Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's No Polar Vortex But It's All We've Got

Woke up Wednesday and what was supposed to be an inch of snow turned into 3-4 inches. Two thoughts ran through my mind: Crap gotta shovel! Woo hoo another fatbike to work day! The Pugs N/R worked great, I had to pedal a little harder in the deeper stuff than skinny tires, but I plowed over everything - loose, packed, crunchy and fluffy snow. The ride home was something else - Elm Street from Kendall Yards through West Central was completely packed and ice smooth from curb to curb. But I rode slow and the Pugs handled it without too much sliding.

This morning we just had a little more snow, and I debated which bike to take and settled on the studded tire mountain bike since it was so slippery out. Debbie said "Are you sure?" I should've listened to her, as I barely made it to the end of the block before I turned around to get the Pugs. The studs just couldn't get any grip, and the tires - Winter Marathon 29 x 2.00 - were slipping all over. (Maybe a more knobby studded tire would work better than the Marathons.) But I didn't have any problems with the Pugs over the smooth packed snow.

The plan for tomorrow: more fatbike.

the pics above are from today - the color is off a bit as I keep on accidentally hitting the toner button on the camera phone.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

You don't need a bell...

...when you've got squeaky disc brakes!

Which brings us to today's topic:

Scaring Pedestrians or Those People Getting Around by Foot

I'm always surprised at the number of people who get out of their car and start to walk across the street without looking. Or just walk off the sidewalk blindly and cross the street. Or wander back and forth along the paths in Riverfront Park or the Centennial Trail. (Well, sure, bikers do these things, too, but we're talking about those OTHERS today.) A bell on a bike to warn them is handy, but I have never gotten around to getting one. The ones for sale in stores are mostly those little dingy ones with a striker on the end of a spring. You hit it, the person walking is startled, then looks around and moves over in front of you.

So I rely mostly on my voice - "On your left", "Behind You", "Hello". This gets old, though, and many people are momentarily confused as to which side is their left. What I've found works best is a quick tap on my brakes. They squeak, and the person looks behind and sees me on a bike. They then move over to whichever side works best for them, and I pass on by. A noisy bike with dirty chain or rattling fenders works good, too.

Often, if I'm riding slowly on a multi-use path and there's plenty of room, I just glide on by without a sound. But that's when I occasionally and inadvertently scare somebody because they thought they had the whole trail or street to themselves, and they jump. Oops, sorry! Feel sort of bad, and resolve to get a bell, which I'm still working on.

A couple things I don't like about bells: they take up room on the handlebars, and you have to move your hand off your riding position to hit it. At least you do on a drop-bar bike. No big deal, I guess, and they do make some pretty small bells. What I need is one that attaches unobtrusively to the hoods that can be worked with the thumb. Or maybe a brake lever actuated bell. Oh man, that would be as annoying as squeaky brakes.

Update: a quick search and found a bell that attaches to the hoods for Shimano STI levers, but only ones installed on bikes prior to Spring 2010.: Mirrycycle Incredibell Road Bell. Will have to see if it can be jerry rigged for Apex levers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Riverside Friday/Monday

(like some national TV broadcasts, this blog is on a time delay)

Rode the Pugsley N/R out to Riverside last Friday in hopes that all the snow and ice on the trails had disappeared. It's a strange thought for a fatbikeer to have, but last time I went out there many of the trails were tough riding. The snow had melted a little, froze, melted, re-froze so that the trails were extremely slippery. We haven't had enough new snow since who knows when to cover up the ice.

After riding up the icy road/trail from the swinging bridge to the Centennial Trail, found Trail 211 mostly clear. Sweet! The Pugsley loves dirt.

It didn't last long, and soon the trail was covered in ice again and I lost traction and went down.  I headed back to the Centennial Trail and on the other lower side saw a clear road to explore. Only one problem - there were 3 or 4 deer up ahead grazing. I waited a bit for them to move on, but they weren't going anywhere and weren't concerned about me. Moral dilemma - should I plow on through, make them scatter and expend energy so I could get some dirt riding in? I decided to leave them be and turned around. Found a few other trails to fart around on.
Tried to get an Ungulates pic for Pat S. (you might be able
 to make them out in the middle by the two poles)
Then on Monday went out for more of a road ride on another bike to build up some endurance. Ephrata Gran Fondo is coming up soon - March 16th! Started out on the Centennial, but then the old nemesis Trail 25 beckoned. It rises up to meet the trail and then heads back down towards the river. It was clear and dry. Couldn't resist. Of course, once the trail gets close to the river, it's covered in ice and I was walking again.

Then there was one of those unexplained mysteries of Trail 25: a trail marker pointed left to a little used trail up a steep hill to the Centennial, while the main, well-trodden unnumbered trail continued on along the river. I guess it's no mystery that the steep trail is little used. I climbed up the hill, crossed the Centennial just before the CCC area and found an almost unnoticeable trail that headed towards that cement vault (or whatever it is) by the cyclocross area. No Trail 25 here or I lost it, so I headed back to the Centennial and back to my original plan: get some legwork in. I think I went up 7-Mile Rd to the turn off to Deep Creek, more walking, and then back home along the Centennial Trail and Aubrey White Pkwy.

Forgot - there's a new parking lot and entryway to the Airstrip area out at 7-Mile in the works:

And might as well throw in some pics from the Deep Creek Overlook:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Cyclists Wear Those Clicky Shoes

It all has to do with chain grease. See one of the BEST Bike blogs EVER, This Guy Knows what I'm Talking About, from a post on her adventures in bicycling in Thailand titled "To Chiang Dao".

(I've run out of material, so all I'm going to do is link to other things).

She also has some great bits on wearing plastic (lycra/spandex) in  The Worst Gear Review Ever part II and A Guide to the Tour D'Afrique. As someone who's never liked the feel of polyester or tight clothes, I can relate. Not slamming lycra-wearers (esp. since I guess I did break down and wear it for one of my cyclocross seasons) as I think you should ride in whatever you want.

I came across all this by accident while reading about biking instead of just actually biking. Somehow I found a forum called (had to look up tarck) and they have an ongoing Bike Blog thread wherein they make fun of bike blogs, most notably Prolly is not Probably and of course Riv bikes. This Guy Knows..About received a thumbs up. Luckily, this wee little blog is too far under the radar.

The last post for This Guy Knows was Nov 2012, but she did mention something about riding the Divide in 2014.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Not the Master of my Bike Domain

We've been having some warm weather and snow free roads so I've been riding the unstudded Vaya to work, depending on conditions. We've also had a lot of fog in Spokane this week - normal for this time of year - and it settles on the streets overnight and freezes. Monday, there was only some frost on our street in the morning so I took the Vaya.  It's funner and quicker than the mountain bike. The Clement X'Plor MSO tires with little knobs on them have some grip on frosty roads, but I was careful in the corners. I hadn't had any problems before.

After awhile I didn't see any more frost, and let my guard down. I got to the intersection of Ash Street and Broadway Ave. One-way 2-lane Ash deadends here and in order to turn left I move from the right side of the street to enter the middle of the right lane. There's a car about a block behind me and for some reason I get a little nervous about them coming up from behind me, and I keep my speed up. The light is green.

taken a couple tears ago from the right-hand lane 
I check behind me and the car moved into the left lane. I relax and enter the intersection just before them. Then whoosh! My wheels slip out from under me and I'm on the ground. My left elbow hurts as it took most of the brunt of the fall, my knee smarts a little, also. Nothing feels broken, thank god I'd never live that down at work. I get up, do the reflexive look around after a fall, and walk for a little bit.

If I'd been riding the studded tire bike, I think I would've crashed then also as the ice hasn't been thick enough for the studs to grab into. Just needed to slow down a little and pay attention.

I wasn't going to tell my wife, but slipped and mentioned it to her. Then I was relaying the story to some of her co-workers. Pretty much this wasn't a good advertisement for riding bikes, as one focused on the fact I'd crashed in the middle of the street with traffic.

Crashing like this on my normal route hurts my pride more than my elbow. Lessons learned. Pay attention, don't get distracted. I tell that to myself all the time. Ride with confidence like you belong.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Take Your Pugsley to Work Day

I was a little worried that the Pugsley Neck Romancer wouldn't fit in the elevator at work and I'd have to find a spot on the street to park it, but no worries. (This is from last week when we had a little snow.)

I've had this sneaking suspicion that a fat bike is the perfect winter snow commuting machine for these parts, but I've only gotten to test it out a couple times this year. So far the verdict is a thumbs up - it plows through the fluffy stuff, and rolls over the jumbled up, compacted rough snow and ice better than studded mountain bike tires. Even works good on the flat, icy snow in the middle of the street that's compacted down by car tires. Black ice, probably not so good, but I've ridden over some flat icy sections without trouble.

Sorry, buddy. Maybe next time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mt. Spokane Fatbiking

Late Saturday afternoon I decided I would get up early Sunday and take the Pugsley N/R to Mt. Spokane.  Beat the crowd up the hill.  After checking out the snowshoe and snowmobile info at The Friends of Mount Spokane State Park website, I settled on a plan - I would use the Entrance Loop from the Snowshoe Trail Guide as a starting point. Park at the Entrance parking lot (just past the ranger station), take one of the Snowshoe Trails (either 122 or 121) up to the Snowmobile Trail (#120)  and ride around.  Maybe see if I could make it up to the Sno-Park lot.  Well surprise surprise I actually got my bike and gear ready Saturday night, got up at 6am and left the house around 7.  Got there good and early and mine was the only vehicle in the lot.

I chose to go up 121, but it was pretty steep and I couldn't find a spot to get started without either my foot or tires sinking into the snow, so I mostly walked the bike up to #120.  It would've been easier if I'd taken the time to put on snowshoes, but I left them in the truck.  I  mostly walked to the left or right of the set of snowshoe tracks in the middle of the trail.

Forthwith on to youtube (search wileydogger if you're inclined to watch a bigger screen):

0-24 sec:  After hiking up 121, I took the Snowmobile Trail. Thought I was heading towards the Sno-Park, but after awhile was going downhill. I had gone the other direction and ended down at the Bear Creek Lodge area, just below the Entrance.
24-32: back up above on 120, above where trail 121 & 122 meet 120. Lots of walking.
33-54: somewhere on 120. You'll notice lots of debris on the trail from the heavy winds the day before.
55-1:19: I went up 120 some more to see if I could make it to the Sno-Park.  Gave up on that, and rode back down to 121/122. OK, well, um there was some unpacked snow between the groomed snowmobile and the ungroomed snowshoe trail that I knew wasn't going to end well, but it was too late to stop.
1:20 to end: Down Trail 121 to the Entrance lot.  I swear this trail sign said 122, but the maps say it's 121.

With temperatures hovering just around 32F, the snow wasn't optimal but it was fun. I mostly had the trails to myself, and met some friendly snowshoers on the way down.  No sign of any snowmobiles until I was driving back down the mountain.

There's a fatbike gathering in Winthrop next weekend that I'm on the fence about going.  Don't really want to drive 3 1/2 hours, so if don't go can head back to Mt Spokane again. If it all doesn't melt by then.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

the Mileage Post

It's that time of year when dedicated, responsible bike bloggers post how many miles they rode the year before. Some cyclists had sub-par years.  All Seasons Cyclist was unhappy because he only rode 5,000 minus 51 miles and that's less than usual. He was out of commission for 8 weeks due to illness. Another well-known blogger rode less than 2,000 miles, and seemed to be going through some existential angst over it (to be fair, they did have some radical changes and trials in the past year).

Well, I am sorry to report I am unable to report how many miles I rode last year.  I can't break it down by bike, type of trail, utility or recreational, pleasure or business or further subdivide it into all those other categories our bike computers can provide and bikers geek out over.

Not that I'm against keeping track of miles. I like to have a general idea of how far I've ridden on long trips and to make sure I don't break the speed limit around town. But I had trouble with my Cateye.  Sometimes the unit would pick up the signal from the little magnet on the spoke, then it would quit mysteriously. I'd fiddle with the placement, replace batteries, etc and spin the wheel and it would work. Then I'd ride a bit, it'd work fine and then quit. I'd stop and spin the wheel and get a readout of a few miles per hour, but then get on the bike and there was no display. Maybe the tire's round profile on my Vaya was blocking the signal.  Couldn't figure it out, grew tired of it, and eventually just took it off the bike. I prefer an uncluttered cockpit, anyway.

So all I can say is I rode about the same amount as the previous year which was…well I'm not sure because I had bike computer problems in 2012, too. Lost it, rode without one for awhile, bought a new one, found the old one.  I think that's when I started not caring too much about how many miles I'd ridden in a day, week, month or year.  The important thing is I was still riding my bike more, and enjoying the rides.

Now I'm thinking about getting a GPS based unit to replace the Cateye, but those start at $100. Garmin has the new Edge Touring model which comes with a cycle map and doesn't have all those training functions that I would hardly ever use. It's compatible with other maps like the Topo US which you can load onto a microSD card.  I like the idea of using the Garmin maps instead of running down the battery on my phone when I get lost or unsure of which way to go.  And it'll work when in a no-cell service zone. Sounds tempting, but it's $250 and takes up more space on the bike stem.

Oh wait, I have a Garmin Forerunner wrist gizmo with a handlebar mount, why don't I just use that?  I'm sure I can find a reason not to.  For starters the bike mount is zip-tied to the handlebar making it difficult to switch between bikes.  And it's not something I'm going to put on and off my wrist all the time before and after riding to work.

Anyway, sometimes it's best not to know how many miles you've ridden.  It can become a form of clock watching.  You look at the clock at work waiting for the work day to end, but every time you look at the clock it's barely moved.  I discovered the same thing happens on long bike trips, too.  There was one section on our Bitterroot Loop ride last year where I'd look at the Cateye and discover we'd only ridden a few miles since I last looked and had 20 more miles to go.  I finally turned it off.  The day went much better after that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Gambling on the Snow Odds

Yesterday the roads were dry and ice-free so I rode the unstudded Vaya to work. Felt good to glide along smoothly on the streets instead of the rough clatter with the studded tires. This morning the forecast called for snow beginning at 6pm, so I gambled and rode the Vaya again. Yup, started snowing around 2pm.  I rode out after work with just a little trepidation.

Just a couple inches of light, fluffy snow, we aren't having the big snow storms other parts of the country are getting.  The Vaya handled pretty good in both the powdery stuff and the packed tire tracks. I daresay I had a better, easier ride than a lot of drivers I saw who were spinning wheels at stop signs and while going uphill.  I'd say that rates about a 7.5 on the BikeSmug-o-Meter.

Tomorrow looks like it could be a take your Pugs to work day.Sorry, not you guys.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mr Speare Was Right

In this week's Inlander (Jan 2-8, 2014 Edition) is a Jeers directed at drivers who stop for bikes that are stopped at a stop sign. Which prompted me to dig up this unfinished post from from late October or early November....

So there I was, stopped at a stop sign.  On a north/south side street, planning to turn left and head east on my ride to work.  There was exactly one car in the cross street, traveling east.  Good, I can go after they have passed by.  But they stopped about 10 yards before the intersection, rolled down their window (it was a chilly morning) and waved for me to go.  Oh, great here we go again.  It may just be a coincidence, but ever since Paul Turner last mentioned it in his Slice column (also see my June 5 blog post ), hardly any drivers were stopping and motioning me to go when legally they had the right of way. When they do, I usually wave them on but sometimes cross, depending on how safe I perceive the situation to be, or how I feel.

This time, I waved them on - there was no reason for them to stop, and I wasn't quite ready to go.  They waved again, and another car was approaching from the east, so I waved them both on. The westbound car kept going, but now I had irritated the guy who initially stopped. He yelled at me - "GO!!". I could have just gone, but now he had irritated me, so I yelled back, "No, you GO!".  If I go, he'll just have to go around me after I turn.  We were also at that point in the dance where we both might start going at the same time.

Neither of us moved.  Another bike/car standoff.  A little stubbornness can go a long way.

He finally moved, yelling at me as he went by "you're the reason people get killed!" I thought what? I can't get killed by not riding in front of oncoming traffic.  I yelled back "you have the right of way"!

"You're in a crosswalk!!"  Which flummoxed me - what crosswalk? I had to look at the street and sure enough over to the right of the intersection was a painted crosswalk. But I was in the middle of the side street and nowhere near it.  He thinks I'm a pedestrian. Where are these people when I'm walking the dogs and trying to cross a street?

Finally, he drove on - "Muckin maggot!" or something like that. I muttered "stupid PT Loser".  Instead of turning left and catching up with him at the light, I went straight and turned a couple blocks down instead.  I didn't feel like a closer confrontation.

The next few days I took a different route to work, and stopped wearing the yellow jacket (which I'd just started wearing again in low-light commutes), trying not to be recognizable. But right then and there, I said to hell with it, if a car stops, and it's safe and clear, then I am crossing from now on, just like John had commented:

"after a year or so of principled "no you go" waving and maddening fussery, I just go now. And I go without any acknowledgement at all: i don't wave, I don't look at the drivers. I maintain my poker face looking straight ahead. 
it's the most painless... and really, the most efficient. 
UNLESS -- it's a multi-lane street-- then shit gets jammed up. Usually, the driver gets all pissed off when i don't go and ends up driving off angry, but in some cases -- and i hate this most of all -- all lanes will stop. then i fall back to pokerface... but often i can't help but shake my head at this point.

The busy multi-lane streets - 2 lane one-ways or wide 4-lanes can be a problem. But even on these streets, if multiple lanes are stopping, and the situation appears safe, I figure what the heck might as well go. 

On both 1-way and 2-way streets, I am extremely careful when there are cars approaching behind the car that stopped for me, as they have a tendency to whip around the first car, thinking it has stopped to make a turn, not that it is stopped for a bicyclist or pedestrian.   

A few days after this incident, I was riding home and arrived at the same intersection.  A similar looking car stopped for me.  I hesitated, then crossed. You win, mister.

There is the consideration that we should help educate drivers or set an example for other bikers by not proceeding, but I've decided that's not my job. I'm just trying to get to work, and stay in a good mood. Bikes can be seen as somewhere between a pedestrian and a motor vehicle, and drivers have differing reactions to them. In the end, I think it's better public relations to not piss off the drivers who think they're being nice, and it's less stressful.