Monday, January 28, 2013

Snow Ride

Hommage to Geoff

I was trying to channel my friend Geoff this morning as he began riding the Arrowhead Ultra, a 135 mile fatbike race + ultra-marathon from International Falls to Lake Vermillion in northern Minnesota. Lots of deep snow, cold temps and crazy folks. 

I was starting my morning commute from Minneapolis to St. Paul at about the same time (ok, probably a couple hours after he started), on freshly fallen snow and unplowed trails and roads for much of the way. I had a total blast, and for about the first mile could picture myself riding the ultra with him next year, until reality hit and I was just pooped out after a couple of miles. I could barely do 10 miles in two inches of snow.

So this whole post goes out to you, Geoff Archibald. You are more of a man than I, and I hope you survive the night. You better send pictures that I can post for my one adoring fan to see. It would sure beat the pathetic photos of my little  Raleigh packed with snow.

It’s almost 11pm as I write this, and Geoff is still riding while it continues to snow up there. His wife posted a status update that he would keep going in order to finish before it becomes a full blown winter storm (which I understand is in the forecast). Good luck!

I keep reading this as "Biking in Minnesota" and I see a cyclist in the logo.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter Bike

I stopped in to REI recently for some winter gear and a friendly gal at the checkout told me to embrace the ice and snow, it is Minnesota after all. Thanks, Rachel, I've been trying to get out. It is -9 Ferinheight now, and might get up to -4 today. Since I always have the holiday off, my wife and I have made a tradition of honoring MLK with a cross country ski outing. It is usually below zero, with the woods so still that all you hear is your breath and the snow squeaking beneath you as you glide through it.

I have been trying to keep pedaling though, and have been able to get some in most days of the week, in some form or another. When conditions got too sloppy to feel comfortable on my road bike, I dug out the old Raleigh EX mountain bike (circa 1993) out of the garage. I "inherited" it form my older brother when I needed a bike during college and he was living out of state.

It served me well and is old and ugly enough to remain with me after spending lots of time on a busy urban campus where bike theft abounds. I have promised to give it back to my brother, to whom it still holds a lot of sentimental value because he rode it every day for two years as a Mormon missionary. So I have to take care of it.

Still, it is essentially a fixed gear bike because I haven't had the time to spend on cable replacement and tune up, and the shifters are so putsy that it is not worth it to change gears. I also have put tires on to handle in the snow that are so fat they rub the front derailleur when on the inner gear.

I've been wanting to take it out in more snow, and have been itching to ride on the new light-rail tracks running from Minneapolis to Saint Paul that are not yet in use. I had my chance the other day after a fresh snowfall to do just that, for a stretch anyway , and it was a lot of fun.

My other winter bike this year has been at the YMCA in Saint Paul. One that Lance Armstrong would be proud of PEDs sold separately). I miss the wind in my face on those days that it is my only source of pedaling, but not so much on days like today.

Cross Country Skiing with Sarah

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bike Shopping With Homer

The roads have been too frozen to be slushy (making for not much fun out there for this guy), so what to do when you can't (or don’t want to) get out on the bike? Shop for a new one! About a month ago, my sister told me of her intention to buy her husband a new bike for Christmas, and that she wanted my help. Awesome. I went to work immediately at providing some solid options. He will use it as a commuter so I started asking questions about his ride. A respectable 15 miles or so that includes a couple of miles of dirt trail (by his choice). Cool. He has been riding an old Bianchi mountain bike that he got second hand (and that doesn’t fit him) for years, and he just loves getting out on the bike. With the right bike, he is going to love it even more.

It’s fun spending other people's money, but the bike had to fall within a certain “normal-people” budget for a bike (my sister naively thought it would be a few hundred dollars). I have been in love with All-City Cycles this year, and made a quick convert of Homer (my brother-in-law), who is a graphic designer and someone I would describe as legitimately "cool" (unlike myself). He was totally fired up about the Macho Man, and I think it would fit his riding style... but then there was the bit about price-tag. There are a few shops in Minneapolis that carry All-City (it is a MPLS based company after all) so I checked around on price. I even looked on the internet, and everything I saw was in the $1,500 – 1,600 range. Behind Bars, a bike shop in my neighborhood, had an “up to” 25% off sale advertised, so I popped in for a gander.

They had a Macho Man in his size just before Christmas, and the guy I talked to at the shop (without confirming) said it was on sale for 25% off. When Homer and I went back there the day after Christmas, another guy verified that it was only 15% off. Hang-up. It originally would have been a doable budget stretch, but that put it just out of reach. In the heat of the moment I concluded that the Macho Man is really less bike than what you pay for (although that may not be totally fair). Still, I think some of that price on a 105 steel-frame bike goes to the All-City “coolness” factor. I told Homer he could get a great bike that is comparable and still within his budget.

So I got to shop around a little more. Another local bike shop that I frequent is County Cycles in Roseville, and I have been eying a Felt F85 road bike that they had on closeout for $800. I warned Homer that it might not perform on the dirt trail but was a lot of bike for the money. Super tempting (mostly to me). I tried to resolve his concern of not having heard of Felt Bikes before, but to no avail. I also looked at some other cyclocross bikes that I think would suit his ride better.

I remembered test-riding a Bianchi Volpe about a year ago when I was shopping for myself, and confirmed that County had one in stock on closeout that would fit him. When I emailed Homer a list of suitable bikes from different manufacturers, he quickly responded calling it out, “I think I am in love with that Bianchi!”

So we spent last Saturday morning, a bright and balmy 25 degree day, having fun checking out bikes doing some test rides. Homer was stunned by Felt, but the test ride confirmed his love for the Volpe. Brand loyalty often wins.

In the end, with a bit a haggling, he was able to get it within budget for $1099 with a bunch of extras thrown-in. Watch out Macho Man! (Next time you see us we will be wearing Macho Man cycling caps with coolness envy).