Islands Bound…

wp-1474827643763.jpgHello friends! It’s time for another bike adventure!

This evening, Sunday September 25, I will board Amtrak and head north to Seattle. After spending the night, I’ll hop on the ferry (Victoria Clipper) and head to Vancouver Island! I’ll be spending a day in Victoria, then do a loop on the SE part of the island. After that, I’ll be doing some island hopping (Salt Spring, San Juan, Lopez) before I hit the “mainland”, albeit Fidalgo Island. From there I ride south through Whidbey Island, hop another ferry to Port Townsend, and wind my way back to Seattle, where I’ll spend the night (Tuesday October 4). I’ll then take a train home to Portland on the eve of Wednesday October 5. Whew!

It should be lots of fun! I love heading up to the islands, and this will be my most extensive trip there in years. Also, it’s the first time I’ve been back to Victoria/Vancouver Island since 2009, which is quite a while. I really wish I could get two full weeks to do this rather than a week plus, because the getting to the islands basically suck out a day of travel on either end. I’d really like to get to explore Vancouver Island more and hit Tofino, the true “west coast” of Canada. But that takes a long time to get there! So right now I’ll just have to be satisfied with lots of ferry rides, beaches, blue water, and trees.🙂 (And some hills.)

I’ll try to post from the road, but the best way to see what’s going on is by checking out either my Instagram, tumblr, or flickr feeds.

ANNOUNCING: The Three Speed October Challenge!

Society Of Three Speeds

threespeedoct2016stickerflatIntroducing a little challenge! You of course realize that I love all things three speed. But here’s the thing: I love three speeds as bikes to ride, as transportation. Not as things to gawk at or pull out just for “special” rides. Nosiree! So to encourage folks to get on their three speeds and ride, I introduce a li’l challenge: THREE SPEED OCTOBER!

The premise is simple: Ride your three speed during the month of October! Here are the basic stipulations of this challenge:

  1. Ride a three speed bicycle
  2. Three times a week during a calendar week (Sunday through Saturday)
  3. At least three miles (5 km) each trip
  4. For at least three weeks
  5. Between Sunday October 2 and Saturday November 5 2016
  6. At least one ride a week should be for utility/errands/commuting

And those of you who successfully complete the challenge will get something! Three lucky folk will win memberships…

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A Wednesday ramble, and the Gentlemen’s Country Bike (14 Sept 2016)

Astute followers of my photostreams (whether flickr, tumblr, or Instagram) may have noticed I’ve spent a decent amount of time on my lovely Raleigh Superbe the past month or two, a bike I still haven’t formally introduced here. (Soon!) The big reason is while I have owned the bike since last September and it’s been “road worthy” since March, I haven’t gotten it fully “dialed in” until just about now. And now that it’s dialed in, just about right, I want to ride the bike a bunch!

There are three significant rideable volcanic buttes on the eastside of Portland: Mt Tabor, Rocky Butte, and Powell Butte.* All of these hills top out around 600 feet in elevation, and are about 200-400 above the surrounding landscape. I’ve ridden most of my bikes to all three of the buttes, but up until now I never rode a three speed to the top of all three. I’ve ridden my three speeds up Tabor and Rocky, but never Powell. Part of it is that it’s the furthest one out. But I think I never did it is that most ways up are rough unpaved tracks that are more suited for fatter tired and more geared machines.**

But is that really so? When the three speed was the only game in town, many folk in the British Isles took them to all sorts of rough and steep places. In fact, “pass storming”, hitting up the highest points in an area, would have been done on a three speed. Now would these folks have done all this “rough stuff” on a three speed if there was a better tool for the job? Probably, though I’m sure there was a certain breed of purist who would have still stuck to something with an AW hub, even if it meant a fair deal of pushing. (And there usually was.) But the fact remains that they DID IT. And why couldn’t I? It’s not like Powell Butte is that high.

After riding to both the tops of Mount Tabor and Rocky Butte on the Raleigh Superbe, I finally made the time to summit Powell on Wednesday. The route I chose up consisted of Holgate Lane (connects to SE Holgate Blvd), which after testing out a few ways up over the years is the easiest way to get to the meadow plateau. While it’s a bit rocky, it maintains a consistent grade of about 6%, which is totally manageable with a low of 40 gear-inches. And while the Panaracer Col de la Vies are by no means “fat”, the 40 mm width and relative suppleness*** of the tires handled the rough stuff pretty good, better than the Delta Cruisers would have. From the edge of the plateau, it was still maybe a mile of winding up the meadowlands to the top, which wasn’t that hard at all. And then the reward: An expansive view, one of the best in the city! I ate a burrito and a beverage, hung out in the splendour, and rode back down a trail as the light faded.

And you know what? It was a fine ride. Sure, it may have been a little nicer with a bike with more gears, and wider tires. But at no point was I “suffering”, well, not suffering beyond climbing a big hill! And while someone who needs to put labels and #hashtags on every aspect of biking may call it #underbiking, but how can you “under” bike when the bike was adequate for what you are doing?

Let’s face it: an old British three speed is a lot more versatile than modern folk think, especially the “sports roadster” class  that covers my Raleigh Superbe. It was useful enough to be an upright daily commuter bike for the masses of England, but also got folks into the countryside. And those who couldn’t afford a lightweight “club” bike in addition to a Sports simply removed the fenders and turned the bars on racing day. And there was of course the “pass stormers” mentioned above.

A bike like the Raleigh Sports/Superbe or any British sports tourer, if made today, would probably be called a hybrid. But I’d like to use another term, an all-rounder. Or maybe even another fancier term. You’ve heard the term “country bike” coined by Rivendell’s head honcho Grant Petersen? Well, a three speed sports tourer is a “gentlemens” (or “ladies”) country bike!

*Kelly Butte is sort of rideable, but there is no great view from the top. The new service road on the west side has a view, though, but it’s not “the top”.

**The one paved access road from the entrance at SE 162nd Ave and Powell is pretty steep. It tops off at 12%, a grade I don’t care to do on any bike!

***I said “relative”.

6th Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge: The Spirit of Coffeeneuring

Coffeeneuring is almost here!

Now in its sixth year, the Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge is a relaxed cycling endeavor for people everywhere. If you like riding a bike and enjoy drinking coffee or tea (or even hot chocolate or cider), consider this challenge.

In a nod to the French as well as randonneuring, the Coffeeneuring Challenge has its share of rules. Don’t let them intimidate you, though. As those who have successfully completed the challenge will attest, they are all manageable. Essentially the challenge boils down to this:

  • over the course of 7 weeks,
  • ride your bike 7 different places,
  • at least 2 miles round-trip each time,
  • drink 7 cups of coffee (or similar), and
  • take 7 pictures as proof of your coffeeneuring.

Complete rules are updated from last year, and include a big change I think many will like (see Rule 4). “Theme Within a Theme” received such positive response last year that it continues as an…

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Three UAL events in the near future! Sunset/Moonrise Ride, Bike Camp Cookout, and Sunrise Coffee!

wp-1473656064808.jpgWith the coming of fall, GREAT bike weather will be upon us here in Portland! What better time for some fun bike rides?

    P’s & Q’s Market, 1301 NE Dekum St
    meet at 5:45, depart at 6:15
    Did you know that on the day of the full moon, the moon rises right around the same time that the sun sets? We’ll ride about 5 mi to a good spot where we can see BOTH. Stock up on supplies and libations at P’s & Q’s  and of course bring an extra layer and lights for the ride home. Yes, there should be time for you to go on other rides tonight, if you like to do some riding! Sunset 7:18 pm, moonrise 7:30 pm.
  • SUN 18 SEPT
    Rivelo, 401 SE Caruthers St 
    Meet at 4:30, depart at 5.
    One of the best parts of bike camping and touring is making meals. Here’s a chance to do that without actually going camping! Ride 5 miles to a mystery park destination (grocery stop en route) where we’ll make dinner. Nerd out over camping stove setups and impress everyone with the feast you’ll craft! Please note: camping stove required, not a grill/hibachi. And no dehydrated/”instant” meals that you bought at REI. Get creative!
    Mount Tabor Park, Picnic area on NE corner of park near 69/Yamhill entrance. NOT AT THE TOP OF THE HILL. Rain day alternate: Pavilion near basketball courts
    6:30 am
    What better way to start Autumn? Get up before the crack of dawn and ride up to Tabor to make coffee while watching the sun rise. Coffee and camaraderie guaranteed. BYO coffee, water, and way to make coffee. Think camping stoves and the like. Or bring pre-brewed coffee. Bringing some breakfast ain’t a bad idea, either. Sunrise at 6:58 am, equinox at 7:21 am.


More stuff for sale: Tires and shifters

Well friends, there are still bits and bobs that can be purged from the parts bins! If you are interested, either leave a comment or email me at Payment can be done via Paypal. Shipping not included, please include your zip code with inquiry to get a shipping rate. Local pickup in Portland, Oregon either in Woodlawn or on SE Hawthorne. Cash obviously accepted for local sales!

  • Schwalbe Big Ben tire, brown, 26″x2.15″ (55-559) I’ve used these for about a year. They have flatted a few times and you can see evidence of it, but the beefy tread means that they still have a good deal more life in them. $15 for the pair. Transaction pending.
  • Shimano Deore “deerhead” thumb shifter. Model number SL-M700. Yes, the legendary beefy first generation Deore shifters that came stock on many a decent mountain bike in the mid-80’s, before the advent of SIS. (The shifters I sell are only friction.) These were stock on my Crested Butte. They still work, but are getting worn and don’t perform as well as they should, so be warned of this. But these shifters deserve a refurbishment and I’m not the one to do that! $45 for the set, price includes shipping within the US.

Where did summer go?

29265866062_2f04ab05c9_oLabor Day is done, and with that, the end of “official” summer in the United States. And man, the weather this weekend felt downright fall like, with a high struggling to hit 70F/21C, and the first real rain we’ve seen in awhile. Compare that to the week previous when it topped out at 100F/38C! If this wasn’t a reminder enough of the seasonal change, the days are indeed getting shorter.

The chill in the air and the waning daylight has made me reflect on this past summer. And once again, I feel it’s been lacking. I haven’t done nearly as much as I would have liked to in the bike riding and camping department. I camped a couple times in June, not at all in July, and had the four day tour in August. Besides leaving town twice in July to visit Seattle, this sums up my travel activities for the season. For some, that’s quite a bit. For me, not nearly enough.

But then again, will I ever be satisfied? Will I ever think that I have had a fulfilling summer? I guess yes, because I have had them in the past. 2011 was one big bike tour, where I spent all of summer and a bit of spring and fall on the road. I guess 2012 was pretty good with the amount of touring I did in the middle of the season, though at the time I was just glad that I wasn’t on the road the whole summer again. It helped that I wasn’t fully employed that summer, either.

And therein lies the problem: I would do more, if I could. I do get a good chunk of vacation time off each year, but it’s hard to do anything substantial in the middle of summer because I work in the hospitality industry, and summer is “high season”. At best I can cleave out a few extra days here and there, and plan something bigger for the shoulder season.

But what about weekends? Well, that’s the problem, since I work Saturdays and Sundays. While getting time off in the middle of the week has its benefits, like less crowded destinations, the big problem is that everyone else has Saturday and Sunday off, and that’s when all these cool trips and things happen. (For example, on Friday I was told about two cool trips I could go on for the Labor Day weekend, if I didn’t have to work.) It’s a lot easier to go bike camping when you have other people to go with. When you’re going solo, you have to be a lot more self-motivated. And if you’ve been feeling lonely lately, going out into the woods by yourself isn’t exactly the best elixir.

Still, I did do a few cool things this summer, so there’s that. And September and much of October is really nice in this part of the world. The rain generally holds off, leaving us with nice mild-not-hot days to go riding and camping. I tend to do a good bit of camping about now, before the days grow really short and the default is damp and cool. And I have my week-plus tour planned for the end of the month up in the islands, so there’s that!

I guess in the end, the promise of summer is always bigger than what actually happens. I just need to realize that, and not beat myself up. I say that now…

The things that stick in your head when on tour (and other curiosities)

mariaspassI hung out with April the other night. Generally any time we hang out together, we talk about The Big Tour, or Cross Continent jaunt in 2011. (Five years ago? How time flies!) There were many great moments and memories, like the Many Slopes guy and the You Go To Canmore? Guy and the French dude who was jealous of all the bears we saw. (Yep, all those people were found in the Canadian Rockies.)

With a tour of any length, one is bound to get asked questions by the “civilians”, y’know, the folks NOT bike touring. They typically break down into asking where we are going/coming from and how far we have biked/will bike. Then they conclude with a “I could never do that!” or “You must be brave!” which usually translates into I think you are crazy. Whatever. (It’s funny, but you do get asked the where are you going question from other bike tourists, but you don’t mind talking about that since they are on the same wavelength.)

But sometimes you get asked a really interesting question, something that you remember. We had that happen when, near the end of our tour when we were passing through Iowa City, our host Cody asked April, “What song have you had stuck in your head?” Now that’s a good question, a true question for someone that’s done something like a bike tour or maybe even a through hike. Because that does happen. In this day and age of instant gratification, when one can simply use their Spotify app to play that song and get the song out of their head, it’s interesting to think with the spotty to nonexistent wifi and data on some parts of a bike tour, you can’t do that. (And five years ago it was just a bit harder to do any of that stuff as it was.) So you just had to wait the miles, days, or weeks for that song to naturally leave your head.

What was it for me? It wasn’t a song, but an album: The Replacements last album, All Shook Down, released in 1990.  (You can go here to listen.)  Now you may know I am a big Replacements fan, and had an iPod Touch loaded with most of their albums for the trip. But that player had only 8 gig, and I couldn’t fit everything on there I wanted. So I didn’t put All Shook Down on there, nor their next-to-last disc, Don’t Tell A Soul. And most music nerds and Replacements fans will quickly tell you that those were their two worst albums, so no major loss there. But that doesn’t matter. And truth be told, I actually like All Shook Down. It’s not their best, it doesn’t have the same energy or classic songs as their earlier albums, it doesn’t have Bob, etc. But it’s Paul Westerberg at possibly his sad-sackiest, when he knew the Replacements ship had sunk. And I liked that.

Anyways, it was somewhere in western Montana, before we hit Missoula, where the album started playing in my head. It kept on going around and around like a, well, a Merry Go Round, I guess. And not only did the various tracks of the album play through my head, but I also was having a conversation about the album itself, the song’s meanings, how it all worked into what rock was becoming at the dawn of the 90’s. I guess this stuff happens with an album you have known since you were a teen. I didn’t get into The Replacements until a couple years after they broke up in 1991, but All Shook Down and Don’t Tell A Soul were the first two albums of theirs I got into, warts and all. (Blame how easy it was to get them via BMG Music.) And I was still a teen at that time, when you listen and listen and listen to an album until it gets imbedded into your skull. So I don’t know how long I was thinking about All Shook Down, but I’m guessing it lasted until Glacier National Park.

But it’s not just music. Sometimes I’ve had a craving for a particular food, and knowing that I’m not going to get it for a bit can be torture. Or sometimes it’s torture because you think it would be easy to find that food, but it isn’t. That happened with me with burritos the time I rode the Pacific Coast in 2006. I figured that I would at least see a tacqueria every day, but that wasn’t the case. Or if I did see one, it would be after I ate somewhere else. And I was no camp kitchen nerd in 2006, just a pop can stove and an enamel mug to boil water for coffee and (shudder) instant oatmeal. I remember the last night of camping on that tour, outside San Simeon, where I watched my neighbors in the hiker/biker site make a veritable feast of tacos with their stove setup. All I had was noodles…

But eventually on a long enough bike tour I start missing some of my things. Even a fully loaded bike tour is a journey of asecticism compared to most First World peoples. And I know that some folks are perfectly happy living out of their panniers for years on end and wearing the same clothes until they wore out, I realized that that wasn’t me. Besides the comfort of being in your own home and not having to worry about where you’ll sleep tonight, I started to miss a few specific things. For one, while the Surly Long Haul Trucker did me fine on the big tour of 2011, there was a point where I would have liked to ride my Raleigh Wayfarer three speed. Yeah, I know it would have been sort of impractical for going through the mountains, but I just wanted the change of riding a different bike. Because when I’m home in Portland, I don’t ride the same bike all the time! But it was glorious coming home, back to a stable place, being able to wear different clothes! And a different bike!

But of course, you stay at home too long and you get bored again, wanting to hit that road…