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!

It’s too late to turn back, here we go…Pepin!

wp-1462685188937.jpgHello friends. Later today, I’ll be hopping on Amtrak’s Empire Builder train and heading east to the Midwest! I’ll be enjoying the new-to-me luxury of a sleeper car all the way to St. Paul Union Station! I’ll spend a few days there, then head to Red Wing on Friday for the night. The Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour will happen this coming weekend, May 14 and 15. It should be a good time, and if the long-range forecast holds, it will be perfect weather, sun and clouds, high in the low 60’s. Then I return to Minneapolis for a day before I get on the westbound Empire Builder to Portland, this time in lowly coach.

Last night was the last minute packing extravaganza, squeezing everything into as tight a space as possible. It always seems like too much, but everything I’m packing, I’ll use. I’m getting away with basically my Carradice Camper Longflap with an extra small shoulder bag. I don’t normally bike with a shoulder bag, but once I get off the train, much of the stuff will be sitting at my friend’s house. And unlike a bike camping tour, with Pepin I don’t need to carry everything with me the whole time. Also, originally I thought I’d camp, but I decided against it, since I didn’t want to haul out a bunch of extra gear.

25872375115_a559586e7d_oThis will be my Raleigh Superbe’s Pepin debut. Despite hoping to get more stuff done to it, it’s not all “there” yet, but will work fine for the trip. I wanted to get the front wheel rebuilt with a modern aluminum rim, but the shop didn’t get the rim in on time, so the wheel build will have to wait until I get back. (I have an alloy rear wheel I can throw on there too.) I did get the bike wired up for lighting, and it works fine, more on that later. There was a little bit of a scare for a bit, as the lights weren’t working, but I tried a different light and it works. It’s not as classy looking as the B+M Retrotec, but it’ll do!

As always with any trip like this, I’m stressing out a bit. But hopefully when the train pulls out of Portland Union Station, those worries will melt away. I’m looking forward to having a good time! I’ll try to report here as much as possible, but stay tuned to my flickr or instagram accounts for more up-to-date as-it-happens dispatches.

A Lake Pepin 2015 tour report

I hitched a ride from Minneapolis on Friday afternoon, courtesy of Paul’s mom. (Thanks!) I killed a few hours checking out the town, getting some new stoneware along with chowing on some excellent pizza and drinking fine beer from Red Wing Brewery. (My favorite: The Remmler’s Royal Brew, a recreation of a Red Wing brewed pre-prohibition lager. Lagers back then tasted good!) The pre-ride meetup was at the Staghead, and I ran into some familiar faces that I saw last year. My riding partners for the post-Pepin tour, Chris aka Pondero and Steven aka GravelDoc, showed up from their long drive northward from Texas.* We all chatted, had a few beers, and went to our respective crash spaces to get a good night’s rest before the festivities.

Saturday morning was warm but cloudy. The forecast for the weekend was not good, and seemed to get worse with each new update: while there was a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms for Saturday, Sunday was going to be worse, at 70% and a chance of severe t-storms that could see heavy rain, lightning, hail, tornadoes, canned hams, frogs, and witches. Not good, not good. 2014, the first year I went, was the only year in the 10+ year history of the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour to have no precipitation. I lucked out for my first ride, but luck wouldn’t be on our side this year. Oh well. Spirits were still high amongst the eighty-something participants, and many a fine three speed and three speeder outfit was ogled. With much pomp and circumstance, the riders took off in drips and drabs around 9 am.

Since this was my second year I had a decent idea as to what to expect. So I wanted to do a few things differently this time. A week or so before the ride another “Gentleman Cyclist” hatched the idea of a quintuple pass-storming challenge. The main route via Wi 35/US 61 is flat to rolling, there is one significant hill, the climb out of Bay City, WI. The four other climbs are “extra-curricular”. I did the Wabasha Bluffs and Hill Ave. on the MN side last year, so that left Maiden Rock Overlook in WI and Flower Valley Road in MN to complete the challenge. And I also wanted to get as much gravel riding in as well!

The first ten miles toward Bay City went smooth, and people started to break into clumps. Bay City Hill was a little workout. The climb starts out gradually until it ratchets up to about 6% grade near the top. At the top of the hill by Tabor Church people gathered after the climb. And a special treat: the Canadians from Winnipeg provided Molson Canadian for all of us to enjoy! Then a screaming descent down to (Mississippi) River level, and the first big stop: Pelican Bakery in the town of Maiden Rock. This spot always makes something special for the Three Speed Tour, this year was a Bakewell Tart in all its raspberry and almond gloriousness.

The tart fortified me for what would be the hardest part of the day: the climb up to the Maiden Rock overlook. The side road started off easy enough before all of the sudden ratcheting up to at least a 10% grade, if not more. I managed to not walk, mostly by tacking back and forth along this quiet road. I would worry that the Bakewell Tart would come out the wrong end for the next few hours, though. The hill mellowed out, rolling through farmscape. At this point it was myself, Chris, and Steve. We turned onto an unmarked side gravel road that led to a small parking area. From there it was a small path to the overlook. Everything I ever heard about the path to the overlook was that it was rideable, but rough, so off we went. We soon learned the folly of this, as this was a narrow, winding, and muddy foot path. A real mountain biker might pull it off, but we were not. We abandoned the bikes halfway through and walked the rest of the way to the overlook, where we were greeted with a great view of the Mississippi Valley and the riders below. (Later on I learned there used to be a rough road that went out to the end, but we obviously didn’t find that.)

It was a screaming descent into Stockholm, where we were supposed to grab lunch. It was easy for Chris and Steve, being omnivores, but it was slim pickings for me, as the lunch spots were either unwilling to make something special for a vegetarian like me, or it was really expensive. ($14 for a black bean burrito?) Feeling cranky and dejected, I cruised down to the riverfront park to eat the leftover pizza I brought just in case this happened. But what is this? A bunch of three-speeders had made a veritable feast of a picnic lunch in the shelter, and they invited me to eat since there was so much food! Yes! They apparently ran into the same situation as did I, and vowed to make a picnic here ever since. Smart move.

The rest of Saturday’s ride was uneventful, as WI 35 mellows out a bit, so the miles passed by. I debated having dinner in the village of Pepin but decided to hold out for Wabasha. I did manage to get a shot of the Laura Ingalls Wilder historical marker (Little House In The Woods is based here.) And got a little gravel, too. The crossing of the Chippewa River Delta went on forever, but the cheese factory in Nelson was the reward. And another Mississippi crossing, back to Minnesota!

The dinner and ceremonies at Eagles Nest in Wabasha was a bit lackluster, as everyone left early due to the threatening skies. Steve, Chris, and myself retired to the Anderson House for the evening.

Sunday morning hit and everyone was worrying about the weather report, as the forecast got more dire each time it was updated. Would we be swept away in a flood or sucked up by a tornado? The only thing we could do was set out. Steve, Chris, and I were still shooting for the Quintuple Pass Challenge. I was looking forward to climbing the Wabasha Bluff again, since I did it last year. The alternate routings today would mean we could avoid almost all of busy US 61. While we’d miss some lake views, I was totally okay with that.

The climb up to Wabasha Bluff was a nice steady grade upward, only hitting 6% towards the last half-mile or so. When we got to the top we were rewarded with a great view of the rolling farmscape that is atop the bluffs, a landscape not visible from the highway below. And it was windy! Thankfully the wind was mostly at our back, and we zoomed down a good hill into Lake City, where the “Brew Up” was happening at a lakeside park. We set up our kettles and got to work. I always feel a little underprepared for this part, mostly because due to my situation I can’t haul in all the cool stuff that those who drove in from shorter distances can. Still, I ogled other folks’ setups, and there were some nice ones!

After Lake City, it was time for my favorite part of the ride: the ramble along gravel Territorial Road. A nice quiet road with nice scenery and a cool one lane truss bridge–wait, what happened to the bridge? OH NO! They tore it down and put in a “modern” two lane concrete bridge in its place! ARGH!

Well, at least they didn’t tear down the stone wall in old Frontenac! We layed our bikes along the wall and took the obligatory photos, though I don’t remember if anyone pulled out a pipe. Then gravel Hill Ave, a nice climb over another bluff (Pass No. 4 for those who are counting), followed by a good descent. There had been reports of loose gravel in the past, but this year it was all good.

We hopped on US 61 for a few miles, the only significant stretch we’d be on the busy road. Appropriately it rained right at this point, the only real rain that we got, despite the dire forecast. But it was warm (upper 70’s) so I knew it’d be pointless to throw on the rain cape, and it ended in less than 10 minutes anyway. So we were refreshed, so to speak, for the final climb, Flower Valley Road. While the road had a wide shoulder, someone went through the trouble of building a separated bike path (complete with tunnel under the road at one point!) so we could lollygag along the way. The views nice (yes, there were flowers), and a nice gradual grade with a little steepness at the very end. We had completed all five passes, and now we were on the edge of Red Wing (and mostly all downhill to the end!)

And like that, it was over. Everyone packed up their bikes and kit and got in their cars. Many headed back over to the Staghead gastropub (open on Sunday just for us!) to have an after-ride drink and bite, and to hang out one last time. I chatted up folks, said some goodbyes. It would have been nice to linger a bit longer. But Steve, Chris and I had to drive about 90 minutes south to get to La Crosse, WI for our next adventure. So off we went!

*Chris lives outside of Fort Worth and picked up Steven who lives in the Missouri Ozarks.

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!

Pedalpalooza begins TOMORROW! And here are this year’s Urban Adventure League rides.

Yes, friends. It’s time for Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual three-week festival of all things bike fun, all events prepared by folks like you and me. Right now we’re getting close to 300 events in that 24 day span, an average of 12 rides a day. A day!

Like every Pedalpalooza, I do my fair share of rides, whether as a leader or as a participant. This year I decided to lighten my load and only do 5 events. (Yes, only 5.) These rides are pretty much the type of rides I always do, so if you’re looking for costumed, naked, pop culture theme rides, look elsewhere. In any case, I hope you can join me for one, some, or all!

SAT 7  JUNE

ROUGH STUFF/COUNTRY BIKE (IN THE CITY) RAMBLE

Woodlawn Park (under the bridge), NE Dekum St and Bellevue Ave (Meet under the bridge)

10:30am – 4:30pm, Meet at 10:30am, depart at 11am.

A 20-30 mile ramble exploring the “country” aspects in the city while riding “Country” bikes. Expect a good deal of gravel/dirt action, climbs (you can walk it if you have to), and places you didn’t think existed. We’ll have food/picnic breaks along the way. Ride a bike geared towards comfort, not speed, and one that can handle off-road elements. Moderate pace, no one left behind, not a loop. If you show up in lycra, you buy everyone else adult beverages.

THURS 12 JUNE

MIDWEEK RIDE TO THE COLUMBIA GORGE 

9:30am – 5:30pm

Riding to quiet country roads and spectacular scenery is easier than you think. The Columbia River Gorge is just a short bicycle ride away. And you can totally handle it if you are an everyday rider. Bring a snack, water, and Trimet fare. Geared bikes recommended. Approx 30 miles round trip. REGISTRATION REQUIRED! (Get full details of meetup after registration.) http://ualgorgeride2014.eventbrite.com

TUES 17 JUNE

MIDWEEK BIKE CAMPING TO OXBOW 

5:00pm, Depart MAX at 5:30pm, return to PDX late morning

Whether you’re “funemployed” or can get off work a little early, a quick little weekday camping excursion is a lot of fun. A 10 mile ride (approx.) from the MAX in Gresham to Oxbow on the Sandy. Moderate traffic/terrain. We should get there before dark, but remember bike lights. You can probably make it to work on time Wednesday! Campsites $22/night, divvied up appropriately. Bring all the things you would need for an overnight camping trip. Previous bike camping experience recommended. Grocery stop in Gresham. (Get full details of meetup after registration.) Limited to 15 people, register here: http://oxbowjune2014s24o.eventbrite.com/

WED 18 JUNE

BIKE CAMPING COOKOUT 

Green Zebra Grocery, 8621 N Lombard St 

6:30pm – 9:00pm, We depart from the market at 7 pm sharp!

One of the best parts of bike camping and touring is making meals. Here’s a chance to do that without actually going camping! We’ll meet up at a market and ride about 5 miles to a mystery park 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. (There’s another ride for that.) No dehydrated/”instant” meals that you bought at REI. And if it’s wet, we’ll end up somewhere covered.

SUN 22 JUNE

THREE SPEED RIDE 

Omaha Parkway, N Omaha Ave and N Ainsworth St (meet on the south side of Ainsworth, in the parkway)

4:00pm – 7:00pm, meet at 4, ride at 4:30

What better way to finish Sunday Parkways than ramble around the northern reaches of Portland on your humble internally geared three speed bicycle? Bring your trusty three speed bicycle from any nation. Three speeds preferred but any bike welcome if you don’t have one. Casual paced ramble of approx. 8-10 miles, fairly flat, with a little unpaved “rough stuff” action thrown in. We’ll have a picnic and tea brew up towards the end, bring all the necessities like food, a teakettle and a camping stove.

Lake Pepin thoughts

It’s been just about two weeks since my participation in the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. So I’ve had time to reflect on the experience. I’m not going to bore you with the minute turn-by-turn details, so here’s my impression of the whole durn thing.

All in all it was a great experience. I knew that it was going to be good going into it, but pre-ride expectations are always different than reality. And some of the preconceptions I had didn’t fit the reality.

For one, I thought the ride was going to be more about the bikes than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, 95% of the 100 participants rode a vintage British three speed, with Raleighs outnumbering other marquees. And there was a lot of “bike porn”, a lot of bikes to ogle, baggage to nerd over. Most of the ogling/nerding happened at the start and occasionally at the stops. And yep, I talked about bikes with people plenty o’ times during the two days.

And I also thought the ride was going to be more about the ride than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great ride! The landscape around Lake Pepin was beautiful, but I knew that even before the ride, as I passed through this area on two (two!) previous bike tours. And the small towns along the way were quaint and cute, and gave a good opportunity to take a break. I tried to break from the main roads (Route 35 on the Wisconsin side, US 61 on the Minnesota) at any opportunity possible. This meant either a climb out of the Mississippi valley or a ramble on a gravel road, and sometimes both. Each detour was rewarding.

Or the ride could have been more about “the details”. Granted, people approached this ride with gusto. Many people interpreted the dress code as “tweed ride lite”. Because I was traveling two-thirds the way across the continent and didn’t want to haul a lot of stuff, I didn’t get as flamboyant as others, but I still dressed in the spirit of a mid-century British bicycle excursion. The Lake City Brew-Up was another spot where people strut their stuff, and some folk’s set-ups were impressive, especially anyone with a vintage Primus stove. (I kept it basic with an Esbit pot/stove combo, again due to the distance/hauling crap logistics.)

Nope, the best part of the ride was the people. I got to meet a few people that I knew only through the internets, like Pondero (Chris), Gravel Doc (Steve), azorch (Mark), and bikamper (Mike). This was cool. I also met a ton of new people as well. The whole theme of the ride is “hanging out”, the bullshitting and bike checking before the ride, conversing at one of the numerous scenic stops, swapping stories at a pub. That will be the strongest thing I take away from this event in the years to come.

So it’s nice to finally partake in this great event, and finally know what it’s really about. I hope to take some of that energy and bring it back to my various three speed rides.

Heading out to Pepin…

Hello friends. My life has been spent inside a blender the past few days. Work has been hectic, and I am getting to leave town today (that be Wednesday May 14th.) Yep, I’ll be heading out on Amtrak’s Empire Builder to Minneapolis-St Paul. The big reason is to partake in the annual Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour this weekend. I’ve been intrigued by the ride since I heard about it in 2005, and have been wanting to attend the past few years, but this will be the first year I can actually go. You know I’m excited!

After the ride, I’ll be spending several days in Minneapolis, aka Portland Midwest, until I board the westbound Empire Builder on Thursday May 27. I wish I could stay longer, but alas.

In preparation, there has been a lot of stuff done to the beloved Raleigh Wayfarer, stuff that is too extensive to list right now, and besides I’m about to collapse from the exhaustion of the day, so it’ll wait. I’ll say for now that a few of the changes would probably make a “Three Speed Purist” give me grief, but I don’t care. I will say that the bike looks very very nice right now.

I don’t have too much time to write right now. I will say that Saturday’s Three Speed Ride went smashingly well, and I hope to have a write-up soon. And I will try to send some dispatches from the road, but with a li’l smartphone, it won’t be the easiest. (Note to self: Need to get a tablet.)

See you soon!

Three Speed Ride, Saturday 8 March, plus the next ride!

Here’s the lowdown on the upcoming Three Speed Ride here in Portland, posted on our “sister” blog.

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello friends of Three Speeds. I did mention this here before, but I figure that I should reiterate that the first Three Speed Ride of 2014 is just two short weeks away!

The Three Speed Ride will be on Saturday March 8, 2014. Meet at 11 am at Woodlawn Park (under the bridge). Woodlawn Park is on NE Dekum just west of 13th Ave. Click here for a map.

This ride will be about 12 miles in length over flat to moderate terrain.I may throw in a small hill or two, but remember, it’s okay to walk it! And as per the “Rough Stuff” tradition, there will be some off-road (read: dirt) sections, paths, cut-throughs, and other stuff thrown in that you probably didn’t know existed. Be prepared for adventure!

Somewhere between halfway and the end we’ll have a break for snacks and beverages in a park like setting. Bring…

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