Friday, March 30, 2012

Tweed Ride This Sunday

What could be better than a short Springtime spin around Portland?

A short spin around Portland with two hundred friends wearing their finest wool and tweed and riding their prettiest bikes, that's what!

A stop for high tea at one of Portland's prettiest parks.

A party at Portland's newest bike shop, Velocult, with beer provided by Ninkasi.

Prizes for best apparel and best bike. Cameo portraits. Photo ops. The social bike ride of the season! And, oh yeah, don't forget to bring a tea cup!

For more info, visit or find the tweedpdx page on facebook.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Scappoose - Pittsburg

A 60 mile ride featuring 4000 feet of elevation gain and several miles of gravel.
Turning off Highway 30 and onto the Scappoose-Vernonia Freeway, we encountered the Crown-Zellerbach trail and rode that muddy bit of terrain for a couple of miles. I even fell but it was a fun fall. There's a little place on my knee that never seems to get a chance to heal from falls like this.

Next, we climbed up Kater Road. The sun was shining and the temperature must've been in the mid-60s. In March! We checked out the Yankton store, which is also a restaurant, before passing the quaint red Pittsburg Schoolhouse and starting the gravel portion of the day.

Now we really were in the middle of nowhere. I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else. This was quickly becoming one of the prettiest and funnest rides of the season. Not to mention, the perfect mix of five riders. An extra bonus: this was an initiation ride for the newest of the Sisyphean Hill Riders, Karl.

The group flew ahead while I cautiously navigated the tough terrain. The cue sheet instructed us to take every left fork and that we'd be climbing until mile 25. You can imagine my surprise when everyone went right and down at mile 21. I chased unsuccessfully. I wasted time trying to get a cell signal. Finally, I gave up and continued on ahead to see what would happen next.

Here a couple riders had waited for me. They had to play another game of chase to round up the two that had gone ahead. I, for once, was undeterred by the idea of riding alone so I went back to the missed fork on my own. Back at the fork, it felt like the hill and the gravel were absolutely made for me. It didn't hurt that the temperature was soaring, the birds were singing and I was getting my first sunburn of the season.
I took a seat on a log and waited for everyone near the top of the hill. This gave me a perfect opportunity to take some pictures and just enjoy the rest. Finally, the others came along. We found the summit and Karth Road, which took us down into the woods and some nasty muddy gravel. Someone got a pinch flat, so I took off ahead to rule out the possibility we had gone the wrong way.

A few more miles on gravel and the paved Apiary Road appeared. I was elated! I surprised myself by turning back to ride that same gravel stretch so I could bluff the others that we were on a deadend. Later, back on Apiary, I believe I experienced the best road descent ever. It was long, not too steep, no switchbacks and simply spectacular.

Another stop for a flat near a campground. I sat in the grass and finally, after thousands of attempts in my lifetime, learned how to "play" a blade of grass. You thread a wide piece of grass tightly between your thumbs and blow. It sounds like a peacock mating call.

Little did we know then, but we were still in for what felt like an enormous climb. Up, up, and up along the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway, from which you can see millions of trees and rolling blue hills. And not many cars.
Then, back to route 30 and Fred Meyer for a good ol' fashioned parking lot picnic. This day ride is one of those special few that feels like a legendary ride right out of the gate. The type of ride you reminisce about before it's even done. A day to be sentimental about, birthday or not. I plan to go back and do this route or variations of this route over and over.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


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

So named for the high-pitched whistle the fork emits in certain conditions, this workhorse of my stable is the first bike ever built for me. SOMA designs the frames in San Francisco, then orders them from Taiwan. Seven Corners in Portland helped me choose parts for it and built it up, including hand-lacing the bomb-proof Velocity wheels.

It's a plain silver tig-welded frame - nothing special at all. I upgraded the drive train from Shimano 105 to Ultegra last year. I wrapped the bars with alternating chrome and matte silver tape. I put three bells on it. And I put almost 12,000 miles on it (so far).

This is my dependable go-to bike for almost all conditions. The picture above shows it loaded up for touring. I've also done plenty of club & century rides, rando rides, and even raced on this bad boy. And, more recently, I've been riding it off road. What a machine!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brew Pub Populaire

On March 17th, the Oregon Randonneurs hosted a lovely and lively 100K Populaire ride.
We started at the Cornelius Pass Brew Pub in Hilsboro at 8am. Well, everyone else started at 8am, I rolled at 8:05. Then I stopped to adjust my bars and broke a bolt in my stem. After that, it was easy going because all the stuff that was going to go wrong had already gone wrong.
Gorgeous weather. Beautiful country. Pleasant rolling hills. Puddles to wade through. Other highlights include hot cocoa and cookies at Snoozeville, which is becoming an old haunt for me. A confusing control point question at Jack Road. And, of course, beer at the finish!

My finish time was five hours, but the Rando rides are not races so it doesn't matter that several other riders finished in three and a half hours. And several riders finished in six and a half hours.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Old friends move away.
New friends have coming-to-towns.
I stand still, and wait.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


(Fourteenth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)
The jewel of my collection, this steel road bike set me back a mere $500. It was hand made in Italy and equipped with the original Campagnolo Valentino group set.

This bike was powder coated pink for me. There are seven little hearts carved into the lug work and I handpainted those white. It's a relatively fast little ride (with some effort), but mostly just beautiful to look at and sit on. I've put over 7000 miles on it in the five years I've had it.

I did have to change out the brake calipers from old Modolos (which I think means "to modify speed" instead of to stop!). Unfortunately, I didn't spring for Campy calipers but put on Shimano 105s instead. One day when I'm awash in spare cash, I'll replace them.

It's currently sporting the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tires, in pink, which have turned out to be excellent performers. They are smooth and quiet and grip the road in the wet. Speaking of which, it used to be that I wouldn't even think of taking this bike out in the wet, but I've made a recent reversal on that theory. I'm even considering using it for a Randonneur ride.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FIT, Expanded

Today's entry is in response to a request to expand on my recent bike fitting, so here goes!
Start from the ground up. Beginning with cleat placement, the scientific method is to temporarily replace the pedals with metal boxes with prongs sticking out from the side, designed just for this purpose. As you pedal (on a trainer), the prongs show the amount you are rotating the "pedals". A laser shone on your knee from the front shows alignment. A straight up and down pedal stroke is the goal for most. The cleat should not be too far forward on the ball of the foot because this will push on the metatarsal nerve and cause hot foot. Believe me, I know.

Next up, seatpost height. This is calculated using a couple of interesting measuring devices. One is a spring-loaded L shaped stick that measures your inseam. The above picture shows the formula used to figure the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle. The other tool is a giant acrylic protractor that measures the angle of thigh to shin, using the knee as an axis. This measurement is taken when the foot is furthest from the saddle, which is not necessarily straight down. If your seat tube is angled, you would extend the crank to match that angle. The goal is 20-30 degrees, depending on flexibility.

Now, fore and aft position, meaning where your saddle is mounted on the seatpost. General lore dictates that when your crank is in the forward position, parallel with the ground, a plumb line from the base of your kneecap will line up with the ball of your foot and pedal spindle. There are several schools of thought on this, but this is the most widely accepted.

Ok, your butt's where it's supposed to be and so are your legs and feet. Next up is the torso. Again, this will depend on flexibility. Standing (off the bike), fold forward without bending your knees. If you can comfortably put your palms flat on the ground (without straining), you can ride with your bars lower than your saddle. I can comfortably rest my fingers on the ground so my bars are about the same height as my saddle. Less flexibility would require the bars to be higher than the saddle.

The bars, and especially the hoods, need to be reachable. It should be easy to ride with your elbows slightly bent and it should be easy to operate the brakes and shifters without straining. There's lots of adjustments to make this possible, including a little shim that goes in your brake lever to move the lever closer to the bar. A shorter or longer stem and stems with different angles can help accomplish the correct reach and height.

If you like riding in the drops like I do, you'll want a bar shaped for your riding style. Some folks love the ergonomic bars which feature a bend in the curve so it's easier to reach. Some like a shallower drop. Some swear by traditional bend. It's like choosing a favorite color. The width of the bars is dictated by your shoulder width - most common for men is 42cm and women 40cm.

When I bought my SOMA in 2007, I also bought a fitting. However, I was still recovering from a lower back injury and had a smaller annual mileage then, around 3000. I also weighed more than I do now. Since I've been riding more and climbing more and weighing less, my body and my fit have changed. Here's what changed specifically:

* Saddle moved several millimeters back, requiring a seatpost with setback
* Seatpost moved down, because the saddle was moved back, in effect my tush is further from the bottom bracket (which some refer to as "height")
* Bars moved back 10mm using a shorter stem, this again is due to the saddle moving back.
* Cleats moved alot - back about 3 millimeters. Bye bye, hot foot.

The bike continues to feel very comfortable and the knee acheyness that triggered my re-fit seems to be fading. I learned a lot about the complex field of biomechanics, or ergonomic fitting of a body to a machine. I also learned that it's ok to have different bikes fit you slightly differently. Your body may actually appreciate the change-up.

I am in no way an expert on these things, this is just what I learned during the process. You can do some basic guesswork and even jerry-rig your own plumb line, but there's no substitute for a real fitting with an expert. They usually include a year of follow up care too. Good luck and happy riding!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I've always wanted to be fit. So I exercise. And I try to eat with some sanity. Drink moderately. I even quit smoking cigarettes (many years ago). Well, now here I am. Fit. Sure, there's always room for improvement and I've just started doing what the kids refer to as "interval training" to up the ante.
As my body shares with my mind its aches and pains and trivial complaints, I've made the wise decision to get fit - as in, see a bike fitter. I've been ergonomically fit to each bike and recently had a refresher on the high mileage workhorse of my posse. It's taken $250 out of my wallet and 5 hours out of my life, but well worth it.

Once on my bike, I like to have friends to ride with. So, I've tried on different groups for size. Sisyphean Hill Climbers, Oregon Randonneurs, Velodirt, Vancouver Bike Club, Portland Wheelman, Randonneurds, Portland Velo and Midnight Mystery Riders. I'm a dork in some groups; too gritty in others. I'm way too fast in some groups; too slow in others.

On my ride into work this morning, this word "fit" and all its meanings and innuendos kept crossing my mind. Am I fit? Do I fit my bike? Where do I fit in? Once again, as in all of life's dilemmas, I get all the answers I need from my bike. Yes. Yes. And yes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Velodirt Dalles Mountain 60

Some call it team kit, I call it team kitty.

It's funny how building something up bigger than life in your mind almost always leads to disappointment. This time it was disappointment in my strategy, not the ride. For several months, I have been practicing riding my road bike on gravel and dirt just so I can handle the Velodirt rides. Saturday was the first one of the season.

These rides are billed as "not races", which means they are races. So I put on my fastest-looking kit, showed up with my fastest-riding friend, and rode my fastest bike at my fastest pace. I did ok. It took me me a little less than 5 hours, all said and done, to ride the 60 miles with 3300 feet of elevation gain and 20 some miles of gravel. I had zero crashes and zero mechanicals.

The disappointment, however, is that I rushed through the day instead of savoring it all. I regret not taking more time to soak up the near-summer weather, the amazing scenery, and socialize. Next time!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beater Bike, Broke Bike

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

I traded in my red Miyata 710 and a hundred dollar bill for a lilac Miyata 712 after learning I ride a 52cm frame, not a 56cm. It came with a complete Shimano 105 groupset, including the downtube shifters and even the hubs. I put around 4000 mostly rainy miles on this beautiful bike until... May day, on the way back from the French Toast ride, I was riding side by side chatting with a friend. We were approaching a little corner of the I-205 bike path, when ZAM! There was a guy coming right toward me at about 20 mph.

Our front wheels met perfectly and both of our rear wheels left the ground. We knocked noggins and I thought I saw little bluebirds circling my head. This guy was just like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. He looked at me, looked at his watch, jumped up while saying "I'm late! I'm late", and was off.

The second worst part of the accident is that it was my fault. I should've known better than to ride on the wrong side and not keep a close eye out, especially at a blind curve. The first worst part is that the frame broke in two places and had to be retired. I'm open to suggestions on what to do with this frame.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Portland Society Meeting

I enjoyed a sunny, if frosty, ride downtown early yesterday morning to attend the March Portland Society meeting. These monthly meetings are just one of the many benefits of membership in this fabulous ladies networking group. Let me know if you'd like to join and I'll see if I can get you in!

Jennifer Ruwart was this month's presenter. She runs Moyo Jasiri - "strong heart" in Swahili - an innovative organization in the women's global entrepreneurial market. They provide an incubator in the form of an on-line presence, connecting female entrepreneurs in developed and undeveloped countries. By bridging the economic and cultural gaps, the site enables these women to work together to develop their businesses (see link to right).

Jennifer told an inspirational and interesting story of how her ideas evolved. She started by creating an on-line classroom, but it simply didn't resonate with her target audience. She shifted to a quest for artisan training to help these women sell high-end crafts they make themselves, but a trip to Kenya completely changed her perspective.

She realized the artisan market was saturated, as is the outreach available to this niche. She also realized that this market is a lot like colonialism: the business owner needs outside help and outside customers, so it's not the self-starting sustainable model she envisioned after all.

Here comes the inspirational part. No matter how many times Jennifer and her colleagues changed their mission and vision, she did not allow herself to get stuck. She continued her mantra "return to center". She kept going back to her initial motive of helping women in developing countries gain and sustain financial independence with their own businesses.

Jennifer figured out what is unique about herself and her mission, which turned out to be the ultimate way to figure out how to accomplish her mission. She dropped the idea of giving business ideas and and instead asked women "what is unique about you and your mission?" so she could figure out how to help them accomplish it.

We, as business owners and workers, can learn from this example to find our own niches. Learn to see getting stuck as an opportunity to transition to something better. Figure out what is unique about you and your mission. Create a space of dreaming - a space of "yes" with no limitations. We have the power to make these things happen, and, with a cache of powerful partners within the Portland Society - we have a network to help us realize our dreams.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


(Thirteenth in a series of stories about every bike I've ever owned.)
Moving from California to Oregon was a big life change, not to mention a big climate change. Friends warned me of the big wet that is Oregon. So, I sold or gave away a few of my steeds and bought this Bridgestone MB-2 as my commuter / rain bike. I obtained some waterproof rain boots and a bright blue Gore-Tex rain suit. Then I packed my bags, rented the cheapest, ugliest apartment in all of Eugene and moved there with my U-Haul full of junk.

My little 3 mile commute was on a flat bike path so I ended up spending most of my time on the old fixie instead of the new lime green rain bike. Then I moved to Portland and had a bike/bus commute, meaning the bike was mounted on the front of the bus and totally exposed to the grimy, gritty freeway. A perfect job for old Limey.

After a few thousand miles, I sold it partly because its maximum speed was about 12mph and partly because I had a friend who wanted to try commuting. Occasionally I see it locked up around town. It had a bright yellow handlebar bag and black fenders. The one pictured is from the internets. I never did take a photo. Lesson learned: photograph all bikes!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Proof that I'm human and not a harmless fluffy little kitty cat: I punched someone hard in the arm several times yesterday for saying I'm not that fast or powerful on the hills.

I have since been punching myself in the regret muscle for overreacting so violently. Luckily he seemed to forgive me. I hope my main riding partner, who introduced me to this chap, will forgive me too.

I'm an impulsive, defensive cat with claws that scratch sometimes. I don't need other people to validate me. Or do I?!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Clatskanie - Cape Disappointment 200K

What a day! What a day, what a day. I've said this to others and myself over and over since Sunday. It reminds me of an expression my dear Grammy used. She'd say "what sort of day is today?" then continually determine the answer and comment on it through the day. She was excellent at living in the present moment. I bet she'd be quite the Randonneuse if she were around today.

Sunday was many sorts of days, all rolled into one. It was a jittery and nervous day. First, I awoke to snow falling. There were only two of us attempting this Permanent route and I felt in over my head. I was dreading what promised to be a gusty crossing on the long bridge to Astoria. And I was worried about my new bike fit. These concerns worked together to distract from stopping at the first control point of the day. Knowing you've probably blown it right out of the gate sure takes the pressure off!

It was a day of many weathers. We saw pretty white snow in the air, then on the ground as we climbed a gentle mountain pass called KM. Big clumpy slushy snow fell during our descent. Rain, of course. A little sleet. Miniature white hail balls that bounced off my arms and made me laugh. Pelting hail that stung my cheeks. A rainbow. Dark, forbidding clouds. Hopeful patches of pale blue sky. The sun temporarily winning its battle with the clouds and shining through.

It was a day of bridges. First a bridge in Clatskanie, then a bridge from the island in the Columbia to mainland Washington. A covered bridge with a checkpoint clue. More bridges than I could count before we reached the big scary one I dreaded. It was dark and wet as we started the four and a half mile crossing. The sun shone brightly on Astoria just across the bay. On the bridge, it snowed and hailed, but traffic and wind were light and we were over in no time.

It was a day of funny names and wordplay. Towns like Cathlamet, Skamokowa, and Clatskanie (pronounced klats-kah-neye). Cape Disappointment, which wasn't disappointing in the least. Ilwaco! There's a charming camp song about old Ilwaco town - something about delicious fish. We coined fun phrases like: Sisy Tish's Nancy flaps fend off freckles. Jackhammer Jessica's jumping jacks. Randy rando rider Ronny ran into rowdy Rhonda on the road.

It was a day of calories! Oatmeal, banana, coffee, more coffee, gel, more gel, pink rice crispy treats, PBJs on blueberry bread, unbelievably sour gum (to celebrate reaching Highway 101), dill pickle potato chips, a whole pack of necco wafers, mini-Lara bars, a mocha, hard boiled eggs with capers and toast, and finally, Atomic fireballs scored after climbing the last hill.

It was a day of checkpoints with friendly clerks. Part of the fun of randonneuring is enlisting the help of shop owners and cashiers to time stamp and initial your brevet card. In sunny Astoria, we chose to stop at the Blue Scorcher cafe because, well, my partner likes blue and he's a scorcher! The owner of this bikey cafe shyly interviewed us about our ride.

Mostly, it was a day of nature. One can hardly recall all the beautiful sights and sounds and smells. Riots of birds partying in trees is one of my favorites. Picking out the nuance of color in what might appear to be a colorless landscape at a glance. So many shades of purple. The best though, were the choirs of singing frogs we heard on those last several miles while racing sunset. I grew up near a frog pond and this was the perfect soundtrack to take me home.