Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hey Surly, You Reading This?

Dear Surly,

In 2013 I bought a bike your company made. A Pugsley. White. Big. Fat. Like me. I bought it for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was fat and relatively cheap as far as fat bikes went at the time. I liked the 3X drive train and the double-wall Large Marge rims. Again, I'm a big, fat guy and I like to break things. Double wall = good.

I rode the hell out of that bike. It quickly became my only bike. I think maybe Surly sent an operative to my house to sabotage my other ride, a well loved Giant NRS that was my one and only until Pugsley came around.  See, I rode the Pugs for a week of daily commuting, then decided to give it a break and go back to the Giant. That very ride, on the way home from work, the frame broke clean in two on the seat tube, right by the suspension mount. Coincidence? Maybe, but either the Giant was heart broken by my splitting of affections or the Pugs wanted to be the one and only in my life.

From that day forward the Pugs was my only ride. And I rode daily. Well, almost daily. Generally six days a week. Sometimes all seven. I rode to work and home. I rode paved bike path. I rode single track. I rode XC ski trails and dog mushing and snowmachine trails. I rode in the rain. I rode in the sun. I rode during an ice storm once.

I once got myself into a spot of trouble - early October in Anchorage riding some dog mushing trails over a swamp that had not frozen over yet. One moment I'm hike a bike over the hummocks and the next I am crashing through the ice up to my groin in nearly frozen water and oozy black mud that smelled quite a bit like an Alaska outhouse that's baked in the midnight sun a touch too long. Air temps in the low thirties. Only five miles from home, but getting wetter with each step as I broke through the rime of ice over and over, each time going a bit deeper and deeper.

I rode miles and miles on that bike. I broke shit. A lot of shit. Derailleurs - front and rear. Cranksets. Hubs - I think I went through two hubs and countless axel rebuilds on the stock Shimano hub on the bike before I had the shop rebuild with a cassette bearing hub. Quick releases. Seat posts. Chains. Lots of chains. Saddles. I broke lots of parts. I eventually broke the frame itself. Though that was my own fault, really. Who knew that aluminum would fuse to steel after only a year if there wasn't a bit o' grease between the two? Not I. That's who. Or, rather, maybe I just got lazy. Doesn't matter. Trying to dig a seat post out of the seat tube when two become one … not fun and if one is not careful one tends to put large holes in the seat tube.

So what do I do? I buy a new frame. Same snow-blind white. A touch smaller, but a good, solid structure on which to rebuild my lovely Pugs. And in true Pugs fashion the virgin-busting ride resulted in my big, white ass flying through the air with the greatest of ease right over the handlebars and into a clump of blueberry bushes. Nothing on the bike was broken. Nothing on me was broken. Just the bike and me getting to know each other a bit better.

Then something happened. Something got in the way. Farley. Yes, fat and fun and aluminum. For some reason shiny was suddenly appealing to me and the Pugs was just a bit too pedestrian, too blasé, too mainstream. Or so I thought. Corporate brainwashing, maybe. But for some reason I had to have a new fat bike and the Farley was it. Maybe it was the name? Now that I think about it, the corporate bike slingers from Wisconsin really seemed to co-opt Surly's naming approach with that one.

So I got the Farley, but the Pugs stuck around the garage as the fat bike for the kids to ride along with. It didn't get much use overall. A few adventure rides, but not the way I thought it would. Until the Farley had to go into the shop for an extended period. Broke shit again - rear wheel set when to crap and the shop had to maneuver the corporate bs required to get the warranty validated. So Pugs and I were reunited.

It wasn't like rekindling a romance. Instead it was like being stuck in a room with an ex who you did not amicably separate from - we fought. I couldn't get comfortable and Pugs couldn't keep a tire inflated to save its life. After a week went by I was so happy to have the Farley back that I didn't realize that for the entire time I was on Pugs again my back never once hurt.

I almost sold Pugs. Had all but cash in hand when I decided that no, I couldn't sell it. I'd had too much fun on those times when my son and I would go exploring the world in the winter on the fatties and if I only had one portly beast in the garage we wouldn't be able to do that anymore. Yet I didn't take down the Craig's List posting I had made to sell the Farley. I had posted both bikes at the same time just to see what would happen. Maybe sell one and get a 9'er+.

In the mean time the Pugs got some use and I was riding the Farley daily. My back was killing me and rides longer than two hours generally resulted in barely being able to walk the next day.

Then one day, out of the blue, nearly two months after posting the ad, I get an email asking if the Farley's still for sale. "Sure" I say and we work out a deal. I got cash and figure I'll buy a new skinny bike for summer riding and ride the Pugs in the winter. Then I decide to just upgrade a few things on the Pugs to make it fit a bit better - super wide bars, a longer stem, a cushy saddle for my fat ass. Maybe a 9'er wheel set.

At first going back to the Pugs was hard. I still felt a bit like a bear riding a really tiny bike. The Farley felt so sporty all leaned over and such. The Pugs felt slow and awkward. But the data wasn't agreeing with that assessment. My daily commutes were as fast and even a touch faster than on the Farley. More importantly, I didn't feel like someone had been beating on my lower back at the end of a ride.

But I still wasn't completely sold on going back to the Pugs. While the bulk of my riding is commuting, the riding I love more than anything is riding the trails. The Farley was ace on the single track. It felt fast and capable and once I got comfortable on it, could climb and jump like a boss. For the first two weeks of being back on the Pugs I didn't ride any trail. I was worried that going back to trail on the Pugs would be a let down after the Farley.

Then I went for a nice long trail ride with my son.

Three hours on the bike. Riding pump track, flow trails, rooty-techy single track, and an old rail trail with a number of big assed rockslide sections. Three hours of riding and the entire time all I could think about was how much fun I was having riding with my boy. I wasn't thinking about how the bike felt under me. I wasn't thinking about limitations of the bike or things that I thought I should change to make the bike function better. I wasn't thinking about my back hurting because it wasn't. I was just riding.

It was brilliant.


And that's when it hit me. The entire time I had the Farley I was always focused on the things I wanted to improve on the bike and the things I didn't like about the bike rather than being present in the ride itself. For the first time since I sold the Farley I realized that it was absolutely the right choice given my riding style and what I look for in a bike - one bike to rule them all.

I know that the Pugs isn't as fast as some other bikes and a lot of people try to tell me that a fat bike is not the right bike for commuting or riding during the summer. I tell them phooey. When you find the right bike for you it is the right bike for you, regardless of what marketing BS is behind it. For me, a slightly upright riding steel fat bike with heavy, sturdy, durable wheels is the right bike for me spring, summer, fall, or winter.

Oh, and stripping Large Marge? She looks sexy naked. 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Go Get It! Now!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

These Days

I'm still trying to figure it out for myself. Why did I go back to the Pugsley? Why'd I sell the Trek Farley? What is the meaning of life and why is it that I always figure shit out after the fact?

I think that some catching up is necessary here. Back at the end of the winter I put both my Pugs and the Farley on craigslist to see what would happen. I don't know that I was thinking about it all that much. I was just at a place where it seemed that having two fat bikes in the garage was a bit excessive, even though the kids were getting some use out of the Pugs. But they weren't using it too much as they are much more into skiing during the winter.

I got a bite on the Pugs and had it all lined up to sell, but in the end I backed out. Flaked. Decided that the amount I was going to sell it for was nowhere near what it was worth to me, particularly when assessing some of the fun rides my son and I had with it over the winter.

I did leave the Farley posted and updated the price a bit. I hadn't gotten any interest in that bike, so I didn't think much of it and eventually forgot that I had it posted.

Then, out of the blue I get an email asking if it was still for sale.

Sure, I say and negotiations begin.

Even before we finalized the deal I was hesitant to do it. I was just starting to get used to the bike and, again, thought about how much fun I had with the kids riding it. But then I got to thinking to myself that I could take what I get from the sale and buy a summer bike - something in a 29er. Then I could use the Pugs in the winter and have a studded bike as well, for when it gets icy.

Let's just say that that idea didn't work out. Instead, I have a single bike with a few minor upgrades.

What was my reasoning for ever thinking about going back to the Pugs, anyway?

The Farley was a nice ride. Let me just say that right off the bat. It was a fun ride. It was different than the Pugs and I didn't warm up to it right away, but I did end up having a lot of fun on the bike.

That said, something also always felt a bit off about the Trek. It seemed like no matter how I set the bars and seat and such, on rides over 20 miles or so I would end up cramped, sore, and with tingly hands.  And a good trail session would often leave me barely able to walk the next day from how badly my back would end up hurting. Fit or the harsher ride of aluminum? Not sure. All I know is on the Pugs it takes a lot more miles to get to that same place of pain.

So there's that.

Also, I have to be honest with myself and everyone else and admit that while I love trail riding the bulk of my riding is commuting. On pavement. With panniers. For that riding, the layout of the Pugs, being a bit more upright, just makes better sense.

I do worry that my trail riding will not be as much fun for a while. That I'll have to really work to get my legs back in shape for the heavier bike, that I'll not be able to huck the jumps and rail the berms the way I have been with the Farley. To this point I wouldn't know, though. I sold the Farley last Tuesday and still haven't ridden any trail with the Pugs. Hell, I even decided to work on the car over going for a bike ride yesterday. I think I have problems. Mentally.

I am feeling fit and fast on the Pugs again. Like anything, it just takes a bit of getting used to. However, I recently have started to feel that the bike ride is a bit of a chore. Not good when the weather is as amazing as it has been lately. Maybe the sense of stagnation is what led me to sell the Trek, go back to the Pugs, and not ride obsessively as I had been doing prior to a few weeks ago.

I just don't know.

Tonight I get to ride trail with a bunch of kids. That usually gets me pumped for riding a bit. If nothing else, it will be a nice way to get back on the trails with the Pugs - we'll be riding slowly no matter what, so I won't feel like I'm busting my butt and not getting anywhere. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

This is why Rosetta Rocks!

From an interview over at Arctic Drones

"‘Quintessential Ephemera’ came up during a discussion at practice about user-generated content on the internet and how it isn’t really ‘content’ per sé, it’s more a pure abstraction of meaningless form. It’s an addictive distraction to keep people engaged on social media platforms.
Historian Allan Brandt wrote a book called The Cigarette Century, about the rise of tobacco in the 20th century and how cigarettes became the ultimate consumer product, used up and discarded without any measurable benefits, yet deeply habit-forming and part of social identity (despite ultimately killing their users). He calls cigarettes the quintessential ephemera of the 20th century. Slavoj Zizek talks about the same idea, but in reference to caffeine-free Diet Coke, in The Fragile Absolute – he calls it a “distillation of pure exchange value” or pure commodity, or more memorably “nothing in the guise of something.”
That phrase summed up our disgust with the state of online discourse so neatly that it became the title of the last song on the album. We were asking, what’s the quintessential ephemera of the 21st century? Probably cat videos and internet memes. We’ve taken this bizarre need to consume form without content and moved it over into the realm of virtual reality, making it even more empty than it was with consumer commodities. There’s now more communication, more expression, more information than ever before, but what does it amount to? Not much."
When a rock band drops Zizek and Brandt, you know they be the shizz. 

Summer's Here.

It's summer in the Valley.

How do I know this? Two ways, really.

One: The Government Peak Hill Climb race is this coming weekend. Mountain runners, badasses all, from around the state, nation, and world, will converge to run 3500 feet up a mountain in 2.75 miles in an effort to do it as quickly as possible. Last year the winner did it in 44:20.6.

Hill climb indeed.

Last year I was hobbled for a week after hiking up to the top ahead of the racers to do timing and making the mistake of trying to run down the mountain afterwards. Sometimes my enthusiasm outstrips my intelligence.

This year my son is running the race. Just last Sunday he did a training run up the mountain - his first time all the way to the top. He made it in, according to his timing, one hour and ten minutes. Not too shabby. I think he wants to beat an hour for the actual race day.

I will be at the top again this year, watching and taking pictures and, I suppose, timing as well.

Two: Sprockidz. Last night was the first night of the summer kids mountain bike skills coaching evening camp. The program runs for 8 weeks during the summer and gives kids a chance to learn mountain bike skills and the joy of riding the trails.

Last night was our first meeting of the year wherein we get the kids out and riding a brief course to test their speed and to start forming them into groups for coaching. The first night is always a bit fun in that we see whose bikes are not really up to par, what kids are not really there because they want to be, and what kids are out to show off a bit (My son?  Yeah, that's him).

Just as we lined the kids up for the ride for speed the clouds to the west built up and thunder rumbled through the valley. The weather was a ways off, so no one was worried. We set the kids out on the trail and within a few hundred yards we had our first accident - a girl got her shoe lace wrapped around her peddle spindle.

Then another 500 yards down the trail our first mechanical - somehow the rider got her chain wrapped in a near double knot around the inside spindle of her crankset. Three burly men and a 10 minutes later I'd gotten the chain unbound and back on the chainring and she was back off, burning rubber up the trail and passing riders left and right.

I love coaching the kids. Mostly it ends up being just an excuse to ride bike a couple nights a week, but the kids start to learn some things - mostly that they are able to do a lot more on their bikes than they originally thought.

And, really, what is better than watching kids fall in love with bikes? What could be a more perfect expression of all that is right with the world?