Saturday, January 30, 2010

Baker I Hardly Knew You.

I met Baker and his posse while camping in Rossland B.C. Soon after that I had the privilege of a hot shower and and a good nights sleep at his place in Washington. Baker lived a rich life, riding mile after mile of spectacular trails. He hung around with with EBextreme and his wife, joining them for epic rides and trailbuilding days in the northwest. Like all good dogs, the end of Baker's life came too soon. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness this past year and last week he passed away. I know he has left a huge hole in the hearts of his humans and that he is sorely missed. So, here's to a good dog, gone too soon.

Photo Credit: C. Nash

Anyone that has had a four legged riding partner understands just how deep a loss this can be.
I just got home from a ride around the block with a long time canine riding partner. At 14 years old even this has become a long ride for him. It seems like it wasn't too long ago that we were doing 40mile rides over mountain passes in Alaska, now he needs encouragement to make it around the block. Not because his heart isn't in it, he still loves to go out on a ride. When I pull my bike out he looks at me and lets me know he is ready to go. His world has grown smaller, but his heart is as big as ever. I don't know how many more rides we will get in together, and I don't look forward to the day we lose him. I am grateful for all the miles we have been able to travel together and all the memories he has blessed me with . And I know when that day comes I'll get a note of condolence from EBextreme, and I'll know that he understands.

For now, Baker R.I.P. and my love and prayers go out to your fam.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hey There You Big Stud

Ready for a project?
If you are like me you don't have a whole lot of free time in your life, but you probably have even less free money. If the super sweet nokian studded tires are out of your price range at $180 for the pair and you've got some an old set of tires around it is worth your time to make some cheap studs.

If you're interested here's how to do it:

What you'll need:

-3/8 inch, #8 (i think) sheet metal screws, round (I've been corrected. If they're sheet metal screws it is called a pan head, not round. I apologize for any confusion), phillips head. 150-200 per tire. Buy 'em in bulk at the hardware store. $6 total when I made mine.

-appropriate phillips head bit.

-drill bit slightly smaller than your screws.

-2 old inner tubes for lining your tires.

-2 tires. large, deep, widely spaced knobs are best, but use what you got.

-Piece of scrap wood to drill into. (Better than drilling into your floor.)

Now pop in a movie and get to work. . . .

The necessary supplies

Drill bit, Phillips head bit, 3/8" #8 sheet metal screws.

Buy 'em in bulk at your local hardware store

Drill through the knobs into your piece of scrap wood.

Pre drilled holes, viewed from the inside.

Insert screws through the pre-drilled holes

Do your best to figure out a pattern and spacing that works for the
tires you are using.

Cut out the valve stem on some old tubes, then slice them up the middle
to line your new tubes and protect them from the screw heads.

New tube, liner tube, studded tire.

I eventually ended up filing down the points of the screws
on my tires because I kept scratching myself. Really
has no effect on traction. You can just ride them on bare
asphalt for a while and try to accomplish the same thing.

Looks pretty gnarly when it is all said and done.

Food for thought from Peter White cycles:

"To describe the stud's effectiveness, I'll use an analogy. Think about walking with rubber soled shoes on three surfaces; dry clean asphalt, glare ice, and glare ice that's been sprinkled with sand. On the dry asphalt you can run and make sharp turns without any concern about your shoes skidding. On the ice, you can only walk carefully, changing direction and speed slowly, lest you Fall Down Go Boom. On ice that someone has nicely sprinkled some sand over, you can walk easily and perhaps even run. But if you do run you won't be making any sharp turns or trying to stop quickly, as you would on dry asphalt, since you know full well that those little grains of sand aren't glued onto the ice, and can roll if pushed hard enough.
Riding on ice with studded tires is like walking on ice that's been lightly covered with sand. It's pretty safe. You're not likely to fall unless you do something stupid. You're not going to have the same traction you would have on dry pavement. But you're going to have far more than you would with regular tires on ice. Keep in mind that there's ice down there and you'll be fine. Try to be a hero, and you'll probably pay a price."

I made my first set 6 years ago now and have had some incredible adventures on them. I find myself looking forward to cold snaps, because there is nothing quite like cruising along a frozen stream or across a frozen lake on a winter evening.

Now go ride. . . .enjoy.

-bike wrider

Friday, January 22, 2010

Summer Plans and Studded Tires

Looking at some local ride options for this summer. A couple of them can be ridden as loops or set up with an uphill vehicle shuttle. I am seriously pondering doing some solo rides on a few of these and using my road bike to shuttle myself back up the highway. The way this goes in my mind is that I drop my overly heavy dual suspension trail bike off at the trail head near the top of the pass then drive to the end of the trail and drop the truck off there. Then I hop on my cross bike, spin up the highway back to the trail head, unlock my mountain bike and lock up my cross bike. I enjoy a nice ride through the mountains and plenty of descending, eventually end up at the truck and all I have to do is remember to pick up my cross bike on my way back into town and I'm set. A couple of the loops I'm looking at manage to squeeze in 15-18 miles of trail with only a 4 or 5 mile cross bike shuttle required. I know I could just take one bike and ride the whole thing as a loop, but the difference between a five mile highway climb on a cross bike versus and 6inch travel mountain bike is significant in my mind.
I've set up a few rafting shuttles this way and was super pleased to be able to run some significant stretches of beautiful rivers with just one truck and no hitchhiking.

Notice the bike lashed to the back of the raft.

Sunny rides along ridge lines are just daydreams at this point in time, after a brief reprieve winter is back, and I'm not the only one excited about it. I bumped into The Local Beard today after I saw his bike parked outside of a store. He had just finished fashioning a homemade set of studded mountain bike tires based on some instructions I put together and emailed to him. He was super stoked to have them rolling and said he woke up this morning hoping that everything was covered in ice. Unfortunately not much happened overnight and the streets were pretty much bare for his commute to work. Fortunately for him it started snowing by midday and he had an inch or two of snow to roll through on his way home.

I know there are plenty of detractors of homemade studs, and I do know just how nice the Nokians are, but some of us have more time than money. With just a couple of dollars worth of sheet metal screws I cannibalized an old set of tires a few years ago and have been happily riding studded ever since. Someday when a good deal comes along I might buy some less ghetto studs, but really what I'm planning on is getting myself a Pugsley.

Hopefully sooner rather than later.

For now my home made studs are working well for me, I'll post the directions I put together sometime soon so that those of you with more time than money can also enjoy the pleasure of cruising on ice.
Ride safe.

- bike wrider

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Commute of 2010

I wrode to work today for the first time in a little while. The combination of frequently needing a vehicle for work and a harrowingly slick layer of ice that was laid down earlier this month made it a little too easy to find an excuse to not commute to work. A mid January thaw and the addition of gears to my Cross Check eliminated my excuses. I have still been riding my bike daily, it was just that when everything was coated in 1/4 inch of ice I preferred to do some studded rides around town later in the evening.
I can get myself around just fine on a bike when everything is glazed over, in fact I really enjoy it, but I don't trust drivers around here during broad daylight in the middle of the summer, much less during their bleary eyed, early morning commutes when the whole world has been turned into a skating rink. I saw a guy crash into a parked car in his own driveway at one point. Having been clipped by a car in a hit and run incident and subpoenaed to testify as a cyclist against a reckless driver in the last 14 months I think justifies my paranoia. I'll cover the details of both those stories at a later date.

All that to say it was fantastic to wride to work today. It got even better when I get a message from my wife shortly before leaving work saying that she was on her bike and riding to meet me. Nothing clears my head of work stress like a bike ride, and I like it even more when my wife and yet to be born baby join me. I'm still forming my opinions of the addition of gears to my Cross Check. Definitely needs a little tweaking to achieve optimum comfort, but I'm pretty sure I made it to work in record time. I don't bother to time myself so I can't say for certain. I'll give the set up a little more time and then share my thoughts.

Looking forward to polo tomorrow night. Ride safe.

-bike wrider

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unfixed my bike.

The conversion is complete.

Awhile ago I needed the fixed gear wheel I was running on my Surly Crosscheck for another bike project. Being winter I wasn't riding the Crosscheck much, and I was enjoying rolling around at -15f on my studded 29er. Puttering around in my bike shop one evening it occurred to me that I had all the parts I needed to throw gears on the Crosscheck.
I bought the bike a few years ago. It was set up as a single speed when I bought it, but it came with a full Shimano 105 setup in a plastic grocery bag. I ended up flipping the single speed for a fixed gear set up for a while and really enjoyed it, but in all the years I had owned this bike I'd never run it with a full set of gears.

Here she is with studs on.
Tonight I finally bought a new chain and finished the conversion. I am admittedly a little spooked after reading all the broken chain reviews on line, but I'm guessing it is a bunch of knuckleheads with computers and no concept of chain line underusing their front derailleurs and busting chains. She looks like a whole different animal with the extra set of cables and all. Don't think I'm about to turn my back on singlespeeding, I've still got a few in the basement. And this one will be going back to a fixie as soon as I get the time and money to build a new rear wheel. Until then this will be fun.
Now I'm thinking even more seriously about riding over the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. How long until they get the road clear?

-bike wrider

Yep, She's Awesome.

Over the weekend my wife and I were able to squeeze in some quality time together doing a few of our favorite things. In years past we spent innumerable days together skiing, biking and exploring together. For a variety of reasons the past year the opportunities to get out together have been few and far between.

Saturday we headed out and got in an excellent backcountry ski tour. The weather and snow conditions weren't excellent, the day was excellent mostly for the fact that it was my wife's first time out this season. Being 6 1/2 months pregnant she has had other priorities for the past few months and just hasn't gotten out. Being on skis was about as comfortable and excited as I have seen her in a while. She couldn't have wiped the silly grin off her face if she wanted too.

Sunday she was admittedly sore from skiing, but eventually agreed to head out on a bike ride with me. We had an unseasonably warm afternoon and got to spend the better part of the afternoon cruising along the river and across town. All this too say I love having a wife who isn't just willing to indulge my habits, but is happy to join me in my adventures even when she is pregnant.

Give it a few months and I'll be out cruising around with my little man. For now I'm a regular reader of the Totcycle blog, and I'm plotting my baby biking strategy. I'd love a Surly Big Dummy, or a Bakfiets, but I would definitely settle for a much more cost effective Madse
n with a big ol' bucket.

-bike wrider

14 JANUARY, 2010

Does Anyone Have a Siphon?

Went to shovel the bike polo courts just a little bit more before tonight's session. Two folks were letting their dogs run around inside the fence when I arrived. Turned out one of them was the newly elected mayor whom I had met once before wile we were playing polo. We exchanged pleasantries, and he was impressed we were still playing in the middle of january. I mentioned the plight of The Milwaukee 11 to him.

He made some comment about how there would be 'heck to pay' if anything like that happened to our polo crew. He wished me good day and went off to walk his dog. Nice to have someone with some political power in our corner in a town that is generally far from bike friendly.

By the time I pulled up to polo tonight the lights were on and the generator was up and running. We had a solid turnout and even a rookie appearance from SJ so we were able to play full 3 o n3 all night. With the second game tied at 4 to 4 the lights flickered and died. . . . we checked the generator for issues, Crash assured us it wasn't out of gas, the gauge read 1/3 of a tank. After a few minutes of investigation and it turned out we HAD run out of gas. . . now what?
We asked around and MicD had tubing in the back of his truck, so we shoved it down into the gas tank on one of the trucks and siphoned enough gas to keep the game going. Good times. Although MicD did reek of gasoline for the next few games.

So to summarize: the mayor's got our back, we're are playing polo in mid January at 47deg N parallel and the crew is more than willing to suck gas out of a tank if it keeps the lights on and the game going. Not too shabby.

-bike wrider

12 JANUARY, 2010

For the Love of the Game

Spent my lunch hour today shoveling the courts where we play bike polo. Most of it had melted off on its own, but one end of the court needed some attention. It is the middle of January. Nice to know that with a couple of phone calls letting people know the courts are clear we can have a polo game on short notice. The turn out is never huge, but a small, dedicated core group of players is all you really need this time of year. Let the masses wait for warm sunny evenings. For now we are content to shovel, fire up the generators and add a layer or two.

The week a couple of the guys showed up with a generator I was impressed. The next week they showed up with a brand new, even more powerful generator because the first one couldn't run as many flood lights as they wanted. This crew is committed.
I didn't know what I would find in this town as far as interest in polo, I guess it goes to show . . .If you put up flyers they will come.

Game On
-bike wrider