Friday, November 26, 2010

Microbrew & Saluki...

Microbrew & Saluki, originally uploaded by Rob Harrison.

...what's not to like? Another photo from the ride today.

Seattle Riv Ride 2: Day After Thanksgiving

Fremont Brewing, originally uploaded by Rob Harrison.
Had a (mostly) very nice ride today, the second Seattle Rivendell Ride, this time with iBobs as well. We met at Zoka Coffee just before 11am (civilized!). Let's see, this time it was Ryan from West Seattle on a Handsome bicycle, Andy on a Bleriot, Alistair on his own Centre Pompidou bike (clear epoxy with all the dimensions and angles, butts in the tubing marked on the outside) Jeff on a Curt Goodrich, Brian on his A. Homer Hilsen, Alex on his A.H.H., Russ on his Cassarole(?), Rob M. on his Bleriot (IIRC) and myself on my Saluki. After coffee we headed south along the Burke-Gilman. Weather was surprisingly good. Forecast was for rain and mid-40's, but the rain held off until later.

At 15th Ave NE we came upon a nasty bicycle accident. A rider was down and unresponsive after apparently fiipping his carbon bike, clipped in pedals still attached. We called 911 and stuck around as he came to, covered him with our jackets as he started to go into shock. A UW security guard arrived and offered a space blanket. We waited until he was in the ambulance to move on. From what we could imagine he must have hit one of the metal post covers in just the wrong way, and knocked his front wheel 90º and gone right over the bars and smacked the ground hard. Ouch.

Continued west on the Burke through Fremont to Ballard, north along Golden Gardens and up the switchbacks to 85th. Headed east again on 75th, various folks peeled off. Eventually we crossed under Aurora at the south end of Green Lake and Alex, Brian, Alistair and I headed south on Stone Way to Fremont Brewery. We were too early for the Urban Beer Garden, so ended up at Pacific Inn, where we had some of Fremont Brewery's Pail Ale. A tasty brew, accompanied by great conversation.

The rain made an appearance while we were at the Pacific Inn, and the rest of the way home to Mt. Baker was quite wet. I rode about 25 miles. Not epic by any means, but very enjoyable.

From today's ride I know that with the addition of a thin wool undershirt, my Bouré wool jersey, Ibex arm warmers and Showers Pass jacket on the top, and Bouré knickers with BMW socks designed for motorcycle boots, GoreTex booties and Rain Legs on the bottom, will keep me comfortable in the rain and down to 40º easily.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My First S24O: Vashon Island

I finally got a chance to try a S24O. What a great idea! It was a gorgeous weekend in the Seattle area. I rode out to Vashon Island from our house in the Mt. Baker neighborhood--one way about 22 miles plus a nice ferry ride. Not epic by any means, but perfect for my first time bike camping. I rode my Saluki. The draw was the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts Isle of Vashon TT, a vintage motorcycle rally I have attended for many years on various motorcycles. I sold my last bike a couple months ago (See <>) but didn't want to let not having a motorcycle get in the way of hanging out with old friends. For the last six years we've camped at the Eagles Club, which always proves to be "interesting." A nice big grassy lawn for tents, very cheap drinks in the evening and a big ol' breakfast buffet in the morning. Nothin' like camping at the bar....;) 

Here are some pictures: <>

A few things worked really well:

• I switched out my 8-speed 12-28 cassette and DA 7800-series rear derailleur for a Harris Cyclery custom 13-34 cassette and an XTR RD, along with a new SRAM chain. I was really glad I did! I was able to shift into the 26T chainring and 34T sprocket and slowly toodle on up the ~300' elevation gain from the ferry. The XTR RD shifts as well as the DA. Took a little getting used to the low-normal, since it reversed the function on the levers on the ErgoPower brifters. This particular Harris custom cassette number CS837  has the following sprockets: 13-15-17-19-21-23-26-34. There's a big jump between the 26T and the 34T, and that is the only problematic gear change. It does eventually jump up there though. I may try fiddling with the barrel adjusters, see if that makes any difference. 

• With the rains fast approaching, I decided to switch tires, from my beloved Pari-Motos to the Schwalbe Marathons I bought from Franklyn on the Rivendell list. I put in a set of Schwalbe tubes while I was at it. While they don't feel as nice as the Pari-Motos, I really appreciate the extra confidence of knowing I'm unlikely to flat. This ride went through a fair amount of industrial area with bad pavement, and not having to worry as much about glass in the road was super nice. 

• I'm liking the Trail Designs Caldera Ti-Tri stove. The whole thing is super light and compact, and burns alcohol or wood. Nicest thing about alcohol is it's so quiet!  

A couple things I'll change when I can:

• The medium Wald basket is a touch small...though I wouldn't necessarily want to carry a heavier load up front. I'm saving up for a PlatRack, which I can take off more easily when it's not necessary. I haven't found the basket as universally useful as I thought it would be. 

• My yellow Ortleib Backroller Plus panniers worked totally fine, but were a bit of a pain to get in an out of, and clash with the butterscotch of the Saluki. (Oh NO! ;)) I didn't have a handlebar bag, and I was using my Panasonic GF-1, which doesn't quite fit in a jersey pocket. Maybe I'll try Grant's strap technique. Eventually I'd like to invest in a SaddleSack Large

• Definitely would like a lighter shelter. Looking at either making a RayWay tarp and bug net, or a hammock. I like the Warbonnet Blackbird hammock. Between cutting down the weight of luggage + rack, and a lighter shelter I could probably take ~7 lbs off the setup. Which would probably be made up in food, if I was camping somewhere besides the lawn outside a bar....:)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Catching up a bit here. 

July 17th & 18th I rode the STP on my Saluki. The STP covers a bit over 200 miles on mostly beautiful back roads, a few sections of annoyingly high traffic highways, and one Rail-to-Trail path, from Seattle to Portland. It's one of the largest rides in the US, with a limit of 10,000 registered participants. About 20% of the riders do it in one day, the rest in two days. (Two days for me!) Here's a link to the ride page on the Cascade Bicycle Club website

A little back-story.
I rode the STP once before, in 1996 on my Bridgestone RB-T. Although it was a fun ride and a complete success romantically (the start of a wonderful relationship!) it turned out to be a bit of a disaster physically. The ride aggravated an ankle condition that made it difficult to walk for a few days, and ultimately, impossible for me to ride a bicycle without pain for a long time afterwards. After a couple years of failed remedies I ended up giving up and buying a motorcycle, a path I very much enjoyed for the next ten or twelve years. Except, that is, for losing my favorite form of exercise and gaining about 40 lbs over those dozen years, and nagging doubts about a hobby that burned fossil fuels.... 

A couple years ago though I had a heart attack, and decided I needed to get back on my bicycle come hell or high water. Part of the trouble had been the fit of the 59cm RB-T, which was probably a full size too small for me, and, ahem, a complete lack of stretching. An MRI of the ankle revealed the physiological issue--a fused bone, and with new knowledge I fired up the RB-T again, this time with a Technomic stem, Albatross bars and a tall mountain bike seatpost--and a stretching regime I learned from the awesome heart attack rehab folks at Swedish--and began commuting to work several days a week. 

A few of my motorcycling buddies ride bicycles as well, and this spring we decided to tackle the STP. Things conspired, as they sometimes do, to make it time for me to get out of motorcycles (More on that: <>) and I used some cash from the sale of my F800GS to buy the Saluki, with riding the new bike on the STP in mind. 

The Ride
Over all the ride was fantastic. Chilly with a heavy marine layer for much of both days, with sun burning off the clouds by late afternoon, so not too hot. I rode with a new friend, Sarah Bergmann (an artist who is creating Pollinator Pathways), and our paces were perfectly matched. The ride logistics were impressive, with rest stops for food and water about where you'd want them, and well-stocked with decent food and barrels of Nuun and water. 

The first day's ride included what was purported to be the big climb of the ride--"The Hill"--a ~6% climb for a mile and a half outside of Puyallup onto the plateau. It went way easier than I'd expected based on the big deal it was made out to be. On the other hand, the section through the strip-malls of Spanaway was the worst of the whole ride, in terms of comfortable riding. Lots of monster pickups bugged about having to wait for bicyclists to pass so they could pull out of McDonald's. Ugh. Followed though, with a long section of leafy recently repaved Rail-to-Trail (which was fine and safe as long as you obeyed stop signs at the crossings) into Tenino. We camped in Centralia, the half way point, with I'd guess 6,000 other riders. A fun festival atmosphere. 

The second day's ride was even nicer than the first. Until we got to 30 in Portland, there were fewer sections of narrow-shouldered single-file riding along highways. Beautiful country roads. A couple nice 35 mph descents made the second day's climbing worthwhile. 

I got an unbelievable number of compliments on my bike (as people passed me!) including lots of "How old is that bike?" I tried the "I'm pretty sure it's an aught-one..." reply a few times. :) 

Riding into Portland was phenomenal. The finish line felt like the end of a stage of the Tour, with throngs of people cheering and high-fiving us as we rode into Holladay Park. I rode about 95 miles the first day in 11 hours, and a bit over 105 the next in 11.5 hours. I tell you, it feels like a real accomplishment. I am BACK as a bicycle rider! :)

What Worked...
• The Saluki was great. The fit and ride make such a difference. 
• I love the Campagnolo ErgoPower brifters. 
• 26-36-46 chainrings and 12-28 cassette were just fine for this ride. 
• The Berthoud saddle was very comfortable, considering I had about 250 miles on it before I started the ride. 
• The Gran Bois Hetres rolled well, and I had no flats. (Saw a LOT of narrow-tired folk by the wayside. I'm sure I made up the time they raced ahead on their skinny tires by not having flats....) I had another issue with the tire, see below.
• Hammer Nutrition Perpetuum in addition to real food at the rest stops worked really well for me. 
• The Nigel Smythe Lil' Loafer I got from Gino on the Rivendell list served well, along with the Berthoud 786 saddle bag. I'll need something bigger for fall rides where inclement weather is more of an issue.

... and Didn't.
• The Exustar shoes, toe clips and straps caused a fair amount of pain over the 200 miles. Though I spaced the left toe clip out by 3/16" or so to account for foot length difference, the toe clip seriously mashed my big toe. It may be that the shoes are just one size too small. I have a pair of Speedplay Frogs I will try at some point. 

• After I finished, a fellow came up to me and said "Hey, your rear tire is about to blow out!" Check it out: <> Bummer.

• I took the nice-looking Lezeyne pump off before the ride and switched back to my Zefal HP-X. The hose of the Lezeyne inline gauge developed a leak the first time I used it to pump up a flat. Fail. 

• Despite a pre-ride adjustment/tune-up by Bob Freeman at Elliot Bay Bicycles (because I thought it was my lack of experience in tuning that was causing the problems), the Dura Ace front derailleur did not shift the TA rings well at all. It's just the wrong shape. Required a lot of trimming. Getting the chain up into the big ring was nigh impossible. So either the ErgoPower brifters, the DA derailleur or the crankset (or the FD _and_ the crankset) has to go. Bob says a Super Record FD will shift the TA rings a lot better. I'll try that first. I'm not averse to going Sugino XD2 with ramps n' pins though. Not a purist, that's for sure. 

Here are some photos: <> (Clearly there is vast room for improvement in my ride documentation!)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Uh oh....

Sat on one of these beauties at South Sound Motorcycles this morning, while waiting for the charcoal canister recall to be done on my F800GS. It's a 2011 Husquvarna TE630. About 60 pounds lighter than the GS, and a bit more than half the price.

Well, if I was going to get another motorcycle, someday, this would definitely be on my shortlist. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Selling My Motorcycle

I love my BMW F800GS. It is the best all-around motorcycle I've ever owned. (Out of ten!) The decision to sell it did not come easily. It started out as what I thought would be a simple financial decision, and quickly turned into something more nuanced. Sure, trying to reduce monthly expenses, to get by what has been a rather lean period in the world of architecture and construction has been part of the background. If that was all there was though I'd probably rationalize a way to keep the bike. There are other factors. 

I was invited by Alex Steffen to take part in the Climate Neutral Seattle unconference on April 3rd, and gave a short presentation on Passive House. I spent the day with passionately committed, intelligent people working toward the same goals I have over the last 20 years, and it felt great and it was totally inspiring.  Many of those folks are car-free. Erica C. Barnett of Publicola made a big impression, in the session she did on car-free living. I've become even more committed to reducing my carbon footprint, and burning fossil fuels as recreation is hard to justify in those terms. 

And even if 350 ppm didn't matter a hoot, I don't see myself taking off for three weeks by myself to do the kind of trip the F800GS is meant for--like the trip I took up to Alaska in 2000 on my BMW R80G/S. If I'm going to take that much time off work I want to at least do something that my son can do with me. Which leaves the motorcycle as personal transportation--still a better choice than cars as far as carbon footprint goes. We've been car-free since last August, so me still having a motorized vehicle has been a bit odd, but still, I can make that work. But the fact is, riding down to Tacoma on I-5 to submit a permit application at Pierce County is really not my idea of a fun motorcycle ride. These days, riding around Seattle running errands is not that much fun either.  I often wish I was on my bicycle instead.

Then there's the safety issue. A good friend of mine--a fantastic, skilled, safe, life-long rider-- was in a couple of random, not horribly bad accidents over the last couple years, one of which left him with some issues that have made it impossible for him to work. He's on disability now. He was a brilliant software engineer. I hope he will be again, but it's taking a long while to heal. Then there's random non-life-threatening stuff that's happened to my riding friends over the last year or so: coming over a rise to find a stopped car on I-5, a spill on diesel at the I-405 interchange, a minor get-off every 50,000 miles, having to wheelie over a log in the HOV lane on I-5, getting run into from behind, and so on. I had a little tip-over on Herb Gudreau's cross-Olympic off-road ride last October (which was a total blast, still!) that kept me off my bicycle for a month and a half with a sprained ankle--and bicycling is my only aerobic exercise these days, which is kinda crucial to me staying alive, it seems. Pretty much all the damage I've done to myself over the last three or four years has been motorcycle-related. I'm a bit tired of that. I have realized, even if I do start riding again (and there's a good chance I could at some point), I want a smaller, lighter bike. I'm too old to be learning to ride off-road on a 500 lb motorcycle! I can buy a 300 lb Yamaha WR250R for $4500, and not have a loan payment, and have cheaper insurance, get practically twice the gas mileage, and do most of the stuff I'd do on my F800GS.  

I've REALLY gotten back into bicycling. I'm signed up to do the STP with my motorcycling friends Eugene, Dani, Helen and Bob. I have a new bicycle. (More on that later.) In the last couple months I've been exploring bicycle culture I've discovered I can do most of what I like to do on a motorcycle on a bicycle. It just takes longer, and is of course physically harder--which is not a bad thing. When I'm riding a bicycle, for the most part I'm extending my life. Riding a motorcycle, I'm risking it. (Have a look at this risk comparison.) I want to stick around to see my son grow up. I came into motorcycling from bicycling, so this is just me heading back to my roots. Thinking about getting a tandem, in fact.... It appears I am one of those dads that is letting go of motorcycling to spend time with their families. I'm not confident enough, nor does my wife enjoy riding enough now, to be one of the dads I admire riding their kids around in scooter sidecars, or teaching them how to dirt bike. I got into motorcycling too late in life for it to be that ingrained in my outlook, I guess. 

I've had a blast with motorcycles over the last 12 years. I've ridden close to 100,000 miles on ten different motorcycles, seen a lot of amazing places and done things I never would have imagined myself doing--say, riding 140 mph down the front straight at Portland International Raceway on my Ducati 916, back tire sliding as I brake heavily into Turn One... Just that, proving to myself that I can be that person, leaned over at 110 mph on Turn Two at Seattle International Raceways, has been worth it. Best of all, I've made truly phenomenal friends.  Now though, it's time for a break. 

I will say, I tried giving up motorcycles once before, and I lasted about three weeks before I got another motorcycle.... We'll see. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Moulton Double Pylon

Another bicycle I would love to ride (and maybe even own) someday, the Moulton. Here we have a Double Pylon, the most Mannerist and architectural of all Moultons. Richard Rogers, architect of the Pompidou Center in Paris, rides one.

Alex Moulton applied his considerable design genius to many fields. He also designed the suspension system of the original Mini.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ron Blumethal's Saluki

Saulki Final Fit 1, originally uploaded by J Ferguson.
As a dyed-in-the-wool (so to speak) fan of Grant Petersen's approach to bicycles, owning a Rivendell has been a dream almost as long as I've thought about having Bill Davidson build me a custom.

At $5,000+, a Davidson is out of reach at the moment, and in any case, even if I had the cash, it would be premature to go that route. It probably makes sense to ride an excellent production bike at least 10,000 miles before even thinking about a custom. My preferences are likely to change and develop over the next few years of riding more.

The Rivendell Saluki was one of the few production road bicycles designed for 650b wheels that was made in my size, ~62cm. As far as I know, the only other options were the Rivendell Bleriot and the Kogswell P/R, both also no longer made.

I tried talking Estaban del Rio into selling me his Protovelo to no avail. I posted a WTB on the Rivendell list, and heard from Ron Blumenthal that he might be interested in selling his 62cm butterscotch Saluki, originally built up by John Ferguson.

Have a look at John Ferguson's original build, here.

The bike as Jeff built it had more of a classic/vintage feel than I would prefer (only because it feels too precious), but all of the components were beautiful and top notch. Ron has since switched out the brake levers for aero levers and installed Silver bar-end shifters. I like that direction. I'm not wild about the butterscotch color, but it's growing on me.

Ron and I are talking....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Oh my gosh--this looks like a complete blast!

As I get further into bicycle culture, I am discovering things I could do that look to be at least as much fun as the fantastic things I've done with motorcycles. Reassuring, as I move closer to making a leap. More on that later, perhaps.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why A Bicycle

Above, the best photo ever taken of me on a motorcycle, shot during the F800GS Instructional DVD taping by Helge Pedersen of Globeriders.Used with permission. 

Very simply, climate change. Knowing what I know now, burning fossil fuels recreationally can no longer hold the attraction it once did. Riding a motorcycle still makes a lot of sense as means of transportation, when I have to go too far or carry too much to ride a bicycle. The carbon emissions of my bike are lower than that of most cars. I wrote about that on my work blog, here. My current motorcycle (a 2009 BMW F800GS) gets about the same mileage as a Prius--the car many of my clients drive--and with a catalytic convertor, is fairly clean. Still, the mileage is far below what ought to be possible, given that this motorcycle weighs 25% of what a typical car weighs. But it's good enough to justify (rationalize?) riding the motorcycle over driving a car. The F800GS is now the only fossil-fuel-driven vehicle in our family. We sold our Mini Cooper in August of 2009, and have been car-free since. (Have a look here to see what all used to be in our green-roofed garage. Scroll down....)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rivendell Saluki

Changes, originally uploaded by Gino.

Another lovely bicycle.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Rivendell Sam Hillborne

A Country Bike, originally uploaded by EcoVelo.

I stopped by Freerange Cycles in Fremont to have a look at a built up Rivendell Sam Hillborne. Along with the Surly Long Haul Trucker, the Bleriot 650B frame they have at Elliot Bay, and Davidson and Boxer customs, the Sam is a frequent denizen of my new bike dreamworld.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This is Art.

Eric's rando., originally uploaded by jp weigle.

A gorgeous seat cluster on a J. P. Weigle randonneaur.

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Even More Perfect Vehicle?

Storm Ride, originally uploaded by protorio.
I might as well jump right in on what looks to be the next direction here. I suspect I'm about to start chronicling my shift over the last few months from the obsession with motorcycles that held sway over the last twelve years to a focus on bicycles.

Here we have a Rivendell Bicycle Works Custom Protovelo that comes pretty darn close to being exactly what I have in mind for my next bicycle. It's a 650b randonneur. White 42mm Grand Bois Hetre tires, fenders, drop bars, cantilever brakes, front rack, leather saddle and classy Acorn bags. The finish is clear coat over raw steel.

For more info on the full build, please see Estaban D's flickr set on the bike, with lots of luscious photos.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Perfect Vehicle

Melissa Holbrook Pierson's book The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles contains the absolute best passage I've read about the start of a ride. I've passed this book around to lovers, friends and relatives who thought I was crazy, at 43, to start riding a motorcycle. That was twelve years ago. I'm still riding, still loving it almost all of the time, and I still get a thrill every time I swing my leg over my bike, thumb the starter, and the bike comes to life. Riding a motorcycle is approximately 1,000% more fun than driving a car. And I dearly love my motorcycle friends.

I'm starting to vaguely though, in the back of my mind, somewhere, question just a little if the motorcycle is in fact, after all, the perfect vehicle.

I started riding motorcycles in a roundabout way. When I first moved to Seattle I didn't own a car and hadn't yet discovered motorcycles. I rode my bicycle everywhere. A good bit of my early time in Seattle I was unemployed, and I worked out some of my frustration with that on long bicycle rides up the Burke-Gilman to Kenmore and back, almost every day. Later, my office was on a houseboat in the U-District, and I lived in Wallingford. It was a lovely commute. Riding to meetings with clients was perfectly in line with the environmental ethos of my practice. In 1996 at the urging of a very cute woman on whom I happen to have a huge crush, I decided to ride the Cascade Bicycle Club's Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, popularly known as the STP. Training for and riding the STP turned out to be great fun (and it worked out quite well romantically, I might add) but at the end of the ride I realized that my left ankle was in a fair amount of pain. I tried getting a bike fitting, tried custom carbon-fiber orthotics—nothing seemed to work. Eventually I went to Eric Sundine, and got myself an electric motor for my bicycle. It was an early model which functioned through friction—a rubber wheel spinning on the tire of the bicycle. I was living on Capitol Hill by then, and still commuting by bicycle to my office on Portage Bay. The electric assist however, was not strong enough to assist me up Interlaken. Just not enough boost to relieve the ankle pain brought on by the slightest mashing of the pedals. It also turned what had been an elegant, lightweight, beautiful machine—the most efficient means of transportation—into a heavy contraption that did not work particularly well. My sense of design was offended, and yet still the problem was not solved. In the end, I gave up riding my bicycle altogether.

In 1991 my old old friend Tom O'Brien, bandmate, housemate and classmate from architecture school in Toronto, had visited Seattle on his BMW R65, and had given me a ride around the block. My first time on the back of a motorcycle since I was a ten-year-old, flying down Route 322 in western Pennsylvania on the back of Ben Hawn's '63 ElectraGlide. That planted a seed. Then, five years later, on the wall of Scott Mantz's office on the houseboat, was a photo of his Ducati Paso in Eastern Washington, on the side of the road, in the Palouse maybe. Looking fast and gorgeous. The idea of riding a motorcycle started to take shape. Still two wheels...but a completely new world. In 1998 I bought my first motorcycle.

And what a trip it's been.