Monday, April 29, 2013

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

The shoulder season between Winter and May in Alaska, is known as Break Up, and can be a difficult time of year for cyclists and lovers alike.  The double-endendre of Break-Up brings destruction of the ice slabs that have covered the city since October, and also the demise of several seasonal romances.  A right of passage  in the Alaskan dating game, Break-Up is the lynchpin of the cyclical nature to many Alaskan relationships; Partners who have been warm company for one-another through the long winter, part ways as the temperatures warm.

The sun returns, snow melts, ice slabs crumble, hearts are broken.
As the ice melts the urban landscape morphs in to streams and ponds of road grime, sand, silt, oil, and decomposed dog feces, making the daily commute by bike and riding around town less than pleasurable.
Full fenders, knee high rubber boots and studded tires become necessity.

Perfect time of year to escape the urban slop, for some real Alaskan riding.

Luckily just a short drive to the south,  the still snow-covered Chugach Range is in the midst of a short lived freeze-thaw cycle; leaving the back country playground of Turnagain Pass a rock hard wasteland. Terrain is rendered worthless to skiers for most of the day, but perfect for fat bike "crust" riding.

Get out of town.

Dawn Patrol. 

Riding the boilerplate snow crust opens up a virtual moon-scape of flowing rolling jumps and berms.
Surveying the playground. 

Conditions were variable, hard-fast crust, to soft powder in an instant:  exercise caution.

New carbon fork from Carver with a longer axle to crown slacked out the Moonlander geometry for confidence inspiring handing handling at high speeds when combined with the kung-fu traction of Bud and Lou.
The bumpy descents with a carbon steer tube tested my faith in the carbon gods. 

 We made a likely first descent (for bikes) of the south-west face of Tin Can after a grueling hike-a-bike.
Don't count on being able to stop on a slope of crusty snow that razor sharp ski edges would have trouble navigating. 
 Read fall line, have a clean run-out, counter steer into the drift, feather the brakes, don't high side, when in doubt point it.

Brakes were smelly and steamy by the end of this pitch.  


wishing there were more cold hours in the day, as the sun crept higher in the sky, the snow began to soften. 

By far the most fun I have had on a fat bike.  EVER.
The small window of time that conditions are set up like this, makes the experience that much sweeter, like unicorn meat. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spenarctic Man 2013

Arctic Man is a unique and very Alaskan ski/snowmachine race of 2 person teams begining with a downhill ski race that then involves the skier being towed by a snowmachine at speeds upwards of 80 mph, it is the ultimate "test of the strength of an athlete and the horsepower of a snowmobile."

Spenard is an area of Anchorage that recently earned the city its spot in the list of Travel and Leisure's "best cities for hipsters" , what-ever that means, due to the high concentration of bars, music venues, thrift stores, bike shops, boutiques, and eateries focused on local/ organic cuisine.   Nothing is more "hip" than having fun, being creative, and re-envisioning a highly publicized   corporate sponsored event into a DIY homegrown bike race/costume party/drinking event/ art party/ mobile dance party; hence Spenarctic Man.  Another similar spin-off of Arctic Man is the Turkey Man race, held the day after Thanksgiving by our friend Nate aka Bike Wrider.

The only rule with Spenarctic Man is that there are no rules, but riders typical team up in pairs, some with a unifying costume theme, and bike powered fun ensues.  Good times were had by all.

Tall-Bike Steam Punk
Chariot of Boom; Mobile sound system powered by marine deep cycle battery

None shall pass.


The Mixty Xtracycle easily handled the weight of 2 cases of PBR and my Pretty kitty passenger. 

First check-point.

Pie jousting. 

Boy Scout Gimp; so wrong.

Dino Love.


Flame on. 

..and no this had nothing to do with 4-20. as many gawkers asked.

DIY cardboard and duct-tape koozies.

To the bike nerds: that is a Raleigh XXIX clearing 29x3.0 Surly Knards 
Rode like a BMX on steroids. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A game of compromises

Finally making some progress on the Travelers Check build and in the process coming to several realizations.
At 43 cm, this frame is cartoonishly small.
A short wheelbase, (989.9 mm/39 in.) will make for a nimble steed, but with the caveat of massive toe overlap.  Only 300 mm between 700x40c tires at their closest point. 
Even with it's diminutive dimensions,  during initial fitting, the frame's top tube reach and stand over are already looking to be borderline large for the bike's intended pilot (5' 3" with 29" inseam).
With the routes of the upcoming tour focused on back-country travel and technical single track, comes the necessity of shoehorning the fattest possible rubber into the frame-set  which will only exacerbate the above described issues.
Smaller tires will help to lower stand over height, slightly decrease toe overlap, and increase efficiency on the smoother tracks, all while sacrificing off-road capability, versatility,  traction, and ride comfort that large volume tires offer. 
We had originally conceived the Travelers Check to take the form of a monster-cross dirt-pounding all-terrain touring machine, but I was being forced to envision a new approach to the build. The needs are to maximize off-road capabilities of the bike by lowering stand over, decreasing toe overlap, while maximizing tire volume for comfort, control, and traction.
  The answer to this quandary lies in the niche of the 650b wheel size.
Long heralded by retro-grouches, randonneur aficionados, custom frame builders, and forward thinking designers like Kirk Pacenti, the 650b (or 27.5 as some are calling it) wheel size is positioned snugly between the 26" and 700c/29er wheel.

Pick up any mountain bike magazine right now and you can read all about how 650b/27.5 wheels and tires are the greatest thing since sliced bread, which in many accounts I tend to agree.
Back to the question at hand regarding the Travelers Check;  Successfully converting the frame-set will require hacking off and rewelding the brake bosses to achieve proper brake allignment with the decrease in wheel circumference from 700c to 650b, no small undertaking from a financial and logistical perspective.
26 vs 650b vs 29

Friday, April 12, 2013

AK Experience

My mother came from Colorado to visit Anchorage for the week of Fur Rondy and the start of the Iditarod dogsled race in March.  Seeing the Iditarod has been a life-long dream of hers so I wanted to show her a good time, which in my book means fat bikes, cold weather, and good food.  

She hasn't ridden a bike in over 10 years; fortunately riding a bike really is "like riding a bike."

Snow biking proved the perfectly suited to her level fitness, comfort, and sense of terror at traveling over 5 mph.  Interestingly and somewhat ironically, she experienced and overcame the same hardships that professional blogger "DL" wined about in his heavily derided article on fat bikes.

Yes, fat bikes are slow, have somewhat cumbersome steering characteristics (compared road or mountain bikes) and yes you will sink into the powder if you go off the packed single-track, but they will also go where most people only dare to ski or snowshoe.  Spending time on a fat bike will surely put a smile on your face and bring a unique sense of self satisfaction when grinding along at 2 mph through churned up snow while successfully navigating a 6" wide track on 4" tires.  
The Anchorage bowl area offers miles of great trails.

No Alaska trip is complete without coming face-to-face with local wild-life, thankfully the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is just an hour south of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm and offers patrons up close encounters with brown bears, musk-ox, bison, caribou, lynx, and many other members of Alaskan wildlife, supports an important ecological cause, and is far less depressing than a typical zoo.

Beholding the beauty and natural wonder of these magnificent animals, then visiting an auction that celebrates and profits from the death and harvesting of animal furs was a true taste of the Alaskan frontier spirit. 

Anchorage is thug-life: on the way to ride Powerline Pass trail:  I can only assume this car was driven by drug runners, involved in a high speed chase and shoot out, ending with the car lit on fire to cover the evidence.  

Denali:The Great One

Downtown Anchorage, Iditarod Ceremonial Start

This guy takes better photos than you.

 King Crab

Giving cookies to the mushers, official start.

More food!

Snow Sculpture competition.

Y'all come now back real soon Y'hear?!