Group Rides

Join us for evening indoor training rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in downtown Ellensburg.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A winter ride in the hills

Winter time in our valley can be such a demoralizing place to be for cyclists. It's cold, often wet and icy and the days are much shorter. This makes it much harder to actually get a ride in outdoors. So, when nice days come around I try to take every opportunity to get outside. Such was the case on December 23. The temperatures were hovering around 30 degrees but there was no wind or snow in the forecast and the sun was blazing in the sky. The county road department had laid de-icer on the main roads so I wasn't very keen on taking a road bike out. The better option ended up being the 1993 Scott Comp Racing mountain bike. The ride ended up being short in distance (roughly 11 miles) but exhilirating from the a beauty, nature perspective.

The roads were frozen and the gravel not so prominent as vehicle had pushed them into the dirt when the ground was wet. The Department of Natural Resources has been up there clearing brush, etc. from the road edges so there are some small branches to avoid in the name of spoke safety. It was disheartening to see this work as the trees had branches just broken off the trunk and it opened up some corners that had made the ride so much more fun because you couldn't see very far in front of you. For a cyclists that can be great but I guess for cars, trucks and equipments it's more dangerous.

The ride was fabulous - I heated up too much on the way out (up) and had to take off a layer of clothss. But, on the way back out (down hills) it got much colder so that layer had to go back on. There was a stretch of snowy roadway - about 1/2 mile long and about 2 inches deep of hardpack snow) - but that wasn't hard to navigate. So, keep an eye on the weather and don't forget the mountain bike as an option in the winter.

Gotta have goals

I've written several times in the past about the value of goals and planning your cycling year. I was talking to another local rider in October and asked how the year went. He replied that it wasn't as good as the year before because he really didn't have any goals (i.e. rides) that he had planned for and done. In 2010 he had done some racing in the summer in Seattle and worked hard for some rides he did in California.

I was in somewhat of the same position in that my training the prior two years had focused on a hill climb ride in June and then a goal to ride the Manastash Metric Century in October as fast as I could. Those two goals kept my training focused and on track (even without power meters, heart rate monitors, etc.). At my age I don't really have a need for those things and have even started riding without a bike computer. It's worked for me even though I know "official training" methods could make a difference. In 2011 I focused on the 24 hr Round and Round mountain bike race in Spokane and nothing else. I found that not having that additional goal in October really affected my training in that I wasn't riding as hard as the year before.

We're now at the end of 2011 and it's the perfect time to set your goals - both short and long term - for 2012. Pick a ride or two to do and train specifically for it. Focus your training on whatever that ride is and then picture yourself being successful when your not riding and just in a relaxed state. Those two things will make you a better rider.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What about titanium?

Titanium. That word elicits desire among many cyclists. Titanium is that ultimate lightweight metal that doesn't bend or rust like steel, break like carbon fiber or produce a harsh ride like aluminum. It is also makes for some of the more expensive bikes you could buy.

I have one titanium road bike that is a "wall hanger". It is a 1974 or 1975 Teledyne Titan which was one of the first mass produced road bikes. The Classic Rendezvous site has some excellent information on the Teledyne. It's very, very light. However, the Teledyne, because it was produced with what some would say the incorrect grade of titanium was often prone to fractures at the bottom bracket or seat post binder. Mine was at the seat post and it has been professionally repaired by Ti Bicycles in Portland, OR.

Now, there's another one hanging out in my shop for some overhaul work - a 1989 Spectrum of my dad's. The frame was provided by Merlin but all the finish and paint work was done by Spectrum (who is still in business and produces beautiful custom bikes).

The Spectrum weighs between 18 and 19 lbs and is very stiff. This particular model has probably close to 20,000 miles on it with no sign of slowing down. It should be noted these photos are before any clean up has been done.

I will say, however, you should always check your components. While swapping out some pedals this past week I discovered both lightweight, CNC machined crank arms had significant cracks in them from possible over torquing of the crank arm bolts. This could have been catastrophic for my dad had one snapped in half while he was riding. Make sure you are regularly inspecting your bikes for damage and cracks that could prove to be disastrous.


I, as I'm sure many other riders do, have a tough time as the weather cools to stay motivated for training. This fall has been just like the past few - the Manastash Metric finishes and the number of rides a week decreases. I can feel the fitness starting to slip away like and ice cube slowly melting in the kitchen sink.

This year I was determined to not let my fitness level drop as quickly as years past. I've worked hard for the conditioning since 2007 but there's always that little drop off during the winter, regardless of how much time is spent on the indoor trainer, that makes those first few rides in the spring some of the toughest to endure. The legs tire quickly with the added resistance of the road and wind and the lungs are trying to adjust to working harder with cooler air.

Determination and goals only go so far sometimes. This past week brought rib injury which has brought all movement (and exercise) to a halt. This is one of the most painful and demoralizing injuries I've had. My philosophy in life is there's got to be a reason for everything. I'm not sure what the reason is now but maybe it's a chance to let some of the other nagging injuries that invade a 46 year old body to heal.

There will undoubtedly be some hard work once I can get back on the bike and in the gym. At least the motivation is there as I anxiously wait.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flexible training

I've written about this time each of the past couple of years about cross training as winter approaches with skiing and other sports to break up the monotony of training when the weather prevents us from being out on the road. My winter weight training program has started and the colder temperatures bring on that feeling that the indoor trainer time is quickly approaching.

Actually, it's already here. I travel periodically to Boise and Spokane for work for two or three days. I have a minivan for a company car and always take a bike with me - just in case. It's come in very handy this year.

Last night I had to work late and it was already dark so outdoor riding wasn't an option. Fortunately, not only did I bring a bike but I also brought a trainer. Be flexible when you travel - take running clothes, use the hotel workout room (something I don't do), join a gym like Anytime Fitness or YMCA that has locations around the country that you can use. Just get a workout in. It's too easy when the days are short and it's cold to talk yourself out of the exercise.

North Idaho ride

As seen in some of my prior posts this year I have focused on riding in different areas when I can. One of the primary reasons is for maintaining fitness but it's also important to mix up the scenery where you ride to breathe some life into the monotony of always riding the same route or in the same area.

I last rode a 100 mile ride in 1997 when I was training for the cross state ultra endurance Cannonball bike ride. That ride traverses I-90 from Seattle to Spokane in one day and has a length of approximately 275 miles. The ride was shortlived thanks to a crash five minutes in but I at least had the comfort of knowing I was in the best shape of my life. Since then family and work obligations have pretty much eliminated the time needed to do a 100 mile ride.

This year I was determined to get a century in and to do it somewhere other than Kittitas County. My selected location was the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in North Idaho. This trail is on an old railroad bed and is paved for the full 72 mile length of the trail. The trail runs from Plummer to Mullan. My plan was to ride from Plummer out 50 miles and turn back. I chose the route for several reasons: beautiful scenery, low traffic in October and little to no climbing. I didn't want to stress the metatarsal issue in my right foot by climbing a lot of hills and then having to cut the ride short.

Thursday, October 20 was the selected date and my 70 year old father was going to deliver me to the start point and also ride a portion of the trail. This is one of his favorite places to ride. We parked on the north end of Plummer and started out in the chilly 45 degree air. It was overcast and a stiff wind had picked up from the southeast. This would be great on the way out but would make for a tough ride back into the wind.

From Plummer there is approximately a six mile descent (2-3% grade) to Lake Coeur d'Alene where you ride next to the lake up to Harrison before cutting east across the panhandle of Idaho. My dad was enouraging me to leave him and ride on since I was going a longer distance and ride 4-5 miles per hour faster than him. I had made up my mind to ride with him to Harrison before taking off. That's just past mile 15.

At mile 14 my dad looked down to put his water bottle back in its cage, drifted off the trail and crashed in the gravel. I could tell he was hurt pretty badly and told him we were not going to get him back on his bike - which is what he wanted to try and do. We were able to get an ambulance to him and the short story is he had several fractures to the pelvis and saccrum.

My dad feels horrible about the accident and "ruining" my 100 mile ride. I feel blessed that I was there and able to help him. There are times when riding just isn't a priority and this was one of those times. I had to remind him that he's not the only person to do this. Just a year ago I had drifted into some gravel and crashed - well, more like fell over onto the road. Yes, it's embarassing. Yes, the bikes survive. Yes, the ego will forget about it - 10 yrs down the road. As the French might say, ces la vie.

Riding down the hill to Lake Coeur d'Alene

A view north on the lake

Looking southeast on the lake

Monday, October 3, 2011

Another successful Manastash Metric

The drier ride is how it's advertised. No rain in the past 15 years of the ride, except for the year that there was no ride due to a lack of sponsorship. Even in the 1980's when the Manastash Metric Century was first started it was advertised as one where western Washington cyclists could escape the October rains for a nice day of fall riding. I think I was hit by 15 raindrops on this years ride in the Cle Elum area so the "drier ride" reputation should not be considered sullied.

In contrast to the 2010 ride there was no fog or mist at the start. Temperatures were in the high 40 degree F range to maybe low 50's. Overcast skies with thick gray clouds were in the sky with the most threatening ones west toward Cle Elum but most riders were probably not too worried.

I had been looking forward to the 2011 Manastash Metric since I missed the hill climb race I normally do in June and had only done th 24 hour mountain bike race in Spokane in May. The summer was short with a boy playing baseball through the middle of July. I just didn't feel ready for the ride until the week before when I was able to get in a 73 mile ride to the top of Blewett Pass. Finally, the conditioning seemed to be coming around.

As I wrote back in August the Internet has shrunk this world we're in. If you've read this blog much you know I'm interested in classic and vintage bikes - primarily road bikes of the 1970's and 1980's. There's a rich history in the old steel bikes of those days from their design, simplicity in components and durability. They are fascinating and fun to work on and ride.

I participate in the Classic and Vintage (C&V) forum on on a daily basis. Most of the users are cordial and helpful in offering advice, locating hard to find parts, identifying bike makes and models, etc. It's a fairly close knit and friendly community. The funny thing is how an like posting on an Internet forum can start moving toward the realm of friendship. In June, I was able to meet up with two other members of the forum that I had corresponded with for a couple of years and we did a 35-40 mile ride. We have stayed in touch always hoping to do more rides. Fortunately, for me one of those guys was able to make it to Ellensburg this past weekend for his first ride in the Manastash Metric. I had ridden it alone the past couple of years and was looking forward to having someone with common interests to socialize with while we rode. We first met in person this past February at the Cascade Bicycle Club swap meet in Seattle and then for the ride in June.

Thanks to having a scheduled "appointment" with the CWU football game that afternoon and taking four boys to the game we decided to load up my "bus" with the bikes and try for an earlier start. That didn't necessarily work as we still hit the road sometime after 8:00am. I have to say the one advantage to the ride having an early start time is cylists could get the choice parking spots at West Ellensburg park before the soccer parents arrived for the full slate of Saturday games.

Not knowing what the weather would be like throughout the ride and after much debating I decided to go with a polypropylene base layer under the jersey and leg warmers for the knees. Jeff figured he'd warm up quickly and went with a jersey and knicker style cycling shorts. It was a little brisk at the start but not nearly as bad as the year before. 10 miles in we stopped at the Thorp Mill rest stop so Jeff could adjust his shoes and I decided to shed the base layer. This is when I realized the extra water bottle was a stupid idea since it took up one pocket and the base layer shirt filled up another one. The fig newtons we had to eat were quickly crumbling under the pressure of all the junk in my pockets.

About three miles into the ride we were welcomed by the abrupt arrival of the Ellensburg 15-20 mph wind from the northwest. Frankly, riding in it is great for training on shorter rides but sucks when you have 30 miles or so to ride in it. We fought it up the hills and down being especially shocked when we could only muster 18 mph on some of the smaller downhills into the winds. And, that was while pedaling. We finally arrived in Cle Elum, a little over two hours after we had started the ride, glad to be out of the wind briefly and able to catch a quick snack. A quick photo opportunity with about ten other riders and a brief conversation with a reporter and we were on our way.

Suddenly we found ourselves travelling 23-25 mph on the flat streets through town with very little effort. That is the one major benefit of the normal Kittitas County wind - the ride back from Cle Elum is fast and fun. Highway 10 is gorgeous this time of year even with the few drivers that, for some reason, are can't figure out how to drive around cyclists. That one side mirror that missed us by a foot or two was just too close for comfort. A quick hamburger at the finish at it was off to the game.

I have to say it was another great job by the RSVP group and thankfully CWU won the football game so it was a awesome day!

Nothing is complete without a picture of the bus that transported our bikes

The parking lot was quickly filling with cyclists by 7:45am

Our two vintage bikes - my 1984 Gitane Sprint (yellow bar tape) and Jeff's 1971 (or so) Swiss Mondia Special. The Mondia has been restored beginning with a repaint at Elliot Bay Cycles in Seattle and then outfitted with full Campagnolo drivetrain that is period correct. Jeff has added some detailing of the lugs and components that makes the bike a stunning example of history.

We spotted this bike before we even started. An early 1980's Team Fuji with the original owner who actually raced it back in the day. He had kept it mostly original and had no intentions of getting rid of it. The black anodized Ukai wheels were a nice touch.

Arriving in Cle Elum we were met by this excellent 1974 Raleigh International, owned by another Ellensburg resident since 1984. He's the second owner. Again full Campagnolo drivetrain with Suntour Superbe non-aero levers and rare Super Champion 700c clincher wheels.

Cruising along Highway 10 looking more relaxed with that tailwind behind us

Jeff working his way up the hill before Elk Heights in a stiff headwind

Another gratuitous Highway 10 shot

Jeff enjoying the ride back with some gorgeous views along the Yakima River

Yakima River canyon along Highway 10

So, one more great year is coming to a close. If you missed the ride this year, plan on coming next year. It's guaranteed to be a good one.

Go to the ride's Facebook page for more info, photos and a link to the video. The ride's web site will also be posting photos of the ride.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall is here - some ponderings

Here we are in mid-September and fall is on our doorstep. Leaves haven't changed color yet but the morning temperatures have dipped into the 40's and low 50's at night bringing on that crisp fall morning feel that I love. This is the time of year when we can have 30-40 degree swings in temperatures a day - so morning rides without wind can be downright cold but the afternoon rides and be hot and in a stiff wind. Gee, how's that any different than riding in the spring. The refreshing new smells of fall, that's what. That wet morning smell on the hay and grass fields from the dew. The frantic activity of bugs (keeps your mouths shut while riding) in the fall air. Catching those floating spider webs with your bike and trying to get them off while not wrecking.

Mid-September also means the last preparations for the Manastash Metric century ride the first Saturday of October. I look forward to this ride every year as it's the last big, formal ride that I do. For some reason this year tendonitis and arthritis in the knees has been a bigger issue than in the past. I don't know if it's the inconsistency in training - i.e. 4-5 days one week and then 2-3 the next - or more physiological. I already ride because of prior knee surgeries (3) and missing 80% of my meniscus in the right knee. There's also the developing arthritis and chondromalacia - all reminders that I'm not 18 anymore.

This year I'll be taking a couple of weeks off toward the end of October to give the body a break and also to mix in some weight training and other exercise. I'm starting to set goals for next year which then means I have to set the off season goals - which you should consider as well. What's the proper mix of weight training and cardio in the off season to aid. I'll definitely be more serious about leaning up and trying to get to that elusive 155lb body weight. Hill climbing will be easier at that weight and, while I've wanted to lose that weight the past couple of years, I really didn't go into it with the right attitude. That'll change this year.

So, it's time to look back and evaluate this year and plan for next. To look forward to some cross training and to relax a little. Before you know it the snow will be flying and we'll be cooped up inside wishing we could be out on the open road again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Another "adventure" ride

As the Manastash Metric Century/Half Century approaches (don't forget to send in your registration) I've had to create time to ride and try to get my fitness back up to a decent level. Like all the other riders in the valley I've had to deal with a very finicky Mother Nature this year. It's limited the miles ridden and changed the training. But, beyond that there have been kid's sports, a job change, family functions and a foot problem that has been getting worse over the past couple of years and had gotten to a point this summer where I could not push hard and my average pace has dropped almost two miles an hour. For a rider who loves going uphill I've had to limit my climbing because if the burning and numbness in my foot. After investigating different inserts for shoes I bought a pair and was looking forward to trying them out.

I have a couple of employees in Boise, ID that report to me and drive there every 5-6 weeks for work. The drive can be pretty boring, especially through Oregon with their slower speed limits. But, I'm also scanning places to ride and take a bike with me on every trip as I drive. This trip the temps were in the mid to high 90 degree range in Boise and work overloaded me (worked until 9:00pm each day) so I didn't get a chance to ride. But, I was really itching to hit the road.

So, on the way north I stopped in a little town called Durkee in Oregon. This town is just south of Baker City but the road that runs next to the interstate has a hill that I really wanted to ride. It was 95 degrees and the wind was blowing 5-10 mph in my face as I headed out. Before I could even ride 100 ft I had to stop at the train crossing for a freight train to pass - in the middle of nowhere! Once it cleared the crossing I took off on my 1984 Gitane Sprint. I have just changed the gearing to a 52-38 and 12-24 set up front and rear. This makes for some decent climbing yet a big enough gear for the downhills.

I had the new inserts in the shoes and was trying not to push too hard too soon. The hill I really wanted to climb was 2-3 miles up the road and I went up it easily with no foot problems. As I got close to the top and rode across the freeway I realized the train was crawling up the hill on the tracks. "Maybe I have a chance to pass it", I thought. Being competitive I now had a goal. I figured I'd ride as far as I could or 10 miles whichever came first and then turnaround and continue the drive home. I passed the train at 6.5 miles and realized how much this ride was similar to Ellensburg - much of it was a "false flat" - gradual incline - with a headwind. The last two miles were probably a 5% incline and by the time I got to the top I was getting real tired. The bike seemed real heavy and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. Until I was ready to turn around, that is, and I realized the front tire was almost flat. That explained the resistance. I run sew up tires and as I inspected the tire I realized there was no penetration through the outer tire to the tube. It had to be a leaky valve stem.

I was able to get about 80 lbs of pressure in the tire and headed back down the hill to the car. I coasted most of the way and topped 30 mph with very little effort. Half way back I stopped and put some more air in the tire.

Arriving back at the car I realized the road had been so hot that the glue between the tires and rims was actually softening up - not a good proposition if I had had some sharp corners to negotiate. I guzzled water and chalked up another ride in a different part of the country. The best part was my feet - while having a little numbness on the ride after 10+ miles of incline and hills I was encouraged because the burning and cramping had not appeared. Maybe I'm on the road to some healing and back to my former self on the bike.

The little church in Durkee

The train that became the target to pass

The first hill - about 1.5 miles long and not as hard as it looked

Talk about some dry country and large bales of straw

The resemblance to the Kittitas Valley was uncanny

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Internet friends

Many of you know I'm a fan of what are now referred to as classic and vintage (C&V) bicycles. For road bikes that pretty much means anything from the mid-1980's and older with downtube shifters and a 126mm or narrower rear dropouts on the bike. Basically these are the bikes that were popular when I was in high school and college.

I guess that means I must be classic and vintage now with graying hair and the ability to find a radio station whose sole format is playing the music I grew up with.

There is a growing community of C&V bike enthusiasts on the Internet from Classic Rendezvous, to individual blogs and finally to my favorite, Bikeforums has numerous subforum topics on it's site but the one I frequent 85-90% of the time is dedicated to C&V bikes.

I have found over the past three years that this community of "virtual" friends are ready and willing to help each other out from support, to trading parts, to providing obscure bits and pieces for a project free to someone, etc. It's an amazing friendly community and it's that community that makes collecting these bikes so much fun and addicting. I have sold frames, traded parts, received three free bikes/frames, bought parts, sold parts, and in general had an outlet for this hobby of mine.

The other benefit of the Internet, though, is being able to finally meet these bike afficionados in person. My wife thinks it's kind of funny to call someone my friend - even though we've never met. Doesn't matter - we have a common interest. She has friends who have adopted children like us that she has never met and I don't find that strange.

Fortunately, for me I had a great opportunity to get together with two of these Internet buddies this past weekend and go for a ride in Snohomish county. By the way, explore other parts of the state - there are some fantastic places to ride. To date I've ridden in five different places in the state this year and also in Boise, Id. It helps keep our training fresh and new.

Back to the point of my rambling. Three of us got together to ride our vintage bikes - all from the 1980's and representing three countries - Italy, France and USA. The bikes respectively were a Colnago, Peugeot and Trek. The comradery you have while riding these older bikes is unexplainable. It's a pure joy to be out there on a 30 yo bicycle having a great conversation on a bright, sunny, windless day and know that we're not into the status of carbon fiber, the latest pro team kit for cycling wear, etc. We just want to ride our bikes.

So, don't discount the value of friendships developed online for a riding partners and ideas. Heck, you could just become a C&V junkie like the rest of us and enjoy stuff from the glory days of cycling.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Manastash Metric on Facebook

The RSVP organization has created a Facebook page for their ride. Check it out and "like" it.

Manastash Metric Century

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chip sealing 2011

Chip sealing has started and I've been slow in reporting it thanks to travel with my job. Chip sealing roads in Kittitas County is a normal summer activity after the fourth of July and also the bane of many cyclists in the area.

The county Public Works department has published the list which includes part of Fairview Rd, Badger Pocket Rd, and several in the upper county as well.

The link to county website is here: Click on the 2011 link to see the roads and schedule.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Adventures in a 24 hr race

One thing I've realized as I get older is adventure is not a bad thing. For years I have just gone through the motions - raising a family, riding a road bike, having the steady job. Things started moving toward more fun, and focusing a little time on myself, with the addition of classic and vintage bike collecting in the summer of 2008. Add to that teaching myself how to do a lot of the bike maintenance I had always told myself was too much of a pain to do and things were looking up.

Then came 2010 and my invitation, well more like strong arm twisting, to join a team for my former boss in a 24 hour mountain bike race. Ok, it was a friendly invitation, and I decided what the heck. The only problem was I had little to no, zip, nada mountain bike experience. All I had was a 1987 Trek Antelope tank and a 1992 Motiv Stonegrinder from Costco for bikes. Both were heavy and not really something I wanted to race on. Fortunately, my dad let me borrow his Klein Pulse Comp bike and I started "training". This amounted to two and a half weeks of riding fire roads in the Naneum State Forest. That doesn't exactly prepare you for a race of this nature (at least not me) which includes gravel roads, single track riding with a variety of obstacles - including what appears to the novice as boulders strategically placed in the middle of the path. Whose bright idea was that?

The 2010 race went well enough that I was convinced I had to do it again. I'm too competitive and always have to improve on my results - or at least try to. So, in June of last year I sold the only road bike I had purchased new and replaced it with my own Klein mountain bike - a 1996 Pulse II. Significantly, lighter than my dad's I was excited to do more off road cycling.

Fast forward to 2011 and my second attempt at the race. I had about a month of riding in the Naneum to prepare and was really looking forward to the weekend. My 15 year old, Galen, and I packed the car and headed to Spokane on Friday morning. Even though it was a leisurely drive, I was impatiently anticipating the race and the chance to compare how my Klein would stack up to my dad's.

We arrived at the camp site to some light rain and set up the tent around 2:30 pm and then got ready to preview the course as there were some changes due to flooding of a lower portion. This would be Galen's first significant ride on a mountain bike. Twenty minutes into the ride the skies opened up and we were drenched - right before 5 Minute Hill. That hill is enough of a grind in normal conditions. Throw in some hard rain and it sucked, especially waiting for Galen to finish walking up the last part of the hill that peaks at 15% gradient. Eventually the rain stopped and we made it through the course having dried out but completely muddy.

Galen's bike after the rain

Parts of the course left on Galen's shirt

The remainder of the team began arriving on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. There were two new members, Katie and Justin. Last minute additions who had also ridden the course the year before they were excited to being able to get a shot again this year. All told we ended up with six riders from the initial plan of seven. We were riding in the Corporate division - up to 10 riders per team. This year saw 855 registered riders - up 100 or so from the prior year. I would think at some point they will need to limit the number due to a the lack of camping space.

The team discussed our running order and I volunteered for the third spot again this year. Matt would be starting and Justin would run second. The start of the race is a Lemans style - all starting riders run a 600 yard course and then jump on their bikes. The run is designed to eliminate issues like mass pile ups at the start and space out the riders a little.

We were running the gamut for the first three laps - Matt on a cyclocross bike, Justin on a 29er and me on the Klein with 26" wheels. Surprisingly we all finished within 6 minutes of each other.

One of the best parts of the race is the run in to the finish. A nice long straight piece of road with campers on both sides cheering you on. It definitely helps the brain block pain and make you push a little harder. You can't let those people see you suffering.

I felt fantastic at the start of my first lap. I had the normal nervous stomach while waiting for Justin to arrive but it was primarily because I was really ready to get on the bike and start hammering away. Justin arrived with a time of 1:07 and passed the scoring transponder to me which I struggled to get attached snugly to my small wrist. I finally got it and jumped on the bike with adrenaline coursing through my body. Riders can get a little spread out initially thanks to the first hill 100 yards from the start line. At the top is a jeep trail that transitions quickly into single track. The course felt fast with the rain from the prior afternoon packing the dirt down. I found myself gaining on, and passing, riders on single track. That never happened last year and I was getting excited and more confident.

I followed another rider through the first tough rock garden - one I seriously struggled with the year before - and sprinted through the forests looking forward to the long hill climb that was coming up. There were 8-10 riders on the hill when I got to the bottom and I shifted down to keep the pedal cadence up and started plowing my way up to the top. I caught all but two of the riders and slowed a little at the top to recover briefly from the effort and then prepared to take off on the upcoming gravel road where you can really open up the speeds before the next section of single track.

Once past the first checkpoint, one with a beautiful view of the city and sunrise, I couldn't help but start thinking of Devil's Up and Devil's Down. The uphill portion of this got me every lap the prior year as I had to dismount and walk/run the bike up to the top of the first portion. This portion of the course had me so frustrated the year before I was determined not to let it happen again.

As I approached the roughest part of the hill I could see the primary path was to the right. I geared down lower than the year before and started making my way up. The gradient is easily 15% here so it's a slow crawl. Suddenly I found myself at the top and wanted to let out a loud yell in jubilation. I had finally conquered that piece of the course. But, I couldn't rest on my laurels for long because IT was fast approaching. IT was Devil's Down - a rough, steep downhill that I had navigated last year - albeit nervously each time. This downhill was in my brain - like food scalded to the bottom of a cooking pot - it was difficult to get out of my head. It intimidated and threatened me. Calling my name tauntingly and daring me to attempt a clean pass.

I slowly rolled over the top and took a deep, lingering breath. Here goes nothing. You start to the left and then cross to the right and finish on the left again as you come around the corner at the bottom. I wasn't on the brakes as hard as the year before. I'm not a confident downhill rider so I wasn't letting myself completely go as the top riders do down the hill. I made it through as a photographer took my picture, breathed a sigh of relief and started my sprint across the 'strawberry fields' section of the course. From here the upper loop is close to complete and there's a little over 5 miles to go.

I was feeling strong, fast and fresh as I started the next section of single track along the Spokane River. Last year my legs were burning at this point. I think the primary difference is I've learned to work with the bike on the trails rather than fight it. This keeps the body more relaxed and results in less sudden braking and, then, hard accelerations to get back up to speed. I passed several more riders on the next two uphill portions and also on the paved section of Centennial trail we were diverted to.

The last significant rock garden is on a slight downhill that banks to the left with trees on each side. I was three quarters the way through when the front wheel stopped abruptly. Physics dictates that momentum still exists when there is an abrupt stop like this. That momentum is the back end of the bike (and the rider) continuing up and over the handlebars. I stopped the fall with my hands and quickly picked up the bike all the while hearing a "what the ##*@&$$(&@$$& was that" in my head. The adrenaline was flowing again. I took off hard, determined not to let this happen again. I passed several more riders on the last hill and prepared for the run in to the finish. My time approaching the last hill was 57 minutes and I knew I needed to get moving. I had one gear left on the sprint to the finish and the legs were burning but my bike computer read just over 1 hr 3 minutes when I dismounted for finish. Elation reigned - I had beat last years first lap by over three minutes.

Now it was time to relax a little and prepare for the next lap - night time, in the dark, using a headlight and praying for the best. Last year I suffered a flat tire in the night which had ruined a decent run - I was on pace for 1 hr 20 minutes or so.

I decided to take the Klein for the night ride until I found that the seat post was too big for the tail light clamp. I moved to the second option, a friend's 1993 Scott Comp Racing bike. The frame is a little shorter but it's a quick nimble bike. I didn't have a light yet and had to borrow one. The light projected forward well enough but as I started my lap I found that I "outran" the beam fairly easily, especially on downhills. A little more forward projection might have prevented this but the light was clamped on the bar and there wasn't much I could do.

I was taking it conservative but also felt pretty good on the ride. I pulled over a few times to let faster riders go around me and then prepared for Devil's Up and Down again. I made it up the hill for the second straight time. Relief. I got to the top of Devil's Down and prepared myself as a rider behind me stopped to let me go first. I made it over the first big obstacles and then, without warning, about three quarters the way down I found myself airborne over the handlebars again. I still don't know what happened. I could feel the bike coming over me - still clipped to my feet. I caught myself with my hands but, again, physics took over and my body continued down until I heard the light crack of my helmet hitting a rock. I got up quickly and heard "are you alright?" from above. I yelled, "yes, just a second", threw the bike over my shoulder and ran down to a wide spot in the trail and then turned and yelled to the other rider that it was ok for him to go. Once he was past I had a little time to check the bike and then get on and start riding. I was pretty shook up and realized my neck and back were hurting badly - but I had to finish.

I crossed the strawberry fields section and made it down the next hill and crossed the lower section. Descending the last hill here I suddenly found the bike shooting out from beneath me to the left. I realized I had stuck just a little too far to the left in this "gully" descent and the front tire had been caught in the thick loose gravel and lost all traction. Needless to say I was fuming. Adrenaline was again running hard through my veins. The chain was jammed and it took a minute or so to fix it. Fortunately, the rest of the lap was uneventful but I had had enough. One hour and twenty six minutes. Another year where I had screwed up a decent lap time at night. Katie asked how my ride was when I handed of the transponder. My response - "crappy!" and I marched back to camp. So, here I should apologize to her for being so short. I was just too mad at myself.

To cut a long story short, the third lap was uneventful and approximately an hour and ten minutes in length. I didn't attempt Devil's Down, instead electing to use the longer off shoot to the right. My only vindication was catching a guy, who had been riding in front of me for several miles on the lower single track, on the last hill and then sprinting away from him at the finish.

Our team finished 22 out of 32 - much better than the year before. Great new friendships were formed. I ended up with a significant neck/back strain - made better with Vicodin. Katie injured her hand and hip after introducing herself to a tree on her night run. But, overall we had a blast and I'm sure are all ready to go at it again on Memorial Day weekend 2012.

My broken helmet

The team - Vikings

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Update to the updated road report

The weekend of May 14-16 saw a fierce rainstorm come through the Kittitas Valley that caused abnormal, as in not regular, flooding in the area. The Naneum State Forest area received somewhere between 2 and 3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period.

With the snowpack still pretty deep at the higher elevations I was concerned about road damage up in the Naneum forest. So, today I took a 21 mile ride up past Pearson Creek and really only saw one place with damage - right before the bridge 8 miles out at the junction to go to Pearson Cr, Swift Cr or Boulder Cr roads.

So, head on up there and enjoy the riding.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Naneum State Forest road report

With the weather drying out - with the exception of tonight and the mesmerizing sound of rain drops on a metal roof - I've been able to get the mountain bike out and head up into the Naneum State Forest. For those that aren't aware, the Department of Natural Resources, took over this area including purchasing some large tracts of private land in the last 18 months or so.

I primarily ride up the main gravel road from the end of the pavement on Naneum Rd. The first three miles the roadway has quite a volume of gravel and larger rocks. Now, that DNR trucks are up in the area there are areas where the road is covered in the rocks and you just have to pick a decent line.

The main road is dry and hard packed. Several areas have new potholes and minor damage to the road, but overall it's a really nice ride. The area is ripe for building some single track and, at some point, hopefully someone will spearhead that with the state. I know there are a couple of mountain bikers that work for DNR.

Naneum Rd at Pearson Creek - still pretty wet and muddy

Naneum Rd at Pearson Creek

Springtime meadow before cows and sheep invade

Pearson Creek

So, where to ride when you're up there. I would recommend picking up a DNR road map and even a Metsker's map for Kittitas County. But, a lot of it is trial and error. Here's a few options - all rides start from the parking area and the end of the pavement.

  • Head south on Naneum Road about 1/3 mile and cross the gate to the north (left) then take the power line road over two ridges and then left up the hill through Cave Canyon. The road climbs fairly steeply and comes out on top of the ridge with a magnificent sweeping view of the valley. From there you can continue to head up along the east ridge of the Naneum valley or take a steep and fast downhill run that ends up with some short single track in the pasture at the bottom. Warning - there are a couple of sections of loose rocks on the downhill that are tough to get through.

  • The easiest ride is out to the bridge at the "Y" and back. Total distance is about 8 miles. There's a lot of moderate climbing (nothing really steep )on the way out but it's a fast trip back.

  • About 1/4 mile from the bridge at the "Y" you can take a left and circle up and around to High Creek Rd. The loop will bring you out onto the main gravel road after a fun 2-3 mile downhill trek. The uphill climbing from either direction is tough in sections but not too long.

  • An option to the above loop is what I call the lower High Creek loop. About 2 miles up the the High Creek Road you'll see a yellow gate to the left. Go under, or around, it and follow that road for about a mile and a half and you'll come back out on the main road again. I saw elk every time I made this loop last year by the two little ponds you pass.

  • From the "Y" you can go left up Boulder Creek. This is a very good climb of about three miles and it will test you but the road is in very good condition. Once on top there are several options including riding around the Coleman Canyon or on to the north and working your way up the ridge toward the Mission Ridge ski area. You can also work back south along the ridge to Cave Canyon or, like me, stumble across a couple of really old logging roads and bomb down the hill until you hook up with Schnebly Canyon Rd.

  • From the "Y" go left and then take an almost immediate right and head up Swift Creek. There's one loop you can make to drop you back in on the Pearson Cr. Rd or you can continue up the ridge and hook in with the road to take you up the ridge. This is another good climbing road.

  • Finally, from the "Y" go left and continue up until you get to Naneum Pond - approximately 4.5 miles. You'll always want to keep Naneum Creek to your left. At the "Y" for Pearson Cr. Rd and Naneum Rd (about 1.5 miles up) stay to the left on Naneum and cross the Pearson Cr. bridge. It's about another 2.5 miles to Naneum Pond.

It should be noted the forest has an immense abundance of options for riding. There are many closed roads to motor vehicles. Go under the yellow gates and ride to your hearts content.

DNR is doing a lot of maintenance on some roads and I've even heard a rumor that they will be putting a bridge on the upper High Creek Rd so you can make the loop from Naneum Rd to Wilson Creek Rd without having to walk across High Creek. This will make a great ride.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 12 at the bike shop

Come to the Recycle Bicycle shop at 5:30 pm on May 12 and listen to a presentation from a Specialized rep regarding bike fit and it's importance for you body (knee, back, shoulder, etc. comfort) and power/speed. He has spent time in Europe with some of the top professional cyclists and will have some good observations on what correct bike fit has done for those riders.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Road conditions

As the weather finally looks to be making a turn for the better it's probably prudent to mention some local road conditions.

Early in April the county went through the lower valley and cleaned up the gravel and sand from the intersections and shoulders on Look Rd - the only one around here with a nice shoulder to ride on. It was none to soon as one of my tubular tires met its demise in the form of a sharp rock. The edges of the chip sealed road still have a fair amount of debris on the far right side of the pavement. The shoulders of I-90 and I-82 are still littered with a lot of debris from winter. I know, many of you think I'm nuts for riding on the freeway. It really doesn't bother me at all. there's a nice smooth shoulder and rumble strips - which is a lot nicer than having a jacked up 4X4 coming up behind you at 50+ mph on a road with no shoulders.

As for other road conditions, I am reminded daily how poor a job the county did with it's chip seal program last year. Two of the roads I travel frequently are Sanders Rd and No. 6 Rd. Both are horrendous in their condition - very rough and large sections of the chip seal that's non-existent. Supposedly chip sealing is designed to extend the life of a roadway but if it's done this poorly it'll be interesting to see how that pans out. I'd recommend staying off those two roads if you possibly can.

One can only hope that whomever does the work for the county this summer will actually make it a quality job.

Monday, April 4, 2011

CWU Bike Race - April 9

The Central Washington Bicycle club is hosting their annual race this coming weekend - April 9 and 10 - at a variety of locations in the lower valley. They have a need of 10 - 12 more volunteers for Saturday's road race in the Badger Pocket area. Corner marshals are needed to stop traffic and direct riders. Commitment would be from 8:00 am - early/mid-afternoon. The ending time is dependent on the speed of the races. You can find information on the race here. If you can volunteer contact Scott Patton at PattonSC @

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A few trails/paths if you don't mind driving

I started a new job (same company) this past Monday and spent the week in Spokane for a variety of things related to that work. One of the things we don't have much of in Kittitas County are paved multipurpose paths. We have to ride on the logging roads, paved county roads and sometimes (if you're crazy like me) the shoulder of the interstate. There are some nice single track trails in the upper county but on some you share with motorcyclists as well.

I often read and see pictures of different trails in Seattle - the Burke-Gilman being the most popular since it goes through the university district. But, there are also several others over on that side of the mountains that are good for cycling as long as you have the patience to endure those on foot or skates also.

The Spokane area has some really nice trails as well. I road on the Centennial trail from the Spokane valley to Post Falls. That trail however, goes from downtown Spokane to Coeur d'Alene, ID. It's a smooth trail that travels along the Spokane River much of the way. A few areas have some good bumps developing from roots under the path but overall the traffic this time of year on the path is optimal (aka quite light). In 21 miles I passed 5 other cyclists and just as many people walking. It was quite a nice ride. Unfortunately, some of the scenery enticed the desire to take some photos and I had left my camera in the car. Summertime on this trail can be a little busy but not like the western Washington ones.

If distance is what you're looking for check out the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes trail. A description from the internet states:

"The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bike path follows the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, to Plummer, a town on the prairie near the Washington border. More than 71 miles of paved path takes you from high mountain splendor, through the historic Silver Valley, into the chain lakes region, along the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, over the Chatcolet Bridge to Heyburn State Park, and finally climbs to the Palouse prairie: an adventure for the entire family! "

Again, weekends during the summer can be a little busy on the trail, especially along Lake Coeur d'Alene on the Plummer, ID side. I've found weekdays are the best time to ride.

Finally, there are a couple other options in north Idaho. One requires a mountain bike or cross bike with decent off road tires. This ride is the Trail of the Hiawatha. The trail is 15 miles long but you have the opportunity to ride through a perfectly straight 1.7 mile long railroad St. Paul Pass tunnel. Once that is done you travel through eight more tunnels and over seven steel trestles. As expected, a light on your bike is required. The gradient is only 2%. Day use fee is $9.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Never say never

As I've become a die hard member of the classic and vintage bicycle scene I have discovered one alarming thing about myself - I have a hard time saying no. Especially when something I find is good quality or a great reputation. I won't go as far to say it's disease, but there is definitely something addicting about the hunt for a quality vintage bike or component that makes it so fun.

For years my wife has been the bargain hunter. Now, I can try to do the same thing. I posted earlier about the 40+ year old Gitane that I built for essentially $35 and a lot of elbow grease. That's my most economical build to date. The next one (for a friend) may even top that.

I have discovered that what some others may call junk bikes may actually have some potential with parts. I recently won an auction for some bike parts at the CWU surplus sale. One of the bikes in the group was worth the price - however, it's too short so the frame will be sold. The parts will be kept for potential projects down the road. One of the frames in the bunch had a rare Sakae SR crankset with elliptical Ovaltech chainrings. I'll now have some rare Sakae and Stronglight (French) elliptical rings for my collection.

The Cascade Bicycle Club swap meet in Seatle this year was another success with the purchase of several different parts, some tires, a sweet Cinelli stem/handlebar combination, etc. for barely over $100. The fun is trying to track down the good deals. Two of the items cost 30% of the total cost.

I told myself in January - "No new bikes in 2011". Well, that lasted 2 months. This past week I walked into Goodwill here in town to meet my wife and sitting in the lobby for the wonderful price of $19.99 was a blue Motobecane (French - have I mentioned I like French bikes) mixte bicycle. "Ooohhhhh" went my brain and I found myself moving toward the bike as if some space age tractor beam had me by the neck and I couldn't break free.

I was expecting bottom end components and overall a bicycle in bad condition. It is so hard to stay calm when I started seeing Suntour components for the drivetrain and Normandy hubs on the wheels. The paint was in excellent condition with very few scratches.

My wife gave me permission to buy the bike and I happily, almost skipping, loaded it into the back of my car. After getting home I took note of all the components and started doing some research. The bike is a 1976 Super Mirage with all the stock components on it. The wheels are a little heavy (even though they're aluminum) and the handlebar and seat post are steel which adds weight. The chain may even be original. So it becomes one more project in the works when the current one is done. A complete overhaul will be needed - new cables, repack the bearings, new bar tape and (hopefully) brake hoods. The bike will make the perfect addition to the stable for neices and nephews when they visit to have something to ride with our kids.

Without further ado here are the pictures:

I forgot to mention I also picked up a free 1981 Motobecane mixte frame that same morning that someone had advertised on Craigslist. The frame material is actually a little better than the blue bike. It's got some paint chips and minor rust that will clean up fine.

Shimano Tourney crankset with Normandy Atom 440 pedals
Suntour Comp V front derailleur

Suntour ratcheting downtube shifters

Suntour V-GT Luxe rear derailleur

Weinmann 610 center pull brakes

SR French sized alloy stem

So much for not buying another bike this year.