Dec 30, 2011

Come As You Are, For God's Sake

Group Shot
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Rant alert:

After a chance encounter with a $30.00 Rapha cotton bandana at a local purveyor of fine cycling apparel earlier today, I am still all worked up about the issue of fashion and cycling.

I love good stuff. My wife assures me that I am a Taurus through-and-through. I like good quality, I appreciate craftsmanship and style. Yes, I can be vain...

But for God's sake just ride you bike in what you have and what works. It's really not worth it to spend a ton of money on stuff if your motivation is to prop up your ego or ease pangs of dissatisfaction. Spend that money on therapy instead - it will yield all kinds of other benefits that a multi-hundred dollar "cycle specific" sport coat or a name-brand snot rag will never, ever give you. You might even find happiness, you never know...

The photo with this post is from a cold, damp ride early last spring. We went up and down the hills along the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers to try and ride the flooded areas. I was joined on this ride by some of the most experienced cyclists I know; this includes cycling instructors, epic distance riders, and fast-as-hell young guys (and then, of course, there's me bringing up the rear).

You will note our lack of matched kits, neoprene booties, sport coats or $30 neckerchiefs. You really, really don't need to spend a ton of money on clothes to ride your bike.

And for that matter, none of us really care if your socks match your helmet and cable housing, either.

That is all.

Dec 29, 2011

A Mukluk Adventure

Today was for adventure.

Lately, we've been busy buying a house, getting ready to sell our current house, going to a funeral, having Christmas and whatnot. Today's calendar was blank, so I set out on a fat-tire ramble.

The trails were in really good shape, other than a little sand and patches of glare ice where the spring seeps come out onto the trail. This ice patch in the photo was so slick it was difficult to even stand on it. I made it about half-way across before executing a slow motion fall. If a cyclist falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, it does in fact make a noise, by the way.

The route was mostly trails, with just a little urban traffic riding to get around the airport. Mendota Bridge to Sibley House and the trail on that side of the river, west to Cedar Ave. and over the river, back east to the Refuge Headquarters and then north to Post Road and then on through Fort Snelling State Park. All told, it was 26.8 miles or so.

I was a little bonky at the end (should have eaten sooner) but otherwise it was a lot of fun. I have ridden all of this at one time or another, but never strung it together in this fashion. All in all, it worked very well other than getting lost in Fort Snelling cemetery.

I was impressed with the ambitiousness of the local beavers - they will be at this one a long time, but in the end, I think they'll prevail.

I was also impressed with the visible waterline on a lot of the trees in the river bottoms. The lighter gray shows where the water was during the epic floods last spring. That water line comes up to my neck - that's a lot of water. Thanks to the floods, this route is sandy, sandy, sandy. It looks like the trail was plowed to remove most of it, but it would be a slog on regular bike and do-able on a mountain bike. The fat-tires rolled over it with no problem though.

The warm weather and lack of snow made this a particularly nice day to be out - the river bottoms really do belong to the fat bikes this winter.

Dec 28, 2011

Mukluking Through the Refuge

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I took advantage of the sunny warm weather to ride the Mukluk in a light jacket today. The ride took in the length of the Long Meadow Lake Trail (from the refuge headquarters to Cedar Ave. Bridge). At that point I wasn't done, so I crossed the river on the Cedar Ave. bridge and then rolled back east on the south side of the river for another four more miles or so.

The bike did great - I really think the big difference between how much I like this bike and how frustrated I was with my old Pugsley is due to the front tire. The Pug used an Endomorph and the Muk has a newer Larry tire. The tread pattern seems to track a lot better. Even in the plentiful loose sand, the bike tracked easily.

The Mukluk was great for accessing the more remote parts of the refuge - I think this will be a wonderful way to get into the less-traveled parts of the refuge, and some of the places I rode today were particularly birdy. Today's sightings included about a dozen eagles, about 50 Common Mergansers, and what might have been an Osprey. Good times, good times...

I think a front rack would be a good addition to this bike to give it a little more cargo capability. I might also drop the bars just a little bit; otherwise it seems to be just about right.

Dec 26, 2011

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I have notoriously bad luck chasing found birds. It seems that everybody and their brother is seeing snowy owls this winter and I have yet to find one. I went down to Point Douglas late last week to find the long-tailed duck and was skunked on that outing. So it goes...

Yesterday there was a post on MOUnet about red-headed woodpeckers in East Bethel, MN. Ever the optimist, I headed up there today to see what was to be seen. After all, even if the birds are not there, it was a chance to learn a new area and the chances are good that something else interesting will happen along, so it's never entirely a wasted day even if the bird being sought remains elusive.

After a few u-turns, we finally found the place we were looking for and headed out into very high winds. High wind like this is bad news - the birds hunker down and wait until things settle down before moving around, so often it's both very quiet and unpleasant to be outside.

With the deck stacked against us, we headed afield. I got a quick glimpse of one RHWO while I wondered around, but about 20 minutes later I hit the jackpot when I found one hiding out from the wind in his/her hole. The light was good, the bird was cooperative and we watched each other for about 10 minutes.

Sweet! We found one more RHWO moving around on the walk out of there. Birding is like fishing - you have just enough success to keep you coming back despite getting skunked a lot of the time.

More photos on Flickr (link to the right of this page).

Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Once Again

frosted pine
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Christmas Eve is upon us. Mine promises to be quiet and enjoyable. We'll be having a few close friends over this evening for wine, snacks and fellowship. There will be a fire in the fireplace, too.

I like the quiet Christmas Eves. Christmas Day will be full of family and bustle, rest assured, but the Eve should be more of a vigil, I think.

The quiet Eve is a welcome change of pace - it's been a hectic slide into The Holiday this year. The short version involves finding a new house, beginning the process of selling the current house, and a funeral. Lots of birding thrown in there, too. Details to follow at some point soon.

Until then, it's time to put all that aside, gather with some friends and enjoy the season.

On that note, I wish each and everyone of you best wishes for the season and the New Year.

Thanks for reading, and regardless of your denomination, creed or lack thereof, have a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Kick Ass Kwanza/Meaningful Solstice/Best-Possible-Holiday-That-You-Don't-Observe-But-Have-to-Get-Through-Anyway.

Take care, be well and enjoy the ride, because otherwise, what's the point?

Dec 16, 2011

Doin' Deals

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I flipped some cantilever brakes that were laying around in my parts drawer this evening. Somebody posted on Bike Love looking for a set of canti's to go on a winter bike he was building.

I had a pair that originally came off the Cross Check. These had been in the spare parts pile for about... oh 3 years now, so I felt ready to pass them on. The only bike have right now that can even take cantilever brakes is the LHT, and that's got brakes on it the last time I checked.

As luck would have it, I had to be downtown this evening anyway for an office party, so I was able to do the meet up and swap brakes for cash, and hit the party all in one trip.

It's nice when these deals work out. The buyer, who I had never met before, got a square deal on some decent brakes, I was able to clear out some clutter and see these get back on the road, and I met a new person tonight in the process.

That's a win-win-win.

Dec 11, 2011


We were positively deluged with a bunch of pre-programmed recordings of MN Original on the DVR this week. If you don't know, MN Original is a series on TPT that highlights a wide range of local artists (music, visual arts, everything you can think of).

The Spouse was slugging through the recordings when I wondered into the room with the T.V. and saw a show about Brock Davis. Davis was exhibiting works he did as part of Make Something Cool Everyday (MSCED).

As I understand it, MSCED was a challenge, similar to 30 Days of Biking, in which participants are challenged to create an original, creative piece of work every day for an entire year and take a picture of it for the group. Davis's stuff is very good - the guy positively oozes creative vision and he's able to execute his ideas via all kinds of media. There's a Flickr group devoted to Make Something Cool Everyday - you can examples of what people have done with this via the link.

I've been trying to find some sort of creative spark for months now, and this might just be the ticket. I did well with 30-DoB and because MSCED is an "everyday" thing, the pressure to do something "big" is eliminated. More importantly, this project should make creativity a habitat rather than something you delve into now and then when you feel like it.

I know right now that I will be challenged by my lack of technical artistic skills - I am not a good draughtsman and can't paint. But I certainly won't be at a loss for ideas. The trick here will be pulling them off in some sort of passable fashion and staying with it to see where exactly this takes me.

I plan to start in earnest on January 1, but did a little warm up exercise this afternoon to see how it went. It felt good, and I am looking forward to exercising these muscles.

Dec 4, 2011

Attaching a Flasher to a Revelate Designs Bag

Despite my solemn vow to never again buy a saddle bag without an attachment point for a flasher, I picked up a new Revelate Designs "Viscacha" bag to go on the Mukluk. I was seduced by the quality of the bag and how good it looks on a fat bike that I kind of forgot about this point, I guess.

As happy as I am with the bag, that satisfaction does not solve my problem of mounting a light, however. On last night's ride, I clipped my Superflash to a tab on the back of my jacket. That worked okay, but I still wanted to mount the light on the bike.

Here's a quick "how to" post since I am sure others may have encountered this problem...

There are four small loops on the top of the bag. I threaded parachute cord through the loops in a "box with an X in it" pattern as shown above. I then closed the parachute cord loop with a spring toggle and tied it off in a surgeon's loop to keep it secure.

The parachute cord and toggle give me the ability to strap small stuff to the outside of the bag if I ever want to do that, and the cord also gives me a handy place to attach the light. This solution works with the bag collapsed - in the extended position I still don't have an attachment point, but I'll settle for this right now.

This worked very well on tonight's ride - the light stayed in place and felt very secure on this rig, and the position is high on the bike and level, so the visibility is as good or better than on my seat post mount on the winter bike.

That said, If anyone has other ways of mounting lights, let me know. Thanks!

Dec 3, 2011

Deep Custom

DEEP CUSTOM, the teaser from RoyalAntler on Vimeo.

Hey! A local film maker is airing a recently completed documentary on Peacock Groove and Erik Noren. Peacock Groove does very nice, very custom bicycles. I've seen a few out in the wild, including a beautiful metallic green one Noren was riding as well as the famous "Kill Bill" bike as well as several others at Minnecycle.

Noren is extremely talented as a frame builder and his frame repairs have gotten high praise from everyone that's brought a beloved-but-broken steel frame to him. But unlike most of the other frame builders I have met, Peacock Groove has a no-holds-barred, rock-and-rock-punch-you-in-the-face design ethic that's really fun and really refreshing in a world of generic carbon fiber red/black/white road bikes. Go search "Peacock Groove" images or check out the Voltron track frame and you will see what I mean.

The film "Deep Custom" is showing at the Jungle Theater on Dec. 12th, The showing starts 7:00 pm and will run untill 9:30pm. This event is FREE, but food shelf donation items are requested. Like any decent Minneapolis bike event, beer will be served, but that's not free, so bring some money if you want in on that action.

This should be a lot of fun and a great chance to reconnect with a bunch of people I have not seen lately. Be there or be square, daddy-o.