Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009

Returning from a tropical vacation
to -20F commutes in Anchorage in January.


Fun rides on snowy trails in spring sunlight.


A spring road ride from Anchorage to Hope,
and the tasty burgers at Tito’s at the end.


The Denali Highway.


Team Muschi Schmerzen moving up to 13th place
and shaving more than an hour off our time
from the previous year, because this time
we actually had a clue what
we were doing in the Fireweed 200.


100% organic bike racks.


The usual big rides on the Kenai:
Devil’s Pass, Johnson Pass, Res Pass.
Spectacular, as always.




Riding the hell out of our new local trails.
(Or trying to.)




Falling into cow parsnip on the way to Crescent Lake,
then spending hours with my leg feeling
like it was plugged into an electrical outlet.


Rain. Leonard. Enough said.


Crewing for Monkee and Jules during
the Soggy Bottom 100,
and watching so many Faces of Death
roll through checkpoints
late in the race.






Tater, buddy.


One word: Mankini


Happy New Year

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Value? Not if you ride a bike.

I always like shopping at businesses that make an effort to accommodate bicyclists. I even love bragging about them here on the blog. Conversely, I’m always disappointed in businesses that treat me like a second-class citizen if I don’t arrive by car.

I’ve been a customer at Value Liquors at Klatt Road and the Old Seward Highway since the place opened. The place is clean, has good prices, and is locally owned. Most of the time, I’ve arrived there by car, because it’s close enough to my house that I drive by regularly—and who really wants to carry a 12-pack home on the bike if they’re driving by anyway?

Unfortunately, the place has never installed a bike rack. A few times, I’ve rolled a bike just inside the door while picking up whatever I needed for a weekend, or a party just up the hill at the MacHuber manse. It was never a problem.

But last Wednesday, after I carefully leaned my Pugsley out of the way just inside—taking care to keep the tires on a rug so my tires wouldn’t drip on the floor—a surly employee launched into me and demanded that I never bring a bike inside again. She ranted about it being inappropriate and unsafe. (It’s just a bike, lady, not a bomb.)

The manager backed her up the next day. Just can’t have bikes inside the stores, he said. As a reason, he cited a recent incident in which when a drunk guy tried to ride down an aisle inside another Value Liquor store.

Sorry, but as far as I’m concerned, that was an inebriation problem, not a bicycle problem.

I’m sure drunks stagger in trying to buy booze all the time, but I doubt the manager’s ever tried to ban walking. If you don’t want obnoxious drunks in your business, you throw them out. You don’t blame the inanimate object that got them there.

I’ll miss the convenience of shopping at the “corner store.” But Costco, Fred Meyer, and Brown Jug stores all have bike racks.

They aren’t locally owned, but they don’t treat me like a bum.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas

Christmas Eve on Speedway Singletrack

May your Christmas be fluffy and white.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beginning of the end

According to calendars, yesterday was the first day of winter. That’s a load of bull.

I’ve never needed a calendar or a chart of the solar system to tell me which season I was in. As far as I’m concerned, seasons are determined by weather and a state of mind.

Summer? That starts on Memorial Day or the last day of school, whichever comes first. Autumn begins when the air cools and the leaves start to turn. And winter starts when there snow is on the ground, or when ice forms at night and stays frozen all day.

Science dictates that seasons are determined by Earth’s position in relation to the sun, but when I’ve been riding on snow and ice for six or eight weeks, nobody’s going to convince me that I’m dealing with fall weather. Especially when I’m this far north, where I commute to and from work in darkness during November and December.

Don’t let The Man fool you. Yesterday wasn’t the beginning of winter. It was only the end of our descent into darkness. We bottomed out, and could feel good about it.

Today, we gained 8 seconds of daylight. And that’s a good reason to give a damn about our place in the planetary neighborhood.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Powder day

Kathy passes through the pretty stuff

I have a love/hate relationship with fresh snow. I love how beautiful it is, and I love the way it covers roots and little stumps, changing the character of a trail between summer and winter.

Leonard on Salmon Run

But I hate all the work it takes to pack trails and make them fun to ride again. I hate the way I founder in the powder when a trail is only four to eight inches wide, and the slightest error—and I make a lot of errors—yanks my front wheel off its line.

Petra cruises Moose Ridge

After last week’s dump, I’ll be pushing more than I like for a few more days. But once it gets packed again, damn, it’s gonna be sweet.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stuck in gear

Sometimes I wonder where all the “bad” days went. Those days when the weather was considered crappy, giving me an excuse to stay inside and catch up on a backlog of tasks I’ve sat aside for months.

Summer in Alaska is manic. We pack all the fun we can into each long day, so only the must-do chores get done. I usually have a pile of things I intend to do when summer ends and the weather turns hard. Problem is, some of the items on that list have been ignored for a couple of years now.

I recently realized that this coincides with my decision a couple of years ago to purchase a few new pieces of clothing to keep me warm and (relatively) dry while commuting in autumn’s freezing rain. It also matches up with my decision to buy a fat bike so that I can keep rolling after a fresh winter snowfall, instead of taking a few days off until the trails get packed again.

Yeah, there are still some days when a glance out the window is enough to quash any thought of going outside, but those days seem fewer and farther between than they used to.

The better gear gets, the easier it is for us to get outside.

Maybe some of the stuff on that list just wasn’t meant to be done.

Monday, December 14, 2009


The social element of mountain biking is a big part of the fun for me, so when most people seemed to be busy last Thursday night, I had to push myself to go out and ride alone.

Then I had one of my best rides of the winter.

Come Sunday, I didn’t even ask anyone to go. I rode at my own pace, concentrated on improving my snow-riding skills, and spent hours rediscovering old terrain and finding the new singletrack that seems to pop up only in winter.

It’s easy to get addicted to the fun of riding with friends. But it’s also good to break out and do your own thing. Riding alone allows you to experiment without pressure. You can try that little trail that you think goes somewhere, and suffer no harassment if it turns out to be the Highway to Hell.

Going solo is also a great way to tap into the meditative side of mountain biking. You can clear your head and concentrate on riding your line or listening to the woods. That stuff’s easy to overlook, if you’re not careful.

Never doing it would be a shame.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fat bikes, fat screen

Today I lived through the torment and humiliation of childhood bullying. I watched maniacal, ventriloquist songbirds murder a redneck with a shotgun. Then I shared in several minutes of loud, horrific marital strife that ended badly. I even saw the specter of Death convince an angry, homicidal little girl that she really appreciated and loved her neglectful mother.

Then Death drove a toy through Mommy’s eye socket and into her brain, just to make sure that evil little bitch felt proper remorse.

And that was only the first two hours of my initial Anchorage International Film Festival experience. I won’t even get started on the event's excruciating master of ceremonies.

Fortunately, the finale of the AIFF’s “Martini Matinee” was Carl Battreall’s documentary Fat Bike, which provided a nice reminder of how snow bikes can bring joy to a dark and weird world. Best of all, it was clear that a huge portion of the audience in the Bear Tooth theater was there mainly to see Fat Bike.

It looked great on the big screen, and the audience was justifiably impressed not only by Carl’s work, but also by the tenacity and toughness of the stars: Susitna 100 racers Mike Morganson and Josh Morehouse, who were in the back of the theater chowin’ down on pizza and beer.

I’m not sure that’s a good training diet, guys. After all, the 2010 race is only a couple of months away.

(To order Fat Bike on DVD, click here.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ho, yo

Tuesday morning's ride to work.

Thick, freezing fog is one of my favorite things about winter. It makes for a fun morning commute that has a different character than it does in clear weather, and light beams shoot long, white columns through the air.

Tonight's ride home.

And when the supercooled water droplets contact even colder surfaces, they freeze and stick, coating trees and other surfaces with hoarfrost. Or, if you're into the hip-hop thing, "ho frost."

Winter may be long and harsh, but it ain't ugly. Of course, it's prettiest when you're not trapped behind a windshield at rush hour.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Riding Baseball Boogie

They always say that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. I think that’s a load of crap. I forget all the time. Some days—and some sections of trail—are like brain-sucking vortexes that erase all skill and coordination.

Last winter, my nemesis was upper Yellow Jacket. I could hang with a pack of snow bikers most of the night, but when we hit a particular section, I became a bumbling idiot and fell off the back every time. I don’t even know why. At least that section was a consistent problem, which isn’t the case with Speedway.

Speedway singletrack is usually one of my favorite winter trails, but last Thursday night, I rode it from the Moose Meadow side, and couldn’t steer to save my life. Well, that’s not entirely true. I kept steering into the snow off the right side of the trail just fine. Sometimes, my body actually leaned out to the right before my bike followed. It was like I was being pulled north by a big dummy magnet.

When I rode it yesterday afternoon, I did OK. I always seem to get back in the groove, eventually.

I just never know how long I’ll stay there.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rough around the edges

Erratic freeze/thaw cycles, darkness, brutal winds and generally terrible conditions. For the past few days, Anchorage has been like a bad night at Tiger Woods’ house. If we hadn’t had such a good time with that hard-partying, slutty, hot cocktail waitress of a summer, it would be easy to get depressed at times like this.

At least we have a fair amount of snow on the ground now, and temps are dropping again. It’s funny how far-flung Facebook friends interpret my complaints about 38-degree weather as a sign that I think the weather’s too cold. I guess it’s hard to understand—from the beach or desert—why anyone would prefer to hold steady at 20 degrees. That happens to be the temperature at which I love to ride; it’s cold enough to keep snowy trails in good shape, but allows comfortable riding without too many layers of clothing.

The only good thing about warm wind in the middle of winter is that—if it doesn’t get too warm—the trails can still be good for biking, but bad enough to irritate all the Nordic skiers who seem to be humorless and unfriendly anyway. Considering how often they look down their noses at snow bikes and those of us who ride them, I can’t help but enjoy showing off the greater versatility of our mode of winter transportation.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lightin' up

I was walking through the office this afternoon when I asked a woman about the red Christmas lights she had strung along the top of cubicle walls near her desk.

"You don't like them, do you?" she replied.

Damn. Shun a little holiday silliness here and there, and next thing you know, you're labeled a curmudgeon. I explained to her that not only did I like her flippin' lights, I have some pretty cool ones on my bike, too.

Not being superstitious, I'm not into the whole Christianity thing that's so prevalent this time of year but, hey, we're deep into an Alaska winter. It's dark out there. We had only 6 hours and 9 minutes of daylight today—a loss of nearly four minutes over the previous day. And we'll keep losing light for another month before we bottom out.

A few extra lights on the bike make commuting in the darkness a bit nicer, and make me a little more visible to motorists in the process. Even if they dent my curmudgeonly image.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

He meant to do that

"I meant to do that."
—Pee Wee Herman, to the boys who saw him
wreck his bike in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."

"Hey, get a shot of this," Leonard said as he eased his bike up to the edge of a steep drop into a snow-covered boulder field this afternoon. The only thing missing that would have made it a classic redneck disaster setup was, "Hold my beer."

I snapped a photo as he quickly put both feet on the pedals to complete the shot.

Then he started rolling, and there was no turning back. My first thought was of broken bones or shattered teeth, and how we'd deal with that at Eklutna Lake, where we were several miles from the parking lot, and very alone. We hadn't seen anyone on the trail for hours.

When he hit the narrow beach, my thoughts shifted to the very strong possibility he was going swimming—at 20 degrees Fahrenheit—and how we'd warm him up in the middle of nowhere.

Just as I yelled, "BAIL! BAIL!" he skillfully stopped at the water's edge. When he got back to the trail, Leonard swore he did it all on purpose.

All I know is that it was either a ballsy stunt, one hell of a survival ride. Whatever. I declined his invation to try it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Retreat

The Lollipop Girls in their colorful jackets.

Changing plans at the last minute has never been my strong suit, but sometimes it just has to be done. Today’s ride was planned for Powerline, but things started looking grim as I drove up Toilsome Hill. The trees were starting to lean, and snow snakes were blowing across the road.

A skier in the parking lot at Glen Alps told me she had abandoned her outing because “the wind was blowing me all over the place.” It was time to punt. Between cell-phone calls and on-road interceptions, we re-routed four cars to the lower Hillside, where the trails were firm, the winds were calm and the temp was an ideal 18 degrees.

It was an all-fat-bike ride, including Julie’s freshly built Pugsley. Something tells me that girl’s gonna be smiling all winter.

It was a great daytime snow ride. And it came just in time, because the weather guys say ...

Monday: Highs in the mid 30s to lower 40s. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph except east wind increasing to 45 to 60 mph along turnagain arm and higher elevations with possible gusts to 80 mph by mid-morning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cold, hard data

I was thinking ahead to tonight’s cold ride when I came across this 1920s-era image of two men in Washington, D.C., reading the weather report from a government kiosk in a park across the street from the Washington Post building.

Old photographs are great for illustrating how things have changed, especially in the area of information technology. Back in the day, everyone knew that weather observations and forecasts were at least several hours old before the public got access to them.

When I want to check the weather before a ride, I just click a button and get temperatures that are updated every five minutes from points all over Anchorage. And I don’t rely on a forecast that’s 8 or 10 hours old; I watch a web site that changes around the clock. For the real-time temperature on the trail, I check a digital thermometer that hangs from my handlebar.

All of these things are a great benefit when choosing clothing layers and the timing of a ride.

But when I know the ride will be taking me past the Campbell Creek Science Center—consistently the coldest spot in town on really frigid nights—I could do without the constant reminders that the temp is going to drop from zero to -10 along the Salmon Run trail.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I went for a trail ride Sunday night when the temperature was dipping below zero. I took no pictures because my camera died, and then showed no signs of life until it had been back in the house for 20 minutes.

The temperature is predicted to bottom out between zero and -15 during Tuesday night's ride.

Don't expect pictures.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Go Roll a Fat One

Yesterday’s winter storm blasted Anchorage with high winds, coated the streets in ice and rolled this snow wheel through my next-door neighbor’s yard. At 2 p.m., the snow outside my office window was blowing horizontally, so I’m still baffled by how any of it ended up on the ground. The weather was just nasty. It seemed like a great evening to go home and drink beer.

So, naturally, after the storm mellowed out a bit, I went for a night ride with The Grouch.

It was our first snow ride of the season, and the trails were empty. In most areas, ours were the only tire tracks in the loose, sugary snow. The trails are now covered and waiting for some Endogrooming. Another foot or two of snow should soon smooth out the roots and get the winter riding season fully under way, but there’s no reason to wait.

If you’ve got a fat bike, it’s time to get out in the snow. After all, in another five months or so, it’ll be gone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All taped up with no place to go

When real life gets in the way and keeps you mostly off the bike for a few days, even a simple ride to work can be a genuine pleasure. I've been in one of those stretches lately. Squeezing in a quick commute qualifies as a success.

And now that the morning temps have dipped into the teens, I've realized just how efficient all those cooling vents are in my new helmet. I got a pretty good case of ice-cream headache this morning, and it's not even truly cold yet. At five below zero, it would be excruciating, so I had to break out the duct tape.

Come springtime, I'll probably need a bunch of Goo Gone to get all the tape gunk off my helmet's plastic shell, but it'll be worth it if a little wind blockage keeps me from feeling like someone's driving a railroad spike into my skull.

Now all I have to do is keep riding.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I sometimes wonder about the influence mountain biking has had on my life. I’ve never really socialized all that much with other people my age who are married with kids, because they tend to not ride much; most non-biking activities bore me; and my wife still has a hell of a time trying to figure me out.

And now I’ve spent this week looking at Halloween party pictures that friends and relatives have posted to Facebook. They all appear to have had a great time, and seem thrilled with their wild antics. I scan their photos and think to myself, “Hmm. Well, I guess that could have been fun.”

The problem is, I went to a party that involved two hours of riding in the dark, followed by a big fire, beer, partial nudity in sub-freezing weather, and an array of minor injuries. It was freakishly good time.

Maybe my perception of fun is warped, compared to that of most people.

Hmm. I guess I can live with that.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Borat on a bike

Hallo! My name is Borat. Welcome to my home.
Please to come with me and I
introduce you to my family and friends.

This is mah wife. Her face look like dis
all tha time because she love me so much!
She proud that I come to America
and have much success.

This is my sister, Jamina. She village slut.
She talk on phone and say to man,
“Please to take peekture of my vahjeen, yes?”

This is famous American president
Ronalda Raygun. Bad, bad man.
He ruin my home country. I spit on grave of his.

My cousin, Leo. He go to prison,
but home now. Always playing
with weiner, he is. That why he go to prison.

Meester Butt. My neighbor. My sister
spend much time with him and love
his nose very much. I try to learn why,
but she just smile and no talk.

My other neighbors. I feel not so good for them.
They never know women for to make sexy time.
Not even with my seester, Jamina. Always together,
these men, but they happy.

I must go now. Weather is cold and mah wife
very angry when I shrinkage. She say,
“Borat! Keep warm! I want sexy time!”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bicycle Diaries

I can’t really explain why, but I somehow like knowing that David Byrne—like many of us—has spent years traveling with bikes and sneaking them into hotel rooms to assemble them with hex wrenches. It’s one of those covert experiences that bike geeks have in common, regardless of wealth or fame.

And like the rest of us, Byrne knows that traveling by bicycle is far more enjoyable and liberating than driving a car. He has been riding in New York City since the 1970s, and routinely took a bike on tour back in the ’80s when he was traveling with the Talking Heads so that he could spend his days exploring new cities instead of getting wasted in his hotel room. He has been traveling with a bike ever since.

Along the way, he’s been a student of architecture, traffic, urban design, globalization, politics, art, music, human rights and any other subject that stimulated his mind. Eventually, he decided to put his observations down on paper, resulting in his latest book, Bicycle Diaries, which was recently sent to me by the folks at Viking, Byrne’s publisher. Viking is obviously marketing the book to cyclists, but it’s a curious strategy, because it’s only partially about riding bikes. It’s also about all the other topics that interest Byrne.

Byrne isn’t a cyclist in the conventional, hardcore, sense. He doesn’t go for Lycra, weird shoes or flashy jerseys. He just finds it more fun, healthy and sustainable to explore cities and zip around to parties and gallery openings by bike instead of in a car. And the guy gets around. He has pedaled through the funkiest sections of many American cities, and explored the likes of Istanbul, Manila, London, Buenos Aires and Berlin. Few bicyclists have his range of travel experiences.

It’s an unconventional book to market in the bike world, because it contains very little of the standard content of a book about riding—you won’t learn a thing here about eating, training, equipment, etc. Then again, it seems to be an unconventional book to market in any world. It’s something of a David Byrne manifesto. And that’s not a bad thing, if you’re curious about one of the most interesting minds in music.

If nothing else, I recommend reading Byrne’s chapter on New York, as well as the book’s epilogue, which contain the most detailed information on his bicycle advocacy and thoughts on what cities can become if people embrace the change that bicycles can bring.

It just might be enough to make you believe that everything doesn’t always have to be the same as it ever was.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't screw yourself

The weather dudes are predicting our first snow of the season tonight, so I just came up from the garage after installing the wheelset with studded tires. After I sat down with the ol’ laptop, I found one of the signs of early winter on Craiglist—homemade studs for sale on Craigslist. They’re typically made with screws from a hardware store, and almost always have only a tiny fraction of the number of studs they’d need to have any chance of working decently.

I understand the desire to attempt this hopeless stunt. I studded my own tires my first winter in Alaska. I spent most of a weekend sitting on a stool, twisting dozens of screws through a perfectly good set of knobby tires. I even did it by hand, because I didn’t have a power drill. I guess it’s just a stage that winter bikers have to go through in their early years. Doing it yourself seems frugal and self-reliant.

It’s goddamned stupid, is what it is.

Those tires sucked. I’m lucky I got through that first winter without sliding under the wheels of a car. And all the other homemade studded tires I’ve seen? They sucked, too. After a few years in Alaska, I “upgraded” to a pair of inexpensive—but manufactured—studded tires. In a way, they sucked even more, because I was fooled into thinking I could trust them. And I could, until about the fourth week, when sections of dry pavement had filed the soft studs into useless nubs that sent me slamming into the ground every time I hit glare ice. I'd had more than enough when I spent eight weeks with what was likely a broken elbow.

I finally broke down and invested in a pair of Nokian Extremes, thinking they’d be a bargain if they kept me out of the emergency room. Soon, I realized that riding on ice was fun instead of terrifying. Quality, long-lasting studs ... and a shit ton of ’em. Those suckers have nearly 300 knobs per tire, and every stinkin’ one has a stud in it. They make for a heavy tire that’s worth every gram.

Now I wince when I look at the homemade studded tires for sale on Craigslist, and feel bad for the people about to buy and try them.

I hope they survive their experiments, and later discover the wonders of Nokians and Schwalbes, instead of deciding that riding on ice is as maniacal as it looks.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First place in Boston

Congratulations to Carl Battreall, whose documentary on Alaska winter biking — Fat Bike — just won first place at the Boston Bike Film Festival!

IndieAK Films: Convincing the world we're nuts, but having a damn good time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A high-class crowd

A few weeks ago, someone in Southern California found this blog after Googling “bicycling is an overpriced yuppie sport.”

I thought that was a pretty strange way to get here, considering this blog is—I’m reasonably certain—pro-bike.

Then I remembered walking across a tiny street between the beach and my hotel in Santa Barbara last October and hearing the buzz of tires on pavement behind me. I turned around to see a pack of about 20 roadies wearing color-coordinated kits and pedaling very high-end bikes.

The collective value of that group’s gear could have paid for a nice house in many parts of the country. Style matters in a town like Santa Barbara—I don’t think I saw a simple pair of black, logo-free Lycra shorts the entire three days I was there. And all the fancy bikes, when they weren’t being ridden, seemed to be on the roof racks of shiny new cars that couldn’t be touched for less than $45K.

So I suppose that in SoCal, if you’re a working-class stiff who commutes on a freeway and lives from paycheck to paycheck, seeing a few scenes like that might make it easy to view cycling as an overpriced yuppie sport. That’s a shame.

As another Frigid Bits season gets under way, I find myself wishing that the person who typed that search phrase into Google a few weeks ago could do a night ride and then stand around the burn barrel with a bunch of Alaska winter mountain bikers.

Yeah, there are usually some pretty expensive fat bikes scattered around, but they’re more likely to be in the beds of battered pickups than on the roofs of European sedans. The riders wear fleece and ripped Carhartts, and instead of looking down their noses when someone rides up on a Frankenbike, they check it out and respect the rider for making it work.

When the flames are rising and the snow is falling in a dark parking lot on a Saturday night in January, those are the people who prove that this ain’t no overpriced yuppie sport.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bend over the check-in counter

Can't remember why I do it, Oh, maybe I can.
An honest man these days is hard to find.
I only know we're living in an unforgiving land.

And a little lie can buy some real big piece of mind.

—Randy Newman, “Big Hat, No Cattle”

I’ve long believed that the people who set airline baggage fees are on the same rung of the evolutionary ladder as used-car salesmen. In other words, at the low end of multicellular organisms.

For years, cyclists have taken it in the shorts when flying with their bikes. Anything in a box the same size and weight as a bike flies for a lower charge, as long as it’s declared as anything but a bike. Skis, golf clubs, you name it, they all cost less.

The fee for traveling with a bike can be outrageous. On Delta airlines, it’s $175 each way on domestic flights. Hell, that’s higher than the cost of a seat on some domestic flights. That’s wrong. I’d even say immoral.

That’s why I’ve never had a problem with lying about the contents of my cargo. I’ve often seen the baggage fee for my hard case drop by 50 to 75 percent simply because I told a counter agent it wasn't a bike. The size and weight didn’t change, but the charge did.

On our recent trip to Moab, one of the guys in our group paid $350 in roundtrip fees for his bike. Another guy in our group—me—paid $125. Why? Because my case is designed in such a way that it wouldn’t necessarily have to be carrying a bike, and I have no moral problem with declaring the contents as being something that flies for less.

I don't understand why the bike community continues to accept such discrimination. Huge numbers of people have taken up cycling in recent years. I’ve read magazine articles calling it “the new golf,” meaning group rides are where big business deals are often struck. The “Lance Effect” has pulled in everyone from laborers to Wall Street titans, and you know plenty of lawyers are in the mix.

So what I want to know is, why hasn’t one of them led the charge for a class-action suit demanding fair fees from the airlines? Hell, I was invited to join a class-action suit against Apple because one version of the iPod Nano worked just fine but scratched too easily! And yet nobody's decided to sue over egregious and discriminatory charges for bike boxes?

C'mon, all you lawyers. I'm startin' to lose respect for ya. It's time to stand up for fairness.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baby's got back

The latest Fatback is so stylish
it inspired this ad that might never
see the light of day, but should.

That new titanium Fatback
is a hot-looking machine.
It's nice to see some real style
coming to snow bikes.

I don't suppose I could persuade
my mother-in-law to buy me one for Christmas ...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

School of Rock

Ever since an infamous ride after a bunch of fresh snow fell on Blue Dot trail a couple of winters ago, the people who were there that night have enjoyed quoting The Grouch’s summation of the event: "It was a great ride until it started to suck ass."

As I review my recent trip to Utah and Colorado, I find myself wanting to paraphrase: I sucked ass until it turned into a great ride.

There’s just no sugarcoating it. I stunk up the joint for a couple of days. I didn’t remember how to trust good traction. I couldn’t regain the feel of shifting weight and lifting wheels as we rode over technical features. Worst of all, I was gutless until those skills slowly started to return. A couple of nasty crashes over the past couple of years made me too conservative.

I’m still not sure where the line lies between wimpy and wise, but I think I was on the wrong side of it. As the Monkee later put it, I was a contender for the Golden Binky Award.

The Golden Binky isn’t funny unless somebody else is winning it.

It wasn’t until the third day of riding—on Sovereign, my new favorite Moab trail, by the way—that I felt competent. I felt a little better each day for the rest of the week.

All I can do now is store the memories away and hope I can retain some of my sharpened skills for next summer. Our technical features are different in Alaska. Damp roots and rocks are pretty much the opposite of slickrock (which is anything but slick).

Ultimately, any bike trip is really about the company you keep and the fun you have. In that sense, I had a week of epic good times. But anyone who doesn’t try to learn from riding new terrain is a fool, and the Moab/Fruita region is like a college of mountain biking.

I hate being in remedial classes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tater tot

Hangin' with the famous Tater in downtown Fruita

One of the high points of Fruita was meeting Tater, the guy who hangs out downtown and greets visitors at Aspen Street Coffee and Over the Edge Sports. He has been called Fruita's unofficial mayor, and he just might be officially the town's nicest guy.

He'll shake your hand repeatedly, give you a hug or three, and he loves to talk about getting craaazy. Have your picture taken with him, and he'll probably give you a kiss on the cheek afterward, even if you're a guy.

He's a local institution. The good kind. He's pure, unadulterated kindness, and he has enough good taste to hate the Beatles. He's an oversize personality in an undersize package.

And he's a reminder of what I love about Fruita: It's a small town. The trails may be world-class, but it's still a quiet place where a guy like Tater can safely ride to his favorite spots and greet many of the visitors. It's the kind of town where a coffee shop will let him hang out, and the bike shop will fix his flat tires.

In Moab, you can reasonably assume that most people you see on a downtown sidewalk are tourists. In Fruita, you know it's pretty obvious that you're the tourist.

When I grabbed breakfast at Pancho's Villa a couple of mornings last week, I was the lone mountain biker in a joint full of cowboy hats, fertilizer caps, and locals who all knew the waitress had only four more days to work before she retired and left town. And I'm not positive, but I think she was the same person who served me breakfast when I was there five years ago.

I liked the trails and the town even more on this trip. I hope it won't be another five years before I return to the land of Mike the Headless Chicken. I hope the town is still unspoiled when I go back. And I hope Tater will still be there to call me "ringman."