Sunday, November 6, 2011

You know it's Thrilla, Thrilla Ride

Date: Nov. 6th, 2011
Distance: 21 Miles
Song of the Day: Thriller - Michael Jackson

I finally got a Sunday free. It seems like I have had plans for every weekend for the last two months. I finally got some free time to head out with some friends to go mountain biking. The plan was to go head out to Woodinville and roll the Thrilla route.

I somehow missed everyone else though. It could have been the daylight savings change, or my mistake expecting that people would be faster to get going on a Sunday morning. Either way, I was on my own.

I had a good time though. The trail was about a 20 mile loop. Mostly on dirt or gravel. It was sunny too, cold but bright. When I left there was even a bunch of shady spots that had a dusting of white frost.

The route listed on the website is complicated to say the least. At its core however are just 5 simple trails. The first is the Sammamish River Trail. It is paved, but there is a dirt and grass horse trail on the landward side of the trail.

From there you head up into the hills on the Powerline Trail, and I do mean hills. Even in my lowest gears I was spinning my tires on a few of them. Going down isn't always better either. On steep grades, you can wipe out pretty good, but I am getting better at controlling the bike without squeezing the breaks.

At the top of the hills, in the area of the Redmond watershed, were a bunch of trail runners out having a race. I had realized by this point that I was probably way out in front of anyone else I was supposed to meet with. So I stopped to wait for them and also get my bearings.

This is where the route heads onto it's third trail, the Pipeline trail. But it wasn't all that clear how to accomplish that. There were a ton of little trails that wound all over the hilltop. Eventually though reading the trail description, looking at my map, the little trail signs, and yes, a fair bit of trial and error, I found my way.

Then it was to the next trail. This is the Collins Creek trail. This was mostly a gravel horse trail through a housing development. Mostly pea gravel. Not anything that my fat tired mountain bike couldn't handle, but probably nasty on a skinny wheeled CX bike.

Then it was onto the Tolt Pipeline trail. It is basically a wide dirt road made to service and check the natural gas pipeline there. Cyclists, hikers and horse riders are also allowed on it. Cars are kept out with gates. And it is straight, but not flat. The pipeline trail rolls up and down over a couple fairly large hills. Finally dropping precipitously back down to Woodinville. That last bit is actually a bit scary. It isn't made any better by the fact there are gates set at the bottom and halfway down. Not something you want to try to navigate at full speed.

Once at the bottom, you get back to the Sammamish River Trail and finish up the loop. Not bad for a Sunday morning.


Blood and Miles

Date: November 3rd, 2011
Distance: 48 Miles
Song of the Day: I Can See for Miles - The Who

Well, another Thursday ride. Nothing too special about that. I started from West Seattle, where I have been doing some work. Then to Westlake Center to meet up with the rest of the crew. The night wasn't bad. Clear and cold, with some wind coming out of the North.

At 7:30 about 30 riders took off, heading South. We rode all the way down Rainier into Renton. Then headed off to a secret wood. Some of the folks had picked up some fire wood, so we had some heat and light to stand around. Actually too much heat. I kept backing away from the fire because it was frying the part of my legs not covered by my shorts. I never thought that I would desire pants because shorts were making me too hot.

There was one other problem with my attire. Because of the heat of the fire, I backed my unprotected leg into some nasty foliage. That blackberry got me pretty good.

After the fire started to die down. We headed out, up to Georgetown. Found a nice place indoors. No fire, but they did have a nice place to sit. After a few libations, the party broke up, and I was in for the long ride home. Seattle to Issaquah after dark is a hell of a ride. I thought this would be the first week in more that a month I hadn't done 100 miles or more. I guess I was wrong.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Dead Baby Downhill - 2011

Date: August 5th, 2011

So Friday was the Dead Baby Downhill ride. I wasn't sure what to expect from it. Most of the guys I ride with described it as amazing. That still didn't explain what it was. Frankly I was expecting a sort of race an maybe a hundred participants. I wasn't even sure I was going to go. Finally I decided I just needed to stop being lazy and do it.

When I got to the top of Admiral Way I was amazed. It wasn't a couple of guys on bikes. It was thousands of people on bikes. There were more shapes and colors of two wheeled craft that I think I have ever seen in one place. Lots of fixed gears and older tuned up road bikes. A few tall bikes and freak bikes. There was even a guy riding a tiny pink bike it looked like he stole from his 3 year old sister. The one thing missing was guys in spandex.

The race started with a Bang! and the mass of bikes smushed forward and down the hill. I don't know how long it took the group to fully pass by, but it must have been a while. Cars must have been stuck at the various intersections for 20 minutes before they could even hope for a space to get by. The mass of bikes raced along over the Duwamish and into Georgetown through the train yards. That wasn't exactly an easy place to bike. I saw at least a half dozen people with flats from running over the tracks. I even dropped my chain along the way.

Once in Georgetown, I was in for a bigger treat. Three blocks of the city had been taken over. The bikes were locked to everything in sight. There were at least three stages set up for live music. A couple of beer gardens. Trucks selling all kinds of foods. Even a few pedal powered carnival rides. And milling around through it all was this massive cadre of cyclists.

It had me thinking about the number of people who were actually bike regularly in Seattle. There were probably two thousand people on bikes for this event. I am guessing that doesn't include many of the casual commuters or the lycra clad road warriors. The amount of pedal power generated in the city on a daily basis must really be massive.

I did leave before the bike jousting began. Too bad, I really wanted to see that. I did have a good time though and hope to see more people out next year.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Tour de France; or Why do I Care?

I just wanted to write about something that I have been thinking of for a few years now. Each summer the cycling world gets all excited about the Tour de France. Yet each year I find myself becoming more apathetic about Le Tour. It is cycling's biggest race, but it has come to mean so little to me. As time goes on, the race has less and less to do with the way that I ride. I don't think I am alone in this either.

As a child I dreamed of being on the tour. It was the 80s, and the race was first making a big impression in the US. For me, it seemed like a fantastic dream. A bicycle race across a foreign country, what could be more adventurous? It is a very romantic notion, but the romance has worn off. I am no longer riding the blue bike with a banana seat and coaster breaks. I now build up custom bikes to suit my various needs. I have even toured across much of France, but that trip looked nothing like what you see on TV. My heavy touring rig had about 40 pounds of gear strapped to it. Nothing like those 16 pound carbon fiber things on skinny tires. So I have changed over the years. Truth be told, I haven't become much of a roadie. I am more into where my bike can take me than who I can overtake on my bike. I like a light bike, but I don't count grams. I like going fast, but I am not about to start shaving my legs.

Tour History Lesson

The Tour itself has gone through its own changes. When it started, it was all basically a publishing stunt in 1903. The first races included riding through the night. I guess this turned into a bad idea as during the second race contestants used the cover of darkness to hop on trains or trucks to sneak ahead of the competition. During that race it seems the fans got involved as well to help out their favored rider by throwing nails and even punches at opponents. It was almost the end of the Tour. It has been a resilient race, coming back in 1905 and surviving two world wars.

In the beginning there were strange rules to contend with. For instance, each rider was responsible for their own repairs with no help from others. Similarly, a racer was not allowed to change bicycle during the race. Even to swap out with a teammate. Imagine the consternation of one Eugène Christophe at loosing the lead by having to spend hours to re-forge his fork during the 1913 race. (Also further insulted as he was penalized 3 minutes for allowing a young boy to work the bellows of the forge.) The racers were also expected to carry all their equipment from the start of the stage to the finish. This included items like a flat tire, or a sweater used for a cold 3:00 AM start. Apparently there was even a plan in 1925 to make sure that all the racers would eat the same amount of food. That was quickly dropped however.

Many changes started in the 30s. Sponsorships from bicycle manufacturers were banned, and national teams were created. This lead to the elimination of individual riders and the buildup of team racing. The 1934 race also had the first official time trial stage. In 1937 derailers were allowed for the first time. This meant no longer stopping and flipping the rear wheel to change gears. It was the beginning of a change in the tour and the start of many technology changes to come.

In the 1960s the national teams were dropped and replaced by sponsorship teams again. This was also the first decade marred by doping scandals, including the death of Tom Simpson from amphetamines on a tour stage.

Since then the tour has not undergone many major changes, but the technology has improved rapidly. Steel frames were replaced by aluminum and then carbon fiber. Dedicated time trial bikes were created. Radios were added to allow teams to communicate with support staff. Performance enhancing drugs also improved and became harder to detect.

While I can't begrudge anyone for using lighter equipment, it seems that push for technology hasn't always been good. In my view this has pushed the riders from being good racers, to just a pair of legs. There have no doubt been amazing recent moments. It is also hard to forget Lance Armstrong's seven straight tour victories. Yet it feels like some of the allure is gone. I have been trying to come up with some of the reason that I feel this way. So far, this is what I have come up with:


In general I don't have any problem with new technology, it is only how it is used. Bikes are no different. I also can't imagine anyone having a problem with better helmets or breaks. I don't mind at all when a racers wants to ride the latest carbon fiber bike, either. Where I do see this being an issue is the number of bikes a rider can choose from. Most riders have three different bikes for the tour, and this doesn't include spares. One is for flat roads, one is for mountains, and one is for time trials. I know you could probably look at me and say, that I am being hypocritical here. That I have three bikes, and they have three different uses. But I have a street bike, a off-road bike, and a touring bike. The thing is, I don't change bikes mid-race. When you allow multiple bikes you keep the racers from having to make tough choices. It also keeps designers from having to come up with brilliant compromises in a bike. Why have mountain stages if you are going to allow competitors to have specifically designed bikes for those stages?

Communication is another problem. Currently, the Tour de France allows racers to have two way radios during the race. This allows a race director to talk to his team during the stage. This does in some ways help with the safety of a race by warning riders of collisions or sharp turns ahead. It also takes away from the strategy of the team racing and places it in the hand of the director. Any team sport is going to have its coach, granted, but out on the course it should be the racers to decide their specific tactics. More importantly it should be up to the team leader to actually lead the team. (I guess that starting next year, the teams will not be allowed to use radios.)


Support cars have been around for quite some time. Some of the earliest photos show cars following the race. The modern tour caravan was even started in 1930. However the current race support is such a grotesque display. Each team has two cars to rush in with parts and mechanics for near instant repairs. They also bring food and water to racers. You can even (legally) draft off the cars back to the peleton.

There are so many problems with this that it is hard to know where to begin. To start, it means racers don't actually need to know anything about the machines they ride. It is up to someone else to fix and tune. I can't imagine any ordinary rider who can't fix a flat or adjust a seat. It seems odd that our racing heroes should be unable to complete such mundane tasks.

It also means that cars are zipping all over the course during the race. The caravan is a disaster waiting to happen. These cars have been responsible for a number of deaths over the years. There is also a spectacular incident this year where a driver knocked two contestants from the lead pack off the road.

There are also the much more mundane aspects to the support cars, where riders are commonly pushed back into the peleton or helped along, such as by the infamous "sticky bottle". (That is, pulling a rider along under the guise of handing them a water bottle.) This has generated an attitude where anything that isn't caught isn't illegal. So the race isn't as much about the athleticism as it is about knowing where to break the rules. That sounds more like professional wrestling than bike racing.

It is the very nature of how these vehicles operate that changes the race, whether by intent or accident. How can we have a "pure" bicycle race if the vehicles are always affecting the race? More than that, why is it that cycling's biggest race is entirely dependent upon cars? How can I claim my place with the cars on the streets of my town, if the tour riders can't avoid them?

I can understand the utility of having police cars clear the race corridor. I can also understand that this is a sporting event, therefore to be successful you need lots of video coverage. It only makes sense to have camera men mounted on vehicles zooming along with the race. Beyond that, all vehicles should be left behind the last cyclist.


Doping is another hot topic in cycling. The cyclists and tour fans out there might not want to hear about it, but it is becoming a bigger problem each year. Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 tour victory. He (among others) also accused Lance Armstrong, winner of the previous seven races, of doping. Three of the last four tours have been won by Alberto Contador whose career is also pock marked with doping scandals. It is hard to tell if anyone in the last decade has won the tour and been clean.

Whatever truth or guilt you see out there, I see the doping scandals as a symptom of the larger issues here. The men winning the races are expected to be a pair of legs, and nothing more. All of the management decisions are made by others. All the repairs are handled for the racers. Even the technologies being used are selected for them. The racers have been left few other areas to compete on. Combine that with the mentality of "if they don't catch you, it isn't illegal" and the whole thing becomes an arms race between how much the top contenders can take while still being able to deny they abused steroids.


All of this has lead me to feel less and less interested in the Tour de France. Why should I care about drug abusers who ride machines that cost more than I make in a year but who can't pee without direction from their manager and are unable to ride without the comfort of a support car? I realize this is a very jaded view and I am sure most of the riders would correct me on many of those notions. I don't mean to say that the riders are anything other than impressive athletes, but it does appear that their job has been made easier over the years. Somewhere between re-forging a fork and carbon fiber, something was lost.

Here is another way to think about it. The Tour de France is the most televised yearly sporting event in the world. Out of all sporting events it only gets lower ratings than the Olympics and the World Cup. It is what represents cycling to the world, yet it is a deformed contrivance of what riding a bike means to me. The tour has basically nothing to do with most people see as riding a bike. I think even most spandex clad road cyclists would admit it doesn't accurately reflect what they do. It has become a parody of how people commute, exercise, get outside, travel, and yes even race.

So what is the point of holding to tour? Why have a bike race at all? It seems the obvious answer would be to see who is fastest. Yet, why hold it on the road at all? If the goal was just to find out who could push pedals harder, faster, and longer, that could be done inside a gym on a stationary bicycle. (I doubt that would reach anything close to the same TV ratings though.) It also doesn't seem that impressive. The reason to hold an open road race is partially because of the dirt, the tight turns, the huge downhills, the fear of crashes, contending with the rain, snow, or heat. In short, it is about the romance. It isn't just the riders strength that is at question. It is also the athlete's intelligence and adaptability that inspire people. Those are things that steroids can't invigorate, nor fast bikes reinforce.


So how do you make the Tour de France more exciting. (If you read the section above, I guess nothing. It is the most watched yearly sporting event, remember?) For those of you who have felt the same way and see these arguments as cogent however, I have a few suggestions.

Ban Radios
I realize this is already being done, so I don't have much to complain about here. So far most of the debate has been on the idea that radios make boring races. I believe slightly differently, radios make boring racers. The riders should themselves be able to choose when to attach, chase, or hold back. That intuition is part of what makes a good racer, and hopefully a fun race to watch. I will be really interested to see the changes it brings to next year's tour.

One Bicycle
Only allow competitors to have one bicycle to use for the whole race. The compromises made in frame and gearing should really accentuate the differences between riders. This is a good thing as hopefully it will really bring out the style of racing each rider has.

Restrict Support Cars
I don't care how many cars each team has, but they should not be allowed beyond the last cyclist. So to replace a flatted wheel, the racer will have to wait for the entire peleton to pass before they can get a new wheel from the support car. This will force racers on a team to work together to make minor repairs. Team members may also have to sacrifice by giving up a wheel or other item to a leader. Riders will also need to manage their nutritional resources. This should include staging people to hand out water and food from the sidelines.

Hopefully these changes would make the racing more fun and realistic. It should also reduce the necessity for using steroids. The quality of a rider would be more than just brute strength or endurance, he would also have to be an intelligent manager of himself, his bike and his team. It would be a much more engaging story and hopefully provide for more great moments and fantastic finishes. Finally, this might also have great impacts on cycling at large. Hopefully that will spur innovations in bicycles for more than just elite racers. New designs and ideas that will help the guy in the yellow jersey as well as those of us in cotton t-shirts.


I do have one final note. Something that I hadn't thought about until I started do my research on the history of the Tour de France. It just seemed fun, new, and yet classic way to get a little inspiration into the event. So here it is:

Night Riding
I wish they would bring this back. I realize when it was first introduced there was no way to ensure the riders weren't using alternative transportation. Now a simple GPS receiver could solve that problem. Again this would be a stage that was more mental than physical requirements. Riders would have to be somewhat cautious while travelling on darkened roads. Hopefully it would provide more innovations in bike lights as well. Plus it would be cool to watch, if you could see it. I think the biggest problem would be how to film it...

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this rant. Comments are quite welcome, even if they are to say I don't have a clue what I am talking about.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hack Cycle at West Seattle Summerfest

There wasn't a hole lot of riding this weekend, but I did get myself out to Hack Cycle. This was an event at the West Seattle Summerfest put on by my friend Rusty. The idea was simple, get old bikes nobody wants and create new, fun, relitiviely safe contraptions for people to ride on with human powered tools. So that is where I was most of Saturday and Sunday.

Not all the tools were human powered. The best one was the human powered bandsaw. It worked great, but when you wanted to cut something you had to roust up someone standing around to help. Next year I think this is something that needs to be more inviting. People would come and look at bikes being hacked on, but we really needed to drag more people right off the street to help Frankenstein a bike.

I spent most of my time with an angle grinder and or a MIG welder. The electric tools weren't really human powered though. Rusty had a generator set up, but we didn't have the right (i.e.: huge) battery to really make it work. Plus it would have been better to have teams of people ready to spend a couple hours pedaling. Next year.

A bunch of fun stuff was created. A couple of tall bikes. Some weird stork bikes. Of the bikes created (which for some idiotic reason I didn't get pictures of) my favorite was the one dubbed "The Argument". It was simply two bikes welded together side by side. The left bike had pedals for power and half of a handle bar. The right side had one pedal and control of the breaks. It worked well enough but wasn't really anything that I would call efficient. That was kind of the point though. At that point it become mobile interactive art. As Rusty said "released into the wild". The last time I saw it was headed southbound on California being ridden by three (white) guys yelling "kill whitey". Bravo young lads!

My goal for the event was to create a sort of bicycle rickshaw, except the passanger sits in the front. I spent most of Saturday getting the right parts together. I needed to find two rear triangles that were a fairly good match for each other. I did locate two Magna frames that seemed pretty good so I grabbed those. In tearing down the bikes I realized how truly awful those bikes were. The components were all cheaply made and designed for 40 year old standards. That means if you need a replacement, none of the modern, decent components will fit. (My advice for those people looking to buy a low end bicycle, like you see at big box stores, is to check that the bike has a removable rear derailer hanger.)

On Sunday I got my rear triangles cut and ground down. I also reused the top and down tubes from one of the Magnas to weld the two together. I added a small fork and some braces. Things were looking pretty good. I scrounged up some tires for the front. I just needed a unmodified frame to attach to the fork mounted on the front. Then a wasted a bunch of time trying to re-pin the chain. It did all come together.

Sadly what I had created was much more akin to a DEATH TRAP. Rusty described it as a very innocent but angry piece of steel. It may not look like it, but you can't turn more than about 3 degrees without the bike trying to fall over. Because of the caster angle of that steerer tube the when you turn the front tires it pushes the back tire over at an angle until you fall over. So basically you can't turn the thing, and even holding it stead is a challenge. With a little more shop time I could have cut the steerer tube and welded it back at a 90 degree angle. That should keep it from trying to fall over all the time. But I ran out of time.

I helped everyone get all the stuff loaded onto trucks and back to Hazard Factory. We also discusses plans for mobile interactive art and what to do at next year's Hack Cycle. Hopefully I will see some of you there.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Snoqualmie Tunnel Open!

Date: July 5th, 2011
Distance: 42 miles

Well, it is July 5th, so the official opening of the Snoqualmie tunnel. I decided to check it out. So I rode up from the Cedar Falls trail head. What a beautiful opening day too! It was sunny and clear. The ride up was a breeze. Lots of other people out hiking or riding. There was some kind of Mountains to Sound Greenway event going on. Even a few people on horses.

The tunnel is open, but not much has changed. There are a few sections of tunnel that have been patched up. Most of the tunnel is still the dark, muddy, dripping tunnel that it has always been. After almost 20 miles of ridding uphill on a hot sunny day, the cold and damp was great. I did noticed the strong odor of horse poop, though. I hope that isn't a permanent feature.

I didn't hang out much on the east side of the tunnel. Just took some pictures and went back though. Then it was a race down to Cedar Falls. I love screaming down the trail. It took me just an hour to get back to the trail head. Yee-haw!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rock'n Horse - 2.1

Are you ready to Rock'n Horse?

When: August 6th & 7th, 2011
Where: Iron Horse Trail (from Cedar Falls to Lake Easton)
Who: You
What: Bring a bike

For those of you who missed the first Rock'n Horse, this is a ride about smooth trails, camping, and with any luck loud music! We will leave the Cedar Falls trail head at noon on August 6th. It is 18 miles up to the tunnel, then just a couple through the darkness, and about 10 more to camping near Easton. I am planning on blasting music the whole way. We will camp out overnight, I will provide some food. In the morning we will turn around and head back the same way.

I am still looking for a good camping site. I am thinking maybe somewhere around Stampede Pass. I will probably have a couple more scouting trips in case anyone is interested. I am trying to find a place where we can get a car up to it or maybe hike in supplies. That way we can include people who don't have a bike to carry all their stuff. If you do want to ride a loaded touring rig, I will be joining you. I also have spare racks and panniers if anyone wants to try them out.

Please e-mail me ( if you are interested in attending. I want to know how much food to get. Also let me know if you have any dietary restrictions.

Keep checking back here for more updates as them come.


Friday, July 1, 2011

More Thursday Riding

Date: June 30th, 2011
Distance: 53 miles
Song of the Day: Hall of Heads - They Might Be Giants

Yes, it is another Thursday so that means more riding with Point83. First I had a job interview to bike to. It was for a job as a bike messenger. I am really excited for that. It should be a lot of fun. A job where I get to bike all day? That sounds fine by me.

I bummed around the city for a bit and met up with some of the guys early at place on Capitol hill. Nothing like sitting on a patio on a sunny day. Almost missed the ride from Westlake though.

From the city we rode out and around to Alki. Got there with plenty of time to see the sunset. What a gorgeous day. Some of the guys got a fire going. I must admit Darrick has an amazing ability to catch things on fire. After that we headed over to the Chelan Cafe for some karaoke.

Great ride. Wonderful to see people, hang out, and ride bikes.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Muddy Wednesday

Date: June 29th, 2011
Distance: 20 miles
Song of the Day: Neighbor - Band of Horses

So things did actually get a bit muddy. The guys I go riding with can seem to plan for the life of them. The Monday ride got moved to Wednesday because of people dropping out. Then the ride got moved from Grand Ridge back to Duthie because of rain.

That wasn't really a big deal for me. I still rode out through Grand Ridge. I love the trails there. A bit technical but not too bad. I am also getting better at those climb at the begining. Less spin-outs, less pushing, more awesome. Despite the rain the trail wasn't bad. I almost thought it had less mud on it than when I rode through last week. The bog on the far side of the ridge was about the same muddy slop, but no worse.

I was a bit late when I got there, but I met up with Sean and Andy and we did a couple of turns around the park. I didn't crash this time, so I am pleased with that. My rib still hurts a bit, especially when cranking up a big incline. That is just life, in my opinion.

Afterwards the three of us met up with Douglas where he works. Our kind host even provided some burgers and hot dogs. Mmmmm. It was really nice to sit out and watch what we could of the sunset and shoot the breeze. A good way to end the afternoon. I hope that we get more chances in the future to do the same and more people out to partake.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dirty Tuesday

Date: June 21st, 2011
Distance: 22 miles
Song of the Day: In the Meantime - Spacehog

Well I said there would be more rides this year. So you get to read more boring re-caps of what I have been doing. After the long ride yesterday I wasn't sure heading out again would be such a good idea. My legs were feeling much better than I thought they would. Why not get back on the bike then?

So this afternoon I rode out to Grand Ridge again. I took the trail to the top. Lots of tight switch backs. I am getting better at it though. The last time I had to stop around a lot of the steep hairpins. This time around I only spun out once and had to hop off.

After hitting the top I cruised down the back side of the ridge. I have done the back side once or twice, but never gone all the way out. Wow, that was a lot of fun. Really my kind of trails. Lots of nice juicy single track. The best part is that it is through lush forest. On a hot sunny day, it is so beautiful. Highly recommended.

Well, at least until you get to the swamp. There is a big section at the bottom that is just a mud bog. Some kind people have put planks across most of it. I don't mind getting dirty, but I was hoping to keep my shoes from being soaking wet. The last bit through the swamp was covered with a boardwalk. I suppose that is only half finished. I am excited to see that complete because from there it is just a couple of switch backs up to Duthie Hill Park.

At Duthie I met up with some of the crew I ride with on Thursdays. I have only been to the park once before a few months ago. This time around, it was about like I remembered it. Lots of nice fast trails. Good flows and cool jumps.

At least when you do them right. I followed a couple of the guys down one trail and didn't look where I was going. I hit a big drop and ended up going endo. I landed on my head, which fortunately I had my helmet on. Please note kids, wear a helmet. Actually, hitting my head wasn't bad. It was my ribs hitting my stem that hurt. It is still a bit sore now. At least it was on the opposite side from the ribs I hurt on the way to Rohija.

After that the guys and I went out for burgers in Fall City. We sat by the river and skipped rocks. Watched the sunset. It was a great end to the solstice.

One final note, since it is the first day of summer I am happy to see my summer legs coming back. No I don't mean all muscled and tan, though they are that. I mean covered in bruises, cuts, and scrapes. Wounds heal, but memories last. Never be to afraid for your life that you forget to live it.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Snoqualmie Tunnel Ride

Date: June 20th, 2011
Distance 102 miles
Song of the Day: I Think Ur a Contra - Vampire Weekend

I heard the other day that the Snoqualmie Tunnel was going to reopen. Apparently they even fixed what was wrong with it. I am still unclear who coughed up the money. On the state park website it lists the "official" opening as July 5th. On the other hand a shuttle service between Cedar Falls and Hyak starts up on July 1st. So it must be open before that. Even though it is more than two weeks from the real opening, I figured that I would check it out and see if they had opened it up. I mean, if it is fixed, why bother to lock it up again?

With that in I headed out today from Issaquah. To start with I headed to the Issaquah to Preston trail. Nothing really special. It is a route I take a lot. From Preston I rode down into Fall City. I know that I could take the Preston to Snoqualmie trail, but low and behold that doesn't actually go to Snoqualmie. You can take a single track trail over to the Snoqualmie Ridge development, but well, I have learned to avoid things called "Ridge". Also you have to do the crazy daredevil downhill along the Snoqualmie Parkway.

From Fall City it was out on 202 and then to hook up with the Snoqualmie Valley trail. That ends at the Tokul Road tunnel and doesn't pick up until the bridge over the Snoqualmie River. So it was a few more miles on blacktop around Mill Pond. After that it was 25 miles of gravel rail trail up to the top. Also 2,100 feet of elevation gain. I must admit my legs were aching pretty badly on the way up.

Then when I got there, the tunnel was closed. I know that I could have hucked my bike over the fence. Also the chain was just bolted to one of the gates, so if I had an adjustable wrench I could have opened the tunnel early. That wasn't really the point though. I wanted to make see if the gates were actually open without having to commit a kind of crime. So I didn't take a role through the tunnel. The one thing I didn't see though was evidence of what was fixed. The tunnel looked pretty much the same. I guess I will have a few more weeks before I see what has changed.

After that it was the long journey back home. I did make one stop in Fall City. I grabbed a burger at Small Fryes. Oh, and a shake. They make really great shakes there. It was just the thing I needed to make the last 15 miles home.

I am just hoping my legs aren't dead tomorrow.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Echo Valley Race

Date: June 11th, 2011
Distance: 31.2 miles
Time: 3 hours and 3 minutes
Song of the Day: Nutshell - Alice in Chains

Race day. The first thing I should explain is that the "valley" part of the Echo Valley race is a misnomer. There isn't any racing around the valley at all. All of the racing is done up on Echo Ridge. The only thing in the valley is the start of the race. From there it is a 2.3 mile climb up the fire road. I had sacked out in my van at the top parking lot, so when I got up I had to bike down to the start. I was glad the finish was at the top though. Racing down the road would have killed me I think. Hairpin turns on gravel roads while going super fast do not make a good combination for me.

I watched the 60 mile group head off at 9:00, and waited for the 30 mile group to show up. Roger, the guy putting on the race, gave us our instructions. Once the race started, we would make our way to the top. From the upper parking lot we would do two loops around the various trails. The finish would be all the way at the top near the main aid station. In total we would be doing about 30 miles.

At 9:30 the pack of knobby tired cyclists was off, and what a blazing start it was. Right uphill! The climb wasn't as bad as I thought it would be though. The pack started to spread out pretty quickly. I even found myself passing a few people. So I thought things were going well. I was worried I was going to go too fast and end up bonking somewhere along the way. Whenever I felt like I was struggling though, I just thought it couldn't be as bad as getting to Nkuringo.

Once at the top, the race course spread out all over the ridge. Some of it was single track, some double. In most places the path swept over the shoulder of each slope. The sky was almost cloudless and you could see the valley laid out below for miles. It was a beautiful day to be riding. I don't think my thoughts about Nkuringo were far off either. The place really reminded me of my time in Southwest Uganda.

The only section that I thought was tough was the trail known as "The Shoe". It was all single track, so all the little bushes and plants were whipping me in the legs. Plus there were a few points where it got pretty technical. Also one point where it was basically too steep to ride. I am sure a few of the racers did it, but everyone I saw was pushing their bike up that section. Not that I really minded having to push. That is all part of the challenge as far as I am concerned. The thing that got me was that this portion of the trail began and ended at the same place, so the net elevation gain was zero. For some reason though it just felt like so much more uphill than downhill. It didn't help that once you climbed back up to where you started the section, you still had to go half a mile back to the upper parking lot to begin the second lap.

I did stop for a couple of minutes at the aid station. I drank up a whole ton of water and Nuun. I also ate half a Clif Bar. It was a good thing I did, but I probably should have done a bit more. About half way through the second lap I felt the energy draining out of me. I did have the rest of the Clif Bar, but trying to eat one while riding along on overgrown dirt roads is not easy. I think next time it would be better to get one of those gel packs. After a few minutes the energy did start to kick in and I was able to keep going.

I even felt really good climbing out of The Shoe and racing to the top. I even passed a few people on the way. Making those climbs is hard, but apparently I am good at it. I finished the race with a time of 3:03. I am pretty happy with that. Sure, it isn't winning any awards, but for only a week's notice I don't think it is too shabby.

After finishing I then spent the next ten minutes sampling all of the food and drink options at the aid station. I was parched and ravenous. A big thanks to the volunteers who were helping out. That stuff was a big help in making me feel normal again. Another big thanks to Roger and the guys for putting this on. I had a blast and I hope that there are many more races to come.


More Training

Date: June 9th, 2011
Distance: 57 miles
Song of the Day: Fair - Ben Folds Five

Well, I am all signed up for the Echo Valley race. I am really excited about that. Endurance mountain bike racing really does sound like something right up my alley. Plus my new bike is all set up and running like a top. So I took it out today to do a bit of training.

I rode out of Issaquah and up to Preston to drop some stuff off with a friend. Then it was back along the trail and a rode up around Grand Ridge. The first couple of switchbacks from the High Point trailhead were killing me though. I thought I was in better shape than that. I was really huffing and puffing.

Once I got up to the ridge, things got a bit easier and I was enjoying it more. I also started using my middle chainring. I am really glad to have that. On trails it gives me much better gearing ratios than the large one. I am still not sure the granny gear is so useful, but I can worry about that later.

The upper trails were all full of puddles and mud. It felt good to get out and get dirty. By the time I got back home I was covered in mud. I took a shower and washed the bike before heading into town.

In the evening I met up with the guys from .83 for another Thursday ride. I think it is the longest ride I have been on with them. I was a nice night for it, so I can't say that I mind. We ended up cruising over Beacon Hill and then down into Renton. Then back up the Duwamish and into Seattle. It was over 30 miles round trip. Despite being on my my fat tired mountain bike, I was still able to keep up with the group. Yee-haw. Hopefully that will keep me in good training for the ride this weekend.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Date: June 4th, 2011
Distance: 400 yard swim, 14.5 mile bike ride, 3 mile run
Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

I woke up far too early this morning. Especially considering I was up until 1:00 AM the night before. Still, I felt good for it being 5:00 AM. Plus it was a gorgeous day, finally. I got some breakfast and put my kit on before biking down to the state park.

When I got to the race start, I was in for quite a sight. I didn't realize how many people there were going to be competing. There were a ton of people getting ready. It was quite an array. I saw individuals warming up running biking and even swimming. I was one of the few without a full wet suit. So I stood around waiting for the race to begin and trying to keep my toes warm.

I started in with the third wave. The water wasn't that bad. At a balmy 58 degrees, the temperature was fine. The swimming was much harder than I expected. I used to spend all my summer days swimming in the lake. So I thought that would be one thing I was good at. My training really didn't prepare me for what I was doing. I ended up being passed by the following two swim waves. Still, I made it slow but steady.

From there it was onto the bike portion. That I did much better at. I had tuned my bike up the day before and it was running like a top. I am used to doing a lot of street biking. Stopping every mile or so for a stop light or a car. Because all the streets were closed off, I could just cruise. It felt so good.

Then it was off to running. Not really my favorite activity, and I was pretty tired by this point. I kept at it however. The night before I had been talking with my friend Chris about ski mountaineering. He mentioned that their motto was "Put on foot in front of the other and suffer." For some reason thinking about that really made me feel better. I wasn't worried about breaking any records. I just needed to keep going. I crossed the finish line a bit over an hour and a half from the start.

At the finish I grabbed some food the sponsors had out. I felt pretty good in spite of everything. I also talked with a guy named Roger from NW Epic Series. I guess he puts on long distance mountain bike races. That sounds really fun, so there may be more to come on that later.

From there it was a short bike back home. Then it was nap time.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Date: June 2nd, 2011
Distance: 400 yard swim, 17 mile bike ride, 3 mile run
Song of the Day: Pretend - The Bens

So I have been training for a Triathlon for the last few months. All of the work has been going well. Today it has come done to one full length dress rehearsal. When I started training two months ago, I really couldn't run a mile without stopping. I also couldn't swim more then about 15 feet. Then again the water temp at the time was 46 degrees...

Today the water temp was a brisk 57 degrees. I swam out to a couple of the buoys in the lake. I was surprised that I could actually keep swimming and didn't need to stop at any point. The past couple of swims I have been grabbing onto the buoys as a chance to catch my breath. The wind was up, which did hinder breathing anyway. It was kicking up waves on the lake that had me choking on water at a couple of points.

Once out of the water I got into my shoes as fast as I could. I was worried that my toes would go numb again. So I wanted to get on the bike as fast as I could.

For today I took my new Mzungu bike. It isn't the bike I will take on Saturday, but I wanted something that takes a bit more power to ride. Plus I just got it together and I wanted to test it out. I rode over the Lake Sammamish State Park and rode around on some of the trails. They are still pretty muddy. It feels good to get dirt on the new wheels. Woo-hoo. Then I took the Issaquah-Preston trail. More mud and dirt out that way. After that it was back to home.

I stopped in for just enough time to down two glasses of water. I forgot that the new bike doesn't have a bottle or a cage on it yet. Whoops. Then it was off to run. Another 3 mile tour around the neighborhood. So that was it. Basically a sprint distance triathlon, done. I feel good. I think Saturday is going to go well. At least if I can get up before 6:00 AM...


Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Thursday Night Ride

Date: May 26th, 2011
Distance: 48.5 miles
Song of the Day:
Engine Driver - The Decemberists

I spent the morning training for my upcoming triathlon. The lake is still pretty cold. It has warmed up enough to allow for some real swim time in. I still don't think I am up to half a mile though. Plus as I have been telling everyone, swimming just destroys me. So that is going to be pain come race day. Out of the water I tried to get ready and go for a run. That didn't work out too well. I was hoping three miles and that didn't happen. After the first mile my toes went numb. It felt like running with sand in my shoes. So that is going to need some work as well.

The biking part I have nailed cold though. It is Thursday, so I went out with the guys from Point83 again. First I had to bike into the city. I have gotten quite used to that. I grabbed a hot dog and hung out for a bit at Westlake.

When everyone was there, we all took off and rode around Cap Hill for a bit. Meandering down side streets to 24th, then down the big hill. I was just blasting down the thing. Well, at least until I dropped my chain. So I coasted to the bottom and had to stop and gear up again.

From 24th, we crossed the Montlake Bridge and headed into the marshes north of the UW stadium. I ended up sliding out around one of the corners on some gravel. Scratched up my arm a bit. Nothing broken though, only really hurt my pride. We hung out on the shore of the lake for a bit. Talking. Setting things on fire. Playing chicken. Generally carrying on.

After that we headed on to Cowen park and do more of the same. Some of the guys were fooling around on the merry-go-round. (I didn't know they still had those. Anyone know where a good teeter-totter is?) I decided to have a spin at it. Not a good idea. The zip line was a lot less likely to be vomit producing. (I love this park.)

Then it was off to Baranof for some Karaoke. Hung out and sang quite badly. Then I rode off for with a group headed south. It almost turned into a disaster. One of the guys ended up crashing into a Taurus. But no real harm done. So we were back to Cap Hill for pizza.

Then I was off back to Issaquah. Always fun at night in the rain.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rock'n Horse 2.1 - Scouting Trip 1

Distance: 15.8 miles
Date: March 15th, 2011

I have been getting ready for the Rock'n Horse 2.1. This is to be a spring ride, because everyone bailed out on me for the Rock'n Horse 2. I am still hoping to have a Rock'n Horse 3 in mid September.

But the first step is to take some time to ride the route and see how it is doing. So that is what I did. Again, everyone bailed out on me. Mostly because they didn't want to get wet, and it did rain, but not at first.

I started out at the Cedar Falls trail head to the Iron Horse state park. It was actually nice when I left. Maybe sprinkling a bit, but the sun was poking through the clouds. The first three miles to Ragnar had a number of tree falls from the recent wind and rain storms. I tried to clear what I could, but a few were too big for my little pocket knife to saw through. So I had to hop my bike over them.

After that it was a pretty easy cycle, except that it began to rain a bit harder. I was halfway across the Mine Creek trestle when I was stopped by the snow. I was hoping the snow level was a bit higher, but that was as far as I could ride my bike through. From there I walked about half a mile up to the Garcia road crossing. I tried to scout along there for some good camping sites, but the snow, steep road and heavy rain really put a damper on that.

The ride back to Rattlesnake Lake was easy but miserable. I was soaked to the bone. It had been a while since I was that wet on a bike. (Ghana, I think.) Plus it was cold. By the time I got back to the car my feet were numb.

So that was the first scouting trip. I am still working on the date for the Rock'n Horse 2.1. Stay tuned for more updates.


Monday, February 28, 2011

FHR - 2011

Distance: 33 miles
Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Average Speed: 15mph
Max Speed: 39mph

A new year is time for new rides. I have been riding with a new group of cyclists. So far it has been a lot of fun. They seem to have just the right attitude for me. They like riding and like bikes, but don't take anything too seriously. They are also pirates.

The first race of the year is the FHR. It is a hijack of the Chilly Hilly bike race course put on by CBC. It is 33 miles around Bainbridge Island over a few good hills (not as bad as Rwanda, though). It was cold and snowed a few times. The last half of the race it rained pretty good, too. I ran the course in a bit over two hours, which I am proud of.

At the end, there was hot chili and a place to stand out of the rain. Also, a fire pit to warm ourselves with. There was also a raffle for schwag at the end. I won a Osprey Viper 13 pack.

In all, a sweet ride and I am looking forward to more good times in the future.