Saturday, July 31, 2010

Project Trek

About two weeks ago, my neighbor emailed about a bike he noticed for sale off a motorcycle site. He said it looks perfect for Amy. I checked out the bike and sure enough, a pink 20" wheel Trek for $25. A steal for sure. After a day of voice mail tag with the guy, we drove over and picked it up. His daughter had out grown the little pink Trek and was now riding a 24" wheel Specialized. Perfect, so we forked over the dough and brought the bike home. I've been busy lately, so yesterday was the first chance I had to prep the bike for my daughter.

As purchased and ready for some cleaning and modifications. Bike is a tad big for Amy, so I had some ideas to shrink it down to size. First a quick wash, since it was a little muddy. The headset was incredibly loose, thought for sure the bearings were toast, but all was fine after some fresh grease and adjustment. I then removed the BMX style handlebars and rear hand brake, since it already had a coaster brake. No sense confusing braking matters with Amy at the moment.

After modifications and ready to roll. I cut about an inch off the seatpost, so it can be slammed down low as possible. I also slid the seat up on the rails a bit. Some old cut down mountain bike bars replaced the BMX 'bars, lowering the front end a few inches. I moved the original pink grips over to complete the look. Pretty cool, huh? Sorta like a custom chopper.

Amy in action on the new rig, she really likes it. It's still a tad big, but for buzzing around, works okay. With the aluminum frame and rims, it's fairly light as well. Plus it's pink - she digs that. Fun, quick, cheap project that worked out great. She'll be able to ride this bike for quite awhile, since I can always raise the seat and swap the BMX bars back into use. Pretty sweet deal for $25, no?

It's been a blast watching her getting into riding bikes over the last few weeks. She's having a lot of fun and learning quite a bit. Great stuff for sure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long Way to Work

Earlier riser I am not. This morning however, I was up at 5:00 AM - stupid early for me - partly due to a stiff neck. I couldn't get comfortable, so just gave up and hit the shower. I'm also pretty busy at work and thought I'd get in early for a change. After a slow breakfast and change into bike duds, I was out the door at 6:00 AM or so. Really early for me. Weather was overcast and 56 degrees. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.

Rolling along to work, kind of tired at first - this being day 6 of riding without a break - I loosened up and felt better. No rush today and I just cruised at a slow 15 mph pace with no effort at all. The Burke-Gilman Trail was less crowded then usual, but still the occasional bike commuter, jogger, or dog walker to keep me company. No pushing it all for this commute, speeds low and sightseeing high. The overcast conditions making Lake Washington look more dramatic. I could hear bald eagles in the trees, their call is unlike any other bird. Bike commuting on the Burke-Gilman, you can't ask for a much better set up. Trust me on that.

When I hit my usual trail exit that dumps me onto Seattle streets, I elected to stay on the trail and continue towards Fremont, a funky - though becoming more developed - part of Seattle. Plan to arrive at work early now canceled. Plan now to use the extra morning time for a longer ride. Yeah, that's the ticket.

I roll through Fremont along Lake Union, go under the Fremont Bridge and continue on the bike path for awhile longer - thinking I'm damn lucky to live here. Seattle is an awesome place to be a cyclist. After a bit, I turn around back through Fremont and over the bridge into downtown Seattle - a different route then I usually take. Nice change of scenery.

Even after my scenic detour, I still get to work a few minutes early and clock a 20+ mile commute. Sweet. A killer way to start the day. I'll have to take the longer route more often. It's worth getting up early for, even with a stiff neck.

Ride on.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Raising French Babies and Throwing Soft Cheeses - Adios Tour for 2010

I'm a few days late to the post Tour posting party. I'm top of that, I'm gonna cheat and reuse something I posted to Velominati earlier today. It pretty much sums it up for me, so why type up something new? Hey, it's late and I'm tired. Sue me.

Oh yeah, the Velominati site is a cool deal, populated by hard core roadies with a bit of witty humor at times. Be sure to visit.

In any case, my short, yet personal Tour summary. Break out the hankies.....

The 2010 Tour was great, one of the best in a few years. The “Lance Factor” – his last Tour, 3rd in the Prologue (possible #8?), the flat, then the crashes. I actually have more respect for Lance since Version 2. His “post retirement” era wasn’t easy – broken collarbone with surgery, the crashes and bad luck, not being the hands down force of the race – yet he raced on. The dude obviously loves the sport, otherwise why come back and suffer like that? He could be lounging in Texas counting his dough. So, dig Lance or not – you gotta give him props for that.

You also gotta give Chris Horner major kudos for his 10th place finish. The guy is one of the hardest working pros ever.

The Schleck/Contador battle was fantastic. The thrown chain incident adding to the drama. The painful chess game on the climbs. The final time trial was awesome. The first half of the TT – can Schleck pull it off? Shades of the ’89 Tour, win by a few seconds? Not to be, but it forced Contador some stress and he rode hard for the win – taking some heat off the tossed chain attack “win”.

Besides reading a bit about Schleck, I didn’t know much about him. I’m now a fan and I was pulling for him to win the Tour. His announcement that he was over the attack by Contador during his mechanical issue, and for the fans to stop booing Contador was pure class. I got a kick out of his interviews on Verses – the accent, the laid back but postive attitude, his jokes. When asked if he will watch the Tour for review – “No, I am not in love with myself”. Great stuff.

With any luck, we’ll see a repeat of the battle in 2011. Should be even more interesting with brother Frank Schleck along for support.

Oh yeah, I'll also miss this commercial. After seeing it 75,000 times during the Tour coverage, it's become a running gag with my kids.

"They're raising French babies and throwing soft cheeses, as is the custom"...

See you next year Tour DAY France, as Bob Roll would say. The Tour is an amazing spectacle indeed. The stick and ball sport fans have no clue what they're missing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Full Family Cruise

Full family ride today with everyone on two wheels. Daughter Amy seems to have finally been bitten with the riding bug. She's been asking to ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail and I thought she's been riding well enough to give it a shot, so today was the day. Son Ian joined in for the fun, as well as wife Lori - who has barely been on a bike in 12 years. She used to ride some recreationally before the kids arrived, but since then, basically nada.

Mom and Amy drove from the house to the trail, while Ian and I rode the 2 miles from home to meet them. From there we headed down the Burke-Gilman towards Seattle. Warm sunny day, so the trail was pretty crowded with plenty of bikes buzzing in both directions. I rode behind Amy to make sure she stayed on the right side of the trail, no problem there.

Amy was riding great, though at a slow pace, still not bad considering she's on a single speed kid's bike with 16" wheels. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a local Subway, ate outside, then continued farther down the trail to Matthew's Beach Park in Seattle. At the park, mom played with the kids at the playground, while I took a nap in the grass. Yeah, a tough day.

After a bit, time to head home. Amy rode the entire way back with just one Clif Bar stop. 10 miles total for her ride, pretty impressive for 6 years old, no? Even brother Ian was impressed. Mom and Amy then took the car home, while Ian and rode back - nice 1+ mile climb included.

For me, a super slow day, barely moving on the bike. So what? Having the whole gang out on two wheels, all under their own power for the first time, was great family time and big fun. Now that Amy is riding so well, more adventures to follow for sure. Added bonus of getting the wife out on the bike as well - all good.

I'll gladly give up the fast or "real ride" for some occasional family cruising. It's a great trade off with a whole different set of benefits and rewards.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mini Sting Ray - Blast from the Past and Present

Behold another example of really poor photography by yours truly - that be me. The bike however is really cool to see. Old school Schwinn mini Sting Ray with 16" wheels, guessing early '70s vintage. You don't see many with 16" wheels, most have the usual 20" wheel size. This era of bike reminds me of being a kid, as many Sting Rays and cheaper copies cruised the neighborhood "back in the day" - when kids roamed miles from home on their own.

We also converted many of these to BMX bikes with knobby tires, swapping the banana seat out for a "10 Speed" saddle and if you were lucky, actual BMX handlebars. Compared to the bikes of today, crude and heavy boat anchors. We knew no better and still had fun on 'em.

This bike belongs to our neighbors and their youngest girl takes it out occasionally. She told me she learned to ride on it, as well as her older sister, dad and uncle. Gotta love that and it's still being ridden to this day.

Bit of a bike boom on our street lately, with all the kids dragging out the two wheelers and buzzing around. Fun to watch and always great to see 'em having fun outside. No matter what the era, some things never change.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Return to Mount Si

Yesterday was Ian's birthday, now 11 years old. As per our family tradition, the Birthday Boy (or girl) gets to pick the day's activity. Ian chose to hike to the top of Mount Si, something he's never done. The wife and I, about 20 years ago, have hiked to the top. From what I remember, it was pretty steep, but not all that hard. I was in for a painful revisit.

Mount Si is located near North Bend, Washington - not all that far of a drive for us. When we moved here in 1989, North Bend was a quiet little town outside of Seattle, on the foothills of the Cascades. It became mildly famous being featured in the early '90s TV show Twin Peaks. Since the '90s, its grown quite a bit with expensive housing developments hidden in the trees, factory outlet stores, strip malls, and fast food places off Interstate 90. Nintendo also has a large facility nearby. Progress? I don't know, you be the judge on that.

Luckily, just a few blocks away from all the new development, sits the old North Bend. The small downtown looks basically the same as before, which is a cool thing. Mount Si looms above the town, maybe cringing at the factory outlet stores and gas stations.

Since we're still living with the one car experiment, the female half of the Dan O clan, elected to drop us off at the trail, then head over to the, uh, factory outlet stores for a few hours - while Ian and I went for a little walk. This little walk climbs 3700+ feet in 4 miles. Yeah, it's steep and relentless, offering no flat sections at all. Even so, this trail is one of the most popular in the area, due to the proximity to Seattle and amazing views at the top. After the official parking lot cell phone check, safety warnings, and sundial calibrations - we set off.

The trail was a bit steeper then I remembered, but not as crowded. Ian and I trudged towards the top. The first two miles were not bad, the last two had us wishing for the summit. The entire climb is in the woods with no real views, then you pop out at the top - pretty amazing.....

Not bad, huh?

3700 feet down to the bottom. Hang glider anyone?

I-90 lopes towards the Cascades.

Hey, I can see the Factory Outlets from here.....

Where's my bike?

After spending some time at the top, eating sandwiches and poking around, including finding one Geocache - time to head down. I was hoping for the possibility of a helicopter shuttle service, but that was not to be. Going down was tougher then climbing up. You're constantly fighting gravity and hopping over rocks and roots. You'd think bike commuting 150 miles a week would make this a breeze - think not. My legs were screaming toast halfway down. Of course Ian felt fine, running and jumping over stuff, leaving me in the dust.

The last mile was torture. When it comes down to it, compared against mountain biking, hiking is slow motion torture. My brain is so wired to riding, as I'm walking the trail - I'm picking lines that I would take on my bike - which roots to hit straight on, rocks to hop over, where to brake and nose wheelie turn for switchbacks. None of that applies at the moment, just plod on, one step at a time. Super hiker I am not. I was impressed by people running the trail - up and down. Yikes.

Still, all in all, a fun day - certainly one Ian should remember. The female crew met us in the parking lot and we headed for home, with a stop for pizza included. Afterwards, a late night birthday apple pie for all. We all hit the sack exhausted. 8+ mile hikes and factory outlet stores will do that to you.

I woke up today feeling like I went a few rounds in a UFC fight. My legs feel like they've been tenderized with a ball peen hammer. Completely ridiculous. I am a one trick pony, since all I do is ride - nothing else. I should fit in some kind of cross training to balance things out.

Either that, or just make sure anytime I hit the woods, I'm on my bike....

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Tour - Double Meaning

Ian and I played tour guide today for a ride at St Ed/Finn Hill, our local wooded stomping grounds. Fellow bike nut and work pal, Brian, scheduled to met us, along with his pal Rob - new to mountain biking, but has been hitting the road a bit and comes complete with a BMX background at no additional charge. Brian and Rob are also band mates, playing in a band titled Fall on Fall. Brian actually plays in a few bands - pretty cool.

When Ian and I headed over to the park, cloudy and 63 degrees - a nice break from the 90+ degrees we experienced last week. I bike commuted almost every day last week and was dragging by Friday. Took two days off and today I felt pretty good. We gave Brian and Rob the full tour, about 12 or so miles of fun singletrack. Newbie Rob did just fine, as did Brian. Despite a mid ride upset stomach, Ian rode great today. He has a habit of almost draining his entire Camelback in the beginning of the a ride (burp). He wound up with a 15 mile day, almost all of it singletrack. He continues to impress me with his riding, especially for a 10 year old. That's my boy!

My 29er experiment also continues and I dig more after every ride. I'd now consider myself converted - for hardtails - there's no going back to 26" wheels. The 29er rolls faster, feels smoother, and is more stable. Sometimes on a really tight switchback, you can feel the extra length - but not a big deal. For my alleged riding style, it all works great. This was maybe my 10th ride on the rig and it's flowing nice. I can even wheelie it now, which felt a little weird before. Overall, I'm totally digging the 29er deal. Yabba Dabba Do.

After heading home, we checked out the other Tour - the real one - as in France. Watched the Verses coverage and Lance take a beating - 3 crashes in one day. I don't think Lance crashed 3 times in the previous 8 Tours. In any case, he is out of the running now - many minutes down. It was cool to see Andy Schleck take the stage win and Cadel Evens get a yellow jersey. Lance will presumably work for Levi now, who is still in the GC running.

Seeing Lance continue on in his battered and beaten state, actually makes me more of a fan then when he was untouchable. Say what you want about him - the doping allegations, only focusing on the Tour, whatever - the Lance version 2 has proven to be the real deal, bad-ass, pro rider. I doubt we'll see anyone else pull off 7 Tour wins in a row anytime soon - if ever. In some ways, Lance is the Eddy Merckx of our generation, and there's no denying what he's contributed to cycling - especially in the U.S.

I for one, will miss him in next year's Tour.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Amy Rides On

Daughter Amy, all of 6 years old, is getting more interested in riding her bike. She graduated to removing the training wheels a few months ago, but only occasionally asked to ride her bike since. Over the last week or so, she's been dragging out her incredibly small pink Specialized and riding up and down our quiet street, lap after lap. Bike is too small now, but she rides it anyway. The old school Schwinn we uncrated a few weeks ago is too big and heavy for her at the moment.

Today, our neighbor loaned us a bike that fits her perfect - a 16" wheel Trek Jet. It's actually my son Ian's first bike that he learned to ride on. I gave the bike to my neighbor a few years ago, for their son to ride. He's since outgrown it, so now Amy is riding it. Very cool to see kid number 3 on the little Trek now. That will eventually turn into kid number 4 when the neighbor's youngest son grows into it. Thanks Trek for providing a quality kids bike.

Amy is now asking to ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail with me and I think she's ready to roll on a real ride. That'll happen soon and if she's interested, maybe she'll follow in Ian's footsteps (pedal strokes?) and hit some singletrack with us one day. That would be amazing.

Above, official blurry cell phone shot of Amy peeling into a corner like a pro. Go Amy go.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Walking the Dog

Caught a link to this video off the Rivendell site. Goofy and fun video.

What I like about it - conveys that bike riding is about fun. No death metal soundtrack, cobbles, or even helmets required. Just get out and buzz around the neighborhood, like being a kid again.

Being like a kid again - always a good thing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bicycle Quarterly Magazine

I just finished reading the summer edition of Bicycle Quarterly. I always enjoy reading this publication and this issue was just as interesting as previous editions. Only published four times a year, its a little expensive at $8.50 a copy, or $30 a year for a subscription. I've been cheating and borrowing copies from a fellow work pal and bike fan. It's a cool magazine, I need to pony up order a subscription myself.

Bicycle Quarterly is not the usual bicycle magazine. I jokingly refer to it as Vintage Bike Porn, since the mag focuses a lot on vintage bikes and articles. It's not all about old bikes however, newer bikes are reviewed and featured as well - most with a randonneur influence. Bikes designed for real world use - fast, but with fenders, lights and racks.

Modern racing bikes are also featured, with some coming under criticism for not fitting most riders real needs, and I would have to agree with some of that. Many riders would be better off on a randonneur style bike instead of a full race bike. At times though, they seemed to really biased towards the "vintage is better" mindset, and that is cool in its own way, even if you don't agree with it. They actually have a point of view and will openly criticize a bike or component and that's refreshing compared to the "everything is great" view other magazines seem to have - or maybe are afraid to offend a few advertisers.

The magazine also goes into really detailed analysis on subjects like frame geometry, frame flex in relation to performance, and other topics that are interesting to read. Mix in stories on people, travel, vintage history - and you have something to actually sit down and read - instead of the usual 20 minute magazine flip though.

Vintage to modern bikes, travel, kids feature, history and tech features in the latest issue.

Simple layout, black and white graphics give this magazine a classy, retro look.

Jan Heine is the editor of this great magazine, along with various contributors. An added bonus for me is that it's Seattle based, so I recognize some of the rides and testing routes featured. I actually met Jan once while I was riding home from work. I recognized him from the mag and we chatted for a bit waiting for a light to change. Cool little visit.

As you can tell, I really enjoy this magazine. It's not the usual bicycle mag, and trust me, I read many - and have for years. This one is out of the ordinary and even if you're not into vintage bikes, give it a go. It's worth the time for the other features as well.

I'll be signing up for the official subscription soon. People putting out this kind of quality deserve the support and business - no doubt.

The Tour - Stages 2 and 3

Yeah, Crashes-O-Plenty for Stage 2. At first I though the protest finish was a little lame.

Then after looking at it from the aspect of most of the favorites went down – Tour tradition is about the strongest rider winning – not being taken out by a crash. Okay, now I see it. Sort of large scale Lance and Jan scenario, back when they repaid each other after crashing out in previous Tours, and actually waiting for each other.

Then I heard Levi Leipheimer's post race interview about what mayhem it was – granted I'm sure – but then complaints about the team directors losing contact, having no TVs, so they didn’t know what was happening. That twisted my thinking back to its a race – screw the electronics – and get on with it.

All is okay though after watching Stage 3. Kick ass, tough stage – the real deal. Should cobbles be in a Tour stage? Hell, yes. Adds some drama and excitement. Do I want to see people get hurt? Of course not – but that’s part of the game. Too bad for Frank Schleck – that sucks, but part of the racing deal. Busted collarbones are never fun.

I don’t know why people assumed Contrador would fall apart over some cobbles. The dude is pro and lives on his bike. Gotta admit Lance looked bad ass – covered in dirt and bandages – flying through the race traffic, catching back up after the flat. Cool stuff.

Man, the Tour rocks…..

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Duthie Revisit - Lance #8?

Another visit to Duthie Mountain Bike Park today, as per son Ian's request. He really likes riding the place, as do other kids - as witnessed by the number of 'em spotted there. I've never seen a place so populated by young mountain bikers. That is always a good scene.

Our neighbors met us there for the ride as well - first visit for them. They dug it big time, since they're more into the downhill deal, with may trips to Whistler under their belts. They declared Duthie as a great Whistler warm up. Neighbor Dan at 55 years old, more of the recreational rider type - super nice guy also. His son, Seth, all of 20 years old, rides the full downhill/freeride rig. He nailed a few nice big drops at the park today.

Ian, who turns 11 very soon, really likes the flow type downhill trails - especially the bermed sections. At times, he'll get a little ahead on the tighter, faster corners, and actually lose me for a bit. How cool is that? As we both age, he'll get faster, I'll get slower. Eventually, he'll kick my ass. I give that just a few short years. That's okay with me.

So far, no jumping for him - he rolls over most everything - and that's fine with me - and our health insurance coverage. Jumper I am not, so I roll the jumps as well. I'll occasionally get a little air, but nothing like actual downhill types.

Here we watch Unknown Dude nail some Duthie jumps

Earlier today, I watched the Tour Prologue on Verses - first day of the Tour - as in de France. Pretty cool that Lance grabs 4th place overall - nice. Like Lance or not, he is a Tour icon with 7 Tour wins, and he adds some excitement to the race. The recent doping allegations by Floyd Landis dampen some of the myth - if true. Until proven true, if ever - I'll enjoy watching Lance in his final Tour. This should be an interesting Tour, I'm looking forward to see how it all pans out.

Watching the fastest pros in the world is fun. Riding for real with people you care about - even more fun.