Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Sick Sucks!

Ya know, few things suck more than being sick on a gorgeous sunny, 82 degree, last Sunday in August in the Pacific Northwest. I mean we ride all stink'n winter long in rain and low 40's just for these days - days you roll off the porch for every ride; days when your kit is as near nothing as possible: shorts, jersey, socks, shoes and helmet; days when motorists are low stressed enough to actually concede you part of the road; days when morning rides finish at the cafe or afternoon rides at the pub.

Woke up in the middle of the night to a throat that felt like it had a five-alarm blaze going off in it, fever and the fear that this was going to mess up a week of training for the Everest Challenge. Was really looking forward to a couple wonderful lazy hours on the bike Sunday - nada.

After spending the morning catching up on sleep robbed night, turning down an afternoon ride with Hammer and trying to sooth a throat en fuego, I decided to rob a few issues from my winter reading stash - issues of and articles from Rouleur and Cycle Sport horded away for those crap winter days when a 90 min. ride on the fixie is all your extremities can bear, dark falls at 4:30 and you're rationing your pub nights to save your pocketbook and liver.

So I find myself reading articles about the Spring Classic in the cold and wet of Belgium - the Hell of the North, the pain of 25% on the final climb of the Mur de Huy - somehow it mitigates the insult of all this sunshine pouring down from a perfect azure sky.

But then all that blue sky reminds me of those chopper shots of the coast travelling along the Ligurian Sea
en route to San Remo in la classica di Primavera, Milan-San Remo, and a realize on a sunny Sunday in August - Sick Sucks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The alternative to critical mass

There are a few ways to bring traffic to a halt and get the point across that we cyclists deserve a place in the fabric of our car-centric culture - critical mass is one - maybe synchronized cycling is the kinder, gentler, more entertaining approach - this is amazing!

Tweets from the Epicenter

For over a decade he has been the growing epicenter of cycling - yip, the epicenter. Lance Armstrong is cycling's epicenter. Face it, no other cyclist has ever come close. You, cyclist or not, may not like him, you may think he is arrogant, you may think he doped and lied, you may want to strangle yourself with one of those yellow wrist-bands every time the media turns a cycling event into a Lance-event, and for those who love and follow the pro ranks there will always be Eddie, or Il Campionissimo, Kelly or Anquetil. But LA, for every average two-wheeled pedaler IS cycling. "No"?? Think not? Get this, in a world filled with a bizillion busllshit Tweets, a Tweet from the epicenter yesterday in Ireland -

"@lancearmstrong: Good morning Dublin. Who wants to ride this afternoon? I do. 5:30pm at the roundabout of Fountain Road and Chesterfield Avenue. See you there."

Got this -

Armstrong's Tweet turns out more than 1,000 riders for a jaunt around Dublin

Regardless what side of the Armstrong fence you park your ride, you are feeling the tremors from the epicenter. Some of those tremors are better or more bike lanes on our city streets; some of those tremors mean safe cycling programs in elementary schools; some of those tremors mean higher quality, lower priced bikes and bike parts; some of those tremors mean more race ops for young and old who will never make the pros; and most importantly, some of those tremors are about cancer, more money and more effort into understand and fighting cancer, and some of those cancer tremors creating everything from neighborhood rides to major anticancer drug companies supporting ride events local and national (the Tour of California).

Now here's the tremors some of you will be hiding under you 3rd grade desk over: For all of us who love the bike - despite our versions and reasons for riding - LA has made our lives better.

Photo (c) Stephen McMahon

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Taking it all too seriously

The last couple of weeks on the bike have been nutso - all getting way too serious. I realized that this morning. Maybe that's the price you pay towards the end of your first year of racing; hours in the saddle, too much time at threshold (kinda like hanging at 13,000+ ft too long), screwed up diet (i.e. elephantine amounts of GU and Heed) and then all that lactic acid seeps up, up into your brain, where it feeds cyclodragons, that rear their 53-toothed heads and lash out. Maybe that's why its best to do this racing thing when you are 17 or 22. I mean at that ripe old age most of the people around you are just as screwed up as you are so probably don't notice whatta total dumbshit you are being or don't really give-a-shit because they are equally in the mental dumper too. At the Masters 45+ age taking yourself that seriously and starting to let it enter all the other aspects of your life - relationships, friendships, health - is just frigg'n stupid. Ah, but recognizing it? Not so easy with cyclodragon roaring about breathing fire and torching everyone you care about.

That doesn't mean I love racing less or need to be less competitive - just need to look at the Jens Voigt socks more often and say to myself, "Vroom Vroom Vroom" and smile.

I don't regularly quote others blogs, after all the idea of a blog to some degree is to write your own crap, not spread everyone else's, but I bumped into "Jim" of The Unholy Rouleur when I was trying to understand the upcoming cross season from the eyes of crossers - and to make sense of Judd's bubbling-over-5-year-old-excitement about the first cross crusade race of the season Oct 4 here in Pdx. I'm trying to make sense of it because I'm planning on giving it a whack and see what all this mud and beer is about - and maybe just that - mud and beer - and that's why it's so fun? Anyway, the the following struck me for multiple reasons, but the most important was it reminded me the past couple weeks were starting to get "wayyyyy to serious" and with the upcoming Everest Challenge it was time to regain my sanity before I go to California and annihilate myself on some slope of the high Sierras.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crash Like a Child

"Beppo said something really interesting to me riding back from 'cross practice today: "Cross is nice and different because it's about the only thing you can do on a bike where you're riding along and you crash and then you sit there laughing."

That's true. There's something nice and child-like about cross. We take to it in innocence, like a 5 year-old wants to race everywhere. You don't need to have a reason for it, you just do it. It's fun to do it. So you act like a kid and that's just what you do.

I'm thinking about this today because maybe we cyclists are about to dick up cross like we've dicked up mountain biking and dicked up road riding and maybe track and just riding to work.

At times, we take ourselves wayyyy too seriously. "

Click on the title if you want to read the rest - it's a nice reminder to stay connected to the fun-factor in what we do. Maybe even draw on my French lessons and read it outloud so the words stick with you a little longer and seed themselves under that bike helmet for a later date when they need to be called upon.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

From Sunrise to Paradise

Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to ride each September in the mountains of Europe; I love climbing the serpentine one-lane roads in the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites. Part of the reason is simply we don't have them in North America. Ya, we have mountains, but, as I explained to a Frenchman once while riding in the Pyrenees when asked "don't you have mountains like these" gesturing at the craggy summits between the Tourmalet and the Col d'Aspin. "Yes," I said, "but we don't pave every squiggly little goat path crossing over their tops."

Well, this weekend I road one of the few places in North America that can hint at those roads - the climbs in Mt. Rainier National Park. There are four that can be nicely knitted together to form a great day in the saddle and a wonderful "stretch of the legs": Cayuse Pass 4,694 feet (1,430 m), Chinook Pass 5,430 (1,655 m), Sunrise summit 6,400 feet (1,950 m), it is the highest point in the park that is accessible by road bike
and Paradise pass 5,400 feet (1,600 m) on the south slope. I needed some long climbs in my legs in prep for the upcoming Everest Challenge, down in the central Sierra Nevada mountains. While Rainier's summits and passes won't be collapsing my lungs at 4-6,000 feet, the climbs are plenty long - Stevens Canyon entrance to Paradise is a leggy 23 miles and 2,500 feet of vertical.

It was perfect weather on the mountain for cycling/climbing, low 70's and as you can see from the photo above taken at the summit of Chinook Pass, looking across Tipsoo Lake to the dome of Mt Rainier (14,410 ft), it's days like this that make all those base miles in the cold spring rain worth it.

The beauty of this ride in August and September is while its hot in the valleys if it's at all decent on the mountain it is great cycling/climbing temperature. And just like its Europe cousins, this little four pass route leaves you either climbing or descending - forget about anything flat - the only thing absent are the pain au chocolates.

We generally have our grand depart from Stevens Canyon via Hwy 12 east from I-5 (from Portland about 2.5-3 hrs drive). Just before the National Park entrance are a few wide pull-offs to park, or at the Ohanapecosh campground day use parking - you still have to pay $5 to enter the park with a bike, but saves paying $15 for the car.

From Stevens Canyon it's south to Sunrise summit via Cayuse Pass, with a right detour up the extra 800 feet to Chinook Pass and spectacular views across the canyon to Mt Rainier and south to the jagged spine of Goat Rocks Wilderness. It's a great little extension and you really get a "top-of-the-world" feeling. The return back to Cayuse again congers memories of Alpian Col descents, including little 18 inch high stone guard rails "protecting" you from the several hundred foot plummets should you over shoot a corner.

The descent continues to the entrance of Sunrise where you flash your park receipt (or pay for the first time) and after a couple miles through the forest along the closest thing to a flat road on this ride, you cross over the White River and begin in earnest the wonderful zigzagging climb to Sunrise visitor center (water available) at over 6,400 feet. This is a great climb! It's an up and back, with a descent that's worth a bit of caution on weekend - lots of Detroitasauruses that rarely see hills apparently.

From there it was back up over Cayuse Pass, another 1,200 ft of climbing, and the 10+ miles drop back to the Park entrance at Stevens Canyon (water available) and the ascent to Paradise. Usually this is a wonderful climb, late day sun, and open southern vistas the entire last 10-12 miles, but among other things this day I forgot to eat regularly and was having serious energy issues - not a good climb for that. After Box Canyon half way up the climb a headwind added insult to low energy and I was out of the saddle every few minutes and doing everything to maintain 10 mph.

Despite the desperate call to the "engine room" for more power (apparently no one was home) on that final climb it was a spectacular day and ride like few you will find on this "side of the pond".

For maps, pictures and more details on this ride check out September's Ride of the Month over on Bicycling Northwest. Also, if you want the official Mt Rainier event ride version check out RAMROD.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's a ride without a ferry?

Last night's Tuesday Night ride was a mixed bag of everything Tuesday Night rides can be - a few flattish spots, some fast rollers, a couple kicker little hills to stretch the legs and strain the lungs, and of course everyone taking their shot at escaping off the front - to no avail. Oh, and one nice little ferry ride.

We, John and I, brought out Stealth, our first time this year. With all the above route features it should have been the perfect Stealth evening - one a tandem should rocket away with - should have.

Stealth, as she was christened almost the moment we first test road her and knew as insane as it was to buy an all carbon 27lb Calfee tandem, loves to go fast and much to the contrary of common perception, Stealth can climb. I mean think about it, we have to guys who are pretty good climbers on their own now teamed on the equivalent of 13.5lb bikes each - why shouldn't Stealth fly up a hill?

From the parking lot at Tualatin Park (weekly start point at 6PM) things were starting to signal Stealth was going to be argumentative - we dropped a chain twice. The group rolled out, gorgeous evening, chatting, socially reconnecting as usual; in the back John and I were grinding through gears as the chain jumped and skipped under a fraction of the pressure; in the big ring we were fine - all else was a mess. And maybe that's the point of this blog - maintenance - the better the machine, the more ya need to care for it.

When the route loped through the gentle rollers along Mountain Road and we could sit in the big ring we powered along at 45+ mph without a hitch, giving the few that could hang in our draft a rocketing little ride down to the Canby ferry. The ferry is generally a regroup as we all pile on and everyone resumes the socializing, or catches their breath, downs a GU and get's ready for more speed.

Up out of the ferry is a short steep climb, easily 12% - we coaxed Stealth up. A few miles later we held our breath as we headed for South End Road from the south, an initially sharp climb in the 8-11% range. We geared down with trepidation and hit the incline - perfect - shift - ut oh! - grind, clank - crap! Dropped. It was the beginning. We did get going again, over the top, back into the big ring and except for the steep climb up Sunset, sweet-talked Stealth back to the park.

Wednesday morning - into River City Bikes - maintinance. By the end of the day Stealth was back to being a rocket - with new chain rings, drive chain, cassette, and a healthy dose of cable care and ajustment. Tandems take a lot of torque, especially under the race and climbing load we pile on Stealth, and need more regular attention. Lesson learned - I've mapped out a regular maintinence schedule for the bike and posted it on the wall in the bike room.

If you're interested here's the Oregon City South End route MAP

Monday, August 17, 2009


Friends are amazing in connecting us with ourselves and our aspirations. Today three of them began helping put yesterday's Hillclimb in perspective:

From Alex -
"it sounds like you didn't have too good of a "time" yesterday. But, what the hell, it is a learning experience and something to bitch about over beer :) There is always another year, another
race: haec olim meminisse iuvabit"

With my Latin being a bit rusty I looked it up. It's from the "The Aeneid." In Latin it reads, "Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit." And from NYT interview Robert Fagles says,
"One of the most beautiful lines in Latin," he said, "and also one of the most famous. I know the translation police will be looking, as well as good readers." He peered through his wire rim glasses, and read, "A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this." He looked at the page for a moment. " It is about loss, about overcoming the worst," he said, "but the word 'perhaps' is important. It may not be a joy to remember. It may be a bloody misery."

From Ann -
"You mentioned the other night that your head and your legs have to come together to have a great race day. Well, it seems there's a third factor at play here...your experience, or as we veteran racers say, your racing age. You know this already, but you will learn the most about racing from the races you lost, and you will come to cherish those moments because that's when you grew as a person. Those are the times you'll keep coming back to and saying to yourself "I've been here before, I know what to do now". So keep your chin up because you know next year it's going to waaaay easier and sometimes you gotta ask yourself, where's the fun in that? We race to learn about ourselves. Enjoy your loss and know you've discovered something new about you."

And the third -
the photo above, this morning a climb up Logie from the north, a 12%+ twist in the road - always grounding.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No lying in the Race of Truth

Shitty! I haven't the words to express how I feel except shitty.

I know this was suppose to be a learning year - and I have.

I know I was suppose to look to 2010 for applying what I learned - and I am.

But what just happened on Mt. Hood in the OBRA Hillclimb Championships a few hours ago is going to stick in my mind and legs and lungs and heart for a year.

This - not giving it my all against the clock - will never happen again!

I'm really angry at myself. I haven't been this angry at myself in...? ... I don't know how long, but years.

Frankly - 28:58 sucks! It's the first lie. It lies about what I am capable of. I love climbing. I take enormous joy in going up things fast. It's not about beating others - its about going up hills fast. It's a relationship I have with roads that tilt skyward. Climbing is different than all other things we do on a bike. Some cyclists hurt on hills and hate them. Some simply avoid them. Some accept they are there and do what they must to get over them and move on. But I love hills. I love steep hills - those double-digit inclines that pop riders, physically and mentally. I love when the lungs and legs hurt and the head creates the illusion and then magically you begin to spin and then float upwards. There is an incredible beauty to climbing.

Today I got sucked into chasing other cyclists rather than the clock. It was my girlfriend Jenn who had to point out that out
- "Do you think you were fooled into thinking you were going faster than you were because you were passing people?" Ya, I blew it. Picking off 5,6 or 7 other riders was not the point. This was the "race of truth" and somewhere along West Leg Road I began lying to myself.

Racing against the clock is about the clock - period.
I missed starting my stopwatch and was riding without time - just chasing down rabbits - unfortunately rabbits come in two types, bunnies and hares. Today I needed hares, and that's never going to be a guarantee so focus only the only certainty - the CLOCK.

The Hillclimb was also about learning where limits are - or not - I still am not certain where mine are. Earlier in the season my friend Scott Powell said at some point you just have to take yourself into the 'red zone' and blow up - that way you know where it is. Blowing up on a climb is a huge fear factor - especially for someone who likes to climb, takes joy and pride in climbing. The image of one's self paperboying it up to the finish line - or even worse, not being able to pedal at all - keeps you from venturing too close to the unknown. But the reallity is the unknown may be much much further away from anything I know now and as a consequence I have know clue where my limits are. At some point I need to go there - the sooner the better - then all of this will have perspective - and the fun will return.

This "shitty" feeling will last for a while, through the winter in the rain on the road training, in the spring when races renew, every time the road tilts up in May, June and July, and finally a year from now, at the starting line of the Hillclimbing Championship.

And finally, my congrats to two guys, first David Zimbelman - 25:42 - in the 55-59 group is stink'n amazing, you are an inspiration! And to Scott Seaton congratulations as well - nice climb, and more important, you are a really nice guy. I appreciated your new friendship at Elkhorn and today a top the mountain. I also appreciate the fact that you were the first to come congratulate me when you thought I had won ahead of you - class - you showed a lot of class. I hope I can extend the same class to you and others in 2010.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Local videos remind us -- laugh and enjoy the bike

Two recent video productions were sent to me - a helmet-cam ride in last week's Portland Twilight Crit by Kenji Sugahara and the other just a good laugh at roadies and fixies by rapper named MC SpandX. - thought I would share - enjoy!

Come share a ride this weekend

Maybe inspired by the success of "Velibvelo" in Paris and Lyon France, The City of Portland is going to give it another go at sharing bikes - or renting them as you go - one more time. You can help by giving it a test ride this Friday (Aug 14) downtown and Sunday (Aug 16) at the Sunday Parkways event:

Join us for the Portland

Bicycle Sharing Demonstration

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Garmin - please, we could use your help!

I don't know about you but I'm getting dizzy as hell trying to navigate through the shifting peloton rumor mill. Word on the street is that Twitter as halted all cycling Tweets before the little birdie dies of hearsay-heart-failure. If you have an RSS feed from cyclingnews or VeloNews or any one of the multitude of pro cycling blogs you are likely getting a download every few minutes - most contradicting the previous or speculating on the ludicrous (Levi and Hincapie to BMC?? Ya, right. The BVI for holiday maybe). So maybe Garmin could link up with Google Earth and we could just GPS track all those Edge units and their owners as they move up and down the 2010 virtual grupetto.

If you are trying to make sense of the cycling free agency - or lack there of - Joe Lindsey over on his Boulder Report blog
has put together a pretty sharp look at the insanity that is or isn't cycling's human swapmeet Rumors Fill Vacuum of No Transfer News. On the other hand if making sense out of it removes all the fun and you really want to statistcally geek out on your own try

And just for the record - my money is on "The Shack" being raised, sold for scrap lumber or simply burnt to the ground and a moniker we can all respect and live with emerging from the rubble - one the poor kit designers can finally fathom!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

36,000 Pedals across the Rose City

Congratulations Portland! You were out in glorious cycling celebration this morning. Over 18,000 people made this year's Providence Bridge Pedal the second largest cycling event in North America. And the best part - you actually got to pedal across the bridges! Kudos to Rick (Bauman) and Sarah (Bailen Smith) all the staff, volunteers and city police who made it all work so brilliantly. Here are a few places to recount and recall the magical event:
KGW News

Friday, August 7, 2009

TdF2010 Prologue - next weekend in Leadville??

The annual soap opera "As the Tour Turns" hadn't even finished its final circuit of the Champs, Cav was in fact still alseep behind Renshaw and Hincapie, when Bob Roll uttered, "I can't wait for 2010". And based on the diarrhea of speculation pouring out of the cyclomedia, so it appears neither can the majority of us. First, there are a few formalities that need to be delivered - a half dozen GP races and the like around Europe, reborn Tour of Soggy-clover (alias Ireland - thank god for the neutral beer zones!), stateside Tour of Mizzou, finally real racing at the Worlds in Mendrisio (cracker of a course) and my favorite Giro di Lombardia, the race of the falling leaves. But for anyone who is paying attention, the Tour's 2010 Prologue really starts next weekend with the Leadville 100 in Colorado not next July in Rotterdam.

If you haven't been watching this soap opera long you need to know that Leadville is not the archetype prologue for the Grand Boucle. Yes, since 1903 the Tour has gifted its opener to other nations nearly 20 times in all, most recently the Grand Depart 2009 was stunningly beautiful along the streets and cliffs of Monaco. So let's get back to Leadville, umm? Colorado? Isn't this August?

Cast your mind back one year, and where was Lance Armstrong? We're talk'n the old LA,
before he was Twittering his every other thought. Yip, Leadville. He was there to ride the dusty Leadville 100 (as in miles) and see if he couldn't scare reigning five time champ Dave Wiens into submission. As VeloNews reported it he wasn't out to just make a showing:

"Armstrong accelerated on the Columbine climb — which tops out at over 12,000 feet elevation at the halfway point of the out-and-back race — and broke up a group of ten that had formed in the first half of the race. Wiens matched Armstrong's pace and in a few short miles the two had a five-minute gap over third place, which grew to more than 20 minutes at the 80-mile mark and more than a half hour at the finish."

It wasn't until the final 10 miles Wiens pulled away from Armstrong winning the race for the sixth time, in record time. Going into to this dirty little century LA is reportedly back to win, and destroy the 6 hour barrier.

So, Contador, Schlecks, Wiggins, and the rest, be watching. Watch very carefully.
Don't look for advice from Cancellara, he won't be there, this isn't your typical Prologue, there will be only one TdF rider there, and he isn't your typical former Tour winner. Leadville isn't Rotterdam I agree, but in the thin air of Colorado this weekend an old guy is coming back to make a statement: I don't lose a race one year and forget about it the next. My guess is LA was thinking about tomorrow the last ten miles of last year's race. Just like he started thinking about TdF2010 in the last couple miles up Andorre Arcalis.

I find it hard to imagine he will crack the 6 hour barrier, but Lance has stunned us in Prologues before, and the message starting in 1999 - beware what the Prologue portends. But no one should be surprised to see him win in Leadville. Last year a victorious Wiens said, "The guy that I raced today was not the guy who won the Tours," August 15th the guy who races Tours is back, and he's looking to start the 2010 stage wins in Leadville.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are we really haunted by ghost bikes?

A dozen ghost bikes are sadly scattered about Portland streets, and if you are reading this blog you undoubtedly see them. But does your boss? your neighbor? your boyfriend? your wife?

They always cause me pause when we cross paths. I do think of the rider(s) senselessly consumed in the impatience we inflict on our daily lives, and how often on my daily rides I have had these moments, swishes of passing danger, my presence less valuable, less important, less respected because I'm not cocooned in a four, five or six thousand pound beast that can ignore my relevance. I travel in the urban-otherland. I wish I was as secure as a side-walk bipedal, they have six or so feet of clear sailing and at worst only collided with creatures roughly their size and speed.

"My" lane is also the curbside recycling strip, delivery truck double-parking way, construction ahead sign corridor, the movie company dolly-track sector, the taxi wait station, and always, the car door opening lane. (BTW - a century plus ago ‘bipedal’ was one of the original concept names for what is now bicycle - we should have hung on to it, we might have our own six foot wide lane now!)

The Guardian news in the UK recently asked in a web clip - "Ghostly all-white bikes appear by roads where a cyclist has been killed following an accident. Do these monuments make the roads safer for other cyclists? Or are they simply tragic street art?"

I wonder the same. Do these ashen spirits of our most livable city whisper to any passersby except those that push pedals? Sure I notice, I'm on a bicycle virtually every day in one capacity or another – so that means I also engage with motorists in one capacity of another.
Do visitors to our city notice? Do police notice? Do pedestrians notice? Most importantly do those who matter most notice – drivers?

And if not, then what?

How do we signal our fragility?

Perched a top less than 30lbs of steel, aluminum or carbon, we are no match for the steel leviathans of Detroit. More importantly we are no match for the attitudes wheeling the Detroitasauruses about.

So how do we get safer?

Like most solutions, one is short term, the other systemic. We need to all put our heads together on it, not just attorney Ray Thomas, Del Sharffenberg and a few others. We already have what it takes; we have a higher percentage of people who bike to work than any other large American city; we have nearly 20,000 everyday folks come out and ride the bridges every August, that’s an army; Portland is already widely considered one of the country’s most bike-friendly urban centers. That means there are a lot of people out there to work on solutions – a start is join BTA (Bicycle Transportation Alliance) and get involved beyond wearing the t-shirt or getting your 10% off at the local bike shop. There’s a lot of lip-flapping from the saddle, but not often enough do they flap their way to a transportation hearing or local council meeting.

We need more ideas like those Big Green Bike Boxes, believed to be the first such to be put to use by any city in the country, but we need to encourage Portland police to be as vigilant about warning drivers who blunder into the boxes as they do passing out stop sign violation tickets to cyclists behind OMSI.

Long-term, education – again get involved. Folks like the Community Bike Center and BTA have safety programs for kids, lit’l Newbees, and they need your passion for the bike to help these kids learn and grow into adults who both drive with respect and believe cyclists of every ilk deserve a piece of the road.

But finally it may also rest with us – the one’s on bikes – starting with “Do unto others…” We need to obey the road rules, until We change them (see article link under Legally Speaking over on Bicycling Northwest). Stop signs mean stop – period! Red lights are for us all – period! I know it’s shitty to have to unclip, kill the momentum, but motorists don’t get us, they don’t know what we’re doing (hell, neither do we half the time), and bottom line – those Detroitasauruses can kill us.

No more ghost bikes, no more ashen art pieces – let's work together for solutions or park the cars and the bikes until we do.

The First Ghosts Were Seen…

The ghost bike idea seems to have originated with a project by San Francisco artist Jo Slota. Slota began the original ghost bike project in April 2002. This was a distinct, purely artistic endeavor. Slota was intrigued by the abandoned bicycles that he found around the city, locked up but stripped of useful parts. He began painting them white, and posted photographs on his website, As the idea was taken up for different purposes, Slota faced a dilemma. San Francisco is one of the safer U.S. cities for bicyclists, but memorial ghost bikes sprang up there as elsewhere, changing perceptions of his project.

The first ghost bike memorial project was in St. Louis, Missouri, United States in October 2003. After observing a motorist strike a bicyclist in a bike lane on Holly Hills Boulevard, Patrick Van Der Tuin placed a white-painted bicycle on the spot with a hand-painted sign reading "Cyclist Struck Here". Noticing the effect that this had on motorists in the area, Van Der Tuin then enlisted the help of friends to place 15 more "ghost bikes" in prominent spots in the St. Louis area where cyclists had recently been hit by automobiles. They used damaged bikes, in some cases deliberately damaged to create the desired mangled effect.

Today the general meaning is a ghost bike or ‘ghostcycle’ is a bicycle set up in a place where a cyclist has been hurt or killed by a motor vehicle, as a memorial and as a reminder to passing motorists to share the road. A junk bicycle is painted white, with a placard attached, and locked to a suitable light pole, post or object close to the scene of the accident. These memorials are mainly a political statement – aiming to make a wider point beyond personal loss. Not all ghost bikes commemorate real casualties: some merely reflect indignation at near-misses by careless drivers, or even protest against a poor road surface.

Portland’s ghost bikes began appearing in the summer of 2005. Similar projects began in Pittsburgh in 2004, New York City and Seattle in 2005, and Chicago in 2006. London Ghostcycle was active in 2005 and 2006. There have been similar projects in dozens of other cities worldwide.

Above photo courtesy website


(From PDX Crit) Portland is a world-class cycling city, well known for smart planning, innovative projects and thousands of people happily commuting to work - rain or shine. So it seems fitting that we have a world-class bicycle street race - the Portland Twilight Criterium, Presented by Subaru - that draws professional racers from around the country. 15,000 spectators flock to downtown Portland for a night of fast-paced racing action in a festival-like atmosphere around the North Park Blocks every year in early August (This year Friday, August 5th).

But this year, as the title sponsor bowed out in light of severe budget cuts, the Portland Twilight Criterium was facing cancellation. Determined not to let that happen, local race fans have stepped up to bring in the support of their businesses, including Subaru of America and the local law firms Swanson, Thomas and Coon;; Berkshire Ginsberg and In their effort to rescue this popular event, these attorneys who are usually competitive have put the competition aside and banded together.

Amazing things happen here in Portland - success, creativity, forward thinking. In keeping with this spirit, the organizers hope additional businesses will come out as race fans too and help bring professional racing to Downtown Portland this summer.

This event is a fundraiser for Bikes to Rwanda, a nonprofit organization that provides cargo bicycles to co-operative coffee farmers in Rwanda. Bikes to Rwanda improves quality of life in these communities through a bike workshop and maintenance program that provides transportation resources for basic needs. Through their good work, Bikes to Rwanda helps many families and their efforts lead to enhanced production of quality coffee.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Thursday event will feature up-and-coming bike builders

The show, hosted by the StepChange Group (500 NW 9th Ave.), is the brainchild of StepChange director of technology Michael Jones. Jones is a web developer who you might remember as the guy who created the (now defunct) stolen bike listing tool, Finetoothcog. He’s also co-founder of the Unicycle Bastards and helped get Portland’s Ghost Bike movement off the ground.

Check out details here

Monday, August 3, 2009

Climbing back - up a Rocky Point

Sometime hills are the best way, the only way to return to where you began. Throughout history hills have been there, pinnacles from which we see the world more clearly, personally, biblically, politically, metaphorically, they teach us how to humble ourselves and we are once again reminded that climbing always gets us out of the valley we're in.

Maybe it's that hills force us to pump some extra blood between heart and head and with it a few extra bubble of oxygen to clear the coconut? I can't be certain, just know that while I don't always feel great going up, once up there things do get better.

After riding myself into a mental valley at Cascade Cycling Classic, I took a few days and then refound my joy, on a hill, a stretch of 7-9% that doesn't care where you came from. I also have refocused my goals on a hill, the Wy East Rd climb; a snaking one-lane passage up through the forests of Mt Hood, between 4 and 6,000 feet, this year's Oregon State Hillclimb (TT) Championship, to get back to where I began - a love for riding up... up... up.

The closest thing I have to practice on, without driving an hour to Mt. Hood, is 15miles from my porch, Rocky Point Road. A lovely little 1,300' climb over 3.15 miles with pitches in the double digits.

The roll out was easy between 32-35kmh west on Hwy 30. Morning traffic going out is pretty light and the shoulders wide enough to not make the delivery trucks much an issue. It's the perfect half hour warm up my legs need.

The climb starts a 1/4 mile after the Dept of Transportation Weigh Station well marked across the highway. Gear down and get ready - Rocky comes at you right out of the gate!

Some climbs invite you in, then slap you around a bit, give you a few flat bits to catch your breath and then let you slip over the top, Rocky Point will have none of that. Coming off Hwy 30 you turn left and immediately a long ramp of 9-11% glares at you, then disappears into the trees 600m in the distance - if you haven't unclipped to reconsider start flicking that rear derailleur and take a few deep breaths. It's right here where you decide are you here to climb or creep? Over the years I have done both.

Regardless your decision the calves are always my first to complain; they have just come off the big-ring on Hwy 30 and don't like the instant high rev spinning. My breathing is next and the lungs consort with the calves in a debate of a 'reasonable speed'. Today is all about the August 16th Championship and I politely ignore them both.

At the end of that launch ramp the road begins a snaking slither through the big leaf maples. Its easy to imagine a serpent creating this road - on its way downhill of course! Any creature, even with a reduced reptilian brain would have chosen a gentler gradient and more switchbacks. Not this one. Rocky bends gently left then gently right, repeating it at 8-9% for the next several hundred meters. I settle in to a climbing rhythm and keep looking up the road - hearing Paul Sherwin say, "it's never a good sign when the non-climbers start looking at their gears." I'm a climber damn it! I fix my focus straight up the road.

The 1 mile marker is just ahead, I know it too well, I play this 'I will not look at the computer' game with myself until I cross the marker - 5:39 - damn it! I'm way off - I need to be down around five. Once again I hear Mr Sherwin doing play-by-play in my head, "he always come good on his rendezvous" , ya, but that's Armstrong, and I'm no Pro. Clearly. I'm just a 53 year whacko who thinks he can climb. Ya know, compared to most of the guys I ride with I can - they would love to see this - sweat streaming in an uninterrupted rivulet from my chin, constantly rising up out of the saddle to keep the momentum going, and when all else fails looking down at my sock (NOT my gears), my Jens Voigt 'Vorrom, vroom, vroom" socks, remind myself I am having fun and ask 'what would Jens do?' - attack - so I hesitate, then tell myself don't hesitate, again out of the saddle and up the revs.

The Wall
Rocky relents a bit through these trees, over a mile and a half into the climb, my computer flickers 8%, then 9, then 8 again; I keep reminding myself to reach with my knees. A thing I read somewhere, if you are struggling to keep the 'spin' on a climb pretend you are reaching for the handlebars with your knees. C'mon knees - reach, reach.

Ahead the road curves left and then right, the gradient actually ducks under 6%, but it's a lie, around that right is The Wall. I know it; the curse of an intimate affair with this curvaceous slope. It's a beautiful little 100 meters of, as my friend Todd calls it, "witch-slapping nasty". If you were racing this is where you would attack. If you had Contador's legs you would dance away; you'd be inclined on its 15% to take flight for the top. If not, this is where you vainly flick the right shifter to the sound of silence. Sorry sunshine, get out of the saddle and push on the pedals. If your spin has spun, then choke on your pride and 'Paperboy' it. Today I keep the knees reaching and lock my stare on the crest of The Wall. Over the top it's almost flat - 7+%.

The metronome in my head pushes up the tempo... 'reach, reach, reach'... 5:39, 5:39, 5:39... time to make up.

The 2 mile marker pokes out of the shrubbery on the right and 11:23 ticks past...
'reach, reach, reach'...

Outta the saddle, drop a gear, push it from here, most of its shy of 7%, then 6, 5, outta the saddle again. No more shade. Push. There's a motivational monologue raging in my head. I don't feel my calves, my lungs, my anything. Past the 3 mile marker - crap, pushing so hard I forgot to look. Sweat runs into my right eye - live with it - push.

A hundred meters...

One last outta the saddle