A Sunday Ramble while some game was going on, plus a rack for the Bantam

It’s spring here in Portland! Woot! Yeah, while technically by the calendar we’re still in a season called “winter”, I’ve often commented that Portland’s four seasons are: summer, fall, extended late fall, and extended spring. We don’t get “real” winter here, it’s basically November from…November through January. And February is when it tips over to the four or so months of spring we get, until the rains stop sometime in June (ish). I’ve seen bulbs budding, flowers blooming, and now, some nice weather, the nicest so far for 2016, with a high temp for Sunday February 7 of 62F/17C. It’s in the friggin’ 60’s man!

Of course I need to go on a bike ride. And Sunday afternoon into evening was a nice time to do so, since about 95% of America is indoors, watching television right at that moment. I think it had something to do with sports. Because the roads were even lighter than a typical light Sunday afternoon, it was bliss riding around. I headed across the river and did a few errands at places like REI. REI is typically choked with folks on a Sunday afternoon, today I could hear a pin drop. Trader Joe’s would also be chock-a-block with folks, today (after the “game” started), not so.

After the west side adventure, I crossed the Broadway Bridge (catching a glimpse of Hood glowing in the setting sun) and decided to hit the beach down on Swan Island. I hadn’t been here since summer, so a day with mild temperatures seemed like an appropriate time to revisit. There were only a few folks down there, so I had the place mostly to myself while the day’s light faded and the glow and the hum from the industry along the Willamette River increased.

After that, I decided to head up the hill, have an adult beverage at Lucky Lab, and head home. The next few days will be equally nice, but unfortunately, there will be more people outside. ;-)


Sunday was also a time to test out the new configuration on the Bantam Rambleneur. After six months of owning the bike, and despite the bike being designed around a front-load bias, I finally got a front rack! There was always the idea of having a front rack on here, but at the time of the build I was already stretching my thin budget, so it didn’t happen then. Plus, I wanted to see how far I could get without one.

The Eastern Oregon tour in September was the testing ground for the “rackless” setup, and I did okay with the barrel handlebar bag/two Anything cages/frame bag/Carradice Camper Longflap bag. But it was just okay. Thankfully it was a group tour, and everyone else had too much capacity (and the willingness to carry extra stuff) so it wasn’t a problem that I was pretty maxed out the whole time. But if I want to do more solo tours, unless I go with lighter/smaller things than I already have (and my setup is already fairly light and compact), I want to have a little more carrying capacity. I might not need it all the time, but it would be nice to have it when I do.

Of course, saying I need a rack is the easy part. Getting an appropriate one is a bit more difficult. Since I want to still use Salsa Anything cages on the front fork, and disc brakes present issues, I was on the lookout for a small platform rack that mounts high. The problem with this category is there’s not a big selection, and it tends to run towards the expensive side of things. Unless you have canti posts (I don’t) and want to go with the cheapie Sunlite rack (which I used on the Crested Butte for awhile, and was not impressed with), you need to go with something fancy. And ain’t no fancier rack maker than Nitto! I had my eye on the “Mark’s Rack” since it has adjustable struts. I saved up enough cash and got one last month, but just got around to having it mounted on Saturday.

Right now, I’ve got the classic setup of a Wald basket zip-tied to the platform, a setup I’ve come to like over the last three or so years, but haven’t had on a bike since I removed the front rack on my Crested Butte in October. (That giant Wald basket on the Heavy Duti don’t count! ;-)  ) I know, very Grant Petersen. But when he’s right, he’s right. Now having the small front basket with barrel handlebar bag plus Carradice in rear makes the Bantam similar in setup to the old Bridgestone XO-3 I sold in late 2014. And it’s no surprise, since the Bantam basically replaces the XO-3 and the build was based around XO series geometry. Now, after thousands of dollars spent, I’m back to where I started from. Oh, the irony!

Having the Nitto rack also means I can use my custom North St. randonneur handlebar bag, a bag I haven’t used since I sold my Long Haul Trucker in late 2013. I’ll have to get the bag modded a little to fit the new rack (it was based around the Jandd Extreme rack I had on the LHT) and also add a decaleur (not to mention remove the barrel bag). It would be nice to use that rando bag for a bit, especially since I want to try a few rando events again this year. It probably won’t be my “regular” setup as I’ve grown to like the front basket setup, but it’s nice to have options!

To test it out on Sunday, I put a small load of groceries from TJ’s in there. Groceries is always a good test of handling and abilities, since they’re always heavier than you think they are. The bike handled fine, no differently than without the rack, basket, and groceries. I think I got a keeper here!

Winter dreaming

It looks like it might be a year of three speed camping and touring!

The Early Morning Cyclist

A bit chilly. Damn windy. But every now and then the sun comes out from behind the cloud cover and the day suddenly becomes a whole lot more reasonable.

I find myself spinning in a much lower gear than I’d prefer. Long weeks off the road, and longer evenings occasionally spinning indoors on a trainer don’t do much for maintaining my climbing legs. The best I can say is that I’m not breathing hard, so the lungs haven’t atrophied during my vacation from riding.

Let me reconsider that last statement. No. In fact the best I can say is that I’m out on the road, enjoying being outside. That’s the best, and it’s quite good enough – so don’t let me kid anyone with my whining. A few miles down the road I meet up with another rider. We exchange nods and pedal in silence. Just before he hangs a…

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Still got some sale memberships, four to be exact. Plus, a contest!

Society Of Three Speeds

wpid-wp-1446929950036.jpgHello friends! Quite a few of you have purchased the sale SoTS memberships, thank you! But I still have some membership packs left, four to be exact. I REALLY  want to get rid of them, so I’m still keeping the sale price of $4 plus shipping until these run out!

One note about shipping:International shipping rates went WAY UP in January. For those of you in the US, you’ll still be paying $3 for shipping, bringing the total cost to $7. However, if you live anywhere else in the world, you are not going to like the new rates. I apologize for that, but unfortunately there’s nothing I can do. Any time I put “merchandise” in an envelope, it has to go package rate, and the base price for international package rates are astronomical! Sure, I could just hope that they don’t notice, and just put a global first…

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The post dentist ramble, 2 Feb 2016

I had a day off from work on Tuesday. I had two obligations, a dentist appointment in the outer-outer-SW neighborhood of Garden Home, followed by the “retirement” party of my friend Carl from his job at the BTA in the inner-inner-SW neighborhood of Goose Hollow.  The 13 mile ride out to the dentist is pretty direct, summed up by Vancouver/Broadway/Terwilliger/Barbur/Multnomah. I could simply go that way back into downtown, but I wanted to mix things up a little bit, since it was a nice day and I wanted to explore some different areas. Why squander the opportunity?

And after sitting in a dentist chair for 2 1/2 hours (!) I was itching to get out. So using both the Bike There map and (cough) Google maps (cough cough) on ye olde smartphone, I crafted a route that would head up to Washington Park, where I would descend down to Goose Hollow. You can see the route I took here.

The first mile was on the pleasant Fanno Creek Road. After that, I was on suburban Washington County streets right at the height of rush hour. The next few miles were not fun (esp. Laurelwood Ave, which did not have bike lanes.) Thankfully, I soon entered quieter neighborhood streets that wound through pleasant mid-century neighborhoods.

And wound up, as I would have to summit the West Hills. There was a short steep climb on Ridgewood, but Canyon Drive was more of a good gradual grade, until I got to the southside of the US 26 Freeway (Sunset Highway.) A short bike-only path greeted me, then another good climb on Raab Road until I got to the first summit at Scholls Ferry Road in Sylvan. On the way up, I saw a few other cyclists. Commuters out this way are definitely more “roadie” than I, with spandex and neon everywhere.

A short descent down Canyon Road brought me to the entrance of Washington Park right by the Oregon Zoo. It would be a bit more climbing until the real descending started. I had two choices: I could take the steeper bomb down Fairview (aka Zoobomb  2.0) or the more mellower bomb down Kingston (aka Zoobomb OG). I opted for Kingston for an important reason: I just got a new dynolight setup on the Crested Butte (the bike I was riding) and I wanted to test it out. Kingston winds through the woods, and is completely unlit. It was about 6 pm now, and in early February it was plenty dark. So I would only be seeing by my headlight. And yes, the light is plenty bright! (But of course, I wasn’t going super-fast, as the road can be a bit rough.)

After that, it was a more well lit bomb down into the hollow. Goose Hollow Inn was packed as many a folk know Carl and wanted to give their best wishes. I saw quite a few folks I had not seen in a long time. A good time to be had!

Not going for the one a month club, unfortunately.

"Look natural" I said.

“Look natural” I said.

At the beginning of each year, someone proposes the idea of doing one bike camping overnight a month. Here in the pretty-damn-temperate Northwest, it IS feasible to bike camp (with tent!) every month of the year, so for the last couple years I thought about joining the “One A Month” club. Last year started off on a good foot, with camping in January! But things petered out, and I ended up going on less camping trips than I expected.

And this year? This year, I won’t be part of the “One a Month” Club. January came and went, and no camping. This is due to two things: lack of time, and crap weather. While January was better than December in the rain department, it would be hard for January to be worse, since we had record-breaking rains in December (over 13 inches!) While we didn’t see the deluges of December this past month, it was still fairly wet overall, and planning of trips was hard since the default forecast was “chance of rain” even if it wasn’t going to.

But I think the harder thing was the lack of time. In order for me to enjoy a mid-winter camping excursion, I need two consecutive days off. With the short days, I’m not in the mood to do a “dash from work and set up camp in the dark” experience. Summertime, sure, but not now. And I only had two consecutive days off from work in January, as things there have been very busy.  And the weather was crap then. (I had actually planned on camping that “weekend”, but bailed when the weather forecast didn’t improve.

That all doesn’t matter now. But it’s hard not to get jealous when I see someone else having a great bike overnight in January. Sigh.

And now February is here. And I really would like to camp soon. Thankfully the “long-range” forecast for next week promises drier weather. With any luck, my two days off will happen then. And as long as the stars align, I’ll pack up my bike and head to a campground. If I can’t get a camping trip in every month this year, I’ll try to get in as many months as I can!!

Reminder: Last chance to get memberships before the price increase!

Society Of Three Speeds

wpid-wp-1446929950036.jpgHey folks, just reminding you that the price of memberships increasing to $15 in the US (price with shipping included) on Monday February 1st. But right now, you can get the current memberships at a low, low price!

Yes, until 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Sunday January 31, 2016, the price for memberships will only be $7 in the US, $11 rest of world! I really want to get rid of the old stock of stuff so I can make some new and cool things for the membership kit. So the time to get the “old” kit is now! And please remember, this is while quantities still last. If they run out before the first, they run out!

Please go here to buy one!

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An unexpected Wednesday ramble, or rediscovering the Heavy Duti

Wednesday January 27 was my only true day off this week. I had no ambitious plans, as I wanted to do some stuff around the house. Also, a bit too much whisky the night before left me a bit too little energy. But I wanted to at least a short bike ride, as the day would be dry and I also needed to pick up some groceries.

I decided to pull out the Schwinn Heavy Duti, since besides a couple very short jaunts over the last few months, it’s been a while since I rode it. Also, I was still unsure of the whole giant basket and bullmoose setup, so the only way to find out was to ride it.

I left a little after noon, motivated because there looked to be a band of showers maybe ninety minutes from Portland. (This scenario would actually last all day, as the band of showers seemed to stall over the coast.) It would be only a short jaunt to the store, but I decided to go the long way via the Columbia Slough Trail.

I had just ridden the trail the week previous, but there’s nothing wrong with riding it again so soon! In fact, I don’t know why I don’t ride it more often, as it’s only a mile from my house, and provides miles of flat, scenic, and most importantly no-stress riding. Oh yeah, because it’s not on the way to anything. But I should revel in that!

I could have cut back over to “the mainland” via the North Denver Avenue viaduct, but I was having fun, so I decided to go even further, to the bridge over the slough by the water treatment plant, then cut across the peninsula via the Peninsula Crossing Path.

My worries about the giant basket and bullmoose bars melted, as the handling seemed fine. And riding the Heavy Duti is always weird for the first few minutes since I need to get used to the coaster brake again. This is one of the reasons why I don’t ride it that much, the solitary coaster brake. It’s funny to think that most of us started out riding coaster braked bikes and didn’t worry about it. Now at my risk-adverse age of 40, not having a front brake does concern me.

So should I go through the trouble and effort to do something about it? Part of me says no, keep the bike as it is, it’s a bike I haven’t spent a lot of money on, and I have three other bikes with better brakes. And there would be no easy or cheap way of going about it. Part of me says yes, because I like riding this bike and it would encourage me to use it more often.

And that is the big thing: I do like riding this bike. Despite its name, it doesn’t feel as heavy as it should.  And the single gear around 60 gear-inches is pretty practical, too. Sure, I don’t try to climb too many big hills with it, but it works pretty well for around town riding. This cruise around North Portland reminded me how much I do like this bike. The bullmoose bars made it feel slightly more sporty, if that could be possible.

I did a fly-by of Waud Bluff, looking down at Swan Island. A cruise ship was in the dry dock, and Mount Hood was getting shrouded in clouds. The weather still holding out, a high around 55F again, me with just a flannel shirt. Eventually I hit up the market, ate a lunch, and headed home. By this point the wind was picking up a bit, and I could feel the rains coming.

What was to be a short jaunt turned into a thirteen mile loop. It was a good time, and I need to get out on the Heavy Duti again soon. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to do so!

My bike route here on RideWithGPS.

Hints of spring

I’ve lived long enough away from a snowy climate (almost 16 years!) that I can appreciate a little snow here in the winter. But there’s a definite window of appreciation, basically December into January. Once January winds down and spring is starting to make itself aware, I’m less inclined to dig a snowfall. Thankfully once we hit the end of January snowfalls are rare. Sure, we could get a dusting in February or even March, but “real snow” usually doesn’t happen, the sole exception in my fifteen years here was the snowstorm in February 2014.

And right now, spring is starting to make itself known. The last few days we’ve had mostly dry skies and temperatures between 55 and 60F. Sixty degrees! So balmy after a few months of “winter” temps. And I’ve seen some very early buds and bulbs, too.

I’ve been trying to enjoy this pseudo-spring as much as I can, which is hard with me working weekends and the short days of January. After work on Monday I decided to ride up to Mount Tabor, as it’s quick and relatively easy to do after work, even in January. (I get out of work at 3 pm, which helps!) All I needed to wear was a t-shirt with flannel over it. Many people were enjoying the top of Tabor as well, which was to be expected. Rather than deal with the throngs, I descended to the east side of Tabor, which offers the best view of Mount Hood to be found on this extinct volcano. Few people were in the east side picnic area, which was nice. I decided to read a book for awhile, while waiting for the sun to go down.

Oh Mount Hood, you still are magical to me after fifteen years of being in Portland. Sometimes I wonder why I’m still here, but all I need to do is wait for a clear day and look at you. And the best part of it all is that the view of Hood (and all the other mountains) is absolutely free.

And also to note: the east side picnic area is always shaded. Yet I sat here for over a half hour on a January day, reading a book in no more than a t-shirt and flannel. I started to get cool towards the end, sure and the descent down Tabor was chilly, but there’s not a lot of places in the US I could get away with this, this time of year.

Soon, I was done with being atop Tabor, so I descended down to the Montavilla neighborhood for pizza and beer. On the way home I got to watch the just-past-full-moon rise over the city. It was beautiful.

I know that the wet season still has a ways to go, and full-blown spring is at least a month away. But days like this keep me positive, and make me look forward to the future.