Archive | April, 2011

Salsa Fever

26 Apr

So… The Long Haul Trucker had been sitting gathering dust in a corner of the bike room. I’d put the 42 Continentals on there, thinking vaguely that maybe I would take it out for some offroad fun at some point. But, I never got around to it.

And so I decided it was time to sell the old girl. I checked out the local Craigslist to see what they were going for and found a chap that wanted to trade a Salsa La Cruz frame for a Trucker. I had seen the ad a long time ago, and was surprised to see it yet again. Hm, that might just be the ticket. A) there’s no net gain in terms of bicycle frames, technically and B) I love Salsa, and I love True Temper OX Platinum and C) dang it I want a dedicated monster cross bike!

So I met with the fellow. Turns out he’d posted it off and on for 6 months and was about to give up. So it worked out. Interestingly, he’d taken that glorious original orange and powder coated it a dull matte gray, as he had arranged some extra braze-ons to be brazed on at R+E in Seattle, full-housing cable and downtube shifter studs things. At first I wasn’t too keen on the gray, and then I really didn’t like it and was set on finding a different color (maybe powder coated again) but now the gray is growing on me. Kind of like a poor man’s titanium. Which would be a great marketing campaign for Pabst.

I have some Woodchipper bars already, and will swap over the drivetrain from the Trucker including the barcons. I have some spare nicer stuff (most of the parts on the stock Trucker were, well, not super great) and will put together a nice mishmash of stuff. It came with Avid BB7, which is nice, and I have a saddle, seatpost, pedals etc that can go on in a pinch. The only thing I’ll need are wheels and blue bar tape. Aw yeah, blue bar tape. I can’t wait to get her all put together! I’m now officially the guy with a garage full of parts that can Frankenstein together something from a Craigslist impulse buy (or swap). Yes… I’m now that guy… heh… oh, hi SurlyLady!

Maybe the blog should be called ‘Surly Stories from the Burke Gilman Trail, with a side of Salsa’.

Snohomish Ramble, and Jack Brown (Green) Road Ride Report

23 Apr

Today was superb. Out on a group ride with some buddies (KonaLad and JamisLad) as well as the SurlyLady who, naturlich, was on her Crosscheck. I think she’s going to be buried with that sucker. Hopefully the casket will work with a 135mm hub, badoom-pish!

We started out in Snohomish on the Centennial Trail headed north. Took the cutoff to follow the Pilchuck River along Schwarzmiller Road and on up to Granite Falls, in a redux of the route from a few weekends ago. The main difference today? LOTS OF FREAKING SUN!

Sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun, sun...

The thing is, in Seattle we’ve had like 51 days of no sun (predominantly overcast if not outright pouring or even snowing). April has been super sucky. Today was forecasted to be in the mid 60s and so of course everyone in Seattle was going apeshit today – especially as the next 6 days are forecast to be rainy. Ugh.

After hooking a right at Granite Falls we aimed for the Lake Roesiger area. SurlyLady however was definitely not feeling it. The planned 50 miles was probably way too ambitious for our first big spring ride. We met up with KonaLad and JamisLad at Lake Roesiger and decided to cut the ride short. On a side and gravelly note, I’d noticed on the mapski something called Lake Chaplain which apparently has a gravel road that goes by it… I must return and check that out! I’m determined to get a Gravel Grinder type of exploration going for all those wonderful, forbidden gravel roads in the Snohomish area.

The hills leading up to Lake Roesiger really took it out of us, but JamisLad and KonaLad were kicking ass. Especially JamisL. He sees a hill and suddenly he’s charging after it like some kind of dragoon in Balaclava/Crimea circa 1850 something! And then the rest of us catch up. We flew down Dubuque Road (so much fun!) to the high hill cutoff to Storm Lake and things went south from there – in more ways than one. KonaLad’s Lemond had a wheel problem (loose nipple bouncing around inside the tire… so many jokes… will refrain) and we all agreed the 40mph descent on 3 Lakes Road might not be ideal so I whipped out the old iPhone, found an alternate route that required lots of lefts and rights and off we went, hardly knowing that all the delicious downhill on Spada was going to mean… duh duh duh… lots of uphill. Especially Alston Road/163rd. I’ll never forget the look on everyone’s face as we rounded the corner and saw that hill. We’re talking some serious high grade stuff! JamisLad of course out-of-saddled the whole way while I could barely hang on to KonaLad’s wheel. SurlyLady bravely brought up the rear. When she caught up to me she said, “I think I’m about to puke.” I felt lower than a roadie’s cleat. I think the somewhat strenuous ride and the 74-degree weather (not mid 60s, more mid 70s!) was getting to all of us. But even with all the travail and travel I was loving every second of it. I just can’t get enough of that area. I love toodling around and exploring the roads.

We negotiated some more turns and a few miles later whipped down 88th to downtown Snohomish, very gratefully made some right turns and voila, were back at our cars. Very soon we were at Pilchuck Drive-in, getting some chocolate shakes… umm, they were good. All in all I had a blast. Didn’t feel too hot at some spots, but in others I felt like my old self. Embarrassingly enough, we stopped at the Lake Roesiger store and I picked up some sunscreen and was putting it on and realized, out loud, that I’d forgotten how to do it! It’d been so long… maybe since Mazama in late September! This just punctuates what a crappy winter/spring we’ve had. Well, to put a happy spin on things, I hope we have many more days like today – I for one am going to enjoy every minute of them!

As for the tires report: I’m sold. I’d purchased some Jack Brown (green label, the non-kevlar-ish version) last fall to go on the Salsa Vaya. But I figured, since I was going to mostly be doing commuting on the Vaya, I’d put the hand-me-down Marathons on it (from the Crosscheck to the Long Haul Trucker and many thousands of miles later). Then, as I described in an earlier post, I became curious to see how those Rivendell tires would work. It took a while for me to get around to it, but I mounted them on the Poprad. I’ve now done two commutes on them, and one 40-mile country ride. It’s early days, but these tires are awesome. So much more comfy and cush than the Marathons. One of my big lessons last year from RAPsody and High Pass Challenge was just the physical beating you take from hundreds of miles on chipseal. There’s the resistance factor, but it’s the constant thrumming modulatory vibrations that seems to wear me down. I remember on RAPsody at some points riding on the far bare shoulders where sometimes there would be smooth asphalt, desperate to get away from the chipseal. It was almost driving me bonkers, mentally and physically. I started dreaming of smooth asphalt like a thirsty man in the Sahara. In a sense, the Jack Browns were purchased as an experiment to see if I could do something about that.

Since it’s still so early in the season I don’t want to be too hasty in judging, but I can say they certainly don’t seem slower than the Marathons. They in fact seem to roll a little faster… there were many downhills today where I was just zipping along in ways I didn’t seem to remember on the Marathons. In terms of modulating the road chatter on chipseal, they really do the job. I don’t feel as beat up as I normally do. They take ‘hits’ very well, as well, as I noticed on the Burke Gilman commutes (with all the crazy tree root explosions and potholes). A big hit is still a big hit, but the Jack Browns definitely seem to smooth those over a little. I do have them a little poochy, about 80 psi in back and 70-ish in front. These are very wide tires, they max out against my fenders in fact. But you can almost feel the ‘rubbery’ difference with them as you float along. (Laughter from across the room….) What? Why is that so funny?

So, on the high end, large obstacles or potholes, they offer maybe 10% more comfort. For the mid-range stuff, smaller bumps and so on, it’s even better, maybe more like 15-20%. For the low-level chatter, chipseal basically, they’re a dream… I think I can say they’re 30% more comfy than the Marathons. And over 200 miles that’s going to add up. Plus they have a very cool checkerboard pattern.

I can’t speak to durability yet, but whereas with the Marathons I almost used to yawn while riding through broken glass, I’m just trying to be a little more watchful. Today they did great on a section of deep gravel that lasted for about 100 yards… just rolled along, no worries. The thing about a flat on a commute to work is you could be running seriously late, and so I put a premium on puncture resistance for commuting. However, I think what I’ll do is replace the Marathons on the Vaya when they finally give up the ghost with some Jack Brown Blue labels. These are some seriously impressive tires! I hope to talk the SurlyLady into trying them to see what she thinks.

Snohomish to Granite Falls to Lake Bosworth and back… onward Vaya con Doritos.

3 Apr

This is what we did today:

Oh, the curlecues of indecision...

I was eager to get back up to the Snohomish environs and try out some back roads, appetite whetted by the jaunt up the Centennial Trail last Sunday. There’s just something about that area that I love. Lots of lakes, rivers, vistas, Windows Sevens, scary drivers, rollers, more rollers, insane rollers. It’s good stuff.

Today we parked at the usual spot in Snohomish, on Maple I think it is (?) and headed north on the Centennial Trail, spinning our legs and warming up for the day ahead. The trail was much more crowded today than a week ago, yet the weather conditions were about the same. I think the difference is that all Thursday and Friday people in Seattle could talk about was “Sunday is supposed to be nice!” while hopping over puddles and wishing they actually had an umbrella and not just one of the 10 million black North Face rain jackets in town. We’ve had a lot of rain. March and April lion something something. So when everyone looks at the weekend forecast, sees that Saturday looks shitty, yet Sunday has a sun graphic with just a few sprinkles, you think it’s like freaking spring break time on a Florida beach, all the stores run out of BBQ supplies and sun blocker, the sun tan salons suddenly have their schedules open wide up, the stationary bikes in the gyms get all sullen and quiet, convenience stores be selling way more 12 packs than usual and basically this area freaks out. (Remember my story about Seattle-ites having 10,000,000,000 or so words for complaining about rain? Think about what happens here at just the prospect of even a peekaboo sun!). And, of course, today was totally gray, with scattered showers and only a hint of sun behind the screening cover here and there.

Anyway, we stopped at the railroad station to take a tinkle and a stretch, separately, and in separate sequences, then hit the trail for a little longer before offroading near that one picnic table to hit the road back down to Machias (we don’t like going on the scary no-shoulder part past that tavern, prefer to tuck in from the north) and went up OK Mill Road (actually it’s Happy Hollow road for a few hundred yards… for some reason…) for a pinch then turned north on 147th, in the opposite direction of the Tour de Cure ride in May. I love that road, you get to follow (and cross) the Pilchuck river, see lots of happy farms with happy cows and happily-coated horses… today we kept going north, on a stretch we’d never done before, turning right on River Road which… within a few feet turns into Schwarzmiller Road and then back to River Road and then again to Schwarzmiller Road (?) all the way up to Lochsloy, to see our friend Robin, Robin of Lochsloy. Aw, c’mon, you knew I couldn’t avoid that one.

It's a wee happy farm. Like, a hobbit farm!

The road, before hitting Hwy 92, turned into 147th again before turning into Miller Road… not Schwarzmiller Road, but apparently Miller Road. Yes, that’s why you saw the guy looking at his map and iPhone a lot today in that area, pulled over on the side of the road with that gorgeous Salsa Vaya, oh you didn’t think I noticed you speccing out my bike? Well, it’s mine!

We crossed the scary Hwy 92 and stayed on the same road (147th still I think) even though there was a sign declaring DEAD END. Ha! We’re not afraid of you, sign. We kept going, on faith in Google above (literally, in some cloud of servers somewhere).

And it turns out Google was right. But Google is always right. Godgle is infallible.

147th turned into a long gravel parking lot next to some athletic fields (there are PortaPotties for those inclined) and then the gravel parking lot turns into a long gravel lane leading between a number of houses. GRAVEL! Salsa Vaya and Surly CrossCheck, to the rescue!

We wound our way through some boo-teeful-colic areas to the west of Granite Falls until we got to 84th or Getchell Road, following that east until turning at 163rd Ave. At this juncture we saw the first bicyclists of the day, aside from on the Centennial, and they promptly told us we had a death wish riding down 84th/Getchell… but it seemed to have a generous shoulder to ride on, to me, and was better than Hwy 92… so question mark. Maybe 84th/Getchell is okay for a short stretch like we did, but further out (west) it’s scarier. Soon we were in Granite Falls itself. Just got to say it’s one of my favorite little towns. Would love to move there, start a law practice, have some kids, hire another local lawyer to represent me when people find out I don’t have a law degree, then hire yet another lawyer to defend me against the first one I hired when he found out I couldn’t pay, then start up a dental practice a la Freddy and Fredericka.

The camera adds on about 10,000,000,000 gallons.

We scooted through Granite Falls, not even deigning to donut ourselves at the groc store, headed south on Granite Falls-Pilchuck Road. A much traveled piece of roadway for bikies, though we still hadn’t seen anyone else. Then I made the fateful decision: let’s go to Lake Bosworth and check out this meandering thing on Google map (ommm, Google oh Google please don’t smite us or relegate us to automarketing hell) that looks like a way down south from Lake Bosworth back to the OK Mill Road or whatever the hell it’s called in that stretch of it. This meant we had to go up… up… and more up… that crazy hill on the way to Lake Bosworth. SurlyLady was shooting hatred my way. Even me, the indefatigable hill lover, was feeling a wee bit blah. Then we noticed the meandering route was all gravel, and mutually decided we’d attack it later on a less rainy day. Instead, we rounding Lake Brian Bosworth and onto the Newberg Road with its heartbreaking rollers. By the time we got back to OK Mill Road way further south I knew we’d pushed things a tad bit too much, so I decided to curtail the day’s travail and instead we headed back to Machias. But! I said, with a wag of my head, why don’t we try this intriguing Carlson Road instead! It can’t be all that much climbing, right Fred (Vaya)?

Well it turns out Carlson Road, going south, is one humminah humminah of a series of shelving hills… shelves just in time to catch your breath and get demoralized all over again. After I think we got close to Dubuque Road I could tell we’d had enough and we turned around to enjoy some downhilling, back to OK Mill and Machias. Where, to my surprise, SurlyLady said “Why don’t we do the Centennial Trail?” Which, admittedly, we tried for a few miles, but turned around. It was just too cold, windy and sprinkly to punish ourselves much more. We’d had a very cool ride, we’d gotten that old flavor of adventure back in our mouths (it tastes like M&M peanut candies and old bike glove, in case you’re interested). We wound back down the trail, threw everything in the truck, and stopped off at Pilchuck Drive-In for a late lunch. And, really, it was kind of gross. We haven’t had fast food in a looong time, and it just didn’t hit us right.

I can’t wait to go back up and try out the full route I’d had in mind (including Storm Lake, Spada Road area, sweeping down toward Monroe and then back over to Snohomish). And, include some of that gravel road goodness in the middle, near Lake Bosworth.

And I just have to add: the Salsa Vaya is working out so great. It truly is the perfect adventure bike. I am just having a ball with it. It’s sort of like a cross between the Long Haul Trucker and the Poprad… perfect for a day like today, with unknown, uneven roads, a little bit of gravel, a lot of winter-strewn muck and plenty of non-rim grinding disc brake action.

Good stuff, indeed.