Monday, December 31, 2012

I've been a slacker the past couple of years, and haven't done a recent end-of-the-year slideshow. But the memories dredged up by this one from 2010 still put a grin on my face.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


It has come to my attention – painfully, I might add – that many civilians lack a thorough understanding of the beardsicle. Or, as my friend Rio likes to call it, the glacial facial.

I have often winced when people would see a fully developed beardsicle and refer to icy extensions of a mustache as “snotsicles.” I mean, seriously, do they think we ride around the woods lazily letting mucous pour  from our olfactory intakes? Most of us aren't that barbaric.

To comprehend the origin of the large icicles that form on a manly 'stache during winter rides, one must first understand the fundamentals of the beardsicle. You came to the right place, dear readers.

Whilst transporting oneself aboard a modern velocipede, physical exertion commonly results in a significant increase in exhalations from one’s mouth, containing a high content of moisture that rapidly cools as it passes through the air and freezes upon – or just prior to – contact with air-cooled surfaces such as hair and clothing.

As these frozen particles accumulate on cold surfaces, layers of frost are formed, thereby turning facial hair white in a fashion that has, on occasion, been compared to the appearance of a small, humanoid creature that is sometimes rendered in a painted plaster form to decorate a lawn or garden.

Alas, warm exhalations from the nose routinely cause a thermodynamic change in frost crystals located directly above the rider’s upper lip, thereby converting a solid to a liquid that is forced by the laws of gravity to flow downward until such time as the flow of cold air once again forces the liquid to return to a solid form known as ice.

This process occurs continuously during physical activity, providing a steady flow of water that adds to the mass of icicles that hang like stalactites from the mustache.

In other words, what some refer to as a snotsicle is simply an icicle. It contains the same water and ice crystals as the rest of the frost that covers a rider’s face, chest and shoulders, and should not be mistaken as nasal mucous.

After all, fat-biking is a sport not of ill-mannered brutes, but of ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Bridge elves come in various forms. 

Sometimes they help you set fire to the bridges behind you, 
and other times they build new bridges on the trail ahead.

Whatever you celebrate, and wherever you're riding, have a happy holiday. 

And may you have good bridge elves in the year ahead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Middle Fork, mofos!

Click on the pic for a better view.

Middle Fork Loop is one of the best winter rides in the Anchorage area. On a sunny day in late winter, when the trail conditions are prime, it has all the ingredients for an epic afternoon.

It's reached after a long, sustained climb into Chugach State Park, then runs across the mountains with great views of the Anchorage bowl, Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna. Even Denali, on a good day. And the descent will put a huge, shit-eatin' grin on your face.

The problem is that Chugach State Park's management plan doesn't address mountain biking, and certainly not winter mountain biking, so we're still treated as second-class citizens by park managers. We have to beg, borrow and steal to use some trails.

Fortunately, we have winter access to Middle Fork again with special-use permits issued to fat-bikers this season. (Last year, after two or three seasons of permits, we got the shaft and were shut out of Middle Fork.)

Yes, you have to own a fat bike for this ride. Although trail conditions are sometimes suitable for regular mountain bikes, the special-permit rules specifically require fatties. According to the rules, "A Fat Tire Bike is defined as a self-propelled bicycle created for cycling on soft, unstable surfaces. The tire width is 3.5” or greater and tire pressure is less than 20 pounds per square inch ground pressure."

Get a permit and treat yourself to a ride on this trail. Or get a permit just to show state park people that we're here, we're not going away and we want fair access, regardless of how many Nordic skiers don't like to share.

Send an email to Give them your name, mailing address and email address, and tell them you're requesting a fat-bike permit for Middle Fork Trail.

That's it. That's all you have to do.

Within a few days, they'll email you a permit that you can print and attach to your bike when riding Middle Fork.

Be nice. Follow their rules and don't shred the trail. Try not to be a dick, no matter how many grumpy skiers scowl at you.

Then maybe, just maybe, Chugach State Park officials will someday learn to accept us as legitimate trail users who don't need a "special permit" to use our park.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


 Congratulation for the success!

While I was screwing around and not writing a blog over the past few months, a fresh flip-off photo would still arrive from time to time. My friend Debbie stepped up her latest addition to the Fabulous Finger Gallery by going international with the semi-infamous Bicycles & Icicles "No Waxing Required" sticker.

This sticker has turned up in a lot of places. It has gone to Ho Chi Minh City, and is affixed to the famous summit sign atop Col du Galibier, thanks to my roadie-freak friend Gina. And this past summer, Debbie took a sticker along on her mountain bike tour of Nepal, and made sure it found a home on a store window. Probably in what most of us would call the middle of nowhere.

I like knowing that the silly little sticker I made to subtly flip off bike-hating Nordic snobs is slowly working it's way to odd little corners of the world, and staying there to occasionally make a confused traveler scratch his head and wonder what it means.

Because when you think about it, that's pretty much what this blog does to careless surfers of the Internet.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Let the people ride!

This is a flip-off with feeling.

They see Jules ridin’, they be hatin’.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people who are offended by the site of a bicycle? My friend Jules and her hubby the Bike Monkee found this note on their car Saturday after they finished a ride on Eagle River. 

Yes, I said ON Eagle River. They were riding on ice and snow. You couldn’t even make an argument that they were causing trail erosion or damage because, come spring, the “trail” will cease to exist when it melts and flows downstream. And they were riding fat bikes, not Kawasakis, so they weren’t making noise.

Some grumpy bastard just didn’t like the sight of two people on bicycles. So he had to try to piss on their good time by arrogantly leaving a note to say the trail isn’t open to bikes until snowmachines are allowed to run on it. Yeah, snowmachines. Much of the winter, the river is open to screaming, exhaust-belching machines. And this bastard is worried a couple of bicycles.

I haven’t bothered to look up the law cited in the note, nor do I plan to do so. But I’d be willing to bet that the logic behind the rule – if there is any – would be related to safety. When public officials determine the ice is thick enough to support snowmachines, it’s obviously strong enough to support bicycles. So that’s an easy, no-risk time to say, “Yep, you can ride your bike on the river now.”

But people routinely spend time on frozen lakes and rivers before the ice gets super thick. The grouch who scribbled his note was probably doing the same thing. My guess is that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about whether Julie and Monkee were in danger. I think he just wanted the place to himself. Maybe he even saw his method of travel, whether it was on foot, skis or snowshoes, to be more “pure.”

Screw that guy.

A fat bike on snow is about as close as you can get to a zero-impact vehicle. And anybody you see riding one is probably going to be one of the nicest people you’ll meet on the trail.

To hell with the haters. You could never please them anyway.

Go ride your bikes and be happy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Well, shit. Here we go again.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
— Hunter S. Thompson 

Last summer, I put this pile of bike-related bullshit on indefinite hiatus. I thought it might even be permanent. But in recent weeks I've found myself wanting to tell some stories and share some photos. Hell, I even have some additions to the Fabulous Finger Gallery that got stashed in the dust bin after Bicycles & Icicles went dark.

In short, I sort of miss writing the damned thing. Some people have asked me why I stopped, and a couple have encouraged me to start again. My only reason for quitting was that inspiration had faded, and I felt like the blog was getting stale and boring. With a (hopefully) great season of fat-biking ahead, excitement and inspiration are returning.

So in the next few weeks, after organizing my thoughts and wrapping my mind around doing this again, you can expect to see new posts, and some new flip-offs from faraway places.

Come along for the ride. If we're lucky, the going will get weird.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I started this blog about this time of year in 2005. Call it the seven year itch, but I think I’ve had enough. I no longer feel the inspiration to write it, and I haven’t had as much time lately to give it attention. Maybe I’ll feel compelled to resurrect it at some point in the future. Maybe not.

It has been a hoot to play with this medium. I’ve entertained myself, I’ve gotten in hot water on occasion, and I’ve even made some new friends. I’ve had quite a few people give me the finger over it, too. Thanks to those of you who stopped for a look.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


At the finish line.

One of the secrets to finishing an ultra-distance bicycle race is to have a good crew in the support car. A natural place for a rider to look for such people is among his or her friends who ride bikes, because they’re likely to be supportive of such a crazy idea and, hopefully, will have some understanding of what’s required to reach the finish line.

But not necessarily.

Part of the reason I agreed to crew in the Fireweed 400 for the second ti
me this year is that I had a good partner who agreed months in advance to help get the job done.

And she doesn’t even own a bicycle, much less race one.

Two years ago, Sarah Alban was a magazine intern spending her first summer in Alaska. She made two mistakes: 1) seeming to be up for new adventures, and 2) having a supervisor who was desperate to find the second half of a two person crew.

I felt a little guilty about conning Sarah into the job, but every time I tried to recruit one of my bike-riding friends, they would start mumbling and develop a sudden need to stare at their shoes.

It could have been a violating some sort of workplace law regarding interns, but since I had hired her and hadn’t bother to look up any rules, I went for it. “How would you like to see some more of Alaska?” I asked. “Would you like to visit Valdez?”

Then I stared at my shoes and quietly mumbled, “… for a few minutes, in the dark, before turning around?”

She took the bait, and I was happy to just have a live person to fill the other seat and meet the race’s two-person-crew requirement. I didn’t know she’d throw herself into the job and work her ass off for my friend Leonard, a racer she had just met, expecting nothing in return but a long stretch of sleep-deprivation.

Four hundred miles later, we both had learned how hard, exhausting and gratifying it could be to do the behind-the-scenes work that helps a bike rider accomplish something most people could never do. And I had learned to not underestimate the tired young woman sitting next to me as we drove across the finish line at Sheep Mountain Lodge.

This year, Sarah flew 4,000 miles from the East Coast to do it all again. She made sandwiches, mixed energy drinks, took driving shifts, guzzled caffeine and graciously endured what other friends wouldn’t … 30 hours in a car with me.

And when it was all over, she pulled a bottle of rum from her backpack so we toast Leonard’s success.

I think the next time Leonard and I have time for a beer together, we should do a toast to Sarah. Because that poor girl is completely insane. And I’m pretty sure we’re both grateful for that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A repair guide for the masses

When was the last time you bought a book that interacted with your iPhone?

Bicycle books hit the market all the time and, on occasion, I’m asked to review one on this blog. And some good ones come along, but m
any follow the same old formula. Someone rides across a country or around the world, and chronicles the “adventure.” Or someone writes a new guidebook or repair manual. A lot of them are perfectly good books, but few are fresh and fun.

The Bike-Owner’s Handbook is the first book I’ve seen in years that I would actually buy as a gift.

A woman with the great name of Ziggy Hanaor e-mailed me from London a couple of months ago to offer a copy of this new release from Cicada Books, but I wasn’t interested until I looked at Cicada’s website and became intrigued by the design and content.

This is a cool little 112-page book that will never replace Leonard Zinn’s comprehensive guides to road and mountain bike repair, but that’s OK, because it doesn’t have to. Some people don’t own a headset press or wheel-truing stand. They just want to know how to fix a flat tire, adjust a brake, or tighten a headset.

And they don’t necessarily want to wade through a bunch of technical lingo to get the information they need. Author Peter Drinkell eases into things with simple explanations and hand-drawn illustrations, with an occasional photo thrown in just for decoration.

Some people have simple questions, such as: What do you call this part of a wheel? What’s the difference between a Presta valve or a Schraeder? How do I take my freakin’ wheel off and put it back on? Can I look this stuff up in a book that doesn’t weigh as much as the Detroit Yellow Pages, or leave me scratching my head in confusion? And, better yet, could you print a bar code on some pages so I can scan it with my smartphone and be taken directly to videos that will show me how to do certain jobs?

Yeah. That’s what I said. This book directs you to videos you can watch on your phone while working on your bike. That’s a brilliant use of smartphone technology to make a printed product dramatically more useful. It also makes this book -- which sells for about 10 British pounds, or about 10 bucks at -- a better bargain.

This is exactly the kind of book I’d give to a new bike owner, or someone who has gotten tired of feeling helpless and is ready to start getting their hands dirty, but wants a simple guide that’s easy and fun to use.

“We wanted to create a handbook that was accessible to people like me, basically,” Ziggy told me in an email after I asked what inspired this book. “I ride my bike to work, and it's my primary means of transport, but I am not a particularly technical person, and when things go wrong, I end up spending lots of money on things that I can sense are quite basic.

"Pete had the idea for the book, and when I looked into the competition, all the manuals we found were either way too technical or just really badly presented. Also, there's such a cool aesthetic to bikes generally and to the cycling community, and we wanted to reflect that in the overall packaging of the book.”

Newbies who use The Bike-Owner’s Handbook might get hooked on doing their own repairs, and eventually outgrow this guide, but I’d be willing to bet they’ll keep it on their shelves for sentimental reasons. They're going to appreciate the book that got them started.

The Bike-Owner’s Handbook is distributed by:

D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers Inc.
155 Sixth Avenue
New York NY 10013
T: 212-627-1999 x 209
F: 212-627-9484

and ...

Thames and Hudson
181A High Holborn
London WC1V 7QX
T: +44 (0)20 7845 5000
F: +44 (0)20 7845 5050

Saturday, July 21, 2012

That's gonna leave a mark

I’ve been riding mountain bikes for nearly 23 years. Like all mountain bikers, I’ve crashed more times than I can count. I’ve had at least two concussions, broken an elbow, punctured my right calf with gear teeth multiple times, pierced my chin with my teeth, and suffered blunt-force trauma that required surgery to repair my inner thigh.

But I’ve never shed a significant amount of blood until this week, when I took a fall on Speedway singletrack. It wasn’t a bad crash. Just a tumble to the left when I locked up on a knot of roots that sent me over an old fallen tree. A small branch had long ago broken off and left a sharp piece of wood that punctured the outside of my quad.

As soon as I sat up and started assessing the damage, I saw a small but steady stream of blood trickling out of my leg. I told Julie, my riding partner, that I was fine, other than a little blood. After I stood up and turned my leg toward her, Julie said, “That’s really bleeding.”

I looked down and saw rivulets of blood running down my calf, then Julie mentioned that we were probably going to need to stop the bleeding. That’s when we inventoried our first-aid supplies.

They consisted of inner tubes, pumps and multi-tools. Great first-aid supplies for a flat tire, but fairly useless for a leg, unless it happens to need a tourniquet.

There was nothing to do but continue riding. I figured that either the bleeding would stop, or I’d cut the ride short and head for home, several miles away. Fortunately, it stopped. I just had and ugly web of blood across the bottom half of one leg.

The pisser was that for two years, on long backcountry rides I’ve carried packages of wipes that contain a blood-clotting agent for small wounds. I got them as a free sample from the manufacturer, and thought it would be cool if one of my friends would cut something open and give us a chance to try those things. The dudes did not abide.

I finally get a bleeder, and where are the blood-clotting wipes?

At home, in my garage.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Leonard pedals up Thompson Pass
just before midnight.

Of all the bizarre memories that come from crewing for a rider in the Fireweed 400 solo division, it was the fog in this year’s race that is going to haunt me the longest.

Any ultra-distance bike race contains moments of despair, humor, exhaustion, boredom and sometimes even a little excitement, but you hope danger will be kept to a minimum.

As we crept into the late evening hours Friday night, a photographer who was driving up and down the course warned me and crew partner Sarah that visibility was going to diminish as Leonard — the racer we were supporting — approached Worthington Glacier and began the climb up Thompson Pass. Daylight was fading, and the pass was covered in thick fog.

This was already going to be one of the worst parts of a very long race. Leonard was facing a hard climb, and from midnight to 5 a.m., race rules required us to keep him in our headlights as we drove directly behind him to shield him from traffic and help him see the road. Instead of regularly sprinting three or four miles ahead to set up for giving him food, supplements and fluids, we would have to drive slowly in dim light for at least five hours, trying to stay alert while pacing him at close range.

When we arrived near the base of the glacier, Leonard rode into fog and the visibility began dropping. Sarah and I decided to start pacing an hour early because if exhaustion or poor pavement conditions forced him off the shoulder and directly onto the highway, he would be invisible to fast-moving vehicles until they were within feet of his wheel.

Conditions already seemed bad. But shit was about to get real.

As Leonard crested Thompson Pass about midnight, visibility dropped to only a few feet as he steered into the descent. When we were close enough to see him, he was signaling that he wanted us closer for more light, but we were already dangerously close. If we dropped back as little as two or three feet, we would completely lose sight of the tiny red light on the back of his bike.

Sarah was driving and struggling to find a position behind Leonard that would allow us to see him without getting so close that we might hit his wheel. Each time he opened a slight gap and disappeared, I would be urgently nagging the ever-patient Sarah to “Move up! Move up! Move up!” until we could again see a red dot in the fog. We could only hope that he wouldn’t tap his brakes as she closed the gap.

We were intensely focused on maintaining some sort of visual contact with Leonard, so there was little time or mental capacity for consciously considering the risk of running over him, but we both knew it was a possibility. Meanwhile, as if we needed an extra dose of anxiety, the amber lights of a large semi came appeared in our mirrors.

Despite all the complaints cyclists have about impatient motorists on the road, I will be forever grateful that within a minute or two, the truck driver appeared to figure out what was happening in front of him and he backed off until we descended far enough to reach better conditions. He could have made our situation drastically more dangerous, but he gave us the space we needed to continue our mostly blind chase down the mountain. 

Hours later, on the way back toward Glenallen, Leonard was stopped for a food break when he asked if we had taken any good photos of the descent. He was baffled when I replied that no, there weren't any pictures.

“We were a little busy trying not to kill you,” I told him.

“Really?” he asked. “Was it that bad?”

All we could do was say, “Yes, it was,” then get him rolling, throw everything back in the car, and head up the road to our next stop. I was consciously trying to forget the pass. Sarah and I still had work to do, and Leonard had a lot of pedal strokes between him and the finish line.

The sun came out on Saturday morning, and with every mile we put behind us, I was happy to be farther away from darkness and fog.

Just before 6 that evening, after an amazing ride, Leonard finished his third straight Fireweed 400. It took 29 hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Another year of crewing/racing in the
Fireweed 400 solo division is in the bag.

I'll be writing about it when my fine motor skills
come back enough for me to type.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Devil's playground

The last couple of summers haven't involved enough weekends of trashing bikes, drinking around campfires and sleeping until hunger forces me out of a sleeping bag. I made an effort to correct that this weekend. And damn, it felt good.

Like most people, I've been postponing big rides on the Kenai Peninsula this summer because of the epic winter we just had, and the snow that's still melting out in the high country. That wasn't a bad call.

We must have pushed across eight or 10 snowfields up around Devil's Pass on Saturday. At this rate, I'm not sure all the snow will be gone before this year's Soggy Bottom about a month from now. If I were a Soggy rider, I'd be hoping for a really warm July. Actually, if I were crazy enough to be a Soggy rider, I have no idea what I'd be thinking, because I don't understand those people's minds.

I already have my hands full trying to understand the people I drink with around campfires.

It's a full-time job.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Rover's revenge

Maybe people have become too afraid of the bears, or distracted by new trails across town at Kincaid Park. Whatever the reason, Rover's Run is going back to the weeds and furry animals.

Some bad — even tragic — bear encounters in recent years led to closures and a shady reputation for what used to be one of Anchorage's most heavily used trails. Despite decades of heavy use with no major problems, Rover's Run became a bad neighborhood. Almost overnight, nobody wanted wanted to use it during summer when hungry bears are active and the adjacent creek is loaded with salmon.

Maybe it's for the best. Rover's had been overused. It was getting wide, and the mud holes seemed to get a little deeper each year. Now vegetation is creeping in from the sides and narrowing the trail. And on a nice day recently, there was nary a tire track to be found. Riding it was fun, partially because I had it to myself, and partially because it's starting to feel like a natural singletrack again.

As it narrows, mountain bikers might begin to rediscover it. But if they want to wait another year or two, that's OK with me.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Racing ... to finish my beer

Congratulations to all the racers who survived
this weekend's 24-hour race at Kincaid Park
by dodging moose and enduring Saturday's heat.

Especially the crazy solo riders,
like my man Tony here.

And congratulations to everyone who had the good sense
to drink beer and watch from the sidelines, like I did.

Laziness rocks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bike Friday

Photo courtesy of REI Anchorage's Facebook feed

Tomorrow is the final Friday of the month, and that means two things: 1) June is already over, which is happening way too quickly, and 2) it’s Bike Friday, so you can get free treats if you ride to work in Anchorage.

Leave a few minutes early and stop at one of these stations for a free cup of coffee, a muffin, or whatever. I hate coffee, so I usually stop just to thank the volunteers for supporting bike commuting.

Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage
Location: Tikishla Park (just east of the Lake Otis tunnel on Chester Creek).
Schedule: 6:45 to 8:45 AM
Description: Coffee and treats, of course!

Chain Reaction Cycles/REI/House of Bread
Location: Elmore and Abbott
Schedule: 6:30 AM to 8:30 AM
Description: If you happen to be in the area, stop by the Chain Reaction aid station at the corner of Elmore and Abbott. Treats courtesy of House of Bread. Our location will be open from 6:30am to 8:30am.

CRW Engineering Group CReW.
Location: Tudor and C St – northeast corner near the big red fish
Schedule: 6:30 to 8:30 AM
Description: Stop by for Coffee, Rolls and Water – and other treats to keep you fueled on your way to work. The station is sponsored by the CRW Engineering Group CReW. Kaladi Brothers provides the most excellent coffee.

Alaska Regional Hospital
Location: Glenn Highway Multi-use bike path at Muldoon intersection.
Schedule: 6:30 to 8:30 am.
Description: coffee, water, and snacks.

RIM Architects
Location: G and 9th at the Park Strip
Schedule: 6:45am – 8:45am
Description: coffee, water and various treats.

Greenstar / HSS
Location: Westchester Lagoon
Schedule: 6:30 to 9 AM
Description: Juice and treats courtesy of Greenstar.

ANTHC and Southcentral Foundation
Location: Corner of Elmore and Ambassador Drive
Schedule: 6:30 – 8:30 AM
Description: Stop on by for coffee and snacks courtesy of ANTHC and the Southcentral Foundation.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Home sweet home

Heather and Gina outside Girdwood on Saturday.

I love being passed by passenger trains while riding to Girdwood on a perfect summer day. The windows are filled with tourists who spent big money to come to Alaska and look around. Some have waited their whole lives for this.

And they’re diggin’ the same killer scenery my friends and I ride by all summer long. Every year.

I like how they unintentionally remind me that in a week or two, they’ll all be back in Barstow, Topeka, Tokyo or whatever. But we’ll still be here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

That's a Sinnotty attitude

I wish longtime Anchorage wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott had never retired, because when he was dealing with troublesome bears and moose, he was too busy to dabble in writing columns for a local news website.

As a writer, Sinnott makes a good biologist.

His anti-bike diatribe on the Alaska Dispatch site this week was a sorry piece of work. If you want to read it, you’ll have to look it up, because I won’t be linking to that lame little manifesto. It was an ineloquent rant by a guy who enjoys birding in his spare time and thinks anyone who rides a mountain bike on singletrack is a gonzo-crazed adrenalin junkie who doesn’t really value the outdoors. (We can’t all spend our weekends stalking yellow warblers.)

The column drips with sarcasm, and blames recent moose encounters on Singletrack Advocates for building a new Kincaid Park trail network that Sinnott describes as “a race track in the woods. A moose-begotten motocross.”

Sinnott can be forgiven for having a soft spot for big critters. In his old job, the guy killed enough bears and moose to get damn sick and tired of having to do it. Unfortunately, his usual response to any human/animal conflict became a predictable call for humans to stay away from wildlife habitat.

Sinnott’s advice always reminds me of the joke about the old man who went to the clinic and said, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” so his doctor simply replied, “Well, stop doing that.”

Staying out of wildlife habitat isn’t always practical for anyone who lives in Alaska and wants to hike, run or pedal a bike during our extremely short summers. Besides, moose encounters are nothing new at Kincaid. They didn’t start because Singletrack Advocates built some new trails. Ask any runner, Nordic skier or mountain biker who has used the park for a few years, and you’ll get an earful of stories about close calls

Thanks for your heartfelt criticism of our sport, Mr. Sinnott. And for the touching advice to make sure we have good health insurance policies.

Some of us will no doubt choose to avoid the park during certain parts of the season, while others of us will just keep taking our chances and being as careful as we can. We accept a certain amount of risk with animals just like we accept the risk of falling off our bikes, and the danger of car accidents while driving across town to the trailhead.

We’ll try to avoid trouble, but we won’t cower from it. If we wanted to do that, we’d sell our bikes and take up birding.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Simplicity? What's that?

I thought the concept for tonight’s ride was easy to understand: Street clothes, fat bikes, wine, slow speeds, and no destination. Just riding around. Like when we were kids (but with wine). Hell, I made the whole thing up in about 15 seconds.

But then text messages were sent and phone calls were made.
Julie understands.
My friends were confused. What does this mean? What is Tim up to? Are you riding to a bar? Are you going somewhere to eat dinner? What is this all about? Where are you going?

One person didn’t ask why. Julie’s only question was elegantly simple: “When do we start?”

There was no conspiracy. No big mission. We just poured some wine into water bottles and aimed our bikes toward anything that looked interesting. We
found singletrack in the woods less than a mile from my new home. We saw a moose with twin, month-old calves. We drank some wine, swatted some mosquitoes and found a street connection I’ve been curious about. We shot the shit and indulged in the lost art of pointless, destination-free fun.

I think people tend to forget that bikes can be a great source of simple, stress-free pleasure. Fortunately, Julie hasn’t lost sight of that.

Maybe I need to organize more of these unorganized rides, because fun needs to be had, and cages need to be rattled.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

North Carolina's unofficial state bird

The latest entry into the Fabulous Finger Gallery is a great illustration of why the woman on the left and I are friends. Debbie and her friend Trish rode up North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway this weekend, impressing a couple of guys who asked to have their pictures taken with the “strong biking girls.”

They agreed, on Debbie’s condition that he help them do a flip-off shot. He didn’t even ask why. That’s fast thinking on everybody’s part. Gotta respect that.

Summer’s finally in full swing. It’s good to see the birds flying again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Don't get goosed by a moose

Wikipedia describes moose as “the largest extant species in the deer family."


You’re unlikely to get an argument from an Alaska mountain biker if you just describe moose as “big, tank-like beasts with puny brains and nasty tempers.” One of these hairy buggers can open a can of whupass on any hapless bike rider, especially if the moose happens to have a newborn calf nearby when mountain biker shows up unannounced.

So far this spring, I know of at least five bad moose encounters on the trails at Kincaid Park, and in three of those cases, mountain bikers got roughed up. The latest was my friend Darcy, who was run over by a charging moose just yesterday. When she rounded a turn and saw the moose, it was already homing in like a free safety about to zap a wide receiver on a crossing pattern. Fortunately, Darcy escaped with only bruises instead of broken bones.

A week ago, local wildlife biologist Jessy Coltrane issued a warning that “While the trails are a great resource for the community, biking on these trails during spring calving is a very risky activity. Cow moose aggressively defend their calves. While mountain biking has become very popular in recent years, it remains a dangerous activity in bear and moose country. Bikers moving quickly on narrow winding trails through prime moose calving habitat are at an even higher risk.”

Coltrane did what her predecessor, Rick Sinnott, often did when an animal was acting up—she asked mountain bikers to stay off the trails.

Everyone has to make his or her own decision about whether to avoid the new trails built by Singletrack Advocates last fall. I rode them last Sunday and had a good time even though my legs never showed up. My friends and I took a calculated risk and things worked out. Darcy took a calculated risk and got steamrolled. Could have happened to anybody. 

That’s the point.

Make your own decisions, but know the risks. There are a lot of mama moose out there, and they're on edge because newborn calves are to bears and wolves what Krispy Kremes are to fat-asses like me. And some of those cows weigh more than a thousand pounds. Contrary to popular belief, a moose is NOT more likely than a bear to kill you. Fatal moose encounters are very rare, but ass kickings dished out by moose are less of a rarity. And they hurt.

Stay upright out there. And don’t go under a moose.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Best layover ever

I'm spending this week helping my daughter
move more than 800 miles to Skagway
for a summer job. Needless to say, she's
taking a couple of bikes.

Fortunately, the route to Skagway passes
through Whitehorse, Yukon, which has awesome
trails and great local riders who welcome 
visitors. Riders like Sierra (above) ...

and her husband Tony.

The only thing better than being able 
to ride mountain bikes in Whitehorse is
having local friends with spare beds and 
time for evening rides.

If you've never ridden Whitehorse,
get your ass up here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Hard-ass Who Hates Hardtails

Sometimes I worry about the level of idiocy displayed by people in charge of education. And Katharine Pennington, the principal of Kenowa Hills High School in western Michigan set the stupidity bar pretty high this week when she sent more than 60 students home as punishment for a shocking “senior prank.”

They rode bicycles to school.

She said the group ride was dangerous and tied up traffic. (Please, someone, mail her a “We Are Traffic” T-shirt.) Kids who were about to graduate were told they couldn’t participate in a traditional final walk through the school's hallways, and some of them were initially told that they would be banned from graduation ceremonies, although Pennington later retracted that little edict, apparently while cowering under her desk and dodging calls from CNN.

Never mind that the kids had arranged a police escort and many of their parents were lining their route to school. The freakin’ town mayor served them doughnuts! And never mind that this is another example of dictatorial school administrators trying to control students’ lives off school property. Pennington went batshit crazy because … well, who really knows? 

Maybe Pennington never learned to ride a bike. Or maybe she once dated a downhiller. Either experience could ruin a person’s general outlook. It sounds like part of the reason she had her panties in a wad was that she was apparently the only adult in Mayberry who wasn’t in on the plan, and that really pissed her off.

Kudos to the students and their parents for raising holy hell with the local school board over Pennington’s moronic reaction, leading to a letter of apology from Principal Pinhead.

Monday, May 21, 2012


You better think, think about what you're trying to do to me
Yeah, think, let your mind go, let yourself be free
—Aretha Franklin

Everyone wants to let their mind go, and let themselves be free. Hell, that’s one of the reasons I ride a bike, and that's probably true for most of us.

But people need to think.

Like the young mother who stopped her toddler on a tiny bike with training wheels so she could take a phone-camera picture ... just inside a trail tunnel I was entering at a brisk (but very reasonable) speed from a pretty blind corner. I mean sure, the composition of the photo must have been nice, with the light at the end of the tunnel and all that,  but blocking the entire width of the trail wasn’t exactly brilliant thinking.

Ever seen a three-year-old run over by a 200-pound dude on a steel Surly? Neither have I. And I’d like to keep it that way.

Then there were tourists standing all over the trail with their mouths hanging open while fascinated by a passing train. Or the unsupervised little girls swerving from side to side, confused about how they were supposed to let me pass. Teach your children some basic trail guidelines, folks.

Now, lest anyone think I might have curmudgeonly moods, let me say that I actually like busy multi-use trails. Busy trails mean people are exercising, to one degree or another. It means they’re outside instead of watching TV or playing video games. It also means some of them are using the trails to get somewhere, like me. And all those things are good.

But everybody needs to consider other users’ needs, and be aware of how to do a few basic things safely. I’m happy to ride at a safe speed, or brake frequently and wait for chances to pass kids, dog walkers, joggers, or whatever. But I’d like them to not mindlessly block my route, or set up accidents around sharp corners.

After all, I don’t want your kid’s body to knock my front wheel out of true, ya know?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

BTW, it's BTWW

The lead paragraph of this morning's Anchorage Daily News story was perfect for Bike to Work Week:

Detours, lane closures and lower speed limits lie ahead for Anchorage drivers. Road construction projects are gearing up across the municipality, from Bird to Ninth Avenue.”

As usual, summer will bring headaches and frustration to people stuck behind steering wheels. The rest of us will be traveling smaller side streets, trails and bike paths, avoiding most of the dust, noise and ugly orange barrels of construction zones.

Every year I consider not mentioning Bike to Work Week on this blog, because it feels like preaching to the choir. The people who come here are already two-wheeled converts. And I get frustrated every year by seeing a flood of bike commuters for five days, then watching their numbers plummet the following Monday.

But I support this national event, because I’m a believer. I’ve proselytized for years about the benefits of bike commuting. And even if most newbies who try it don’t stick with bike commuting, converting even a tiny number is a step in the right direction.

So we should all keep taking the message to the unsaved who question why we pedal to get places. Stories about construction delays and gas prices are like lessons in sin that we can take to the pulpit.

The next time a friend, neighbor or co-worker complains about getting stuck in traffic or running up a credit-card balance at the gas pump, don’t be shy about telling them you don’t really know what it’s like to deal with that every week, because you get along just fine while leaving your car in the driveway most days.

I don't think that riding to work for a day or a week will ever change as many minds as regular, happy people on bikes will. Go ride, and share the fun.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eklutna weekend

Sometimes you just need to get out of town.
So on Friday night, I left with Jules and the Bike Monkee
to spend two nights in a cabin, 
and to goof around outside.

Saturday's ride was cold and wet, with
a mix of rain and snow.

 The trail wasn't always great, but we had
a hugely fun day, even after we ditched
our bikes in the woods and continued
on foot over our snow-covered route.

That night, during our post-ride drinking, 
the sun came out in an amazing way.

That's when Julie observed that such moments
are why you don't want for perfect weather 
to go outside. You just go out, she said, 
and hope the weather changes in your favor.

Truer words were never spoken.

Friday, May 11, 2012


There is no better way to spend a Friday night
than hanging out with bike friends.

 You can play in traffic on your way to bars ...

ride in the dark without a light ...

 and flip off your friends.  A lot.

Party hard. Ride home.