Post Xmas Night-time Ramble, Friday 26 December

Hey all! We’ll be having a fun little ride here on Friday December 26th. The holidays are over, now it’s time to get away from the fam and get on your bike. Meet at Hopworks Urban Brewery, 2944 SE Powell Blvd at 5pm for Happy Hour food and drink. We’ll depart sometime after 6. The ride will be undefined ramble somewhere in the 10-20 mile range. We’ll end at a place that we can get more drinks. Bring yer lights, dress warm, expect some gravel/dirt, hills, etc etc.

Hope you can join us!

Towards solstice, longer days and more rides

Yep, Winter Solstice is this weekend for us in the Northern Hemisphere. While I don’t hate winter in the Northwest, I do like longer days, and longer days will start happening soon.

The big problem for me with short days is…well, the shortness of the days. When there’s only eight hours of daylight, it does little to encourage me to ride my bike. Yes, I know I can ride at night, and yes, I have good lighting, so the darkness in itself isn’t the issue. But come the dark hours I’m more in the mood to hibernate at home than get out and ride beyond utility/commute purposes. This leaves my two days off as days to “take a bike ride”. And most of the time I’m too distracted with other stuff to get around to that, especially if I sleep in (which is easy for me to do on a day off). Hey, laundry needs to be done, other chores attended to, etc. Of course, when I do actually get on the bike for a ride, it feels good. But it’s all about the “getting on the bike” part.

About that commute: I remember talking to someone years ago who had a 10+ mile commute to work. I commented that it sounded like quite a long commute, and she said that it was perfect, because at that length she really felt like it was a “bike ride” and could get really into it. And after the commute I’ve had to work over the past year, I finally (finally!) understand what she was talking about. My commute to work is just under six miles (10 km), which, while not particularly long, ain’t short. It’s not like the 1 1/2 mile commute I had when I lived with April, where I could just about oversleep and get to work on time. Now when I oversleep, I’m late, no doubt. I have my commute trimmed to the fastest route possible, and I rarely deviate from it. Now a lot of it is pleasant riding, but it takes about 35 minutes,  just not enough. If I had a commute of ten miles, it would mean about an hour riding, long enough to get in the mode of riding a bike. Long enough to feel like I’m getting a bike ride.

I’ve thought about waking up earlier and doing a longer route into work. But that of course would mean waking up earlier. I’m lucky enough to get up on time! I’m still open to this idea, but it might be easier to roll out of bed when it’s not dark out in the morning.

And that time is coming, my friends. With longer days it will mean that eventually I’ll have the opportunity to just go on a bike ride after work without having to get so motivated. And longer daylight during days off means I can actually do nothing in the morn and still have time for a good ride later in the day.

And I’m waiting for that day.16045728101_3441fd1e04_h

Catching the Holiday Express

Every holiday season, from Thanksgiving weekend until about a week before Christmas, the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation runs the Holiday Express excursion train. The train runs along the old interurban line that parallels the Springwater Corridor, from the north entrance of the OMSI/Springwater Corridor near SE 4th and Stephens (right south of the rail musum) to Oaks Park on the Willamette River in Sellwood. There are two locomotives that pull it, depending on the year, the Southern Pacific 4449 (the Freedom Train) and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle 700. (Both locomotives live at the rail museum when not in service.) This year the 700 is pulling the excursion train. Sunday December 14 was the last day of operation for the season, so myself and other Mason Hill folk rode down there to check it out!

Cabin Camping at Stub Stewart: 6-7 December

Over the past weekend I participated in Cycle Wild’s camping trip to the cabins at Stub Stewart State Park, about 40 miles NW of Portland. I’ve cabin-camped here during the Cycle Wild New Years Trips of 2011, (and here2012, and 2013, so I’m not going to go into the nuts-and-bolts of what it is here. (You should read the provided links for more backstory.)

It was a bit different this time, as it wasn’t on the holiday, as Cycle Wild has broken away from that tradition. During New Years we’ve stayed out for two nights (although April and I stayed even longer a couple times.) This time was just an overnight trip. Since I actually had Sunday night off, I toyed with the idea of spending two nights in the cabins, but I didn’t want to book a whole cabin for myself for Sunday night,* nor did I want to bring a tent and pad and just go tent-camp either.** Besides, I had stuff I wanted to do at the house on Monday.

It’s pretty magical when Stub Stewart has snow. While Portland isn’t really snowy in the winter, since Stub is in the Coast Range, with elevations 900 to 1,300 feet, it’s enough to see some snow in the winter. Two of the past three trips saw snow, so I was hoping it would happen this year. No luck, as it was too warm (mid 50’s F) for any snow. But I’m not going to complain too much about pleasant temps and barely any rain!

The main group of Cycle Wild riders (about 20 people) met up in Hillsboro at 10 am. Since I had done the ride oh, so many times before, and the ride was about 24 miles total, I decided to leave late and do my own thing. Sometimes I like the group riding aspect, sometimes I like to amble along, stop and take pics when I want, and all that. So I didn’t get into Hillsboro until noon (via the MAX light rail) and didn’t arrive to the cabins until about 3:30pm.

It was an interesting mix. Cycle Wild camping trips can be incestuous affairs, seeing the same group of friends trip after trip. There were familiar faces, but a lot more new folks or folks I haven’t seen much of. Unfortunately because of this there wasn’t as much of a “big group element” to things as Stub trips of the past. Because we rented five cabins and many people hung out inside all night, there were folks I only caught a glimpse of when I arrived and when they departed in the morn. I’m sure there’s one or two people I didn’t see at all! Anyways, I alternated between hanging with some folks in the cabins and some by the fire through the night, until I got tired (read: felt the effects of the whiskey.)

I woke up around 8 am on Sunday and took my sweet time putzing around and making breakfast. I didn’t leave until about 11 am, leaving Stasia and myself as the last people there. I decided to take a side trail off of the Banks-Vernonia for a little bit. The 0.4 mile spur led to a “viewpoint” that was simply more of the same foresty view you can see from the main trail, but oh well, it’s nice to be in the forest!

I had a lunch break in the town of Banks, 12 miles from Stub Stewart and the end of the trail. I could have taken the direct way back to the MAX station in Hillsboro, another 12 miles, but I opted for a longer ramble. Since I don’t get out this way much, might as well take advantage of a beautiful day, right?

I used to joke that the reason why so many Oregon Randonneur events started in Washington County (the west side of the suburbs) because OR Rando is dominated by people who live on the west side. While this is somewhat true, over the past few years I’ve come to realize the real reason: lots of peaceful, scenic roads not too far away from “civilization”.*** I’ve ventured more and more out this way to explore. So it was fun taking a ramble out this way, some of it on gravel! The big problem is when one gets closer to civilization again. The roads retain the look and feel of the “peaceful” country roads further out, but the traffic greatly increases. The Washington County Bike Map is somewhat helpful in negotiating this demilitarized zone, so to speak, but it still could be better.

Soon I was back within the urban growth boundary. After a snack at New Seasons, I made it to the Quatama MAX station just before 4 pm, a bit tired, but fulfilled.

Check out my route from Stub Stewart to Quatama here.

Stasia’s report of the trip here.

Pete’s report of the trip here.

*Cabins are $44, plus an $8 reservation fee. Not super-expensive, but I was pretty broke this pay-period and didn’t want to plunk down that kind of cash. It would make more sense if I could find a couple people to split the cabin cost with, but finding folks willing to stay on Sunday night isn’t easy.

**I’m not really that into the idea of solo tent camping in the winter at the moment.

***And unlike Clackamas County, the suburban county to the south that also has a fair amount of peaceful, scenic roads, the drivers in Washington County don’t seem to be out to kill you.

PSA: Esbit coffee maker available at REI

The piece of camping gear that I get the most questions about is my Esbit stainless steel coffee maker. (Go check out info about my experiences with this kit here.) The problem is that it’s hard to find and appears sporadically in North America. Well, now REI has some in stock! It’s available in the Outlet as an overstock item, so you know it’s not going to be around long. (And since it’s at the Outlet, you’ll have to order it online.) So if you want one, get one now!

Seven and Seven is: A special year-end, get rid of “old” memberships sale

Originally posted on Society Of Three Speeds:

Hey there folks. I’ve been talking about how the Society of Three Speeds

All this could be yours! Or you can gift SOTS to someone you love!

All this could be yours! Or you can gift SOTS to someone you love!

Hey there folks. I’ve been talking about how the Society of Three Speeds membership price and package will change in 2015. And 2015 is just a month away! I need to get stuff ready for the “new” membership packets. Most likely the button and sticker designs will change, and it will cost more overall, probably $15 in the US.

But I still have a little bit of the stuff from the “old” membership package left, just enough for seven more memberships. So to encourage the getting rid of that stuff, I’m offering my last sale on memberships for awhile. $7 will get you the current (and only type of membership package I’ve offered since the inception of the Society!) delivered to you in…

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Crested Butte 2.0 or Crested Butte 0.5?

It’s been a weird year for my Raleigh Crested Butte. Coming into 2014, not much had changed to its setup since I did a bunch of stuff to it after purchasing it in October of 2012. The switches were pretty minor: replacing tires a few times, replacing the old rack with a Wald Giant Delivery Basket, getting dynamo lighting than un-getting dynamo lighting. But the fate of the Crested Butte hung in limbo for much of the past year. I was pretty sure that I would be selling it at some point since my fleet of bikes consisted of too many all-rounders and I wanted to thin the herd pending the upcoming bike project.

But it all changed in fall, and now with 2014 coming to a close, the Crested Butte has become the “keeper” all-rounder while I sold the Bridgestone XO-3 to a happy person. I’ll be getting more into why the XO-3 rather than the Crested Butte in a future post. But because the Crested Butte was now the keeper, it encouraged me to change up things a bit. Changes that I actually was considering before selling the XO-3, but now easier to justify when I have less bikes!

Y’see, while I have enjoyed the basic setup of the Crested Butte as I had built it, I had been wanting to make it more mountainbikey again, to bring it closer to its roots without going full-bore mountain bike territory, whether “mountain bike territory” of the vintage or modern era.

The biggest change I wanted to make was handlebars. The cruiseresque Civia Dupont bars were nice, but I have swept-back bars on the Raleigh Wayfarer (Nitto Albatross), so I wanted to try something different, something a bit more “aggressive” yet not in full straight bar territory. I still have the original Bullmoose bars that came with the bike. I loved the look of the bars and wished I could keep them on, but they were too forward and too low for my liking. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a stem riser* to give it more height, but it still might not work for me, and I didn’t want to go through all that work to have that happen.** So I looked at other options, and came to the decision of getting Surly Open Bars.

The things that drew me to the Open Bars are its chro-moly construction, North Roadish shape, and very generous width: billed at 666 devilish millimetres. Not too many bars wider than that, and I wanted wide bars for this bike!

I had been wanting to try some Ergon grips for awhile, so new bars would be a good opportunity. Because I’m me, of course I went for the ones with the composite corkish material! I like them so far, but still need to adjust them some more.

The new bars have given me more “real estate” in the cockpit area, so I decided to add another handlebar mounted bottle cage as well. I like me some water bottle cages!

I also decided to go back to dynamo lighting. You may remember that my bottle dyno setup was originally on the Crested Butte, but I decided to switch it over to the XO-3 when I thought that it would be the “keeper” bike.*** Sure, I  could have switched the setup back to the Crested Butte, but I didn’t want to go through all that work again, and I’d rather just get a dynohub front wheel instead. Of course the “problem” with that is that there was nothing wrong with the existing front wheel (and a great one it is!) so I was loathe to replace it.**** (This is why it got a bottle dynamo setup in the first place.) But I bit the bullet and bought a nice pre-built Shimano Deore LX dynohub laced to a Mavic rim. And I pulled out the old B+M Lumotec LED headlight I had on the Long Haul Trucker before I sold it. (The amazing thing is the capacitor still held a charge, even though it hadn’t been used in a year!)

The final “big” change was new tires. I know, I know, I switch tires more often than David Bowie***** switches identities. And there was nothing wrong with the Rubena Cityhoppers that were on there. (To note: I still like the Cityhoppers.) But I wanted something more mountainbikish, maybe not full-on aggressive knobs, but something. Of course this would mean black tires, since there’s no colored options in the semi-aggressive tread varieties, not even gumwalls. (Believe me, I looked around a lot. If anyone can find some, let me know.) After a lot of back and forth, I decided on the Continental Traffic tires. Moderately priced ($30 each), with a knob pattern that leaves a flat ridge in the center with more pronounced knobs on the edges. Basically designed for mostly pavement use, which is what I mostly used them for. I haven’t felt any penalty on pavement and there is little noise. They did come in handy on the more mucky roads during the Chehalem Range Ramble. But they are not supple tires, my friends.

So the Crested Butte is more a mountain bike again. But a gentlemen’s mountain bike, since it still has bits like mudguards, Brooks saddle, Carradice bags, and front baskets. It’s been working good so far. I had no complaints during my Chehalem Range Ramble. Yeah, it ain’t a fast bike, but I managed the 60 or so miles of riding that day without much complaint. This is significant since I hadn’t really used the Crested Butte on long rides before, since I had other bikes that I would ride in the 40+ mile territory. But since the Crested Butte is really the only bike in this category for now, it’ll have to do! And there ain’t nothing wrong with that. Because this bike is fun.

*Bullmoose bars are  a single bar/stem unit.

**I realize that Rivendell has their modern Bosco Bullmoose bars which seem the best of both worlds: bullmoose triangle with swept back grip area. The problem is it won’t fit my bike as it takes a non-standard 21.1 stem.

***It was also prompted by the fact that the front rack holding the headlamp on the Crested Butte had broke, and I managed to slice the wiring when I was uninstalling the rack.

****One of the greatest things about the original wheel (besides its pretty high-flange hubs) was the width of the Araya rim, a generous 1.75″, wider than most common rims.

*****Or Madonna.

An errandonee to the Swedish Shopping Embassy

Sometimes ya gotta do adult world stuff. Like purchase household items. A new shower curtain here, a new pillow there, a clothes drying rack somewhere over there. Of course there are many places to purchase said goods in a city like Portland (hello, Fred Meyer!) but sometimes it’s just better to go to the Swedish Embassy of Shopping out by the airport. And on Tuesday November 25, I decided that I had enough of a list to justify a trip, and I’d rather not go out there during the “holiday season”.

Of course most people drive there. And I could take the MAX light rail there as well. But heck, why not bike there? That’s what I’ve done pretty much anytime before!

I decided that the Schwinn Heavy Duti would be the most appropriate tool for the job, as it has the humongous Wald front basket.

And since I wanted the ride to be a bit more “fun” than simply going to the Swedish Shopping Embassy and back, I decided to go the longer way and head due north to the Columbia River first. Out at Broughton Beach (Portland’s only “true” Columbia River beach)* I couldn’t resist riding the Heavy Duti across the sand with its Fat Frank tires. They did OK on packed sand, but not that good on the loose stuff. If I really wanted to play around, I would have lowered the air pressure (I had them at 35 psi) but for such a small section of sand it wasn’t worth the trouble.

A bit of riding along the path along the river and a cut through through the Cascade Station retail corridor, and I was at my destination. There were loads of people coming in and out of the building, but despite the ample amounts of bike parking available, I was the only one with a bike. Oh well. I loaded my shopping cart with the things I need, tried to avoid buying the things I didn’t need (though it’s hard at a place like this),** but still paid a bit more than I would have liked.

Now the time of truth: getting it all on the bike. The Wald Giant Delivery Basket quickly became laden with stuff. The clothes drying rack, about four feet long, got strapped to the top of the basket, along with the pillow. It was a bit unwieldly, but I managed. The biggest drama now was it was getting dark, rush hour at hand, and the faster way home meant a few miles of no shoulder and faster traffic. But I managed, the only danger encountered was a loosening of handlebars when starting up at an intersection. (Note to self: tighten handlebars.)

All in all, a 15 mile round-trip, a good long ride on a beast like the Heavy Duti. It did well, but there were times where I wished for a higher gear. (You can tell that this ride was mostly flat, eh?) Now hopefully I don’t have to go back to the Swedish Shopping Embassy for another six months or so…

Ride With GPS route.

*There is a bit of beach at Kelley Point Park, but it doesn’t have lifeguards and all that business.

**”Should I get a second set of sheets? Do I really need a second set of sheets?”