Thursday, April 29, 2010

Go (to hell) Speed Racer! Go!

My friend said a couple of co-workers were going to join us for a road ride. He didn’t say they were hammerheads. Hell, I don’t think he knew. But the pace was fast from the start, and I got caught up in the fun of speed, and the testosterone-induced insanity that makes a guy hang on to the front instead of using his head and dropping back.

By the time we reached the Coastal Trail, I had stopped thinking much about the speed, but the hammerheads still had the afterburners lit up and I was staying with them. Traffic was fairly light, and we scorched it from Kincaid Park all the way to downtown Anchorage. When we took a break at a coffee shop, I realized what I had become, for about half an hour, anyway: a roadie douchebag. We had no business riding that fast on a recreational trail, and we looked like assholes to everyone we passed. I felt embarrassed for days. Now that I think about it, I still feel bad, and that ride was two or three summers ago.

That’s why it stung this week when a local rider posted an open apology in an online forum. He regretted losing his temper and berating a road cyclist for going too fast and scaring the shit out of him on a recreational trail used by everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. He felt bad because he continued to yell after the other rider had apologized. He’s right to recognize that he could have chilled out faster, but I don’t think his anger was inappropriate.

This kind of thing comes up every spring when the fast bikes come out and riders get drunk on sunshine and speed, because this is also the time of year when more people walk on paved trails, or push strollers, or pedal their rarely used beach cruisers—the kind of uses for which paved trails are built. Riders who terrorize people by treating them like slalom gates deserve a nasty ass-chewing now and then. High-speed riders should stick to streets and highways.

If you’re a rider who likes going fast on paved trails, try this simple experiment: Go for a walk on one of those trails, and take a small kid, if you have one laying around the house. Or take an elderly neighbor or grandparent. When a bike whizzes by, you’ll probably realize just how narrow a six-foot-wide strip of asphalt can feel.

And maybe you’ll think that, on your next ride, you should slow the hell down.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


What I love most about the Phabulous Phinger Gallery is that I never know where the next picture will come from, or how weird it will be. They've been done in snow, sunshine, various states, foreign countries and even under water, but this is the first one from the torture chamber of a VO2 max test.

Erik's a rider from Palmer, and is, no doubt, a shitload faster than me if he's this concerned about his VO2 max. I'm just glad he was still able to express himself, and that he reads my blog. Thanks, Erik, and welcome to the rogue's gallery.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turnagain fingers

Road season has begun. For me, this is the time of purgatory between snow biking and mountain biking. My road bike is mainly just a sanity saver for the times when I can’t ride trails. Still, even a road ride can be damn fun.

Saturday’s first ride of the season was the Arctic Bicycle Club’s annual Turnagain Arm Metric Century, a 66-mile ride from Anchorage to Girdwood, and back. The weather was perfect: Clear skies, little to no wind, and nice spring temps. It’s a shame that only 10 riders got in on the fun. (Though, even in a small crowd, I got The Finger a few times.)

The shoulders of the highway were amazingly clear for this time of year. Well, except for two-wheeled obstacles, one of which left me with a mangled front brake and two swollen fingers that guarantee this post will remain short.

But all’s well that ends well, and in the future I will follow my new rules of the road. I have been advised by both my attorney and my neuropsychologist that I am to keep my upper body out of the lane of traffic on the Seward Highway.

Sounds like good advice.

Headin' home after a tasty lunch in Girdwood.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Watch out, Danny MacAskill ...

... because Chris Akrigg is coming up behind you, and he's good.
Best of all, he rides singletrack. And has a dance move or two.

My brother sent me the link to this video last week,
but it took me a few days to get around to watching it.
I'm still not sure if these things make me happy
by entertaining me, or depress me
by reminding me how much I suck.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Will work for beer

Most years, I think of the spring bike swap as the official kickoff of the summer riding season. Unfortunately, I had a work-related obligation a couple of Saturdays ago and missed this year’s event. Luckily for me, Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage—a group that has never gotten its due credit on this blog—hosted a celebration and volunteer recruitment party tonight at Midnight Sun Brewing Company. It felt like a nice season opener.

These folks have led the charge for Anchorage commuters over the past two or three years, promoting bikes as a mode of transportation and working with elected officials to get a new bike plan passed by the Anchorage Assembly. An organized group to speak up for the rights and needs of bike commuters has been needed for a long time, so we’re lucky to have BCA getting the job done.

A bribe here and there can be an effective way to accomplish things, and BCA knows how to grease palms with just the right incentive. One little coupon for a free Oosik Amber Ale was enough to get me to sign on the dotted line as a volunteer for an upcoming event. (Who knows what I would have agreed to if I'd had the Panty Peeler.) I’ll be a valet parking bikes May 1 at the Bike to Work Fashion Show and Festival at the University Center.

I didn’t tell them my role models are the parking garage attendants who took Daddy’s rare sports car for a joy ride in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’ll be hoping for someone to put a nice new Pinarello in my hands before wandering off to check out attractions.

Trust me, everything will be fine. What? That little scratch? Uh, I’m pretty sure that was there when you gave us the bike, sir.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bike guy

After years of simply being a bike geek, it’s nice to know that riding to work year-round can buy a guy a little athletic credibility, even if it’s undeserved.

People in the building where I work have been organizing a summer softball team. After sending a mass e-mail to everyone in the joint, one of the women behind this project called me personally to ask if I planned to play. I politely declined, while withholding my low opinion of a game that progresses at a glacial pace, is excruciatingly boring to watch, and often involves people wearing funny pants. (As a mountain biker, the last thing I need is another sport that’s boring to watch and involves people wearing funny pants.)

I was chatting with this same woman a few days ago when she laughed and informed me that a number of people on the floor below mine had been asking “if the bike guy is going to play.” Given they don’t know my name, and therefore couldn’t be interested in my charming personality, I suspect they believe that someone who rides so much is sufficiently athletic to get past first base. (Which, come to think of it, is sort of the same lie I told myself in high school.)

Unfortunately, I’m about as skilled at any form of baseball as I am at open-heart surgery. Which is to say that if I end up on a team, things are going to get ugly and people are going to regret letting me be involved.

I appreciate the invitation, but I’ll let everyone else spend the summer playing with their balls. We'll all be better off if I simply remain “the bike guy.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Finger flash

The thing I love about these shots of big groups flipping the bird is that there always seems to be a couple of people who aren’t really sure what the hell is going on.

See those three women on the far left? They had no idea why they were being rounded up in a dark parking lot to flip off some strange guy with a camera. Kudos to their bold friend for diving—finger first—right into the madness.

And thanks to the Smithville crew for letting me hang out and share a couple of beers after their Wednesday evening ride on a meteoric night.

Considering how many kilts were in this crowd, I'm just glad the meteor was the only big flash that occurred.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Takin’ it up the icicle

I’d like to apologize to the person from France who Googled “icicle in her ass” and ended up on my “If I may butt in …” post. Something tells me I failed to provide what the Googler was seeking. Winter bikers are a hardy lot, but there are some things up with which we will not put.

I don’t know what kind of kinky stuff those cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys are into, but frozen rectal probes are not likely to appear here unless one of my friends accidentally gets impaled in the posterior—in which case, I confess, photographs might be taken from a zone beyond punching distance while we’re waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

At that point I might have to change the name of this here blog to Bicycles & Assicles. Which is probably what it’s called in Alabama already.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Cracking up

Ah, spring commuting in Anchorage.
Gravel everywhere, snowmelt coating
bike frames with muddy slop,
and the sound of studs clattering
on dry pavement.

Studded tires are slow and heavy,
and grinding hundred-dollar studs
against the pavement is annoying,
but I've learned to resist the
temptation to remove them early.

Because a path that looks like
this for several days ...

Can suddenly look like this ...

Then, of course, we have
those pesky little cracks that open up
in thin pavement of bike paths.
And by "little," I mean
freakin' huge.

Steer carefully, people.
And try to stay upright.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Boutique vs. basic

Not having the coolest components on your bike can feel a little like being a teenager who spends the weekend with a glue gun and science-fair project while the guys from school are winning football games and making out with cheerleaders. At least that’s what I think it feels like. I never actually had the brains or motivation to compete in a science fair.

I often feel twinges of lust when I catch a glimpse of someone else’s fancy bike bling, especially if it’s a shiny bit that I’ve coveted for years. Chris King’s components fall into that category. I’ve never experienced the rite of passage that involves pressing those boutique-brand headset cups into a bike frame.

Some friends would never lower themselves to using a lesser brand. They’d accuse me of being a cheap bastard—after all, a fancy headset costs something like $125. Not that much in the big picture, considering that most of us own a few thousand dollars worth of bike gear. But that’s still a lot of bucks for a basic part. I blame my perspective on a sound sense of frugality.

Even with my meager math skills, I can figure out that for the price of a Chris King headset, I could buy two from Cane Creek and still have enough money left over to buy a case of decent beer. When you’re building up a new bike, that price difference covers another component or two. And when you really get down to it, how good does a headset have to be? All it has to do is turn a little left, then a little right, then a little left … over and over. With decent construction, proper adjustment and sealed bearings, most of my cheaper headsets work flawlessly for years without requiring any attention.

Over the past 20 years, I think the only headset I ever managed to “wear out” was the one on my old Stumpjumper when the bike was clamped to my roof rack as I drove into the garage and damn near ripped the steerer tube clean out of the fork crown. The bearings got pressed into the races like bite marks. I doubt that a Chris King model would have fared any better—it just would have cost more to replace.

I still want one, but don’t expect to see one on any of my bikes any time soon.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Don't hurry, be happy

I love slow rides. Many of my friends are lighter and faster than me, so even our “mellow” rides are still at what I think of as a brisk pace, and I love those, too. Sometimes, I end up with a group that that makes me work hard just to stay on the back. I even like those rides.

But there’s nothing like going out alone with the sole purpose of riding easy to rest weary legs, or to do some deep thinking, or just to take long breaks and enjoy the woods.

That’s what I did one day about a week ago. I had both tired legs and some thinking to do, so I took two and a half hours to do what could have easily been a 90-minute ride. I ate some snacks, took a bunch of pictures, and stared into a hole in the ice as a creek gurgled past beneath my feet.

At one point, I stopped in the woods to shoot a few pictures, and a local racer cranked by wearing his team kit. He looked a little baffled to see me just hanging out in the forest.

I’ve known people who focused so much on “training” that they forgot to ride for fun.

Frankly, I’d rather be slow.