Friday, May 28, 2010

Zen and the art of bike maintenance

Back in the day, as in 10 or 20 years ago, I loved working on my bike. In fact to an extent I still do. There's something pleasing and satisfying about knowing a bike inside and out. I've always loved knowing that I can strip a bike down to its bare frame, and understand exactly how every piece of it functions.

So, thinking back to back in the day, I seem to recall a generally spotless bike. It was washed a few times per week, cables were typically fresh, and even before cartridge bearings, things ran well. I made sure they did.

Now, though, a couple of things are different. First, I have less time. It's sometimes hard to make time for bike riding (or helping Rider 3 with this blog) let alone bike maintenance. And the reality is equipment is so good now, that daily maintenance is more of a nice to have than a have to have.

Last week I changed my brake and gear cables. They were pathetically maintained, and really should have been replaced months ago. (As an aside to this I should note that I STARTED to change the cables. Then I got sidetracked with other things, like moving houses, and brought the bike to Two Wheel to have them finish the job.)

But in changing said cables I was exposed to something truly disgusting. Check out the picture below. Notice the chalky white substance. No, it's not excess adhesive from the bar tape. It's salt. I'm not joking when I say the salt was caked on in places at least a half centimeter thick.

So please, do yourself, and your bike a favor and don't follow my lead. Change your cables and tape a bit more often than once every six months. You and your bike will be happier for it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Part 1 - Hey Bill! - Part 2 - Shop Ride

Bill - When you bring your ElliptiGO 8S, I am going to bring my H-Zontal to the Morning Ride.
Rider Three

Shop Ride

After you get over the shock or horror of the horizontal face-down bike (lift your face from the mirrors whenever you want!), you should check your calendars and mark down in red pen, "Thursday, June 3, 5.30 pm - Team Two Wheel Shop Ride". If your calendar is too small for all of that, you can just go with TTW SHOP RIDE, or even TTW RIDE, or SHOP RIDE, or . . . well, you get the idea.

The thing is, for our first ride in April, we had twice the number of people we had show up for the May ride. We would love to have a good group for a few reasons. First, Geoff and Bruce will probably buy us pizza again from David's and my buddy at David's wants to sell lots of pizza that night. Second, it is easier for me to hang at the back of the group and draft a lot, but (and here is the tricky part) I pretend to be watching after the group, which works better when there are more people. The fewer there are, the more I have to keep up and occasionally get in front. Third, it really is more fun when there are more of us.

Now, there was rampant speculation about why the numbers dropped from the first ride to the second ride. Sure, there was support for the idea that the weather the day of, and the day before, was crap, so it looked like it would rain on us the whole way, but I think there were other reasons. For instance, I know that Rider Two had a whole lot of garlic for lunch that day. But I most strongly suspect that it had something to do with the United Nations. I think that we will be easier to enslave with a One World Government if we are less physically active and can't ride away from the Black Helicopters at high speeds on our bikes, so they probably were using some kind of mind control device or brain implant to make us think that we shouldn't ride our bikes together for the Shop Ride. But here is what I do. I usually line my helmet with tin foil (don't get fooled and use aluminum foil) to stop the transmissions from getting to me. I also sleep in a pyramid that has three types of Icelandic cheese at each corner and a discarded satellite receiver that I put a mirror into to collect the rays and send them away. I have to confess that I'm not sure how the cheese stops the brain control, but I always have a handy snack during the night when I get hungry, so I've got that going for me.

Anyway, the point is: United Nations = evil. Or something. And also, come ride your bikes with us next Thursday, June 3, from Two Wheel Transit. 20 mile ride, pizza afterwards = not evil at all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ride of Silence - Guest Post

I missed the Ride of Silence by attending the first night of the Steam Plant Grill Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Series. We had a 60 second silence in honor of the Ride of Silence and the cyclists killed while riding. The post below was written by Jeanna Hofmeister, who did attend the Ride of Silence. Jeanna, for the three of you who don't know her, works for the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau promoting our area as a destination for visitors, tourists and conventions. She and the great people she works with at the CVB know as much about our region as anyone can and work very hard to tell people how great a place this is to come visit, tour, recreate and spend. If you aren't in an industry touched directly by tourism, it may be easy to overlook, but visitors to our city and region play a huge roll in supporting our restaurants, attractions, hotels, concerts, plays and retail shops. They support literally thousands of jobs, which in turn support thousands of more jobs. Outside of her day job, however, Jeanna loves riding her bike. These are her thoughts on the Ride of Silence as originally posted with the Senior Cycling Blog in town - Cycling Spokane.

Ride of Silence
Everyday, cyclists are killed by drunk, aggressive and just plain inattentive drivers. They are too often texting, talking on their cell phones and in a hurry. It’s happening all across America, and it’s happened too many times here in my hometown of Spokane. Somewhere along the way, we Americans neglected to develop a “share the road” society, where all modes of transport are equal. Sure, we’ve passed laws… but the laws don’t seem like they’ve changed our behaviors much. This is not a rant, just an observation about reality. A reality I’d like to change.

Last night, I pedaled with 100 common-minded strangers through the streets of downtown Spokane on the first annual “Ride of Silence.” We gathered at the ghost bike… a monument of sorts to keep fresh in people’s minds the fatal crash between a bicycle and vehicle. (It’s not hard to imagine which one died in this tangle.) Not long or fast, the scant two-mile ride was an effort to make visible the fact that bike riders share the same roads, must abide by the same laws and have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of motorized vehicles.

At first, I was disappointed, seeing so few riders show up for such an important event. Then Spokane’s most avid bike activist, Barb Chamberlain, read this poem. Suddenly, 100 riders seemed pretty awesome.

The Ride of Silence...
Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight's ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride
- Mike Murgas

Wordlessly, we set out and for the next 20 minutes, rode through downtown… a silent peloton of flashing tail lights and hand signals and riders deep in thought. I know. You’re probably thinking “Really? How could a 20 minute bike ride have some major impact on you?” All I can say is that it did. I had a lump in my throat the whole ride, glancing frequently at my favorite riding partner/husband who had driven 92 miles to take the silent ride with me. And I wondered what I would do if he, or our daughters or our grandkids were killed while riding their bikes. The thought shatters me. Enough so that by next year’s 2nd annual Ride of Silence, I will make sure that most, if not all of my family is there to ride with me, even the littlest ones. And, I will do everything in my power to see that maybe a thousand or two thousand or more riders will show up and prove that we can all share the road.

We owe it to those who haven’t survived trying. And to those of us who have.
Jeanna Hofmeister

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hint - A new bike

I don't want to say too much about my new mountain bike, but I am going to give you a hint at what it is going to be. Just a hint, though. Don't pester me about more details.
Rider Three

From Misc Bike Pics

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dr. Spalm Re-Run

A couple of weeks ago I followed a couple of guys up a dirt track that crossed White Road. As we crossed the road, I asked the three guys I was with if they knew where a "Mrs. Magillicutty" lived along there. Everyone agreed that they didn't know. I was intending to tell them why I asked, but the ride kept going and we never returned to the topic. So, instead, I will return to it here, by re-running my favorite Dr. Spalm. If you have a question for Dr. Spalm, e-mail us or leave it in the comments.
Rider Three

Dr. Spalm Returns

A recent Rider 1 post resulted in questions being posed for Dr. Spalm. Having just returned from the tour, no not that tour, but instead a tour of scientifically interesting sights throughout Eastern Europe seeking the latest and most unusual in medical techniques and off-label drug use, Dr. Spalm is now in need of replenishing his coffers by providing answers to the readers of said blog at his usual per-word recompense level. So now, without further ado.

Rider 1 recently described a phenomena of riding in very warm weather and not sweating until he stopped exercising (Blog Link here). A reader describing himself as "Mark" (surely a pseudonym meant to disguise his real identity) asks "Why do I sweat? And, why do I smell burnt toast on White Road?" (Actually, Mark asked his questions in a less grammatically correct form, but Dr. Spalm has graciously corrected these minor errors to help the readers of this blog post be more comfortable with the actual question; recognizing, as Dr. Spalm does, that most readers of this blog are highly erudite and mannered.)

These two questions are in fact very different kinds of questions. The first, why do I sweat, is an easily explained pysiological response to certain stimulus. The second, why does the reader smell burnt toast on White Road, is much more interesting and layered. To dispense with the first, you sweat because you have applied a physical stimulus to your body causing this reaction. In other words, if you apply heat to the organ known as "skin" or more clearly to your entire body, whether from external sources or from an internal workload, your body's response is to sweat. This means that the pores in your skin will dilate or open, and allow the tiny demons living in your soul to leave. These tiny demons are tricked into thinking that you have entered hell and they are assuming that they will be welcomed back home. As these demons exit your skin, the lack of the real heat from eternal damnation is not present in the atmosphere and they cannot survive such temperate conditions; therefore they oxidize immediately and the condensation from this process appears on your skin as water or sweat. As we all know, the tiny demons are inside you because we are all evil at our core.

Now, to the more interesting question of smelling burned toast. This is not a phenomena that is capable of such a clear and cogent explanation. In fact, there are multiple reasons that you might have the smell of burnt toast within your nostrils as you travel up White Road. For those of you not familiar with our local area, White Road in this question refers to the 3/4 of a mile section of said road that rises at a 10-15% pitch from Highway 195 up towards Cedar Road. In about 7/10's of a mile, the road gains 800 feet in elevation. As a result, a rather significant exertion is required to ride this portion of the road.

A number of potential reasons come to mind to explain this occurrence. First, and odd that you paired these questions, because White Road is known to have a strong demonic presence. So the smell you may be picking up may not actually be burnt toast, but burnt souls that have been collected across the Palouse and brought to the White Road Demonic Processing Center. Many people have been known to confuse these smells, which is ironic because toast can be such a comfort, while having your soul demonically processed would be just the opposite. Very ironic, like a fly in your chardonnay.

Second, and continuing with our demonic theme, it may be that you sweat more going up White Road and therefore there are more little demon oxidizations going on all around you. By the way, for proof of my theory, after a long ride take off your riding shorts, close the waist band opening to allow you to put your nose in and take a deep sniff. If that is not proof of demons, I don't know what would be.

Third, it is possible that you commonly ride up White Road during one of two times; either in the morning or during the mid-afternoon. Mrs. Magillicutty has four boys that she is raising in a rented duplex about half-way up White Road and she makes toast for them almost every morning for their breakfast and again in the afternoon for a snack. Because those four kids are a bit wild, ruffians if you will, it is not uncommon for Mrs. Magillicutty to burn the toast while she endeavors to re-direct the boys' energies. Be forewarned, however, Mr. Magillicutty was a cyclist and left the family to serve espresso to Euro-pros in Girona, so Mrs. Magillicutty's is not a good place to stop for water. Or toast.

Fourth, there is a wive's tale that one smells burnt toast as a sign of stroke. There are two problems with this suggestion as a solution to your question. There is no scientific evidence that this "burnt toast" phenomena is actually attached to stroke; it would be considered an olfactory hallucination, but you are just as likely to smell figs or your grandmother's perfume as toast if it is indeed a precursor to stroke. Next, the more likely medical condition from climbing White Road is tachycardia followed by myocardial infarction. Much more likely than stroke. Also, myocardial infarction is a lot more fun to say. Try it. BTW, rumor has it that Mrs. Magillicutty has a home defibrillator. On the other side of the road, Satan is not rumored to have one, so be careful about where you seek help.

Fifth, you have entered a parallel universe in which you can literally smell analogies or similes. In this world, which is extrapolated from the quantum mechanics work of DeWitt, you are "toasted" or "burned like toast", and your olfactory senses can actually detect this in the air. This is not the same as an olfactory hallucination, in which you are sensing something that does not exist. Keep two things in mind if this is the case; a) Be glad you didn't enter the anthropomorphic alternative universe; and b) feel free to be "toasted", but don't tell your riding buddy that you feel like a piece of shit.

Sixth, you are pregant. The burnt toast phenomena is associated with early pregnancy symptoms. I think this is the mostly likely answer.

Thank you for asking.
Dr. Spalm

Friday, May 21, 2010


Yogi Berra reportedly said, "No one goes there anymore because it is too busy." Similarly, some things don't get said because you assume that everyone knows them already. Sometimes that isn't the case. What, pray tell, am I talking about?

Two Wheel Transit.

Here is the skinny, as we used to say in the old days, or, here is the 411 as the whipper snappers say today.

Two Wheel Transit is located at 1405 West First, where it has been for a bunch of years now. It is owned by Geoff and Bruce, which it hasn't been for a bunch of years, but it has been for a few months now. The prior owner of Two Wheel Transit, Steve, has opened a new shop in Brownes' Addition called Steve's on Cannon, a Bike Shop. There is no commercial relationship between the two stores. Two Wheel Transit is planning to stay in their current spot for the foreseeable future and will continue to do most of the things that Two Wheel Transit used to do. I think the general idea is to do all of the good things that Two Wheel always did and improve upon the things that Two Wheel may not have done well in the past.

Geoff and Bruce are cycling enthusiasts and this is a fulfillment of their childhood dreams to one day have the chance to be surrounded by bikes all day long every day. Actually, I don't really know what their childhood dreams were, but they do now own the shop. Since Bruce and Geoff took over, they kept Dave and Tomas upstairs to keep being helpful and a pleasant place to get all of your cycling needs fulfilled, and they have reorganized, cleaned-up and rearranged everything in the whole shop and in the basement. They have also put in place some new systems or ways of doing things to make sure that customer's needs are met.

Bruce has a medical background and he is the now the chief bike-fitter. I know that Geoff has also been trained in bike fitting, but I think that Bruce is doing most of them. I have heard numerous reports of happy customers from the fittings.

And speaking of happy customers, I think they are doing a great job of running the shop these days. The turn-around on bike repairs and maintenance is great; the ordering process for new stuff coming in is great; they are stocking most of the Trek, Gary Fisher, Bontrager stuff and it is all great; and overall they are getting the shop and the employees involved in the cycling community and they are taking great care of customers. Did you get the idea that things are great? Well, they are.

The guys at Two Wheel get asked about who owns what, or who is moving, or who is doing something new, so I wanted to let you, the discerning and in-the-know cycling crowd, get the full story so that you can answer any of those questions that come up during a ride about the future of the shop.

If you haven't been in lately, you should stop in and take a look. They have more bikes in inventory, a women's specific bike area, have moved stuff around so the shop looks and functions better, and they still have the cool brick walls and wood floor that makes the place look just the way you would want your bike shop to look. And if you go in, tell them that Rider Three sent you. I'll be negotiating my raise soon and it would help a lot. Thanks.
Rider Three


July 1987 - DB, AM and Rider 3 prepare for an organized ride from Spokane to Sandpoint.

From Misc Bike Pics

After the finish. Cotton socks, cotton t-shirt and a rowing memento jacket with CCCP on the back and a hammer & sickle on the front. Unlikely outfit/group for North Idaho in those days? Maybe.

From Misc Bike Pics

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bike Commuting Thoughts

In honor of Bike to Work Week, here are a few random thoughts from a commute home recently. I had most of these thoughts in a very short stretch of road as I climbed Indian Canyon Drive. This is a climb (I suppose it is only a climb one direction, but I only recall going down it once on a bike and I have gone up it closer to 100 times on a bike) from Government Way up to the Sunset Highway along the edge of the Indian Canyon Golf Course. It is a very pretty stretch of road if you don't mind going uphill.

About a third of the way up the hill last week I encountered what I believe was someone's Verizon bill, which had been very deliberately into squares that were approximately 3/4" x 3/4". I don't know why, but my guess is that someone was unhappy with the bill and wanted the satisfaction of tearing it up and throwing it out the window. I wish they hadn't. I was tempted to pick up enough pieces to figure out who it was and then call the litter police, but that didn't seem like a good use of time for the hour it would take, but I was amazed at what people think is a good idea. Being on a bike makes you much more aware of what the ground looks like.

Within a few hundred yards of this littering, I had some of the best and worst of car behavior with regard to cyclists. As I came up a steep bend, a car had the choice of going around me or waiting. As any of you commuter/riders know, 99% of the time drivers will zoom past without regard to whether that is safe or not. If they can't see oncoming traffic, they will just move over and if someone comes, they feel free to cut you off or run you off the road. In this instance, amazingly, the driver just waited behind me. I kept pedaling up the hill and around the blind corner and waived them around as soon as I could see. This was also about the time they could see, since they were closer to the center-line and the whole thing was very pleasant. My guess is that I delayed this driver for a maximum of 20-30 seconds, but it was probably closer to 15-20 seconds. Whether this caused the driver's total trip to be 30 seconds longer is very unlikely, but it is remarkable what people will do to avoid these few seconds of delay. In this case, I was not surprised to see a bike rack on the back of the Subaru that went around me. It takes one to respect one, maybe.

Not long after this experience, while I was onto a straight section of road, I had another encounter with a Subaru. In this case, the driver had a clear view of the road, but for some reason decided to either shift down a gear or speed up and cut next to and in front of me as fast and close as possible, as if I was a pylon on a stunt-driving course. I take most things in stride out cycling, having ridden enough miles to have encountered it all many times, but this was genuinely upsetting. I was being toyed with like an inanimate object and it is not a good feeling. It is hard to understand how you can have so little regard for a fellow human being. On "The Office" this past week, Ed Helms' character took Steve Carell's character to meet the husband of the wife with whom he was having an affair. They did it in their usual zany, wacky way, but the point was to not ignore the human behind the actions. I would like to introduce myself to the Subaru driver treating me like a pylon and suggest that he would be unhappy with any of the negative outcomes from his behavior. His few seconds of mirth would hardly be worth the tragedy or ticket or whatever might happen.

This experience made me think of a great police operation/sting. Have a "commuter" who was actually a police officer ride along any arterial or non-arterial with a police cruiser down the road. The biking officer could radio the cruiser all of the idiotic, unsafe, unnecessary, unreasonable, illegal and ticketable offenses. Even if most drivers just got pulled over for a discussion, I think most would have second thoughts the next time they went around a cyclist. Think we will see that in Spokane? No, I think not either. Our community may have some progressive ideas, but our police force doesn't appear to.

Lower on the hill, I had another experience that makes me ponder human behavior. A Harley motorcycle was coming down the hill going to fast for the archaic technology or the driver's ability or both, but he crossed the center-line and then scrapped a foot peg or platform trying to correct to get back. It scared me to have a hulking piece of idiocy coming at me, but I'll bet it scared the motorcycle driver worse. I hope he will consider that it was embarrassing and maybe scary with a cyclist in the other lane, but it would have been a funeral if it had been a pick-up truck or school bus.

On a lighter note, a couple of years ago I had a set-up at work where I could take a week or so of clothing to work and then I was daily hauling back and forth just my "work" for the day in a messenger bag. It was convenient and it enabled me to ride a lighter bike. This year I am hauling panniers on a heavy bike but carrying the day's clothes back and forth. I haven't decided which is better.

Last thought. It is really a treat to ride my bike to work and home. Last week I had one day where I was working later than I wanted and it was stressing me a bit to know that it was going to take longer to get home than it would if I had had my car. Thankfully, as soon as I hit the street to ride home that feeling melted away. Instead of taking a "training" ride home, I just went directly home. It took a very few minutes longer to get there and it is a mind-cleansing way to travel.

If you bike to work, you know what I mean. If you don't, you should give it a try - despite the occasional idiots out there "sharing" the road.
Commuter Three

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Harley Motorcycle Rant

This blog is about bicycling and, for the most part, it is positive and pleasant. It is occasionally even funny. Today, however, is neither positive or pleasant.

In addition to riding my bicycle, I also ride a motorcycle. I love riding it. It is honestly hard to know which I enjoy riding to work more, my bike or motorcycle. There are lots of similarities and, of course, huge differences. The point to be taken, however, is that I like motorcycles. I not only have nothing against them as machines and transportation, I really, genuinely like them. In fact, I like almost all kinds of motorcyles - I like vintage bikes, I like "naked" bikes, cafe racer bikes, crotch rockets, multi-purpose bikes, sport touring bikes and even some of those huge highway haulers. What I don't like is Harleys. And yes, I realize those are fighting words, but let me clarify.

First of all, I get that there are motorcycle gangs that ride Harleys and you have to give those guys credit for living the life. I don't have a beef with those guys because they really are as bad-ass as they like to look. Also, they use their Harleys for the intended purpose, which is traveling in mostly straight lines between bars, saloons and other related activities. If they want to have viking-style horns on their skull caps and loud pipes, well, I just dare you to tell them they are making a spectacle of themselves. At least it is authentic.

What I hate are Harleys ridden by poseurs and unskilled riders. Oh, I also hate the obnoxiously loud pipes on almost all Harleys, because they serve no purpose except to draw attention to the bike and rider, which I guess is the crux of the matter.

If you think about performance bicycles, the position on the bike is leaning forward and engaged in the active steering and handling of the bike. If you think about performance motorcycles of any variety - racing or touring - similar position, which is leaning forward and actively engaged in handling the machine. I think the same is true of racing cars even. Hell, I even ask my kids to lean over their plates at the table instead of lean back so crumbs go spilling down their shirts.

So if you think about good uses of a leaned back position, the list pretty much includes Lazy Boy Recliners, Cruise Ship deck chairs, recumbent bicycles and Harleys. Pretty auspicious company, eh?

So here is my other beef with the world. Most people have the good sense to look at a recumbent bike and think, at best, Hmmmm. But every time someone finds out that I ride a motorcycle, the immediate follow-up question is, "Do you ride a Harley?" My answer is, "No, I like riding motorcycles."

I once traded motorcycles with a guy on a long road trip so he could experience my then Japanese pseudo-cafe racer and I could try his Harley. When I dismounted, I told him that I had come up with a new advertising slogan for Harley - Have twice as much fun on a Harley, because you see everything double! I was bouncing around so much from the unbalanced engine and 1950's vintage suspension (this bike was 1-year old at the time) that I was completely exhausted after less than 100 miles. I am used to riding my motorcycle on trips somewhere between 250 and 400 miles a day and I look forward to the corners. In fact, I thought that was the idea. On the Harley, I dreaded having to dive that pig into corners because the bike was made to sit upright and go straight. I guess that it is so my girlfriend in the assless chaps doesn't spill her Budweiser, but it doesn't make any sense to me as a mode of transportation.

Should dentist and MD's be allowed to dress up like banditos and ride their Harleys on the weekend? Sure, there is no law against being a dumb-ass. But just don't think it is about motorcycles when it is really about posing. And trade-off weekends with your recumbent bike so you can get a work-out riding in your favorite two-wheel position.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Project One

I am not in the market for a new bike. No really. I'm not just saying that because my wife reads what I write; I say this because I have a Madone 6.9 that is an awesome bike and I don't want anything else. Well, I wouldn't mind "additional" bikes, right? I mean I'm just saying that if I won the lottery or my Nigerian money-laundering deal finally pays off (who knew it would take so long and cost so much?), then, sure, I could find some other bikes to buy, but for now, I am set.

That didn't stop me from just going to Project One and spec'ing out this totally awesome radical gnarly bike:

From Misc Bike Pics

Sweet, huh?

I was in a conversation with someone about bikes the other day and the Trek Project One website came to mind: If you like bikes and you haven't been to this site, you really owe it to yourself. Basically this is like the giant Sears Catalog that came a couple of weeks before Christmas except instead of pictures of EZ Bake Ovens and slot car tracks, you can decide what bike to "build", paint it in any variety of ways, put your name on it, customize the drivetrain, wheels, cable colors, seat, handlebar tape and I don't remember what all else to come up with your creation. Don't like my all-black plan? How about a WWII inspired fighter plane look?

From Misc Bike Pics

Like the white tires and Shimano DI2? No, don't like this one either? Prefer candy apple red or traffic safety green? No problem, they got your bike covered.

Is this a good use of time? No, maybe not, but then again, is reading this a good use of your time? Well, let's say yes for the sake of argument, but the point is that the Project One website is totally cool for building up a bike. A couple of other online retailer also let you spec out a bike, choosing components and letting you see pricing and weights, but no one else tricks out the picture of your dream bike the way this site does. So, do I need a new Madone? No, but it is fun to dream. No harm in that, right honey?
Rider Three

Monday, May 17, 2010

World Peace Guy

If you live in one part of Spokane, you have the "opportunity" to drive up and down, and ride up and down, Hatch Road. Hatch has the interesting distinction of being a half city road and a half county road. I don't really know how it works, but I do know that you are in the City of Spokane on one side and not on the other. In any case, Hatch Road connects Highway 195 with the top of the South Hill at 57th Street. It is 1.5 miles long and it is quite steep. I don't know the total elevation change, but from my perspective the gradient goes from "oh my gravy, this is steep" up to "crocheting would make a better hobby than this" steep, with a very few meters of "sweet Jesus thank you for leveling out the road even if it is only for 10 yards" (you have to proclaim all Jesus-related distances in American or Imperial terms; Jesus doesn't do metric).

I once heard that Hatch had a similar gradient to one of the famous Tour de France climbs; the difference being that Hatch is 1.5 miles and Col du Whatever was 8 miles, but it does give you an idea of what the Euro-pros ride.

None of this is really the point to today's ramble, however. Theoretically I could go on at great length about the MR riding up Hatch most days (or is that racing up Hatch?), but the reality is that when I make the MR, I usually turn off and head home rather than take the 2nd trip up and when I have, I have been far enough away from the action that I can't really do it justice. You will have to get that story from Rider One or Two.

In any case, about 2/3's or 4/5'th of the way up the hill, there is a two-part concrete barrier on the right side of the road. I have no idea why it is there. It is, however, a handy reference point and I have heard many tales of the hill that mention this barrier. It is noteworthy in the story because it's handy as a reference point and because of the words that are painted onto the barrier, "World Peace." So you will hear someone say something like, "I was in front up to World Peace but then I was passed by _____," or, "We were spread out, but the group came back together at World Peace," or, if it was my story, something like, "I blacked out from lack of oxygen and hit my head on World Peace."

World Peace is such a landmark on this hill and for the MR, that it is mentioned on the MR jerseys.

Unfortunately, the world at large was not always at peace with World Peace. At times people would paint over the positive message with ideas or suggestions that were, shall we say, less positive. At times people would comment directly on the World Peace message. For instance, someone covered up World Peace with "F___ Terrorists". Other times, people would just paint over World Peace with random messages, like "F___ YOU!" It was one of these times that prompted me to become like the Dread Pirate Roberts of painting jersey barriers on Hatch. In other words, I knew that others ahead of me had repainted World Peace many times but my turn had come.

I was motivated by two things. I knew that World Peace was part of the MR lore. It was an important symbol or icon in the ride, almost daily. At the same time, I had two kids in elementary school and their route to school every day was to go up Hatch in the morning and back down in the afternoon. I didn't like the idea of my kids seeing "F___ YOU!" every day on the way to school. Putting aside that they didn't know the word yet, it just didn't seem like a nice send-off in the final minutes before school started. Besides, saying "I was hanging onto _____'s rear wheel until F____ YOU!" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Like most everyone who rides or drives up Hatch, I also waited for the mysterious painter of World Peace to come in and re-paint this pleasant thought, but after enough time went by, I had to accept that whoever had been re-establishing the message had other things on his or her mind. And, lacking the sense of most people who go up and down the road, for some reason I decided that I would be "World Peace" guy for a while.

The first time I did it, I waited until late dusk and drove up to the sign. I had no idea whether this would be considered defacement of public property or whether it was illegal in some other way, so I figured that darkness and hiding behind my car was a good idea. I spray painted my message and got out there quickly. Interestingly, just a couple of days after I did my work, someone else came along and painted over it with "Kill Terrorists". I thought that this was an unnecessary response to World Peace and it steeled my resolve to put up and keep World Peace on this barrier.

The other thing that I did was resolved to not tell anyone except my wife and two kids. I'm not sure why, but I liked the idea that someone else had started it, I was doing it for whatever my term as World Peace guy would be, and then I hoped that someone else would take over for me later. Honestly, my proudest moment was going to be the day that I showed up to re-establish the message and find that someone else had done it.

There were times that I had to take a bucket of paint and paint the whole surface before I could spray paint my message, and other times it just took a quick touch-up. I almost always did my work early or late, but my favorite time was on a December 31 as my family and I headed out to a New Year's Eve dinner. I just liked the idea of Hatch travelers finding "World Peace" back to celebrate the first day of the new year and my kids loved the cloak and dagger nature of it all.

I don't know for sure how many years that I took over painting World Peace. Sometimes I would paint it 2-3 times in a month, but other times many months would go by with the sign unmolested.

I was surprised one day a couple of years ago to discover that someone had started some kind of work on the jersey barriers. I wasn't sure whether they were going to be moved or what was going on, but it turned out that the first person who painted World Peace in the mid-to-late 90's had taken it back on again as a service project. He repaired the concrete surface, painted it white, stenciled the words nicely and then put multiple coats of anti-graffiti coating on it. I didn't know who or why this was being done until it was reported in the Spokesman Review. Here is his story: [Partial link - so see story below at "Message on a Mission"].

After that, I did tell a couple of people about my stint as World Peace guy, but very few. I decided a while ago that it would make a good blog topic and sat down after riding on Sunday to tell this story. I did a search to see if I could find a link to the Spokesman story and was surprised to find that the original World Peace guy, Steve Osmonson, had passed away this month but that his message on Hatch Road was mentioned in his obituary. His obit is here, down a ways on the page: [The link died - so see "Steve Osmonson" below].

I never met Steve and now never will. I don't know who else will take on the job of being World Peace guy after this and I don't know if I will. I do hope, however, that somebody will. Maybe it's your turn to be World Peace guy.
Rider Three - Former World Peace Guy

Steve Osmonson

Stephen Vance "Steve" OSMONSON,
(Age 54)
Spokane Resident

Stephen came into this world June 15, 1955 in Seattle, WA. He passed into the next on May 9, 2010 in Spokane, WA, losing his battle to the hardships of life. He was a kind, loyal,gracious, generous man ofuncommon courage. "Part Texan and part Norwegian", he said. As the oldest son of Ron Osmonson and Carolyn Beasley Stephen learned early the value of hard work, perseverance and generosity to those less fortunate than himself. He always "stepped up to the plate" in his life, sacrificing his life to the needs of others, always done with a charitable and loving heart. Stephen graduated form Cheney High School in 1973. Star Linebacker, #68, for the Cheney Blackhawks. He joined the Air Force in March, 1974 and served until August, 1977. Following graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, Denise Resen of Cheney, WA. While in the Air Force, he earned the honor of being the youngest man to have reached the rank of Sergeant in the Air Force, receiving a Letter ofRecognition and Commendation from the Base Commander. While in the Air Force he attended Flight Engineering School, earning the position of a Flight Engineer. He flew a C-141 aircraft while in service. His continuing education was in the field of his service and vocation. He married Geraldine Smith for a second time around in Spokane in 1983. Stephen enjoyed pro football. Ahistory student, he loved family gatherings, camping, swimming, skiing, snowmobiling, all sports, spending time with his brothers, a true heart, true grit Norwegian, to live, love, laugh and be happy, his Texas family and roots. Stephen is deeply mourned and survived by his family: three children,Stephen Michael Osmonson of Kennewick, WA, Kristina Pennington of Oak Grove, Kentucky, April Osmonson of Spokane; four grandchildren, HunterStephen, Stephen Tyler, Kaylie and Gracie Osmonson; his two brothers, Randy Osmonson and family of Spokane, David Osmonson of Seattle; his father, Ron and Judi Osmonson of Post Falls, ID; mother Carolyn Beasley of Spokane; as well as two nephews, Austin Lee and Christopher Osmonson; and "cousins by the dozens" throughout Washington, Texas, Minnesota and Arizona. Family, friends and co-workers will sorely miss Stephen and his one of a kindapproach to life, "Git it Done!" A memorial service will be held in Spokane at First Evangelical Free Church, 4920 N. Assembly on Friday, May 21, at 1 PM. Reception and dinner following the service at the church. All are welcome to attend. You will find Stephen's "World Peace" sign and message to the world on the Hatch Road in Loving Memory.

Message on a Mission

October 16, 2008 in Voices - Spokesman-Review

Message on a mission

Man vows to care for ‘World Peace’ sign
Amy Cannata Staff writer

Steve Osmonson has painted and maintains the World Peace sign on Hatch Road in Spokane.

Steve Osmonson is winning his own private war, and to mark the victory he’s dedicating himself to world peace.

Or at least to maintaining a homemade Hatch Road sign dedicated to the cause on Spokane’s South Hill.

Osmonson recently completed intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcoholism through Spokane’s VA Medical Center.

“They said, ‘One more drink and you’re dead.’ My liver was shutting down,” he said.

During downtime following that treatment, he began thinking about a sign he’d painted more than a decade ago on two concrete barriers along the side of Hatch Road, just south of 57th Avenue.

Over the years graffiti had covered over the sign with tagging, strange messages and profanity. Others had tried to step in to restore the “world peace” message as best they could, but the barrier looked shabby.

So Osmonson committed himself to repainting it and keeping it clear of graffiti.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you have a clear head,” he said.

The 53-year-old has a painting background.

He and his brother owned a painting company for years. Though Osmonson can’t quite remember why, somewhere along the way he began painting “World Peace” on large buildings prior to the final coat of paint.

At times the building owners cringed. In other places, the message was a big hit.

“About 10 years ago I saw this Jersey barrier and thought it would be a good place for a ‘World Peace’ sign,” he said.

Thinking it was on public right of way, Osmonson painted his message. “It kept getting tagged. I kept fixing it,” he said.

Turns out the sign is on private property. After recent negotiations with the landowner and promises that he would make sure the Jersey barrier didn’t become a graffiti magnet again, Osmonson fixed it up.

As he’s worked on the sign, drivers have stopped to give him kudos or honked in appreciation.

Now Osmonson has landscaped above the barrier and applied multiple coats of anti-graffiti sealer on top of the white paint and blue “World Peace” letter decals. The sealer will make it possible to clean graffiti off the sign.

“I’m going to keep putting coats on there until the snow flies,” he said. “I’m married to it.”

Amy Cannata can be reached at (509) 459-5197 or

Friday, May 14, 2010

One Bike Fits All

I have had a series of conversations with a family member about getting a new bike. The points of this conversation included selling a bike already in the stable; selecting a new frame including material and style; wheelset type including rim brake or disk brake; handlebar style; and numerous other issues. This discussion includes whether an existing bike can be modified to fit the perceived needs of the new bike or whether the concept requires a new bike. If it is a new bike, is there a model on the market that meets the needs or can be easily modified to work or does it involve starting with a frame and building up everything component by component.

For most of this conversation, the underlying idea of my family member is that it is possible to put together one bike that will fill all of his needs. He calls the bike a "Monster Cross" bike, which is probably a mountain bike frame, but could be a steel cross frame, it will run on 29" mountain bike wheels that will fit a mountain bike style tire, but probably a slick tire, and probably have disc brake. It will also have drop bars. It will not have a suspension fork. This bike will then have the ability to cover any trail that a XC mountain bike could cover, but with the added advantage of more hand positions and less weight than a mountain bike with a suspension fork. This bike could also be used for any dirt road, dirt trail, paved trail or road use.

Part of this idea is correct. By building up a strong frame and wheels it can stand up to most anything except big "hucks" or "drops". By having slicks it will also roll reasonably well on any paved surface, but will excel on any dirt or gravel surface where a traditional road bike with narrow tires will dare not dwell.

I appreciate the one-item-fits-all-needs concept. I like the utility and sensibility of having one tool for all the purposes. That is why I drive a station wagon. I like the utility of the extra space, but without the size or hassle of a bigger SUV or 4-door truck. My station wagon doesn't do everything, but it does most things well. It doesn't, however, do any one thing "great". And ultimately, that is why I see bikes differently and therefore I have a hard time with the one-bike-works-everywhere idea.

Maybe that is because I go on lots of group rides. I know that I couldn't keep up with road guys on a bike with mountain bike tires. I know that I couldn't keep up with mountain bike guys (or even follow them over some of the baby-heads and technical stuff) on a narrow-tired, drop bar bike. And I certainly couldn't keep up on a race course with a significant disadvantage in the weight of my bike and rolling resistance (not to say that younger, stronger riders don't do exactly that, but I'm just sayin' . . . ). So, for me, it makes sense to have a bike for each of these things that I like to do.

I don't, by the way, have a bike for every type of riding; I don't have a "downhill" mountain bike because I don't like that style of riding; I don't have a track bike because we don't have a velodrome around here (although that is an excellent idea); I don't have a time trail bike because I can't justify the money for one (although maybe some day). I do, however, have a road bike that I can race; a 29" mountain bike that I can XC race/ride; an old, left-over mountain bike that I fitted with a rear rack and panniers that is great for family trail riding and picnics, not to mention commuting to work; and I have a bad-weather/rainy day/cross-capable/commuter-capable road bike made up from a cast-off frame and left-over parts. Sure, that is more than the average guy, but I don't want my surgeon using a Black-and-Decker for my operation or to use my ball-peen hammer when I need a sledge-hammer. The tool should fit the need. I like versatile tools and I eschew single use items if anything else will work (an aside - for instance, why does anyone buy a hot dog cooker when a pan will work?).

So, is a Monster Cross bike a good idea? Sure, if you have a need for one, but I think I'll keep my quiver full of options for now. Besides, I really like bikes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Perfect Race

My race win on Tuesday and my Joy of Racing thoughts have made me consider racing recently. I also had a long conversation with a rowing buddy from my years on the UW crew team yesterday. It made me think about racing and what the experience is like.

Road racing is highly variable with each race. Lining up for most races, you don't really know whether everyone will want to go fast, go slow or go wildly from one to the other. You don't konw how strong the riders will be. Some courses are more or less likely to go a certain way, but the group and the weather and the wind and lots of stuff can make the same course very different on different days. The length of road racing certainly plays into that. Probably most, but not all, track racing is much more predictable. Rowing was more like that. The distance of races, except "Head of the _____" races, is 2,000 meters or 2 k. That is a distance that takes "about" 5 1/2 to 6 minutes to cover in an 8-man rowing shell. The wind and therefore water condition can have an impact, but all of the training is geared towards going as fast as possible for that distance.

Rowing is made up of both strength and technique. Like a lot of things, the basics are easy to see or even do. The fine points, however, take literally tens of thousands of repetitions. Putting eight people in a boat and getting forward momentum is not that hard. Eight first-timers can move a boat with very slow and deliberate motion. Making an eight-person boat go fast, however, is a whole different story.

Without going into too much detail, the Peloponnesians developed the first modern rowing stroke (see how that was funny - I said not much detail and then mentioned something from nearly 2,500 years ago). The point, however, is that they slid back and forth to row. The average row boat has a fixed seat, a board usually, that you simply bend at the waist and move your arms. In a racing shell, the seats slide so that you can reach forward with arms at full extension and put the oar in the water as far back as reasonable and then fully extend your body backwards, using your legs, back and arms to move the oar as far through the water as possible. You then lift the oar out of the water with your legs straight, your trunk leaning back and your arms at your chest. You then balance the oar over the water as you move back up the slide to start all over.

I don't know if the description helps, but you can see that there are lots of moving body parts here. The trick is not just doing it right yourself, it is getting all eight people to do it in unison so that the overall movement is as smooth as possible. If you don't do this movement together, the boat will pitch back and forth, which further throws things off. And even if you do it smoothly together, if you come to the point of the stroke where you put the oar into the water going to fast or too abrupt, you "check" the boat, which means that your body weight will stop or slow the forward momentum of the boat.

On the other hand, if your team does all of these things with extraordinary symmetry and grace, the boat feels solid from side to side, even though racing shells are only about 20" wide and your oar is about 12' long, and the stroke will smoothly accelerate the boat and then keep it up at a very high speed and not "check" the speed of the boat.

This may seem like a lot of detail, despite the promise to avoid that, but most readers here will have limited rowing knowledge so I wanted to convey the basics. And here is why. I rowed for the University of Washington for four years. I rowed in full racing seasons each of those years, most regattas or races involving multiple heats, and with lots of pre-season inter-team racing. I basically rowed for six days of the week for about 40 weeks of the year for four years. UW crews were known for being brute force rowers, rather than finesse rowers (as Harvard was considered in my day), but we worked at being smooth nonetheless. In all of this rowing and all of this racing, I had one single solitary "perfect" race, in which the boat moved up to speed rapidly and maintained that speed with no check and no wobble.

Even all these years later, it is hard to imagine that in all of those races, all of those hours in the boat, there was only one time when every single thing came together just exactly and perfectly in the textbook way that it was supposed to.

The race was in my sophomore year. I was in the 3rd boat in the program at that time. The top two boats were at another competition and the 3rd and 4th boats in the program were representing UW at the regional championships. The coaches put a group of seniors in the 4th boat and they were the lead boat in the "Varsity" race. Our 3rd boat was the lead boat in the "JV" race, with the idea that we would be "sure" to win that race, but we were also supposed to be our second entry in the Varsity race later that day. As we were supposed to, we did win the JV regional championship and, as was the tradition, we literally were handed the shirts off the backs of the other teams. A while later, despite having raced a heat and the final in the JV race, we lined up for a heat and then, since we placed high enough, for the final in the Varsity race. My perfect race was that Varsity final. We were tired from all the prior rowing, having already finished three races to everyone else's one race in that final. I think that maybe our tiredness eased up our power just enough so that our finesse was allowed to shine, but whatever the reason, that race was the best and most magical that I experienced in all four years.

We were also handed all the jerseys from the teams we beat in that final and I think that as the eight of us received our spoils, we were all excited by the feeling in the boat and that we had a lot more races like that in our future. We didn't know that day that it was to be a singularly perfect experience.

I actually went on to row all of my Junior and Senior years in the top two boats in the program, and most of them in the top boat. We won a lot of races including against every single Pac-10 school, lots of other rowing power-house schools and some international crews, but not one of those races was as perfect. Because of I was in the top two boats I never went back to those regional races, since we had a bigger race scheduled that same weekend, and I was rowing with guys who were considered the strongest and best rowers in the program. We did make the boats move down the course faster for sure, but I never again experienced that mystical, magical feeling of my one perfect race.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Say What? Version 2

It's been a long time since I could legitimately say or write these words: I won a bike race. I'm not talking about an imaginary Alpe d'Huez or a city limit sprint. No, I am referring to a real, live, honest-to-goodness race with more than three people.

Yes, it's hard for me to believe too. I texted Rider One with the news since I had to leave the race venue before his race was over and his voice mail response was, "Are you kidding?" I called back and left a message for him with some details and when he returned my call his first words were, "Are you kidding?" So, that would indicate that a) I am a kidder, I kid; and b) I am an unlikely winner of a bike race (at least in Rider One's eyes). And, to give him his due, it is hard for me to believe also.

I'm going to share a secret with you, though. I wasn't the fittest or strongest rider out there last night. No, this win was not a Fabian Cancellara/Tom Boonen show of strength. It was more of a Salvatore Commesso style bit of wily riding combined with some experience. That was particularly true when I won the night's prime. Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Yes, I am pleased to report that I also won that (accidentally).

Would you like a moment-by-moment, corner-by-corner recap of the race?

Oh. You would prefer I keep it short. Okay, if you insist.

The race in question was the Baddlands Tuesday Night training race, this week held at the Spokane Raceway Park, and my win came in the "C" Pack. With all due respect to my fellow riders, my buddy PW ("Half Man-Mostly Weasel") says that winning a C Pack race is like winning an award for being the Tallest Midget in the Circus. Now that I think about it, though, my buddy PW is kind-of a pain in the arse, so let's ignore that perspective and focus on the nobility of the competition and effort, shall we?

The race was on the 2.5 mile road course that incorporates the drag strip. We raced clockwise, which means that the finish is a LONG slightly uphill drag into a head wind, while the back side of the course, which has an S-curve and a little elevation change, was mostly with a tail wind. The race was largely "negative", which means that no one really wants to work the race, work that was done was to shut down efforts rather than make them, and at times everyone was content to sit in no matter how slow the pack wound down.

This is all relevant to set up my prime win and race win. As the pack comes out of the last corner at the bottom of the course there is a very long way to the finish line. People who haven't raced out there or who can't control their race emotions ALWAYS start the rush for the line too early. With the prime, I had no intention of going for it, but after sitting on a few wheels that were all starting to sprint 400-500 meters too soon, a Vertical Earth racer came by (sorry, don't know his name) and got a gap. I jumped (or more like, crawled) up to his wheel with about 300 meters to go. He had already been sprinting into the headwind for at least 100, maybe 150 meters. Predictably, he slowed down. I sat on his wheel and looked around and realized that we had a gap. As he slowed more, I sat on his wheel. Then, I moved over and with 50 or so meters to go, while the guy who pulled me up there was spent, I accelerated (mildly) and easily won the prime.

I would feel worse for the guy I did this to, but I have also done exactly the same thing and led others to their victory, so my guess is that he will notice what happened and be much less likely to do the same thing again. Particularly since he did the same thing to help me win the race.

The finish a few laps later was similar. Someone "went" for it on the backside, the group started pulling him back, as we headed up the start of the drag strip to the finish line a number of riders sprinted way too early. I waited, jumped on wheels and stayed out of the wind. Finally, to my surprise, the same Vertical Earth guy got the gap and was hell-bent-for-leather for the finish. Unfortunately for him, he started too early again. I was on his wheel and Dave Simmons was on mine. A similar scenario played out where the VE dude went for it, started to fade, Dave went on my right and I went to the left. The VE dude moved around a bit, which caused a moment of worry, but we stayed apart and it became a drag race between the three of us with Dave and me having the advantage having stayed out of the wind. Dave got the early jump, but thankfully the finish line wasn't 10-20 meters sooner since I managed, somehow, to keep accelerating just enough to get a couple of wheels ahead of Dave. I think the VE guy hung on for third, but I'm not absolutely sure about that.

So, for the first time in a number of years, like maybe five, I won a bike race. Just like that.

It feels awesome.

A couple of race notes for anyone interested in racing better. First, figure out how far you can really sprint, which is usually in the 200-250 meter range, but could be more, but definitely can't be 400-500 meters. Second, a race with a lot of headwind takes more patience than one without (usually). Third, it is possible on a windy day for 3+ riders to get off the front, but unless your only goal is to keep the pack together, you might think about working your ass off if you get into a group of 3-5 with a gap of even a few seconds; 90 seconds of effort could put you into a smaller group where you are no longer competing for the top 20 spots, but instead the top 3-5 spots. And lastly, think about and maybe talk with your teammates about whether you want to chase down your own teammates when they try to get away. For some, a team jersey is just a jersey, and while no one in the A, B or C pack is on the way to the PRO's, we could try to think about and use team tactics a bit more to help our team and the quality of racing.

In conclusion, thanks to Baddlands for putting on the race and yes, I may only be the Tallest Midget at the Circus, but I am smiling from ear to ear about it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Say What?

This morning I did something that I have not done in 25 years of riding my bike. I decided yesterday that I would meet the Morning Ride guys at 5.45 am this morning. I haven't been out for a couple of weeks due to wheel/bike/schedule/life/work issues, but on the days I am not riding my bike to work, I would like to be sure to get a ride in and the morning is the best time to ensure that happens. Add in on Tuesdays that I drop my son off at school, which means a slightly later start for me every Tuesday, and it seems like the perfect day to get up at 5 am, ride my bike up Hatch so that I would have the privilege an hour later of watching 20 guys ride away from me up Hatch. Sounds like a good plan, no?

At 5.08 am this morning I woke up and looked at the clock. That is as late as I can get up and still hope to ride the 20+ minutes to join the ride. I was held up by various issues, the biggest being the thick, dense fog that was firmly settled into my brain that would not clear. I checked the outside temperature and noticed that at my elevation on the valley floor there was great visibility but about halfway up the bluff there was a layer of fog similar to that in my brain. No problem, though, so I got dressed a bit warmer to accommodate the cold, moist air, including putting on a light cap that fits under my helmet. Made my way to the basement to check air pressure and roll away.

As I was putting on my shoes I realized my brain was engaging in a round of yes/no. Yes I should ride; no I should not ride. Yes I needed to get in some miles; no I did not feel like going. Yes I would enjoy the ride eventually; no I did not want to go outside. Yes I have riding goals this summer that will be well served by riding; no I wasn't feeling like riding. Yes, the concrete floor did look comfortable for sleeping; no, I hadn't had a cup of coffee yet but could use one. Yes, it was still early enough to go back to sleep; no, that didn't seem like a bad idea at all.

You can see that this was a struggle. Normally I am happy to be getting on my bike, but this morning I could not muster that feeling at all. This was exacerbated by the time, which was looking more like I would be missing the ride start even if I climbed Hatch like a pumped up Marco Pantani (or Vinokurov if you are looking for a more recent example). Nonetheless, I put on my shoes, booties, gloves, pumped up the tires and rolled away from the house.

I have to ride along Highway 195 for about a mile and a half to get to Hatch. My brain was fuzzy and the air was seeming very wet and cold. I was still not enjoying myself, but at least I had stared down the negative thoughts and gotten out there. I was just a bit before Hatch when my brain started to very slowly process something. My thoughts went something like this, although to really get the feeling, pretend that you are reading this the way a 78 rpm record sounded when you put it on 33 1/3 rpm. In other words, like the words are translated through molasses.

Hmmm. Sommmethhhhinnnng is nnnnnoooot quiiiiiite rrrrriiiiight.

Whhhhhyyyyy doooooeeeessss mmmmyyyyy hhhhheeeeaaaad ffffffeeeeeeelllll diiiifffffeeeerrrrrreeeennnnt?

There is more wind on my head, I think, or it feels different, or maybe not.

I wonder if I put a helmet on this morning. No, that can't be right. I never ride without a helmet.

I wonder if I can see my helmet with my eyeballs if I look up. No, maybe not. I wonder if I should feel my head to check for a helmet. Yes, that is what I should do.

What. I don't have a helmet on my head. How can that be. What does that mean. Where is my helmet. Why am I riding down Highway 195 with semi's blowing past me while I have no helmet. Oh right, like a helmet is going to mean jack-squat if one of these 18-wheelers mows me down. But I should have a helmet. I wonder where there is one. I suppose back at home. Why don't I have a helmet. What does this mean.

You can see that these thoughts were moving very slowly in my cranium. I think that normally 1) I wouldn't leave without a helmet and 2) if I managed to do that, I would have an instantaneous "oh crap!?" reaction that would be jolt rather than a slowly dawning realization.

At that point, I started wondering whether this had been a subconscious sabotage of my ride. Part of my brain was saying "ride" but clearly some part of my brain had been putting up a valiant "no ride" fight. "Ride" had won the battle of getting out the door, but clearly "no ride" had won the war.

I turned around at Hatch, feeling a bit naked and vulnerable, and rode slowly back to my house, wondering all the time what had happened and what I should do next.

What I ended up doing was putting my bike back on the wall, taking off my cleats, and going up the the family room to lay down on the couch. Hopefully my head and body will get together for the next ride and I will cover more than 3 miles before 6 am.
Rider Thhhhrrrreeeeee.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Joy of Racing

There are lots of tomes on the "Joy of . . ." Best known, or at least first, there was the Joy of Cooking, and later the follow-up book, the Joy of Sex. Like "____ for Dummies", you can find this title repeated on lots of topics. If you include the Joy of Cycling with those other two you actually have a lot of important life issues covered, but I wanted to share a thought or two on the Joy of Racing.

For some reason I have recently discussed my riding proclivities with a few civilians. In other words, rather than just gabbing with other riders about riding topics, I have been drawn into conversations with non-riders who have asked questions about specific cycling issues or rides. At some point this leads to either a stated or unstated question from these non-riders, "Why does your "fun" involved so much suffering?"

It's a reasonable question and not one that is easy to answer. I definitely didn't come by it naturally. My mother's most repeated quote on all subjects involving sports or exercise is "Sweat kills." Very pithy, eh? My father isn't as emphatic, but it is safe to say that sports have not been an important part of his life (If, by the way, that is not a safe thing to say, I will hear about it, right Dad?).

But somewhere along the line I picked up a love of some sports. The last football game I sat through all the way was the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, so spectating is not on the top of my list, but I like participating. I like the hard work and the sense of joy mixed with exhaustion that comes from a long bike ride. Last Sunday was one of those days where it was just the right mix of hard work and satisfaction, but without the misery that comes from going too far or too fast. But that is bike "riding" or even "training", and those are very different feeling than racing.

I haven't raced as much as Rider One or Rider Two, so I would be interested in their view on it, but here are my thoughts on the joy of bike racing. One, I look for chances to race as long as I can be "competitive". For me, that does not mean winning. It just means that sometimes I think I can "race my way to fitness" and that is one of the most self-delusional things I have ever thought. If, however, I have some fitness and can keep up with the group, then I look for opportunities to race. Two, there is only one part of the race that I enjoy: finishing. I like crossing the finish line and that is true whether I am first (and, yes, I have had that joy, although winning in the C pack has been described to me as the same honor as being the tallest midget at the circus) or whether I am pack-fodder or even behind the pack when that choice has been mine rather than forced on me.

For example, at the Frozen Flatlands Sunday road race, I was with the group for 22 or so of the 24 miles, but as we came up to the last two big rollers back into Cheney I realized that I didn't have the legs for a sprint that was likely to put me in the top ten (or twenty probably), so I made the conscious decision to let the group go and just ride the last couple of k's in by myself. I was completely contented when I crossed the finish line as I had raced reasonably smart, had the power to stay with the pack and made the decision to drop off rather than getting dropped (as I had the day before). (An aside. I realize that riding on my own is harder than just staying with the pack up until the finish, but I have a high degree need to finish with "the rubber side down", aka, not "crash" in a field sprint. 18th or 38th doesn't make much difference in my life or my bragging, so eliminating that 1-in-15 pile-up is well worth it.)

I also enjoy the time after the finish line. The feeling of satisfaction from racing and being done is really significant. Really. It is a nice feeling to have sweated out the pre-race tension, the during race tension and hard work and then crossing the finish line. I can't think of another thing that feels the same way as finishing a race, particularly one that went well. It is uniquely and deeply gratifying and the harder the race, the better the feeling. I am sure that the riders who finish the Grand Tours all end up with a smug feeling of satisfaction that lasts for many, many years.

I also enjoy the time before a race. I like training; I like having my equipment cleaned up and tuned up ready for a race (no, it doesn't always happen, but it is nice when it does); and I like the sign-up and bullshitting that goes on at the race ahead of time. There is a sweet and bitter tension that you have before a race. I know that some people get so nervous they don't like to race, but I think I get about the right amount of nervous - the kind where it makes you alert and tense, but in a good way.

So know I have covered the pre-race and post-race, but how about the Joy of actually racing, the during-the-race part of the race? Here is my take on that - There is none. At least for me.

Racing is hard. It is physically hard and it is mentally hard. In order to race well you have to be paying attention to at least a couple dozen things at the same time. The other riders, the road, the road to come, the weather, the wind, your exertions, your hydration/nutrition - in other words, everything that is happening or might happen. And, you have to do it will riding your bike fast. Sean Yates said that the Tour de France is a three-week long, 1,500 mile ride that you do 2 miles an hour faster than you want to ride. That really is the essence of most racing. It all takes place at least 2 miles an hour faster than is comfortable. That may not seem like much, but if aren't a racer, try going out to do a hard 30 minutes at the fastest pace you can sustain, whether that is 14 mph or 19 mph (and I'm not saying the fastest that is comfortable; I am saying the fastest you can sustain). Now, go 2 miles per hour faster. You can probably do it if you dig in and really try, but it is hard. It is physically taxing and mentally taxing just to sustain that pace. Now, picture that effort in the middle of 20-50 other riders doing the same thing and you start to get the sense of what it's like to be in a pack.

So, if it is not fun, why do it? Well, the answer isn't that simple. The time during the race is taxing and there isn't a way to call it "fun", but it is fully engaging in a way that real life doesn't offer very often. It is also satisfying to be in a straightforward competition, where there are clear rules about how the race goes, which is unlike real life where there are so many permutations of the written and unwritten rules that it is nice to be in a black-and-white arena. And there is a level of satisfaction that comes from doing any job well, or completing any hard task, that is amplified when you add the element of physical exhaustion. So, while this blog post is running a bit long, it is because the answer is not straight-forward. Is there joy in racing - yes. It is like the joy of riding hard, but on steroids (oops, not a good cycling analogy, but you get the idea). It is not "fun" per se while you are actually racing, but it is fun, kind of. There is joy, it's just hard to explain. If you have raced, and keep racing, then you know exactly what I am trying to express. And if you haven't raced, or tried it and don't like it, well then, you can always turn to the Joy of Cooking or the Joy of Sex. Your choice.
Rider Three

Friday, May 7, 2010

Nothing is unfortunate.

Followers of some eastern religions, or at least fans of The Matrix, often postulate on the grand design of life. For some, there is comfort in a realization that nothing happens without a reason.

Sitting in a meeting on Tuesday that was doomed (destined?) to run late, I came to the stark realization that lining up for the infamous Corsa Brutale race--arguably the toughest course of our Tuesday Night series--wasn't going to happen. This didn't put me in the best of moods, but then again in my reality things like this happen.

In any case, arriving home just seconds before others were about to start their race, my wife asked whether I was planning to go ride on my own. A good idea.

A really good idea.

I wasn't supposed to race tonight. No, I was supposed to experience an almost perfect evening on the mountain bike trails that start at the end of my road. I was supposed to spend time on a ribbon of singletrack, surrounded by balsam flowers in full bloom, with the fading sunlight gently filtering through the pine trees. I was supposed to find my flow on the bike, to work hard on my own, and to enjoy the biggest of the little things in life.

I had really looked forward to the race. But missing it might have been one of the best things that happened to me today.

Nothing is unfortunate.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quicksilver's Shop Ride Reminder - Thursday, May 6

Do you really need to be told again? Whatever.

Today, 5.30 pm. Starting at the shop.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bike to Work Week

Bike to Work Week is coming up rapidly. It is May 16 - 20 this year and here is the schedule:

2010 Bike To Work Week Schedule
  • May 16 – Education Fair at River Park Square. Bike corral on Main Avenue. Commute Challenge begins.
  • May 17 – Pancake Breakfast in Riverfront Park, 7-9am; Music by Liz Rognes. Commuters attending the Kickoff Event will get to RIDE THE EDGE with the freshest and newest coffee from Spokane's own Roast House coffee.
  • May 19 – Walk & Roll to School Day: participating Spokane Public Schools
  • Various days that week – Energizer Stations: locations countywide TBD will be announced on the Web site
  • May 21 – Wrap-up Party at Steam Plant Grill, 4:30-6:30pm. Registered participants only--must RSVP.
  • June 12 – Four-week Commute Challenge ends. Make sure you've logged your biking!
  • June 30 (date/location still being confirmed) – Conclusion of four-week Commute Challenge; picnic and results announced.
For more information, and TO REGISTER, go to the website:

Because of the attention on it and because the weather is ever so slowly turning nicer, I have been wanting to get riding to work again. I have to admit that I did very little bike commuting last year. I have a whole slew of excuses, and while it might amuse me to elaborate on them, I will just say that this year I am ready to ride to work a lot more. Today my wife and sons all had early commitments and we all gone before 7 am. I thought it would be the perfect morning to get my gear ready and ride to work for the first time this year. Let's just say that there is a reason that the experts suggest a dry run on a non-work day.

Nonetheless, I persevered and was finally ready to leave my house about 15 minutes after I normally get to work. Oh well, thankfully my position as a highly paid blogger gives me some flexibility in my schedule.

The ride was uneventful in the grander sense, but it was very eventful in the look-at-the-world-around-you way. I ride some of the same roads that most of my bike riding covers, but today I was on a much heavier bike with two loaded panniers, containing a briefcase full of things that I mostly would have left at the office if I had thought about riding my bike to work, and my clothes. The bike I was riding is virtually a museum-piece mountain bike that tips the scales about 40 lbs before loading the bags. It is reasonable to say that I rode slower today than I did on Sunday heading up to join the group ride. And that is one of the things that is fun about the riding my bike to work.

The trip from my back door to standing in my office was exactly 25 minutes. When I drive, this same trip is closer to 15 minutes. If I rode my racing bike and beat cheeks, it would be in the 18-20 minute range, so the time penalty is minimal. The nice thing about it is the slower pace enables me to look around and see much more than when I take the same route on a faster vehicle, whether motored or not. I ride my motorcycle to work lots of days so I am used to being exposed to the weather, but dropping my speed that much completely changes the experience.

I picked a cool, but dry, day to start my bike commuting, but once I get in the swing of things, it is easier to expand the idea of day that works for cycling. I am not a hard-core, every day commuter, but there are years when I ride enough to feel like I can legitimately stake a claim to the title and today was a reminder of why.

One equipment note. I have commuted to work on race bikes with a messenger bag or a backpack on my back; I have commuted on my mountain bike the same way; I have modified a steel frame bike to include cyclocross tires, fenders and lights for early/late season rides that works great for commuting; and today I took my 20 year old mountain bike on which I had added a rack and panniers. The point? If you have two wheels, you can make it work. Don't let the "right" equipment or a dedicated ride hold you back from slinging a leg over the frame and getting yourself to work.

Lastly, the best thing about riding to work? For me, it is riding home. It causes me to be more mindful of when I need to leave work and I try to take a longer, harder loop home. Getting home with a bit of a cycling work-out already done is the best way to sit down to dinner. I'm looking forward to it already.
Rider Three

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shop Ride - Thursday, May 6

Here is a short version of the Shop Ride Reminder:

The ride will be Thursday, May 6, 5.30 pm. We will start at Two Wheel Transit - 1419 W. First Avenue. The route will probably involve a ride to the Seven Mile Bridge along the Aubrey L. White Parkway and then a decision about heading back along the other side of the river or going to Nine Mile. The distance will be around 20 miles. The pace will be reasonable and no-drop. This is an open road, group ride, so you are responsible for yourself and your own safety.

Here is the rambling that goes with any Rider Three approved blog post:

During our ride, Rider One will be offering his rolling coaching and fitting clinic, so feel free to ask him any technical questions about riding, racing or equipment. His nickname is Mr. Millimeter, so you know he is good. (An aside - Two Wheel Transit offers "actual" fittings - not to be confused by Mr. Millimeter's random but wise comments.) Rider Two is known to tell a story or two, so feel free to ask him about the Mother's Day Massacre just before we head up any climb that looks daunting. Like a ventriloquist that drinks water and talks, he will climb and tell you long stories; two things that seem impossible to put together. I, Rider Three, have no riding traits that I possess sufficient self-awareness to be able to describe, but I'm sure that Rider One and Two will be able to help you out with that as well.

Lastly, there is a rumor of post-ride nourishment afterwards back at the shop, so don't tell that guy you don't want to see in the buffet line ahead of you (maybe that is my cycling proclivity) because there won't be anything left, but do plan to come ride with us and have a slice of nourishment before heading home.

Should be fun.
Rider Three

Some things speak for themselves - Girl Power!

Weekend Ride Report

I rode my bike this weekend. That makes it different than last weekend. I already told my wife all about the rides and probably most of the people who care very much were actually ON the rides, but I still want to share a couple of highlights from my rides this weekend.

Saturday - Mountain bike ride. Bad weather, great ride.

To elaborate, I met Rider One, Jake B. and Jon H. for a two hour plus mountain bike ride that crossed the south hill bluff, crossed Hatch and H-195, went up a trail that I did not know existed past White Road and then was aborted, for me and Rider One, so that we missed the Fish Lake and back up the South Hill portion of the ride. This was my first semi-serious mountain bike ride of the year and the guys I was following, and I was most certainly following them the whole time, are serious riders. Jake is strong like an ox and handles a mountain bike like it is an extension of himself. Rider One is so fluid on a mountain bike it makes me want to stop riding them altogether because I have never for one moment been that graceful on one. I don't have much experience riding with JH and there were precious few moments when I had enough oxygen pick-up to be very discerning about his riding; I just know he was in front of me on a single-speed and I was working all my gears hard to keep him in my sights.

With Jake leading on a route that he and Jon have done many times, they lead me down a few things that I had never ridden on the bluff, including one section that was as steep and twisty as anything I have ridden. I did chicken out on one long, very straight, very steep trail section, choosing instead to run my bike down. In hindsight this was a bit silly since the corkscrew was more technical and really all I had to do was ride my rear brake down the hill, but the fully exposed length gave me pause.

I should also disclose that I am 1-for-1 on my mountain bike ride to bike crash ratio. I managed to plant my pedal firmly and solidly against a rock causing the bike to come to a full, 100% immediate stop. Guess what happened next? Yes, good guess. A body in motion will continue in motion until acted upon by outside forces and all. In this case that force was gravity that brought me in contact with the ground a few feet in front of my bike. Fun stuff. And also fun was the fact that less than 100 yards from my fall was a section of trail that was literally the 12" along a rock bluff with a 15-30' drop. Have you ever had a fall shake your confidence on a bike? Me too.

All in all, though, it makes me want to ride my mountain bike more and soon. I will also let you in on a little secret. I am hoping to be riding a new mountain bike soon. I won't tell you what, but I will give you a hint: 21" Gary Fisher Superfly. And no, I don't deserve it, but I still hope it works out.

Sunday - Road Ride. Decent weather, awesome ride.

To elaborate, I joined Rider One and six other MR riders for a windy three-hour ride. We left the Rocket on 14th, rode up the Fish Lake Trail (both sections), along Salnave to Clear Lake, then Medical Lake, Four Corners and home along Westbow and Thorpe. To put it in terms that the eight of us who were there will recognize better: Head wind, head wind, head wind, cross wind, head wind, cross wind, head wind, head wind, cross wind, head wind, OMG a glorious tail wind!, cross wind, tail wind, cross wind, tail wind, tail wind, tail wind, tail wind, tail wind, fish ladder home. I personally skipped the fish ladder for a more direct route home, but the rest of the description is accurate.

The head wind wasn't too bad on the Fish Lake trail because it is a bit protected. We rode in a double pace line with everyone taking pulls and riding a moderate pace. The Salnave section was tough. It was very, very windy, but after we crossed I-90 and turned right towards Clear Lake we were suddenly very happy with that wind that we had been cursing in the prior miles. The trip back was fast and it felt great. At one point Rider One and I were in front of the double paceline talking about those glorious moments when riding feels tiring but great, hard but wonderful, and the speed seems to be leaping out of your legs. Sure it was the tailwind, but it was great. We may have gotten a bit silly along Westbow (okay, sure I may have contributed to it), but it is rare that a group of riders in our age group gets to wind it up that fast and spin out our biggest gears and have it feel that good. A fun day.

Sunday - Mountain bike ride. Decent weather, great ride.

Hey, wait a minute. Didn't you just describe an exhausting three hour ride from Sunday? Why yes, I did. After I got home I told my wife that my road ride was one of those days where the ride lasted just exactly the distance I had the strength to ride. Another three miles and I would have been dropped by the group so hard and fast you would think we had been going uphill. In other words, I was completely, totally, 100% spent.

Just a few minutes after describing this to my wife, my 12-year old asked me if I would go on a mountain bike ride with him. I am truly fortunate to have two great kids and I don't have enough chances to ride with them, so on a very, very rare weekend when I didn't have work or chores demanding my time, I didn't feel right turning him down, so I changed my clothes and headed out on my mountain bike for another ride. We had a fun ride (at a pace more suitable to my condition than following Jake) and one particularly note-worthy moment. My son had ridden up the long climb from our house towards the Highlands without stopping, which is a sometimes yes, sometimes not thing. A while later, we had a 100-200 meter pitch that was fairly steep. As we approached it, I said, "just ride up what you can", hoping to encourage him to give it a shot but also "knowing" that it was a bit too long and steep for him to make it. It was one of the few times I was in front that day so I started up the hill pondering where I should stop to help out my son. I decided to ride to the top, stop and walk back to push his bike or offer some encouragement. As I slowed at the top I looked over my shoulder and to my surprise, he was right on my tail. He had cleared the length of it and I needed to keep moving to not block his way. Now, I love my son regardless of whether he rides a bike or how he goes about it, but it was one of those moments that forces you to pause and reconsider what you think your kids are capable of doing. They keep growing, changing and amazing me.

To sum it up: Weekend Riding - variable weather and multiple reminders of why I like riding bikes so much.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shop Ride - Thursday, May 6

If you check your calendars you will discover that this coming Thursday is the first Thursday of the month and you know what that means, right? It means it is time for the monthly Team Two Wheel / Two Wheel Transit Shop Ride!

While the weather outside today is ghastly, the weather on Thursday afternoon/early evening is supposed to be much, much better. And by better I mean that my toupee is very likely going to stay on my head, unlike on my walk to lunch. Toupee?, you say. Yes, well most of you see me either wearing a helmet or wearing some headcover under my helmet, which headcover is there to either to preserve warmth or to prevent sunburn, depending on the time of year. At work, however, I wear a toupee so I maintain that youthful and gregarious look that is really the basis for my success. Just check with Tom W. or Death of a Salesman; they both make it clear that good hair and a winning personality are the building blocks for any successful male. I suppose females too, but I have less experience being a successful female, so I will decline to opine further. In any case, the point is, the weather should be nice.

Here are the details: Thursday, May 6, 5.30 pm - Start: Two Wheel Transit - 1419 W. First Avenue.

Route - Slightly unknown, but very likely to include Riverside Avenue, Government Way, Aubrey L. White Parkway and then . . . I don't know whether we will loop back after the Seven Mile Bridge or continue to Nine Mile. I also don't know whether the road is open past the waste-water-sewage treatment plant, but that will probably impact our travel plans. In either case, we will ride about twenty miles and get back to Two Wheel sometime around 7.00 pm.

Pace - Full-on Race Pace. I kid. This will be a casual pace and no-drop ride. We will be doing something like a racer recovery pace, recreational cyclist reasonable group ride pace. It isn't a ride for someone buying their first-ever bicycle that day, but you are free to join us if you have been cycling on your own and would like to try out riding with a group.

Fees and Responsibility - None. Seriously. There is no sign-up, no fee, no waiver and no responsibility. As in, neither Team Two Wheel nor Two Wheel Transit are responsible for accidents, injuries, death or maiming, but we will help with flat tires. It is an open road ride, which includes all the joy and burden of riding along with motorized vehicles and other riders and non-riders.

Fun - Yes, we will have some. We'll be riding bikes, right?

You - Be there.

Oh, and just to repeat this important note, the ride is Thursday at 5.30 pm. PM in this case standing for Post-Meridian, as in "after the sun has reached its mid-point for the day", as in "after work", as in "not while it is still dark and most of humanity is still in bed". Just wanted to be clear because we are hoping S.J. can join us at the right time this month.