Sunday, May 31, 2009

Trek Demo Day

Trek rolled into town today - town being St. Edward State Park, my local woods - to let the masses test ride various Trek and Gary Fisher bikes.  They don't have every model available, but a decent sampling of road and mountain bikes to try out.  These gigs are always fun, 'cause you can test ride for real - on actual trails - for mountain bikes anyway.  Trek dudes probably wouldn't be happy with you 'cross testing a new Madone - though those were available for test rides as well.  Stick to the pavement on the Madone, even if Lance occasionally field tests one.

Speaking of Trek dudes, my pal Kurt, is the local Trek rep - nice guy and always gives me advanced warning the Trek truck is headed this way.  Kurt and I used to be neighbors, he's since moved out to a more rural location.  After knowing Kurt, I almost feel guilty not riding a Trek myself.  I try to increase the bike karma by letting a bunch of folks know the demo is on its way.

Son Ian, neighbor Dan, and yours truly rode over to check things out. Dan, recreational rider and Whistler downhill guy, wanted to check out some long travel bikes.  Me, XC geek and wanna-be roadie, always interested in the more race oriented stuff.  Ian doesn't care - he just wants to ride.  Super nice day and a pretty good turn out.  The Trek dudes were busy for sure.

Red shirt Kurt giving the Trek lowdown.

People kicking tires and mentally checking bank accounts.  Guy in back mocking me is old mountain bike pal, Tom - from the BBTC days.

I took this Trek 69er single speed for a nice romp.  26" rear wheel, 29" front wheel and count 'em, one gear.  My second whole ride on a single speed and I can see why people like 'em - well, some people.  I found myself riding faster on this then my own bike - you have no choice.  Stand up and crank away as required.  Light and snappy too. Huge fun.  My local trails are perfect for this bike.  If I had the dough, would add one to the garage.  Use it as my only mountain bike?  No way.  For some rides though, would be great.  Please send money.

This bike was sweet also.  5" travel carbon EX, perfect do everything bike.  Use this as my only mountain bike?  No problem.  I enjoyed the test ride and thought it was 4" travel bike, until Kurt corrected me. That's how well it pedaled and climbed.  Super nice, all around mountain bike.

Ian cruising the trails with us.  He's always climbed well, but lately has been getting much faster overall.

Neighbor Dan checking out the long travel Session model Trek.  8" travel fork complete overkill for these trails, but perfect for Whistler.

Ian and I mug for the camera.  In a few years, I'll be chasing him.

Yet another fun day in our local woods - riding with friends, checking out new bikes, and just general two wheel, good clean fun.  People who don't ride have no idea what they're missing.

Over and out.....

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Redhook Ramble

Friday was the last day of the Group Health Commute Challenge.  To celebrate, some coworkers involved with the challenge met for lunch to yak about bikes and riding in general. It's cool to connect with people you work with - at something not work related.  Every company I've worked at, we had a some bike related fun involved.  I'll will take some credit for that.  I seem to get people involved with bikes once I'm around 'em enough.

My 10 member Nordstrom corporate team, Team Jerkcx, did pretty well this year.  At the moment, out of 1200+ teams, we're in 10th place for mileage and 50th place for days biked.  As the smoke clears and people enter their final mileage, that may change a bit - but overall, not shabby at all.  We had 10 teams signed up for Nordstrom, with 90+ people riding, our best year ever.  Now we just need, ahem, some actual corporate involvement.

Later on Friday afternoon, some of us cut out a little early and rode from our office in Seattle to the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville - a nice cruise on the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River Trail.  The "Redhook Ramble", brain child of Gerry Grimm, coworker and fellow rider, is something we try to pull off at least twice a summer. Depending on who shows up, it can turn into the "Redhook Rumble" with some drafting and sprinting involved.  Fun stuff.

Redhook brews their own beer, good food, outside seating - all right off the Sammamish River Trail.  A great place to end a ride.

Reynold and his girl Holly.  Reynold did a killer job on my team.  Not one missed riding day and 700+ commuting miles for the month.  Holly rode with a team for AT&T, cranking out 800+ commuting miles for the month.  She had a bet with Reynold that she'd kick his ass - and she did.  Cool people.

Phil and Gerry, captains of two other Nordstrom teams - provided some friendly competition.  Gerry's team has grabbed the high mileage crown for a few years in a row.  Not this year, my team has taken that honor - heh, heh. Gerry's team did however score the most days biked.  Phil and I have almost identical commutes and share rides home often.  Nice guys and fun to ride with.

After the Redhook "Off-Site Team Building Meeting", I hopped back on my bike for the ride home.  Combined with my usual commute, a 50+ mile day.  Pretty good for a work day - no?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bike To Work Month Continues

Ride home from work today included a stop at a little shindig alongside the Burke-Gilman Trail - courtesy of the Cascade Bicycle Club.  Free water bottles, Luna bars, ice tea, maps and other goodies - as well as free bike fittings and music.

Weather continues to be great.  Ran into my work and riding pal, Phil, and shared the rest of the ride home.

Bike commuting rocks.  Join the club.

For those about to ride.  I salute you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

7 Hills of Kirkland

For the last few Memorial Days, I've done the 7 Hills of Kirkland charity ride - yesterday included.  It's usually the only organized road ride I do all year.  It's for a good cause, I can ride to the start from home, and now after a few years kind of a tradition for me.  I've watched this ride grow over the years, now capped at 1500 riders.  Mostly recreational types, but a few race teams as well.

They have 3 ride options - 40, 60 and 100 miles.  All pretty hilly as advertised.  I go for the 40 miler, with about 3000 feet of climbing. Taken at a fast clip (for me), just enough for a holiday morning.  For the second year in a row, coworker and riding pal, Phil Caple came along for the spin.  We're pretty evenly matched riding wise, so a fun ride - without anyone feeling like they're holding up the show or getting totally hammered keeping up.

I felt kind of crappy when I woke up, but rode anyway - then felt okay after a few miles.  Nose was running a bit towards the end of the ride, then after getting home was wacked with a nice head cold - that put me on the couch for a few hours.  Lucky, just a quick deal and I feel almost normal today.

The ride itself was awesome - perfect weather, little to no traffic, fast pace to keep things interesting, some suffering on the climbs and best of all - big brownies at the end.  The 7 Hills crew traditionally serves strawberry shortcake at the finish, that I usually give to my kids - as I did yesterday when they met me afterwards.

No pictures from me - ancient Nikon digital camera too bulky to carry in a jersey.  Tried to take a few shots after the ride and discovered after 9 years, camera finally died - ready for the big landfill in the sky. R.I.P.

Picked a up a new Canon today to replace it.  Smaller, lighter, full of megapixel goodness and even a HD video mode.  Looking forward to adding more riding pics to the blog.

Stay tuned for future two wheeled nonsense with actual photographic proof.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wish I Was There

Bike Comrades,

Check out this ride report (Hakkalugi Adventure) from Scot Nicol, also known as Chuck Ibis:

Super cool street/dirt cruise on ‘cross bikes.  Nice pictures, killer ride. I've must have checked the pics out at least 5 times by now.  This kind of ride pushes all my buttons.  Mixture of dirt and street, looks like a cool group of folks, insane scenery, a memorable epic.  Wish I was there.

Reading this ride report gets my wheels turning to set up something similar here in the Seattle area.  I have a few riding pals may that be interested in such two wheel tomfoolery.

Scot Nicol is/was the founder of Ibis cycles – famous in bike circles, especially for the old school Ibis company.  Company was sold, ruined by new management, then went belly up.  Scot and others picked up the pieces and restarted the company – with the modern twist of carbon fiber and outsourced manufacturing.  They make nice stuff.

I have 3 Ibis’ -  a '97 Hakkalugi, my most used bike ever, a newer Carbon Silk that I really dig - and a '80s Trials Comp that hangs in my garage – basically useless for any real world riding.  At one time I thought I was a bit of a trials rider.  Uh, turned out not so.

I met Scot Nicol once at Interbike in 1995, the height of the Ibis heyday.  Super friendly, funny guy.  He’s also in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and was involved with the whole mountain bike scene from very early on.  I’ve also noticed he moonlights as a tour guide for Hampsten tours in Italy.  That would be a my dream – Italy Hampsten tour with Chuck Ibis and Andy Hampsten.  Man, I’m such a bike geek.

The Ibis site itself:   The Tech section has some interesting reading on carbon fiber – and even though I wanna hate carbon – proof as to why you can’t.  Besides the fact that it rides great and weighs less then a fully loaded taco.

Old School Rules (but not always).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Indie Series Race # 3. Island Cruising.

Indie Series continued today with the third race for the season - the Whidbey Island Mudder.  Yeah, on an island - but no mud today. Weather was perfect, in the seventies and sunny.  The Mudder is also a fun course - 6 mile lap of twisty singletrack, some doubletrack, no real climbs - fast and pretty smooth.  It's also held on private land, no other access besides the race.  I wish this was my private yard, I'd never leave home.

We made this a full family affair with mom and Amy attending as well - ferry ride included.   Whidbey Island, a 20 minute boat ride from Mukiteo, is a different universe from the Seattle area.  Less crowded, more rural, can't helping thinking - hey, maybe move here.

Pretty good size racing crowd showed up for this event, including Ian, to do combat in the Beginner Boys 10 and Under class.  I lined up behind Ian's class to ride behind him as usual, even though he mentioned today he'd be okay to ride alone.  I thought I'd buzz about 5 minutes behind to let Ian race alone, but catch up in case of trouble.  I cruised with a young girl in her 2nd ever race and her dad, behind Ian's class - and Ian's group was soon gone.  After consoling an upset kid I found on the trail, I took off after Ian - then ran into a dead end on the course - tape blocking the trail.  Wah?

Some confusion and backtracking followed - along with some others warming up on the course, then joined by dad and young girl, as well as some Beginner Men racers hitting their second lap.  No sign of Ian and the other boys.  The lost Beginner Men jetted off under the tape - while dad, young girl and I rode back to the start.  I explained the situation to some folks running the show - then took back off to catch Ian later on the course.  The young girl wanted to finish the race, so they restarted as well.  Apparently after the Beginner classes left the start line, a tape section was moved to the wrong side of the trail - throwing a few racers off.

Luckily, Ian's gang of racers figured this out and they all cut under the tape and continued as they should have.  I rode the whole course from the start (again) at almost a race speed myself - and never caught him. 

Ian wound up completing the race on his own with no problems - first time alone.  A great job.  Ian claims he came in 4th place, but the results board showed him in 5th place.  In any case, he did his best and was catching his breath at the finish when I arrived.  No crashes, gave it his all, collected points for the series, and most important - had fun.  At 9 years old, can't ask for more - nice race.

Amy gives Ian some advice before the start.

Ian lines up for action with the other boys 10 and under.

Amy entered the Kiddie race, sponsored by Shimano.  A few hundred yards of singletrack with a roller coaster hill thrown in.  She had fun, while dad provided most of the power.  She pedaled where she could - training wheels and trails don't mix.  Still, a good time.  Here, she shows off her race face at the start.  She also received cheers from the crowd complimenting her basket.  She didn't win, but she was styling.

A little assistance from coach, sponsor, mechanic and ice cream provider.

Amy rockets up the hill, dragging me along for the ride.

Amy proudly displays her medal for finishing.  Great stuff.

After the race, we stopped in Langley to look around.  Ian and Amy played in the water a bit, then we hit the ferry for home.

Overall, a great family day at the races.  I again did not race - too many hours between Ian's race, and what would have been my race.  A lame, but valid excuse.  I'm trying to keep the family experience as pain free as possible.

This was a great course and I'm disappointed a bit I didn't suffer to my usual back of the pack Sport class finish.  "Hey kids, don't you want to hang around for another few hours and watch dad suffer?"

Next stop on the Indie Series Train-O-Fun is Leavenworth - the Northwest Bavarian Disneyland.  Well, sorta.  Head on over for a Bratwurst and a bike race. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Bike To Work Day

Today is the day when the percentage of bike commuters increases from .00987% to almost .00999%  Yes, sound the alarms and put away the gas cans - it's once again time for the annual Bike to Work Day.  Newspaper articles and TV news spots, non-riding co-workers asking about it, bikes everywhere.  Tomorrow - poof - all back to normal.  Was it a dream?  Some sort of hoax?  No - we'll all do it again next year....

Okay, enough sarcasm from me, fairly consistent bike commuter and all around wise-ass.  I actually dig today and love seeing the extra people riding - it's all great.  Here in the bike loopy Seattle area, 20,000+ people rode to work and you could see the increase.  The mega-huge (10,000+ members) Cascade bike club and other sponsors set up over 40 stations for people to stop by and pick up freebies - donuts, water bottles, Clif Bars, maps and other goodies. 

I stopped at one booth on the Burke-Gilman Trail and grabbed a water bottle and few Clif Bars, then talked with some folks.  Very cool to see all types of riders pulling up on everything from beater bikes to carbon wonder steeds - with various riding gear to match.  Everyone in a good mood and smiling away.  The weather even cooperated with no rain and sunny skies.  Yup, why can't every commute be like this?  Feed stations along the route giving away food and some laughs.

At the freebie feel good station, ran into my fellow "Ibis Guy" - Mark. On occasional mornings our commutes match and we've chatted a few times over the years, while cruising to work on the BG trail.  We both commute on older Ibis Hakkalugi 'cross bikes - not many of those around - so always cool to have two of 'em out at the same time.

Today Mark had the whole family out heading to work and school - fun stuff to see.  Mark is one of a few people I only know from commuting on the BG.  If I saw him in normal clothes on the street - probably wouldn't even recognize him!  I'm sure he'd say the same thing.  Part of the fun of bike commuting is the chance to actually chat with people while riding.  Try that in your car.

Mark's Hakkalugi pulling trailer duty.  His model is slightly newer then mine.  I have the green '97 issue - plus my '07 Silk Carbon for non-fender days, like today.  New and old, Ibis makes some cool stuff.  I'm a fan of a few bike companies and Ibis is on the list for sure.

Keep 'em rolling in.  Some stations on Seattle streets get quite a crowd mingling around.

Besides the morning stations set up around Seattle, there was a bike related party in Ballard for the afternoon ride home.  I elected to skip that and shared a ride home with Phil - a fellow co-worker and ex road racer.  A quick cruise home and some good conversation as well.  Add in 60 degree temps, sun and views of Lake Washington.  What a living hell to deal with - how do I stand it?

Oh yeah - we're also in the middle of Bike to Work Month and the related Group Health Commute Challenge.  My corporate team - Team Jerkcx - is killing it this year.  At the moment, we're in 11 place overall for mileage out of 1200+ teams.  Three team members, me included, are in the top 100 mileage wise - out of 10,000 riders.  Not bad at all, eh?

One guy on the team, Sam, has been rocking 60 mile commutes. That's Loony Tunes impressive.  Reynold, another team member, has not a missed a day yet with his 38 mile commute. Others fall somewhere in-between to keep the numbers adding up.  It's all good and all fun.

Bike commuting rocks.  If you ride and don't commute - what's stopping you?  Do it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Personal Rides: Bridgestone MB-Zip

As I mentioned in my RB-1 post, 1991 was the year of Bridgestone at the Dan O Estate. A new RB-1 for me, a MB-3 for my occasional mountain biking wife, Lori - and a MB-0, better known as the MB-Zip to the mountain bike crowd. Oh yeah, the Zip was for me. Bike wise, 1991 was a good year for sure.

The Zip was the top of line for Bridgestone mountain bikes and a great example of what made Bridgestone so different. They mixed and matched specific parts to best perform as designed. The Zip had an amazing mix of parts from Mavic, SunTour, Ritchey and Dia-Comp - all hung off a steel frame. The frame being TIG welded and not lugged as the usual Bridgestone trade mark. The Zip build harks (did I say harks?) back to the earlier days of mountain biking, before Shimano completely dominated. Shimano now makes some killer stuff for sure, but back then - there was a bit more competition. The flag stickers on the Zip top tube represented the countries were all the parts were spec'd. Pretty cool, eh?

The Mavic crank and hubs were works of art. You could adjust bearing tension on the Dakar hubs without removing the wheels from the frame or fork. The crank looked fantastic, but did require a specific Mavic BB - including a special installation tool that chamfered the BB shell - as well as a Mavic tool needed to adjust the bearings. Compared against the simple external bearing set ups of today, a little over complicated. Still, I never had any problems with the Mavic crank or BB set up.

Front and rear derailleurs from SunTour, the XC Pro model. The front XC Pro derailleur cage swapped for a XC 9000 model - an example of Bridgestone details. Another example would the track cages on the XC Pro pedals. Top mount 7 speed shifters to keep things moving. SunTour XC Pro was the best mountain bike group from SunTour - great stuff.

Ritchey was well represented with the frame tubing, fork, stem, handlebars, seatpost, rims, brakes and tires coming from them. All great selections from that era. Ritchey, then and now, has a rep of making great parts for the money.

Frame of course, by Bridgestone, with a geometry a hair quicker then most bikes of the time - thanks to the 72 degree head angle. As mentioned, the frame was TIG welded to save weight - as most Bridgestone models were lugged steel. The off-white tusk color paint looked fantastic, with a matched Turbo saddle to top it off. It had a serious, but understated look to it. Total bike weight was 23 pounds, one of the lightest production mountain bikes at the time - along with the Ritchey P23 and Klein Attitude.

I picked mine up from Bicycle Center in Everett and at the time wasn't even looking for a new mountain bike. My older Fat Chance was riding just fine. We were looking to replace Lori's mid 80s lower end Off-Road mountain bike with something newer. While she was test riding a MB-3, I tagged along on a MB-1 - and loved it. Then I tried the Zip and bought it soon after. If I remember correctly, for around $1500 or so. Serial # 1111 - how cool is that?

So how did the Zip actually ride? Very well actually. It was 4 pounds lighter then my Fat Chance and felt much snappier. It steered quicker and rode softer - the frame a little more flexible then the stiff Fat. The Ritchey Logic fork had a great feel to it - remember this is pre-suspension we're talking about. You could see the fork flexing at the dropouts on bumps and during hard braking. Overall, and I'm exaggerating a bit - it felt like a road bike with fat tires.

On my usual street/dirt loop at the time, I was finishing a few minutes faster on the Zip over the Fat. Placebo effect? Lighter weight? Only my hairdresser knows for sure. In any case, it just plain felt faster and uh, kind of zippy.

The Zip was my main mountain bike from 1991 to 1993 and it was ridden quite a bit. Back then, off-road 3 - 5 times a week. Throw in a few races as well. It remained basically stock the whole time. I did replace the Dia-Comp 986 front cantilever brake with a SunTour XC Pro model. The Dia-Comp brake would screech and squeal through the woods - even after numerous adjusting and pad swaps - really annoying. The XC Pro was quiet and more powerful. I kept the 986 on the rear however.

The Ritchey rims were later replaced due to mud damage, with Bontrager hoops - laced with alloy nipples to the original Mavic hubs. Being an idiot and as per the trend at the time, I cut the stock Ritchey handlebars down to a stupid narrow width. Why we did that - who knows. I later swapped the bars for a normal width Control Tech bar. I also ran Onza bar ends the whole life of the bike. First generation Shimano clipless pedals lived on and off the bike also - along with a later set of SunTour XC Pro pedals - after the original XC Pro pedal bearings got a little crunchy.

The Zip frame tuned out to be pretty fragile, even though mine held up fine. I personally know one other Zip owner who cracked the seat tube after looping out a wheelie. I had other friends witness a Zip shear the head tube off in Moab - ouch, that's gotta sting. I was racing my Zip once and on the start line, another racer asks me, "Yours hasn't broken yet"? Thanks, but no. The frame quality wasn't on the same level as my Fat Chance - not even close. I remember rust color water running from the vent holes after a soaking once and a gap where the rear dropout didn't quite line up - that I filled in and painted. Sorry to bust the Zip cult bubble a bit, but that's the hard facts. Still, mine never broke and it did ride nice.

In 1993 I planned to attend the Moab Fat Tire Festival and wanted something a little beefier to ride. The Zip also caused some of my technical skills to drop some, since it didn't seem like the bike you slam into huge logs or pretend to be a trials rider. I did learn how to ride faster however, not a bad trade off. So, in '93 I picked up a Fat Chance Yo Eddy and retired the Zip from dirt use. I will post the Yo story as the next Personal Rides piece.

Being retired from dirt use didn't put the Zip completely to pasture. I installed some slick tires and fenders and used it as the commuter/road bike for a few years. Eventually though, as other bikes arrived in the garage, it hung there collecting dust for a few years - becoming more of a cult item, along with all things Bridgestone. I'd thought I'd hang on to it for memories and interest in the vintage mountain bike scene.

Times change and now being a single paycheck family of four - sold the Zip a few months ago to finance another bike project. I cleaned it up, rode it a round a bit - still with slicks - felt great and I had second thoughts about selling it. I did anyway and it went quickly with a local Craigslist ad with multiple people interested. Guy who bought it had no plans to ride it - just display it in a soon to open bike shop in Seattle.

Not sure if that ever happened, but if it did - better then hiding the Zip in my garage. Having fellow bikies check out my old Zip in a shop is a cool way to retire it. I think so anyway.

Pics posted were taken right before I sold it - along with info from the 1991 Bridgestone catalog.

Adios Zip and Bridgestone USA - we miss you.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Indie Series Race # 2. Here Comes The Sun.

Second race of the Indie Series was singletrackin' fun in the sun.  While loading the car last night - pouring rain and windy - thought today would be a repeat mudfest of race # 1 at North Seatac.

Not the case - weather was perfect for buzzing the trails of South Seatac, while jets buzzed the treetops - both parks are located within a stone's throw of Seatac airport.  Not exactly the wilderness experience, but the trails are great - fast and smooth.

Ian pulled off a good race and placed 4th out of 5 kids in his class - Beginner Boys 10 and under.  With two events down, Ian currently sits in 2nd place for the series.  Kid in first place won the last two events - he's fast.  We're using our Mr. Consistent plan which scored Ian 3rd place over all last year.  Most important aspect of it all - have fun.

Race today went off without a hitch, Ian paced himself well - no crashes, ran a few sections - including a short, steep downhill where he crashed hard last year.  We tried practicing the hill before the race, he still felt better walking his bike down - no problem.  Ian's class did a lap and and a half of the course - about 8 miles or so.  Plenty of racing for a 9 year old.  A good solid positive learning experience - and fun.

Post race P&B sandwich.  Life is good.

Official race # 59 today, complete with new mountain bike pants - courtesy of sponsor Dad.

It rained Clif Bars after the race - more tasty then regular rain.

No race for me today, but I did follow Ian around for his.  I'll get a race or two in myself before the series is over.  I'm having huge fun watching Ian experience all this - but am itching to race myself.

Next event is Whidbey Island - Ian is already asking about it.  Last year it turned out to be a memorable family day - ferry ride, race, lunch at Langley, and played around by the water - all good stuff.