Friday, February 25, 2011

And the Winner Is...

John Furrow of Bend, OR is the winner of February's cycling story of the month contest. He will be enjoying his one pound of Backporch coffee while cruising around in his brand new Lamborghini Diablo. Now you wish you would have sent a story don't you. It's o.k., there will be plenty more chances. I didn't actually give him a Lamborghini, though. Just the coffee, which is in his box at work (if you were wondering, John). For your enjoyment today, here is John's story:

Circa 1988, I came home from my early morning job at UPS.  My brother was asleep… ok, passed out on the couch.  Next to the couch was a beautiful new black shiny Schwinn mountain bike.  I heard our friend Scott had just bought a new mountain bike, but this was the first time seeing one in person.  I’m sure it was a tough decision for Scott to allow his brand new mountain bike to leave his apartment underneath a sloshed helmsman, but that’s what friends are for. Too bad Scott didn’t think far enough ahead to see me staring at that bike, knowing that bike was yearning for first dirt, wanting someone to ride it where Scott would never be able to.
No more than a half mile to the west of the house was the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, a collection of rocky desert peaks.  In clear sight was a streak of gray, dropping directly down from the top of the closest peak.  The gray streak cascaded roughly 200 feet down to the highest trail. This would be my test run.  Mountain bikes, I’d heard, were good at rolling downhill over steep and rocky terrain.  I’d even seen pictures in magazines!
It took me no time flat to crest the top of the trail on the shiny new bike.  I banked left and up the gray streak only to sink four inches deep in talus.  Turns out, my test run would be more challenging than I thought.  Not one to be deterred by common sense or succumb to better judgment, I hoisted the bike up the 50+ degree talus “streak.”  With every step I seemed to slide down two, yet I was determined to reach the summit and let gravity work her magic as I would soon be flying down this monument in full glory on a shiny new Schwinn.  I was forced to stop just shy of the summit as the peak itself jutted up 15 feet of near vertical rock. Out of breath, I turned around on the river of scree and gazed down hungrily at my playground.
Adrenaline has a way of rationalizing insanity.  My first mountain bike ride was to be an epic downhill thrill ride. Trying to mount a bike on such a steep slope is rather tricky and committing.  A few awkward attempts went by before I figure it out.  The next attempt would be the start of a huge descent.  Leaping on and hammering the pedals, mouth agape, I swiftly surfed downward.  Soon however, my feet could not keep up with the Schwinn.  Barreling out of control, the front tire trenched deep into the scree, catapulting me over the bike.  Before I could think, “this was a bad idea,” I was somersaulting through sharp schist with the shiny black Schwinn right behind me.
The bike and I walked home with lots of injuries that morning.  It was no longer shiny or new.  I wonder if Scott has a full suspension bike now…

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Men's Sufferage

The call came as a relief. The time was 6:28 and Jonathan was calling to tell me he didn't sleep well and was running late. I hadn't slept great either. It was taking me longer to sort my climbing gear than I expected. There was a lot to remember. Ice tools, crampons, harness, boots, climbing helmet, skis, poles, ski boots, Jelly Belly's and water--to name a few. I packed it all neatly into the grocery-getter and embarked on another adventurous day.

I'm not sure how he talked me into it. Jonathan has a way of convincing me to do things that I wouldn't normally pick to do on my day off work. Suffering in the cold for hours while belaying him up rotten ice is never what I envision myself doing on a free day. Don't get me wrong, I ALWAYS enjoy the suffering. That's part of why I ride my bike everywhere. So, he talked me into it last night. I think he probably slipped me a roofie or something. I consented, potentially un-willfully, and we made our journey out to Cougar Crag, where we always go to suffer when the weather is questionable. After skiing a mile and a half and then slogging through deep snow and manzanita up an endless hill, we reached our destination. My feet felt like beams of frozen steel. My hands were getting the screaming barfies every 15 minutes or so and spindrift kept spraying me in the face. I had a blast.

My ride back to my house took a long time. The forty pounds of gear felt heavier than when I left. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting High and Robbing Trains

Who needs skiing when you can ride your bike in the snow? This video, though, makes me want to fly.

After watching this today my thought was, "Well, I'd sure like to experience flying like that, but I don't really want the consequence of failing at that height and speed." And then it occurred to me that part of the thrill, part of the excitement with flying is that it is dangerous. There are consequences. I wonder what it is about human nature that makes us want to take risks? Any thoughts? Most people don't take risks because they know they might be able to get hurt. Most people don't like getting hurt. I don't like getting hurt. Lot's of people have dreamed of flying, though. People like wind rushing past their face and being high (you know what I mean!). I put together a little video of myself flying home from work today. The bandanna is to keep my lungs warm. Not for robbing trains. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Got Me Under Pressure

I just spent the last hour on Sheldon Brown's site reading about bicycle tires. Well, part of the time I was watching videos about how to pick bike locks. Sheldon Brown had posted a video about how to get around a U-lock by just cutting through the wheel of the bike. This got me thinking about bike locks that I sell and how easy it might be to get through one, so I watched a bunch of lock-picking videos and can now probably pick any lock you put in front of me. Have no fear, though, I have way too many other hobbies already to add bicycle theft to the mix. Not to mention the moral dilemma that it may pose for me...

So I was sliding all over the place on my bike last week, even with studs on my tires. I knew that lowering my tire pressure would actually help with this problem because it would cause my tire to better take the shape of the surface that it was on, but I had never tried it. Really I've just been lazy about it. I mean, when I leave my house at 6:30 in the morning, I just want to jump on my bike and go. I don't want to have to worry about changing tire pressure or making sure my seat is straight or making sure my wheels are properly secured to my bicycle. I learned this week, more than once (unfortunately), that attending to these things at least once in awhile can increase my chances of staying on top of my bike. For example, when I was riding to Mother's to volunteer at our CSA, one of my trailer wheels fell off. Kind of a bummer on Reed Market with traffic zipping by at ridiculous speeds (you know, 30ish mph...).   I parked my bike and trailer and went back and got my prodigal wheel. It was in the grass on the side of the road. I found out that the tire fell off because the skewer had somehow loosened up... alot. I tightened it down, traffic was still zipping by, and re-installed it on the grocery-getter. Not a problem. It could have been, though. 

Another example of a time that I should have attended to my equipment happened last week when I fell on the ground when I was trying to turn into my driveway (there was ice involved). In this example, my rear wheel fell off. This is not a good sign. I'm not sure why it fell off, but I can tell you, that anytime your tire is loose enough to come off with a minimal impact crash, something much worse could have happened. It didn't, though, and that's good. 

To tie this all in with bicycle tire pressure: I decided on Sunday, before I left for church that I would try lowering my tire pressure to improve traction. Sheldon Brown has a big long scientific summary of tires on his site if you're interested. My version is going to be much shorter. So, I lowered the pressure and rode to church. I didn't fall down on the treacherously icy roads. That's good. It really made a huge difference, though. I couldn't ride as fast (and maybe that's part of why I felt more stable), but I felt a much greater level of control. Now, confidence doesn't necessarily equal safety, but in this case I think there was certainly a safety improvement. I'll definitely take the time to lower tire pressure on snowy days now...and maybe I'll check and make sure my wheels are actually attached to my bike. We'll see.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Friendly Reminder

For those of you who have a fond memory of riding bikes, past or present, email it to me before Thursday night at midnight. Backporch coffee goes to the best story. Here are the official contest rules:

Now it's your turn. I want to hear your most wicked awesome cycling story. In 500 words or less, send me your favorite cycling story and you will have a chance to win one pound of Backporch Coffee. Any type of cycling adventure will do. Stories will be judged on creativity, writing style, flow, epic-ness and many other things that I haven't thought of yet (don't worry, I'll have Kalea read them, too. She's more fair than I more ways than one). Send entries to All entries must be received by Thursday, February 24th, no later than 11:59 p.m. One story will be selected and featured in a Daily Fix post. The author will receive roughly a weeks-supply of Backporch Coffee. Good luck to all!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Swirly Chaos

I opened the blinds at 7:30 a.m. To my surprise there was four inches of fresh snow blanketing the several that was already accumulated from earlier in the week. New snow was swirling between our house and the neighbor's chaotically. Usually these conditions are exciting for me. I like the challenge of trying to stay upright when my tires are being squirrely underneath me. That challenge is not quite so appealing when you don't sleep well and your head is demonstrating symptoms of a cold. I did it anyway. The ride was the standard epic snow-ride and only one person called me an f-ing idiot. I consider that a pretty good ride. Here's a picture of my truck. Kalea picked me up from work... That's why I'm smiling. I'll rest and report back soon. Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ice Cream Bike or Hipster Killer?

It's a funny juxtaposition--a disproportionately large delivery truck sharing an alley with a relatively small delivery bike. "This is my morning everyday," says Daniel Brewster as we pedal through a parking lot and into the alley. Brewster is owner and rider of Cascade Couriers, a bicycle delivery service in Bend, Oregon. "The trucks are clogging the alley and I can just ride around them." He makes his delivery of pastries to Lone Pine Coffee, likely one of the places where the delivery trucks delivered their products. The time is just shy of 7 a.m. and Daniel and I have been riding for almost an hour.
This is Daniel's delivery bike.

Compared to a large delivery truck, Daniel's delivery bike cannot carry very much--a few tubs of pastries and a couple dozen baguettes and him. Except for the extra large fiberglass delivery container on the front (Don't call it an ice-cream bike, by the way. Daniel hates it, when you call it an ice-cream bike), it's really just a normal bike. Though small in stature, the bike is a machine (no pun intended). It is capable of handling 200 pounds and Daniel says he has carried around 400 pounds, fully loaded with The Source Weekly, a local newspaper. It is surprisingly stable on snow and ice, though the small front wheel makes it difficult to maneuver in chunky snow conditions. One day this year with a light load, he even laid it down in a corner on some ice. The bike slid all the way into the other lane. On the bright side, it was early enough that traffic was really light still. 

The lights are coming on.
Daniel orders a 16 ounce mocha at Thump Coffee. We have to wait for Sparrow Bakery to finish with some pastries, so that we can take those to Bread LaVoy. The break is welcome as my fingers are a little chilly in my Black Diamond fleece gloves. Daniel's mocha arrives graced with a beautifully poured Rosetta. "We are looking into getting a Sprinter van that runs off bio-diesel that we can use to expand our business to all of Central Oregon," he says. He sips his mocha. "It isn't practical for us to deliver by bike, exclusively." Cascade Couriers employs two other riders part-time and has been a presence in Central Oregon for several years. The company started with a composting service that picked up compost from households throughout Central Oregon. The compost was taken to Fields Farm, east of Bend--all by bicycle. Sometimes the trailers could be loaded with upwards of 500 pounds of compost. Though composting is no longer a part of Cascade Courier's service, the bike delivery service is as busy as ever. Along with bakery goods, they deliver legal documents, mail, produce from the farmer's market and they now even offer a lunch delivery service. Daniel finishes his mocha and we put our helmets and gloves back on. It's time to ride again.

Enough said.
Out in the cold once again, I ask him what his biggest pet peeve is. He says that when he's riding, he tries to keep a positive attitude. "I just try to give people room, because that's what I hope they will give me." We discuss the concept of people generally being more scared around us (cyclists) than we are around them. I fight for breath as we talk about our favorite interactions with motorists. He says people always cut close to him at the intersection of Colorado and Arizona. We arrive at Sparrow once again to pick up another load of pastries. We'll make a couple more stops before my time with Daniel ends. Though the temperature didn't climb above 25 degrees on our two and a half hour ride together, I was warm from riding and the excitement of taking new routes and meeting new people.

I rode home exhilarated. I was wide awake. It felt good to be out so early and in the company of someone with vision. As I was making my last turn into the driveway, my bike slipped out from under me on a patch of ice and I fell for the first time this winter (besides the other time, which was not snow related). The perfect end, to a good morning ride.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Win Some Coffee

Hey You! Send me your favorite personal experience with cycling. Here are the contest rules and stuff:

Now it's your turn. I want to hear your most wicked awesome cycling story. In 500 words or less, send me your favorite cycling story and you will have a chance to win one pound of Backporch Coffee. Any type of cycling adventure will do. Stories will be judged on creativity, writing style, flow, epic-ness and many other things that I haven't thought of yet (don't worry, I'll have Kalea read them, too. She's more fair than I more ways than one). Send entries to All entries must be received by Thursday, February 24th, no later than 11:59 p.m. One story will be selected and featured in a Daily Fix post. The author will receive roughly a weeks-supply of Backporch Coffee. Good luck to all!

Everything Else Stays the Same, It's Me That's Changed

The garage door closes behind me. I'm committed. There are three miles separating me from my place of work and it's just me and my faithful steed (maybe I'll name her one of these days). It used to be that my commute was only one mile. You can walk one mile pretty fast. If there was snow or ice in those days, I would just walk. Sometimes I'd put chains on my shoes called Yak Trax. Often I'd run. For weeks at a time my bicycles would sit lonely, in the garage.

This morning, the three miles separating me from work seem normal. My frozen breath hangs in the air as I fumble to buckle the strap on my helmet. I am standing in six inches of snow, firm and sun-baked. There is poetry in this ritual. The route never really changes. I do, though. What used to feel cold, is cold no longer. My face is used to the feeling of an icy breeze. My hands are well accustomed to numbness. So are my toes. Wet doesn't really bother me either. I always seem to dry out and warm up. When the temperature warms up, I'll trade my pants for shorts, I'll trade my beard for a close shave and I'll still ride. The walking thing isn't nearly as convenient when it takes an hour to get to work compared with the 9-12 minutes it takes on my bike.

When I pedaled off toward work this morning their was some snow and some cold. The bike lanes were mostly large snow-berms, some cars passed me at quite inopportune times. It sure did feel good to be out on my bike, though.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Want Your Soul

Now it's your turn. I want to hear your most wicked awesome cycling story. In 500 words or less, send me your favorite cycling story and you will have a chance to win one pound of Backporch Coffee. Any type of cycling adventure will do. Stories will be judged on creativity, writing style, flow, epic-ness and many other things that I haven't thought of yet (don't worry, I'll have Kalea read them, too. She's more fair than I more ways than one). Send entries to All entries must be received by Thursday, February 24th, no later than 11:59 p.m. One story will be selected and featured in a Daily Fix post. The author will receive roughly a weeks-supply of Backporch Coffee. Good luck to all!

CSA Day the Sequel: Riders on the Storm

Hmm... It's pretty nice...I think I'll ride my bike today.

It was windy Sunday night before I crawled into bed at 11. The temperature was just a scosche above 40 degrees--not weather conducive to lots of snow (or so I thought). The weatherman said it was going to snow and I was admittedly disappointed that the weather was not cooperating with his prophecy. To my surprise as I awoke at 4am with a nagging bladder, our room was not dark as normal, but lit up with a soft, even light coming from our windows. Too tired to crack the blinds and check on the weather status, I fell back asleep for another hour. At five I got up to confirmed suspicions. It had snowed a little.

A little turned into a lot when I walked out to shovel the high-water-content snow. My conservative estimate is six inches at 5:30, but I think there was a bit more. The above photo was taken at 6:25 a.m. The pedal that is down is dragging in the snow.

I thought I would leave early to make it to work on time. At 6:30 I left, wearing dry jeans, wool socks, a fleece jacket and a windbreaker. I showed up to work at 7:05 wearing the same thing I was wearing when I left (you were hoping for something more racy, weren't you?) , only it was all soaked through like a used tissue. For a point of reference, it usually takes between 9 and 12 minutes to get to work. In my easiest gear I was pedaling as hard as I could just to keep my bike and trailer moving in the wet, heavy snow. The temperature was around 33 degrees and I was absolutely drenched in the first 5 minutes from exertion.

I pulled onto Brosterhous and rode in the tire track closest the fog line, which was easier to pedal in, but took all my focus to stay righted. This may be metaphorical: When you're riding in a rut, it is easy to stay in the rut, but if you try to exit the rut it is extremely difficult to keep your balance. It took all the mental faculties I had available to keep myself upright. It progressively got worse the closer I got to REI. At the intersection of 3rd and Reed Market, with piles of snow on my feet, I sat at the stoplight in the turn lane admiring the chaos of ruts that was plaguing the area. Some guy a couple cars back rolled down his window and yelled, "Way to go, man!" To which I replied with a smile, "hey..." The fact is, I was mentally preparing myself to eat organic material upon entering this minefield of snowy destruction. I was not a bit focused on the traffic that was fish-tailing all around me. It was me and my bike and my grocery-getter.

The light turned green and I waited for the expected three cars running the red light to slide on through the intersection. I pedaled and slid and pedaled and slid and stayed loose in my saddle, allowing my bike to skitter around beneath me as I kept my eyes focused on the road ahead. I made it through without going down. Relief was only for a moment, however, as I pounded up and over the Reed Market overpass. Reed Market is steep and notoriously rutted in the snow. Today was no different. I tried riding in the first rut, but I was getting tossed about like a leaf in the gale, so I chose the deep snow of the bike lane. This proved infinitely less taxing mentally and I rode the rest of the way to work safe-ish-ly.

I can safely say that this ride was "epic, man." It wins the worst-commuting-conditions-this-year award.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Riding Rocks: My Bike Ride To Revelation

I just couldn’t muster the motivation to drive out to Smith Rock and climb yesterday. Instead, I threw my climbing gear into Kalea’s car and put my bike shorts and jacket on and rode my bike out there. The 30 mile ride took me a little more than an hour and a half. I think I had a bit of a tail wind, because that puts my average speed at about 20 mph. That is kind of fast for a solo ride when there is only one gear to choose from. 
Kalea was out there with some of our friends (I tried to race them, but they were much faster in the car), so I grabbed my climbing pack out of the car, left my bike in the car and ran down into the park to meet them. At this point, it had been drizzling for 15 minutes, or so, and many of Smith’s less hardy climbers were leaving. It seemed like lot’s of folks were looking rather long at me as I approached and passed them clad in cycling shoes, tights, neon yellow jacket, cycling cap and well used climbing pack. Maybe I was just being self conscious because I imagined just how ridiculous I really looked, but I’m pretty sure lots of folks were, at least, really amused by my garish climbing attire. I found my wife and my friends near The Testament Slab where a couple of climbers were working Barbecue the Pope. Bailey and Matt were in between laps on Panic Attack when I showed up. Take cheer, Readers. This scene wasn’t nearly as gruesome nor morbid as it sounds. There were no popes actually being barbecued and Bailey and Matt were perfectly calm as they changed belays. 
After brief conversation (most conversation is fairly brief for me), I put my harness on, flaked the rope, tied in and began an ascent of Revelations. It started raining as I made my way to the first bolt, which is 20ish feet off the deck. Rain is kind of fun to ride in, but it isn’t any fun to climb in. The rock is not nearly as sticky when it’s raining and you kind of get an uncomfortable slippery feeling as you make your way up the rock. I made it to the top with little event and quickly clipped the anchors and was lowered off. It rained more on my way down and then stopped right when Jamie started climbing. I gave her a belay to the top and then we all packed our gear and headed for the car. At this point I didn’t really feel like riding back to Bend, so I just hitched a ride with Kalea and Jamie (Kalea was nice enough to offer). We stopped at the Terrebonne Depot, which I recommend to anyone who hasn’t been there, and I received several longing--er, I mean long looks from patrons as I entered, still clad in tights and a neon jacket. I quickly ordered an ale to re-hydrate and a burger to still my raging hunger. 
I fell asleep on the ride home and woke up at Joshua and Mandy’s where we watched the Cosby show and coddled baby Ezra. That was fun. I think I’ll ride out there again someday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two Step Brake Down

I'm learning how to work on bikes. Today I built a bike. It's a cruiser, commuter bike made by Marin called the Stinson. When you work at a bike shop, it's easy to get snobby about bikes. I'm quick to turn my nose up at an "urban" bike. Especially a cheap urban bike. The brakes were hard to adjust. The hubs were rough. It's easy to complain, when you compare this to a bike that's 10 times the price (some people wouldn't blink at a $5000 price tag). Something that I learned today is that if it's the right bike, the rider can have just as much fun on a $500 bike as a $5000 one.

So, my favorite part was the test ride. I took it out across the street and rode it around. I saw some stairs, so I rode down them. The brakes worked fine, the shifting was pretty good and the bike could handle a two stair like it wasn't p**p. Even though the bike isn't spec'd with the latest, greatest components, somebody is going to have fun with it. That's what is important. Ride your bike and enjoy it this weekend.

Friday, February 11, 2011

W and the Fish Tickler

I'm at work (on a break, for those of you concerned about my work ethic). When I rode here this morning, the wind was blowing. When I went outside to help a gal with a car rack install it was blowing. I bet when I go home, it will still be blowing. My friend, Paul, calls it "W." I used to think that he was talking about the former administration, but I learned that it was actually something much more high profile. I think Paul probably got the W reference from David James Duncan. He wrote the book, "The RiVer WHY." It's about finding God in fly-fishing. W is never good, especially when fly-fishing. When presentation is of great importance, it is almost impossible to get your fly to do what you want it to do. Paul is a fisherman. When we go fishing together, he always speaks of W in hushed tones, so as not to bring the curse of it upon our fishing trip.

Fishing is probably the worst sport to do when W is around. Unless you do the old Indian trick of tickling the fishes belly while he is sleeping next to the bank and pull him out with your bare hands. That's pretty easy to do in the wind. The second worst sport to do when it is windy out is bicycle riding. It's only half as bad as fishing though, because sometimes the wind can be to your advantage. I'd say that half of my ride to work was against the wind and the other half was with the wind. When you ride your bike against the wind it feels like you aren't moving sometimes. In these situations, I think about how dumb I look straining to pedal five miles per hour as automobiles fly by at forty. They don't have any problem with W, why should I? I sometimes imagine the fellow in the three ton pickup (that I wish I had) rolling down his window and stopping while I'm pedaling at 0mph and saying to me as I'm still not moving, but straining as if I were, "You oughta get yourself a V12, son. It'll make a whole heck of a lot of difference." Then he rolls up his window, adjusts his Stetson and continues on down the road as if W were non-existent. The other half of the ride was with the wind and that's fun. Especially when it makes you go faster than you think you're going. On a fixie this is problematic because you can't stop pedaling. If you lean into a turn too much, you'll clip a pedal on the downstroke and you'll be on the ground before you can flick a booger (which is pretty dang fast when you're trying to be discreet). Fortunately this didn't happen to me this morning, but it almost did. In these situations I feel dumb, because to bystanders, I would be obviously out of control and appear desperate. I am not desperate.

For the most part, though, I like wind. If it isn't windy you can't fly a kite and you wouldn't have anything to blame for a poor day of fishing. W is pretty cool as long as it's on your side.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

True Dat

Today I trued my wheels on my Capo. What does it mean to be true? "Consistent with reality, not false or erroneous." That's how The Free Dictionary defines it. In this case "reality" is a stationary object on a "truing stand" that sits just a millimeter from the side of the wheel as it spins. Ideally, I should be able to spin my wheel with this stationary reality less than a millimeter away from it and not run into it. It's good to parallel reality closely. It's not good to run into reality. If you run into reality, you are on a a wobbly cycle. Every time you pass this section, you will run into reality. Same place, same problem.

If you have a problem that you are running into (bear with me now, we are still talking about wheels), the solution is tension. You need to tension the wheel on one side and release tension on the other. After you've done this and the problem seems to have gone, it is important that you "stress" the wheel. This is an important component to being true. The wheel needs to be placed under stress to release the wound up tension that is in the spokes. Metaphor? Absolutely. You may have to go back and do the tension thing again because, when placed under stress, problems are revealed that you couldn't see before (I should stop now. This is too good).

Some days I can relate to this metaphor a lot. Some days I feel wobbly. Some days I feel tension. Some days I feel under stress. It's just a part of the road to being true I guess. I can run from it or I can embrace it. The great part about a true wheel is it is strong. Really strong. Strong enough to stand up to the abuse that these guys put them through:

So I trued my wheels, which didn't actually take much effort, because they were pretty true to begin with. Then I rode home and thought about my wheels and all the stress that I put them through. They have always been good to me. For that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stop Signs: A Cyclist's Secret Sin

I follow a blog called BikePortland. There have been a bunch of updates on their site recently of proposed House Bills that would affect Oregon cyclists. One Bill in particular that was interesting to me was a proposal to lower the fine for cyclists not stopping at stop signs. The proposed Bill would lower the fine from $240 to $40. Another Bill is proposing that the fine be based on vehicle weight. $180 for vehicles grossing 1000 pounds or less (bicycles and motorcycles). $360 for vehicles weighing between 1000 and 6000 pounds and $540 for vehicles over 6000 pounds.

The thing that sobered me was the $240 fine that HAS been in effect for cyclists. I'll be honest, there have been some quiet mornings when I have failed to stop at a stop sign. Starting my day off less $240 would not be good. Well, neither would getting run over by a motor-vehicle. Bicycle law has always been gray for most folks. They don't teach it in the driver safety courses. You don't have to learn it when you learn to ride a bike. You either know it because you were interested in finding out what your "rights" as a cyclist were or because, as a motorist, you were interested in having munitions to mow down the spandex wearing, three abreast riding, carbon fiber steed-ed cyclists who are much too cool for school and certainly too cool for laws (I have similar sentiments, but as I ride more, I have gotten to know some great people who are "roadies" and they are very much law abiding, spandex-wearing cyclists). The point here is, it would benefit both motorists and cyclists if everyone was informed on cycling law.

Here's my rule of thumb: If I'm on my bike on a road with much traffic then I abide by the same rules that motorists do. I stop at stop lights. I signal when I am turning and changing lanes. I try not to exceed the speed limit (it is possible sometimes). It is frustrating as a cyclist when motorists treat me as a pedestrian. An example is when I am waiting to cross a road that has no traffic control device for cross street traffic and a motorist stops to let me go across. This is particularly dangerous when there are four lanes of traffic. More often than not traffic coming from the opposite direction has no clue that I am waiting to cross and will continue driving, leaving the stopped motorist to awkwardly wait while traffic backs up behind him. I have actually waved cars on because I'm so annoyed that they are waiting for me. Let me clarify. It's nice that they are waiting for me, but it is dangerous for me to cross because if they are waiting, my view is often obstructed of the rest of traffic that may be coming. It's not that I mind people being nice. That is, of course, a good thing. As a motorist, it is important that I treat cyclists as a motorist. Same laws and such. As a cyclist, I need to act like a motorist.

This said, I think that the penalties for cycling sins should be the same as for motorists. After all, they're all the same in God's eyes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Unto Us a Son Is Given

Ezra Reynvaan was born today. This morning at 5:20. What a crazy miracle. Life. I have had the privilege of being close to Ezra's father, Joshua, for over ten years now and it is breathtaking to see a son born to him. Babies are cute and nice and cuddly and stuff, but this is a totally different revelation. This is the revelation of two becoming one. This is the revelation of new life. This is promise. It's the beginning of eternity. And we are so quick to get caught up in our lives devoid of this revelation.

I was at the hospital when Ezra was born this morning. I heard his first cries. The sign of life this side of the womb. The sign of oxygen entering his lungs. I held his 45 minute-old body in my arms. He felt small and in need of support and love, but at the same time there was a strength. Despite all odds, through the joining of two human beings purposed for each other, this being fought his way into existence. He purposed himself to life. Though unbelievably small, he is incredibly brave and strong. You can not convince me that Ezra happened by chance. You cannot convince me that he is a product of evolution.

Usually I ride my bike home as fast as I can. Tonight, I rode slow. I breathed deep of the cool winter air. I rode down empty streets upright in my saddle, hands resting on my knees and thoughts drifting towards the gift that is life. That's why I ride bikes. For me, it's a reminder of who I am. It's a reminder that there is life and hope and purpose. Breathe deep tonight. You're alive.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cowboy Criticism and Cycling For Centuries

Today I donned spandex shorts for a short ride out China Hat Rd. to Bessie Butte. This was the first day this year that I have bared my legs. Fortunately only gun toting cowboys pulling trailers full of 2-stroke motorcycles behind big trucks with mustaches saw me. Not that I have anything against folk carrying weaponry--I actually am fond of it and mustaches...the world would not be the same without mustaches! Oh how I love them. The unfortunate part about riding out China Hat Rd., by the way, here is a picture of our route:

View Larger Map

Anyway, the unfortunate part is that I think some of these cowboys don't appreciate cyclists on the roads that they are spending good tax money on. In show of their disinterest, they don't slow from their 70 mph speed and they don't cross the double yellow line (even when there is no oncoming traffic). I'm sorry that it is like this and that people don't respect people that are interested in different things than themselves. I'm sure I'm like that too, though. I want to be better about not judging people because their interests are different than my own.

This ride was Kalea's first longer ride of the year. We took it nice and easy. There is something spiritual about being out on a bike outside of the city. There is the noise of your tires on rough asphalt. The sound of the wind. The crispness of the air. The warmth of each ray of sun. There is something about riding from the city into the stillness. It's a strange juxtaposition. Under the power of just your legs you can ride into solitude where you can hear God. Today at Backporch I heard about a group that goes on long rides on Sunday mornings. Like 100 mile long rides. I think I want to join them. Not to get into shape or prove that I can do it, but so that I can see the land from a different, slower, quieter perspective.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Cycling Upside Down Day" or "Ironic, Isn't It?"

I will be brief today and quite a bit less nerdy. Well...maybe only a little less nerdy. I was looking back over the previous two posts, one of which referred to me "geeking out." I feel the need to clarify. When I was referring to me geeking out, I was not using the term in the archaic, 18th century sense that  implies that I am a carnival freak. Rather, I was using the word with the contemporary definition in mind, that a geek is one who devotes himself to his particular hobby/activity/niche. What is disturbing about the word geek, though, is that when I looked up the word on Wikipedia it suggested that I also look op "technosexual..." a person, usually male, that has a thing for robots. Let me assure you...I do not have a thing for robots. My wife, Kalea and I are happily married. So I thought that maybe "nerd" would be a better word to use, so that people don't think of me as a technosexual, but "nerd" is no better. Wikipedia says that nerds are usually portrayed with very large glasses, braces, acne and "pants highly lifted up." I don't think I can win here. Too much ambiguity. I think I'll just stick with the contemporary use of the word "geek" and call it good.

Anyhow, as I was saying, I'll be brief today. I was visiting my friend Baily at Backporch. I had an espresso and then an 8oz. mocha while we discussed routes to get from Backporch to REI. I asked him if he'd ever ridden his bike under the Colorado Street bridge (I've mentioned it may be a little dicey). He said he hadn't and that he probably wouldn't unless the river was low. I told him that the section riding next to the river was no problem and that I had never had any trouble riding my bike under there. I decided to take that route to REI after I finished my espresso. I got to the bridge, unclipped from my pedals as always to navigate the rocky entrance to the under-the-Colorado-Street-bridge-trail, passed all the way underneath the bridge in between the raging torrent of the Deschutes and the cold concrete wall of the bridge and clipped back in for the ascent of the other side of the Colorado Street bridge. This is where the story differs from usual. My tire entered a rut caused by rain and freeze, thaw cycles and all sorts of weather related drama, and I lost my balance leaning right toward some reeds that were at river level several feet down a bank. I tried to un-clip my foot to save myself from the looming catastrophe, but to no avail. Trying to pull my foot out of my pedal just exacerbated the imbalance of the situation and I committed to a half barrel-roll down the three foot bank with my bike still attached to all four of my limbs. So here I am on my back, with my bike still completely attached to me as if I were out for a lovely morning ride, laying in the reeds besides the powerful Deschutes thinking about the irony of the situation. If only I hadn't just finished telling Bailey about the ease of this passage, this would not be so humiliating. What would make the situation more humiliating would be a yoga studio full of half naked people watching the whole charade...oh, wait...there was a yoga studio full of half naked people watching the whole thing. Check. 

I managed to unclip from my inverted pony and release myself from the tangle of reeds and stumble back up the bank. I made a quick look around to make sure there was no one else (besides the yoga studio) watching, leapt upon my fixie and rode as if nothing had happened. Oh, I'm sure it will end up on YouTube very soon, but I don't mind, I guess. It's good for those things to happen every once in a while. Now that I think about it, that was kind of a geek thing to do.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hard and Sexy: Steel

Co-Motion Nor'Wester

Well would you look at that. I walked into Webcyclery yesterday and this leather-saddled steed made me say, "daang." I can identify a sexy piece of steel when I see one and this...this is a sexy piece of Reynolds 725 steel. If you go to Co-Motion's website, you can see some close-up shots of the frame. It is very impressive. As Ed of Webcyclery pointed out, their welds are so smooth, the frame looks like it was molded from a single piece of steel. 

Here's the deal with steel. Reynolds is probably the most popular steel manufacturer. They're like the Kleenex of steel. Hopefully they aren't trying to break into the tissue market, though. My bike, the Raleigh Sojourn, is made from Reynolds 520 steel. It's nice, kind of industry standard. Reynolds 531 is very similar to 520, for those of you who are familiar with that particular chromoly (chrome-molybdenum) grade . Both these grades, which are nice as far as steel is concerned, but at the bottom of the barrel in terms of Reynolds steel, are very elastic. This means they have some give or stretch, if you will. When you ride on a frame made from one of these two materials you have a very smooooth ride. Cadillac-ish, but without the dubs and hydraulics and under-dressed women. Reynolds 725 is heat tempered chromoly, which makes it stronger. It is resistant to oxidation and very light weight. It's not quite stainless steel, but it is very high-end. It is desirable for bicycles because it is a little bit stiffer which yields a little more performance for the rider. Because the material is lighter and stronger, it makes for a great choice for a touring bike. It will carry everything just fine. Your bike will practically pedal itself with this frame. (Reynolds is now making a 953 stainless for bicycle frames... Maybe I will post a steel-frame bike review in a couple of months and highlight some high-end steel frames.)

Every bike that Co-Motion  builds is hand-crafted in Eugene, Oregon. The frames that they are producing are very nice looking and that's just the foundation. Everything from wheels to drive-train to brakes are meticulously selected to build the best possible bicycle for your needs. In a world filled with so much carbon, there is nothing like cold, hard steel.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Geek Out, Man or the Scary Truth Behind Skid Marks

All I could think about at work today was skidding on my bike. Mostly, I was thinking about it because I'm wondering how long my road tire can hold up to the abuse. I have many miles on them already and with all the extra rubble in the road (to keep most people from sliding), I think they are skidding on borrowed time. Oh. For those of you who are visual learners, check out this video:

These guys are skidding to the max. Most of them. There are a couple falls that look uncomfortable.

When I skid to check speed, my position on my bike is drastically different than what you see here. You'll notice that these folks are leaning, in some cases, over the handlebars in order to release as much weight from the rear tire as possible. This technique allows a rider to skid for just about all of eternity. Isn't that nice. Me, I have no desire to skid for that distance. I desire lots of things, but distance sliding is not one of them. When I skid, it's for one of two reasons. The first reason is to impress Kalea. The second? Because I don't want to run into the back of Dude's Subaru when I'm raging down Reed Market on my way to work. So, instead of leaning way forward like the folks on this video, I slide just to the front of my saddle and raise up 2cm, at the very moment that I slide forward and up I stop pedaling. That part is committing, especially with some speed. If you don't do this right, you'll probably hurt yourself (which I did more than I would care to admit when I first started learning). So now we are slowing down very fast and impressing Kalea and avoiding Subaru Dude. The other thing that I'm accomplishing by skidding with more weight over the rear wheel is rear tire ex-foliation. That part is not quite as amusing.

I did some research on this fixie tire ex-foliation and I learned something that I'm sure I should have learned a long time ago. Here's the part that I knew: Based on the gear ratio of my bike I have a certain number of "skid patches" on my tire. I will attempt to clarify. When I skid I always have my crank arms parallel to the ground. I can skid with either my left or right foot forward. Based on this information, it would seem natural that I would only have two spots on my tire that I skid on (the top and bottom, if you will). Fortunately, for my tires, it is not that simple. The factor that you have to look at is gear ratio. That is, the ratio of teeth on my front chain ring versus the ratio of teeth on my little cog in the back. My gear ratio happens to be 46/16. I have lots of teeth up front and less in the back. Vampire-ish if you ask me. Anyway, I have 16 skid patches on my tire. "Easy," you might say. "However many teeth your back cog has is how many skid patches you have!" Nope. Almost that simple, though: Take the lowest common denominator (in this case, it's 23/8). The denominator of that fraction is 8, so that is how many skid patches I would have if I just skidded with one foot forward. Since I can skid ambidextrously, though, AND since the numerator of the reduced ratio is ODD, I get DOUBLE THE SKID PATCHHHES!!! Geek out, man!

Folks, this is great news. This means my tire will hopefully last me a little longer and I won't have to fret about it at work. Maybe someday soon I will post a review of fixie tires that last, though. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One is Silver and the Other Gold

Last night I mentioned that I would talk about the mysterious warehouse that I visited yesterday. I almost mentioned that the mysterious warehouse houses Bend's Community Bike Shed.  Many may not be aware of the presence of Bend's Community Bike Shed (BCB) in Central Oregon, because you don't live in Bend or because you just haven't run across it. Let me tell you about it. The Bike Shed is a non-profit that is committed to bringing the community together through cycling.

Garrett McAllister was hired at BCB this summer as their Services Coordinator through the Americorps program. I don't know much about how any of that works, but what I do know is that what those guys are doing over there is incredible. The room that they call their shop was small and the lighting was questionable, but at four unmatching bikestands worked four bike techs who weren't expecting to be paid for their services. They were just wrenching on donated bikes to get them running for an influx of homeless folks. These homeless folks will come in with vouchers from the gov'ment and hand them over for their new-to-them bikes. Nobody gets paid. It's just people helping people. I want to be like that.

If you or someone you know is able to help in anyway, from mechanic work to bike donations, to supplies (tubes, lubricants grease, degreasers, etc.), please contact Garrett at BCB. Click on the link above for details. If you have any problems getting a hold of them, let me know and I can get you in touch with the right people.

Today, I took a short ride with my wife, Kalea. The temperature was in the twenties and refreshing. Sometimes it's nice to just get out and spin without any place to be. There are a hundred routes you can take home. Try a different one today, maybe you'll run into the guys at Bend's Community Bikeshed. Maybe you'll make some new friends.

Daisy Dukes and Wool Undies

I'm squeezing this post in right at the buzzer. Kalea convinced me to watch a movie tonight and it didn't get over until now. 11:35. For someone who usually sneaks to bed around 9:30, that is late! Today was a brisk day on the bike. After having relatively warm weather (in the high 50s), the 30s feel cold. The sun was out, though, and my layers were appropriate. A note on my fixie commute layering system, by the way:

There are a lot of folks out there, including some of my dear friends, that wear these awful outfits comprised of  black tights accentuating the shape of the riders buttocks, over-technical looking jerseys with vests and arm-warmers and a neon jacket, a full ski mask, bicycle helmet complete with insulated helmet cover, Italian-made cycling shoes with waterproof-insulated booties and a set of Oakley Jawbone shades, with interchangeable lenses, in a color that matches the riders mood and outfit.

If you are reading this and you are interested in commuting by bicycle, please be aware that you are not required to look like Lance Armstrong when you ride your bike. Take me for instance. If it's summer, I usually wear daisy dukes and a plaid button-down (No, seriously--I do). In the winter, my outfit converts to full-length jeans rolled to just below the knees, wool socks stuffed into my already tight cycling shoes, a plaid button-down (this one is a requirement), a fleece and a neon jacket (it is nice when people see me). If it's cold, like less than 20, I substitute my ski helmet and goggles for my head covering (I know, it's incredibly nerdy, but at least I stay warm) and I put on wool long underwear. Wool is superior, by the way. The point is: get creative. No money? No problems. Just use what you have in your closet (within reason).

Anyway, I picked up our CSA box from Mothers and headed home. I took a detour, which you should always do on your bike commute, and I ended up at a mysterious warehouse with a bunch of bicycles in piles all over the place. It was called, the Bend Community Bike Shed. There will be more about this in the morning. To be continued...