Friday, December 30, 2011


(Eighth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

I started to become a little more serious about riding, so I decided to upgrade from my heavy one speed cruiser to a multi-speed hybrid. I painted it with sparkly silver nail polish, composed a song for it and mounted two bells for accompaniment. ...Staaar-zaaan, take me to the moon...

After working as Volunteer Coordinator for the Cycle Messenger World Championships in San Francisco, I was invited to compete in the following year's race in Barcelona. I took this bike with me and won the prize for best dressed - the trophy still adorns my book shelf.

Competing in these races was the impetus behind quitting my regular job and becoming a full time messenger. But not on this bike - I sold it to a lady from Craig's List who was moving to a farm in Oregon and promised to "give it a good home". I live in Oregon now and constantly have my eye out for old Starzan.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


(Seventh in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

The lard-lubed hubs on this beat up pea-green cruiser made it smell like a divey Mexican restaurant, so I named it Taqueria. It was with this bad mamma-jamma that I experienced the first ever Critical Mass.

It all happened one Friday evening while leaving downtown. I noticed a small crowd of people riding bicycles down Market Street and followed them to Justin Herman plaza, where a sea of bicyclists stood waiting for a ride to take place. I'd never seen so many people gathered on bicycles before.

So, the fall of 1992 in San Francisco became a pivotal time for me as a cyclist. It was the first time I'd ridden with other people socially and as a political statement. The beginning of riding for the sake of riding and in many ways, the beginning of a whole new identity.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Miyata, Part Dieci

C'est accompli!
Recabled the butter's rear brake so it'll stop stopping when turning left. Tweaked the derailleur adjustment. Mounted the basket! Rode to the bar.

Thank you to Zac for the fork and decals. Thank you to Nick for the bars and downtube shifters. Thank you to Frank for the expertise and patience.

Next up: the Apex.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gravel Practice

I was treated to two gorgeous rides in the Willamette Valley over the weekend. The plan was to ride about 20 to 25 miles each time for the purposes of exercise and exploration.

To my delight and surprise, the first route led to a gravelly road, Robison (or Robinson, depending on which direction you approached from!). I got in about four textured miles before my "deadline" to turn back.
On the return trip, I noticed a sign for Coffin Butte road and behind it, a giant rectangular-topped butte. I vowed to return and climb it on the following ride.

Fast forward two days and several gingerbread cookies later. This time the road was wet, there was a thick fog and I expected fanged deer to leap out at me from behind every bush.

Coffin Butte turned out to be a landfill covered with no trespassing signs. I turned into a gated drive labelled "dead end", rode past the "dead end 1/2 mile", the "dead end 1/4 mile" and finally to the dead end.

The road led to a small bridge, passable only by bikes and squirrels, then a lot of leafy muck and blackberry brambles. Just when I thought I'd have to turn back, I spied some gravel ahead, which finally gave way to a hard-packed dirt road.

So, without road signs or a map or any visibility whatsoever, I forged ahead. The dirt changed back to gravel. Finally I encountered a road sign - my old friend Robison - and put in a total of 6 or 7 gravelly miles before returning to pavement and "civilization".

I am now feeling ready to unleash some bravery on the Velodirt 2012 rides. Look out world!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Road Texture

It doesn't matter how strong you feel. It's easy to bottom out and flat on tough terrain.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Miyata, Part Nove

Putting the brakes on.
Ready to test ride!
Hoping to debut on the road for real on 12/26.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


(Sixth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

That's right. I was once Huffy-dumb. Then I learned firsthand why they're only used in bike-toss competitions.

San Francisco didn't have a cheap Chicago-style bike flea market, so I spent $50 at a department store on a royal blue "city bike".

Riding down a three block long steep hill, I watched the entire assembly of both plastic "caliper" brakes disintegrate and fly off the bike. I left it there at the bottom of the hill.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

English Upright

(Fifth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

Another cruiser from the flea market, this one was black and had harder lines than the curvy Columbia.

I remember riding it in the snow quite a bit. It never occurred to me to be scared of riding in snow (the way I am now!).

When I packed up to move to California, the bike wouldn't fit in the U-Haul, so I left it behind on the sidewalk. Later I would learn what a huge error I had made that day.

Columbia Cruiser

(Fourth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

In the late 80s, I scored a beautiful turquoise single speed step-through for just $10 at a flea market. My sole transportation, this little gem shuttled me between my apartment in Wrigleyville, my jobs downtown and my classes on the south side of Chicago.

One sad day, I came out from work to find an empty pole where my bike had been locked. Walking home that night, I cried myself silly over the loss. I dangerously detoured through the Cabrini Green projects thinking I could find and recapture it.

This theft is likely the impetus behind a recurring dream where I successfully chase down bike thieves and rescue my ride like a Jedi ninja.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Miyata, Part Otto

Ladies and gentlemen - we have a winner! Newly powder-coated fork number four actually fits on the butter beater.

What's more, the brake caliper mounted through the fork easily and the brake pads actually reach the rim! I feel like I've won the lottery.

Check out all the shiny goodness here. Even the cable end crimp is golden.

Now, all that's left to do is:
- troubleshoot the front wheel (wrecked or just untrue?)
- tighten the headset
- install and cable the rear brake
- tweak derailleur adjustment
- shorten the chain
- wrap the bars and accessorize

Ok, that looks like a long list, but I'm anticipating only one or two more sessions before this gorgeous machine fulfills its intended purpose and is READY to roll.

Ready, ready, ready.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Brevet #5, Sans Randonneurds

The route for the final in the Randonneurd Brevet Series changed from Washougal to Lil Switzerland. Feelin kinda bored of the east side, we decided to stick with the original route.

Three of us cruised along at "joyride" speed, humming along until after Camas, where the climbing began.

And finally, my old nemesis, the gravel. This type of "road texture" forces you to be present when riding. No daydreaming, just here and now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pink Three Speed

(Third in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

One summer while home from college, my Mom and Dad asked me if there was anything they could've done differently when I was growing up. I asked why they gave both me and my sister bikes for my 13th birthday.

The next day I awoke to a birthday cake breakfast and a new pink step-through bicycle with a pink bow on the handlebars. Please ignore the extremely bad hair-do in the photo and just look at the bike.
This sweet little ride ended up getting stolen from outside the bar where I worked junior year at college. Boy did I cry over that little bit of thievery.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Portland Wheelman: Ride Report

Intent on pursuing a "Christmas in July" riding plan, I joined the PWTC Tuesday night ride.

The fast pace, small group, sprints, darkness and somewhat extreme weather conditions (35 degrees and foggy) transformed familiar territory into something different.

Somewhere I hadn't ridden before, at least in my mind. It's a nebulous somewhere - a place within the pack. We create a place riding together that has nothing to do with the road we're on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Walk. Bike. Vote.

What an ingenious idea! This non-profit group hooks up human transportation advocates with politicians. The politicians win votes and recognition. The constituents earn a chance to voice their precise wishes. A win-win, as they say. (I've added a link under "some sites" to the right.)

The launch party was held at the Crank shop, whose owners were on the last Randonneurd Brevet ride. Small world. Free beer. That's me in the back on the left talking to a Christmas tree.

Monday, December 5, 2011

BikeCraft Fair

My plan to trade out Christmas month for July-style riding is coming together nicely.

Another gorgeous day on a bike. Hills. 70 sunny brilliantly chilly miles.

Then, a stop at the BikeCraft Fair! Cool stuff. Cool people. Cold beer.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Spirit

(Second in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

For my 13th birthday, I received a red ten-speed from Sears. Here's a picture of someone else's. Mine had drop bars and down tube shifters.

This bike served as a great escape hatch during teenage years and valuable transportation at the expansive Michigan State University campus.

I remember riding no hands and no helmet all around the subdivision where my folks lived in suburban Detroit.

No idea whatever happened to this thing but I wish I still had it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Columbia Kid Cruiser

(The first in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)

Here I am at age three standing over the first bike I would ever ride!

This bike is especially special because it taught me how to ride a bike, with a little help from the neighbor kids.

I'll never forget that day. I was eight years old. Tried and tried to ride on the smooth blacktop driveway near the big red barn.

Finally, barefoot, I sliced open my big toe on the chain ring but didn't fall over. I just kept going.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Miyata, Part Sette (or Oh Fork!)

When last we looked at the butter beater project, fork number three was drilled and ready for a brake. But "long reach" is a subjective term not dissimilar to "pro" or "Fred". Meaning this fork will not work.

I found the fourth fork at a seedy motel in downtown Portland. It's an actual Miyata fork from the late 70s and even came with spare Miyata decals!

Here it is after last night's seventh session, which I got to bike to since I only had a fork to drag around. Drilling holes in forks is my new speciality! Next step: blast it and powder coat it and get it on!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Randonneurds Brevet #4

70 flat-ish wet miles. Beautiful country. A crowd of riders. Hibiscus tea and fireplace rest stop followed by 20 leafy bike path miles. Awesome day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Miyata, Part Sei

After an hour of sanding and finally re-drilling the fork hole, I mounted the brake, only to reveal that the long reach caliper was still too short.
I'm dizzy with anticipation of what will happen next.

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Interview In Three Parts

A local documentarian asked to interview me about my experience riding in the first Critical Mass, which took place the fall of '92 in San Francisco.

First we had lunch at my house, then Joe set up his equipment and asked the first round of questions. Here's what it looks like from the interviewee's side of the camera!

For the next round of questions, we rode our bicycles on the Springwater Corridor path. Joe displayed unique juggling talents by riding a bike with cargo buckets full of lighting equipment on the back while managing somewhat unwieldy camera equipment around his unique ape-hanger handlebar set up.

The unplanned, and potentially best, portion of the interview happened after a loud pop indicated a dramatic flat on Joe's bike. I offered to fix it for him, which enabled him to continue filming and interviewing while I went to work.

I may not be famous (yet!), but days like this make me feel like I am.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hill Hill Repeats Repeats

Finally, after four whole
days off the bike, I woke
up feelin' ready.
Up, up and away!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This is my home!

But I've been away for three days due to being sick at "home" which is a house with a roof and several walls and all indoors.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Randonnerds Brevet #3

Cold and sick and hungry and cranky. 70 hard and hilly miles. I left my pants behind both figuratively and literally.

A quote from one of my favorite people portrayed the day perfectly: "no matter what's going on, this is where I belong - out here, riding".

Friday, November 11, 2011

On Bicycle Advocacy

I snapped my gum loudly to call the November Vancouver Bike Club meeting to order. Folks immediately quieted down and I introduced Joe Kurmaskie, author of the Metal Cowboy. Joe then introduced bicycle advocate and author of Joyride - Mia Birk, who treated us to an especially inspirational presentation.

I learned I'm one of the 1% (no, not THAT 1%!) that counts themselves as a fearless and confident cyclist who can make their way in the world on a bicycle without a ton of infrastructure to support them. I started thinking - maybe it's time I shook off my general disinterest in all things political and got more involved in helping some of the other 99% enjoy the phenomenon of bike-riding.

Another thing that got me thinking was the disappointing fact that I drove to the event. Sure, the downtown Vancouver library is 25 miles from my home, but distances like that are the norm for me. The simple truth is, I didn't bike that night because I felt uncomfortable making the long trek all alone in the dark.

The long trek all alone in the dark - what a perfect metaphor for the cyclist's place, and especially the bicycle advocate's place, in the American mainstream and traffic stream. Our towns and cities are built around the car. Many of our cultural rites of passage are built around the car. The bicycle is merely a toy for children or a work out tool for the lycra-clad.

But not in Portland, OR. Here, it's a transportation choice. It's a lifestyle. It's a staple of our economy. This didn't happen by accident - we have gutsy and patient bicycle advocates (like Mia) and advocacy groups (like the BTA) to thank. These dedicated heroes not only made our city into a model bicycle infrastructure successfully increasing bike safety and transportation, they transformed our entire culture.

However, just across the river in Washington, there seems to be a glaring shortage of involved advocates. Vancouver is so close to Portland, but so far away in terms of transportation infrastructure that supports bicycle and pedestrian safety. Vancouver is so close to Portland, unless you have to ride over the narrow I-5 bridge.

Since I began writing this post, I've been approached by some local players who want to help ignite the advocacy scene in Vancouver. We'll be meeting next week. Maybe this is just the opportunity I've been looking for to "make a difference". This time, I'll make the long trek all alone in the dark. Except I won't be alone, I'll have my bike with me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Miyata, Part Cinque

For the fifth official butter beater session, I removed the second bad fork and crown race.

Drilled a larger hole in the new fork to accommodate the recessed nut brake caliper.
Cut the steerer tube. And reinstalled. Voila!
Next week I plan to install the brakes and be ready to ride! I still need handlebars but have high hopes. And hairspray.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cyclocross Spectation

Since Sunday's Cross Crusade Race was in Barton Park, I thought I better ride the KISS bike. I mean, it's totally flat and my friend is hurt and wants me to go slow so a single speed's the best bike for the job. Wrong! There were a jillion huge mountainous hills between my house and Barton Park. The kind of big, steep hills that make you giggle at their relentlessness.
On arriving, I rode through steep gravelly unpaved sections without flinching and without putting a foot down (insert applause here). Then a steep run-up to the ridge, where I gracelessly used all fours to get to the top (insert heckling here). Finally, shoes caked in mud, decided to call it done (insert cowbells here).

And this was just the spectating experience - I don't race CX! But I love to watch it. Every time I see one of these crazy races, which my dad refers to as "Cage Fighting on Bikes", I gain new respect for these riders and their pure badassness.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Randonneur vs Alley Cat

Just like an alley cat, there were small entry fees to pay, mandatory checkpoints, clues to find and a "ready-set-go" start. But instead of a 20 mile race through city streets at night, jeans bursting with u-locks in pockets, we rode 65 daytime miles in a rainbow of fluorescent jackets. I opted for a tutu and bright blue eyeshadow - a fashion statement befitting Brer Karnickel.
Winding roads on rolling hills with foggy views took us out to Snoozeville, where we found a green tent containing much-needed hot cocoa (instead of PBRs). I have ridden through or to or in Snoozeville a few times now and still don't know where or what it is.
Unlike an Alley Cat, this Populaire was not a race. That's what they kept telling me anyway, as I madly tabulated my placement. In the end, I beat the time cut-off by an hour forty. And Elly met her goal of Lanterne Rouge (last one in!).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Messenger Lane

Rode over to meet Matt at the bar last night so I could return his messenger bag, which is so gigantic it slides off my shoulders.

He's seeing Richie next week in California. I searched the stuff I had with me for something to send with him and chose to part with my pink and red Castelli cap. I put a lipstick print on the inside and signed it with sharpie.

We talked about dead friends. His friend who had a heart attack during a crit. My friend who died of AIDs fifteen years ago. Friends hit by cars. Friends who killed themselves. The last time we each saw Pokey before he hung himself and how he used to dress up as Hitler on his birthday.

This is only kind of related to bikes in that most of the friends we've lost were hit by cars in traffic. That's the curse of being a messenger, even if all your deliveries are to memory lane.

Amazingly, moments after I published above, a friend posted photos from the old days, including ones of people Matt and I just talked about. Also, there's one of me, from behind, third page bottom left. I was 30% larger then than I am now. Go to the link on the right called Messenger Pix to view.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Imagine my delight on waking to a clear blue sky instead of the expected rain and drear. Up, out, over and up to my favorite butte. All the way up the gravel finish and back down without putting a foot down. Pretty posh.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brevet Series #2

I didn't have time to photograph the sign warning us "Pavement Ends".
But it did. And the gravel began. Although I was slower than everyone else, I felt pretty fierce for stepping (riding!) outside of my comfort zone. There is more than one key to happiness and finding it requires crossing scary terrain that won't always be perfectly smooth.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Miyata, Part Quattro E Mezzo

This post is named part four and a half because no actual progress has occurred. Work is at a standstill on the butter beater project, which I'm considering renaming the goldilocks project.

A new fork is on its way from Amazon. Yes, Amazon had the chrome, lugged fork with rake that I hope will be just right. This will be fork number three! 10/31 update: It's here! (pictured below)

A new brake caliper is also on its way from the jungle of bike parts Amazon had to offer. A standard-nut long-reach front caliper brake which should reach the rim and go through the fork's small brake mounting hole.10/31 update: the new caliper brake will not work. I'll need to drill a larger hole in the fork. Awesome!

Meanwhile, I've realized the bars I bought are too wide. Every other part has gone through several tries, so why not the bars too! The upside is that this creates homework.

Butter Beater homework: Remove stem. Remove brake levers from bars. Remove bars from stem. Clean, sand and polish the stem. 10/28 update: done!

The Apex: the $10 mountain bike project can now move forward because the stuck seat post is OUT! Homework: Install new seat post. Install saddle. Install new tires. Install, install, install!