Paul Andrews

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

The bike is the bond: Riding with the legends on Turkey Day

In Mountain Biking, Today's Ride on November 29, 2009 at 9:34 am

FAIRFAX CA — I’ve ridden the annual Turkey Day mountain bike ride, or “Appetite Seminar,” in Fairfax maybe half a dozen times over the years, and each one has been different in its own wonderfully unpredictable way. But Thursday’s edition will top my list for a long time to come.

My Seattle friend (and former world-class racer) John Loomis, who worked for Gary Fisher back at the industry’s dawn and who never misses the ride, was the catalyst. John suggested we meet at the orthogonally indescribable Jacquie Phelan’s eclectic estate and head out from there.

Jacquie is a Marin legend and her blog is one of my favorites. Although I’d heard of her since the late 1970s and exchanged email and was a big fan, we’d never met. But she greeted me like an old friend, gave me the nickel tour of her place, which could have served without modification as a set for my favorite movie, “Harold & Maude,” and then introduced me to another legend, her partner Charlie Cunningham.

Charlie looks just like his pictures from the “Klunkerz” days, with that curly boyish hair and incipient smile of his, and in his t-shirt and jeans he looked like he just got off a Schwinn cruiser after smoking down Repack. He couldn’t ride with us but Jacquie got out one of Charlie’s vintage aluminum bikes, so he was with us in spirit the whole way.

John rambled up, Jacquie donned her nose and glasses, feather-ornamented helmet and sequined wool gloves, joining a wool Peloton jersey, lush velvet skirt and racing shoes, and we were off. I’m sure there is historic significance to each article of clothing, including the funny nose and glasses, but I didn’t get a chance to ask.

Within moments on the climb up Bolinas Road, Jacquie and John were deep in conversation and off like bullets. Both were racers, and I had no chance of keeping up. Which was OK, because at my vintage I pretty much smile and go my own pace, thankful just to be able to keep turning over the cranks another day.

After another rider pointed out my low rear tire (it was 10 psi), and I helped another guy who had broken his chain, I finally pulled to the top. Jacquie had been worried enough to ride back down trying to find me, but hadn’t as she put it memorized the gear enough to pick me out from the hordes. You have to understand, Turkey Day is the biggest mass recreational mountain bike ride you will ever do. Getting an accurate headcount is impossible, because there’s no registration or support station. But I heard the thousand-rider estimate tossed around more this year than ever before, and that was undoubtedly conservative. I’ve been on organized rides all my life with headcounts in the thousands, and this felt like well over 1k. As Jacquie noted (see link below), the youth element was out in bigger force than ever in the past; Marin’s vibrant school teams are having an impact along with the GenX equivalent for sons and daughters of mtb fanatics. Plus people had been primed by a week-long bout of spectacular weather, even though it was a bit overcast and chilly out on the course.

John may have come all the way from Seattle but probably wouldn’t win any “furthest” award. I saw Colorado and Utah license plates in the lot, and overheard one group who obviously were from somewhere in the Deep South.

They really should be called Turkey Day rideS, because you can pretty much pick any route from a dozen or more configurations. There are so many places to ride from Fairfax. The standard route is to head up Bolinas Road to the Pine Mountain Loop. You can get back to Fairfax any number of ways from there.

Anyway, I rejoined Jacquie and John at the trailhead and we started up the vicious rubble-laden fire road toward the Pine Mountain loop. Unless you’re in supreme shape, every so often you have to stop and push a bit up the climb. Which was fine, because it gave Jacquie a chance to introduce me to more legends. First up was Joe Breeze, riding with his son Tommy. At the next stop Jacquie was holding forth when some guy crept up behind her and started planting little air kisses on her neck. Jacquie never did catch on, despite the big circle of grinning riders gathered around.

The guy turned out to be Gary Fisher himself, tall and wickedly fit-looking, riding Fisher colors and bike of course. So I got to meet the most famous name in mountain biking.

At this point I should say something about how real, grounded, open and humble all these folks were. Somehow the press clippings, fame and adulation haven’t worked a number on them — a real credit to their sense of what is truly important in life, which is just being yourself. As a result, they instantly make you feel like just one of the crowd, even if you’re just another guy on a bike who can’t keep up. It’s one of the things I love about the mountain bike culture: The bike is the bond. It’s like a secret handshake or tattoo or password would be in another context. If you have mountain biking in common, you know you have a world of other things in common too.

At the turnoff to the loop we met my final legend of the day, Scot Nicol, founder of Ibis Cycles and developer of my XC bike, the Mojo. I don’t have my Mojo in Cali so was riding my Firebird, but I mentioned how my Mojo-riding friend and I formed Team Carbon Copy in Seattle (after I pretty much duplicated his build on my bike; we’re both sub-25 lbs.), and have done various epic exploits around the Northwest under that moniker. “Really?” Scot said, “send me the links. I’d love to take a look.” I sure will. And I’m sure he will.

Due to time commitments I didn’t do the loop but instead headed up toward Repack with the intention of hitting Tamarancho for the ride back to Fairfax. But there was a huge group at the junction with Repack, which I hadn’t ridden in years. I decided to go for nostalgia and headed up the grade. Then I remembered I hadn’t seen the plaque commemorating Repack as the birthplace of mountain biking. I went back and looked around where I remembered it being, but either I was wrong or the plaque is gone. Or maybe it’s all just a figment of my imagination, or maybe I dreamed it; there certainly ought to be something marking the place.

Repack was a whole lot more fun, and shorter, than I remembered. It may be because I was on the Firebird, which is a real adrenaline stoker on the downhill. The road was in primo shape, great for launching at the water bars and risers, and some guys were screaming down the steep parts. It made me wish I’d been there back in the day, when John and Jacquie and Charlie and Joe and Gary were creating the foundation of a different way of thinking about cycling, a new way of riding bikes, and a magical way of bringing people together to ride.

Jacquie Phelan’s inimitable version of this year’s ride

Charlie Cunningham

Last year’s ride

The historical sweep, including the worst Appetite Seminar ever

Happy Thanksgiving from Fairfax CA and the Appetite Seminar

In Mountain Biking on November 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm

I’ll be in Fairfax on Thanksgiving for the most fabled Thanksgiving Day mountain bike ride of all, the Appetite Seminar. Hundreds of cyclists all over the hills of Marin, quite the spectacle and a great time to say hello to familiar faces and meet new ones. See you there!

Cygolite Trion 600 reviewed by someone who paid for one

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on November 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm

REVIEW POLICY link: In a nutshell, everything we review we have paid for, just like you. Since it’s our money, we don’t review stuff we wouldn’t pay for, which means we’ve done a bit of shopping for you. That doesn’t mean we’re anything like the final say in product ratings, of course. But it does mean you can believe what you read here as the honest truth, since we have no reason, financial or otherwise, to spin our reviews. Our full policy here.

Compare the fog lamps

Cygolite vs. Toyota Prius headlamps

I’ve gone through a lot of bike lights over the years, including mounting an actual car headlamp on my bars, powered by a true brick, a foot-long, 5-lb. lead-acid battery with the incredible output of 2.5 hours shine time. This was back in the late 1970s when I was commuting 20 miles to work each way, returning at midnight (swing shift). It was heavy and inconvenient, but cars got out of the way!

Now I’ve got a 3-LED Cygolite Trion 600 (referring to lumens) that is not only brighter than anything I’ve seen on a bike, but it runs longer — I’m getting 5 hours-plus to a charge; it’s rated 2.5 to 12 hours, depending on setting — and here’s the kicker: No wires. It’s completely self-contained, you can mount it on your helmet or your bars or, as I often do, just carry it around as a flashlight. I mean, the thing weighs all of 8.5 ounces. As light as it is, it takes a beating. You can’t use a bike light regularly without dropping it from time to time. Mine’s even rolled down some stairs. The metal collar and hard plastic case don’t even shown a nick yet.

It has so many different settings, including several flash modes, I’m still not sure I’ve tried them all (the specs list 8 altogether). I do like the variable interval flash (SOS mode) for commuter/road use where I can see where I’m going fine, but want to make sure I’m seen. Charge time is quick, three to four hours. There’s a very nice 5-dot battery life indicator on top of the unit, clearly visible at all times.

The light’s throw, or beam, is just right by my book. Throw is a personal preference thing, and too wide a field is just as frustrating as too little. You want a light to illuminate the stuff that’s important; too much light can rob depth of field, and put too much reflection back in your eyes.

Some considerations: It’s not cheap. Mine set me back $350. But for the use I get out of it, and figuring my life to be worth at least, say, $400, I haven’t felt a twinge of buyer’s remorse.

It lacks a helmet mount. It would be easy to jerryrig one using the quick-release handlebar mount, but I’m not a big helmet light fan anyway. The best system is a handlebar light and helmet light used to complement one another. But I get by fine with this thing mounted on the bars. (Helmet light phreaks say half a pound is a bit heavy for a light. It wouldn’t bother me.)

I keep thinking I’m going to snap off the tiny rubber covers for the auxiliary battery (that boosts run time to something like a claimed 6 hours) and recharger inputs. So far it hasn’t happened.

There are a lot of lights out there, but the wireless capability, featherweight heft and length of charge sold me on the Cygolight. I’ve had mine almost a year and so far no complaints.

    For further reading

Good discussion on MTBR.com forum, with comparative photos

MTBR “shootout” with several other lights, but not the Cygolite. See comments queue.

Been Waiting for This One: Women of Dirt! With Seattle Premiere…

In Mountain Biking, Bicycle Racing, Videos on November 24, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Hometown legend Jill Kintner, who missed being World Champion this year by a mascaraed eyelash, will be featured in the worldwide premiere of “Women of Dirt,” a long-awaited film focusing on the world of women mountain bikers. It’ll happen Feb. 5th at the Northwest Film Forum theater on Capitol Hill, 12th Avenue between Pike and Pine.

Here’s hoping Jill herself will be on hand for the rollout.

We’ve been huge Kintner fans since the beginning, our respect only growing when we saw her grit out a medal at the 2008 Olympics despite a blown-out knee, and then rehab over winter for a dynamite 2009 season. Jill is hands-down the best slalom racer in the world and we’re confident she’ll get the rainbow jersey next year. For all her accomplishments she remains a very real, earnest, down-to-earth person, still carrying that unassuming Northwest humility with her wherever she goes.

Jill’s just one of the stars featured in a lineup including Tammy Donahugh, Stephanie Nychka, Cierra Smith, Emily Johnston, Lisa Myklak, Leana Gerrard, Dawn Cashen, Katrina Strand, Kathy Pruitt, and Darcy Turenne. Bike Magazine has posted a few of the trailers, including Jill’s.

It should be a great evening at the NWFF!

This Day in Doping: Pfannberger goes pfooooot….

In This Day In Doping on November 23, 2009 at 3:07 am

Five years ago it was testosterone boosting. Last March it was blood boosting (EPO). Now Christian Pfannberger, a two-time Austrian champion, is banned for life.

Let that be an example to all you pros out there who think once is enough and promise never ever to do it again.

No, of course I’m not being serious.

Washington’s Plains of Abraham gives BI 11 IMBA epics

In Mountain Biking, Multi-Day Trips on November 22, 2009 at 5:59 pm

The Plains of Abraham, a desolate, stark romp through the death zone of the Mount St. Helens inferno nearly three decades ago, is a miraculous testament to Nature’s ability to resuscitate itself. Now it’s an officially recognized IMBA Epic as well.

I’m happy because it gives me another epic to add to my IMBA quiver, putting me at 11, without even having to clip into my pedals. Seven Summits last year in Rossland B.C. gave me double digits. But that was a long day in the saddle, with lots of climbing and the euphoric suffering that goes along with it.

When I last rode Smith Creek (as it’s called by the locals), there weren’t the little trees you see in the IMBA photo. The whole St. Helens area is a natural laboratory for studying the recuperative miracles of Mother Earth. It may be time for a return trip next spring.

My 11 epics are:

Big Boulder (Downieville)
Bootleg Canyon (near Vegas)
Buckhorn (Santa Barbara)
Comfortably Numb (Whistler; the longest 16-mile ride you’ll ever do)
No. Umpqua (Roseburg OR; the longest 1-day ride you’ll ever do)
Henry Coe (Morgan Hill near San Jose CA)
Tahoe Rim Trail (my favorite place to ride anywhere)
South Yuba (Nevada City)
Skookum Flats (not Enumclaw as IMBA lists it but Greenwater; also not an epic imho but I’ll take it)
7 Summits
Plains of Abraham

IMBA Epics on my to-do list:

Eagle Ridge (Vancouver B.C.)
Edge Loop (Fruita CO)
Loon Lake (McCall ID)
Telegraph Trails (Durango CO)
Mid Mt Trail (Park City UT)

The IMBA list is hardly the final say on epic XC rides, of course. I can name half a dozen epics in Washington State that are far more deserving than Skookum Flats and Plains of Abraham. How Sun Valley/Stanley ID and Moab UT escape citation is beyond me.

But hey, this time of year any talk of MTB epics really gets my juices roiling for next spring!

The full list of IMBA epics.

Weekend Roundup: SF Bike Expo, How to get off with light sentence, Joe Breeze, LA’s “Dr. Doorstop” and more

In Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on November 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Tomorrow is the big SF Bike Expo at the Cow Palace. Since along with the jump competition and usual eye candy there’s a killer swap meet, I will be a lighter cyclist in the wallet this time tomorrow. Also, they just announced Cove Bikes will be showing up. Back in the day I’d hang out at Cove before tackling NorthShore stuff — this was when they had the station wagon from the seminal MTB film, “Tread,” out front. Cool folks then, still are. Some of them may even be at the Expo! Schedule here.

How do you shoot at someone’s head, come an inch from murdering them, and walk away with just a 120-day sentence? As DrunkCyclist explains, you do it by making sure the person you’re shooting at is riding a bike. If I’m not mistaken, DC is studying the law, so his deconstruction makes for edifying reading.

And in other anti-cycling news, David Zabriskie makes it easy for cyclists to put in a bad word for the Los Angeles physician recently convicted of intentionally injuring cyclists by jamming his car to a stop in front of them. The physician reportedly is gathering lots of letters of commendation; let’s counter with letters of condemnation. “The District Attorney’s Office is collecting these statements in support of the cyclists,” Zabriskie’s “Yield to Life” site notes. “She plans to submit the letters with the motion at the end of next week so we encourage you to submit a letter to her in a timely fashion so that she can include it in her packet to the judge.” All you have to do is click.

Just 6 days away: The annual Fairfax CA Turkey Day ride, or “Appetite Seminar.” Last year there were hundreds of mountain bikers climbing all over the hills, and this year’s weather forecast looks smashing. Never to be missed. See you there!

Robb at Mountain Biking by 198 interviews the venerable, the humble, the august, the acclaimed Joe Breeze.

Police arrest cyclist: A double standard?

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on November 20, 2009 at 9:49 am

Seattle Times: “A 32-year-old bicyclist accused of running over a 6-year-old boy near Pike Place Market on Friday, leaving the child hospitalized with serious facial injuries, was charged today with vehicular assault and hit and run.”

Re this incident, where a man on a bike apparently hit a 6-year-old boy in a crosswalk, we are impressed with the alacrity that police exercised in tracking down and arresting a suspect.

We can’t help but make some observations, though:

If a car had hit the boy, it would not have made the news. The boy was injured, but if you don’t die in a car-pedestrian accident, you don’t get a headline.

If a car had hit the boy, it’s doubtful an arrest would have been made so quickly.

If a car had hit a cyclist in similar circumstances, no way would an arrest have been made so quickly — if ever. Cars can kill cyclists with no arrest being made. It’s already happened 4 times this year in Seattle, the most notorious being Kevin Black, run over by a van. The investigation took months, and the judicial system wound up declaring it could take no action. (Black’s distraught family subsequently filed a wrongful death suit.)

We think the case with the 6-year-old is the way traffic justice should work. If the police report is correct, this is indeed a case of vehicular assault and hit-and-run. Neither should be tolerated in Seattle.

Our concern is that this is the first indication we’ve seen of any change to a status quo that generally ignores or minimizes such incidents, and it happens to involve a cyclist hitting a small child.

In other words, the cyclist is being made an example of. I’m no psychologist, and in any case it’s difficult to impute motive. But in making a big deal out of this, police seem to be sending a message that, as usual, cyclists need to watch their back. This is particularly pertinent given that the new mayor of Seattle, the new county executive and at least three City Council members are big bike supporters.

This apparent double standard already has resulted in a request from Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy director, David Hiller, for a meeting with County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Hiller notes “an issue of perceived bias in the prosecution of motor vehicle offenses,” relating that “of 81 collisions in King County in 2007 that seem to meet the same standard of intent that Mr. Araneta (cyclist defendant who ran into boy) is being held to, none were prosecuted.”

We await with intense interest the response of police and media to the next car-bicycle or car-pedestrian accident in Seattle — the typical one, where the cyclist or walker is the obvious victim. If there’s a new wind blowing through law enforcement, it should show up summarily.

See Cascade Bicycle Club forum comments queue for additional observations.

Velo Vidyo: Some tasty bits from YouTube

In Mountain Biking, Videos on November 18, 2009 at 10:49 pm

MTBR’s Top Ten YouTube MTB vids:

My faves of the list:

Chris Duncan showing how to jump, good stuff. He’s right about the elbows.

The Klunkerz clip.

No. 1 is the much viewed Danny MacAskill urban trials clip. The others are mostly flash and crash.

Somehow the list missed my No. 1, the Hans Rey/Steve Pete Irish Pub to Pub rideabout, featuring the Cliffs of Death.

But for videos that we everyday mountain bikers with our good but unextreme skillz can relate to, you can’t beat the Pete Fagerlin gallery — especially the soundtracks.

PinkBike has the CBC video of the sad story of Sam Brown.

Riders Down: Shorter days, worse weather, more tragedy

In Rider Down on November 18, 2009 at 1:01 pm

There’s been a spike recently in rider deaths, perhaps a time-of-year thing. Although the usual culprits are cited (right hooks, dump truck carelessness and the ever-popular “still investigating,” meaning the cyclist was not at fault. If the cyclist is assumed to be at fault, police figure they don’t need an investigation, yet another incentive to blame the cyclist).

Here’s a new wrinkle from a real tragedy in Flagstaff, where a university student was literally hooked and dragged to his death by a garbage truck.

“It is still unknown who, if anybody, was at fault in the collision, said Sgt. Michael Terrin of the Flagstaff Police Department.”

Yeah, that’s a real head-scratcher.

Can you imagine a car accident involving fatalities where a cop would say, “Looks like no one may be at fault here.” Just one of those little traffic misunderstandings, you know…

Other deaths in the news:

Frank R. Smith, 54, of Piketon OH killed by Toyota Sienna while riding a bike.

14-year-old Farmingdale NY cyclist killed by car.

Clearwater FL man, 52, killed by van.

Randal J. Thomas, 47, of Leavenworth WA, killed by tow truck driver riding Blewett Pass Hwy near Hwy 2.

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