Monday, June 27, 2011

To Cayuse Pass and Crystal Mountain

I rode up toward Mount Rainier a couple weeks ago from Black Diamond, but didn't turn up toward Sunrise. Instead, I stayed straight and up toward Cayuse Pass. I hadn't been there on bicycle before and maybe only once by car. The Elk, down low due to the super-heavy snowfall this year said hello.

The road to Chinook Pass was closed. I'd have cycled up a ways anyway to see how far a cyclist could go, but the rangers were right there in the parking lot making it clear I couldn't.

They told me they were expecting the pass to be open by the July 4th weekend, but other such deadlines had come and gone. Turns out they got it right as it opened on June 23. Such is the way with these extraordinary snows this year. If you contrast with this list of historic opening dates for the passes, it gives you a sense of the awesomeness of the snowpack. Here's another link that describes what it takes to clear the high roads.

At the summit of Cayuse Pass at the same parking lot, looking the other way.

After descending form Cayuse Pass I took the road up to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. See the sun-worshipping skiers?

When I asked how late the ski resort would be open the clerk at the convenience store said she had no idea. As far as she knew it was open to skiers for some time now. According to this link, weekend skiing continues at least through the 4th of July!

Thank you, state workers, for clearing the passes in the Spring (or even Summer this year!), and for keeping them clear in the weeks leading to closure. As well, the passes we keep open year 'round require constant plowing, salting, marking, etc. I understand this to be dangerous work at times.

Chinook Pass clearing crew from 2006 photo, courtesy of Washington State Department of Transporation.
 We appreciate your work on our behalf. Yet another example of what government does and which we often take for granted. Rugged individualism only gets us so far; at times our best or only alternative is to collectivize our efforts. That's what we call government of, by and for the People. Go Government! Thank you for your work!

Keep it pointed downhill,


Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Randonneuring Bicycle, Part 6: Saddle

Above is a pic of my Berthoud saddle on a rare sunny Seattle day.

Recently, my Physical Therapist was watching my pedal stroke, and from behind he noted that the right side of my saddle was noticeably higher than the left. This reminded me how my lower right back had been hurting.

We postulated about why the right side was higher. Had I broken the saddle in that way? Seemed unlikely even though on my old Fuji I used to have the seatpost twist in the seat tube so the saddle was splayed to the side and no longer centered. Was the saddle defective? We couldn't figure it out.

I went home and unscrewed the leather so as to inspect the frame. I noticed that in fact the frame was tweaked so that it was twisted: higher on the right but essentially torqued like a screw. Not as dramatically as depicted below, but twisted nonetheless.

Again, I deliberately tweaked the frame to demonstrate, but even this out-of-focus shot captures the idea.

Below, it is aligned more neutrally.


What I discovered was that the twist was locked in from tightening the saddle onto the seatpost. I had to loosen it up to change the twist. Relocking the saddle in place with no twist assures that both sides are at the same height. Now I'm sure I'm not the first to discover this locking in of the twist, but I hadn't seen it noted elsewhere. And it never occurred to me.

On the whole, and with this new observation in mind, I really like the Berthoud saddle. Well constructed, suits me tender parts well, and stylish (though that wouldn't in the end influence my choice of this crucial component). I did have one of the screws fall out, which really bummed me. It was just after I purchased another Berthoud saddle for my indoor trainer bicycle (one of the ugly-to-my-eye cork models) that was offered to me on sale because that color wasn't selling well. I removed one of the screws from this saddle to put into my Pereira saddle only to realize that the screw head was not Allen-keyed but starred like an automobile headlight screw. So now I have all Allen-keyed but one. Grrrr.

I do like the Klik-Fit system of fastening the under-saddle Berthoud bag you see in the top photo.

Keep it well supported on a symmetrically aligned frame,


Friday, June 24, 2011

PBP Mini-Panic: Sore Knees

Ouch! My knees were hurting. Mostly my right.

Knees are important to cyclists, and I've come to understand that cycling is generally knee-friendly. And though I've had some knee issues over the years, I had come to a place where me knees were doing just fine.

But knee pain has struck again, and not at an opportune time just a matter of weeks prior to Paris Brest Paris. I visited the Physical Therapist this week, and we made a few tweaks. I've also been off the bike for a week, so things are settling down.

But I did panic a little. Knee pain now? Right as I'm trying to get a little faster, push a little harder?

Well, I've moved through the panic now, and I anticipate getting back on track soon. It is a good reminder though to stay focused, stay calm, and work through potential setbacks. We shall see.

Keep it bent, but not too sharply,


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Desert Rivers 400k: Yakima Canyon Always: Final PBP Qualifier

For some reason, the 400k has always been my favorite length of brevet. Mind you, I've only done a handful, but still it seems to suit me. This one, the Desert Rivers 400k, was one of my favorites because the route featured the Yakima River canyon.

I have loved driving our family through this canyon for years now, all eyes peeled for Bighorn Sheep (except mine as the driver, right, though yes I do peek through my peripheral vision when I can). I have loved every minute floating a raft down the Yak looking for those fat 'n happy trout. It was on such a trip that I introduced the SingingCyclist to fly fishing for trout.

I have loved bank fishing the Yak as well. In fact I remember one time in particular taking a day off work over 15 years ago to drive up to the Yak from Seattle with a fishing pal. He didn't tell me he had to be back just after lunch! I was just getting into it, but when he told me he had to get home I was shocked. I thought we had the day to ourselves. I threw out a few more desultory casts, then dragged in my line and started to step up onto the grassy bank when I spooked a monster trout lurking just under that deeply undercut grassy riverbank. Instead of working the bank for that monster's pals, I had to drive us back home. The memory of that "one that got away" moment haunts me still.

Now I have a new Yakima treat to add to my list: riding up and down the canyon in rain and sun. We had both. In all shades of exploratory dimensions, the Yakima River canyon never disappoints. Fisher folks talk about their "home waters". I know what constituted home waters for me in Colorado: the then under-appreciated St. Vrain River and it's various forks. Hardly a river by most standards, but sweet and special by those who knew it. Today, could my home waters be the Yak? I don't get there enough, but it is in the running as far as fishing goes. And for biking river valleys or river canyons, the Yak is up there as well. Though I do recall my first 300k through the Umatilla River valley, and that was pretty fabulous too. But then I can't forget riding through the car-banned upper Virgin River Valley in Zion National Park with DartreDame. That was as glorious an evening, river bicycle ride as one could have in a lifetime. Well, now that I think on it, cycling the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath along the Potomac River was pretty darned special too.

I guess I've come--in writing this very post--to the inescapable and now clearly obvious conclusion that my most favorite bicycle riding is through beautiful river valleys and gorges. I suppose I've always know that, but hadn't consciously put it forward before. Well, there you go.

See that railroad track? One night--I think on the very trip SingingCyclist caught his first fish--Dartre, Singing and I were camped out behind Red's Fly Shop. Red's used to be very low brow, just a shop with places to pitch your own tent. They rented drift boats and guided sports, but that was about it. Now, it's a regular high brow lodge. Not the same.

But back to the track. We were dead asleep after a day of raft rowing, fishing and frolicking. Suddenly this freight train came down the track which was just across the river, and I'd have sworn--Dartre and I both would have sworn--that that freight train was about to barrel right through our tent and run us over. It was so loud it was unimaginable. Singing slept right through it as kids will do. 

Next morning we realized that it was the fact that the train noise carried across the river added to the fact that the track was right up against the tall canyon wall that so enhanced the roar and rumble of that train. It was like nothing else I've experienced!

Part of what makes river valleys so special is their dramatic evening lighting and soft breezes. Swallows love these rugged cliffs for nesting, and cycling through swooping swallows as the Sun's rays tinge a reddish glow onto our world is sublime. Even grazing cows and goats appear happier in the gloam. All is right and settled and patient with the world between the Sun's setting and darkness.

As you come up and out of the gorge heading South, the orchards take over again, and the sky opens up. The Desert River becomes more desert than river once more.

The photo above is of one cyclist among hundreds I encountered driving back home through the canyon the day after the brevet. This Your Canyon for a Day event opens up the canyon to bicycles and people of all kinds and ages and sizes, and closes it to cars.

Here riparian habitat meets the cycling habitat. It was festive and colorful and a true happening, this opening of the canyon to cyclists only. With my bike on my roof rack they thought I was one of them and let me through. For safety's sake, though I drove slowly, it would have been better had I avoided the canyon that trip.

But driving back through the Yakima River canyon where I had just ridden my 400k was even better because I knew that by finishing this Desert River 400k brevet I had qualified for Paris Brest Paris. I was on my way!

Much thanks to Paul Whitney and Cathy for organizing and volunteering for this brevet!!

Keep it riparian,


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bike Hanger: Why didn't I think of that?

Genius! I've always liked the bike storage system that stores bicycles in the lofty space above a shop, but my shop is a basement area (what we used to call "cellar" as in "I'm going down the cellar") with a low ceiling.

But check out this link about bicycle-powered bike vertical conveyor storage! I dig it.

Keep it up there!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Lightning Bug Males Synchronize their Sexts

In a post two years ago I focused in on the sex lives of lightning bugs, or fireflies as some prefer. Turns out I'm not the only one interested in others' sexual habits.

Lightning Bug males are now known to flash on and off simultaneously. I've never witnessed these mass synchronizations, but human voyeurism of lightning bug sexual behavior is all the rage in Tennessee.

For a link to this summertime story, check out this Seattle Times article originally from the New York Times. Photo above is from the Seattle Times story.

Keep it synchronized,


Sunday, June 12, 2011

World Naked Bike Ride in Toronto

Best of all worlds: bicycles, naked bodies and politics!!

I came across The World Naked Bike Ride from Twitter posts that led back to the blogTO blog, a blog about Toronto. The World Naked Bike Ride is about standing up against non-renewable energy, and it sounds fun and hokey, and kind of a blast.

I know, I know, where are all the pictures? Well, if you go to the blogTO website you'll find tasteful photos with the fun parts censored, so it's an all ages experience.

I, for one, admire their lettin' it hang. Way too much uptightness about our bodies if you ask me. In the end (no pun intended, and you'll notice I showed a great deal of pun restraint here), our bodies are all we got.


Keep it natural,


Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Randonneuring Bicycle, Part 5: Geometry

The first thing I discussed with my builder, Tony Pereira, was the geometry of my first custom made bicycle. Unfortunately, I didn't possess a broad perspective from owning a myriad of bicycles. My last new bicycle I bought in 1975. I only knew it had never felt quite right.

It was tall enough for my legs, but I felt too stretched out. My trips to my bike-fitting physical therapist confirmed that my old Fuji was too long. By combining an inappropriately short stem with an inappropriately forward saddle placement on the seatpost, I could get where I needed to be, but the bike was essentially too long for me.

That is to say, if I matched my top tube length to the norms in the industry given my seat tube length, then the top tube would be too long. Tony agreed after I took my Fuji to his shop. The result then was a truly custom geometry suited to my body.

I can see you now imagining this long-legged, short-torsoed guy typing this out on his keyboard, right? Well, I've concluded it is less about my actual body proportions and more about my inflexibility in my back. Some is due to a general inflexibility, but some might also be a result of my old bricklaying/marble masonry days. At any rate, geometry is crucial to my bike fit, and Tony got it right. I know this because it feels right, but my bike-fitting physical therapist confirms it too. Saddle sits where it ought. Stem is right. Over the pedals in way that is efficient.

So, here's where I get a little fuzzy. To accomplish this, Tony had to compress my top tube. Doing that while keeping my seat tube long enough means that the angles got steeper. This isn't ideal for a randonneuring or long-distance bicycle, but what to do? I think there is nothing else to do. Lower trail in the fork or longer chainstays matter some, but this is all a package. And for Tony, as a custom builder, he is always thinking about the whole. How does the bike fit together? Measurements, Angles, Tube Diameters, Wheel Size, Toe Overlap, Centering Over the Pedals, Handlebar Bag Placement Over the Front Geometry, Bottom Bracket Height, Crankarm Length, etc.

As I said, my perspective is limited, but this is how I view it today. I will post soon about the other features, quality of build, component choices, wheel size, etc. But geometry is fundamental even though all are integrated.

I am satisfied with the geometry, and if there were one thing here I'd change--and had unlimited resources--I'd be interested in another fork resulting in an even lower trail. I'd be intrigued to see how that affects the handling, and I'd learn from that broader perspective. Might be better, might be worse, but it would be good to see. If wishes were horses....

Keep it geometric,


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bicycles Battling Illiteracy in India or 'Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna'

Indian leaders are providing bicycles--a critical vehicle for basic transportation of people and goods--to girls who stay in school in higher grade levels. Most of the stories feature the state of Bihar, but it appears that other Indian state governments are also looking into it.

Check out this log post on the subject by Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar. Some of his constituents would like him to focus on other economic issues as well, which is understanding given the level of poverty in the State of Bihar; there is so much to be done.

But, the vast majority are very supportive it seems, and the Chief Minister's comments about the issue that prompted the bicycle program are stark and clear:

The dropout rate among the schoolgirls has been very high in Bihar over the years. The girls, particularly those from rural areas, often discontinue their studies beyond the primary or middle schools. Most of them are often married at an early age, which leave them with fewer opportunities to contribute their mite towards economic development of society.
And, I heartily agree with Kumar's closing statements:

I have always believed that any society cannot progress unless its women progress -- and the women in any society cannot progress unless they are educated. This scheme is a small step in that direction.

This project personifies the winds of change blowing across the state today. Its long-term impact will be felt in a few years from now. But I have no hesitation to say that this has already helped Bihar emerge as a vibrant state which truly believes in empowering its women through various ways. Educating girls is one of them.

In my limited travels of late to India I was inspired by the stregth of women and girls. I witnessed their doing much of the most brute physical labor--breaking rocks into smaller stones for road construction projects, carrying construction materials on their heads, field work, etc. Now they get the chance to further their own education, to have a fuller range of options for their futures, to get educated as equals. At least, this bicycle program is furthering that momentum.
Bicycles are simple. Bicycles are transformative. Bicycles are unlimited in their potential to help change the world for the better.

The photo is from Nitish Kumar's blog post.

Keep it in everybody's hands,


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Joys and Torments of Solitude


This is from the August 2, 2010 cover of The New Yorker. It is a painting by J. J. Sempé titled The Joys and Torments of Solitude.

It reminds me of the Willamette Headwaters 600k Brevet. I DNF'd that ride and rode most of the really remote and wooded sections, like depicted here, with others. But still, the feeling I get from this painting and the feeling I retain from that ride are brothers within me. Hard to describe, but I love this painting! Joys and Torments.

I didn't know it when I first liked this painting, but the painter/cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé is French according to Wiki.

Keep it alongside what may not seem to be so akin,


Sunday, June 5, 2011

New York Times Talks Randonneuring and PBP

Former RUSA President and current Seattle International Randonneurs RBA, Mark Thomas, posted a link to the listserve about a New York Times story on randonneuring and the 2011 PBP. Not bad for the mainstream press.

Check it out!

Picture courtesy of the New York Times. It's a pic of the New Jersey Randonneurs during a 200k Brevet.

Keep it fit to print,


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sunny Seattle Afternoon Leads into Midnight in Paris

DartreDame and I (Pramila became "DartreDame" during our early-in-relationship visit to Paris) thrust ourselves out into yesterday's sunny Seattle afternoon as if we'd die if we didn't get our Vitamin D dose. We, like all Seattleites, have been longing and complaining and yearning and mourning for our fair share of Sun and Warmth. So, when the Sun showed she still showers us on occasion--and this time on a Friday afternoon on the eve of a predicted totally Sunny weekend--we couldn't believe our good fortune!

Out we dashed to the waterfront for a bite and a bathe into our old pal the Sun.

Later, still glowing inside and out, we sallied off to see Woody Allen's newest, Midnight in Paris. Remember all those times in the past twenty years when you go to his "latest" with great anticipation (or maybe successively diminished anticipation) only to be let down. Maybe it was clever. Maybe it had yet another great beauty, but not much to it. They have seemed to leave me unfulfilled for many a year now. Not to mention the anger and disappointment at his reported personal failings.

Midnight in Paris is the one for which I've been yearning. Glittering shots of Paris, a familiar but sweet plot line, an uncannily Woody Allenesque Owen Wilson, and yes, amazingly beautiful women. But, best of all for me, it was just funny and funny and funny. I suspended disbelief over and over despite the avalanche of absurdity.

Ah, Woody Allen swept Dartre and me away on the perfect Friday evening in our domestic Paris: Seattle.

But wait, there's more! Thanks to randonneuring and the Paris Brest Paris, we are Paris bound in just two months. We will walk those very lanes, stroll the Seine, and maybe it will even rain on us some warm Paris evening (see the film to appreciate this). If it does, I will cherish that rain as much as I am loving this Seattle Sun right this very moment.

Midnight in Paris promotional photo.

Wait! What am I doing?! Writing to you about our fabulous Seattle Sun instead of riding into the Sun with Dartre? I must be crazy. We're going riding! See ya!!!

Keep it with a Sunny disposition,


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oregon Coast 600k: Rolling Like a River to the Sea, PBP Qualifier #3

I rode out with the rest of the gang for the start of the Oregon Coast 600k Brevet, and we crossed rivers like the one above, racing it to the seacoast.

Check out the little red one!

Eventually, we made it to the shore. I hadn't seen the Oregon coast in years; it didn't disappoint.

Seastacks and salt air tempted lingering, but alas I was Paris bound this trip. Oregon coast lingering must come another day.

Bill Alsup, veteran randonneur, and I rode many a mile together, but most were decidedly not as portrayed above. First, we mainly rode together at night. Second, it was mostly either raining or downright raining hard. Or foggy. Or all of the above when we were tired.

Bill's smile, however, as pictured above was never far away.

This was my second successful 600k, and it was tough. An hour's sleep only, and I got into this rhythm of getting into the controles near the limit, then eating and resting and lingering too long causing me to get to the next controle near the limit, etc. I have to say that the tension that's built by never having the cushion you'd like is itself wearing. Not advisable.

I ended up riding in to the finish with Will Goss, another vet, and it was great riding with both Bill and Will. Really a very friendly crowd of randonneurs those two days.

Many, many thanks to Susan Otcenas and Susan France. A well-organized and beautiful route!

Keep it coastly,