Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kiss Bike

(Seventeenth a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.  This bike was also covered in number ten of the series.)

My knees feel their age and remember vividly all the fixed gear miles we've pushed through together.  As a result, this poor track bike had been holing up in my basement for several years.  Last summer, it got a second life.

I sold the DuraAce high flange wheelset for a pretty penny.  That financed a new wheelset, freewheel cog, brake levers, saddle, pretty blue Shimano Ultregra brake calipers, and a powder coat job.  The bars and stem came from Broke-Bike.

The project was finished months before I expected - just a few days before the 2011 Seattle to Portland ride.  This was my seventh STP so I decided to freshen up the ride by taking the single speed.  The 165mm cranks and 48-17 gearing fit me just perfectly and a few centuries on this little bike went just swimmingly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Donuts To Domination

A pink-frosted sprinkle-covered donut began my day.  After escaping the sprawl of town and stopping for strawberry milk, the fog cleared, the sun came out and it felt like we could be just about anywhere.  Some vineyard-dotted valley in the south of France.  Or, the stunning Willamette Valley in the Pacific Northwest. 

There were lots of beautiful hills on this ride, but they were all in the distance.  The pancake-flat valley featured the smallest, softest hair-curler-sized rollers you've ever seen.  So we killed boredom with intervals.

After a picturesque picnic lunch, there was enough time for a little trespassing to avoid some sludgy water.  Plenty of bees to dodge.  Scads of little white flowers that reminded me of recent snowy rides.  Face-fulls of bugs trying to hitch a ride.  Baby animals galore.
An unexpected moral often presents itself to me on these rides.  There's no way to anticipate it or strategize around it.  The story this time, for me, has to do with hardening (the ef!) up.  Which sometimes means softening down.  Accepting limitations. Doing whatever it takes to get to where you want to be, even if that means taking it easy.

The ride ended with a welcome welcoming reception, happy family faces, and foamy Domination Ale.  The feeling of summertime.  The euphoria of the first sunburn of the season.  And the almost instant amnesia of the effort expended to arrive here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


(Sixteenth a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)
This vintage forest green beauty cost a mere forty bucks at an antique store on Hawthorne. Fancy new tires, a basket, and a saddle upgrade made it more rideable.

Its best feature are the chrome fenders and three speed internal hub. You change speeds with a grip shifter labelled H-N-L (high, neutral, low).

This is a great round-towner, pub-crawler, "I feel like wearing a dress" parade bike.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Midnight Mystery

High class
low class
all night under a
bridge sitting on
steaming cedar
chips, a nice
bottle of Pinot
a view of the crowd
the campfire
the moon, river,
and funny messages
in lights.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I take my bicycle hobby and career pretty darned seriously. So I've made it somewhat of a personal mission to really learn and understand the nuances of bicycle tire technology. For the most part, this means I've been trying out about every tire possible.

This also means I observe others' choices and am often caught asking people about their tires or even (gasp!) touching their tires when they're away from their bike. I can spot a pair of gators a mile away. I know by looking at you if you ride 23s or 25s or 28s or even, shudder, 32s. I can tell by your smell if you just purchased new tires. Maybe even what brand they are.

Aside from these parlor tricks, I've learned what I like. I like very skinny, lightweight tires in bright colors. There, I said it. Among my favorite high end tires are the Schwalbe Ultremo CXs and the Michelin Pro3 Race. Mid-level, gimme some Vittoria Rubinos - wire bead, baby!

Winter? Well, there's a different story. I'm torn between the Panaracer T-Serv Protex, which I've turned many friends onto, and the Vittoria Pave Evo CGs in hideous green (pictured above, along with some bizarre road debris). These also both seem to handle gravel well.

I've even learned how to figure out what other people may like. If you happen to push 200 lbs or more in gravitational force on planet earth, you'll probably hate skinny, racy tires because they'll feel tough and shred quickly. Less than 1000 miles of cycling under your belt? I'll hand you a pair of Conti Gatorskins and see you in a coupla years. Badass racer type? You probably know what you want, but I'll try and talk you into the Conti 4 seasons anyway.

And I'm not alone in my rubber geekery. Nowhere near it. In the pursuit of "research & development" on this topic, I've heard passionate and detailed reasons for choosing different brands, models and sizes of tires.

One of the best comes from a local Rando guy, Jeff. I heard that he was considering what, in my opinion, is the "wrong" tire and started to rib him about it. Little did I know, this guy had done a huge amount of data tracking and was not making a blind decision.

He sent me an e-mail that started off with "this is going to be a very long e-mail". He proceeded to share everything he's learned about tires in the several thousand miles he's ridden. This even included a spreadsheet (screenshot below). By the time I got to that part of the e-mail, I was nearly catatonic with tire-drooling joy.
The upshot of his very detailed data is this: he likes his tires light (less than 500 grams) and wide (at least 28mm) with some tread and some puncture resistance. Enlightened thinking like this will take care of this guy on many rides to come.

Enter Sky Boyer, owner of the new shop in town, Velocult. This guy used to be a pro racer. And a Randonneur. And probably a bunch of other stuff I don't even know about. He explained to me that somehow in the scientific evolution of the bicycle and all of its mechanic variations, there weren't any specific tests on how tire material, width and pressure effect speed. His theory is that (contrary to popular opinion), softer, wider, less pressurized tires are actually faster. "That's why randos ride 650Bs".

650Bs make me think of Ed Groth. This guy is so badass he has his own fan club on Facebook. The first time I met him, he was riding his fixed gear on a hard gravel climb up Bald Peak. He's also a very accomplished Randonneur. This morning during our Rocky repeats, I asked Ed what his favorite tires are. Without hesitating (and without breathing hard, on the way up!), he replied "Pasela 35s". In these conditions - a quick reply, the model name and size included - any answer is the correct answer.

Next I ask Mat, a guy I work with whose tire knowledge I respect. He races and rides lots of different disciplines. He answered my question with a question. Which bike? Mountain or road? I laid out the following scenario for him. The zombie apocalypse is upon us. You have to choose one bike and you get a bonus 10 minutes to put your all-time favorite tires on it. What are they? His answer: "Michelin Pro Sport 35. Folding". I've never even heard of these!

As in any research project, you learn you have a lot to learn. The extent of my tire knowledge, especially for non-road, is pretty small. I even made an off-road tire cheat sheet (after my SRAM hierarchy list) on the dry erase board at work. Speaking of which, I just came up with a pretty good pun for a customer. When describing the Vittoria Randonneur tires (available in ivory!), "they're beefy, without weighing as much as a side of beef". Yep, this is what I do for a living.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Portland Society April Meeting

Wednesday morning we settled into the beautiful Nutcase Helmets offices with coffee and treats delivered by Portland Pedal Power. As usual, we went around the circle and did our "honk your own horn" introductions. It's fun to brag and listen to others brag. Everyone applauds and cheers for each one. Best of all, we learned that a Society based on our Portland Society model has just started up in Washington, D.C.

Breesa Culver, the illustrious fundraiser for the Community Cycling Center, did a presentation for us that she called "making the ask". She focused on fundraising tips and tricks. These tidbits can be helpful in raising money for lots of different events - the PTA, your race team - you name it.

Breesa started out by asking about our childhood associations with money. There were a wide variety of answers from "secret", "divided into buckets", "bill pay night was tense" and "money = jeans". She explained that the worst case scenario of making a fundraising request is that the requestee will say no, which is not so terrible. She provided us with a blueprint for "making the ask". It looks like this:

1) Passion isn't optional. Believe in what you're doing. If you don't, figure out a way to get passionate about it or simply find something else you do care about.

2) Define your need. Create a budget and a plan for how to get there. This includes creating giving and reward levels.

3) Identify potential donors. Start with your personal and professional networks and cast a wide net. That said, plan to approach allied / related businesses. You want the donor to be engaged in the cause too.

4) Have a story in your pocket. Breesa told us how the first time she donated to Urban Gleaning, the driver pulled snapshots out of her pocket to show. Urban Gleaning is a non-profit that collects extra event food and distributes it to needy children/families at local schools. The photos showed smiling kids holding donated food.

5) Practice your ask. Rehearse a script with a friend. Learn to articulate your passion. Remember people are flattered to be asked. Be specific in what you need. It's better to ask in person but if you can't meet, try phoning before e-maiiling. Do your asks in "bursts" instead of spacing it out. You get warmed up and better at asking as you go!

6) Thank your donors profusely. Thank them more than you think they want to be thanked. Thank them in person. Send a thank you letter. Have someone else in the organization write or call to thank them.

7) Get creative with donor recognition. Invite donors to the event. Send them a handmade card. Bring them cookies!

I plan to use these lessons in my fundraising for Tour de Cure. We'll see how it goes!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Outfoxing The Tweedies

It's funny to think that just a year ago (ok, a month ago) I didn't even know what tweed actually is. It isn't just wool or houndstooth-printed vintage-wear, it's a brand. Made in England.

Tweed is also a type of bike ride. They happen in lots of places, not just Portland(ia). I was honored to help plan this year's edition of the Portland Tweed ride. The planning itself was pretty fun - I made friends with a nice group, meeting at different venues and enjoying beer or whiskey. Sick, sick whiskey.

I was also lucky enough to be appointed "ride leader" since I put together the mostly flat 12 mile route. But how do get 100 Portlanders wearing their best duds and riding their fancy old bikes to follow your route?
Why, you dress as a fox of course. In the tradition of the great Great Britain-style fox hunt! That's right, I enjoyed the wide-grinned fantasy-feeling of riding all around town in a fox costume with a mini-mass of "tweedies" following me. It was more parade than ride, and definitely not a race.
We stopped at Peninsula Park for tea. Folks even brought their own tea cups to add to the fanciness. Cucumber sandwiches were shared. Scones. Whiskey. Sick, sick whiskey.
The after-party at Velocult was pure delight. Bike parking everywhere. A photo booth, a cameo portrait-er and a professional photographer were all on hand. Lovely live music. Ninkasi beer. Fabulous prizes for deserving bikes (and people). What a time!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Braving The Brevet

Although last Saturday included a generous amount of suffering, somehow the fun won out. Unlike other cycling events or goals from the past, I've reserved the right to quit my quest for R12 status at any time. Instead I plan to take it month by month and only continue if it's more joy than pain.

It rained non-stop for the first couple of hours. We rode on a beautiful stretch of deserted road by the Molalla River for ten cold and soggy miles. Every bend revealed dramatic waterfalls, moss-covered cliffs and stunningly surreal ravine views.

Things started looking up on the way back along the river, which was mostly downhill. We crossed a final bridge and were back in "civilization" in no time. At the gas station control point, I sat down, took my shoes off, drank hot cocoa and put on my newly-purchased $1.25 gloves. I vow to carry two spare pairs of gloves on all future day-long rain rides.

A sudden headache. A lot of candy. A windy but scenic and dry climb up to Silver Falls. Then a descent with hail balls ringing my bell concluding at the South Falls Lodge. Oysters and chocolate by the fireplace. They practically had to kick us out of that little piece of heaven.

Finally, on the home stretch, I experienced some punching in my kidneys. Back spasms. It's scary when your normal fixes (ibuprofin and stretching) don't work. We continued even though I was ready to quit at mile 115. Twelve hours and forty minutes after starting, we checked in at the finish control - a three hour lag behind the front runners but an hour before the "lanterne rouge" or last rider. None of which matters, because it's not a race.