Monday, December 21, 2009

C4C (Cities for Cycling)

From their site:
Cities for Cycling is a project of the National Association of City Transportation Officials to catalog, promote and implement the world’s best bicycle transportation practices in American municipalities.

Took a quick whirl through, and the site is resource-rich.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Engine That Fixes Itself

For all the time we spend tinkering with & fixing bikes, in the end, they are just the linkage between the engine and the road. The engine is out of our purview. But it's just as well, because the engine has an astounding ability to fix itself.

A week before Thanksgiving, I had my worst bike accident ever. I was riding on Colorado Ave. in SoDo, between Home Depot and the rail yard. It was dawn; the light was dim. It had been raining heavily over the past few days. My front wheel went into a pothole that, filled with water as it was, I didn't even realize was a pothole. It turns out it was very deep, with a near-vertical far edge. The wheel went sideways one way, I went sideways the other way, and I ended up skidding on gravel- and rock-covered pavement, with all my weight on my knee.

After I'd determined there were no broken bones, I got on the bike and rode the rest of the way to work. There, I tried to clean out my knee as best I could. It just kept bleeding and bleeding. I started thinking of blood in terms of volume. When I finally got up the nerve to look at the wound directly, I saw the knee was torn open, and there were pieces of flesh missing.

I don't know why, but I was determined not to go to the ER. I worked as long as I could, then went home to start taking care of the wound properly. I repeatedly bathed it with alcohol, and bound it up with antibiotic-packed dressings. After a couple of days the bleeding was down to seepage, and a scab had begun to form. My family doc looked at it the day before Thanksgiving, when I had fortuitously scheduled my annual checkup. He said it was too late to do anything but let it heal by itself. He didn't see any sign of infection.

Now, a month later, the wound is almost completely healed. My body is struggling to create the last patch of skin, about 3cm X 3cm. I've been riding the trainer steadily and aggressively, and my knee is fully functional. And although my cats were following me around the first few days, licking their chops, they've given up on the idea of taking down the weak member of the herd.

I know this injury is nothing compared to some of the ones you guys have endured (e.g., Kevin's RAMROD crash, and his encounter with the angel). But still, it was a big and scary thing for me. But I'm astounded at the way my body rallied, fought infection, and knitted itself back together.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New bike or new pricey group(campy record)?

A little while ago I lost my job at Medio where I met most of the people here and the reason I started cycling to begin with. No big deal, I can get another job. I got another position in about 2 weeks but it was not ideal so I kept looking. After one week of looking I got an awesome position at Cisco so I quit my current non-ideal job to start the next Monday. That Friday Cisco called me and said there was a process problem with getting the funding approved for the position and it was gone.gone. I had to go back to my current employer and ask for my job back. Grrrr. They were very kind and let me keep it. I kept working for them and hoped that Cisco would get it together and call me back. I asked my wife if I got the Cisco job if I could get another bike and she said yes. THEN IT HAPPENED! I got the job and now more importantly I get to choose a new bike!

I recently bought a Pinarello Paris and it has DA on it, but I have permission and the means to spend a wheelbarrow full of cash on some new bike stuff.

What would you get? Campy super record for the Pinarello? DI2? or just a whole new bike with SRAM?
My team is getting new Blue AC1 SLs and that is an option.

Look at my poor fendered Pinarello.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Please help Val

You've probably seen him riding around on his Extracycle, with motorboots, cowboy hat, and Snidely Whiplash mustache. Or solving some esoteric bike tech problem at Aaron's. Our own version of Sheldon Brown. Val Kleitz is fighting cancer. Aaron Goss is holding a raffle to raise funds to pay for Val's chemo. Please. Give.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Welcome, Neighbor!

Cycle U is moving into the building at 38th Ave S and Alaska Ave, here in West Seattle -- 3 blocks away from my house.

This is great in that it puts to use one of the complex of buildings formerly occupied by (sometimes larcenous) auto dealerships. I had been wondering what was going to happen to these buildings, and hoping they would not become yet another blight on our neighborhood. (Although, if you argue that an auto dealership is by definition a blight on a neighborhood, then, well, who am I to disagree?)

This is also great because -- it's Cycle U! How cool is that?!

And they say they will have a retail location on site.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Po'Girl BikeWorks Benefit

This came my way. I bought my tickets -- it's Carol & my n ext date night!


Awesome Music in a Great Venue supporting The Best Youth Bike Program in the Country!!!

Mark your calendars! Folk group Po' Girl will be returning to do their second benefit concert for Bike Works! Last year's benefit concert was huge success: the band played to an enthusiastic sold-out crowd, folks loved the musical experience to which they were treated, the musicians loved the audience and the reception they received, all while we raised funds to support Bike Works’ programs! The event is all ages – bring the kids!

Bike Works will be hosting an after-the-show Open House with drinks and snacks (complimentary with concert tickets!!), at our program location just up the block from the concert venue, where guests will have a chance to meet the performers: 3709 S. Ferdinand St., Seattle, WA 98118

Friday - November 13, 2009
Columbia City Theater
Doors open 6:30 PM - Music begins 7:30 PM
Concert followed by Open House at Bike Works
Tickets Available on Brown Paper Tickets for $30.00

ALL PROCEEDS WILL GO TO SUPPORT the Bike Works programs…

Bike Works invests in youth, promotes bicycling as a clean and healthy transportation alternative and form of life-long exercise, and provides affordable bicycle services to the Seattle community ( Bike Works views every bicycle donated, refurbished, and recycled back into the community through its programs as one less bike in the landfill, and potentially one less car on the road.

Po' Girl's music has soulful roots combined with jazz, country, and R&B grooves ( This is framed by their performance on a stunning array of instruments, including the banjo, guitar, clarinet, piano, accordion, gutbucket bass, harmonica, drums, and if that isn't enough...the dobra* well-established, seasoned musicians on its roster, Po' Girl regularly plays to sell-out crowds at top venues and festivals across the U.S. and abroad during their almost constant touring.

Because of an agreement between Po' Girl's booking agent and local venues, the benefit concert can't be promoted publicly over radio or by newspaper. Please pass this email onto your friends or otherwise let others know about the concert!

Hope to see you there!

* Female dobro ;-)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Traffic Justice Summit This Wednesday

This came across my way from Cascade:

Traffic Justice Summit
Wednesday, Oct. 14, 5:30 - 7:30
Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landis Room

Each year in Washington State, nearly 500 pedestrians and bicyclists are killed or critically injured by motor vehicles. Almost none of these drivers are ever held accountable.

In the vast majority of cases, these collisions were found to be the direct consequence of moving violations like speeding, driving while texting, talking on the phone, failing to yield the right of way or just not paying attention. A traffic ticket is the worst the driver can expect if they run you over.

Do you think something is wrong with this picture? We do.

It's time to change the law. Come find out how you can be part of the movement to pass Washington State's Vulnerable User law in January 2010. Hear from your elected officials, prosecuting attorneys, advocates and victims on how this law can help protect vulnerable roadway users.

Have you, as a cyclist or a pedestrian, had a collision with a car? Have you lost a loved one in such a tragic manner? If you'd like to get involved, your help is needed. Your firsthand stories can make all the difference to pass the Vulnerable User Bill. Please, contact us and get involved [more...]

Sponsoring organizations: Feet First, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Seattle City Council Member Tim Burgess, Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, Washington State Bicycle Association (WSBA), Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA), Washington Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS), Association of Washington Cities, The Washington Bus. Does your organization wish to support this movement? contact us to get involved


Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Daughter Went To Chile, And All She Got Me Was This Ueber Cool T-Shirt

My Evening With David Byrne

Had an interesting evening with David Byrne & 500 of our closest friends this week.

The format was actually that of a panel discussion -- DB was one of four people -- the other 3 were:

DB tried as much as possible to give equal time to the others. And a lot of the audience's questions were directed to the other 3, very specific questions about policy and plans.

Myself, I would have loved to hear more from DB. He didn't talk about policy issues or planning issues, except for some historical references to the traditions of car-oriented urban planning, and a reference to Jane Jacobs, the woman who turned the tide against the destruction of neighborhoods for the sake of cars in the late 50's to the 70's. (Fascinating woman -- just read reviews of some of her books and of books about her, in New York Review of Books).

Instead, he talked primarily about his experiences, perceptions, and what cycling is to him. I actually found that more interesting than anything else. Policy wonks and planners must, by definition, speak in terms of external outcomes like reductions in CO2 emissions, number of cars on the road, &c. That's all well and good, and I am very appreciative of their hard work -- really, I am. But to me personally (and I'm sure for everyone who was there that night), cycling is rooted at a deeper level -- it is something existential. Even if cars sucked up evil and emitted goodness, I'd still be cycling. Both the physical activity and the effect it has on my well-being, and the way it allows me to experience the world around me. DB spoke about this kind of thing.

There's one observation DB made (can't remember whether he spoke about this or I read it in his book) that stirred a memory. I grew up in Albany, NY. When he wasn't working on Sundays, my father would take me and my brother to the Greek Orthodox church near downtown. (This was by bus -- my father's first car, a used 1959 Plymouth Fury with punch-button transmission, was years in the future). After church, he'd take us down to the Hudson River. When I look at photos of these trips, I remember being terrified, overwhelmed by the structures, the traffic, the noise, the sheer scale of things. These photos show me and my brother standing in a field of weeds, with the Dunn Memorial Bridge in the background.

As hard as it is to believe, at that time, there was no easy access to the Hudson River, the very raison d'etre for Albany. Downtown, Pearl St. (where my mother worked as a seamstress, and my godparents ran a diner), was just a few blocks away, but between downtown and the river were heavily trafficked roads, fences, and rail yards. Even by then, the riverfront was designed for cars, not for people. But my father came from a place where there were few cars, and where access to the water was integral to people's lives. And so, he took us to the river. (It just occurred to me that the first Talking Heads song I ever heard was their cover of Al Green's "Take Me To The River." Hmmm.)

Anyway, I'm just a few pages into DB's book, but I'm very excited about what I'm reading. When I ride to work & back, I get to see our city in ways that I never would by driving, or even taking the bus. I get to see the trucks entering and leaving our port; I know when the salmon are running by the gathering of fishers at the waterfront; I see some of the places the homeless live; I see the longshoremen gathering at the Union Hall for work assignments; I see tugboats nudging barges bound for Alaska down the mouth of the Duwamish.

Friday, September 25, 2009

VEER: Showing Tonight In Wallingford

Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice, “Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies”, Presents:

Film: “VEER” (98 min, Greg Fredette, 2009) …AN INTIMATE, BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT BICYCLE CULTURE. With Spokespeople, Cascade Bicycle Club, Bike Works, Totcycle, and others.

Veer explores America’s fast-growing bicycling culture by profiling five people whose lives are inextricably tied to bicycling and the bike-centric social groups they belong to. Portland filmmakers, Greg Fredette & Jason Turner, follow these characters over the course of a year, offering a behind-the-scenes look at their personal struggles and triumphs. Veers examine what it means to be part of a community, and how social movements are formed.

"As funky as a chrome-plated unicycle and as instructive as a Bike to Work Week seminar, this tasty slice of Pacific Northwest cycling culture should fascinate anyone who prefers life on two wheels… Portland director Greg Fredette obviously knows his audience well and packs this fascinating doc with enough bike politics, culture, anarchy, art and people-profiles to make it a must-see for anyone who cares about bikes and their ever-increasing place in our daily lives.” -Monday Magazine

Following the film, join us in a facilitated discussion on local bike culture and biking in Seattle.

When: Tonight, Friday September 25, 7:00 PM
Where: Keystone Congregational United Church of Christ, 5019 Keystone Place N., Seattle (0.4 miles west of the I-5 NE 50th St. Exit - Metro Bus Routes 16, 26 & 44)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

great interview with Mike Creed

You can read it here at Podium Insight.

Mike Creed is famous for his coffee-spitting-funny tweets. His interview, I'm glad to say, is even funnier. Long, to be sure, but worth it.

Skip the first few questions about his experience with Rock racing (unless you care about team politics). The gold is after that.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Looking at Statistics on Cycling Safety

I'm trying to get a broad view of available statistics on cycling safety, with an eye toward doing some data gathering and analysis myself, if there's enough of a gap. Could you note any published statistics or analyses you know about? Thanks.

I'm aware of:

and (thanks, poser!)

as starting points.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cross is here.

This weekend the first cyclocross races started in Seattle. Labor Day Cross was the first on the calendar. It was at the North Seatac Park.

I was not sure I was going to race until 8am the day of the race. I woke up my daughter Paulina and off we went. (the boys were too lazy) We got there in plenty of time to get signed up and take a few laps of the course. Muddy and slick and then more mud. One huge run-up that is sand and railroad tie steps.

I always make the same mistake at races, warming up too late and getting to the staging area behind 30 other guys. I was in the third row. Andy Erickson was one row behind me. About 30 seconds from the start a guy just picked his bike up and left the second row. I took his spot.

The start was uphill on moss and gravel covered asphalt. I couldn't get clipped in but sprinted anyways up to about 6th going through the start/finish line. Andy was about 3 wheels behind me.

A few guys crashed before the first set of barriers and I moved up to third, Andy still right behind me. It started to get crowded as we were going through the slower singlespeeders, especially on the long runup where I found myself pausing on each step.

On the next lap Andy disappeared from behind me and reappeared in front of me. I dropped my chain going over a log in the last half lap but didn't lose any places getting it back on and kept chasing him. In all the confusion of singlespeeders and lapped riders I didn't know who was who or what place I was any more. Turns out Andy flatted in the worst spot and had to run out of the woods to the pits ~half a lap away. A Broadmark rider helped him out with a wheel and kept him in the race.

I came in third with an average lap time of just under 8 minutes.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Carnation Farms circuit race report.

This was the 3rd and final race of the Lake Washington Velo series and almost the last race of the road season.
I got there very early to set up because my team was running this event. I helped to set up all of the BIKE RACE AHEAD signs. It was a bit cold and wet and many of the corners looked sketchy.

It was a 5ish mile circuit and we did it six times with a sprint for series points on the third lap. It started out funny when someone crashed before we left the staging area. From my preview lap on the back of the truck I knew that there was no place to pass except the corners and just squeezing between people so I tried to stay at or near the front for the first couple laps until the first sprint. For the sprint it started to get fast at about 1k to go and I was able to move up pretty easily and found a wheel but he was going too slow and Karl(he has a sprint jump like star trek warp drive) opened a huge gap I tried to chase him down and one guy from Cucina was on my wheel and passed me before the line. I got third in the sprint.

Immediately after the sprint it felt like people were attacking and I had to hurry and catch my breath and force myself to stay near the front. ouch. There were a couple crashes during the latter laps and they kind of broke up the field a little bit. Luckily I was not behind or involved in any of them.

The final lap people started to look at each other but nobody really did anything until the final turn. I took the outside line starting about 20 back and started leapfrogging wheels as they were slowing down. The very last one was a close call, I barely missed hitting it by an inch and tried to go around him at the last second. I just missed winning by inches. I took third, my best result of the season.

Kira took this amazing picture of the finish. Nice work!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tyler gets his win

Tyler Farrar did what a lot of us knew he'd do if he didn't have the Columbia/HTC train in his way, and that is: win a Protour sprint handily. In this case, it was the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Germany.

Here's a video of the last 2.5 kilometers:

And here's the VeloNews article.

For the record, the Columbia/HTC train was in this race, but for whatever reason they didn't get it together enough to disrupt the other sprinters. Advantage Tyler.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Star Crossed is filling up fast...

Hey all - if you're going to participate in Star Crossed this year, you should get on it. Pre-registration is filling up fast (the Master-4's have already sold out).

Register at

I registered for Master-3's on the off chance that I can make it up to WA that weekend. If I can't, well, I'm out $20 - but it's worth that much to reserve a spot just in case...


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memorial Ride for Jose on Sunday, August 16

From Jose's CaringBridge site:

The following is a note from Travis Dykstra of Jose's cycling team, regarding the memorial ride in honor of Jose this Sunday, August 16 at 2pm. All are welcome, and the ride will take us along Lake Wa. Blvd, around the south end of the lake, and back across I-90.

Hey Folks,

It has been nearly a month since our friend and teammate, Jose Hernando was hit on LWB on July 17th. This coming Sunday, August 16th, we would like to invite everyone to a no drop memorial ride around the south end of Wa. We will meet in front of Perts Deli in Leschi at 2:00pm where we will pass around a collection bottle to help out his wife and children. We will role out at 2:30PM and ride south on LWB to the scene of the accident where we will lay some flowers and take a moment of silence before continuing on. Details are posted on our website as well at www.supersquadra.comLake

I like to thank you all again for the thoughts, prayers and notes over the past 3 weeks. It speaks volumes to the closeness of this community and was very much appreciated.


n honor of Jose, his cycling teammates are putting on a memorial ride this coming Sunday, August 16th. The ride will begin at the Starbucks in Leschi (on Lake Washington Blvd) and will go around the south end of Lake Washington, across I-90, and arriving back at Leschi. The specifics are below. We hope you can join us.

Here is our general plan for Sunday the 16th. 2:00 – Meet at the Starbucks in Leschi 2:30 – Roll out heading South on LWB 2:45ish – Stop at the intersection for a few minutes. We’ll have a 1 minute moment of silence for Jose 2:50 – Continue around the south side of the lake 4:30-5:00 – Arrive back at Leschi

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Be Here, Now

Sometimes I''m amazed at how absent-minded & stupid I can be when it comes to bike mechanics. I get in the garage and I'm thinking about work. Just really not all there.

My latest adventure was ruining a perfectly good crank set. I was replacing a chain ring on a Pake 130mm BCD crankset, and the new ring was just small enough that I couldn't work it behind the spider arms, so I had to remove the crank arm. Easy enough. It was a tapered crank, so I reached for my usual crank remover, but I couldn't find it. Then I noticed a spare one I had bought awhile ago, and pulled it off the board to use it. It threaded on OK. But then it bottomed out, and no matter how hard I levered it, it wouldn't start pulling the arm off the spindle.

This is where it gets really stupid.

Instead of backing it off and trying to figure out why, I reached for a cheater bar.

Stupid enough for you? Wait, there's more.

With the leverage of the cheater bar and the crank arm, I still couldn't get it to budge, so I reached for a second cheater bar to slip over the crank arm.

And sure enough, the additional leverage got the puller rotating again. And thus I managed to repurpose a perfectly good crank puller as an efficient thread-stripping device.

The puller I was using was for Octalink, not tapered cranks. The wide (22mm) pad bottomed out against the inside of the crank arm, not against the spindle, and any additional force went into pushing the threads out.

Well, if there's a bright side to this unremittingly grim story, it's that I got to use an automotive ball joint remover to remove the crank arm. Not pretty, but it worked. (See? Cars are good for something!)

Oh, and there's a rumor circulating that you can remove a stripped crank arm by pouring boiling water on it, causing the crank arm to expand just enough to be pushed off the spindle. Yeah, right.

Besides, I like bashing things.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Memorial for Jose Friday July 31

From Jose's CaringBridge Journal:

A memorial service will be held at the Seattle Arboretum at the Graham Visitors Center this Friday, July 31 at 6:30 pm. People are strongly encouraged to arrive by 6pm. Follow this link for more information on getting there and other details:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This Is Not My Beautiful Bike

David Byrne is coming to Town Hall on Monday, September 28 to talk about bikes, as part of the Seattle Arts and Lectures series.

Byrne rides a bike: all over his hometown, NYC, and the world. With his new book, Bicycle Diaries, he’ll host a town-hall presentation on the role cycling plays in city life. Sharing the stage will be local guests also interested in cycling and urban planning, civic responsibility, and the pleasures of the bike. (more...)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shout Out To Cucina Fresca

Cucina Fresca is the team of Jose Hernando, who was critically injured in a collision with a van on Lake Washington Boulevard last week.

From reading the CaringBridge journal and guestbook and talking to the folks coordinating support for Jose and Chanel, we've learned the Team has really stepped up. Their generosity is humbling and inspiring.

We're all still pulling for Jose. Every pedal stroke a prayer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My first STP

Sometime in February I decided it would be fun to do the STP. I've lived in Seattle over a decade now and although I could hardly be called a road biker, the STP has always had the kind of draw to it that over time wears you down. Just like climbing Rainier, it is not something I think most people really so much enjoy doing as much as they enjoy saying they did. And so it was for me, and I decided that this year would be a fine year for it, the ski season coming to an end it sounded like a good way to get in shape for the summer.

As I've not really a road biker, I emailed the usual suspects stating my intentions to try to do it in a day and that I'd love some training partners as the date approached. From this came the most dangerous seed of all, a response from Chad, who at the time I had never even met:
From what I hear of your riding you should have no problem doing STP in one day, even on your fixie.
This I laughed off. Do the STP in a day on a fixie? He must be insane. I've never ridden 100 miles in a day on my road bike, much less over 200 on a fixe. But the seed was planted and try as I might, it started to germinate. As montain biking season began and I started doing the bigger rides that came with it I also started to take the idea more seriously. Why not? Everybody says the course is really flat and as I ride the fixie every day to work I feel more comfortable on it anyways. And so it became a hedge, I would jokingly tell people I was going to do it on a fixie, but leaving the option to back down the day of if I didn't feel ready.

As it turns out my July turned incredibly busy and the date snuck up on me quicker than expected. But I did manage to do a few longer rides on the fixie before the fateful Saturday and decided that it would be worth trying, after all, it would make for a good story.

I woke around 4:00 AM on Saturday to find some perfect riding weather. After coordinating with my mother on where to meet, I took off down to Lake Washington to meet the riders. I have to say the first 25 miles were just hilarious fun. Having hundreds of bikers around you, in front, behind and around as far as the eye can see was just incredible. I had never ridden in a pack before, but it was immediately addictive. My goal was to finish the STP, not set any record times, and as such I really wanted to maintain a fairly low average, say 16mph, such that I wouldn't bonk before arriving. That proved to be impossible right from the beginning. Even as I found a group traveling 18, another would pass at 20 and I would tag along. Then they would be passed by one at 22 and I would take chase. The rabbit chaser in me just couldn't hold back, especially as drafting made traveling those speeds fairly effortless.

In short, the first 40 miles passed in a blur as I learned to draft and take turns pulling. At my first break 50 miles in I was feeling strong and eager to get on the road again. After a short break and some Facebook updates I hit the road for the next 50. By this point the riders had spread out significantly and there was less passing taking place, letting everyone settle into a rhythm. Sometimes this would lead to being 'stranded' alone for a good while, which made me appreciate being in a pack that much more. It required more energy to go 18mph alone than it did to go 22mph in a group and I vowed to be more careful with my departures from the stops to find partners to share the workload with.

I arrived at the 100 mile mark averaging a little over 19mph. This was far quicker than I expected and at this point I was still feeling relatively good. I felt confident that I would finish one way or another. My mother met me here and we organized our next meeting spot before I took off once more. I immediately joined up with two other guys, one of which was on his seventh STP. We took turns working over the next twenty five miles and although far easier than working alone, it also made me appreciate the bigger packs, for having to break wind at 20mph every five minutes was still getting exhausting.

Somewhere between 125 and 150 miles in is a series of rolling hills, and it was at this point that I really started feeling the ride. Perhaps I hadn't drunk enough, or perhaps just my 48/16 was too tall, but each hill took a heavy toll and by the time I arrived at the 150 mile checkpoint I was fighting cramps in my quads and calves. I took a long break here, drinking and eating and gave Vaughn in Portland a call to see if he wanted to meet me at the 175 mile mark and ride me in. We agreed on a rough timeline and I took off once more.

Thankfully the next twenty five miles were far easier than the previous and although I didn't find any big packs to ride with it went by reasonably quickly. One of my pedals started pre-releasing at this point however and this made the downhills especially tricky as I spun out and then lost a foot entirely. But overall it was bearable, especially knowing that the end was near.

At the 175 mile mark I found Vaughn waiting for me in his brightest green outfit and with his very own fixie, ready to accompany me in. I can't thank him enough for this last hurrah of assistance, not so much for the pulling which he did but for the company as we came into Portland. By this time I was starting to feel thoroughly trashed and having someone to talk to made it all the more bearable.

And so we rode the last 25 miles into Portland, through the last hills and around various curves to the final celebration area. I got my one day badge and then immediately wanted to pass out. I have to say the toll was very real, my system in a bit of a shock after 11 hours on the bike and countless energy foods consumed. Vaughn was gracious enough to put my mother and I up for the night, but I was too exhausted to stay up and feeling too funky to eat, so didn't make much of a guest.

The biggest problem was that my bike fit wasn't quite right and in the process I pinched my ulnar nerves something fierce. This is known as 'handlebar palsy' and the symptoms are having completely numb pinky and ring fingers. Sadly I am now going on two weeks of not having much use of those fingers which makes my work challenging to say the least. Treatment consists of rest and rest only, but apparently almost everyone recovers within a few months. I had no idea that I could injure myself so easily so let that be a warning to any other newbies taking on the STP.

In the end I enjoyed myself far more than I thought I would. I think the ride being novel, as well as the pack dynamics being new to me made it all go by much more quickly than I expected. It did not mentally feel like I was on the bike for so long. But I think for that very same reason I would have trouble ever doing it again, as I fear it would drag on far more slowly. And if you are thinking about doing it on a fixie, then I say go for it! It wasn't really much of a handicap at all and you'll get all sorts of encouragement and gasps from other riders along the way.

Final stats:
Miles ridden: 202
Hours in saddle: 11 1/2
Average speed: 17.7
Rice Crispy Treats: 3
Cliff Blocks: 18
Bananas: 2
Sandwiches: 2
Sports Drink Bottles: 8
Fingers lost: 4

And the best part of riding the STP on a fixie, total number of pedal Strokes: ~46,500

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cyclist, Former Colleague Critically Injured on LWB

Andy Skalet told me about this. This strikes close to home because it's a former colleague of ours from Evri. When he was at Evri, he raced for Cucina Fresca.

Still trying to get information...Andy may be trying to visit this morning at Harborview.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bicycle Music Festival in Seattle

This came my way:

The mission of the Bicycle Music Festival is to promote sustainable culture in general and bicycle culture in particular, by physically engaging and immersing our community in the magic of bike culture, and cultivating and nurturing a network of local sustainable musicians, through our staging of free, community participatory, bicycle-based music events.

The Bicycle Music Festival is the largest 100% bicycle-powered music festival in the world. The free, all-day (and late into the night) event takes place annually in San Francisco, California.

August 22, 2009 the Ginger Ninja's are spearheading the Pleasant Revoluntionary Tour and the BMF West Coast Tour coming to Seattle.

The Bicycle Music Festival features: a 2000 watt pedal-powered PA system, as many as 15 bands, up to 7 festival stops, outrageous Critical Mass-style bicycle party caravans between festival stops, and zero use of cars or trucks. With its completely bike-haulable stage, the event is packed up and deployed numerous times: staged sequentially at different public parks and also on a moving “Live On Bike” stage which rolls down city streets.

Get Involved. Are you a musician/ band that wants to be on the tour? Do you want to volunteer? Do you want to help haul stuff? Now's your opportunity to participate in this fun grass-roots festival.

BMF is made possible by the support of some wonderful local individuals and businesses. We encourage support via cash or in-kind materials/ services to help support the Bicycle Music Festival.

Contact Padme of Aaron's Bicycle Repair

Frame is Indestructible; I am Not

Sigh. Phil caught me yesterday riding home on a bike that was not the one I built. I'm ashamed to admit it. At 46/19, the gearing on my pride and joy was too harsh for some of the hills I go up. About a week ago, I injured my back trying to grind up one of those hills.

I've gotten a 42-tooth chainring, and I'll be installing it this weekend, and hopefully, taking the gray beast out again next week.

I'm old.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When a cyclist dies

I don't know the details, just saw the headline: Bicyclist fatally hit by SUV outside Bremerton.
I was talking to a friend about it: I thought I'd make a bunch of armbands (out of old tubes, no shortage there) and pass them out--whenever a cyclist gets run over, we wear the armbands for a week when riding. He thinks it would reinforce the 'bikes are dangerous' mentality. Personally, I think the 'ghost bike' is really effective, though of course only in that one location. Opinion? Informal survey, evanspc/gmail.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ride to sunrise this Thursday.

Leave Seattle around 3PM.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I sold my car, didn't buy a De Rosa.

I have been looking for a new (to me) racing frame for a little while now.

I have always said I would trade my car, a 1994 saab 900, for a bike.

I had been watching this 2006 carbon De Rosa King in my size on ebay for a week and thought this was the perfect time to do it. I thought I would have to bid about 1200.00 to get it, so that's what I priced my car. I had a little talk with my wife, we have only about 15 bikes laying around so some discussion was in order.

The car sold without issue after being on craigslist for 12 hours. 4 hours until the auction for the De Rosa ends. I am sick with a combination of buyer's remorse and non-buyer's regret. My wife made the decision for me and bid 1k for it, I upped it to 1290.00 with 10 seconds to go. I lost it in the very last second by 25 dollars.

I did win ONE LESS CAR!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I finally finished putting together the bike for which I built the frame, my first frame. Written about here, here, and here.

I rode it to work several days this week, taking it over broken streets, across railroad tracks, over rough unpaved roads with large gravel-filled potholes and exposed railroad ties, and up and down steep hills. (That's the ride from the heights of West Seattle to Pioneer Square, via the railyards servicing the harbor.)

To my utter surprise, the frame didn't fall apart. In fact -- although this may be the blind love of creation speaking -- it's just about the best riding bike I've ever ridden. I just can't get over it.

Notice the drawn-in front end. That's the 74 degree head tube angle. Yet, there is sufficient fork trail that the bike is not twitchy. It's very stable. (By comparison, the Specialized Allez Elite I have built up has a mind of its own.)

It also tracks straight, although it's a little hard to tell with a fixed gear.

To finish the bike, I sprayed it with a light coat of metal primer. Hopefully, this will let me see any flaws that develop. I had to file one of the rear dropouts a bit to get it to accept an axle.

I built the rear wheel with a 36-hole Alex DM 18 rim, Surly hub, and Sapim 14g straight spokes crossed 4x, and mounted a Panaracer Ruffy Tuffy tire (from Aaron's, who first alerted me to this tire). Front wheel came off my pile of front wheels. I added an IRD bottom bracket (also from Aaron's) and a Pake track crankset (46t). Rear cog is 18t or 19t. Brake calipers are old Campy Athena from a bike I had 20 years ago, paired with new Tektro levers. Saddle, stem, headset, seatpost, and bars are just stuff I had lying around.

Well, I'm hooked. I'm planning my next frameset, perusing the online catalog of Nova Cycles to see what frame materials are available, and how much they cost. I'm in the process of arranging access to welding gear at Pratt Fine Arts' sculpture studio. And I'm enjoying the challenge of devising ways to build the frame without $5,000 worth of jigs and fixtures. People keep saying that framebuilding is all about problem-solving, and they're right!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ballard twilight crit.

In a field of 78 only 30 finished. I was #27 across the line due to a crash on the second to last lap. I knew it was going to happen, my wife predicted it. It was the first race she came to watch.

It was very nice to have her there screaming at me on each lap. "You're slow" "Squirrel Power" "Go Chad GO"

I also had some coaching from Kevin on each lap. "Get out of the back of the pack" "You're slow" "That's not where you want to be"

I stayed with the lead pack for the entire race and avoided many crashes. I was 5th wheel in corner #1 with 2 laps to go and all of a sudden there were bikes on the ground in front of me. I locked up my brakes and rode up one guy onto the sidewalk and crashed on my hip and elbow.

Ted you'll like this part. My bike was fine. I straightened my handlebars and rode the last two laps. Only some scuffing on my saddle and some more dings on the shifters. My first thought was MY wheels are going to be toast. I guess the guy in front of me cushioned the blow.

I sprinted for 27th place.

Here are some pictures:

Monday, June 1, 2009

CAT5 race report: Enumclaw Omnium

This was a fun set of races.

A TT on flat farm roads.

A figure 8 crit in the city.

A road race up a long climb then down highway 410, then over again.

TT. 10km

I have never done a TT before and didn't feel like spending any money on any TT gear.
I settled for just some TT clip-on bars, 25 dollars from recycled cycles.

Here is the start:

We started out every 30 seconds. I caught the guy in front of me in 1 mile. I almost caught the guy who started a minute in front of me near the finish.

I got 9th place with a time of 15:38. 1st place was 14:42.

Crit. 20 mins.
At first the idea of a criterium scared me. Not so much any more, I am starting to like them a lot. There were 3 or so mid-race primes, a couple for face moisturizer and then some for points, I took second in the one for points.
I got 10th overall. I lost a couple positions at the last second for not following through on the sprint and looking at my stupid speedometer which said 32mph. I have to remember to leave that thing in the car next time. Oh and I forgot to shift, I had four more cogs.

After the crit I was in 9th overall.

RR. 30 miles
This thing had a couple mile long climb that hurt to go up fast. The lead group of about 10 split off, I hung with them until 200m to the KOM line, when 5 of them split off and we never saw them again. I was in a group of 3 trying to catch the leaders when we got caught by about 6 more guys. We tried to work together to catch the leaders, it didn't work. The second time up the hill I was feeling ok, but not good enough to leave the group. I tried to leave the group around 1k to go, that didn't work. I tried again at 200m to go, didn't work. I passed 3-4 people near the finish to come in 13th.

I finished 13th overall. I need to ride more hills, maybe on a 48x16 fixie, in jeans :).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This is appropriate cycling clothing..

My local LBS has this great display at the front of their shop. It is a manequin, dressed in jeans, a shirt and flannel, with a sign on it which says "This is appropriate cycling clothing". That might seem like an obvious statement to some, but it was that realization that transformed cycling from a recreational sport for me to a mode of transportation.

I have been mountain biking for 15 years, and occasionally rode into work over that time, but it was really three years ago when I built up my fixie that I made the transition to using my bike as my primary mode of transportation. The biggest part to making that happen was realizing that I didn't need a shower at the other end of my ride, I didn't even need a bathroom. I just needed to roll up my pants and get on with it.

I ride to work virtually every day, and although not a particularly long route (~3 miles) it does have 400 feet of climbing in it, and I'm doing it on a 48/16 fixie. And I do it every day in my street clothes and the same shoes I wear all day long. I don't need to wash an extra set of clothes every week because my cycling clothes ARE my street clothes. I don't need to carry any toiletries in my backpack because I don't NEED them, I arrive at work, sit down and get to it.

Once you make that transition, that riding doesn't require extra gear, or extra conveniences, then suddenly your bike becomes your car. You can bike to your friend's house across the city for a party just as you would drive over. You can bike to dates, you can bike to shows, you can bike to the grocery store, all of these without any extra planning or fuss.

Now I admit we might not all work in positions where you can get away with jeans and a t-shirt, but a great many of us do, and a great many more could run their errands this way.

So keep that lycra in the closet now and then and just hop on your bike. You'll be amazed just how doable it is, and how much more frequently you'll find yourself riding instead of driving.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 Tallies Crashes, Hazards, and Thefts

For those of us who live in caves, and haven't picked up on this yet:

Luckily for me, there is no reporting of lycra fashion crimes. Yet.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chris Fleckner

Riding in today, I rode part way with this guy who was on this really interesting-looking cross bike. For starters, it had a beautiful mottled pink paint job. Even more interesting, it had the rear brake cable routed through the top tube/seat tube joint, coming out the back of the joint, between the seat stays. I asked him about it -- he said he built it himself. He's a hobbyist frame builder, but he's worked in a bunch of frame shops and bike shops, and I think I heard him say he worked as a painter for awhile.

Anyway, he's a transplant from the East, and I think he races 'cross. So some of you guys may know him already.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I do not mean to brag. I love this sport cycling.

My horse came in first.

After three days of not really riding due to a sore throat(and really crappy weather, attitude), I won a crit sprint and came in 5th overall.

When Frames Fail

Or, in this case, the fork.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wenatchee Boy in the Giro

Tyler Farrar, by virtue of Garmin's TTT 2nd place finish and strong finishes in the last couple of days' sprints, now stands 2nd in GC. Today, he took 2nd in the sprint, only bested by Alessandro Petacchi. Wow. Wenatchee Boy is in the league of Petacchi and Cavendish now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parkinson's Benefit Ride May 24

In trying to learn a bit more about local framebuilder Glenn Erickson, I came across CascadeCyclists's write-up of the upcoming May 24 Parkinson's Awareness ride. Looks really interesting.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Iron Man

In his declining years, my father was a sad and disappointed man. He had always been small, and after my mother had passed away, it seemed he was shrinking into himself. He was increasingly unaware of his surroundings. Sometimes, at work, I would get confused calls from him; he didn't know where I was or why I was there. He would disappear for hours at a time, and reappear without any memory of where he had been.

My father lived in Albany, and I lived in Philadelphia. With two young children, and with both my spouse and myself in demanding careers, constantly visiting my dad to keep an eye on him was not an option, so I was trying to convince him to move in with us. As often as I could afford and he was willing, I flew him down to Philly to stay with us.

On one of these visits, I'd flown up to Albany, and was to accompany him down to Philadelphia. As my father was going through security screening, the alarm sounded. The guards asked him to remove his keys, belt, and watch. He did so, but when he walked through the detector, the alarm sounded again. They asked him if he had any other metal items. He removed a screwdriver from one pocket of his heavy overcoat. Again, he walked through, and again, the alarm sounded. He removed an adjustable wrench from another pocket. He beeped again. Next, a metal file. Beep. Next, an assortment of nuts and bolts. Beep. By the time he made it through security, a modest workbench-full of tools and small parts was arrayed on the table. (9-11 was eleven years in the future).

My father died not long afterward. When my brother and I went to his house to sort through his affairs, we came upon his desk. When I tried to pull out one of the drawers, it hardly budged. Slowly, I eased it out, and I found a drawerful of odd bits of metal he had apparently picked up from the street: nuts, bolts, nails, washers, tubes, tools. The drawer must have weighed 30 pounds. And it was not the only one.

I had known my father by the work he did in this country. He was a short-order cook, having worked his way up from busboy. I don't know how he ended up in this kind of work. I suspect it was through my uncle -- my mother's sister's husband -- who had sponsored my mother and father to come to this country from Greece. My father's first job was as a busboy in the DeWitt Clinton Hotel on State Street.

But I was also aware that my father had had a very different vocation in Greece. There, he had been a mechanic. He showed me pictures of himself and his friends working on trucks and jeeps. They apparently had their own small business. When he went to the front lines to fight against Mussolini's army in Albania, he was wounded and captured. After recuperating, he was pressed into labor as a railway mechanic for the Axis. I have seen photos of him standing next to a locomotive with his head completely bandaged, having been blinded when a locomotive had released steam into his face.

I wonder now, what it felt like for a man to leave a country where he was a respected skilled worker, to come to a country where the only work he seemed to be able to get was unskilled labor in a service industry.

Funny thing is, I find myself turning to the same kind of trade and skills my father had in his home country. By vocation, I am a software developer and applied scientist. But increasingly, I get pleasure and relaxation from working with tools, working with metal. First, bicycle mechanics and wheel-building, and now it seems, bicycle frame design and fabrication. I am not good at it; I have no innate talent. Lord knows, I had to struggle to keep up with others in my frame-building class at UBI, just as I had to struggle to keep up with professional mechanics when I took my bike technician's certification course two years ago. But I love the work, I love mastering the skills, and I love the pride in product.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Frame Class, The Skinny

Poser poses some great questions, so, with the distance of a week, I'll take a shot at answering.

Do you feel confident that you could actually make serviceable frames with this class? I'll know for sure after I've ridden my frame and see how it holds up. Assuming it holds up, I'd say yes, one could make serviceable frames with this class. The second frame will take longer and be more frustrating, because the instructors gave me a lot of guidance, and saved me from making mistakes about every 5 minutes; without them, I'll be making mistakes and backtracking. However, at least with lug brazing, I came to recognize a good joint by the end of the class. With some tools and fixtures, and attention to process and technique, I expect the second frame will be possible.

Do you think a serious frame builder should have some time working/apprenticing with an experienced frame builder for a period of time before he/she is ready to produce frames for the general public? My understanding is that opportunities to apprentice with a framebuilder, or work in a production frame shop, are getting harder and harder to come by. However, there are builders who've taken the course and gone on to make a go of it without apprenticing.

What would you say the necessary tools would be for someone who wants to do this?

  • drafting tools. Having an accurate scale design is critical.
  • welding equipment (e.g., gas welder for brazing)
  • fork blade mandrel, for bending fork blades
  • frame jig
  • fork and chainstay fixtures, dummy axles
  • machine mill for mitering and slotting tubes
  • alignment measuring tools
  • frame prep tools (e.g., bottom bracket chaser/facer, head tube reamer/facer, crown race cutter)
  • solid work bench, and vise (more so than is needed for most bike repair)
  • assorted blocks for holding tubes in vise
  • Vernier calipers, tape measure
  • files and other hand tools

Is it cost prohibitive to set up a hobby shop for frame building? The tool setup I described above, which is what we used at UBI, would cost $20-30K (just a frame jig can cost $3,500; a decent mill, $10,000). However, if it's a hobby, there are places one can cut corners, and save money at the expense of time:

  • Tubes can be mitered and slotted by hand. It's tedious, but possible -- I did some of my tubes and slots by hand, some by machine.
  • Although I haven't tried it, and can't attest to it, I'm told it's possible to build without a frame jig, using a very precisely flat table.
  • Frame prep can be done by your LBS.
  • You can use a pre-built fork, and just focus on building the frame

Or would plunking down the necessary change for the tools to have a decent shop only be justified by a business? Oddly enough, the answer to this question may lie in tax law. In some circumstances, the layout for tools can be deducted if the shop is set up as a business, even if it's not making money. So the net cost can be lower than the price of the tools. Worth looking into.

Very curious to see where you go with this... I'm taking the slow boat. Even though I'm eager to build my second, third, tenth &c frame, I'm going to go with a minimal tool investment, and work on technique. When my technique is developed enough so I can estimate how much time I'd save with more tools, then I'll decide whether to go for the more expensive tools.

I believe time is one of the key determinants of whether one can make it as a pro framebuilder. If you take the going price for a custom steel frame, subtract the price of materials, consumables (gas, flux, silver, brass), electricity, depreciation on tools, rent, and factor in costs of doing business like licensing, advertising, liability insurance, it doesn't leave a hell of a lot of margin on a single frame. How many hours of labor, at a living wage (including benefits) can one afford to put into a single frame? I understand that solo pro framebuilders turn out on the order of 200-250 frames a year.

One thing I have to admit is that my heat-joining technique is poor. I haven't been publicizing that the TIG seminar I took after the framebuilding course showed up some serious problems for me. Ron, the instructor, spent a great deal of one-on-one time with me, but by the end of the two days, I was still blowing holes in my practice tubes. (This is not the outcome I wanted, but may have been the best outcome possible, given my limitations. The course had a different value than the one I anticipated, but it was valuable nevertheless.)

It may be my eyesight, it may be poor eye-to-hand coordination. Lugged brazing, done at a temperature below the melt point of steel, is nominally more forgiving, but when I ride my bike, I may find that I so over-heated the tubes in my joins that they're compromised.

But I'm optimistic. I love the craft, and I have a long time to practice, learn and improve.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Frame Class, Continued

Frame completely assembled. Brazed on chainstays, seatstays, rear caliper brake bridge, and top tube brake cable stops. All that remains is cutting down head tube and seat tube, reaming and facing head tube, reaming seat tube, chasing and facing bottom bracket, and cutting the fork crown. And filing all those ugly blobs!

Today was a milestone for me, as I did my final brazes unsupervised. Of course, I also set my shoe on fire, but that's another story...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Frame So Far: Photos from UBI Chromoly Brazing Class

Fork before assembly. Fork will be threadless, 1.125 inch, with flat crown, oval legs, and 40mm rake (which we achieve by bending straight blades). Not a traditional track fork, but close enough.

Fork in jig, after brazing, front view. Tips are brazed with brass; legs and steering tube are brazed with silver.

Fork in jig, after brazing, side view

Fork out of jig, after brazing, before finishing. Fork tip brazing is sloppy, so will require a lot of filing.

Head tube and top tube in Henry James jig, after brazing. Head tube angle is 74 degrees, but the frame will have a sloping top tube, so the actual angle between head tube and top tube is closer to 79 degrees. The lug set is called "slant six". Top tube is oversized: 31.8 mm.

Brazed front triangle, in Henry James jig. Note the head tube-top tube joint is fluxed -- prepared for re-heating to remedy a gap in the braze. Seat tube is 31.8 mm, and down tube is 36mm. So, this is a very oversized tubeset. All main triangle tubes are butted. I had originally gotten the miter angle on the downtube wrong, and I could not salvage that tube, so this is my second downtube. All miters (except the seat tube at the bottom bracket) were done by machine, with a Bridgeport vertical mill.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Product review/ Vance Creek RR review

First, my review of some tires.

Vittoria Open Corsa EVO CX:

These tires can be had for about 60.00 each at your LBS. I bought two of them for my racing bike. I returned one of them due to it shredding in less than a month. I kept the one on the front tire because it seemed to be holding up just fine. Maybe just a bad batch. It fell out of favor with me this last weekend, story below. These tires look good, minimal logoing and all black. Ride quality is pretty good and cornered just fine in the two crits I was just in. I think their problem is with how thin they are, mine seemed to puncture rolling over gravel. The one good thing about these tires is their ability to run flat, see story below.

Vance Creek Road Race:

My first Road Race ~40 miles.
This race is in Elma, WA, it is about 120 miles away from my house and about 90 away from anywhere you want to be.
I signed in, noticed that I need to switch my number to the left side. I went back to my car. Jersey is in Everett. Oops, luckily I have a nice medio "technical fabric" t-shirt and an extra number. Unluckily, I now have no place to put the gummi bugs and gel pack that I will surely need during the race. I ate the gummi bugs before the race, here's proof:

We all lined up and the race started with neutral roll-out until the bottom of the hill a mile away. I guess neutral roll-out means that we just go 30mph and stay in a group. I say that because it is about what we did until I couldn't control my bike any more. I had a flat on my front tire but with this kind of tire, the "open-tubular" vittoria evo, it did not feel like any flat I have ever had. It felt almost like my QR skewer had come undone. As I looked down at my skewer and saw that it was still on I looked and saw that the badly deteriorated chip-seal looked like a food processor hungry for meat. My front tire was flat but was staying under my rim. It probably saved me from crashing in the middle of 50 guys doing 30 down a hill on a cheese grater. I probably said some swears then announced that I needed to get out of the peloton.

I pulled over to the side of the road where neutral wheel support gave me a loaner. With the loaner wheel now in place I looked across the valley to see the rest of the group several minutes ahead. I drafted the wheel support van for about 5 miles until he had to stop for some reason. It took me about another 15 miles before I caught anyone. I managed to catch about 10-15 people throughout the rest of the race. I really wish I had this one to do over again. I have not seen the results but I think I came in about 30th, I started off about 5 minutes behind and I was wearing a tshirt.

So if you want some tires that cost a lot, look good, corner good, but explode on gravel but won't kill you when they do, I recommend the vittoria open corsa cx. If you want tires that stay together but might have big words on them or higher rolling resistance, talk to Vaughn.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My first crit.

I rode in my first crit ever yesterday. I was a little scared from the horror stories of CAT5 races at seward park that I have been hearing and reading about. But I went anyhow.

I rode from work downtown hoping to make it in time for the "My first crit" class at 5pm but I was late. I made it just in time to pay, pin my number on my jersey and take a phone call from my son Jaden about bingo night at this school. I told him I had forgotten and I was about to be in Deathcrit 2009.

I went to go line up for the start and then PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTTTT!!! I got a flat. I ran back over to my bag and performed the world's fastest patch job. I was mildly disconcerted that I could see the patch through the ~inch long hole in my tire. I started pumping away with my tiny saddle-bag-sized pump, two minutes later and I got up to about 15psi. The guy in charge of taking the money took pity on me and told me there was a real pump in the back of his van. 30 seconds later - 100psi. I rolled up to the back of the line just in time for the start of the race.

I reset my heart rate and speed monitor and it was go time. Within sixty seconds I was doing 33 miles an hour, I only took note of the speed one other time. We went around the course clockwise which means that the finish and mid-race sprints are uphill, which I was doing at 16.7mph and my heart rate was 176. I never noticed the speed or heart rate after that first lap. I didn't realize that the bell ringing was to signify the mid-race sprints until I came in around third on the 8th lap sprint and people started disappearing backwards after the line.

I barely remember the last two laps except for a few things, the two guys in front of me seemed to be waiting for people to pass them, which I didn't do. The other thing I remember was that there was something in my throat but I couldn't think to spit it out. I got passed by about 15 people on the last lap going down the hill but made up at least 5-6 places going up the finish hill before crossing the line.

I finished in about top 10, didn't get dropped, and most importantly, I didn't crash.

I'm hooked, see you on most Thursdays at seward park.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oregon bike registration

Just when I was considering moving to the west coast mecca of cycling:

I've read about several states and countries who tried this and failed. I seem to remember Minnesota being one of them. Places like Madison Wisconsin and Berkeley CA have been successful with registration, but they have kept the cost low because their goals have been more about tracking ownership than about taxing riders.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Portland to Seattle by bike and train

Every two weeks or so, I take a bi-monthly business trip to Seattle on the Amtrak Cascades. On this particular train, Amtrak has installed a bike rack in the baggage car - so I'm able to ride my bike from home to the train Portland station, pay the extra $5 fee for a bike, then ride from the Seattle train station to my office in the Washington State Convention Center. Three years ago, I used to drive this trip - and dread it. Switching from my car to a bike and a train ride has made this trip something I actually look forward to. (And do me a favor, don't mention that to my wife...)

This week, I thought I would chronicle my trip in pictures.

Packing the panniers the night before. After three years, I can do this in my sleep.

This time of year, I leave before the sun comes up. There's my trusty Kogswell P/R, loaded with panniers, and waiting to leave. She loves this trip.

Stopping at Stumptown coffee to grab a cup with the regulars (and fill up my thermos for the train). When I first started taking the train, I had a tradition of getting a cup of coffee and some oatmeal in the dining car, but the Amtrak snack service uses, I kid you not: a styrofoam bowl with a styrofoam lid for the oatmeal, a cardboard carrying tray, a paper cup with a lid for the milk that comes with it, a little plastic ramekin with a lid for the nuts, fruit and sugar that go on the oatmeal, a napkin, a spoon that's wrapped in a plastic sleeve, and then two paper cups and a plastic lid for the coffee. It's almost a pound of landfill for a single bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee. This hurts my soul. Now I bring fruit and pastries from home, and/or stop at Stumptown on the way into town and fill the ol' thermos up before I get on the train. No landfill (happy Vaughn).

At the PDX train station waiting to board. This is usually where people come up and ask me about taking the bike up on the train. In under 2 minutes I have usually converted them from ever taking a taxi again.

Outside the baggage car waiting to load up.

Mike (who keeps things running smoothly at the PDX station, certainly more smoothly that the SEA train station) seen here hanging bikes up in the baggage car. They have room for about 6 bikes. After the train gets moving, you can see your bike (but the door's locked. I've checked.)

My regular seat in the dining car.

Off-loading in Seattle. Just like Portland, the Seattle train station is right down town, which makes zipping up to the office a snap.

Bike parking at the convention center is pretty nice.

Certainly better than bike parking at my hotel down the street. The valets don't know what to do with me when I pull up on a bike. After 3 years, they're finally getting used to me though.

Heading back to PDX - in the Seattle train station getting my seat assignment.

After getting my tickets squared away, I have about an hour till we board - so I ride up the street to the International District to get cream cheese buns at the yummy house bakery.

Then I grab a quick dinner at Shanghai Garden chinese restaurant (one of my favorite chinese restaurants in any city).

Waiting to load up on the SEA platform.

A brief station stop in Tukwila as the sun is setting. The ride down during sunset is usually amazing. The later in the season (towards summer) the better. The train tracks run along the waterside of Puget sound from North of Tacoma, all the way south, almost to Olympia. Watching the sun set over the bay, as the Tacoma Narrows bridges are passing by is a sight to behold. Just a beautiful ride.

Union workers hard at work... ahem. :-) Kidding - these are the regular conductors on the Tuesday night Cascade line. I sit with these guys every trip. After a few years, they're like family. And boy do they have stories to tell.

I can't speak for other train lines in the country, but if you ever find yourself needing to travel between Eugene/Portland Oregon and Seattle Washington, the Cascade line is a beautiful ride. More than that though, they've made the trip extremely friendly to bike travel. Check it out yourself - and bring a bike!


All these pictures in hi-rez here on Flickr.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reviewing the Kogswell P/R

I've had my 56cm Kogswell 650B P/R for coming on 2 years now - and I've easily put a few thousand in-town miles on her, so I figured I'm qualified to give her a solid review.

A little history
For those of you not familiar with this frame, or the concept of "porteur" style bikes in the first place. "Porteurs" were used to deliver newspapers in Paris in the mid-1900's. Traditionally, they had a large, flat rack built on the front fork - on to which you could stack a heavy load of newspapers. They were popular enough at the time that there were even porteur bike races in Paris (with newspapers and all). Porteurs are enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the last few years, somewhat in response to the current need/craze for utility bikes, but also due to the fact that Kogswell has introduced a very smart, modern frame that takes it's geometry directly from the famous porteurs of or 20th century Paris.

The Kogswell P/R is a sturdy, steel, utility frame with fenders and a slightly more upright, English 3-speed sensibility. Despite the bomb-proof nature of the frame, the tubing is lighter than the classic porteur frames of yesteryear. It's not a featherweight by any means, but for the amount of punishment it can take, it's quite light. Kogswell only sells the frame, fork and fenders - so it's up to you to configure it to your liking. Looking at the Kogswell Flickr group, you can see an infinite number or handlebar types, racks, saddles, and basic stem set-ups - some that facilitate more upright riding, and then others set to more touring, or race-like geometries.

When I first discovered the Kogswell, I was in the market for a year-round commuter/car-replacement that could double as a light touring bike. I had been poking around and for a while, and had been drawn to the look of the classic French touring bikes, with their fancy racks and canvas panniers. Stumbling across the Kogswell site, I immediately knew I had found my frame. I loved the history of the porteur bikes, and the big front racks seemed a perfect platform for built-in lights, store runs, and commuting; in essence, a car-replacement.

When I called Kogswell, I got to speak with Matthew (the owner) who is a bit of a throwback when it comes to dealing with customers. He's likes to spend time with you, getting your measurements and fitting you with the right frame. We must have spent 30 minutes on the phone just chatting about bike fit, what I was looking for in a frame, etc. I'm not sure if he spends this much time with all his customers, but it was refreshing to talk to someone who was as passionate about bikes and bike-building as I was.

By the time the frame arrived (which, unfortunately, took a few months since Kogswell was between shipments) I had all the parts assembled and was ready to build. My build kit originally went like this:

- Panaracer 650b tires
- Velo-Orange porteur rack
- Rivbike Big Back Rack (by Nitto)
- Velocity Synergy 650b rims
- Selle An-Atomica seat
- Front Shimano Nexus Dynamo generator hub
- Soma cranks
- Rear Shimano 8-speed internal hub
- Shimano 8-speed rotary shifter
- Busch&Müller Lumotec headlight
- Busch&Müller Seculite Plus taillight
- Keven's Bag saddle bag from Rivendell
- Paul brakes and levers
- Cork grips

I had originally purchased the Nitto mustache bars, but the bar-ends were to short to accommodate grips + Shimano rotary shifter + brake levers. My local bike shop (7-Corners Cycles in Southeast Portland, OR) ended up pulling a pair of proprietary Jamis mustache bars off of one of their parts bikes in the back of the shop. Their great bars - and, unfortunately, irreplaceable (without pulling some major strings at Jamis I'm assuming).

I built quite a bit of the bike myself, under the tutelage of Rik and Cory at 7-Corners. They handled the heavy lifting, of course - I'm no wheel builder. I decided to use more spacers, and flip the handlebars down, instead of up. If you're curious, that was entirely an aesthetic decision.

How she performs
Like a dream. The steel and bigger tires together provide the smoothest ride you could ask for - but with way more zip than you could ever expect from a cruiser bike or traditional townie. 650B tires (if you've never seen them) are sturdy, smooth, and almost entirely flat-proof. To be fair, there are plenty of 700C tires that are wider, sturdy and virtually flat proof; but to my knowledge, none that are quite as wide - and therefore, none that offer this smooth a ride. After years of riding 120 psi racing tires, the 650B tires (at max 50 psi) run like a Lincoln Town Car. Not nearly as fast, but very, very smooth (have I mentioned that these tires are smooth?). Since the 650B rims are smaller in diameter, the bike gets off the line a tad faster than 700C tires as well. The mustache handle-bars (which admittedly are an accessory that has nothing to do with the frame) are a welcome change from a lifetime of road bars, and provide a little added stability. I have the bars much lower than I think the average Kogswell rider does because I like the racing position. You sacrifice room for taller loads on the front rack, but I haven't found that to be too much of an imposition.

The frame itself is very solid. I had an opportunity to find out just how solid this past summer when I got my first and only wreck on the Kogswell. I was pedaling through to sharp a turn downtown (rookie!) clipped a pedal on the street and kept my balance just long enough to hit the back of a parked car. The front tire of my Kogswell hit the back bumper of the car and the bike just bounced straight back. I caught the stem right in the ribs (which were bruised for a month) and smacked the back of the car with my arms and my helmet. I could catalogue the scrapes and bruises that I sustained - but that bike didn't have a scratch, ding, or dent on it. Crashes aside, the bike is just plain solid. With two fully loaded panniers on the back, I can crank up hills with little flex, and no complaints.

The front rack turned out to be far less useful than I imagined. It's beautiful, and it stays true to the classic look of the Parisian porteur; but the little bars in the front only hold large things like boxes, half-racks, and briefcases (maybe a stack of newspapers...?) Small things fall right through. To be honest, though I don't like the look nearly as much, a plain old Wald front basket would be infinitely more useful (for my purposes). The days that I do like the rack are when I'm carrying large loads - in this it excels. Having a load on the front makes the steering act a bit wonky (the front wheel tends to go where it wants) but after a bit of practice with something heavy up there, you hardly notice. It's also nice for mounting front lights. I have one halogen Busch&Müller Lumotec headlight that gives off a pretty decent amount of light. Not enough to illuminate a street at night, but definitely bright enough to make cars notice you're there. I plan on replacing it with one of those new-fangled LEDs soon (same wattage, much brighter, almost never burn out).

The Kogswell frame ships with matching steel fenders, and these are great. I commute year around in downtown Portland, Oregon with this bike - and if you're not familiar with Portland, it rains a bit here. I always tell people who are interested in bike commuting during the winter that, on a bike, you get more wet from the ground than the sky. The wheels kick up water from wet pavement whether it's raining or not. If you have full fenders, this isn't true. Kogswell fenders are full, and very sturdy, and they keep me dry (from the ground anyway) year around. The fact that they're steel makes it possible for me to mount a taillight right into the rear fender. It's the perfect position to shine right into car-drivers eyes. And with my set-up, (Shimano dynamo hub) the lights are on when the bike is moving. No batteries to replace, no need to remember to turn them off, just get on and go.

I need to give an honorable mention to my drivetrain. I built a Shimano internal 8-speed hub into the rear 650B rim. I had been using this particular set-up on my Bakfiets for the last few years, and loved the maintenance-free aspect so much that I used it on my Kogswell. Since the chain never moves on it's single track, it needs negligible cleaning and oiling. I do it out of habit about 3-4 times a year, but I'll bet I could limit that to once or twice a year without issue. The rotary shifter is my personal preference, but I imagine the rapid-fire shifter would work equally well. I'll also give a nod to the Paul cantilevered breaks. If you're going to travel with heavy loads, it makes sense to spend a little extra for good breaks. Pauls are amazing. I have these same breaks on my cyclocross bike. Properly adjusted, they can stop anything.

About a year after building up the Kogswell, I broke down and bought a Nitto manufactured Big Back Rack for panniers. I have, for the last three years, taken a bi-monthly trip to Seattle on the train, and I always bring the bike up. Hauling two days of clothes, books, paperwork, toiletries and computer equipment was starting to be too much for my back. So I retired my messenger bag (for in-city riding anyway) and opted for a pair of Ortlieb panniers. The bike frame barely noticed. I've loaded those panniers up with an amazing amount of weight, and the frame has never so much as squeaked in response (once even a trip to the liquor store for a party - 3 half gallons and 2 fifths... fun on the hills, I'll tell you).

I have no issues with this bike, but I can point out some aspects that others might find objectionable. Like that it's slow. It's not slow compared to tradition Dutch bikes, townies or cruisers; but if you're coming from a road bike (like I did) than you'll be unimpressed with the rolling resistance of the 50 psi 650B tires, which will feel sluggish in comparison. It's a simple equation really: 120 psi = fast; 50 psi = ain't so fast. The highest psi 650B tires I could find are 70 psi. I haven't ordered those particular tires because I like the indestructible nature of the Panaracers I have on there now. But they, and most 650B tires, are max 50 psi - which means they're slower.

Also, this kind of bike set-up is not light. If you're a weight-weenie, and style means little to you, you could head down to your LBS and take home a similar, more modern touring set-up with racks and everything that weighs in at less than 25 lbs. My Kogswell, with both of it's classically styled steel racks and a filled canvas tool bag weighs in at around 37 lbs. Just a bit more. For me, the style is worth the weight - I've never found it acceptable to look like I just stepped out of an REI catalog.

Kogswell has created a winner. This is about the nicest bike I've ever owned - certainly the favorite bike in my garage. When I set about building this bike, aesthetic was the most important factor. I had planed to build a show-piece, and had hoped that it would turn out to be practical as well. In the end, it has become the most practical bike in my stable, and sees more days of action than any of the other bikes there. It's beautiful, tough, and, as I said, incredibly practical. If you like this style, have the funds, and possess the patience to collect all the parts, I couldn't recommend a bike more.


By the way - if you want to see more (or better quality) pictures of this build, check them out here on Flickr.