Monday, April 30, 2007

Speedy Sunday

(Updated to include link for online viewing of Urban Cyclist)

What a great bike day. Maura and I joined the ABC ride from Anchorage to the Alyeska ski resort area in Girdwood. I rode from my house to meet up with the group, and bagged a little over 69 miles in 4 hours, 11 minutes of riding time, not to mention a tasty bowl of soup at the turnaround point.

Then I came home to find out that Jeff Guerrero and company had finished the debut edition of a new 'zine called Urban Cyclist. You can check out the first issue by downloading your free copy in .pdf format, or view it online here.

Of course, I learned that the issue was online when I logged on to the local mountain-bike forum and saw Dave's thread called "Mr. Woody poses nude for a new magazine." As if any of you needed that disturbing image in your brain.

But if you read very closely, you just might see someone you know.

But he won't be nekkid.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Manning Up

After I designated last Sunday as Poetry Day at Bicycles & Icicles, Adam slapped me around via e-mail:

“A lot of folks think that one of the nice things about progressive living in the 21st century is that a man can write poetry and still be a man. I call those folks hippies and losers. Seriously, did you not expect to catch shit for writing a poem? I mean jeez.”

I pointed out that I didn’t write the poem, I just linked to it because I’m a sensitive guy in touch with my feelings.

I can cry, you know.

But in the interest of manning up and maintaining editorial balance, I’m designating today “Man Day” at Bicycles & Icicles by posting a pic of a hot babe with a bicycle, and sharing something that Adam says is a good man poem:

There once was a old hooker from Perth
Who had an extremely wide girth

When she rode her bicycle
She got a nice tickle
So she pedaled for all she was worth!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bad thing, good thing

Bummer: Finding a sidewall failure
in a trail tire purchased
at the end of last season.
Funner: A shiny new warranty replacement
thanks to the Big Red S.

I love the smell of new tires
in the morning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tag those buggers

Drivers who park in bike lanes. Can't live with 'em; can't kill 'em.

Unless you're really careful and stash the bodies where they can't be found.

But then there's all the duct tape, shovels and plastic tarp to deal with, and that stuff is a pain in the ass to carry on a bike.

Not to mention that the cargo load on a BOB trailer is about 75 pounds, and most of those lazy bastards weigh nearly three times that much, so disposing of the body can take several trips.

Save yourself time, and just tag those morons with one of these handy fliers that I read about over at Martino's Bike Lane Diary.

Download full-size copies over here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

For Sale

Just for the hell of it, I routinely read the bike listings on craigslist even though I’m not looking to buy anything. It’s a behavior that’s symptomatic of my addiction.

I’m always amused by the odd logic of people selling their bikes, such as those who claim they’ve never ridden a bike that they bought new (why did they buy it?) or the bike they say they’ve ridden once or twice (sadly plausible, in this society).

But I also get a laugh out of the people who clearly overvalue crappy bikes. I especially enjoy all the people trying to sell their dusty Magna and Huffy bikes for $150. I’m not even sure you find one of those bikes selling for that much at Sprawl-Mart, where they’re at least brand-new and freshly assembled by the marginally employable. Maybe those sellers figure that their bikes will look like a good deal among all the thousand-dollar road frames and full-suspension mountain bikes sprinkled around the sale listings.

On Friday, someone posted a reply expressing concern about this ad:

“Selling my SHOGUN 12 speed mountain bike. (I'm 61) I can't ride it anymore. Why pay over $500 for a high-quality bike when you can buy mine for $250. Rack and special seat. Probably has 200 miles. First $250 rides it.”

The person replying to the ad was concerned that some clueless buyer might actually purchase the damned thing. The way I see it, if you’re dumb enough to do that, life’s too short for the rest of us to worry about saving you from yourself.

Personally, I liked the ad. You’ve gotta love that second sentence, which is really quite honest when you read it thoroughly. It roughly translates to: “Why pay over $500 for a high-quality bike when you can buy my shitty one for $250?”

Caveat emptor, baby.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Poetry Sunday at Bicycles and Icicles

"Windy, sunny, and Sunday,
the afternoon of your father's promise,

you will learn to ride your bike"

It's Sunday.
Go read a nice poem about learning
to ride a bike.

Then go out and ride yours.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crank Brothers Revisited

I sometimes ask myself why I keep writing this blog. Most of the time, I do this because there's nothing to write about, and it feels like the blog has run its course. So far, something has always come along to re-inspire me for a few days. Occasionally, it's remembering that not having anything to write about never stopped me before. Wednesday, it was an e-mail from Andreas in Switzerland.

Andreas reads the blog and knew from my recent rant about wasteful packaging that I use Quattro SL pedals on my road bike, so he had some questions about the pedals, which he's thinking about buying. It’s always cool to hear from someone who finds the blog interesting, especially from so far away.

Hell, I often can’t find anyone in my own house who wants to listen to me, but a guy in Switzerland will read what I have to say. Thanks, Andreas.

Speaking of Crank Brothers, I sent the customer-service folks a link to the earlier blog post, and received the following reply:

“We certainly respect your point and share your concern. Most of our other pedal boxes use recyclable materials, and we are taking steps to improve the Quattro packaging. We will soon phase into using recyclable cardboard for the Quattro, eliminating the plastic case entirely. If you would care to send back the box, we will reuse it.”

I may have my greenie moments, but they’re not acute enough to make me repackage the plastic monstrosity and then haul it to the post office and pay to send it back. By the time I heard from Crank Brothers, I had grumpily chucked the thing.

Nonetheless, it’s good to know that they’ve recognized the problem and are working to change the Quattro box.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A better idea

I was planning a moderately hard solo ride tonight when my almost-13-year-old daughter asked if I had a ride planned. Then she asked if I'd go riding with her.

We did a short, flat ride, and it ended with ice cream.

That works too.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New stuff

Welcome to Bicycles & Icicles, where you will never have to read a damned thing about Don Imus. Because this is a blog about bicycles, and we just don't care about sour old crackpots with eyebrows as long as Howard Hughes' fingernails.

Around here, it's all bikes, all the time. I don't bore you with complaints about my aches and pains, the check I had to write to the IRS, or my extramarital crush on Marisa Tomei.

Hmm. Come to think of it, I could start a separate blog on that last one. It might have a good run until the cease-and-desist orders start showing up.

But I digress.

Anyway, as I was saying, I don't bore you with details of my personal life or other non-bike stuff. Nosiree. I bore you exclusively with my bike-related rants. And I haven't even had time to do that for several days, because I've been busy getting used to my new skinny bike and re-learning about life on the road instead of the trail.

Returning to the road after 18 years of mountain biking is full of little surprises—like the fact that I'm stopping less often to take pictures, or that it's harder to find a place to take a leak. On the trail, you can just step a few feet into the trees. On the road, all the good trees seem to be in someone's yard. That could get awkward.

And I'm learning to use this newfangled contraption called a GPS-enabled bike computer. I've always been happy with a basic, 25-dollar bike computer, but this Garmin Edge 205 showed up at Christmas and offered to do all sorts of things I never knew I wanted or needed. Elevation, calories, speeds, training routes. Although it appeals to my inner geek, most of this crap is lost on me.

In my hands, this is just a fancy little device that tells me how fast I'm going and how far I've ridden, and then, when I get home, shows me the whole ride by drawing a red line on a Googe Earth map.

That doesn't make me any fitter or faster, but it looks pretty cool.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pure vision, baby

"I tell ya, Sundance, I've got vision
where the rest of the world wears bifocals."
—Butch Cassidy

(From "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,"
one of the greatest movies ever made)

Sometimes I just feel like a gol'darn genius.

Since building my Pugsley with disc brakes a month ago, I've been meaning to find a way to cover the threads of the canti-brake mounts on the frame. (I removed the brake bosses to shave that critical half-ounce off my fat-assed 35-pound bike, don'tcha know.)

So I'm tinkerin' around in the garage tonight, and as I'm getting a couple of other parts out of a little pastic organizer box, I see four rubber plugs that came with some carbon-fiber bottle cages I bought for my road bike over the winter. The manufacturer put the mounting bolts through the cages and then held them in place by putting the rubber plugs on the ends of the bolts.

I kept the little plugs because I figured they might be useful someday. That's just the kind of resourceful, forward-thinking dude I am.

I pulled a plug out of the box, stuck it in one of the Pugsley's brake mounts and, bang! Perfect fit. I even had to twist all the plugs a little bit to work them down in the mounts, so I'm not worry about them falling out.

The beloved Pugs now has that refined, no-detail-overlooked appearance that just screams "class." Plus, I recycled some odd rubber parts and didn't have to buy special threaded brake-mount plugs like I thought I would. The threads on my brake mounts are protected from moisture, and I'm sure to be the envy of all my fat-bike friends, who will be awed by my ingenuity.

I'm so impressed with myself, I need to go be alone for a while.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tryin' to reason with this insane season

The sloppy streets of spring are a wonderful reminder of one of the benefits of winter riding: patience.

Cyclists who stay inside all winter get antsy this time of year. The anticipation is too much. They have to ride.

Problem is, it's hard to find a stretch of dry pavement that runs more than quarter-mile before running into a few hundred yards of flowing, dirty meltwater. I saw a roadie in my neighborhood on Sunday afternoon as he rolled home on a nice Cannondale covered in muddy goo. Half a block behind him were two more riders on mountain bikes that were as dirty as the stripes up the riders' backs.

After a winter of riding, I'm feeling pretty patient. I can wait out another week or so of spring thaw to spare myself the constant cleaning and maintenance that comes with subjecting a bike to shitty conditions. Good thing, too, because my head was a throbbing ball of pain last week anyway, thanks to a bad cold. I'm just now starting to climb back on the trainer and clear the crud from my lungs.

Michelle, who writes the Chain Driven blog up in the Valley, found a different way to cope with a late spring thaw: whitewater tubing. Talk about frigid bits. Yeah, that'll give 'em a chill.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Beasts are a burden

"Poor people in my experience have mean dogs and know it. Rich people have mean dogs and refuse to believe it."
—Bill Bryson
The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid

A couple of weeks ago, I sort of stepped on a dog owner's toes when a bunch of people were arranging a group ride via a web forum, and the dog guy posted a message asking if he and his critter could come along. I pointed out that we'd be riding in an area where leashes are required and I tried to make it clear—as gently as I could, believe it or not—that I think leash laws should be obeyed.

A few days later, the guy started a new thread on the forum, asking for opinions from other mountain bikers. I was pleased to see that a large number of them—some of them quite adamant—shared my view.

Contrary to what several people think, I don't hate dogs. My wife and I once owned one of the coolest dogs that ever lived. I've had friends and relatives with wonderful dogs that I enjoyed. I just happen to think dogs should be enjoyed by those who choose to spend time with them, and that their owners have a responsibility to keep them out of everyone else's way.

I also believe that more dog owners should recognize that they don't really know how their pets will react when surprised by a mountain biker, a jogger, or a noisy child.

That little misconception is the reason I—like several of my friends—have a leg scarred by the teeth of an unleashed dog whose selfish owner chose to live in denial.

That's also why it's so common to pick up the newspaper and read about a dog mauling some old lady or some little kid, and the owner always claims his dog is a gentle little creature, and he never dreamed the little Cujo was capable of such a thing.

Of course, some of those people are just damned liars who knew all along that their hellish beasts were itchin' to kill something, they were just too lazy or uncaring to do anything about it.

Dog owners like to talk about the law's "gray areas." What gray areas? The law doesn't require you to leash your animal if you feel like it. If the law says leash 'em, then leash the buggers.

The trails will be drying out over the next couple of months, so I've started going through my spring checklist: checking my bike's shocks, cleaning the drivetrain, repacking the hubs ... and loading my pepper spray.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Purgatory and Peru

We're smack dab in the middle of springtime purgatory. The roads are covered with an alternating mix of ice, slush, dry pavement and running water. The Hillside trails will soon break down as the snow melts and turns them into goo for a couple of months.

This would be a hard time of year to be a bicyclist in Anchorage if it weren't for knowing this is just a nasty step on the way to summer. And if it weren't for a great distraction in the form of Eric Parsons' slide show, "In Search of the Talking Llama," this Thursday night at the BP Energy Center.

Hearing about Bearbait's winter in South America will probably make guys like me feel inspired and slothful all at the same time.

This stuff's too good to miss.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lozano's Loons

With another Frigid Bits race season retired
to the annals of history (or maybe infamy),
it's time for a salute to our race czar Carlos,
and some of the other folks
who helped make the race series possible,
helped make the season memorable, and helped build
a stronger community of fun-hog winter cyclists.
First of all, we should all raise a glass to Carlos,
tireless race organizer and keeper of the passion flame.
From scouting trails, to clearing race course,
to counting laps, to rallying the troops on sub-zero nights,
he's the man who puts together the events
that keep bike junkies sane through long Alaska winters.
Thank you, Carlos.

Maura. Her first winter in Alaska,
and she already owns a Snowcat bike and a Pugsley,
and loves the whole damn scene
enough to show up week after week
to help Carlos count everyone's laps
and to tip a couple back
after the riding's done.
I think she's meant to be here.

Greg, aka Thirstywork. The big engine of El Gato,
the Pugsley with a custom orange paint job.
With Greg aboard, that bike always seems
to reach the finish line way ahead of the pack.
Greg's real masterpiece, though, is the the altar
of Anchorage's winter-cycling cult:
the Frigid Bits Burn Barrel.

Tim K., aka The Grillmeister. Nice guy,
fast rider, lover of all things bike,
and cooker of tasty critters on the big-ass grill
he hauls to tailgate parties.
On Saturday night, he showed up with homemade salsa
and then proceeded to make grilled nachos.
Who else would grill nachos
to feed to his friends outdoors at 25F?

The FBBB. Sure, it's an inanimate object,
but it's also our holy grail. Our altar.
Our source of light and heat in the darkness.
Besides, as Carlos would say, that sucker is haaawt!

And last, but far from least, all the riders
who showed up for a race and stayed for a beer—and those
who only showed up for the beer (the latter
are my kind of people). Everyone who shows up
riding a bike on a cold Alaska night
helps cultivate winter-cycling community
and helps us all keep it together
in the dark depths of winter.