Sunday, July 31, 2011

Morning snacks and the kicking of ass

I recently got a new job so that I could finally get a snack at one of these things.

Volunteers have been setting up bike-commuter aid stations at various locations around town on the last Friday of each month, but my old route to work never allowed me to get in on the action. Hell, I don't even drink coffee, but I like that they're doing this, so I wanted
my free piece of bread, dammit!

Last week was hellishly busy for me, so I was ready for a relaxing start to my Friday morning. I left home a little early so I could stop to chat with my friend Mike, who works for REI and was manning a commuter station with Bill and Sheryl from Chain Reaction bike shop.

After hanging out for a few minutes, I pedaled up Elmore Road to another station near the Alaska Native Medical Center, where a violin-playing cyclist provided some music to go with the free bagels and fruit.

To everyone who gets up early to serve coffee and snacks, and to every business that provides coffee and food, thank you. It's things like this that help make bike commuting a little more fun and inviting to a wider array of people, and that's a great thing.

In other news, if you follow my Twitter feed, you probably saw this video last week. Or maybe you saw it linked from numerous other sites after the bike world went nuts for the woman in San Francisco who flattened a thief as he tried to ride away on a bike he had just snatched from a rack at her workplace. Her boss at WCG, Stephen Yoon, sent me a link to the video a few days ago, and he is rightly proud of the brave woman who works for him as a designer.

I'm in awe of her badassery, and glad she's OK. Stephen said a security guard confronted the thief moments later, and was threatened with a knife.

Way to make the most of the element of surprise, Mystery Kick-ass Woman!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Devil's in the Details

Oscar near Devil's Pass

There’s nothing like an overdue to trail ride to improve my outlook on life, so Saturday was a good day. Oscar the Grouch and I motored down to the Kenai Peninsula and then pedaled up to Devil’s Pass. My original plan was to ride all the way to Cooper Landing, but a one-way ride with the resulting car shuttle didn’t hold much appeal with only two riders, and the rest of our group chose to stay home and vaccum the rugs, or grout the tub, or some such shit.

That’s OK. By the time we finished the 10-mile climb and then tacked on an extra mile or two on the Resurrection Pass trail, I was satisfied, and my legs were feeling cooked after my biggest week of bike commuting in years. Aiming the front wheel downhill and enjoying the descent didn’t bother me at all.

The weather was dry and the ride was sweet. And when we got back to town, the tub grouters made me dinner, and we shot the shit over wine for a few hours.

In other news, today we have a fine new entry into the Fabulous Finger Gallery, courtesy of Dann and his buddy Matt, who flipped the bird during the recent OWL ride, a fund-raiser event in Omaha. Dann said 2,000 riders lit up their bikes and rolled through town for 16 miles. Sounds like a hoot. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Thanks for the pic, Dann.

And in a sad bit of news, several teenage hikers taking part in a NOLS course were attacked and mauled by a brown bear in the wilderness northeast of Talkeetna this weekend. Two of them suffered life-threatening injuries. Keep ’em in your thoughts and wish them a full recovery.

When stuff like this happens, it doesn’t matter who is a hiker, runner or mountain biker. All of us who find our fun in Alaska’s woods and backcountry face the same danger. It could happen to any of us.

May they heal quickly, and grow old with a story to tell.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ass-kickin' her way to the podium

Petra "The Apple" Davis in Sun Valley.
(Photo courtesy of Darcy "The Tree" Davis)

I was about to sit down and post another photo to the Fabulous Finger Gallery, but tonight Bicycles & Icicles will briefly suspend one-finger salutes to give a full salute to homegirl Petra Davis, who took third place in the Super D at this week's USA National Cycling Championship in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Her mom, Darcy, said Petra dropped 2,500 vertical feet in about 25 minutes on a six-mile course with a "super sketchy" surface. Gutsy.

But don't assume she's just a ballsy downhiller. She placed seventh in last October's Division II cross-country event at the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Truckee, Calif., while racing as a freshman for Montana State University-Bozeman.
(I'd like to say I don't know where she gets it, but her parents have ripped my legs off on too many rides.)

Good work, Petra.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The long-haul lesson

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after a week of commuting on the new Long Haul Trucker, it’s that rising out of the saddle to hammer on this bike is like taking a nun to an orgy. If there’s a point, nobody knows what it is.

The folks at Surly knew what they were doing when they named this thing. It's a truck on two wheels. It’ll haul a load and go all day, but it’ll also pound some humility into anyone who was fooled by carbon fiber into thinking they could scoot up hills with a fair amount of speed.

When a hill appears in front of this bike, you learn to gear down and take your time. It climbs just fine, but it does it on its own time.

Riding this bike makes me think about doing a little touring, but for now I’m just enjoying my new, longer commute, and feeling grateful for the miles and saddle time, because this summer just can’t seem to get off the ground as a mountain bike season.

It’s July 18, and I’ve ridden on the Kenai Peninsula only once, and that was about a month ago when a bunch of us headed down for a day in the middle of June to ride Johnson Pass before the cow parsnip could take it over.

Since then, I’ve been tied up with settling into the new job, building a new bike, and dealing with all the usual distractions of daily life. I can’t really say that sucks, but it definitely sucks to see the season slipping through my fingers when I haven’t touched my favorite summer trails like Lost Lake, Devil’s Pass or Crescent Lake.

It didn’t help, of course, that my fork crapped out at the beginning of July and had to be sent down to Push Industries for a rebuild. The wear and tear turned out to be bad enough that the old fork wasn’t worth the repair costs, so the guys at Push made me a good deal on a new fork that I installed last Thursday night.

It’s high time this situation was remedied. This weekend is going to involve a ride over Devil’s Pass, if I have anything to say about it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fireweed Dominance

Leonard "Steel is Real" Fancher flips a Fireweed finger.

Damn, I have to say something nice about this guy. It pains me, but he earned it. My friend Leonard Fancher, who I crewed for in last year's Fireweed 400, returned to the race this year and not only placed third in the solo division, but finished in 28 hours, 12 minutes, which is about 3 hours faster than last year's time.

Leave it to Leonard to make sure the crew got back in time for plenty of sleep in the year I wasn't available to help. Nice work, Fancher! I'd be pretty pissed right now if you hadn't made time for a new entry in the Fabulous Finger Gallery.

Leonard's strong finish (on his trusty steel Waterford, no less) secured the top three spots for Backcountry Bicycles, with Erik Christensen finishing first, and Kristin Wolf taking second. And that's not second in the women's division, that's just flat-out second place with no asterisks or qualifiers.

That also made it a happy day for Janice at Tower Coaching, who trained all three racers.

Erik, Kristin and Leonard, you're all crazy. But amazing. Congratulations.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Come Monday, Vol. 2

In my last post, I swore I'd finish building my new bike and ride it to work Monday morning. Then I remembered I have to boogie from the office straight to the Whale Fat Follies immediately after work. Combine that with the thought of locking a brand-new bike in the heart of Spenard for several hours at night, and it just ain't gonna happen.

That's OK. I finished the build and took the Trucker out for a couple of shakedown cruises this weekend, so it'll good to go come Tuesday morning. I rode it for about 90 minutes this afternoon to check for problems, and the only one I came up with was a tendency to reach for my brake levers every time I want to shift gears. It's gonna take a little time to get used to bar-end shifters.

It's always fun to put a new ride together, especially when it's a bike with some eccentricities. The steerer tube on the fork, for instance, was long enough to be used for a prosthetic leg. My new crown-race tool wouldn't work because it capped out nearly three inches above the crown. (Fortunately, I still have my old homemade crown-race driver, which is a steel tube with open ends.) Then there were the bar-end shifters, which just felt weird to install. And cable couplers for the rear brake and both derailleur cables.

Yeah, lots of funky stuff. Not to mention a head tube that makes the front of the frame look like it was built for an NBA center.

The result is a bike with some character, like all versions of the Long Haul Trucker. I think it's a good bike for Alaska. It's durable, strong, and a little goofy looking.

Sort of like the bicycle version of a moose.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Come Monday

My new bike is suffering from constructus interruptus. Too much stuff going on right now. New job, house projects, upcoming visitors, yadda, yadda, yadda. As someone's grandpa used to say, I'm busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kickin' contest.

It's all good stuff, in the long run, but every night I come home hoping to finish the new Trucker Deluxe build, and every night I get tied up with other projects. All the new rig needs now is cables, brakes, shifters, and finishing touches like bar tape and cutting of the steerer tube.

I don't like looking at a half-built bike unless I'm about to finish the second half. At this rate, I probably won't tear into the final stages until Friday night.

So I'm clinging to the line from that great old Jimmy Buffett song (and yes, if you go back far enough, he wrote some great songs): "Come Monday, it'll be all right."

Come Monday, I plan to be riding that Trucker to work.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Bird-flippin' Fourth

Happy Fourth of July, courtesy of Amber, Rose
and Carey, who celebrated their freedom
to let their Fabulous Fingers fly
on rainy Resurrection Pass.

Damn fine work, ladies.
You make me proud to be an American.