Ritte gets it.

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Bicycle, Bike Porn No Comments

Bikes are serious business. There’s no room for humor or jokes in such a serious business. Ritte gets that and here they have a poignant little short that epitomizes just how serious it all is. Seriously.

And they make nice bikes to boot.

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Can’t Run, Never Will. Part I.

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Alaska, Bicycle, fat bike, Gear No Comments

Like most great ideas I have, it happened while drinking beer.

The packraft/bike combo is one that offers so much potential in this part of Alaska- surrounded by rivers, lakes, beaches, and not many roads. One trip that has been on my list for a long time was to the end of the road. Not the current end of the road, but the end of the road that we used to go see Child’s Glacier calve into the mighty Copper River- that and the engineering marvel of the Million Dollar Bridge.

The Copper River Highway is the old railroad bed that used to connect Cordova and the copper mines in Kennecott, some 196 miles up river via the Copper River and North West Railroad. Not without hurdles to construction and maintenance, the CRNW crossed 129 bridges, including the Million Dollar Bridge (which cost $1.4 million and was completed in 1910.) On April 8, 1911, the first ore train hauled $250,000 of copper ore to Cordova. In 1916, the peak year for production, the mines produced copper ore valued at $32.4 million. The mines at Kennecott worked until 1938, and the Kennecott company donated the land back to the state in 1941 for use as a state highway route. The 1964 earthquake took care of that nicely, when the last span on the north end collapsed (it has since been raised and the bridge added to the Nat’l Historic Registry.) The CRNW Railroad is sometimes referred to as the “Can’t Run Never Will.”

million dollar bridge

In 1999 I got the opportunity to raft down from the Tazlina river to Cordova (27mile,) a 9 day float trip. It was absolutely incredible and I fell in love with the Copper River. We floated alongside the old railroad route, sometimes getting out to explore the old tunnels and old railroad line long ago reclaimed my mother nature. Alders had overgrown through the railroad bed and bridges were long washed out by heavy spring snow melt-making the idea of a bike or even hiking trip down the trail difficult if not impossible.

The Copper River makes this whole remarkable area where I live what it is. The river has changed much over the years- moving sand, rock and trees with it. A few years back, the bridge at 36 mile was washed out, eroding the section of earth between two bridge sections. Gone with it was access to Child’s Glacier. Sure we have other glaciers here, but Child’s Glacier is something. It calves directly into the Copper River when the water is high sending waves of water across the river towards the observation deck. As a town, it affects tourism some and was a great place for folks to go camping and explore out the road. But I digress… Where was I?

That’s right, I was drinking beer. Son of A Berserker. A stout. I started putting my bike together for an overnight trip. I thought at first I’d do it in one day- drive to 36 mile, paddle across, ride the remaining 12 miles up river and float back down to the truck. Seemed easy enough. But my plan started to change.

I says to myself, I says “Self, why don’t you stay the night? When’s the next time you’ll be out here? Why don’t you just stop and smell the cottonwoods?”

Maybe it was the beer, but I thought that was a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, it meant that my loose plan made with Hoots the day before was out the window. Hoots was interested in going, he could borrow a packraft from a friend and I’d set him up with a bike. With the change to an overnight, I didn’t have enough gear to get all our stuff over the river and to set up a camp. With that, I decided I’d ride the route solo instead of driving to the end of the road and making a day trip with a friend. Seemed fitting.

Choosing the bike. With most of my route on a gravel road, I didn’t need 5” tires. I knew the conditions on this side of the bridge because I’ve been around out there. On the far side, most bets were off. It’s been a couple years since the road has gone through and I was unsure if the sand had blown over the road, it was washed out, or something else. In the summer there is an outfit that takes people over on a massive airboat and then a shuttle van brings them to the glacier, so I know it’s been traveled, but I was still unsure. I may have to ride up the sandy river bed for miles looking for a place to cross. That and when it comes down to it- I don’t have a bike that is as well equipped for taking whatever is thrown at it as my Fatback. It may be slow, but it’s steady. And I’ve got some frame mounted bags for it so….

Packing the bike. This was my first overnight with the Fatback so I was a little unsure how to best pack it. The frame bag looks large, but doesn’t really fit as much stuff in the space as I was hoping. Heavy things like food should have gone in there to keep the weight low but I didn’t bring much of that- and my little “gastank” bag held my snacks for the road. I don’t have one of those fancy seatpost bags that would have been so nice, but I do have a seatpost mounted rack that worked pretty well. I strapped my sleeping bag and pad and lifejacket to it. It made for a tall package, but was light stuff and it worked. I also don’t have one of the fancy rolls for the front of my bike- but I do have a compression sack from Granite Gear that has three straps to make the roll skinnier and one strap to compress it length-wise. This gave me enough strapping points that I could lash it to my Jones H-bars without messing with the cable routing too much. It worked quite nicely actually, even strapping securely onto the stern tie-downs of my raft. That and I had it in my stuff already. I’ll be looking into a seatbag, but the handlebar roll will wait until I can afford it.

After everything was strapped up and lashed down, my bike weighed in at just over 63lbs. Not a very nimble beast, but hey- neither am I. Strap a 15lb backpack to my back and my 7lb pistol to my hip, and I was ready.

My beautiful bride (of ten days) was headed to work so I hopped in with her and she dropped me off 12 miles closer to my destination. We kissed goodbye- her wondering what the fuck I was thinking taking off by myself across the Copper in a plastic boat and a heavy ass bike, but being supportive as she always is.

The packing list:

  • 0º degree Wiggy’s sleeping bag
  • OR Standard Bivy sack
  • foam sleeping pad
  • MSR dragonfly stove
  • fuel bottle (I could have carried the smaller fuel canister)
  • MSR cook pot
  • Estwing hatchet
  • Coldsteel campknife
  • Couglan’s folding saw
  • EH tool roll
  • extra Surly fat tire tube
  • Lezyne pump (I haven’t used my mini pump to inflate a fatbike tire and I hope I never have to.)
  • point and shoot camera (which the wind blew overand broke)
  • GoPro & extra mounts
  • collapsible tripod
  • iphone
  • Delorme Inreach Explorer
  • Swrve Schoeller wool trousers
  • poly long underwear (tops and bottoms)
  • two pairs poly/wool socks
  • Club Ride liner chamois
  • Club Ride shirt
  • Chrome Warm vest
  • OR HAVOC jacket
  • OR wind/rain layer
  • Filson leather belt
  • Keen sneakers
  • mesh cap
  • Black diamond windblock fleece gloves
  • Alpacka raft
  • Carbon paddle
  • heavy type III PFD borrowed from seine boat
  • 3L water bladder
  • water bottle
  • bear spray
  • .44mag S&W revolver with 6 240gr. bullets.
  • sunglasses
  • Niterider Lumina 220 light
  • Black Diamond headlamp
  • small first aid kit
  • 2 Granite gear compression stuff sacks (one for raft, one for sleeping system)
  • Stanley flask full of Buffalo Trace bourbon

I want to take this time and stress that you don’t need all the new shit to get outside. It doesn’t need to cost a ton of money. In my head I kept thinking of that overused hashtag “#outsideisfree.” Sure it is- of course I’m typing that on a $600 phone, atop a $2000+ bike or $800 raft with $xxxx amount of shit strapped to it. It’s important to remember that the experience we are searching for isn’t something that most of us want to put a price tag on. I don’t want people to not go bike camping because they don’t have the newest, hottest thing. You don’t need a hashtag to get outside. If you have your essentials: Shelter, food and water, you can have a great time and make some memories. These requirements are of course regionally defined. Summer beach camping in San Diego is far different than fall camping on the Gulf of Alaska- be smart, think- but don’t overthink it. Have fun and enjoy the ride. My packing lists change on every ride, and yours will too, the more you do it the more you’ll figure out. You’ll find out how warm (or cold) you sleep and how much food you need (pro-tip: bring a little more than you think you need if you’re going to be self-supported.)

That’s what I’ve got so far.  I’ll do another post of the trip as it was, with the photos I could recover. Stay tuned.

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This Saturday in Tacoma

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Bicycle, Rides, Washington No Comments

Saturday, October 25th :: 7:00pm
Meet up at: BROKEN SPOKE :: Tacoma, WA
We will be cycling to various watering holes throughout the night.
Rain or dry we ride – (Folks, we’re riding bikes…how cool is that?!)
21+ and biking is at your own risk…so don’t fall down yo!
Spread the word! Tell your velo peeps!

Limited number of spoke cards! :: Don’t be late!

Tip: USE CASH it helps us get through bar lines faster so plan ahead!
reaper

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You’ll never make it out alive.

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Bicycle, Bicycle Racing, Cyclocross, Travel No Comments

It’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday night and I’m contemplating whether or not I should get my shit packed and head to Louisville on Monday for SSCXWC.  Probably not a great idea, which likely means I’ll be there- Hodala willing. They have bourbon there, right?

Much to well dressed bloggers dismay, beer will likely be spewn.  Like my mom always said “Sometimes you just gotta be a man and shit in your pants.”

Here’s some Playmobil toys riding bikes.

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The Men’s Riding Coat.

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Bicycle, Gear No Comments

Fall is here, and though some places are still sunny and 70, winter is coming. The folks at Hub and Bespoke in Seattle have been working on a Men’s Riding Jacket for a while now, and you have one week left to get involved and help get it off the ground.

They’ve designed the jacket with a classic double breasted pea coat in mind, with waterproof fabric and a cycling cut.  It’s made in Seattle, has some reflective touches and has venting to keep you, uh… vented.

It’s classier than a garbage bag with a couple holes in it, and will likely work better.

To get the production going, it takes money.  Like $15,000.  But don’t sweat it- you don’t need to cut down your money tree for this jacket to become a reality.  You can get on board for a little as $9.  And you’ll get some stuff!  As of today, it’s almost 25% funded.  So head on over to the Crowd Funding site HERE and make it happen.

Hub and Bespoke – Crowd Supply from Chris McElroy on Vimeo.

 

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You can never go home again.

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Bicycle, Travel No Comments

Home [hohm]
noun
1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
2. the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.
3. an institution for the homeless, sick, etc.: a nursing home.
4. the dwelling place or retreat of an animal.
5. the place or region where something is native or most common.
6. any place of residence or refuge: a heavenly home.
7. a person’s native place or own country.
photo 1
I spent my adolescence and some of my teenage years in the “San Francisco Bay Area.” That’s what you tell people that aren’t familiar with The Bay. When you live in the East Bay, which I did- people still want it narrowed down. Living in Oakland and Berkeley is where the cool kids were. Where do you NOT want to live in the 90’s? Concord. That’s where.
I graduated from high school (barely) and promptly got the fuck out of town, hitchhiking at 17 years old to any point East. After 4 years on the road by thumb, bus, bicycle and freight train I found myself in Alaska which is where I am today (having done a couple year stint in Seattle in order to convince my [now] bride-to-be to move even farther north.) Nope, I don’t have much use for California. Too much humanity.
The Bay Area never felt like “home” to me. I was born in Oregon if you ask. I’m not really “from there” either I guess, I don’t have as many memories of it as I do of California- but I always felt out of place in that Golden State of earthquakes and hustlers. It’s a place that doesn’t fit as “home” to me- as dictionary.com defines it and my heart sure isn’t there.  Don’t get me wrong- there are a bunch of few people that I do care very much about in California. It’s everybody else that make me lose faith in the human race. I left in 1995 and every time I return it I have less patience for it.
All that, but California does have one thing on it that can’t ever move out of state. A thing that I will forever be thankful for, which helped shape me into who I am today. California is where I learned to ride a bike.
I remember:
  • Riding my bmx in the drainage ditches of Pittsburg, (before my first foray into wrenching left the thing in a hundred little pieces that my step-dad had no idea how to put back together.)
  • Riding my Fila hybrid (if it was sold today it would be called a “gravel grinder”) in the hills off the Contra Costa Canal trail and to school before it was stolen.
  • I purchased my first “real” Mountain bike in California, a GT Timberline. The one with the blue splatter paint and a rigid fork. It had sealed bearings and rapid fire shifters!  A bike I brought to Cordova in the late nineties and still see riding around.

I have riding memories in Oregon as well, but no where near as many as exploring the East Bay, Marin County and San Francisco on two wheels. Some of my best rides have been in California and I thought of these as I flew down to the bay last week, as a surprise to my good friend for his wedding (second time’s a charm!) I knew in the cargo hold of that 737 was my bike and I knew I was headed down to 80 degree weather on trip that would kill three birds with one stone. Not only would I threaten to spend as much time in the saddle as I did on a barstool, I would see my good friend and my favorite family members.

I wasn’t surprised that the weather was hot and dusty. California is in a drought. I asked some kid at the park how long they’ve been in a drought.

“How should I know? I’m only 12!”

My family unit now resides in Crockett. A town built by C&H sugar and is now sustained by various oil refineries. It’s an odd town, with a couple bars, no grocery store and an $80,000 median income. It’s closest BART station (an extremely useful tool in getting around in the Bay without a car) is in Richmond- 15+ miles away through a handful of towns and a fair amount of climbing. All in all I rode about 200 miles that week in the sun. I got to explore the dirt trails connecting Crockett and Port Costa, another odd little delta front town with a bar worth visiting.

In my week in the Bay Area I got to share some good beers and good times with some of the most important people in my life and ride bikes in places that I haven’t in many years, as well as some places that I’ve never ridden before. San Francisco and the East Bay is really stepping it up when it comes to beer selection and I had a lot of fun rolling around looking for a place to wet my whistle with a fine draft beer.

In all of that I came to realize that “home” means different things to different people. To some it’s where they first saw the light of day. To others, it’s where they had their first kiss, or where they went to high school. Maybe it’s where their family lives, or at least their favorite family. Can you ever go home again? I’m not really sure. I still don’t miss California. Alaska is where I live now, but I’ve lived quite a few places. I’ve come to be the person I am from my experiences down life’s trail- and to me, I guess, home is where I ride my bike.

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