Saturday, May 7, 2016

Glut Glutton


It's summer in Portland, or at least it feels like it, and the streets are brimming with cyclists and other active road users.  It's good to see everyone looking healthy and like they're having fun.  As a community, we've been working hard to encourage more people to bike and it's really happening!  However, some more seasoned cyclists, those who've been in Portland for some time, riding for a while, and who regularly brave bad weather, can feel frustrated at the sudden crowd in the bike lane.
 
Portland has experienced a huge boom lately with a large influx of new population.  Who could blame anyone for moving here, it's a great place.  It's our job as current residents to show them the way Portlanders act, which is welcoming and friendly and just pure fun-lovin.  It's also our job to show them that cyclists are courteous, which includes running stop signs in a safe and non-cutting-other-people-off way, and that above all, we enjoy riding our bikes and they can too.

I had an idea during a recent pilgrimage to check out the new Copenhagen-esque North Williams bike corridor.  This is a great game to ward off the feeling of being edged out by the new crowd of cyclists.  Pull up to a light and stop (providing the light is red and you feel like stopping).  Check out the other cyclists around you.  What are they riding?  What are they wearing?  You might catch yourself judging someone's Huffy or feeling jealous of someone's carbon racer.  You might start thinkin one guy's seat is too low, while that other gal's seat is too high. 

What if you look at this small group of riders as your new, temporary (very temporary) bike gang?  This is the group with whom you'll be fighting zombies, rescuing children, foraging for food, crossing rivers and scaling rock faces.  Suddenly you'll see the riders in a different light.  Maybe you'll realize you're the oldest rider at the light, and although you're proud of your fitness, when the chips are down you might be the weakest link.  Or maybe you'll end being their leader and help them survive by showing them how to fix flat tires and outrun zombies.

Whatever the case, this is your new bike gang and everyone will somehow fit in and contribute to your gang.  Maybe that guy on a Huffy is a doctor and the lady with the weird brakes is a nutritionist who can show everyone where to find berries.  Maybe your prowess in flat fixing will be elevated to a higher level if you're the only in the group who can do small mechanical bike repairs.  Each of you will have a valuable contribution to the group.  Keep on keepin on people and have some fun!



Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Good Day For Knee Socks, or, An Epic Ride

Built in the 1930s, this old Pacific rail line once connected the Oregon coast and Portland.  Flooded and repaired, flooded and repaired, it was finally abandoned and left for nature to grow over it. 

As we set out to ride this future rails-to-trails project that morning, I thought riding on the pilings between the tracks would be the worst part of the day.  I was wrong.  By the end of the day, any section of clear pilings to bump over felt like pure luxury. 

We invented a new term that day: bushpacking.  Our credo: "you don't have to ride a bike, but you must bring one".  The bike was useful in helping me navigate steep climbs on foot, including a muddy cliff with a knotted rope, and it also made a nice water and snack carrier.  Otherwise, it was almost completely useless on this epic adventure. The word epic is often overused, but in the case of this particular adventure, it was perfectly appropriate. 

One rider carried a machete, but the woods were too thick for it.  We scrambled and rested, scrambled and rested.  One treacherous creek crossing featured a deeper than apparent current that almost took my bike away, and gave me a bloody ankle. 

Finally, we could go no further.  We hadn't seen the tracks in some time, and had been scrambling over boulders between a loud rushing river and a steep stone cliff.  There was nowhere else to go, so we turned back. 

We found a gravel road we hadn't seen before and hoped it would take us out of the river valley and back to civilization.  It did, but only after a 45 minute walk up an extremely steep hill.  I had been craving even one solid minute of bike riding all day and was pretty sad when we found a rideable surface that didn't have a rideable grade.

Finally at the top, and nearing dark, we mounted up and rolled east.  Sitting on the saddle never felt so good.  The vistas were incredible and we quickly undid the day's miles in an hour. 

Back at camp, we were glad to have the most ginormous wet wipes you've ever seen - made by Epic, these sponge-bath-quality towels feature natural ingredients.  I'm mentioning them here because they sent me a case with a request to review.  The results?  5 stars and feeling clean after this epic adventure which would've been a great day to wear knee socks.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Steens Mazama 1000


This is the sort of race that I knew I had to do from the moment I first heard about it.  First of all, there is no car support allowed.  This is a rule I can get behind. Second, and even more important, this looks way too hard for me.  So, I'll suck it up and actually train for this one.  A thousand mile loop, visiting the two highest points of Oregon, is no joke and I'd like to do it in style.  Plus, I'll get to sleep every night, which is more than randos can say.

When I described the event to my dad, he said he didn't understand why I'd want to do something so hard that is guaranteed to hurt.  "Why would anyone want to sign up for so much pain?" he said.  Normally very supportive, his feedback gave me pause. 

I used the pause to ask myself the same questions he'd asked me.  Why would I want to do this race?  Bragging rights?  No.  Ok, yes, but also the adventure of it.  The challenge.  The views.  Will it just be all pain all the time?  No.  Ok, maybe, but there'll be breaks between the pain and I'll cope with it. 

The bottom line is this: what if this is my last chance to do something like this?  What if all this global warming or political lunacy or an asteroid or earthquake end everything and I missed a chance to do something amazing?  I don't want to know, so I registered.

Since that moment of publicly committing to compete, it's pretty much all I think about.  I've put together a team of three, because I like riding with friends.  I taped a series of map pages on the wall with the route sharpied in.  I created a day plan.

Unfortunately, I also got sick.  And my knee's been weak.  But I won't let these things stop me, or even slow me down.  I'm still training.  I got a new fit on the bike.  I visited a physical therapist and have signed up for regular massages.  I'm doing it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thomas

A very long time ago, I was an office worker in San Francisco enjoying an afternoon smoke break.  There was already a slight cultural disconnect between me and my co-workers, or I should say bosses.  They were older than me, more successful, and all drove into the office from their suburban houses.  They would often dictate letters during their commute for me to type up later.

I lived in a cheap rented flat in the city and rode my bike to and from work.  This was before people riding bikes to work were called bike commuters, and this was before I called myself a cyclist.  I simply rode my bike to get around. My co-worker/bosses would always warn me to be careful, and I felt they were implying my lack of care might get me killed.

Bike racks weren't a standard piece of street furniture yet.  The high-rise office building where I worked didn't have a single rack - not in front, or in back, or even in the huge underground parking lot.  I would lock my little cruiser bike to a no parking sign in the adjacent alley with a long chain, Pee Wee-style.

So, there I stood on the south side of Market Street, right between 2nd and Sansome, enjoying my Marlboro Red cigarette while watching the world go by.  A cute bike messenger boy rode by, headed up town.  I would learn, many years later, that he had just handed off some concert tickets to his best friend and ridden off to do a delivery.

A bus came up behind him and I heard brakes screech.  Then I heard a lady scream.  I've never heard such a dreadful sound before or since.  Everything else went silent suddenly, and a young man lay next to his bike, underneath the front wheel of the bus.




Just writing this now brings tears to my eyes.  On that day, I cried also.  A life had ended.  Someone's son had died.  Someone's brother was gone.  Just like that, over in a heartbeat.

But it was time to get back upstairs, so I numbly zombied my way inside, past the concierge, into the elevator, into suite 707 and to my desk.  I just stared at my computer and my hands on the keyboard.  How can things just keep going for everyone when one of us has been killed?

My co-worker/bosses were gathered at the office window looking down.  I didn't want to tell them I'd seen the crash and I didn't want to talk with them about my feelings.  But I had a piece of paper to deliver to that office, so I snuck in and dropped it in the in-box.  What I overheard made my blood turn cold.

"Why are they making a mess all over the street?  That's littering!  Stupid bikers.  Stupid bike messengers.  They're slowing down traffic with all those flowers"

I backed out of the office and away from these monsters and back to my desk to wait out the afternoon.  I remember walking my bike home that day.  About three miles.   I didn't fully realize yet that I was right at the beginning of a new life.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Random Rando

Late Saturday afternoon, I put on my jeans and rode my antique three speed over to the grocery store in Woodstock.  After shopping, I drove my cart out to the bike rack and transferred the panniers onto the bike before unlocking.  My receipt flapped away at the bottom of the cart and I left it.

A tall gentleman in Castelli knickers walked up to the rack, almost tripping over my front wheel.  He locked up his road bike, with its Brooks saddle and randonneur-style bag, and swiftly scooped my receipt out of the cart.  I marveled at how interested he appeared to be in this little piece of paper that revealed nothing more than how much I like expensive chocolate. 

"Oh, you've found my receipt.  Is there anything of interest on it?".  He looked up and told me he'd just finished the ride.  I am used to strangers finding me familiar, as I believe it's one of my overriding qualities, but he actually knew my name.  "The ride?" I asked.

Turns out, this was the chap who had requested to ride my permanent route, the PAP or Portland-Aumsville-Portland.  He was looking at the receipt because he thought he might use it as control proof instead of going into the store. 

He looked fresh as a daisy but insisted it had been a hard nine hour day.  My best 200k time is ten hours.  We chatted about the route, which he said was a nice easy choice for winter, and then we went our separate ways.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spoke Card Etiquette

First, if you are planning any sort of urban ride, Pedalpalooza adventure, alley cat race, or bicycling event wherein your duty is to provide a dandy good time for your riders, and possibly perpetuate the reputation and therefore future attraction to your ride:

You shall provide spoke cards*, **

*except in the case where attendance far surpasses your expectation, or you have gamified the spoke card giving (as in the case of the In Search Of...ride series where riders were challenged to find hidden spoke cards along the route to win prizes).
**or in the case that you're giving away some other prize(s)/memento(s)

Second, these spoke cards must be your own art or imagery, or at least art or imagery you have permission to use.  The art or imagery must reflect the flavor, or branding (if you will) of the event.  Your spoke card must be two-sided and appropriately-sized so that it may be fitted between two neighboring spokes on a standard 32-spoked wheel with a double crossover lacing pattern.

The spoke card you create is required to be weather-proof, which may mean different things in different localities.  For Portland, it means: waterproof.  In Mexico or other points south, this means UV-proof.  Near the ocean?  Salt-proof please.  Etcetera.

If you are offered a spoke card, you may only refuse it if you have radially laced spokes on all wheels on your rig, or a minimum of eight spoke cards already installed and in good condition.  Otherwise, you must graciously accept this handmade gift and immediately install it on your steed, whip, ride, or whatever the heck it is you call your two wheeled tumbler.

Unless you are on a tricycle, cargo bike, or dragging a trailer, you will only have two installation choices for your new memento.  Front wheel or back.  Either is acceptable.  If you already have spoke cards installed, it is best to pair the new card with the existing card by displaying them in the opposing position on the same wheel.

Spoke cards installed on the rear wheel will ideally be on the drive side, where most photography seems to point, and opposite the valve stem.  Spoke cards installed on the front wheel will also need to be on the opposite side of the valve, except when an existing spoke card is present, in which case the new card shall be placed on on the same side as the valve.

The spoke card must not be deliberately removed in any case, with the following exceptions:
  • it is of shoddy quality and is shredding (shame on the maker)
  • it is compromising your aero-ness and you've registered for a triathlon
  • it is compromising your aero-ness and you've registered for a time trial
  • it is making noise and cannot be adjusted enough to be quiet*
  • someone died
  • you have crashed or otherwise "tacoed" your wheel
  • you are having new wheels built
*this condition is voided if your bike is making other noises including but not limited to chain squeak, bottom bracket chirp, disc brake squeal, spoke violin, rim brake-pad rubbing and/or mystery ticking.

If you are a bike mechanic, wheel-builder or somehow have found yourself in charge of someone else's bike which has a spoke card displayed, you may only remove the spoke card if it is required by the scope of work you are performing.  Please do not re-install the spoke card.

In the case of a new wheelset, the spoke card is removed from the old wheelset and handed to the customer (or friend you just did a massive favor for) when they are receiving the new wheelset.

That is all.  Unless it's not, in which case, please add your comments and I will amend this article immediately.

Many thanks to the Missing Link's talented mechanic Matt, who recently built new wheels for me and brought this important issue to my attention.  (He placed the spoke card he removed from my wheel into my basket, which is the preferred and premium method for those of you with baskets).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Portland Society Boot Camp

The mission statement listed on the Portland Society website reads "The Portland Society is a group of professional women who are passionate about bicycling in Portland, Oregon. We work together to support each other through referral, education, and community. We grow our businesses and careers while making Portland a better place to live and ride.".

If I had to elevator speech that (yes, I'm using elevator speech as a verb now!), I'd say "We are Portland women who are driven by our passion for cycling and for pushing each other up." 

We meet every month for an hour of coffee, round robin intros and a presentation on one of a wide array of topics including life balance, finances, legal stuff, public speaking, marketing, how to recycle correctly, or where to tour or even how to affect change in your workplace or your neighborhood or the world.  And once a year, we have a boot camp.  This year we took a whole weekend.  It seems weird to refer to it as a weekend, since it was so much more than a coupla days on the calendar.  It started Friday evening at the rather divine meeting hall near the cabin compound on top of the hill at Stubb Stewart.  I've only had amazing times on that hill, including one of the best New Year's celebrations ever. 
Happy hour kicked us off, followed by dinner and a scrapbooking session led by yours truly.  That's right, I'm a scrapbooker.  It's a dorky sport and I was nervous to share it with this group of thirteen sophisticated and cultured women, some of whom were self-described non-crafters.  I was shocked at how the room quieted as everyone went to "work" making their perfect scrapbook.  I stood stunned in the middle of the room and soaked up the open minded, creative energy.  It felt good.

The next morning, we awoke to yoga at the meeting hall.  Next to the wood burning fireplace.  Everyone participated in the peaceful practice.  It is a bonding experience to share morning yoga with so many friends.  The space made inside myself and my muscles during yoga practice was filled with friendship feelings, which are some of the best.
Breakfast was next.  We enjoyed a small banquet of three types of quiche, coffee and settled in for storytelling.  Our speaker shared her experiences with fear during solo adventures.  It was inspirational, and set the tone for the rest of the weekend, as we'd be talking about fear a lot.

A quick change of clothes and it was time for our branding presentation.  The presenter had travelled all the way from Colorado to teach us how to hone our personal and professional stories.  She asked us what our ultimate project would be.  It really got me thinking. 
I felt like the next presenter was speaking directly to me.  She taught us a heightened awareness of useless fears, learned helplessness and the best and easiest guide to self-care I've ever heard.  I was tearful and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
It's hard to remember what happened next.  That's not true, I have my scrapbook to refer to.  The next lady who talked with us doesn't ride a bike.  I didn't know it then and it's only meaningful because she was able to see that even though the bicycle brought this group together, we're not a sports club and bikes didn't even come up that much.  She talked with us about creating space for creativity.  She asked us to split into twos and share with our partner every bad thought about ourselves that runs on our daily monolog ticker.  And then the positive things we believe about ourselves.  This made a few remarkable things happen.  First, and most important, no one hesitated.  Everyone jumped up and picked a partner to share their innermost dreads with.  Amazing.  Second, many noticed a marked repeat between the positive and negative sides.  Third, letting these things out into the open air was really liberating.
After lunch, we enjoyed a mediation walk.  I've never done this before.  We started out by standing in a circle outdoors performing leg and arm movement that synchronized with our breath, and with each other.  We spent the following forty-five minutes walking through the woods, silent except for the seven times our leader stopped, chimed a bell and walked us through a chakra.  We meditated on the chakra with our eyes covered, then spent the next section of the walk honing in on the sense associated with the chakra.  Woo woo stuff for sure, but it felt woop woop, not weird weird.
We ran back to our cabins to collect ourselves and get ready for dinner.  The moon was one of those crazy big moons with a beautiful blue haze surrounding it in a perfect circle.  We had another storyteller during dinner.  She'd been on a round-the-country several-month-long tour and we all expected her to tell us about that.  She talked about it a little bit, but then launched into appreciation for small adventures.  She coaxed us to find the small adventures in daily life, and not get distracted by plans for the big adventure.  They all count and they're all fun, but the small ones can be just as great as the big ones and are right here in our daily lives.

After dinner, we talked about our intentions for boot camp and if they were met, highlights and lowlights of the weekend.  My lowlight, or the closest thing I could think to a lowlight, was that I lost my coffee cup for a few minutes after breakfast.  Others expressed a similar lack of problems or low feelings.  I scrapbooked the dinner story and the review round robin, live-time. 

The next morning, half drove home and half of us rode the twenty five flat country miles to the MAX train.  It rained the entire time.  The Banks-Vernonia trail was a treat, even in the wet.  I got a flat tire and had to unload and repair it in the rain, which was also somehow fun.  We returned slowly to our regular world and daily lives, splitting off one by one, each brimming with fresh insights, new memories and fired up friendships. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Asphalt Dreams

I first fell in love with asphalt as a child.  Our forty acre farm was my whole world, and our blacktop driveway was my personal runway.  It was very black and perfectly smooth.  And huge. 

We used to lay out cushions and books to create obstacle courses we'd run on our polyurethane skateboards.  I learned to rollerskate there.  And, at the late blooming age of eight, I learned to pedal a bicycle there.

When it was wet, you could see the whole sky in the driveway.  It seemed so slippery I was sure I could run and land on my knees and slide like Pete Townsend, who wasn't in the Who yet.  As it turns out, it wasn't slippery enough and I experienced my first road rash.

Oh, if that driveway could tell stories.  I guess I can instead.  It was the launch pad for my first short road rides.  As soon as my parents would leave for an errand, I'd jump on my red JC Penney ten-speed and head west on Buffalo Road.

Buffalo Road is the busy highway that connects Rochester and Buffalo, New York.  It features two very busy lanes, filled with traffic that includes semi trucks.  The small shoulder was my escape for the twenty minutes I had before Mom and Dad returned and I'd push to make it further than the tine before on each try.

This is where my roadie roots originate.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Drinks With Dave

I woke up Tuesday morning knowing it would be a banner day.  Today I'd get to meet framebuilder extraordinaire, Dave Moulton.  Steel is real and that's what Dave worked with during his framebuilding career, which ended in '93.

Many of these classic road and touring bikes are still around, and rolling strong.  A couple nice folks brought theirs to the Bike Commuter "Drinks with Dave" evening and everyone, especially Dave, enjoyed geeking out.  That's what us bike geeks like to do!
It was my first night as a server and I managed to do quite well, only ruining a couple of beers with foamy heads.  I have a new respect for beer-pourers everywhere, or "beeristas".  There's more to it than pulling the lever that I hadn't understood from the other side of the bar.
How did this event come about?  Sheer luck.  While visiting the southern part of the valley, I joined a G.E.A.R.s bike club ride and someone mentioned that Dave Moulton would be speaking at their club meeting.  So, I took a chance and emailed Dave and was astounded when he called me right back to say he'd be delighted to plan an event with me.  Thanks, Dave!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Summertime

For me, summer started last spring when I separated from my job.  Separated, a politically correct term, fit well.  It felt like a divorce, with all of the pain that implies.  After several months of soul searching and yard work and starting the Bicycle Kitty business, I see now that this change is leading me to a better place.

Meanwhile, I slacked off on keeping up this blog.  I'm going to flush away the shame and guilt of getting behind by catching up in one entry to encapsulate the awesomeness of this summer. 

First off, the 4th Annual Tour de Beavers was a big success.  Eight ladies got together for a fun ride to Corvallis to drink beer, build new friendships, and practice our Tour de Beavs traditions.
Pedalpalooza provided its usual mix of crazy costumes and themed urban rides.  Last year there was buzz that maybe our little festival was dying.  This year, event attendance was huge and the calendar was stocked with both old favorites and new rides.  The ever-popular kick off ride was a highlight and it's evolved into a weekly Thursday night urban ride.  I believe they're on their twenty fifth consecutive week of taking the streets for human use.
The vintage ride gave me an excuse to dust off my old pink Torpado.  We rode close to twenty miles, all around the east side, including up Mount Tabor.  The leader offered a beer to anyone who showed up with a suicide shifter or old style derailleur. 
Grilled By Bike has become quite the movement and team.  They even had a group riding the Oregon Outback this year.  I met my basket twin at one of the delicious park stops.
The Northeast Alley ride was especially fun this year.  Over 100 riders wove their way through fifteen miles of unimproved roadways.  I had the privilege of acting as a sweeper and flat fixer. 
The Bike Play is also a big people pleaser.  Their story featured time travel to foil a villain whose evil plan was to replace the bicycle with the segue.  We visited Dunlop (inventor of the pneumatic tire), and rode past scenes of Bike Plays of previous years.  Afterwards, it was time for prom and your writer was all decked out in satin and sparkly makeup for the occasion.  Next year I'm not going without a date, as attending prom stag gets one excluded from some of the fun (like couples photos).
What Pedalpalooza would be complete without a Swim Across Portland?  I absolutely loved leading riders up Terwilliger to Wilson Pool, over the Sellwood Bridge to the next pool and finally to the Bike Commuter to take a dip in beer.
It's hard to even keep track of where the summer blew me next.  How about up and around Mount Hood on an adventurous and challenging ride I hope becomes an annual event.  We named it the Chalet Tour, since we were staying in a beautifully homey chalet atop the mountain, generously offered by rider extraordinaire MaryJean and her husband SAG extraordinaire Rick. 
Riders met in Welches, climbed Lolo Pass, hung around for a while on the gravel descent fixing a flat, and descended into Parkdale.  We were racing daylight, so we crammed in a quick lunch, then rode up Cooper's Spur.  This part is fast for me, because I know there's beer waiting at the lodge up top.  Then up highway 35.  And up.  Slow and hungry, I was seeing stars. 

The earlier flat reared its head again, and this time the tear in the tire was too large to boot.  So, I finally had the opportunity to test the "children in the village" theory.  The idea is that, no matter how worn out you and your legs may be, if there's an emergency, (ie children in the village awaiting urgent medicine), you can rise to the occasion.  I took my shredded legs and revved them up the rest of the hill at top speed, looking for a cell signal so I could call AAA.  It worked!  Children in the village is not a myth!
Soon it was time to head south for my daily dose of hippie-land.  Many adventures and even some misadventures make all of my trips south super fun.  I enjoyed a loop around Dorena Reservoir, some in-town exploration, a visit to Bike Church, even an illegal bridge crossing!
My eleventh STP.  The rally call of ON YOUR LEFT (usually as a "corrective measure" from newbie riders as I passed on their left) still echoes in my ears.  Eleven may be enough.

A new addition this year was a slight change in the route, taking us through a military base.  This proved awesome because of the views of aircraft, along with a temporary decrease in the enormous number of cars and PSV (personal support vehicles - yes, many riders bring their cars).
The rest of summer was whiled away acting as event support for several rides, including the Ride to Defeat ALS right near (but never actually up to) Mount Angel, the Portland Century, and Tour de Lab.  Riding event support is great fun, and free. 
I enjoyed the unparalleled privilege of leading century rides for the Missing Link bicycle shop.  In July we rode to Cascade Locks and back.  August took us to Ripplebrook, and up and over a large boulder barricade.  Riding out together with several types of riders, some with a different distance in mind than others, is a superb way to start the day.
There've also been some nice little side adventures, thanks to local clubs like the Vancouver Bike Club, the Portland Wheelmen and the meetup group NW Rideabouts.  I love me some freds!