Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aged To Perfection: 1986 Univega Gran Rally

What you see here is a bike that is new to me. Jim at Hiawatha Cyclery, looking to streamline his collection, sold it to me this past week. I have been in the market for a classically proportioned steel road bike for a while, but was not interested in playing eBay roulette.

This will be my "go fast" bike, onto which I intend to hang nothing more than a water bottle or two and a small seat bag with enough capacity to hold a tube, a pump and a bottle of beer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

NO Pub Crawl This Sunday


Due to a profound lack of apparent interest, the Pub Crawl that was to be this Sunday is no more.

We'll catch you again some other time.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Gauging Public Support for Pub Crawl on August 30

I'm thinking of launching another pub crawl for Sunday, August 30. Short notice, yes, but check out the schedule. It's worth making time for.

Tentative Schedule
Stop 1: Surly Brewing for tour and samples.
Stop 2: Grumpy's NE
Stop 3: Pracna on Main
Stop 4: Stub and Herbs
Stop 5: Busters on 28

I've not checked with any of the establishments except Surly, so the stops are subject to change.

Email me or comment here if you are interested and can make it. I'd like to have a rough idea of how many cyclers we'd be looking at.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gimme Forty Acres. . .

The Family Recreation Fund was tapped this week to purchase a trailer rig for the canoe. We bought it from Wike and it seems good for the money. The wheels are cheap-ish plastic, but what the heck. The load on them is not that heavy and they will not get used more than a couple dozen times per year.

The canoe itself is the frame and a hitch and tongue assembly is strapped to the front of the boat. Likewise the wheel assembly is simply strapped on and the cushioned aluminium frame seems well thought out and easy to repair. Wheel assemblies are nylon and held together with cotter pins for easy and fast disassembly. The nylon bits are my main durability concern but time will tell.

We boogied at a respectable pace from our house in Victory Neighborhood to Cedar lake with boat (and paddles, PFD's, cooler, etc. inside) and my son and I on the bike. DeAnn followed on her road bike, completely and utterly unladen, to watch for pieces coming off or stuff falling out. Nothing untoward happened.

It takes a long time to turn this beast. Our canoe is a monster at 20' long. I figure the total length of the entire package is about 29'. Downhills are stable and nice, uphills are work but doable. I managed about 10mph average from our house to Cedar Lake, which is about 7 miles one way. Not bad.

I figure since this canoe is about as long as any out there, we will hold the total rig length record for any Minneapolis-based bike trailer combo for some time. Anyone have photo proof of something longer?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Help Some Good People Out!

I am riding the Hartford Breast Cancer Ride Next Weekend and could use your help. This ride raises money to support breast cancer research as well as to support families in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area that are struggling with breast cancer or other serious illness.

Please consider donating today. It's tax-deductible and it'll make you feel good.


Monday, July 6, 2009

"Just like they do in Morocco!"

That's what Mr. Keljik at Keljik's Rug Cleaning said as I pulled up with this 7' x 10' Moroccan rug a week ago. Our dog had "soiled" the rug several times for some damned reason or another and it badly needed cleaning and de-odorizing. I got a lot of interested looks during the 10+ mile ride to have it cleaned and one woman actually offered to take it off my hands.

Had she seen how gruesome it was inside, she would have not made the offer.

Just another day in biking paradise.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Gentlemen's Tour June, 2009

This year I turned 40. It's a milestone of sorts in that one cannot deny that middle age is not only knocking at the door, but has indeed come into the house, taken it's shoes off, grabbed a cold beer and is boring the shit out of everyone talking about his ailments and medications. The only way to get 'em to shut the heck up is to do something epic. On the actual day of my birth each year I strap on some snowshoes and try to complete a challenging loop from our dear friends cabin in the north woods. My family spends every New Year's Eve and Day there, and since that is my birthday it's convenient to use this as a Middle Age banishing tactic. This past January the hike was magnificently difficult and I owned it.

But when facing a Major Milestone like the big 4-0, one epic battle with Middle Age is not enough. Indeed, as time passes and the years pile on it's important to take on as many epic projects as one can. When your body breaks, you have found the limit. Until then, keep pushing. For Epic Project #2 this year, I found myself contemplating a bike tour, which is something I've always wanted to try but never had the opportunity to plan. A few months ago my good friend Jim announced he was planning a tour and I invited myself along. He graciously accepted my offer of companionship and, to protect himself from an undiluted blast of my mesmerizing personality scrambled to invite several other like-minded fellows. In the end there were six of us: Jim, Sean, Doug, Kevin, Mark and me. Eric joined us for the last night, making it seven participants. All great personalities and patient, which is nice.

Due to injury, scheduling and the vagaries of life, only 5 of us would ride together at any one time and I joined the tour in medius res at the first campsite. But each Pedaling Gentleman added his own flavor (or, as the case may be, scent) to the proceedings and it was very much a Magnificent Seven vibe each time we rode into town and the women and children hid from view. When the town spokesman would come out to parley, we were kind and gentle with them. We asked only for pastry and coffee, a full water bottle and the use of a toilet. Then we rode off, leaving their village not much the worse for wear and the local bakeshop or coffee house a few dollars richer. Also we ate cheeseburgers. Lots of cheeseburgers. The best were at Finnie's in Plainview, MN.

Our route wandered along the Mississippi River from Red Wing to La Crosse, over to Lanesboro, MN and then northward across hill and vale (and hill, hill, hill) to Lake City and back to Red Wing. Most nights we camped but in La Crosse we used a local hotel to blast the grime and musk from our bodies. In total, I pedaled about 250 miles in 5 days and the other fellas who had done the entire trip wound up with more than 300 miles. It was a great experience filled with laughter, a few hillpain-induced tears and lots and lots of calories. It often seemed as if we were sitting in cafes longer each day than on our bikes. The nights were filled with campfires and conversation, heaps of good conversation. I look forward to doing it again, if they'll have me.

Here are a few photos of the tour.

First we have the first Helmet Totem of the tour. It's a priapistic onion ring. It started oozing grease the day after I affixed it to my helmet, so I had to set it free. For the remainder of the trip I sported a unicorn duckie.

We had a lot of gravel to ride, which was fun and challenging. Nobody wiped out, but not for lack of trying. Jim, in particular, seemed well at ease bombing down sketchy country hills.

Doug's camping skills were evident. His tent was first to be erected and first to be packed each day. It's a pleasure watching a guy so completely in his element and I look forward to perhaps camping with him again someday. Below is a typical Doug camp scene. Imagine detonating a grenade underneath the tent and that's what my camp looked like.

We had a layover day in Lanesboro which four of us put to good use. We pedaled the 22 mile round-trip to Fountain, MN where we ate soup and pie, bought some cured meat products and visited their excellent museum. Here we see Jim, Sean and Doug at a rest break. Jim had just said something pithy which I missed.

Rolling into town looked like this.

Sean flashes the pearly whites while Kevin and Jim discuss how much they are looking forward to coffee and, if they are lucky, baked goods. This was my favorite coffee shop of the trip, in lovely Houston, MN. The friendliest people of the entire tour were here, without doubt. They invited us to come live there which shows that the people of Houston, MN are keen students of quality.

As the tour wound up I found myself in the back of the pack and somewhat melancholy that the fun had to end. I hope to travel with these fine fellows again someday.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Smokey and the Bandit, Part 3

Hauled much beer and a six-year-old on this rig today.

Got much respect from a fixie rider.

He was right to respect.

1 case of PBR cans
4 pack Surly Furious
12 pack Sierra Nevada Summerfest
6 pack Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA
6 pack Two Brothers Dog Days
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 8, 2009

May 17 is Pub Crawlicious

We are going to do it again, folks. It's time for a CollaboRide©!

Jim Ebel of Two Brothers Brewing and I will be conducting a short, sweet pub crawl on Sunday, May 17. Here's the map:

We will get started somewhere around 3:30 at the Gastro Non Grata event taking place at the Modern Cafe. Read more about that event at the link and come down if you can. It'll be great.

More details (and possibly more to come):

When: Sunday, May 17 about 3:30 PM. Maybe 4:00. It depends on how awesome the rock is.

Where: Starts at the Modern Cafe as part of Gastro Non Grata. By all means check out the details of their event if you like good food, good beer and local music. It will be delicious for mind and soul. This is the spiritual first stop of the pub crawl.

Who: Anybody. Lanny Hoff from Artisanal Imports will be the Squad Leader.

What: Here are the stops.
(0) The Modern Cafe (site of Gastro Non Grata)
(1) Erte (which is just down the block)
(2) The Sample Room
(3) Grumpy's NE
(4) Bulldog NE
(END) Pracna on Main

We will be riding with Jim Ebel, one of the Two Brothers in Two Brothers Brewing, Warrenville, IL. There will be specials on his beer as well as some Artisanal Imports specials. Maybe even some food stuff. Maybe more stops.

Q. Why is the route so short?
A. Because Mr. Ebel is not a avid cycler and I don't want to impinge on his bliss by riding too many miles. If you want to ride more, ride more. This is a loosey-goosey deal here, Mel.

Q. Is this a kid friendly event?
A. Not really. Unless Junior will sport a round, then by all means.

Q. Will there by door prizes?
A. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. So if something does come your way, it's a bonus and I expect smiles and genuine gratitude.

Q. What if it's raining?
A. Some hardy souls will still ride, I'm sure. So if the weather is uncooperative, flip the sky the bird and rawk on. Mr. Ebel and I may retire the the comfort of the Family Cruiser, but rest assured that we will have love and respect in our hearts for you intrepid Minnesotans who choose to ride.

Q. Who do I contact about this?
A. Lanny at

Q. What if I don't drink?
A. Dehydration can kill you faster than fast, so by all means DRINK SOMETHING! It need not be alcoholic.

Q. Are you concerned about safety?
A. Not really. I reckon that anyone who would make the scene is an adult and will take charge of their own stuff. Bring a light, bring a helmet, bring a lock, bring the normal gear that you would do to ride when it gets dark. Don't be dumb and don't endanger yourself or anyone else.

Q. Can you tell me about when you will be at each stop?
A. No. We'll start between 4 and 5 and spend 45 minutes to an hour at each stop, maximum. More at the last one. So if you want to jump into the middle, go to one of the spots and look around. See a bunch of bikes out front? You found us. No bikes? Look for tiny shreds of spandex, handlebar tape and the tell-tale spoor of chain grease. If you see it, then we have already been there. If the bartenders don't look traumatized, then we have not yet arrived. There is a rudimentary map attached, for your guidance.

Q. Is there a map?
A. Yes. See above.

Q. What is a CollaboRide©?
A. An bike ride in which two members of the beer world get together for mutual fun and benefit. It's all the rage, now.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Introducing Hank Dirkins

I got a great email from my friend Hank Dirkins last night. After conferring with him, we agreed the email should be preserved for posterity on the everlasting etherwebs. So here is the first guest entry on A Full Pannier.

From: Hank Dirkins
To: Lanny Hoff
Sat, Mar 28, 2009 at 11:59 PM
Subject: First 100 Mile Week

Hi, Lanny -

I just got drunk at your house.

I am now drunk back at my house.

Ya see, I finished my ride from the university this afternoon at almost exactly 94 miles for the week. After dinner, bath-time, my wife's workout at the gym, a bong hit, and an hour and a half of graduate school homework, I decided I wanted to go get those last 6 miles.

Then, I remembered that you and a friend had talked about spending this evening at your house. Being 9:45, I made my way via bicycle forthright to the liquor store. I bought approximately two quarts of beer, and pedaled like the dickens to your house.

I arrived to find the houselights dimmed, and your golden retriever, Kenai, crashed out in front of the back door. Your house is almost exactly two miles from my house. I had less than five miles to do for my first 100 mile week of 2009. I took this opportunity to open one of the beers I had brought you, as a gift. It was good. It was 6.7% alcohol.

I let the dog out. He peed. I scratched him behind his ear.

After finishing your beer, I got on my bike and pedaled down to Golden Valley Road, and back to your house. I had hoped to find you home. Instead, I open the second bottle of beer. It, too, was good. It was 9.2% alcohol.

Kenai did as little as perk up his head as I drank that beer. I was listening to my iPod. I danced on your back porch.

I hope your spring biking season is kicking off at least as well.

For the record: the beers Hank enjoyed at my house, with my dog and without me were Sierra Nevada Wet Hop Harvest Ale and Full Sail Barleywine.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gotta Retape These Bars

My new Rawland Sögn is a nice looking bike, but jesus those are some ugly handlebars. Turns out that Cinelli Celeste cork tape with amber shellac looks like pea soup vomit, complete with tiny flecks of semi-digested ham.

I think I may try to tape cloth over the top of the cork to retain some of the cushion. But I gotta do it soon as everytime I look at the bars I have trouble with my gag reflex.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday Rides Are Firkin Awesome

Last Saturday I had the good fortune to combine wonderful weather (see photo above for proof) + hanging out on a bike with a good friend + great beer. Truly a remarkable day and a warm memory as we struggle through another bout of freezing weather.

I set out from my place in the northernmost reaches of Minneapolis to Jake's house in East St. Paul to meet up with him for a ride. It's a good distance and pretty hilly. My route took me on the East River Road and then to downtown St. Paul and them up, up, up Robert to Jake's. Nice workout and good training for an anticipated hilly ride later this spring. 

I arrived at his house just in time to snag the last of Annabelle's mac and cheese (thanks, Annabelle!) and Jake and I went straight back down the hill to the river and rode along Lilydale road, a section of bike-friendliness that I only recently discovered on a ride with Jim. It was warm, a little messy and beautiful. Jake is an enthusiastic and willing cycling companion and even though he had not ridden all winter, was more than up to the task. I look forward to many more rides with him this summer.

We stopped in at Hiawatha to part ways with a few of our disposable dollars and chew over the topics of the day, but they were very busy so our discourse was limited to the usual pleasantries and not the normal deep philosophical dialog to which I am accustomed when I darken their door. I should hope that "business" does not get in the way of our future mental meanderings.

Jake set a blistering pace up the River Road and threw the Devil Horns of Thirst as he passed by. You see, we were Happy Gnome Firkin Fest bound and the both of us were feeling the throat-itch that only good beer can scratch.
Moments later I was able to outpace the thirsty, motivated Jake, but this guy started sneaking up on me having passed Jake. He tried to shield his face from the seeking lens of my camera, but to no avail. As you can see, Summit Avenue was filled with cyclists that day and Jake and I had to weave our way around all of them in our quest for malty goodness. 

Finally we made the scene at the Gnome, had many good beers and much lively conversation with a plentitude of good beer folk. I have to commend Nick and his minions for putting on the premiere beer event in Minnesota. I wish I had beer to sell them but since I don't have any cask beers in my book I was relegated to the role of enthusiastic consumer. For me the standouts were the Ola Dubh, Surly 16 Grit and Dark Horse Crooked Tree. Lovely beers, all.
Thanks to Jake for being such a good companion for a wonderful day of biking and beer.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's Springtime in My Heart

This has been a great weekend for cycling. Maybe the best since last summer.

Jim and I did an epic after-dark ramble that clocked in at 45 super entertaining miles on Thursday night. My very good friend Bert diverted us just long enough to inhale some steamed (which is the new word for fried) potatoes, club soda and beer at the Bulldog NE. The conversation never lagged, many laughs were laughed and once out the door our game, as the kids say, was ON.
Bert retired to the relative safety of his house to get some work done. You see, he's a graduate student and also works at the U. He's a genuinely busy guy with a lovely little girl and a beautiful wife and, for better or worse, an office in the attic. Dude works a lot and when he's not working he's fathering a spectacular example of the toddler ilk.
Jim and I headed back through downtown, having crossed the Stone Arch Bridge. This landmark is one of the best things about Minneapolis and I am struck by how beautiful and wonderful it is everytime I cross it, which is often. We accessed the Cedar Lake Trail near the new Home of the Twins and rolled out Hopkins way. The trail was mostly OK, but quite wet in spots and only a trace of submerged ice slowed us down. Our pace was postively Armstrong-esque.
We tagged the terminus of the Cedar Lake Trail and whipped back toward town and the Greenway. To thwart nocturnal thugs we increased our already impressive speed and Jim begain swinging nunchucks while pedaling no-handed and I shouted at random intervals that "we are packing serious fucking HEAT and we are NOT AFRAID to use it and that we, in fact, really well TRAINED to MAIM and/or KILL any assholes who might try to slow us down and steal our CELL PHONES or CASH CARDS or BIKES". It worked very well as we were not attacked. So if you ride the Greenway after dark, try it. It has worked 100% of the time.

Saturday was the Inimitable Hiawatha Cyclery Ride and it was a classic for the books. Jim made several mid-ride decisions, defended his position effectively against his detractors and those who sought to debate him, and we found ourselves sharing a long table at Kramarczuks, wolfing down sausage, eggs and potato pancakes and washing it all down with coffee and vigorous conversation. Our postprandial cycling took us to the mostly abandoned but conveniently plowed State Fair Grounds via the Inter Campus Transitway. Our group was merry, the wind was at our backs and the ride was eventful in only the best possible ways, except for Monte, who is on my list.

To cap off a perfectly wonderful weekend of riding I was the delighted recipient of a question by my son Jasper. 
"Dad, do you want to go for a bike ride?"
Why, yes. Yes I do. I cannot explain to anyone, especially him, how that question makes my crusty, jaded heart skip a beat with joy. There is nothing— I repeat NOTHING—that brings me greater happiness than a bike ride with my family. We pedaled off toward the local park, played a bit on the gear therein, and returned home, triumphant. I snapped the photo at the top of the page at the end of our ride, the newly Daylight Saved Sun low in the sky. You, gentle readers, are reading the words of a deeply happy and completely satisfied man.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 2, 2009

The New Rig

Despite attempts at holding myself back to get closer to spring and snow, ice and salt-free roads, a new bike has taken form as if by it's own volition.

Jim, Mark and Kevin at Hiawatha Cyclery worked together like a small pack of hyper-intelligent saleswolves to tempt me into finishing this bike ahead of schedule. Putting the final nail in the coffin of my restraint, Kevin opined that "it's easier to beg forgiveness a single time, so you may as well finish the damn thing." He was, of course, referring to the story or stories I would have to tell my wife. She is a kind, generous and understanding woman who knows that despite my girth and lack of hair, I am nothing more than a 6 year-old when it comes to bike stuff. So she is cool with it. I think.
I had explained to the Hiawatheans that I was going to get the frame now (an excellent deal on "blems" from Rawland) and finish it later. Well, one thing led to another. Jim just happened to have a freshly built 650b wheelset on hand, just happened to have the right size compact double crank, an installed-once Thomson stem for a song, etc. etc. You get the idea.

I wanted a bike that would be well-mannered on the road, comfortable and capable of handling fire roads, gravel and mild off-road duty. I think I've got it!

The bike is a Rawland Sogn with disc brakes, On-One Midge Bars, a sweet looking Shimano R600 crank, 650b wheels with Schwalbe HS315 2" tires and all the other bits to make it work. I finished the shellac this morning and am about to get it messy with a long and winding ride somewhere out there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Epic Winter Rides

It's been a while since I've rapped at 'cha, but I've been busy riding and not jabbing.

Last weekend, the Mighty Jim and I hit the road on a cold but dry Sunday afternoon and buzzed in and around St. Paul. I hit at least two new-to-me trails and a beautiful and heretofore unridden (by me) road in the river bottoms of St. Paul. How could I have missed these gems in all my years of Twin Cities owning-the-trails?

We shot up the Gateway Trail following a very nutritious and delicious lunch at the Bulldog Lowertown, got distracted by the Bruce Vento trail and before you can say "suburbs are da bomb" we were in lovely Vadnais Heights. A quick survey of the gruesome Hwy 61 road shoulder action put us back on the trail heading south back into St. Paul, where we boldly forged onto Lilydale Road and then up the bike trail toward the Mendota Bridge.

I sketch for you the broad strokes and not the amazing subtle details of our trip. That neither of us had planned a real route but were open to the experience of simply riding was a treat. We tracked and backtracked, veered and leered, discussed the finer points of edible underwear (in the platonic, dialectical abstract, of course) and enjoyed the basic, delightful act of putting one pedal in front of the other, over and over and over. We both saw things we'd never seen, ridden roads we'd never ridden and ended the day, dare I say it, exhausted and sated with the completeness of it all. For me, the second best winter ride of the season.

The best winter ride of the season happened mere hours ago.

Overnight the Twin Cities received a generous 4-6" of fresh snow. Temps in the teens and brisk northwesterly winds made it feel plenty wintery. Only three of us showed up for the ride and as we lit out from Hiawatha HQ, Jim set a brisk pace with seemingly no regard for his personal safety. In the first mile I struggled to keep up but soon found my groove and my fear of digging into the snowy tarmac dissipated. For the rest of the ride I was ready for action and held my own with Jim and Cippolini(o).

As we pulled onto the virgin, untrammeled snow of the Minnihaha/Ft. Snelling Trail, our trials seemed over. The moderately deep snow, without the bastardizing effects of car or foot travel, was easily navigated. It was a unique, wonderful experience to glide over a cottony cloud of snow, noiseless and velvety smooth. Cippolini(o) later told us that from behind he could see our pedals and feet hit the snow ever-so-slightly. Our tracks made it appear like we were running over the surface of the freshly fallen snow, barely making an impression.

The morning light and new snow transformed the ruins of Ft. Snelling in the most flattering possible way. Limestone masonry and snowy leafless trees stood out vividely against the backdrop of the mighty Mississippi/Minnesota River valley and the blue sky, shot-through with fast moving gray clouds. We all agreed that it was a striking and comely sight.

Beauty and reflection fled before the gruesome sight of an un-cleared Mendota Bridge trail. Passing snowplows had left in their wake a dense, wet-concrete snow that was largely impassable. Jim resolutely walked his bike across the entire span. Cippolini(o) and I alternatively waked and rode, pushing hard against the snowy mortar, lucky to move at all. It was a long slog across that bridge, made longer by the incessant and obnoxious noise of fast-moving highway traffic.

Once clear of the damned bridge, we made good time on the back streets of Mendota Heights and West St. Paul. It was a hilly, sometimes treacherous slide back down toward the river, but we all three managed to stay upright. At one point, Cippolini(o) saw an elderly damsel in distress and we dismounted to shovel a large driveway. As we rode away, the object of his largesse called out that we were "angels". Jim and I both took that as carte blanche to indulge ourselves in, as Jim put it, "impure thoughts" later in the day. My karma surplus evaporated within a few minutes as I selfishly scooped a blueberry kolache from the warm grasp of a fellow patron of Jerabek's New Bohemian Coffeehouse. Not literally, mind you, but I knew that she wanted this last blueberry treat as did I. To the speedy went the spoils, and my delight in it's deep purple splendor was diminished not at all by it's ill-gotten origin.

Onward and upward into downtown St. Paul and then up Grand Avenue. Using every available freshly-shoveled sidewalk we made our way riverward. We passed by the compelling sight of two dozen large cherry-pickers fully erect and bedecked with the Stars and Stripes. Was it a protest? A celebration? A memorial? We postulated but did not seek confirmation. I choose to believe it was a memorial in honor of a fallen comrade.

Inevitably we found ourselves back at Hiawatha Cyclery. It was an epic ride, varied and fun, tough and satisfying. I enjoyed the scenery, company and the fact that we did it all with loads of fresh snow on the ground. As much as I'm ready for this winter to end, today was a good day and a day that can only happen in the white, icy depths of winter.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Beautiful Weekend To Ride

Last Monday was, without a doubt, the darkest day of riding all winter. Howling artic winds, low temps and the awful feeling that it will always be so infected my usual bike joy.

No so this weekend.

If you rode your bike in the sunshine, moderate winds and balmy temps and still hated riding, then you, friend, are not ever going to enjoy riding in the winter.

The top photo shows my lunch stop on the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge in Minneapolis. That's a bahn mi sandwich from Quang—without a doubt the best $2.60 lunch in town.

The other photo shows my trusty Owb (Orange winter bike) near Coon Rapids Dam. Some of the trails there are currently in the service of cross-country skiers (who, despite lots of snow, were nowhere to be found) and therefore rough and ready, but Owb and I prevailed.

It was just such a damned pretty weekend for riding.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 6, 2009

Counting The Miles

It's been an extraordinarily bikey month so far, February has.

Following my very late night return from a work-related event last night (this morning, really), my monthly total stands just shy of 100 miles, all but 2 miles on a fixed gear. For the first time all winter my legs are sore and that's a good thing!

I'm sure I'll lose track of the miles soon, but for now it looks like I could break 300 for the month, if I keep it up. I'm just a little proud, if not smug, about the whole thing.

Still, I do not recant my earlier anti-winter sentiments. Still sick of it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Cold-Assed Mother Humper Of A Winter

Did a relatively short ride today of around 20 miles.

Not so much fun.

Others may enjoy the winter riding this year, but today's 8˚ and 20 mph NW winds seemed personally insulting to me. The frozen tracks of other bikes which made my rear wheel dodge and buck like an electric bull at a Texas roadhouse were, well, deeply offensive. The less I say about my nearly frost-bitten fingers the better, but one can scarcely imagine the level of outrage it elicited in the deepest regions of my reptile brain.

Oh, and I'm good and goddamned sick of white. White on the ground, white on buildings, white on my bike, white on my hat, white everywhere. Sick of it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lots Of Miles In The Mild

 This week was a good one for winter mileage. Unsurprising given the relatively balmy, soaring temperatures we've seen this week. As I write this it's some degrees below zero, but earlier in the week temperatures approached 30˚ and it was beautiful and clear. The snow was a little sticky, as you can see in the following photo of a fender "snow tongue", but overall conditions were wonderful and I found myself humming "Yankee Doodle Dandy"* as I rolled along.

Since getting my new fixed-gear wheel for the orange bike, I've enjoyed the workout and the simplicity of fixie riding. It seems to work better in the snow and has thrown into high relief just how out of shape I've gotten this winter. The gearing, to put it mildly, is not high (42/20) but I find my ass well and thoroughly kicked pretty often. Still, no hills have turned me into a pedestrian, so I'm going to get a new cog soon to up the exercise ante.

The world I live in tends to be a pretty nice place. I have a wife and kid that I'm crazy about, my job is a good one, and our little family wants for nothing. Still, a sun-drenched winter ride highlights the good and banishes, for a time, the darker thoughts and shadows that lurk in the background of even the most content of human souls.

My friend Jim has stated that he's enjoying the riding very much this winter, even as many normally hardy souls around him are capitulating to the season. I'm with Jim. This has been a hard winter but worth facing head-on and no reason to stay off the bike. Still, that first ride with no sweater or jacket will be very sweet. . .

* The Fergus Falls High School Band (where I took my basic education) was invited to play in President Obamas inauguration parade and they chose "Yankee Doodle Dandy". So bravo for them!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Winter Pedal Pub Crawl

Join us at the Bulldog NE on Sunday at noon for the first Winter Pedal Pub Crawl. We'll hit 5 of the premier beer spots in Minneapolis, enjoy a few beverages along the way, and defy Father Winter to mess with us.

Download the map of the route here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Snowy Fixed Riding

 During yesterday's snowfall I took a short ride on an old bike with a new wheel. I replaced the recently taco'd el cheapo wheel with a new flip-flop wheel (Surly hubs and a very shiny Sun CR18 rim) and decided to try some winter fixed riding.

I liked it very much. As many have said in other places, riding fixed is easier in the winter.

Sadly, just as I was feeling the burn in my sorely neglected cycler bits, a phone call shattered the dream and I had to pick up my sick and puking son from school. 

Here's to the strange illness of looking forward to another winter ride soon!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Looking Back

For the last five years or so I go off on a snowshoe hike to celebrate my birthday. It's a time to ponder the past year and think about the year to come. I like to joke that the hike sets the tone for the coming year. As the snowshoeing goes, so goes life.

The photo above is the view behind me. I've gone beyond the established path and am now breaking trail in 18" of soft snow. It's hard, pleasant exertion. The sky is a vivid blue, the snow sugary and fine, and the exercise a welcome variation from the previous day's drinking and eating.

As I stomp through the fresh snow, it strikes me that my traditional New Year's Day (and birthday) snowshoe hike is a pretty appropriate metaphor. Behind me lies an already-broken trail and ahead of me a vast untrammeled sea of white. The year just past is history and, as a Dutchman I once knew liked to say, the year ahead a mystery.

I am glad 2008 is over. My wife finished a grueling 18 month treatment for breast cancer and it looks like we can enjoy many more snowy Decembers together, but it's been a rough road. We've both changed in the course of her treatment. She's transformed physically but still the same wonderful and gentle spirit that I've known since the age of 16. I'm no different on the outside, but I feel different to myself emotionally. The occasional temper tantrum aside, I feel that I'm more patient than before. If a stranger cuts me off in traffic or does something stupid I'm much more likely to wonder what is behind their behavior than to fume. Not always, but certainly more often.

Some people are born patient and others, like me, have patience thrust upon them. I hope to become increasingly even-tempered as the years progress. It's one of my life goals and so far I'm satisfied, if not happy, with my progress.