Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cherry Cordials and Caramels

It's the time of year of too much crap food and short days. It's time for the holidays to be celebrated and for everyone to act like everything is great and good and all that crap.

It is also a favorite time of year of mine. I hate the holidays, but I love that I take two weeks off over Christmas and New Years - maximizing time off while using the least amount of PTO possible.

Usually I get a lot of riding in over this break time. And that's what I hope for again this year. I've been getting out quite a bit and riding some great trails. I haven't bothered with taking any pictures because:
  1. I'm riding here, damnit!
  2. Most of my rides are in the dark. Not much to see
  3. I'm riding.

And it has been a while since I've posted anything here. While I've been riding a lot, they haven't been exciting or new rides. Just rides. You know, out there earning it, but not seeing new things or anything.

I mean, there's been a few rides in new places, but mostly rides in the familiar terrains.

I am trying some new approaches to footwear this year. Granted, this winter has been a bit weak so far. Hardly any snow and our coldest day so far has barely made it to the mid-teens. So, not really the best test for winter gear.

In fact I've not once used my BD Guide glove liners this year. Only a handful of times have I even used the outer glove over thin liners. In fact, on the coldest days so far I've worn a thin wind and waterproof shell glove over rag wool gloves and been too hot. So my footwear experiments are probably not real accurate.

So far this year I've been wearing Scott Team BOA shoes with a pair of Endura merino wool socks as the base (super thin and breathable) with a pair of Darn Tough hiking socks over top. Then over the top of the shoes I'm wearing Endura MT 500 overshoes. The few days that it's been in the teens I've thrown a vapor barrier (bagel bags) between the sock layers.

Works pretty well. I do find that my toes will still get cold in this set up, but I think that's just as much to do with the shoes being a bit tight as it does with the insulative properties of the setup.

I've also flipped over to flats with Vasque Snoburban boots a few times as well. The boots work well as they have grippy, stiff soles, but more and more I hate peddling flats. More and more I'm convinced that I just need to get a pair of winter cycling boots like those from Lake or 45 North. I'm just loath to spend that much money on a unitasker…

Rides I want to do over the break:
  1. Knik to Iditarod. Well, not the whole thing, but part of it. This is part of the ITI race route. Need to get out there and check out some of the terrain.
  2. Frosty bottom route. I'm not one to join organized races, but would love to do the race route - the 50 mile version - to see how fast I can do it. A good part of the route is multiuse trail.
  3. Jim Creek towards Knik glacier. ATV trail that I've heard some good reports about this year. The ride to the glacier isn't quite doable yet as there is a lot of open water yet and not enough daylight to make the ride, but this might be a good warm up
  4. Snowmachine trails out of Willow. I hear there's some good snow up there and we can make a nice circuit on these trails.
  5. Gold Mint - want to see just how far back in the valley I can go this time of year this year.
  6. Reed Lakes trail - Not sure how ridable this trail is - there was some ski traffic on it last week when I was up there, but it was still quite soft.
  7. Whatever else catches my fancy.

So there it is - my list of rides to look at doing over the next two weeks. Throw in sundry quick scoots on trails in the valley as well as in Anchorage when the kids are skiing and it's going to be a pretty busy vacation. Couple with that a desire to start running regularly and, well, I'll be a bit wiped by the time I go back to work.


And because you want a picture, here are two or maybe more: 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Far out and gone...

I've gone quiet for a while now. I know. It's just the shoulder season is dragging on and on around here. The riding is excellent. Just not snowy. That makes it difficult to write about the rides on the same trails over and over again in some meaningful way.

It's not that I'm not riding. I am. And I am getting more comfortable with the Farley more each day. I still have some gripes about it. Tires and climbing. Climbing and tires. One is changeable, the other not so much.

I had a great couple of rides this weekend. One solo ride on Friday where I chewed up close to 15 miles of mixed trail in the 20F temps and sun and one ride on Saturday with my son where we rolled fewer miles, but some more challenging trails, some big climbs that he did really well on given that he was on the Pugs.

I still want snow. I crave the way that it changes everything about riding. Heck, if nothing else  I want snow so that night riding is a bit easier to contend with - the lights need something to reflect off of.

A new product - Endura MT550 shoe covers. I had purchased a cheap ass pair of covers from REI two weeks ago or so just to see if they would help extend the use of clipless longer into the season. And the overall consensus was that they make riding in temps down to the low 20s generally quite comfy. I'm not sure about going lower, but I think I might be able to push it down to single digits easily. I'm still going to experiment with vapor barriers and just see how low I can go. Anyway, the ones from REI were crap from a quality perspective. The Enduras are much thicker neoprene, have a rubber toe cover and have a nice zipper instead of hook and loop closures. They seem like they might be warmer, though I can't say for sure as I've only used them twice and both times were in similar temps as those I'd worn the REI ones in, temps that are difficult - mid 20s where there is a razor thin line between too cool and too warm. I think that my feet sweat more in the Endura, which would make them colder - thus the need to experiment with vapor barriers.

Anyway. That's really all there is. Just riding and riding. Good times, indeed.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Who Knows?

7:30 AM
I love riding in snow. It's just so amazing being out in the woods or in the mountains when no one is around. The silence. The joy.

I got a great chance to get some early winter riding this past weekend down in Girdwood, AK. Amazing!

I didn't ride far. In fact, I barely topped seven miles in total. Approximately. Maybe a bit further, maybe a bit shorter. Who knows for sure? Who really cares?

The riding was challenging and for a portion of it I broke the rules, but it was worth it. Winner Creek trail. The first 7/10ths of a mile of the trail is closed to bikes. Well, not closed to bikes, but closed to riding bikes. And I understand why. This trail is a popular trail, starting on a resort's property. The trail, in the early stages, is a lot of narrow boardwalk and generally gets a lot of traffic. In the summer. When I took off, there were exactly one set of tracks in the snow. I figured if it came down to it, I'd hop off the bike if I ran into anyone. No worries.

The route is a mixed bag. Primarily climbing. Lots of boardwalk. Some narrow boardwalk with lots of step ups on the way out. Climbing. Lots of climbing. The first mile and a half, to the junction between the upper and lower Winner Creek trails is nice riding through some amazing temperate rain forest. The trees here seem absolutely massive. Particularly when compared to trees elsewhere in this state.

I decided, at the junction, to take the upper trail, as I've hiked the lower before and knew where it would take me. So I took the upper. I made it maybe another mile and a half to two miles up the trail before time and trail conditions conspired against me and I decided to turn around.

All in all, I spent a good hour and 45 minutes riding up and then back down the trail. I had no revelations. No deep thoughts about anything. Just enjoyed the feeling of working my legs and lungs and heart. Enjoyed the feeling of sweating in the cold air. Enjoyed watching the snow coming down the mountain.

I did have a chance to really get a better sense of the bike as a winter machine. And I'm still not sold on the Hodag tires. No matter what they seemed to want to break loose on stuff that the Nates never would. The initial part of the ride involved a fair number of short, sharp climbs of frozen dirt, ice, and hoarfrost covered by a thin layer of snow. Perfect conditions for a studded tire, but also conditions that I've ridden successfully on the Surly Nate tires before. With the Hodag and the geo of the Trek, I felt that each climb was a struggle to balance keeping weight on the rear while keeping the front firmly planted and keeping the tires from breaking loose.

On off-camber stuff - forget about it. The sidewalls of the Hodags have no grip whatsoever. I had to daub a number of times when the rear would start sliding downhill.

Coming back down the mountain, I found that the back end wanted to break loose on corners if going too fast or that the wheel would lock and slide with just the littlest pressure on the brakes. This might be more an issue of the difference between the hydro and mechanical brakes, but it feels like the tire has something to do with it. 

This leads me to think that I really need to do a side by side compare between the Hodag and the Nate because, admittedly, it's been a year since I've ridden the Nate in snow. I know my observations about the Nate on dirt and mud versus the Hodag are correct, because there was not much in the way of elapsed time between riding these conditions on both tires.

This said, I had a wonderfully enjoyable ride overall. The bike is agile and fairly well-mannered on the trail. I still have some adjusting to do in terms of my interface with the bike and trusting the bike to go where and do what I tell it to, like I had with the Pugs. Of course, that kind of trust comes from having a crash or two. And at this time of year, I prefer to wait for a bit more snow to soften the blow… I don't heal as fast as I used to!

It was a good ride. A good day. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Title Goes Here

Not too much to say today. Other than: It's SNOWING! I feel like a kid on Christmas. I love the first snow. I love the second snow. I love snow in general.

Had a chance to get some good riding in on the new Farley this weekend.

Friday I took my son and one of his friends to the MatSu River Park where we rode some of the trails that we helped build along with the flow trail and some good single track before heading to the river bottom to ride that a bit. A fun time was had by all.

Saturday I didn't ride, but Sunday I did, with the goal of trying some rooty, techy track to really start getting a feel for the new bike and it's capabilities.

After starting out with a sweep of a few XC ski trails, a portion of which have been abandoned as they are on the municipal dump's property, I headed out to the track. First, though, the climbs on the XC ski trails.

I don't know what grade some of those climbs are, but there is one that is nearly a 1/4 mile of what has to be 20%+ grade - it's a killer. XC skiers like their steep uphills for some reason. (Crazy buggers). Anyway, I was able to clear all those climbs with no issue. Though I have to say I was able to clear them on the Pugs as well - it just took me a few more minutes to get my breath back after climbing on the Pugs than with the Farley.

Anyway, after riding the single track, I still have to say that I feel that the Pugs climbs the rooty, techy stuff better.

On the Farley I'm constantly needing to adjust my body position to keep the front end down and the power to the back wheel, where with the Pugs, I might have to push the front down a touch, but it's really Ron Popeil - set it and forget it.

The mass of the bike also seems to be a bonus on some climbs - the Farley seems to want to stop dead when meeting some obstacles that need climbing over where the mass and momentum of the Pugs seems to push it through some of these challenging areas.

That said, the lighter weight of the Farley does allow me to feel fresher after riding. Yesterday I put in about 20 miles of mixed riding - pavement, XC ski trail, and single track and was still able to take the dogs out for a 2.5 mile run in the afternoon. I'm not a runner, per se, so this is a fairly big deal. Don't know that I would have felt fresh enough to do that after riding the Pugs.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I'm not feeling terribly motivated lately to write or to really do anything. A downswing with the weather, I guess.

And the funny thing is that I should be excited to write. I should be rushing to get the words in my head down on the page, but I'm not.

However, as the best writers always advise, you must write even when you don't feel like it. So here it goes.

I bought a new bike. A Trek Farley 6 fat bike. I've talked about this already. And I still struggle with balancing the want and the need sides of things and enjoy the bike for all it's worth.

I've put on some good miles already. A 30 mile out and back paved ride. A 20 mile or so single track ride on mixed terrain. Daily commutes for nearly a week now. Rain. Wind. No snow yet, but that's coming soon.

I've put in some good miles and I think I've started to get a good impression of the bike.

Let me first remind you of my riding style and background. For the past two and a half years I have exclusively ridden a Surly Pugsley. Nearly 10,000 miles on that beast this year alone. Trail, beach, river bottoms, pavement, terrain parks, skate parks, pump tracks, snow, snowmachine trail - I've ridden the Pugs on just about ever terrain there is. So, my impressions of the Farley are going to be colored by my experience with the Pugs.

First, let me just say that the Farley is a nice ride. After completing the 30 miles of paved riding last Friday, I was tired, but not exhausted. I wasn't completely spent. I'd ridden a similar path the week before on the Pugs - going out 27 miles and calling it good and at the end I was feeling it. Exhaustion and aching legs. The Trek is lighter and it feels lighter and faster even with the wider tires. I know that I could have tossed off another 10 or 15 miles on the road with no problems at all and still felt fresh the next day. So there's that.

Unfortunately, most of my riding is on paved trail as part of the daily commute. While I enjoy all types of riding, this type of riding isn't what I do for fun. Some might say that my selection of one bike to rule them all is a bit backwards given the proportion of types of riding I do. It seems a bit backwards to buy a bike geared for trail riding when most of my riding is not on trail. But that's the way I roll. I want a bike I can bomb on single track and still ride for daily commuting. That's a big part of what drew me to fat bikes to begin with. Particularly with the Pugsley. The Pugs was trail capable, but had the accoutrement needed to make for convenient commuting - easy rack mounting, fender mounts, a more upright feel, etc.

The Pugs was a bear on the climbs. It would climb over just about everything, but you felt the weight the whole time. The Farley isn't quite the same. The geo is definitely more trail bike than expedition bike. Not as upright, fewer mounting points, and light.

And these differences translate into a bit of a learning curve on the trail. The first thing I noticed is that the Farley requires a bit more finesse. The Pugs would do whatever you wanted it to on the trail, but often it required a bit of brute force to get it to do what you wanted it to. Example - there is this slightly tricky off-camber, rooty climb coming out of the college trails and into the Kepler trails. It's not steep, but the roots and such make it a bit challenging. With the Pugs it didn't matter the line, you just pointed, geared up, and climbed it knowing that the momentum would help see you through.

Not so much with the Farley. No, with the Farley it is important to pick the right line and be in the right gear going into the climb. The front end does feel really light on climbs and wants to come off the ground. This leads to challenges when climbing over roots in that you can loose too much momentum and have to daub. I had two such instances on sections of trail I've never had issues clearing before.

Some of this might also be an issue of tires. I ran the Hodags at about 12 PSI and found that on wet roots, particularly on off-camber sections, they broke loose time and again. The tires also don't seem to shed mud all that well. With Nates and even with the Knards, I'd have challenges breaking them loose in similar conditions. I find this a bit interesting as my Nates and my Knard were both 27tpi versus the 60tpi of the Hodag. I am sure that I just need to experiment with pressure a bit more, but with the Surly tires I would often ride them on trail at the same 17 to 18 PSI as on pavement and would still grip everything no problem.

And completely apropos of nothing - the MuleFut rim, decent as it seems to be, has a graphic of a pig on it. Not sure how pigs and mules go together. Odd.

Another thing I noticed with the Farley is that it doesn't seem to want to jump. The Pugs loved to get air born. With the Farley I had a hard time feeling the back end coming off the ground, or even getting the front end up for manuals. With the Pugs, a manual was like nothing and getting air was even easier. Though with the Pugs it always was apparent that you were in the air because the front end would dive as soon as the back was up. With the Farley, the front seems to, once in the air, want to stay up. Yet the Pugs, for as heavy as it is, just felt more willing to jump than the Farley.

All in all, I'm impressed with the Farley. There's definitely going to be some learning to finesse versus just point and go here. I'm a bit curious how it'll do on snow, though.

Buyer's Remorse

Well, I finally did it.

I dropped the hammer and bought a new bike. I don't have it in my possession yet. Not until tomorrow. But right now, I'm not sure how I feel about it. About the whole idea of buying a new bike, that is.

Buyer's remorse, I suppose.

Or maybe I just wonder if I was hasty.

First, maybe I should look at the reasons I want a new bike. Notice I said want, not need. First and foremost it is completely about want. The bike I have currently would more than suffice for many more years. Hell, it's got a new frame, so I guess it's nearly a new bike.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about about why I want a new bike.

I ride a lot. We've established this already. And as someone who rides a lot, I want to have the most comfort I can while making the commute. In a self-powered vehicle that can mean a number of things. A lighter bike makes for easier rolling which makes for a more enjoyable and comfortable ride. In the winter, wider rims provide a bit better tire profile for flotation meaning a bit easier riding through the snow making for a more comfortable and pleasant ride. I'm hopeful that a wider bar will also lead to a more comfortable ride.

Another reason I've been looking for a new bike has to do with the recent snafu with the Pugs frame and being without transportation for a couple of days. Generally I don't go in for the idea that one needs to have an extra car or bike just in case one quits working. But, I've found myself in that situation too often. And it sucks. I want to know that on any given morning even if my primary bike is down, I can still get to work. Without driving.

I also am getting tired of riding by myself. Particularly in the winter. I don't have many (any) friends and a really challenging schedule which makes it difficult to set up rides with people outside my family. With the new Pugs frame being size large, all of my kids and possibly my wife can ride the bike, giving me four different possible riding partners. So, the bike will no longer be set up optimally for me as the rider, but it will be available if I need it and will give my kids something to ride along side me as I explore new areas this winter.

The large frame on the Pugs feels just a touch too cramped for me to ride everyday without putting on a new, even longer, stem that could affect the handling and with the slight differences in geo, the large already feels a bit twitchy to me.

And I just want a new bike. I've ridden the hell out of the Pugs and have gotten the per-ride cost to somewhere way south of a penny per ride. I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I still like the bike, but am just ready for something new.

So what makes the new bike better than what I currently have? Well, not much. Or maybe a lot.

I've already mentioned the wider wheels. The frame is non-offset, so easier to build a 29er wheelset for for summer riding. The hubs are out of the factory with sealed cartridge bearings rather than the open bearings that caused me so many problems on the Pugs until I rebuilt the wheel (which is now entering the break a spoke phase...). The brakes are hydro vs. mechanical. I don't know if this is better or not, yet. I've had a few times where the mechanical brakes felt a bit sketchy. The frame is aluminium and has a lifetime warranty - so no seat post bonding going on here. I've have aluminium frames break in the past. They have a life span and all. But that frame, too, had a lifetime warranty and the company replaced it. Unfortunately at the time I didn't have the funds to build up the frame as few, if any, of the parts from the original bike would work on the new frame. That said, I'm in a different place now and by the time this frame bites it, well, I should be getting to the point where a cruiser might be more my style.

Other than those few items, it's not like the new bike is light years ahead of the old bike. It is just new. Which is part of the hesitation I feel now that I've made the payment. Is this really what I want to spend that much money on? What else could I use that money for? The kids could use some skis. We could probably use a second car since we have one child who is licensed and one that is going to be soon. We could use a new X, Y, or Z.

I tend to get this way after making a large purchase. Not with cars, because when you finance something it feels a lot less real in terms of the cost.

I'm sure that I'll love the bike. And I'll ride it all the time. I just don't know that I'll ever be able to say that its purchase was ever anything more than me wanting something new and having the funds to afford it.

On the flip side, I do find that a new bike, or even new bike parts, tends to cause me to up my riding, which should result in a corresponding reduction in weight, thus better health? Yeah, I needed a new bike for my health. That's it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Only in the Worst Way

So, I have a friend... maybe more of an aquaintance at this point... who is in a band. A fairly popular band - Motion City Soundtrack. Sometimes I listen to their records. Though not as much as I used to as my tastes have moved into a more progressive and heavy direction - Isis, Rosetta, Neurosis, Cult of Luna, etc. And when I listen to MCS I find that my man, Justin Pierre, seems to have captured my memories of that near year in 1994-95 and has spun them into emotionally powerful tales set to a pop-punk beat that often brings a tear to my eye and sets me strolling down memory lane.

This usually results in some rather terrible poetry. But at least it gets me thinking about my thoughts - how meta is that? - and putting those thoughts down on paper. Something I've not done enough of since paying a whole shitload of money to refine my craft. Money wasted? Probably. Maybe not. Who knows? Who cares? Good experiences, or something. Grad school didn't teach me to be brave, though, which is something I think the poet must be. Brave and willing to work hard at the craft - revising and revising and revising - never my strong suit. Instead I dash it out and it's over and done.

It used to be the norm to puke out three or four poems a day. Now it's three or four a year. I wonder how much age has to do with it?

So, poetry Tuesday today.

Nelson Hall - 1994-95
Someone once asked me
How can you love me if you don't love yourself?

The question's rattled around my head for years
and years. I've never found a satisfactory
answer. Is this really all we are?

I'm still trying to determine, at
39, who I am and if I give a shit at all.

Most times ambivalence abounds - 
the wrapper that is me - the bag of flesh
around a consciousness
that doesn't understand how to empathize,
but empathizes so much it cannot
see its own emotions are valid and
need release, need validation.

A psychobabble bubble expanding against
the walls of my skull. Threaten to burst, 
then pull back and leave the empty feeling again.

Looking back now, she just wanted a convenient
excuse to get away with a clean break.

But the truth lies there.

At the heart of it, something in those words
must feel true or why do they still prick
after twenty years have accumulated over them?
And how is it that I can remember her eye color
and the small gold stud she wore in her nose
but can't remember her name? 

Did I love her? Fuck, I don't know. I don't know much
from that time - I was just fucked out of my head
as was everyone around me - like the sixties
wrapped in flannel and torn denim, life in a madhouse,
the beer can, Nelson hall - bastion of future rock stars
business majors, burn outs, and wasted lives.

Nine months crossing boarders from 1994 to 95,
a gestation period. When you're 18 each moment seems
an eternity. When your mind is eaten away with chemicals
they seem longer.

I can remember, kind of, nights alone with the northern
winter dark out my window - glass crazed with frost - screaming
in the concrete bunker of that dorm, trying to feel
something real - the disconnection with the world out that
door so complete
I wouldn't talk to anyone for weeks, paranoid
and watching the world melt around me.

It's only in this dark near-winter mornings when
these memories flood back, these strange emotions
that I couldn't process then and can't connect
to anything real now.

I can feel with each year the razor edge of confusion,
of passion, of everything that used to make life both
painful and wonderful and mysterious, slowly dull. Like a TV
on the brink, colors all fading to sepia monotone,
a rerun of a rerun, Mr. Ed and My Three Sons, canned laugh
tracks and over-worn plot lines. Do I really have
another twenty, thirty, forty years of this? A continual
reduction of stimulus, of impulse, of making all

the same mistakes time and again trying to get them right? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oh, I Ache, Part 2

Is it new bike day if only the frame has changed and if the new frame is the same as the old frame? I don't know. I guess it feels like a new bike and it pisses me off on so many levels.

I suppose I should tell the story of how we got here, first.

A few months ago I was looking at getting a new saddle. A Brooks. Not that that really matters, but it is the set up. Anyway, I was researching the Brooks saddles and found that I would likely have to adjust my seat height to accommodate a new saddle. Makes sense, right?

Out to the garage I go for to adjust my seat. Actually, I had been thinking about changing the height for a while - making it just a touch higher. Out comes the allen key for with to loosen the seat collar. Seat collar loose, hands on saddle to give a nice easy twist and raise and… nothing. The post won't budge. This is late August.

The last time I know I adjusted the seat post was in December. My family bought me a new saddle for Xmas so I had to adjust for it.

I also know that when I originally put in the post, I greased it liberally.

However, here's my error. When I adjusted it in December I didn't regrease it. Nor did I regrease it at any point between December and now. The spring was, as springs are here, wet and dirty. Months of road salt and grime being thrown up on to the seat post and soaking down between the post and the tube. Steel and aluminum. Salt and water and air. A nice warm, dry, summer. A wet fall.

I can't say that I'm surprised by the galvanic corrosion. I'd like to, but I'm not. It makes perfect sense.

I talked to a couple of mechanics, consulted the interwebs, and in the end tried just about everything.

WD-40 bath morning and night - the post just laughed at me.
Deep Creep - my favorite penetrating lubricant and a dang fine engine starter - Nothing.
Soaking the seat tube and post in cleaning vinegar - Nada.
Beating the post downward with a big freaking hammer - Yeah, that worked… not.

There's the Drano method where you fill the post and seat tube with Drano or similar to dissolve the aluminum post while leaving the seat tube untouched. I'm a bit scared of chemicals, so I decided to avoid that one. And I'm cheap and wanted to try to salvage the 100 dollar post.

Looking back I should have just sacrificed it.

The final option was to place the post in a bench vice and use the frame as leverage to try to break it free. I don't have a bench vice so I used Vice Grips with steel tube for added leverage and my wife helping to hold the frame in place.

It seemed to be working.

But let me back up a bit. After I'd tried most methods to try to get this thing unstuck I kind of resigned myself to just leaving it and knowing that I'd just not be able to change seats. Then when it was time to upgrade I'd just hang it on the wall as a reminder of what not to do.

For some reason the wife talked me into giving it another try with the Vice idea.

And it seemed to work. I clearly got some movement in the post.

So I doubled my effort and started cranking on the post in the opposite direction.

Can you guess where this is going?  Yup. Pop. The post snapped like a rice crispy diving into the worlds largest bowl of milk.


Well, now that the post is gone, I guess it is time to start cutting. And chiseling. And grinding. And prying. And cursing.

I spend a good two hours the first night working away at the stub of the post, getting it down to about an inch inside the seat tube. The next day I continued to work on it for another three or four hours, I don't remember now, and got it down another two or so inches.

Now it's Sunday and I've got a hangover. I go to work on the bike. Working slowly and carefully. Because I have a hangover and because I don't want to hurt the frame. I work and I work and I seem to be getting nowhere.

Then I chisel away for a bit and the chisel (really a long ass screwdriver) seems to pop through something. My first thought is "Fuuuu I just put a hole in the seat tube." I look. No hole. Must be to the bottom of the seat post. The chisel is stuck, though, so I put the Vice Grip on it and twist, trying to get it out like I had done many times before.

Then it happened. Of course it did. The second great break. The seat tube rips and there sits the screwdriver poking out.

So long story short - I call every bike shop that was open on Monday. No frames. One of the local valley shops has one, but it is a size large instead of extra large and they're closed on Mondays.

I scour Craigslist looking for possible bikes, but I really can't see buying someone else's over-priced used bike that has a crap mix of components. I come close to pulling the trigger on a couple, but in the end decide that no, I'll just get a new frame and use the parts I have. I've spent a bit of money on some good parts, some of which can't be used on anything but a fat bike.

Tuesday I get the frame and build it up, noticing a few things. 1 - my headset is fubar. The bottom bearing is missing a few balls and is distinctly red instead of bright stainless steel color.  2 - the front der cage is broken.

No biggie. I can live with these things in the short term. I just need to get my rig back in order so I can get my booty to work. I build it up, adjust what needs adjusting, and then end up heading up to Hatcher's Pass to take her on her maiden voyage. Gold Mint Trail. A nice, rocky climb. A challenging out and back ride. Hard on machines and people.

Or it can be, anyway.

Helpful hint number 1 - do not try to ride anything where you might need traction with a bald ass Knard tire.

After much futzing on the first part of the ride getting stuff dialed in, I end up making it to about 4.5 miles up the valley before I have to turn around to head back to my meeting with the wife and kids in the parking lot. The bike is feeling right for the most part. The difference in frame size isn't noticeable other than I don't feel as stretched out. I'm feeling good, like this my bike.

And I let it rip a bit on downhill sections. I clear a few rocky climbs I've not in the past. I'm feeling it.

Then blam. Lights almost out. A section of the trail is quite muddy. I know this from the trip up. There's a small dry line next to a VW Beetle sized boulder. I shoot that line. What happened next I'm not sure. I just remember thinking that it's going to hurt. What I think happened is that the back end slipped out on the mud and the front, as I tried to overcorrect, caught the edge of the trough and sent me flying.

All I know is that I have a nice constellation circling my head, my neck feels a bit catawampus, and my leg is screaming at me.

I lie there on the crowberry bushes and yell a few choice explitives once I regain my breath and slowly start the process of evaluating the damage. I can still feel my feet and hands, so that's good. I slowly begin to move, first arms, then legs, then sit up, and, finally, stand. I'm bleeding. I'm bruised. The bike's taken some damage - the handlebars are 90 degrees from where they should be, but overall things are looking good. I'm not too badly hurt and the bike is ride-able, thanks to having my multitool with me.

In the end I made it back to the parking lot and everything was fine.

I do have to wonder just what I did to deserve such a rash of bad luck with the bike. Hopefully my karma bank is balanced out now. I'm not sure I can take much more. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


My new favorite quote:  The geometry they just sold you sucks frozen monkey ass.

Thanks Mike C

Transportation Poetry Oh My

The bulk of this came to me last night while on the bus. Observational. I tried to wrap it up this AM with some sort of resolution or something. Not sure that I'm completely happy with it, but it is a good start and it felt good to write this way again.

Imagine this: talcum powder's delicate scent
on the surface, covering the rank sweaty smell
of food fried in year's old grease
burnt and salty, a black-brown smell like
putrefying fungus on the forest floor.

Picture this: black woman missing two front teeth
promising she'll be good this time, the ghosts
aren't riding with her today, demanding
that she be allowed to show her pass
even after the driver waved her by, knowing which pass
she possesses and not wanting to
hold up boarding as she digs to the
furthest reaches of her rolling suitcase.

Imagine this: 58 years old. Skirt so short
the veiny thighs show right through even
as the hemline is continually tugged down and down
again, the backs of thighs rubbing against the stained and
filthy polyester and polyvinyl of the
molded seat, a cushion that does not cushion.
high heels six inches - well maybe really just three,
strappy and cork soled like something from 1979
the straps maybe once sexy or seductive, now
just constricting, impleading
the ability to walk with comfort and ease and, really, who
wears something like that when the rain is falling
and autumn is here? Maybe a drag queen or a
woman of a certain age trying to recapture
the male gaze that feel upon her in youth? 

Picture this: stained chinos and a hat emblazoned
with 4:20 - a canned rebellion.
Sweat shirt - hoodie two sizes too
big and reeking of cheap ditch weed,
sandalwood incense-
I suppose it brings back memories of college,
memories of when chemical
alteration of the consciousness
was a fun weekday activity instead of the constant tight rope
balancing act between harmless fun and serious
addiction issues that its become.

Imagine this: 5:15 in the morning, every morning,
a scent like rotten eggs mixed with half digested
baked bean mixed with the smell of water
in which hot dogs have been boiled, left on the stove
overnight - the gaseous outpour of some
working-class stiff or the off-gassing of the swamp
that rests silent and beautiful between the highway and the sea?

Picture this: another day begun and ended
wrapped in a steel box hurdled down the road
at 70 miles an hour, an act of faith, of trust that
the operator is awake at the wheel. We try to clear our minds
of thoughts of mass suicide and icy patches
and large herbivores on the roadway, drunk drivers
and insane gunmen and sink into dreams or our
twisted thoughts - processing the day to come or
the day just ended - a family road trip minus the bickering
of the two youngest siblings. And is it worth it? Is it worth it
each of our eyes seem to ask - this getting up
so damned early in the morning and being away from
our homes for so long through the day just so
we can save a bit of gas money at the expense of our time.
Is it worth is and is it worth it? The questions hide
just under each word we say and the answers
change by the day, change on the mood and whim
of the weather and circumstance. But yes, it must be worth
it, that time spent watching each other watch each other,
that time spent in fitful dream. That time spent reading or
working or just staring into the black expanse of forest that
speed by  and we are free to reside in
a thoughtless world for forty minutes twice a day

letting someone else worry about our safety for a change. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oh, I Ache...

How do you spell birthday fun?  I think this picture pretty much sums it up for me:
Grade. That's how I spell birthday fun anymore. I just can't decide which is more fun. Going up or coming back down.

On Thursday I turned nearly 40. Old. That's what that is. And to celebrate I rode my bike. Surprise, huh? I rode my bike from my home at about 355 feet of elevation to Independence Mine in Hatcher's Pass State Recreation Area - the pass tops out at 3886 feet, though I'm not sure of the exact elevation at the mine. Gold Cord weather station is 4050, so let's say that the mine buildings are ~3900. A climb of 3545 feet in 24-ish miles.

Not too shabby.

And the funny thing. Or at least I thought it was funny at the time. Road bikes. They are funny machines ridden by funny people. So, the set up. I pull off at the Government Peak campground/picnic area to use the restroom and grab a snack. Just below the start of the real climb. As I'm pulling out, I see a road biker coming up the road. Cool. I know he's going to pass me so I just keep telling myself to ride my ride and not worry about keeping pace because I'm going to make it to the mine come hell or high water.

So he passes me, of course, and I keep riding at my pace. He never gets quite out of my sight and I can see where he makes the curve at Gold Mint to start the real, real climb. I remember thinking to myself that he's going a bit slower than I expected based on how quickly he caught up to and passed me. And he'd already been out of the saddle and climbing on a couple hills already, even before stuff was going to get real.

I keep peddling.

About a quarter mile before the Arch Angel road parking lot I catch him. He's out of the saddle climbing. I let him know I'm behind him and that I'm just going to wheel suck for a bit because I just know that if I pass him he will just have to pass me right back. And probably soon, too. I know that the climb before the Mile 16 parking area is even harder than the one to Arch Angel, after a brief flat to slight declamation.

So I hang on his wheel to the apex and then he gets back on the saddle and picks up some speed on the flat bit. As soon as the road starts to climb again, though, he is out of the saddle and slowing. I catch him less than a quarter mile into the climb. I'm on my seat and cranking. Not hard. I'm not pushing it. Which surprises me. I always find myself trying to run down riders in front of me - I think they call it Cat6ing. Today, though, I am just riding. I'm keeping my pace and I'm on his wheel and if I intend to stay on his wheel, I'm going to have to slow way down.

So I decide that I have to pass. It's a slow pass. Slow enough that we have time to share a few words. I quip that the ride would be so much nicer if they'd install a few more flats and remove some of the hills. He chuckles and then as I start moving ahead gives me a "way to go" or something to that affect.

I push on. I don't look back because I know, at this point, if he moves to pass me, I'll pick up the pace and likely ride myself right out of the ride.

I do look back when I get to the Fishhook parking area. Not so much to see where he's at, because it seems weird to me that he hasn't passed me back yet, but rather to see how many cars I have coming up behind me. Three. But no cyclist. What?

So I keep my pace and make it to the mine. I call the wife and arrange to meet her at Turner's Corner thinking that ice cream was in order, eat a snack, stretch a bit, and have a drink before hopping back on the bike to head down. And who do I see coming up to the mine? Road bike dude.

I realize that he was probably riding a training ride with a specific pace and specific goals and that he probably pulled off at the 16 Mile parking area so that we wouldn't get into that awkward situation where our paces caused us to continue leap frogging each other, which is what I should have done earlier, but… well it is what it is.

The story I like to tell myself, though, is that he pulled off because he was embarrassed about getting passed in the middle of a climb by a fat guy on a fat bike.

Maybe my wife hired him to be out there for my birthday. A way to make me feel a little bit more potent? Maybe.

Though I still like to think it's just that I'm a freakin' beast.

Not a bad way to spend the morning. Not a bad morning at all. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

47 MPH


My mind wanders lately. Like my writing. Unable to draw a straight line, or even really make a coherent connection from thought one to B I take off on my bike whenever I can. Though it is never enough. The responsibilities of the day must be attended to first.

 The smoker two cubicles down is really pissing me off today. Her scent is stronger and dirtier than usual. I don't begrudge smokers, having been one myself. What I do have a problem with is that so many smokers seem to loose all sense of personal hygiene - a regular clothes washing and shower would go a long way to rectifying the situation right now. There is a difference between the smell of tobacco smoke and tobacco smoke, BO, and filth.

Just saying.

I've been putting on road miles lately. Climbing. Descending. Motivating. Clocking in a number of 25+ mile commute days with additional miles on the weekends.

Last weekend it was 25 miles from my house up to mile 16 at Hatcher's Pass - the parking lot and location of a downhill biking trail. I was going to ride it, but decided, due to a time constraint that it wouldn't be the right time to do so. It's always fun climbing 10% grades on the fat bike. People tend to gawk. As if I have defied the laws of physics or something. Going down. Now that's where it's at. The fastest I clocked was 47 miles per hour. Fast. Been slightly faster before on a full squish mountain bike. 52. That was scary. Squirrely. 47 on fat was like riding a cloud.


Yesterday I ended a 33.5 mile commute day by clocking in 10 miles of road and trail in Anchorage before catching the bus and another 15 miles of road in the valley.

Met up with a road biker at one point, who was obviously doing the same loop as I, just in reverse, as I caught up with him at Trunk road - his route around 6 miles and mine around 9. I hope he had taken a rest or went to Turners to add some miles or something, because my 17 mph average wasn't that fast - Though I like to think that I am just that awesome of a rider that the fatty can keep up with anything…

This weekend? Don't know. The kids have a cross country race. I might try to get in some trail riding before or after. Maybe ride up to Hatcher's again and see just how far back I can go on Gold Mint before the terrain becomes way too much for my limited skills.

Or maybe I'll just not ride at all?

I feel like I have to squeeze so much in before the weather truly turns. Maybe that's why I'm so scatter brained? Or maybe it's just the start of the new semester at school, when I have even more things to keep aligned than usual. This, too, will pass.

I'm getting old.

One more birthday, fast approaching, before I enter another decade, the decade where people used to be considered middle aged, or even old. Maybe I have less life ahead of me than behind? At least fewer of the good years. Or maybe not? Maybe as my life winds down I'll find time to do all those things I always thought I wanted to do?

There is something to be said for the confidence that seems to come with age. As if all the years of self doubt will just magically slip away.

Existential crisis averted? Metaphysical graffiti? When does nostalgia become curmudgeondom?

Retro grouch.

Is that all there is left?

I once stated, in a public forum, that I wanted to ride to Nome the year I turn 40. Suppose I better get on training for that.

I really don't feel like I am nearly 40. Hell, most days I feel like I am still 16 and so unsure of what to do that I find it hard to do anything. Thank the stars that acne isn't really a concern anymore. Nor is trying to fit in or wear the right clothes.

But the rest. Oh the rest is still there. Angst. Anger. Uncertainty. Doubt. Fecklessness. Recklessness. Invincibility. Invisibility. Desire. Stasis. Confusion.

I'd still jump blind from train trestles if the water weren't so cold. Would drive my car fast on narrow winding roads if I had a car that would go fast. I still ride wheelies whenever I get the chance because they are cool. 


When do I grow up? Do I want to grow up? I often want to ask my dad if he felt like an adult when he was 40. He was starting a business and had been running multimillion dollar construction jobs for years by that point. How does one broach that topic?

When do you know you're a man and not a child? Ever? Why does everyone else seem to have it so together and I don't?


The barometer. That's it. That's what's punching these thoughts into my mind. Has to be. Someday I'll get it right. Right? That's what I keep telling myself. Until then I'll ride the twisting thoughts away, grind them up in my chain and spit them out.

Did you hear the one about the polar bear and the priest?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oku/The Secret

I realize now why my blog is a failure. Why it hasn't made me rich beyond my wildest dreams.  It's not me. Really, it's not. It's the market.

No, actually it is me, but I want to blame someone else. I spend a bit of time reviewing other bike blogs and there are some traits that cut across most of them.

First, they have lots of pictures. Of bikes. Bike porn is good. I like it. I also notice that few of the shots that show up on these sites have much actual bike riding going on. Mostly they are shots of bikes out in the woods or in some urban setting. Perfectly clean and posed bikes. Bikes that look like they've never been ridden. I'm still looking for that elusive shot of a crank arm with signs of wear.

Second, the authors of these blogs seem to have a different bike for every possible riding situation and they're always upgrading or changing parts. I like parts and bikes. I really do. I just don't understand how someone can afford, let alone justify having multiple 4K+ bikes in the garage. You can only ride one at a time.

Third. Well, the third is really an extension of the second - there's this strange belief that each riding situation requires a specific bike - the perfect commuter, the perfect trail bike, the perfect training bike, the perfect beer run bike.

Product review shots are likewise stationary and full of products that look brand new, never worn, directly out of a catalog. (See: Seriously, I don't believe you actually ride in any of the gear you review because I ain't seeing you ride. I ain't seeing mud and bugs and dog shit splattered on the back of your jacket. I don't see a single flaw in your helmet or finger-print on your glasses. It's like a fashion blog, but with bikes. I can't even call these folks hipsters. Cuz they ain't.

There are exceptions. Yes there are. Gypsy By Trade is one. This is a bike blog where bikes get ridden. Maybe the distinction is that the blogs where folks actually ride and use the shit that they take pictures of and these others is advertising dollars, maybe some folks write their blogs in an attempt to create a second career as a paid writer while others are writers who happen to bike and want to share?

Why am I debasing myself in this way? Why am I going down that wormhole of the blog post about blog posts?

Because I've got nothing else to say right now. I've had some awesome rides lately. Some by myself. Some with my son. Some with my dogs. But I want to hold them close to the vest. They've not be revelatory rides. Just good, standard, everyday rides in terrain I've ridden before. And I'm trying to remind myself that writing about a ride doesn't make it any better than what it was in that moment when it happened, which frees me to focus on the ride. There is nothing worse that spending a ride thinking about what you want to write about the ride. It destroys authenticity and mediates the whole experience through the lens of how it can be presented to others.

It's bullshit. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Worlds Apart

The dayglo vest and white
plastic hats amiss among the Saks
sacks and sparkling jewels
on elegant women's
wrists and fingers,
nestled in
that small hollow of the neck
just below where the Adam's
apple would be if she were a he.

How do they get anything done
amid the crush of
humanity passing
every moment of the eight to five -
the slope worker lugging
his arctic gear even though it is
only august now and not required until October,
the European couple walking hand in hand
clearly touring, worlds away from
Bucharest or Buchenwald or wherever it is
that sends their tourists to us.

Or the pretty young coed
running the streets on not much more
than her skin and a few strips of modesty - every man
watches her go by, but whether
in lust or sadness it's hard to say.
The traffic passing inches from their
studiously bowed heads,
if they were at a desk wearing a shirt
and tie these rough handed men
could be any banker or lawyer or
office drone just like the rest of us, secure in the
climate controlled safety of some nameless office block
instead of out in the streets

aglow and breathing in all that is life.