Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I give you laendo.

There doesn't seem to be a unified term to describe the bikes I am currently interested in. So I am going to declare one: laendos. You may feel free to pronounce it using either first vowel depending on whether you are a bigger fan of Japanese martial arts of Star Wars. Henceforth I shall use this term to describe bikes which are built to accommodate four inch wide tires. Currently Surly offers the Larry and Endomorph as the premier tires for these bikes. Additionally another company makes a tire that is significantly cheaper and has nifty spider/web tread, but from what I understand, they don't preform great. I have heard "fat tire" bikes used to describe these, and while it sort of works, it is definitely stealing an in use mountain bike term. "Snowbike" is also gaining popularity, but the first bikes of this sort were actually designed with sand in mind, and calling them snowbikes now seems a disservice to those early pioneers. I have also heard Pugsley thrown about generically, but I don't want it to end up on the list next to Kleenex, Dumpster, and Styrofoam cup. So for all you interested folks out there, if you are looking at a bicycle with four inch wide tires, you're probably looking at a laendo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Plans for this winter.

I have been vaguely busy for a bit. This year in a fit of something close to enthusiasm, I actually signed up for two races. I signed up for the same race I did last year (the White Mountains 100) because it was so awesome I couldn't imagine not trying it again. Additionally I opted to try the Arrowhead 135 since 35 miles doesn't seem like that much more and I hope to race against a bunch of people who are unfamiliar with riding in extreme conditions (the race is in northern Minnesota). I have a feeling that those wishful thoughts will eventually be revealed for the ludicrous musings that they are, probably somewhere around mile 25 as I start to die and people begin to pass me in earnest. I also considered signing up for the Sheep Mountain 150, but it is a horrible drive away (actually farther than driving to Anchorage) and they are also requiring that reflective vests be worn during the race. I find reflective vests so repugnant that explaining my stance on them requires me to curse.

At any rate, in light of the fact that I accomplished last year's goal of not dying, I am forced to set a slightly higher goal for myself this year. Towards that end I have decided to hire a coach. I'd say that it hasn't changed me any, but the fact that I am now wearing a heart rate monitor, worrying about my cadence and actually looking at some sort of data post ride means that it has. The fact that I am accountable for my training may actually help, and looking at the numbers while riding actually seems to help keep my intensity high enough that I feel like I am actually accomplishing something. It will be interesting to see what happens when it gets cold enough that the electronics freeze and I don't have that feedback anymore. It got dark enough tonight that I was only able to look at the cyclometer under street lights. I'll probably end up with it tucked away in a pocket at some point and have no idea what I am doing, but at least be able to tell afterwards what happened.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Stuffs

There are a lot of new stuffs floating around my place. I finally managed to get the trail bike of my dreams. Of course next year's model is out and the frame has been redesigned for the better already, making mine seem like a big pile (thanks Kona!). Hopefully after a bit more riding, I'll even have a review of sorts. It has been moved to the quiver for now.

In other news, and in a category titled "What's been keeping me up at night", I have also gotten two new puppies. The plan was to get a single other dog, but in our
searching, a free dog arrived on my porch early one Saturday morning. As the rule of free puppies goes, once it has gotten inside the house, it probably isn't going back. And so, there came to be Mayhem.
Of course as it turns out, we had already visited a musher and picked out a pup who was only a week old at the time. So several weeks later when it was time for him to come home, there was also a Rukkus.
Last night was only the second night he finally slept all the way through, which believe me, has been a blessing. There is nothing like getting up with a whiny pup that doesn't want to sleep, hanging around outside (not that it is getting chilly at night). Then coming inside only to fall asleep on the couch and wake up to a steaming pile anyway. I think we were up to a full roll of paper towels day at one point. I guess all the maintenance with dogs is up front. At least I won't need to give them spring tune ups.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tough Times

This morning’s drizzle on the way in was that kind of annoying weather that isn’t enough to actually ruin a ride, but is just the push to make it slightly less enjoyable. Similarly, through travels online, I have become aware of recent events in the “world of cycling” that make being a person who rides slightly less enjoyable. First and foremost, Floyd Landis pretty much snapped. The guy is a disgraced ex-Tour champion who most people will say is the prime example of what’s wrong with professional road racing. And that goes for the people that claim dopers are ruing things and the people that claim that the doping controls are out of control and we are catching clean athletes and ruining them. Landis now claims that despite his multiple protests of innocence that he has always been clean, a drawn out circus show of a appeal case, donations to his defense fund and a book, that he actually was doping. Also, everyone he knew and most of us know and love were also doping.

It’s a fairly sizable bombshell, and quite frankly I am not sure what to make of it. To tell the honest trust, I always believed Landis’ acertations of innocence. Now I am forced to either believe that he was lying then and that me and everyone else who believed him and supported him were total suckers, or that the man has been so broken by everything that happened that he has completely snapped and is simply trying to bring everyone else down to his level of misery. Neither is a pleasant prospect. Since there isn’t any new hard evidence, it will all boil down to a he said / he said debate. It may be enough for the French to ban anyone he lists for racing in the Tour, they have done it before. Although that may not matter much since Armstrong crashed today, dropped from the Amgen and was taken to the hospital for x-rays.

In other news, I learned that someone raced the Leadville under someone else’s name. They even proceeded to pick up prizes that they technically shouldn’t have won because the false identity placed them in a different age category. They now face felony charges.

Really I am not sure what to make of it. I have a group of friends that I ride with and bizarrely, we just like riding our bikes. I have recently strayed into the world of racing, but quite honestly it still felt more like a group ride with new friends. I think recreational cyclists tend identify with professional cyclists relatively easily. I ride a bike, they ride a bike. They just happen to train a bit more and be better at it. Maybe that’s not the case, because obviously the mindset is so different that it’s foreign to the rest of us.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thoughts on Vacation

Vacation is different things to different people. To some it is a drunken jumble of clubs, others prefer their time on the beach. Some people like to "rough it" and spend a few days without electricity (or at least with only enough to run a flashlight, a cellphone and one other small entertainment device). The avid cyclist of course has a different idea of vacation. Mine looks something like this:All that being the same I took a trip last week to see my brother off into the bonds of matrimony. It was a nice ceremony and I got to see all of my family and some folks that were around back when I was growing up as well. We took a trip afterwards to Tahoe to hang out for a few days. I didn't notice I was missing my bike so much until we stopped in Auburn to eat and I noticed that someone was towing some nicely blinged Specializeds around. Then suddenly I remembered that Auburn was known locally for its trails and I was sadly without bike. I guess the next trip I'll take I remember that whatever effort it takes to get a bike there is worth not suffering that several hour mope of "I should have brought a bike".


Monday, April 26, 2010

Question Regarding Brakes

I recently received a question regarding brakes that went something like this:
Been winter commuting for the last five years on an old Norco mountain bike and it is time to get a new ride. My question is about disc and rim brakes. Have asked around and get mixed reviews. Thought that I would ask you since you seem to use disc brakes in the winter. What do you find the advantages are and what are the disadvantages.
Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
My response was as follows:

I don't see any disadvantages to disc brakes in the winter. During extremely cold weather (-25F and below) they don't modulate as well as they do in warmer weather, but other than that I have no complaints. I have heard that on extended snow rides, the calipers can become clogged with snow and start to drag, but haven't experienced this with the brands of brakes that I use (Formula). Again this is something that really seems like it would only be a problem in extremely colder weather. On the upside, the advantages are many. First and foremost, disc brakes just stop better. Second, disc brakes will continue to work in some conditions that rim brakes don't, like when you have a layer of ice and snow built up on your rim. Lastly, if you switch between summer and winter width rims on a commuter, you don't have to fiddle with disc brakes to make them work like you do rim brakes.

Anyone that doesn't think disc brakes are better than rim brakes raises some doubt in my mind. I have heard what I consider rational opinions against disc brakes that I don't agree with (mainly that disc brakes are somehow too complex to work on), however, I still haven't heard a good argument for claiming rim brakes were better than discs. They are less expensive, but you generally get what you pay for in any situation. I have a slightly angry rant on disc brakes that can be found here. To add an update to that post, I still have that set of brakes on the same bike and they still work. Four years of summer and winter riding, commuting and they still work great. They still have the original pads. And recently the rear got loaned out to do a 135 mile winter race in February in Minnesota. It worked so well that the loanee won the race and asked Formula to start sponsoring him.

My end statement is this: If you are riding in the snow, or doing technical mountain biking, then I think disc brakes are a must because their extra performance is necessary. If you are doing mellow/light trail riding and commuting only during the summer, or someplace where it doesn't snow, they they are a luxury that you need to decide if you can afford.

Thanks for the letter and I hope I have been some help.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Subarctic Splendor

Tomorrow’s weather promises to be significantly different than a week ago, temperatures above freezing in the morning and wonderful sunny 60s during the day. Last week was colder, but the display I was given last Thursday afternoon was a rare piece of subarctic splendor. My ride home was characterized by snow, hail and plenty of sunshine. There is a certain amount of awe inspired by being pelted with the perfect size hail (large enough to be easily felt, but small enough not to hurt) while having to wear sunglasses against the glaring sun. Riding during a fresh snow is one thing, but riding in a fresh snow with warm sun is a whole other level. There are things I sometimes miss about the weather in other places I have lived (dark warm nights being one), but the interior continues to make it up to me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Too many choices, too many spots

Once you’ve worked at a bike shop, you start to develop a warped view of how bikes should be. As a consumer, you are limited to buying a bike as a package and dealing with any shortcomings you may feel are in the manufacturer’s build, or you can go the ultra expensive route of purchasing everything yourself and having the shop assemble it, or worse yet trying to assemble it yourself. As a shop guy, not building a bike yourself from all the parts you want almost doesn’t make sense. Most manufacturers and the bike industry in general are pretty sensitive to this. There are various standards for things, but at least there are standards. You can do stupid mix and matching to make monster creations and have it all work without needing to do any fabrication on your own. When you get out onto the fringe of the industry, sometimes that isn’t the case. Some companies are working in a small enough niche market with little enough competition that they can afford to market a system. Most consumers aren’t bothered by this, it is easier for them. But for shop guys, it just doesn’t seem right.

So right now the weather sucks and since I can’t seem to get excited about summer riding, I am dreaming about changes to make next winter even better. The Pugsley frame and fork will probably go, but what to replace them with? I was in Skankorage (I have to admit their definition is wrong, but funny. Alaskans call is that because it is just a big nasty city) for the weekend and stopped into the fat tire shops down there to investigate answers. Sadly I didn’t come away feeling any more confident about a plan. I am leaning toward a 9:Zero:7 Ti frame and possibly upgrading to a Fatback crankset (unless of course someone comes out with a non-shop branded lightweight 100mm crankset before then). I am hoping that a manufacturer I talked to this winter will stick to their plans and have a 135mm spaced carbon rigid fork out this summer. If not I’ll be looking at the carbon fork that they have coming for the Fatback, or failing that, a Ti fork.

All this keeps blazing through my head despite the fact that my morning commute was three times long as normal (owing to forgetting something and having to go back home to get it and then ride back to work again). I really hope the local trails clear up soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring

Now is the Spring of my discontent. Actually every Spring is the Spring of my discontent, or, as we call it here in Fairbanks, “Break Up”. Students at UAF celebrate said feelings by throwing large fruit from the top of the Gruening building on campus. I, on the other hand, wake up every morning and try to decide what appropriate riding attire will be for a frozen 7°F ride on the way to work and a 45°F ride with large nasty puddles and slush sections on the way home. The answer to this so far has been to carry two sets of riding clothes, which sucks, but gets the job done. While some roadies have have been driven out of the woodwork (complete with frozen hands since poagies don’t fit drop bars) by the lack of snow, I am content to just commute. I’ll wait until the trails have thawed to the point that mud is only a minor concern before I start riding again for real.

Sadly that means Puggie has also been put away for the year. It’s been a big winter for me and that bike. I have for sure done more riding on that rig in the last several months than I have ever done in such a time before. And, it was fun. It is with mixed feelings that I realize I may not be riding the same frame next year. Which is also strange because right now the geometry on it seems more comfortable than the custom made Ti frame I had been riding up to this point. Although it isn’t anything a longer stem and flat bars couldn’t help. When I had the frame designed, I had it designed for commuting, because that was the vast majority of my riding at the time. Now, it’s a smaller part of my riding, and I find myself wondering if I should really get to call myself a racer. Then again, maybe I’ll just say what I’ve always said. I am a cyclist.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

White Mountains 100 (part II)

As I lay in Windy Gap cabin and tried to sleep, I suddenly heard familiar voices. Paul and Shonda had caught up with me. I couldn't have been happier. While I am not necessarily uncomfortable around unfamiliar people, I generally can't act like my full jackass self unless I am around friends. I think I was the one that finally dragged us out of the cabin. Shonda wasn't keen on the night time travel idea, but Paul had seen my light setup and reassured her it would be alright.

Beyond the light of the cabin we were greeted by more overflow and a wonderful rolling romp through the woods. As it turned out the section of trail between Windy Gap and Borealis was by far my favorite. I would have left much earlier if I had known how awesome it was going to be. There was one fairly steep hill, but the entire rest of the section was sloped downhill. I have no idea what the scenery was like, but the trail had plenty of rollers, creek bed drops and sharp turns to keep me entertained. Leaving earlier probably would have allowed us to skip the -20°F hovering on Beaver Creek, but it wasn't something and extra layer and walking couldn't fix. Although I did complain loudly to Paul several times that I was pushing my bike downhill, and that was just plain stupid (secretly my toes were thanking me). The worst part of the section by far was the hill up to the checkpoint cabin. It is probably only twenty feet high, but it is nearly vertical and I ended dragging my bike up it behind me because it was too steep to push.

The race volunteers there were totally on point. Apparently they had dealt with enough completely spent people that they had actually taken over the process of signing in and out of the checkpoint for the racers. Then they fed us and got us something to drink, after which I promptly passed out. I awoke to Shonda and Paul insisting that I get up so we could "get this over with". I believe I begged for five more minutes like a high school kid who just ended summer vacation. I finally sat up in a stupor and began getting dressed rather poorly. John (one of the race volunteers) informed me that I would probably want to finish putting on my pants before I started on my shoes. I looked down to see both shoes mostly on, but only one pant leg on. Shonda summed it up, "Great, they are signing in for you, feeding you, getting you fluids and now they are helping you get dressed." I looked over and spat back my feelings on the matter, "That's what it has come to, yes. And I'm fine with that."

The next morning we finished up the last section of trail at a leisurely pace. There were long downhill sections with overflow that made me a little sad, since they were basically non-shreddable, but it was still nice riding and the weather was clear and sunny if only a little windy. We stopped in at the last unofficial and non-required checkpoint rationalizing that we weren't really tired, but someone was nice enough to have come out, so we should stop in and check it out. It was actually a nice little rest before we tackled the feared Wickersham Wall, then jumped onto the last (and first) six miles of trail again.

Ed (one of the race directors) had warned us that even though we were doing the same section twice, it would seem totally different after ninety-five miles. Although that was sort of true, I had never descended that last hill into the parking lot in full light, and that was a real treat. The trail is closed in by spruce on both sides and in the half light that I was used to seeing it in, the rollers and bumps are hard to see, necessitating some caution. In the full light of day I was able to put together a nice run that bordered on stupid since I was so tired. But since I knew I was about to be completely done, I threw caution to the wind. I blew into the parking lot at high speed, rolled toward the race HQ, locked my rear wheel up and put a foot down as I whipped a one-eighty and set my bike down in a definitive fashion. I was done.

I finally feel like I can say I have been on an epic ride without feeling like the word is getting over used. It's a pretty sweet feeling. Although Paul and I schemed which checkpoint we were going to be running for the 2011 race while walking the Wall, it only took until the next day before I knew for sure I'd be doing it all again next year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

White Mountains 100 (part I)

In the days leading up to the race I began to feel woefully under prepared. This culminated the night before the race where I took the brand new Camelbak I had bought that very day and proceeded to cut half the straps off it and switch the bladder in it with the Platypus one I had been using in my other pack. What I ended up with was a pack that was significantly lighter than my old one, smaller, better suited to what I wanted to carry, and totally untested. I swore I wouldn't go out on the trail with something I hadn't used before on several rides, and that went right out the window. Additionally I opted to not bring my midrange sleeping bag (it was too heavy and not packing well I decided). Instead I brought my lightweight bag that wasn't as warm, but I figured would be alright. Again, here I went with an untested bivy system.
All in all I remember sitting in my truck waiting for the race to start and hoping that I wasn't going to puke that morning's Cheerios all over the trail, or the start line, or worse yet whomever was standing next to me at the start. And then, I was riding. I was riding the first part of a long trail, but it was comforting that I had ridden that first part a lot. Also comforting was the score of supporters from the Beav that had turned out to see me off. My smart ass jokes about having my own trail scouting crew may not have been that amusing to anyone else, but they made me feel better. The mass start went much better than many people had imagined. Everyone seemed to do a good job of getting onto the trail in a ridiculously long line that would change order countless times over the next day or so. I think most people realized it was a long race and that where you were in the start didn't matter, the pace you held for the whole race would sort everything out. I was not one of the people. I went off the line at a stupid fast pace and starting passing people when it was feasible. I managed a pretty good ride for the first forty miles, making it into the second checkpoint in a decent place and suddenly realizing I was having a good ride, but not sure how long it could last.

As I left the second checkpoint, the question was quickly answered. I encountered my first section of overflow, which was slushy to boot. I donned my Neos (purchased special for the race) and proceeded to muck through it with the excitement of a kid with rubber galoshes in a puddle. I rode for a bit after that, but pretty soon the climb up the Cache Mountain divide started. By then it was some time in the afternoon, the sun was shining, the trail was mushy, and I didn't seem to have enough energy to keep the bike upright. I got off and pushed for a good eight miles or so up and over the divide. I got passed by several people during this period, all of whom had kind words or observations on the beautiful section of trail. I really didn't notice, I wasn't riding and it was miserable. I was angry and I didn't care if I had to push forever, I was going to make it to the next checkpoint. I pushed all the way over the pass, where there was barely a trail and I completely stopped drinking and eating. I stopped just before the pass and managed to choke down some sour gummy rings because I knew I at least needed something. As I finally crested the divide the trail started to become defined again and I managed to shred a nice long downhill section before rolling onto the ice lakes. I busted the Neos back on and made great time across the ice, managing to even ride about half the way. There was a pretty nasty wind blowing up the canyon, but toward the end of the ice lakes it peaked and managed to freeze my mask against my face on the left side. I removed a heater pack from my poagie (where it had been uselessly making my hand sweat) and stuffed it down under my mask against my cheek, completely solving the only problem the vicious wind was able to give me.

After another sick downhill section and a rolling jaunt through the woods I pulled into Windy Gap cabin, the third checkpoint. I was making angry monkey noises that initially caught the attention of the volunteers stationed outside the cabin before I realized I was still doing it. I had made it sixty miles in just about twelve hours. Mentally I was doing pretty well as I figured I had passed through the most dangerous and difficult parts of the trail unscathed, but physically I felt shot (my knees were aching something fierce) and was totally convinced I needed to sleep and continue when it got light again in the morning. I was to soon find that sleep would be impossible for me in the roasting, tiny, packed cabin. More than anything my tired mind wouldn't stop obsessing over all the new people I was suddenly surrounded by. If I had known what the next section of trail was like, I would have grabbed a bowl of the meatball and rice soup and moved right along. Instead, I languished for nearly five hours chasing a nap that never came and uselessly taking up room in the already packed cabin.

I still consider it the worst mistake I made during the race, but it is also the greatest lesson I learned. I was capable of more. I never got any real rest and still managed to push through the next section of trail. If you had asked me if I had another twenty miles in me when I arrived, I would have laughed at you as I looked for a place to crash. I had never ridden more than sixty miles before and the time I did that had been four years previous on a road bike during the summer. I had myself mentally beat even though my body hadn't given out yet.

....to be continued.....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

E.D. W.ooD. III

Having just finished the inaugural White Mountains 100, I have a lot to say about it. But, in all my preparations for it, I have missed talking about a lot of other things, including EDWD the third and my last big ride before the race with Kevin (who managed to finish an awesome fourth place at the WM100).

This year's EDWD took place on Sunday 14th March. Turn out was decidedly low turnout was probably owing to me forgetting about the event until the last minute (I sent a mass text the night before the event). Luckily I did get some takers. The Third Annual EDWooD was basically myself and the Christapoleon family. The trail was sketchy in the extreme. The trail appears to have seen very little traffic this winter, probably because of the lack of snow. Most notably the only traffic on the trail since the last snow had been someone who sledded (think this) the hill. The two inches of "fresh" (from a week ago, but mostly untouched) snow made the trail pretty challenging. I can say I relied heavily on my brakes, but since my rear wheel was completely locked up for a good portion of the ride, I'd say I relied on my balance more than anything. Which brings me to the "HTF did he pull that off?" part. Chris managed the whole hill with Niko on a trail-a-bike behind his Pugsley. I can't even imagine how that worked with some of the off camber sections that I just barely made it through. Heather managed just fine on her ride and everyone made it to the bottom in one piece.

The bottom was were we found they had rerouted the road out. Also, there was a huge lake of overflow (complete with midday slush) in the middle. Niko wasn't entirely stoked on the whole thing and although I was happy to take the thing as pre-WM100 practice, we jetted back to the vehicles pretty quickly. I have heard rumblings of an EDWD Part II for the year, but we'll see what happens. For now I am content that another EDWD happened with no injuries or broken equipment and a good time was had by all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Holy Race Sexy Batman!

My bags arrived today from Epic Designs (thanks Eric!). Beyond being just sexy, they add a lot of room to the rig with very little weight. I thought the box was empty when I picked it up off my porch. Seriously. The technical attention to detail is beautiful as well. With as light as they are you'd think there wasn't anything inside. The frame bag has a lot of thought put into it with a drop away compartment separator and mesh pockets to keep gear organized. The seat bag though is a real work of art. It has a tons of room, is still light, and has been epically designed so that the straps are doing double duty as both compression and support. It's one of those awesome things that makes you wish you had thought of it.
Disclosure: I don't have a special relationship with Epic Designs. All products have been purchased from them through normal channels.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Time Off

A lot can happen in a short period of time. Additionally even more can happen in a long period of time. Like the two weeks or so since I have gotten off my butt and posted. I spent a week of that time miserably sick and keeping ridiculous hours for a project at work that I didn’t have the option of ignoring. In the world of winter cycling, the ITI happened. And more apparent than ever is the fact that the White Mountains 100 is drawing close enough that there really isn’t much time left to prepare. I am not sure how I feel about that really. A week of struggling to breathe and hacking up copious amounts of lung butter generally doesn’t make you feel like you are in great shape. But then again, maybe many other racers aren’t feeling the awesomest as well. Paul and his wife rode the entire trail this weekend and promptly decided that they had done the race and were done. Later of course they realized that they wanted a t-shirt and would indeed be doing the race after all.

In the category of the rest of the world, a week off makes all the difference when it comes to light levels (in Fairbanks) necessary for commuting. Suddenly I am considering removing the flashies from my ride. While some folks will undoubtedly finish the WM100 in twelve hours (or maybe less), I plan to take a bit longer and will still need some personal lumens toward the end. I plan on doing the course this weekend as prep, but am still trying to find a companion for the trip.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's not really the thought that counts.

"Its the thought that counts", is an old saying we apply to gifts, most notably to those gifts which have failed miserably. That being said it is apparent some gifts are better than others. Some people know you (and your obsessions) better than others. So when you get an extraordinarily awesome gift, all you can say is "thanks Mom, I love you too."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Math and Metal

Anyone that has ever done any competitive cycling will somewhere be harboring a small amount of weight or tech weeniness. Lighter is often better, and techier is too (provided someone else has tested it and given it the thumbs up first). Of course the easiest way to make something lighter is to use power tools to take away some of the thing, hopefully only the parts that you wouldn’t be using anyway. This line of thinking tends to justify odd actions at times, like taking a perfectly good bicycle rim and drilling holes in it. In the case of my rim I am using the bead edges to hold the tire and the holes to keep the spokes in place. All the rest of that big rim is just garbage I don’t need, right? So I have set about removing material from rims to make them lighter. Because more important than the fact that it is weight, it is actually rotating weight (and every cyclist knows that making rotation things lighter is even better than just plain old making things lighter). Sadly I have found that before I started drilling holes in my rims, perhaps I should have done the math. Although I was never a fan of calculus, geometry was always vaguely interesting, and I now realize some early up front work would have saved some regret. A lot of holes seems like a good idea. More holes seems like more weight savings. In reality, bigger holes equals more weight savings since there is an exponent involved in the area equation. Also since bigger holes means fewer holes, there is less work involved. Well, now I know.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Enter the Larry

(Disclosure notice: despite having arguably the sexiest Pugsley on the planet, Surly still hasn’t donated anything to my cause, see the quiver on the right for confirmation)

For awhile now I have wanted to write about Larry. Surly’s new tire offering may be a long time coming to some, but to me it came at the perfect time (or just about six weeks after I got Puggie together). While the Endomorph is an excellent rear tire, it is somewhat lacking as a front tire, most riders discover this the first time they try to corner hard and all four inches of rubber wash out in front of them. Larry solves that problem. I have been riding a Larry for two weeks or so now and I couldn’t be happier. Although slightly heavier than an Endomorph, Larry allows my bike to handle like I want around harsh corners. The front end tracks nicely and the rear slides to follow. Some have contemplated a dual Larry setup, and it may work for them, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it anytime soon.

If your winter riding doesn’t include high speed cornering, the Larry may be overkill, but if you have ever pushed your Pug (or Fatback or 9:ZERO:7) and had the front end slide out on you, Larry is where it’s at.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Congratulations to The Man

Congratulations to Jeff Oatley for winning his "rookie" Arrowhead 135 in the race's sixth running. Oatley finished the 133 mile course in roughly 16 hours and 20 minutes. Anchorage's Pete Basinger placed second.

In celebration I have finally gotten around to posting a new video created by Christapoleon featuring music by Jeff and Steve. I am not at all sure how the two are related, but there you are. Hope to see you out on the trails and byways of Fairbanks.

video

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Recipe

Paul the Painter and I recently went for a ride during which I sampled his balls, and they were delicious. The recipe is pretty simple and way open to experimentation. Love for them has exploded around the shop. It is even rumored that the King himself made a batch after being forced to try one by yours truly. That’s right, the King loved my balls. As it turns out they are great winter trail food, so for anyone wanting to try your own, here is the base recipe. You should feel free to mix it up.

Peanut Butter
Honey
Butter
Wheat Germ
Chocolate Drink Mix

Dump some peanut butter in a mixer (I think I was using a cup and a half or so). Add in half a stick of butter (softer is better, the microwave is your friend). Add in a half cup or so of honey. Then start adding wheat germ. I use an electric mixer and just keep adding wheat germ until the mixture stops sticking to the side of the mixing bowl. When it is done, roll it into balls and then roll the balls in chocolate drink mix (I prefer Ovaltine). Place on wax paper and allow to chill in the fridge.

Beyond being incredibly tasty, they do well in colder conditions and contain all sort of important stuff (complex and simple carbs, protein, fat, salt, and electrolytes and vitamins depending on your drink mix and wheat germ).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bikes!

Paul the Painter and I took a little trip to the White Mountains today. Conditions were beautiful, probably hovering between 0°F and -15°F depending on our elevation. The wind was mild in most areas and non-existent in some. Just before we made it past Lee’s cabin we passed a bizarre gaggle of winter locomotion. There were snowmachines, snowmachines towing kids on skis, a skier, a skijorer, and I believe a couple dogs hooked to a sled. As we passed, the skier looked at us in amazement and declared, “Bikes!” It was some hundred yards later that Paul and I realized that the guy was probably disappointed with himself for not bringing someone on a bike. We were the one form of transportation he lacked. Admittedly he would have need two cyclists, one with dogs to really round out the menagerie.


As we passed Lee’s cabin, we had fresh tracks. We stopped to eat something and were nearly run over by two dog teams. While normally quite stealthy, the lead team in this case had an extremely mouthy wheel dog who was kind enough to let us know he was coming through. We dragged ourselves out of the way and received a thanks from the musher, compliments on our quick reflexes and a heads up that there was one more team coming. After all that fun we finished railing the big hill past Lee’s and turned around at the bottom to start back. The one thing about an out and back is that you dread every big hill that you slayed on the way out. Thankfully there will be very little of that come race day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Windchill Sucks

I may not have announced it here yet, but the truth is I have been trying to train for a race. The White Mountains 100 will happen toward the end of March and is a 100 mile human powered event that people can bike, ski, or run. The event is similar to the Susitina 100 and the ITI in format, except that it is local (a forty-five minute drive north) and the trail is anything but flat.

In the spirit of that I went out to the actual area the race is to be in and went for a ride. Several things became apparent to me. One, the trail was gorgeous. Owing to a high volume of mushing and snow machining on the trail, it is well packed and extremely rideable. Second, I don’t do a lot of climbing in the winter, and I probably need to start. There are a couple of smaller climbs in the section that I rode. Looking at course profile, the bigger climbs are six or seven times longer than the “monster” that beat me up today. I will definitely be ordering a smaller chainring soon. Lastly I need to pray for better weather. Today’s temp was fluctuation from about -5F to -15F with sustained 25mph winds. In an awesome stroke of luck, it was all headwinds during the climbs. Needless to say, it was chilly. I switched face masks at the turn around point because the non-windproof one I wore or the way out had become encrusted with a thick layer of ice and didn’t seem to be actually doing anything useful for me. I broke out my gorillaclava (which I hadn’t used yet this year) and was extremely pleased with the fact that it didn’t ice up on the way back.

I have tons (maybe literally?) of gear. The big trick is going to be finding the flexibility from the right combination of gear for this thing. I sort of already knew that from the warnings that a certain cycling god had bestowed upon me recently. Race day ought to include nothing but tried and true methods at all levels.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bad Decisions, Bad Vibrations, Good Hackery, and Good Luck

I went for a little ride today via a new loop that I pulled partly from Google Maps and partly from my rectum. I cruised down Noyes Slough to where it meets the Chena near the University Avenue bridge. I rode along the Chena's bank till the bridge. On the north side where I was, there really wasn't anywhere to get up to University, which is where I was planning to go. As I stood under the bridge and looked west, there was open water steaming in the -30°F air about fifty yards or so away. The area under the bridge looked as though it had frozen recently since there was no snow cover on it. The whole thing was covered in hoarfrost that looked like a popcorn ceiling flipped upside down. I felt stupid as hell as I inched across the ice. I walked with my bike next to me, leaning on it heavily to try and distribute some of my weight over to it. I had turned my iPod off so I could listening for the creaking of ice I expected to hear movie style before I fell in. Luckily all I heard was the cars whizzing overhead on University as I made it all the way across and heaved a sigh of relief.

The next part of my ride was easy as I traversed University then the Johansen bike path since it was all nicely plowed and I was still elated to not be wet. When I reached Danby I was glad that I had decided recently to ergonomize my bars. Basically the route was unplowed and semi-packed by foot and snowmachine traffic. It was basically set like a mile long section of rumble strip. My cheap hack of layering a wedge of bar tape and then wrapping the wedge once probably kept my hands from going totally numb.
Near College Road I took a cut off and blasted down back to the slough. After a bit I cut off it to visit a friend who had helped my in the building of Puggie by allowing me access to a drill press to SL my Graceful Fat Shebas. I stayed just long enough to cool off and end up completely sweating from the ambient temperature instead of my exertions. As I cut out to head for home I was extremely happy for all my wool, which kept me warm despite the fact that it was soaked and I was no longer generating any heat. All in in a nice Sunday ride.