An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

CL100CXTTWC -- a bike race parody for charity

As the end of the year approaches, and things surrounding Christmas ramp up, it's easy to get busy and set some things aside. You may have noticed a dearth of posts to this journal over the last month or two. Well, that's exactly what happened.

But this past weekend I participated in an event that will now be on my annual calendar for as long as it's run.

CL100CXTTWC -- the Craigs List $100 Cyclocross Time Trial World Championships.

Put together by Russell Clark, a local rider who I became acquainted with through Strava KOMs, it was an outgrowth of his desire to put on a fun event, and to make a difference.

The idea is this: Get a bike on Craigs List, and make it rideable, all for less than $100, race it time-trial style on a cyclocross course (in this case it was about 5.6 miles), then donate the bike to Bike Works of Seattle. Yes, you could ride your own bike instead of donating, but that would require a cash donation entry fee and also disqualify you from the actual "championships". The emphasis was, by far, more on HAVING a good time than POSTING a good time.

I gave Russell a little help with some logistics, course marking, and start/finish line adornments, but all the real footwork, planning, and contacting were all his.

I perused Craigs List several times, at one point contacting a seller of a MTB single speed conversion (who then informed me that he was only available for a couple hours A WEEK to come take a look). Well, when my wife decided that she wouldn't be able to ride the event (due to work schedules and kiddie care issues), her steed became my ride for the day. A 38lb Huffy Storm, with platform pedals, steel rims, stamped steel "slowers" (it would be a disservice to call them brakes)...

Race day dawned clear and cool, though for December it was a perfect day, as we gathered at Ft. Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA.

It was entertaining seeing the variety of bikes ridden on the day. Everything from basket-festooned cruisers to banana-seat stingrays, old road bikes, bmx b
ikes, and of course mountain bikes. Mostly ill-fitting.

I was fourth from last to go off, as I'd registered fairly early. Which meant there were a lot of people to pass, and only a few that could pass me.


I did pass one rider, on a road cruiser with basket. Two of the riders behind me (including
Russell, who started last) did pass me. It didn't matter one whit. I was having a blast fighting the heavy bike up the hills, remounting after a particularly steep section and completely missing the saddle, and riding off the course when the "slowers" failed to slow the bike enough for me to negotiate a narrow chicane.

I have no idea where I finished, time wise. Because it doesn't even matter.

The event brought in 38 bikes (plus some parts, and no, they didn't fall off the bikes) and $350 cash donations. Russel stated many times that he was proud and humbled that so many people responded to enthusiastically to his zany idea, and that so much good came out of it.

And it's already set for next year -- December 15, first rider off at 9:30 AM. I'll be there. Let the Craigs List cruising begin!

Friday, November 21, 2014


The month of November begins in earnest the winter struggle of busy-ness, getting things accomplished, holidays, demands on time, and trying to stay sane and in some kind of physical shape (other than round).

October this year was pretty decent weather-wise. There were really only a few days that I consider not rideable. November, though, has been challenging, with very cold temperatures, and now the usual wet. Add in that my wife has been in training for a new part-time job, and my available time for riding these past two work weeks has been my lunchtime. I try to get in the hour (or a little more if meeting schedules permit) of saddle time, but some days it just doesn't happen.

In all that, though, I've gotten two more bike frames near the end of their process -- on in paint, and one nearly so. I'm making a second fork for my gravel/'cross bike, so that will be this weekend's project. Colors? I'm debating with the primer grey/clearcoat on the frame with a red fork and graphics, or going with yellow on the frame instead. I know the yellow/red combination is striking, but the grey/red is more staid and utilitarian. It might depend more on what yellow I can find that will accept epoxy clear topcoat.

A funny thing happened on the way...

The gravel bike I am finishing up is actually the second main frame. It was too long to fit in the jig, and I was having a terrible time getting it set up, so I decided to set it up on the flat table with V-blocks. The seat tube/bottom bracket junction was done in the jig so that it was at 90 degrees, but then I took that assembly to the table with the rest of the tubes in the blocks. Well, somewhere in the process the seat tube got knocked or something, and the whole main frame ended up at a slight angle. The head tube and seat tube were PERFECTLY parallel, but putting the frame on the "whipping post" showed that the head tube was out-of-plane with the bottom bracket by a good 1/2". Ugh. And it was fully brazed, not just tacked.

I tried to "show it who's boss" as Richard Sachs likes to say. That ended badly -- the corner of my flat surface broke off, and I nearly broke my knuckles.

I sighed.

I cried a little.

And I set it aside to start over. I figured I could finish it up at some point as a display-only model.

That was a few months ago. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, with a new flat surface reinforced by planks. For grins I put that main triangle back on the whipping post to see what I could do. 

Some grunting, a lot of flipping it over on the post, lots of checks... And it came into alignment!

Now, if this were for a paying customer, I wouldn't be passing along something I had to do that much cold-setting with, and it'll still end up mostly as a display model. But I've got this extra main triangle that I'm figuring out just how to finish.

Fixed gear? Another 'cross/gravel rig? Maybe play around with the idea of a 29+?

Monday, November 3, 2014

I've been down, but I'm not out.

I don't get sick very often.

Maybe it's that I lead a reclusive lifestyle. I don't really care for crowds.

And shunning showers and personal care products  makes this easy -- crowds avoid me.

Okay, not really. I shower and use decent-enough hygiene that I'm only rarely not socially acceptable. But I still don't care for pressing flesh with 10,000 of my best-friends-I-just-met.

But we returned from Illinois last month with a nice little gift for all of us -- a cold that is just hanging on. Sinuses draining green goo, and a dry throat and cough that is just irritating. It's been two weeks now. Longest cold I can remember.

Which has kept me off the bike for almost 2 weeks now. My last ride was on October 23rd, a little one-hour off-road excursion on my lunch break. Not even something strenuous. But I think that drove the cold well into the depths of my body, and there's is taken up residence like Fort Knox, apparently.

Where did we pick it up? Well, I thought about that... My niece had been sick the night before we left, but by the time we saw them, she was doing fine and I would think not contagious. 

We were in a crowd at the wedding on Saturday. There's a possibility there.

But there was that lady that sat next to me on the flight to Chicago... Fours hours of her blowing her nose, sneezing, and laying her head down on the fold-out tray. Uh, yeah, that's probably it.

Thanks. I got to pay for that privilege.

I expect I'll be back to riding by the end of the week, and maybe by the end of the month it'll be like it never happened. 

Wonderful thing, these healing bodies.

Now I just have to figure out where to get my flu shot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Riding on the road

This is NOT a post about road riding, though the title may imply that. Instead, it's about riding while on vacation, on the road, so to speak.

I had the foresight to ship a bike out to my in-laws this past spring, knowing that we make about two or more multi-day trips to north-central Illinois (yeah, fine, for all you locals who take exception to me calling it "central" Illinois -- southwest Chicago). My mother-in-law is graciously storing it for me. In a shipping box.

The roads out there are laid out in a very geometric pattern, easy to navigate and not get lost, as long as you keep track of wind direction. Bonus is that you can see your landmarks for quite a distance. Meaning there aren't any real hills (by a Pacific northwest standard).

Anyway... I was wanting to find some folks on Velocipede Salon to ride with while I was there this past weekend. While that didn't pan out (and is kind of a relief, as my schedule degraded quickly leaving me only one opportunity to save my sanity with a ride), there was a suggestion to hop onto the I & R Canal Trail and cruise away the miles.

Good call.

I have a few rail-trail conversions not too far from me, and they're a nice, mindless ride when it's not a busy time (like most any weekday -- on nice weekends, look out). They're all paved, however.

On one of our trips out a couple years ago, we had crossed the I & M Canal Trail on the way to a community pool, and I'd noticed that it wasn't paved, though I didn't know just how rocky it could be.

Turns out it's very smooth -- better than a lot of the roads I ride on near home. The surface is crushed lava rock and cinder, and very well maintained. A glorious ride.

The fall colors were nearly in full bloom, something that we don't get a lot of in the land of evergreens.

I look forward to going back and riding more of this trail. Maybe I'll be able to round up a couple cohorts to ride along.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What is the most important part of the bike?

After spending the weekend in Portland at least partially immersing myself in bike culture (the Hopworks Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival), and talking with several custom builders from the area, and then a long drive home listening to The Guardians of Ga'Hoole (yep, the one about the owls... book on CD), I lay in bed unable to get to sleep, and thinking...

Every once in a while, a philosophical question will drill its way into my brain and fester there.

So this particular night, it was the question of the importance of the parts on the bike, or, more properly, what is THE most important part on the bike?

Could it be the wheels? I mean, really, the entire meaning behind the moniker "bicycle" means "two wheels". That kind of defines what a bike is, right?

Or maybe it's the frame. The supporting structure of the thing, which defines its manners, handling, weight balance, and comfort.

Possibly the saddle. The weight-bearing interface between the rider and the machine, where a most-intimate contact can become something that you never think about, or a misery that you can't NOT think about.

Or the pedals and cranks, where the efforts of the rider are transferred into the machine to provide forward progress, the most efficient form of transportation yet conceived-of by man.

Maybe it would be the handlebar, the interface to the wishes of the rider as to where that machine goes.

Well, all those things are important and make the collection of "things" into a bike. Much is made of how that collection of things should look, what are proper proportions, and largely that is what we were celebrating, discussing, and drooling over through the entire show.

But without the most important part of the bike, all that could be nothing more than "art", a lawn sculpture or showpiece. Without the most important part of the bike, the bike is just "a bike". It doesn't do anything. It doesn't go anywhere.

No, the most important part of the bike, to me, is the rider.

I believe that "the bike" is a dynamic thing, and that in order for it to truly be what it was meant to be, it needs to move. And that requires the rider.

Riders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and races. Speed does not make the rider. Being on a bike makes the rider. And likewise, the rider makes the bike. It's a synergy of human and machine -- a cybernetic melding that creates efficient movement.

And if you really get infected with the notion of two-wheeled transport, you become like me -- a rider even when you're not on a bike.