Monday, January 20, 2014

There Will Be Mud

Sometimes indecision can lead to something that turns out well - I prefer to call it spontaneity.

I could not decide what sounded good as far as a riding today so I headed south on Valley Chapel road for the many riding options it provides. I could continue on the road to Mt. Hope or jump onto numerous dirt roads and ride forever.  After about 6 miles I called an audible and turned-up Spangle Creek Road which meant climbing a 10% grade followed by miles of dirt roads through the rolling hills of the Palouse. 

Left at the top on Yale road provides endless miles of options to the east, west and south.  The temperature was cooler than forecast so a lot of climbing and slower speeds seemed like a good way to keep warm.  It also would provide some much needed intensity followed by recovery as we approach riding season.

Watt Road leads to the town of Spangle, WA or toward the Idaho border to the east in this shot.
One of the great things about living on the northern edge of the Palouse is that it is pretty easy to design a ride that is an equal mix of road riding and gravel riding if that is what sounds appealing.  Today was no exception where the route provided about 12 miles of each. 

The only issue with the route at sub-freezing temperatures was the brain-freeze headache that occurs bombing back down the 10% grade at 35 mph after the sweat collects on the front of my head cover.

The cold temperatures keep the dirt roads from turning to mud and keep the frost on the trees.  There is still a lot of moisture in the ground so future road conditions will depend on how quickly temperatures rise once spring starts to arrive.

I have driven many of the roads over the years which may explain why I never quite realized how brutal some of the rollers can be on a bike.  There are points where it is all-out granny in a 34 x 28 just to keep moving - and not at a high cadence I might add.  They also provide much welcomed variety and the chance to explore.

When the weather does break the Speed Sirens may beckon me back into mostly road riding with fast-rolling skinny tires or I may play with bigger road tires so I can still do both road and exploring - time will tell. 

In the meantime, I pledge to remain spontaneous.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Little of Everything

After no measurable snow for weeks, high temperatures above freezing and my pinch flat on the John Wayne/Iron Horse Trail I decided it was time to switch back to the tubeless short block 8 cyclocross tires until winter decides whether it has more in store this year. 

At the same time, I had the chain checked and was surprised that it had only lasted about 1,000 miles before it was worn-out.  I guess all that dirt, deice, and torque take their toll on the moving parts.  Be sure to get the chain checked often if you want to avoid a costly cassette replacement with a cross bike.

The set-up was perfect for a whatever comes my way ride so I started-out with a few miles south on Hwy 27 just to get the legs warmed-up and then hopped on a dirt/gravel road that has some wicked rollers for about 6 miles. 

There was a good bit of sand on the shoulders of the paved road from snow removal and deicing activities from prior snowfall but no ice to be found.  The sand was not deep enough to pose a problem for a standard road tire, but the wider footprint of the Kenda tires felt reassuring nonetheless

Once I turned west on to the 6 mile section where Elder Road is dirt and gravel I was happy to have the higher volume, wider contact patch, lower pressure (55 psi) and supple sidewalls of the Kendas.  The road was actually very smooth with a thin layer of mud and water on top.  The tires hooked-up wonderfully and rolled well on the dirt/mud. The block provided plenty of grip for turning, braking and out-of the saddle climbs without being bumpy or noisy once back on the pavement.  Also there are a few washboard sections and I was glad have some give in the tires and a well dampened frame so my dental fillings did not come popping out.

We have been having some freezing fog around here for the last few days which makes for some pretty dramatic frost covered features.  By the way, I learned that prolonged exposure of disc brake rotors to freezing fog conditions can lead to some uncomfortable moments when you need them.  Apparently a thin layer of ice forms on them (and everything else) so when you pull the levers - nothing happens with respect to slowing your momentum.

The trick as I learned under duress is that you grab them BEFORE you need them so you can start generating some heat and melt the ice. This will help increase your riding pleasure and decrease your time in the ER.

If the winter weather returns I will be faced with the choice of remounting the studded tires or trying to gut it out on cross rubber.  Until then I will be enjoying playing in the dirt.

See you out there.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's Not Often that a Game Changer Comes Along

While I was gushing about the fun of riding a Moots CX bike, Trek released the all-new Boone CX Racing Bike.  Carbon construction with the Trek IsoSpeed pivot.  More dirt oriented than the Domane with more clearance and disc configuration too. 

We have not had the chance to ride one yet but plan of taking care of  that this spring.  In the meantime, here are the thoughts and impressions of some folks who have.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Time for a Change - Revisited

Last September I alluded to some changes in how I view my riding and the quality of my rides. In Time for a Change I spent some time thinking about why, how, what and where I ride.

At that time I wrote the following:

During this exercise in introspection it occurred to me that when I ride on the road I am always watching the clock and average speed as if they somehow determine the quality of the ride.  In reality, they are only data points and do not reflect how much I enjoy my time on a bike.  Being outdoors, on two wheels, getting aerobic exercise and community with other riders are what I enjoy about riding so I have decided it is time for a change.

Starting next month, I will use a Cyclocross Bike for 99% of my riding for the next year.  I will still track mileage but pay no attention to the speed of my rides - my attention will be on the things I enjoy about cycling.  

In reality, mileage and clock watching diminish the quality and enjoyment of my riding.  Since October, I have ridden the Moots Psychlo X exclusively and sometimes slowly - having a blast in the process.

I got to thinking more about this while reading Wileydog Cycle blog and his annual update Mileage Post (a clever play on words). I have done my share of  posts about how much I rode the prior year somehow believing readers are out there breathlessly awaiting the results of my annual goal.

Each year the goal was to ride 5,000 miles.  It did not matter what, just a mileage total.  This year is about exploring, bringing people together and having fun on a bike rather than a specific mileage goal.  I am not sure whether this will be a good thing for me, but am willing to see where it leads in order to revive the joy of riding.

I did not initially intend to go here when I chose the Moots CX to be THE bike for the year - rather it evolved over the last 1,000 miles of riding as I experienced the versatility and fun factor of a cyclocross bike.  I believe if I set another mileage goal then I will be tempted to go ride a certain number of miles each day rather than explore and seek variety of road, trails and dirt/gravel roads. 

This is not to say that I am moving this direction without trepedation.  A few concerns I have for this process are:
  • Will I gain weight by no longer forcing myself to ride certain distances to stay on goal pace?
  • Will I get dropped on some group rides because I am no longer riding a 16 pound carbon bike and maintaining a high aerobic threshold?
  • Will I (should I) force myself to get on the trainer when I can't ride outside if I am not trying to stay on goal pace?
  • Will I maintain the same fitness level as in years past and is it important?
  • Will I start touring? - not likely for now
I will happily share the answers to these questions as they reveal themselves over the next few months.  I do have a couple of thoughts in the meantime.

Despite not having an annual mileage goal, I expect I will be spending the same or more amount of time on the bike.  Most weekdays my routine is to ride for about 1 hour prior to work to get some aerobic exercise.  This will not likely change much since there is not a lot of time for exploring on the weekday mornings. 

I will still get dropped by the same people who drop me now so that will not change much either.  If I can't hang with these groups anymore then I will need to find some new folks to ride with since it is about enjoying riding and I do not enjoy getting dropped.

Finally, on weight management and fitness - I have enough miles and time under my belt and know my breathing well enough to estimate where I am in my aerobic/anaerobic profile at any given point.  I do not need to know the speed at which I am riding  and will continue to ride predominantly in Zone 3 with periodic bursts in Zones 4 and 5 so fitness should be about the same.

2014 will be a year of change and discovery.  I look forward to reporting in regularly and hope you enjoy the ride.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cabin Fever? Ride the Trail

The day after I flew over and photographed the John Wayne Iron Horse trail I did the only sensible thing I could think of - ride the trail.  Sunday was clear and cloudless and almost warm so I called my buddy Brent (who hasn't learned not to answer the phone when he sees it is me) and told him I was driving down to Rosalia to ride the trail through town and east toward that cool trestle I flew over the day before.

Ok, just kidding, he knows not to answer the phone when I call but sometimes chooses to do so anyway.  Brent is a great guy, cyclist and neighbor so he asked for a hall pass from the wife and said "let's go."  He smartly chose his Gary Fisher Mt. Tam and I sort-of chose the Moots CX with studded tires because I am too lazy to swap them out.
The Clampetts go cycling - yes, that is a sack of grass seed separating/securing bikes.

We loaded the bikes in the back of the truck and blasted down to Rosalia.  Once there we only saw two people and they were riding horses through town.  We turned west on 1st and were at a trailhead in about 3 blocks.

We met two other residents wearing hunter orange and driving a jeep on the trail so the no hunting and no motorized vehicle postings at each access point appear to be more of a guideline in this case.

Despite reading several reports and blogs to the contrary, I still expected the rock to be more compact like the trail of the Hiawatha and not loose and deep in spots on this trail.  We went about 2 miles and I thought if I just let a "little air" out of the tires the ride would improve a bit.  It did until the rear went flat about 25 feet later - guess it was not little enough.

I love these rock cuts and just think about how loud it must have been with a train rolling through

The Moots rolled easily and did not require much in the way of inputs even in the deeper rocks.  The geometry is relaxed enough to be stable and confidence inspiring while still fun and lively on the road.

I thought the light hitting the trees with a shadow in the background looked sort of Ansel Adamsy...

We averaged just under 11 miles per hour without really pushing the pace and ended up riding about 21 miles total.  The goal was to get outside and just enjoy riding something different with a little adventure and spice in it.  We did not make it to the trestle from the day before so that may be a goal for next time.

Next time we will probably head west toward Malden and Pine City on the way to Rock Lake.  The Mt. Tam worked well and the lager volume tires allowed for more float in the deeper rock.

Riding up to and on the trestles outside of Rosalia has a surreal feel to it. 


 We learned that a better place to start riding is out on Malden Road toward the trestles.  It is a short distance out of town and lets you ride longer without the trail being interrupted several times from where we started.

If I were planning to ride the whole trail, I would probably opt for a 29er with a wide tire and tubeless setup so the tires roll and float well on the varying rock and dirt.  The rocks are mostly round so they do not compact well (think marbles) and tend to displace under the tire. For shorter rides, the Moots works well, but I would add a larger tire up front like a 38 and a 34 also in a tubeless setup.  Lower pressures would help smooth the ride just a bit.

The above tire setup will most likely be the setup for all gravel grinding I do this year since the rocks tend to get pushed together in deeper sections and on the outside of turns - it will be nice to have some flotation up front for those situations.

 After the ride we were both glad to be done and promised to come back later this year.  I can see this and other sections being particularly vivid when the fall colors start to so that is on the agenda for sure.  It will be important to be aware of hunters when the bird season opens since there is plenty of dense cover for birds and the elevated rail bed make an ideal walking and shooting platform.

Until then.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cabin Fever? Fly the Trail

One of the cool things about being a pilot is that I get to perform some aerial recon of bikey stuff I am contemplating exploring.  Saturday broke cold but clear so I took off for a flight to check out the John Wayne/Iron Horse State Park.  The Trail runs officially from Idaho the west side of the Cascade mountains.

I have followed it from the air from Plummer, Idaho to west of Rock Lake (I initially reported Bonnie Lake which is in line to the north with Rock Lake - thanks Scott for correcting me) in the channeled scablands.  Only 31 miles south of Spokane, the abandoned railway is easily accessible from the town of Rosalia via Hwy 195.

From the air, the trail looks pretty cool as it meanders along basalt bluffs and through cuts and valleys. There are a couple of trestles though a number of them have been removed some time in the past.  The town of Rosalia has some of the most striking trestles which are formed of architectural concrete.
Elevated sections with trestles removed usually have these on/off ramps to keep you going

Looking east toward Tekoa, WA

Cool trestle still in place. 

Historic trestle outside of Rosalia, WA

North end of Rock Lake

The trail runs on the east/southeast side of the lake and this trestle and tunnel may be useable to cyclists

After the lake the trail turns westerly again

Trail runs through many man made canyons - this one has a really neat spire left in place
The trail looks very interesting from the air and should provide some good riding for adventurous cyclists.  Look for more info in the next segment.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ben Burr Trail Improvements Require Partnership and Civil Dialogue

A little known local treasure has created some vocal opposition over the last few months. The Ben Burr Trail on the lower south hill is a 1.1 mile underutilized public treasure that will have its true potential either squandered or realized depending on the direction of the local community and City of Spokane.

What follows is the project as proposed, pros and cons and my take of what is at stake.  Regardless of positions, there are some choices that need to be made regarding this project - everyone should have a voice and the best solution will address legitimate concerns while balancing the preservation of the beauty and maximizing the utility of this public resource.

Project as proposed: Connect the south hill with a mostly separated, paved trail from 11th Ave and Fiske to the existing Centennial trail in the University District.  This involves using Federal grant money to pay for paving the Ben Burr Trail, installing safety measures like railing and then a dedicated paved path and bike lanes over to the Centennial Trail. More information is available at the City of Spokane.


  • Much needed infrastructure that improves safety for both non-motorist and motorist without adding to traffic and congestion
  • Makes the entire trail accessible to hikers, joggers, cyclists, and wheelchairs (ADA Compliant)
  • Improves safety in terms of traffic and potential falls on steep terrain
  • Provide designated pathway (with the exception of about 100 meters with Sharrows) from southeast to the University District and Centennial Trail
  • Utilizes existing easements and right-of-ways
  • Usage and traffic will increase
  • Trail will be paved
  • Provides safe access to downtown from the east part of the south hill.

  • Usage and traffic will increase
  • The trail will need to be widened in areas (some trees will need to be removed for safety and minimum width requirements)
  • Some steep drop-offs will need railing (poorly planned rails may not be aesthetically pleasing) 
  • As with any project there will be the need for retaining walls and slope stabilization
  • Trail will be paved
After attending the informational meeting in the East Central Community Center I rode the entire trail to get a better sense of what the project was about and some of the concerns voiced by other community members. I traveled from downtown via 4th Ave to where 4th dead-ends.  The newly designated bike route also dead-ends and sends you down to 3rd Avenue to continue east.

There is not an easy way to access the trail by bike directly from 4th Ave., and remediating this is not part of the proposal.  The detour to 3rd would now have connectivity to both the Centennial trail and Ben Burr if the project moves forward as proposed.

The pathway to the park/trail has stone steps and some pretty nasty areas that have washed-out - ride-able by some but not many.

This is pretty representative of the current state of the trail for the majority of its length


Below is a section of the trial that appears to have a steep enough drop-off to require a safety railing.  One of the arguments against the trail is that railings would destroy the views and vistas from the trail.  As a Federally funded project it must meet certain standards for accessibility and safety so that is where these requirements come from. Look at the two photos below and decide whether a 42" railing (the height of kitchen counter-tops) will destroy the view from that point on the trail.

I have always loved this bridge and wonder whether it would have to be modified to meet the Federal standards.

The photo above shows a particularly secluded and scenic part of the trail.  It is easy to get to by bike or walking, but is all but virtually inaccessible for someone who requires ADA accommodations.  The trees on the right offer shade in the summer and brilliant foliage in the fall - hopefully the trail width requirements will not necessitate their removal.  During the entire trip I only saw two others on the trail despite it being early afternoon on a sunny Saturday.  When I stopped to ask them their opinions they indicated they have been long time residents of the East Central Neighborhood and support the project.

All of the above photographs depict the essence of this blog post; as users of this public resource we all have different opinions regarding what trail characteristics are important. Naturally there are questions as to whether these attributes can be preserved or even enhanced while making the trail accessible and a valuable part of Spokane non-motorized infrastructure.

Choices and compromises need to be made and the community at large and public officials will need to come together in a partnership and agree to meet for constructive dialogue.  Questions need to be articulated in an organized fashion and clear and honest responses should be communicated through consistent channels.  Otherwise an environment of misinformation, distrust and dysfunction will result and important community voices and priorities will be lost in the process.

The City of Spokane has begun this process with community informational meetings and listing questions and answers about the project at its Frequently Asked Questions website.

Finally, this brings me to another non-motorized paved trail that runs north and south between 57th Ave., and S Myrtle street on Spokane south hill.  The paved trail is bordered by farmland to the east and wetlands on the west.  To the south of it is S Ben Burr Road which is paved and runs through fields, forests and orchards.

I ride the trail and road frequently and see people commuting, walking, riding, running - all enjoying what is around them.  To a person, I never see anyone looking down and cursing the pavement.  Instead they are enjoying conversation with their companions and the accessibility, diversity and scenery both offer with close proximity to neighborhoods throughout the year.

In order to utilize the Federal grant the entire project must be paved and other requirements for safety must be met.  City engineers can apply for variances which may be granted but they will be the exception rather than the rule. 

In conclusion, it comes down to keeping The Ben Burr Trail the way it is and lose connectivity and infrastructure that will benefit the community for years to come or coming together for the greater good and working to make it the best project possible for all concerned.  I was one of the participants that raised my hand in support of the project during the meeting at the East Central Community Center and will work to support it if the City of Spokane decides to move forward.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

MOOTS 1,000 Mile Update

I took the opportunity the first Saturday in 2014 to run the MOOTS on a road ride in the sun.  All the rides now are with studded tires on the road or dirt roads until we turn the corner on winter so I can't speak to any new discoveries on riding characteristics..  It was great to be out in the sun today if only for a relatively short ride.  I tend to forget the cold when it is clear and sunny.

Not much new to report from the last update 500 miles ago, I do find that I have to mess with the disc brakes a lot more than I am used to with a road bike.  I like having a really short lever stroke before the pads contact the braking surface and find that I need to adjust the pull every 250 miles or so.

Other than that the performance of the setup remains rock solid. I still am marveling at the versatility of a cross bike and look forward to some more adventure rides in 2014.  One such ride will be to explore the summer roads to the south as they present themselves this year.


Stay tuned for more updates as riding opportunities present themselves.

See you out there.