Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DIY Saddle Security

My neighbor recently had her bike saddle and seatpost stolen and she was pretty bummed about it. I know the feeling. A few years ago I had the same thing happen, a thief stole my Brooks saddle, seatpost and tool bag while my bike was locked up to a bike rack. While quick release levers make it easy and simple to vary your saddle height, they also make it really easy for some nasty person to steal a seat in seconds. Allen bolt, security bolts, or a cable through the saddle rails can make things more complicated for a thief.

For her new saddle & post, we added the bit of zero-cost security shown below. We ran a bit of old chain through a section of old inner tube, looped the wrapped chain around the saddle rails and frame and connected the chain with a chain tool. The tubing protects the bike frame and helps keep the chain from clanking around too much. This bit of added security should make the saddle a somewhat less tempting target to the scum of the earth. Of course, a scumball with tools can still steal stuff, but every bit helps.

Keep 'em rolling and keep 'em safe,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bike Talk: Bike Maintenance Books?

Jeff from Portland writes:

I'd like to know your recommendations for learning more about bicycle maintenance. Are there books you'd recommend, online resources, etc?

Jeff, if you're from Portland, Maine I think I understand your question, but if you're living in Portland, Oregon, I'm a bit confused. Didn't they issue you a set of Park Tools along with the reusable coffee cup when you moved there? I thought that was part of the Portland Human-Powered Welcome Wagon Package. Check the chicken coop in the back yard, the tools are probably hanging up in there.

Of course tools won't do you much good if you don't know what to do with them, so to get serious about Jeff's question, a great starting point for learning bike maintenance and repair is the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bike Repair. Written by Calvin Jones, the Big Blue Book is a great guide to repairs and the tools you'll need to get the job done. The book has lots of pictures and simple, clear instructions. Yeah, the book will probably convince you to go out and buy a bunch of Park Tools (unless you've found some in the chicken coop out back) but Park makes good tools and good tools and the knowledge of how to use them are good investments.

A couple of other good bike maintenance books are those written by Lennard Zinn. Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance or Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance go into more detail than the Park book, are quite up-to-date and are packed with good illustrations and exploded views of parts.

I'm going to digress for a moment (shocking, I know!) and talk a bit about the whole "Zen and the Art of SomeDamnThing" books out there. In general, "Zen and the X" books are bad. The original book, Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery was a wonderful look at both Zen and Archery and that book is a little gem. Robert Persig played with Herrigel's title in his own Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a big, great, flawed book containing some terrific stuff and virtually no information about Zen. As Pirsig notes, "it's not very factual on motorcycles, either." I can forgive Persig for the bloat of that book, but I mostly curse the mass of "Zen and Dreck" books that are more litter than literature. I'll let Zinn slide because it's OK to make a pun on your name and Ray Bradbury actually wrote a lovely book called Zen in the Art of Writing but most "Zen and..." books are horrible things like Neville Shulman's dreadful Zen in the Art of Climbing Mountains.

Returning the subject of bicycles, there are a couple of great online references. The one I hit most often is Sheldon Brown's massive storehouse of bike info at www.sheldonbrown.com. Whether it's odd wheel size info or bottom bracket threading or the strange code I need to calibrate a cycle computer, the odds are Sheldon has that info tucked somewhere on his site.

Sheldon's site can be a bit overwhelming, so I often point folks to another handy site, Jim Langley's Wrench site at http://www.jimlangley.net/wrench/wrench.html. Jim has a wealth of info and practical advice on his site and it's well worth repeated visits.

I hope this helps. In addition to the books and websites I've listed here, check with your local bike shops and see if they know of or offer bike repair classes. Bikes are fun machines and learning to maintain and repair them can be part of that fun.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bike Talk: Do I Keep On Truckin'?

Joseph from Cyberspace writes:

I own a Surly Long Haul Trucker and have truly embraced The Mountain Turtle philosophy and love going out on 60+ mile trips. I find that I average about 14 mph and slowly make my way uphills on my steel-frame bike. However, my girlfriend and our friends who own more traditional, lighter road bikes, average quite a bit faster speed on our weekend rides and really attack hills. Is there a way that I can ride with them without feeling like I'm holding everyone up or without hurting their feelings by choosing not to ride with them? I can tell that they are somewhat annoyed that I can't keep up. And I usually feel a little defeated that I can't keep up (though I do love that my downhill speeds are usually significantly faster than theirs). 

Am I doomed to a life of solo riding? Do I have to give up on the love of my Surly and buy a lighter bike? I don't really want to drop the money on a new bike.

Joseph, although you wrote with a specific problem and I'll get around to offering some specific advice, your situation highlights the fact that there are a broad range of bikes, bike styles and bike riders in the world. Thoreau advises:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

It's worth noting at this point that Thoreau never really had a girlfriend and it's probably not a good idea to take relationship advice from a guy who I'm sure many of the Concord townsfolk referred to as "that odd cabin fellow."

Joseph, I'm assuming that you are fond of both your girlfriend and your friends, since you express concern for their feelings. It's worth noting, however, that when you speak of love in your note, you are talking about your Surly. Remember, no matter how nice the Surly is, it probably doesn't love you back.

Grant Petersen writes eloquently of the "unracer" in his book Just Ride and Jim Thill has a nice riff on that theme on his blog. Both these guys are well-known shills for the massive wool and waxed-cotton industries and I can't believe how they've managed to completely dominate the U.S. bicycle scene...Oh wait, that's not true at all.

While Grant and Jim and others point out that you don't need a carbon frame or clicky shoes to have fun on a bike that doesn't mean that folks wearing lycra and riding carbon that are not having a great time with their bikes. Sprinting for signs, charging up hills, riding pacelines and all kinds of other things can be loads of fun. We all don't have to like the same things. We all don't have to do the same things.

And that, I think, is the crux of Joseph's dilemma. While Joseph, his girlfriend and their friends are all riding bikes, they really are not doing the same thing. Joseph's friends would probably not be happy on their thin-tired fast bikes on a gravel back road 50 miles from nowhere and Joseph would probably not be happy on an uphill sprint.

Years ago my friend Andy and I both got into mountain biking. Andy loved going fast, downhill and I loved to climb. Andy wound up getting into long-travel bikes with lots of suspension and he'd seek out rocky, downhill runs. I wound up getting lighter hardtails and favoring long climbs into the back country. We haven't ridden together in years. It's no big deal, but we're into different things.

Joseph, I guess I'm telling you that your Trucker is never going to be a racer. That's OK, but you have to be OK with that. Maybe you don't ride with your friends, maybe you meet them at the coffee shop. Maybe you're the guy who hauls all the food. Embrace your turtleness, use and believe the phrase "don't wait up." If you're OK being slower than your friends, they'll be OK with it.

Or maybe you do get a go fast bike for go fast things. It doesn't have to be an expensive proposition, you can get something very speedy if you get an old, quick bike. Find a pal whose itching to upgrade and buy his old bike. One of the quickest bikes I ever had I got for $20 and six Clif Bars. If you really want to ride with your girlfriend and your buddies and they are all quick people on quick bikes, well you can see what you should do.

Or opt out. "You do what you do, and I do what I do" is a fine way to go as well. Not everybody has to do the same things together. My wife sings in a choir, I don't. I drink coffee, she doesn't. Somehow, we still love each other and stay married. Every once in a while I ride whacky long distances and Christine doesn't. Other times we ride together and have wonderful trips.

Joseph, your girlfriend and your friends may come to see the virtue of your turtlesque ways. If they see you having fun on your bike, they may want to try it. Trade bikes for a bit. Ride a mile in the other person's shoes, so to speak. You may have more in common than you think.

Life, as a certain band notes, is a long, strange trip.

Keep on truckin'

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Zobha Downtown Backpack: An Elegant Solution to an Awkward Problem

One of the challenges of riding my bike around town is figuring out how to carry whatever it is I need to take with me or bring home from where I'm going. Between my bike basket, rear rack, Osprey Helix day pack, and my D2R shopping pannier, I can carry just about anything, from several days' worth of groceries to bags of cat food to occasional clothing and household purchases. But one item had me stumped, and that was my yoga mat. I take classes at Village Green Yoga, which is pretty close to home, but farther than I really enjoy walking with my Jade Harmony mat, which great to practice on but definitely heavier than some others. Rolled up, it's 2 feet long – too long for the rear rack without obscuring the back light, too long and too awkward for the day pack or the shopping pannier, and no way will it fit in the basket. I considered attaching it to the rack sideways with bungee cords, but I really like carrying my lock there and I wouldn't be able to do both. Reluctantly, I opted for leaving the bike at home and schlepping my mat to yoga class.

Fortunately this was a problem with an elegant solution. A bit of online searching introduced me to the Zobha Downtown Backpack, which is designed specifically for folks like me who want to ride their bikes to yoga class. It arrived yesterday, just in time to take it to class last night. It is a very nice-looking pack, gray and black with a bit of lime green trim. It is pretty small, but there is room for my bike repair kit, wallet, keys, and rain jacket. You could probably fit in a cell phone if you wanted to, or carry your yoga clothes instead of a jacket. But the best thing is that there are two long velcro straps that come out of a zipper pocket at the bottom to hold the yoga mat quite securely and comfortably. I hardly felt the weight of it at all, although I felt at first like I ought to be riding with a “Wide Load” sign on my back. Kent suggested that I could channel his Cousin Vernes who passed on some years ago, famously referred to by our niece as “the one with the big butt.” “She probably felt that way all the time,” he pointed out. But I'm not into the whole channeling thing, and Cousin Vernes, bless her heart, was a bit on the talkative side. It could be distracting if she decided to hang around and chat in my head all during my yoga practice. And besides, the mat isn't really all that much wider than the handlebars. It makes my hands and my butt feel pretty balanced, actually. The straps felt somewhat long for me even when adjusted to their shortest length when I was walking around with the pack, but they are just right for riding. I had to adjust for the width a bit when carrying the bike down the stairs (with Kent eagerly going for the camera, even though this was decidedly not my most photogenic moment ever). But once I was rolling, everything was fine. Great ride, great class, and only a few strange looks in the parking lot. I figure they'll soon get used to seeing me with my bike and Zobha pack with yoga mat attached, because that's how I'll be getting to the studio every week from now on.

Bike Talk: Change from 27" to 700c rims?

Kenneth from Cyberspace writes:

I have a early 80s fuji with steel 27" rims. I'm going to change the steel rims for aluminum and plan on re-lacing the new aluminum rims to the original aluminum hubs. Is it worth changing to 700c? It looks like my brake pads have the 4mm adjustment so mechanically there shouldn't be a problem. The main reason I'd consider 700c is for the better tire size selection, I'm just wondering if there are other benefits? I plan on using the bike for around town and overnight camping. Also I don't mind sticking with 27" rims.

First off, while I do have a fondness for older steel bikes like Kenneth's Fuji, those warm thoughts do not extend to the steel rims found on some bikes of that era. Chromed steel rims were inexpensive and strong but wet weather braking was always poor. Good brakepads, like Kool Stop Salmon pads could make the braking a bit better, but one of the best things you can do to upgrade an old bike is replace the rims with aluminum alloy rims, as Kenneth is planning on doing. He'll wind up with a lighter wheel that actually is capable of stopping well in the rain.

As with most things bike related, the late Sheldon Brown has great pages that address the issues of upgrading older bikes and the mysteries of tire sizing. Sheldon explains and Kenneth clearly understands that 700C rims have a diameter that is 8 millimeters smaller than the 27" rims, so the brake pads must be moved 4 millimeters closer to the center of the wheel.

In theory, he could order a replacement 27" inch aluminum rim and reuse not only his hubs, but his spokes as well, but I think that would be a false economy. The old spokes have been stressed to the old rim and if you're going through the work and expense of rebuilding the wheel, opt for new spokes.

As Sheldon notes, "the 630 mm/27 inch size was used on most sporty bikes in the U.S. up until the early 1980s, when it was gradually replaced by the slightly smaller 622 mm size also known as 700C." While 27 inch rims are still available, as are tires, the selection of 700C tires is far, far greater. The older size exists because the U.S. was a large, non-metric market but it has been several decades since anyone has made and marketed a bicycle with 27 inch wheels (Commenters please correct me if I'm wrong on this). 

While there is a sufficient mass of old bicycles to keep the 27 inch market alive, there is really no effective demand for new tires to be made in that size. While people with a good sense of and respect for the past, folks like Grant Petersen and Jan Heine, may argue and work for the preservation of the useful wheel size of 650B, it's worth noting that neither of these gentlemen wax poetic on the virtues of 27 inch tires. Steve Miller was wrong in his lyrics. Time doesn't go slippin, slippin, slippin into the future, it slips into the past. And that is where 27 inch wheels mostly exist now. The tires and rims may not go extinct in our lifetimes, but the market for that rim size is certainly not a booming one.

And that extra 4 millimeters of clearance at the rim is a good thing. It give you more room for fitting wider tires. Or fenders. Or both. Good things. Jan Heine has all kinds of good things to say about wider tires, as do many of us who ride on less than perfect roads.

Riders who are happy with their 27 inch wheeled bikes probably don't need to rush out and rebuild their wheels. If you love your existing brakes and don't have 4 mm of travel to move the pads down, you can stick with 27 inch wheels and still find tires in the world. But if you are like Kenneth and are planning on rebuilding your wheels with new rims, go for 700C. You'll have a greater tire selection, more clearance and a more certain future.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bike Talk: A Bogus Bodhisattva Is Something To Be

Bob from Granite Bay, CA writes:

My question:  with all of your years of experience, how do you control your temper when a motorist comes a bit too close to you while riding?  Especially when it appears to happen intentionally?  or if non-intentionally, it occurs when the opposing lane is clear of vehicles for the car traveling in the same direction as you?  If the lane is clear, is it asking too much for the driver to move 2-3ft to the left?  What is your secret?  is it your cool and level-headed personality that prevents you from presenting the universal hand-signal?  the common sense that prevails when you know how easily a 5000lb vehicle can snuff out anyone in a split second--that it's best to keep your pie-hole shut and both hands on your handlebars? 

I honestly try to keep a cool head whenever this happens to me, but I sheepishly admit that I am only successful maybe 20% of the time.  I am certainly not proud of it and typically feel worse afterwards even though no bodily harm has occurred.  Thanks for any advice.  In the meantime, I'll be searching for a 7-step plan......

Hi Bob,

You ask a great question, and bring up a situation that anyone who rides in the world is all too familiar with. I'm not 100% successful in always keeping my cool in stressful situations, but I do keep trying to get my percentage higher, so maybe we can do a bit to up your success rate above 20%. Remember, you're already part way there. 20% is better than 0%.

Experienced cyclist and good, mellow guy Russ Roca wrote eloquently about this dicey situation earlier this year in his article Inside an International Bike Incident. Russ does a great job of describing the situation, the rage of the driver and his own rage at the time.

In the heat of the moment, we react, just like anyone else who cares about their life or their loved one. It’s a basic human instinct. We generally keep our cool, but there was obvious malice in his driving, and we threw our arms up in a “why’d you do that” gesture. 
It is not a proud moment when, as a bike advocate, you lose your cool, but I did. Finger gestures where made, to which the driver returned the same. This is where some “blame the victim” usually creeps in and people will no doubt say that I somehow brought this whole incident upon myself, conveniently disregarding the fact that just moments before someone driving two tons of steel had threatened us with bodily injury. This point has always bothered me when I’ve read these sort of stories myself. The cyclist is suppose to not react, to be a Ghandi-esque figure at all times, not registering any discontent at the fact that two tons of steel was just maliciously steered at them with impunity. Forgive this cyclist for being imperfect and human.

As Russ notes, we are humans. Imperfect.

A while ago my friend Mark Vande Kamp had a similar close call resulting in escalating finger gestures followed by a busted bicycle and a trip to the ER. As you noted, as bike riders we're the fellows with the knives at the gunfight, so escalation is probably not the wise course of action.

But we're human, imperfect, and we often react not with logic but adrenaline. Logic and experience tells us finger gestures and shouting will do little to make the other fellow see the error of his ways but those may be our default behaviors. The problems then, is to change or channel our defaults.

I have one suggestion for changing the default that may help a bit and one trick that has worked great for me. I'll get to the trick in a minute, but here's the suggestion:

We're all humans. Imperfect. Russ said it and it's true. You're imperfect and so is the asshole driver. Their imperfection is probably not something you're going to fix right there, right now on the road. The odds are good you're not going to fix all your imperfections either.

Like that temper of yours. For my temper, I try to channel it. Instead of flipping somebody off, I flip the ringer on my bike bell. It's ridiculously useless against the driver that just buzzed me, but it keeps my fingers busy. Like chewing gum instead of smoking.

But here's the big trick: Fake it.

When I was in college I first learned about Buddhism and enlightenment. One of aspects of Buddhism I found most interesting was the idea of the Bodhisattva, "a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others." The idea of achieving the ultimate understanding of the universe, having the ability to break free of the endless cycle of birth and death and then saying "No thanks, I'll stay here and help others get across" seemed far more awesome than enlightenment itself.

And then I had my own bit of enlightenment in the form of a question: if an enlightened Bodhisattva is admirable, is a non-enlightened being, behaving in the same manner, just as admirable?

OK, you think weird things when you're a college philosophy major. But if you're lucky you live through it and it helps you live a pretty damn good life.

Here's my point. I wanted to live in a calmer, less angry world so I fake being calmer and less angry. I took Bon Jovi's advice and when the world got in my face I'd say "Have a Nice Day."

And you know, it's the damnedest thing. It works.

I'm not 100% successful, but I'm one of the calmest people I know. Kurt Vonnegut explained it well, "Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be." Smart fellow that Mr. Vonnegut.

Fake it until you make it.

Thanks for writing.

Have a nice day.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Saturday, July 14, 2012


My lovely wife has written quite eloquently about her past year with her Allant and it occurs to me that I should put fingers to keyboard and do something similar, for a week or so after Christine purchased her Allant, I bought one of my own. While Christine's Allant opened new roads of exploration and utility for her, my own Allant adventures are measured against my life of riding preferences, honed by by many miles logged on a multitude of machines. I know enough to know what I like in a bike, but even so I've been surprised at how much I enjoy my Allant.

The grips and the bars conspire to make this bike comfortable. I'd thought I might long for more hand positions, but even on my longest day ride to date (136 miles round trip to Port Townsend and back), I didn't have any comfort issues.

With a couple of bits of tape to protect the frame and a strap to secure it against bouncing loose, an old Zefal pump fits snug into the frame. I use a Detours Coffee Bag to hold my tools, a spare tube, a little snack and my folding grocery bag.

The stock fenders and rear rack have proven rock solid and useful.

I did find the stock saddle too big and too brown for my taste, so I swapped it out. The more upright position of the Allant made my standard favorite WTB Rocket V saddle not-quite right either but after some experimentation, I've settled on the very inexpensive and surprisingly comfortable Avenir Men's 100 mountain saddle. It looks perfect on the bike and more importantly, it's a good fit for my butt.

The Allant comes stock with inexpensive plastic pedals. The stock pedals are still holding up fine on Christine's Allant, but I had a nice old pair of Shimano mountain pedals in my stash of bike bits, so I swapped the pedals out on my bike.

Another splurge for the bike was the addition of a nice bell. Christine's bike has the same bell, but hers is polished brass.

Christine works at Safeway, so she does the bulk of the grocery shopping, but I get out and about to places like Trader Joes and often pick up a few things.

In a world that likes labels, the Allant gets labeled as an "urban" bike, but Christine and I prefer the more generic term "bike" and use our bikes for basically everything. Yes, for real rugged mountain biking I'll ride my Redline and if I need something that packs small I'll take my Dahon, but pretty much here and there and everywhere, I ride my Allant. It's the bike I ride to Seattle or to Port Townsend or on an all-night Solstice Ride. The best thing about the Allant is that it's the bike I ride with my sweetie. We travel light on our tours and we've gone on many great tours with our Allants.

I've tracked how little we've had to maintain or modify our Allants in the past year and I've found them to be impressively reliable machines. On both bikes we keep an eye on the tire pressure and top off the tires every week or so. I don't want to jinx anything, so I will say nothing else about the tires. We also keep the chains lubed by applying some Chain-L every few months. Really, Chain-L is amazing. Christine's bike often sits out in the rain for hours while she's at work and the Chain-L doesn't wash out. Our 4-ounce bottle of Chain-L is still half full after 10 months!

I've adjusted the cable tension on our brakes and shifters and I have replaced the brake pads on our bikes. The Allant's shifters and deraillers have proven to be very robust and trouble-free. The wheels on our bikes have stayed true. I did need to tighten the bottom bracket on my bike and I replaced a cracked bracket under Christine's front basket, but she carries some heavy loads in that basket and we ride our bikes on some kind of rough trails. I don't think it's unreasonable to see a couple of small problems over the course of a year of adventures and commutes.

My friend Mark made a comment about the Allant soon after I got it. "That bike doesn't seem to slow you down," he noted. Christine puts it another way, "The bike likes to go." Indeed it does. At this rate, our Allants will keep going for a good long time.

And good times on a bike, that's really what it's all about, isn't it?

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Open Road (Christine's first year with her Trek Allant)

In my favorite Christmas movie Trapped in Paradise, the three Firpo brothers take a road trip to a small town with a plan to rob the bank.  They make off with the money, only to find themselves trapped in a snowstorm, unable to get out of town.  As darkness falls along with the swirling snowflakes, the sign at the edge town proclaims that in every direction, the road is closed.  Hijinks ensue as the getaway car skids off a bridge, and escape attempts by bus, riverboat, and horse and sleigh are thwarted, until the kindness of the town's people wins them over, and they decide to give the money back.  By the end of the movie, with a  plan to make a honest living taking shape and a new romance beginning, the main character looks up at the road sign again and finds that “All Roads Are Open.”

I haven't robbed any banks (more likely the other way around before I transferred my account to the local credit union, but that's another story).  But a couple of years ago a path I'd been following for many years dead-ended, and for quite awhile I was trapped by my own sense of failure and life closing in, in decidedly less amusing fashion than the movie scenario.  But by whatever mysterious process grace happens, I eventually began to reach tentatively toward new possibility.  I let go of a bunch of stuff that wasn't part of my life anymore, got a new haircut, took up yoga, and adopted a black cat.  A green Trek Allant in a shop window caught my eye in early fall, and I saved a bit of money here and there and bought it on a beautiful sunit morning last July.  Lugging it up the stairs to our second-floor apartment, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning.  The green bike told me her name was Allie.  (Perhaps Allie the Allant had divined my fondness for all things alliterative.)  She was outfitted with a rear rack, faux wicker basket, lock and cable and lights, and we began to get acquainted on my ride to work the next morning.

Since that day a year ago, I've ridden that bike in the darkness of many early mornings under the moon and stars, in wind and rain and glistening frost, commuting to work year round.  Raccoons are curious as I ride by, deer gracefully turn their heads, and the bunnies disappear ahead of me into tall grass at the side of the road. I've carried panniers full of groceries home and verified that the basket will indeed hold a small pumpkin or watermelon, and more than one passer-by smiled when I rode home with a huge bouquet of sunflowers strapped to my day pack.  I've traded my umbrella for a good rain shell and rain pants and my jeans for nylon pants that dry fast when they get wet.  I've gotten good at carrying my bike up and down stairs, counting the steps, balancing the weight, remembering to breathe.  And after nearly two decades of mostly traveling extensively in Issaquah, I've ventured further out into the world.  I've struggled up hills and flown down them singing, traversed rocky trails, struggled against the wind some days and other days found it enhancing the joyful ease of forward motion.  With great trepidation I've crossed bridges, leaving safe ground to venture across the water into new and unexplored territory.  I've made my way through fear in the noisy darkness of tunnels and come out on the other side into the light.  I've stretched my comfort level a bit with riding in traffic, and though I am at heart a gentle soul who prefers roads less traveled, both on and off the road I am a bit less easily intimidated than I used to be.

For much of our 27+ year marriage, Kent went off on biking adventures and I held down the fort at home.  But there is, happily, less to hold down these days than there used to be, and over the last year, we've been having many of our adventures together.  Last September we toured around 200 miles of the hilly Oregon Coast, where Allie earned her full title, Allie the Valiant Allant.   We've gone on camping trips along the Iron Horse Trail, and taken the bikes on the ferry to ride to Fay Bainbridge State Park and Illahee State Park, and taken the trail to Preston for an overnight stay in a tree house (as well as getting in quite a few coffee shop dates and picnics).  Another fall tour is in the planning stages.

Sometimes life does not give you what you want, and sometimes the thing you want and receive turns out, in the long run, not to measure up to expectations.  But once in awhile, maybe, a gift will surprise you, and be better than anything you ever expected, becoming a part of the way you live and expanding your own capacity to learn and grow and enjoy an amazing world.  With over 50 trips around the sun behind me, I look forward to many more adventures with Kent and with Allie the Valiant Allant, and to riding down many more open roads.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Bike Talk: Backlit Bike Computer?

Phil from cyberspace asks what sounds like a simple question:

Do you know of a wired, backlit bike computer?  I don’t need the interference from the next guy’s bike computer, and I don’t need a lot of features. For following a trip sheet at night, sometimes all night! (I’ll carry spare batteries…)

There are surprisingly few backlit cyclecomputers. The SIGMA BC1606L is backlit and so is the very inexpensive Schwinn 20-Function Bike Computer. In general, I've been very impressed with the design, engineering and build quality of Sigma products. As for the Schwinn, I'll just say that the Schwinn name products of today have pretty much nothing in common with the classic hand-built Paramounts and  bullet-proof electro-forged Varsities of yesteryear.

I've written previously about wireless computers and interference and while there are probably some good, digital signal wireless computers now that feature both a backlight and and resistance to interference, I'll leave it to my helpful blog commenters to note them.

For my night riding brevets and such things where I need a computer, I use a non-backlit Cateye Enduro that I see thanks to my helmet light. The helmet light is also handy for reading cue sheets and roadside signs. It's also super handy for doing things like changing flat tires.

That's my take on bike computers. These days, I pretty much run without a computer but I know many folks now use their phones or GPS units to track their progress and make their way in the world. Again, I hope people will weigh in with their comments about their favorite bike computing solution.

As always feel free to send me any Bike Talk questions via email at kentsbike@gmail.com or via Twitter at @kentsbike.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Issaquah's People-Powered July 4th Parade

Issaquah is still a small town at heart and every July 4th, Front Street is closed to cars. Kids decorate their bikes and we have a small parade. Here are a few pictures from the 2012 festivities.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Bike Talk: What's the best way to deal with the rain?

I'm starting a new feature here on the blog, something I call "Bike Talk". Think of "Bike Talk" as "Car Talk" with bikes instead of cars and one less brother. I may be just as (in)accurate with my answers as Tom and Ray and it's a decent bet that I won't be as funny. Since this is on a blog instead of the radio, you won't hear me laughing at my own jokes, so that's probably a plus. I'll take questions throughout the week via Twitter (@kentsbike) or email (kentsbike@gmail.com) and once a week I'll grab a question and post it along with the response here. I'll also take questions by mail. Just write your question on the back of Brompton folding bike with titanium rear triangle, wide-range 6-speed gearing, WTB Rocket V-saddle, and a Russ Roca Signature Edition folding cappuccino maker to:

Bike Talk Plaza
c/o Bicycle Center of Issaquah
121 Front Street North
Issaquah (my fair city) WA 98027

Today's question comes from Rohit via Twitter. Rohit asks:

"What's the best way to deal with rain in Seattle?"

This one's easy. First off, I should make clear that I actually live in Issaquah, which is about 17 miles east of Seattle, right at the base of the Cascade Mountains. One of Issaquah's claims to fame is that we actually get more rain than Seattle. And I can tell you, with the certainty based on years of biking in the rain, that hands down the absolute best way to deal with rain is to stop for coffee. My lovely wife, who is a year 'round bike commuter and doesn't even drink coffee, will tell you the same thing.

Unfortunately, given the persistent nature of rain in this green part of the world and the burdens we all bear, it is impossible to spend every waking moment in a coffee shop (trust me on this, there are days I've come close). So the intrepid rider must go out into the elements and that is where good clothing proves it's use.

There's a simple, wrong, cliché that states that "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing." I'd argue that there certainly IS bad weather. Bad clothing can make things seem much worse and good clothing can make things seem much, much better. My wise wife will tell you that when you look out the window at 4:00 AM and you have to ride to work, you don't say "oh, look at the good weather." You say "this bites." And then you put on your good clothes, get on your bike and go.

A good rain bike will have fenders to help keep you dry and lights so the drivers have a better chance of seeing you through their rain-slicked windshields. Christine and I both favor wearing caps under our helmets to keep the rain off our glasses.

For the past few years my favorite rain jacket has been the Patagonia Torrentshell. While not a cycling specific jacket, it's proven to be tough, light, well-designed and well-made. It has big pit-zips so it doesn't get too hot and it layers well with warmer layers when it gets cold. Christine and I both have nothing but good things to say about our Torrentshells and no matter how good the weather looks when we leave the house, we have our Torrentshells tucked into our packs just in case.

The O2 Cycling Rain Jacket is a great jacket for minimalists or those on a tight budget. While the jacket is made of a very thin, light material and it has no zipper vents or pockets, it does a good job. The thin material can be fairly easily torn but my first O2, jacket survived a year of commuting and my 2005 Great Divide Ride, so I certainly feel my $35 was well-spent on this jacket.

There are other good jackets as well. My friends Jan and Mark both have good things to say about the Gore Bike Wear jackets (I'm not sure which one, maybe one of them will chime in on the comments). Portland-based Showers Pass make very nice jackets that are favored by many foul-weather commuters.

For rain pant's I use some inexpensive coated nylon pants that I've had for years. Christine favors her REI Ultralight Rainpants.

For the extremities (hands, feet and ears) it's often not a question of keeping dry, but keeping warm. A band over the ears makes a huge difference in comfort and one of the best, most versatile bits of gear is a Buff. A Buff is simple tube of Coolmax or wool that can be folded into an earband or a beanie and it's a super handy bit of gear.

For gloves, a thin wool layer for warmth and a Windstopper layer on top has proven to be the best combination. Depending on temperature you can use one or both layers and if the lining layer does get wet, it can be wrung out. Gloves with integrated linings take damn near forever to dry when they do get wet. Wool, even when damp, is warm.

For the feet, the look that I first thought was so stupid when I first moved here is now my footwear of choice. Yes, I'm one of those wool socks and sandals people. If it's really cold, I may have a Goretex sock over the wool. Yeah, it looks stupid, but my feet are comfortable.

That's it for episode one of Bike Talk. As long as I keep getting questions I'll try to do this once a week or so.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA