Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wander Around Oregon

Over Memorial Day Weekend my pal Fred Mulder and I rode around some very pretty parts of Oregon. The story and pictures are at:

More Coverage in the Times

Christine and the kids and I have gotten a lot of nice reactions since the article about us ran in last Sunday's paper. I've had fellow bike commuters comment on it and there have been many nice comments here on the blog. Old friends have found us via the article. Strangers have started introducing themselves and saying that what we do is "impressive." I guess we've made an impression on folks. One good bit of parenting advice I got years ago was that "kids don't listen to what you say, but they sure as hell pay attention to what you do." I think that is true for adults as well.

Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur was one of the people I've talked to since the original article came out and she published this in today's paper:

I always say that I'm not a role model but in our lives we all are role models to someone, in some way. It's really easier for Christine and I to live when we're not being profiled in the paper. Christine is looking forward to having her fifteen minutes of fame be over but she says to me, "You're stuck. You're an internet celebrity. You have a blog."

Maybe I'm stuck, but I'm stuck doing something I love. And maybe, just maybe, more people will get out of their SUVs. Maybe they'll walk to the store. Maybe they'll bike to work. And maybe we'll get to a place where folks will say "Yeah, so that guys bikes everywhere? That's no big deal. Hell, that's normal."

Monday, May 29, 2006

A family of 4 -- but no car

This past weekend, while I was off wandering around Oregon with my pal Fred, the Seattle paper ran a front-page story about about how my lovely wife and I raised our kids in a car-free household. You never know how a story is going to turn out until you see it in print, but I think the reporter, Sonia Krishnan, did a pretty good job telling our story. The text and pictures are online here:

Keep 'em rolling,


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Biking to Work

Last Friday was Bike to Work Day here in Seattle. In my job and my life I preach the gospel of every day being Bike to Work Day but this annual event does serve as a nice catalyst to get some new riders to try bike commuting. The folks at the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation do a terrific job of lining up sponsors, coordinating volunteers and making sure a lot of little things happen to make the day a success. Each year my own commute is a little extra special on Bike to Work Day.

Friday I was out the door at 5:11 AM. About an hour later I rolled past the crew setting up the commute station on the Seattle side of the I-90 floating bridge. When I got to my office at Bikestation Seattle at 6:28 AM, Barb already had the table set up outside and we were getting our first commuters coming through. I dashed over to the nearby Starbucks to pick up the two big bags of scones and muffins they were donating to our station.

Over the next few hours, we saw a lot of commuters. We gave people various bike maps,Clif Bars, water bottles, pastries and clever little nylon neck wallets. Joe give people free bike inspections and quick bike adjustments. We completely sold out of $10 Bike to Work Day t-shirts and even sold a couple of the volunteer shirts we'd been given.

Eileen Kadesh from Metro has seemingly limitless reserves of energy. She not only got Starbucks to pledge us the scones, she'd ordered in the cool wallets. And every day she works to make the Metro system work for cyclists. Friday she spent the first few hours of the morning at another station before coming down to the Bikestation with another of her Metro colleagues to work the later shift at the table outside.

Elsewhere in the city, hundreds of other folks were doing similar things. The event was very successful. I don't think my buddy Chris Cameron will mind if I quote a bit from an email he sent us:

Our heartfelt thanks go out to you for an amazingly successful 2006 Starbucks Bike to Work Day. We had a good feeling this year was going to be significantly different than in years past. 2006 had 15,234 bicycle commuters counted by our forty stations compared to last year's 10,098 riders. (A 52% increase in twelve months and a 283% increase since we started counting in 2000)

We appreciate all of you who come over to Sand Point to pick up and drop off supplies, sell t-shirts, arrange workstations and volunteer your precious time to the event. We understand that the success of this event is a direct result of the time and effort put in by our station sponsors and our many wonderful volunteers. Every year the stress of producing such a huge event pales in comparison to the overwhelming positive wave and spirit of volunteerism that makes bike to work day so special.

Think about that. Over 15,000 commuters. Over 15,000 people not in cars. Maybe the price of gas should get as much credit as all the t-shirts and pastries and free water bottles and volunteer effort, but I'm not going to thank the oil companies. I'll thank Chris and Eileen and Barb and Joe and all the folks out there on bikes, doing their bit.

There is alternative energy, it's human energy. It's not just how these good people go to work every day, it's why they go to work every day.

Keep 'em rolling,


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pictures and Thoughts from the Ride of Silence

On Wednesday May 17, 2006 I was one of the hundreds of cyclists who rode in Seattle's Ride of Silence. Like many of the riders I spoke with before and after the ride, I had (and still have) mixed feelings about the ride. I want to honor the fallen and remind folks that cyclists are legitimate users of the public roadways. On the other hand, the Ride of Silence can also send the message that it's just too dangerous to ride on the roads and I don't believe that. I chose to ride to remember the fallen and two of the fallen in particular.

I knew Ken Kifer through his writings and we exchanged a few emails a few years ago. He was one of the good guys, a true philosopher, the kind of man Thoreau was describing when he wrote:

"To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically."

Ken wrote a lot of good stuff and posted it to his website. When he was killed in 2003, a lot of people knew that they had lost a true friend. Thanks to many fine people, Ken's legacy and his website live on. Despite the tragedy of his death, his article Is Cycling Dangerous? is still the best analysis of the subject I've found.

When I was riding on Wednesday, I was also thinking of Larry Schwartz. Again, Larry is someone I only knew via the Internet. Larry and I were both members of a club called C-KAP, the Canadian Kilometer Achiever Program. Although most C-KAPpers are Canadian, Canadian citizenship is not a requirement. Larry and I were both members of the club's American minority. Larry and I were also a couple of the club riders who logged a large number of kilometers each year. C-KAP publishes an annual report and each year I'd see my name in the top ten in terms of kilometers and each year I'd see Larry's name as one of the people who'd logged more kilometers than I had. Part of the friendly competition of the club is seeing if you can move up in the annual rankings.

When the 2003 C-KAP report came out, I was surprised to see I'd finally beaten Larry in the annual rankings. He was 14th on the list instead of being in his usual spot in the top ten. But I hadn't won anything, the numbers told a small part of the story and the cover story of the report told the rest. On May 1st, 2003 Larry Schwartz was riding his bicycle when he struck from behind by a school bus. Larry died without regaining consciousness on May 4th. He left behind many friends, including his fiancée Judith Ann Jolly. The driver of the bus was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.

Even though he's only lived to ride four months in 2003, Larry still rode 12,212 kilometers that year. Clearly, Larry loved to ride. Larry loved to ride and that love inspired others to ride. Larry's tragic death became the catalyst for the Ride of Silence. I rode with hundreds of other riders in Seattle and thousands of riders across the country to remember Larry and others like him.

Warren Zevon knew that life will kill you and Jim Morrison knew that no one gets out of here alive. Ken Kifer and Larry Schwartz knew that life is for living, for doing that which you love. Both those men loved riding and passed some of that love on to the rest of us. I rode on Wednesday and I ride every day because, like Ken and Larry, I believe in riding bicycles.

My pictures from the Seattle Ride of Silence are here:

Alex Wetmore's report and pictures are here:

Keep 'em rolling,


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sheldon Brown and Wolfgang's Vault

If you are at all interested in bicycles, the odds are that you already know about Sheldon Brown. For many years he's been the go to guy on the internet in terms of bike info. He's created hundreds of great web pages, written thousands of intelligent email responses to queries and he's really a genuine living treasure. Almost any Google query on any bicycle question will probably lead you to one of Sheldon's pages.

Sheldon's interests extend beyond bikes and an interesting launch point into Sheldon's world is at:

This is Sheldon's Homebase page and it's been around since February 14th, 2000. Sheldon states:

" This document is primarily for my own personal use, but I have made it available to anybody who may find it useful."

That page is pretty darn useful and interesting. While it's fun to check out the various bicycle links, some of the other stuff is also fascinating and useful. A while back, via Sheldon's page, I followed a link to Wolfgang's Vault.

Wolfgang's Vault is a terrific audio resource. Here's the description of Vault Radio from the site:

Bill Graham and his concert promotion company, Bill Graham Presents, produced more than 35,000 concerts all over the world. His first venue, the legendary Fillmore Auditorium, was home to many of rock's greatest performers - Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Prince - and the list goes on and on.

Graham taped thousands of live performances and stored the tapes in the basement of the BGP headquarters. These tapes and the concerts they captured lay dormant until the Bill Graham archive was acquired by Wolfgang's Vault (Bill Graham's given first name was Wolfgang) in 2003.

Vault Radio is now playing selected tracks from these concerts in an FM-quality, 128K digital radio stream.

Does Wolfgang's Vault have anything to do with bicycles? Maybe not. But when I'm not on my bike ( I don't do the iPod or Mp3 thing when I ride) the odds are pretty good that I've got Dylan or the Dead or Jimi or somebody else reaching out across the years, out of the depths of Wolfgang's Vault and playing out the tiny speakers of my laptop.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Seattle Area Bike Maps

In my job I help people figure out how to get around by bicycle. One of the things new bicycle commuters discover is that the best route for bicycling somewhere may not be the route that would use to drive to that location. Various agencies have created some pretty good bicycle maps and many of these maps are available online. A lot of these maps have color codes indicating road and trail conditions and arrowheads indicating where the hills are (a key bit of infomation when you are moving under your own power)
I don't claim this is an exhaustive list of the area bicycle maps but below are links to several useful bike maps for this part of the world:


Bellevue Bicycle Map:


Bellingham Bicycle Map:


Burke-Gilman Trail Map


King County Bicycle Map:


Redmond Bicycling Guide:


Seatac Airport to Downtown Seattle Map

Written directions are here:


Seattle Bike Maps:


Snohomish County Bicycle Map:


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ride of Silence

Date: Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Time: 7:00 pm
Where: At over 120 U.S. locations and eight other countries

Join cyclists worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/19.3 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.

So far, rides have been planned for Everett, Renton, Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, and Walla Walla. For ride locations and contact info, check the website.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Stuff about Stuff, Virtual Stuff and Other Stuff

Hang with me on this one folks. Bikes fit in with this somehow.

The thing of it is this: you'd think it shouldn't be about things.

I'll start making sense in while.

I recently found an interesting translation of the Tao Te Ching here:

and it states it fairly well. Here's how it starts out:

If you can talk about it,
it ain't Tao.
If it has a name,
it's just another thing.

Tao doesn't have a name.
Names are for ordinary things.
Stop wanting stuff;
it keeps you from seeing what's real.

When you want stuff,
all you see are things.

Those two sentences
mean the same thing.
Figure them out,
and you've got it made.

Clearly this translation is more from the Jack Kerouac/Quentin Tarantino school of thought than any ivory tower and that's cool with me. I'm a pretty simple guy and the basic teachings from Tao and Zen have always resonated with me.

Here's the thing of it. Even a relatively simple guy like me has lots of stuff. It often seems like too much stuff. My wife will tell you it's definitely too much stuff and I've long been convinced that she's the wisest soul in this family.

But thinking about too many things is still thinking about things. We are creatures of the world and the world is full of things. I write about some simpler things, things that I've used to replace other things. I don't think I'm on a path that ends without things, but I am on a journey where I think quite a bit about the things that I carry.

I think I've figured out why I like the fixed gear bicycle: it's enough bicycle for me. A bicycle is often enough of a transport vehicle for me. The simpler solutions appeal to me. I like simple things. I like simple bikes.

My life is fairly simple, but I still think a lot about stuff. I write about stuff. I write reviews of stuff and sometimes those reviews show up on this blog or in Dirt Rag or in the pages of UltraCycling. And the more I write about stuff, the more stuff folks send me. And the Internet is one giant window into a whole universe of stuff. I get emails from folks asking me what I think about some bit of stuff and a lot of times I write back and tell 'em. I've got opinions. In some cases, I've got experience. And I've still got too much stuff.

I've got a lot of books, but I try to pare that down. Back in 1982 I got rid of most of my stuff and took my first really big bike tour. I rode from Minnesota to northern California. I've always been a bookish sort, but books are heavy so I only took one paperback with me. I'd read that book in the evenings after the day's ride and when I finished that book I dropped it off at a used bookshop, picked up something else and continued on. For that time of my life, it wasn't a bad way to live.

It is perhaps worth noting that even such standard-bearers of simplicity as Henry David Thoreau were not always purely simple, all the time. Thoreau lived in that cabin for two years, two months and two days. In the opening page of Walden, he writes "At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again." And one of my favorite jokes was delivered by Bob Newhart in his droll, button-down delivery, "Thoreau said 'simplify, simplify, simplify.' Wouldn't it have been simpler if he's only said it once?"

I am at present a sojourner in civilized life. I live with a roof and walls and windows and a stove. I share this space with many things including a box that keeps ice cream frozen and another that lets me send these words out into the ether. I have such a luxurious place for my stuff (to use George Carlin's phrase), that I actually can afford to have a paper copy of Walden as well as the very handy electronic one. Excessive luxury, perhaps. Perhaps I hang onto the paper copy out of sentiment.

Our Google-searchable, fiber-optic and wifi-linked world has not eliminated paper but I've realized that these are days in which I read more words from screens than words from printed pages. I am eying my bookshelf with suspicion.

I sometimes get paid when my words hit paper but in this weird virtual world I bet you are reading this off a screen. And you may be reading it just minutes after I wrote this down. Or maybe you are reading it years from now. But let me tell you a story about this weird virtual world, where books become bits, where books don't have to be paper and where bits become stuff again.

Last summer I raced the length of the Continental Divide on a single-speed mountain bike. The story of that ride appeared in the pages of Dirt Rag and as a virtual book at: The folks at Dirt Rag paid me for the article based on what they knew of me from my online writing. Many, many people put up money to help me make that trip based only on words they'd read off screens. Since the trip, many more have paid me something for the virtual book. I'm not getting rich, but as I said, I'm a simple man. I do make more money from words on screens than words on pages.

On this blog, I write about what interests me. I try to keep it connected to bikes, since I'm basically a bike guy. Interestingly, again it was my words on screens that helped me convince people that I could make the jump from being a software guy to a bike writing and bike advocacy guy.

And while this blog is basically non-commercial, I did add a couple of potential revenue streams to the bits. I hope I've added these things in ways that are not too obnoxious. My Mountain Turtle story has has a PayPal link attached for those who want to pay something for that tale. I also have a Café Press store that sells T-shirts and other items. And a few months ago I decided to experiment with an Amazon Associates Store called The Mountain Turtle Market which provides links to various items that I find useful. None of these things generate tons of money but little bits count up.

The Amazon stuff has been the most interesting. Back in January I wrote about the PrincetonTec EOS headlight and a bunch of you folks must have needed a light like this because 20 of you ordered an EOS. I get about 5% commission off those sales, so in that case I made back the money I spent on the light. The EOS is the single most popular item in my online store.

A very interesting thing about Amazon is that if you go to Amazon through an Amazon Associates Store or link and purchase anything within the next 24 hours, the referring shopkeeper gets a commission on that sale. So even though I was only linking to bike and sporting-related items and books, I wound up getting commissions on software, computer books, CDs and all kinds of other things. A standard searchbox like this:

lets all of Amazon be a potential revenue stream.

Let me restate that I'm not getting rich. But I did get my first quarter commission from Amazon and the best deal is if you take it in the form of an Amazon gift certificate. So naturally I used it to buy more stuff. In this specific instance, I got this specific thing a PalmOne Zire 31:

Now here's why this is semi-bike related. I use this primarily as a document reader. This is smaller and lighter than my paper copy of Walden but tucked onto the thumbnail-size SD card is the text of Walden and the Leaves of Grass and the writings of Lao Tzu and novels by Joseph Conrad. And more. Sites like:

are my libraries and bookstores now. Thanks to writers like Cory Doctorow I can also read some great modern books as well as the classics. Is this simpler, is it less stuff? In one way, certainly not. Electronics and batteries and SD cards and USB cables don't have the simplicity of paper copies. But in another way it is a smaller pile of stuff. I've got a load of paper books to take to the used bookstore now. I don't think Henry would approve but Whitman might. Perhaps I'm not simpler, perhaps I contradict myself. I think Walt would be OK with that.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
-- Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" US poet (1819 - 1892)

Safety First

Last Thursday I gave another seminar at the Seattle Bikestation. The topic this time was "Safety First" and the text of the seminar can be read here:

As with any of the stuff I post here, if you think it's of use and you'd like to reprint it, link to it or distribute it, feel free. All I ask is that you retain a reference back to the original source. When I get more organized (and it's very hard to picture my getting less organized!) I'm probably going to sweep through my site and place all the content under Creative Commons license. See:

Keep 'em rolling,


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

WeWeWr: Trail of Tears

Hey there blog fans.

Spring is the busy time in the world of the professional bike commuter so a few other things are getting some of the attention that could be going to this blog. But fear not, you'll be seeing more stuff up here in due time and I'm lucky enough to have eloquent friends who send me neat stories which I shamelessly steal to fill this space. This morning I had a great note in my inbox from my friend Brad Hawkins. He's generously given me permission to reproduce it here.

Brad Hawkins with his John Deere bike and cello


Dear Friends of the Wheel,

It was a sad day in Kristina/Brad land today. The Westbrook Weekly Wramble kicked off today with the usual suspects: Karl, Claire, Kristina, and the non-alliterated Brad. The sun was out, the wind, constant at 20-25 out of the northwest. We chit-chatted by the clock and looked wistfully around for all the rest of you bozos who never come but still want to be invited.... every damn week. I digress......

Where was I, oh yes, we met down at 3rd and University, Karl on his "rain" bike, which consists of a Cannondale CAAD 5 with full Dura Ace, $1500 wheels, of course no fenders (remember, "rain" bike), and handlebars rotated so far forward and down that the shifters actually point forward like some charging bull. The drops in full Modolo style point back up towards the rider just begging for some sort of header where the rider will be blissfully impaled upon impact. Claire, riding the best bike ever made by the Trek/LeMond/GaryFisher/you'renext juggernaut, the Big Sky, which was inexplicably discontinued for lack of interest by Greg LeMond himself probably. I showed up bobtailing (riding without my trailer) the John Deere which feels like a veritable cheetah, ready to pounce despite weighing more that two of Karl's "rain" bikes. Kristina, having just chided Michael at the last ride about his complete inattention to all things mechanical, shows up with her regular steed which looks more and more like the retarded child at the supermarket wearing the football helmet yelling for soda pop. I'll get to that part later.

So we start down third but not before swinging our bikes around and mine so hard into Karl's nifty wheel that I'm sure I've put it out of true (bent it). No such misfortune. Bikers race down 3rd like bats on the hunt for their meal, darting among the buses and laughing at the poor saps stopped by police for the simple offense of driving a car down Third. Hey, I don't write the rules, I just rub them in others' faces, especially that Hummer 2 with the spinners, yeah, you were my favorite "victim" of all. We fall in with some other bikers and wend our way down to Alaskan for our search for the perfect hill-less ride. Yes, we are here for the flats. Save the Alps for another day; today we ride in Flanders, in the Netherlands, across the Cossack Plain. Today we ride the wind, we search for the perfect flat land ride, the one we are sure our dilletante friends who want to ride, who say they will be out, who brag about their bike, who brag about mythical epic rides of yesteryear, but are too afraid to ride up Pike Street, let alone some of the more challenging hills of our fair land. This ride was for you, suckers!

We get onto Alaskan and are heading with the wind at a comfortable 20 mph clip. This is only possible because the wind smiles on our exploits, Yea, the great God above wants us out there and I'm just sure that when we turn around and head back, by golly, that same God will smile on us and turn that wind around with us just for good measure. It's that kind of ride. The cars are a delight and each one smiles as I pull out through the obstacles and block their path home. Everyone understands. Everyone is smiling. Good will is all around us. The Gods are smiling.

Not so fast! Karl flats out. Remember those $1500 wheels? well, they are protected by a thin band of rubber pumped up to 500 atmospheres of pressure and and these have been done in by the detritus of some drunken fratboy who wanted to pretend to be wild while the trust funds are still paying by throwing his bottles out of a moving car. We bikers love this. This is our favorite thing in the whole world. Nothing makes our day like broken bottle glass on the road way. Automotive safety glass? no problem, you can chew on and swallow that stuff, but somehow the beer companies prefer crap glass that splinters into millions of tire shredding pieces. Karl likes thin tires. Karl has been known to go very fast on thin tires. Glass likes thin tires. Karl doesn't go fast when glass likes thin tires. Karl doesn't like glass.

Kristina offered up a bandaid to patch the hole in the side of Karl's tire. I wasn't so sure and offered the tried and true method of a dollar bill. Karl took the bandaid. It worked just as you would expect and bulged out, nearly ruining a new tube. Karl, deflated, deflated the tire and inserted my now folded dollar bill. Works like magic. We were off and running in no time and with my mental calculations, we could still have a good ride and let me make it back to SU for a rehearsal.

We cruised down to West Marginal Way and then into South Park. South Park and South Seattle are my favorite places to ride because this is where the kids get to play in parks. In north Seattle where all the white people live, it's too dangerous and white kids run the risk of getting kidnapped or raped or whatever. In the south end, kids play in the parks, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, get icecream at the local market, sit around and just kill time. The kids are happy here. I like the south end. We ride from Cloverdale onto south 14th Ave and then stop for a regroup. Kristina's bike (remember the football helmet) has decided not to shift anymore. She's cussing up a storm and demands that one of us looks at it. The shifter isn't working and we soon figure out that the cable has broken at the derailer. No sweat, I start to thread the frayed cable through the adjuster and discover that it won't go in. Time is slipping away and I have 40 minutes until I have to play a downbeat with cello in hand. It's a paying gig.

I cut bait and start to adjust the limit stop on the derailer so Kristina won't have to ride a 42:12 all the way home into the wind on 92 gear inches. Kristina howls in protest. "Don't touch my derailer!" she wails. A street fight nearly breaks out between us. Claire comes to the rescue and cooler heads explain that this will give her 2 gears to play with (one in back and two in front) so she can limp home. Karl wonders why only two since she has three sprokets up front and I chuckle while telling him that that part of the bike hasn't worked in a while and Kristina hasn't used the big gear reliably since the first W. Bush administration. The bike comes with 27 gears, Kristina has let that dwindle 18 and now through neglect and bad luck, she has two. Kristina is a civil/mechanical engineer. Kristina's bike IS that retarded kid right now. You feel love, you feel empathy, but you just can't stop looking and pointing. Somewhere in Redmond, while you read this, Michael Tromsdorff is on the floor laughing his ass off.

It's now 6:25 PM and I have to play at 7. We are in deep South Park and I scope out a new, fast route back to civilization. We cross over the 16th street bridge and onto East Marginal Way past the Air Museum. Ryan, eat your heart out. We then hobble over to Airport road for the fast, wind in the face sprint (thanks a lot, God!) back through Georgetown. We climb up and over the train bridge, hurtle ourselves down the other side, and Karl flats again. It's 6:42. At this point, I can't wait around so I kiss my darling Claire on the cheek and high tail it out of Dodge. I climbed up into Chinatown, right onto Jackson, left onto 12th, huffing and puffing, running every red, and make it to rehearsal at 7:01 where the director is nonplussed.

Claire or one of the others will let you know how it all ended. As for me, this should be a cautionary tale. Get your bike fixed regularly, get some tough tires, and don't try to get 20 miles in when you have a time limit. Oh yes, and explain very clearly what you are about to do before you wrench on someone else's $90 derailer on the sidewalk next to a busy intersection where you are the only person not lost...... so you don't get your ears boxed.

Brad Hawkins