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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Volunteering my services...

Last night, I tried something a little different -- wrenching on bikes.

No, really, hear me out! I know what you're thinking: How is THAT any different than any other day?

Well, this was wrenching for 2nd Cycle in Tacoma, and they've got an interesting business going. Seems what they do is take a combination of bike donations, dumspter-dives, and garage sale finds, fix them to road-worthy condition, and sell them to the local "need a bike for transport" population at very reasonable prices. They're well-equipped for tools, better than most bike shops I've been in, and they're not a service shop.

Condition of the incoming bike doesn't really matter -- there's always something that can be salvaged from it. Broken frames are stripped of usable parts, then sold for scrap metal. The parts are then gathered to use on other bikes in need of parts. There is a smattering of new pieces both for sale and use on the bikes, mostly consumable-types like tubes and chains.

Selling prices reflect the area and clientele, as well as the bikes themselves. After I finished working on one of the "nicer" of the bikes, I heard the shop owner and another of the volunteers talking over the selling price -- $90-100.

2nd Cycle has been in business for about 4 years, and in their current location on Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood for a little over a year. Apparently they're doing well enough to stay around a while.

Unfortunately, my cell phone battery gave up just as I pulled it out to take a couple pictures. I'll have to make another post with some pictures when I get back there.

I'll admit that I really don't know the deep ins-and-outs of their business, and I was only there for about two hours of their first-for-this-year volunteer night. They're planning on having a volunteer orientation on one of the volunteer nights coming up soon, and to make the volunteer nights a regular happening.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chilly Hilly

What could be better on a Sunday morning – a ride on an island with 4000 of my best-friends-I-just-met, biting wind, hills, and food for sale?

This is the spectacle that is Chilly Hilly, the semi-official kick-off of the Seattle biking season for recreational riders. And after something like a 20 year hiatus, I decided to join the madness (at the cajoling of Eric – paybacks are hell, yes?).

I left my house at 7:10am, riding the 2.5 miles to Eric’s house for a carpool north to the Seattle ferry terminal. Pat (shoeless on BeginnerTriathlete) joined us as well.

We quickly got our gear together, making the (very) short ride into the queue for the boats, and where the Puget Sound stopped, a sea of cyclists started. Let the Chilly begin – waiting for the ferry turned out to be the worst part of the day… I’ll get back to you on that. We were assured that we’d all get on the ferry, so figured there was no worry. And we did manage to all get on that boat. Amazing. A merciful 15 minute wait this time.

Once on the other side, Bainbridge Island, the hills started immediately. Nothing huge or steep, either up or down, which is a good thing considering (a) the number of people that were dumped onto the local roads all at once, and (b) the disparate skills involved in that crowd.

All thoughts of cruising at even a normal ride pace were quickly abandoned, instead replaced by a self-preserving vigilance of those around me. Yes, it did eventually thin out. For a while.

Parts of the ride are already a blur. Maybe it would have been better to make more picture stops. Photos of some of the real character of the island (and the riding characters).

There was the guy who had a very large frog on a Trail-a-Bike, several single speeds (ouch), a few fixies (OUCH!), folding bikes, mountain bikes, and even one unicycle.

We bypassed the first couple seemingly-unofficial rest stops, and then stopped at the main rest stop at 18 miles. I was shocked to see that all the food there was for sale! Fortunately Clif Bar was there giving out samples of Clif Bars and Shot Blocks. I understand that these things can be money makers for groups, but $5 hot dogs? The water (the stuff from the hose, not bottles) was free at least.

We pushed on, into the winds on the shoreline, some steeper hills…

At the base of one of the largest hills, there was a group giving free shots of whiskey. No, I didn’t stop for a drink. I should have at least stopped to take a picture of that. Maybe THAT’S why those people we weaving so violently going up that hill.

But there were some nice sights along the way. 

And a very welcome final hill into “town” near the ferry dock.

We stopped in the finish area, decided that, yes, we’d go ahead and partake of the chili feed (for $8), get warm, then head down to the ferry dock in time to load up for the 1:10 ferry. We figured the less time between getting there and leaving, the less cold we’d get. Well, that kind of backfired, as we were queued up still when that 1:10 ferry weighed anchor and set sail for Seattle. D’OH! At least there was a walk-on passenger area to hide out from the wind for a while.

Another half-hour boat ride, and we were back in Seattle. A short coast to the parking lot, load up, then the drive back south to home.

By the time we were back in Puyallup, I was warm again. Finally. Just in time to get back on the bike and ride another couple miles home.

On Monday, my supervisor (who is a casual rider) asked how the ride was. My answer: Chilly and hilly. How appropriate.

Friday, February 22, 2013

'Cause I'm the Tax Man...

The Beattles were prophetic, it seems.

It's like the US Postal Service raising the price of stamps because people aren't sending as many letters any more.

In spite of Washington State existing at the top tier of gasoline taxes, transportation revenues aren't high enough. So there's a plan in the Washington House of Representatives to impose a $25 tax on all bicycle sales over $500.

Yeah, this makes sense. Because bicycles are impacting the need for road construction so much...

But I guess it DOES make sense in the goverment-can-do-what-it-damn-well-pleases world of economics, just like the USPS. Average gas mileage of vehicles on the road is going up, so gas consumption (and thus the taxes it generates) is going down. The thronging masses (yeah, right) turning to pedal power as an alternative to fossil fuel have got the state coffers in a gasping state of death throes...

Um, in Pierce County, there's an annual phenomenon every September where massive numbers of new road construction projects (usually in the form of chip-sealing perfectly smooth roads) are undertaken. Why? To drain the budgets. If you don't USE it this year, you won't GET IT next year.

Seriously. I've talked to the people inside the process. It's sad.

And this is the process that apparently needs more money.

But who knows, maybe this will turn out to be a good thing [AHEM].

Maybe all the money generated will go towards improving the existing roads to construct bike lanes. Or at the least, a 3-4 foot maintained shoulder.

And maybe, since we're now all paying taxes that go directly to roads, we'll get respect from motorists. I can't tell you the number of times I've been told by motorists that I don't belong on the roads because I don't pay for them. [Ignoring the fact that, yes, I do have a car, and my PROPERTY taxes go to these same funds as well.] Heck, if $25 would get that kind of respect on the road, I'd pay it several times over.

One can dream, I guess.

But I do worry about the affect on the bicycle industry. Especially at the local-bike-shop level. People that walk through the doors are already trying to price compare on Wal-Mart pieces of crap. Is the new glass ceiling for bikes now going to be $500? Will all sales over that amount shrivel up and blow away?

My mind is already reeling with the possibilities to circumvent this ill-conceived plan.

* Does this apply to bicycles bought out-of-state, like online sales? Again, this will be a hit to the local bike shop. And since there's no registry required on bicycles in this state, how will they (Big Brother Government) know?

* Will this apply to incomplete bicycles? If I sell a $490 frame, fork, headset, etc. (everything except the wheels), and a $200 set of wheels (as separate sales) and show the customer how to complete the assembly, does this count?

* And also since there is no registry in Washington, how about private-party sales?

I think a better solution would be to tax the heck out of studded tires.

And to think they're ALSO considering backing down the taxes on cigarettes...

I don't have to GO there to know that there won't be any bikes parked in the House of Representatives parking lot... But I'll probably trip over the ash trays.

If you take a ride,

I'll tax the street.
If you take a walk,
I'll tax your feet...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Keep a weather eye on the horizon

As a runner, I was interested in the weather, but really just in a "what's today's run going to be like" kind of way. Clothing selection, you know.

In college, I could endure most weather conditions with a limited arsenal of clothing options. Ah, the indestructibility of youth! Treadmill? You're joking, right? No such thing, even with the VERY large intramural sports facility we had available to us at the University of Washington. Loads of weights and machines, two stationary bikes, rooms for sparring, gyms for basketball and volleyball, racquetball and squash courts, a swimming pool... No treadmills.

But once I started riding, and after college, weather became less of a passing interest and more a matter of life-altering vigilance. When you triple the wind-chill factor on a bike as opposed to a run, it can become an issue.

I took a numerical weather forecasting class in college, during the year I was spinning my wheels and knocking out a whole bunch of distribution credits along the way (taking interesting courses like bio-scientific vocabulary, Greek and Roman tragedies, and creative writing). Lots of study of the affects of things that we have around here -- coastlines, mountains, jet stream, El Ninos and La Ninas... The upshot of the class was, at the time, that all numerical models break down after 3 days. Meaning that after 3 days, you'd be just as accurate at predicting the weather using the numerical models as you would be using dice or chicken bones. Or maybe worse. Maybe things have gotten better in the last (almost) 30 years, but it would seem not.

Kind of makes planning the weekend long rides a little difficult before Wednesday. And makes the stationary trainer all that much more of an important piece of equipment (along with some form of mind-distracting device like a TV and DVD player). You just don't know for sure if the weather is going to cooperate.

Okay, there are purists out there who will say that you just ride, regardless. And I've done some of that. Fenders, rain gear... "There is no inappropriate weather, just inappropriate clothing choices." HTFU. Go off-road instead of battling it out with cars piloted by (even more) blinded drivers.

Doesn't make it fun, but it is riding. Which is the point, I guess. But I do ride because I enjoy it.

Yesterday, on my commute home from work, it was raining lightly. No big deal there -- short ride of 8.5 miles (I added a couple loops to make it 11 by the time I rolled into the driveway), 45 degrees, just enough rain that I was increasing in wetness instead of it drying at the same rate it was falling. I could have gone a lot longer and not gotten cold/truly wet. Unfortunately the rain around here doesn't always fall like that.

With the smart phone, I look at the hourly forecast, the 10-day forecast (remembering that whole 3-day thing), and the radar maps several times a day this time of year. Mildly obsessive? Probably. Just an extension of the obsession of riding/running. Which bike/pair of shoes/jacket/tights/etc I'll use for the workout.

I was a Boy Scout, after all -- Be Prepared and all that.

May your days be filled with sunshine and favorable winds, no matter what it's doing outside.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sign me up!

Signing up for events... In the past, it's caused me to get injured. At least signing up for RUNNING events.

Okay, "caused" is not scientifically correct, as correlation does not equal causation. But it's also hard to argue with the number of times I've gotten injured within days of signing up for an event. In more than one case, it's happened the day after I signed up.

Cycling events, though, have been a little different. So I'm less nervous about losing the opportunity for participating after paying for the privilege.

Maybe it's the nature of the events themselves... Running races (and even more so, triathlons) for me are more competitive. I'm gunning for place, age group and even overall. For cycling events, I've left behind the days of vying for overall placing, so USAC-style team racing is in my past, there to remain forevermore. Been there, done that, took a lot of pain and transformation to get there, not interested in going through that again.

No, the cycling events I'm doing now are more mass-participation, challenge rides. Some track finish times, some don't.

And so this past week I've signed up for two cycling events.

The first is Chilly Hilly, which happens this coming Sunday. As the name suggests, the course is quite hilly. Not in the mountainous sense that RAMROD is hilly, but short sprinter-type hills that challenge leg strength and gear selection. A 36 or so mile circumnavigation of Bainbridge Island. I've done this course several times over the years, and done it as this event one other time some 20 years ago.

The very nature of dumping several waves of a  thousand cyclists a pop of varying ability (or lack thereof) onto fairly narrow and undulating country roads negates any ambitions of speed for at least several miles. Add to this that the ride is considered by many the first time the bike has been dusted off since September of the previous year, and you can imagine what the road looks like -- weaving all over, paying little attention to anything that's not directly ahead... It can be a bike-handling challenge. In the one year I did this event, I had one rider stall out on a hill directly in front of me. Did the whole Laugh-In stop and fall over. I had to dodge left swiftly to avoid hitting him. It should be loads of fun.

The second, which is both bigger and smaller, is the Gran Fondo Leavenworth. Yep, one of the events I mentioned in a previous post as falling on a not-so-convenient date (being the day after my wife's birthday). Well, she actually gave this event the nod, as it's not actually ON her birthday, and can be made into a nice weekend get-away in a town she's never visited before. Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style tourist town nestled into the eastern Cascades. And when I say "Bavarian-style", I mean it's REALLY Bavarian-style, right down to the shop proprietors wearing Lederhosen and knee socks.

The bigger aspect? This event is 87 miles of mixed paved roads and Forest Service roads, including three passes. Could be the equivalent of 120 or more road miles by the time it's all said and done, as far as the physical toll. The smaller aspect? It's limited to 200 riders.

This will be a new kind of adventure for me. I've done road events, mountain bike races, cyclocross races (on my mountain bike), tours... Never a mixed-surface event of this magnitude. And it's a timed event. There will be packs, which I'm sure will be "up the road" from where I'm riding... Fine by me.

Eric is going to do this event as well -- our families are going to share a house rental for the weekend. He was looking at a Kona Jake earlier this month at Inspired Ride, where I work part time... Now he HAS to go get that bike, as his Trek won't accept anything more than 23mm tires...

I was just thinking this past weekend that this is two years running where I've suggested an event, and he's gotten a new bike to do the event. As a bike shop employee, I'm evil...

Monday, February 11, 2013


There are changes on the horizon. In a good way!

We're due about August 7th. We wanted to wait until after the first tri-mester to make any public announcements. Well, here it is!

I wish I could post a video of the ultrasound -- this kiddo's legs were moving! Hard to tell whether it was a flutter kick, the circular motion of pedals, or a nice easy jog...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The highs and lows of a long-ish ride

I work a flexed schedule so that I can take my daughter to school and pick her up on alternating Fridays. With the weather forecast calling for nice weather this past Friday, I figured I'd take my bike with me and just spend the day riding some roads I don't get to very often (in some cases not since I was in college) and maybe get some off-pavement riding in with the Surly Cross Check.

Theme for the day: Water!
The view from the start of
the ride - water in the air!
Curious onlookers. And no,
the lens was clean...
So at about 8:00 Friday morning, I pulled into the gravel parking area along the Green River near the Neely Mansion and Green Valley Meats. This is the site of the start for the first several Ice Breaker time trials I did many years ago. Green Valley Road follows along the Green River towards Flaming Geyser Park, trapped in a valley until you get to that park. This also traps in the fog... 

Finally, SUNSHINE!
I was on the road by 8:30, heading up river. It was a chilly 39 at the start, but the forecast promised warmer temps and sunshine, so I dressed barely-warm-enough. Stopping along the way a couple times to take pictures, I made my way to my turn-off near Flaming Geyser. At this point, the road climbed out of the fog and into sunshine - a very welcome sight.
Near my turn off Green Valley.

Cascades at my back, this
farm is nestled into a
beautiful area.
Making my way into Black Diamond, then over the ridge to Ravensdale, where the old Wheelsport Wednesday TT series started, I decided to take the Lake Retreat loop (the old 10-mile TT route, and also the loop for the very old Rainbow BAR road race series). This loop took me back to the very foothills of the Cascades. On one side, this beautiful farm with rolling landscape. Turn around, and the mountains take off right away.

Back into Ravensdale, the over the next ridge to Landsburg, where the Cedar River Trail starts. This rail-trail conversion runs all the way to Renton at the south end of Lake Washington, with the upper section unpaved. But don't be put off by the lack of pavement - with the 28mm tires on the sand and gravel, I was able to maintain close to road speeds. Most of the way, this surface was smoother than some of the paved roads I'd already ridden on... And the Cross Check behaved beautifully.
The Cedar River,
barely in its banks

Into Maple Valley, I checked the watch and figured I had ample time to put in some miles towards Renton (now on the paved part of the trail) before lunch. I turned around about half way to Renton, then took the unpaved part of the trail toward Lake Wilderness, then hit Witte Road out toward Lake Sawyer. I stopped at the Subway for some sustenance, then spent a little time looking around and gabbing at Bike Masters, a shop that's been at the Covington shopping center for about a year and a half (my first visit to this shop).

Gnosh, Subway style.
A mostly-downhill run back to the Green River turn off got me back to my car... And this: a broken out passenger side window, a stolen backpack that had about $300 of riding clothes in it along with my wallet... No cash, fortunately, but I then spent the rest of the day closing out credit card accounts and arranging replacements. All total about $550 in stolen property and car damage... Not to mention the damage to my hope for humanity.
Thieves suck.

It's probably a very good thing I didn't catch the person who did this... I'd be rotting in a jail cell about now on assault charges.

But it's been a couple days, I've gotten a couple more rides in, and I've mostly shaken off the pissy attitude. Now I'm checking on a replacement for the backpack... The only one I have now doesn't fit everything I need for riding to work!