Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bicycle Quarterly

Bicycle Quarterly is a really wonderful magazine. I'm pretty sure I'd say that even if I wasn't friends with Jan Heine, the editor and publisher of the magazine and also if I wasn't friends with several of the other folks who write for Bicycle Quarterly on a regular basis. But I am friends with those guys in great part because we share a common interest in and love of bicycles. Originally Jan called his magazine Vintage Bicycle Quarterly and it was an astounding source of great information about bicycles from an earlier time. But Jan's interests aren't just historical and while the magazine still has lots of historical information, it also contains reviews of contemporary bicycles, stories of epic rides, tests of modern tires and lights and a wealth of other great information.

Unlike most other magazines, Bicycle Quarterly, is not just a bunch of slightly reworked ad copy designed to make you buy the latest this or that. A lot of thought and work goes into each issue and the quality shows through on every page. Each issue of Bicycle Quarterly (at least every issue I've seen!) is one of those all too rare items in this day and age, a genuine treasure.

More info about Bicycle Quarterly can be seen here:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Studded Bicycle Tires

I wish I could get in touch with Al Gore and have him direct some of that global warming to my neighborhood right now but I understand that he's a busy man and it's a complex issue. While my friends and family back in the midwest are having warm temps with rain, there's an inch of ice on the roads in Issaquah and the temperatures are rather nippy. I took the very crowded bus to work today.

Peter Jon White has the answer: fat studded bicycle tires. He's got a wonderfully grumpy and informative page here:

and it really makes me want to send him $104 dollars (plus shipping) for a set of Schwalbe Snow Stud tires. "The perfect tire if you want one tire to do everything." That Peter knows how to write ad copy that hits me right in the "reach for wallet" reflex.

But then I think "hey, it never really ices up here and by the time I get the tires, this freak cold snap will be gone and I'll be back to normal riding." This sounded like a rational, save your money argument until I talked to my pal Ken who pointed out "if you have tires like that, you'll seek out the snow." Damn, he's right. We've got all those mountain passes around here and every winter I sulk in the low valleys, waiting for spring. These tires mean more adventures. More stories for the blog...

Back in my big buck software industry days, I'd already have those tires Fed Exing their way here. Now, in my non-profit professional bike advocate days, I ponder my purchases a bit more.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday the forecast was for snow but my morning commute was actually icy but clear. At the end of the day I rode through the Seahawk game traffic (My office is a couple of blocks north of the football stadium and last night was game night). By the time I crossed Mercer Island, a few flakes were coming down and once I climbed up to Newport Way, which skirts the northern flank of Cougar Mountain, the snow was coming down in big heavy flakes.

I felt like Andy Hampsten on the Passo Gavia in 1988. Except, of course, I was going a hell of a lot slower than Andy did. And Andy didn't have to worry about dozens of SUVs slipping and sliding along the same narrow road. I might have had about the best traction of anything on the road and my traction was minimal at best. Fortunately, most of the SUV drivers seemed to quickly learn that their advertising induced confidence was misplaced and aside from seeing a few Explorers fishtail widely and wildly through some turns the ride home was pretty much without incident. As soon as I could I got onto lower traffic roads and trails. The snow was coming down thick and wet enough that it would form a layer on my helmet and then when enough mass accumulated a big clump would whooph off in a solid sheet.

It was dark and I was too busy to take pictures last night, but I snapped a picture of my porch this morning. Temps are still below freezing here and all the schools are closed. I normally spend one day a week working from home on documents and things. I figure I used up all my luck on the ride home last night so today I'm staying put with my computer and a cup of hot coffee.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Momentum Is Your Friend

My friend Joe "Metal Cowboy" Kurmaskie writes wonderful books that are both funny and wise. His latest book, Momentum Is Your Friend, is the story of Joe bicycling from Portland Oregon to Washington DC with this two sons, second-grader Quinn and five-year-old Enzo, literally in tow. Joe has a reporter's eye for detail, a poet's way with words and a genuine interest in the people he and the boys meet along the road. Over the course of a few thousand miles and a few hundred pages, Joe and the boys take the reader on the ride of a lifetime. I really felt like I'd met the watermelon whiz-kid, the grumpy and grizzled bicycling vet, the midwestern cheerleader in the mysteriously empty town and all the other people too real to be called characters.

But of all the real people in this book, the one we get to know the best is the one telling us this story. This is not a mid-life crisis book but it is a good story, well told, by a man in the midst of his life. With his kids in tow, his wife in grad school and the ashes of his father in a Tupperware bowl tucked somewhere in a pannier, Joe wonders about the things we all wonder about. Am I being a good dad? A good husband? A good son? And can I make it up this hill with this 250 pound contraption? OK, maybe not everyone wonders about that last one.

B. and Roy, a kind-hearted couple in a huge RV voice the concerns of many about Joe and his cute kids, "you wouldn't want anything to happen to them." But Joe explains that this isn't categorically true.

"I want all sorts of things to happen to my children. I want them to smack line drives during clutch moments of baseball games, smell the sweet bite of creosote bushes in the Arizona desert after an August monsoon, eat a pile of messy short ribs dripping in Kansas City's best BBQ sauce, then sleep off their food comas under the whispery shade of a willow tree. I want them to stick up for themselves when it really matters, and someday slow dance with that girl, the one that makes them uncool and cotton-mouthed, at the junior high school mixer. I want them to find themselves at a loss for words from the beauty of the world, and make up fantastical names for constellations under the open sky this summer."

"What I don't want is something horrible happening to them. That's what he really means. It's a small distinction, but, when magnified through the video black magic of Madison Ave. and filtered by the unfounded fears of parents fueled by the nightly news, it's what cheats us all of so much."

Joe and Quinn and Enzo not only survive, they thrive. They remind us all that life is for living and adventure is everywhere if we are not afraid to roll out the door and see what's around the next corner. If momentum is my friend, then I guess that inertia is my enemy. Thanks, Joe for wonderful book that's a kick out the door. I'll see you on the road.

BTW, if you get a chance to see Joe in person go see him. He's a great speaker as well as being a terrific writer and if you buy a book straight from him, he'll sign it. When you buy a book straight from Joe (either in person or via his website at 80% of the profits go to Joe's latest venture, Camp Creative. Of course, Amazon and other bookstore sales are a great help as well but Joe's trying to raise a big chunk of money for Camp Creative (details on his website) and direct sales earn more direct cash.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

One General Purpose Bike

Despite my Dad's observation that "a Swiss Army Knife really isn't much of a knife," I've always preferred the mutts to the purebreds. While some folks delight in having the ideal knife for cutting, a set of perfect screwdrivers for every fastening chore, the right cork screw for that vintage bottle of French wine and so on, I've always liked the idea of one gadget that does a lot of things. It doesn't have to do everything perfectly as long as it's enough to get the job done.

I've done some long rides on minimal gear, like riding the GDR on my Monocog or touring back to Minnesota on a fixed gear but when I think about riding fast with my pals on the road and climbing the steepest stuff I can find on the mountain trails, then even I can see the value of those Disraeli gears. I mucked around a bit with a little mountain bike but those cyclocross bikes have always had an appeal for me. I've never been tempted by cyclocross racing, mind you, it's a little too muddy and the races are a little too short for my tastes, but some of the bikes are just so darn versatile. Something like a Surly Crosscheck has always been high on my list of bikes I recommend. A cross bike would be a little faster than the mountain bike and be at home on the road or the trail.

Have I mentioned that I have this weird bike karma? Some bikes just find me and some bikes I have wind up finding their way to more fit owners. The Kogswell Model G is a great bike and in it's three-speed configuration I think it's perfect. Well, perfect for everything but that really steep back country trail. But perfect for my buddy Ken. Ken who rides on roads and stays off the steep trails. Ken who takes forever to decide to buy a bike but who has the Model G on a semi-permanent loan now. And my son Eric got his bike stolen but I happen to have this mountain bike to give to him. So now I can explain with a straight face to my very understanding wife (who really just rolls her eyes at all these velo permutations) that we really are simplifying things here.

My latest bike is an old steel Novara CX. Novara is REI's house brand and this old CX is kind of workhorse bike like a Surly Crosscheck. It's not at all fancy, it doesn't have lugs, and there are lots of chips in the paint. Reflective tape and stickers do wonders for covering up a dinged paint job. I swapped the bars and shifters for something I like, but that's why I have a big parts pile. The stem is the ugliest thing I had in my parts box but it's the right length and somehow it just seems right. The CX can take massive tires but for now it's fine with 28 mm tires for commuting. A guy on the iBOB list is selling me a set of 700*40 Specialized Hemisphere tires for twenty bucks. That twenty bucks is the only money I've sunk into this bike thus far. Once I have the fat tires I'll see how this bike works in the backcountry. The low budget also explains the funky color of the bar-tape, it's what I had laying around. Of course the fenders and rear trunk are custom coroplast specials.

Is this bike the one? I don't know. I never know. Could I come up with a better bike to ride to work? Probably. Could I come up with a better bike to bomb down the back side of Tiger Mountain? Sure. But do I carry the perfect knife and a set of screwdrivers and a wrench and everything else in the front pocket of my shorts? Nope.

I've got a little red knife in my pocket. It does a pretty good job on a lot of tasks and I carry it with me every day. And now I've got this bike. It's kind of ugly but that appeals to me. As Stuart Smalley might say "it's good enough and doggone it, I like it!"

Friday, November 24, 2006

One Way To Burn Off That Turkey

Mark Vande Kamp and I figured we needed to burn off some of the Thanksgiving calories we'd piled on yesterday and we thought that a ride out to the Olympic Penninsula would probably do the trick. My son Peter was home from college and he decided to join in the fun. Our buddy Jon Muellner lives over in Port Townsend and the plan was to meet up with him somewhere near the Hood Canal Bridge.

So in the wee hours of the morning Peter and I rode from Issaquah to meet Mark in Seattle and catch the 6:20 AM ferry to Bainbridge Island. Peter had been worried that his jacket might be too warm, but en route he informed me that this wasn't a problem. It was 37 degrees when we left home.

The sun was just coming up as Mark, Peter and I rolled across Bainbridge Island and in Poulsbo the thermometer said 32 degrees. "That can't be right" we all agreed and then we noticed the white layer of frost on the roadside leaves. On Big Valley road the temperature seemed to drop a bit more and parts of the road had a rather ominous sheen. As we neared the Hood Canal Bridge, things warmed up a bit.

I got to watch Peter do an impressive bit of bike handling as he hit the edge of a metal plate on the bridge but with something that looked like a cross between a ballet move and muscle spasm he managed to keep the bike upright.

On the road to Port Ludlow we met up with Jon and he suggested a hearty breakfast at the Chimacum Cafe. This proved to be a wise decision. Over breakfast we discussed various weighty world matters and why we all loathe flying because we all hate being without a Leatherman or a Swiss Army knife.

After breakfast Jon headed back to Port Townsend and we rolled back towards home on Beaver Valley Road. Back in Seattle Mark headed for home. Pete was cutting things close on time so he got in touch with the college buddy who was also his ride back to school and they to met up in Factoria. So Peter's ride was little shorter than mine, he only had 106 miles for the day. But considering that he's been busy with school (he's double majoring in physics and chemistry at Eastern Washington University) and has ridden zero miles in the past two years, I was pretty damned impressed.

But that wasn't the most impressive thing Peter did this week. Yesterday morning, when Christine got up early to put the bird in the oven, it was already cooking away. "It's a Thanksgiving miracle!" she reported to me as she came back to bed. No, it was Peter. He made the whole meal and he did a great job. The green beans with bacon and onions were amazing. It seems when Peter's been away at school, he's become quite the chef. "The chicks really dig a guy who can cook," he explained.

This is the time of year when we give thanks. I'm thankful for so many things but mostly I'm thankful for the many fine people who are a part of my life, my family and friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bike Riding in Minnesota

I just got back from a five day trip to Minnesota where I visited my family. Christine and the boys had work and school obligations so I was the only one who headed back to the midwest this time. And unlike the last time I went back, this time I used several of those fancy aeroplane thingies to get there. I still find riding a bike to be more fun than flying.

My sister Candy knew I'd go stir crazy without a bike, so she loaned me her son's old-school mountain bike. Nothing fancy, but perfect for my needs.
On Friday temps were just a bit below freezing but the roads and trails were clear. I rode from my folks place in Scanlon to Carlton. From Carlton to Duluth I rode along the Willard Munger Trail, a converted rail-trail that runs from southern Minnesota all the way up to Duluth. In Duluth I stopped by Aerostich HQ to check out various cool motorcycle touring gear (much of which works well for pedal bikes as well) and then I headed over to Twin Ports Cycleryto see my old pal Denis. The best way I can describe the impact Denis had on me in my formative years is to say that if I'm any kind of a cycling Jedi then Denis is Yoda.
Denis and I talk of our families and bicycles and advocacy and mostly about riding. His main bike these days is a Bianchi cyclocross bike with a studded front tire. "Clearance," he says, "enough clearance to run a decent sized tire and so you can fit fenders so the bike stays cleaner." Why do they still call it common sense when men like Denis are increasingly rare these days?

On the ride home, I stop to take pictures of trees,a little trailside rest hut, and the totally Minnesotan uber-cautious trail highlighting.
As I near Thompson, I take an Oil is for Sissies-style shot of the the bike by the riverOK, I'm not as artsy as Jim, but I do manage to get off a good shot of about half a dozen deer who are trying hard to avoid folks dressed in orange these days.And speaking of orange, I wore a bright orange hunting vest that I borrowed from my brother-in-law as I rode on this adventure. In the course of forty or so miles, I saw no other cyclists, one roller-blader and several hunters. One of the hunters complemented me on my clothing sense.

Sunday night we got about three inches of snow, so I got to play a bit on Monday There wasn't time for a big adventure but I did get out to the library and the local coffee shop.
And that's it for the bikey stuff from my vacation. I won't bore you with pictures of my relatives and their cats or tell you about all the food I ate. I will tell you that if I lived near my mom, I'd probably weigh about three times what I do now. One of her favorite jokes goes like this "Why don't Norwegians ever learn how to swim?" Answer: "It's never more than 30 minutes since they've eaten."

Keep 'em rolling,


Lives Per Gallon

Hey Ho Blogoids,

I just got back from the midwest (visiting my folks and bike-related details will show up here soon) and now I'm back at work and digging through my email. I found this in my in-box and Elliott Bay Book company is just around the corner from my office. So rather than rushing home tonight, I'll swing by the bookstore to see what Terry has to say.



WHO: Terry Tamminen is an architect of California's climate change and energy initiatives, which are the most progressive energy independence plans in the country. A dedicated environmentalist, he served as Special Advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger, head of the California EPA, and now has written Lives Per Gallon (

WHAT: Terry is touring America talking about his book and the issues. He knows that America's addiction to oil is taking a huge toll on our health, environment, and national security, and that oil and automobile companies have conspired for decades to hide the damage their products have done to America and the world.

Lives Per Gallon is a diagnosis of our petroleum problem and a prescription for change. The choice is clear: continue paying with our health, or kick our addiction and evolve beyond an oil-dependent economy. By forcing corporate giants to pay the true cost of their business practices, the economics change in favor of more sustainable, healthier products. Terry shows how we can evolve beyond oil to products that are far cleaner and truly sustainable.

WHEN: November 15, 6:00pm

WHERE: Elliott Bay Book Company
101 S. Main St.
Seattle, WA 98104

WHY: Now is a window of opportunity for change on national policy as a result of the midterm elections. Be part of the debate and the drive for energy independence in America. The event is a perfect opportunity to ask questions about local issues, policies, or federal legislation. Learn what California has done and what your state and Washington can do to make a difference. Terry helped make change happen in California and is now calling for change all over America.

What people are saying about Lives Per Gallon: "Terry Tamminen has turned a spotlight of clarity on the defining issue of our age." ~Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Bike Commute is a Happy Commute

According to an article in the Globe and Mail, more Canadians like their commute than loathe it. And "those who bike to work are the employees who enjoy their commute the most, the study found." Read the story here:

Ride Anyway

The Puget Sound area is getting hit with a lot of warm moisture from what's known as a "Pineapple Express." Sunday night I made the mistake of watching the news and dire predictions of massive downpours and flooding made me nervous enough to take the bus on Monday. Yeah, I felt like a wimp. And to make things worse, my colleague Mark rode in yesterday and confirmed my suspicion, "what a great day to ride!" he said.

I rode in today and it really is a great day to ride. My pal Michael Rasmussen (the famous bike commuter, not the famous bike racer) has commented that he never regrets biking to work, but he often regrets the times when he drives to work. That's how I felt Monday. Maybe if it had been really horrible I would've felt different, but it was really just predicted to be wet. And wet isn't really horrible.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Box Rivets and Coroplast Construction

Longtime blog readers will know that I build all kinds of bike-related things out of coroplast. Things like:


A Coroplast Handlebar Bag

A Coroplast Tailbox

Fenders for a kids bike

So I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some box rivets from these folks:

These things look really handy.

BTW, I found these things by following a link from

which is probably my favorite random funky stuff website. Yesterday they posted a link to the greatest pie chart ever. Yeah, it has nothing to do with bikes but, hey we can't think about bikes 24 hours a day!

Keep 'em rolling