My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Golden Cruiser Ride (May)

While in the course of my 12 days of Lookout I happened across the season’s first Golden Cruise on the last Tuesday in April. As I rode down 13th, kitted out for glory against my 4.5 miles of backyard mountainside I spied hundreds of hip young gunslingers mobbed outside Woody’s Pizza in a mess of music, people and cruiser bikes. That night when I returned home I marked the calendar for May 25th: Kate and I were definitely going. As sure as May flew by in a blur, yesterday found us on the last Tuesday of the month and in the midst of cruiser mayhem at the Golden Cruiser ride.

Ready to RideWe rolled in to Golden a little after 6:00pm and took up residence with the growing mass of cruiser fanatics at Woody’s Pizza. Enjoying a cold, $3 New Belgium draft pint in the sun on the porch (a perk of the ride) we soaked in the line of vintage-actual and vintage-new cruisers on display in front of the restaurant. Woody’s, Golden Bike Shop and New Belgium Brewing put on the event the last Tuesday of every month from April through October. In talking to some of the veterans I discovered that last month’s cruise included nearly 200 riders. May’s iteration of the spectacle promised to include even more. Nearing the magical hour of 7:00 we got our instructions from one of the guys in the red “STAFF” t-shirts. The ride would commence when the music began at 7:15. Music? People began filing out of the restaurant and off the porch and made their way to their designated steed; Schwinns, Electras, customs, low-riders, mountain bikes, downhill machines and hipster fixed gears; you name it everyone was represented. I think Kate boasted the only Puch in the bunch which made her somewhat unique, attracting the covetous glance of many a cruiser fanatic.

Thor...god of cruising
Thor...God of Cruising
Sure enough the music (an IPOD hooked up to 4 bookshelf speakers on a bike trailer) began promptly at 7:15 and to pulsing techno rhythms the mass of bikes and riders set off down Washington St in Golden. The sight was really impressive to behold, my pictures will barely do it justice. The line of cyclists (300+ at some estimates) strung out the entire length of Washington as the slow moving beast of a ride moved north. I cannot capture the lighthearted, whimsical attitude of the group sufficiently enough in words to recreate even a fraction of the experience. Everyone rode freely and carelessly down the street. Every rider carried with them a smile--and many a homemade beer cozy of some kind. We saw a lovingly knitted beer cozy that clearly was crafted with the utmost in care and attention. I struck up conversations with a number of random folks: a cowboy, some hipsters, a guy on a 10” travel downhill bike, some old dude with a flower in his hair and more on his bike and, last but not least, 'Thor the God of Cruising.' Most had never done the ride before, but as I can attest as someone who also had never done the ride, this certainly wouldn’t be my last trip.
Rally at the Park
Regrouping Mid-Ride: Cruisers in the Park
In talking with some of the organizers of the event this clearly is the case for many who come out one time, only to become hooked on the event and return again with 10 of their closest friends. The ride’s quickly become somewhat of an underground, cult happening. What started as a few dozen riders now has grown to a serious horde of a group ride. With a 75+ rider increase at each ride, the pace according to some at which the ride has grown in recent time, the ride should easily crest 500 by mid-summer. And while the growth represents the vibrant health of Golden and West-Denver’s biking scene, its not without growing pains. At the end of the ride while the mob was safe again within the salubrious confines of Woody’s Pizza (comfortably munching wood fired pizza and nursing $3 pints until the 9:00pm New Belgium bike raffle), the ride had left in its wake a less than pleasant memory for some in Golden. No mayhem, litter or destruction, but enough of a taste of the 'other' to apparently require a bit of backlash. As the police arrived to the scene in response to complaints about traffic stoppages, noise and reckless cyclists clogging the streets, it became clear that group ride fame and cult status comes somewhat at a price. A 50 person ride is one thing but a 300 person cruiser mass is a camel’s back crushing monster that even relatively bike-tolerant Golden couldn‘t abide without some grumbling. So while the ride organizer argued with the Golden police about the impossibility of having 300 riders moving in single file down the road, the levity and capriciousness of earlier dissipated and brought the evening back to reality. While the sight of 300 bikes moving through a quiet mountain town may appear idyllic to some, this is still America, and that dream is just not shared by all.
In any case, I think Kate and I will be back in force next month for June’s Golden Cruiser ride. We’re planning on bringing some of our closest friends. We’re going to be more prepared and hell I may even knit some beer cozies. We’ll be veterans of the ride at that point and will need to help look the part to keep up the image of the summer evening’s balloon-tired revelries. As they say, when in Rome do as the Roman’s do…and if 400 Roman’s want to ride around slowly on bikes, listen to music, drink a little brew and meet new, like-minded people…then who really can argue with that?
The way it should be
The way it should be

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cyclists break all kinds of laws and I've had it

Police in Boulder Colorado are currently on the watch for a cyclist with shaved legs who stole some coffee and maybe some cash from a Boulder coffee shop. This actually made local news here in Denver…at least the web versions of it (aren't we still fighting a war or something, dumping oil into the ocean and our economy's in the shitter?)  But I have to say I’m quite pleased with the due attention this important case was given by our great local media sources. Consider this my Crime Stoppers tip of the week: we’ve got to find this shaved legged, bike riding, coffee thieving bastard. Some of you have probably heard my rants about cyclists running stop lights and acting like lawless brigands, giving the rest of us decent upstanding bike riders a bad name. That running stop signs crap is child's play compared to this most recent lawlessness. Just think about it, now when Miranda or Randal go to Starbucks to get that 3rd grande latte of the day before climbing back into their Cadillac SUV for the trek to little Johnny or Madeline’s soccer game, they’re now going to eye the cyclist standing outside the door with undue suspicion. They’re going to scan down to see if the legs are indeed shaved. They’ll hold their latte tighter, pressing their sweaty palm firmly against the cardboard insulator...they might even burn themselves a bit. Their heart will start to race, and it won’t be due to the caffeine or complex sugars coursing through their system. It will be panic, or rage or smugness, or all three take your pick. They might frantically tell their child to get back in the safety of their car: cars are very safe. They’ll whisper to Karen from pilates about the shorn legged, Chrome bagged hipster at the door mysteriously eying the skinny, half-caff, no-foam cappu being whipped up by Devon behind the counter. Hell, they might even start packing heat, and they sure as freakin' hell won’t give 3 feet to pass now that one of ’us’ has started ripping off their damned fancy coffee drinks!!! Oh shaved legged coffee bandit you’ve gone too far! You’ve woken the sleeping giant by poking its slovenly gut with a knuckle tatted fist and track-standing on its thoughtless head. I hope the cops find you and punish you to the fullest extent of the law. You will pay that $3.75 and you will be made an example of; through your punishment we cyclists will all find redemption…like Morgan Freeman and the white guy from that prison movie. I for one will not be able to shave my legs until you are caught, road rash and stubble be damned…plus I nabbed a bagel the other day and I hope that if the bagel shop catches on they’ll pin that crap on you.

Viva La Revolution…700c’s going round and round and round….

Happy Saturday from Denver...its smooth legged, cycling anarchy out here...sweet!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What I did today

Today I left home at 8:00am for my ride up to Fort Collins. I met my friend Aaron at Indiana and 64th about 8 miles into my ride. We went up Indiana and then took McCaslin Rd into Louisville. From there the route varied from what I initially set out to do. Aaron's from that area so he took me on some roads which proved more bike-friendly and scenic. I felt great despite the 80+lbs of bike and gear I was pushing around. My pace up the initial tough climbing was pretty slow but once I got onto the flats (with small rollers) I was comfortable cruising around 15-20mph. With my route deviation I found myself close to Carter Lake, so I through the plan aside and took the road as it came, working my way northward to Fort Collins. It proved pretty fortunate as I ended up on a road with a wide shoulder and bike lane all the way from Loveland to Fort Collins. It also happened to be the road I wanted to head north towards Poudre Canyon. Happy twist of fate. Tomorrow I'm going to go try and work my way up the canyon to get some pics of Kate in the midst of her suffering.  Why anyone would want to run 26 miles is beyond me.
Sprint PictureMail
Off of McCaslin Road in Louisville. This was supposed to be a great shot of my "high water" mark for the day's climbing...with Longs Peak in the background all dressed in snowy whiteness. Instead its really just a bike and a pole.
Fort Collins Trip
Mile 60, heading into Fort Collins.
Poudre Canyon Trip
Poudre Canyon Trip
The Surly at rest, Poudre Canyon.

Have Bike, Will Travel

Although we moved around a couple times growing up, I consider Kirkwood, MO to be my childhood home. A quiet suburb of St. Louis, Kirkwood offers all of the charms and comforts of small community living with the connectedness to the broader St. Louis area which makes it so desirable. Good schools, parks, shopping, and a rich local history all combine to make Kirkwood a highly sought after place to live. As is typical in such locations, small neighborhood homes occupying spacious lots often find themselves purchased cheaply and then razed to make room for McMansions and other tacky displays of ostentation. If you were to go by our old home at 602 Pamela Lane you’d see this sign of progress in action. The small, blue 1950’s ranch with black shutters and basketball hoop no longer occupies center stage of the large lot framed by twin silver maples, there’s a monstrosity in its place now. I even think the maples are gone.

So with this new suburban trash moving in and devastating the character of the neighborhood to make room for their garage-mahals, I cannot speak to the quality of the community today. I can say that the cul-de-sac community of families, working folks and seniors made for an ideal place to grow up a couple decades ago. One of three long, deadend lanes, Pamela sat on the boarder of Kirkwood and an even more exclusive west county community. Yet for all the wealth and splendor of the blocks surrounding it, the cluster of homes on these three streets were all more or less the same; simple mid-century ranches with spacious lawns and healthy mature trees. The ‘black path’, so named for its crumbling asphalt, spanned the back side of the three streets and led to the elementary school not a mile or so away. Given our proximity to school and the relative safety of our neighborhood we grew up first as walkers. We walked to school each morning at 8:00 and when the bell rang at 3:00 we walked home. I think we walked from 1st grade, shepherded by the 5th grade crossing guards and an occasional parent. The Pott’s kids, Matt Plank, Jimmy Humphreys and several others usually accompanied my brother and I as we made our daily trek home from Westchester Elementary, backpacks and lunchboxes flopping around as we went. On weekends and during the summer though our walking turned to riding. As cliché as it may be to say it, in our small neighborhood a bike was your passport.

I can remember my first bike. It was a red and white Huffy. It had a red foam top tube and handlebar pad. It was a gift from Santa Clause, and probably the best he ever came up with. I can picture myself flailing away on that little bike, trying to keep up with the bigger kids in the neighborhood, Danny Plank and the two Albers boys all three of which were several years older than I. Our street climbed the entire length from Geyer Road at the bottom to the circle at the top. We rode up and down it, perhaps a half mile in length, often racing each way. Sometimes we rode down through everyone’s backyards; few had fences and since most of the homes had kids it seemed ok to race down the hills and over the roots of trees without too much concern for property or privacy. The Albers boys were eventually replaced by the Tomasinos who had two girls, but we rode through their back yard still anyway. You could generally always tell where everyone was on a given afternoon by the pile of bikes at the end of the driveway. It was not uncommon on a good football or baseball day to see a half dozen or so ten speeds and bmx bikes in a pile on someone’s lawn. I think it made us easy to find when we happened to be out later than curfew.

The highlight of growing up had to be 3rd grade when they let you ride your bike to school. Westchester had a bike storage area adjacent to the gym by the ‘big kids‘ playground. Generally filled on a nice autumn or spring day, everyone in the surrounding neighborhoods could access a quiet residential street or back alley path to get to school. Once I got older this interconnected web of paths and streets presented an opportunity to wander even farther from home. I’d love to go back in time and add up the miles of neighborhood streets I traveled. I knew every street and path from our home all the way to Ballas Road easily a couple miles away. I don’t know if my parents even realized how far we went at times. Since we avoided any major streets it seemed safe enough and certainly not worth illustrating in any revealing detail.

My first road bike was a black Murray 10 speed. I got a Domino’s pizza cycling hat from a Cub Scout event and wore it for an entire summer until the brim eventually came off of it. This was the era of Lemond and I’d seen his narrow time trial victory on Wide World of Sports and I thought bike racing was fantastic. I could race my bike too. The surrounding hills became Alps and every ride was a sprint and charge through each turn. Heading home one drizzly afternoon while in middle school I charged through a turn a little too pro-style and ended up in the emergency room with a broken wrist. Certainly not my first bike crash (and definitely not my last) my knees and shins still bare the scars from cycling antics gone awry: going over the handlebars after hitting my brother’s wheel while trying to scare him by riding right at him--he moved, or hitting a manhole in the field by the middle school with Jack Kramer--he got the worst of it when one of his spokes went into his leg. Bike riding in those carefree, helmet-less days certainly was hazardous, but we could have been doing worse things I suppose.

While I can remember several fascinating and rewarding aspects of Boy Scouts, one of the highlights has to be the bicycling merit badge activities. I took a trip with the troop and my dad and we went out to Defiance and rode the Katy trail to St. Charles and back: very ironic that my family would later move out to that picturesque area. It was a 50 mile day and at the time my longest ride to date. We climbed some real hills, and as a scrawny boy saw the true advantage of my lightweight physique. I could never be a linebacker but I could climb a hill on a bike like nobody’s business. We also did a ride from Westchester Elementary down to Forest Park in St. Louis. I can clearly recall the moment where I realized that all the places I’d been in a car could easily be connected up and reached by bike. I’d been to Forest Park dozens of times but as a 12 or 13 year old, never under my own power. We could climb the tree at the Plank’s house and see the skyscrapers around Clayton on a clear fall day. After that bike trip, I’d climb the tree just to see how far I’d ridden.

And today I sit on bench at a campground northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado at the mouth of Poudre Canyon. As I type I look up at the blue Surly Long Haul Trucker resting against a fence across from me. My bike is still my passport. Today it brought me safely north over hills and country roads, more than 75 miles from my home. And tomorrow when I wake up I’ll climb back on the saddle and it will take me somewhere else. I’ve come a long way from the days of red Huffys, but that same excitement still remains; have bike, will travel.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Tomorrow, Saturday I’m heading out on a ride to Fort Collins. Kate is running the Colorado Marathon up there on Sunday, so I’ve decided to take the Long Haul Trucker out for a long haul. My destination is a campground up in Laporte, near the entrance to Poudre Canyon. It should be about 80 miles from home.

My big summer goal is an unsupported, cross-Colorado ride. I plan on doing this around early August so I have plenty of time to get into form for it. As preparation, I’ll be doing the Triple Bypass, which is a one day 120+ ride over a couple mountain passes. I’ll also be doing a fair amount of road races and training. I should be in relatively good shape for the ride, but I want to get in some practice packing and loading my bike and riding under the weight of a lot of gear. So tomorrow will be my first test, and the first true trek of my Surly LHT.

To prep I’ve created a gear list, which admittedly is somewhat overkill for a one night camp out, but one which might begin to resemble the packing list necessary for my cross-CO trip. Tonight I laid out all of the items on my list and weighed them on an old scale we have…one which is not the most reliable but close enough for round 1. I’ll be packing a saddle bag, handlebar bag and 4 panniers. Here’s a run down on the various items and weights of what I’m taking tomorrow.
Me154 lbs
Surly LHT31.5
Backpacker Tent4 lbs
Sleeping Bag2 lbs
Sleeping Pad1 lbs
Crazy Creek1 lbs
Stove and Fuel1 lbs
Small Pot and Utensils1 lbs
Headlamp and Batteries.10 lbs
Lock and Cable4 lbs
Tools and Tire1.5 lbs
Personal Items.5 lbs
Camera3.5 lbs
Netbook4 lbs
Clothes7 lbs
Food3.25 lbs
Approx Total49.25 lbs (packed)
Overkill right? But my strategy isn’t too far fetched. At 80 miles, the ride tomorrow will cover the distance and terrain that I plan to try and handle on the plains when I ride across the state (my big mileage days). I think packing heavy and seeing how it feels isn’t a bad experiment. Sure I’m toting an entire bag of GORP …but I do have a marathon to watch Sunday and all that running makes me hungry. I figure I’ll need to cut some weight on incidentals in the future: lock, Crazy Creek chair, etc. I’ll need to make room for more fuel for the stove, more food, more clothing however I probably won’t have to plan for quite the weather that I fear I may have to contend with tomorrow night.

Even with what I feel is an excessive pack list for a weekend on the road, I didn’t fully fill any of the panniers. So I’ve got room to grow, which is promising yet ominous when I think about pedaling around a big loaded with 75+ lbs of stuff. Nevertheless, I’m in very high spirits tonight looking at my piles of gear. A couple weeks ago I was training by doing Coach Carter's infamous Weights on Bike (WOB’s…the big gear runs up Lookout). Tomorrow I’ll train by doing Weighted Bike…I wonder which I’ll like more in the long run?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

With a little help from my friends

Usually when I spy a race slick tire coming up alongside me on my commutes I figure I’m most assuredly about to get “schooled.” Sometimes these riders just blow by, unencumbered by the weight of a full pannier and hefty touring bike. Other times they think they’re going to blow by but actually end up stalling out in front of me at a hill or other such obstacle. I find the latter group a bit more annoying than the first. You can’t blame someone for passing a slow moving vehicle, but you can blame them for becoming one in return.

Today I’d gone out to our office on the northeast side of Denver. When I left work the morning’s benevolent tailwind now met me head on as I slogged my way westward. In addition to the wind I found myself in a somewhat sour mood. Riding downtown, which I don’t do too often, I’d been buzzed, honked at, flipped off and passed while stopped at a light by a cyclist who thought it more prudent to just run it. Deep down inside I hold him partially accountable for the buzzing and honking culture I have to contend with. I was annoyed and each gust of the 30+mph headwind only egged on my sense of annoyance. Can I just say that on a particularly windy day it is especially insulting to ride by those “Your Current Speed Is: “ displays, only to have your whopping 14mph speed displayed in bright yellow brilliance for all the world to see. So when the light changed at Sheridan and 26th and I heard the tell-tale sign of Keo’s clicking behind me I thought for sure I knew what to expect next. In truth fate did not disappoint and just passing the Burger King I caught the approach of skinny tires out of the corner of my eye. However, when the rider passed me today he quickly slid back over and said, “I’ll pull for a while.”

Dumbstruck but comfortably in the safety of the draft my speed increased dramatically and I breathed easier. I sat in for a while and then took a pull up to the light at Wadsworth. I never caught the rider’s name. He was commuting home from work as well with his gear in a Timbuktu messenger bag. He was new to the area having recently come back to Denver from Spokane. He rode a Specialized. He had an optimistic view of the weather and the impending change back to cold and rain due in the latter half of the week. I enjoyed swapping pulls with him and shooting the breeze…no pun intended. I arrived home more refreshed than I would have if I’d made the trek alone, and I was in much better spirits having shared the suffering with another rider. Sometimes it is nice to be out on the open road, enjoying the solitude of the ride and the peace of your own thoughts as company. And yet when the headwinds are a blowin’ and the horns a honkin’ its almost always better riding with a friend; even one you‘ve just met and may never see again. But if I do see him again he’s definitely got a wheel. I owe him that much.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lookout...the Verdict

Saturday the foul weather stayed away, and the morning dawned cold, but sunny and clear. I got out to Lookout by 6:30 to register, set the bike up on the trainer and started warming up for the 8:10am start. For the 3 Primal/1st Bank riders holding down the fort for the team on Saturday, our strategy was to get a fast start, ride tempo for the first mile and a half and try and apply pressure on the fast sections as best we could. Our goal really was to get as many of us into the top 20 as possible for BAT (Best All-Round Team) points.

We had a great warm up and I felt good getting to the line. The three of us lined up to be first to the initial inside turn: great position from the gun. I consider myself a reliable clip when starting, probably due to my commuting route with lights and stop signs etc. At go I was up, clipped in and the first through the first 3 turns. I held a good tempo and was quickly joined by my two teammates: Primal held the first 3 positions. The other two guys from my team clearly had stronger and fresher legs. They really pushed hard up the first section and I had a hard time holding their wheel. The plan was working but I knew I was going too hard too soon. As the rest of the field began to swarm we still held the first position and 2 in the top 10 riding into the switchbacks. I began coasting back but kept with the lead group. I had to face facts though rounding the bends into the 'fast section'; I was in a bad heart rate zone, holding it at present but unlikely to sustain it the remaining 2 miles. Reality set in and I edged back and brought my heart rate down heading into the last two long ramp sections. The field started to pull away at this point and I fought fatigue and annoyance at not really sticking to my game plan.

As I pulled into the last series of tight switch backs I felt better and got out of the saddle. A guy standing on some rocks yelled, "Get on that wheel bearded man!" That got me fired up and I started pulling back some riders. I reeled in some guy in a blue jacket, then a Garmin/5280 kid. I pulled in a Feedback rider and heading into the fast turn at 200 meters felt another Feedback rider on my heels. He had a bit more in the tank and out sprinted me to the line, but we did pass a CO Bike Law rider just before the line. I could taste the iron in my throat and my voice was raspy over a few heavy coughs: ahh the taste of blood. What pain, ,what sheer lunacy, and in a flash it was all over.

We rode briefly and cooled down our legs before the cold descent back down the hill. As much as I bad mouth and complain about this race, I do enjoy it on some levels. One of these days maybe I'll ride it the way I know I should as opposed to the way I always do! (Too hard too soon and then hit the wall). Still, when results came through the ACA site this morning the final tally ended up pretty good. Primal got one in the top 20. We narrowly missed a second with 21st and then me bringing up the rear: 26th of 53 starters. Mid pack, but with a time of 21:06. I consider this somewhat of a victory. I beat my time from last year by 53 seconds. I also beat my best time of the year in terms of training. And, considering I put in a miserable 24 minute and change effort on my own back in March I think my progress actually is respectable. This year's field was more consistent and so more guys placed higher up than they did last year, speaking to the quality of riders on the road Saturday.

So the verdict on my Lookout cramming...undecided. I actually think that as a concept, given a suitable base level of fitness, riding Lookout continuously over an extended period of time actually does work pretty well for intensive training. Its boring as hell but you definitely see quick gains from the effort. More built in recovery (non-Lookout days) and a longer rest period between training and racing probably would yield even better results. But that starts feeling too much like that textbook, traditional form of training nonsense which I have no stomach for. So you can feel free to use my new and improved, better than normal training, patented, "Lookout Cramming" technique for your own training purposes...that is if you're completely out of your mind...and lacking for inspiration...and not concerned too much about actual results...and you pay me some royalties or buy me a beer or something.