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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Girl...Stand Still

I've been having some awesome rides lately. Maybe it is just because I know that winter is indeed coming. Or maybe it is because I'm trying to expand my horizons and ride areas and terrain I normally wouldn't. I'm starting to realize that riding bike can be a great way to explore, to get to know my back yard a bit better.

I love riding single track, but there is something to be said for a ride that takes you someplace. Someplace you likely wouldn't see otherwise.

On Friday my daughters had cross country practice at Hatcher's Pass - Archangel Road. I don't need much encouragement to head out to HP. The more time I spend there, the more I love it and the more I realize that I've only seen the smallest part of the park. I decided to bike up the road with one of the dogs while my wife and son scouted out blueberry patches.

Last year the road was open to cars for the full 4 miles and we'd driven to the end before, but had never gotten out and really explored the terrain or the area past the last gate on the road. This summer a good portion of the road is closed to motorized use, so it's human power if you want to get to the end of the road. Being on the bike, for me, means that I'll actually make it to the end. If I were walking, I would have turned around well before reaching the top. If the creator wanted us to walk, it wouldn't have invented bikes. That's what I say. So and yeah. Maybe I need to get on the walking/hiking train, because I have a sense that past the end of the road, past the end of the path at the end of the road there is a lot of terrain that I could and should explore.

Even just getting to explore the dilapidated Fern mine was awesome.

What was even more awesome? Bombing back down the road. I spent a bit too much time on the brakes the first time down as my younger dog had to be back on leash at that point and while she did her best to keep up, she struggled.


I met up with the wife and son and other dog and turned right around to take the other dog back to the top just so I could bomb down again. Good times!

Saturday we went car camping at the Mat Su River Park and my son and youngest daughter spent some time riding the excellent and getting better by the day trails there. The flow track is amazing - you can get some great air if you have your timing right. And the bluff trail is challenging and a bit scary where it rides along the side of the MatSu river, a sheer fifty or so foot drop below. The work being done on the trails in that park make it almost worth the time and effort it takes to get over there. Normally I like to string together big trail miles without retracing trail if possible - there's nothing terribly long in the park, but the flow trail invites repeated rides and the other trails have enough personality that riding them in both directions makes for unique ride experiences.

Alas, now it's back to work and standard commutes - nothing exciting going down. But that's probably a good thing.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's all Wrong

The first two lines of that blog post describe to me exactly everything that is wrong with cycling, society, and America at large - when taken together with the rest of the post.

Explain to me exactly why someone who wants to get into a sport needs a bike with a drivetrain worth 2K? 550 dollar wheels? Who knows how much all the rest of it cost. To ride thirty miles? That's such a piss-poor ROI that I don't even know what to say.

No, wait, I do: What. The. Fuck?

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. The attitude that you have to have the best possible gear, the lightest, carbonest, whateverest when you are just beginning to get a feel for the sport is what, I think, keeps a lot of people from giving cycling a fair shake as anything other than the new millenium version of showing just how small your knards are by how much you spend on your bike rather than the last millennium's version which was a sports car that you'd never think of driving any faster than the speed limit. It's an inverse proportion. The more you spend on a bike you'll never actually ride the smaller said knards are. My knard is 26X3.8. (See what I did there...)

Listen, I get the desire to have the best and brightest of everything, particularly when one has worked hard for the money. But when you're just starting? That's like giving a 14 year old the keys to a brand new Bugatti Veyron Super-Sport as soon as they get their permit. (I'm pretty sure in Iowa you can get a permit at 14. A farm license much earlier, but I've not verified this.) It just doesn't make sense. I've heard, and cannot verify this either, that riding a road bike is a bit different than riding other bikes. They're a bit twitchy. A bit wobbly until they get up to speed. So, as with a supercar, it takes some skill building to get to the point that you can operate such a machine to its potential. 
And as Eddie Merckx famously said: "Don't buy upgrades, ride up grades."

Whatever. What do I know. I only own one bike and I paid less for it that this guy paid for the drivetrain on this bike.

I should probably not read his blog because it always just pisses me off. Then again, I think I'm sliding into retro-grouch land lately.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Time Baby Three


It's important to get out into the world and explore. Even when you have to work the next day and the weather looks like it will be rainy and crappy. When you do so and get pleasant surprises, like beautiful sunny skies, it is all the more worth it.

The boy and I decided to hit up the Gold Mint trail to see if we could make it further than the last time we were there. It amazes me how much the character of the trail seems to change between each visit. In the early spring it was impossible riding past mile 2.5 and the avalanche there. In the spring we turned around at three miles or so because of the mud and swampiness of the trail and being overgrown with alders that hadn't yet relaxed and grown upwards after a winter of snow.

Last night we made it 4.5 miles out before we decided that we'd best turn around and head back to the car and the waiting girls and dogs.

Friday, August 1, 2014

When Ya Get Drafted

Surly. I know you're not reading this, but I'm going to vent at you anyway. It's your tires, man. They suck. I mean, they don't suck. What sucks is that they cost so much and last for such a little time. I'm talking fat bike tires, of course. Shit's spendy. In March or April I bought a new Knard for my Pugsley. I needed a decent tire for riding a mix of road, MUP, and dirt. Nates are awesome for dirt and snow, but are way overkill on pavement or other hard surfaces. My old Endo gave up the ghost - completely bald, the fatty took a shot to the sidewall that cut a gouge like that purported to be inflicted in the side of christ. I hadn't a choice. I had to get something new. I was going to go with the Vee Mission tire from my local big-box outdoor retailer whose common name is three letters long. The reviews I'd read weren't that great for the tire, but it was cheaper than the Surly offerings. Instead, I decided to spend my money at a local shop. Their options were: BFL, Snowshoe, Knard, Endo. Of the four offerings only the Knard and Endo would fit my ride. The Endo, while a good tire in its day just wouldn't provide the type of on-trail grip that I wanted. So it was the Knard. I've given some review of my impressions of the Knard on this very blog before. (Clicky-clicky) I like this tire. It does well on mixed surfaces. Or it did. Now... not so much. Here's the thing - I've got under 5000 miles on this tire. Well under. In commuting let's estimate where I'm at - padding the mileage a bit: (5 days x (12 miles x 2 trips))x 20 weeks (Again, padding here a bit.) That gives me 2400 miles in commuting. Let's go ahead and throw in another 1200 miles in recreational riding - single track, beaches, some pavement, etc. That's 3600 miles. A fair number of miles, I suppose. But in those miles a strange thing has occurred. The center row of knobs remains nearly like brand new. The row just to each side of the center is where the oddness occurs. See the small knobs are almost completely gone and the larger knobs are heavily worn. Doing the math, I guess the cost per mile isn't that much, but I'd like to ride a tire for longer than a season before it balds out. $.0275 per mile if I'm doing the maths right. Even so. I don't like tire shopping.