Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I have been watching some educational videos in hopes of improving my bike handling skills.

Monday, March 26, 2007

More Laughs Per Mile

Spring On The Palouse

Spring In Northern Idaho

Where do I start? Ben is back from Sun Valley and he is all psyched to do some mileage after some good riding with Daryl Price and Greg Randolph on the Carbonate Trail (a route I hiked daily during my short time in Hailey years ago). I told him that I was looking to do 120-130 miles. He was game. I thought that I might mix things up a bit and find a new big loop to take.
I spent hours on Bikely and google maps trying to find the right route. Somewhere along the way I remembered the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. For years I have intended to do the the 75 mile long paved bike path that cuts across the Northern Idaho peninsula, but I never wanted to drive out there. The route is flat but very scenic and I notice that it has bathrooms and water available every few miles. This trail is plush. The plan was to drive to Plummer, Idaho (45 miles away) and ride the 60 miles to Kellogg, get lunch and ride back. The elevation is only slightly higher than Spokane and doesn't change much along the way.
The weather forecast was for 54 degrees and sunny. I decided I would bring a sweater just for the ride down and than leave it in the car. I was worried more about catching a sunburn than keeping warm. The whole drive down was blue skies and greens fields. Than 5 miles from Plummer we saw a car driving the other way with snow on it. Neither of us mentioned it though it came up again just a few minutes later. We pulled into the parking lot for the trail head and saw that there was still remnants of snow everywhere. We forged ahead putting the bikes together and digging extra clothes out of the nooks and crannies of Ben's car. 10 minutes of getting ready and both of us were frozen straight through from the steady wind blowing from the east.
It was disappointing that we left a perfect Spring day in Spokane to drive back to winter. Seeing as how the trail has water available up and down it's length I brought very little liquid. When I found out that the bathrooms were locked and the water was not turned on, I knew this trip was falling apart. We quickly drove back to Spokane, got on our bikes and tried to salvage the day. I am not a big fan of driving and driving to a bike ride is less appealing. After all that time in the car, I was shot. I had no desire to do anything.
We decided to ride up to De Leon's for lunch. We took the long way through the Peone Prairie. After a big lunch of shredded beef, beans and rice; I felt even less like riding but we were still 45 minutes from home. I bought a Bimbo pound cake just because I like the Bimbo brand baby clothes the Mexican market was selling. When we left the market we were greeted by a dog tied up on the sidewalk. The dog was shooting liquid poo out it's backside. As if that scene was not shocking enough, the dog had a full ear-to-ear grin on it's face as it took care of business next to the front door. The 45 minutes biking home was difficult as I dealt with the giant belly of tacos and unstoppable laughter that overtook me whenever I thought of the grin on that dog's face. If I had taken a picture of that dog shitting and smiling, it surely would have become an internet legend.
We did 30 miles instead of 130 miles and I feel as tired as Ben looks.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dirty, Dark, Distance

March is coming along nice. I got 250 miles in last week which has been my program this month. After three weeks I have 756 miles. The big difference last week was that I mixed in a high cadence road ride and a night mountain bike ride both were riding with geared riders. As strange as it is to say, I did not do any mountain bike riding last year. The entire calendar year. After 6 years of 24 hour racing I was burned out on trail riding. Last night was a great re-introduction to dirt. My strengths have never been technical single track and after the long hiatus I am a bit rusty. Night riding with muddy, rocky terrain did not make it any easier. I am not all too concerned about being the fastest down a trail, but I do care about how I ascend. My hill climbing lungs are a bit behind schedule if I was shooting for the Memorial Day 24 hour race but thinking about peaking in June/July I am doing just fine.
Next year as I hit the final stretch before the Great Divide Race I know I will be doing more than 250 miles a week and spending more of that time on long extended climbs. I probably won't try to duplicate the program that Dave Nice is on. His mega-mileage program wouldn't work for me. I feel more and more confident about my game plan when I hear former Mountain Bike Olympian Greg "Chopper" Randolph saying that if he could do his pro career over he would have trained less and spent more time doing yoga, eating better and just being healthy.
During last night's ride, Ben mentioned that he was going to track his daytime biking mileage against his night time riding with the goal of riding the same if not more at night as during the day. It is an interesting concept and one I may attempt to do if I can figure out how to track it via my bikejournal.com account.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lonely Roads

The Seattle International Randonneurs had their 200k ride last weekend. I have met a number of people from the SIR and found them to be my kind of people. I wish that Seattle wasn't a 5 hour car ride away. Long slow distances with junk food and coffee sounds like a good time to me. Yesterday I was out on my 173.8 Km ride. I did not have any company and the scenery wasn't as pretty but the sun did come out and I had my NPR podcast friends to ride away the lonely hours with. It become shirtsleeve weather after a couple of hours. It was the first time my bare arms have seen daylight since last year.
I thought about a conversation I had with John Speare a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about bike lanes: the good, the bad and the incomplete. I have discovered if you want to see miles and miles of beautiful bike lanes head out to the Rathdrum Prairie. The Rathdrum Prairie is having a building boom and along with the subdivisions there are oversized 4 lane arterials with bike lanes. Up until last year these were country roads and for the most part they still travel past acre after acre of farmland. It is a strange experience to be on a road so big and so empty and have a pristine bike lane to use. Too bad these lanes are not on any of the roads that commuting cyclists actually use.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More Choices, Second Thoughts

I felt settled with my parts list for the bike build but as time goes by I start giving second thoughts to some of the choices. I had originally chosen a Thomsen Elite seatpost but then I noticed that Matthew Lee uses a cane creek suspension seatpost. With three finishes on the GDR I am not going to doubt his logic. Cane Creek now makes a ST version of their linkage post. 100 grams lighter, 1.5 inches of travel. It could be the trick to dealing with endless miles of washboard roads with a raw and bruised backside.
Dave N mentioned that he has fallen in love with his Dangerboy Levers so I checked them out. I had picked Paul Component Love Levers but the dangerboys have a nice shape and are actually cheaper. This will help make up for the substantially more expensive seatpost.
The white Industry Suspension Fork was not a well thought out choice. I know nothing about suspension and I did not ask anyone about good options. I thought they were bling and I wrote them down. NOw I thinking that the Marzzochi Marathons I have been riding for three years have been solid performers so I should not overlook getting another one. This time I will get a lock-out. I also want to do more investigation into the REBA by Rock Shox. There seems to be too much adjustability for my simple minded brain.
Finally, I choose a Surly Torsion bar because it is wide, strong and the steel should help absorb the bumps. I thought about bars like the unique set-ups from On-One but this is not the bike for that. I want mtn bike brake levers and I want to be able to use ergon grips. I came across the Black Sheep Ti Bar. The titanium would provide good absorption and some bar ends placed in towards the middle could provide a multitude of hand positions. The 175 dollar upgrade is an expensive experiment but I am having a hard time not thinking of giving them a try.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Wind and Hills

This is my NPR Podcast listening face.

Today the temps jumped to 60 degree but came at a price. The wind remained a consistent 20 mph with gusts to 37 mph. Surprisingly, I managed to stay out in it for 5.5 hours. At times I wasn't moving very fast but I always felt good. I inlcuded a lot of medium hills into the mix today which left the gas tanks low. Four hours into the ride I stopped by De Leon's Market. De Leon's has opened it's restaurant and I couldn't pass up some real food. Shredded beef, rice and corn tortillas hit the spot and I was back out in the wind and up the hills.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Jure Rubic And RAAM

New York Times has an excellent article about endurance cyclist Jure Rubic. Jure, A member of the Slovenian Special Forces, has an intense style when he races but before the article I did not realize how intense. Basically he goes crazy. It talks about how he will occasionally jump off of his bike and fight invisible Mujahadeen and then jump back on his bike and ride fast to get away from the invisible enemies. John Stamsted said that when you push yourself in these events peoples personalities tend to shift. Quiet people get loud and the meager get aggressive. Jure explains it by saying that the mental and physical stress turns you inside-out. Everything that is buried in you gets brought to the surface, nothing can hide. This is why I believe that so many enduro-athletes refer to the importance of knowing yourself.
The Race Across America has always been a fascination for me. The excessive and expensive support system that each rider has is a turn off for me, but I still like following the race. I have kept up with the race in recent years to follow Allen Larsen (click on the link just to see a picture of Allen which pretty much sums up what it takes to win RAAM), Tinker Jaurez, and 18 year old Ben Couturier. In 2008 I will be following local rider Micheal Emde. Micheal tore up the Furnace Creek 508 the last two years which should indicate that he can be competitive in RAAM,

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Morning Mini Vacation

It was a no chain ride this morning. Riding along at a high cadence was effortless. The Riverside State Park Loop is one of my most frequent rides and yet it still can create magic moments like today. I could have stayed out all day but I am off to work now. I have to feel lucky about my life when I can have some beautiful moments along the river among the ponderosa pines on a wednesday. Waiting until the weekend to have recreation is the shame of modern living along with the ridiculous 2 weeks of vacation per year. 50 weeks on 2 weeks off is truly shameful.

Urban Cycling Makes The Cover

Out There Monthly did a cover story on Urban Cycling in Spokane. The article talked to four daily riders and asked them the usual round of questions. In fact, the questions were eerily similar to those asked of me for a cycling related article in The Inlander last summer. It was good to see Liza Mattana sporting wool and fenders. I found it strange that some of the the other daily commuters had no fenders on their bikes. My job makes it easy to bike to work because I have clean, laundered pants and jacket waiting for me when I get there but still I would not bike to work without some fenders keeping the wet roads from striping me up the front and back.
One thing that the article did not talk about is critical mass and that is with lower case letters. I am not talking about Critical Mass where perfectly sensible cyclists engage in quixotic battle with cars, I am referring to the dynamic change in a community when more people bike. A lot of good happens when there are more people getting around by their own power. The one change that seems most relevant to the article is that driver's get used to sharing the road with us two wheelers. A lot of encounters I have had with motorists (including one last week), have gone bad because a driver is unsure of what he/she should do when faced with a tricky section of road and a biker.
There are a lot more people riding in this town. The change is coming. Making the cover of a local publication is just one more sign of it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Saltese and Palouse

I had intended to go to CDA again yesterday but by the time I got to the state line I was bored of the centennial trail. I decided to do some country road wondering. First stop was Henry road. Just West of Liberty Lake is Saltese Flats, the lake bed that one industrious farmer drained for farmland a long time ago. I used to ride in this area a lot when I was young. There is something about the way that Mica Peak hugs the the valley that makes this place feel like the edge of civilization and the beginning of wilderness. The Bison ranch helps to reaffirm that idea.
The road around has finally been paved but it is only suitable for some wider road tires. There is a lot of gravel on top of a tar and chip surface. The gnarly old trees, crumbling homesteads and the all day gray were perfect for listening to some Sigur Ros. I know a lot of people like to listen to upbeat often angry music while riding but it makes no sense on a ride like today.
After riding around Saltese I popped over to Highway 27 and climbed the deceptively long hill. It is a 2 mile long hill followed by five more miles of gradual incline. This is THE hill from my youth and will be a feature around the 80 mile mark on this year's Midnight Century Route. Down the Palouse Highway, around Hangman Hills, then a quick trip up 195 and I was back home. Throwing some hills into todays ride kept it interesting. It may be time to step up the effort on rides. The body seems to be responding well.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ergon Grips: First Thought

More late season snow had me grabbing the mountain bike for my ride to work. It was a good chance to try out some Ergon grips that Dave N. loaned me. They remind me of BMX grips from the past. First impression is that I like them and think that they may be the ticket for the GDR but my issues with my hands revolve around the fact that I have done some terrible things to both of my thumbs during ungraceful ejections from my bike. The Ergon grips seemed bigger in diameter where my thumbs go which could cause more problems than fix. The only way to tell is more long ride. And March looks like a monster month for training. With some double centuries coming up and numerous long overnighters I need to log some serious saddle time.