Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bike to Work Month

It's that time of the year - bike to work month.  For the past few years I've helped organize teams at work to compete in the Group Health Commute Challenge, run by the folks at Cascade.

This is a cool event and gets people out on their bikes - competing against each other, other departments at work, as well as other companies.  The whole gig is a ploy to get people commuting by bike - what a concept.

Being close to a full time bike commuter myself - I get a big kick out of seeing people who've never commuted by bike, pull it off and get jazzed by it. A few have stuck with it, but most drop off after the month is up.  It's still a valuable experience.

My 10 person team this year is a cool mix of people.  I'm looking forward to the goofy emails and reports as the month progresses. Fitting in a social ride would be great also.  We'll see how it goes.

Over the last few years I've seen the numbers of bike commuters increase.  You can see it on the Burke-Gilman trail as well Seattle streets.  During the bike to work month - and especially on bike to work day - a big increase.  A bit of a glimpse of how things could be. If gas creeps back up to $5 a gallon again, that will jump start things a bit.

Bike commuting is not for everyone, but if it clicks for you - it's all good.  I'm baffled at the huge numbers of recreational riders that don't commute.  It's the perfect way to fit in two rides per day, save money on gas and other car expenses, get fitter everyday - plus the green aspect and mental health benefits of it all.  It also adds a bit of adventure to your day.  Something lacking in our climate controlled, over structured world - true?

I can't sell it enough.  If you're into it - this is our biggest selling month.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tales From the Burke-Gilman Trail. Birds of a Feather.

Alright - I'm riding home from work today - cruising down the Burke-Gilman Trail.  I see two riders ahead and as I gain on them, noticed one of the riders has this blue box on his back.  It's bigger then a backpack and yes - quite square.

As I get closer, realize it's a bird cage - yes a bird cage - with a yellow Ringneck Parrot inside enjoying the ride.  I recognized the breed because my wife owned the green version at one time.  It had this piercing bird call that would drive you insane, so we gave it away years ago.

As I cruised along side the couple, an older couple - mentioned we owned a similar bird at one time - and out of the 10,000 times (seems like it anyway) I've been on this trail, that's the first pet bird I've seen along for the ride.

Dude with the cage on his back said the bird likes to get out - then the wife chirps in, "Birds are people too".  I bit my New Jersey wise-ass tongue before saying, "Except when they're food", and gave a friendly wave instead.

Why ruin the bike love on a nice afternoon?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Danny MacAskill - Holy Crap

This YouTube clip has already been flung around the Bike Blog-O-Sphere and email lists. However, its worth spreading around a little more.

You think you have some technical skills? Think again Bunky. Compared against this kid, Danny MacAskill, you ain't got nothing. If you can top this, feel free to post the proof to YouTube.

Check it out - an amazing mix of observed trials and BMX moves fused together. Incredibly impressive.

For whatever reason, I can't get the clip to post into my blog. Technology is evil.

Click to view directly from YouTube:

Earth Day News - GM Announces New Hybrid SUV

In honor of Earth Day and to show the public their tax dollar bailout is being well spent - General Motors trotted out their latest SUV hybrid at a press conference held today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. GM Spokesman, Frank Rizzo, heralded the prototype as the wave of the future, and sure to save the failing U.S. auto industry.

The yet to be named model is rumored to mark the return of Oldsmobile, the much missed brand of the GM family. It's currently code named Advanced Mobile Inter Synch Hybrid - or AMISH for short. According to GM Engineers, this AMISH technology, which requires no plug in or petroleum based fuel, will prove to be the answer to U.S. transportation needs.

Pending EPA, crash, and flatulence testing - GM expects to release a production version by Earth Day 2010. This will be followed by a higher end model that will sport two Bull power, special pearl white paint and "really big shiny wheels".

GM Spokesman, Frank Rizzo reports, "Our Bull powered hybrids will go head to head against Toyota and Honda". GM also plans to trickle the AMISH technology over to the yet to be released Chevy Volt. Smaller trunk sized bulls are being bred which allow a "limp home" function in case of total battery discharge.

On a related note, Exxon Mobile announced its plan to develop alternative fuels to power the expected demand for these new hybrids. Special oats and grain will be grown in the Middle East, pending pressure on Congress to develop commercial areas in U.S. National Parks - and finally end our dependence on foreign fuel.

Happy Earth Day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Really Old School

I found this video on another blog as well as mentioned in Bicycle Quarterly magazine.  Crazy mix of retro recumbents, tandems, triples and other wacky stuff.

Give it a spin.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lazy Saturday

After the hectic schedule last weekend - chess tournament, mountain bike race, Easter dinner festivities - felt good to have nothing planned for today.  I cut the grass Friday night, so even that was out of the way.  On top of it all, my allergies have tapered off completely.  Either it's over for the season or the spray prescription I've been using is hitting the spot.  Things are looking up.

Late in the afternoon, Ian and I did a fun mountain bike ride with our neighbor, Dan, over in our local woods - St. Edward State Park/Big Finn Hill County Park.  10+ mile cruise through the singletrack with a little street mixed in.  I've said it a thousand times, we're super lucky to have woods rideable from the house.  Just one mile or so of suburban streets - then hit the trails.

When we returned home, some goofing around the yard, and attempt number two to get Amy riding without training wheels.  She's not there yet.  No rush - we'll keep working on it.

Pizza delivery for dinner and then finish watching the Paris Roubaix race I taped.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Indie Series Race # 1. Got Mud?

The 2009 Indie Series kicks off with a mudfest at Seatac North.  Wet sloppy trails as a greeting to this year's series and racers.  My son Ian really enjoyed the series last year and was looking forward to the first event in 2009.  We awoke to pouring rain and I reminded him he doesn't have to do this - nope, he wants to go.

Turns out he had a blast racing in the mud and did great job during his 8 mile race.  I followed him during the race and had a great time myself.  Ian rode smart and didn't crash once in the super slippery conditions - and pulled off a 2nd place finish in the 10 and under Beginner Boys class.

We didn't pre-ride the course and Ian used his head and ran some sections cyclo-cross style instead of risking a crash.  I encouraged him from behind, but gave less pointers then previous races and thought he did a excellent job.  This was a 2 lap event and I considered letting him do the second lap without me, but was having fun myself and kept riding.  On the drive home, Ian mentioned he still feels better having me ride behind him.  No problem there, since I get to see all the action.  It's also great father son time and I hope he has some cool memories down the road from the shared racing experiences.

Only 3 kids total in his class today, so they all score series points. We're using the same plan as last year - race at your own pace, hit as many events as possible, collect points - and have fun.

I did not race myself today, but will do so in some later events.  Hey - somebody needs to be Sport class pack fill - that's my speciality.  We had some family obligations later in the day, so needed to head home. Plus, my spring allergies are still killing me.  I know - excuses, excuses.

Ran into Scotty and Mercedes along with a few others from uBRDO - cool shop in Kirkland run by very nice folks.  They even let Ian and I change out of wet race clothes in their giant Sprinter van.  Much better then standing in a wet field trying to wrestle into dry clothes.  Thanks!

Even with the semi-horrid conditions, we had a really good time. Mountain bike racing rocks.

Wet mud encrusted jeans weigh more then Ian does.  I gotta get him some real bike clothes.

This picture says it all.  Smile and 2nd place medal.

Next event is scheduled for May 3rd, this time at South Seatac park. Ian is psyched for the next race. We're both looking forward it.

Come on out.  You'll be glad you did....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Just Ride 'Em

After reading my own post - Designed in USA - feel I may have come across like the psycho dude in the movie Falling Down.  Or maybe not - but I do feel concern as we continue to manufacture less and less in the U.S. It doesn't matter if its bicycles, guitars, cars or widgets.  I do understand why companies look to China or other countries to save money and turn a higher profit.  I just don't think all the benefits are positive, there's some negatives involved as well.

Does Taiwan turn out nice bike stuff - of course - super quality stuff. Look at Giant, they produce great bikes and even make their own carbon fiber (from what I understand).  That's pretty damn cool really.

China, for higher end bicycle manufacturing, is certainly on the rise. My current carbon Ibis was manufactured in China and it looks and rides great.  Being full-on Bike Geek, I normally wouldn't consider a Chinese manufactured bike.  A few test rides and being an Ibis fan convinced me otherwise.  If Scot Nicol was not involved with the reborn Ibis, I never would have went for it.  Still, would I think the carbon Ibis was a touch cooler if manufactured in California, like the old Ibis?  Yes, I'm guilty of that.  But, all in all, I still put down the dough for the new Ibis.  That says something.

Maybe because Taiwan and China don't really have the long history of bicycle culture - performance oriented culture - old school guys like me tend to put it down - perhaps unfairly.  Still, there's something cool - perceived or otherwise - about road bikes from Italy, mountain bikes from the U.S. and Shimano parts from Japan.  If you're an old bike person, you know where I'm coming from.

I guess when it comes down to it - the coolest set up is a company that designs and manufactures it's own stuff under one roof - doesn't matter where that roof is.  Nothing totally wrong with farming out the manufacturing if needed, but you do lose a little something in the process.  For normally priced production bikes, probably not as much of an issue.  You also hope, since it's bicycle related, the factories involved treat employees fairly and aren't dumping waste into the proverbial nearby stream.

For higher end bikes, people are willing to pay up and expect a little more soul to it all.  That's why some frame builders have a 5 year waiting list.  I'm a sucker for this idealism and that's why if I can afford it, my next frame will come from a small U.S. builder.  I have a few older versions of such idealism in the garage already - from Ibis, Fat City and Ellsworth - along with one Cannondale.  Toss in some production bikes from Bridgestone - as well as Trek and Specialized that family members ride.

Wherever your bike came from, the best thing to do it just ride it.  I plan to do so tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring has Sprung

Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest - at least temporarily - decent weather doesn't officially arrive until July 5th.  Just kidding - sorta.

Almost 70 degrees on Sunday and Monday, practically a heat wave for this time of year.  Unfortunately, the warm weather and resulting pollen explosion raise havoc with my allergies.  To add to the misery, also my turn for a nasty cold that circulated through the family.  I've been down for the count for two days now.

Until the one, two punch of nasal torture, did squeeze two rides in - which probably didn't help matters.  Still, no way I'm passing up two 70 degree days hiding inside.

Sunday, did a mountain bike cruise through our local woods with my son Ian.  Monday, I commuted to work - usual 34 mile round trip.

Some actual photographic proof....

Scenic shot - complete with cyclone fence - I am the master photographer.  Lake Washington as viewed from the Burke-Gilman trail as it passes through Log Boom Park in Kenmore.  Fence blocks off new restrooms under construction.  To the left, out of view - new playground for the kids.  Bald eagle sightings common near this park. Much of my bike commute looks like this.  I can't complain.

No rain means no fenders.  Old steel Ibis sulks at home, while new carbon Ibis frolics in the sun - powered by skinny, pasty white legs.

Here I blur the camera and senses with impressive speed - even riding one handed, camera recording race winning pass.  Dude never knew what hit him.  I am Dork Boy, hear me roar.

Cooler weather is already here and rain expected tomorrow.  Please resume all normal activities - fenders included.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Designed in USA

Bicycle Retailer reports today that Cannondale will cease manufacturing frames in the US by 2011.  I guess they'll have to replace the Handmade in USA sticker that graces the seat stay with Designed in USA.  Like many other products that were manufactured in the US, construction will move to Asia.  I don't even like to call bikes "products" - to me they're more then that.

When it comes down to it - only the frames were made here - everything else comes from somewhere else.  Besides high end, boutique components - very few parts of a bicycle are still manufactured here in the US.  So who cares about the frame?  I do. We're losing something when this practice continues to happen - since the frame is the soul of the bike.

I know globalization is complicated.  I've owned a Volkswagen GTI that was assembled in Pennsylvania.  I currently drive a Nissan SE-R that came off an assembly line in Tennessee. The Aprilia Falco motorcycle that once graced my garage was made in Italy, but the motor came from Austria.  I've owned a long list of Japanese motorcycles and one modern Triumph, built in England.  On top of that, many years ago - various cars from Italy, Germany, England and the US.

I've owned a fair amount of nice bicycles over the last 25 years or so. Frames made in the US, Japan, Taiwan and China.  So, it's not like I'm completely a "made in the USA or die" zealot.  Still, hearing the Cannondale news bothers me.

I'm just as guilty or hypocritical as many on this subject, even though many times you don't have a real choice when buying something.  I've worked for a few manufacturing companies in the past, providing IT support.  I've witnessed the manufacturing area converted to a warehouse after production moved to China.  I've heard all the pro arguments supporting such a move.  I don't care - you're still losing something important.

My next bike - if at all possible - will sport a frame manufactured in the US.  That's my little stand in a sea of things I can't really control.

Big Visors and Bar Ends

Found this while cruising YouTube (the ultimate time waster) - '90s footage of XC racing in its heyday.  John Tomac, Tinker Juarez, Juli Furtado and others.  Pick 'em out and win a prize.  Well, not really - but take a look.

On top of it all, soundtrack from one of my favorite Seattle bands - Gas Huffer.  Not a bad find after a little Internet poking around.

It is the Information Superhighway after all - no?  Yes indeed.