Tuesday, February 18, 2014

oh this old thing (2013 Fargo 2)

Last year I was tooling around Riverside State Park on the Pugsley N/R, thinking it's the perfect bike for me for riding out there. Those fat tires handle the rocky and loose sections with ease. Then I picked up this new old stock 2013 Salsa Fargo 2 on clearance last fall. Holy Cow! There is something really precise about the steering in the drops of the Woodchipper bars. This is now my go-to bike for trails. I like the Continental Race King 29 x 2.2 tires - they're not as knobby as my other mountain bike tires and roll fairly smooth on hard pack and pavement.

By just looking at it, I wasn't sure if I would like the feel of the Fargo compared to the Vaya. The hoods are set further down the handlebar and pointed inwards a little; the ends of the bars point more outwards. But after a test ride on city streets, I found I liked the feel of it, and thought it would work great on dirt.

With the Salsa Vaya, Fargo, Surly Pugsley Neck Romancer, I think I am all set for bikes. Ha! (A vintage 3-speed would be nice). I'm thinking of selling my mountain bike and good cross bike, but may just keep them around for loaners.

There's some overlap between the Vaya and Fargo with both capable of off-road touring, but the Vaya oriented more towards road/gravel, the Fargo for the rougher stuff. Now that I have the Fargo, I feel better about moving down to 38c tires on the Vaya and making room for proper fenders on it. With the Vaya only, I was tempted to go with wider tires and forget about fenders completely.

Here's the Garmin track of a ride/walk I took Sunday on the Fargo. I'm trying to find a good 30-50 mile loop from home up Houston Rd and environs, combining single-track, dirt, gravel and not too much pavement. The Fargo handled all with ease. I was on paved Old Trails Rd for longer than I wanted trying to find some connections - maybe chip-seal will have to count as gravel. Old Trails isn't a busy road so thats's good, but it's a bit straight and boring. And of course, I ran into my old friend Trail 25, still covered in snow and ice. I'm heading out next weekend to work on the route a little more.

Note: There are doberman style dogs loose on N Hayford Rd. I didn't get close enough to see what kinda dogs they are for sure. It's a dead end road and I wanted to see just where it ended, but didn't get far before I saw the dogs about 400 yards ahead of me. At least there was plenty of warning.

So the question now is, which bike to ride the Gran Fondo Ephrata? Don't really need the 2.2" tires of the Fargo so I'm going to take the Vaya.

Or so I think now. I have a feeling I'll change my mind.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snoqualmie Tunnel/Bellevue to Seattle

Photo dump from a trip to Seattle area last Labor Day Weekend. We stopped at the Hyak Trailhead and rode through the Snoqualmie Tunnel and on the Iron Horse State Park/John Wayne Pioneer Trail for a bit. Stayed in Factoria, took the Factoria Trail to the Mountains to Sound/I-90 Trail to Bellevue and Mercer Island.  Then in true Wileydog family fashion we kept going and somehow hauled the dogs all the way to the end of the I-90 trail in Seattle, to the International District, then waterfront, to Fremont, University District and back to Factoria. Didn't mean to go that far, just thought we'd ride to Mercer Island.

Snoqualmie tunnel was cool to ride through. Long, dark and the air was close, stuffy. A whole lot different from riding through the Taft Tunnel on the Hiawatha Trail. Debbie says we'll have to back to the Iron Horse State Park, but she will never ride through the tunnel again. And no to bike camping. There should be some bed and breakfasts along the trail, then we could do some bike glamping.

Pics got out of order and blooger acting funny so left as is:

some smoked salmon & chips, please
yep the dogs had a lantern in their trailer
a Bellevue Park:
a Seattle or Mercer Island Park:

the I-90 Bike tunnel:

Lake Washington Blvd if I remember right:
Time to ride back over the bridge:

I let Debbie haul the dogs for a bit, and try out the Vaya
I like riding in Seattle, there's a good network of bike routes to get from one neighborhood to the next. We had a little trouble in spots from the U-District back to I-90, and weren't sure of a good way to get to West Seattle, but overall did pretty good finding our way.

Hurt my poor little ego

A few people at work asked me now with the warm weather we had this week, if I'm back to riding my bike.

What? I guess they missed me hauling the fatbike through the office. 

I try to shrug off winter bike commuting as nothing special, but maybe I'm slightly proud of not missing a day. It helps that we had less snow than average, but we did get a cold stretch and finally some snow that stuck around. I still haven't figured out why people don't think it's crazy to ski or hunt in the cold, but to bike in it is strange. It's okay, I can live with the crazy bike guy image, maybe like it a bit, but knowing it's actually not that special. I'm just hooked on it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Off With the Studs!

Monday, the bike lane and sidewalk on Bridge Ave, freshly snowthrowed:

Today, 41 degrees F (where the heck is the degree symbol?) in the morning, near 50 on the way home, by Audubon Park:

Monday I rode the mtb on the sidewalk here on Milton, due to the snow.
Thanks to all the people who cleared their sidewalks! Today, can't believe the

This morning I was trying to decide what bike to take to work. Many side streets still covered in slush and snow. Fatbike? It's a great slush bike, except for all that stuff the tires throw up.  But main streets are bare and wet, and most streets will be completely clear by time I get off work. I put fenders on the Vaya, got it ready. Maybe I should just take the mountain bike and live with the clatter on the streets. Debbie says maybe you have too many bikes.

I rode the mountain bike for those rough spots on the way to work. Ride home was nice, even with the snap, crackle, pop of the studs. Ready to hang the bike up for the season.

Side note about the Bridge Ave and Post Street bike lanes: They weren't always plowed this year, and a couple times I salmoned up Post instead of using the bike lane since it was so rough. It's been great to see the city clearing the bike lanes there after the last couple snow storms.

Monday, February 10, 2014

the Wrong Tool for the Job

I was kicking myself on the long slog/bike/walk home from work today. Kicking myself because I rode my studded-tire mtn bike to work in the morning over the packed snow/icy streets instead of the fatbike, not knowing it was going to snow 3-4 inches during the day. I gotta quit listening to the forecasters and go with my gut. After work, the streets I ride home had a layer of semi-packed snow over the ice, and the tires just cut right through it to slip around on the hard packed stuff beneath it.

I mostly walked the bike until I got to Maxwell Ave, which had some bare pavement on it. There was another biker riding west on Maxwell, and I detoured from my usual route and followed her till she turned off and then I headed up to Belt Street and some more squirrelly riding.  

For the last week or so I've been trading off between the mountain bike and Pugsley N/R, comparing how they handle the packed snow conditions on my route. So far, I'm giving the edge to the Pugsley, because the front tire doesn't get pulled in all directions by the bumps, holes and ruts on the street, but it also rolls with confidence over the slicker, packed sections. I'm not sure how it would've handled today's ride home, but I'm sure it would've been better than the mtn bike.

The forecast calls for a little more snow tonight. I'm taking the Pugs to work.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Bike Accessory: the Tire Brush

What's in your backpack?

Let's see, besides the essential tire pump and insulated coffee bottle, a brush to get all the snow off the tires and bike before bringing it into the building where I work. I'm surprised it took me this long to think of it. Years past, I'd try not to track too much snow into the building, but this year I worried about the amount of snow that can build up on the fat bike tires. Lightbulb went off, and I got a cheap brush to carry along. Good for home, too.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Bike Got Kicked out of the General Store!

We found some old Ace Hardware Store gift cards from past Christmases that Debbie's grandmother had given me. River Ridge Hardware is my preferred neighborhood store but it's not an Ace. I trotted over to the nearest Ace where they tell me the cards had expired (but they don't really expire, it's confusing), and I'd have to call the number on the back to get them replaced. I go home and of course the nice lady on the phone tells me I have to go to a store to get new ones. I find out they total $50.

So finally, last Sunday I decided to go to the General Store on Division Street since they have a Customer Service Desk and they're an Ace Hardware. Maybe they can help. The General Store is a Spokane institution and has a bit of everything - shoes, clothes, camping gear, outdoor stuff, a bit of bike stuff, hunting/fishing gear. And disc golf stuff.

I get on my Vaya and bike the aprox 4 miles down there carrying the heaviest duty U-Lock I have. I turn it into a longer ride by going too far south then having to backtrack. I arrive there, look around, but don't find any bike racks. There's some shopping cart holders I could lock it to, or maybe lock it to a snowblower. I'm a little wary of locking the bike outside. A crazy thought crosses my mind that there's a good chance someone has a cordless grinder handy - it is part hardware store after all.

I decide to bring the bike inside while talking to customer service but inside a sign says the Service Desk is closed, you can return items at any register. Well, shoot. Since I'm inside the store anyway I look around and get all the way to the back corner of the hardware department with my bike before an employee tells me I can't bring a bike inside. What? I tell her I didn't see any bike racks outside and she tells me there's one on the side of the building or I can lock it to the cart rack. My bike isn't any wider than a shopping cart, but the aisles are pretty narrow in the General Store, so I don't argue the point. I say ok, and leave.

Here's one side of the store:
no bike rack here, and far from the entrance
The other side of the store was also missing a bike rack. The front of the store juts out from the rest of the building a bit:

no bike rack to the side here, also a ways from the doors
On the other side of the front entrance I found a cart holder:

It's rickety and out of the way and doesn't seem like a good secure spot to lock the bike to. No bike racks, and this place has the worst cart return holders in the world. I don't feel like locking it to the cart holder in the parking lot so I bike up north to the Ace Hardware I went to originally -  Rowan Ave between Ash and Maple.

Here's the bike rack situation there:
Well I think it might've been a bike rack at one time, but I'm not sure. It could be some type of shopping center artifact. This store is small and cramped so I don't go inside with the bike. OK let's see where's the next nearest Ace hardware? Oh yeah on Francis a few miles northeast at the Town and Country Shopping Center.

Amazingly, or maybe not, I didn't find a bike rack at Town and Country. I lost interest in getting the phone out to take pictures, so you'll have to take my word for it. I was sure the Safeway there would have one, since the Safeway at Shadle does, but I didn't see one. There was a cart full of fire wood that I could lock my bike to if I had to in front of the Ace.

I go inside with my bike, and as the woman starts to say something, I break in before she can tell me I can't bring the bike in, saying I just need to ask a question. Long story short: I get a new $50 gift card. I ask them if I can lock my bike to the cart out front while I shop, and they say oh you can just leave it up front here by the checkouts. Props all around to the employees here. My loot: grass clippers, files, copper craft wire.

A couple good things came out of this gift card bike quest:

I found some good spots to cross Division and Francis. Both streets are busy wide main city thoroughfares that also double as state highways and I'm not fond of crossing them by bike. I don't think there's any designated bike lanes that cross either street. The intersections at Buckeye/North Foothills, Montgomery, Indiana, and Mission work. I always know if I have to, I can use a signaled crosswalk when biking on one of the busy traffic-signaled intersections like Wellesley, Garland, or Francis. Only problem, those crosswalks don't feel very safe on foot with all the cross-turning traffic. I like to cross Francis by taking Alberta, but I wasn't near there on this trip. This time I crossed at little used Post Street across from the Town and Country, but the other intersections like Wall and Monroe work by taking the lane.

And I burned off some winter fat.