Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Where Are You Go

Following a wonderful week of complete internet “Blackout” I found myself eager to return to modern times. There is something liberating about not being able to check your email/facebook/web news pages 5 times a day—but the thought of missing all that was familiar proved to be too much. I suppose it is like being away on an extensive travel adventure and loving every moment, but nearing the end you long for home only because you know the return ticket is in your hand and burritos and pizza await you.

Upon my return to the interwebs, I came across an inspirational preview for a different kind of bike race. One that adheres to the Woody Allen-esque quote of “ 90% of life is just showing up.” Much praise and thanks must go out to my good friend Shawn, who brought my attention to the documentary by way of his fantastic web site onehundrethmonkey

The film is in limited release at the moment (l i n k), but hopefully will catch on and gain more popularity. Based on what I have seen from looking at the remarkable still photos and beautiful video—it’s a winner. Any race on a bike down the length of the African continent deserves reverence and admiration.

With so many New Year’s resolutions floating whimsically at the top of most people’s thoughts, imagine seeing on your list, “Complete bike race down the length of Africa” next to “exercise more” or “be healthier.”

Little Red Headless Tricycle

I keep seeing this sad little tricycle around town and wonder what it means? My first reaction was sadness, like empathy for the poor kid who had his tricycle handlebars ripped off.

Is it a metaphor for an artist's childhood, short and incomplete, like someone ripped the innocence right off with the stringers in the handlebars? Hopefully the little RADIO FLYER will one day, ride again.

The second thought seeing this little guy is recalling the "Roller Racers" from my childhood. Damn those were fun. The photo is of the blue seat, but I vividly remember the red "hot" seat with the yellow handlebars.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


There was a time when we had a connection with the people who crafted our goods and tended to our needs. Through the decades, our relationship with craft and care has eroded to a point where most of us have no idea how things are made, fixed, forged or cared for. This disconnect has enabled the wool to be thrown over our eyes. Our collective ignorance and naive expectations have allowed sub-standard products and services to dominate our choices—to the point that we bought the idea that if something is Goliath-like and “too big” that it will never “fail.”

Perhaps we should not review the past decade, but several decades past. Re-direct our scorn and disdain of the modern financial institutions that “failed” us and focus on the few remaining people that truly create and repair things in this country. Things that we rely on to get us to work, haul the groceries and guide us home. We don’t need to wait a few years to cast a ballot for change. The loudest vote is also the one we unwittingly submit multiple times a day: Vote with your dollar! Support local, quality, hand made goods that will last a lifetime and support your community.

The best local craftswoman I know is Jude Kirstein. She is young, smart, talented, wickedly funny and driven by a passion for riding and understanding the mechanical nature of bicycles. She followed her passion and interest by completing a course with UBI (United Bicycle Institute) as a certified bicycle technician, then went back for more specialized instruction later. Jude continued carving out her path by starting up her own custom wheel building business, EPIC Wheel Works. When she is not busy teaching at UBI, she is working with clients who want quality, classic, custom wheels that will stand up to anything and are "...guaranteed to rock your world."

After talking with Jude and viewing her operation first hand, I was convinced my next set of wheels will be custom. Jude shared a few stories from her work journal, entries that ranged from the original notes she took with the clients on day one up to the final tension measurements with the finished product. One client returned from a 3,000 mile touring trip using her wheels for a tune up and the spoke tension was still dead on. Herein lies the beauty of the custom bike wheel. There is a written history with it, a person who recalls its inception and knows the exact measurements on it.

She displays her UBI certificate on the wall, not so much out of pride but as justification to others--skeptical men who wonder what this young woman really knows about wheels. Even though she teaches at the institute now, she says, "A lot of men still pull tools out of your hands."
Her only window in the workshop doubles as a message board--parts orders, reminders, messages and lists. Resting on her work table are five glass jars of soil she collected from bike trips across the world. Jude may be starting off small, but is making a big impact in this community. Her dedication, hard work and determination is beginning to pay off. People like Jude deserve our respect and support. She is in every sense, a true craftswoman putting her heart and soul into her work.


From now on, holiday shopping for me will be done exclusively on a bike. Driving in any major downtown area near Christmas is insanity. It is certainly more challenging to the bike rider too--with drivers increasingly impatient and distracted.There is a dual benefit of having my panniers limit those big ticket items so not only do you save on parking a car downtown, but you have an excuse not to buy the lawn mower (unless they throw in a free CD with it too!). Weaving between and passing long lines of cars who are all stuck because one person wants to wait for a parking space brings a deep sense of satisfaction.

While locking my bike up outside of Powells City of Books in Portland, I stumbled across a little treat. Knittags. This particular one was like a tea cozy for the bike lock bar. I was a bit confused as to how it was attached until I looked underneath to see the secondary stitching. Curious about this little urban art piece I sought more info: http://pdxstump.com/directory/graffiti/knitting/tag. Its a brilliant little project that hopefully gets some more traction. Why not bring some more beauty and creativity into our normally mundane objects. It certainly brought a smile to my face and made me want to lock my bike up there and not on some boring, naked steel frame.
Have a happy and safe holiday everyone! Cheers!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get out there

Certain images are worth more than a thousand words. In this particular case, its worth a few thousand miles. No matter what you ride, no matter what the weather is like, no matter how tired you are, get out there on your bike and watch the smile get bigger and bigger!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It comes as no surprise that the world's leaders have gathered en masse in Denmark, accomplished nothing but drive up limmo & private jet traffic by 300%. Truth be told, one thing has impressed me about the climate summit. And it has nothing to do with world "leaders".

Some very smart people at MIT have attempted to re-invent the wheel. They chose the climate summit to debut their invention. It could be the next piece of sliced bread, or the next Segway scooter.

See for yourself:



Only after the wicked cold came the rain. I regret to inform that I have not been riding much as of late. A few short runs like the foot freezing trip downtown for some shopping and holiday revelry--but for the most part riding life has been static. The the reasons why I have not been riding so much have inspired me for this particular post.

I have been working hard on an old craftsman home here in Portland. My brother in law and I are currently doing the plumbing work. All of it. Digging a trench in a crawl space 2 feet high, cutting into a 4 inch, 90 year-old cast iron sewer pipe, re-routing the plumbing, accommodating new plumbing and retro fitting it to the old stuff, knocking down walls. . .it has been challenging, frustrating, highly educational, rewarding and fun.

Just about the time work really started getting intense on this project, I stumbled across a fantastic TED talk about the negative portrayal of hard work in this country and the "war on work" that the media wages (commercials about a shorter work week, early retirement, getting home a little earlier . . ). If anyone enjoys a project, working with your hands, having moments of discovery and insight in the middle of your project, be it building a bike wheel, gardening or creating something, you need to watch this lecture: ( l i n k )

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ode to Down

It has remained unseasonably (unreasonably) cold here in Portland. The mercury has dipped down to 12 degrees F for the third consecutive morning--a new record. It has not broken 30 degrees in over a week. I had the misfortune to be working outside all day only to find my cup of coffee had frozen solid.

I don't think I would have made it without the help of my trusty down vest. Oh the down vest, how I love you so! This weather has given me a whole new level of appreciation for the fluffy goose feathers. Winter riding also requires seriously warm gloves and a cozy scarf--can't stress those two items enough it seems. Compared to riders in other parts of the country, I feel like a wuss. Fellow blogger Maggie is WAY more dedicated and has to face much more adverse conditions in Colorado: ( l i n k ) Once you are up to speed on the bike, the wind makes your face feel like a bag of frozen peas. The loyal Portland bike commuters have not been fazed by these abnormal conditions. Check out the link to the dedicated masses who are braving the cold conditions: ( l i n k ).

It is strangely encouraging to see many people who are braving these conditions on a daily basis. It is this kind of devotion, endurance and willingness to get out there and ride that inspires others, rain or shine, warm or cold.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


It is remarkably dry here in Portland. This time of year, it should be raining every day--according to the locals. Accompanied by the unusually dry weather is a bitter cold (lows in the teens). This kind of weather warrants some serious warm clothing. Gloves and a scarf are the two key essentials. Once comfortably equipped, all that remains is the decision of where to go. The city offers a bounty of options for scenic rides--especially those along the river. There is something charming about riding through the crisp air with a river on one side.

Personally I don't mind the cold, so long as its dry. One good hill climb on a bike in cold riding conditions becomes the great heat equalizer. Aside from leisure rides, errands are becoming more commonplace too.

The dry weather enabled a rather fun trip to the post office. Fun and post office are not usually synonymous. The appropriately named "Haul" carried my trusty box with ease. Aside from the primary task, the pannier racks proved quite handy for attaching bungee cords that keep stuff really secure ( I highly recommend the rubber bungees sold at the dollar stores). With the box secure I set out. The journey is usually a short one, but something about a box on an elegant bike garnered a lot of attention. "No it's not a custom bike" and, "you can buy it like this right off the showroom floor" were the two standard answers that were dealt out with every encounter. People can't help seeing the cargo strapped to the rear and smile as I ride past or lock it up. The conversations continued in the line at the post office, with all sorts of different people looking at the bike and commenting. The immediate upside of this is that you easily burn time in the long line. Upon reflection, its also a great way to be a bike advocate to those who perhaps don't usually ride.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It is hard to find the silver lining in things like a massive global recession. One benefit (much to Walmart and China's chagrin) is that many people are no longer buying cheap plastic crap. As a collective whole, we used to fork over the cash without even thinking about it. More and more now I see people inspecting the merchandise, seeing how it is made, asking if it will stand up to the test of time. A $3.00 flashlight may not be such a good deal after all. This new perspective shift can also be applied to items we already own.

After so many years of riding, I have collected a lot of bike parts and paraphernalia. Brake cables, shifters, bottle cages and lights. Lots of lights. Some are better than others and no two seem to be alike when it comes to batteries and mountings. I finally bunched them all together and threw them in a bag. The problem is when a perfectly good light is rendered useless when the cheap plastic clip breaks. If it still works, you can easily customize it and make it even better! There is nothing that can't be improved upon.

My little red blinky needed a second chance. The plastic clip already proved its self cheap and ineffective. So I looked to other materials. All that was required for this task were; eye screws, tiny nuts & bolts, alligator clips and super glue. The inside of the light housing has extra room for the screws to stick into. Just super glue the threads to the plastic to ensure a good solid grip and then bolt on your alligator clips.

The beauty of this design is the light can mount to anywhere! The shoulder strap of your bike bag, the bottom of your collar behind your neck, the bottom of your jacket (near the tailbone), rotate the clips to light up your broadside.

It behooves us all to take a second look at our old, broken or unused possessions and ask if a little D.I.Y. can perhaps remedy the situation. Who knows, you just might have fun doing it!