Fourth Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge

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It’s almost here!

Originally posted on chasing mailboxes:

Coffeeneuring season has arrived! Hard to believe that the Coffeeneuring Challenge is now in its fourth year, but I looked at my calendar and it really is true. From 12 participants that first year to over 125 last year, coffeeneuring continues to grow. I hope you will consider giving it a go this year.

Coffeeneuring is based on an idea from Joe Platzner, of the Seattle Randonneurs. As he discussed life after the 2011 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris, he noted:

A bunch of us have trained pretty hard for PBP. After PBP, I’m probably going to lobby RUSA for an official “Coffee Shop Run” medal. To earn it, you need to ride your bike slowly to a nearby coffee shop and enjoy a fine beverage.

Coffeeneuring, I thought. It’s perfect! I launched the Coffeeneuring Challenge that year.

The Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is a relaxed weekend cycling endeavor for cyclists everywhere. If…

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Three Speed Ride: Saturday October 11


As promised, full details on the upcoming Three Speed Ride happening on Saturday October 11, 2014!

  • Meet at the foot of the Paul Bunyan statue in the Kenton neighborhood, N Denver and Interstate Avenues (near N Argyle St). We’ll start meeting at 10 am, and depart at 10:30 am sharp! Don’t be late!
  • The Paul Bunyan statue is conveniently located right across the street from the Kenton stop on the MAX light rail (yellow line.) If you are travelling from within the Portland metro area, I urge you to either ride or take transit to the start point. If travelling from outside the Portland metro area, there is generally ample street parking around the Kenton business district.
  • This will be the first time I will institute the “three speeds only” rule. And I’ll loosely define “three speed” as any internally geared hub between two and five speeds, basically, any type of IGH you could get before 1975. No single speeds, no internally-geared hubs with more than five speeds, and of course, no derailleurs. This applies to everyone, even if you are a member of SoTS, sorry. (I’ll make the small exception to Bromptons that have a three speed hub with two speed derailleur, with the caveat that you can’t use that derailleur.) I’ll still do at least one “open to all” Three Speed Ride a year, though (and we’ve already had two “open class” rides this year!)
  • The ride itself will be about 25 or so miles, a ramble around the peninsula of North Portland. The route of course is a secret, but we will end up close to the start point this time. Plan to spend the better part of the day on the ride. While 25 or so miles isn’t particularly long, this is a social affair with ample stops.
  • We will have a picnic/tea stop somewhere along the middle of the ride. Please be prepared by departure for this and have your foods, stoves, and anything else ready. We will probably not have a “store stop” before the picnic.
  • We’ll end at a spot where we can enjoy adult beverages.
  • And don’t start the ride on an empty stomach! I plan on having an ample breakfast in the Kenton neighborhood around 8:30 am. Are you interested? Please RSVP me by Thursday October 9th.

OK! Hope you can join us for what probably will be the last Three Speed Ride of 2014!

Heading out on the Three Speed Tour




Departure time, again. Thankfully managed to get it all in handlebar bag, frame bag, and Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag. For shits and giggles, I weighed the Camper at the baggage counter. 28 pounds, Yeeps! (Probably 5-10 lbs elsewhere on bike.) The bike handled well on the 4 mile ride to Union Station. Next stop: adventure!

The now tour, with a twist.


If you’ve been following along with the Home Version, you know that now is about the time I’m supposed to go on a week-long bike tour typed thing. I’ve planned on taking off time in September since last September, and over the course of the year, the idea of where to go refined itself several times over. I knew that’ I’d like to do something in Central Oregon, but the stops and routing changed like every month or so. By the time August had come, the idea was to start in The Dalles, head down over to Bend, then back over the Cascades to Eugene. While it wouldn’t be a “true” bikepacking trip, I hoped to incorporate a little bit of the Oregon Outback and find as much dirt/gravel as practicable.

Everything was full-speed-ahead with this plan until last weekend, when two unrelated things happened: I had a brutal run at work, nine days straight, with a 14 hour day followed immediately by a 10 hour shift. And the nightmare known as my teeth flared up, putting me in quite a bit of pain for several days. This sapped me of a lot of energy, and I started to doubt my desire–and possibly the physical ability–to pull off something so epic, especially if I needed to get dental work done right away. The pain did subside* but my enthusiasm for tackling the tour I had planned didn’t return, and I didn’t relish 60-80 mile days with several thousand feet of climbing practically every day. So I started to think of something less epic.

And something else happened after the weekend, something that made me rethink the whole idea of the upcoming bike tour. Something that got my enthusiasm level up. Rather than going the more rugged route, why not go in a different direction? With a different bike?

IMG_0890Yep, the Wayfarer!

“Wait a second, Shawn”, you are saying to yourself, “you’re going to tour on a three speed? You are crazy!”

Yep, maybe I am.

But maybe I’m also trying to prove a point, while living up to my role as President-For-Life of Society of Three Speeds. I’ve talked the talk, now I need to walk the walk, er, ride the ride. If I’ve been saying “three speeds is all you need”, then maybe I should demonstrate, eh?

Featured Image -- 3310While not common these days, three speed tours have happened, especially in eras where the three speed was the best bike you would find. Like England in the 1930’s for instance. And people have toured on three speeds recently, too. For example, this guy did a fairly extensive tour on a Trek Belleville three speed just last year.

And yes, going on the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour in May has definitely inspired me. I managed just fine riding through the rolling terrain around the Mississippi River with just three speeds on 40+ mile days. And heck, a good portion of that time was with the bike stuck in high gear. Sure, I didn’t have a true “touring load” but I knew I could go the distance.

And I’ve been talking about a three speed tour for some time. What better time is now?

Of course, one shouldn’t necessarily approach a three speed tour in the same way as other tours. I didn’t want anything that was going to be excessively hilly or feature real mountain climbs. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy. So I needed to look at somewhere that was flat or rolling yet not too over-the-top hilly. Initially I wanted to stay in Oregon but choices were limited. We don’t have too many rail-trails, so I couldn’t build a tour around that. The best option would be something in the Willamette Valley, but it wouldn’t be that long of a tour, and I really wasn’t feeling it.

It would be cool to go back to the Midwest and take advantage of the extensive rail-trail system there. But I don’t have a lot of time nor money for this vacation, so I didn’t want to spend the hundreds of dollars and four days it would require for me to take the Empire Builder back to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Another time, of course. So I decided to look northward. Washington has a pretty good system of rail-trails, especially around the Seattle area. Yeah, I didn’t really want to take the train back up to Seattle so soon, but this would give me the most options for the tour. And then it hit me: if I went to Washington, I could bike part of the Iron Horse trail, a trail I had been meaning to do for some time!

A section of the old Milwaukee Road/John Wayne Trail in eastern Washington. Note that the viaduct is pretty much gone.

The Iron Horse, or more correctly, the John Wayne Trail, is a rail-trail running west-east across Washington state using the right of way of the former Milwaukee Road railway. While the entire trail runs from the Seattle/Tacoma eastern suburbs to the Idaho border, the most developed section is west of the Columbia River. (The eastern portion is pretty much unimproved, just railroad ballast. I’ve heard of fat bikes riding this section, but anything less would be a grueling mission.) And the nicest section in terms of trail quality is from North Bend east to Easton Lake, the section known as Iron Horse State Park.

The Iron Horse is unpaved but sounds to be mostly crushed limestone (at least west of Easton Lake). Since it’s an old rail line, grades more than 2% are pretty much non-existent.* And while it parallels I-90, most of the route sounds like it’s in the woods and pretty scenic to boot. There are several primitive bike-only campsites along the trail, so I don’t have to worry about where to camp. And the big feature of the trail is the Snoqualmie Tunnel, a 2.5 mile rail tunnel through the pass.

So the question still lingers: Can I do it on my three speed? Well, I’ve ridden the Raleigh Wayfarer all week, and I feel good about it. I’ve whittled down the camp/touring kit, so I can keep the load fairly light. All I’ll need is the small handlebar bag, frame bag, and Carradice Camper Longflap, the same primary setup as the XO-3. (While the XO-3 has a front basket, I have a rear rack on the Wayfarer for extra storage capacity.) With a 46 tooth chainring and 23 tooth cog, my lowest gear is about 39 inches, not a granny gear, but comparable to the lowest gear in the big chainring of the XO-3.*** As long as I keep the steepness to a minimum, I should be okay. And the Panaracer Col de la Vie tires are about the same width as the Schwalbe Little Big Ben, so the “rough stuff” handling will be about the same. (The Col de la Vies are definitely more supple, though.)

So the plan is to ride from Seattle out and up the Iron Horse Trail across Snoqualmie Pass, then turn around at some point (probably a little after Cle Elum), head back to Seattle, then take Amtrak home. While my tour isn’t going to be as epic as the tour initially planned, I still will:

  • Cross a mountain pass (albeit a low one)
  • Get some gravel in
  • Go over to “the dry side”, if only for a little bit

Not too bad for a tour with a three speed that will be using mostly rail-trails, if I don’t say so myself. Of course, I can totally fail halfway through, you can go “I told you so, Shawn!” But even if that does happen (and I hope/doubt that it will), you’ll be reading a tour report about something even more unique than the umpteenth journal this week about a bikepacking trip. And that means something.

I’ll try to post a few times when I’m on the road, but you should definitely check out my flickr photostream which will probably be a bit more up-to-date. A full report will happen when I get back.

Wish me luck!

*To note: I know that dental issues just don’t “go away” on their own. I’ve already seen my dentist once, and have to go back after tour to get work done.

**Most mainline railways don’t want to use anything more than 3% as it would be too taxing on long trains. Logging railways that needed to get deep into the mountains would use steeper grades, though, but not much more than 5%.

***For full comparison, the lowest gear on the XO-3 is about 21 inches.

The return of the Wayfarer, or Wayfarer 2.0

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Originally posted on Society Of Three Speeds:
Hello friends. If you’ve paid enough attention to my blogs or photostreams, you’ve probably noticed that my Raleigh Wayfarer, my beloved three-speed, has not been seen nor mentioned for quite some time. Yes, this is true. I haven’t even had the bike over the better part of six…

Coffeeneuring Challenge, 2014 Edition

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Uh oh…trouble ahead. ;-)

Originally posted on chasing mailboxes:

Coffeeneuring Challenge

It all starts October 4. Mark your calendars.

More details coming your way next week.

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Sunset/Moonrise Burrito Club, 8 September 2014


Oh sure, I’ve done a score of Sunset Burrito Club adventures. But they’ve all been solo endeavors.* So planning one out as a social ride weeks in advance was a new thing. And the idea was that it would be a sunset and moonrise viewing spot, since the full moon was Monday September 8. And a full moon always rises right after the sun sets. So a good spot to watch both would be something sticking out into the Columbia River. Something like Ricky Point, obviously.

Of course, most people didn’t know that I’d be leading them to Ricky Point, since I didn’t tell them. And most people wouldn’t know where Ricky Point is anyway. (For those following at home, it’s an obscure point at the very east edge of Tomahawk Island.) So at 6:30 a group of eight (two stayed behind because “their friends weren’t there yet”) rode five miles from Acapulco Grill at N Lombard and Albina down to “the point”.

And the sunset and moonrise delivered. The day started cloudy, so I was a bit worried that the set/rise would be whited out by clouds. But everything cleared up. And we were treated to a spectacular rising of the harvest moon over the Columbia River.

Soon, darkness descended and everyone took off. Hopefully next month the weather will be good enough on the full moon to try something like this again!

*Except once during Pedalpalooza. I posted that I’d be doing it 90 minutes before it was going to happen. Of course, no one showed up.**

**And if you say, “Well, of course no one was going to show up”, I posted the Sunrise Coffee for the first day of Pedalpalooza one day before that was to happen and got five other people to show up. And this is like at 5:30 am ten miles from anything.

Islands and Sound Tour: A recap

Fog over the San Juan Islands.

Wow, time flies! It’s been almost a month since my Islands and Sound Tour back in August. And I’m finally getting around to writing up a wrap-up! So wrap away I will. Overall it was a good trip, but here are some more detailed thoughts, observations, and conclusions.

The Puget Sound/Georgia Strait/Strait of Juan De Fuca sure is a beautiful area. Okay, I’ve known that for at least 13 years, but every time I take a tour of this region, I am definitely reminded of this. And I really love all the various bays, channels, and islands of this region. We don’t have anything similar in Oregon, unfortunately, though we do have a great (and more easily accessible) actual Pacific Coast. And the Columbia River is awesome in its own right.

14695891268_fb81a5aef8_kFerry rides are fun. Again, I’ve known this for a bit, but this tour consisted of a ferry ride a day, so I got a lot of it in. While the scenery is of course great, my favorite aspect of the ferry ride is the chance to meet other bicyclists and cyclotourists. And there were plenty! While I did see my share of other riders on the road, on the ferry everyone is stopped for the duration of the trip, so it gives folks a chance to socialize.

Not all the riding was fun, however. While overall there was good riding on this trip, there were several sections of sub-par riding, basically when I had to ride the shoulder of a busy highway, or ride the lane of a busy, shoulderless road. Because of the geography of the area, this was often because there was no other choice.

Iceberg Point.

Iceberg Point.

Lopez Island was great, and I wish I had more time on the island. With four riding days, time was at a premium, and I ended up scheduling only one day on “Slow-pez”, one of the San Juan Islands. I thought a full day would be enough to circumnavigate the island. On paper this should be enough time, as it’s about 30 miles tops to do a loop, and the island isn’t that hilly. But then I got sidetracked, especially by Iceberg Point, a very scenic headland on the southwest corner of the island. As it was, I had to rush back to my campground because I didn’t want to ride after dark, and I skipped some places I wanted to go to.

In general, I wish I had more time to tour the area. I’d like to hit Cape Flattery on the NW corner of the Olympic Peninsula, more of the San Juan and Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, and all the way to Tofino on the far west end of Vancouver Island. To do the kind of tour I want to do in this region would require about three weeks, time I don’t have right now. All I can currently do is bits and pieces here and there, hence this tour.

15037533965_f6cee26816_kThe Bridgetone XO-3 performed remarkably well. This was the first time I’ve used the XO-3 on something other than an overnight camping excursion. To be honest, I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t do okay. But okay it did! I had no mechanical issues on tour, not even a flat. The 46-24 double crankset with a 13-34 7-speed cassette gave me a low of about 21 gear inches. That’s not super-duper low, but it was adequate enough. And the setup of small front basket, barrel handlebar bag, frame bag, and Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag carried everything I needed for the tour. At no point did I wish I had more capacity, which was a good thing. Part of this is because I’ve been spending the time and money to get smaller, lighter stuff. For instance, my tent with all the fixings weighs exactly 3 pounds. My sleeping bag, pillow, and bag liner all fit into a compressible 10 litre stuff sack. My clothing is generally lightweight. If I was going on a trip to a more remote area where I had to haul lots more food, the situation might be different, though.

The only area that can be improved is cockpit. After a year, I’m still not sold on the mustache bars. Some days they’re comfortable, some days not so much. And I’ve tweaked them a bunch. I don’t know if I’ll go to drops on the XO-3 (they still look cool, of course), but whenever I get another bike I may go back to plain ol’ drop bars.

Alright, enough reflecting. Time to move forward!


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