Friday, April 29, 2011


There are years that I have ridden on the road that I have not seen a single crash on the road (this would be highly unusual for the dirt, but mountain bike crashes "usually" are less likely to result in a serious injury).  You can't watch a race on TV without seeing someone hit the deck, often from a touch of wheels or, as the Europeans call it, traffic furniture (meaning all of the stuff on the road to direct cars and pedestrians), but thankfully crashing is not a daily, weekly or even monthly part of road riding. 

This year, however, I have witnessed two crashes in this young season.  Both of them were just seconds of imbalance that resulted in painful asphalt slides.  In one instance a foot came unclipped (probably from walking on and around some mud/snow/ice a few hundred yard earlier), so that the riders foot jerked off the pedal.  His leg may have hit the handlebars or it may have just been the sudden motion, but I saw the wobble left, the wobble right and then a fairly high-speed slide that looked like it hurt.  This rider lost some skin on his face, broke a couple of ribs and is still dealing with shoulder issues a number of weeks later, which may require surgery.

The other fall was this last weekend.  It looked less painful and hopefully the injuries will be less, but it was another moment of inbalance and a slide across the pavement.  In the second case, the rider looked over his shoulder, as I have seen him do hundreds of times, but this time he moved just a touch to the opposite direction and bumped into/leaned on a rider next time him.  A wobble left, a wobble right and all of a sudden the pavement to skin equation was playing out again, with the pavement winning.  This time claiming a new pair of shorts, some handlebar tape and arm warmers.  It could have been a lot worse, but it still wasn't much fun.

So what is the point to this blog?  Every once in a while we hear someone say, "Keep the rubber side down", or when we line up for a local training race we get a reminder that we all have to go to work tomorrow, or as Ken Chlouber said at the Leadville 100, "The chances you should take on a bike are inverse to the size of your mortgage," these are all reminders that is is important to be careful out riding.  Going from fun to not fun only takes a moment.  This isn't to say that cycling is all danger and misery.  I have ridden thousands and thousands of miles safely, but it only takes a moment for one of those miles to turn into a bad memory.  As the weather warms and we all start to put in more miles, let's remember to do it safely and keep it fun.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SIR 9 Review

As a follow up to my elaborate justification for getting the guys these bikes, here is a review by a 13 year old with an insanely colored bike, that apparently he likes.

The bikes are finally done! It seems like a long time ago that we were unwrapping these frames and started thinking about this bike project, but we are out riding them now.  

Here is my one sentence review: My Kermit Green S.I.R. 9 is the best bike I have ever ridden. 

I know that this is the way they are supposed to work, but the 29 inch wheels really do roll over bumps and rocks much more easily than the smaller wheels on my geared mountain bike. It gives the bike a whole new feel, but I am really liking it and getting used to it really quickly.

The ESI Chunky grips, which are something I found on the internet but that I was glad that Steve's on Cannon was able to stock, are soft and slightly tacky, which gives you a very secure grip on the bar. I also added bar ends, which neither my brother or Dad did, but I really like them for another hand position.  Unlike the grips and bar ends, I wasn't completely sure about my seat.  After the first ride in Riverside State Park, I thought that my seat, a Fi'zi:k Aliante VS, was the most comfortable seat in the known universe. On the second ride, the next day, I didn't like it as much. That was the day that we traded bikes around and I really like my brother's seat, which is a different Fi'zi:k seat, so much that I though I liked Single Speed Kid 1's seat better and he liked my seat better at one point that day.  We talked about it and agreed to trade seats.  The next day, though, we hadn't taken the time to trade yet and rode on our original seats for the day and we each firmly decided that liked our own seats and haven't traded.  A quick tip, it is important to make sure your seat is level and my Dad showed me how to use a level or yard-stick to exaggerate or extend the angle of the seat so that it is clearly visible if it is up or down.  Turns out that mine was slightly nose up and getting level made it a lot more comfortable.   

Today, we went on another 1-ish hour ride up the High Drive Bluff. Despite the fact that we had to go up a long, steep-in-places hill before getting to more downhill or flat riding, I really enjoyed it. I am still walking lots of hills, but every ride I get a better sense of how to get up the hills and feel more confident.  This was really only our fourth real excursion on the single speeds and I absolutely love mine.  Like my Niner reminds me every time I look at the top tube, just Pedal Damnit.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Niner S. I. R. 9

After a brief intermission, we are back.  With the arrival of Spring Break in Spokane, we didn't actually have much in the way of spring weather, but we did get a couple of clear days for riding our new single speed bikes around Riverside State Park.  We have followed up with a couple of rides along the High Drive bluff trails, which my younger son has astutely pointed out either involve going up or going down, but not much else. 

This is not the ideal terrain for single speed riders of modest abilities and I have questioned my own sanity in not only getting this bike for myself, but even more so for setting up my kids with these.  So this begs the question, why?

Well, let me tell you.  I personally am at a place where I like to have specialized bikes, not, mind you Specialized bikes, as I have issues with that brand from some prior experience, but rather bikes for particular purposes.  I have a commuter bike and a race bike and a bike in-between.  Similarly, I have a hard-tail, geared mountain bike, but was really attracted to the single speed ethos.  My kids, on the other hand, are bike-deprived from my standpoint.  They were on the verge of completely outgrowing their "kid" mountain bikes and said kid mountain bikes were of the 30-40 lb steel and bomb-proof variety.  There really aren't many other choices for kids, but I think it is a bit insane that 50 lb kids ride 40 lb bikes.  I mean, I would hate to ride a 250 lb bike and I'm reasonably sure that I would have a hard time getting it up a hill.  It seems cruel to do that to kids, but that is what we do. 

So, since the boys dig mountain biking more than road riding, and it is better suited for us as a family activity, I wanted to get the kids new mountain bikes.  I also wanted to buy frames that were suitable for the next decade of riding for the boys.  The next ten years will cross high school, college and graduate school or jobs or both.  They may find themselves doing one or more of these activities: mountain biking, mtb racing, back-country or bike camping, commuting to school and/or work, and/or any variety of other biking-related acts. 

The beauty of the Niner S.I.R. 9 frame is that it is suitable for any of these activities.  It wouldn't be top-of-the-podium lightweight cross-country racing frame, but to paraphrase my friend A.M., this equipment won't be holding them back until they are a long way into racing.  These frames are built up as single speeds, which the S.I.R. 9 accommodates with an eccentric bottom bracket, a removable derailleur hanger and appropriate drop-outs.  These S.I.R. 9's have fixed forks, in order to reduce the overall weight and to reduce the impact on dad's pocket book slightly.  The S.I.R. 9's can, however, take a shock fork to bump up the XC capability.  The derailleur hanger can be added back and a rear derailleur can be hung on it.  Which brings up the idea of a 1 x 10 bike, which is the latest and greatest development on the scene.  Drop the front derailleur, the double or triple crank up front and add a SRAM 10-speed cassette and derailleur from their XX group.  The S.I.R. 9 will also gladly take a front derailleur, however, if there is a need or desire to add that too.  They can also go from big knobby Continental Mtn Kings to a slick tire and trade in the dirt trails for asphalt ones.  They could even follow in their uncle's footsteps and set up more of a monster-cross bike and change out the flat bar for a drop set or some other shape or style.  In other words, this bike isn't a specialist, it is a highly competent all-arounder.  It won't be the ultimate bike in any category, but it will fit well into about six categories.  Combine that with a size that was a skosh big 6 months ago, but now that kid one is 6' tall in his mtb shoes and the other one is wearing a size 12 mtb shoe, these bikes will get these guys through many happy years of their bike development. 

Niner bikes calls this bike S.I.R. 9, which stands for Steel Is Real.  These bikes are the real deal in lots of ways and were a great fit for the guys.  So when I am questioning my plan to get these guys on single speeds, it is easy to go back and remember all of the good reasons we got on this path.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Niner One 9 and Niner S.I.R. 9

We just built up three bikes - a Niner One 9 and two Niner S.I.R. 9's.  I could go into more detail about why we picked these bikes, and probably will, but for now (and by request) - pictures.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Initiation, Day Two

With another open day ahead of us, we decided that Day Two of breaking in the new single speed Niners would also involve Riverside State Park.  On Day One we had ridden the inner loop and we rode the outer loop from the start to the top of 5-Minute Hill (funny story about that hill - I have heard it called 3-Minute Hill, 5-Minute Hill and 7-Minute Hill, just depending on how long it takes said speaker to ride that long-steep beast).  We skipped Devil's Up and Devil's Down and the upper plateau.

Since we had a bit less time and our legs were well aware of the hours spent the day before on the bikes, we decided to hit the Aubrey L. White Parkway end of the park and ride that end of the park.  We did cover some of the plateau and lower part of the course and I thought it was worth looking at the condition of Little Vietnam, the only major section of the 24 Hour course that skipped.  Years ago I had taken the kids down there, before their skills were up to it, so they had some less than happy memories of it and some trepidation.  Nonetheless, we headed along the river to see what we could see.

Not surprisingly for this time of year, what we could see was some water and parts of the trail covered by inconveniently placed river.  Or maybe I should say that "I" considered it inconvenient, as I am used to riding along the trail there.  My boys, however, thought it was perfect and delighted in either riding through the water or joyfully discussing how much fun it would have been to ride through the deep water portions if only their dumb-old dad had let them.  But since it was my car they had to climb into, I was less interested in the swimming and mud-hole opportunities.  It is worth noting, however, that we were able to walk around the two portions that were very under water or wide and wet and ride through, albeit on the side of the trail to skip the bog in the middle, the rest of Little Vietnam.  Clearly the season is about upon us when the snow is all gone and the water is drying up everywhere.

From there we took a meandering trip back to the start/finish area, up the Le Mans start hill, along the base of the plateau then up onto it.  We decided to go to the bottom of Devil's Down so the kids could see it, but at that point I realized that I was quickly developing a flat.  We turned and headed for the car immediately, but I only made it a few hundred yards before my developing flat turned into a full-on flat.  It was at this point I re-visited my irrational enthusiasm over-riding my grown-up sensibility and failing to bring along seat bags and appropriate tools for fixing flats.  So, purely my own fault for riding a tire that has never given me anything but trouble with repeated flats and not having tools on hand, I walked and carried my bike along the plateau and back to the car.  The boys happily rode ahead and behind and we peaceably made it back to the car.

So, we will need to go back to detail more of this later, but the bottom line is that the bikes were really just what we wanted and we are all very happy with the results.  Thanks to Steve for getting us on this journey. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finally, Bike Riding

This past week contained lots of events.  Charlie Sheen's one-man disaster-a-polooza hit NYC.  The federal government decided to stay open for business.  Frozen Flatlands and Ronde von Palouse bookended the week.  It was Spring Break for Spokane Public Schools.  And most important of all, our bikes were finished.  After a Winter Solstice Non-Denominational Holiday start to our project, we were finally finishing up construction in time for no-longer-known-as-"Easter Break" week off of school.

It was a long time coming with a few fits and starts.  Or maybe that should be "fits and parts."  We had some parts that didn't fit and a few that were delayed.  The much-anticipated Shimano wheels were missing and with an unknown arrival date, so we starting making some substitutions and rounding up parts and pieces to ensure that a few days off school were filled with bike riding.

Even though the shop was filling rapidly with anticipation of spring fix-its, repairs, tune-ups and builds, Steve and Larry pushed through the final build of these bikes early last week.  The rain wasn't kind to start, and we had some difficulties with our UST-sized rims and particularly tight Conti Mountain Kings, but the later week was looking great.

Our inaugural ride was a short jaunt up the bottom of the High Drive Bluff.  We didn't really have enough light to embark on the trip, but the anticipation was too much for me, so even though the kids would probably have agreeably waited for the next day, I green-lighted a short ride into the declining light.  We really just got to the trails in time to turn-around, but there was deep satisfaction in finally getting to ride these bikes that had been on our minds for so long.

The next day had been over-scheduled, over-booked and otherwise filled, so other than a few minutes of puttering, we were going to have wait another day for the first real rides.  As I often am forced to say, life interferes with my bike riding.  I think the anticipation made it all the sweeter though when we finally got our first long stints on the single speeds.

Since all three of us were new to this, I wanted to start out with some flatter riding and friendly trails.  We took the time to drive to the Seven Mile entrance to Riverside State Park and dove in.  We started with a helping of the outer loop of the 24 Hour course around to 5-Minute Hill.  At the bottom I wasn't confident of my ability to get to the top with a single gear on offer.  All three of us are riding a 32-22, with the idea that it is better to give up some speed on the flats to feel like we can get up more hills.  That proved to be the case on 5-Minute Hill as I was pleased to make it to the top with a not-unreasonable amount of groaning.  I was surprised to see my 15-year old grinding up behind me and pleased to see that he made it to the top.  My 13-year old decided to save his legs for the long-haul and just dabbled with the hill before turning back, but it was our first taste of more serious climbing.  We re-grouped at the bottom of the hill and made our way back to the parking lot for a satisfying lunch.

After that repast, we started on the inner loop of the 24 Hour course.  We had a couple of jarring stops in rock garden areas and my younger son learned the hard way the importance of unclipping his new pedals before coming to a complete stand-still, but overall it was another satisfying run.  We rolled into the landing strip/start-finish area and continued past for some gratuitous flat single track on the way back, but ending up spending most of three hours tooling around on our single speeds with more to come the next day.

Initial Verdict - Most Excellent.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cycling Videos

I get sent links to funny or interesting cycling videos occasionally.  One of those was a video in which a man with a straight face cuts through his chain stay in order to get the chain off and then "repairs" it by putting a chain stay protector on the bike.  It is shocking and amusing, so I thought you would enjoy it.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find it again.  I did, however, find some other videos online.  I also found some videos that had something to do with cycling.  Here are a couple that may be of interest.

Hopefully something for everyone.