Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Way of the Mountain Turtle

This past summer I raced the length of the Great Divide from Canada to Mexico on a single speed mountain bike. A short form of that story appeared this fall in Dirt Rag and I was originally thinking the big story would be a book. Well the big story is done and rather than make it a paper book, I've decided to tell the whole story on the web. You can read the whole thing and see pictures here:

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Triangular Tail Light

Nothing fancy here but the Blackburn Mars 2.0 is a pretty bright tail light. The shape of the Mars is unusual and it reminds me of the Martians in the George Pal version of War of the Worlds. Four bright red LEDs shine out the back and two yellow LEDs shine out the sides and the Mars can be set to flash, solid or chase modes. The light comes with both a seat clamp and a clip that can be used to attach the light to a backpack or messenger bag. The triangular shape makes it ideal to mount inside a reflective yellow triangle like the one made by Nathan. I use zip-ties to hold the Mars 2.0 inside the triangle and the triangle and light are zip-tied to the rear of my backpack.

The Mars 2.0 comes with 2 AAA alkaline batteries which Blackburn claims will run the light for 60 hours in solid mode and 200 hours in flash. The light seems to be reasonably well sealed against water but changing the batteries is a fiddly affair involving the removal of four philips head screws. The light sells for about $12 or $13.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tour de France in One Stage

Lots of people know about Le Tour de France. By all accounts, it's a pretty darn tough race. Last summer a few folks came up with something even tougher. Read all about Le Tour Direct here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hermine is on the road again

Hermine Stampa-Rabe is heading out for another tour. Hermine has a wonderful outlook on life and a terrific way with a story. Hermine is one of my online pals and she forwarded this note from her home page. Her notes from the road are some of the best gifts anybody could ever receive.



I cannot stay any longer at home! It goes to South America!

My bottom, my arms and legs are itchy, my spirit likes to meet once more new corners and strange people of the earth. Even though I become in January 68th years young, I fly at the 1st January 2006 to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina in South America. This is the southern most city of the world. There I start my new bicycle expedition and ride alone with panniers and tent north through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia to Lima in Peru. There my flight goes home at the 1st July 2006 to Hamburg in Germany.

To make this tour real, the big outdoor market Globetrotter sponsored me the new, light weight and very strong Hardo Wagner bicycle. It is full made by hand for my measures and my own requests. Tomorrow we have the 10th December 2005. I go by train to Hamburg to receive it, hang my panniers at it and make my first bicycle trainings tour to Berlin. By train I drive back to Hamburg, where I bring it for inspection. It shall also be in good shape and full functioning that it will not let me abandon.

To go by bicycle across this big continent healthy and come back at home healthy, I needed many vaccinations:

1) tetanus,

2) diphtheria

3) poliomyelitis

(These three vaccinations I got still 2004 before starting to my Alaska-bicycle tour)

4) 1st Hepatitis A&B

5) 2nd Hepatitis A&B

6) Typhoid

7) Yellow fever

8) 1st rabies

9) 2nd rabies

10) 3rd rabies

11) The 3rd hepatitis A&B I get after coming back in Kiel in Germany.

This way I got many new pricks. Pricks I have in any case always enough. I do not notice them, but only the other people. With that I can live.

My preparations are going to final stage. Now I count my vitamin pills and let send them. Because I wish to come back in best health. This time I shall cook on the tour. But I do not love to do it more. But finally I have only very few money and therefore I shall live cheap on tour. Most of my camping will be limited in the wild. That is for free and shall be, because there are no campgrounds or motels or hotels or houses. Besides that I have to fight against hard storm and do not know how far I come daily. Maybe I have to push all the day my bicycle – 8 km a day? Oh, that can become nice prospects!

Against the mosquitoes I swallow keen vitamin B1. Besides that I have for this tour a new helmet – with mosquito net in the front, that the small insects shall not fly under my helmet to be caught between my hair, where they will struggle to become free. But that I cannot like absolutely. That tickles!

A new tent which has only the half weight of my tent from the Alaska-tour, waits on my attic and waits for its stake. Because I have to tent often on loose sand I bought tent pegs for sand. With them my tent shall stay all the night through the hard storm. Let us see, if it becomes true. In any case this time I have no problems with grizzly bears and other wild animals, who can become dangerous to me. There where I am cycling and sleeping, there it gives such beasts not, at the most snakes, scorpions and such. I have to shut the zippers of my tent every time fine till the last millimetre. The mountain lions, who are at home on the Anden Mountains, will not come there where I am tenting. They have enough to eat like young alpacas! I hope that the ostriches will not chase me how they did with other bicyclists. These big birds are faster than me and can stick me hard with their beak! But I am short. I think they do not count with me. To be short has also its advantage.

In the south I have to fight against storm and hurricanes, later in the north of Santiago de Chile with cruel heat and sand storms. My brain knows about. I wish to buy a beautiful Llama-pullover from the Inkas. That attracts my attention most in the north.

Weekly I send a report to my daughter Gudrun to Valencia/Spain – if I find in the Pampa a telephone for my small PocketMail. I also try to send to Gudrun CDs with photos, that you have some impressions of my surroundings. And as soon as Gudrun has time to do them into my homepage as soon you can see all. It can be that you shall wait something longer – but it is sure to come!!!

Keep yours fingers crossed for me, that all will went well. Till then!

Yours, Hermine

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bikakure: The Book of the Commuter

I'm somewhat biased, but I think the best writing about bicycles being published these days winds up in the print and web pages of Dirt Rag. Jeff Guerrero posted a meditation on The Way of the Commuter here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

You Wanna Ride?

You know how you think of the witty thing to say right after the moment has passed? I had one of those situtations this morning. It has been cool and still the past few days and that's held fog in the valleys at the base of the "Issaquah Alps", the low foothills of the Cascades.

This morning it was 30 degrees (F) at 6:00 AM and the cool temps had crystallized the fog on the roadways. As I rode my bike along the northern edge of Cougar Mountain the ice crystals twinkled in my headlight beam. By the way, the northern edge of Cougar Mountain is a fine paved suburban road that parallels I-90 so it's not like I'm out in the wilds accompanied by some guy named Tenzig. The road surface looked slick but traction was actually fine.

A fellow in a pickup truck drove past me and then pulled over to the shoulder at the next wide spot in the road. I always ride with the operating assumption that most of my fellow road users don't see me and that those that do don't always like me. So I approached with caution. But rather than getting yelled at to "get off the road!" the fellow merely asked "You wanna ride?"

I try not to be shocked by civility and I just smiled and said, "No, I'm fine. Thanks." It was probably the right thing to say and less confusing than the witty response that came into my head a few minutes later.

I wonder how the guy would've reacted if I'd said "Yes, I do wanna ride. That's why I'm riding."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Math Question

This morning I posted this to the Fixed Gear List but I figured I'll put forth the question into the blogosphere as well:

Here's a math question for you. In my copy of "The Dancing Chain" by Berto, Shepherd and Henry (1st edition) on page 117 in a quote from a Cyclo catalog, a cyclist identified as C.A.P. recounts climbing a 1 in 4 hill in a 41 inch gear. Later on this page there is the comment:

"C.A.P.'s claim of riding up a 1 in 4 (25 percent) slope was a little optimistic. With a cyclist's entire weight on the pedal, the maximum rideable gear is seven times the slope denominator. On his low gear of 41, C.A.P. could, with maximum effort, have ridden up a slope of 1 in 6. For touring, an ideal gear is only twice the denominator. Thus a gear of 41 is comfortable to pedal up a slope of about 1 in 20 (5 percent.)"

Now this maximum rideable gear being seven times the slope denominator seems bogus. If I'm reading this right with a 70 inch gear I should only be able to climb a 1 in 10 (10% grade). Yet I've gone up 15% and even 18% climbs with a 70 inch gear. I'm not looking for a bunch of anecdotal "I've climbed hill X" stories but it does seem to me there is some kind of mathematical maximum which I think would have to factor in crank length, rider weight, gravity, the coefficient of friction (at some steep point tires will slip on the road) and maybe some other stuff. Any engineers with time to kill and fresh batteries in their 41GX want to take a shot at this?

BTW in general "The Dancing Chain" is a really cool book, even if it does focus on shifting and coasting and other things that clutter up the riding experience.

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

P.S. SHAMELESS PLUG: "Shiftless Bum" T-shirts with the No-Derailleur logo are available online at

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Commuting Stats

My new commute from Issaquah to Seattle is a bit under 18 miles each way. I leave home around 6:00 AM and get to work a bit before 7:30 AM. It's a very nice ride. This time of year it's dark when I start outbut by the time I roll through the I-90 bike tunnel sunlight is starting to touch the Olympic mountains in the west. On the ride home the sun is also at my back and I get a view of the snow-capped Cascades as I roll over Mercer Island.

On the rides in this week I've been keeping count of the number of other cyclists I see. At this hour of the morning, I'm guessing that most of them are bicycle commuters. Here are numbers for the first four days of this week:

Monday 12/5/05 -- 40 degrees (F) and overcast -- 18 cyclists
Tuesday 12/6/05 -- 40 degrees (F) with light rain in Issaquah -- 11 cyclists
Wednesday 12/7/05 -- 33 degrees (F) overcast -- 13 cyclists
Thursday 12/8/05 -- 26 degrees (F) clear skies -- 20 cyclists

Of course this is too small a sample to draw any big conclusions. But I do know this: I'm not alone out on the roads and trails. There are other folks out there with their bright yellow jackets and flashing LED lights.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Snow Day

I grew up in Northern Minnesota so the stuff that came down yesterday doesn't seem like that much. But in the Puget Sound area, snow is a novelty. I got sent home early from the bike shop and had a pretty uneventful ride home. Riding a fixed gear in the snow is quite fun, you have a perfect sense of exactly how much traction you do or don't have. The challenge, of course, is making sure that the other folks on the road, those guys and gals with multi-ton boxes of momentum, don't wind up on some collision course with you.

This is the really slow time at the shop and I don't start my new job with the Bicycle Alliance until next week. I really have no where I need to go today, so I'm not going anywhere. This will be a day at the laptop, working on stories that need writing and reports that need research. Maybe that makes me a wuss. I'm OK with that.

If you want a nice inspirational story of riding through the snow, check out my buddy Joe's blog entry. It's a nice story to read while you're settled indoors with a laptop and a nice warm cup of coffee. Keep 'em rolling.

Beach Touring

A post over on the Touring List reminded me of this wonderful report of Pat and Kathy's 160 mile beach ride in Alaska this past summer. It's a good story with great pictures.