Pre-riding.

If you have been following this blog long enough, you know that not only do I go off and do my own solo bike adventures, but I lead bicycle rides around the Portland area. Yep, I’ve been doing this for thirteen years now!  And I’ve cataloged a lot of the streets and areas of the city in my almost sixteen years here. I can often design a bike route by simply opening up Ride With GPS and plotting the route. And I’d be fairly confident with what I had created.

But there still is great advantage to the “pre-ride”, a test of the route by bike. Sometimes things have changed since the last time you were out there. Or, you get a burst of inspiration and decide to reroute a stretch because you found a better way, or there’s something more scenic or interesting. In any case, it’s always good to test the ride, no matter how familiar you think you are with it!

Coming up soon I will have a slew of different rides on the calendar. Earlier this week, the weather finally got pretty nice, low 50’s and sunny, though the east wind was pretty fierce. I decided to get out there and do some riding in the service of future rides.

First up was Monday and the Tweed Ride, which will happen Sunday April 9. Despite me feeling like I was “done” with this ride a couple years ago, I’m still helping out because it’s fun! This is the first year that I’m truly creating the route. (Last year I picked it up after the initial route creator baled.) This year we’ll be starting from Westmoreland Park in SE, the first time the ride would hit up this neck of the woods. Much of the route I had plotted worked okay, but I did make some changes due to on-the-ground reality and also because I got excited about some other options.

Tuesday started sunny again. Originally I had planned to go on a hike in the West Hills. But I wasn’t moving that fast in the morning, mostly because I had a bit too much fun at a dinner party the night previous. But the weather is too nice to stay inside, what should I do? Then it came to me: pre-ride the upcoming Three Speed Ride (Sunday April 2)! This ride would be hitting up some areas on the eastside that I’m not super familiar with. And it was a good idea to do a pre-ride, as I found some interesting nooks and crannies out there while tweaking and finessing what I already had.

These rides, along with other ones in the pipeline, should be fun, so I hope you can come if you are in the Portland metro area! And if you ever decide to lead rides of your own, remember the pre-ride!

Chehalem Range Ramble! Sunday February 26!

2014-11-22 14.32.03Yes, I am finally getting around to rescheduling the Chehalem Range Ramble! Woot! With my new schedule of Sundays and Mondays off, it’s a lot easier to schedule this stuff. And my bike should be fine this time. Just really hope the weather is good, but damn it, I’m going to do this ride!

The basic details haven’t changed much since October when I originally scheduled this ride. But here ya go:

  • This ride will happen on Sunday, February 26 at 8:30 am. The sort of meet up spot is the Hatfield Government Center MAX station in Hillsboro, which is the west end of the Blue Line. We won’t actually “meet” there though.
  • We’ll actually meet at 8:30 am at Diversity Cafe, 230 E Main St in Hillsboro. This is about two blocks east of the Hatfield TC MAX station on the Blue Line (the end of the line.) Yep, we’ll have a nice sit down breakfast before a big ride! You can check out their very breakfasty menu via the web, but BE WARNED, IT’S ONE OF THOSE WEBSITES THAT STARTS PLAYING MUSIC, ETC WHEN YOU OPEN IT! Looks like they stopped the music thing, whew.
  • If’n you aren’t into a full breakfast, just meet us at the cafe by 9:30 am. (There is another coffee option nearer the station if you just want something quick, but I ain’t naming names. Hint: There’s a mermaid on the cup.) Please note that we won’t be going by the MAX station after breakfast, so meet us at Diversity Cafe.
  • The ride is about 50 miles round-trip, and you can check that out here. We can shave off about 10 miles by cutting out the gravel loop around Gaston. I’d prefer to keep that loop, but if we’re too beat or the weather starts to suck, it’s an option. The biggest difference between this ride and the one in 2014 is there will only be one crossing of the Chehalem Range, not two. Also, we’ll be hitting up Forest Grove and straight-shotting along Baseline back to Hillsboro. Yeah, it’s not ideal, but it allows a dinner stop in FG (see below) and really, most of the riding right outside of Forest Grove on the south side is sub-par, so it’s six of one, half-dozen the other…
  • This route also has a bit more Bald Peak Road than before. It’s paved, but there is some traffic. We’ll descend via Laurelwood Rd through the community of the same name. I’ve always wanted to check out this town!
  • As for breaks and food, Bald Peak is at about mile 19. I plan on taking a good break here and making coffee. While there’s an outhouse, there is no water here, so make sure you have enough for the ride, esp. if you want to make coffee here. At about mile 27 is Gaston, which has a store and probably a pub/restaurant. We’ll pass through Forest Grove on the way back, so we can stop by the Grand Lodge for dinner and drinks.
  • While this ride does not stray that far from the fringe of the metro area, it has a surprising lack of services. After leaving Hillsboro, the next food/water will be Gaston at mile 27 and then there may be a country store or so before Forest Grove. So be prepared!
  • I’d say about 25% of this ride is gravel. I think the ascent to Bald Peak is a good deal of gravel, and the Gaston Loop is I think mostly gravel. Note I said “I think” as the maps don’t tell me. But most of the climbs over the Chehalem Range are gravel, so it’s a good guess. I’d say you should be good if you have tires north of 32 mm in width. Nothing super-technical, so you don’t need to ride your full-sus MTB unless you want to!
  • And as indicated in the last bullet point, I have only ridden some sections of this ride, not all. So expect a degree of mystery!

If you are intending on going, please give me a heads up! urbanadventureleague@gmail.com

Alternate commutes.

I’ve lived at my current house in Woodlawn for three years. The distance to work is just a little under 6 miles (10 km.) Over the three years I’ve refined my morning bike commute into the most efficient and fastest route possible. I’m generally okay with it, as it sticks mostly to low traffic streets. It isn’t particularly scenic, but it has its moments.

And I’m bored of it.

Every once in awhile I tell myself I need to change it up, try out a different (read: longer) way. That’s great in theory, but this would require waking up earlier. I’m no morning person; I can barely get to work on time as it is. So the familiar route stays for the most part, and I stay frustrated.

But I can change up my route a bit on the days I DON’T need to be there by 8 am. I usually work at least one shift a week that starts at 3 pm. While I’ve done my regular commute route even then (esp. if I realize I need to get going), lately I’ve been trying to go the longer, more scenic way in. This generally means aiming closer to the Willamette River. This is especially useful if I want to check my PO Box at East Portland Station on the way in and/or get a quick lunch.

img_20170126_171523_089.jpg img_20170126_171547_643.jpgThis “alternate” commute happened on Thursday. On the way southward, I’ve been choosing NE Rodney Ave vs the faster and more popular NE Vancouver Ave. While I am guaranteed to see cyclists on Vancouver,* I’m guaranteed to see the goats of ZZZ Ranch on Rodney. Urban goats! I’ve known about the former Belmont Goats for years, but didn’t realize that there were three goats on Rodney until December! I try to stop by for five to ten minutes. And lucky for the goats, I have quarters, so I can feed them from the “goat food dispenser”, an old candy machine.

img_20170126_180523_304.jpgFrom there, I cruised further down Rodney, got over to Vancouver to get through the Rose Quarter, and paused at the overlook by the Steel Bridge where you can take the path down to the Eastbank Esplanade. I love stopping here because the view of the Willamette River and the city is great, and the Steel Bridge is my favorite bridge. I’ll usually see a couple MAX light rail trains crossing the span on the upper deck, but I often see some train action on the lower deck, too. Sometimes I catch the turning around of Amtrak’s Empire Builder,** the train I have taken eastward to Minneapolis and Chicago many a time. I didn’t see the Builder today, but maybe the next time I come down this way?

From this point, I could cruise down the Eastbank Esplanade for a nice waterside ride of a mile or so. I decided to take the quicker way inland to get to the SE Industrial District and pick up my mail and a bite to eat. Maybe next time, when I have more time.

It feels good to shake up the commute a bit from time to time. And the added bonus of feeding goats doesn’t hurt!

*And gravel. They take a long time to clean the gravel out of the bike lane after a snowstorm.

**When the Builder comes into Portland, it’s pointing southward. In order to get it pointing northward to go back towards Chicago,*** the train must cross the Steel Bridge where it can turn around via a wye on the east side of the river.

***Yes, yes, Chicago is east, I know. But the train has to head north across the Columbia first.

Chehalem Range Ramble for tomorrow CANCELLED.

Yeah, I hate to do a cancel with less than 12 hours before the ride starts. And yes, I realize that I cancelled last year’s ride. And yes, the weather is supposed to suck tomorrow. But that’s not the primary reason for the cancel.
Basically, it’s mechanical. The front brakes on the Bantam are having issues, and it’s not anything I can have fixed by 8 am tomorrow. (There’s also other issues going on with the front wheel.) Tomorrow is supposed to feature lots of rain and some good descents, nothing I really want to risk with my brakes being the shape they are.
And my backup bike, the Crested Butte, also is having front brake issues. So I don’t have a bike that would be suitable for tomorrow’s ride.
So I apologize. I would like to do this ride at some point this winter, so stay tuned for a reschedule.

Chehalem Range Ramble, Saturday 5 November

Hey folks! Just a friendly reminder that my sort of annual Chehalem Range Ramble will be happening next Saturday, November 5! (Sort of annual, since I did it in 2014 but cancelled it last year due to a nasty weather forecast.) This ride is a mixed surface ride of about 50 miles, going up and over and around the Chehalem Mountains, the small mountain range in the Willamette Valley dividing the Tualatin Valley from the Yamhill Valley. The range is short but steep and topping out at elevations from about 1200 feet to its highest point, Bald Peak, at just over 1,600 feet. Many of the roads leading up and over the ridge are gravel!

You can see photos and the full report of the 2014 ride here. And here’s the route from the 2014 adventure.

Here are the pertinent details for this year’s ride:

  • First off, I am indeed totally aware that there is another day long ride happening in the same area on the same day. If you know about it, there’s a chance that you’ve already done that ride at least once, and it looks like the same route that it’s been for awhile. My ride will feature roads that you (and I) have not been on, and some gravel. If it makes you feel any better, I can print up some “brevet” cards and refer to all stops as “control points.” 😉
  • We’ll be meeting at 8 am at Diversity Cafe, 230 E Main St in Hillsboro. This is about two blocks east of the Hatfield TC MAX station on the Blue Line (the end of the line.) Yep, we’ll have a nice sit down breakfast before a big ride! If’n you aren’t into a full breakfast, just meet us at the cafe by 9 am. (There is another coffee option nearer the station if you just want something quick, but I ain’t naming names.) You can check out their very breakfasty menu via the web, but BE WARNED, IT’S ONE OF THOSE WEBSITES THAT STARTS PLAYING MUSIC, ETC WHEN YOU OPEN IT!
  • The ride is about 50 miles round-trip, and you can check that out here. We can shave off about 10 miles by cutting out the gravel loop around Gaston. I’d prefer to keep that loop, but if we’re too beat or the weather starts to suck, it’s an option. The biggest difference between this ride and the one in 2014 is there will only be one crossing of the Chehalem Range, not two. Also, we’ll be hitting up Forest Grove and straight-shotting along Baseline back to Hillsboro. Yeah, it’s not ideal, but it allows a dinner stop in FG (see below) and really, most of the riding right outside of Forest Grove on the south side is sub-par, so it’s six of one, half-dozen the other…
  • As for breaks and food, Bald Peak is at about mile 19. I plan on taking a good break here and making coffee. While there’s an outhouse, there is no water here, so make sure you have enough for the ride, esp. if you want to make coffee here. At about mile 27 is Gaston, which has a store and probably a pub/restaurant. We’ll pass through Forest Grove on the way back, so we can stop by the Grand Lodge for dinner and drinks.
  • While this ride does not stray that far from the fringe of the metro area, it has a surprising lack of services. After leaving Hillsboro, the next food/water will be Gaston at mile 27 and then there may be a country store or so before Forest Grove. So be prepared!
  • I’d say about 25% of this ride is gravel. I think the ascent to Bald Peak is a good deal of gravel, and the Gaston Loop is I think mostly gravel. Note I said “I think” as the maps don’t tell me. But most of the climbs over the Chehalem Range are gravel, so it’s a good guess. I’d say you should be good if you have tires north of 32 mm in width. Nothing super-technical, so you don’t need to ride your full-sus MTB unless you want to!

Okay! Hope to see you there! Please give me a heads up at urbanadventureleague@gmail.com if you think you’ll be coming.2014-11-22 11.49.52

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”.

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?

  • FRIDAY 16 SEPT
    SUNSET/MOONRISE RIDE 
    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
    BIKE CAMP COOKOUT
    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!
  • THURS 22 SEPT
    SUNRISE COFFEE CLUB: AUTUMNAL EQUINOX EDITION 
    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.

 

Sunset/Moonrise Ride, this Thursday! (August 18)

wp-1471394525627.jpgIt’s time to lead another one of my Sunset/Moonrise rides. We’ll meet this Thursday August 18 at Ps and Qs Market, 1301 NE Dekum St. Meet at 6:30 pm, depart at 7.

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 (sorry, they are not known for cheap beer), and of course bring an extra layer and lights for the ride home.

Sunset is at 8:12 pm, moonrise 8:26 pm.
It’s going to be a HOT one on Thursday, with a high of 98F/37C. You don’t want to be inside at sunset, right?