Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Memories of 2008

The cold-as-hell, way-too-fast-but-still-fun
New Year’s Day ride.


The Frosty Bottom 50.


The pain of spring road rides, and that
damned late snow that brought the fun to a halt.


Riding Whitehorse with my daughter.


The heartache of a ruined race, and the solidarity
that strengthened the local bike community afterward.


The Fireweed 200 with Team Uranus Titans:
My throbbing achilles, the mutant squirrel,
the brutal winds, and The Bike Monkee’s screams.


Construction of new singletrack
designed just for us.


My daughter’s smiles
at the end of her all-girl rides.


Seeing a lot of new bike commuters
when gas prices skyrocketed.


Fingers. Many, many fingers.


Clouds, rain and The Summer That Never Was.


Arriving at Devil's Pass trailhead to find
all our gear soaking wet because some dumbass
leaked water all over the back of my 4Runner.


Picking up my too-light Camelbak
and realizing the dumbass was me.


Petra Davis’ beautiful smile at the end of July.


The mud, blood and general carnage
of the Soggy Bottom.


Being ready for winter, because
summer’s weather sucked.


Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Mesotony with your nose so bright ...

(Tell your kids they'd better behave,
or Santa might show up with this dude tonight.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter break

It’s time for a little break from the blog. Other than a couple of posts I’ve already written and scheduled to automatically publish over the next couple of weeks, there won’t be any new stuff here until the first week of January.

Enjoy the holidays. Eat a lot. Ride a lot. Have fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Way better than marshmallows

The Frigid Bits Burn Barrel is more than just a source of heat. It’s a gathering place, a shrine, an altar for those who worship mountain biking.

We flock to it for salvation on dark winter nights when we gather for the fun and lunacy of riding through super cold air with only a small bubble of battery-powered light to guide us.

And on our coldest nights, we rely on the FBBB for one of its most important functions: Keeping the damned beer warm enough to drink. Where else are you gonna find people holding their brews directly over open flames between sips?

While bike riders in other parts of the nation and world are worrying about how to keep their beer cold, we worry about ours turning too slushy—or worse, freezing solid. And there’s nothing that disappoints a person like popping the cap off a bottle of brew and taking a great big swig o’ nuthin’ when you tip that sucker back.

Keep the beer fires burning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Somebody stop me

"You may ask yourself, am I right? Am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?"
—Talking Heads, "Once In a Lifetime"

Holy shitballs, I must be out of my mind.

After years of calling singlespeeds a dumb fad, I've broken down and converted my old Stumpjumper so that I can see what all the excitement is about.

I'm not a convert, just an experimenter. Like most people, the first bikes I rode as a kid were singlespeeds. We didn't call them that, they just were. And I remember pushing a bike up a steep hill every hot summer afternoon on my way home from the town swimming pool.

That's why I place good derailleurs somewhere up there with vaccines and indoor plumbing. They make life better.

But I've known too many people who added a singlespeed to their collection and found that they loved it, so now I have to give it a try. They say this will make me stronger, and I like the sound of that. I'll have to wait and see how my knees like the extra work.

My goal is to make it through the sloppy mess of spring without worrying about gunked-up derailleurs, and then decide how I feel. For all I know, the new Surly Singleator and other bits will be in a spare-parts box by July, and I'll be pulling out my cable cutters and re-installing a drivetrain for sane people.

For now, well ... it does look kinda cool.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Frozen Chosen

At -12F, my front wheel looked like it was steaming. In the soft, ambient light reflected off the trail, thousands of sugary snow crystals were briefly sticking to the tire and then blowing away in a delicate shroud that wrapped itself around four inches of spinning rubber as Tony, Steve and I rolled up Rover’s Run.

I turned and steered down Moose Meadow, then picked up speed, ducking under snow-laden branches and carving through turns on the packed, sticky surface of the trail. The moon shined bright enough to light up the forest. We had already seen skiers materializing out of the darkness, running without headlamps to enjoy the natural light, but the trails were mostly empty. Only the truly devoted had ventured out.

Tony rolled up behind me when we reached Viewpoint Trail, where we saw the lights of another rider rolling toward us—it was Oscar, riding from home to pick up the crew and join us back at the burn barrel. A short distance later, we found Jeff, a new transplant from Fairbanks who had four cans of beer strapped to his rear rack because he knew about our ride and figured he’d find us sooner or later. And if he hadn’t, at least he’d have something to drink.

We aimed our fat bikes north on the Tour trail, gaining speed and eventually catching Steve, who had turned back earlier. The front of my jacket covered in frost from my breath, the moon still glowing, our tires crunching on the trail, bottles of beer clinking in Oscar’s panniers—it was a fine winter biking moment that brought out the biggest smile my face could manage while encased in an icy beard.

As we rolled up to the roaring fire back at the parking lot, Rio put a big bottle of Panty Peeler ale in my gloved hand. And it was good.

Winter riding isn’t easy. All the extra gear, the brutal brain-freeze headaches, the frozen drinking water. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s damned hard.

But it's beautiful.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shiddy, version 2.0

A couple of years ago, I compared a shitty commute
to a giddy commute. It’s time for another installment.

Shitty commute.

Potentially really shitty.

Giddy commute.

I mean, seriously, why would anyone
drive unless it was absolutely necessary?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Time for a break

Be it hereby resolved that the individual who designed slotted chainring nuts, and is therefore to be held responsible for the existence of the accompanying shitty chainring nut tool, is to be: caned; stretched on a rack; burned at the stake; boiled in the urine of a yak; fed live to rabid ferrets; subjected to no less than 900 consecutive hours of high-volume Barry Manilow recordings; dragged through cactus; ordered to imitate live pork during a Georgia canoe trip; administered high doses of salt through open wounds; and, last but not least, sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life with slotted nuts.

That is all. Carry on about your business.

I'll be in the garage.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Spring skiing?

OK, so we’re a long damned way from spring, but it was freakishly warm Friday when I saw this girl hauling her skis up a hill near Westchester Lagoon. It’s always cool to see a teenager using a bike for transportation, but it’s especially cool to see a kid hauling gear on a bike and keeping a pretty smile on her face.

I shot the photo on my way back to downtown Anchorage after a ride with a new friend named Aidan, who recently flew over from the U.K. to spend a few days training for this year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational. Aidan and I split up near REI so he could stop to buy more gear, and I pedaled on to my car. By the time I loaded up my slush-covered bike and peeled off some sweaty layers, I had ridden a little more than 21 miles in a little less than four hours.

Yeah, I’m slow anyway but damn, it’s soft out there with these warm temps. All you can do in these crappy conditions is let some air out of the tires and accept the fact you won’t be making good time.

Thursday night’s ride was nasty. Hoping to show Aidan some great winter singletrack, EndoRando and I took him on a tour of some Hillside trails that hadn’t seen any real traffic since the last snow fell. For someone with Rando’s bike-handling skills, it wasn’t so bad. For a slob like me, it was a constant challenge to stay on the trail. There was a good bit of bike pushing involved, but it was only a tiny taste of what Aidan and the other Invitational racers will face later this winter.

It’s unusual when someone flies to Alaska just to ride a bike this time of year. I wanted the guy to see that we have some fun terrain, so I was bummed about the crappy trail conditions, and frustrated because I was struggling to ride decently. I was grumbling and cussing, but Aidan seemed to be having a relatively good time.

We may both be bike junkies but, given the event he’s planning to do, his idea of fun surely covers a much broader spectrum.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Stupidity rules

An imaginary conversation
between two Anchorage snowplow drivers:

Fred: “Hey, uh, boss? This street’s kinda narrow.
Where you want me to shove all this snow?”

Boss: “Ah, hell. Just push over there
on that bike path.”

Fred: “But, uh, don’t it look like
Harvey already plowed the bike path?”

Boss: “Screw that. We get paid fer plowin’ the street.
Them little fairies in their funny pants
don’t wanna walk through snow, they should buy cars.”

Fred: “ Dude! This is kinda fun! Check it out, boss.
I shoved a great big ol’ pile o’ that
white shit right in their way!”

Boss: “Ya learn fast, kid.
I think ya got a future in this bidness.”

Monday, December 01, 2008


My friend Manny shot a bunch of nice photos at Saturday's Stud Slutz Criterium on Goose Lake. But this one was my favorite, because it shows another friend, Rob, out there riding on behalf of the denim industry and old-school mountain biking.

Check him out there on the right side of the photo. Rob's rockin' his work gloves, his Merrell mocs, and some blue jeans with one leg rolled up to keep his pants out of the drivetrain. He seems to have forgotten his race number. If I know Rob, he probably showed up just as the race was starting, and was too busy assembling his bike to bother with details.

A few years ago, Rob and I made up half of Team Megasorass in the 24 Hours of Kincaid. When we decided to hold a team "training ride" that spring, Rob arrived with his wife's bike, put tires on it in my garage, then did the ride wearing sandals and using platform pedals.

The guy's no gear snob. He's just a bike junkie with a wicked sense of humor. He's a reminder of what mountain biking is—or at least used to be—really about. And that's a fine thing to be these days, when the Frigid Bits field contains a smattering of local team jerseys.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a sponsored rider, but I don't remember ever seeing someone show up in team kit and then hanging around for a post-race tailgate party. Those guys probably have to hurry home to drink Cytomax and upload their heart-rate data to spreadsheets.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who shows up wearing colors should have to buy beer for everyone else.

And there should always be some guys like Rob around to drink it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The doctor will see you now

Winter riding teaches you things.

The most important thing to learn is to just get out there.

Saturday was grim. Back spasms left me barely able to walk all morning; snow fell much of the day; the forecasters issued a winter weather advisory. I was tempted to bag the evening ride and stay home.

Fortunately, I remembered the lesson from countless previous rides: Get off your ass and go, and you'll probably be glad you did.

I'm glad I did. The trails were surprisingly good. The other riders were fun. And 32 degrees almost felt like spring.

Bike rides have an amazing way of making your body and your mind both feel better. A night ride followed by some laughs and a couple of beers under a streetlight in a parking lot? It doesn't get much better than that.

I love my therapist.

Dr. Pugsley, 7 p.m.

Don't be late.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Still ridin'?

What rush hour looks like on my commute.

Before the Grill Meister recently migrated south, he and I had a conversation about being “the guy who rides his bike to work” at our respective places of employment.

He worked at the same place—with many of the same people—for a couple of decades. But they would still ask him, “So, you ride your bike to work in the winter?” And he would reply, “Yeah, for 20 years now.”

I know how he felt. People from other parts of my office building routinely see me walking in and out of the place with a bike helmet on my head. Many of them walk by my bicycle where it’s parked near the back door every day. They’ve seen me show up on a bike in the darkest depths of winter, but they still greet me with lines like, “So, you still ridin’?”

Understandably, most of them don’t know me all that well, so they’re just looking for conversational filler on the order of, “Been fishin’ lately?” The only thing they know about me is that I ride to work all year, so what else could they ask?

Still, it bugs me a little bit that the “still ridin’?” question seems to imply they think that one of these days I might quit.

They obviously don’t understand how deeply I hate idling at stoplights.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The collision of digital video technology and human stupidity has not been a pretty thing. The interwebs are chock full o' nuts maiming themselves in every conceivable way on skateboards, motorcycles, snowmachines, bikes, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's as if people think a video isn't worth watching unless someone in it has a date with the emergency room.

Hey, I understand the sentiment behind the T-shirt that says, "It's only funny until someone gets hurt. Then it's hilarious." It's just that I prefer to apply it mainly to colossal wastes of time like NASCAR and baseball.

There is great beauty in fluid motion. Treat yourself to three and a half minutes of Sergio Layos.

Thanks to Jeff for posting this over at Bike Carson.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's no Pulitzer, but ...

Today I offer a big thanks to Bikegirl and the rest of the the animal lovers at Paramount Cycles, who have presented me with the finest award this blog will likely ever earn.

To recognize my 700th post, and my No. 2 ranking in Google searches for "bicycles + beavers," they gave me a pair of "Save the Beavers" socks that I will wear proudly. Because after all, what greater cause could there be?

Bicycles & Icicles. Promoting the protection and humane treatment of beavers since 2005.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Early last year, I photographed some moose through the frame of my road bike during a ride on the Coastal Trail. As I often do, I e-mailed a copy to my brother in the Midwest, who responded with his usual smart-ass—but funny—response: "Moose schmoose. We got goats!"

So when I sent him a copy of my latest moose-through-the-frame photo—which appeared on this blog last week—I should have known he'd come up with a response. Little did I know he'd pull it off by exploiting our dear mother while he and his kids were visiting her one afternoon.

I've got moose, but they've got grandma. (And she doesn't usually kick if you ride close to her.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday in the Temple of Singletrack

Adam and the Snow Bird

It's beginning to look a lot like winter.

Thanks to the recent snow, the main Hillside trails were busy Sunday with skiers, ski-jorers, hikers and fat-bikers. I joined five other riders on the new trails built this year by Singletrack Advocates, and we spent two hours riding tight, twisting trails with a very narrow sweet spot. Choose a slightly bad line right now, and you'll end up in loose sugar snow that'll either stop you dead, or toss you on your ass.

It was a leg-ripping blast, despite a half-hour spell in which I forgot how to ride a bike. I was blowing steep climbs and tight turns, and even a couple of straight sections. I felt cooked, and my brain started shutting down. When complete incompetence takes hold, it's a hard habit to break.

I finally got a chance to wolf down a frozen candy bar that had been riding around in my Camelbak for a couple of weeks, and the connection between my brain, hands and legs was somehow re-established.

When we got back to our starting point and three riders headed home, Mark and Darcy wanted to tack on some distance by heading down to ride Speedway singletrack. My body screamed "N0." But my brain screamed, "You need the longer workout, you fat ass," so I gulped a Gu and went with them.

It was a hoot. An exhausting hoot.

A great mountain bike ride requires some suffering; a few stupid mistakes; mental recovery; moments of perfect, blissful flow; and fun partners who push you farther than you would go on your own.

Three hours of snowy singletrack. A pile of sweaty clothes. A glass of wine. Legs that don't want to move once they hit the recliner.


Friday, November 14, 2008


I’ve never done a “milestone” post, but according to Blogger, this here pimple on the ass of the Internet is 700 posts old, as of now. Who knew such silliness would last so long, or that I could blather on about bikes for three years in 700 separate posts?

Considering that blogs spring to life and die with the regularity of mushrooms, I’m starting to feel like an old-timer

Things appeared to have come full circle, in a strange way, when my daughter recently met another rider at her high school and the kid surprised her by saying that he reads her old man’s blog. Now I feel somehow responsible for polluting the minds of America’s youth. But that’s OK—the guy’s a mountain biker so I’m pretty sure he’ll turn out fine.

It has been a pretty cool experiment. I get to write about my rides, spew my opinion on bike-related subjects, and post my sometimes goofy pictures. And people—some of them not even looking for beaver shots or illicit drugs—come back, day after day, from all around the world and just across town. (For some reason, the beaver/vicodin searchers seem to not come back.)

Maybe you have nothing better to do. Maybe you just want an excuse to flip me the bird. Maybe you’ve ridden with me and you’re afraid your picture will end up here. Maybe you’re just waiting for my next ugly crash in hopes I’ll reveal more information on how to obtain more painkillers. (Sorry, Huber, you’re shit outta luck.)

Whatever your excuse may be, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My new idol

So this guy came riding up to us on the trail Saturday afternoon. Three of us were stopped at an intersection and considering our options when he rolled up on a new Gary Fisher 29er singlespeed and stopped to check out our Pugsleys.

He was no spring chicken, and was surely carrying quite a few more pounds than he had in his prime. For a few minutes, we talked about bikes, which trailhead we had started from that day, etc. He was doing a 14- or 15-mile loop. Just out cruising and enjoying the snowy woods.

Then he went his way and we went ours. But I'm sure he made a bigger impression on us than we did on him.

He said he's 72 years old.

That guy's The Man.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's an uphill battle

The line on the cover of the magazine said, “Winter Riding Basics.” I was on my way to a sandwich shop across the street from my office, and needed something to read, so I tucked the December issue of Bicycling under my arm.

I was curious to find out if the magazine’s staff actually had any tips that would be useful for those of us who ride year-round in Alaska. I realize that most of their readers deal with much milder conditions, so I didn’t expect much. I got even less.

Prepared for a chuckle at overpriced jackets and riding boots that leave wallets lighter and toes frozen, I plopped down at a table, bit into my lunch and opened the magazine to find the “winter riding” story, which was full of advice on … riding an indoor trainer.

Sorry, folks, but spinning on the hamster wheel is winter training, not winter riding. If some dumb schmo like me can ride through an Alaska winter, I’m sure a good portion of Bicycling magazine’s readers could ride all year in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Colorado, etc., especially if they found some useful articles on how to do it.

Riding in winter is easier than it looks. Believe me, I’ve been doing it for years but still sometimes find myself looking through my car windshield at someone on a bike as I think, “Damn, that looks cold!”

Pedaling to work last Tuesday, I stopped at an intersection where a cluster of campaign volunteers were waving signs for their candidate. One of them asked me if I ride all winter, and then told me she was impressed. “I’m a wimp,” she said.

This from a woman who was standing virtually motionless on frozen concrete, in 15-degree air, at least an hour before sunrise, to wave a cardboard sign at passing cars. And she thought I was the one suffering.

If the editors of a leading bike magazine don’t get it, how can we make that woman on the corner understand?

As the light turned green, I assured her that I felt great, and was surely warmer than she was at that moment. It’s all a matter of the right gear, I told her.

From the look on her face, I’m pretty sure she didn’t believe me.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fat-bike Baiku

Who thought she’d follow
down gnarly trail at the end?
Oops. The Birds again

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Desert bird

Giving his wife one more reason to be proud.

Our latest installment in the infamous Finger Series comes courtesy of local shop czar Jon, who did the big flip-off while riding Tucson’s sunny Fantasy Island last month while the rest of us were listening to our studs clattering on icy pavement. Somehow, it feels like we should be giving him the bird.

Spongebob: From Frigid Bits Ice Crit icon to
Fantasy Island fetish, he’s bad. He’s nationwide.

Spongebob, one of the talismans that guard the trail, would surely have raised a finger for the cause as well, if only he’d had some flexible digits.

In a sad first for the Bicycles & Icicles blog, I must publish a correction. Last weekend’s post about the Frigid Bits scavenger hunt referred to a “brownie-chasing Viking chick.” As I was bluntly told at an election-night party, that rider was not a Viking, she was a tampon.

Never mess with a rag when she’s on the gorilla.

This disturbing fact was confirmed by Deb—the woman in the costume—who questioned the volume of my post-ride beer consumption. I was sober, but I have to admit that a Viking typically bears little resemblance to a tampon except in the aftermath of pillaging raid halted by unusually violent resistance.

Catching a brownie in your mouth, in the dark,
is harder than you might think, even when
your entire reason for being is to absorb and consume.

In hindsight, I have no idea how this happened. And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that someone who dresses as a tampon would question the volume of MY drinking, but that’s another story.

Regardless, the entire staff here at B&I World Headquarters (OK, that’s just me) regrets the error and wishes to set the record straight.

(Thanks to Akdeluxe for the Arizona pics, and to Deb for the others.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

The time has come

Ride to your polling place
and vote Tuesday.

But if you vote for McPalin,
this photo's for you:

The Fingers keep coming!
Oscar the Grouch, photographed by Manny

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Frigid Bits, Halloween style

Transvestites, beer, a gay bar, temps in the teens, a brownie-chasing Viking chick, and a fleet of bikes marauding through downtown Anchorage on a Friday night. This was a scavenger hunt and burn-barrel party to remember.

It was a farewell event for The Grillmeister, and it came on the heels of a Critical Mass ride that already had a bunch of bike nuts downtown, so the crowd was big—maybe even a record for a Frigid Bits series event. Thirty-four riders took to the streets for the hunt. With more showing up for the grillin' and swillin' we had at least 50 people caught up in this shit.

I'll let the pictures do the talking.

The Grillmeister busts a pre-ride move.

Even Gov. Palin showed up. Sadly, the stress
of campaigning
appears to be
diminishing her GILF status.

A lot.

Whenever I visit a gay bar, I like to throw my arm around a guy who shows absolutely no interest in me. (Yes, a gay bar. What, you thought I was joking about the transvestites?)

This looks like the cover shot
for a bizarre album of
gangsta rap from outer space.

A Frigid Bits Halloween is like
Mardi Gras, without the toplessness.

Rumor has it, there was alcohol involved.

Piper? Is that you?
Nothing says class like a trashy woman
who's preggers and drinking PBR.

It's always hard to find when it's cold.

Ooooh, yeah. There's my big boy!
I knew it was in there somewhere.