Saturday, April 30, 2011

Back in the Saddle



A week or two ago, John - an old pal from my Mackie Design days - emailed me with a list of links from Craigslist, looking for a used mountain bike. John hasn't ridden in years, after a serious mountain bike crash with injuries, but was looking to ride again. Out of the list, a late '90s model Kona looked decent. John later picked it up for a fair price, and I told him I'd check it out once he purchased it. Today would be the day.

The Kona appeared to be the low mileage deal; aluminum frame, lower end Marzocchi fork, Avid v-brakes, XT rear derailleur, STX everywhere else. After checking it over, found the shifting to be off - way off. The rear 8 speed operating like a 4 speed. The STX shifter itself seemed to be toast. I took the shifter apart, though not fully, and it appeared okay. We called a local shop, hoping to score an old school Shimano 8 speed shifter. Bike shop dude said to try soaking the shifter in solvent, they sometimes gum up. I'm thinking no way that's gonna do anything, but we give it a shot. After a short bath in Pedros degreaser - poof - 4 speed now clicking like an 8 speed. Wacky, learn something new everyday. After new derailleur cable to replace fraying old one, all is shifting as intended.

Front shifting also needed some work. After some derailleur tweaking and Pedros bath on the left shifter, working as well. Checked the rest of the bike out, changed grips, set saddle height, pumped up the air fork - and it was ready to roll - with John giving it the thumbs up. Picture above as proof. Pretty cool to get an old bike and pal on the trail. A cheap way to test the mountain bike waters once again. If it doesn't work out, or an upgrade is deemed in order, could resell the Kona and recoup the investment. Good cheap all around fun.

A few hours after the wrench fest, sun setting, I hit the local woods for a quick solo spin. My favorite riding pal, son Ian, whacked again with a nice head cold - second one in 3 weeks - skipped the ride for some rest. This also being my first ride post dental surgery - all systems go - occasional twinge, but no real pain. Excellent.

This ride not mentioned for health reasons, but for something a bit more comical. As I was cruising through the grassy park section of St Eds, noticed some guy flying an RC plane. I stopped to watch for minute, him buzzing the plane behind me, kinda low over my head. While I was thinking maybe he that intentionally, 3 seconds later, plane slams into the empty seminary building - about two stories up - with a healthy sound of shattering plastic and styrofoam. As the pieces slide down the wall, engine revving for added effect, into the ground - can't help but to grin a little. Pretty entertaining. I ride off as the dude walks towards the scale sized wreckage.

As I head back into the woods, still laughing a bit about the RC plane spectacle, ride past an older woman walking with a cane on the singletrack. I give her a polite "How are you doing", and she responds with a "I'm just glad to be outside."

Yup, I'd have to agree with that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Missing Teeth, Paris-Roubaix, Commute Team - Combination Plate


I was dreading today - scheduled visit with dentist to get a tooth yanked out - it being cracked beyond repair. Removal also required deciding on how to replace it. Leave a gap, get a bridge, or go for the dental implant. All choices requiring pain and money involvement. No getting around it.

Implant was huge out of pocket cost for me, but I went for it. Doctor and crew did a great job, it's basically minor surgery. Tooth removed, hole drilled into jawbone, titanium screw implanted, bone graft packed, then stitched up and outta the chair in no time. Felt nothing during the process, no pain at all, even with Doc twisting out tooth with expensive pliers, cracking sounds included at no extra charge.

Now a few hours later, numbing drugs long worn off, I still feel great - nothing an Advil can't cover. Amazing. My defective head even feels clearer, gotta wonder how much energy is wasted fighting a busted tooth over the course of weeks - probably months. After some healing time, another trip to the dentist for the artificial tooth, that threads into the titanium post. As mentioned, even with 50% insurance coverage, crazy expensive. That little chunk of titanium now threaded into my jaw, could have been a titanium Moots hanging in the garage. Oh well, gotta have teeth. How else could I chew Clif Bars?

While crashed on the couch for a few hours to recover, finally had time to watch the Paris-Roubaix race I recorded weeks ago on Versus. Paris-Roubaix is one of my favorite races of the year. Road bikes, cobbles, mud and/or dust, much crashing and general two wheeled mayhem and destruction. For the roadie scene, war on wheels. Was fantastic to see non-favorite Johan Van Summeren snatch the win from race favorites, then propose to his girl at the finish line. Great story. Race favorite Fabian Cancellara pulled off a heroic second place finish after a tough race as the marked man. As usual, race commentary provided by the dynamic duo of Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett. For me, they are the official voice of pro cycling coverage.





Speaking of Paris-Roubaix; caught this cool little film off the Velonews site. Being the former bike mechanic and motorcycle nut, combined with acute bicycle obsession - this pushes all my buttons. Next to racing it, doing moto support for something like Roubaix or the Tour, would be incredible. Where do I sign up?


Finally, the month of May is just around the corner. For the 8th year in a row, I put together a team at work to compete in the Group Health Commute Challenge, put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club. Teams and individuals compete against each other for commuting mileage, most round trips, and other methods of measuring bike commuting goodness. It's a great event and continues to grow every year. I'm coming off my lamest winter in years, so looking forward to getting the commuting miles under my expanding belt once again.

That's all for now bike comrades. Ride on, ride often. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Junior Team Ride - Here Comes the Sun



Saturday morning Ian and I hosted a mountain bike training/fun ride for his junior team. I posted a notice on the team site late in the week, even so, we had a few people attend. Ian and Anders, pictured post ride above. Teammate WIll and his dad rode with us for a short while, then needed to bail to join his high school team ride. Garth, head honcho for Northwest Velo, joined the shindig as well.

After all the rain and cold temps we've been living with for weeks now, weather was spectacular for the ride. Full on sun and temps in the 60s. Dry trails, no mud, fast conditions. Perfect-O. We buzzed singletrack for two hours, then called it a day. A good day I may add. It was fun to show these folks our local trails at St Ed/Big Finn Hill.

I'm looking to host more of these team rides over the spring and summer. I really enjoy getting these kids out on mountain bikes. I'll set up more rides as time allows, again at St Ed/Big Finn Hill and other nearby areas. It all adds up to all around bike goodness. Juniors on the team with little mountain bike experience gain singletrack time, Ian gets to ride with kids/teammates around his age, and I get to witness it all - while riding myself.

As the corporate types would say, "A win win situation." I think you'd agree.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ibis Mojo SL-R




Welcome to Bike Lust 101, well, my version anyway. Behold the newly released Ibis Mojo SL-R in all its carbon fiber glory. I've wanted a Mojo since being released from the reincarnated Ibis a few years ago. The SL-R is the latest edition, now the frame weight is under 5 pounds - for 5.5 inches of travel. Sweet. Oh yes it is.

Frame alone is $2499. Out of my ball park for at least - oh - the next 10 years or so. Factory build kits range from SLX for $4099, to full blown XTR for a mere $6599, to SRAM XX for only $6674. Chump change for Donald Trump, laughably unaffordable to all around family guy like me. Bikes have gotten loopy expensive, like pretty much everything else in life.

If any Secret Santas are out there, I'll take the XTR version. Just saying Mojo SL-R with XTR is almost worth the price of admission. Size large if you're keeping track. Easter is just around the corner, maybe the Easter Bunny can bring me one. I'll even skip the chocolate eggs and jelly beans to compensate.

Please?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

After Work Woods Ride - Yes Please

video


Spring is still trying to emerge here in the Pacific Northwest. Trees are springin' leaves, the days are getting longer, yet we've been barely able to break 50 degrees most days. Lots of on/off rain added for additional enjoyment. Not bad when I arrived home from work today though - driving, not riding - my bike commute routine has been toast for months. My lamest riding winter in years. I'll come around though, no worry there.

So, arrived home to 55 degrees and sun. Almost summer like compared to the last few weeks. Wife and daughter out for a bit, son Ian suffering through homework. Let's hit the woods - so after a quick change, off we go. Slightly muddy conditions, but not bad at all. Ian looking pro with his clipless pedals and team jersey. I still get a big grin following him through the woods. Today, he occasionally buzzed off the front out of my view. He's getting faster and stronger all the time. In a few short years, he'll be dropping me like a bad habit.

We stayed out a little longer then expected, almost dark for the return trip. Ran into our neighbor Rich, serious triathlete dude and all around nice guy, and talked bikes for awhile. I've been trying to get him on a mountain bike to share a few rides. Hopefully soon.

Short video clip of Ian on our downhill log drop section, a fun section of trail. I was too lazy to edit off the first few seconds of the clip. Enjoy the setting sun through the trees, while waiting for Ian to ride into view.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rockin' and Racin' - Singletrack Cycles Final




The full weekend of rock and racing has come to a close. I don't mean Rock Racing, I'm talking rock and racing as separate entities - though you can race and rock at the same time. Everybody knows that. I'm referring to actual live, loud rock; as in I hope you brought ear protection, 'cause you're gonna need it rock.

Pre-kids, years ago, I attended a fair amount of rock shows. Into the bar scene I was not, it was a necessary evil to witness local music however, so I'd be in/out as soon the show ended. It was about the music, not hanging around some scene - not that there's anything wrong with that. Once the kids arrived, time and interest for such festivities fell off the map. I still remain a rock fan and receive my usual dose via iPod action. Good enough for me.

Recently, one of my old Mackie Designs (and mountain biking pal) Brian picked up the guitar again. He joined forces with a few other ex-Mackiods and began jamming. The jamming has turned into official gig dates at local clubs, so I checked one out on Saturday night; along with yet another old Mackie friend, Rupp as we call him, sharing the drive down to Tacoma with me.

Brian's band is Powerhitter, a trio, just play super heavy metal type riffs - no vocals - with a bit of a groove though. First time I've been out like this in years, so it was fun and stupid loud. They put on a good show and I got a kick out of seeing an old pal on stage crunching out the riffs. Brian pictured above (minus beer) with drummer Kevin (with beer). Out of the multi-band line up, they were my favorite outta the bunch. Killer job.



Powerhitter hits the stage, captured via crappy cell phone camera. All other rock images of the night captured via borrowing Facebook posts from the unsuspecting.



Headlining the night at Hell's Kitchen, yes - Hell's Kitchen - was Blistered Earth, a Metallica tribute band fronted by yet another old school Mackoid; Brad Hull. Brad is known a bit from the Seattle metal scene and is a damn talented guitarist. I am somewhat a Metallica fan, but not really big on tribute bands, though these guys have it down. The crowd dug it for sure.



Blistered Earth cranks up the temperature in Hell's Kitchen. Family night out, this is not.



Here's Mr. Hull, mid head bang, hard at work.



After getting more then a night's worth of sonic blast, risking a cheeseburger from Hell's Kitchen itself, I called it a night at 1:00 AM leaving Blistered Earth in mid set. With an hour drive home, and Ian's mountain bike race just a few hours away - enough for me. It was great to see some old friends and revisit with my pal Rupp during the drive to and from the Rock-O-Thon. I wound up hitting the sack around 2:15 AM with the alarm set for 6:00 AM. Ouch. Drinking type I'm not, so no pain there - just the sheer pain of no sleep involved.


Time to shift gears, literally and figuratively, back to normal family life and yes, bike racing. You know it, you love it, you can't live without it. Being semi-smart, knowing I'd get home late, race supplies collected and piled earlier, ready for Sunday morning transport. I also copied the directions to the race site via Google, since we've never been to this location, near Maple Valley.

My alarm set for 6:00 AM, though Ian wakes me at 5:50 AM. Ouch. We're out the door and headed south with time to spare. As we get close to the race site, Google directions send me on a unplanned tour of rural Maple Valley. The directions are actually incorrect and we're officially lost. With the 9:00 AM race start looming, stress level begins to percolate. Not fun. I call home for assistance. Wife saves the day by cranking up the home computer and supplies the correct directions, via Mapquest. Man, we're cutting it close - we're talking minutes.

We arrive with barely enough time to unload bikes, register, suit up, and pee in the woods (as nature intended). Never mind warming up or pre-riding the course. I get Ian to the line about 1 minute before lift off. Good luck, have fun, see you at the finish.



Off they go. Due to the late line up, Ian hugging the edge of the gravel road, not exactly a great starting position. Considering we almost missed the race, we'll take it. Ian's U-12 class mixed in with other ages for a mass group start. The more the merrier.



Gidean once again grabs first place for boys, U-12. This kid is quick for 10 years old. I spent some time talking to his parents, nice folks. Two wheeled fanatics they all are. Dad races mountain bikes, 'cross, downhill and motocross. Mom also races and coaches one of the new high school racing teams. Cool, eh?



A few minutes later, Ian crosses the line in second place, complete with raised arms. Said this was the best course of the series. Also mentioned two tip overs due to clipless pedals learning curve in progress, plus one official crash with a nice shot to the groin. Doh! Still wants to use clipless pedals and race however. Yup, that's my boy.



Fellow JL Velo teammate Mike, rolls in with a second place finish in the 13-18 age class. Nice race for him as well.



A few other JL Velo juniors also raced. Here brothers Mitchell and Trey laugh about something with Mike - boys will be boys. About 30 juniors total ride for JL Velo - awesome.



With the second place finish today, Ian scored second overall for the series. Gidean nabs first overall, while his brother Titus pulls in for fourth overall. Third place kid appears to have cut out early. All these kids did a great job, hitting multiple races to accumulate points towards a bigger goal.



Teammate Mike parallels Ian in the 13-18 division. Second place for today and second overall for the series. Great riding and fun to watch the results.



Ian displaying the accolades of his work, pretending not to be freezing cold. We've had some freaky weather this spring, cold and wet. Some people mentioned seeing snow in their areas that morning.



Pretty cool looking trophy. Big kudos for Budu Racing, they post the results in minutes after each race, awards shortly after, then results posted online the same day. Fantastic job. Other race promoters could learn a few things from these folks. We'll be back next year for sure. Now that this race series is complete, I'll scan the calendar for future mountain bike events. Ian had a blast, learned a few things and is ready for more action. Me too - as in supporting Ian and getting my own ass out there.



Started this post with head banging metal, will end it with puppy cute bike fluff to even things out. This is our neighbor Corey, all of 5 years old, first time riding without assistance. Another cyclist emerges from the training wheels cocoon. The little Trek he's cruising has a bit of neighborhood history. It was Ian's first bike, then given to Aiden, Corey's older brother, to ride. Aiden outgrew in time for my daughter Amy to use it. Now Corey is putting more miles on the little Trek. When he's done with it, we'll see where it winds up next.

With that, I'm outta here. Rock on and ride on....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Steve Banks Collection - Vintage Mountain Bikes





While checking out the latest edition of Bicycle Quarterly magazine, came across an article by a fellow named Steve Banks. With that, a link to his site that contains a pretty cool collection of vintage mountain bikes. Models from Cunningham, Fisher, Ibis, Breezer, Mountain Goat, and other brands from the very early days of mountain biking - complete with photos and in some cases video, describing the history of the bike.

If you're into vintage mountain bikes, worth a peek. The bikes are also for sale, according to the article and website. Maybe start your Christmas shopping a little early.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Singletrack Cycles - Westside Series Race #5

Second weekend in a row traveling to the Tacoma area for mountain bike racing action, both races at Fort Steilacoom Park. Last week for the first ever high school league race, this Sunday for race # 5 of the Singletrack Cycles - Westside Series. It's been a super rainy spring here in the Pacific Northwest, we've lucked out for the racing however - cloudy skies, but the rain held off.

Ian was down for the count for two days previous to the race with a bad cold. He still wanted to race, to at least collect series points, being only 10 points of first place in his age devision. I loaded up the car the night before and told Ian we'll see how feels on race morning. He was up at 6:00 AM wanting to roll, even though he still he didn't feel 100%. Parent in me wanted to cancel the day, bike nut in me realizes Ian's interest in doing well in the series.

So, off we go. Plan was if not feeling well, just cruise the course, finish and rack up some points. Once we arrived and he rode around a bit, said he felt fine. This was also his first race using clipless pedals. Pre-riding part of the course, had one slow speed tip over. I offered to swap the pedals for platforms, we still had time; nope - he elected to go with the clipless setup.



Ian lines up with a few other JL Velo teammates. Ian racing U-12, one lap of the course - about 4 miles. Teammates racing 13-18 division; 2 laps for them.



Gidean, racing for Team Motofish, once again grabs first place in U-12 division. A very fast 10 year old. Ian and Gidean have been finishing close together in previous races. Today, Gidean was minutes ahead - great ride.



Mike, JL Velo teammate, rolls in for the 3rd place finish in the 13-18 division. A solid ride. Will, not pictured, scored a 2nd place spot for the team as well.



Jarrett rolls towards the finish in the 13-18 division. Always awesome to see these young racers out there. Mountain bike racing is fun, but not easy.



Ian, third to the left, cruising in for his 5th place finish in his U-12 class. Not a bad show for racing sick and rocking the clipless pedals; said he ran up some hills in fear of not being able to unclip midway. I give him credit for wanting complete the series and score as many points as possible. After today, he's still in second place overall - great job.



My little racer, recovering after the race. Any guilt associated with having him race feeling a little sick now gone. He had a good time and was glad to pile on series points. On the way home, shared a quick McDonald's stop with teammate Will and his dad. Overall, another good day out on bikes.


Next week is the final race of the series, visiting Black Diamond once again. We're looking forward to it. See you out there.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pearl Pass Tour 1980

Ibis, one of my favorite bike companies of all time, is celebrating 30 years in business. As part of the celebration, they've been posting company history on their website - killer website, by the way - with a 30/30/30 feature. As in 30 years, 30 days, 30 stories.

Scot Nicol, founder of Ibis, was there at the birth of mountain biking, along with the other famous folk who kicked this whole knobby tire shindig off. Ibis the company, has also been there from the beginning, and chronicles the history of the sport itself.

Ibis featured this video as part of their 30/30/30 feature and I couldn't help but to repost it. Being an old school mountain biker myself (since '84), I get a huge kick out of the bikes and vibe of this look back. Crested Butte to Aspen via Pearl Pass would be considered an epic ride even today, never mind on the equipment featured here.

With that introduction, sit back and enjoy. Watching that old school wheelie in the beginning of the video, made my whole day. Guy juggling on his bike, right after wheelie dude flies by, is Scot Nicol himself...






Mount second reel for Part II...





In a lot ways, mountain biking hasn't changed much since 1980. Sure - some of the innocence has been lost, the bikes are light years nicer, there's less tube socks and beards involved - but when you're out with a bunch of friends bombing through the woods - it's exactly the same. The camaraderie, the thrills 'N' spills, being outside, exerting yourself on climbs, grinning like an idiot on the descents.

Doesn't matter if it's 1980 or 2011. And that is still freaking cool, no matter what the era.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Washington High School Cycling League - Race #1




As mentioned in a previous post, I vowed to get involved with the Washington High School Cycling League once it starting rolling. Well, I lived up to that promise and volunteered at the first ever event in Washington held this weekend. Race site being Fort Steilcoom Park near Tacoma, Washington. I officially signed on to be a Course Marshal for the inaugural event. At least I can say I was there for a bit of mountain bike history.

To refresh your memory, NICA, is a national based organization promoting high school mountain bike racing. A few states have been on board for awhile now, with hugely successful programs. Hundreds of kids racing for themselves and their respective high school teams. Things are just starting to get off the ground here, with an incredible amount of work being done since the Leadership Summit held in January. Kudos to Lisa Miller and other involved folks to get this deal flying in a short amount of time. From what I hear, there are 17 high school teams forming or in progress. That number soon to grow.



Official Washington High School Cycling League tent stocked with goodies for volunteers.



"MP 8", my official manning station for a few hours. World's biggest official orange vest keeping my 29er seat warm. Official Specialized course tape marks the route. I even had an official race radio. Yep, all of it pretty official. To the left, out of view; official fenced dog running park. A few dog walking types asked what was going on. All were supportive when I gave 'em the low down. Hey, who can get cranky with anything involving kids?



High school boys roll out for the start, following official adult volunteer type. Get ready to rumble.



Off they go! About a 4 mile lap, don't recall how many laps per age group. Racers ranged from kids on department store bikes with soccer jerseys, to experienced racers gunning it for their high school. Inexperienced types outnumbered the "pros" by far, which is great to see. The program is all about kids getting out there, no matter the skill or equipment level.



Rad Racing kid ripping it for his school. Having kids like this on your team provides some fantastic coaching and riding advice to the newbies.



Baggy shorts 'N' sneakers on a decent mountain bike would describe most of the racers. Nothing wrong with that. SRAM banners, finishing tent and race announcer, all provide a pro experience for the kids.



More experienced racer powering towards the finish; now his experience assisting his high school team. How cool is that?



I watched these two boys sprint towards the finish, then let up, crossing the line with joined raised salute. Awesome.



About 50 kids total raced today, most boys and a few girls. This entire high school racing shindig is prepared to take off. The seeds have been planted. By next season, you'll see hundreds of Washington State high schoolers duke it out on various courses. I guarantee that - mark my words. It's already happened in other states, it will also happen here.

Next race is scheduled for May 1st, location yet specified. I plan to be at that event assisting as well. This program is fantastic and well worth the volunteer donated time and effort. I can only imagine how this program will mature by the time my kids hit high school. Flat out awesome scene to get kids on bikes, taste some racing, and create some spill over interest to siblings and parents.

I feel honored to have a played a small part in it all.

Welcome to Clipless Town

While at the Bike Expo a few weeks ago, scored Ian a pair of Specialized SPD compatible shoes for 40% off, courtesy of the Bicycles West booth. I already had a pair of Shimano 505 pedals in the garage - presto - Ian goes clipless. He's been riding for years and doing just fine with platform pedals, however as most of you already know - once you go clipless - there ain't no going back.

Plan was to let Ian test 'em out for a few rides. If he felt they improved his riding, awesome. If not, no pressure - back to the platform pedal and sneaker combo. Of course, kids being sponges at learning new things, going clipless appears to be no problem. A few weeks ago, late one afternoon, I bolted up the SPD cleats to the new shoes, popped the 505 pedals onto his mountain bike, strapped spiffy new shoes to his feet - and instant issues clipping into the pedals. Closer inspection reveled a few millimeters of sole needed to be shaved off, Dremel tool to the rescue.

After buzzing off some plastic sole, attempt number two goes a little smoother, even with a few awkward clip in/out practice moves in the yard. Then after 15 minutes or so, he's rolling around like a pro. "Can we go in the woods?" Ah, it's getting dark, but sure let's give it a quick spin. We roll down to the local woods in street clothes and hit the singletrack for 20 minutes. Besides one slow speed tip over from stalling on a climb, he's riding just fine on clipless pedals. We still elect to go with platform pedals for the race last weekend however. Go with what you know for now.

One night last week, Ian and I hit the local woods for a ride - clipless setup now reinstalled. We did our usual hour plus loop at a decent pace. He did just fine on the new set up. Plus, placebo effect or not, he's seems a bit faster on 'em. He likes 'em and says they feel "faster". With the platform pedals, his feet were all over place, often pedaling on the arch of his foot. Now with the ball of his foot attached to where it should be, I even had to raise his saddle a bit, he's getting a little more power. Yeah, we all know this, but news to an 11 year old.

Yesterday, more buzzing around the yard to speed up the SPD route into Clipless Town...



"These feel faster" as quoted by Ian. The blurring of the camera as proof.



Spiffy, complete with mud from previous ride. The colors even match his bike combo. Pretty pro, eh?



Small log in yard provides bunny hop practice. Houston, we have lift off.



I'll get him out for a few rides this week to bump the confidence factor up a tad higher; then we'll go clipless for the next race. Should be interesting, as kids always are. Ride on.