Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cyclos Montagnards

Last week my friend Mark Vande Kamp refused my email invite to join me for a ride to Roslyn. It turns out he, Ryan Hamilton and Jan Heine were a bit busy that day. Details here:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alice Creek S24O

Life has a way of filling up the days. First there is that whole making a living thing and in the time that's left you have to balance time with family, friends, alone time and adventures. The S24O or Sub-24 Hour Overnight, invented (or at least named) by Grant Petersen, is a great way to squeeze a bit of outdoor living into a civilized life.

My pal Mark Canizaro is the only one whose schedule can mesh with my odd "leave around 2:00 PM Monday back early afternoon Tuesday" plan. The forecast calls for temps in the nineties, so our plan is to head for the high country. Last year, Lake Moolock was still iced in in July. An icy lake sounds good, the hot climb not so much. Our fallback plan is to stick to gravel roads along the north fork of the Snoqualmie River.

It turns out we need a fallback plan for our fallback plan -- the timber company which owns the land has shut off all recreational access due to fire danger. We should have seen this coming with the hot, dry summer we've been having.

Our fallback fallback plan involves a rootbeer float for me and a chocolate shake for Mark at Scott's Dairy Freeze in North Bend followed by a ride up past Rattlesnake Lake and then out along the John Wayne Iron Horse Trail to Alice Creek. The official camp sites are high in the dry hot sun along the trail, but a small trail just a bit west of the groomed camping spots leads to the cool, rocky banks of the trail. It's actually cool enough by the creek that I trade my sweat soaked hot-weather shirt for my cross-dressing camp sweater. I scored this large woman's SmartWool sweater from REI (Return Everything Incorporated) at their scratch, dent and return sale. Eighty bucks marked down to eleven because it has a tiny hole in the front. "For eleven bucks, I'll cross-dress in the woods," I told the clerk.

This is a no cooking trip, just sandwiches and various munchies. Chlorine Dioxide Tablets take care of the water purification and we settle down to sleep just as the sun finishes setting.

In the morning, we trade bikes for a bit and mostly coast back to North Bend for a big second breakfast at Twede's. It's still early enough and shady enough that we get to see and photograph a large owl in the trees above the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. We're back in Issaquah 22 hours after we'd left, with 84 easy miles on the odometer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mechanical Support on the Seattle Century

I have a backpack full of inner tubes, a bag full of tools and spare parts, but I don't have a seatpost clamp. I'm working as roving mechanical support for the 2009 Seattle Century but the fellow with the broken clamp needs what I don't have. We're just outside Bothel and I can give him advice, "Hose clamp," I say, "head into town and find a hardware or an auto parts store. A hose clamp will get you to the end of the ride."

I've been up since before sunrise, leaving with the bulk of the century riders at 7:00 AM. Along with David McClean (working the 50 mile loop) and James Whitesides from uBRDO (another roving 100 mile mechanic) we're riding with an eye toward helping the broken down. So far, the folks with flat tires have been prepared and have their problems well in hand.

At Redmond my cell phone rings twice in five minutes. Melanie, who is roving the course in the Bike Works van, first calls with a report of a fellow with a flat tire, a bolt-on wheel and no wrench. James sprints off to the rescue. Minutes later, I take the call about the fellow with the broken chain on Novelty Hill Road. "I'll be there in ten minutes," I say. My stock of master links comes in handy, a Wipperman link patches the fellow's busted Shimano chain just fine.

At the Cherry Valley stop I see the busted clamp guy is doing fine with a new hose clamp and while I'm scarfing an ham sandwich the guy with the chain rolls in and tells me his repair is working great.

I see big splashes of orange paint marking the course, bigger than the labels Mark and I had laid down earlier in the month. Ruth and the others fill me in on what happened. Some local anti-cycling yahoos had not only taken down some of our "hundreds of bikes on road" warning signs, they'd gotten the creative idea of making their own fake marks, sending some of the early riders up a huge, dead end hill. I guess there is a small percentage of folks whose idea of fun consists solely in trying to wreck the fun of others. Ruth did a quick restoration of the true course and most riders were unaffected.

The Seattle Century is known for good food and I make sure to get some pie at Remlinger Farms stop. Everybody seems to be having a great time. The weather is not as hot as we'd feared but warm enough that a bit of light rain is welcome and not worrisome.

What does worry me are the fire truck, police car and ambulance that pass me, sirens blaring, as I ride down Snoqualmie Valley Road. A couple riders touched wheels and as I ride past the medics have things well in hand. One rider is down, but she's talking to the medics. I call and chat with Melanie and Ruth, who route support out from the nearest control. There is nothing I can do at the scene other than be in the way, so I roll on.

On the climb up to Preston, I come across two women stopped with a flat. When I ask if they have what they need, they reply that they do, but they don't know how to change a flat and are about to call in for support. "Don't bother," I say, "I'm the guy they'd send." I fix their flat, showing them the tiny nail that they'd run over and walking them through the basics of flat repair.

The Preston stop is sponsored by Talking Rain and I hydrate with flavored water that is supposed to give me "Power" and "Energy." I think the peanut butter sandwiches and cookies actually provide more power and energy than the drinks, but on a warm day it's good to stay hydrated and the water is pretty tasty.

I'm not riding the whole course today. Since the route goes right by my home in Issaquah so I'm ending things there, skipping the last bit on Mercer Island and the finish line feast, but partway between Preston and home, my phone rings and I backtrack to Talking Rain to do a quick derailleur adjust for a fellow.

I'm home by early afternoon. It's been a fun, mellow day on the bike and from what I could see, most of the century riders seemed like they enjoyed the ride. After weeks of exclusively riding the Monocog Flight, riding the Shogun with it's skinny tires felt a bit odd. Heck riding with people feels a bit odd compared to the solitude of the trail. But bikes are fun, no matter how fat or thin the tires.

Keep 'em rolling,


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

My son Peter (aka the Phrozen Physics Geek) is currently doing is post-grad work in Fairbanks, AK. He just sent Christine and me this note, with the above picture attached:
Thought you guys might enjoy my latest accesorizing of the hummer. I thought about getting one for Dad's new 29er but I figured it would be better if he came up and earned it.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ride to Roslyn

Weekends are the busy time at the bike shop, so I take Mondays and Tuesdays off as my virtual weekend. I figured out years ago that I like riding my bike, so I've managed to set my life up in such a way that I get about 38 commuting miles in each normal workday. While this gives me a decent base of miles, practicing for the Tour Divide is something that requires some longer days in the saddle. For example, in setting his amazing 19 day single speed record this year, Chris Plesko averaged close to 150 miles per day. Every day. For 19 days. No matter what the weather. Through mud and rain and heat and flooded roads. You don't get ready for something like that by just riding back and forth to work on suburban streets.

I've been dialing in the Monocog Flight, riding it on my commute, tweaking the luggage and packing in some morning rides on Grand Ridge and Tiger Mountain. Monday I stayed close to home, squeezing in 20 miles on local trails while Christine was at work, but Tuesday I took the bike out for a something a bit closer to Divide Conditions. The weather was too nice and the air was too thick, but the Cascades are the best approximation I have for the Rockies. And they are in my backyard.

I was out the door at 5:00 AM and back home by 10:00 PM. My trail took me up and over Snoqualmie Pass to the little town of Roslyn and then back home. Roslyn has a great network of trails north of town and yes, it is a dead ringer for Cicily, AK. Even though this was just a day trip, I rode with my Divide gear, including my sleeping bag and bivy. I ate Divide-style, pouring food in at mini-marts and cafes. For the record, the ice cream cones at Cafe Cicily are even better than the cheeseburgers at Snoqualmie Summit. The trail dust clung to my sun-blocked skin and on my return home Christine commented, "you're like a kid: you're dirty so you must be happy!"

174 miles under ideal conditions doesn't begin to approximate Divide riding, but it's a start.

Keep 'em rolling,


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Marking The Seattle Century Course

I'd volunteered to help mark the eastern portions of the Seattle Century course with Dan Henry marks and caution signs, figuring I could talk a few of my pals into helping out. Brad "Bikes with Babes" Hawkins had to bail out when child care logistics got too complex and most of my other friends had lame excuses involving jobs, boats or being on the other side of the planet. My local buddy Jeff Youngstrom offered the use of his XtraCycle and despite coming off a weekend of working the finish line at STP, Mark Canizaro said he'd show up at Marymoor Park for route marking duty.

I picked up the XtraCycle at Jeff's at 8:00 AM, rode it the couple of blocks to my place and loaded it up with paint, stencils, signs and a staple gun. The bike is too big for me, so climbing on and off it is a bit awkward, but once I'm on it, I'm fine. I'd allowed more time than I normally would to ride the dozen miles up to Marymoor Park but the XtraCycle is surprisingly fast. The slowest thing about the bike is all the time you spend explaining it to folks when you are stopped, it's quite a conversation starter.

Route marking is a slow business. At each turn and various spots along the straight sections, Mark and I stop, unload a stencil and spray the letters "SC" with a circle and a line indicating the direction of travel. On busy roads, we tack up signs informing drivers that there will be "Hundreds of Bikes on Road, July 25th." We also put up some caution signs for the cyclists ahead of some steep descents and busy, blind intersections. And, of course, we have to stop a couple of times for coffee and to take some pictures of things like a frog the size of a dinner plate. At one point, near Preston, we clean about a hundred construction staples from the road shoulder.

It takes all day to cover the area from Redmond to Duvall, Cherry Valley, Carnation, Preston and finally back to Issaquah, a total of about 45 miles of the hundred mile course. Other folks will map the rest and right before the ride someone will double check all the route marking.

On July 25th, the day of the ride, I'll ride the course as a roving mechanic. This year's course has less masochistic climbing and more rational routing than last year's inaugural effort and Mark and I did our best to make sure the route is clearly labeled. I hope to see at least a few of my blog readers out there.

Keep 'em rolling,


Monday, July 13, 2009

How Are You Going To Carry Stuff?

My pal Mark Vande Kamp wrote me saying "I'll be interested to see how you work out all your gear toting. There doesn't seem to be as much room on that frame, but maybe it's just the contrast with the bigger wheels." Mark is right, the 15 inch frame is pretty compact. The photos here show my first cut at a full back-country ready kit. If money were no object and I was less of a DIY guy, I'd probably have Epic Designs or Carousel Design Works custom make me some bags. But a big part of the fun of tackling something like the Tour Divide is trying stuff out ahead of time to see what works. And I had some coroplast and zip-ties lying around...

The big red blob up front is a waterproof compression stuff-sack containing my tarp, bivy, sleeping bag, Thermarest and Primaloft jacket. It's held to the bars with a couple of straps that also hold a small bag that'll hold small snacks, sun-block, bug repellent, water purification tablets and things like that.

The grey bag in the bike's main triangle is just big enough to hold a tube, patch kit, small tools and chain lube.

The rear coroplast bag will hold food (I can pack an astounding number of Peanut M&Ms in there!), spare clothes, maps, My SPOT transmitter (I gotta get one of those) and whatever else I figure I'll need to get me from Banff to Antelope Wells. I'll also have a small hydration pack on my back.

Tomorrow, I'll be busy marking course for the Seattle Century so it won't be until my next virtual weekend (Monday and Tuesday July 20th and 21st) that I'll get the bike out for a full mountain camping trip. Stay tuned for more reports from the field.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I don't train, I practice

I often get asked how I train for long cycling events, things like Paris-Brest-Paris or the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. My answer, which I went into in some detail in David Rowe's ebook, The Ride of Your Life, is that I don't train, I practice. Today, I went out and practiced with my new Monocog Flight 29er. It's a short trip, only 83 miles, but the little trips add up and are where I learn what I hope I'll need to know for the longer trips. Later, I'll add more weight to the bike in the form of camping gear and extra water bottles but for now it's fun to run with a light bike on familiar trails.

Today's route takes me east and up into the mountains to a place I call Boiling Frog Road. The bike feels great and I'm seeing why 29er enthusiasts are almost as annoying in their zealotry as recumbent riders. I'll have to work on not being one of those 29er preachers. I need to get one of those "Nobody Cares About Your 29er" shirts. For the record, the only problem I'm having with the 29 inch wheels is remembering not to carry too much speed into the turns. It's easy to get the Flight wound up to about warp 8 and those big wheels like to keep going the way you point them. On a little wheeled bike, I tend to go a little slower and I can snap the bike a bit more at the last minute. I've already got my reflexes so they are 99% 29er and I that last percent is coming along nicely. Heck, I've only ridden the bike for a couple of days!

I also practiced another Great Divide skill, taking pictures of my bike leaning against all kinds of stuff and photographing the weird or pretty stuff I see along the trail.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson

Monday, July 06, 2009

Monocog Flight: The Dial-In Begins

I put the bike together yesterday morning before work and rode it home last night. Some things I know right away while others take time to discover. The frame looked tiny out of the box and the wheels looked huge. But the pieces fit and the measurements need not be measured in inches or centimeters, my body knows what has to go where. Butt, hands and feet all know where they should fall.

Out of the box, the bars are too wide for me and my riding, but a pipe-cutter is one of my favored tools. Bar-ends and riser-bars may not be the fashion, but they are what my hands have learned to grab on climbs and twisty trails.

The stock pedals are big and pinned, just what I would have chosen. The saddle is a Rocket, perhaps too shiny, but time will settle that. This morning's rough trail settles the saddle a bit to low, my legs sense it and I stop, inspect, reverse the seat clamp and torque the bolt down with a bit less caution than I had yesterday.

Rough trails always remind me of how much I have to learn. Perhaps that is why I seek them out. Lynyrd Skynyrd and all those 29er enthusiasts are right, "big wheels keep on turning", ruts and roots that would stall a 26er don't even annoy this big wheeled bike. When the bike does stop it, takes more to get it rolling again, a reminder that momentum stopped is what we call inertia.

Enough typing now, I have to get back to the trail.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson

Friday, July 03, 2009

Val Delivers!

I could go on and on about how cool Seattle Bike Supply is. Sure they love Bike Works' mission and give us quantity price breaks even when we're too small to quite make the quantity purchases and yeah they throw in helmets "for the kids" with darn near every order. And they carry a lot of great products including some stuff you can't get anywhere else. I'm especially fond of those Redline bikes, even though I'm not a BMXer. But mostly SBS is cool folks doing their jobs well. Tim Rutledge and Val Kleitz of SBS responded with both enthusiasm and speed to my "so I'm racing the Tour Divide next year and I'm looking for a bike..." email.

Today, Val pulled up on the Dread Nought, his custom cargo bike, with a care package for me. "It's not complete bike," he explained and after a second or so pause he added "I couldn't find the disk rotors. It's everything but two 160 mm brake rotors. " I assured him I could put my hands on some rotors.

It's a green 2008 Redline Monocog Flight. "It's old parts we had laying around the warehouse," Val corrects me. Tim had already explained to me on the phone, "Just do what you did in '05. Ride the hell out of it and tell the story." The invoice read "$0.00".

Not a problem guys. Thanks is way too small a word.

Val had recently cracked the frame on his old commuter and he's not the only guy with a warehouse full of old parts. Tim would prefer seeing Val commute on something newer (I hear those Redline Conquests are really nice) but Val is old school. Val picked out an old Fuji we had laying around. He tried to pay for it but somebody else beat him to the cash register. Funny how things work out.

It was slam dang busy at the all day today at the shop and I'm taking the 4th of July off to eat ice cream and hang out with my wonderful wife. Sunday, I'm back at work and I've got tons to do. I think I'll be going in early. I've got some bikes to get ready. One of 'em is green. And it's mine.

More later. Keep 'em rolling.

And thanks again, SBS guys. You totally rock.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson