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Author: Neal Poland

STOLEN IN SEATTLE: BIKES FOR VETERANS

STOLEN IN SEATTLE: BIKES FOR VETERANS

As some of you awesome readers of GMG know, I am a long time volunteer with the Seattle-based non-profit Outdoors for All Foundation. One of the thing our organization does is to team up with the Wounded Warrior Project to provide equipment and support for scenic bike rides and other outdoor activities here in the Pac NW. Many of our wounded vets travel from as far away as Puerto Rico to enjoy the backroads and trails of Washington, Oregon and Idaho on bikes provided to them by the Wounded Warrior Project. They are provided to vets who are unable to travel with their own personal rides or who cannot afford to purchase their own bikes.

Recently, some jackwagon stole two of our bikes from a parking garage in Seattle’s Ballard area. They are Trek 1.1 sizes 50 and 54cm. White with red and black accents. They have both Wounded Warrior Project stickers and Outdoors for All stickers on them.

If you see either of these bikes around, please contact the proper authorities.

Thanks to KOMO news for helping us get the word out.

 

On the Cheap: Nitto Randoneer…..Randonur….RANDO BARS!

On the Cheap: Nitto Randoneer…..Randonur….RANDO BARS!

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One of the few complaints I have about the Raleigh One Way I inherited is that the stock bars are 1) way too narrow 2) are somehow shaped too much and too little like track bars at the same time. Raleigh somehow managed to create the world’s least comfortable road bar on the market. After a couple of years riding the bike stock, I found that the only comfortable position on those bars were found when I rode no handed. But, I suffered because I liked the way Raleigh built the bike to look like a classic, and I wanted to preserve the aesthetics.

Then I took a spin on an actual classic touring bike that was built in the same decade that I was born in (I won’t say which decade, but let’s just say that it was post hippie pre-yuppie). The bars on the old bike had these weird looking humps and flares instead of traditional flat bar tops. My brain told me these were just some useless old technology that has since gone the way of friction shifters, cotter pinned cranks and unsealed hubs.

Once I placed my grubby hands atop the foam covered weirdo bars, I was convinced that not everything from the ’70’s was total crap. In fact, I was now convinced that the ’70’s were THE absolute end-all-be-all shit. In fact, I’m listening to Barry Gibb and his brothers as I type this article from the back seat of an orange Pinto.  According to the Gibb clan I should be dancin’.

But gangsters don’t dance, we boogie.

The design basics of the Nitto Randonneur bars harken back to the days when Tour riders swigged wine from bota bags and rode fixed gears. The tops of the bars feature a small flat area that sweeps up before sweeping down and out into a pair of generous drops, all of which somehow create perfectly comfortable hand positions no matter where your hands are placed. Case in point, I’ve never been able to comfortably ride in the drops of any bars on any bike I’ve ever owned for more than a few minutes. But I can ride for hours at a time in the drops of the Nitto Rando bars. Added bonus, the flared drops of the bars offer generous amounts of leverage for when you want to emulate your favorite Tour doper and climb or sprint from the drops. Nitto’s trademark quality produces a handlebar that is stiff and strong (I unfortunately put the bike down on the Nitto’s maiden voyage, so I can confidently say that these things are tough) for years of comfort for your Palmela Handersons.

At around $50 a set, the Nitto Rando bars are a wallet friendly upgrade for anyone who wants to be comfortable on long rides…or short rides. They’d probably work well for medium distance rides, too.

Just don’t feed them after midnight.

Broke Ass Racer: aka the BAR bike

Broke Ass Racer: aka the BAR bike

Cyclocross season is coming up quickly. Next month, people will begin attending CX camps to hone their skills for the upcoming race season, which begins in September.

10733846_10204050088066291_2340075667420873788_oFor those of you not familiar with ‘cross racing, Ryan described it best as “combining the worst elements of bike riding and long distance running into one sport.” Admittedly, CX racing is, by nature, a sufferfest. You ride what equates to a road bike equipped with knobby tires over courses that may contain some or all of the following:

1) Dirt

2) Mud

3) Sand

4) Stairs

5) Barriers that require riders to shoulder their bikes and run with them.

Weather. Does. Not. Cancel. EVER.10750013_10204049976903512_5293972783870888779_o

In fact, race organizers have been working with the CIA and Area 51 to ensure that the worst weather of the year occurs between September and late November requiring  CX races to take place in ankle deep mud and freezing rain and Category 5 hurricanes. While the racing may be miserable, watching your friends suffer before or after your race, brings miles of smiles. 

10683568_10204049999424075_4987743583948998782_oThe Seattle area has two CX racing series: MFG and Cross Revolution–neither of which are UCI sanctioned. Even though non-sanctioned racing can be frustrating to aspiring pros who are chasing points, removing the UCI licensing rules and requirements opens the door to anybody that wants to come out and play in the mud on whatever bike they want or can afford.

I’m pushing 40. I sit behind a desk 5 days a week and I’m lucky to get in an hour of riding a day Monday thru Friday. My training regimen consists of riding my bike for 6-8 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday, followed by large plates of food smothered in gravy and hot sauce.

That said, I could probably take racing more seriously, but that would take all the fun out of it. While I know many a racer who has thousands of dollars in their CX race bike, why spend all that money on something that you’re just going to destroy over the course of a race season? Cross racing ruins shiny paint jobs, makes derailleurs surrender their powers (they are a French invention, after all), and turns wheels into tacos for lunch.

For a weekend warrior like me, I just can’t justify literally throwing away thousands of dollars for the sake of entertainment….unless porn stars are involved, then it’s anybody’s guess.  In all honesty, I’ve seen people on cobbled together mismatched rides decimate riders atop full carbon unobtanium steeds many, many times.

After watching my friends race for a couple of seasons, I decided to try this thing called cyclocross myself. Being a man of modest means, I found a budget ride at big box bike store Nashbar for about $400. I figured if I didn’t like racing cross, or if I wasn’t any good, I could always turn the bike into a commuter.

As it turns out, I LOVE racing cross…although, I’m still not any fucking good at it.  I raced the bike mostly stock, save for the pedals and a secondhand saddle (thanks, Rob!) for 2 seasons. Realizing that the bike was pretty much useless going into the 3rd season, I decided a rebuild was in order. I knew I wanted to upgrade the brakes and I also wanted to go single speed for added simplicity and drivetrain strength. As a beer gutted man who hovers around 180-190, when mud and hills are added to the mix, things like spokes and chains and things begin to break.

Using the power of the internet, I found clearance parts, NOS pieces from a few years prior, and rebuilt the race bike for just a few hundy. I also scoured the used parts bins at the local non-profit bike shop. Most of those hundies are wrapped up in my Vuelta wheels. They are handbuilt, but I suspect that they are built by the same kid who builds electronics at the Foxconn facilities. I’ve created these fantastic infograms below showing how I pulled off such a feat.

So now, when I finish at the back of the pack, rather than people saying, “That guy sucks AND he has a $5000 race bike. What a dick!”, people say, “Wow, that guy sucks but he’s on a shitty beater bike. Dick.”

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5th Annual Girls of Summer Alleycat Race

5th Annual Girls of Summer Alleycat Race

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It’s that time of year again. When the girls come out to rip up the streets of Seattle in Menstrual Monday’s “Girls of Summer” all female alleycat race.

This no rules race around the Emerald city is open to women of all ages and skill levels whether this is your first alleycat race or your 40th.

The race features a bunch of fun checkpoints and great prizes from Seattle-area companies such as Raleigh, Recycled Cycles, and Detours.

 

Sat. June, 13. $5 registration 2PM. Racing starts at 3PM.

GOS Facebook page

Menstrual Monday’s Blog Post

 

 

Twenty Dolla Make You Holla

Twenty Dolla Make You Holla

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Middle Fork Road just outside of North Bend, WA has been under construction in some form since dinosaurs roamed the earth. However, a series of small landslides washed out sizable sections of the road leading to some of the Seattle area’s best  hiking and camping, rendering the road impassable to any  motor vehicles short of Bigfoot V. While that sucks for those who insist on travelling by car, it’s a boon for those of us who don’t mind powering our own adventures.

I recently heard about Goldmyer Hot Springs, which is a 20 mile trek up what’s left of the Middle Fork Road to an old mining camp featuring a volcanic spring that spews hot water out of the side of a mountain like a college freshman who’s bonged one too many Peebers. At some point, someone decided to corral this spewing flow and create a couple of small jacuzzi tubs and a grotto carved into an old mine shaft…heh heh…shaft. Thus, creating the Goldmyer Hot Springs “resort.”

It is highly recommended that you call and make reservations at Goldmyer, as they only allow 20 people per day to pass through the area. There’s no just “popping in” to take a peek.

Entry to the hot springs is $15. Oddly, it’s only another $5 to spend the night in one of a handful of unique campsites. I’m bad at math, but I think there are roughly 10 sites to choose from, each with its own flavah. I chose site #1 because it was the easiest to access with my Spinnabago single speed cross bike towing a craigslist BOB trailer.

11154774_10205179267575073_4577988705517924289_oThe ride up was the longest 20 miles of my life. Single speed cyclocross bike with a trailer meant walking and portaging sections I probably could have cleaned on a geared MTB.  Live and learn, I guess. Most of the road is potholed gravel. Only a few sections are truly washed out, but probably doable on a more off-road oriented bicycle.

But not having to worry about a single car was peaceful and fantastic!

Once I got just a few miles away from the newly “improved” Mailbox Peak trailhead area, I only saw a couple of mountain bikers and one or two errant hikers the entire trip.

There is no water on the road up or at Goldmyer, so be sure to bring filtration equipment. I carry a Lifestraw with me and designate an old water bottle to crappy water duty so I don’t have to carry extra water with me all the time. Since this trip parallels the middle fork of the Snoqualmie river most of the way, stopping to refill on unfiltered water is never a problem. The river also cuts through the campgrounds at Goldmyer, so that’s handy, too. I also brought along a 96 oz Nalgene collapsible bottle to reduce the number of trips to the river once at camp.

When you “check in” with the caretakers at Goldmyer, you get your choice of a couple of sizes of bear canisters to choose from. I guess that’s what the extra 5 bucks is for. The campsites are first come first served. Since the road access is pretty much nonexistent, you should probably have your pick of the bunch. Each campsite has its own unique features, as well  as a simple line and pulley system to hang your bear can. Most have old mining equipment biodegrading away, which I thought was pretty cool. The “resort” features the nicest outhouse I’ve ever seen. It’s clean and heated with gas (no pun intended). The caretakers provide TP, Glade poop smell camouflage spray and hand sanitizer.

Glass bottles and campfires are not allowed at Goldmyer. However, you can cook on a camp stove at your campsite. I brought along my trusty $30 Esbit solid fuel stove, which works great for solo trips.  No alcohol or weed is allowed at the hot springs themselves, but you can drink at your campsite so long as things don’t get out of hand. Basically, don’t be a dick, and you should be fine.

Speaking of dicks, Goldmyer is classified as a “clothing optional” place of relaxation, so just be aware of that.

If you make a trip to Goldmyer and enjoy yourself so much that you want to stay, they are looking for caretakers for a 4 month summer stint. You are afforded a cool cabin to live in, complete with satellite TV and interwebs and a stipend to help pay for your real world bills.

11164877_10205179267095061_1781251600744071379_oGoldmyer Hot Springs

206.789.5631

Reservation Rules and Policies

 

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

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I spend much of my off time volunteering with a local non-profit, working with people disabilities to help get them active in the outdoors. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along for a ride with the Wounded Warrior Project down in Oregon in exchange for my homegrown “mechanical” skills.

We took a drive a 4 hour drive to scenic Hood River, which would serve as our basecamp for the weekend. While Hood River has long been known as a mecca for windsurfing and kite boarding, it’s also home to some fantastic mountain biking and road cycling.

And breweries.

Lots and lots of breweries. Of you like adult beverages, Hood River will not disappoint.

The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail is an actual old highway that runs parallel to the current highway 84/ Oregon 30 along the banks of the mighty Columbia river like a watery Mason-Dixon line separating the states of Washington and Oregon so they don’t battle it out for Pacific NW supremacy. The complete route, which includes sections where you ride along the highway shoulder as well as fully protected sections, runs the distance between Troutdale and the Dalles.  Total distance is just over 80 miles each way.

For this particular ride, we stuck to the sections of the trail that were fully protected, for safety sake.

The trail runs along a ridge line high above the current highway, so you get great views and very little road noise. 13 or so miles are completely closed to motorized vehicles, giving riders a chance to ride at their own pace and stop when they want for photos.

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Along the way are numerous parks to rest or camp at, as well as plenty of things to see. The Bonneville Dam is on the route, as is the Bridge of the Gods  and one of the PCT trail heads (for you “Wild” enthusiasts).

Even though over 300,000 people a day use this trail, the path never seemed congested, and is very family friendly. The parking at the trailheads, however, paint a different picture, so get there early.

I’m planning a trip for later in the summer where I can experience the 160 mile out and back in its entirety, so stay tuned. I’m just waiting for my brother to get settled into his new place in the Portland area, so I don’t have to pay for parking!

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On the Cheap– (Don’t?) Try This At Home: Rockshox Coil to Air Fork Conversion

On the Cheap– (Don’t?) Try This At Home: Rockshox Coil to Air Fork Conversion

Full and utterly not shocking disclaimer: The advice in the forthcoming article WILL (not maybe, probably or might) void any SRAM/RockShox factory warranty on your fork. If you’re not comfortable reading service manuals and/or if the thought of beating your forks with a mallet makes you ill, don’t try this at home. If you’re ok with those things, by all means, try this at home.  

I recently purchased some stickers from AHTBM which read, “My Life Is a Cautionary Tale.” Those words echoed in my head as I stood on the deck of my apartment beating the lower legs off my 2014 RockShox XC 32 29er forks. Up until this moment, the forks had another year left on their factory warranty.

Let me back track to explain how a man in his late 30’s gets to the point where he feels the need to take a plastic mallet to a perfectly good suspension fork:

I purchased a squishy bike on clearance from my LBS late last summer. Obviously, a budget bike isn’t going to be spec’d with a high end menu of parts. In the case of the Fuel EX 5, that means a  fantastic Monarch R  air shock in the rear and a coil XC32 fork up front with a 15mm thru axle. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those products on their own, the mix of a tunable air shock on one end and a basically non-tunable coil on the other end makes the bike do sketchy things when the terrain gets sketchy at sketchy speeds.

I’ve been a fan of RockShox products for years, mainly due to their easy maintenance. In the case of the XC32 coil, there is basically no maintenance to be had and changing spring internals to help “tune”  the fork to the rider’s weight is a 10-15 minute process with spring kits running about $25 from my LBS. Changing the firmness of the springs on this fork really does make a significant difference. You can even adjust travel from 100–120mm by adding or removing the rubber spacers included in the spring kits, which is a nice feature on such a wallet friendly fork.

But I was also aware that RockShox makes a Solo Air version of this fork, which I could purchase for a couple hundy. However… I heard rumors on the ol’ interwebs that any rider worth his blood alcohol level could convert one of these babies for around $70. Since the Solo Air system is a self contained cartridge system, it appeared to be a simple plug and play process as the IT nerds say.  I found out that it really is pretty much plug and play, but with fork oil and hammers involved.

Things you’ll need:

1) A copy of the SRAM/RockShox service manual

2)  A SRAM/RockShox Solo Air cartridge for the XC32 fork (DUH!!). I managed to finagle one from Bikewagon for about $55.

3) A long handled 5mm hex wrench, or in my case, a ratchet with a long extension and 5mm hex attachment. More on tool length to cum.

4) A 2.5mm hex wrench

5) 24mm wrench or socket.  An adjustable Crescent style wrench will do the trick as well since this is just used to remove the top caps from the fork.

6) 15wt fork oil

7) Graduated fork oil syringe with about 5″ of rubber tubing. Brake bleed kits work great for refilling this fork. I tossed my brake bleed kit because I’m an idiot, so I used the body of an old ball point pen to get all up in there.

8) Not a requirement, but I also recommend a seal kit because you’re going to have the whole fork pulled apart anyway, so why not rebuild the whole damn thing, Capt. Halfassington?

9) A bike stand or at least a good bench vise. Remember, you will be beating things off with a mallet, and everyone knows that beating off requires good grip.

10) A rubber tipped or plastic mallet

11) Last, but not least: a drip pan. There won’t be a lot of oil that comes out with this procedure, but you probably don’t want fork oil all over the floor. But if you don’t mind a little floor lube, who am I to judge?

The Plan:

In hindsight, I recommend removing the fork completely from the bike. Just makes shit easier to work on. I kept the fork attached to the bike, so it’s definitely possible to do it, but I think it would have been easier to remove the fork before proceeding.

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Downhill and Dirty in the Desert

Downhill and Dirty in the Desert

 

 

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I spent enough years drinking cheap booze and “attending” classes at Eastern Washington University to be called “Doctor.”

During that time, I enjoyed the awesome and flowy trails offered by the dry side of Washington.

For anyone new to the area, most of Washington state lies east of the Cascade mountains where it rains little more than it does in Arizona. Thus, lots of fast and fun desert off road riding. One of the pinnacles of the early mountain bike racing season is the Hubapalooza downhill race and the People’s Enduro, the first stop on the All Gravity race series.

The trails are located at Beacon Hill/Camp Sekani park. This year’s event offers free camping for registered riders in the Camp Sekani parking lot. In addition to downhill and enduro racing, there is a fun night ride for registered riders and a jam session for dirt jumping enthusiasts.

If you’re looking to get out of the rain and clouds, come on out for some dusty fun.

I will be racing the enduro on Sunday, but I’ll be hanging out at Camp Sekani sampling the offerings of Evanson Handcrafted Distilling all weekend.

Come on out for fun in the sun!

Neal

Fear of the Dark: Serfas TSL-1800 Trail Light Review

Fear of the Dark: Serfas TSL-1800 Trail Light Review

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If you have a day job like most people do, chances are, your only time to ride during the work week is either during the morning before dragging your ass to the office, or after work when you’re free from the evil talons of corporate America.

In either case, a good set of trail lights are in order to make sure you make it out of the woods alive. They’re also a good addition to the road bike if you ride in rural areas with little or no artificial light.

On top of being a cheap ass, I also have terrible night vision. I’m the guy who gets up to piss in the middle of the night and ends up busting his head open on the door frame–true story.

So, when shopping for trail lights, I spent hours scouring the interwebs, innerwebs, outerwebs and spider webs reading reviews on sub-$200 light sets.

After changing my mind approximately 235,000 times, I settled on the Serfas TSL-1800, which happened to be on clearance at my semi-local bike superstore BikeTiresDirect.com for half-price.

Total out the door price: $160.

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Seattle Bike Show 2015

Seattle Bike Show 2015

The Seattle Bike Expo is no longer. Thankfully, Cascadia Events picked up the ball and created the Seattle Bike Show for 2015. The event will take place Feb. 28th & March 1st at Century Link. This year’s events feature speakers such as the one and only “Bobke” Bob Roll, local celeb and mountain bike coach Kat Sweet, and of course, trials rider and yogi from the north, Ryan Leech.

This year’s shindig will feature a pump track for adults, and what appears to be a zipline. Your $10 ticket also gains you access to the Washington Travel, Trips and Adventures expo, featuring cool outdoor gear and local outdoor trip planning and advice.

Hope to see you there!

Sat. February 28th 10:00Am–5:00PM

Sun. March 1st 10:00AM–4:00PM

Adults $10

Kids 17 and Under FREE