometimes like to pretend I have a staff. I even talk to them. Sometimes, they talk to me. Really. I don't care what the doctors say.) Ya gotta love a guy who hooks up bloggers with free mountain-biking socks. Good stuff. Check it out.

Now, if only he could call somebody at Surly and say, "Hey, you should send my man Tim a Pugsley frame."

Ah, hell, if I had a Pugs, I might lose my mind and join all those crazy folks beating themselves against the Iditarod Trail this weekend during the Susitna 100. Better to stick with my plan of fleeing phones, mailboxes and my indoor trainer, and running off with my wife to a nice hotel. Where it's warm.

Good luck to all the competitors. Come back with good memories, and all the toes you left with.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

We are not alone

They're out there.

(This here's what ya call the token picture
to fill a post when I'm too busy
to blog. Take my advice: Teach your children
how to properly microwave a potato
before you have to spend two nights
installing a new range-hood oven unit.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You mean even the ... ?

We've all seen at least one
"you know you're a cyclist when" list, right?

Well, I'd like to add one item to the list.
You know you're a cyclist when you have
the following conversation:

Co-worker: So how many bikes do you have, anyway?

Me: Well, does ...

Co-worker (interrupting): Yes, they all count.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Back off. I'm a bad dude.

I love being a cyclist in Alaska. People from other states read my blog and think I'm tough. Or at least some of them do. People have even called me "extreme" because I sometimes ride to work in sub-zero weather. Co-workers question my sanity and, truth be told, I sort of enjoy that.

Hell, I frequently take part in the Frigid Bits race series, and the New York Times recently referred to us as the "subgenre of the subgenre" of winter bicyclists. I was flattered.

All this stuff could almost make a guy feel rugged.

Unless he knew other cyclists who ride in Alaska.

I could give one example after another of riders who make me look like some weasel who just pedals his nerdy bike to work a few times a week. Really, I could go on all day.

But for the past few days on the web forum where many of us stay in touch and swap information, endurance racer Pete Basinger has been seeking advice on a new sleeping bag and bivy sack for his ultra-long-distance winter races. He's not asking for much. He's used to freezing already, so if he "could figure out a set up that would allow 40 minutes to an hour of sleep at 20 or 30 below" he'd be "very happy."

I'd be psychotic from sleep deprivation, and running naked through the woods in the final stages of hypothermia.

Because Pete has a race coming up and he's short of time for field-testing bags, Mike Curiak recommended that Pete test a few by sleeping on his porch here in Anchorage. Even Pete's sane enough to admit that's pretty hard to do when there's a warm bed nearby.

Jeff Oatley chimed in that he doesn't use a particularly warm sleeping bag because he sleeps while wearing a mountaineering parka and pants. He said it works great and, "I've slept in my driveway at -20 with just the parka and pants, no sleeping bag."

Most people who find a neighbor asleep in a driveway can safely assume a large amount of alcohol was involved. But Oatley's neighbors—assuming he has any—have probably learned to simply shake their heads and mutter something along the lines of, "grumble, grumble, damn bike freak, blah blah blah."

Of course, it's hard to explain that such people exist when I'm talking to neighbors and co-workers who don't understand that I'm just out for a little jaunt when I ride to work or spend a couple of hours doing a trail ride while the weather's relatively nice.

So I'll just keep letting them think I'm a real tough guy.

Oh, shit ... pinkie cramp! Gotta stop typing now ...

(Note: Photo of Pete in last year's Iditarod Trail Invitational was shamelessly lifted from Sleepmonsters.com.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Overheard in New York

"I could die at any time.
That's why my job is so great.
I clock in for doom."
—37th & Broadway

I don't know the details
of this overheard conversation,
but my guess is that somebody
was trying really hard
to impress a girl.

Maybe it worked.

Or maybe she just laughed
and said, "Did you, like,
get that from Barney Fife?"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

El gato

Frigid Bits speed demon Greg, aka "Thirstywork,"
recently finished building this sweet new Pugsley.
Yeah, that's a Pugsley.
Greg apparently thinks outside the purple box.

Carbon-fiber fork, drilled-out Large Marges,
and a custom Evingson rack. Nice.

But, for me, it's that custom orange powder-coat treatment
that really makes the bike.

Akdeluxe described it well. (And how often
do I get the chance to quote Akdeluxe in mixed company?)

"In the glare of an HID light at night,
it sparkles like a half-sucked
orange Jolly Rancher with 24k gold flake!"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I'm here for you

One of the fun things about writing a blog is seeing the search subjects that lead people here. I always take a certain perverse pride in the oddball things that cause people to stop here for a few seconds before grunting, “huh,” and clicking merrily along to the icicle pictures or granny porn they’re really after.

“Canadian girl strip while doing bike track stands,” for example.

I can assure you that I have never posted pictures or video of a Canadian girl stripping while doing a track stand. But I would. And proudly, too, for that would be an inspiring demonstration of bike-handling ability. Hell, she wouldn’t even have to be Canadian.

So if you know of a track-racing stripper—or you just have a digital camera and a less-than-busy weekend—Bicycles & Icicles happily offers itself as the venue in which you may unveil your skills to the world.

Some lonely soul in London is waiting.

Monday, February 05, 2007

One more step

Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
(Sometimes, it has wildlife in it.)

I'm not among the millions who watched the Super Bowl yesterday. I meant to, but when I hooked up the TV antenna that I disconnected last summer, my wife and I discovered it wasn't aimed in the right direction to pick up the channel we needed. Rather than become the star of an evening news report about the dumbass who fell off his icy roof 20 minutes before kickoff, I decided to skip the game and spend the afternoon finishing some chores and errands.

No big deal. I haven't watched a football game all season anyway. Besides, the best part of the Super Bowl is knowing it's over. See, football season brings summer to an end. It lasts through fall and much of the winter. Its finale is a milestone on the route to spring.

I like seeing winter's big events pass. Christmas, New Year's Eve, the Super Bowl, the Iditarod. I don't give a rat's ass about dog mushing, but I cheer those little shit factories all the way to Nome because I know that, by the time they get there, the snow will be melting off my roof and the coastal refuge pictured above should be firm enough for a few rides.

And soon after than, the snow-covered trails will deteriorate and winter riding will fade.

Fine by me. I ride on ice because it's better than not riding at all.

But I live for dirt.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday in the sun

Carlos rolls a fatty
through "The Swamp of Doom."

Mr. New York Times climbs out
after taking a snaux sample.

What is this, some sort of bizarre paceline?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Frigid Bits in the New York Times

Our humble little race series hits the Big Time, even if the Minnesotans did get more attention.

Way to go, Carlos!


“Men's mountain bike for sale. It's a used Magna Pulse with an aluminum frame. Only 8 of the 21 gears work, but if you know more about bikes than I do, you could probably make the rest work.”
—posting on Anchorage craigslist

Hmm. Do ya think someone who knows how to get those shifters and derailleurs working is going to be the kind of person who would buy a Magna bicycle?

I saw this ad a few days ago, shortly before I walked through Costco and saw a shelf full of Schwinns—which was depressing enough for anyone who remembers when Schwinn made bikes that were actually worth buying.

Anyway, it all got me thinking about all the times I've seen people happily standing in line to buy POS bikes at Costco or The Big Blue Hell, and then watched them walk out to the parking lot and load those recycling projects into nice cars.

I don't mean to be a bike snob. I know that the very cheapest bikes are all some people can afford. One of the best bike articles I read last year was Dan Koeppel's piece in Bicycling magazine about migrant workers and other people who live on the economic fringe in L.A., and depend on their department-store bikes to get to work. I know that such people don’t have the option of going to a bike shop and dropping $300 or $400.

I respect that such cheap bikes fill a need for some folks. But I’m not talkin’ about those people. I’m talkin’ about people who wouldn’t drive a Hyundai or live without cable TV, but who buy disposable bikes.

That’s just weird. I don’t understand those people.