Monthly Archives: February 2013

the time has come (I think:)

Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Help me out here.

I’ve been letting this stew for a few years now, but I think the time has come for a bikey upgrade. Don’t get me wrong. My Trek is my great bike love. And I don’t make decisions to acquire more stuff lightly, since if there’s anything I hate more than buying things, it’s buying things that I don’t need.

And strictly speaking, I don’t need a new bike. But I would really like a bike that can do a few key things that my Trek can’t:

  • Take beefier tires. I want to get the heck off the pavement sometimes without destroying my ride (though I would also like to retain the ability to go speedily on pavement)
  • Hold racks, front and back if need be. I would so love to be able to actually take my bike and traveling stuff on a train (or ship it, or fly it on a plane), which is logistically super annoying with a giant trailer
  • Have full fender clearance
  • Be steel
  • Perhaps take disc brakes. I’m undecided about this one but it seems maybe like the way to go

When I bought my Trek about 8 years and twenty million miles ago, I wasn’t really thinking about touring or larger bike adventures. I just wanted a light bike that would get me places fast. Which my Trek is very, very good at. And though I’ve done an excellent job (if I do say so myself:) of making that super light bike serve my every bikey whim, I think it may finally be time to add to my bikey family.

So. This is where you come in, dear reader. Help me figure out what I should do.

My basic idea is that I’ll buy a frame and build it up the way I want. So I guess my starting point is to find a not-super-heavy steel frame that will be touring-friendly but not a beefcake like James’ Long Haul Trucker (DAMN that thing weighs a ton;) I don’t need the bike equivalent of a 16-wheeler. And when I’m not loaded down I like to go fast:)

So if you have any thoughts about frames or starting points, I’d love to hear them. Thus far, my top recommendations have been some sort of cyclocross frame, Surly Cross Check or otherwise, or a few people have mentioned Salsa or Rawland (though Rawland may be out of my price range). And if you have any other ideas, shoot those to me too. I think I’ve decided pretty solidly that I want to keep the 700c wheels, for example, and I’m pretty sold on my integrated brake/shifters though I know everyone and their mom says you should go bar-end for touring. But I’m open to being convinced on basically everything. Shower me with your strong opinions.

Comments here are fine, or email, but help me out if you have a minute. It’s possible I will just continue to stew on this as I have for the last few years and not end up with a different bike at all, but this is my way of making it a little more tangible. Hit me.


Enter Randonneuring Season!

It may still be pretty darn cold in Portland, but the sun is shining (sometimes), the birds are singing (much more than before, anyway), and it’s light until 6ish: the season of long rides is upon us! :)

Despite my having plans both evenings this weekend, a friend convinced me to keep him company on his One Big Hill 200k, a ride that takes you on a loop south from Sellwood to Silver Falls and back, about 127 miles. No problem, he said, we’ll be back by 5pm–time enough for me to shower, eat, then head out again to meet some friends for some spirited bowling revelry.

But then we added 45 minutes or so to wait for another group of happy riders who started later than us. And a longer-than-anticipated lunch stop. And the fact that getting back to the start of the ride meant that I was still 15 minutes away from my own house. With a lot of very fast riding at the end (or at least the effort it took made it feel like I should have been going very fast, though it’s possible I was just tired;), I managed to make it home right about by 6–time enough for a much hastier shower and drastically speedier snarfing of food that I’d imagined. But still in time for bowling:)

I didn’t take many ride pictures, but I was kind of psyched about this (pardon the horrible photography and just look at the content):

silver falls

 Yep! That’s snow on the side of the road! Biking in the sunshine, with snow on the ground:)

I’ll admit I was a little nervous that somehow I wouldn’t be able to ride this far anymore. Though I’m certainly on my bike every day, I think it’s been since my trip to Lake Tahoe last September that I’ve ridden more than, say, 40 or 50 miles at a time (remember, I don’t have an odometer anymore so I never really know;). So I was kind of nervous that I’d get to 80 miles or something and be totally done. But instead, I just reminded myself of how much I love a day spent on a bicycle. And the days are only going to get longer, and nicer, and so much more lovely for long days of spinning the pedals.

The first Oregon Randonneurs event, a 100k ride that is a super fun distance if you’re interested in trying the whole randonneuring thing out, is coming up on March 16th. And then after that a whole new season’s worth loooong of rides. I’m psyched!:)

(Oh, and in case you were curious, I’m probably the world’s absolute worst bowler. But it was still worth speeding home for:)

Last Friday of the month? Must be Breakfast on the Bridge!

Seriously, y’all. If you ever commute by bike in Portland, rearrange your route so that on the last Friday of every month you go over either the Hawthorne or Steel bridges between 7 and 9 am. Your reward will be free coffee, donuts, bananas, treats, sometimes even bacon or oatmeal–whatever the lovely Shift volunteers have cooked up for the week.

breakfast on the steel bridge(donuts? Yes please!:)

It’s not only the free treats that make it lovely, of course. If you have time (or a forgiving boss), it’s super fun to hang around for a while and chat. Everyone’s doing their own different thing and ultimately going their own separate way, but the impromptu conversations and friendliness that break up an otherwise normal commute are priceless. Especially when you come month after month and start seeing the same faces. It’s just one more layer to the city you live in, one more way to connect with the people around you who might otherwise be strangers.

IMG_6256(I know I can count on these lovely people, for example, for at least a once-a-month, two-hour chat:)

Today was a wee bit chilly–especially once you stopped moving–but that just made the people who hung out even more awesome for being there.We sang warmth-inspired songs (sadly, “I’m a little [warm] teapot” was about the best I could come up with), hopped from foot to foot to keep our toes from going numb, and reveled in the fact that though it was windy, at least it wasn’t raining.

I was glad once again that I’d opted to make gluten-free muffins instead of just vegan–every time now that I think of being lazy/cheap and using the wheat flour, I remember the people who have been so psyched to have a celiac-friendly option. And then I figure I can’t disappoint. I may have inadvertently become the gluten-free Steel Bridge muffin lady. Which is okay with me.

So yeah. Come on down. Drink some coffee. Munch on a donut or a muffin, wave at the Amtrak train coming into Portland, and shoot the shit with some fellow commuters. Take a banana to go. Get to work in a good mood. It’s lovely.

Bicycle Brown Bags–and Women on Bikes

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m totally behind the times here, but it turns out that the Portland Bureau of Transportation hosts a lunchtime brown bag talk every month, all about bicycle issues! Apparently this has been happening since January 2007, so that will show you how behind the time I am.

But today I actually knew about it and made a point to go since it was all about women on bikes, a topic near and dear to my heart. April Streeter, author of Women on Wheels, talked about some historical ladies of Portland, including a woman known as “Liverpool Liz” who in the 1890s owned a saloon/brothel at NW 2nd and Davis. Apparently she bought her ladies a fleet of bicycles, the theory being that they could ride them around the city and bring the customers to her establishment. I wish I could remember the description Streeter read us of what they wore to ride their bikes, because it was hilarious–all I remember is that it involved streamers.  (Though I did find a bunch more information about Liverpool Liz on JD Chandler’s blog, definitely worth a read if you’re into Portland’s colorful historical characters.)

It was a rad talk, followed by some pretty awesome discussion, capped off by the fact that one of my long-lost friends of Community Cycling Center origin unexpectedly showed up too. It definitely made me think that I should go to more of these brown bags. Not just for the information, even, but for the democratic exchange of ideas and the sense of community (it was seriously so awesome to run into my friend there, though, in retrospect, not that surprising:)

But it wasn’t just the talk that was awesome. April Streeter plugged her new book, of course, but also mentioned her website, Girls on Bikes, which is part of her attempt to “normalize” cycling in the US. That’s the truly awesome part, the realization that there are ladies working to make cycling normal. I kind of feel like she might be my secret soulmate, actually, except for years ahead of me on this one. But it’s a nice site, with an interesting blog, and I’m super psyched to know that there are other rocking ladies out there working on this stuff. If nothing else, the brown bag was totally worth it for that reason: more inspiration to get out there and make it happen.


(In case you’re interested, the complete brown bag schedule can be found on the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Active Transportation website; the next one is Thursday March 21, always from noon-1pm.)