Thursday, September 30, 2010

Digital Carnage

Recently, I’ve noticed more friends sharing ah-inspiring pictures from their mountain bike rides. And I do mean ah-inspiring. As in, “Ah, shit! Why did I have to see that?”

My friend Carrie in Wyoming recently got on Facebook and posted this picture of her boyfriend’s fresh stitches, and you can thank me for not posting the photo of the cut before it was sewn up. Seriously. It may not look that big, but I think you could have screamed into that deep crevasse and heard an echo. I mean, you could have dropped shit in there and lost it.

He went riding again the next weekend and did a faceplant, fracturing his orbital socket. Carrie got good pics of that, too, which bolstered my respect for her in a way that I found a little disturbing.

Earlier this summer, one of my nephews posted photos of a buddy’s forearm, which got slashed open so wide that it looked like the Grand Canyon of Gore. I couldn’t stand to look at it. So I went back to it several times and averted my eyes. When I showed the picture to my wife and one of her fellow nurses, they curiously moved their faces closer to the screen and calmly said, “Yup. That looks like bone all right.”

Not that many years ago, you could go on a group ride and there wouldn’t be a camera in anyone’s pack. Today, you get three or more riders and it’s likely that at least one will be carrying a digital point-and-shoot. (If I’m in the group, you can pretty much count on it.)

On the upside, you’ll sometimes end up with a photo that makes you look good. On the downside, your crashes—and the resulting carnage—might be shared with the world. Or at least your little social-network sliver of it.

Ride carefully. Try to keep your insides from showing.

But if they do make an appearance, could you turn toward the good light and hold still? This will take only a second ...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mr. Skin

Every bike commuter knows the usual suspects along the daily route to work: the “racers” who don’t want to be passed; the people who insist on being halfway through each intersection before the light actually turns green; the people who ride for a week or two at the beginning of each summer and then are never seen again. There’s a variety of bike-commuter stereotypes.

Today, I pay tribute to Mr. Skin.

No, not that Mr. Skin. (In case you missed the movie "Knocked Up," that link is NSFW.) I’m talking about those guys—and it’s pretty much always the male riders—who seem to think a bicycle can’t be ridden without exposed arms and legs. They’re the guys you see cruising to and from work looking underdressed after most of us have started wearing jackets, tights, ear warmers and full-fingered gloves.

When I’m wearing wool socks and have my jacket zipped up, and I’m cursing myself for having left my arm warmers at home, I have a hard time believing the guy in shorts and a T-shirt isn’t freezing his ass off.

Can these guys not afford decent clothing? Are they suffering from the same arrested development that makes high-school kids refuse to wear coats in 5-degree weather? Do these riders have some natural resistance to cold?

Not bloody likely. At 40 degrees, if you’re riding 15 mph, the wind chill makes it feel like 32 degrees. That’s the freezing point of water and, if I recall the details from biology class, water makes up some really freakin’ huge portion of the human body. That means 32 degrees feels cold on exposed skin.

But keep up the tough image, Mr. Skin. Keep flexin’ those exposed muscles as you pedal through the falling leaves in the autumn air. The rest of us will pretend not to see the goosebumps.

But I'm still gonna laugh a little after riding by going the other direction.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Autumnal Sunshine

"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as
autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
—Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Hangover

Isn't it strange how some of the hardest rides are the ones we remember as being some of the best? When Leonard and I got back to the car Wednesday evening more than eight hours after we left it, we had run out of tubes, patches and water, and the sky was growing dark.

Most everything—including my legs—was depleted. My back ached and my knees were sore. We needed a hot meal, and we were still facing a 125-mile drive back to Anchorage. Home felt far away. My office, where I needed to be in 12 hours, felt much too near.

Tonight, there’s a small pile of filthy clothes in my garage floor, right next to the Camelbak full of food wrappers and miscellaneous trash. Cleaning it up will, as usual, be simultaneously disgusting and fun. The aftermath of a good ride is like that of a good party. You might use a long stick to pick up a malodorous pair of pants, but you’ll smile at the memory of what happened to them.

Sometimes, it’s tempting to swear I’ll never return to a trail that ripped my legs off and beat me over the head with them, but that’s like crawling out of bed on Sunday morning and vowing to never drink again.

A few days later, the bottle will be opened again. That stuff just tastes too damn good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Best of Fall

Clear, sun-filled skies in the middle of September mean it’s time for a ride along the shore of Eklutna Lake. It’s a 26-mile roundtrip with about 30 feet of almost-a-little-technical terrain, and not a single hard climb.

But it’s a ideal spot for an mellow cruise in beautiful country just outside Anchorage, even if you happen to be riding with people who seem to take just a little too much pleasure in flipping you off every chance they get.

The forecast looks good for the second straight week.

Play hooky.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Golden Rule

I try to not let irritating things stick in my craw and drive me nuts. Really, I do. But sometimes, jackassery haunts me.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself in several conversations about riders in this year’s Soggy Bottom 100 who tossed their energy-gel wrappers on the trail. Not on a closed course with a cleanup crew, but in a freakin’ national forest.

There’s never a good reason for throwing your trash on the ground while passing over a trail on public land. Only a dick would do such a thing. So if the offending rider or riders—I’m really hoping it wasn’t more than one or two—happens to be reading this blog, yeah dude, I’m callin’ you a dick. Very specifically you. You make mountain bikers look bad.

Some riders take themselves way too seriously. I mean really, what did you think, you were in some sort of major event with a staff of people who would come along behind you and pick up your shit?

It ain’t the Tour de France. It’s a grassroots event on beautiful public land, against other local riders. I don’t care what kind of bike you ride, what kind of kit you wear, how elite you think you are, or whether you pay some coach to make you a few seconds faster so that you can occasionally beat the same friends you race every stinking week. Tossing your wrappers on the trail is a shitty and childish thing to do.

In the future, try to follow The Golden Rule: Don’t be a dick.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunshine and Glassholes

At last. After weeks—OK, months—of cloudy weather, a high-pressure system has finally parked its fat ass over Southcentral Alaska. That means the skies are nearly cloudless. Even the temperatures are unusually warm for September.

It also means that everyone's scrambling for some fun in the sun, so every convertible has its top down, every patch of grass seems to have people relaxing on it, and bike junkies are rushing to squeeze in their final rides of the year in shorts and fingerless gloves.

I spent four hours riding today, then gulped down some food and took a quick shower so I could head back outside with my daughter. There's just no gettin' enough of this stuff when you know that freezing rain is only a few weeks away.

Unfortunately, I've noticed that the glassholes have been busy the past couple of weeks. Today's pic is from my friend Amber, who had yesterday's road ride interrupted by a debris field of broken glass.

I'd like to take every drunk dumbass who breaks bottles on bike paths, strip 'em naked and make them roll around in that shit until the pavement is shiny and red.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Stuff that works

I don’t usually “review” gear on this blog, but I've been in one of those spells when solid products have really impressed me.

For my commuter tires, I’ve actually been impressed for about three summers now. I can't find it on the manufacturer's website, so I assume the Bontrager Satellite Plus is out of production, and that sucks the big one because these tires are The Shit.

Seriously, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a flat with these suckers, but if I have, I can’t remember when it was. That’s amazing for a commuter tire that rolls over glass, sharp rocks and other roadside debris just about every damned day. This is as close to bombproof as any tire I’ve ever seen.

Last spring, I spruced up my mountain bike with several new parts/components, and then spent the summer smiling every time I rode it. Here’s the stuff that kept me happy despite a summer of mediocre weather ...

Race Face Deus crankset: I picked up the 2009 model at a huge savings last winter, and my only regret is that I didn’t install it before last fall’s trip to Moab and Fruita. I spent that week listening to a creaky bottom bracket, but since installing the new components, the bike has been running as smooth as butter.

WTB Weirwolf tires: I’ve run WTB tires in the past, but had been loyal to Specialized Roll-X Pros for about five years. The Weirwolf is just as easy to put on and take off the rim, but it sheds mud like an oiled-up stripper, and corners like a dream. I haven’t leaned into turns like this in years.

Ergon GX1 grips: The most comfortable grips I’ve ever used. I bought the full-size model, then hack-sawed it down to match the width of my hand and provide easy access to my Gripshifts. Perfect match.

Avid BB7 brakes: You’ll never get three or more mountain bikers to agree on the “best” anything, but the BB7 comes close, at least in the category of mechanical disc brakes. It might be the most beloved brake among Alaska riders who love it for its simplicity and year-round reliability. It installs and sets up easier than anything out there, and works flawlessly under terrible conditions. I’ve run this brake on my Pugsley for about four years, and I don’t know why I didn’t switch to it on my Specialized Epic much earlier.

My six-year-old Shimano hydraulics always dealt me fits when I tried to eliminate rotor rub, and hydraulics always present the risk of having to space out the pads if you accidentally squeeze the brake lever when a wheel is off the bike. I installed BB7s in July, and have loved them every time I’ve grabbed the levers. They give me all the stopping power and modulation I need, with none of the hassles of hydraulics. My only complaint is that newer models of the Speed Dial 7 levers look and feel pretty cheesy. Fortunately, I had an earlier model of the same levers on my commuter, so I moved them to the Epic and put the new levers on the V-brake-equipped beater bike.

The latest upgrade to my Epic is a new wheelset built with Hadley hubs and Industry Nine rims. I’m still getting used to them, but the wheels feel sweet and I’m told the hubs are super easy to overhaul, so next summer will be the real test.

And that’s just one more little thought to carry me through the coming winter.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Waggin' 'em in Wyoming

Today's addition to the Phabulous Phinger Gallery comes from my brother Matt, left, and Tim Kelly, aka the Frigid Bits Grill Meister. They met up for a ride a few days ago in Curt Gowdy State Park outside, Laramie, Wyoming.

Yeah, that's right. There's really is a state park named after the famous sportscaster. And it has some damn nice singletrack. I sampled a little of it last July, and hope to ride some more next time I'm in that area.

Thanks to Matt and Tim for keeping the finger drive alive.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Only in Anchorage

Where else could a bike trail end before it starts?

(Brought to you by the traffic engineers
who gave us the C Street roundabout.)