Saturday, December 29, 2012

wonders of ne portland; random riding bits; cycling goals

It was cold and clouds threatened. Still neither of us wanted to spend the day just sitting around. So after errands, we went for a neighborhood ramble in the Fremont neighborhood of NE Portland, on the edge of Irvington. Houses here are older, mostly built between 1910 and 1940 or so, and most have generous front porches (something our poorly-remodeled house lacks) and sit fairly high above the street.

There was something cool around every corner. Today I noticed lots of things having to do with animals, including three or four artsy chicken coops from reclaimed materials (urban chickens are big here) and a couple of random bits that were worth photographing.

This fish head appeared to be made of heavy, closed-cell foam and stood nearly as tall as me. (The downspout gives you an idea of scale). Sweetie and I had no clue as to where it might have come from, or why; but it was easily the highlight of our lovely meander.

Tomorrow and Monday I am hoping to get in some good bike riding to end the year. Tomorrow will probably be the more ambitious of the two days, and I'm strongly considering a ride up to either Rocky Butte or Powell Butte in order to go someplace high and see far away before the calendar year closes out. Monday will probably be a more leisurely ride around the east side. In any event, I know I will crack the 2,300 mile mark this year. I had set a goal of breaking 2,500 but did not train or race enough to assure that. If I can get out both days I may approach 2,400.

I will submit a tally sheet (converted to kilometers) to C-KAP for the year. The way things are going for that organization, this may be the last year I submit anything to them. The guy who's been running the organization and doing all the record-keeping is in his seventies and has been unsuccessful in finding a successor; they also have picked up fewer than a dozen new members this year. Both are signs that C-KAP may have outlived its usefulness. I have earned all the incentives I can earn with C-KAP for the foreseeable future; my incentives nowadays are less tangible but no less satisfying. Still, keeping track of my mileage for personal reasons remains a good idea and I will continue to tally my miles here at home.

Assuming I stay in town all summer, I plan to race the full short-track series in 2013, likely the only racing I will do. There is the vaguest possibility that I may get hired to do a three-week teaching and music gig out of town in June. If that happens, my short-track season will consist of four weeks at most. As I have no other employment lined up for the summer I'd like to get this gig. However, the synagogue in question does not have any budget planned for this summer program and so it's unclear how they would be able to pay me the stipend and expenses I'd need for this trip to be worth my while. I am going to wait until February and then see where things stand. If nothing is clear by then I will assume that I'm spending the whole summer in Portland, and plan my race season accordingly. (I really only need two months of sure employment, as my 2013-14 teaching contract would actually begin in August -- High Holidays begin in early September and time will be needed for rehearsal and planning sessions).

Would I work in a bike shop again? Well, I can't say I'd ever work at Citybikes again -- the dynamics around my sudden departure all but assure that they won't ask me back, and certain conditions prevail there to assure that I won't bother to inquire. Would I work at another shop? Assuming there was a shop willing to hire someone with my somewhat arcane knowledge base -- I can overhaul three speed hubs but don't the first thing about shocks or disc brakes -- then sure, I'd do it for a couple of months on a fill-in basis. I do plan to drop off my resume at a few shops in the area and see what happens. It may be that my skillset is too arcane for a more modern shop, but I'll certainly apply anyway.

I admit that I am nervous about employment in 2013. There is no guarantee of anything with the synagogue past May, and I do not know what else I might be able to do. I may need to schedule some time with the job counselor at JFCS and see what else I can come up with. In the meantime, I am getting ready for my big trip to the Jewish music festival in February and hope that may open some doors for me.

All the best to my readers for great riding in 2013.

Monday, December 24, 2012

friends of slow ride, 12-24-12

friends of slow ride 12-24-12
Originally uploaded by periwinklekog

In anticipation of the vast amounts of food many members of Team Slow would eat on Christmas Eve, a ride was suggested for the morning (sort of like pre-emptive calorie-burning, though we all know it doesn't really work that way).
Several teammates were in, but none offered a route. So I finally suggested the tried-and-true Smith & Bybee Lakes route, with a stop at Kelley Point Park to check out the Convergence (where the Willamette and Columbia Rivers meet up).

This morning, we met at AJ Cafe (corner of N. Albina and Rosa Parks), fueled up and headed out. While I was happy to see three teammates, I was also glad to meet a bunch of new riders I didn't know, all friends and/or sweeties of my teammates. Word had gotten around and we had at least ten people (maybe more but I never did bother to count) at the start.

It was a perfect day for a winter bike ride. 36F when I left the house around 9:15, and as we rode the loop it warmed up to around 43F, with the sun breaking through the fast-moving clouds and warming our backs. Still, I was glad for the wool knickers and the embrocation on my legs as it was pretty darned cold out.

We stopped to enjoy the view at the Convergence, where southbound Canadian geese could be seen flying overhead; and again for coffee in downtown St. Johns (I was so thankful that Anna's was open -- some places were closed today and I had worried that Starbucks would be our only option).

I wound up staying with a few folks for almost an hour, talking and eating (if you stop in at Anna's for coffee, try the Turkey-avocado-whole wheat sandwich -- heavenly). I had eaten a pretty small breakfast so by the time we got to Anna's I was feeling ravenous. The half-sandwich, coffee and rice krispy trteat did the trick, and gave me enough energy to ride briskly home. My legs felt great, and I enjoyed the feeling of the cold air on my cheeks; but when I got home I was ready for a hot shower and something warm to drink.

More photos of the ride can be found here:
(scroll to the end of the set to find them)

As I type this, nearly two hours after arriving home, there are still patches of blue sky outside but they are being swallowed by clouds; more rain is due tonight and tomorrow it will look as though the sun never came out. A lucky dry day, and a lovely ride! Total 24.1 miles.

If you are celebrating Christmas, have a joyous time!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

tried and liked/didn't like in 2012 -- part two: activities/ride

The truth was that I didn't really do much riding that was goal-oriented in 2012. With the career transition taking several months and ending as strangely as it did, I really wasn't thinking much about racing at all. That said, I did enjoy a few bike-rlated activities this year:

1. I raced a whopping three times this summer, the final three races in the Portland Short-Track Series ( in July. While I was terribly out-of-shape and finished dead last every time, I enjoyed myself and the camaraderie of my teammates, and if my scheduled allows I do plan to race at least a little in summer 2013.

2. Commuting was largely uneventful this year. I admit that I am slightly surprised to have logged as many miles as I have -- I'm on pace to crack 2,300 miles and possibly a little more in the remaining 2 1/2 weeks of the year -- because I did opt to go multi-modal (combination of bike and transit) quite a lot. I also got less and less excited about cargo-biking as the days turned colder and wetter this fall. I do find the Surly useful for hauling my guitar, but I find that I don't enjoy managing the balance of a loaded cargo bike as much and I am thinking quite a lot about selling the Surly and going back to towing a trailer. I have dealt with fatigue from poor sleep cycles (most likely related to stress about the career transition) and simply haven't felt like riding as far this year.

3. Recreational (non-racing) riding was spotty but enjoyable. I enjoyed a few longer (20-plus mile) rides during the spring and summer, and my most recent ride exceeding that distance was a pleasant one with friends on Thanksgiving morning. I am learning that I tnd to be in slightly better voice when I don't try to ride every day in cold, wet weather. Since I now make some of my living by singing three times a week, I've had to choose to ride less. I try to make up for it in weeks when there is no school, so I expect to try and squeeze in some longer rides during winter break next week.

While it's important to never say never, I expect that rides in excess of around 40 miles are going to rarer and rarer as time goes by. I take too long to recover from populaires to feel seriously tempted to try anymore anytime soon; and certainly I need to pace my cold-weather rides to protect my voice.

My "Old Faithful" loop (Smith & Bybee Lakes, Kelley Point Park) was a godsend this year, as I made sure to ride it at least once in each of the seasons and enjoy the changes in color and waterfowl activity. I also enjoyed a couple of trips out to east county along the Springwater Corridor in the spring and summer. Most of my longer rides this year were along old, familiar routes but the riding was no less enjoyable for it.

4. Extra-curricular riding: The Coffeeneuring Challenge. This fall, pal Michael turned me onto a series that has grown in popularity among the rando crowd: Coffeeneuring.
(Details can be found here:
I entered the friendly, easygoing contest mostly as an excuse to get out on my bike as the weather turned colder and wetter. The coffee was a nice extra perk (sorry for the pun), and in the end I was successful, qualifying the minimum number of rides in the 6 weeks window of time.


For my efforts, I will receive a couple of small, cute commemorative prices: Those who made Honorable Mention will receive the small button at top. Those who completed the Challenge will receive the larger button at bottom, plus the adorable pewter coffee cup pin. It's a fun, silly little thing; but it got me out on my bike more so it achieved a good result in the end. Plus, I now know another bicycle enthusiast in the DC area. Good all around.

May your rides in 2013 be safe and fun!

Monday, December 10, 2012

tried and liked/didn't like, 2012 edition -- part one: products

The longer I've been in the bicycle industry, the shorter this list has become.

When you're new to the industry, the shop discount and pro deals are like having keys to the candy store, and you tend to go a little crazy. After nearly 18 years in the industry before finally retiring from it, I can tell you that the lustre wore off some time ago. I simply don't buy as much stuff these days; and everything I use regularly has had to earn its place in my stash of gear.

Category One: products

1. Rivendell ShinShields ( -- These, like last year's Rivendell Splats (, were affordable enough for me to take a chance on in spite of their goofy look. When they arrived,  had to wait for a reasonably rainy day to give them a true test. In order to simulate the conditions suggested by Rivendell's stock photos I used them with the Splats and a J & G Cyclewear rain cape (

--They work pretty well at keeping your lower legs dry in a normal rainfall.
--They look goofy -- supremely goofy, even goofier than the Splats.
--When used with the Splats there can be a gap at the ankle that lets water in. This may be more the Splats' fault but it's there, and occasionally annoying.
--It's another piece of apparel to figure out how to live with efficiently as a commuter -- instead of rainpants and a jacket, I would have to pack and stow Splats, Shinshields and Rainlegs (which I use often on merely drizzly days -- with a rain jacket -- or skip the Rainlegs and jacket and use the cape.
--The clincher was that, on my skinny legs, they barely fit. I was able to cinch them sungly enough with only about 1/4" to 1/2" of useful velcro overlap around my fully-clothed legs. That pretty much killed it for me, and since then they've been relegated to the bottom of the gear bag. I will probably sell them to someone with bigger, more muscular legs.
Bottom line: Maybe useful for others, but not so much for me. I'll sell them to someone else.

2. PDW Radbot 1000 taillight (™-1000). When building up the Sekai as a rough-stuff town/touring/rando bike, I wanted a bright taillight that would be visible from very far away, and that offered a blinky option other than the typical "radpifire seizure-inducing speed" found on nearly every rear taillight today. It also had to fit on the seat stay because I wouldn't be using a full rear rack on this bike.

--A large and truly useful red reflector panel for daytime use.
--A very bright LED light that can be seen from several blocks away.
--Blinky options that include not only "rapidfire" but also a much slower, fade-in-and-out mode that is far less annoying to drivers and cyclists behind me -- and therefore less dangerous. (Tons of newer studies are showing that rapidly blinking taillights actually cause vehicle operators behind to fixate on the blinking light -- to the distraction of all else on the road.)
--The PDW Radbot, made in the same factory is the Planet Bike lights, fits on the same brackets -- which made swapping in the Radbot for my old Planet Bike Superflash very easy. It can also be mounted on a rear rack using the additional brcket supplied (again, identical to the Planet Bike bracket so if you've already got this on your rear rack, just swap lights).
--The Radbot is a bit bigger than the Super flash, but still fits on the seatstay with sufficient clearance of the rear wheel. (In the USA, mount it on the left seatstay.)
--It takes AAA-sized batteries, which come in rechargeable models. (Yay!)
--Good waterproofing gasket around all sides of the light.
--None that I can see, but I've only been using this light for a couple of months.
Bottom line: For anyone who prefers a battery-powered light, this one is a solid win all around.

NOTE: There is a fender-mounted version of the Radbot (™) that is not exactly the same. I will probably try one in 2013 so come back for a review next December.

3. Carradice Bike Bureau ( This is not a new product by any means -- Carradice has been making it for years and Citybikes (my former shop and still the only place on the US West coast where you can buy Carradice) has offered it almost from the start -- when Carradice has actually filled orders for it. When the cosmic arm of the universe began nudging me towards shrinking my role at Citybikes and I began preparing for a more loaded teaching schedule, I realized I'd need a larger pannier to carry binders and textbooks in. The shop had a couple of these in stock and I used my sizable shop credit and worker discount to buy one.

--Waxed cotton fabric is typical Carradice, heavy in weight and very tough.
--The attachment hardware is easy to install and can easily be adjusted to fit your specific rack.
--The bag mounts at an angle on the rack to help the rider avoid heel strike.
--It comes with a padded fabric laptop sleeve that is removable.
--It is huge. My single Bureau holds two oversized metal binders and several smaller textbooks (when the laptop sleeve is removed). In fact, it's big enough that if you're temped to overstuff it, you'd be better off using another (smaller) pannier on the other side to help balance the load.
--The shoulder strap is very strong and wide, and snaps on and off easily.
--There is a secondary flap that can cover the mounting hardware when you carry the bag on your shoulder (making it more comfortable to use as a briefcase), and under which the should strap can be stowed while riding. Velcro holds it in place in either position.
--The leather straps of the flap utilize both traditional metal buckles for length adjustment, and plastic cam-buckles for quick opening and closing; the plastic is lightweight and cheap and the system is needlessly redundant. At some point I will probably customize the straps to do away with the plastic buckles and just use the metal ones.
--The laptop sleeve ismade of a lighter weight material, not waterproof and would not stand alone well in Oregon's rainy climate. If utilized it takes up a lot of room in the bag and neccessitates the need for a second pannier. As I anticipate a laptop purchase in the coming months, I will use the Bike Bureau on the left and one of my older Kendal Panniers ( on the right to help balance the load.
--The bag offers no internal organizer/divider pockets. This is a relatively minor quibble, but one that required me to buy a small pouch to carry pencils, pens and small items inside the bag.
--The plastic reinforcement panel and feet on the bottom of the bag are flimsy; three months after purchase one of the feet has already broken off and there is a small crack forming in the panel. I figure that when the entire panel wears out I'll probably just remove it.
--They are hard to find in the USA. Carradice is notorious for filling only some or none of a shop's inventory orders, and that's espcially true with the larger bags. When you have five guys sharing four sewing machines in a picturesque British town, production tends to be smaller and slower. (Anyone considering bringing Carradice into their shop as a product line, you've been warned.)
Bottom line: in spite of all my nitpicking, this is a great office pannier, and I am glad I purchased one.

4. Giro Reverb helmet ( I bought one of these early last spring when my old helmet finally crapped out (helmets do wear out with daily use and they need to be checked regularly -- replace when the styrofoam liner begins to show lots of dents and/or small cracks, and/or if your helmet is more than five or six years old).

--Very light weight; one of the lightest commuter helmets I've tried.
--The simple design purposely hearkens back to Giro's "Hammerhead" helmets of the 1990's with it's simple, bold color schemes and clean lines.
--Easy to customize fit -- each size comes with an adjustable band that offers three different options within a size range. Helmets come in S, M, L and XL sizes.
--Cotton visor snaps in or out easily; I prefer to wear a cotton cycling cap under my helmet so I removed mine in seconds.
--Refreshingly different from the typical, racer-emulating "angry insect" look prevalent in bike helmets today.
--In a recent test by Consumer Reports, the Reverb received lackluster scores ( While not an abysmal "failure" (that was reserved for models from the hipper and more expensive Bern and Nutcase helmets), it placed lowest on the list of helmets that were considered "safe". Because I know that testing conditions seldom, if ever, reflect real-life conditions -- you can't really test helmets on living people without risking death, after all -- I take such result with a grain of salt.
Bottom line: For $60 retail, it's not a bad helmet. Discounted pricing and seasonal sales (as low as $40 retail in some places) can make it a good deal.

Category Two, tomorrow: Bicycle Activities