Saturday, February 27, 2010

Strange Brew

Like beer? How about coffee? Then try this:

It's a Lagunitas seasonal brew. I was only able to get two after I discovered them at the local grocery store. Then they quickly disappeared, probably until next Christmas.

It's a smooth, tasty stout with a hint of chocolate and coffee. I like it enough to where I will drop in to a few local stores to see if I can get more.

Make sure you are in for the night before cracking the cap. The ABV comes in at 9.2% and I definitely noticed it.


Monday, February 22, 2010


The weather wasn't very cooperative this weekend, but I managed to get in a 50-mile ride on the bike trail on Saturday. Sometimes I like to get off the road and not have to worry about cars, the idiots who drive cars, potholes, dead animals, thorns, broken glass, or the idiots who break glass. On the bike trail you can just spin your legs and shut down your brain for a while.

My intention was to take it slow and easy, but that never seems to happen. I had only been on the trail for a little over three miles when a guy rode up beside me. Although it was overcast and cool, he was in shorts and a sleeveless jersey to show off his guns. No helmet on his shaved dome, because he's obviously too cool for that. He has the $6,000 bike, $500 shoes, fake orange tan, and other than his eyebrows, there isn't a single hair visible on his entire body. (Yeah, he even shaved his armpits.) He looked like a creepy alien dipped in Tang. Motioning towards my bike, he said, "What is that? Road bike? Cyclocross? Touring bike?"

"Road bike, mostly," I replied.

"The tires are freakin' HUGE," he said. "Must be slow."

I shrugged. Like I care what some androgynous dick on a carbon bike thinks.

I let him ride away, though he kept looking back—the way they always do—hoping for a race. I wasn't warmed up, and I wasn't in the mood.

About five miles later I had warmed up. Cruising along at a nice tempo, I passed some people; a few people passed me. Everyone was friendly and saying hello. Nobody was being competitive. Just a nice, quiet Saturday ride.

I came around a corner and I could see E.T. up ahead pedaling in squares, orange knees jutting out. Money might have bought the fancy bike and clothes, but it didn't buy that ugly pedal stroke. No, that was pure natural talent right there.

I rode my own tempo and closed the gap in a little under a mile. He looked surprised to see me as I passed, and immediately jumped on my wheel, as I knew he would.

I like to toy with these guys, especially the ones who make assumptions about my "slow" bike. I let him sit back there for a while as I rode at a comfortable pace. After a few minutes, I slowed noticeably. This makes the rider behind you think you're tiring.

I was not.

He came around and I slipped onto his wheel. Trying to drop me, he put the hammer down, peeking beneath his arm every once in a while to see if I was still there. After a couple minutes I let a little gap form to let him think it was working. As soon as he noticed, he accelerated again. I easily got back on his wheel and let him make his run. Fish on.

I think the most interesting aspect of sports is the psychology. Many times I have been on the winning or losing side of these mind games in real races. Unfortunately, only one guy wins a race, so you spend a lot of time learning lessons from the losses.

Even if you aren't racing, it's always fun to battle wits with someone to see if you can outfox them. Feigning weakness is one the oldest tricks in the bike racing book, but this guy had fallen for it.

He rode all-out for about two miles, which was actually pretty impressive, but sitting in his draft was relatively easy. When he completely detonated, I rode away from him without much effort on my fat-tired, slow bike.

Right at my turnaround point, I saw my friend Curtis riding in the opposite direction. I turned around and caught up. We haven't talked much since I quit my road racing team, so it was nice to ride with him for a while and catch up. After 11 miles, he turned back for home, and I was alone again.

About nine miles from my truck, the weather looked threatening. It started raining about three minutes after I took this picture:

It was a light rain, so it wasn't a big deal. I got back to the truck a little damp, but it was a nice, relaxing ride. Just what I needed after a long week.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Taking Shape

I'm gradually getting the Fargo pieced together. There is enough bike assembled to where I can roll it around in the driveway. The position feels pretty awesome. It's weird to have drop bars up where a typical riser bar would be.

So far everything except the frameset and brake levers has come out of the parts bin, so it hasn't cost me too much. I have to get a few things like a chain and cables before I can finish it up, though.

I intended on going mountain biking today, but my legs were still feeling the effects of Monday's ride when I woke up. I went on a short road ride instead. I felt pretty horrible for the first half of the ride, but perked up a little at the end. I'm looking forward to a day off the bike tomorrow.

The forecast calls for rain late Friday. I hope it holds off until the evening so I can ride home from work for the first time in a while. The sun is up late enough now to pull it off. Spring is coming . . .

That's it for now.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Presidents' Day Ride

It was a beautiful California day today—sunny and 70 degrees—but I just finished sitting on the indoor trainer for an hour.

Yesterday I went on a difficult ride that left me pretty tired at the end, and quite stiff and sore this morning. What you really need the day after an effort like that is an easy recovery ride to loosen up and work out the kinks. Unfortunately, living in a hilly area, and at the top of a difficult climb, makes an easy ride from home impossible. Enter the indoor trainer, which allows you to control the intensity of the workout. I can't stand riding indoors, especially on a nice day, but sometimes it has to be done.

Yesterday I met the brothers Noble in Auburn for a single speed ride. Steve was bikeless from Bellingham, so he gamely rode my Karate Monkey. This ride has its share of rough spots, and the Karate Monkey has quite possibly the stiffest fork currently in production. Although I was the only one running a suspension fork, Steve and Doug both dropped me on the roughest downhill of the ride. Oh, the shame.

We put in a solid 30 miles with lots and lots of climbing. Doug and I did the same ride in early November, and it was pretty easy. After a few months of winter, my fitness has slipped just a bit. By the end I was cramping in both arms and legs; I have some work to do. Still, it's always great to get the gang back together and ride just like we did some 25 years ago.

Steve took some pictures that are probably way better than these, but here are mine anyway:


Thursday, February 04, 2010


A big, bearded fat man left this on my porch:

No, it wasn't a late delivery from Santa. Just the FedEx guy. Inside is a frame that I will build into a bike that looks something like this:

It's called the Fargo, an adventure touring bike designed to Go Far (get it?). With mounts for six water bottles, front and rear racks, a pump and fenders, it's pretty much ready for anything. Its disc brakes and clearance for big tires make it, to my knowledge, the first widely available touring bike capable of handling really rough terrain.

As proof, the bike below was used in the 2,750 mile Tour Divide mountain bike race:

It wasn't that long ago when I would have looked at this bike and thought, "Why?"

I remember being younger and seeing old guys in wool shorts and knee socks with a bunch of bags and crap all over their bikes. A little mirror on their glasses hanging under a huge, white helmet. Riding at a snail's pace. I laughed inside as a blew past them, oozing with racer superiority.

As a bike racer I never wanted anything attached to my bike. Ever. You don't put a luggage rack on a Ferrari.

I'm older, wiser and more open to trying new things now. I don't laugh at those old guys because I am quickly becoming one of them. However, deep down, I am a racer. I still have a number of those race cars. And I still don't want put luggage on them. So I bought a Hummer.

I don't intend to ride from Canada to Mexico. That might be a little too much adventure for me. But I do want to try a couple overnight trips to some camping spots within riding distance of my home. A tiny slice of adventure.

After that, who knows? For the past few years I have been looking at maps trying to find a safe route from here to Lake Tahoe. The only way to really do it, without using Highway 50 (no thanks), is to utilize dirt trails. Obviously this ruled out any kind of traditional touring bike. Now, with this bike, I think it's very possible to ride to French Meadows and camp, then ride to Tahoe. More research is necessary, obviously.

I'm looking forward to getting the bike built up and going far.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Never Dull

I awoke around 2:30 this morning to the hum of rain on the roof. I frowned and whispered an explicative to no one in particular, knowing it would be too muddy to mountain bike today, before rolling over and falling back to sleep.

The rain had tapered off shortly before dawn, and although the sky was clear when I dropped the boy off at school, the roads were still very wet. By 10:00 the sunshine had started to dry the asphalt, and the temperature climbed to a tolerable 47 degrees. Though I craved the excitement of some trail riding, I reluctantly grabbed the road bike and headed out for what I assumed to be another uneventful road ride.

Because not everyone routinely rides miles and miles deep into the woods, a mountain bike ride can be somewhat interesting to read about. Plus, you can always find something worthwhile to photograph in the woods. Even though I am a mountain biker myself, I enjoy reading about another rider’s adventures.

Road riding generally isn't that exciting, so I did not anticipate having a story to tell after today’s ride. You can only romanticize a ribbon of pavement, traffic, inattentive drivers and the smell of exhaust so much. There simply isn’t much potential for interest.

Unless, of course, you play a high-speed game of chicken with a big turkey.

I was traveling 42 miles per hour down a steep hill. I can tell you this fact with a great degree of certainty because I was looking down at my computer when the big tom ran out in front of me from the right side of the road. Upon seeing me, the turkey tried to reverse course, but his legs slipped out from under him on the wet road. Upon looking up and seeing the turkey, I swerved to the left. Unfortunately, that was where the turkey continued to slide.

Over the years I have run over or struck many critters. I have killed six squirrels. A few small birds. Snakes and lizards. A bunny. A chipmunk. I had near misses with a bear and a vulture. I even smacked right into a huge slumbering sow once (and she barely acknowledged me). Yet I had never hit a turkey. There's a first time for everything, but I was trying like hell to postpone that “first” for another day.

As the turkey slid into my path, I started correcting back over to the right. The turkey then regained its footing and started to run back to the right side of the road.

I haven't killed a squirrel in a few years, though, because I finally realized, through trial and error, that the best way to avoid them is to do nothing. Given the chance, they generally get out of your way if you just keep going straight. A squirrel, with its tiny little brain, is designed to avoid predators by running around like its fur is on fire. This makes it difficult for a coyote or hawk to grab them. A cyclist, with its tiny little brain, instinctively avoids road obstacles in much the same manner. These similar styles were incompatible, so now I just force myself to hold my line, and it always seems to work out. At least with squirrels.

At about 10 feet from impact, I was fresh out of better ideas, so I just braced myself and used my squirrel technique. I was heading straight for the paralyzed turkey. The terrified bird seemed to be looking right into my eyes. At the last possible moment he jumped to the left, lightly brushing my left shin with the tip of his wing as I flew past.

I have only crashed once on the road, doing 25 miles per hour, and it was a horrible experience. Name a joint—ankle, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder, wrist, knuckles—and I had skin missing from that joint. I couldn’t sleep comfortably for days. The crash I had just averted would have been so much worse.

My craving for excitement thoroughly satiated, I continued on. I rode a little slower on the remaining descents, and I enjoyed the extreme boredom of a safe ride home.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Vacation, Etc.

I was going to write up a big post about our Mexican cruise, but I never got around to it. Now it just feels a little late. However, I did post some pictures on Flickr. Click here to view them.

On the cycling front, I was able to ride 324 miles in January, which was my biggest January total since 2001. Even though it rained a lot, and I missed nine riding days due to the vacation, I still did OK thanks to Anthony Soprano.

Yeah, I'm a bit late to the party, but I started watching "The Sopranos" on DVD while riding the indoor trainer. I became so obsessed with the storyline that I couldn't wait for my next trainer session. I HATE riding the trainer, so I am happy that I found something to motivate me. Whatever works. I just finished season two (bye, bye Big Pussy!), so I have season three ready to go next time it rains.