Monday, December 31, 2007

Memorable moments of 2007

Building the Pugsley***
The fun of riding it
Early spring rides on my new road bike.
Making one bad joke
about dancing in my arm warmers,
and never hearing the end of it
The cold rain during the Fireweed 100
Making sure I remembered
a really foul joke all summer,
so that I'd be ready when I finally
ran into Leonard
Heather actually showing up
for a couple of rides
64 piles of bear shit in 22 miles
on Russian Lakes Trail
The beauty of Lost Lake Trail
My 13-year-old daughter
dropping me on a hill
for the first time
The thick, slimy mud
of Johnson Pass Trail
The young worker at the Kansas City airport
who rolled my bike case into the baggage-claim area
and asked, "Is this a gun?"
The sound of a bike flying
off my brother's roof rack at 70 mph
The guilty relief of realizing it wasn't mine
Riding en masse through Spenard,
in the dark, after a rainy game
of bike polo
Beer and movies at Speedway
Drinking beer around
the Frigid Bits Burn Barrel
Watching my daughter ride ice and snow
on her first pair of Nokians
The Face Plant
Everyone who let me share a ride
with them.
This is the coolest cult
on the planet.
Happy New Year, and thanks
for reading this little pile
of bike-related stuff.

See ya out there.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cookin' the Goose

I've heard the rest of the nation spent the night watching some freakin' football game, but for anyone into the Anchorage winter riding scene, the last Saturday of the month can mean only one thing: Frigid Bits Tailgater.

Bikes, beer and beef, baby. To hell with televised spectator sports!

This time it was back to the roots of the Frigid Bits series—racing criterium laps on Goose Lake—and Tim "The Grillmeister" Kelly's trusty NRS was the star of this show with 1,000 watts of face-melting, skin-tanning, little-ol'-lady-scaring halogen brilliance. He cooked up this contraption in his home shop a couple of weeks ago, and it was so cool, it just had to be part of a Frigid Bits event.

Tim provided the legs and lights, and I provided the 50-pound Honda generator for him to drag around the lake for five laps while he looked like a 737 on final approach to The Ted.

Along about my fourth lap, I found myself staring down The Grillmeister's twin 500-watt lamps as we went head-to-head on adjacent turns. Those suckers were so bright that, for a second there, I thought my overworked heart had finally exploded and I was "moving toward the light."

After the race, it was time for beer and bullshit by the burn barrel. This is the good stuff.

Sports on TV is for suckers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I started riding on snow and ice during the winter of 1996-97, my first in Alaska. That first year, I went riding one afternoon at -5F, and froze my toes so badly that I spent 20 minutes face-down on the carpet of a crappy little apartment, groaning and sweating from the pain as warm blood returned to my feet. I was afraid to pull off my socks and look at my toes for another half-hour.

I've been trying—and usually failing—to keep my toes warm ever since. It was only in recent years that I started thinking of myself as a winter rider, after having marginal success at keeping my toes from freezing. I've tried neoprene shoe covers, chemical warmers, multiple sock combinations, riding in pac boots rated to -93, and wrapping my toes in everything from aluminum foil to plastic bags.

But I think I've found my Holy Grail—the one piece of footwear that can keep my toes happy. The Neos Navigator 5. Holy shitballs, do these things feel good.

I first heard about Neos overboots about three winters ago, but was reluctant to blow the cash on something that didn't look substantial enough to overcome my poor circulation. Meanwhile, I threw away three times as much money on various failures.

I finally broke down and bought a pair a couple of weeks ago and, from what I can tell so far, I have finally found the solution. They're insulated, waterproof, lightweight, rated to -20, and they'll work with my snowshoes on those rare occasions when I venture outside without a bike. I don't even have to put on cold shoes when I get back to my car: I wear regular shoes inside the Neos, so when I kick off the boots, I'm already in walking shoes.

I’m almost looking forward to a sub-zero ride so I can see how they do in real cold instead of this relatively balmy 15-degree stuff.

Monday, December 24, 2007

May your rides be merry and bright.
And all your new bike parts be light.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bad Karma

My friend John called from the North Slope tonight with a simple piece of advice: Lose the new name!

You see, a couple of years ago when I set up a user account for the Alaska forum at, I just used my real name. So I recently decided to cool up and get a bitchin' screen name like all my friends. The best I could come up with was "Bad Karma," which I stole off a Warren Zevon CD. Being a big fan of the Z Man, I was already using Old Velvet Nose as my forum avatar, so one of his song titles just seemed to fit.

Shortly after the name change, I went out last weekend and took my chin-mangling, jaw-bruising, concussion-inducing faceplant. Then I went out for a ride today with John's wife, Maura, and my seatpost bolt exploded two or three miles from the trailhead, forcing me to pedal standing up for a fairly long stretch at the end of a four-hour ride.

John thinks bad karma has started following me around. He said I should punt the new name. Maybe he's right.

But I'm not convinced. As all my friends will tell you, I'm one of those optimistic, sunny-dispositioned, glass-is-half-full people. I'm always smiling, whistling show tunes and petting cute puppies.

OK, the crash sucked ass.

But today's ride was a hoot in spite of a tiring challenge at the end.

After a week of pain that slowly migrated around my jaw, neck and chin, and concussion-related spells in which I was alternatingly foggy-headed and irritable, I got to spend the day with a friend riding fat bikes on snow. We ran into several biking friends on the trails, and I even got to chat briefly with a couple of former co-workers I hadn't seen in a long time.

And the worst thing that happened was a little extra exercise because I broke an old component and then got to drive to Paramount and upgrade to a sweet Thomson Elite.

And come to think of it, maybe a little good karma was kicking in, because my store punch card was full and I got my new $100 post for only $70.

I think I'll go pop a painkiller and skip through a pretty meadow while tossing flower petals into the air.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Enough, already

I've ridden outside only once all week,
but I'm packin' the Pugs
for Friday morning's commute.

Resting sucks. It's time to get back out there.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CSI: Anchorage

Parts of my Saturday-night crash
were bothering me. I needed to know
the cause, and figure out why I couldn't
remember falling, or making my way
up a bluff and to a road.
So I decided to do my own little
Crash Scene Investigation.

I always dreamed of being a detective.
Let's take a look at the evidence, shall we?
First, I found what my post-crash
tread track (above), then
followed it back to the scene.
That's where I found a shallow
drainage channel (foreground)
that's difficult to see in low-light conditions
—especially if you happen to be looking
beyond it to a much larger channel
that's somewhat visible in background
of the photo below.
The smaller channel is where I found
my impact site. See that fat Endomorph
track in the foreground? See how it runs
smack into that freshly exposed
ledge of frozen, bike-stopping silt?
Just above the silt is where I
pulled myself to my feet and
staggered around while making
cell-phone calls and climbing back
on my bike.

That's where
the ol' memory switch somehow clicked
to the "off" position. The
next 15 minutes are pretty much gone.
Exhibit A: The silt ledge and the
icy imprint that my pant legs
left on the snow as I tried
to get up. (Sorry, ghouls, but my
droplets of blood seem to have
disappeared, so no photos for you sickos.)
Exhibit B: The snow-covered channel
from the opposite side.
See a pattern here? Yeah, I thought
you would. Other riders have
been going around it, but some dumbass
left that big, fat Endomorph track
leading right into it.

The obvious verdict: I screwed up
by riding too fast in bad light. The
coastal flats are full of hazards
not typically seen in other
parts of town, and I temporarily
forgot that. I got blissed-out
and started riding too fast.

I paid big, landing on my chin and jaw,
which my friend Heather
has since explained is a bad way
to fall if you want your
brain to have a shock absorber.

She happens to be an expert
on brain injuries and
called my memory lapse
"post-traumatic anterograde amnesia ...
one of the best indicators of concussion."

That's a fancy way
for a mountain biker with
a PhD to say, "Dude, you're
brain-damaged and I am going
to have sooo much fun with this."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Milkshakes and Vicodin

I'm still not quite sure what happened Saturday night. One minute I was cruising fast across the South Anchorage coastal flats trying to catch up with the group after I had stopped to shoot a couple of photos, and the next thing I knew, my face was meeting snow and ice. My brain didn't register anything in between.

It's not a good feeling to combine blinding pain with total confusion. Confusion as in, "What the hell just happened?" and "How bad is this going to be?" I pulled myself onto my hands and knees as best I could with my feet tangled in the frame of my Pugsley, and started watching the snow to determine how much blood was dripping onto it, and whether there were any teeth involved.

The next few minutes are a bit of a blur, but they involved quick cell-phone calls to the guys up ahead, and to my wife and daughter as I asked them to grab my 4Runner and meet me at a nearby road. Somehow I also managed to be concerned about littering, so I pick up my busted helmet visor and stuffed it into my fanny pack before pushing my bike up a bluff that I knew would take me to the road.

A quick stop at a 24-hour clinic involved a doctor shoving one end of a wooden swab stick from the inside of my lip out through the front of my chin so that she could tell me, "You've got a through-and-through," before she looked at her young assistant and asked, "Are you OK?"

The girl who was holding a light on my face then explained that she's generally OK with seeing blood, but has a problem dealing with bloody faces.

Me, too, when it's my face. Especially when someone's putting a stick in my mouth and then telling me it's popping out through the beard on my chin. And oh, by the way, my jaw might be broken.

(I thought the hole meant a tooth had penetrated my lip, but my wife, who is a nurse, corrected me today by explaining the angle was all wrong -- something pierced me from the outside in. Probably ice, or a rock.)

A little later, I was in Providence ER being told my beard would be shaved off for stitches, and a big, musical machine that sounded like an arcade video game was rotating around my head to scan my jaw.

The result: No breaks, but a damn sore jaw. My teeth are all still there. And stitches wouldn't have helped much, so the beard stayed on. I went home with a tetanus shot, and prescriptions for penicillin and fresh supply of Vicodin. I'm swollen from my neck to the top of my nose.

But every cloud has a silver lining, as they say.

The Pugsley's OK, and I have a license to get high and drink milkshakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tune in, turn on

Back in my New Mexico days, I once aimed the ol' Toyota pickup onto a forest road and headed up Pacheco Canyon for a solo ride. Scanning through the local radio stations, I came across one that had signed off on Friday in preparation for launching a new format on Monday. Just to keep the airwaves occupied, they had set each song to play 10 or 12 times in a row before switching to a new song.

I happened to tune in during Patsy Cline's version of the Willie Nelson classic, Crazy.

Don't ask me why, but couldn't stop listening to that thing play over and over as I drove through the forest with my windows down and the aspen breezes blowing through the truck cab. I cranked it up and even sang along a few times, undoubtedly scaring the shit out of any living thing within 200 yards of that gravel road.

These days, I often grab a CD as I head to the car to drive to a trailhead. It doesn't really matter what kind of music it is—Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, A3, or anything else—it just sounds better on the way to a ride. It even sounds a little sweeter than normal on the way home after a ride.

I never listen to music during a ride, but I see other people pedaling along with their iPods cranking. I've heard them say that music helps them ride better.


As far as I'm concerned, it's the riding that makes music sound better.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yeah, I've got a carol for ya

I'm not a morning person. As a matter of fact, morning pisses me off. I'm opposed to it on general principles.

The only thing that sours my morning mood more than waking up is ignoring my bikes and having to drive to work, or reading a lame newspaper story about how no one is having fun outdoors because the weather sucks.

I'm not mad that the weather sucks. I'm mad that another deskbound reporter didn't bother to get outside and find out what's really happening. Tuesday morning's Daily Snooze said the only people having fun right now are runners with studded shoes.

Excuse me?! Runners?

Let's see, how many runners have I run into on the Hillside trails lately? Hmm, let me think now ... oh, yeah, I remember ... ZIP! Nada! Zero! Big zilch, baby! It's mountain bikers I've been seeing, usually with big, shit-eatin' grins on their faces.

Sure, there might be some runners out there, but from where I sit, it's the people on bikes who have been having all the fun while most of the cross-country skiers sit inside stroking their waxes because they don't want to go up to Powerline (where the snow is) and ski in the dark.

The Snooze offered some tips they called "15 things to do when it's dark and dreary." They suggested, among other things:

"Light candles."

"Have an eggnog latte."

"Go caroling."

"Visit a tanning booth."

"Paint a room."

I have to stop now, because the suggestions are so stimulating they start to make me hot. I mean, really. Painting a room? Mmmmm, baby, what a rush! And I'm sorry—really, I am—but if you go caroling, you need an ass-kickin' and that's all there is to it.

Here's a tip for ya. I call it "Tim's list of things to do when it's dark and dreary."

1. Man up, Nancy. Quit whinin' about the weather, and get out there.

2. There is no Number 2

Sunday, December 09, 2007

When the going gets weird ...

Sometimes, you just feel like a ride shouldn't even happen. Friday night's insane, warm wind ruined Goose Lake for Saturday night's Frigid Bits race, and it put a new glaze on the Hillside trails, making them slicker'n snot—and they were already slippery to start with.

To top it off, I was up most of Friday night with a sick kid. By the time I dragged my groggy ass out of bed at noon, I had no intention of touching a bike for the rest of the day. But late in the afternoon my wife suggested I get out for a ride, so I decided to head out with the social-ride crew during the trail race.

Funny how a bike a six-pack of Alaskan Amber in the back of my 4Runner can perk me up.

The trails are an icy mess. You can't ski on 'em. You can barely walk on 'em. But you can still clatter over 'em on studded tires. It's good to be a mountain biker in a winter like this.

Sure, I'd rather have some snow. Sure, I miss riding the Pugs. But hey, we're still riding, and Mother Nature's keeping the post-ride beer cold for us.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Large and in charge

We all know how annoying some people can get when they see pictures of themselves, or hear their recorded voices played back.

"Is that what I look like," they'll gasp. "Omygawd, do I really sound like that?"

Irritating as hell.

So I almost feel bad about saying ... Damn! Do I look like Chewbacca on a bicycle, or what?

Maybe I should make sure I'm photographed only when riding the fat Pugsley. It might make me look a beer or two thinner.

Maura sent me an e-mail last night asking if I intended to do the Frosty Bottom 50. I told her I was tempted. A little while later, I stepped on a scale and found out I've already gained six pounds this winter. And it's only the first week of December.

I think I'll do the 50-mile race, even if it turns into a death march for me (and it probably will). It's time to start suffering for my sins of consumption.

As soon as I finish this bottle of wine, I'm cracking down and gettin' back in shape.

I mean it this time.

Oh, shut the hell up.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

CTC: The only church I need

I was trapped in my car Saturday, running errands and keepin' my spirit alive by listening to sweet, country acid-house gospel music from the Rev. D. Wayne Love and the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Devine. By the time I got home, I'd seen four people out riding.

On road bikes. In December. In Anchorage.

It just wasn't natural.

Fortunately, I'd read a promising trail report the previous evening on the Speedway website, so I knew it was time to attend Sunday services at the Church of the Triple Chainring. So on Sunday, five other members of the congregation joined me in salvation from the howling, hellish depths of this evil, snowless winter.

The coastal ice was hard, the frozen silt was like velvet and the company was good.

Let's go back to church. Any day now, any way, any how.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Glory Be!

Sunday services at the Church of the Triple Chainring will be held at noon in the tabernacle of the South Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, where we will witness the miracle of ice and frozen silt.

This glorious spectacle will enliven your spirit and renew your faith in Nokian, the patron saint of winter cyclists. Believe me when I say you will raise your hands in praise of Finnish friction!

Early arrivals may join us for Gu communion (and other last-minute adjustments) in the rectory of my garage before the holy caravan of enlightenment will begin—at 11:45 a.m.—to make a joyous noise as carbide meets ice. Those who may give into temptation to leave before services end should park their sin wagons at Oceanview Bluff Park, where we'll pick up their lost souls at noon.

Do not fail to attend services, for soon it may snow and the ice shall be lost.

Details shall be posted on the forum, or you can e-mail Rev. Tim for guidance.