Saturday, November 26, 2011

Solving A Cold Case

For close to five years, my pal Mark Vande Kamp and I have wondered about some odd, white, fur-like stuff we found growing on some fallen branches along the Woods Creek Road. I took a blurry picture of the substance and wrote a blog post describing our ride and the weird white stuff. We couldn't identify the substance, but thought perhaps the internet would yield a solution.

It took about five years, but yesterday, while checking out some links that had lead folks to my blog, I found this.

The photos included in Dr. Carter's post look exactly like what Mark and I saw on the branches along the side of Woods Creek Road. I shot the link to Mark and he agreed with me, what we had encountered those years ago was Haareis or Hair Ice.

It's an amazing world out there and one of the best ways to see the things you might otherwise miss is to get out there using your bike or your feet. But sometimes, those hours spent sitting and typing on the laptop pay off as well. It's kind of like riding a bike, the key is balance.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Invisible Routes (by Mark Canizaro)

My friend Mark Canizaro originally posted this on his double-secret blog on 11/10/11. I talked him into guest posting it here. -- Kent

Invisible Routes

A friend thanked me today for showing him a new cycling route last week. He said it with a significant amount of surprise. He's a very experienced cyclist. We had ridden a pleasant route on a neighborhood street, bypassing a bad arterial with almost constant conflicts. At the time I had to take some shit for not riding on the really bad street we usually ride on. This is not the first time.

I am truly baffled by this.

There is finally some talk on the internet about driver privilege. It's about time! I feel like I've been a lone voice for a long time, and frankly not a very effective voice. I'm glad the discussion is spreading. It's time cyclists stopped blaming themselves.

It worries me how many cyclists both fall victim to this kind of thinking, and by repeating it, propagate it further. I know many cyclists, car-free, bike transportation people, who insist on riding on the most unpleasant roads... "because we can". I am very capable of riding in heavy car traffic, I've done it successfully for over 30 years. I know the law well and I know we have a right to do it. A legal right and a moral right.

I passionately believe, as i have for 40 years, that bikes are transportation not toys. I believe... I know that we are equal to (and often superior) to cars. These ideas are becoming more widespread, as they should.

But why are so many cyclists afraid to admit that bicycling is fun?!? Why do so many cyclists make such a strong effort to make their own ride unpleasant? It's like they think we have to suffer for it to be acceptable... just because people in cars are suffering. Maybe they think if they admit that riding is fun they will somehow lose the right to be part of the transportation system? That's an understandable unconscious fear I think we all struggle with. (There's a future blog post in that idea.)

But that concern is based in the cultural idea that we, as cyclists, are doing something inherently wrong and it seems many of us feel we have to pay for that by suffering as much as possible. What's so wrong with riding down a pleasant street instead of jumping into the middle of an angry polluted mob of death machines?

I'm not saying we shouldn't be on major streets, and I don't want to be misconstrued in any way that makes it seem like I'm trying to move bikes down the hierarchy below cars. Bicycles should be allowed on any street and streets through shopping districts should be made as (truly) bicycle friendly as possible. But really, as cyclists, we need to be a lot better at route finding. Enjoying the commute makes cycling more legitimate, not less.

I'm not talking about doubling the distance or anything. On occasion the more pleasant routes are a tad longer, usually they are the same distance -- and even when they are longer, a quarter of a mile here and there seems well worth it to me. (I like riding my bike!) There are a few cases where the nasty route is considerably shorter, but that's rare. And in many of those cases, considering all the factors, I would still advocate for the pleasant route.

I don't understand why cyclists absolutely freak out when a pleasant route is suggested over a nasty one. The resistance is huge. And it happens almost every time I suggest one. I automatically brace myself for it now. They often shut me down before I finish the sentence, like I'm being vulgar, or more likely, breaking a taboo.

They never come right out and say it, but it's clear that many cyclists think there is some kind of surrender involved in riding a quiet, pleasant route rather than a miserable route full of cars. As if it were a moral lapse, a spiritual sacrifice, an ideological flaw, a personal weakness or a political capitulation to commute by bike and actually enjoy it.

Perhaps they have a unresolved feeling transplanted from other modes that commuting, getting from one place to another, is supposed to be very unpleasant, so if they actually enjoy it, they are cheating, not doing it right; might as well just forget it and drive a car. And that's the experienced riders, most new or prospective cyclists, after they get over their surprise that there ARE other routes, react with concern to a suggestion of a residential route for fear that it might be longer or more hilly. I understand that fear, although I think it is misplaced in a couple of ways: it's often not longer and so what if it is!

Strangely I find that when pushed into the more pleasant route, most people prefer it, but they feel very guilty! Time and distance aside, there is just so much more benefit from riding the backstreets. It's better exercise, great experiences, educational and just fun. It is living well.

Sometimes in our car-head, motorist privileged culture people just forget that there is any landscape, any city scape, any neighborhood, any real estate that is not on major streets. Everything else becomes invisible. This is a serious mistake.

So I'm not suffering. I'm not wishing I was in a car and I'm not wishing I was on that highway fighting with cars. I'm enjoying seeing, experiencing, learning about and enjoying my city, the people, the weather, the landscape and my ride through it. I absolutely love experiencing these streets, being a part of these neighborhoods. Being there. It's why I ride.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chain-L: The Best Chain Lube You Probably Are Not Using

Francis Bollag is a chain lube evangelist. Francis believes that his product is the best lube you can put on your chain and after having used Chain-L for the past three months, I've come to believe that he is right. He sent me a bottle to review, called repeatedly to make sure I used it and followed up relentlessly to chat about lube. While Francis is a persistent man, that is somehow fitting -- he makes the most persistent chain lube I've ever used.

Chain-L is the opposite of the lubes that promise to be "Clean". It is the thickness and texture of honey and it smells like hell. And by that I mean it smells like hell in the brimstone sense. "Yeah," Francis chuckles in his whatcha-gonna-do New York accent, "there's some sulphur in there. I'm makin' chain lube, not perfume." Francis will straight up tell you that his product is oil, but there is other stuff in there to make it long-lasting.

In the summer, in good conditions, Chain-L didn't seem like anything special, but when the weather turned worse Chain-L's tenacity became apparent. On our Oregon Coast Tour in September, the ocean air and morning fog made the drive-train on Christine's conventionally-lubed Allant chirpy while my Chain-L-lubed Allant remained silent. On the trip, Christine's bike got a couple of treatments with Tri-Flow (still one of my favorite general-purpose lubes) but on returning home, her bike got the Chain-L treatment.

Christine's commuting experience has been quite convincing. It's the rainy season in Issaquah now and she rides back and forth to work in the rain. Her bike sits out in the rain for hours while she works. It's been two months since I lubed her chain with Chain-L and it's still running smooth and silent.

Chain-L is messy to apply and requires a good wipe-down after application but the stuff certainly works. Properly applied it doesn't attract dirt any more than an other wet lube and I've found occasionally wiping down the chain with a dry rag without re-lubing keeps the chain from getting too gritty.

At about $12 per bottle, Chain-L might seem expensive, but given that I have it on four bikes now (my folding Dahon, my Octocog 29er and our two Allants) and I still have 3 ounces left in my 4-ounce bottle, I'd say Chain-L is a bargain.

You may have a problem finding Chain-L at your local bike shop, but I don't think that's as much a fault of the product as it is the nature of the bike business. Most bike shops work with a few big distributors (folks like QBP, SBS and J&B) to get most of their stock and don't think Chain-L is available via any of these distributors. Francis has signed up quite a few dealers via his grass roots evangelism and you can find a nearby dealer by consulting this map. This is actually quite impressive since Chain-L is a harder product to sell than some other lubes. Chain-L requires more consumer education and since the consumer will ultimately use less Chain-L then some competing products, there is little financial incentive for a bike shop to carry it. Sometimes the free-market works against the little guy,

But I sure wouldn't count Francis and his Chain-L lube out of the running. He's won Christine and me over and Ed Pavelka is also convinced. So is Larry Varney.

As of this writing, I have no financial interest in Chain-L (the shop I work at is not in Francis's dealer network...yet), but I sure hope Francis and his lube are a success. I'd like to see a guy who makes such a good lube succeed and I have one other reason for hoping he sticks around. In another year or two, I may need a second bottle of Chain-L.

Update as of 3:30 PM 11/16/11: I guess I'm more persuasive than I thought. Mike, the owner of the Bicycle Center of Issaquah, where I work, just ordered 18 bottles of Chain-L! They'll be in the shop on Friday.

Update as of 12/1/12: After a year of Christine and I using it on our bikes, I still have 1/3 of the 4 ounce bottle left. This highlights the problem of selling Chain-L from a shop perspective. It lasts too damn long. Customers who buy other lubes wind up spending more! Really, this is good stuff. If you can't find it at your local shop, ask for it. If you still can't get it locally, I'm adding an Amazon link below. (And yeah, I do make about 7% off the Amazon sales.)

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

50 More Good Bicycle Books

Last week I published a list of 50 Good Bicycle Books and I knew it was nowhere near an exhaustive list. Today I present 50 More Good Bicycle Books and the quality of the titles on this list are just as high (or maybe higher) than the books on my first list. In some cases titles and authors are in the "Oh God, I can't believe I forgot so and so" category and in other cases they are titles or authors sent to me by people saying "Oh God, I can't believe you forgot so and so". And some titles are gems I've uncovered by following other links or tips.

Not every book on this list will appeal to everyone but I think anyone who shares a love of bicycles and bikes will find something of value on this list. This list is presented in the same format and with the same caveats as my previous list.

I don't describe the books, but each title links to an Amazon page with description, reviews, etc. If you hate Amazon and want to support your local bookshop, go find these books at your local store. I am an Amazon Affiliate so if you do wind up buying one of these books on Amazon after clicking a link from here it will not cost you anything extra but about 6% of the purchase price goes to me. That's the main way I keep the bits flowing through this blog, so if you choose to do that, thank you very much.

While I doubt that I'll compile a third list (a hundred books seems like a nice round number) please feel free to continue to leave comments pointing out more good bicycle books.

And now, without further ado, here's my list of 50 More Good Bicycle Books:


Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza by Brad Graham and Kath McGowan

Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide by Jill Homer

Bicycle History: A Chronological Cycling History of People, Races, and Technology by James L. Witherell

Bike Tripping by Tom Cuthbertson

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham

Curious George Rides a Bike by H. A. Rey

Cycling Home from Siberia: 30,000 miles, 3 years, 1 bicycle by Rob Lilwall

Cycling the Great Divide: From Canada to Mexico on America's Premier Long Distance Mountain Bike Route by Michael McCoy

Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide by Paul Howard

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling: Everything You Need to Know, From Buying Your First Bike toWinning Your First Race by Selene Yeager

French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France By Tim Moore

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Ghost Trails by Jill Homer

Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180 by Mike Magnuson

Hell on Two Wheels: An Astonishing Story of Suffering, Triumph, and the Most Extreme Endurance Race in the World by Amy Snyder

Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?: Five Kids Meet Their Country by John Seigel Boettner

Hungry Cyclist by Tom Kevill-Davies

Into the Remote Places by Ian Hibell and Clinton Trowbridge

Iron Riders: Story of the 1890s Fort Missoula Buffalo Soldier Bicycle Corps by George Niels Sorensen

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Richard & Nicholas Crane

Moods of Future Joys by Alastair Humphreys

Mud, Sweat, and Gears: A Rowdy Family Bike Adventure Across Canada on Seven Wheels by Joe Kurmaskie

Need for the Bike by Paul Fournel

On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life edited by Amy Walker

Richard's 21st Century Bicycle Book by Richard Ballantine

Riding Outside The Lines: International Incidents and Other Misadventures with the Metal Cowboy by Joe Kurmaskie

Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist by Paul Kimmage

Round Ireland in Low Gear by Eric Newby

Sloane's Complete Book of Bicycling: The Cyclist's Bible (25th Anniversary Edition) by Eugene Sloane

Spokesongs: Bicycle Adventures on Three Continents by Willie Weir

Stealing from a Deep Place: Travels in Southeastern Europe by Brian Hall

Super Grandpa by David M. Schwartz

Ten Lessons from the Road by Alastair Humphreys

The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt

The Bike Lesson by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling: Build the Strength, Skills, and Confidence to Ride as Far as You Want by Edmund R. Burke and Ed Pavelka

The Death of Marco Pantani: A Biography by Matt Rendell

The Happiness of Pursuit: A Father's Courage, a Son's Love and Life's Steepest Climb by Davis Phinney

The Lead Goat Veered Off: A Bicycling Adventure on Sardinia by Neil Anderson

The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa by Neil Peart

The Quotable Cyclist: Great Moments of Bicycling Wisdom, Inspiration and Humor edited by Bill Strickland

The Six-Day Bicycle Races: America's Jazz-age Sport by Peter Nye

The Urban Biking Handbook: The DIY Guide to Building, Rebuilding, Tinkering with, and Repairing Your Bicycle for City Living by Charles Haine

The Wind in My Wheels: Travel Tales from the Saddle by Josie Dew

The Wonderful Ride by George T. Loher

Thunder & Sunshine by Alastair Humphreys

Travels With Rosinante: 5 Years Cycling Round the World by Bernard Magnouloux

Travels in a Strange State by Josie Dew

Two Wheels And A Map: A Solo Bicycle Journey Down The East Coast by Bob Neubauer

Wheels Within Wheels by Dervla Murphy


Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA