Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Seasonal Scootering

We have had some sub-freezing weather here in Issaquah, but no real snow yet. I roll out this morning for a little scooter trip.

There are three goats that graze in the field just north of Gilman Boulevard, right next to the bike path.

They are hoping I have some food. I don't, but I scoop some leaves from my side of the fence and toss them over. The goats munch the leaves with enthusiasm.

The Issaquah Creek has too much flow to freeze solid, but there is frost in the shallows and on the last of the salmon carcasses.

The Issaquah grizzly looks cold.

My mission today is to secure a Christmas tree. I don't need a big one.

I also don't need much to haul it home.

I hope you and yours have all you need this season and the time to appreciate all you have.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA, USA

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Dorcy 41-2097 and 41-2096 Headlamps

The folks at Dorcy sent me a couple of headlamps to review. Even though I have various lights on my various bikes, I find a lamp that straps to my head to be very handy because it points right where I'm looking. For doing night repairs, setting up camp, locating road signs, a good head lamp is a very handy item to have and I tend to bring one on all my adventures.

The two Dorcy lights are almost identical in appearance, both have a single LED and are powered by 3 AAA cells. Both lights have a claimed run-time of 12 hours and each weighs just under 3 ounces. Each light fits comfortably on my head.

I've found replacing the stock strap with a bit of innertube rubber threaded through the helmet vents works well if you want to mount the light to helmet.

The difference between the two lights is apparent once you see them in action. The 41-2097 has a tightly focused 134 lumen spot beam, while the 41-2096 has a wider 120 lumen broad beam. Both lights are quite bright and have high, low and flash settings. The light head can also pivot 50 degrees so you can point the light where you want it.

The two pictures below show the lights pointed at a garage about 30 feet away. The 41-2097 is the top picture and the 41-2096 is shown below.

Both lights seem more than adequately bright. For walking, running or low speed riding, I prefer the light with the wider beam.

For illuminating at a distance, the 41-2097 with the spot beam wins out. In the pictures below, I'm standing about 60 feet from the garage door. Again, the 41-2097 is illuminating the top picture and the 41-2096 is lighting the lower picture.

The Dorcy 41-2097 and 41-2096 seem to be a real good value. They retail for about $25 each but at the moment Dorcy has a buy one/get one deal at their website at:


One final bit off caution, if you do use a headlight, try not to look directly at somebody. These lights really are blindingly bright.

Friday, November 29, 2013

CoolTools meetup in Issaquah next week

Next week we're having a CoolTools meetup here in Issaquah. Details can be found at:


 It should be a fun time, so if you've got something cool to show and talk about, I hope you'll stop on by.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Forget your bike on the roof? There's a Kickstarter for that.

I've previously written of the perils of the roof-mounted bicycle rack. In my years of working in bike shops, I've seen the aftermath of inattention when a person forgets that they have a bicycle strapped to the roof of their car when they drive into a garage, bank drive-thru or similar low structure. Every person who does this feels like an idiot and while they often feel that they are uniquely stupid, the problem is unfortunately common. I can think of half a dozen instances of this I've seen come into bike shops where I've worked and I've heard many more tales of roof rack woe on various club rides. I have one friend, who shall remain nameless here, who has managed to smash several bikes into low structures on several occassions. He's not a stupid fellow in general, but roof racks are his (and his bike's) downfall.

While I avoid this situation by avoiding car ownership and roof racks entirely (an action which has worked quite well for me), the folks behind RoofBrain are working to apply technology to the problem. Like a lot of people these days, they have a Kickstarter campaign going and you can check it out here. Even if you are fortunate like me and have no use for their product, check out the Kickstarter because their video is, in Christine's words, "so stupid it's funny." BTW, if enough of you blog readers actually wind up pledging to the RoofBrain cause the RoofBrain folks say they'll send me one of their gadgets. I have no use for the device (no car), so if I do wind up getting one (that's a big if), I'll run a contest here to give it away. It'll probably be an essay contest with the winner being the best non-fiction tale ending with the words "...and that's how I forgot I had my bike on the roof."

Keep 'em rolling (unless you have a bike on the roof and a low ceiling ahead).

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How To Lock Your Bike

That's my lovely wife's lovely bike in the picture above. Because she's a smart woman, she knows the importance of proper locking technique. Christine uses the Sheldon Brown Lock Strategy to secure the rear wheel within the frame of her bicycle and to a sturdy immovable object. A supplemental cable loops through the front wheel, the straps of her helmet and the shackle of the U-lock. Of course, some well-equipped thief could snip the helmet straps or the cable and if given enough time and proper tools cut through the lock, but by locking her bike up as shown, Christine has made her bike more secure than 95% of the bikes I see locked up on the streets around here. As the saying goes, you don't have to out run the bear, you just have to outrun your slowest companion. When advising customers I tell them to get a good U-lock and a cable and "lock your bike near a nicer bike that's not locked as well."

The folks at Kryptonite Locks have a nice page discussing locking technique and here's a great video where Hal Ruzal explains how he locks his bike in New York City. The important thing is to have a good lock and to use it well. Every time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trek CrossRip LTD

Last year at the Bicycle Center we sold every CrossRip we could get our hands on. It's a fun and practical bike for the Pacific Northwest, designed to take wide tires for those folks whose adventures aren't limited to smooth pavement. The CrossRip has the clearances and braze-on bosses for both fenders and luggage racks to be easily mounted, so this is one bike that can be used for commuting, light touring, go fast riding, gravel road and trail exploration and I guess you could use it for cyclocross racing if you're into all that mud stuff.

While we've managed to stop our bikes for the past hundred years or so with rim brakes and, yep for a lot of bikes they work just fine, disk brakes are pretty much standard these days on mountain bikes because they really do stop well when the going gets grubby. Disk brakes are somewhat heavier than rim brakes and require stout frame and fork mounts so we may never see them on every road bike, but for a do-all bike like the CrossRip they make a lot of sense.

Trek makes various versions of the CrossRip, including the canti-brake equipped CrossRip, the CrossRip Comp and CrossRip Elite featuring cable activated disk brakes, and the bike I'm showing here, the CrossRip LTD. With its polished aluminum frame, the LTD is a sharp looking bike (although I had one customer tell me it was too flashy for his tastes) and for years I've felt that Shimano's 105 group hits the real sweet-spot in terms of price, performance and durability.

The CrossRip LTD has some interesting brakes. Currently nobody is really making a hydraulic road lever (both SRAM and Shimano have them in various stages of development but they haven't hit the mass market yet) but hydraulic brakes do offer a several advantages over cable disk brakes. First, while cable disks typically feature one moving pad and one fixed pad (the disk itself flexes as you apply the brakes), with hydraulic brakes the pads move in from both sides, making the braking action smoother. Second, as the pads wear, hydraulic brakes auto-adjust to the thinner pads. With mechanical disks, you have to fiddle with the cable tension. Finally, hydraulic brakes let small mechanical inputs translate into very powerful braking so less frantic grabbing is needed to stop a slow or stop a speeding bike.

The CrossRip LTD is equipped with TRP HYRD hydraulic disk brakes. The HYRDs feature the hydraulic reservoir and and caliper in a single unit. While the brakes are cable activated, the final braking mechanism is hydraulic. When I first saw the brake, I was a bit skeptical, but they work very well.

The rear brake is tucked into the rear triangle and is paired with a 140 mm rotor.

Up front, the brake is paired with a 160 mm rotor.

One of the very nice bits of gear to come out of the world of cyclocross racing are cross-top levers. These let you brake from the hoods, the drops, or the flat part of the handlebars. Unlike those weird extender levers we had in the 1970's, cross-top levers actually work.

If you're looking for an unbiased review of the CrossRip LTD, you'll have to look elsewhere. I put the bikes together, maintain them and sell them, so yeah, I'm biased. But my years of riding, wrenching and just having fun with bikes make me biased in favor of bikes that I think make sense. The CrossRip LTD is one of those. And it's a blast to ride.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Avenir 100 Series Saddle: Inexpensive, Rugged and Comfortable

Some of the best products are those you take for granted because they just work. I've had this saddle on my beloved Trek Allant for the past year and a half and I pretty much haven't thought about it. I haven't thought "Oh this is too hard" or "This is too soft" or "this is too pretty" or "it's raining I better cover my saddle." Nope, I've just ridden my bike and haven't had to think much about the saddle.

I replaced the stock saddle on my Allant because that saddle was a bit too puffy and a tad too brown for my tastes. I sit more upright on my Allant than I do on some of my other bikes, so my standard "go to" saddle, a WTB Rocket V didn't seem quite right. The Avenir 100 Series Mountain Saddle looked to be about the right shape and at a price of less than $20, I thought it was worth a try.

I have often said that if there was one perfect saddle, we'd all be riding it. Well, the truth is different people have different butts and we sit different on different bikes so there really isn't one saddle to rule them all. But my experience with this saddle has been 100 percent positive. The saddle was comfy from day one and after a year and half, it still looks new and is just as comfy. I've ridden 100 plus mile days, done multi-day tours and done lots of city riding on this saddle and I've concluded that this was a very good purchase. If you check the reviews on Amazon, you'll find a lot of other folks like this saddle as well. Again, your butt might be different and it might not be right for you, but if you aren't happy with your current saddle (or you have a bike that needs a new seat), this is one saddle that I really think is worth checking out.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Friday, October 04, 2013

How much is a used bike worth? Bicycle Blue Book

This site is still in beta but it's pretty impressive and useful:


It's a big database of used bike prices. You enter the make, model and year of a bike by selecting from drop-down menus (if the bike's not in the database it won't show up in a menu) and you'll get details of the bike's original specs and price along with estimates for what a used model would go for in like new, excellent, good or fair condition. You can also search more generally for things like a "Trek Hybrid".

While the site doesn't have every bike and isn't really able to account for aftermarket bike upgrades or regional price differences (ie, used bikes prices are higher in places like Portland), it still is a handy starting point for figuring out if an asking price for a used bike is reasonable or just wishful thinking.

The site also offers a marketplace where registered users can buy and sell bikes. I've only browsed the site so I can't comment on the buying and selling experience.

I have no connection with www.bicyclebluebook.com but it looks like a quite well done. As more people use it, it's database should become even more complete. It's already quite impressive.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My most used computer is a tablet

I didn't warm to my little Asus Android Tablet right away, it seemed less handy than my laptop and it struck me as feeling like an overgrown phone that couldn't make phone calls. But after the initial awkward phase wore off, I found myself using the tablet more and more and now it's by far my most used computer.

My friends Gary and Patti are currently bike touring the world, using Android tablets and little keyboards to update a wonderful blog that you can follow at


In this post, Gary describes the hardware (Nexus tablets) they are using. It was Gary's post that prompted me to look seriously at and ultimately decide to buy an Android tablet and a small keyboard/case.

The tablet I chose, I now strongly recommend after having used for darn near all my computing for the past few months. It's a 16 GB Asus MeMO Pad and I've been very impressed with how fast, reliable and handy this little gadget is. I know there are fancier, more expensive tablets out there, but I've never felt short-changed by this tablet, for  which I paid right around $100. (Amazon prices fluctuate and it's a bit more at the momen.) While the built-in camera is lousy, I knew that going in and I have a real camera for taking pictures and then I load photos into the tablet via its micro SD slot. Editing photos on the Android tablet actually works better than messing with them on my laptop.

For email, twitter, updating this blog, buying stuff from Amazon, web browsing and all that, the tablet is great. I don't watch much video, but YouTube and all that works just fine. Music plays great as well. I find my old Kindle more comfortable for reading, but it isn't backlit so I use the Android kindle software on the tablet for reading at night so I don't disturb Christine when she's trying to sleep. The Amazon Kindle software is super good at keeping your place in a book across devices so I can be reading the same book on my Kindle, my tablet and my phone.

The keyboard/case I got is frankly pretty chintzy, but for $13 it does the job. I use the free Kingsoft Office software synced up to my Google Docs for all my word processing and spreadsheet stuff.

The screen keyboard and voice recognition stuff is pretty good on Android, so I'm finding myself only using the physical keyboard for writing longer stuff.

The tablet was the computing device I took with me on our recent Minnesota trip and I no longer see any reason for bringing a laptop with me when I travel. In fact, at home I now go for days at a time without booting up any of my larger computers.

I guess I've gone from being a tablet skeptic to being a tablet fan. Simple, solid, inexpensive and it works.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Biking in Duluth, Minnesota

Christine and I had a great week in Duluth, Minnesota. Much of our time was spent visiting family and friends but we got out for a few hikes and a lovely 25 mile ride along the Willard Munger State Trail. The trail is 63 miles long and goes from Duluth south to Hinkley, but we only went as far south as Jay Cooke State Park.

If you are looking to visit Duluth, we totally recommend the Willard Munger Inn, where we stayed for a week. It is right at the northern end of the trail and with every room you get use of bikes and a canoe! (We didn't have enough time to make use of the canoe.)

The trail is along the old train route, all the grades are gentle and the route is completely free of cars. And it's very beautiful.

This little hut is a few miles south of Duluth.

While we were in Duluth, we stopped at Twin Ports Cyclery to visit with my old friend Denis Sauve. Denis started the shop back in 1975 and I started hanging out there around 1978.

Twin Ports Cyclery and Denis are still going strong. If you are ever in need of anything bike related in northern Minnesota, Twin Ports Cyclery is the place to go. And if you want great stories, talk to Denis.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
back home now in Issaquah, WA USA

Monday, September 09, 2013

Vacation in Duluth, Minnesota

I'm in Duluth, Minnesota this week with my lovely wife Christine. Rather than do our traditional Pacific Northwest bike tour, this year we rode Amtrak from Seattle to Minneapolis and then took the bus up to Duluth. My parents and sisters live in the area and it is the part of the world where I grew up. It's also where Christine and I first met.

We are spending the week at the Willard Munger Inn. It's a lovely, rustic sort of place where the rooms all have pine walls and furniture and you have waffles for breakfast. Our place has a deck overlooking the parklike back yard.

The big draw of the Willard Munger Inn is its location. It is right on the Willard Munger Bike Trail and is also next to the Western Waterfront trail. Guests at the Inn get use of the Inn's bikes.

The Willard Munger Trail is a 72 mile long rail trail that runs from Duluth to Hinckley.

I got out a bit on Saturday to explore the trail.

The trail climbs gently as you roll south out of Duluth.

My first trip was a short one, much of the weekend involved Christine and I catching up with various relatives and eating a whole bunch of food. Lots of fun, but of little interest to readers of this blog so I'll skip a lot of the family stuff.

Christine and I did get out for a nice little hike on the Western Waterfront Trail on Sunday morning.

My sister Laura knew right where my old typewriter was when I asked about it. Before anybody starts thinking that I'm really old, I should point out that this machine was ancient when I first had it.

This old Corona was one of the smallest typewriters ever made. The top portion folds and it can literally fit in a shoebox. I know this because Laura also found a Birkenstock shoebox that I'm packing the typewriter in for its shipment back to Issaquah.

The latest patent on the typewriter is from July 10th, 1917.

Today is the rainy, hunker down day of our vacation where I do things like read novels on my Kindle and update my blogs. Tomorrow, the weather will be better and Christine and I will get out and explore more.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Spending the week in Duluth, Minnesota.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Kindness of Bike People -- A Typewriter Tale

While I do most of my writing on laptop computers, my phone and now my new Android tablet (more about that in some other post), I recently got an urge to pound out some words via an older machine, an old manual typewriter. This desire was sparked by seeing an old typewriter in a thrift store near my home, but that machine was a bit too big and too new for my purposes. I began my quest for the old with a more modern query, I asked on Twitter for suggestions as to where I might find an old typewriter

Jolene (@mujozen) from Eugene, Oregon is someone I know only through Twitter. and she suggested I check out the Goodwill store. When I reported back that the Seattle Goodwill only had electric typewriters, she replied that she had an old Royal typewriter that I could have, but I'd need to find some way of getting the typewriter from Eugene. Again, I asked on Twitter, this time looking for someone who might be headed from Eugene to the Seattle area. This time my friend Madi (@familyride) replies that her friend Elisabeth (@epsnider) is visiting family in Eugene and could maybe help out. Elisabeth, who I don't know at all, immediately replies that sure, she'd be happy to pick up the typewriter but she'll be camping down in Oregon for a while so would it be OK if I wait a bit for the typewriter. Of course this is OK. People I barely know or don't know at all are getting me a typewriter.

And this is the point of this little story. There are great people in the world. Jolene, Madi and Elisabeth all went out of their way to extend some kindness towards me. Jolene told me she may tap me at some point in the future for some bike repair or advice and Madi says her kindness was "nothing". Elisabeth at least lets me buy her and her kids something at a Seattle coffee shop. Kindness is never nothing. I owe all these three women more than I can repay, but I'll try. Jolene said she'd only pass her typewriter on to "a real writer." I'll do what I can to earn her trust.

Last week was the great typewriter hand off. I rode my bike from Issaquah to Seattle. Christine's pal the heron was keeping watch at the Bellevue Slough.

I noticed some new art in the I-90 bike tunnel.

I checked out the parking squid's new location by the Seattle waterfront.

I walked my bike across the Ballard Locks.

Elisabeth and I met up at Firehouse Coffee in Ballard. I think she was as excited as I was.

I got my first look at the machine I'd come to think of as "The Royal Baby."

Elisabeth and her kids waved goodbye as I loaded the typewriter onto my bike.

On the way home I stopped off for a visit with my friend Chris Cameron at Rosebud Custom Bicycle Builds. Chris is quite possibly the most meticulous mechanic in Seattle and he loves what he does, so we always have plenty to chat about. He sees the typewriter on the back of my bike and asks about it.

"Can you still get ribbons?"

"Amazon," I replied.

"Of course. But why a typewriter?"

"Great American novel. Something to be said to pounding words straight to paper."

"I get it. What's the novel?"

I gave him my jacket blurb, "He's a hyper-intelligent, telepathic raccoon. She's a homeless bike mechanic. Together they fight crime."

"Oh man, you gotta write that."

"I know," I replied, "Hence, the typewriter."

"One more thing..." Chris said.

"Yeah?" I said.

"Put me in the book."

"I'll see what I can do.'

Chris also gave me one of his very nifty Rosebud bike shirts. The image on it shows Eddy Merckx working on his bike.

It was a beautiful day for riding.

In August in the Pacific Northwest, bike fuel grows right alongside the trail.

As if the day hadn't already given me enough, I found a roll of electrical tape on the roadside.

There are a lot of great people out in the world and a lot of great places to ride. Get out there and enjoy it.

Right now, I've got some typing to do.

By the way, the typewriter works great, except for the backspace key. I think that's OK, it's like the machine is telling me to push onward.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah, WA USA