Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whoa! What's this? Daylight!! 4:33pm

I get off work at 4:15pm and got out the door a few minutes later than usual today.  I usually ride north on Post Street but instead went through Riverfront Park. Mixing it up. But something didn't seem quite right.  I stopped on the pedestrian bridge north of Post Street and looked around.  Hey, it's still light out!  The cloud cover that has hung over Spokane for the last 2 months had thinned out and combined with the later sunset left me some daylight to ride home in. Woo hoo!

Riding in January's snow has been challenging at times.  We had a good 7" or more snowfall early on.  That snow wasn't too bad because after a couple days it packed down, but the dry couple inches that fell on the 11th or 12th wore me out.  That snow just refused to pack over the previous snow, and it was tough to get any traction.  It was like riding through dry ice slush.  Couldn't decide if mountain bike tires or the studs were the way to go.  This went on for a week or so, till this lucky dog got to accompany his wife down to Disneyland, where she and a friend did the Tinkerbell Half Marathon on the 20th.  Oh man I love the blue skies of Southern California! Between that excursion and the flu, I only slogged my way to work and back one day last week.

The last few days we've had light snowfall that packs down and riding has been a little easier, but I'm getting real tired of it.  Have to be careful of the hidden ruts under the fresh snow.

And why does it always have to snow overnight? I wish it would wait until after I left for work so I wouldn't have to scurry around getting ready for work and shovel. It hasn't even been a harsh winter around these parts, and we're probably due for a blizzard or two still, but with the little bit of sunshine behind the clouds today, I hope we've turned the corner on this winter.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This is why I don't have a fatbike...


maybe needs some matching blue pedals? or would that be a bit too much

Salsa Vaya 2. Haven't even taken the warning sticker off yet: Don't let your dogs pee on the tires.

More so than a 'cross bike, I think this will be a perfect all-around street / gravel / dirt / commuting / touring / Ephrata Gran Fondo / midnight century type vehicle for me. It reminds me of my good cross bike in the way it wants to jump forward with each pedal downstroke. A little turbocharged. I think I'll get front and rear racks, but fenders might have to wait until the stock 40mm tires wear out - specs say it has clearance for 38mm tires with fenders, 42 without. Right now I'm enjoying it without any accouterments.

I was yammering on so much about Salsa's Vaya bike that my wife just said "why don't you go ahead and get it", I think so I would shut up about it.  Funny thing is she thought I was talking about a fatbike when I was mentioning the Vaya.  Well,  I was probably talking about both at the same time.  But I had the green light to get a new bike, that's what counted.

Originally I wanted the 2012 orange model, and found one listed in one of my sizes (55cm) at Old Town Bicycle in Tacoma. But the new vanilla and blue 2013 color combo grew on me, and has BB7 brakes instead of BB5. Also, I read here that white bikes are cool.

I was hoping to get over to Tacoma to check out the orange one when we were in Seattle last month to see King Tut and the Chihuly Museum.  But we were with friends and I didn't want to drag everybody over on a bike hunt.  Then we stumbled across a bike shop in Fremont I somehow hadn't noticed before - Free Range Cycles.  Debbie saw the Surly and Salsa bikes outside the store even before I did.  She's got a good eye.  Luckily, I'd kept the bike rack on the truck just in case.

They had a few Fargos (also tempting) and Vaya 3's, and then there it was: a slightly large for me 56cm Vaya 2. The bike guy at Free Range helping me pointed out they raised the handlebar.  Coincidentally, or not, they had some copies of Just Ride displayed prominently at the counter, in which the GP extols the benefits of a raised handlebar. He also mentions that it basically shortens the effective top tube length.  Who knew, geometry is not my forte. At the time, Universal Cycles was out of 54 and 55 sizes, and the local shop was fairly vague when/if they would get any more Vayas in or if I could order one.

The 56 felt good, and fit better than a 56cm Vaya 3 I'd ridden before, perhaps due to the raised handlebars. I also like a little larger bike anyway than what the bike fit calculators say is good for me.  I'm barely 5'8" if I spike up my hair.  So I had a tough choice to make.  Get this Vaya, or hope I find a 54 or 55 Vaya somewhere else, or make some upgrades to my blue Redline and keep it for my all-arounder, and get a fatty.  It was a tough call, and there have been a few times I have second guessed my decision since I haven't had much chance to ride it with the snow and ice we've had lately. It doesn't help that the blogger known as 26inch Slicks keeps posting those great shots of his fat bike rides. But this Vaya is a keeper.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saturday Morn' Ride/Slide/Walk/Ride

So while Debbie was running with her running group a couple Saturday's ago, I checked out the Dwight Merkel trail to Riverside.  I was getting tired of taking Downriver Drive to the park and was hoping other people had stomped down the snow on the trail enough to ride on.  No such luck:

sorry about the smudges on the lens

there is a trail in here somewhere

I started walking down. It looked foolhardy to try and ride.  So I tried to ride it anyway after walking a bit.  Didn't work out too well.  But I was able to mostly ride down the final section:

Some pics after I made it down off the hill, showing the effects of the big fire from 15-20 years ago:

I made it out to 7-Mile by taking Aubrey White Parkway.  Found some trails that I rode the week before were no longer rideable by me; and got stopped by an official at the Wilbur Rd Trailhead.  The area was closed due to Search and Rescue training.  I asked him if the dirt trail (#25?) below the Centennial Trail there was open, and he said "that I don't know".  I was hoping some bikers had packed it down, but that wasn't the case, so I turned around.  You know, they should make a certain type of bike especially for snow riding.

This has been yet another January Blog Clearance Post

I can ride on the sidewalk if I want to...

...neener neener, so there.  I usually don't want to because turning vehicles don't expect to see bicyclists there coming off the sidewalk to enter the crosswalk area, but sometimes it's convenient to hop on the sidewalk.  Sometimes people complain about cyclists on the sidewalk, but it's legal in Spokane except for an area in downtown that is shown on a map somewhere.  You don't even have to be on the right side of the street.  If I'm faced with heavy traffic trying to cross NW Boulevard, I'll sometimes head west on the sidewalk on the eastbound lanes while I wait for traffic to clear.

On my usual bike to work route, I ride east on Maxwell and then turn right southbound onto Ash at the corner where the Maxwell House Tavern is.  When the light is red, there'll be cars waiting to turn right onto Ash.  Ash is a 3 lane one-way street, but the drivers don't want to turn into the right lane when it's clear because that lane doesn't lead to the Maple Street Bridge like the center and left lanes.  They want to get into the left or center lane.  So the right lane will be all clear but they won't turn because the two other lanes are busy.  Me, that's the lane I want - it's wide, not too much traffic on it and it leads to Broadway where I turn left.  I don't think it's a smart idea to ride by these cars waiting to turn right, so sometimes I hop onto the sidewalk to get by a couple cars,  make my right turn and be on my merry way.  I did this once to get by a woman in a convertible and she cranked her head around in an exaggerated owl like motion watching me ride by.  I try to be patient riding out on the streets, but sometimes I'm in a hurry.

Every once in a while someone writes in to the paper or maybe writes a Jeers in the Inlander complaining about cyclists riding on the sidewalk. A month or so ago a woman wrote a letter to the editor complaining about a cyclist jumping the curb to ride though the crosswalk, and said it's not fair, why can't she jump the curb in her Subaru and get around traffic?  We're supposed to all follow the same rules of the road. I feel for her, because being on a bike, I like having the freedom to hop onto the sidewalk and take a shortcut.   Does come in handy when you're stuck behind some cars that refuse to turn.

On a related note, one of my general biking rules is Rule #7 from BicycleSafe's How to Not Get Hit by Cars is: Don't pass vehicles on the right. I usually follow this advice except when I'm faced with a long line of cars stopped at a stop light, and the street has a wide shoulder. I'll sneak by carefully if I'm reasonably sure none of the drivers is going to crack and suddenly make a turn to the right and jump the curb.

What I haven't figured out is half the people complain about bikes on sidewalks, and then others wonder what we're doing on the road and why aren't we on the sidewalk?

I wish people would make up their mind.

(apologies if this seems like a little disjointed post, it's about 2 or 3 thoughts rolled onto one and I've given up on trying to make it any more coherent.)

This has been another January Blog Clearance post.

"Everybody needs a mountain bike!"

The January Blog Scratch and Dent Clearance Event/ Backlog Blog demo's on sale now! Clearing out 2012 model posts that I started and never finished or got bored with or were old news by the time I got halfways finished.

A few years ago I was looking at the mountain bikes at REI.  I had my Marin Muirwoods at the time, which is a good all around bike, but could only really handle light trail riding with the slick tires on it. Didn't know if I really needed a mountain bike.  I could put knobbier tires on the Muirwoods and ride more trails.  I found a Marin Alpine Trail on sale but I was hesitant - I told the good guy helping me, I just don't know if I need one.

He looked at me and said "Everybody needs a mountain bike!"

Well he, of course, was right.  I finally got a new mountain bike last year and it's a blast.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A biker's hour

When we were growing up, there was what was known as a mother's minute:

Us (me, brothers and sisters, neighbor kids, the dog): can we have some ice cream?
Mom: In a minute

10 minutes later:

Us:  Can we have some ice cream now?
Mom: In a minute.

Mom's minute was a bit of flexible, elastic time.   She was a bit busy.   Of course, we kids had our own definition of minute.

Mom: It's getting dark, time to come inside.
Us: In a minute.

I was reminded of this last Sunday when I decided to head out for a quick bike ride to Riverside and told my wife I'd be gone for about an hour.  That would leave time for shopping and a movie later.

18 miles and 2 1/2 hours later I made it back home.  I went a little bit further than planned, and took a little longer way back home.  Like usual.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Monday and Tuesday New Year's Day

Technically, Monday 12/31/2012 was the last day to get miles in for the Tarik Saleh Bike Club 100 mile challenge.  Had to work Monday so I racked up a grand total of 9 miles, my usual bike commute.

Saw this interesting sight downtown:

Now you know - parking is not allowed in the bike lane.  This was part of the preparations for First Night Spokane and I think they were trying to clear the street of parked cars, not just block the bike lane.

With Monday's ride I was a little short of the goal, having ridden about 71 miles total since 12/24 so I extended the challenge another day.  Tuesday I rode to the Rosauers on Francis Ave at the 5 Mile Shopping Plaza to get some steamer clams for dinner (Williams Seafood being closed on New Years Day).  It's a little tricky to get to Rosauers by bike from our house.  You have to cross Francis Ave, a busy 4 lane street/highway.  There's a signal light at the intersection of Alberta Street and Francis, so I like to head north on Alberta St. and cross there.  Sure, if you wanted to you could bike east on Francis a few blocks, go into the left lane, then go into the center turn lane and then turn into the shopping center.  But that's kinda dicey.

Just to confuse things, this is looking south on Alberta Street at the intersection with Francis.
So I cross Francis and I take my normal summertime route - turn right on Houston and then pick my way through the side streets and a gas station parking lot to get to the plaza.  This might help visualize it, if you squint a little bit:

Rosauers is just west of Ash St (ignore the green arrow).

Now, I may have been getting a little cocky and over confident riding my mountain bike around town the last few days without any studded tires. I've been thinking you can get by with a mountain bike in the winter if you're careful.  But studs sure come in handy, especially going downhill on a sheet of ice.  And Houston is a sheet of lumpy, bumpy ice and packed snow now.  And downhill.  Walking the bike on the sidewalk would've been the prudent thing to do.  I head down Houston and think I'm doing pretty good.  Halfway down I notice some kids with sleds watching me, I think in disbelief.  At this point I get confused on my braking.  In my experience it's not a good idea to use the back brake going downhill on ice.  Or is it the front brake? Anyways the bike starts slipping and I manage to lay it down.  I slide on my feet for a second or two before tumbling over. No breaks or blood. Hey, I'm getting better at this!

Note to self: go up to 5 Mile Rd next time.

At Rosauers, another bike is just leaving.  I discover that my mountain bike and new U-lock aren't compatible with their bike rack thingy.

 So I park it sideways

I just hate those people who take up two spots.

The store only has what look like Venus clams, and they are mostly heavy shell, little meat, not good tasting.  Lobster tails are on sale, so I get a couple and some crab legs.

I hate riding on the sidewalk but I took it on the way home on Francis to Alberta.  I'm guessing it was about 4 miles roundtrip so I'm going to call my total 75 miles.  I'm thinking I met prat 3 of the challenge. It was fun, and it did get me out on the bike more than normal.