Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow commute? Why not?

The ride to work last Thursday was downright fun. Snow was coming down hard, the cars were at home where they belonged and cruising to work was a pretty simple matter.

The ride to work today was different. There was 15" of snow at my home. Only a few cars, alpine skiiers and snow mobiles were moving about. My initial 1.5 miles down hill from NE 80th St to the Ballard locks was a riot. I spent more time unclipped with a foot on the ground as I did clipped in pedaling.

The ride from the Ballard locks to the bike route at Interbay was simple and uneventful - except for the total ass working for Burlington Northern who decided to pass me going down the hill to the Burlington Northern parking lot. Apparently annoyed by the car I was following, he pulled next to me and forced me off the road into a 3' snow bank. Fortunately, I was able to simply fall over into the pile of snow, climb out, catch up and get his license plate and truck number. Stupid people suck...

The ride from Interbay to Elliott Ave took about 35 minutes. There were more alpine skiiers than walkers and I was apparently the only cyclist for the morning. The skiiers packed down a nice little track about 14" wide in the 10-24" of snow. The only trick was keeping the bike on the track. All those cyclocross races helped, but I stayed on the track far less than 1/2 of the time. The rest of the time, I was pushing through the deep snow.

Arriving at work, I was greeted by the friendly sales guy who lives on Vashon Island who suggested: "You make stupid look good". Hmm, I guess that was a compliment!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Leggo my balaclava!

19°F and sunny on the morning commute

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Down Low Glow

In these dark fall (and soon to be winter) days, having bike lights can help with being visible to auto drivers.  And it doesn't hurt if the lights are fun.  I just added these Down Low Glow lights to my bike and have had some fun riding around at night.  They come with their own rechargeable NiMH battery pack.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Aaron's Bike Shop & Liquor Store

Aaron's Bike Repair has moved to a new location! I was in there the other day to have a head tube faced, and observed the Great Event. The new location, 2 doors south, is much more spacious, with a higher ceiling (or, lower floor, whichever...)

Pics here

Monday, November 10, 2008

green machine...

ok - I'm a little late to the party, but better late than never. Here's some pics of my not-so-new cross bike. I've been riding her since spring, but I now have the new wheel-set that I had been saving up for all summer.

(there's a few more pictures on my Flickr site too)

Frame: Salsa Chili Con Crosso
Fork: Alpha Q carbon fork
Wheels: DT Swiss RR 1.2 with Dura-Ace hubs and Hutchinson Bulldog 34x tires.
Group: Shimano 105; with an FSA carbon compact crank set
Stem & Seat-post: Thompson Masterpiece
Pedals: Crankbrothers Candies
Brakes: Paul; Neo-Retros up front, with Tourings on the back
Bars: Salsa Short-n-Shallows
Saddle: Selle Trans-Am (during cross season) Selle-Anatomica (during road)

She's a beaut. She's light, stiff, and fast. Loves to sprint, and feels like an afterthought during run-ups. There are a lot of these frames every weekend at the Cross-Crusade - so I've been feeling a bit like that girl at prom with the same dress every else has. Doesn't matter though, it's a great bike.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Most Visible Night Cyclist Contest

The 2008 edition of my "Most Visible Night Cyclist" contest is up and running:


This year we have prizes!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tyler Farrar's Dad

The father of Tyler Farrar (the Wenatchee rider who is a top-ranked sprinter in the pro peketon), was seriously injured while riding his bike. From

Doctor Ed Farrar, the father of Garmin-Chipotle cyclist Tyler, remains in a serious condition at Central Washington Hospital after being struck by a motorist last Wednesday. The 57 year-old was struck head-on while riding his bicycle, after the vehicle crossed onto the opposite side of the road.

Local media has reported that the orthopedic surgeon is believed to have suffered spinal injuries as a result of the accident. Local authorities have announced the 56 year-old driver will be charged with second-degree negligent driving following the accident.

"Reckless driving requires intent. This man, as far as we can tell, did not intend to hurt anybody," said Sgt. Cherie Smith told Wenatchee World.

News of the accident has sparked much sympathy for the Farrar family from the local community, with many of Dr. Farrar's patients offering their support and well wishes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Turn

I've been working on this bike a bit at a time for awhile (other things keeping me busy :-), but it's finally done. This is the Redline bike I had built up last year, but that suffered the stripped bottom bracket.

If you recall, the BB (English) stripped, and I had Aaron tap the non-drive-side as Italian. However, rather than have a frame with one side threaded Italian and one side threaded English, I opted to tap the drive side Italian as well. (Although there's something to be said for keeping the right side English: the reverse drive-side threading of the English standard avoids the tendency of the drive side cup to unthread dueto precession.)

This was my first thread tapping project, and I was using the least expensive tap set I could find: Icetoolz. We'll see how it goes. As a precaution, I used thread-lock on the drive side threads.

However, since the Italian BB is 70mm wide and the English is 68mm, I opted to try to center the BB in the shell by adding a 1mm spacer to the drive side. I couldn't find a spacer that would fit around the slightly larger (in circumference) Italian cup, so I snipped apart a spacer for English BB cups, and inserted that. You can see the tiny gap between the BB shell and the flange on the cup in the photo below. I don't know if this was strictly necessary. We'll see if it holds. I've been riding the bike for about 2 weeks, and so far, so good.

The other thing that's new with this bike is the front brake is a mechanical disc brake: Avid BB5 Road. I kept the rear brake cantilever. When I'm certain I've installed and adjusted the front one correctly, I'll install a disc on the rear, too, and I'll never worry about rim wear again.

Now I'm building up a similar bike for Carol. I got this year's version of the Conquest frame on eBay, and I've ordered brakes, hubs, rims, and the rest.

One thing that's happened since I've started building this bike is that the Berlin Wall fell. So, seriously. Velocity has started selling 130mm disc rear hubs. Up until now, the only option I've been able to find for rear disc hubs spaced 130mm is the real expensive ones like Chris King or Hope. But the Velocity hubs sell for $99 apiece -- more than I'd like to spend, but bearable. I've got a couple: one will go on this bike, and the other will go on Carol's.

As usual, I'm building up on Alex DM18 rims, 32h (I believe the Veolicity hubs are only available with 32h; otherwise, I'd use 36h for myself) using Sapim 14g straight gauge spokes.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I just built a new cross bike. After getting killed in the singlespeed category of the last few races.(there are no beginners there) I bought a frame and fork from ebay and built it mostly from parts from the garage. One of the things from the garage was a broken ultegra shifter that I spent way too long fixing

The bike:

Trek X01 Frame
Alpha Q CX carbon fork
Ultegra drivetrain single chainring w/bashguard
Shimano cantis

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Double Crossed

I’m a little late on this post, but the weekend before last I was indoctrinated into the cult of cyclocross with a double header. Saturday morning my buddy Brock and I took Cycle University's very worthwhile Cyclocross 101 course at Magnuson Park. We covered the mount and step-through dismount, shouldering, running, and barrier jumping. I also got reassurance from instructor Kristi Berg that starting cross with a mountain bike is perfectly sane and that during the first couple of seasons the bike is not going to be a limiting factor.

Quick digression about the bike:

  • Frame: TST (Kennewick, WA) titanium hardtail 20”
  • Fork: Salsa steel fork (added just for cross, crown race installed by Ted)
  • Tires: Panaracer Mack SK (front and rear)
  • Front wheel: Mavic x221 with Specialized Paralax hub
  • Rear wheel: Mavic x517 with XTR hub
  • Brakes: Avid V-brakes
  • Pedals: Time ATAC carbon
  • Crankset: Race Face Turbine
  • Shifters: XT 8-speed
  • Front Derailleur: XT top-pull triple
  • Rear Derailleur: XTR 8-speed
  • Cable Housing: Nokon
  • Headset: Cane Creek S2
  • Stem: Thomson Elite 110mm
  • Handlebars: Ritchey ForceLite
  • Grips: Race Face Good ‘n Evil
  • Seatpost: Race Face XY (400mm length and a full 1” of setback, the only reason I can get away with a 20” frame)
  • Seat: Selle Italia Prolink Trans AM

It’s everything that would have made you salivate about a mountain bike circa 1998, and still makes me salivate because I’m behind the times like that. Note that the water bottle cage bolts have been removed and taped over. I quickly learned that shouldering the bike is much easier without these nuisances there to snag elbows.

On to the double header... at Cross 101 we found out about the Copper Cross race happening the next day at South Sea-Tac and gave it a shot. We each bought one day USCF licenses and entered the men’s cat-4 race. I placed 16th and Brock placed25th in a starting field of 35. We were both happy to have finished all three laps. It was a lot of fun and the 35 minutes flew by in what seemed like 20. I was surprised by the number of non-finishers… due mostly to mechanical problems from what I saw. Bikes took a beating and I was again glad to be on the trusty MTB.

Lessons learned:
  • Don’t be over eager riding someone’s wheel or trying to pass in the tight and twisty bits. Better to lay off and stay clear of pileups. Save energy for sprinting when there’s a clear opening.
  • On encountering a pileup, ride around when it's clear. If there's not a clear opening, good chance you'll get caught in the pile and lose more time than you would if you'd waited a sec.
  • Practice handling! Poor handling killed me. I was coming into corners too fast and out of control. My one serious wipeout that led to a bloody shin was simply due to losing it in a corner.
  • Bring a first aid kit

The mountain bike definitely was not a liability. If anything it allowed me to take some of the uphills and downhills faster perhaps more recklessly than my cross bike counterparts. I easily had all the speed I needed. My limiting factor was handling skills, or lack thereof. I even saw saw a few mountain bikers doing quite well in the cat-3 race.

So what’s next? I’m hoping to ride in the first race of the Seattle Cyclocross series this Sunday at Evergreen High in Burien.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Am A Weasel

Carol was hit by a car a couple of weeks ago. She's OK aside from some scrapes & bruises. I, ever determined to turn adversity into opportunity, decided we needed to check whether her frame was damaged (her rear wheel was knocked pretty far out of true -- took a bit of effort to get it back -- it's a Rolf Vector Comp). So I bought a Park frame alignment guide and Park dropout alignment guide.

That's what weasels do -- turn adversity into opportunity.

Anyway, no reason why you guys can't similarly benefit from Carol's pain and suffering. If you need need your frame checked, come on over to Weasel-land!

Monday, September 8, 2008

12th Ave

As I rode in to work this morning I passed a bike accident on 12th Ave just south of Jefferson. Bike, blood, and Ortlieb bag were on the pavement. My prayers are with the rider, and I hope that he or she is not seriously injured. I don't know any of the circumstances of the accident, but I'm motivated to post because I've had a sick feeling about this intersection for a long time. I recall saying to Vaughn and Andrew that if I die on a bike in Seattle, it will be at 12th and Jefferson. Here's why this intersection is so dangerous:

  1. ARCO - The southbound bike lane on 12th Ave passes directly in front of an ARCO station (that incidentally has some of the cheapest gas in the city). I have been cut-off within inches of my life as I've passed this staion, both by southbound cars turning right 6 feet in front of me, and northbound cars turning left 6 feet in front of me.
  2. Parallel parking on 12th Ave - This is related to the ARCO. There is parallel parking along southbound 12th Ave between the bike lane and the curb. It's such a highly trafficked gas station that there are ALWAYS people getting in and out of parks cars, and pulling in out of the parallel spots. The parallel parking also inhibits visibility of drivers entering and leaving the station driveways. The parallel parking situation renders the bike lane useless, forcing cyclists into the car lane to pass this area safely.
  3. Cab Drivers - I don't know why, but this area has an inordinately high number of taxi cabs. The cabs hang out in the area (I don't think they do much business in the area, but it's where the drivers go to park, eat, buy gas, etc), and generally drive as though they rule the roads. I would say this is true of 12th Ave from Jackson up to Union. In my experience, cab drivers are good drivers. They are professionals, they know the roads and they know what's going on. A good lot of them also regularly disregard other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and demonstrate some dangerous and anti-social tendencies. If a cab driver cuts you off and nearly kills you, it's not because they were not paying attention, they just didn't care.
  4. High Traffic - During morning and evening rush hour, bike speeds along 12th Ave can be greater or equal to car speeds. The means that bikes are keeping up or passing traffic. This is ALWAYS a dangerous situation, as cyclists must be aware that drivers in the car lane do not notice cyclists behind or along side them in the bike lane. Even if some do, you must assume they do not. Even if drivers do see you, they notoriously misjudge bike speeds and are prone to turning into or in front of you.

What can be done to make the area more safe for cyclists and everyone else?

  1. The parallel parking in front of the ARCO needs to be removed.
  2. Add a curbed lane divider that prevents left turns into ARCO by northbound drivers (probably wishful thinking).

Even if you don't bike along 12th Ave, it pays to remember that bike lanes around the city are never inherently safe for cyclists. In many locations they may be terribly unsafe; remember your right to take the lane.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist

Read this article: The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist.

I found this in the Portland bike forums this morning, written by a DC cyclist with a bone to pick about the perception of cyclists as lawbreakers. Don't get me wrong, this is not a treatise on why we should be able to break the law on bikes. It's more a study on the fact that people break the law regularly, whether they are in cars, on foot, or pushing pedals. The article leads me to assume that the fact that cyclists are perceived as lawbreakers any more than jaywalkers or speeders has more to do with our car-centric culture than whether we break the law more often than drivers or pedestrians (which we don't).

Check it out.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ride Civil, Critical Mass in Seattle PI Big Blog

The smoke is starting to clear from last month's Critical Mass ride. Maybe more rational voices will prevail. Here is what I hope is a rational voice, someone who rides both CM and Ride Civil.

Me? I intend to be at CM this month.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Best Bike Ride Ever? (North)

In our adventure south with our boys, Chad and I never discussed our plans to return home. The boys chatted about it and tried to pry info from us, but little was gleaned. Of course the main reason for this was that we had no idea how the return trip was really going to go down. We had been completely focused on the details of the present, and simply getting the kids to Portland alive.

Sometime around 6pm we found ourselves strapping the tandem to the back of the car with the others and were heading for dinner with the kids, my mother, wife and sister Brenda who lives in Vancouver Wa. Brenda was convinced that Chad and I had spent a little too much time on the bikes and were not thinking clearly. She figured she'd take charge and head to Vancouver for dinner. We played along. At dinner, she asked where we planned to stay the night. She began suggesting places closer and closer to Seattle: Woodland, Longview, Chehalis... In fact, she even suggested that she would be happy to drive us all the way home. Finally, we told her that Longview would be fine. That would allow us to bypass highway 30.

We were dropped off at a Motel 6 right off I5 in Kelso. We swapped the kid bars, seat and pedals with the larger versions we'd brought along. That done, we left the tandem at the motel and headed to the AM/PM for a beer. We got a 6pack of Fat Tire. Good beer cold...

In the morning, we packed and shipped out. Chad could not stand the thought of leaving the remaining 2 Fat Tires behind for whomever would make our bed so he threw them into his messenger bag. We stopped at Dennys for our first breakfast. The waitress at the restaurant was a bit confused. She said that we were about a day behind the other riders on their way to Seattle. Despite the confusion, she was delighted to fill our water bottles and send us on our way. Confusion would be word of the day...

We managed to find our way to highway 411 despite a couple wrong turns. Somewhere in the middle of Longview, we decided that keeping the front wheel point north would be the best plan for the rest of the day. South was simply going to make things complicated no matter what logic told us. Indeed, 2 days on the bikes had left us somewhat compromised.

Along the way on highway 411 Chad pointed out the surprised looks we were getting from the folks along the way. Seeing 2 guys on a tandem heading north on Monday following STP was apparently impossible to figure out. So impossible in fact that it left most completely speechless and unable to do anything but stare. And I mean stop what you're doing, tell your friends, turn around, drop your jaw and watch until the apparition is out of sight kind of staring. Indeed today, we were the UFO's of Cowlitz, Lewis and Pierce counties.

At about 9:30 we were stopped in Vader by the Amtrac heading north. We waved knowing that the train was filled with cyclists heading back to Seattle, but more because we knew that Vaughn Aldredge, our colleague and occasional morning ride partner was on it heading to work in Seattle. There is truly something special knowing that other people are heading to work and you are simply heading north on a tandem.

We stopped in Vader for a supply of Gatoraide (yellow, not BLUE). As I was in the 150 year old mercantile, Chad was sidetracked by a retired ambulance driver who was a fixture on a stool in the front of the store. He began the conversation with Chad: "Let me tell you about the worst damn bike accident I've ever seen." I missed the middle 5 minutes of the story, but caught the last 3 which ended with a guy on a tandem flying 9 feet over the Vader bridge, hitting a tree and falling 90 feet to the river below and landing between massive boulders breaking T3 and becoming paralyzed from the chest down. Neither Chad nor I asked whether the guy was the pilot or stoker. We just drained our yellow nectar, bid him good day and pointed it north.

As we passed another old time mercantile in Napavine, I told Chad a story about my first STP. On that trip, my friend Kai and I had decided to stay at Castle Rock for the night. We'd spent the majority of the trip from Seattle to Napavine punishing each other chasing and passing one group after the next. We'd skipped the rest areas in Tenino and Centralia and were about to collapse when we got to Napavine. We stopped at this little shop 20 miles or so from our destination, and I set my eyes on a Hostess cherry pie. That, I told Chad, was the best food I'd ever eaten. I simply could not imagine why I'd never discovered them before and why I didn't eat them every day - or for that matter, every meal. Chad and I daydreamed about Hostess cherry pies for the rest of the day...

We rolled into Centralia around 11:30 just in time for our second breakfast at a super tasty diner called Papa Ray's. As I downed my 8th pancake of the day Chad pointed out that they had home-made cherry pies. It was easy to resist though since they were not Hostess.

We jumped back on the tandem and headed north. At the point where the one way streets become a two way highway thing at the north end of Centralia, I noticed a mullet coiffed dude with a goatee in a Toyota Corolla who was, like everyone else along the way, hypnotized by us. I smiled and waived. He acknowledged us and pulled in behind us. We were soon stopped by a gorgeous brunette construction worker in 501's who was controlling traffic as they were installing some public plumbing of some kind. She smiled as we rolled up and let us pass while the cars were held up behind us.

As we passed out of the construction zone, Chad said 'Do you feel that thumping?'. I did feel a faint bumping coming from the rear end. We pulled over and noticed that the rear tire had a crimp in it. Some of the internal structural fibers had snapped and the tire had failed. We needed a new tire. We drained some of the air from the tire and headed south.. yes, south, back into Centralia.

Just then someone half shouts "Spandex!". As the car carrying the cheerleader passes, I notice that this is the Corolla driven by the Mullet. In the back seat of the Mullet's car was what I guessed was the Mullet's 18 year old brother. This young man was clean shaven, probably weighed in at 280 and was sitting next to nothing else but an inflated yellow duck - one of those floating ring ducks that a 3yr old kid uses in the swimming pool. Seriously, close your eyes and imagine this scene. Now, for some reason, this just made both of us start laughing. This was just too funny.

Soon, we rolled into the north end of the same construction area where the black haired beauty was working. We rolled up next to the Corolla and passed it ever so slowly. This time little Jimmie in the back seat couldn't raise his eyes from the floorboards. We smiled. The flagman on the north end of the construction area let us pass ahead of the cars. Damn, it turned out that it wasn't our good looks, it was their policy... Just as we left the construction area, we were again passed by the Corolla; and Jimmie shouts "Spandex!" again. It was all I could do to maintain my balance while Chad and I laughed.

Moments later, we passed a house with an old man in a lawn chair in the parking strip facing the street with a Budweiser in his hand smiling and waving to us. I was certain this man had been in the same place on Saturday. Did no one tell him that STP was over? Did we just get his hopes up that another 10,000 people were to follow? Or did he just sit on the parking stip in his lawn chair drinking beer at 12:30 every sunny day?

We rolled into the center of Centralia where we had seen a shop with a bunch of bikes for sale. It turned out that this shop was an antique shop. But the friendly owner directed us to Full Circle Bikes - another 2 miles south.

Pat, the helpful owner of Full Circle sold us the only 2 26x1" road tires he had. He also located tubes from a armload of tubes he had in the back room. We were amazed at the great condition of his shop after hearing that it had been 5' under water when the town flooded in November. Thanks to Pat, and the smallest floor pump either Chad or I have ever seen, we were back on the road north again.

On the way out of town, we were disappointed not to encounter our friends with the Corolla, but our friend with the 501's at the construction site smiled and gave us the free pass through the site again. Yeah! We'd made it out of Centralia - and this time for good!

We opened up the throttle as we left Centralia and headed up the newly laid chip seal towards one of the best named towns on the route - Bucoda (isn't that a bronchial disease?). We rounded a corner at something like 30mph and I was caught day dreaming staring straight down at wheel. One moment I looked up and saw the bend, the next I was picking the best line in the ditch that would cause us the least damage. We flew off the road, into the ditch, and barreled down the ditch for 100 feet before we rolled to a safe stop in the center of the ditch. Good thing this tandem is built for off roading! I could only imagine the thoughts that went through my helpless stoker's mind as this transpired.

The next couple of hours were all about surviving some really ugly traffic. We rolled through Yelm and Spanaway at pretty much rush hour. Cars were lined up at every intersection. At one point Chad counted 9 drivers at one traffic jam turning their heads and staring at us. It reminded me of one of my favorite photos from Ruth Orkin. We were a haunting; rolling by all these miserable souls with something they all desperatly wanted - freedom and fresh air. Oh how it must suck to rely on a car to commute to work each day!

We finally found our way to the only hill of STP. This is the hill just west of Puyallup that takes the herd up to Spanaway. But today, we were heading east - downhill! Now, did I mention that tandems are cool? Well, imagine 50mph without pedaling! We were still picking up speed when I finally had to break for the light at the bottom of the hill.

After dropping off the hill, we got a bit disoriented and did a lap around Puyallup. At one light, as we rolled through the green while oncoming traffic was waiting, a pretty, 20-something girl observed that the stoker had what she described as a "tight butt". Now, what with Floyd Landis, Ricardo Ricco and Michael Rassmussen, you'd think we'd have heard of all the ways to "enhance" cycling performance. Well, now this one was a new one to me - somehow, we averaged 35 something for the next 15 minutes!

Blown up the west valley highway by an overdose of hormones, we finally arrived in Renton. We rolled up to a Safeway in the mist of the sprawling strip malls that seem to extend forever. I waited at a table in the front with the bike while Chad went inside with one mission: Hostess Cherry pies. 5 minues later, Chad returned carring 4 pies. He handed 2 to me then sat and rested for a moment. As I finished my first pie and started into my second, Chad was staring in disbelief and clearly humored as I left crumbs, waste paper and saliva on my face, my chair and the pavement below. He said he was reminded of the wood chipper scene from Fargo. Obviously, he didn't (yet) understand how damn good these things were!

Loaded with all the sugar a body can handle, we flew north to Lake Washington where we finally encountered our first cyclist. Seriously, we had not see a person riding a bike since we left Longview.

We stopped at Seward park, left the bike on the sidewalk and cracked open 2 Fat Tires at the shore as the sun was setting. Now you would certainly think that 98.6F is not an ideal temperature for beer, but somehow, these brews were even better than their friends the night before.

The remaining ride from Seward park to my home in Ballard was mostly fast and calm. Near Dunn Lumber on the Burke Gilman in Fremont, we nearly killed what looked like Peewee Herman on a bright red townie complete with plastic ribbons streaming off the bar ends. Whether we were delusional or inebriated, we managed to miss the goof as he darted in front of us inches from a painful fate.

We removed Chad's pedals from the tandem, hung it in it's place in the rafters of my garage, and that was it, an adventure complete. Time to rest a bit, and plan for the next one.

We start to cycle as a means to some end. Amidst these trips and journeys, we experience living detail. These details become the ride, the memories and eventually, the purpose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Best Bike Ride Ever? (South)

I've been riding a lot for a long time. I am, like many of you, extremely lucky to be able to ride my bike every day and then some. From my daily commute for the last 9 years to the races and weekend rides, I've had some excellent times on my bike. But of all those times, nothing really compares to the ride I shared a couple weeks ago with my 2 boys (Sean and Kealan), Chad Richmond and his son Jaden on STP.

Heh, yeah, STP. I can't believe it myself. There really couldn't be a less likely opportunity for a good experience than the big cattle drive to Portland. But like an old friend used to tell me, sometimes good things sneek up and kick you in the knees...

Sean, Kealan and I had been looking forward to STP all year. Last year, Sean and I rode our new Cannondale MT 1000 tandem to Portland with Rod Megraw. Thanks to Rod's fending off the folks who thought they could gain something by drafting a "big rig" with a 8hp Suzuki stoker, we finished Sean's first big ride safely when he was just 9.

Meanwhile, Kealan, then just 7, demanded that he was simply not going to watch from the car next year. No, he was going to be the stoker, and Sean was simply going to have to figure out how to get to Portland on his own.

We started our serious training a couple weeks before Chilly Hilly where Sean barely survived, and Kealan enjoyed taunting other riders, especially his big brother. My goal in the training was to gradually increase time in the saddle and avoid any bottom pain during the big ride. Aerobic conditioning was not really something I was too concerned about since we could always just rest. But bottom pain would have been a show stopper as any of you parents can understand.

During one of our favorite moring rides Chad mentioned that he was bringing Jaden, his 13 yr old son on STP. Having a Surburban with a brand spanking new engine (another long story), I offered to give them a ride home from Portland.

OK, so the team was set. All we needed to do now was find some tires for Sean's Redline and Jaden's Novara. As it turned out, this was not as simple as it would seem. This was when I learned that 24" tires are not all 24". Sean's bike needed 24 x 1 &3/8 x 520 and Jaden needed 24x1&3/8 x 507. Thank goodness for Free Range and Harvys.

Thursday night, we were set. Kids - check. Bikes - check. Camping gear, food, tubes - check, check, check. Suburban... uh oh. I took the beast into the shop for an oil change after breaking in the new engine and the new oil pan failed when they tightened the drain plug and it needed to be replaced. And my mechanic's lift was broken. At 3:00 on Friday, I no longer had the room for my family and Chad's.

Chad and I spent a couple hours researching transportation options returning from Portland. The train was sold out, the buses were full, and rental vans were all rented. I jumped on my bike and raced to my mechanic's garage to suggest that I had tools and could replace the oil pan. My mechanic laughed heavily at me in my "hot orange" cycling gear and the thought of this spandex wearing geek in a greasy pit changing an oil pan. When he finally recovered from his hysterics, he considered it completely and then told me that I was going to need to unbolt the engine, transmission, exhaust, and lift the engine to make room to remove the oil pan. -So much for that idea.

Just about then I got a text message from Chad. Awesome I thought, Chad found a solution. I read the message from Chad: 'Would it be completely insane to ride your tandem back on Monday? I cannot stop laughing thinking about it'.

OK, now either Chad was just messing with me, or he'd been out drowning his sorrows. I called him and he was actually kind of giggling. So was the crowd at whatever pub he seemed to be at. As it turned out, he was serious. OK, I thought, I've got another seat and seat post for the tandem. I've got a set of mountain bars to replace the kid bars, and we could put Chad's pedals on. Gear wasn't an issue. So I double dared him. OK, bud, you wanna do this, let's do it!

We left Ballard at 6:30. The kids were lethargic. We rolled over to the U Bridge and met the herd. I was frightened. We were actually riding with a group of what I estimated to be 300 riders. At that moment, I convinced myself that there was no way I could protect Sean from the crowd and figured we'd never make it as far as Seward Park before something really bad happened.

Somehow, Sean and Jaden perfected riding in close quarters in about 3 minutes. Just say "on your left" in the voice of a preteen and everyone sits up straight and fears the moment that a kid passes them. They rode in a virtual bubble until the packs thinned out after Kent.

In Auburn, along the street of stank (otherwise known as the West Valley Highway), Sean dismounted by raming his front wheel into our tandem's cogset. He flew over the bars and landed on my rear wheel, then the pavement. Us adults would have been carted off to Harborview with broken ribs and clavicle. Sean stood up, drug his bike out of the way and suffered. Moments later, a medic rolled in and checked him out and gave him a thumbs up to carry on. Oh for rubber bones...

We flew on into my least favorite part of STP - Spanaway and Ft Lewis. (I'm going to use this route next year.) Up to this point, our speed was surprising. We were averaging 17+mph on any extended stretch. The kids were amped! As we rolled down highway 507 through Fort Lewis, Chad and Kealan and I were talking for a while when we realized that we had been dropped by Sean and Jaden. Jaden was pulling at a speed of 24mph, and they now had a gap of like 30 seconds.

After 5 minutes of work, we finally caught the boys and Chad and I were humbled. Yeah, Chad's riding a fixie and I've got a mountain tandem, surely, we'd be killing with our "real" bikes? We'll keep living this fantasy.

At the Tenino rest stop, I was reminded of my time in Ireland. A friend and I went to Dublin in 1993 for a weekend which happened to be Easter weekend. On every corner was some dude screaming at the top of his raspy lungs: "Eggs here! Git ur Aster eggs here!" . In Tenino, it was "We've got Blue Gator Aide! BLUE!!!". He was screaming so loudly that most ladies and children were apprehensive to approach and fill their bottles.

We rolled easily into Chehalis after 115 miles on the road. We were met by my wife Isabel and my mother June. They'd already set our tents up and delivered some choice popsicles in celebration of Jaden's birthday. Kealan who had been an upbeat stoker all day announced that it was time for swimming. He donned his trunks, passed the swim test and spent the next hour in the pool. The older boys were somewhat more reserved. They rested, ate, then spent the next 4 hours playing football. The bodies of the other riders scattered all over the field made for great obstacles.

We woke in the morning at what we thought was an early 6:00. Already the masses of cyclists were on their way out. We roused the kids - some less than thrilled about our schedule. We managed to get our camping gear packed, eat breakfast and get to our bikes in an hour. When we went to the cycling security corral, we were humored to find only our 4 bikes left from the hundreds there the night before. The bikes were surrounded by a group of confused corral deputies who seemed to be wondering where to look for the bodies of the owners. They were thankful when we showed up and explained that they really were not prepared to deal with "loafers".

We spent most of the next 3 hours chasing Sean up and down the rollers from Chehalis to Castle Rock. We'd come close to catching him on the downhills and flats, then we'd hit a climb and he and Chad'd be off again. Somewhere along this stretch we got a flat. We sent Jaden ahead to catch up with Sean and Chad and told him that we'd catch up.

I pulled the front wheel off. While Kealan held the tandem up, I replaced the tube, pumped 150 pumps into the tire and reinstalled the wheel. Now I told Kealan that it was time to really show the other guys what it was like to have an 8hp Suzuki on the back. Man, we flew! We cruised at about 28 for about 10 minutes until we caught the others. Trust me, tandems are cool!

When we made it to the Longview bridge over the Columbia river I was relieved that there was a nice 10mph wind from the west meaning that we'd have a tailwind all the way down the "Highway of truth" or Oregon St. Highway 30. The final 40 miles to Portland should be a cinch!

We climbed the big ramp up to the bridge deck and Chad and Jaden dropped us. Sean was bringing up the rear. I was worried that he'd bonked. As we rolled along in the silence of the warm tailwind, we continued to loose Sean. I pulled up along Sean and asked him how it was going. He confessed that he couldn't make the climb from Longview to Portland in this headwind. He wasn't sure he could believe me when I told him that it was basically flat all the way to Portland and we had a tailwind. I had to prove it to him by making him observe the grass leaning to the east.

Sean recovered. He and Jaden took turns pulling at the front all the way to Portland. At some intersection just past the steel bridge, Sean bolted through a green light that quickly changed and left us behind. Just imagine my horror as my 10yr old disappeared into this strange city! Worse, imagine Isabel's (Sean's Mom) thoughts as her kid rolled in 5 minutes ahead of the rest of us!

We made it! Somehow, we'd 'guided' this gang 200 miles from Seattle to Portland with only some minor scrapes, greasy calves and some scared egos to show for it.

Now we just need to get home...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Act of Kindness

My thanks to Kris Jensen, Attorney At Law, who saw me walking along 1st Ave. in Sodo today with bike slung over shoulder, and gave me a ride all the way into work. Turns out Kris works down the block from me, and in the past, he'd commute from Burien to downtown.

So, how did I come to be walking instead of riding? Last Sunday, I put finished putting together an old wheel for which I'd ordered a freehub replacement (the old freehub pawls weren't catching). As I was putting the wheel together, I noticed one of the axle cones was very pitted. "Oh well," I thought to myself, not wanting to wait til I obtained a replacement cone, "now I'll see how far I can get with a pitted cone."

Now I know. Not far. Fourth day in, the bearings seized.

My thanks again to Kris for his act of kindness. I hope to encounter him on the road again, this time with me, at least, on a bike.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crew Needed for Race Across Oregon

My teammates and I are in search of a 1-3 more crew for the 2008 Race Across Oregon (RAO). A positive attitude when sleep deprived is what we are looking for.

The basic plan is that we will have 2 full-sized vans with 2 racers and ideally 3 crew in each. Crew responsibilities are relatively minor at this point (we already have a "manager" and a wrench). We need people to help drive, help the racers when they start and stop their shifts, and make sure drivers are wide awake.

In addition to the race weekend below, we are going to do a team ride this weekend (June 21) to recon the course and practice riding relay style. Crew are welcome to join us this weekend for some fun in warm, dry eastern Oregon.

Our team is called the RAOd Warriors. We have yet to fully implement the Mad Max theme, but we do have jerseys that feature a nuclear explosion and a skull and crossbones. The other teams will no doubt shiver in fear.

I've ridden a bunch with Mike Stafford and Vic Stueber from Eugene, and Mark Mirante is Mike's brother in law and lives on the east side of Lake WA.

The racing plan is 40 minutes on, 2 hours rest. Repeat until baked 535 miles later at TImberline Lodge.

Here is the schedule:

Friday July 18, 2008
12:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Vehicle and Bicycle Inspection

6:00 – 6:30 p.m. – Meeting for solo riders

6:30 – 6:35 p.m. – Extended meeting time for Rookie Solo riders — you'll see who you're up against for RQ.

7:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Special Guest Speaker

8:00 – 8:30 p.m. – Meeting for 2 & 4 person relay teams

Saturday July 19, 2008
5 a.m. – Solo and tandem racers start. Please assemble at starting area by 4:45 a.m.

7 a.m. – Two and Four Person Relay racers start. Please assemble at starting area by 6:45 a.m. Note new starting time for Four Person Teams

Monday July 21, 2008
(Not sure we'll go to this) Post Race Banquet. The event after the event! Please join us for our special awards ceremony. 6:00 PM at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn.

Interested folks can email me at:, or call: 541.514.1502


Monday, June 2, 2008

Local Boy Matt Makes the Big Time

Matt Mikul is a local randonneur how has just achieved a bit of notoriety for having his mapping website featured in the Washington Post. In his own words...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Great News

I'm sorry to hijack the blog for personal news, but then again, Carol is my bike-mate, so it's sort of on-topic.

Carol had her mastectomy on Wednesday. The prognosis is good. Her surgeon said the sentinel nodes were clear, indicating there was no evidence that the cancer had spread to the lymphatic system. If the sentinel nodes had not been clear, they would have had to take a further biopsy of the lymphatic system. This further biopsy -- ancillary node biopsy -- has side effects of chronic swelling and infection. This was the main thing Carol was worried about just before the surgery.

We'll know for sure when the pathology report on the sentinel nodes comes back next week, but at this point, it appears Carol is now free of cancer, and won't need chemo.

The morning after surgery, Carol was up, walking, and fully alert. She was herself again. She was recovering so well that her docs released her from the hospital that day, a day ahead of schedule.

We're at home now. Her company, boss, and co-workers were exceedingly generous, and chipped in for a food service - we just got the first delivery. Later today, we're thinking of taking a walk down on the beach.

Full recovery will take awhile. She can't lift her arms or bear any weight. But I look forward to her being back on the bike, so we can start riding again.

I feel a great weight has lifted from our shoulders. We are the most optimistic we have been in a long, long time.

Thanks to all of you who have expressed concern and given us your good thoughts and wishes. I am very, very grateful. I will "redirect" your wishes and thoughts to those in our situation who are not so fortunate. In the waiting room, Nick, Chloe, and I overheard some very heartbreaking stories.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cyclist attacked in I-90 bike tunnel


Date: May 9, 2008 3:57:00 PM PDT
Subject: Cyclist attacked in I-90 bike tunnel

Word of this is just getting around. It happened in broad daylight. Many of us commute and ride through this area so please be aware of brazen youths looking for an easy target!

"While riding home from work on his bike, one of my Seattle U colleagues was mugged late yesterday afternoon by three teenagers in the I-90 tunnel (eastbound). One of them jumped in front of him as he approached, so he slowed down, and then the guy slammed him into the wall. Once he toppled, the other two proceeded to beat and kick him repeatedly while demanding he turn over his wallet. He just told them, over and over, to leave him be and take his bike bag from the back rack. So they did and then ran.

Moments later another cyclist came by so he was able to borrow a cell phone (his was in the bag taken) to call first the cops, and then his wife to cancel his cards and phone, and to get a start on replacing all his locks (all of his keys were in his bag too). What amazed him most was their nerve. They waited for the right moment, when he was the only rider in the tunnel, and then pounced. My friend is OK, sustaining only some bruises, but he knows he got lucky, and they left him with his bike."

*** This mail was blasted by JetCityVelo ***

Our Club is built on volunteerism, have you done your part?

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Pink is the color of the jersey worn by Christian Vande Velde after his Slipstream-Chipotle team won the opening stage of this year's Giro d'Italia, edging out CSC and High Road. First American to wear pink since Andy Hampsten.

Pink is also the color that's on my and Carol's mind as we work through this breast cancer thing. I think the panic is gone, and now it's just waiting. We're waiting to hear when the surgery can be, since it involves coordinating the schedules of two surgeons. At the back of my mind, there is a sense of urgency: there is this thing in there, growing. It's probably not invasive, but time moves us in that direction. It's hard to wait.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Doors Greatest Hits

Yesterday on my morning commute from Beacon Hill to Downtown Seattle, an unmarked Dodge Charger police car flashed his lights and pulled over a cyclist heading north on 12th Ave S about 150 yards in front of me, just past the Boren intersection.

Cop and cyclist were pulled off to the side in the parking area and as I was passing the scene, the cop shot his door quickly and fully out into the bike lane just a few feet in front of me as I approached. I said some choice expletives as I tried to avoid the door without getting mauled by a car passing me in the traffic lane. I actually barely managed to avoid hitting the door and being hit. The cop then yelled at my back "That's why you don't pass a car that's pulled to the side of the road, moron!" Wow, did this cop just try to intentionally teach me a lesson and/or seriously injure me? I was livid, but there is little to be gained from confronting an asshole cop. I'm guessing this guy has it in for cyclists and would love a chance to hand out more than a traffic ticket.

I've ridden along parked cars in traffic for 10 years, I know the dangers, and I ride carefully and assertively. Never in all those years have I come as close to being doored as yesterday, and it scares the crap out of me to think it was an intentional act by one of Seattle's police officers. I feel fortunate that I was not actually hit, and fortunate for the reminder that ANY person behind the wheel of a car could potentially be a malicious nut and to ride safely and accordingly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Be Careful Out There

I'm old enough to have been a fan of Hill Street Blues, the grand-daddy of post-70's gritty neo-realistic cop shows on TV. A signature moment of each episode was when Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would end the roll-call with the exhortation "Let's be careful out there."

Today's round-up includes this soul-deadening piece:
Three cyclists descending down a winding road on a training ride Sunday morning near Cupertino, California were struck by a Santa Clara County sheriff's patrol vehicle that had briefly crossed the centreline while traveling in the opposite direction. Two of the cyclists, identified by the San Jose Mercury News as Matt Peterson, 30, of San Francisco, and Kristy Gough, 31, of Oakland, died from their injuries - Peterson on the scene and Gough hours later after being airlifted to Stanford University Medical Center.
I don't know these people, and this incident happened hundreds of miles away. I suppose if I were right in the head, this story would have no more impact on me than any other story of people dying.

But I'm not right in the head. I seem to get caught up in stories of tragic death of remarkable people. Maybe it's the Greek mother in me.

A teammate of Kristy Gough recounts of the fast-rising phenomenon:
In the Snelling Road Race, she had gone out solo and had a huge gap after the first lap but felt bad about the other girls so slowed up and only won by like 12 minutes!
I think that's remarkable.

When we go out, whether it's to race, train, commute, run errands, or ride for the fun of it, we always expect to come back. Sometimes we don't.

Be careful out there.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hummunnaheedada: SOLD!! Bike group Auctions Coming Up in Seattle Area

This event sold out: Seattle Bike Works will be holding the Bike Works' Sixth Annual Auction, at 6:00 PM on Saturday, March 15, 2008, at Gould Hall, University of Washington, 3949 15th Ave NE.

Marymoor Velodrome Association's "Track to the Future" auction comes a week later: March 22, at the Mercer Island Community Center.

Get out your wallets. (Or duct-taped reinforced baggies, as the case may be.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Back to 'Works

Last night was my first at a Volunteer Repair Party as Seattle Bike Works.

Several years ago, I volunteered for Earn-A-Bike, BW's program wherein kids learn to work on bikes, and in the process, put enough labor into a (used) bike of their choice, as well as other bikes, to have earned it. But, get a bunch of tweens and teens together, and the energy in the room takes on a life of its own, so my sessions at that time were really more about working with kids, rather than working with bikes. Given that my own household was going through very rough times, with a teenager in severe crisis (and I mean really severe), I just couldn't put in the effort, and had to back out.

Nevertheless, I have stayed interested in BikeWorks, and have always meant to return to volunteering when my life got sane enough. Now, with both kids out of the nest (can you believe it?), and Carol firmly established in the local job market, I felt it was time.

And so, last night, I was back. Cue the Rocky theme? Picture me running up the steps to BW, turning and pumping my fists in triumph? Not quite. The evening ended by my apologizing profusely to the volunteer coordinator for damaging one of Bike Works' tools.

The bike I was working on (an entry-level Bianchi mountain bike) had the chain installed wrong (not through the front derailleur cage). I don't know whether this was intentional, as a way to remind people that the chain needed to be cleaned and lubed. My bench didn't have a chain tool, so I wandered around trying to find a bench that did. A volunteer at an adjacent bench handed me one. It was marked "BMX". That should have stopped me, but for some reason, it just didn't. Well, profiles of BMX (3/16") link plates are wider than the profiles of non-BMX (1/8") plates, which means that if you seat a 1/8" chain into a BMX chain tool (in this case, the Park CT-7), the chain's pin will not align with the channel into which it is to be pushed. The result? Screwing in the handle results in the driving pin in the chain tool getting bent. That's what happened to the CT-7 I was using.

The rest of the overhaul went OK -- I found several things wrong on the bike that weren't marked on the repair ticket (stripped rear derailleur cable anchor bolt, very slow leak in a replacement tire, unadjusted front derailleur), and their repair went smoothly -- the only problem I felt was that, since I was unfamiliar with the bench and location of stuff, it took me a long time to get things done -- I was always looking for something.

I think a sign of maturity, and a behavior I expect of other adults, is that if you make a mistake, you should expect criticism, and you should be totally focused on learning from your mistake. And so, I quietly accepted the volunteer coordinator's comments about needing to ask, if there's any question about a tool or repair.

BikeWorks didn't ask me to, but I've ordered a replacement CT-7. I see this as a long-term engagement, and I don't want BikeWorks to pay for my mistakes.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Unleash The Monkeys!

We finished our first sewing project. For Carol it was all review, but for me it was all new, and more challenging than wheel- building.

But they're done.

The Monkey Pants.

Hundreds of monkeys, frolicking with bananas, will heretofore adorn my legs when I am lounging at home.

By this time next year, you're each going to be wearing custom-designed lycra arm warmers.

Ooh! Is That A Glove?!

[click here to skip to the glove comparison]

One of the many, many endearing qualities of My World of Hert is her ability to shift her attention with mercurial rapidity; keeping up with her is like trying to track minnows in shallow water. Anyway, one of the earliest moments that I knew I had to marry this woman was when we were driving along in a Syracuse winter, past shoulder-high snowbanks, having a conversation about I-don't-know-what, when all of the sudden she yells out, without skipping a beat, "Oooh...Is that a glove?" (The fact that we were already married didn't trouble me, and shouldn't trouble you). I immediately pictured a big, friendly Labrador, attention switching second-to-second, with every new wonderful really really interesting wonderful thing is that glove throw that stick can I have treat?!

Anyway, this sense of wonder and amazement has slowly evolved into dread, with the realization that Carol really likes to take it all in when she's driving: the trees, the birds, the wildlife, the houses, the mountains in the distance, the clouds on the horizon, the way people are dressed, the dogs they walk, the new fashions, nice gardens, and every once in awhile, the road. By now, I know that the only reason Carol has not had an accident driving is the minute changes in momentum I impart to the car as I cringe, twist, grip various things, and stomp imaginary brake pedals while riding in the passenger seat. (Carol reminds me that she's not watching all these things, she's delegating; she's telling me what I should be watching. Oh, man, a whole different can of worms, there!)

The Great Glove Throwdown

Anyway, at the end to this long preamble is: gloves. Specifically, reflective gloves for use by cyclists. Awhile ago, Bike Hugger posted this item about GloGloves reflective gloves. In trying to find out about them, I ran into another kind of reflective gloves: Bright Hands Glow Gloves Well, being the demanding consumer that I am, I had to know, which of these gloves is better for cyclists? And so, I staged ... The Great Glove Throwdown.

Aw, no I didn't. I just went to a parking lot with a photographer (the intrepid Oliver Mak: take a bow Oliver, the Oscar's for you, baby!), with these two pairs of gloves, a bike, a stationary trainer, and a whole lotta dark, to try to get an idea of what a driver actually sees with these two gloves.

Well, as we were setting up, it became clear that the Bright Hands Glow Gloves (the ones I stumbled upon) have no value as a cyclist's reflective glove. I'm not sure under what circumstances they actually glow, but they were pretty much not visible under our circumstances: bike about 35 feet ahead of the driver, offset about 8 feet laterally, illuminated by a Subaru Impreza's headlights. In fact, at one point I got lazy about taking gloves off, and put the Bright Hands over the Glo Gloves. Oliver could see the Glo Gloves through the Bright Hands.

So, cherry-picking opportunist that I am, I decided to change the purpose of the inquiry from "Which Glove Is Better" to "What Does a Motorist See When You're Wearing GloGloves?" (Those of you who make a living doing academic research, and have learned the lesson that, noble rhetoric about scientific inquiry notwithstanding, negative results get you nowhere, will recognize this nifty little move).

And so, this is what the camera saw. (Although I had originally envisioned still shots, with appropriate camera settings found by trial and error, Oliver convinced me a much easier way to do this is by digital video camera, since DVR's are specifically designed to reproduce what the user sees).

The first part of the clip, I am wearing the Bright hand is not visible. Then I take off the Bright Hands, exposing the GloGlove. I see a big difference.

Anyway, I'm buying a bunch of GloGloves for myself, Carol, my cat, my fish, ...

But I do have one complaint. I have gotten into the habit of wiping my nose on the my glove (gross, I know, but cycling gloves are specifically designed to accommodate such disgusting behavior). The reflective material on Glo Gloves is quite stiff, with a sharp edge, and is sewn onto the glove with the stitching about 3/16" from the edge of the material. The net result is that when I draw the glove across my nose, I get a faceful of hurt. Now I understand why all those traffic cops are grumpy and have band-aids on their noses.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Knowing WTF I'M Talking About: My First Critical Mass

I attended my first Critical Mass last night. What I saw and what I experienced has got me thinking. And I owe the people who participate in CM an apology.

On November 13, 2007, I had a letter published in the P-I, in which I used stereotypes of Critical Mass to make some rhetorical points.

I was trying to get drivers who equate cyclists with blocked traffic to think about traffic congestion, and their own behavior, in a different way. I did that by suggesting that drivers created congestion all on their own, and I likened their behavior and its outcome to Critical Mass. In doing so, I let my own ignorance about Critical Mass reinforce negative stereotypes of the movement. What I did was unfair to participants in CM. And by reinforcing these stereotypes, I worry that I may have done more harm than good to cyclists. Let me quote the letter at length, and comment, on the basis of what I experienced last night:
Eyewitnesses in downtown Seattle reported recently that during the evening rush hour, traffic was snarled for blocks when a group of individuals chose to use the streets in a manner that prevented commuters from moving.

I didn't see anyone acting in a way indicating they were trying to snarl traffic, and traffic was not snarled. I lagged behind to see what happened in the aftermath of CM moving through. No snarls.

Automobile drivers, almost all driving alone, simultaneously drove their vehicles into the streets of downtown Seattle and instantly created gridlock, impeding the progress of buses, cyclists and in some cases, pedestrians. Apparently fully understanding and anticipating the consequences of their actions, the automobile drivers nevertheless chose to act in a manner that made movement through downtown difficult.
Some riders momentarily impeded the movement of traffic to enable the group to move through intersections quickly and compactly. This resulted in delays of seconds, and if they hadn't done this, the movement of the ride through traffic would have been much more disruptive.

One frustrated cyclist, choking on the fumes emitted by the automobiles stationed around him, gasped, "I can go 25 or 30 miles per hour on this street. I should have been home by now. Instead, I've moved one block in the past five minutes!"
Comparing CM to a traffic jam to stigmatize the creators of the traffic jam implies that CM and a traffic jam are in some fundamental way alike. Nothing could be further than the truth. What I saw last night was a living demonstration that a large group of cyclists can move in an urban environment in a way that does not create congestion.

The immobilization of downtown Seattle streets by automobiles, although executed without central coordination, was highly effective. Commuters are cautioned to expect more such "critical mass" events, up to 20 times per month.
Again, I saw no behavior last night to indicate that "immobilization of downtown Seattle streets" was the intent of the ride, and it certainly was not the outcome.

Some additional observations from last night:

  • Several of the more experienced members worked smoothly to hold drivers back for the few seconds necessary to enable the group to move through intersections with minimum impact. They were unfailingly polite.

  • It's true what they say about CM. There is no central organization, no list of rules. No leaders.

  • Nevertheless, there are rules, or at least suggested behaviors. CM is not chaos. I heard CM riders informing each other on what to do to keep everything moving smoothly.

  • Of the comments I heard from non-participants, I think about 80% were positive and 20% negative. But I recognize the tone of the negative comment-makers. These are the drivers who will rage at you no matter how far you ride to the right, no matter how much you obey the rules. They consider cyclists' existence an affront. If we would have been following all traffic rules, staying within bike lanes, &c, they still would have raged.

  • I imagine there are as many motivations for riding in CM as there are riders, even more. I don't know what others' motivations were. But I had a realization while riding about why I wanted to be there, then. I wanted to help show how smoothly and unobtrusively a large group of cyclists can move around downtown. Imagine if each of us were in a car (one per car, as Seattle drivers overwhelmingly seem to prefer). How long would it have taken us to circle downtown? With what impact?

  • Will I do it again? You bet!

The points I had wanted to make in my original letter may be valid -- I still think they are -- but I regret using CM as a "bogeyman" to have made those points, and doubly regret doing so in complete ignorance of what CM actually is. Apart from the implicit slander of CM participants, I am disappointed in myself.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Google Bike Mapping? Great Post On BikeHugger

Notch up another really compelling and interesting post to the folks at BikeHugger.

...add an option to Google Maps to show bike paths and directions in the same place you’d get driving or public transit directions...

Here is a link to an online petition to indicate interest in this sort of thing.

Who are these people (BikeHugger), and how do they manage to keep producing such good content? It's scary. Like

322-KYL: I'm Going To Critical Mass Today

If these things go in seasons, I had my first really close call of the season this morning.

I love riding north on 4th, from Airport Way to Jackson, because with the timing of the lights, and the generous lanes, it's one of the few places downtown where motor vehicle traffic doesn't stop me, and I can ride at the speed limit.

As I was approaching Jackson, in the left-middle lane, a car that had stopped in the lane to my right turned and accelerated into my lane in an attempt to cross two lanes of traffic at a 90-degree angle, to get onto 2nd Ave for a left-hand turn onto westbound Jackson.

It was over before I realized it was happening. I do know I shifted my weight to change the direction of my momentum as close as I could to parallel the car's direction of travel, I tensed my right side for impact, and I leaned to try to keep myself upright on impact, rather go somersaulting over the car. I stopped in time. Impact never came. The driver continued on his way.

I'm angry, and I'm armed. OK, I'm not armed.

The car's license plate number is 322-KYL (WA). It is a silver 4-door sedan, late model, possible Honda.

Well, I'm angry, and I'm armed. OK, I'm not armed.

But, what luck! Today is the last Friday of the month!

I've never been to Critical Mass, but after what happened this morning, I can't not go. I just can't.

Know something funny? I was wearing two styles of reflective gloves, preparing for a test this weekend to determine which kind will better enable drivers to see us in the dark.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Maybe I'll just ride around my back yard

Sea Times:
Two-year deferred sentence for crosswalk death

Also saw that the dump-truck driver who killed the cyclist on Eastlake won't face felony charges.

I couldn't eat as much as I'd like to throw up. When I'm driving in a car, I'm a citizen of the republic. When I'm riding a bike, I'm certainly something less.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some Extra Huggin' and Squeezin'

Of the sea of bikes that roared through the Chilly Hilly registration area, onto the ferry deck, and then spilled out onto the beautiful, sunny roads of Bainbridge Island, this is the one that most caught my eye.

I was curious, because I thought the rims might be the Velocty-ELVS-Laek House rims that I've read about. I ran up to the young woman who was wheeling this beauty along, and asked her about the rims. She said she wasn't sure, her boyfriend had put the bike together for her.

Well, listen, boyfriend! If I did this right, your girlfriend will have been impressed and appreciative that you've put together a bike for her that has total strangers running up to her, asking if they can take pictures of it. And I can only hope this translated into some extra huggin' and squeezin' for you that night.

Think nothing of it, mate. It's the least I can do for one who wears the kit of First Rate Mortgage

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tapping My First Bottom Bracket

This is a follow-up post from here, where I outline the history of the bottom bracket. In that thrilling episode, Aaron Goss tapped my drive-side bottom bracket shell to Italian standard, as it had been English, but had been completely stripped. Luckily, Aaron suggested I not retap the non-drive-side, which was in fine shape.

However, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try cutting threads myself, especially since I don't much care for the frame (unsatisfactory lateral rigidity in the rear triangle). Little to lose, lots to gain.

The tool I was using is described here. It is definitely not shop grade.

Well, there's really not lots to tell. I used lots of cutting oil, tried to keep the shavings out of the cutter, used smooth effort. The only problem is that the diagram that came with the tool showed the tool assembled without a spring applying tension for cutting (although the diagram for facing did show use of the spring). It only took me a few seconds to realize that that couldn't be right; without the spring, the cutter does not stay firmly against the shell, and flops around. Couldn't possibly make a straight set of threads that way, so I improvised a bit.

Nominal testing indicates that the threads I cut accept a cup, and hold it, as readily as the ones Aaron cut. However, the true test will be when I install an actual bottom bracket, tightened the cups to specified torque, and have ridden it for several hundred miles. I'll want to got retro, and use a new 3-piece Italian bottom bracket, so I can examine the bearings, cones, and races for wear:

  • Does the adjustable cup install straight and permit a normal adjustment of the bottom bracket for play and free rotation?

  • Does the adjustable cup stay threaded in?

  • After several hundred miles of riding, do the patterns of wear on the cup races and axle cones indicate skew or play?

I wouldn't be surprised to find that my threads seat the adjustable cup slightly askew. Right now, I wish I had a BTS-1 so I could feel what it feels like to cut with the industry standard tool. But that's beyond my budget for awhile.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Riding With The Connors Boys in the Chilly Hilly

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of riding part of the Chilly Hilly with Kevin Connors and his two sons, Sean and Kealan.

As Hilly as ever, this year's edition was not as Chilly as I have come to expect from previous editions.

Kevin and Kealan were riding the tandem (background), and Sean was premiering his black, red, and white Redline Conquest (pictured in foreground, to the right), a beast that will carry him on his first solo STP this year.

Sean and Kealan have got the fundamentals down. Rule 1: it's all about the snacks. Here, Kevin and Kealan stop for a quick dip into the cheese nips. Later, though, would come the real treats. The wonderful people of Bainbridge Island actually put up little roadside stands offering sweets and snacks. Apparently, folks who have been doing CH for awhile have mapped out the houses that offer the best cookies, brownies, and pie.

You know, it's been said that the best of the pro climbers ride their bikes like kids. That may account for the fact that, as I was riding behind Sean, I inexplicably felt I was watching a video clip of a Gilberto Simoni or Marco Pantani dancing on the pedals. On the other hand, if, 10 years from now, I were to pick up a copy of Velo News and read that Sean Connors has signed his first pro contract, the only surprise would be that I would have learned to read. Kevin, keep an eye on Sean. I think there's natural talent there.

But the best part of the Chilly Hilly, for me, was all the encouragement I got. "Great job!", "Keep it up!", "I can't believe you're doing this, you're so young!!" (Sean is under the mistaken impression that these comments were directed at him. Yeah, dream on, Sean!) Seriously, one guy actually took pictures of Sean and Kealan so he could show his own kids. I had to take Kevin aside and give him the talk about Not Letting Your Own Kids Become Someone Else's Kids' Role Models.

For full-size photos, look at my online web album

Friday, February 22, 2008

Why Aaron Goss Is Aaron Goss, and I'm Not

I took my Redline Conquest frame to Aaron's to have the bottom bracket threads tapped, and also to watch him do the tapping, and ask him questions while he worked.

(Note: In what follows, I refer to the drive side bottom bracket cup as the "fixed cup" and the non-drive side as a the "adjustable cup". This is archaic, a relic of the time when the drive-side cup was indeed fixed, and one adjusted the bottom bracket by rotating the non-drive-side cup with a spanner)

This is the sequence of events that took the frame out of commission. One day last summer, I was riding, when suddenly (-- !! --) the cranks locked to forward motion. When I looked down, I saw the adjustable cup had threaded out up against the crankarm; further pedaling would push the cup even tighter against the crankarm, so the crankarm was locked.

That night, I put the bike on the stand, and removed the BB (Ultegra English cartridge, Octalink) from the bottom bracket shell, to get a look at what was going on. When I went to re-install it, I found the fixed cup threads, as well as the corresponding drive-side bottom bracket shell threads, were completely stripped. My best guess at what happened is:
  1. The fixed cup side stripped
  2. When it did, this allowed the entire cartridge to rotate clockwise (looking at it from the drive side)
  3. This rotation caused the adjustable cup (which acts as a snug sleeve around the cartridge) to rotate counter-clockwise (looking at it from the non-drive-side). This threaded the adjustable cup outward.
This leaves the following questions unanswered:
  • What would have caused the fixed cup threads to strip?
  • Once the fixed cup threads were stripped, what would have caused the cartridge to rotate clockwise?
Anyway, I immediately thought I'd have to have both sides of the BB shell tapped Italian (which is the usual option of salvage when an English-threaded BB strips.) But Aaron pointed out that there's no reason to retap the adjustable cup side if it's not damaged -- there's nothing to prevent me from using a cartridge from an Italian-threaded Ultegra set, for example, with the adjustable cup from an English BB set. Wow! He saved me half the cost of the repair! (Of course, I'll have to be careful to remember the two sides of the shell are tapped according to different standards -- a challenge as I progress into my dotage -- and I'll have to hope that any mechanic who has reason to use a thread gauge to determine the pitch of the threads checks both sides of the shell!)

And that is one of the reasons why Aaron is Aaron, and I'm not. I never would have thought of this, and there is something profoundly incisive and analytical about the thinking that leads to this solution.

Additional Notes:

  • Aaron has lost the beard, and, although those of you who have seen me know I have no sense of aesthetics, I'd say it's a good look for him!

  • Cargo Bike Ride, March 23rd, Alaskan and Broad (Myrtle Edwards Park. Umm -- can't see a time on the flyer -- will try to find that out.

  • For the cartridge to rotate clockwise (when looking at it from drive side) once it was unimpeded by those pesky threads is a complete surprise to me. My understanding is that the force of precession will cause the cartridge, when free, to rotate counter-clockwise when the BB axle is turned clockwise (i.e., forward pedaling). This makes me suspect that somewhere in this long, sordid tale of lust, greed, and hubris is an impediment to the free motion of bearings over their contact surfaces (think: "freezing"). I can see this causing the cartridge to rotate in the same direction as the axle.

  • Another minor mystery that touches on this story in two ways is how Italian bottom brackets stay threaded. The force of precession I mentioned in the above bullet would cause a counter-clockwise force on the fixed cup in response to clockwise rotation of the axle (forward pedaling), and since the Italian fixed cup is right-threaded (lefty-loosey), I'd think the fixed cup would tend to unthread from the bottom bracket shell.

    In fact, that is exactly what happened to me on the maiden ride of the very first true racing bike I built up, in 1985. It was a beautiful Palo Alto blue Columbus SL frame, built up with Campy Record gruppo, including Italian threaded BB. About 3/4 of the way through the ride, the cup unthreaded. My LBS (I was in Ann Arbor) suggested I use threadlock. Aaron, however, emphatically says not to use thread lock, but just to install the cartridge to the proper torque. In 1985, we (or, at least, I) did not know from torque. If you'd've said "torque", we (I) would have thought "that guy who played in the Monkees."

  • Although Aaron's solution of not tapping the apparently undamaged non-drive-side threads is compelling, I am going to go ahead and tap it Italian, so it matches the drive side. My motivation is that I now have a tap set, and I'd like to practice chasing and tapping (and just for the hell of it, facing). This is a good frame for me to learn on, since it has other problems (excessive flex in the rear triangle), and I won't be upset if I ruin it.