Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bar Ends and Pits of Gravity

Summer is drawing to a close with a perfect day weather wise. In the 60s, slight cool breeze, lower level sunlight hinting that fall is not far off. Best way to enjoy the weather? Mountain bike ride, of course.

Number one son Ian and I originally planned to hit Tiger Mountain. Our plan was foiled by sleeping late and the female half of the clan needing the family vehicle to shop for school supplies - another sure sign the summer clock is ticking.

No problem, we'll suit up for yet another ride at Big Finn/St Ed Park, rideable from the house. I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - we're damn lucky to have some cool trails in the neighborhood. After goofing around the house a little too long, we finally hit the pedals at 4:00 PM or so, then onto sweet singletrack just a few minutes later.

Trails are still dry and dusty, could use a little rain and here in the Northwest, that won't be a problem in the coming months. Just a few other riders and the occasional runner sharing the trails today, all greetings with a hello and smile. I've been riding these trails since 1989, so 21 years of nearby singletrack bliss. Man, I'm getting old. I don't feel it though - at least not today.

Plenty of kickstands available here in the Pacific Northwest. This one appears sturdy enough to hold up two bikes. We made a few pit stops for Ian's Geocache action. Found one cache and planted another. Just another diversion and excuse to play outside.

I installed bar ends on the 29er. I omitted 'em when setting the bike up, but missed 'em while riding. Sure, they may be out of fashion, especially on a (slight) riser bar - so call me Dork Boy. These are carbon fiber bar ends however, so that's Mr. Dork Boy to you buddy.

In our local woods, there's a section of trail I lovingly refer to as the "Gravity Pit". You drop in one side and if you're going fast enough - feel a bit of compression at the bottom - then pedal like mad to clear the uphill side. Done correctly, you can almost coast up the other wall. In this day and age of freeriding and other stunts, pretty tame really. Back in the early days of mountain biking with no suspension, seemed a bit more daring. I remember during the '90s hitting this on my MB-Zip and registering 30 mph on the old Avocet computer. A nice acceleration rush for sure.

During that era, one time I was following a dirt motorcycle illegally poaching the trail and passed him as he didn't clear the uphill section. We both were laughing as he fell over into the bushes and I pedaled right past him. Another time my old riding pal Brian crashed head on into another rider at the bottom of the pit. Nobody was laughing then. The other rider brushed it off and continued his ride. Brian won a trip to the emergency room with a wrenched back.

Over the years the trail has widened and become less steep, making it easier. Still, a fun section to hit during the usual ride. Many times however, while I play tour guide with other riders - many hesitate to enter the Gravity Pit - and take the bypass trail.

For all our rides Ian and I have shared in these woods, he's never attempted the Gravity Pit - until today. I showed him how it's done by riding it a few times, then stood about half way up on the wall in case he didn't make it - then I could catch him if he stalled. Most riders brake on the downhill section and don't have the momentum to clear the uphill side.

Not Ian, he hits the thing with some speed and blazed the downhill. I could tell by the look on his face the speed took him by surprise. He holds it together and coasts pretty far up the other side - nearby to me. Even with me yelling "Pedal, pedal, pedal", he freezes and coasts to a stop - where I grab him. He's laughing and saying he forgot to pedal - was a little scared. I tell him he could have made it - great job - wanna try it again? Huh, yeah - but not today.

We laugh some more and check the speedo on his bike - 20+ mph. Not bad. We'll try it again when he's ready. No rush, all for fun, no getting hurt.

Ian plays camera man while I demonstrate the Gravity Pit. As with most things video and picture related, it doesn't appear that steep. Trust me, it's not that big of deal - but much steeper then it appears. Pictures sometimes do lie.

After our Gravity Pit adventure, we continued sampling singletrack and cruising the woods. Late afternoon golden sunlight dappling through the trees, cool temps, good times. One Clif bar stop in the park itself, sitting on a picnic table, overlooking the green lawn. Then a slow ride home on quiet streets - most of it no handed - 'cept for the occasional wheelie.

Yup, not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You Can't Buy Speed

I'm on vacation this week and enjoying the time away from work. After returning from our camping adventure yesterday, entire family slept in this morning. Experiencing some sleeping bag action always makes your own bed feel especially comfortable. The rainy morning added another excuse to sleep in, we haven't had rain for weeks. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain daily here in the Seattle area.

Late in the afternoon, I head out for a quick solo mountain bike ride in our local woods. I'm still tired from our trip and was dragging a bit. After a few miles I loosen up and feel better. While buzzing my familiar singletrack, come across a dude riding a 'cross bike. Riding a 'cross bike on singletrack qualifies as cool in most people's book, especially if you can embarrass people riding mountain bikes.

With the pinball maze of singletrack our paths crossed occasionally. Of course when I hear him behind me, I crank it a bit. I'm on the 29er and try to lose him. I'm not killing myself and from the looks of the guy - he appears to be a real 'cross racer - he could probably drop me at will. We're moving at nice clip, not race speeds, but fast enough to be fun. I can hear his rear hub buzzing behind me - catching up, then falling back at times.

At one point, where the singletrack crosses a street, I hesitate on purpose so he crosses first and I jump in behind. He's moving pretty quick, but I hang on without a problem. My familiarity with these trails is a bonus for me. At a double log crossing, dude pulls off a smooth running 'cross dismount and remount. Sweet. I wheelie and hop the 29er over the logs as usual.

I follow for a bit longer and he gains some time on a tricky uphill rooted out section - riding the whole time. Nice. Riding a 'cross bike on trails with skinny 35c knobbies, drop bars, and no suspension takes some skill. I've done it a few times on my own 'cross bike and appreciate the dude's skill. Riding a mountain bike complete with suspension fork and fatter tires makes things easier for sure. I catch back up to him shortly, then he peels off onto a different trail. Fun little diversion, my intent not to stalk 'cross dude, so I continue on my own way.

Cool thing about bikes, no matter what you're riding, it's still 95% you. A talented rider on a 'cross bike can drop many mountain bikers on terrain far more technical then you'd imagine. One exception would be full downhill racing, equipment in that arena is a factor. Those bikes now resemble motorcycles, minus the motor. Suspension is king for that sport. You can add freeride riding to that mix as well. You won't be sticking many 10 foot drops on a 'cross bike. That would be fun to witness however.

Otherwise, for general XC riding, the majority of the performance depends on the connection between the seat and the handlebars. It doesn't really matter if you're on a 4" travel bike, 6" travel rig, hardtail, or even a 'cross bike - the better rider will always win and/or outride you.

Same deal with road riding. Put slow dude on the $10,000 carbon fiber wonder bike, complete with Di2 and the zillion dollar wheelset. Place fast dude (or dudette) on the $1500 rig with Shimano 105. Guess who wins or gets to the top of the climb first? Wanna place your bet now?

Bikes are tools and certain tools are better suited for specific jobs. However, the skilled craftsman can make do with any tool better then someone less skilled. That's the fact. You can't buy speed, you can't buy talent - no matter what the glossy bike mags tell you.

Agree or disagree?

Corral Pass Camp Out

Family and I took time for a little camping adventure this week. We usually schedule one car camping trip every summer, but have skipped the last two years - so we were overdue. Son Ian found this place called "Corral Pass Campground" in a book from the library. After reading up a little on it, decided that's where headed....

The campground is located near Mount Rainier, about a 3 hour drive for us. Access to the campground is via a steep, rocky, rutted, 6 mile long dirt road that tops out at 5000+ feet of elevation. No services, except for a few pit toilets. Only 20 camp sites available, first come/first served, no reservations. Since we're talking mid-week camping, figured we'd score a spot. We loaded up the trusty family '97 Toyota RAV4 and hit the road. The beauty of car camping - you can bring a lot of stuff. The horror of car camping - you can bring a lot of stuff.

After a pleasant cruise towards the area, compete with stop at McDonalds (burp) - mandatory for all kids under 15 (federal law) - and another stop at the ranger station in Enumclaw to pick up the $5 access permit, we hit the base of the dirt road climb and pointed the overloaded RAV4 up towards our destination. The female half of the clan was freaked about this aspect of the trip. Ian and I however were looking forward to it. It's a rough road, not exactly true 4 wheeling, but something I wouldn't take the Ferrari on. Oh yeah, we don't own a Ferrari - so no problem there. I did put the RAV4 in low (auto trans) for the first time ever, while crawling over some of the rockier sections. No big deal though, you could climb this in almost any car, just watch out for the rocks. Rocks punching holes in the oil pan is never a good idea. Fun drive to the summit and added to the adventure of it all.

At the top sits a trailhead dirt parking lot and the campground. We idle the RAV4 through the campground looking for the best site. We have our choice, 'cause all 20 sites are empty - as is the trailhead parking lot. We appear to be the only humans around for miles. Pretty cool and a tad creepy. After selecting a spot, unload and set up camp. Tent, sleeping bags and mats, cooking stove, arrange food, etc. If you've been car camping, you know the drill and remember why one trip a year is enough.

During all this I'm amazed we're the only people here and have the entire campground to ourselves. Eventually, one other couple arrives and set up camp. I have to admit to my relief. This way we have a 50/50 chance of Big Foot getting to them first. Nice couple wandered over later to say hello. Nice or not, I'm still pointing Big Foot over to them.

Official camping festivities followed: Kids ran around, we cooked outside, swatted a few bugs, built a nice fire, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs. It was really special to have no one around, very different from the usual car camping gig. Almost like backpacking with your car. Yes, that would classify as cheating, but no one is keeping score. After the kids collapsed in the tent, we stayed up until 2:00 AM by the fire. Full moon, stars out, no bugs, cool temps. So quiet all I can hear is the ringing in my ears (thanks Ramones). Very nice indeed.

In the morning, egg sandwiches cooked on the certified Coleman stove, rising temps and sunny sky. Collapsed the tent and loaded up the RAV4. Why is cramming all the crap back in the car 10 times harder then the original load? All the junk somehow increases while out in the woods. With everything securely smashed back into the shrinking RAV4 interior, we head out for a family hike on one of the trails off the campsite.

The trail, "The Rainier View Trail", strangely enough offers a killer view of Mount Rainier (posted pic as proof). You need to work a little to earn it however. 1.5 mile hike up to catch the view. Once up there, awesome view of Rainier. A little hot, but no cloud cover - perfect day for this. We packed a lunch and took in the view for awhile. We saw no one on the trail or at the view point, so had all this to ourselves. Incredible. Eventually the same folks that shared the campsite appeared for the view as well. On the return 1.5 mile hike down, saw one other couple and another family. Either this is a very uncrowded spot or we just lucked out.

Drive back down the rocky 6 mile road to head home. The RAV4 brakes got a little mushy on the descent, so steep enough to get the brakes plenty hot. No problems though. Being mountain biker, ex-dirt motorcycle guy, and recovering gear head - got a kick out of the quasi-rally aspect of the access road. Fun stuff.

No bicycles on this adventure, mountain bikes off limits on the singletrack. We did see one woman riding her mountain bike up the dirt road, while we headed down. That would be a tough, fun climb. On the way home, we did revisit a nearby area that offers amazing mountain biking - we've raced there previously. Did a little more RAV4 quasi-off road action while checking that area out once again. I've wanted to camp and mountain bike there for years, this adventure reminded me of that fact - need to do so before winter hits.

All in all, a great trip. It's always good to get out there and do a little livin' outside. I suggest you do the same.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Duthie Helmet Cam Action

Last Saturday, son Ian and I hit Duthie Mountain Bike Park once again. This time, old riding pal Brian came along for the ride, first visit to Duthie for him. He dug the place - so did Ian and I (again). Super dry, dusty conditions made for some slippery sections. Not much mileage in this park, but looping the trails together or taking multiple runs makes up for that. The trails themselves are fun enough to give 'em a go multiple times. We haven't even messed with the wooden freeride type structures yet, we'll save that for future trips.

As an added bonus to the festivities, Brian brought along his new helmet cam. Video clips courtesy of Brian's bird eye view, since the cam was mounted to his noggin the entire afternoon. That's Ian and I popping into view out front. We based the ride on Ian's pace, but he can rip some sections pretty good for 11 years old.

Hack edit job by me, music by Rush, surprise crash ending by Brian - complete with cam ripped off helmet - he and the camera survived. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blood on the Trail

Riding home from work today on the good ol' Burke-Gilman Trail, watched a recumbent cyclist take a nice crash. He was up ahead a ways, but I still had a good view of the festivities. Went down quick on its side and slid a bit down the trail.

Recumbent bikes are weird enough to begin with, so interesting - and yeah, slightly humorous - to see one wad up at speed. This one had the whole windshield and huge plastic aero tail piece shtick going on. To put on my wise ass hat, if these contraptions are so aerodynamic and fast, why do I never see one riding faster then 15 mph?

In any case, I caught up to the guy before he even untangled himself from the smoldering wreckage, as did someone else riding in the opposite direction. Pretty big older dude, baffled as to why he crashed - while he examined his bleeding elbow - dripping nicely by this point.

"It just went down on me", "I'm bleeding like a stuck pig" comments as he stood up. I notice blood smears on the yellow plastic tail section. The other cyclist checks his front tire - totally flat - that explains it. Quick loss of air, washed out front end, recumbent and pilot sliding sideways on pavement. Ouch.

We ask if he needs any help, besides the cut elbow - he looks fine. I mention I'm carrying no spare tubes for that wheel size. I think about patching the tube for him, 'cept I'm in a rush to get home for an appointment - running late as is already.

He says he's okay, will call his wife to pick him up. "Are you sure?" "Yeah." The other cyclist asks again, with the same response. He's got it covered.

With that I take off for home, guilt free. I would have patched the tube if needed, just the way I am. Fellow cyclist is a fellow cyclist - even on a recumbent.

I thought about grabbing a few pictures of the carnage, thought that would be rude - so skipped it. How often do you see a crashed, blood stained recumbent?

Hey, admit it - you'd check out the pics if posted....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Halson Suspension Fork - When Inverted Bumpers Ruled

Met an old riding pal today for a mountain bike ride, been at least 10 years since our last ride together. Back in the mid '90s, we rode together quite a bit, along with a gang of fellow coworkers. I'll take some credit for rounding up the riding action at that time and coaxing a few mountain bike purchases. In the heyday, we'd all meet once a week or so for a shared ride. Fun times.

Brian was one of the riding regulars during that era, and continued to ride some after we all parted ways from our shared employer. It's been awhile since he's dusted off the bike however, so with a little coaxing once again, we finally hooked up today for a ride. Son Ian and I reacquainted Brian with our local trails. Despite the 90 degree weather, we had a fun ride. Brian is one of those dudes with a BMX, skateboard, and skiing background, that does well technical wise on the mountain bike - in spite of the lack of riding time. He would do well racing, as I've told him before. He may give it a shot eventually.

Brian still rides the Cannondale that he picked up in 1995, complete with Halson suspension fork - now vintage material. I thought Halson made a cool fork back then - trick for the time. Bumper technology, similar to Manitou forks of that era, but with a inverted design - like a motorcycle fork. The fork legs housed by the fork crown, with the fork sliders below. This allowed a stiffer, less flexy fork. Since disk brakes were yet to be widespread, it worked with cantilever or v-brakes, pretty tricky with the inverted design. As per the era, a whopping 2.5" inches of travel. It all seems pretty quaint now, compared to modern suspension forks.

At the time I considered buying a Halson fork, 'cept my Manitou 3 fork worked just fine - thank you. It is impressive this Halson fork survives 15 years later and still works. I joke with Brian he'd be shocked (Ha! Get it?) how well a modern fork would feel in comparison. Since he's never ridden a modern bike, doesn't know the difference. Ignorance is bliss.

In any case, he can still ride pretty damn fast on the ancient steed, can only imagine him on something newer. He considering going for an upgrade. That would be interesting to see, since he digs air time and the old Cannondale ain't really suited for that.

Magazine write up on the Halson fork from 1995. The company eventually folded, as did others during the suspension revolution heyday.

The complete bike as ridden in 1995 and 2010. Despite the vintage fork, v-brakes, and gigantic bar ends - Brian is still pretty quick on it. It's not what you ride, it's how you ride it.

The ride today seemed to get my old riding pal back on the bike track. We're looking to hook up for more local riding action - just like old times - except now I have an 11 year old son to join us. That makes it all even better.

I'm looking forward to future adventures and may try to coax a few others "out of retirement". Heh, heh.....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mazama Trip

Summer means vacation time, so I recently took a week off and did a little traveling with the family. Lucky for us, Washington has some great places to visit, close to home. We decided to stay in Mazama for a few days - not a whole lot there, and that's the whole point. Kind of the middle of nowhere with plenty of hiking and mountain biking available. The place is a cross-country skiing mecca in the winter, with miles and miles of groomed ski trails. I've been to the area a few times, always in the summer, but the last time was almost 10 years ago. Time for a revisit.

Getting to Mazama is half the fun. You drive over the North Cascades Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. About a 4 hour drive for us. If you've never heard of it, may also be why it's also completely free of traffic. During my motorcycle days, always wanted to ride it, never happened. From the amount of motorcycles - touring, sport, and Harley types - seen heading over, plenty of other people have the same idea. Instead of piloting the Aprilia Falco SL 1000 that I sold off a few years ago, last motorcycle in the garage, I'm driving the trusty family Toyota RAV4 - complete with two mini humans in the back seat, that look an awful like the wife and I. Times change, usually for the better.

The previous two visits to this area were spent at Sun Mountain Lodge, quite a few years ago. A bit expensive at the time, it's become loopy priced now. Out of our family budget and just maybe not our scene anymore, even though they have some fun mountain bike trails available out the door. If you wanna spend the dough, a nice place though.

Mazama is a few miles up the road and less crowded. We booked the Mazama Country Inn for two nights to check it out. Kind of a rustic place with no televisions, phones in the rooms, or even cell phone coverage. I find that kind of kind of cool, let's unplug shall we. They do have wireless Internet however, seems to be no escaping that. Son Ian brought his PSP which I didn't even know picked up an Internet connection via WiFi. I guess it's almost impossible to completely unplug.

Mazama Country Inn also sports a small restaurant, pool, tennis courts, hot tub and trails right out the door. Lucky the restaurant had good food, since there's not a whole lot of choices without driving for 15 miles or so. The Mazama Country Store is also next door, so we grabbed lunch there as well. Not a bad set up. Having breakfast and dinner outside at the Inn was nice - squirrels and hummingbirds watching you eat. We car camp at times, but splurged a bit on all this. Sort of being outside while being pampered. Nothing wrong with that occasionally. The kids dug the pool, and the female half of the clan goofed around on the tennis court, while Ian and I rode mountain bikes. Sound okay? Yeah, it was.

In no particular order, some pictures and various rambling about the trip.....

The trails around Mazama are not very technical - mostly smooth, fast, hard packed trails - as Ian demonstrates. Fun for a change, plus really nice trail side scenery. A cyclocross bike here would rock. I'm sure some actual singletrack exists, we just didn't find any local examples. No problem though, had a good time on what we did find.

Example of scenery off the trail. Lots of meadows and mountain views. I shot this during one of our mountain bike rides. How do the locals stand it?

After spending two nights at the Mazama Country Inn, we loaded up for the drive home, including some sandwiches and snacks in the cooler. Before hitting the road, we cruised by the North Cascades Basecamp (pictured), a few miles from the Inn. I noticed the place on the Internet while planning the trip and wanted to check it out. While looking the place over from the car, Kim - half the husband and wife team that run the place - came out to greet us and asked if we would like to see the facility. Sure, so we piled out for a look. Cool place with simple rooms, a few shared bathrooms, shared common eating area and library. A large yard bordered the woods with trails to a riverbed, ponds to play in. Plus breakfast included. Perfect for kids to run around and Kim and husband Steve have two young kids as well. Great, let's extend the vacation and we signed on for a night there.

After making a picnic of our sandwiches on the outside table, we set off to walk the local trails. We had a great time goofing around the general area for a few hours. No one else around at all. Nice.

One of the trails off the North Cascades Basecamp property - perfect for kids to explore. This becomes a snowshoe trail in the winter. Easy outside family fun. Amy stands guard while Ian and mom walk the plank. I'm manning the camera as usual, it's my job - somebody gotta do it.

Ian and Amy check out the swimming hole behind the North Cascades Basecamp. The water was f-f-f-freezing, but they got a kick out of playing on the log and watching tadpoles. They declared this way more fun then the swimming pool at Mazama County Inn. I'd have to agree. A short hike past the pond puts you at a rocky riverbed, where they played for quite awhile. Perfect exploring area for kids - and adults.

North Cascades Basecamp, we hope to return soon. Owners Kim and Steve are also wildlife biologists and were great to chat with. Their daughter is the same age as Amy, so they enjoyed playing together as well. Very nice place and the vibe is right up my alley. The Mazama Country Inn was cool also, no complaints at all. Next time, we'll hit the Basecamp for the entire stay though.

Ian checks out yet another smooth, fast Mazama trail.

While staying at the Mazama Country Inn, watched a lightening bolt start a fire on the ridge above the hotel. Our room had a perfect view of the festivities. After an hour or so, the helicopters arrived......

It was interesting to watch the tag team of helicopters put out the smoldering blaze. During this, Ian and rode our mountain bikes over for a closer look, with the helicopters making the u-turn back for more water right over our heads. About two miles away, we rode right next to the pond where the 'copters were picking up water, hovering and dropping the bucket in for another load.

The 29er takes in the view from local bridge. During this ride a thundershower moved in, completely soaking Ian and I. We were a few miles out, riding in street clothes and received a royal soaking. When we arrived back at the hotel, sun was out. We just laughed about it and changed out of dripping clothes.

Here Ian and Amy fight the maddening crowds of Mazama. You could get used to this pretty easy.

Ian sprints across suspension bridge on local trail. This community trail runs from Mazama to Winthrop, about 20 miles. Flat, smooth and fast. We did about half of it, then turned around. It would be fun to ride the 'cross bike to Winthrop and back for a 40 mile romp. Winthrop is a small western theme tourist town, complete with wooden sidewalks, gift shops, a few places to eat and stay, parade of RVs and loud Harleys. Okay for a quick lunch and look see, then head back to quiet Mazama.

We did a few hikes as well, some the full family, some just Ian and I. This is Blue Lake, about 20 miles outside of Mazama. We hit this on the way home. All the following pictures are from this 4 mile hike. The female half elected to have a picnic at the trail head, while Ian and I trudged up the mountain. Here I pose for a future advertisement from the Washington Board of Tourism.

Snow cone anyone? Considering it's August, doubt this will melt before winter hits once again.

Tell me Washington doesn't rock, go ahead I dare you. We have some spectacular scenery for sure.

Stunning, eh?

Truly an amazing area of the country. No doubt. In a bizarre twist of fate, ran into some fellow coworkers and bike pals on this hike. We weren't even on the main trail either, it was steep detour off it - wacky. Had no idea we were in the same area for vacation. What were the chances of being there at the exact same time? Freaky. The day before, full family hike on a different trail, another family hiking recognized us from a trip to the zoo a few days earlier. Double freaky. I guess there really is no escape, sort of like WiFi.

All in all, a fun trip. The North Cascades is a beautiful area of the good ol' USA and worth the time to explore it. Spectacular scenery and no crowds. Trails to walk and ride on, mountains to gawk at and climb. The Winthrop area also has a bike festival every October. I've never attended. The mental wheels are already turning....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Slick Road Ride

Day off work today for a 3 day weekend. I have some vacation time to use and want to do so before the kids head back to school. The summer is going by too quick. I bought Ian some skinny slicks for his mountain bike a week or so ago, today would be the day to test 'em out. Ian only has one bike, thought the slicks would make pavement riding a little more fun. I've used slicks on mountain bikes in the past and it almost makes it road bike fast. For 11 year old Ian, they'll feel plenty fast enough.

We decided to hit the Sammamish River Trail for a cruise and would leave directly from the house, leaving the family car for the female half of the clan to use for the day. I also had plans to meet some old pals for lunch in Woodinville, just off the trail. Yup, sounds like an official plan and call to be outside.

We rolled out for action, though some suburban streets for 2 miles or so, hit the trail and rode into downtown Woodinville. After our little Teriyaki fest and pal reunion, Ian and I hit the road again. Head home or continue further down the trail? We elect to ride a bit farther. It's a little hot, but pretty nice out.

The new slicks look pretty cool on Ian's bike - sorta BMX, sorta road like. They're Continental Sport Contacts in a 26" x 1.3 size. Much narrower and lighter then full dirt tires. They're also a pain in the ass to install. Some tire and rim combinations are a piece of cake - can remove and mount tires by hand, no tools required. Not these - stupid tight on the Mavic Ceramic rims, requiring tire levers and a few minutes of cursing with each wheel. Ah, the fun of it all. Maybe they'll stretch a bit now that they're mounted. I hope so, 'cause I'll probably be changing these regularly. I picked up the tires from the fine folks at Kirkland Bicycle, located strangely enough in Kirkland.

Ian sprint tests the new tires. He did notice a different over dirt tires, said the slicks feel faster and more "twitchy". Future bike magazine test rider?

We continue down the trail to the Redmond Town Center, located strangely enough in Redmond. After an ice cream break and getting a little too comfy sitting in the shade, time to saddle up for the return trip. It's now late in the afternoon, 80+ degrees, and a stiff head wind to boot. At about the 20 mile mark for the day, with the headwind, the wheels begin to fall of Ian's wagon. He's toast and we have a few miles to go, with a steep 500 foot climb back to the house to top it off. We slow to a crawl and take a few breaks.

During one of the breaks at a park along the trail, I notice an older couple on a tandem, both in their 70s or so. The husband looks pretty fit for his age, the wife didn't quite look the same. They're riding a nice Davidson tandem, complete with matching outfits - shorts and jerseys. I'm watching for at least 10 minutes while she's attempting to remount the rear of the tandem. The husband had removed the rear seat, so she could slowly slide over the rear wheel, then straddle the frame. He then reinstalled the seat, while holding the bike up, and she holding a tree for support. After an additional few minutes of her attempting to put one foot in the toe strap, then get onto the saddle, can see she has some medical issues. Maybe recovering from broken hip?

I ask if they need any help and tried to lift her on the saddle - no way. Another rider at the park joined in and we eventually got her on board. She never said a word during all this. Husband tells us they've been riding a tandem for over 30 years and she's now recovering from a stroke. Wow, that explains it. Quite the team though.

He thanks us and they wobble off back down the trail. Impressive that she's still riding, but slightly horrifying as well. I'd hate to see that rig crash. If they also stopped somewhere with no assistance, no way he'd get her back on there without help. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Even so, amazing she was out there enjoying the sun on a bike.

By now, Ian was still dragging, but riding a little better. I don't want to turn this into a death march, it's supposed to be fun, so I call the female half of the clan to pick us up. We meet at a pizza place, just two miles from the house, and skip the steep climb back up to our neighborhood. After a family shared pizza, we load up the bikes and drive home.

Still, a 27 mile ride in fairly hot weather. The longest ride Ian's ever done and he doesn't ride pavement often. Not bad for 11 years old, I think he did great. We'll hit dirt for the next ride. More fun for him, plus I get to wrestle with those tires again. Joy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Road Bike Wheelie - No Hands

Check out this no handed road bike wheelie - complete with Italian cheering. Pretty damn impressive.

AC/DC soundtrack included at no extra charge. Enjoy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dream is Dead

The dream is dead. The dream of owning a VW camper. Doesn't everyone have that dream? I looked at two VW buses today and don't think I wanna go there. Too crude. No power, no brakes, no handling. Total Fred Flintstone technology. Yabba Dabba Do Not.

The fine examples of old school VW technology I pondered today......

1970 vintage bus, pretty clean, repainted, nice interior. Motor dripping a little oil, rusty exhaust system, previous rust repair to floor - but not bad at all. I was semi-considering it, until the test drive. Unbelievably slow, huge free play in the steering, really weak brakes. The owners were nice enough to let us take it out for a test drive alone, so I piled the family in for a cruise around some quiet streets. We were cracking up the whole time - no way. Cool old bus, but welcome to the 1970 time machine. If you dialed in the steering, added a disk brake kit, then a 1835cc tricked out motor, would be a lot more fun. I don't have the time, money or motivation for that. We thanked the nice folks for their time and told 'em no thanks. Plus, they're asking $10,000 for this vintage bus. That's up there.

Earlier in the day, we checked out this 1984 Vanagon camper. Mechanical wise, great shape - rebuilt motor, transmission, clutch, brakes, front end, paint job, etc - with a stack of documentation as proof. Interior was okay, but not great. No oil leaks, nice quiet motor, it drove well. This model is water cooled and bit higher on the technology ladder compared to the air-cooled total old school VW buses. Even so, nice woman offering it for sale mentioned it won't do 70 mph on the highway. 60 is the comfy cruising speed. Ouch. She's also asking $12,500. Double ouch.

I've seen similar Vanagons modified with later model Subaru motors - much more HP. That sounds like a cool project, and a nightmare at the same time. I can only imagine what the wiring setup would look like. I ain't going there.

So, I think my long standing VW camper dream is officially dead. The amount of dough being asked for clean specimens is also on the loopy side. I'm still glad I checked 'em out, now I can move on and figure something else out car wise. Meanwhile, we're still living just fine with one family car.

To celebrate the dead dream, Ian and I took a little early evening mountain bike cruise at our local woods. Much cheaper and less complicated then old VW buses.

Yes, we have trails like this a mile from the house. Feel free to be a little envious.

We stopped for a few quick trail repair sessions - as witnessed by the stacked up branches. Ian and I blocked this to stop people from cutting the corner and widening the trail. The whole idea is Tight 'N' Twisty singletrack, is it not? The tighter and more twisty, the better I say. Why cut corners and make it easier? We fixed about 4 corners like this, a waste of riding time, but needed. With any luck, they last a few months. Most riders lazy enough to cut corners are also too lazy to move the branches. I hope.

That concludes my old VW bus report and trail use rant for today. Over and out.