Monday, April 30, 2007

The Long Fix

Rode the Fixie over to CDA (90 miles). It was windy (10-15 mph headwinds), we rode fast (20-24 mph) and the 49x16 gear kicked my ass. A whole lot of food and an hour nap later and I feel pretty good.
I had been contemplating selling the fixed to help pay for the new bike. Today's ride was an attempt to see if this bike has a legitimate training purpose. One of the reasons I got the bike was so that I could have a big gear workout to balance out all the mad spinning I normally do. The test results will come in a few days when I should either be feeling like an unstoppable climbing machine on the mountain bike or I will be nursing some sore knees.
I have never had knee problems despite all the singlespeeding and I worry that this bike, at least the way it is set up now, could result in my kneecaps getting ground down like a mortar and pestle.
I could just keep the bike for the pure fun of it but I know that no matter how many bikes I have, I never ride more than two and one of them is always my Hakkalugi. With the new bike soon to be getting all of the attention, the reality is that the fixie will be getting only the occasional joy ride but never the attention it deserves. I like to have bikes that get ridden, bikes that are ridden a lot.
If I do keep the fix than I am going to slap a 17t or 18t on the back to help with the grinding. I don't think it will make it any slower it will just make the cadence more to my liking.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New Trails

Warning: Do not ride with mouth open.

For some time now my regular riding partner Ben has been talking about the "Northwest Passage" trail. Since I am generally out of the loop on things like the correct name for a given route I assumed it was something I was familiar with by my own nomenclature. Today he introduced me to the course and I am bit smitten.
The ride follows the all too familiar bluff trails to Hatch road. I avoid the bluff because there are too many people walking with their dogs on a hillside trail that provides no room for passing. The bluff used to be riddled with head exploding climbs. It was the least singlespeed friendly hills in town. A dedicated trail builder has worked nonstop for a decade to provide universal access to all skill levels with trails that rarely angle more then 1 or 2 percent grade; further enhancing the over crowding problems.
With that said, the bluff trails were merely a way to get to the real riding. After Hatch the NW Passage meanders on the South side of Latah Valley through diverse conditions that made me think I was riding in another part of the state. Fir trees and Native Birches were a nice change from the dominant ponderosa pines. We followed the trail up and down valleys and along basalt cliff edges. The riding was so good I never thought to take a picture, I was just riding.
Riding this route reminded me of the old days in the late 80's and early 90's. I would explore the back ways to and from every place in town. I was constantly prowling the perimeter of neighborhoods looking for the long forgotten trails. As time went on, for the sake of efficiency, I began riding the same routes over and over. This practice eventually led me to burn out on mtn biking all together. All last year I stuck to the pavement in an attempt to regain my love of the dirt but now I realize that this was the wrong way to do it. Mtn biking is adventure, it is exploration it is being in the wilderness. I did not need to abstain I needed to find new terrain and just ride.
It was not a perfect ride. With just a mile to go I suggested to Ben that we could cut across some railroad tracks and follow some singletrack down to the Columbia Plateau trail. I used to run this route daily. The trail is actually an access route for transient who frequently live in this area. Unbelievably while riding Ben had human feces hit him and his bike. During the extended clean up session we tried to find where in the trail it was but there was nothing (I was riding in the front and never saw it). Based on where it hit his bike the only conclusion we could draw was that the poo had been flung from the short cliff we were riding below. The stuff smelled terrible and resulted in a long drawn out cleaning both on site and back at my house. That stuff was everywhere. Just when you thought it was all gone more would be spotted. Ben's day was ruined but I still could not be knocked off of my cloud.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Is It Christmas Yet?

Clickie Make Biggie

I am calming down a bit after getting a response from Doug Curtiss regarding my frame. Apparently I am in the next batch which gets started next week. He does not do the drawings in advance of the fabrication so that all the information discussed is still fresh in his head. It is impossible not be getting anxious as the time gets closer and the weather gets better, my fitness is ramping up and my plans for a summer of wilderness riding is taking shape.
I will try to remain calm and focus on the parts list again. Ben found a good looking rigid fork for me. I like the natural look but where are my brake posts?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Epic jr.

Epic is an often over used word in the cycling world. If I am going to use the word epic there would have to be so many over the top components to the ride that even using the word epic would be an understatement. Today was not epic. It was five hours of riding that included long sections of snow running, many climbs in the 4 mile long range, a small injury, some minor navigational errors that resulted in an extra 30 minutes of climbing and it was blue sky beautiful the whole time. But it was not epic. It was the precursor to Epic.
I need some epic days. Mile after mile of back country isolation, climbing over passes, following ridge lines and forging terrain rarely scene by people. It is hard to get this at the local state park down the road, but 40 minutes drive into Idaho is the Coeur d'Alene National Forest which starts at the edge of the city and continues uninterrupted into the cabinet range of Montana. This area has the potential for hundreds of miles of GDR style riding. Today was the first tentative steps into that proving ground.
The snow limited the directions we could go but we had no problem finding climbs that were the perfect match for the kind of riding I need right now. I would have thought that my 29er with 34X17 would have been too big of a gear but I was getting into a good rhythm both seated and standing. My lower back showed some signs of tiring because I have not been exposed to out of the saddle climbing of that duration this year.
The drive back from the ride gave Ben and I a chance to dream up some truly epic routes in the Coeur d'Alene N.F..

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sitting By The Phone

While the GDR community is all abuzz about whether to allow cell phones (the basic fact is cell phones are only allowed if you don't use them, if you use them then you have DQ'd yourself) I am more concerned about whether I will have a bike.
On January 22 I had a phone conversation with Doug Curtiss of Curtlo. We went over the bike and body measurements I had sent him. He told me to send him some photos of me on my present bike and half of the money for the frame. On the 24th of January I did both. The last question I had for Doug was "what is the turn around time on a frame." I asked so that I had some reference point, so I could put the bike out of my mind until it was time to start thinking about ordering all the parts I have selected. Doug told me 10 weeks. He also said that the next step in the process would be him getting ahold of me to go over the drawings of the frame. After the drawing had been approved then it would be on to fabrication.
That was the last time I talked with Doug. Almost three weeks ago I sent him an email asking what the status of the build was. No response. Last Monday I left a voice mail message asking the same thing. No response. Short of driving to Winthrop and knocking on his door I don't know what to do.
I understand that independent frame builders have a reputation for working at their own pace and often being behind schedule but I am disconcerted by the lack of communication. Had he told me this was going to take 10 months I wouldn't even be thinking about it right now.
I even went as far as to scour the internet for news that could help explain the silence. Skiing accident, FBI raid, big lottery win. In another week I may call the local bike shop in Winthrop and ask them if they know what is going on.
BTW, the deposit check was promptly deposited.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Clean Century

Clean centuries don't allow for much picture taking but I snapped this shot of the distant long lake dam as I stopped to stash my sweater and leg warmers.

Last week I felt great and had some good rides that were not long but were high efforts with some good climbing. I still haven't fixed the broken tooth on my mtn bike so a long road ride was in order. I had to be back in the afternoon to pick up my daughter at choir practice. I had thought about taking on the 150 mile route I recently mapped out, but even if I left early enough to get the mileage in there would be no way to shortcut the route if things started going wrong. And to make matters worse most of that route is outside of cell coverage.
What I settled on was doing a clean century ride. By clean I mean that I wanted to do 100 mile of somewhat hilly terrain at a good pace with very little stopping. I packed two large water bottles and a 100 oz. platypus with powerade, four Bumble Bars, an almond butter and jelly sandwich, a banana, some gummi bears and a valrhona Manjari chocolate bar.
The ride was off to a fast start with a good tailwind. Actually the tailwind was somewhat of a curse because I am still riding with 39x17 because the 17t freewheel I have on my Paul hub is not threaded on but mashed on the now mangled threads. If I want to move up to a gear more suitable for this time of year I will have to get a new wheel. Since I am trying to divert all of my bike money into the new bike I was forced to spin some high cadence for 3 hours. The fast spinning really starts to cook the legs after awhile despite the apparent ease at which the pedals were clicking over.
For some reason I thought that a bumble bar every hour was going to be enough calories for the first half of the ride. At Springdale I ate my banana and sandwich. I layer the almond butter on thick so that the sandwich weighs in at around 500 calories. Once I started heading back into the wind I found that I was able to keep a solid pace and forged ahead. At around 4 hours I started experiencing the subtle symptoms of bonking. This wasn't a full on system crash. I was still chugging along at a high pace, the legs were doing there thing unchanged but mentally I began to wonder about whether the muscles were going to hold up. I began worrying that the discomfort in my knee was going to turn into a chronic disorder that would derail all of my future plans. I began to notice that distant road signs took a long time to reach me, my mind wondered around in a negative world of self pity.
It is only because I have been through this many times that I realized that I needed calories. My body never said "I'm hungry" the bonk manifested itself in a decidedly mental train wreck. I stopped off at a grocery store in Deer Park and ate a slice of pizza, drank a cup of coffee and finished off the gummi bears and chocolate.
By the time I got back on the road I was singing out loud and bunny hopping over shredded tires on the highway shoulder.
As for doing a clean century, my 16.7 mpg average is as good as it gets for the hills, the three hours of headwind at the end and my choice of gearing. After a shower and a pound of beef jerky I feel fully recovered. Clean enough. The true test will come tomorrow morning when I try and do some fast, hill climbing.
Here is my route: Springdale Century

Friday, April 13, 2007

Morning Ride With Friends

If you need a good workout in a short amount of time grab a single speed. Then call two of the hardest riding mountain bike riders you know and have them bring their full suspension, geared superbikes. Let them choose a twisting, rock-studded trail that you have never ridden so that you have to spin like mad to catch up whenever the trail straightens out. Since you might have a chance at making up some time on the hills, break a tooth on your rear cog so that whenever you commit to a big push the chain skips, forcing you to ride smooth and slow up the hills when possible and when it's not, jump off and run. Continue for two to three hours.
Shower, eat and go to work.

Cruiser Ride

If youv'e got the balloon tires time to put them to use. This Sunday there will be a ride just for the Cruiser bikes and their owners starting at The Elk in Browne's Addition at 4:00pm. There looks to be beer involved

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Dave Nelson sent this letter out and I think it is worth repeating:

I realize this email will not win me any popularity contests but I would like to ask everyone to please ride responsibly (as always) and reconsider riding some trails in town when they are muddy. I had thought about sending this email out a few weeks ago when the CCC river trail (aka “Little Vietnam) was under water at Riverside but didn’t, and now I wish I had. Now that the water has receded there are a few areas that are very muddy and one in particular has gone from being single track 5 years ago to being over 15 feet wide with ruts all through it. Most of the trails here in town do not support riding in mud and only become much wider and/or rutted when they are ridden. Please use common sense when riding during the spring thaw and subsequent rains because what we do now as riders can affect our access here in the future. It is very difficult for me to approach a land manager asking permission to build or maintain a trail when things like this happen. If we have to refrain from using a trail for several weeks until it can support riding then that is the best thing to do- like it or not. We need to police our own so that others do not have to do it for us. Please; whether you agree with me or not, refrain from riding excessively muddy trails and if you do come to a muddy area ride thru it and not around it, and if you see others doing the wrong thing respectfully set them straight. I know a lot of people are riding the 24 hour course to get ready for this years race but unless the muddy areas are allowed to rehabilitate they will be closed off to everyone. I realize that more than just bikes use the trail however it is the wheel ruts and trail widening that WE do that I am concerned with. Again- please use common sense and restraint when you chose what trails to ride this spring. A couple weeks of restraint may be all it takes to keep the trail in great shape.
Also- for anyone interested in helping out with some trail work at Riverside, we will be meeting at the upper parking lot on Aubrey While across from the Bowl & Pitcher this Sunday at 1:00 pm. If enough people show I would like to also work on the mud pits in Little Vietnam in the hopes that they will be ready for the 24 hour race. If that section is a huge mud hole this year I don’t expect it will be part of the course as it will not sustain the damage.

David Nelson
V.P. Fat Tire Trail Riders Club

I think that Dave is making a solid point that most of us agree with. In this area, with the soil and climate that we have, mud is not much of a problem so asking to avoid muddy trails is not a big deal, especially in Riverside where there are very few trails that get muddy.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Bump In The Night

I needed to do a long mtn bike ride and thought that some night time riding would be even better. It has been awhile since I did a night ride that was going to require more than one battery for my nitetrider system. Unfortunately, my niterider woes continue and both of my extra batteries have fallen victim to the same problem as the one that I had to pay to get fixed last year. So instead of leaving at midnight and riding until dawn I left at 3 am and spent some time in the dark and some time in the daylight.
I like riding trails at night, I always have. I have not spent much time in the last year riding alone at night in the woods. I was surprised by my feeling of unease. I had a creepy feeling almost as soon as I got to Riverside State Park. I kept hearing pine cones sounds. Were they dropping from trees or getting stepped on by deer? My wariness was made worse when I came across a shovel and two garbage bags in the middle of a trail. I made a quick scan into the trees as a rode by and I saw the distinctive bright strip of a reflector like the kind on the back of a cyclists jacket. I wrote off the whole thing as a couple of local kids having a little overnight adventure in the park...with a shovel and some garbage bags.
About 45 minutes later I was in the same area just one bluff higher. I could see a fire and hear men talking. It seemed a really strange location for someone to camp, but it explained the shovel. I kept riding, but decided to head out to Deep Creek which is a little more isolated and a lot steeper. After working the knees hard for an hour, I headed back to the creepy area just as the sun was coming up. Before I crossed the mysterious shovel area I saw two people laying behind some bushes. They were partially obscured but clearly two people were hiding in the bushes. This latest oddity was beyond explanation so I just kept riding.
Once daylight had fully illuminated the forest I quickly figured out what was going on. See Riverside State Park is also a Military Reservation, meaning that the National Guard trains there occasionally. I have come across a Humvee or two in the past but never have I been in the park after dark when they were on maneuvers. As I did a second lap through the area I saw dozens of camo clad, m-16 toting soldiers wandering through the trees. I found a couple of sandbag forts where they must have been hiding as I passed by in the night.
I don't know if I made their training more exciting or if I was just an annoyance but I know that the weird uneasiness I felt in the night sure made me laugh when I figured out what was going on.
While thinking about the bumps in the night I managed to get 63 miles of trails in before heading home where breakfast was waiting. I felt good after the ride and spent the rest of my day working in the garden.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Rest Hard, Ride Long, Eat More Baklava

Pete Basinger is my hero. Not just because he rolls the single speed most of the time and not just because he holds the second fastest time on the GDR by a wafer thin 20 minutes. He is my hero because he passes on the 500 mile training weeks. He once mentioned in a forum that he "trains" about 10 hours a week. This is profound because he beats the pants off of guys who will train 10 hours in a day. I have to admit that even though I want these facts to be true, I held a suspicion that he did a lot of physical activity that he did not consider training.
Now that I have come across his blog I see that he does in fact ride about 10 hours a week. Two hour rides are de rigeur. Nice. Of course, he will throw a 17 hour ride in every so often and I think that is the key.
Awhile back I was reading about the king of ultramarathon running Yiannis Kouros. His record is astonishing. When someone is that good everyone wants to know what he eats, what he drinks, how much he trains. When pressed about his training regimen he explains that you cannot train for a 1000 mile race, that is preposterous. Instead he tries to rest as much as possible and breaks up the rest with 45 minute runs each day. I understand that as much as he competes he really is just doing a recovery and maintenance routine but there is a lesson to be learned.
Single Speed GDR record holder Kent Peterson says it is better to practice than to train. I immediately understood what he meant. Stay fit, stay healthy, stay rested and every so often beat yourself up with an ultra epic day. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bucket of Links

Camping At Glidden Lake Fall 1998

I have a ridiculous amount of URLs taking over my dock.
Glidden pass is an area that I have hiked and biked around over the last 15 years. It is epic territory. I found this old web page detailing a mountain bike route in the area. I want to keep the place in mind for later this summer.
The other day I was at Auntie's book store perusing the magazine rack when I came across Wend. Wend is an outdoor rag from Portland. The magazine caught my eye because it had an all wool cycling fashion spread but I bought it because it had an article written by Mike Curiak. When I read the piece by Curiak I was a little disappointed. The story is an excerpt from Mike's forthcoming book about racing the Iditarod course to Nome by Bike. I am very much interested in the whole story but reading several pages about one harrowing moment when he was pinned down in a wind storm left me hot and bothered. The story is just getting good and it's over. If this bit of writing is any indication, the book will be worth buying.
While I was flipping through the Wend I was drawn to an ad for Nau, an outdoor clothing company from Portland. I know, how many rain jackets does the world need? Nau seems to understand that the outdoor clothing market is a vast sea of clones. Nau is not making clothes for activities as much as they are making clothes for active lifestyles. I am not entirely opposed to forking out some big ching for some quality but the lust inspiring Courier Windshirt costs more than I paid for a used MB-2. by the way, the best clothing purchase of the year was the Old Navy Cashmere sweater I have been wearing since January. $60 and soft as bunny farts.
I have also bookmarked iRule Moab shorts. I don't sport the spandex sausage casing all that much anymore but I see the value in these endurance specific models. The pockets on the thigh is a major selling point. I am through buying any pants, shorts or jackets that don't have pockets. I have bike clothes I don't wear because of the no pocket issue.
Speaking of pockets, I have been riding with the Ortleib messenger backpack for over two years now. It is rock solid piece of equipment that won't die but I am constantly bothered by the lack of exterior pockets. I added a Timbuk 2 iPod case to the strap but have avoided adding any more accessory pockets because of price and desire not to look like Batman. I think it is safe to say that regardless of the who the person is or what backpack they have, the world is a better place when there are elastic net pockets on the sides of backpacks.
One company that has figured this out is Wingnut. I will be buying their Adventure 2006 pack sometime soon. I was holding out for the 2007 but it does not look like there will be a newer model.
I love the Brooks Team Pro saddle on my Hakkalugi. It is the most comfortable saddle I have ever had and I like the fact that I won't need to replace it ever. Hopefully. Now there is a company in Wisconsin that is trying to improve the Brooks saddle concept. I can't figure out if they improved the century old design or ruined it. Either way I not putting a Brooks on my new mountain bike. I have not done any off road with the brooks and can't imagine that 16 hours of my sit bones against that rawhide is going to be a good thing.
Dave N. saw that I was spec'ing outboard bearings crankset from RaceFace. I already had intended to upgrade the bearings to Phil Woods after next winter but he sent a link to Enduro. They look like a good upgrade option.