Friday, December 23, 2011

Year in Review

Not sure why I kept track of these stats, but I did, and here goes. GreenLightRide makes ride tracking really easy. Since I'm going on vacation (sans bike), I can do the tallies early.

74 Trips on my Surly Pugsley (Fat Bike)
64 Trips on my Surly Cross Check (Road/Cross Bike)
48 Trips on my Trek (Xtracycle Cargo Bike)
14 Trips on my Itoh (Fixed Gear)

200 Total Bike Commute Days

23 Total Car Commute Days

Bike Mileage:
976 Miles for Work
172 Miles for Errands
1,125 Miles for Fun

2,273 Total Bike Mileage

Safe to say I CRUSHED my goal of 1500 miles for the year, without even really trying.

My bike rides also prevented 918 pounds of Carbon Dioxide from entering the atmosphere, just another little thing that GreenLightRide tracks.

I haven't even thought of a single riding goal for 2012, but I figured I'll have plenty of time to ponder them on a long road trip in the car.

It's been a good year, and I'm excited for the possibilities that 2012 will bring.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


GGCOWS. Gravel Grinder in Celebration Of the Winter Solstice. Hosted by the good people at the Ski and Bike Shop in Grand Forks, ND. The intent of the ride was to have a fat bike gathering, and to do a metric century on gravel. 100km/66 miles in the frigid ND/MN river valley? Sure. What a great way to burn a Saturday.

The start temperature was about 14 degrees. I think it got up to around 30 for a little bit, and was at 22 when we got back to the shop. Cold day, long ride, I am whooped! But it was the last big epic ride of the year, so I figured it was worth it. It's a good gauge to see how my health and fitness has progressed this year, as well as testing gear and machine. I stayed pretty warm, the Pugsley worked flawless (although is now overdue for a new chain and cassette as I could hear grinding with every pedal stroke), and I was happy with how my lungs and legs did. I did start getting cramps in my calves in the last 10 miles or so, but I think that's because I didn't drink enough water.

Speaking of water, and carrying water. Velocity water bottle cages suck bigtime. They might be cheap and come in cool colors, but they are damn near impossible to get a standard bottle out. Mine are going in the recycle bin.

Longest ride I've done on the Pugsley, and I gotta say...100km on gravel, on a fatbike, is much harder than riding 100 MILES on road, on a road bike. At least I reached Climax ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Pugsley

Today marks one year since I bought my Pugsley from Paramount Sports in Fargo. It's one of those things that I still enjoy immensely after a year. I still giggle about something every single time I ride it. Today was no different, in fact today was just plain awesome.

It's December 11th, there's no snow, and it's 40 degrees outside. An odd combo, but I'll take it. Today I decided to go explore the riverbanks. With no snow (or rain!) the river is down low and there's plenty of moon-like dry dirt and clay to go ride on. In fact, in the 12 miles I rode today, less than 1 mile was on pavement. I'd say 8 of those miles are on surfaces and paths I've never ridden before. A whole new realm of riding possibilities have opened up, and I'm freakin' stoked.

I saw deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, and even a raccoon! I've never seen a raccoon in the wild before. It made my day! To have a bike that can go ride these surfaces is amazing. There's no way any other type of bike could have ridden on most of the stuff I rode on today. For that alone makes owning a "Fat Bike" worth while, because that's what it's all about. Riding places that other bikes can't. Snow, beaches, river banks, mud, etc. There's just not much that can stop it. It's that monster truck mentality that appeals to my inner child, inspires giggling, and makes riding fun. Fun in the sense of childhood riding fun. Remember that freedom and excitement you felt when you first went out on your own? Exploring the neighborhood and showing off to friends? It's that kind of fun. When you have kind of enjoyment, the price of the bike seems cheap.

I've changed a lot on this bike since I bought it. Not that it really "needed" changing, but I just love to tinker. I can't help it. The latest addition was a new wheelset. I really wanted to build up another set of wheels since my last ones came out so nice, and this was a great place to improve Pugsley's performance. Took over 2 pounds of rotating weight off the bike and added 17mm of width to the rims. Lighter weight = faster, and more width = more footprint, to keep me out of ruts and hopefully floating on top of snow easier. Plus they look bad ass.

I can change out the rim strips to whatever color or pattern I want! It'll be a cheap and fun way to dress up the bike. Now it just has white, with some reflective tape in spots. Hopefully the gap in between reflective areas will make for a flashing effect when riding at night, instead of a solid white stripe. We'll see. It'll be fun to experiment. In the meantime it can stay as is, because me and my friend Pugsley still have lots of exploring to do.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter Part 2

December and still no snow?! Still plenty of wind and cold though, so it's still winter even without the white. I've been trying out my new gear and making adjustments as necessary. I haven't driven my car to work in over 3 months, and I really want to keep that streak going! Right now my gear is as follows:

Helmet: Bern Watts EPS with Knit Liner
Goggles: Giordano OTG
Face: Outdoor Research Balaclava
Jacket: Old Louis Garneau jacket (coupled with BluBox fleece jacket below 5 degrees).
Pants: Foxwear Neoshell
Boots: Keen Brixen

My "under" layers are my normal work clothes. My commute is short enough that I can get away with it.

The Foxwear pants are by far the most expensive article of clothing I've ever purchased, and yet I don't regret it one bit. Custom made to my specs using his selection of fabrics. The weight of the fabrics depends on riding temps and budget. Lou sent me a few swatches of fabric and I knew right away which one I wanted. The Neoshell. It's $30 more, but so worth it. Waterproof, windproof, breathable, and warm. A unique combo of features that outdoor companies have been trying to achieve for years. You can run the fabric under the faucet and water just bounces off of it. Really impressive stuff.

Once my fabric and measurements were decided, Lou made my pants and had them to me in about a week. Since then I've worn them with just bike shorts underneath, long johns, and work clothes. With simple layering they'll keep me toasty from 35 to -35. Plus they are built really well and should last a long time. The drawstring waist adjusts accordingly for layering or weight fluctuations, and the pockets are perfectly placed. Simple and well thought out, these pants will keep my legs warm all winter long. You can check out the Foxwear gear at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter Part 1

In early September I decided I wanted to get Pogies. I looked around at the few makers and decided on Moose Mitts. These are made by the people at Trails Edge bike shop in Michigan. When I ordered online, it specifically said that production wouldn't be until mid-October. I figured it wouldn't be super cold until November anyways, so I didn't mind waiting. Prior to their arrival, the good folks at Trails Edge emailed me to say "hey it's been a while, do you still want these?". Heck yeah! They arrived 2 days later. Great customer service in my book.

Now these Moose Mitts are hand made in the back of their bike shop by their employees. Not in some sweatshop in China or Taiwan, but here in the USA. When it comes to American made products I don't mind paying a little extra, but these were only $60 shipped (now $65). Figuring that these are a low-wear item, they should last quite a while. They are very well made and the attention to detail is pretty impressive. No loose threads, no defects, etc. I was very happy with them when I took them out of the box!

The biggest benefit is that you can ride with these in super cold temps with normal gloves. No need for super bulky gloves that are hard to shift/brake in. Having full control of your bike in winter situations is important. Last year I wore 2 pairs of gloves layered, which did OK, but using the controls on my bike was tricky. Now that the pogies are in place on my Pugsley, I have ridden it 3 days this week, wearing nothing on my hands other than a thin wool liner glove. Granted the temps are just in the teens (so far!) I have no doubt that these will work great all winter. I don't think I'll be needing to layer up gloves anymore!

If you're interested in getting some of these before it gets too cold, visit Moose Mitts

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting Caught Up

So I've been off the blog wagon again, just busy I guess. Most of my pictures for this blog are taken from my camera phone, and my phone was annoying me, so I didn't want to take pics. Well I gave into the iPhone4s this week so hopefully I'll take more pics.

Back in late October my beer friends and I went to Minneapolis for Darkness Day at Surly Brewing. It's the one day a year the bottled beer is sold at the brewery, and the release day is usually a week before stores get it. So we made the trip down to the Cities and ended up getting to the brewery early, about Noon on the 22nd, a full 23hrs before Darkness Day began. We were FIRST in line! We set up our tents and starting drinking beer, then the madness began. More people showed up, we drank more, we ate good food, and had a great time along with 3000 other like-minded people.

Now this trip to the Cities also allowed me to bring me bike, since Milltown Cycles was hosting a Fall Gravel Tour on the following day. 45 miles of Minnesota gravel roads. It sounded much better leading up to it. I was so excited to ride, but this was before I had gone on a 27hr bender at the brewery! I still made it out, and I'm glad I did. Even though I wasn't feeling 100% (more like 60%!) I still made the ride on my own time and was able to stop whenever to enjoy the scenery without a group. It had been a while since I'd been on a ride where you come down a hill, or turn a corner and see something so breathtaking you just want to stop. This gravel tour had a few of those. It was amazing. Next year I'll make a trip without the hangover and I'll enjoy it much more.

Besides that I've been still riding to work everyday and testing out my gear in preparation for the long cold winter ahead. Expect some product reviews soon of my pants and Moose Mitts "pogies".

Thursday, October 13, 2011

So I drank a PBR...

And grew out my facial hair. And built a fixie. Coincidences I assure you. The PBR was at a cyclocross race, the beard is seasonal, and the fixie is my new crap weather commuter/bar hopper.

I traded my volunteer hours at the FMCBW Co-op for this old Itoh frame. These frames range from gas pipe "crummy" bikes to Bridgestone predecessors. This particular one seems to be in between. Built in Taiwan, nice lugged construction, and a nice chrome fork.

The goal of this bike was to build something nice enough to enjoy and be proud of, but not have to worry about it as much. I'm still super paranoid about leaving my bikes locked up. It's already scratched up and has rust spots. Beauty + Usage = Beausage, per Rivendell. It's perfect. It's this ugly, yet classy baby blue.

When I found it downstairs at the co-op, it was complete and stock as pictured above. I stripped off the unwanted parts, swapped on different stem/bars/crank at the co-op and brought it home. I added the saddle, bar tape, and brake levers from my parts bin, and bought the wheelset/chain. I think it came out great!

It didn't take me long to get used to riding fixed gear. Less than a mile I'd say. Its still a bit odd to get used to not coasting or shifting though. I actually enjoy riding it much more than I thought I would! I pulled the fenders from the CrossCheck and put them on the Itoh for this week's wet weather and used it as intended. Perfect!

Monday, October 3, 2011

IMBA Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

One of my LBS' had an event to celebrate the International Mountain Biking Associations "Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day" this past Sunday and I was lucky enough to take my 12yr old with me. He's never been offroad before but was excited to go.

Specialized sponsored the event and provided water bottles and t-shirts to the kids, which was very cool of them to do. There were probably 8 or 9 kids that showed up with their parents which is a pretty impressive turnout for as little publicity as this event got around town. Since I know the trail pretty well, I led the first group which was just myself, my son, another 8 or 9 year old girl, and her dad.

We started off nice and slow, talking a lot and trying to keep the kids excited, because I was certainly nervous that my actions could scar these kids for life and they'd hate it! We stopped and walked the tricky spots along the way, like the log crossings, switchback turns, and off-camber climbs. Soon the kids were complaining about the little hills and walking up every one. After a short break, we waited for the next group of riders to catch up then we started again. The second section is pretty easy and flows nicely so no walking was required. Speed was. My son was riding my wheel and warning me that I'd better speed up! Whoa! We're all having fun now! So I took off a little trying to encourage some speed up a hill, and whaddya know, both kids climbed the hill on their bikes and commented that "that was easy!". At this point I'm stoked that they are enjoying themselves and all nervousness on my part was gone. I took the time to stop at the hard parts and if I felt I could describe an easy way to ride it, I did. Soon the small log crossings (under 6" diameter) were minor obstacles for this young shredders. And when we reached the hardest part of the trail, the kids were ready.

I stopped at the top of the hill, looking down at what I feel is the trickiest spot of the trail. 100 feet of downhill to a 1.5' jump/drop followed by a sharp left turn. The drop has just enough lip on it to "kick" the bike so you can't go full speed and hit it and be ready for the turn. I warned the kids and went down it the way I normally would, thinking they'd walk it. Nope. My son followed my line and did just as I did. My jaw dropped. Proud daddy moment was in full effect. I think all the parents had that pride when we got back to the parking lot. It was a great time and I'm glad that Specialized and Great Northern Bicycle Company in Fargo made it into a event.

My son said he was exhausted when we were done. I was tired too, but still had enough energy left to take my Xtracycle up the local bike co-op and start a new project. More on that later!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Since it's just me and my youngest son today, we pried ourselves off the couch (not easy!) and went exploring. The Xtracycle with iBert combo was put into duty and we were off. With the high river levels all year, most of the bike trails that run alongside of it were muddy for the summer. Recently they cleaned up some of the trails, and we went to go ride them.

Unfortunately the Sertoma Freedom bridge, a walk/bike/ski bridge that crosses the Red River is still out of commission, but we found two other bridges to cross over from Minnesota to North Dakota in our ride today. Most of the trails weave through parks, are asphalt paved, and lined with trees. Some of the best scenery in the area, especially now that Fall is officially here. Squirrels gathering acorns, bright yellows and green trees, and the crunch of leaves under my tires. Amazingly it was 70 degrees today and with the amount of people out today, I think we're all thinking the same thing...that weekends like this aren't going to happen very often in the next 6 months, so get out and enjoy. I'm glad we made it out for a 12 mile ride today, the couch feels even better right about now.

Right before I posted this blog, I entered that 12 mile trip into, where I've been tracking all my trips. Today's ride makes an even 1700 miles for the year. Nice!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I dig this quote

"When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart."
– Diane Ackerman

That was posted on facebook by the good folks at 30 Days of Biking. Currently in Round 4, and the last round of the year, 30 Days challenges people to ride every day for 30 days. Simple enough right? Around the block, to work, running errands. Even though 30days of biking is a Minneapolis thing, someday I hope it'll spread all over. I'm doing my part around here!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Of the 5 bikes currently in use in this household, the hardest one to change went flat. The rear tire on my Xtracycle "Truk" was dead flat, after a short run up to Walgreens on Sunday. Glad it happened at home and not out on the road, because it is a genuine pain the the ass to get that rear tire off, especially with the super fat Schwalbe Big Apple tires, fenders, and v-brakes. No speed records were set in the garage today!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We did it!

Finally sold my wife's car! My commitment to car-lite living and year round commuting just got a big slap in the face from reality. It's time to put up or shut up and do this. Saving a ton of money per month, have a lot more room in the garage, and a big headache cured. Since that car was hardly driven at all last winter, paying ~$450/mo on a garage ornament for 5 months hurt a lot. Now we won't have to worry, and the car found a new owner who loves it dearly.

It's time to get serious about getting some custom winter gear from and making sure Pugsley is ready for the snow battle, because we're going all in this year!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My 9/11 Post, I'm celebrating

Since Facebook/CNN/the corner store is all abuzz with people's remembrances of 9/11/01, I'm celebrating 9/11/11. It's my son's second birthday, and I refuse to let the sighs and bad thoughts of one evil day in history put a bad mark on the date of my child's birth. We're going to make the best of it!

But since I'm on the subject, on 9/11/01 I was living with a roommate and sound asleep when my roommate woke me up "We're being attacked!!". Not knowing WTF she was talking about I reluctantly got out of bed and went to watch TV with her. By the time I was up, both towers were ablaze, albeit still standing. I didn't know what to think or feel. Nervous? Scared? Anger? I remember most news websites being down, and trying to get my little 3.5" travel TV to tune into something. Since I was in a capital city, especially one with a nuclear power plant nearby, I was a bit worried. Soon my fears would ease and live would carry on as normal. Well, not normal, but you know what I mean.

Remember how everyone had American flags and support ribbons and how Americans in general stuck together for a few months after the attack? What happened to that? People became their ugly selves again and started hating each other, and especially those with darker skin, or those whose faith didn't align with their own. Cowardly attacks upon innocent, kind hearted people who look middle-eastern or talk with a thick accent happened shortly thereafter. When I reflect on 9/11, I feel sad for the ugliness us Americans showed in the days, months and years following the horrible attacks. The fickleness of being a caring human being, the senseless attacks and hatred to those who were not understood. It was ugly and I prefer not to reflect on 9/11 for being reminded of those things. OK, rant over.

So I'm celebrating this 9/11, because as of two years ago, I actually have a reason to be happy again on 9/11. My baby boy is growing up so fast! And there might even be another part to be happy about, but I'm not gonna jinx it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Oh really now

Surly's recent blog post that announced the 2012 products had a new tire called the Big Fat Larry. Rumored to be a 26x4.5" tire, actually release was a 4.7"! Even before the announcement the fat bike community was scheming of ways to get it into their existing bikes. Surly's blog post had this little tidbit: "Yes, it will fit into a Pugsley frameset on a Large Marge rim. HOWEVER, You will no longer be able to use your small ring or largest three or four cogs in the rear due to tire/chain disagreements."

To that I say, "Oh really now". It fits just fine with no disagreements in the drivetrain! Thanks to Big Mike at Paramount Sports for making the experiment happen so quickly. I asked him about ordering me some yesterday around 2:30pm, and they arrived today at 12:30pm! Tires were installed less than 24 hours after ordering, that's pretty quick in my book.

These fatter tires should give me a hair more ground clearance and a bit more float in the snow, as well as better traction due to the more supple tire casing. The bike also lost half a pound of rotational weight, so it should be a little faster as well!

Now if I could only feel better. Sinuses/allergies/cold/whatever this is that is draining my energy, make my throat scratchy, and make my nose run is really annoying. Sick day today coincided with new bike toys, but I wish I could go ride and enjoy them.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bikepacking Cheap

When I first became interested in bikepacking, it was through blogs and posts from people with more free time and budget than I do. While I'd love to have the latest gear and a lighter "kit". I make do with what I got. The purpose of this post is to remind you that you don't need special equipment to go on a S24O or quick adventure.

Take Rivendell for example. They specialize in this type of stuff and are well respected in the cycling world. For good reason too. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've dreamed of going on a shopping spree at their site, they truly have some of the nicest stuff I've ever seen. In the articles section of their site is a portion about what to bring on an overnighter. Have a look, then come back here and compare.

My kit is as follows (see previous post for a picture of the Pugsley loaded up):
Outdoor Research 15L Drybag ($15 from REI)
-Contains Thermarest Sleeping Pad ($20 from craigslist)
-Contains HiTec 1 man Backpacking Tent ($25 from Big5)
This Drybag is strapped to the handlebars using the Coleman camp straps ($2 for a pack of 2)

Deuter Framebag ($16 from TreeFortBikes)
-Contains Bike Tools, Flashlight, Lighter, Knife, First Aid, Etc.

Rack is a Planet Bike Eco Rack ($5 from Craigslist, but about $25 new)
Nashbar Daytrekker Panniers ($25 from Nashbar)
Left Side contains clothes (camp shirt/underwear/shorts/shirt for ride home) with room to spare.
Right Side contains emergency plastic rain poncho, a 8' piece of paracord, and food (more on that later).
Strapped to the top of the panniers/racks using the Daytrekker straps is a HiTec Tioga sleeping bag, 30degree ($20 at Big5)

Camelbak Blowfish ($30 from an AZ LBS sale, but you probably have one already)
-Contains 100oz water, chapstick, mountain money (TP), food. toiletries

Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag ($15)
-Contains Camera, Phone, Map.

For Food I brought 2 PB Sandwiches, 3 or 4 mini Clif bars, Fig Newtons, Laffy Taffys!, and a couple Gu gels. The gels have caffeine. Something my body has decided is quite important. Also, they taste pretty good and make for a decent "treat" at a quick stop. Not exactly their intended use, but that's how they work for me. I also knew my route passed by a couple gas stations, so breakfast coffee/donut was bought there in the morning. I have an alcohol stove that I made (google "super cat stove") but I didn't feel like cooking anything, so it didn't come along.

Most of my stuff is cheap, but it works, and at the prices I paid, the weight is pretty respectable. Of course if I were going on a long tour or anything longer than 3 or 4 days I'd surely be making some upgrades. First thing I want is a new tent. I like to be able to sit up inside, and that isn't possible in my tent. Something waterproof would be nice as well. But considering how cheap this tent was, I'll get a couple more nights out of it before it becomes a play tent for my kids.

So if you've ever thought about bikepacking, take a look around and see what you can use first. Odds are you'd have most of what you need right at home.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


This morning, I woke up to the sound of tapping and scratching on the side of my tent. There was just enough sunrise light to show the silhouette of a frog, trying to jump up and climb the side of my tent.

Earlier this week I had the idea to go bikepacking again, just a simple S24O (Sub 24hour Overnight Bicycle Tour) to get away for a while. I got out all my stuff and loaded up my Cross Check to see if it was feasible, then started checking out Google Earth to find a route. I found a spot about 35 miles east of here near Lee Lake. I then used Google Maps Cycling directions and noticed it suggested mostly all gravel roads. Normally I don't mind gravel on the Cross Check, it's more than capable on most surfaces, but the map had suggested a road I've attempted to ride before. It's just too loose and soft for those skinny (700x38s are skinny?!) tires. Not seeing any good alternate routes, and excited by gravel, I chose to stick with the Google route, but changed to my Surly Pugsley.

Bikepacking on a Fatbike = Fatpacking. The 3.8" wide tires have zero issues with gravel, so I knew I'd be able to enjoy riding my bike, and not worrying about what "line" I took in the gravel, or whether or not I'd be able to follow a car track. I could space out, talk to myself, look around, take pictures, etc...all without a care in the world. Since my destination was only 35 miles away, the fatbike made sense. It's much slower. It's no slug, but it's slower. More time to enjoy the ride. Not for a second on this trip did I regret taking the Pugsley, but there were several times I was incredibly thankful I didn't attempt this trip with the Cross Check.

I didn't take hills into consideration, and the Cross Check's gearing isn't low enough, especially when loaded with stuff. I would have been walking a lot. Walking sucks. The Pugsley's super low granny gear allowed me to spin my way up everything. The low gearing also allowed me to spin comfortably against the massive headwind that haunted my return trip.

As for the trip itself, I left Friday after work, about 5pm. Within 15 minutes I was away from civilization and I had miles and miles of gravel to grind before reaching my destination. I stopped and took some pictures, had a few snacks, and generally tried to enjoy my ride and surroundings without a time limit. So often my rides are limited by work, availability, or riding with others and trying to hold a pace. This was nice, I knew that I should end up at camp by 8pm to avoid setting up my tent in the dark, and I made it just in time.

The tent went up quick, and I was settled for the night. Tossing and turning before finally getting to sleep, only to be woken up by raindrops around 1:30am (my tent isn't waterproof). I dealt with it and finally got a few hours of decent sleep (using my Camelbak as a pillow) before Mr. Frog's feable attempt at scaling the side of a tent that brought my slumber to an end.

The ride home was a repeat of the ride there, except with a hell of a lot more wind. 10-20mph headwinds gusting to 28. Damn near constant. I certainly burned some extra calories riding 30+ miles into a headwind on a 60lb loaded bike. Even as demoralizing as headwinds can be on a bike, it didn't get me down today, it just wore me out quicker and delayed my arrival at home to around noon.

I was stopped a couple times by people wanting to know more about the bike and how they'd never seen tires so big. I sincerely don't mind. Plus I was rarely seeing people or cars on my route, it was nice to socialize a little (besides talking to myself). The sight of the bike makes kids and adults alike say "whoa" when I ride by. Same way I felt when I first saw one, and the novelty hasn't worn off. This bike truly makes me feel younger. That sentiment has been shared by other fatbike owners too. It's magical.

The fountain of youth is pedal powered. Go ride somewhere.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


It's funny, even though I have this blog, I spend more time reading other people's blogs instead of updating mine. I guess I should make a better habit of keeping this thing updated more frequently I guess.

Today I rode in "The Flugly". The first (annual?) Mountain bike race at MB Johnson park in Moorhead. The Fargo-Moorhead Trailbuilders have been busting their butts in making/maintaining this killer trail. Very well thought-out, lots of twists, and turns, but still flows well. They sure make the short distance worth while. I was the only one on a fat bike, but I wasn't out for the gold. My objective to "Have fun and don't finish last" was held to, and I'm impressed at how well the Pugsley can act as a "normal" bike.

But besides the fat bike madness, the past few weeks have had me putting in an insane amount of miles on the Cross Check. I rode it in the MS150, racking up 150 miles in a weekend (45 Saturday/105 Sunday!) and a few 20-45+ mile training rides leading up to that century. With that said, my yearly mileage as of today is 30 miles away from my goal! That's right, 1470 miles so far this year, so this week's work commutes will push me over the goal I had set to ride for the entire year. With roughly 2 more months of decent weather left before the snow falls, I'm thinking next year's goal will be higher.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Abercrombie Metric

A couple months ago I posted my goals for the summer. One of them was to ride to Fort Abercrombie, ND. The Fort was the first american military establishments in North Dakota, built in 1858. Since it is positioned 30 miles south of me, I figured it was the perfect destination for a metric century, because with a couple extra miles thrown in, the loop could be at least 62 miles, or 100km.

I had planned this ride through Google Earth, thinking that it would be a straight shot along the shoulder of the 75, then a quick jaunt over the river, and then to the Fort.

I mentioned this ride to my friend Dennis who said he'd be up for it, so we made plans for last Saturday. He brought along his friend Doug and we hit the road.

Road. Plain. Straight. Road.

The weather was nice, low 80s and a light breeze. Not too shabby on the page, but that wind became a bastard on the ride home. Certainly not the worst the upper midwest has to offer, but it certainly wasn't welcomed after mile 40 or so. My trusty Cross Check had held up well, and was way overloaded for the trip. Since Dennis was riding his Long Haul Trucker, I figured it wouldn't be fair to travel light. I had both racks on, fenders, handlebar bag, saddle bag, and a top tube bag. 3 bottles of water, enough snacks for a group, first aid kit, etc. Way too much. But it was good training, as the MS150* is fast approaching. I left the fat tires on too, as I wanted to give them a good workout. They did not disappoint, the Schwalbe Marathon Cross tires are incredibly versatile, just like the Cross Check. A match made in Heaven.

A little over halfway there and the peanut butter and honey sandwich I had packed no longer sounded appealing. Dennis mentioned that there was a cafe in Abercrombie where we could have lunch. Once we made it to our destination, we made a quick lap through town (which is maybe 1/4 long!) and the only place that appeared to have food was this bar. Chicken strips and fries, a Breckinridge Lucky U IPA, and I was refueled and ready for the ride home.

The wind fought us most of the way, gusting up to 15mph or so. Our return trip was at a significantly slower pace.

As we neared civilization again, Doug was getting ansy. Since he was on a light, unloaded road bike, he took off and let Dennis and I chug along on our slow, loaded Surly bikes. Within a mile, Doug was no longer in sight. We kept riding, as we could now see street signs that were reducing in number and home was near. About two miles from home, Doug comes back with his jersey pockets stuffed with 32oz Gatorade bottles. Such a welcomed surprise, and Dennis and I were both down to less than 2oz of water left. Chugged half of the bottle of Lemon Lime goodness and we headed home. Great day for a ride with friends, and even better that we were able to check off a summer goal of riding a metric century. We clocked out at 63.5 miles.

*I will be riding in my first MS150 Charity ride at the end of this month. I'm still quite a few bucks short of my goal. If you'd like to chip in for charity and provide a tax deductible donation, I, and the 400,000 Americans suffering from Multiple Sclerosis would certainly appreciate it. Click on "Donate to Jason" just above the thermometer graphic on this page. Thank you!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My First Wheelbuild

For years I have been mesmerized by the bicycle wheel. Those thin wires holding up all that weight. With myself being on of those "let's take it apart and see how it works" types, I have been tempted to build up my own wheelset.

Now the stock wheelset on my Surly Cross Check is fine. It's heavy, strong, and still perfectly true after lots of abuse. But it's plain. Boring. Stock. So I turned to ebay for some cheap hubs. After some google searches, I found that a lot of people are happy with Novatec hubs from Taiwan. Since the price for the pair after shipping was less than a quality front hub, I figured I'd give it a shot. Red of course. Bling!

The rims are the trusty Salsa Delgado Cross. Heavy and strong, and cheap! These have a solid reputation as a great commuter rim. Since I have a slight affinity for the Salsa brand, these were a no-brainer.

The spokes on the other hand were a different story. I knew I wanted Sapim brand spokes, but couldn't find a decent source online. Well I could, but shipping was ridiculous! Inspired by facebook and blog posts, I turned to Ben at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MN. Ben was extremely helpful and suggested the Sapim Force spokes. Triple butted for strength, but not much heavier than a standard double butted spoke (6.6grams each for a 296mm spoke). Ben ordered some spokes for me and had them to my door quickly, for a very reasonable price.

While I waited for the hubs to arrive from Taiwan, I started doing a bunch of research on how to build wheels. Youtube videos, Sheldon Brown's website, etc. I found Mike T's website very informative as well.

Once everything arrived, it was time to get down to business in the makeshift bike shop area of my garage.

I started with the front wheel since it's easier. Spokes are all the same length, no weird centering required. Perfect for a first attempt.

I started by loading the hub with spokes like so...
And then started lacing it up. Since Sheldon Brown's site and many others go over lacing patterns, I won't attempt to explain that here.

8 out of 32 spokes in their proper place:

16 out of 32 spokes in place:

And done:

I was amazed at how loose and bendy the spokes were before tensioning. Once it was done, it was time to put the wheel into the truing stand.

After a couple hours of twisting the spoke wrench, the wheel was well within my tolerance, approximately 0.5mm

For style points, I made sure the hub logo was visible through the valve hole. Not sure why this is a big deal, but the pros do it, so I'm gonna do it.

Lather, rinse, repeat for the rear wheel (which turned out to be EASIER than the front!), then mount up my tires, and it's photo time.

Bling! They turned out great and I'm very excited to get them mounted up!

I did a quick loop around the block and I think I'll be very happy with these wheels for quite some time. If not, I'll build more! It's fun, and easier than I thought.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


When mentioning that I was going to Bismarck to a coworker, I made an obscure Biz Markie reference. My coworker said "who?" and I immediately felt old. If you're anywhere over 30, you should know that "oh baby you, you got what I need" song at least. Right?

Anyways, Bismarck is a cool town! It's not flat like the rest of North Dakota, and there's a lot of history in them there hills. Here's some pictures from my after class adventures.

My hotel was located fairly close to the Missouri River, so I took my trusty Cross Check with me to do some exploring. I found some singletrack, some paved multi-use path, some gravel doubletrack, and some historical crushed rock trails as well. I was able to go on back to back 20+ mile rides with barely 2 miles per day of actual road, something that is almost unheard of in nearly every other city I've ridden in. The crazy mix of trails, beaches, riverside paths, and hillside history wasn't boring in the least. Being able to see some artifacts from Lewis & Clark's adventures, old Native American villages, and old bridges was pretty cool. I was fortunate that the weather was amazing (first time riding in a t-shirt and shorts in nearly 7 months!) and I had plenty of time to go cruise around the city. The second day I took the fenders off since the puddles had cleared up, and I wasn't in the mood for the rattling sounds they make on gravel!

The big building in the first picture is the capitol building. It's the tallest building in the state too. Being a California boy, this capitol building is pathetic! I spent so many hours walking around the grounds of the capitol in Sacramento, that the capitol in Bismarck was very "meh". Still cool to see though, just to satisfy the nerdy explorer side of me at least.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Family Cycling

Spring has sprung! People everywhere. Riding Bikes. Jogging. Walking Dogs. Pushing Strollers. The reclusive natives that hid from winter are coming out to play. With that, so does my family. While I may have been the only crazy one to ride all through the winter (which apparently is the toughest in the nation according to!), we've all made it out to embrace spring. First up was making sure my oldest son's 24" Trek Mountain bike still fit, and with the seatpost all the way up, it does. This will be his last year on it before we go to 26" wheels. This was necessary to make room in the budget for the "missing" bike, my wife's.

We sold her walmart Schwinn before we moved here, and have been looking for a suitable replacement for a while now. With the iBert baby seat in mind, we had to find a bike with a long enough top tube to make the ibert comfortable to use. We looked at the local shops and nothing really "spoke" to her. But at the Community Bike Workshop, the lonely 74 Fuji Dynamic 10 Mixte did. We both liked this bike when we first saw it months ago, and it was still sitting there so we had to try it. The ibert fits perfectly, and the cost of the bike was 1/3 of what we would have spent at a "real" bike shop. Even with the upgrades planned it'll still be cheaper and it's the perfect bike for her.

So now that we're all bicycle equipped again we've been riding as a family. To breakfast. To lunch. To the store. To explore. I love it. My wife has completely fallen in love with riding again. The weight loss goals that my wife and I set are pretty aggressive, so riding as much as possible will certainly help us achieve our goals. Riding isn't all about the goals though, we're having fun. Discovering new routes and paths, seeing new things, and sharing the love of cycling as a family.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Finally fitted some 26x2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple tires to the Xtracycle. I've been fascinated by these tires for years now, and I finally caught them at a "too good to refuse" price, so I figured I should jump on the chance to finally get some. The roads here are pretty rough and I've had to true these wheels twice in the past 6 months. The high volume of the Big Apples made such a huge difference in ride comfort and quality, in fact much more of a difference than I was expecting. I'd say after today's 22 mile ride, I'm completely satisfied with these tires. They roll plenty fast, do great on gravel, and they are comfy! Sure they are heavy, but on a 45lb bike it doesn't really matter, and their weight wasn't really noticed.

With the impending flood, the "easy" route to Fargo wasn't available so I had to go way out of my way to get to that side of town, but it's a fun route. Gravel roads, county road shoulders, and wide paved paths were just some of the stuff I rode on today. I didn't even notice the long mileage as it was a nice day. I had to take off my coat, hat and liner gloves a few miles in. This is where its nice to use the Xtracycle as a weekend cruiser, it can hold all that stuff without worry.

After a cruise around Fargo I headed back east and met my wife and kids for lunch at Ruby Tuesday for a nice lunch of Blackened Tilapia and Diet Coke. Once done with our meal, I headed home only to have the sun retreat behind the clouds, warranting the need for my extra layers again. The temperature was in the high 30s and slightly windy, yet I saw dozens of pedestrians and one other cyclist today. Its nice to see others taking advantage of a perfectly good Saturday.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back in Business

After being sick, and only getting one commuting day in last week, I was able to get out on a 10-12 mile (my bike odometer needs batteries) ride on the Xtracycle today. I went up to the FM Community Bike Workshop to volunteer for a little while, then look for a new donor frame for said Xtracycle. I've been thinking a bigger frame to get me a more upright riding position would help, without needing the giant stack of spacers and riser stem I have on there already. It looks silly, no matter how functional it is currently.

The weather was nice though, high 20s with lots of sunshine felt warm, and the streets were mostly clear. But the best part....I saw other people on bikes! Other people walking! Kids in strollers! It was the first sign I've seen that indeed, spring is here. It's time to work on setting more goals and solidifying plans for summer adventures. So far my rough list is as follows:

1) Get Xtracycle "dialed". New tires, new saddle, and find a way to get a more upright riding position.
2) Ride a Metric Century (100km or 62miles) to Fort Abercrombie Historical Site
3) Ride to Detroit Lakes for lunch at Zorbaz, then ride home. Full century, 100miles
4) Do a mini tour of the Paul Bunyan trail in Central Minnesota.
5) S24O (Sub-24 hour Overnighter) bikepacking trip in town with my sons.

Pretty easy list so far, I sure hope time and weather will cooperate to make them achievable.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Down for the count

I've been sick with a cold since Tuesday. I should have seen it coming since my oldest son has been sick. Sometime around noon on Tuesday it hit me all at once and I felt miserable. That's the crappy part about bike commuting, getting sick. For one, riding home from work when you're sick enough to leave work, isn't fun. It was wet, icy, and windy, and I was on the Xtracycle. It was slow going but I slogged through it with the goal of a hot shower and a warm bed. The next worst part is time off the bike. It's been 5 whole days without riding, and while I today I might actually feel up to's windy outside, and only the truly insane cyclists lust for wind riding :) The weather looks downright unfriendly for Monday and Tuesday, but hopefully there will be fresh snow to go ride around in when it's all said and done, and hopefully my family and I will all have recovered from this nasty cold by then.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let it thaw, let it thaw, let it thaw.

So this week begins the "warm up" that should kick off the spring thaw (flood?). I will miss the snow, although I'm sure it'll make a couple brief appearances throughout the spring. With the latest thaw there are tons of slushy puddles, so I'm back on my Xtracycle since it has fenders to keep me somewhat clean. Yesterday I went on a 9 mile ride through the streets on the Pugsley and got covered in brown slush. My white bike is now half brown, and I had to wash my coat and pants when I got home! So unless it's dry snow or bare roads, the Pugsley is staying parked. The Xtracycle is much faster anyway, even though it's a bigger target for wind, with it's sail-like rear end. I'll take that penalty though because it's just so fun to ride. It's due for some new tires and a new snapdeck, but I should be able to get by for a couple more months at least. I've settled on getting Schwalbe Big Apple tires in the 26x2.35 size for the extra ride comfort and reflective sidewall. Hopefully I can catch them on sale before I truly need them.

I'm jinxing myself to say that I survived my first winter in Fargo, but that's what I did. Bear Grylls style survival, by getting into the mess and fighting through it. Although I didn't need to eat an eyeball or drink my own pee, I'm quite proud of myself for braving the frozen outdoors as much as I have.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

$0.00 per gallon

When I started this blog is was mainly about my bike rides and starting to commute by bike. Since I've moved to Minnesota, and landed a job so close to home, being a bike commuter has become much easier. Nearly every day I take the long way for the added mileage, a whopping 5 mile round trip! If I took the easy route it would only be 3 miles round trip. When the weather gets nicer I may look for ways to extend it even further.

The biggest adjustment from Phoenix to here is this white stuff that falls from the sky. The locals call it snow, and well I love it. So much in fact that it doesn't stop me from riding to work. I was lucky enough to find a custom built Surly Pugsley at a local shop (I had full intentions of buying a frame and building it up "my way", but this was one was cheaper and nicer!). This thing is built for snow, sand, and anywhere it damn well pleases. There's only been a couple places this winter where I had to walk beside it, but I think those times could have been avoided now that I have more snow experience under my belt. Today was the first time I walked it because I wanted to. Yesterday's wind left some deep drifts that were pock-marked with footsteps. Add on last night's 2-3" of fluffy snow and those deep holes are invisible. It's only a 150 foot stretch or so, and instead of getting frustrated with the annoying thump thump thump of hitting those holes, I just walked it. But before that stretch of path, I had to guess where I was, as I couldn't really tell where the path was, or where the icy patches beneath the snow were. The rest of the ride was nice and enjoyable, since the temps were in the high 20s and the snow coming down felt good on my face. My coworkers were surprised that I had ridden to work, you'd think that they'd know me better by now. I've only missed a handful of days this year, and it takes much more than a couple inches to stop me.

As of tomorrow's ride, I'll be at 250 miles for the year. Not bad considering that 95% of those miles are on snow. I'm well on my way to my goal of 1500 miles for the year.