Friday, March 30, 2007

Calling in well

I needed some time away from work and stress,
so I took a "mental health" day today.
It was a good move.

The sun is shining, the temperature is up
to a balmy 32, and the Hillside trails
are fast and smooth. Not that I bothered to ride fast.
My goal was to disappear for a while.

"Real life" is overrated. Everyone should spend more time
riding bikes and goofing off.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cold 'n' crusty

You know it's a sure sign of spring when Race Master Carlos retires the term “Frigid Bits” for the season.

That’s right, boys and girls, the spring/summer Crusty Bits series begins this Saturday on the snowy trails of the Anchorage Hillside. The course will follow a modified version of the Four-mile Loop, making laps about 3.5 miles long. Riders will have options of three or six laps. Given the recent trail conditions, you shouldn’t even need studs or fatties. Just roll out your knobbies and go.

Start time is 7 p.m. at the North Bivouac trailhead off Campbell Airstrip Road, but show up about 6:30 to sign up and attend the racers meeting. Bring your number if you have one leftover from a previous race.

There will be a pre-ride of the course Friday night at 6:30, so scoot on out to the trailhead and give it a go.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A post about, uh ... oh shit, I forgot

I don't mean to sound paranoid, but I might be in the early stages of dementia.

I'm developing the annoying habit of futzing around with one thing or another until I leave the house too late and always show up five minutes late when I'm meeting friends for rides. If I manage to meet them, that is.

Last week, I showed up at the wrong lake for the start of a Frigid Bits race. Today, I showed up at a trailhead a mile away from the one where the group ride was supposed to start.

It could be worse, I guess.

Near the end of today's ride, some guy stopped to chat with a rider that he recognized in our group. He and my friend spent a couple of minutes catching up before the stranger pedaled away and I said, "Who was that?"

My friend just smiled and replied, "I have no idea."

Maybe I'm OK after all.

For now.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Enough already

It has been a great winter. Good snow;
a lot of great rides; even a couple
of new bikes since the first snow fell.But it's late March and still snowing.
It's still cold. The winter trails
are still in wonderful shape—and it's
hard to complain about that—but it's time
to get on with spring.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cranky about Crank Brothers

I love Crank Brothers stuff. I run their pedals on three bikes, and own three or four of their pumps and at least as many of their multi-tools. They make high-quality, well-designed products.

But they deserve a major swat on the ass for the packaging of their Quattro SL pedals. I recently bought a pair for my new road bike and was appalled at the wasteful use of hard plastic. The shell they wrap around the box is intense. This is a big, thick chunk of plastic that serves no real purpose.

The thing isn't even marked with a recycling number so that I can figure out what to do with it. The life cycle of this thing is simple: Go home from the store; go into the trash; sit in a landfill for the next couple of hundred years.

I appreciate clever packaging as well as the next guy. Hell, I'm a bike geek, so I might appreciate it more than the next guy. We all get caught up in new doo-dads and whatzits that look good on our bikes, and a fancy item in a cool box can make us reach for our wallets. But a company can create a damn nice box with recycled paper and creative graphics.

I try not to to climb on a soap box often, and I spend more time bouncing off trees than I do hugging them. But I ride bikes for more than just fun and exercise.

I also believe bikes are good for the planet. They're even more so if the people who make bike-related products maintain some environmental sensitivity. Crank Brothers blew it on this one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What's next? Well ...

The winter bike-racing scene here in Anchorage
is made up of some rather, uh ...
well, let's just call them passionate people.At a recent Frigid Bits race and tailgate party
up in the Mad-Zoo Valley, our man Thirstywork—
he of the orange El Gato Pugsley—unveiled
a beer (re)named for the venerable
Frigid Bits Burn Barrel.

The barrel is sort of a shrine
to warmth and fun. A Frigid Bits altar, if you will.
It's also what makes it possible for us
to stand around for hours at a time
drinking beer in 5-degree weather.
At last Saturday's race, we got another beer.
This one was called Carlos Lozano's Frigid Bits Ale,
paying homage to Carlos for organizing
all of these frigid events that help keep
all us bike geeks sane through the winter.

When my daughter saw a bottle on the table
at our house on Sunday morning, she shook her head
and said, "What's next? Jerseys?"

Hmm ...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring Break '07: Bikes Gone Wild

Saturday night's Frigid Bits race had all the elements
of a great bike event: A big turnout; a sunny evening;
a grumpy moose on the trail; lost/confused racers;
and a great post-race party full of bike geeks
gathered around the burn barrel.

I'm still recovering. And now I have voicemails
on my cell phone about another ride in two hours.

I'll hate myself, but I'll show up, dammit.The leaders round a turn on the first lap
of the lagoon portion of the race.
Thirstywork approaches the skinny footbridge
in the woods as he strolls to another victory.
The Grillmeister weaves through the trees
in the singletrack of Earthquake Park.
The crowd you want to meet
in a dark alley.
Heading home at the end of the night.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bearbait in Bolivia

Our very own Eric Parsons—aka "Bearbait"
on the forum—will be telling
an amazing tale for the benefit
of Singletrack Advocates on April 5.

Clear your calendar and keep five bucks
in your pocket. If you're a bike rider
in Anchorage, there won't be a cooler event
for a better cause anywhere in town that night.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A hard drift is good to find

You might wonder why I would bother to photograph a dirt-stained snow drift.

But that would indicate that you don't know me very well. Because I have bothered to photograph things much stranger than a pile of dirty snow. But let's not go there.

I found this drift across the trail along C Street a week or two ago after several days of wind had sculpted beautiful, hard-packed drifts all over town. This baby was at least 18 inches deep—enough to make me hit the brakes when I rounded a corner and saw it blocking the trail.

Then I looked closer and saw that nice, ramp-shaped edge. It was irresistible. I unweighted the front wheel a bit and charged in, figuring I'd either enjoy a sweet little hint of negative Gs, or suffer a soft-but-embarrassing digger in full view of everyone driving down C Street on their way home to dinner.

This sucker was like concrete. My 2-inch Nokians didn't even try to push through. The bike shot up the ramp, rolled across the top like it was on a table, and plopped down the other side so sweetly I had to turn around and ride back over it a couple of times just for grins.

It was like my own little fossilized sand dune. My own little slickrock. Several cubic yards of freeze-dried Moab.

That, or it's just been a long winter and I need to get out more.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Psst, senor! Yo quiero Pugsley!

Several friends have told me they're waiting for an update on the new Pugsley. I've got three words for ya, people: Insanely Freakin' Fun.

I finished building the bike about 3:30 Sunday afternoon following some parts delays. I had to run to Paramount on Sunday for a rear brake adapter so I could mount an Avid BB7 caliper on the Surly fork, and I needed a new set of brake levers after pulling my head out of my ass and remembering that my beloved old Avids were designed for canti brakes, and mechanical discs require V-brake-compatible levers.

Leonard stopped by just after I finished the build, so we test-rode the bike by plowing through a small pile of snow in the cul-de-sac in front of the house. Then I headed out for a group ride on the Hillside. I spent most of the ride with Jon and Rose from Paramount as we cruised trails and I marveled at how fun it is to bomb downhill on Endomorphs. What a kick in the ass. I didn't even stop to take pictures, which is why I'm just slapping a logo on this post.

The ride also helped me find the kinks that needed to be worked out when I got home: lengthening the chain a bit and dialing in the low-limit screw on the rear derailleur. I rode it to work this morning and had a blast.

Pugsleys are simply more fun than humans should be allowed to have. I've had one in the back of my mind for a couple of years, but never took the thought very seriously until the past few weeks. The only reason I don't regret buying one sooner is that I'm having so much fun with a new one right now.

I haven't felt this much like a kid with a new bike since ... well, since I was a kid with a new bike.

The fever is catching. My friends Maura and John peeled off early from Sunday night's ride so they could head back to their car. On the way back, Maura turned over her Pugs to John so he could try it out. He described the ride in an e-mail this morning:

"Maura forced me to ride Porfirio down Moose Meadow on the way back last night. About halfway down the trail, I realized that I was giggling. You should quit writing about these things. Pretty soon you'll have to buy them through a shady Colombian, politicians of all ilk will declare war on them & kids will get tattoos that read 'Sex, Phat Tyres & Rock & Roll.'"

That pretty much sums it up. On the other hand, it begs the question:


(Note: Pugsleys are incredible and Surly makes 'em solid and affordable. But let's not forget a pioneer who was leading the way long before Surly took it to the masses. If my pockets were a little deeper, I'd be buying a bike from Mark.)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Backcountry bike

While I was waiting for my Pugsley, Rick Shaw
sent me pictures from the ride he did last weekend
on his Vicious Thunderwing to Upper Russian Lake
on the Kenai Peninsula.Because I've been too busy with a number of things
—including building the new bike—to write up
any stuff for the blog, I'm posting Rick's shots.
Rides like this are part of the reason
I wanted a two-wheel dune buggy to begin with.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Something Pugsley This Way Comes

Stage One of my great 2007 Pugsley Project is under way. The frameset and all the new components I’ll need have been ordered. Rick at Ready To Race bike shop put together a nice package at a good price, and provided some helpful advice on ways I could save a few bucks. He’ll build the wheels and the rest is up to me.

With a trip to Santa Fe coming up, I probably won’t be able to get this sucker rolling until late March. I’ll be lucky to get in a snow ride or two before the season ends. On the other hand, I find myself in the unfamiliar—and exceptionally sweet—position of looking forward two new seasons and two new bikes. I’ll be soaking up springtime on the new Giant road bike I bought from Paramount last fall, yet I won’t have to dread the onset of winter because I’ll have a whole new season of fat-bike riding ahead of me. What an insanely good thing.

Speaking of insane, a couple of nights ago I had a dream in which I was part of a group of people settling some sort of debate at 3 a.m. by using two small airplanes mounted on skis, a rain-slicked asphalt bike trail, and a snow-making machine “borrowed” from a ski area.

I was really eager to see how things turned out, but my wife’s alarm went off and I had to get up and take a leak.

Damn it.

I'm pretty sure something really cool was about to happen.

Monday, March 05, 2007

All ice, all the time

For a few days each year,
the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
becomes a great place to ride.
When the wind does it's magic
and sweeps the coastal flats clean,
it's like our own strange brand of slickrock.
But not that sandpaper-like stuff they have in Moab
that lets even schmoes like me climb absurdly steep trails.
This stuff is actually slick. Right now, it's in the best shape I've ever seen.
Miles of ice. Smooth ice, crunchy ice, muddy ice,
and all of it perfect for studded tires. My friend Maura and I
spent several hours out there on Sunday.
The crunch of our studs was accompanied
by one of the best sounds in the bike world:
spontaneous I-can't-help-myself laughter.

Every once in awhile, Maura cracked up
and said, "This is so fun!"

Now that's a good ride.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Maybe they could use motorcycles

Some people just need an ass kickin'.

The story's been all over the Web for the past few days about the three Californians who poached the Grand Canyon on their mountain bikes. Of course, it's all over the Web because those dumbasses wrote about it online. (If criminals ever start growing brains, police work is going to get a lot harder.)

The three riders are pedaling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego to promote environmentalism so, naturally, they thought it would be a good idea to illegally ride through the off-limits area of one of the most popular national parks in the United States. They got stuck with two days in jail, $500 fines and 5 years of probation, during which they have to stay out of all U.S. national parks.

They're lucky they didn't have their bikes confiscated like "The Sedona 5" did after they rode the canyon during a government shutdown back in the mid-1990s. (Note to anyone with a similar idea: Armed park rangers are considered "essential" federal employees, and they keep working when other people are sent home during federal budget crises.)

Hey, I understand the desire. I'd like to ride the Grand Canyon myself. And I'm pretty damned sure I could do it with a lot less trail damage than that caused by all the horses and pack mules that trudge up and down those steep canyon walls every day. I've hiked in the canyon and had to navigate through muddy switchbacks full of deep hoof prints holding pools of mule piss. You can't tell me that's better than the slight imprint of a knobby tire.

But the bottom line is that bikes are banned from the canyon's trails. Anybody who wants to get that rule changed should go to the National Park Service and make a case for it. Anyone who ignores the rules, however, only hurts the rest of us.

You know what all those Sierra Club card-carrying, bike-hating hikers see when they read such stories in the newspaper? Their beady little eyes see that MOUNTAIN BIKERS poached the canyon! Then they use that against us in every policy debate for the next 20 years.

I'm really glad three Californians want to pedal across the Americas to raise environmental awareness. I just think these three stooges might be better suited for selling used cars. Next time we hear about them, I hope it's not because they've been caught with the carcass of a spotted owl hanging from a stick over their campfire.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A little respect

The Daily Snooze recently published a letter from some grouchy jackass (I thought that was my title) suggesting that cell phone users and cyclists should be banned from Anchorage's streets during the winter months. Not a big surprise. This whole stinkin' country's full of double-butted car junkies.

But on Wednesday, my munching of the morning Wheaties was pleasantly interrupted by the reading of the following letter from someone named Rob E. Earl:

"Considering the automobile's many negative impacts upon society (environmental damage, road fatalities, rising obesity, sprawling pavement, etc.), one would think biking would be more respected. Shouldn't those who brave the winter streets on two wheels be revered as persons leading the way toward a new, sustainable modus vivendi for society at large, rather than be harassed, mocked or otherwise denigrated as they so often are?"

Damn straight.