Browse Category by Alaska
Alaska, Bicycle, Bicycle Racing, Events, Races, Travel

SSWC in Alaska for 2014

The Single Speed World Championships will take place in Anchorage, Alaska in 2014.  July 18-20. Coming back to the USA after it’s been overseas since 2010.  It’s travels have taken it most recently to Italy and South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand before that.

As “officially” as any shitshow can begin- the first SSWC took place in California in 1999.  I have never taken the opportunity to compete or attend one before, but this year I may just have a chance.  Or not.  Unfortunately for me it takes place smack dab in my four-month fishing season and I’ll likely be found in the middle of Prince William Sound, sulking with jellyfish dripping on me from the net above.

For others though- that have jobs that they can take some time off of, I’d highly suggest getting your ass to the 49th state for this one.  Anchorage is not well known for urban cycling- in fact I’ve found it one of the sketchiest places to ride (predominately in winter.)  Drivers are quite aggressive towards cyclists, even more so than the moose you may cross on the paths.  However, Anchorage is also home to a wonderful grid of trails, with Kincaid Park being the city’s crown jewel.  They have CX races in town at the parks, MTB races at Kincaid.  It’s pretty bad ass. And it’s in the Last Frontier.  No, not space- that’s the Final Frontier.   Drink bears and get mauled by beers!

Grab your single speed: mountain bike, sweet fixie, cross bike, tall bike, unicycle (if you’re from Portland,) or whatever other contraption you want to ride and buy a ticket.

Anyway, get your shit together and your head in the game.  When registration opens, it’ll fill up fast.  There’s a webpage and a Facebook and more info to come- so look alive!

For info go to:

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

 

Alaska, Bicycle, fat bike, Gear

“Must Haves” for winter fat biking

The weather has warmed up considerably here in Cordova.  Rain for a few days and temperatures reaching the 40’s have been taking away the snow that fell a couple weeks ago.  With the warm temps the snow turns to glare ice- the roads and trails becoming treacherous to travel on.  I’ve been able to get out a few times on the new bike and I’m loving it.

In my time with the bike I’ve been building a list of “must-haves” for winter riding on a fatbike.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Low-pressure tire gauge.  As many will tell you, tire pressure is something that can really affect your ride.  Fat tires are high volume, low pressure, and neither my floor pump and old pressure gauge give me an accurate reading below 30 lbs.  As we run pressures in the single digits, you should have something that tells you what that magic number is.  I picked up a Meiser 30lb (max psi) gauge from Tree Fort Bikes.  $14, light enough you’ll want to carry it with you, and then you’ll know.  Because after all:  “Knowing is half the battle.”
  • High volume pump.  On soft conditions you let the air out.  When it’s harder- you got to put it back in.  I’ve heard some folks that really like C02 canisters, but they can get expensive with lots of change in pressure.  I’m in the market for a pump, and have my eye on the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV-HVG.  Retails for $45-$60.
  • Gaiters.  Snow can find it’s way into your boots far too easy.  If you are riding in snow that is above boot height I’ll say they are mandatory.   I’m still rocking my old pair of Outdoor Research Gaiters.  They go just below the knee and they are awesome.  Not even sure the model, I’ve had them for near 15 years.  They don’t need to be cycling specific, they just need to work.
  • Good Boots.  Your feet should stay warm and dry.  And remember: just because you rode in, doesn’t mean you won’t be walking out.  Make sure you’ve got good footwear.  It’s not necessary that it’s bike specific unless you’re riding clipless.  I prefer flats in the winter.
  • Frame bag.  You don’t “need” a frame bag, but when you ride with one, you won’t want to go back.  The frame bag allows you to fit a surprising about of stuff lower on the bike and to keep it off your back.  I have a Revelate Designs bag, and there are lots of other folks making them.  Folks like Tupps at Becker Sewing and Design.
  • Gloves or Poagies.  I haven’t used poagies (the big mitts that stay attached to your handlebars and you just slide your hands into them) Cordova’s wet climate might not be very well suited to articles of clothing that stay attached to the bike.  Also, they have me nervous in more technical conditions in that I may find it difficult to remove my hands if I begin to fall.  I currently prefer gloves.  Waterproof is good, warm.. And I usually have a back up pair.
  • Chain lube.  I’ve been using quite a bit of it.  Riding in snow has been more harsh on my drivetrain than any other mountain biking I’ve done.  I may look into one of 45NRTH’s “winterized” chains.
  • Snow/Ice tires.  I would love a set of studs, but at almost $500 a pair, it might be a while.  Slipnot Traction makes chains that could make riding on ice much safer- at a fraction of the cost.  You may not need them all the time, but if you don’t want to be shut out when Jack Frost ices things over, then you gotta do something.

I see a lot of folks on fat bikes riding on some mountain bike trail where it’s sunny and 70.  That’s all fine and dandy- the more bikes the better.  But up here, we need to be prepared.  An adventure can turn into tragedy with a slight change in the weather and a flat tire.  So be safe, ride well- and keep the rubber side down.

What have you found that you can’t live without during your winter rides?

Alaska, Bicycle, Bike Porn, bikes, fat bike, Gear

New Bike Day: Fatback 190 Rocker

If you’ve been reading a while, ya’ll know my affinity/fascination/obsession with fatbikes. I’d wanted one since I moved to Seattle, but since my move back to Alaska it became a “when” not an “if” I was getting one.  I looked around a bit and figured out that the main thing that I was looking for was fatness.  I wanted to be able to float over the soft terrain without having to lose 75 pounds because let’s face it, that won’t be happening.  That meant a frame that would allow for 100mm rims and the fattest tire which is currently marketed at 4.8″.  I also didn’t want an offset wheel, and something that I could throw a 29″ wheelset on in the summer would be nice too.

I went with a Fatback 190 Rocker.

DSCN9911

 

Fatback Bicycles is not a big brand that has a bunch of backing, it’s a couple passionate dudes in Alaska.  At the forefront of Fatback is Greg Mattyas. Greg was born and raised in Anchorage- racing bikes and skis and being awesome.  He opened up Speedway Cycles in 2007.  A busy man, Greg spends his time juggling bike shop dailies, furthering the sport of fatbiking, going on epic adventures, family life, and innovating fatbike technology.  Fatback was one of the first mass produced options offering an alternative to Surly’s Pugsley- with a few notable features that set them apart.

  • They’re a bit lighter than a Surly. Being aluminum, they weigh in at under 4lbs for the frame.
  • They are made in the USA.  The aluminum frames are made in Oregon.  For a while they were doing steel and ti frames, which were also made in the US.  (They have recently added the carbon Corvus frame that I’m fairly certain is made over seas.)
  • Symmetrical rear wheels.  I like them- Surly doesn’t do ’em.  Figure it out. Makes for a nice transition to a 29″ summer bike with the same frame. Nuthin’ on Surly, but I like symmetry.
  • Fatback has been integral in the advancement of fatbike technology.  After starting with a 165mm rear hub, Fatback swapped to the 170mm symmetrical rear hub, which is currently the industry standard (though it’s really looking like 190mm might be the future.)
  • Fatback was a sweet funk band.  No- I don’t think that there was any relation to the brand, but FATBACK was awesome.  Check ’em out:


Anyway…
I met up with Greg at Interbike and asked him what I had to do to go home with a Fatback.

Apparently Fatback production was lagging and demo bikes had a couple more stops to make before they made it back to Alaska- but he’d make something happen.

When I got home, we emailed back and forth (more than he would have liked to, I’m sure.)  Even so, his communication was prompt- which was much appreciated.  I was fixated.  I wouldn’t stop until I was riding along the beach- on sand or snow, with 4.8″ wide tires underneath me at 8psi. Thankfully, things came together.

I’ll skip the part where Melissa got a bike and I didn’t… and just say that we left Anchorage with a Fatback for her- thanks to Robert at Speedway Cycles. He sold her on a a 14″ Fatback Deluxe which-  jealous as I was, I was super excited to see her so excited about a bike.  She loves it!

Well, I got the email about 2 weeks back that my bike was done.  Alaska being Alaska, it helps being creative on shipping.  I made some calls and the Lynden Transport barge was headed out of Anchorage the next day.  Greg had one of his guys bring it to the office and off it was- on a boat across the sound- to arrive between my loving legs a few days later.

On it’s arrival, the folks at the shipping company were all-a-chatter:

“Where’s the motor?”

“That thing is huge!”

“Is that a bicycle!?!”

I just smiled.  My bike was finally here! In all of it’s “mountain bike on steroids glory.”  It had seemingly traveled in the freezer van, as it was covered in frost on receipt of the bike. That’s okay.  It’ll see a lot colder temperatures in the future.

There it was- my Fatback.  All dressed up with a Revelate Designs frame bag and “gas tank” with no place to go (pedals were stored in the frame bag,) I walked it home and made it ready to ride.

The details:

  • Fatback 190 Rocker frame (The Rocker is the rocker dropouts allowing chain tensioning/belt compatibility)
  • Fatback Aluminum fork with hella braze-ons.
  • SRAM X9  2×9 drivetrain with Gripshift
  • FSA Comet cranks
  • Kona WaWa pedal
  • (F) Surly Rolling Darryl rim to 135mm Fatback (import) hub (4.8″ Lou tire)
  • (R) Surly Rolling Darry rim to 190mm Fatback (import) hub (4.8″ Lou tire)
  • Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes with 160mm rotors (one argument for mechanical brakes is price- the other is field repairability.)
  • FSA bars, seatpost, headset, stem

Overall weight: 32.5lbs

First impression.  It’s big.  Tire pressure was higher than it would be if I were on soft sand or snow- about 25psi.  I was riding alongside a curb, turned the bars and BOOP- up and over it.  The bike just rolled right over it like it was no big deal.  It was almost comical.  Pedaling felt a little sluggish at first- the wheel weight is far more than I usually have to contend with.  Once I picked up some momentum things were going good.  I wasn’t going to set any speed records, but the momentum was decent and once you just get used to the fact that you’ve got two speeds: 1) slow and 2) steady- it’s not half bad.  The 2×9 SRAM drivetrain operated via Gripshift worked well, even with the 4.8″ Surly Bud tires on 82mm rims and a 190mm rear hub pushing the drivetrain so far out.  No chain rub on the tires whatsoever.

I will say you shouldn’t get a fatbike expecting a mountain bike.  It’s a different animal.  Sorry.  It’s fun- but it WON’T BE AS FAST AS YOUR 29″er… Unless the terrain gets soft.  Then? Then I’ll be passing you by as you walk out.

No… I didn’t do anything epic.  I just rode around town. But I had fun.  I got out of the saddle and cranked on the pedals- the super wide bars giving lots of leverage.  Apparently the rocker dropouts weren’t secured, so they slipped  and the tire started rubbing on the frame.  I got it fixed up and tightened down and it was good to go.

Since then I’ve ridden on the mudflats of Hartney Bay, up the Ibek Slough Sands and on the Copper River Banks.  I’m excited about more adventures- when weather agrees to the travel plans.  I’ll be looking into a packraft next, which opens up way more terrain- even just paddling across the Copper River where the bridge is washed out and riding out to the Million Dollar Bridge would be fun.

I was thinking I was going to go with the Clownshoe rims, which are currently the widest fatbike rim available at 100mm.  I was dissuaded at the last minute by two reasons: 1)Lots of folks are going with 82mm rims, and since the frame will still run 4.8″ tires, it was splitting the difference.  2) More importantly- Clownshoes were back ordered and I may have had to wait another month for my bike.  So that settled that.  Rolling Darryls it is.

By no means is the honeymoon over- I am really digging the build and everything about the bike.  What I am seeing though is the insane cost associated with a growing, but still niche market.  Everything costs more.  The bikes themselves aren’t cheap. The Aluminum 190 XO1 bike– basically what I have, retails at $3700.  I got a bit of a deal as it’s a used bike- a prototype, even.  But it’s still more than I’ve plunked down on a bike ever.  I’ve got a boner for some studs, but the only factory studded tires available are the Dillingers from 45NRTH- coming in at $225…  Each.

I’ve got a few things that are on my list of upgrades though.  Things like:

  • 45NRTH Dillinger studded tires
  • I’d like to try 180mm rotors for a little more stopping power.  They come with 160’s to give more heel room, so I may start with the front.
  • A Schmidt SON dynamo hub (laced to a Clownshoe rim) Yeah- they make ’em in the 135mm spacing for the front.
  • A 29er wheelset for the summer.  Likely the Surly Rabbit Hole rims.
  • Jeff Jones H-bars.  
  • A Gates belt drive.  I’ve had mixed feelings on my Gates system on my SSCX bike, but for a beach tour- I think it’d be the best way to go.  Single speed.  The grit and salt can wreck havoc on a chain drive.  Derailleurs and all that- just take it off. It’s all the same grade, you don’t need gears.  A great option to have and one of the reasons I went with the rocker dropouts.
  • A packraft.  Because, that is the next step…

 

Interbike confirmed that things in the fatbike world were, as most of America- getting fatter… Of course there’s a way to lighten the load without dieting – carbon.  The carbon steeds at Interbike were under 29lbs complete with 4.8″ tires.  If that’s your thing then you can look towards the folks working in that medium.  There is the the Fatback Corvus, the 9:Zero:7 Whiteout and the Borealis Yampa to name a few.  Though I do like carbon, I wanted a bike that could be thrown around a bit.  I see the carbon option for the racers more than the adventure tour types.

So get out there and ride your bike.

 

Alaska, Bicycle, Bicycle Racing, Cyclocross, Events, Races

Arctic Cross. Cyclocross in The Last Frontier.

The Whittier ferry dock was (and still is) broken, so we took the ferry to Valdez from Cordova, making the drive to Anchorage 300 miles, as opposed to the 60 miles it is from Whittier. Melissa and I decided somewhat last minute to caravan back to Anchorage with Bryan and Garret, spending a few days in the big city picking up this and that, read: booze, groceries, and my new fatbike.  They got a head start on us, as we stopped in Valdez for a late breakfast after we disembarked.  We caught up to them on the side of the road in between Valdez and Glenallen, where car troubles almost caused their rear wheel to fall off.  They hopped in with us and we left Garret’s car there for a few days- planning to bring Garret back with parts and tools on our return trip. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get a bike that weekend, but Melissa got a brand new Fatback for winter adventuring.

It looked like we may even get to witness a cross race- as the Arctic Cross series was having their final race while we were there.  I didn’t think I would be allowed to race- not having been part of the series this year so I didn’t bring my bike. Turns out it would have been fine, and I was pretty bummed that I was so pessimistic.  The Arctic Cross webpage is a little dated and is difficult to understand for somebody coming to town wanting to race bikes. Sure there is race info, it’s mostly results- you can’t find out much about how the race categories are setup, race times, and sometimes even the race days are incorrect. Ah well…computers are hard.

We made it to the Goose Lake race in Anchorage, the course was located right off the bike path in town.  We pulled in to the parking lot, saw  bike racks on cars and trucks, folks in spandex, a couple sections of course tape, and figured we were in the right place.  Parking was easy.

It rained the few days prior, so the course was a bit muddy- but race day was crisp and clear with soggy ground.  My favorite race days.

I often miss the cyclocross in Seattle and I most definitely miss my Hodala teammates.  As we walked into the park we saw the familiar sight of kids playing, riding around on bikes just a little bit too big for them, or too small.  Adults walking around with mud and smiles on faces- a BBQ was being prepared for the end of the season.  Beer flowed from 2 kegs, respectfully stowed out of plain site.  We scoped the course, similar in many spots to a mountain bike course, but with the cyclocross staples of barriers and a sandpit.  Near the BBQ epicenter and just prior to the first set of barriers was a giant chicane.  A spiral which made me dizzy just watching the folks go in circles.  Cyclocross feels new in Anchorage, especially singlespeeding.  People had a blast- and it was a pretty darn nice day.  

It was a diverse race, bikes ranging from mountain bikes, to cross bikes (a few singlespeeds in there too) to polo bikes complete with disk wheels and narrow bars to fatbikes.  Race attire was also from one end of the spectrum to the other. Costumes, team kits, whatever seemed comfortable… One of the most interesting things to watch, was the heckling.  The polo kids, god bless ’em- were doing well at it.  We came across them at the sand pit.  Beers in hand, they would rib the riders as they came by:

“Ride it!”

“You’re doing it wrong- you’re supposed to stay on your bike.”

“That’s why you’re not winning!”

Tall Bryan was also giving them some pointers- encouraging the racers to just get off their bikes and run the section that was slowing so many down.  “No!  Get off your bike!  Run it!  You’re going too slow!”

Heckling is something that I am quite familiar with though not nearly as skilled as my teammates at (much like riding.) Hodala is next level heckling.  Too much for some people- it’s never rarely coming from a place of anger.  It’s like when my mom would say to me “I love you, you little shit stain.”  I knew that “love” was the operative word.  Some people might take offence, and occasionally kick the team fire ring over- but if you can’t take the mud, get off the cross course.  When I first started racing cross, the heckling I heard consisted of:

“Shift!” (because I ride a single speed…. so clever.)

“It’s GO MEANS GO, not SLOW MEANS SLOW!”

I took these ribbings in stride and came out a better rider for it.

The kids race was, as always, fun to watch.  Seeing the boys and girls get stoked on cross is always a good time.

Next year I’ll be at the races, at least a couple of them.  Hoping that my team can make it up to race at least one as well.  Hodala can help ruin cyclocross north of 60°N too.  So keep riding dirty and we’ll see you at the races.

 

Alaska, bikes, Photography, Travel

Alaska Trip Part 2: Cordova, No Road

After a few days of exploring Anchorage by bike during the day, and the inside of Anchorage bars by night, we were ready to leave the city. A 300 mile road trip, an improvised campsite and a high-powered catamaran ride later we were standing in front of Ryan on his Raleigh Port Townsend at the ferry dock in Cordova, AK. “Welcome to Cordova!” exclaimed Ryan, unstrapping some beers from his porteur rack and offering them up. “We’re the first house on the left”. Breath taking views in every direction, mountains rising up out of the sound, nothing but green trees, blue waters and a postage stamp sized town. This is the Alaska I was looking for.

gmg_alaska

For the next six days and five nights we explored Cordova by bike, by foot and by bottle. We road out “the road” and the other road (yeah, there is two of them) as well as some scenic trails. One of the highlights was riding Saddlebag Glacier trail. It winds through the woods along a creek that has cut out a valley, the terrain changing several times before spitting us out on the shore of Saddlebag Lake.

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Alaska, bikes, Photography, Travel

Alaska Trip Part 1: Anchorage, Off The Chain

It was an early flight into Anchorage,  so by 10:30am we had already managed to walk through the woods and across town. We did stop for coffee (in a city that has more espresso stands per capita than anywhere else in the US), but by now we were seated at a questionable but genuine bar beers-in-hand. In the brief moments between being bombarded (or befriended) by the obviously very regular morning crowd, my host Garret informed me there would be a bicycle available for me to use.

Nishiki_mtb_cruiser

I came to Alaska to visit my good friend Garret Spargo as well as spend some time with Ryan, the man behind GMG himself. Bringing a bike was something I had wanted to do, but it ended up being too expensive to consider. Garret is involved with Off The Chain, a bicycle collective in Anchorage. They granted me access to the shop and I was able to put in some work, and build a bike for myself to use while in town.  Continue Reading