Last week was a big week for cycling in Cordova. There was meeting for the brand new “Cordova Cycling Coalition” as well as the PTA Bike Rodeo! That may not seem like a lot to some of the big city dwellers, but for Cordova it’s a pretty big deal. Our little fishing village has limited options for cyclists. You’ve got to be an adventurer, making the most of our limited bicycle infrastructure. Many kids here start on push bikes, graduate to a bmx and move onto a motorcycle or 4-wheeler as soon as they can. We’re a town predominately propelled by petroleum but let’s face it, most of the United States is. So I’m glad we have opportunities, as infrequent as they are, to celebrate the bicycle and get people riding.
Turning wrenches at the PTA Bike Rodeo, Cordova.
Many communities base their cycling effort on commuters. As an example, 3.4% of commuters in Seattle use a bicycle to get to work or school (2014.) Their smug neighbor to the south (Portland, OR) ranks number one in the US with 7.2% (2016.) The national average is way down there at 0.5%. That means if 11 or so people commute by bike in Cordova, we’re right on the national average. I think many here in Cordova would agree that the largest barrier to cycling here is the weather. It can be shitty. Shitty on a level that few people that don’t live here could understand. So shitty that it can be dangerous. Biblical amounts of rainfall, high winds, heavy snow… shitty.
When I moved to Cordova I was a proud non-driver. I was living in Austin, TX working as a bike messenger. I hadn’t owned a car in 8 years and didn’t see any reason to… but Cordova had other plans for me. After a year, I bought a 4Runner. Things I took for granted living in the city like public transportation, pleasant riding weather, and proximity to trails; I no longer had. Cordova requires a little more independence. There aren’t droves of people parked at the trailhead out mountain biking. If I wanted to ride, I went by myself. No big deal really. I’ve been playing with myself most of my life.
Though access might not be as easy as in a larger community, Cordova does have quite a few opportunities for those that want to get out and explore on two wheels. We’re home to about 20 miles of paved roads, plus quite a few gravel USFS roads, trails and easements, as well as old logging roads and trails that are infrequently used (and free to access if you have a permit from the native corporation.) The hardest part about riding those trails, is knowing where they are. I started mapping them on my own, and then through some friends that run a guide outfit in Oregon, found out about the GaiaGPS app. There is a pretty badass layer you can put on the maps called “USFS Classic” which as far as I can tell, contains all of the logging roads in Prince William Sound. Pretty damn handy if you’re looking to ride on the Copper River Delta, especially if you’d like to incorporate some loop trails.
Many of the USFS trails contain what they call “Step & Run” trail building techniques- which consist of pressure treated wood stacked on top of each other as stairs- not great for walking and near impossible to ride. It is an effective technique to put in miles of trail on the cheap, but it’s kinda shitty if you want to ride a bike around this beautiful area. Some of the best riding that I’ve found is on this old system of logging roads from when the Native Corp was logging here in the early 1990’s.
Below is the Stuck Lake-Boulder Alley Loop trail. If you look just north of where the red route is, you can see the jumbled little wad of logging roads. That is a hill that the kids in town call “The lookout” and I can see a lot of potential to ride up the hill and make some sweet singletrack down.
Here is a fun little ditty that I put together from the ride. Pro tip: check the wind when you go out there. If you ride it clockwise, the wind won’t suck so bad if it’s blowing easterly. Riding Against The Wind is for Bob Seger songs.
Most of this year (like every year I’ve spent in Alaska) I’ve been on a boat. I spend my days on the water working long hours and living in cramped quarters with a small crew. From February until as late as November my time on two wheels is curtailed. When the occasional day off arises, now that there is a motorcycle in my stable it gets more attention than the bicycle. If I’ve got 2 hours to get into the woods on two wheels- the motor makes it happen. No it doesn’t help my legs or my wind- I spend most of my year traveling less than 10 knots, sometimes it feels good to go fast.
Don’t worry. I’m not going full moto. I’m not selling my bicycles to because I’ve got this new found need for speed- but goddamn motorcycles are fun. But I digress. This isn’t about motorcycles. It’s winter time here at 60 degrees North latitude and as I look outside there is a quarter inch of ice that fell last night as sleet and froze. The motorcycle is in bed until the spring thaw and now it’s time to get fat. Fat biking. I’ve had the fatbike for a couple years but didn’t make the jump to studs until this year because they’re so damn expensive. Dillinger 4’s & Dillinger 5’s are impressive and those that have them love them but a pair will cost you more than 4 Walmart beach cruisers. If I lived in Anchorage I may have committed earlier but I’ve been biding my time long enough that with all the new offerings out there I was able to find a studded set of the Vee Tire Snowshoe XL for around $280 a pair.
First impression: why the shit did I wait so long? If you live in an area that gets ice- you need studs. They’ll save your ass. Or at the very least your hip. They aren’t magic- and you can still go down on the ice but they’re a butt ton better than rolling on a wing and prayer. Do yourself a favor and get some.
So theres a cool little app out for a while now. It’s called Relive. It uses Strava or Garmin gps. It makes neat stuff like this:
And in other news- tomorrow is Global Fat Bike Day. If you’re in Anchorage there is a ride starting at Bread & Brew on Tudor at 6pm. If you’re in Cordova- I’m sure we’ll do something. Holler.
Disclaimer: This post isn’t about bicycles. It is a story about adventure on two wheels though; because of all the means of travel I’ve used over the years, I like two wheels the best.
Summer’s almost gone. As a commercial fisherman this year had been really busy- until it wasn’t. It came to a halt like a bird flying into a window. There was a thud, a drop, a brief stupor… then done. It wasn’t pretty. Salmon seining in Prince William Sound was the poorest we’ve seen in recent memory, with salmon hatcheries still concerned with the brood stock they’ll have available to ensure strong enhanced runs in the future. The number of days we were able to put our nets in the water a fraction of what we’ve come to expect in what is (still) one of the best managed fisheries in the world. We’re unsure as fishermen (and maybe even the biologists in charge of managing the fishery) what the hell happened- but it did. Boats tied up earlier than in years past and here I am, less than a week from putting the boat away, already looking for winter work- since it’s a given that there will be hungry people looking for any work they can find in our little town. This says nothing about what the future will bring. Being a fisherman means being optimistic- so I’m hoping the years to come will prove this to be just one off year.
Even with the low number of fishing days, we didn’t get much time to relax. A “hurry up and wait” atmosphere was maintained by the fishery managers (ADFG) who were inconsistent with the announcement times (announcements say when we go fishing based on the run strength at hatcheries and in aerial surveys) and not just coming out to say “the fish aren’t here- take a break for a couple days.” Nope. Maybe we were too hopeful- thinking the fish were just a little late. We sat- always within email range, waiting for the scheduled 2pm announcement that would maybe come at 10am, or maybe 5:30pm- saying essentially “Maybe tomorrow.”
On one particular late morning I walked down to the boat to get my sunglasses- planning a bicycle ride in the woods to blow off some steam. Shit was fucked up. Six hours later I left the boat, following an ordeal involving an overly full plugged shitter, thirty years of calcified human waste and working in confined spaces- I was done. I needed a break to recharge my batteries. I won’t torment you by reposting the photo that I put on my @generallynautical Instagram.
The announcement of the day had wording that made it sound like we were going to be on the beach for a couple days at least- so it was time to do something. Maybe even something that some people would describe as an “Adventure.” The skipper was very supportive and said something like “Get the hell out while you can!”
Here was an opportunity to explore a part of the state that I’d yet to visit. Typically on a boat from February into October, a July trip to the interior was something I couldn’t pass up. With only a couple days available- and nearly 1000 miles of highway in my sights- the bicycle was set aside for the moto. It happened fast. Up to my elbows in shit at 5 in the afternoon, packing for a motorcycle trip by 8pm and on the ferry at 4am the following morning. I love living in Alaska.
Back it up a little bit: My wife went into the history books as “Best Wife Ever” when she gifted me a motorbike last December. A complete surprise, I was obviously ecstatic. It seems the perfect bike for Alaska- a 2009 KLR650. I had the opportunity to ride it a little bit in between fishing and the icy roads of winter- mostly on the unmapped logging roads that I’ve been slowly documenting off our highway system, trying to establish some nice bikepacking loops in the area. It’s worked great as a way to link up the trails when I don’t have time for a long ride.
I packed fairly light though I didn’t use everything- so maybe I over packed. I wore my Levis commuter jeans, a cotton tee shirt, Pendleton wool flannel, wool socks and MUSA merino underwear, Coal Headwear fleece neck gaiter, West America x Woolrich waxed cotton jacket, La Sportiva leather mountaineering boots, OR unlined leather gloves and Smith sunglasses. I’m also using Bell Vortex helmet. On the bike I carried:
Klymit Sleeping pad
0 degree Wiggy’s bag
OR bivy sack
3 pairs socks
2 pairs underwear
Showers Pass rain pants
MSR Dragonfly stove
Aeropress and coffee for 4 days
Stanley thermos mug
One day worth of freeze dried meals
Tripod/selfie stick adapter to hold phone for photos and video
Folding pack saw
Basic tool kit
I think that’s it. My panniers weren’t totally waterproof, but I did have a dry bag for my sleeping bag. In a perfect world everything would have been set up just so- but sometimes you just gotta go. I don’t have much fancy “Adventure” gear- fully decked out it can cost thousands. I’ve got my old mountaineering boots, jeans, a street helmet and some other hodgepodge stuff. Stuff I feel comfortable going into the woods overnight with. Stuff I feel comfortable riding in. Sure, there is usually a safety element in expensive gear- but people have been traveling on two wheels for a long time and that hasn’t always been available- they got by somehow. Much like when riding a bike- I don’t plan on falling. Basically- if you wait to have all the gear that you think you need before you do a thing, you may never do the thing. If it rained hard every day, I may have been uncomfortable- but it didn’t, so I was stoked. Also- I didn’t get a flat tire which is good, because I didn’t have tire irons, or a tube, or a pump. I think I was expecting more traffic to help me out if I broke down- but even though it was peak of summer, I saw few cars. So I guess I got lucky.
Day One: I took the 7hr ferry ride from Cordova to Whittier, then took the tunnel through the rock and rode towards Anchorage. The Whittier tunnel is nuts on a moto. You really gotta pay attention. Up Hatcher Pass to the Independence Mine, then down Hatcher Pass and made it to Talkeetna the first night (with an obligatory stop at the Denali Brewing Co.) Camped at a site just north of town. Independence mine was rad- few people there and some cool hiking. Hatcher Pass was fun- gravel with very light traffic. Talkeetna is definitely a tourist town. 205 miles, lots of gravel.
Day Two: Talkeetna up to Healey. Camped at a site conveniently next to 49th State Brewing Co. Very touristy- especially near Nenana River with lots of raft tours going on. Lots of tour buses. The entrance to Denali Park- which was closed to all but hard sided RV’s 12 miles into the park because of a bear attack, so I didn’t bother going in. Too many crowds. It started sprinkling rain around here, but it cleared up when I got up to Healey. 164 miles, mostly paved highway.
Day Three: Healey to Anchorage. The big push. I could have just gone straight south- but I didn’t want to miss the Denali Hwy. It was a long day. A very long day. On a moto like mine though, you stand up a lot, so that makes it nice. Changing positions is critical. If I were on a cruiser that I had to keep my ass on the seat for that stint I would have been far more uncomfortable. Stayed at a dive motel in ANC and a bed felt good. $95 a night summer rate and I didn’t get bed bugs- that’s a deal for Anchorage. 526 miles, lots of gravel.
Day Four: Anchorage to Whittier. Got back on the ferry at 1pm and 7hrs later I was home. 61 miles, busy paved highway.
Taking it back again: When I was in high school I had an english teacher that used to give me books to read that weren’t required. I didn’t really read the books that were required, but I loved the ones he gave me. I was fascinated with traveling and couldn’t wait to graduate so I could get the fuck out of California (which I did- a week after graduation.) He introduced me to books like On The Road, Siddhartha, The Razors Edge, and the movie Easy Rider. I was hooked. Though it took me 20 years to do my first moto trip- it won’t be my last.
I made this video on the ferry ride home. Everything was shot and edited on the iPhone. The song used is the Ballad of Easy Rider. It’s the last song in the soundtrack to the movie- when the main characters die in a burst of flames. I love the song and it kept going through my head the whole short trip. Thanks again to Jordan Price, wherever he is, for encouraging me to explore not only literature- but life.
The weather is getting colder here in Alaska and with it comes that time of year when we eat, drink and be merry. Some kids get gifts brought by St. Nicholas, and other kids get punished by the Krampus.
For those that subscribe to the gift giving side of it and have some shopping to do for the cyclists in their lives we’ve compiled a short list of presents- of a mostly practical nature. Continue Reading
Victoria, BC. That’s in Canada. It’s called the “Garden City.” It’s the capital city of British Columbia- and is not in Britain or in Columbia. It’s really confusing. Something about history, there is a lot of it there too. Tons of old buildings that I’m sure if they were in Seattle would be torn down- modern glass and steel condos put up in their place.
With the graying of the the team (Hodala) – we’ve taken to renting a big house when we travel for SSCXWC. It means that our “responsibility buddies” make sure everyone gets home, we can drink our own kegs and well- we just like to hang out together. Hodala is much more than a bike racing team- we look out for each other on and off the bike. We had a great house on the water with a hot tub and dock access. Turns out “dock access” doesn’t mean “water access” and Dirty Randy cut the shit out of his leg (spoiler alert: he was drunk) trying to climb onto the dock out of the Gorge Waters on our first night. This year we channeled this video and it served as inspiration for our shenanigans.
After traveling nearly 3000 miles and consuming a lifetimes worth of alcohol, pizza, cheeseburgers, donuts and ice cream cake- I’ve returned home to my house on the hill in Cordova- alive.
Bike racing is hard.
This year I’ve spent less time on this blog than I’ve spent on my bike- which isn’t much. I’ve taken very few photos as I seem to break every camera put into my hands. My phone is sometimes used- but I often forget that I can use it as a camera. What follows suit is a cycle of poor blogging- each shortfall I offer compounding the next shortfall. As my memories are dragged through coffee filters and alcohol, the days meld into one and the voices words in my head resemble the marriage of a Dr. Bronners label and a can of Four Loko. For that I’m not apologetic, it’s just like that and that’s the way it is.
Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships took place in Victoria, BC, Canada this past weekend and I was lucky enough to attend with Hodala: my CX team and some of the… how can I say… most polarizing people I know. After a red eye flight out of Anchorage, I flew into Seattle at the butt crack of dawn on a Monday. Bubba picked me and the bike up at the airport and we had some breakfast and red beers as we made our way into the city. A good friend that I see too rarely- it’s always good to cross paths and catch up. He dropped me off at Back Alley Bike Repair where Ben helped sort the wheat from the chaff on my all too neglected bike. A new chainring, chain and cables were installed along with some general maintenance performed, while we drank Berzerker and listened to Puscifer. Ben and Julian at Back Alley are solid dudes that are pumped to get people riding well maintained bikes.
Matt Falwell from Manwolfs CX came out from Louisville and I got to play tour guide around Seattle- the city I called home for 6 years. Matt was one of the organizers of Louisville last year and rode a we pretty good loop together: Continue Reading
The homey Garrett, involved with Off the Chain in Anchorage- went on a hunting by bicycle trip this month along with a large handful of other co-op members. It looks like they were successful. Alaska being Alaska, I saw a couple of the hunting party members in the Anchorage airport on my way home from Interbike.
I’ve combined guns and bikes on a few different levels, most of the time carrying a sidearm or shotgun as bear and moose protection while on solo rides. Last fall I cobbled together a lightweight scabbard for my .22LR for hunting small animals, like rabbits and grouse. It worked well- though I’ll be doing some more to improve it’s design this year.
For small game, my setup is pretty slick but with a heavy, high powered hunting rifle or shotgun- something more substantial would likely be necessary. I would likely just shoulder my rifle if headed out for a larger mammal, or use a rack like the folks at Cogburn have designed.
Nice work on the hunt, as well as the video. I like when the face of hunting is of real people in search of real food and a connection with the land.
I’ll leave you with a song I listened to quite a bit when I moved to Alaska as a vegan, in 1999. Also- save me some of the tongue!
Day one of Outdoor Dirt Demo. There was dirt and wind and beer and bikes and… The Elliptigo. Maybe next year they’ll come out with a recumbent, E-Elliptigo but until then- I’m out.
Fatbikes. I like them. They are fun. Apparently other people like them too, and the bike industry has been selling lots of them. I also like cargo bikes. They have come a long way in the last few years and I’m trying to get my nephews set up with one so they are of particular interest to me this year. Another style of bike that piques my interest is the folder. Not just for smug commuters anymore, the folder is a great option for those that travel, don’t have much space in their houses, or those that may link up a few different types of transportation on their commute.
After missing the show last year, I was unsure what to expect- curious what changes had been made in the program as far as vendors and more importantly, the sweet deals that they sometimes bring to the demo.
One thing that was easy to notice as soon as you step off the bus, is the growth of the e-bike. I think it’s undeniable at this point that the cycling industry will have to make room for this growing sector of bikes. Like it, or not. Town bikes, cargo bikes, even mountain bikes were cruising up the hills at 20mph, quiet as a mouse with the driver pedaling with little effort and an unavoidable smile on their face. I tested one on a cargo bike platform (which as of this writing I’m going to say that its the only e-bike I’d feel comfortaly riding, unless no one was looking.) An Xtracycle Edgerunner, it had the Bosch gear box system which is pretty great, being a true pedal assist, unlike some that seem little more than electric mopeds. Though I rode it unloaded, I can imagine that with a full load of beer, kids, or potting soil- even steep hills would be climbable, maybe even with ease.
Dirt Demo, for whatever reason, is not attended near as well as Interbike. Some shop people or media folks love it- and why wouldn’t you? It’s 2 days in the desert, riding bikes you could never afford, with lots of trails, a pump track and even a goddamn shuttle. The interest seems to be waning still, with fewer attendees, and some vendors pulling out- maybe saving themselves for the show? Myself, I haven’t taken advantage of the shuttle, and don’t go buck wild on the riding- I just like to go around and snap photos of dirty bikes.
But I digress, the focus is on the bikes. So here it goes…
Fresh off the plane in Las Vegas for this year of Interbike, I’m sitting in my hotel typing this- enjoying a cold Budweiser in my underwear. I’m doing things a little different this year, blogging solely from an iphone 6 and a bluetooth keyboard. I’m not certain it will work well, but I spent all my money on bike parts this year, so thats what you get.
I spent a little better than a week in California- the Golden State, visiting family and friends with my better half. Bringing our bikes was clutch- I love riding in the bay, and the wife didn’t ride much when she lived in the area. She also got a new saddle- so riding her skinny tire bike has been a pleasure lately.
A few of the fun things I did include the tasting of so many great beers. And whiskeys. And coffee. So. Many. Mikkeller Bar, Fieldwork Brewing, Beer Revolution, Trappist Provisions, Øl…. The list goes on. We rode the Iron Horse Trail in 104 degree heat. I drank coffee for a couple hours with the homey Stevil as we spoke of the changing social and economic landscape of Oakland. I bought a sweet 49ers Starter x Levi’s collaboration jacket that will becoome something else very soon. I met my new nephew, now 9 months old, that my sister named after me (the poor bastard.) I was busy.
I also stopped by Montano Velo, which is now in half the space that it was last time I visited. I met with Daniel, owner of Tumbleweed Bicycle Co. Not only is he a nice guy, passionate about cycling and riding bikes in exotic locales- he wrapped his head around a different way (than I’ve seen) to build a 4″ tire fat bike. He and some buddies recently returned from a trip to Mongolia- all riding working prototypes of this bike of his. It uses a Rohloff hub- which may make some people scream “Nerd!” right out of the gate- but it works. It works well. The idea is to keep a low q-factor, use a standard mtb bb, and parts that are (at the very least slightly more) accessible in obsure places than many fatbike parts.
The bikes were loaded heavily for the trip and ridden over 1000 miles, few if any paved. All worked well. Though the final frames will have minor aesthetic changes, along with cleaner welds- you can expect a pretty neat bike that will accommodate a number of wheel sizes (it also uses an adjustable bb,) front suspension, a Rohloff and feel good on the trail. I hope to hear more about Daniel and Tumbleweed Bicycle Co soon. I mean-the website is a .cc like Rapha is, so it must be good, right?
But now I’m in Vegas and the real work starts. Desert heat, an overwhelming number of brands and people trying to get their goods to the masses. The beer drinking. The shitty food and 1 mile long blocks. Underbike. Even a goddamn cargo bike syposium. I’m going to need a vacation after the next 5 days.
But yeah- if you like to make party and you happen to be in Downtown Las Vegas on Thursday, the bad decision makers will be attending Stevil’s annual shit show that is Underbike.
There will be music and hopefully the bar doesn’t run out of beer (which has happened just about yearly.)
So that’s about all that’s fit to print. I’ll try and do a daily thing with some stuff that appeals to me but then again, I’m nothing- if not unreliable.