Paul Andrews

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Daily Roundup returns!

In Bicycling, Daily Roundup, Equipment reviews, Interbike 2009, Mountain Biking on September 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I’m on the road to Interbike and have only sporadic connectivity. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

Anyway, the bike world’s big wheel keeps on turnin’ …

IMBA is coming to the Point Reyes National Seashore this weekend for trail work with Chris and Leslie Kehmeier of the Subaru Trail Care Crew. It’s always a great time with the IMBA gang, and there’s a ride scheduled for Sunday as well.

Bike magazine, the No. 1 in readability, will produce something big and fat and self-important that it is modestly calling “The Bible,” full of reviews and other mtb stuff. It’s a bit curious because Bike magazine’s reviews are not its strong suit, not nearly as technical and in-depth as Mountain Bike Action’s. Instead, we love Bike mag for its feature articles and ‘tude. But we’ll see. Good writers should be able to write insightful reviews.

And when it comes to descriptive bike prose, nobody can write quite like Cedric Gracia … which is probably a good thing:

“The race was really good! Even with the rain, in the final I was in a 2nd place but I try to hard in a corner, I lost the grip and crash.” More on Cedric’s Red Bull Road Rage exploits here.

Moment in the Sun: Ellsworth’s long-travel trail bike, the Moment, has nabbed “Best 2009 All-Mountain Bike” from Singletracks.com. Taking nothing away from Tony and the gang, I’ll stick with my Pivot Firebird in that category, thank you.

Huffington Post has an excerpt from David Byrne’s new book, “Bicycle Diaries.”

On a bike, being just slightly above pedestrian and car eye level, one gets a perfect view of the goings-on in one’s own town. Unlike many other U.S. cities, here in New York almost everyone has to step onto the sidewalk and encounter other people at least once a day–everyone makes at least one brief public appearance. I once had to swerve to avoid Paris Hilton, holding her little doggie, crossing the street against the light and looking around as if to say, “I’m Paris Hilton, don’t you recognize me?” From a cyclist’s point of view you pretty much see it all.

More here.

Ride Review: A seldom ridden gem in the Entiat

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking on September 9, 2009 at 7:14 am
A marmot (center if you squint) waddles across Entiat meadow

A marmot (center if you squint) waddles across Entiat meadow

Last fall when Jim and I rode up Pyramid Peak, at 8,350 feet arguably the highest point open to mountain bikers in Washington State (Angel’s Staircase and Tiffany Peak are close competitors), Jim kept looking one ridge over and muttering to himself.

“Dude, we’ve got to do Grouse Pass,” he said.

It was out of the question that day. We’d already climbed more than a mile in elevation gain, we were fried, it was getting cold, we would easily run out of light if we attempted another saddle.

But the thing about Jim is, he doesn’t forget a promise. Especially one to himself. The open meadows and chiseled peaks of Grouse Pass stayed etched in his frontal lobes. So when we got an opening over Labor Day weekend for some high-country epics, Grouse Pass was No. 1 on our list.

Getting up to the trailhead from Seattle is a major chore. You have to drive I-90 or Stevens Pass almost to Wenatchee, then follow 97 up the west side of the Columbia almost to Entiat, turning on 51 (the Ardenvoir exit) and rambling another 35 miles into the east side of the Wenatchee National Forest. It’s a 4 to 4 1/2 hour haul — it just doesn’t seem that short.

The payoff is that you’re in really remote, really wild, really breathtaking mountain country when you finally crawl up Road 5606 to the South Pyramid Creek trailhead. (Don’t forget your Forest Service parking pass — several cars had flapping paper under their windshields by ride’s end).

I’ve not had great luck riding up Pyramid, twice getting snowed out and the third time babbling about dehydration and heat stroke. That’s the Entiat for you — nothing but extremes. At least, until this time.

Jim and I immediately noticed the primo condition of the trail. Instead of the usual cake flour, the trail was packed and tacky. Some pretty serious rain had obviously fallen, either the night or day before. A lot of the lower trail was damp — not muddy, but nowhere near dusty. 4,500 feet of climbing with actual traction — hey, we’ll take it!

The other thing was the weather — crisp, cool, puffy clouds overhead. I’m guessing low to mid 70s. No snow, no heat — no problem!

You follow Trail 1439 (all designations are on Green Trails map for Lucerne, No. 114) across multiple creek crossings, some with bridges, most without. Where we couldn’t ride through, the water was just high enough to require the usual Twister moves, stretching to reach exposed stones with hopes our shoe didn’t slip. In between it was pretty much solid climbing, although nearly all rideable till the upper junction with the Pyramid Peak Trail No. 1433.

At this point we ran into our first bipeds, three young hikers from Seattle on their way up to the peak. One knew enough about mountain bikes to grill us on our carbon Ibis Mojos. Because Jim and I ride the same bike (mine has gold Martas while his has the reds), we’ve called ourselves Team Mojo. But it occurred to me after talking with our hiker friend that we should rename ourselves the Carbon Copies. Jim noted that the kids, while they might understand the phrase, would have no clue as to its origin. “We’re old,” I said, “but not that old. They didn’t have real carbon paper when we were young either!”

Anyway, we continued on up toward the pass. We crossed over a slight rise and were summarily dumped into a gobsmacking wildflowered meadow — quiet, serene, wondrous. We took a lunch break, shot some photos (I was using my iPhone all the way for video, an experiment that kinda worked and kinda didn’t) and started the slog toward the saddle. Once we were above the meadow we began hearing eerie, sharp, loud, punctuated whistles — the striking call of the marmot, aka whistling pig.

We stopped to listen and then saw one — a dark little guy with gray and black fur. Then another. And another. A fourth … what was this, pigs on parade? They might’ve been juveniles, because as Jim noted their coloring was different from the light brown of a typical marmot. They also weren’t fat and wide like baseball fans, which most mature marmots are.

Marmots are wonderful creatures. They pretty much take their time and live a gentle, serene life, digging burrows under big rocks on which they sun themselves and snooze. Marmots move slowly and never seem bothered. Just watching one lowers your blood pressure.

But they do tend to be a bit shy, so you have to be patient to catch a glimpse. That said, we ran into marmots at two other junctures in the ride. I’ve never encountered so many in one place; I guess our timing was right.

On the climb we kept stopping at every switchback to take in the views. By the time you top out across from Pugh Ridge, you’re just a couple of miles from Glacier Peak Wilderness. The granite outcroppings are spectacular, mystical and moving. You think about time, about nature, about evolution . . . about how big and important humans consider themselves, and how insignificant they really are. It’s a different kind of experience than most mountain biking today.

I’d noted eight vehicles at the trailhead, but only one with a bike rack. That didn’t use to be the case — you could pretty much count on running into other bikers on a ride this time of year in this region. But Whistler, Galbraith, the NorthShore and DIY trail building have sucked the riders away from classic cross-country epics. As much as I love a trail like Mullet or Ladies Only or Kill Me Thrill Me, none of them can transport your consciousness the way a classic all-day XC escape can. A whole generation of riders is missing mountain biking the way God intended it to be.

From the top you can take Pugh Ridge Trail (No. 1438) down, but I don’t know why you’d want to. You’re selling yourself short, literally. The ride down is less than half the distance of the bigger loop, and you lose too much elevation too quickly.

The one drawback to following the ridge to the North Fork Entiat Trail (No. 1437) is more climbing, and it’s ugly. The trail is almost impassable at some points — Jim and I did some rock-clearing on one stubbled section — and there’s a lot of pushing. We ran into a couple with two teenage girls on an overnighter backpack, and they confirmed there’d been a bit of rain the night before.

Once you finally reach the junction, though, you’ve got 8-plus miles of glorious downhill — along the babbling river, across gorgeous meadows, up and down over loopy swoopy risers. It was grand to do drops and jumps that weren’t man-made, and dodge obstacles that were not constructed by hand. By the time we got back to the trailhead, sprinkles were falling. More intrepid hikers were heading out for overnights; we thought of them the next morning when the skies opened up with pouring down rain. Our weekend of riding — we had Chikamin Ridge and Mad Lake and Klone Peak yet to do — was aborted. But after seven hours of magic in the Entiat, with flashbacks of grandiose peaks, ripping downhills and funny little meadow waddlers fresh in our minds, disappointment was something we could live with.

Tiger Mountain trail closed for year

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Tiger Mountain, Trail Access on September 9, 2009 at 7:07 am

They’re back logging again on Tiger Mountain, which this time means that the Northwest Timber Trail is closed for the year.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The logging was not supposed to start till after Oct. 15, the beginning of the trail’s seasonal closure (till April 15). But with the economy improving and price of lumber expected to rise, the timber folks wanted to roll early, so we’re shut down six weeks too soon.

Bummer.

On the bright side, the hope is that the early start will mean an early end, and NWTT will reopen on schedule April 15th. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

A more pressing concern is that the logging will just seriously trash the trail for years to come. We reported earlier how crews installed a culvert emptying right onto the trail. With acres of logging consuming the trail over this winter, we have little hope that the NWTT we’ve grown to know and love will survive in anything close to its former self.

It needs to be reasserted that yes, we understand, Tiger Mountain is a “working forest,” raising funds for the state’s schoolchildren. That part we don’t mind.

But with miles of trails unavailable to mountain bikers on Tiger, we renew our plea for authorities — when closing one trail to bikes — to open another.

Last week’s closure marks the fourth year in a row that a section of Tiger trail open to mountain bikers has been shut down, with no counterbalancing trail opened up.

Opening Tiger Mountain Trail, a barely used southern exposure hiking trail that is hands down more suitable to biking than hiking, would give mountain bikers a nice alternative while a significant chunk of biking trail is closed.

Bike Intelligencer also resoundingly supports efforts to build new bike trails on Tiger. We dream of the day when you can ride a full singletrack loop without ever touching fire road.

For more background, see the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance chronology.

Early Interbike Watch: Race Face, Cove Bikes, Watch26.tv

In Bicycling, Interbike 2009 on September 8, 2009 at 2:36 am
But first, son, we need to have a little talk...

But first, son, we need to have a little talk...

PinkBike: Cove Bikes spy shots of its 2010 line, basically tweaking the quiver. They’re all here, the STD, the Hummer, Sanchez, G-Spot, Handjob … all well and good, but Foreplay for an MX bike? Aren’t the gromz kinda young? Well I guess that’s one way to start a conversation…

So, so ... SixC!

So, so ... SixC!

Race Face will be there with SixC, which if you pronounce it just right is a homonym (maybe just a pun), its new carbon process in lighter cranks and handlebars.

Deus crankset with gold granny for us world champs

Deus crankset with gold granny for us world champs

I run the Deus (not carbon) cranks on my Pivot Firebird and am real happy with them, especially the gold granny. RF’s machining is not only bombproof but dazzling to the eyes.

The fact Race Face is offering the 6C with a double-ring and bashguard setup indicates it’s spec’d for freeride. If so, that’s unusual and may even be a first for a freeride crankset (I can’t think of another off the top of my head).

The bars look sweet as well.

One we’ll be checking out at Interbike.

More, including photos, at PinkBike…

One to, um, watch for: Watch26.tv, a new Web platform specializing in mountain bike videos.

They’re aiming high: Video profiles of mtb stars, users creating their own accounts, YouTube style, and uploading their own modest efforts (watch for a lot of helmet cam clips of someone’s backside and a long trail, mixed in with 5-second point-and-shoot hucks and jumps), full-length movies and travelogues.

The concept holds some appeal. As it stands, there’s great mountain biking video everywhere, sprawled all over the Web, where you have to go hunting and pecking and sorting the good stuff. PinkBike often has the latest downhill racing vids, but sometimes it’s Mountain Bike Action. YouTube has tons of stuff, but Vimeo’s higher res appeals to more professional (read “with a budget”) production.

If it were all under one umbrella, it would save a lot of clicking. Watch26.tv will have to offer something better in terms of convenience or features or quality to lure posters from the usual suspects.

I’ve sampled Watch26.tv on a variety of computers. It tends to load slowly, but once up and running it offers dazzling image quality. HD quality in a fairly good-sized window. Your mileage may vary with your Internet access speed.

So far, though, not a lot of content. Searches on Moab and Galbraith turned up zip, Whistler just one hit. It’s a lot of commercial filler — trailers, teasers, etc. — and although it looks good, it’s not going to sustain the site. We’ll keep an eye on it and report back (Although it attended Eurobike, Watch26.tv is not listed among Interbike vendors. We’ll see if they cover the Big Show.)

Daily Roundup: Cleaning up after the long weekend

In Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking, Rider Down, Videos on September 8, 2009 at 2:22 am

PinkBike has video of the Worlds, including Brit legend Steve Peat’s long-awaited triumph. Peaty may be the only guy I’ve seen on a podium drinking more champagne than he sprayed, but to those who know and love the guy, they’d expect nothing less.

If you want to know why Peaty was so emotional after his victory, and what winning the striped jersey means to him, check out Clay Porter’s “The Tipping Point,” one of this year’s best mountain biking DVDs (included in our “Revolve” review). It will give you a heartwarming portrait of a guy everyone on tour considers one of the nicest, most generous and keep-it-real athletes they’ve ever encountered, or that any sport has had the good fortune to support.

Is Alberto Contador engaged in a sit-down strike? He hasn’t raced since his spat with Team Astana over 2010 (Bert said he wanted to ride elsewhere, Astana said they were holding him to his contract, which runs through next season), offering up pretty lame excuses. Methinks he’s slackin’ to avoid injury or lower-than-expected results that might reduce his market value (four teams are in the bidding so far).

Pez adds to the speculation:

“Now speaking of Contador and his fatigue – well it seems that he is so fatigued for a very good reason – every team seems to be throwing money at him and we all know how that can be fatiguing, right?? All that counting of money, deciding which mansion to buy and what colour Ferrari etc, that’s always tiring!”

NPR: More on Toronto road rage against cyclists. Not much clue as to why. It can’t be Canadian — I’ve ridden for years in Vancouver, Whistler and other B.C. metros with nothing but courteous treatment, far better than in the U.S. There must be some particular factor at work in Ontario…

Mark yer calendars: Saturday Oct. 3 is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day…and that includes all you roadies!

Hope everyone had a great summer, August, and Labor Day weekend. Now strap on the backpack and clip into the pedals, cuz September is always the year’s Wringer Month!

Communing with the Whistling Pigs: Interlude in Entiat

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking, Today's Ride, Videos on September 7, 2009 at 7:52 am

Before the weekend’s rains hit, Jim Lyon and I took a day to do some classic high-country mountain biking, the kind everyone did before Whistler, North Shore and Galby changed the mountain-bike scene. We must have run across a dozen marmots (whistling pigs) in the meadows, waddling languidly around and engaging in their high-pitched, eerie conversation. Seven thousand feet up the ridge, the peaks were majestic, the wildflowers were soothing, the meadows were contemplative and everything was oh so quiet. It was a different riding experience than you get at the parks, resulting in a different mountain biking video than you usually see. (For full screen mode, click on permalink.)

Peaty Wins Worlds! Evil’s Steve Smith 10th, Issaquah’s Luke Strobel 39th

In Bicycle Racing, Mountain Biking on September 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

Finally, after a nonpareil career where the only vacancy in the trophy case was the world championship, Steve Peat outclassed a stellar field to earn his first striped jersey. The powerful Brit led a brilliant top 5 — Greg Minnaar, Mic Hannah, Fabien Barel and Sam Hill — in Canberra, Australia, to take home the gold by a razor-thin .05 of a second.

Seattle-based Evil’s Steve Smith finished 10th and the pride of Issaquah, Luke Strobel, wound up a respectable 39th.

Full results here.

Jill Kintner takes silver at Worlds!

In Bicycle Racing, Mountain Biking on September 6, 2009 at 11:23 am

The good news at the World Championships is that Seattle’s Jill Kintner beat arch rival Melissa Buhl. The bad news is neither could keep up with the local, Ozzie Caroline Buchanan. Taking nothing away from Buchanan, this was a case of a good rider having the local-knowledge advantage and managing to leverage it when things counted most. Jill was the top qualifier and full of expectations for glory, but it just was not to be.

On her blog Jill sounds a bit disconsolate, admitting “I’m pretty flat right now.” But hey Jill, think of it this way: You beat every racer in the world except one. For us fans, we see the (literal) silver lining this way: Knowing how competitive Jill is, it means she’s gotta come back next year for the stripes. And that can only be good for us and the sport! More from Velo News.

More on hate crimes against cyclists

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes, Rider Down on September 5, 2009 at 11:28 am

In Portland, a hate crime against a cyclist: BikePortland.org is reporting additional details in the arrest for first-degree assault of Wayne Conrad Thompson, who viciously backed over Michael Luther, who was riding a bike. “he cyclist had been knocked out of his shoes and his helmet was a few feet from his head,” a bystander reported.

Our take continues to be that this kind of action represents a hate crime against cyclists. BikePortland follows up with a perspective on the Toronto incident we reported earlier.

BikingBis: Traffic fatalities dropped in 2008 — unless you happened to be on two wheels. Deaths rose 2.1 percent, and injuries spiked much more: 21 percent.

Not all of these involved hate against cyclists, of course. But many can be shown to reflect a second-class citizenship, akin to the bias and ignorance at the heart of racism, sexism, sexuality-based prejudice and other stereotyping, which fosters anti-cycling behavior and, in some tragic cases, incubates eventual extremism.

Until we address the unique psychological phenomenon that stigmatizes cyclists as “the other” in traffic as well as in traffic planning, the role of the bicycle in our culture will continue to be hazardous as well as marginalized.

Daily Roundup: Critical mass, protecting Kettle Crest for mountain bikes, Bicycle film fest

In Bicycle advocacy, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking, Trail Access on September 5, 2009 at 12:47 am
Trail-maintenance squadron at Kettle Crest

Trail-maintenance squadron at Kettle Crest

BikeHugger has video of the West Seattle Bridge Critical Mass, riding one of the busier elevated roadways in Seattle. Police escort helped prevent incidents.

Tim Banning reports on MTBR.com regarding the 2009 Kettle Crest Advocacy Fest, aimed at protecting a prime singletrack haven in eastern Washington from being turned into wilderness. Keep an eye on this one, it will be one the nation’s flashpoints for efforts to maintain bike access to spectacular remote scenic areas.

“The Kettle Crest trail system is rugged, vast and mountainous, where the quality of riding is only surpassed by the variety of sub-alpine ecosystems and epic sweeping views. It is a premier trail system in that it is a non-motorized area chock full of singletrack goodness set in an epic backcountry setting. Unfortunately, mountain bikers may lose the area because it is under review for possible Wilderness Designation, which would eliminate mountain bikes from trails the area.”

The Bicycle Film Festival hits Seattle on Friday and Saturday. Looks like it’s all roadie (there’s a BMX feature) but hey, it’s two wheels all the same, all the time.

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