Sunday, October 28, 2007

Solo 120 km or The Tour of Cascade Foothills

Yesterday I went out for a little ramble that went something like this route: from Capitol Hill I went East to Lake Washington Blvd, then South on that until I hit Renton. From there the plan was to head East via Highway 900 out to Issaquah and to hit up Cougar & Tiger Mountains, but as soon as I saw a group of three riders that were cruising at about the same pace I was, 34-36 km/h (21-23 mph), I just had to chase them down!

Or at least try to - even though they were heading North via Lake Wa Blvd towards Bellevue, and that wasn't the planned route. No problem, I know these roads pretty well now, so a little detour is always nice. Plus, I can easily still get out to my target-climbs from Bellevue, so why not chase down some strangers that may or may not be faster than me?

Unfortunately I never caught the 'rabbits' - alas, the stop lights in Renton gave them too much of a gap and I never saw them again. The lights or my legs weren't enough, not sure which. It was still fun though, a little sprinting-for-no-reason never hurt anyone, right?

When I made it to I-90 I hopped on the trail and headed East to Issaquah, where I hit up Cougar Mountain, the 3-mile, 1,400 foot climb that makes or breaks a cyclist in these parts. This was my first go at that climb on the new Ciocc, which has a low-gear of 39x23 (~44 gear inches), a little steeper than the Eros. I made it up, and the stiffness of the frame easily evened out the steeper gear; although I can't say it was easy. The air was definitely nippy up there, and after slipping on my arm warmers I descended down as fast as safety would allow, which wasn't very fast at all - I probably topped out at 65 km/h down Cougar.

Then it was off to Tiger Mountain, about 10 km away just South of Issaquah. At the bottom of Cougar Mtn take a right on Newport Way, follow it to Front St, then take that South to Tiger Mountain Road on the left. Tiger's not a monster-climb, but at about 800 ft it's not small either. Luckily the roads were dry enough that I could blast down the 'mountain' - although I never could get much over 72 km/h (~46 mph). Guess I'll have to go over to Tolt Hill Road to really get the speedy descent I'm looking for.

Here's a profile of my 'Tour of Cascade Foothills' route (out to and including Tiger Mtn, but excluding the trip back):

I love how Cougar/Tiger Mountains put Capitol 'Hill' to shame!

Here are the ride totals:

Distance: 120 km (~75 mi)
Total Time: 5 hrs 30 minutes (my cyclo-computer reset, not sure of rolling time, it was probably something like 5 hrs)
Elevation Gain: ~4,000 ft
Road Kill Seen: three, all on May Valley Road - they must not clean it much.
Best Scenery: Mt. Baker & Lake Sammamish as viewed from the top of Cougar Mountain - that makes the pain worth it!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Critical Mass Report - October 2007

It's been a few months since I made it out to Critical Mass, but today I decided to take some time out of my Friday night to ride my bike around slowly with hundreds of strangers!

I left my house at just about 6 pm, which is incidentally the same time Mass usually rolls out from Westlake Center downtown. But as I was coming down Pine St I could see Mass pulling out, so I knew I was in time! Sweet.

I'm not much of a costume person myself, but there were some pretty good ones - bunny suits, fake parking signs through the chest, all kinds of funky shit.

The route went something like this: West on Pine St, then Left (south) on 1st Ave - once we got down by Safeco Field we turned around, and THEN GOT ON AURORA! I'm always game for riding on one of the most forbidden roads in the city - the Viaduct. We went up an exit ramp, and all of a sudden Northbound 99 was CLOGGED with bicycles. We rode it through the tunnel under Belltown, and all the way up over the Aurora Bridge. The sun had just set so the Olympic Mountains were rad looking, and all you could see in front of you was bicycles and blinking lights.

I was surprised we stayed on 99 so long, as I thought CM was supposed to turn more often, so as not to clog the city too much - but F that, we went all the way!

After 99 we got off in Fremont and headed up Stone Way to Wallingford, where we took a right on 45th and headed East - I broke off on Roosevelt and went back to Capitol Hill. The total ride was 20 km, and the average was really slow, as CM usually rides at a pace of about 10 km/h, or 6 mph.

If you haven't checked out Critical Mass in Seattle, I suggest giving it a try!


Here are some good pictures from the Aurora part of the ride on the .83 forum.

And here are some photos from that forum:

and here's the pirate ship - how could i forget that?!

more of the beatiful view from aurora:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Get a Back-light, Bub!

That's what some fucking teenager (on a squeaky mountain bike no less) said as I passed him going down Harvard Ave towards Eastlake. Sure, I passed him going down 10th, but with my shiny new 53x11 whaddya expect? I think he was just mad I passed him, it was less about the lighting. Wasn't my reflective vest and bright front light enough?

Sorry, I wasn't a christmas tree w/ a million lights - as far as I know, by law Seattle only requires a front light, but it seems that uptight Seattleites also require a rear one. So sue me.

This is going out on a limb, but: Is a rear light going to save me from distracted drivers? If I'm gonna get hit I'm gonna get hit. People get hit while using rear lights all the time, so I don't put a lot of trust into them. A front light has much more use, it lets drivers at intersections know I'm coming, and you can see it from the side.

If there's one thing in the world I hate, it's being told what to do by a stranger. I'm a nice person and all, but I don't think it's anyone's business whether or not I'm wearing a rear light! Uptight Seattleites can kiss my ass. (So if you see me spinning around town on my Ciocc without a blinky rear light, or I'm not wearing a helmet, or something else crazy, keep it to yourself!!)

(end of rant)

Anyway, I was heading over to the Ballard Locks to meet up with Dennis, Rachael, and John. We did a little tour of north-side hills, including Carkeek Park and Golden Gardens. I hadn't been to Carkeek yet, and at night it was hard to see a lot, but the descent/climb was decent. And there were these weird warm/cold spots in that area - my theory was that it was the sewer-grates on the road that sometimes spew hot steam into the air, but who knows.

Here's a graph of the ride's elevation changes - nothing big, but enough to get your heart going:

And here's a link to the ride.

Stay safe out there, no matter how you do it!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Odd Bikes on eBay and elsewhere - beware!

A few years ago I came oh-so-close to buying a 'Mercier' road bike from eBay that seemed just too good to be true. In fact, I think those bikes are too good to be true.

(It was much like this Motobecane)

It had Shimano 105's, decent wheels, and the frame looked OK, all for $1,000 I think it was... And the description for the bike I almost got stated the Mercier was an old European bicycle maker, and that Lance Armstrong once rode once of them in his early years. But after a little Googling, it was obvious that:

a) Mercier was no longer European, it was registered to a Florida resident
b) This eBay seller was also selling Dawes bikes, and whaddya know? Both sites are registered to the SAME town in Florida!

Want proof?

Domain info for

Domain Name..........
Creation Date........ 2001-09-01
Registration Date.... 2001-09-01
Expiry Date.......... 2008-09-01
Organisation Name.... J. Mukhalis
Organisation Address. 176 Summerfield
Organisation Address.
Organisation Address. Ponte Vedra
Organisation Address. 32082
Organisation Address. FL
Organisation Address. UNITED STATES

Domain info for

Domain Name..........
Creation Date........ 2004-04-30
Registration Date.... 2004-04-30
Expiry Date.......... 2014-04-30
Organisation Name.... spratt cycle support, inc
Organisation Address. 3203 old barn court
Organisation Address.
Organisation Address. ponte vedra beach

Organisation Address. 32082
Organisation Address. FL
Organisation Address. UNITED STATES

That's odd, these two 'classic' road bike brands have their site's owners listed in the same town in Florida?! Funny.

On posts from this seller, you'll see descriptions like this:

Motobecane is one of the top names in the bike business - 80 years old, winner of the Tour d' France, winner of several world championships, inventor of the moped and of dual suspension bicycles.

But DrPete pretty much summed it up on

Motobecane, Dawes, Bottecchia, and Mercier are brand names that WERE once major european bike manufacturers. Bottecchia still is--in Italy. Moto USA, Dawes USA, Bott. USA, and Mercier USA are, in reality, brand names that were bought by Cycle Spectrum USA, AKA They purchase frames in bulk from Taiwan, usually models that were designed for/by other major manufacturers (KHS, Fuji, etc.) and sell them with components and all. The frames are actually decent quality in the vast majority of cases, so it's not like they're shoddy. In fact, if you're on a budget and willing to do a little self-assembly and/or pay for a shop to do assembly and tune-up work, then it's a decent way to buy an enthusiast-level bike on a budget. Just don't be fooled into thinking that you're getting a "real" Dawes/Mercier/Moto/etc.

I think you can add Windsor to that list as well. I'm not saying no-one should buy and ride these bikes, hell, I'm happy if people are just riding! But beware of what you're buying, and don't believe an eBay seller just because they have 99.9% feedback.

Moral of the story: support your local bike shop!!

Climbing Queen Anne Ave at Night for Fun

After work I went on a seven-mile ramble with the goal of topping Queen Anne on the Ciocc. Even though it was getting dark I put on my Nike cycling cap (bought it in London!) that looks like a hunting cap:

Sometimes the cap gets a little hot, but it's nice to have something over the ears for sure.

The route went through downtown, and out to Kerry Park on the top of Queen Anne. The ride was great, and the Ciocc is responsive and fast as ever. I was wondering how the 39x23 low-gear would feel going up it, but it wasn't bad at all! Can't say it was a whole lot easier than on the Eros, but that bike definitely feels more solid on tough climbs like that.

God damn some parts of Queen Anne Ave are steep! Kerry Park has post-card-quality views of downtown, it's worth the pain to get there. And that was only the 3rd time I'd gone up it without stopping! A year ago I had to take breaks going up it.. progress!

Ride details:

min: 62.6 ft max: 375.3 ft last: 368.5 ft total dist: 7.4 mi

total elevation gain: 815.2 ft

(btw the graph is skewed b/c I clicked more points in the beginning of the route than towards the end)

I should start doing hill-repeats using that climb - it's one of the toughest near my house. And if you can't tell by reading this blog, I love to climb! (And I like to descend as fast as possible too)

Bring on the darkness, the wind, the bitter cold - but rain I can do without. Let's hope for more dry nights like this one!