Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gear Review: Winter Cycling Shoes

It is the last day of February and the snow has been falling all morning long. I thought that I would be putting my winter gear away but no. This year I added to my bag of cold weather cycling tricks the Lake MXZ301 winter cycling shoe. Previously I wore my the same shoes all year long with the addition of sealskinz socks and neoprene covers for cold/wet weather months. Now that I have a full season of riding with these shoes I know that I can never go back. The shoes were warm and dry. The did exactly what they were supposed to do. With the exception of some days when the temps dropped to zero, I wore the same socks that I wear all summer long.
I bought the shoes a size bigger to allow for big bulky socks but rarely needed the extra insulation. I think that the extra space helped keep the blood flowing through my feet. I was suspicious about the Boa lacing system. I still believe that the cable will be the first thing to break on the shoes but it hasn't happened yet and I really do like the easy of adjustment it provides.
The sole does a better job of providing traction on icy sidewalks than my Sidi Dominators but it still is not sticky enough for my thinking. There have been some days in the upper forties when the I had some ankle sweating but I agree with the advertised upper temperature range of 50 degrees. The final caveat is that these are not performance cycling shoes. When I switch back to my regular shoes I know that I will feel a big difference but these babies are for comfort not racing.
I am glad I got a pair before the price went up because I would have thought twice about buying them at the $250, but the value can only be determined after many years.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Long Rides In Long Pants

Ben Rocks The Dickie's While The Hail Comes Down

The first half of February was a total loss. Between a week of illin' illness, Valentine's Day (the busiest day of the year in our restaurant) and the coming and going of three kitchen staff members, I could hardly think of biking let alone do any of it. The good news for me is that the second half of this abbreviated month has gone well. Rode out to Coeur d' Alene (82 miles) and whereas my 39x17 felt a little under geared for the flat ride, I managed to keep my cadence up. Riding on my single speed with fenders, a rack and a twenty pound backpack looked odd next to Ben's all carbon fiber speed machine. The flashiness of his bike was held in check by his riding attire: Dickies work pants with reinforced knees. I like the fact that I know people who get up in the morning knowing they are going to ride 80 miles and they choose a pair of Dickies from the General Store. Ben was also sporting some Lamont gloves he found at the same General Store.
The ride itself was not great. 14 inches of fresh powder at the ski hill on Sunday ruined me. A solid day of moguls in deep snow left gravel in my kneecaps. I suspect that my legs will be back to normal tomorrow. This next week I am hoping to get some miles in on the fixed gear. The monster gear I have on that bike should help me keep up with the geared riders a little better.

Nuttier Than Ever

Bumble Bars are an organic, gluten-free food made of nuts and brown rice syrup. They have been stable of my diet for years. Sometimes it is hard to find food to eat while biking that fits my nutritional needs and is tasty enough that I can eat them day after day. Bumble Bars fit the bill. I like the fact that Bumble Bars are not only made right here in Spokane but they have made a point of being positive forces in the community. I am benefiting from that generosity with a big box of Bumble Bars that I picked up from their Valley office.
Thank You Liz for helping out little ol' me and thank you Jackie for the hospitality while I was visiting.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Winter Endurance Racing

While many cyclist have been following the thrills and spills of the Tour of California road race, I have been turning my attention to the north, to the land of winter endurance mountain bike racing. In Minnesota, The Arrowhead 135 has been a hot topic due to terrible conditions. Most people dropped out of that one and some ended up with severe frostbite. minus 35 degrees is serious stuff. In Alaska the Susitna 100 had better conditions and Pete Bassinger blazed the course in 19 hours. This was a warm up race for him. He will be defending his title at the Iditarod Invitational. The Iditarod Invitational has the normal (?) 350 mile race to McGrath and the full length mega-super-extreme 1100 mile jaunt to Nome. Mike Curiak holds the record on the Nome route. Moots produced a special winter bike for Mike. The feature that stands out more than the super volume tires is the integrated fuel storage. His stove fuel is stored in the frame tubes. He can hook his stove right up to the bike. Sweet.
For a taste of winter cycling in Alaska check out Jill's blog about the Su 100. Also Seattle long range biker Kent Peterson has announced that he will return to his home state and take on the Arrowhead 135 next year. Good Luck Kent I can't wait to read your report.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

John Frickin' Stamsted

A couple of weeks ago I was sent an e-flyer for a bike gathering at Farragut State Park on the Cinco De May Weekend.It sounded like a good event but I did not think I would be going. Then I thought that I might bike the 80 miles from here to there after work on Saturday, hang out a bit on Sunday and ride back. Then I heard some details that clinched the deal. The event includes demo rides, skills clinics, poker run and an outdoor theater playing bike movies, but what the flyer fails to mention is that the Men's Skill Clinic is run by John Stamsted. THE John Stamsted. The guy who invented the solo class in 24 hour racing, the veteran of numerous bike races on the Iditarod course in winter, the man who established the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Time Trial Record. You would think that when you have a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member coming to an event you might mention it. Now that I know this piece of information I can hardly think of passing up the chance to meet the man.
Over the years I have met a lot of famous people, Ronald reagan to Sylvester Stallone to Kurt Vonnagut, but the idea of meeting John Stamsted seems much more interesting.
I am marking the calender now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Midnight Century Is Back

Plenty of warning here so no excuses. I already have commitment from enough people to make it memorable. I am thinking about doing a second lap for anyone interested in a double century.

The Complete Street Project

Over a year ago I found myself bored of the same old routes around town. I found that when I got off of my regular streets I always ran into something interesting. Not afraid of over thinking something, I decided to keep track of the streets that I have biked down. I bought a city street atlas and a highlighter pen and have kept it in my backpack ever since. This project to ride every street in the city is a good idea but in practice it really sucked. I tried to be diligent about it for the first six months or so. I would pick a neighborhood and go back and forth and up and down through the predetermined area.
As you would imagine this makes for some boring riding. I eventually abandoned this method and chose to pick different routes to familiar destination. The problem is that at some point I forgot the atlas was in my pack (it is a big backpack with many unnecessary things inside). Last week while searching for a zip-tie deep in the cavernous bag, I came across the map book. I took a few minutes to update some streets that I have done since the last time I remembered to mark my progress. I have vowed to do some more work on the project and as long as I keep the map handy there is a real chance that I just may do it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Blue Skies

The first bit of blue sky that has not been coupled with arctic wind was the perfect day to have a road ride with Ben Tobin. I am going to have to stop saying that I don't normally ride with other people because it is looking like this year may be different. We spun along the west plains which is always windy and flat. After the ride I chowed down on some fruit, a Bumble bar and some Spirutein. A quick shower and I am off to work.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February Begins A Little Late

After a dark week filled with illness, work stress and general sloth I feel victorious. This morning I got on my bike and tooled around a bit before meeting up with John for a ride out to eat at Taco Tumbras' new sit down restaurant. The legs felt good even if the lungs are still not reacting properly. The weather seems to be acting like the evil road conditions of January are permanently behind us. It was 45 degrees with some late afternoon sunshine and puffy clouds that make me think of Spring.
I did some studying of the calendar and have begun looking at the months ahead in blocks. It is 7 weeks until my daughters spring break, it is another 8 weeks after that before the local 24 hour race which takes place just 4 miles from my house and 3 more after that until the 2007 GDR begins.
I don't know when my new bike will land but I bet it will be before the 24 hour race. Having a new machine will inspire me to enter the race but the bike will more than wipe out the budget to pay for the race. I may need to get creative. Last year I did not do the race and instead did some late night spectating which was hard to do. Seeing all those people with their midnight vacant stares made me wish I was right there with them. Of course the next morning as I laid in bed listening to the all day rainstorm, I thought differently.
Either way, there are some other opportunities to do some epic riding before the the GDR. I still hope to get up to Rooseville for the start to do some recon as well as cheer on this year's racers. Pre-riding the the first day or two would be a good shakedown for my gear as well as a nice little adventure to mark the beginning of summer.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Cars are safe. No, I am not ignoring the statistical evidence that shows that cars are coffins. What I am saying can be clearly illustrated with a question. If you had to make a late night dash across a gang-infested neighborhood and you had the choice between a car or a bicycle, which would you choose?
The vulnerability of cyclists is something that those who venture out after dark know all too well. Cyclists all have their stories. I have broken down the DEFCON levels of fear.
DEFCON 5: Yelling from car windows.
This benign interaction wouldn't be considered fear inspiring by veteran riders. It is simply pathetic.
"Get a horse faggot."
" Get off the road faggot."
And my favorite comment offered to me during a fenderless ride in the rain, "You got shit up your ass you faggot."
Sticks and stones. I don't respond because I know where it goes from there.
DEFCON 4: Throwing Stuff.
A quick rundown of what I have been hit with over the years: pennies, an apple (in the head), a 60 mph big gulp from a passing car on the highway, a cup of tobacco spit and a near miss with a medium sized jack o' lantern. Throwing stuff is usually indicative of high schoolers and still not too much to worry about assuming you continue to resist the temptation to respond.
DEFCON 3: Mugging.
Though I have never been mugged I have had some close calls. Years ago my wheel's quick release was stolen while I was at work. While walking my disabled bike home at midnight I was followed by two street punks yelling, "Where you going with my bike bitch?" and "You better give me my bike you little faggot." A couple of blocks of this and a police cruiser rolled by which sent my friends in the other direction.
DEFCON 2: Redneck Showdown.
Mike Curiak describes an encounter in New Mexico during the Great Divide race when he was forced to hide in the bushes to get away from hooligans harassing him. Dave Nice just this week found himself in a standoff with drunk hicks on a Colorado highway when a cop recognized the prey/predator scene unfolding and intervened.
DEFCON 1: International Redneck Showdown.
I have read a lot of stories of people who have biked all over the World and it has led me believe that the level of fear that we may experience in a violent confrontation with local thugs grows exponentially when traveling through 3rd world countries. See Goran Kropp's story of biking from Sweden to Everest and back.

I would imagine that most people who put themselves in a position to experience these unfriendly conditions have thought out what it is they would do. I have never attempted to hurt someone in my life and I want to keep that streak going. I am not about to beat someone over the head to avoid losing my bike which would be replaced by insurance anyway. I have always hoped that level-headed cooperation and reason would be my best defense. Pose no threat and inspire no attack. This philosophy gets all muddled up when the heart starts pumping and the rednecks get that Clockwork Orange look in their eyes.

Several years ago I took a late Autumn bike trip to Farragut State Park in Northern Idaho. The park was empty but for the ranger who lived at the entrance to the park. The first night I put up my tent and enjoyed some top ramen and hot chocolate as the stars came out. That night the temperature dipped into the twenties and my well used sleeping bag did not keep me warm. I barely slept. During my ride around the park the next day I came across some brand new mini-cabins that had been built at the far end of the expansive park. $40 later I was in the luxury of the heated, well lit cabin with a nice soft bed.
I had a great day and fell asleep fast. Sometime around midnight I woke to the sound of voices. Three obviously drunk young men were walking toward the cabin. Without a car parked outside they had no indication anyone was within 4 miles. One of them began kicking the door trying to bust it open. I began to quickly and quietly get my clothes on.
They began to argue about whether to head down to the beach or build a fire in the fire pit next to the cabin. I knew what I was voting for. With the help of my Jedi Mind Force they headed to the beach. I was relieved but it got me thinking about fear and the importance of dealing with these issues. I have been lucky but I won't always be lucky. Are the risks worth the adventure? Add to these human fears the factors of bears, severe illness or injury in isolated places and the dangers that I am too naive to even recognize.

One of the challenges of The Great Divide and similar activities is to find peace within yourself. More than the physical effort, the risk of failure or the shear selfishness of this enterprise is my need to deal with these fears in a way that reflects my beliefs and my goals. I know that it holds the potential for the greatest reward.

Trying Not To Be That Guy

I have been casting a wide net trying to grab as much information that could help me in my Great Divide Project. Endurance Racing Forum has a Great Divide thread that has been of great help, but I see that I may be part of a growing problem. Due to the fact that the big guns of this race Mike Curiak, Pete Bassinger, Matthew Lee and Kent Peterson all frequent the site it has become too easy to hound these guys with questions about which rims, which lights, how many motels are there on the route, should I use a bivy or a tent, saddle choices, water filter or chlorine tablets? And the questions just keep coming.
I feel bad because I am sure these guys don't participate in the forum for the purpose of answering questions. Exchange of information is one thing, but this is so one sided that it doesn't feel right. I am going to make an effort to not abuse the forum. I am lucky that I have a long lead in to my race so there will be plenty of time for trial and error.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Bike Build Parts List

While I was hunkered down with cold I finished the first draft of my parts list for the new bike. The first thing that I thought about looking at the list of components was that it looked like a parts geek list. I have always been about utility over fashion and focused on riding more than than the ride. The list shows that I have thought more about bike parts in the last two weeks than I have in the last ten years. But is it a bad thing?
I know that once this bike is put together I am not going to be checking out the 2008 Interbike for upgrades I can make. Whatever cranks I put on the bike will be on there for a long time. Obviously they should be of good quality and built to last but they should also come with as many other advantages as possible. I chose the Paul Component brakes for the ease of adjustment. I am have little patience for any maintenance and anything that can make wrench time go easier is something that will benefit me for years and years.
Some decisions were made based on experience, I will never buy another pair of Paul Hubs (those aluminum threads hate me), shimano chains are stupid, acs claw freewheels may be the best miles/price ratio in a bike drivetrain and 4 pairs of Time Pedals have never failed me even though I always buy the cheaper ones.
The only thing that I did not have a solid direction on was rims. I got some good advice from Simon at Wheelsport about Dt Swiss TK.1 rims and when I looked them up on google I find a glowing review from Mike Curiak. I can't argue with that.
Right now I am still feeling uneasy about the investment involved in this bike but that discomfort should be eased with every mile. A couple of years down the line I will have developed a relationship with the bike and I will be glad that I made the effort to do it right when I could.
The Parts List:
Brake levers Paul LPZ compact silver
brakes Paul Motolite Z Brakes
crankset RaceFace Evolve XC SS X Type
Headset Chris King 1/8 BLK
Seatpost Thomson Elite 28.6x250
Stem Thomson Elite 1 1/8 X ??deg ??mm
Seat Fizik Gobi
freewheel ACS 16t
freewheel ACS 17t
chain Sram PC-1
cable housing Nokon
tires WTB Nanoraptor 29
handlebar Surly Torsion Bar
grips Ergon Race Mag
bottle cages Steel 3 total
Pedals Time Atac Alium
phil wood SS front Bolt-On,
Phil Wood SS FW/FW Bolt-On,
rims Dt Swiss TK.1 32/36 non disc
black spokes Dt Swiss Competition
black nipples Dt Swiss Competition

Monday, February 5, 2007

Sick, Sick, Sick

It was bound to happen, I got sick. It is only a cold but it has floored me. I say it was bound to happen because looking back on previous years of training it is always the same. Right after deciding that my training is behind schedule, I push myself perhaps a little further than I should and leave the door open to catch something. I knew this was a risk so I made sure my diet was spot on. I had between 100- 120 grams of protein, 12-16 servings of fruits and vegetables, I ate no wheat or dairy. I was feeling great. I still think my plan was solid but I can recall some things that could have led me here.
I had to interview a bakery owner for a magazine article. The bakery is at the top of a long steep hill with lots of traffic. I hit a point during the climb that was beyond my comfort zone but I was determined to get to the top. I had some burning lungs as I locked up my bike out front. Once inside I shook a lot of hands during the introduction. Where I went wrong was I then ate a scone without washing my hands. I could have used a fork but I never eat scones with a fork. Caveman.
I may be wrong with my assumptions about where this cold came from, but I have so little to do right now that it has given me something to think about. I have watched a lot of movies, drank a lot of Herba-Tussin tea and slept more than the average house cat. I am determined to be back on my feet by tomorrow when my work week begins. The good news that I have gleaned from my previous years training journals is that I have only ever gotten sick once during these early months. It makes getting through this frustrating weekend a little more tolerable.

Friday, February 2, 2007

More Friends More Bikes More Gatherings

Terry Patano of Doma Coffee wants to have a party at his Post Falls roastery for they SS/Fixie crowd. Beer, bands and bikes. It would be a good chance to check out his new On-One Pompino. Hopefully I will be dropping by his place on my long Monday ride and we can talk about the details.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I Have Friends And They Have Bikes

I got an email from a Zach, Spokane local, self-described bike geek and fixie rider. Zach thought I might have been the guy wearing bike shoes he had talked to at the Baby Bar the other night. It wasn't me but when I mentioned the story to Ben Tobin he though it might have been him. While talking to Ben I went into a homily about a feeling that I have been getting. Just in the last several months I have seen signs that prophesy a new cycling age in this town. Every time I turn around I see more people living the bikestyle. This town has always had plenty of people out on club rides, wednesday night criteriums and weekend cx races but it has had a microscopic community of people who ride for life. Ben said he saw 8 guys on a mtb nightride last week, I am recognizing a dozen people who have been commuting by bike all winter long and now Zach and his friends. Things are really picking up. Time to have a party.
I have struggled to put together some events in the past but the effort to attendance ratio stole my will to forge ahead with them. It is time to resurrect the Midnight Century, Street Racing and the beer run. St. Patrick's Day (amateur night) falls on a Saturday which makes it a good night not to go to a bar. It is better night to drag some beers to the far flung corners of Riverside State Park and do some mountain bike night riding littered with libation stations. No details yet but really all you need to know is March 17th, Riverside S.P. on the Centennial Trail at the Seven Mile Trailhead around 9pm.