Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Freeze your keys

Just in time for gas hitting four bucks a gallon in Anchorage—and much of the ice and slush slowly disappearing—Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage are kicking off their second Freeze My Keys event.

The concept is simple: You freeze your car keys (symbolically, if you’re squeamish about potentially ruining your high-tech keys with all the electronic doodads they put in them these days) and commit to not using a car for the month of April. Or, if that’s not realistic, you can promise to freeze your keys for a couple of hours, days or weeks, and log as many commuter errands or trips on the bicycle as possible.

And because no bike event is complete without some swag, some of Anchorage's small businesses have donated locally produced prizes, which participants can qualify to win by visiting the businesses.

“We are showing Anchorage business owners that catering to bicyclists is good for business and we’re telling Anchorage bicycle commuters to support bike-friendly businesses,” said BCA Vice President Dawn Groth.

Freeze My Keys
kicks off this Friday at 5:45 p.m. at Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge, 751 E. 36th Ave., and coincides with BCA’s Bike First Friday non-motorized tour of art galleries. Participants are encouraged to ride their bikes, and bring an old unimportant key, which will be symbolically stowed in the deep freeze for April, after members group-pledge to bicycle commute more often for more reasons.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fastest Man in the White Mountains

Greg in Hope after
the 2011 Soggy Bottom

Bicycles & Icicles would like to offer a big congratulations to Greg Matyas, owner of Speedway Cycles, who proved—again—that even an old guy with an achy back can be a big-time ass kicker.

Greg won this year's White Mountains 100 with an elapsed time of 10.2 hours. And this came only a few weeks after his third-place finish in the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational.

Congratulations to everyone who finished, including my friends Janice Tower, who took second on the women's bike division; Rachel Steer, who took second in the women's ski division; as well as Brian Garcia and Julie Malingowski for solid finishes. And condolences to Julie, who was derailed by mechanical problems and forced to scratch after a winter of training hard and looking strong.

I guess this means she has to start training for next year.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Muddy mate

I'd like to thank to my man Ashley, aka lemmiwinks, for providing the latest piece of fine art to grace the Fabulous Finger Gallery. This shot comes from Down Under—lemmi’s home turf of Australia.

As lemmiwinks explained it, he's a “roadie by nature” who was recently given a free GT Outpost Trail steel frame (circa 1990s) that he built up using the parts he had lying around. Then he took it out out and trashed it in a race that raised funds for a rescue helicopter.

Looks a little slippery, eh? Here’s his description:

“As you can see it was wet and muddy. I still had mud in my ears after taking a shower. They called it off after four hours, I got two laps in, my teammate one. We weren't too devastated—the slipperiness was indescribable.

If there’s anything I love more than international submissions to the FFG, it’s mountain bikers with enough good humor to build up old frames and flog themselves against the terra.

Cheers, Ashley.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Darcy on Janice's Jive, 3.20.11
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay,
"A Few Figs from Thistles"
People have many ways of determining the beginning of spring. Some people use the official date on the calendar but many of us—especially this far north, where weather often fails to match the "official" season—use personal and eccentric milestones. For those who hate winter, spring arrives when the last snow melts.

I usually call it spring when the Iditarod ends, because that's when the daytime weather is often in the balmy 40s, and the sun is high enough to eliminate the long shadows we've lived with for months. But the real proof of spring, for me, always seems to come at the end of a sunny day. The kind of day that begins with a plan to spend a couple of hours riding before taking on the daunting list of shit that gots to get done ... but really ends after a longer ride, a beer or two, a late dinner and then a flurry of vacuuming, laundry, and hours on the laptop catching up on more shit that gots to get done. (Like blogging at 11 p.m. instead of going to bed, for example .)

Until we start to get a little taste of sunlight-related sleep deprivation, it's still winter. But then we finally crest that hill and begin rolling toward summer, the season marked by rides that keep us out until midnight and make us cringe because we'll be lucky to get five hours of sleep before going to work in the morning.

Spring is finally knocking at the door.

I can feel it now.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Hi. I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.

I always loved that line on The Newhart Show. I've been thinking about it more often lately, usually after I manage to top a steep climb without spinning out, thanks to the fact I'm in the apparently small group of riders who choose to run Larry tires front and rear, instead of the Larry/Endomorph combo that Surly has recommended since releasing the Larry as a front tire.

I enjoy Surly’s amusing product names. A lot of people know the Pugsley was named for the chubby kid on the old Addams Family television show, and the big Endomorph tire was obviously named for the body type of fat people, but fewer people seem to get the Newhart reference when they see Larry on a bike with two Rolling Darryl rims.

And it pains me that virtually no one on Large Marge rims seems to remember Large Marge, the truck driver from Peewee's Big Adventure, a cinematic masterpiece about a guy on a cross-country odyssey to find his stolen bike.

But aside from their sense of humor, I differ with Surly on the recommended Endomorph/Larry pairing. The Endo was a great tire. It changed winter biking. But the Larry is better in every way, as far as I’m concerned. It not only improves cornering control in the front, it grips better in the back on steep climbs and during braking.
The damn thing even steers better on pavement, thanks to a deeper tread pattern with continuous knobs down the center of the tire.

Ever try riding Endos on dry pavement? It's like steering a couple of fat pencil erasers as they smear against asphalt.

I switched to a pair of Larrys last fall while still on my old Pugsley. When I upgraded to a Fatback last month, I stuck with the double-Larry approach and haven't regretted it. Between the better traction of the tires and improved handling of my bike, I feel more secure climbing and cornering on snow than ever before.

Now, if only Surly would make a Kevlar-reinforced road touring tire called the Gilligan.

Or maybe gender-specific, ergonomic saddles.
They could call them Wally and Beaver.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Madness

Middle Fork, 3.11.11

Some people say that summer is the reason we endure Alaska winters. But in March, spring riding feels like enough of a reason to me.

This is about as good as it gets, especially when the weather stays as sunny as it has for the past couple of weeks. The trails are killer good, the temperatures are perfect, the bears are still asleep and the mosquitoes haven't hatched.

I spent Friday on a leisurely solo tour of the STA trails, Llama and Middle Fork. There's nothing quite as nice as a mid-ride snack when the day's so warm you can just sit in the snow and still enjoy the food and the view.

I even managed to finally get a nice portrait of my new Fatback, freshly equipped with a custom frame bag.

A long ride on Friday, snowshoeing with my daughter on Saturday, and a good ride today. The only thing missing is enough rest.

Sleep deprivation. Yeah, that's a sure sign of spring.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Don't be fooled

Johnson Pass Trail, 3-5-11

The skinnies are coming out, but I'm not buying into it.

When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot tonight, Leonard and I were armed with fat bikes. A guy I know was there with his SS mountain bike. Then his riding partners pedaled up on their studded rides. They said they've been loving the hard trails lately.

People all over town are loving the warm, sunny weather we've had for the past few days, but I keep scanning the weather forecast, hoping for three or four inches of snow to freshen things up. I'm in no hurry to switch bikes. I've got a new fat bike that I'm lovin', and I don't like getting suckered.

Sure, we're light on snow this year. The spring thaw could be quick. But it's March 9 in a place where I don't move my snowblower to the shed until May 1. April will be warm, muddy and ugly, as it always is. March, however, is dangerous. It wasn't too many years ago that I was clearing three feet of new snow off my driveway on St. Patrick's Day.

This is a false spring. Don't fall for it. Mark my words, March will roar back and kick us in the ass.

It's still winter, and I'm gonna keep riding like it as long as I can.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

End of the road

This photo is what I love about the Fabulous Finger Gallery. Every time I think the movement has quietly died, a gem shows up in my inbox.

Our man Dylan here pedaled from Seattle to where the road ends at the southern tip of Argentina, and then he propped his camera atop his bicycle and flipped me off. That's style!

Dylan missed Anchorage during his trip, and he said Bicycles & Icicles was one of the online escapes that helped him cope with 130-degree heat in Paraguay. It's good to know a few pictures of beardsicles and snowy trails provided a few moments relief along the way.

Dylan, you capped an epic journey with an epic flip-off. Well played, sir. And congratulations on riding all the way to Tierra del Fuego.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

No. 5

Pete rocks a respectable
beardsicle at the Skwentna
Roadhouse checkpoint.
(Photo from Iditarod
Trail Invitational's Facebook gallery.)

The first three racers have reached McGrath in the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Not surprisingly, Pete Basinger won the 350-mile race for the fifth time.

He was dominant from the midpoint of the race, leaving several checkpoints hours ahead of his chasers. He finished in 3 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes, which was less than an hour off his course record.

You’d think that with a record like that, the Daily News could have found a more current photo of Pete for this morning’s edition, instead of publishing that old standby from his historic Dreadlock Period.

Jeff Oatley turned in a fast ride, and narrowed the gap enough to finish only 25 minutes behind Pete. But damn, how about that rookie who took third place?

OK, calling Greg Matyas a rookie is a little weird but, hey, he was a rookie in the ITI even if he has raced bikes for decades. Greg allegedly told people he’d be “touring,” but 3 days, 12 hours and 20 minutes is a damn fast tour, if you ask me.

I think Greg just scoped out his chances and then hauled ass to secure the top three spots for Fatbacks. Whatever his motivation, it was a hell of a ride for an old dude in his 40s. Congrats, Greg.

Speaking of age, here’s a little nugget that sometimes bounces around my brain this time of year when I’m impressed by Pete winning the Invitational:

Long-distance cyclists commonly peak in their 30s.

Pete is only 29.*

Scary, huh?

*The Daily News says he's 30, but I'm going with 29 based on the age he gave me during an interview a few years ago.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I voiced my protest to the people at Thomson Components today. They are engaging in behavior up with which I do not wish to put.

I started using Thomson seatposts years ago at the urging of two nephews who were then bike-shop workers. I was tired of feeling kicked in the gonads every time an inferior seatpost clamp or bolt broke, launching the horn of my saddle toward a high-velocity docking with the space capsule of my crotch.

You can spend all the money you want on ergonomic saddles to keep your goodies happy and nocturnally functional, but there’s nothing ergonomic about a bundle of foam, plastic and metal being fired like a missile at your junk. And it only adds insult to injury when you have to ride several miles back to the trailhead while standing up because your saddle is in your Camelbak.

My nephews promised I wouldn’t be able to break anything on a Thomson, so I became a convert. And they were right. Every post I own has been bombproof. So when I built up my new Fatback, Greg over at Speedway persuaded me to go for a matching Thomson stem. Pure sweetness. Those components are light, pretty, and strong as hell.

And now I find out those bastards at Thomson are making seatpost collars. They even just built a quick-release prototype to complement last year’s bolt-on model.

I’m still selling pints of blood for money to send to the credit card company, and now I find out my Thomson cockpit needs one more piece to satisfy my lust.