RIDE SEATTLE: Filmed by bike

by Eric Shalit on January 6, 2015

I’m re-posting this short film I made in 2009 as a celebration of the beginning of summer. As much as I love to ride bikes, I am equally fascinated with bike culture. In 2009, a 4-day bike extravaganza called the Westside Invite was held in Seattle on Memorial Day weekend.

I filmed some of the events with a 5-oz. digital GoPro Video Camera mounted on the handlebar of my bike. Below is a short film I made from footage of a group ride from Cool Guy Park on Capitol Hill to Anarchy Point in South Park on the Duwamish River. Music is ‘Space Walk’ by ‘Lemon Jelly”. One of my favorites!

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The above kit probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm sure many people were involved in the design and review. Intelligent design? These are all physically fit good-looking guys. On regular people this kit would appear much uglier. The crotch area is in the shape of a toilet seat. From their expressions, I'd say the guys realize how hideous they look.

Editor’s note: I first wrote this article back in January. I have to tell you that it gets more hits than any other of the 135 articles I’ve posted to date. It also features the word ‘mangina’, which appears to be a popular keyword. I’m re-posting it today just in case you missed it and are not googling the keywords ‘bicycle mangina’.

A recent discussion about bike club jerseys on the Cascade Bicycle Club forum raised questions about what constitutes good clothing for cycling. Let’s start with a few examples of the bad.

As someone who is neither tall nor svelt, I am not in the habit of making fun of fat people. Unless forced by their mothers to wear something "nice", most adults make fairly responsible decisions about what to wear. Cycling clothing (known as "kits") may be dangerous in the wrong hands.

BelgianSwiftTeam I think this is an example of what's known as a "faux-kini". Rick Pepper designer of ELEVENGEAR says, "Cycling clothing when it's bad is either too noisy, shows too much stuff, or makes normal women look fat..."

 

I'm guessing the kit development team at Rabobank convinced themselves the crotch area was in the shape of a "flame". I say "vagina". A friend says the correct term is "mangina", as in "he has a cute mangina".

This is a just-released photo of the Footon-Servetto-Fuji 2010 pro team kit. They claim the color is gold. Some people think it's an example of team kit design gone very wrong. I'm not sure. What do you think?

If you're actually a superhero like legendary cyclist Mario Cippolini (a.k.a. Super Mario), you can get away with anything.

Many people who are considering getting into cycling believe they will need to buy “special clothing”? Is it plausible that hideous cycling clothing has kept many regular people from getting into cycling?

I am by no means a fashionista, so what you wear doesn’t really bother me. Personally, I don’t usually like wearing clothing emblazoned with logos of sponsors. (except for a t-shirt from Chamois Butt’r). Though I ride a fair amount of miles each year, I am not a racer, so don’t want to look like I’m pretending to be one. I’m neither tall nor svelt. I avoid wearing spandex, for fear of looking like an escaped circus clown.

Now that I’ve gotten the negative stuff out of the way, here’s a spin on the positive side. I see the future in promoting cycling as something anyone can do. You don’t have to be trying to be Lance Armstrong. In the way of Copenhagen, racing kits are not required. Part Two of this story will be a look at THE GOOD, “intelligently designed” cycling-specific clothing and other options for clothes that are functional and good-looking on and off the saddle.

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Bicycles of every imaginable kind co-existed peacefully.

More than 6,000 cyclists of all varieties packed ferries from Seattle to Bainbridge Island.

This past Sunday (2/28/10) was the annual Chilly Hilly bike ride. It is the huge kick-off event for bike season in the Seattle area, organized by Cascade Bicycle Club. Here in the Great Northwest many of us struggle to emerge from our yearly dark-dank-daze like cicadas. If you can complete this ride it’s a sign that you’ve survived Winter reasonably intact. With 2,675 feet of climbing over 33 miles, the Chilly Hilly is no stroll in the park. Some of the hills look like walls as you approach them. I felt every quart of ice cream I ate this Winter as I climbed each one.

The weather this winter has been exceptionally mild, with record-breaking temps throughout January and February. On event day it was shockingly sunny and seemed to be in the mid-50s or warmer. It would appear that bicycling is booming in these parts. Rumor has it there were 6,028 riders this year, a huge increase from the 3,585 riders last year.

Goodwill and comraderie were apparent everywhere.

A parallel event known as the FHR in polite company (Fucking Hills Race) took place on the same day and place. Originally started as a pirate ride by Point 83, it is now pretty well organized. Participants wear pirate flags instead of numbers. In support of both events and seeking the most fun and best chili, I paid registration fees and rode in both events simultaneously.

FHR pirates meet up under the viaduct.

FHR had terrific prizes for all participants and a more alternative theme from the mainstream clean-cut Chilly Hilly. Prizes included all sorts of bike schwag as well as $60 toward a Point83 club tattoo, body waxing, and a lap dance. The FHR crowd numbered over 100 mostly twenty-somethings who prefer vintage clothing from Goodwill over the spandex more typical of Chilly Hilly riders. The FHR chili was spectacular. I asked one Chilly Hilly rider how their chili was and they said they didn’t get any because there wasn’t enough to go around for the 6,028 riders.

These cheery bearded FHR pirates will someday look like the guys below if they continue living right.

The Chilly Hilly rider on the left towed his sweet old dog in the Burley trailer.

These parallel events are proof that there’s plenty of room on the road for all kinds of people: kids, seniors, competitive racers, casual riders, skinny & fat people. Good spirits were everywhere. In these contentious times that is a rare and beautiful thing.

Riders from the Major Taylor Project team, a Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation program.

Pirate booty.

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Ingo Bike inventors, brothers Phillip and Prescott Huyssen. An eccentric rear wheel on this bicycle furnishes the motive power. Movements of the rider's body produce a speed of 15 mph.

Popular Science Magazine, 1934

“A bicycle without pedals, invented by two Chicago men, is designed to operate on body motion alone. Standing on a springy footboard, a rider propels the strange vehicle simply by raising and lowering his body. The rear wheel of the bicycle has its axle mounted off center. A down-ward thrust of the legs tends, after the bicycle has been placed in motion, to pull this axle down to its lowest position, thus causing
the wheel to revolve in a forward direction. Momentum returns the axle to its highest position and the procedure is repeated. The up and down flexing of the footboard, once the rider gets the knack, can be coordinated with the movement of the rear axle to make operation easier. After a little practice, the inventors claim, a rider can make fifteen miles an hour. The exercise is said to be very beneficial to health.”

The Ingo Bike in Popular Culture

Evidence of the important place the Ingo Bike once held in American culture is its appearance in the 1939 Three Stooges feature “Yes, We Have No Bonanza”. Although Curly Howard is considered a “fat guy” notice how easily he vaults that railing. He reminds me a bit of Bert Assirati.

Additional Resources
A thorough article on the subject is The Incredible Ingo, by Mary Miller, from which the following is excerpted:

The Ingo-bike was invented by two brothers, Phillip and Prescott Huyssen, during the early 1930’s. Phillip Huyssen rode from Chicago to Miami, Florida, in April, 1935. The trip took him 12 days, and on his arrival he was officially greeted by the mayor of Miami. Six Ingos were shipped to Florida for publicity on his arrival, and many people learned to ride there. This ride also led to the Ingo being featured in the Miami Chamber of Commerce promotional magazine. The inventors weren’t the only people who used the Ingo for long-distance travel. A 113-mile long Ingo-bike derby, running from Los Angeles to the Desert Circus Day Celebration in Palm Springs, California, was planned both to prove the practicality of the Ingo for traveling long distances, and to demonstrate the ease which which it could be used for sport and to improve one’s health.

Unfortunately, the Ingo was only manufactured for a short time. Production stopped in 1937, when the building the Ingo was made in was converted into an army shell factory. Then World War II broke out, and the Ingo idea was side-tracked.

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Mid-October Escape to Lopez Island. This Time Solo.

by Eric Shalit on January 2, 2015

View near Agate beach I think.

No one but the Great Pumpkin knows for sure what the future holds, but November is right around the corner, and likelier than not it will be rainy and cooler. Believing this past weekend, the second weekend in October, to possibly be the last of the mild weather for many months to come, I escaped to Lopez Island for a 3-day weekend of cycling and exploring. The forecast called for a dry weekend, and that was all I asked for. The weather far exceeded my expectations. Although the mornings were crisp and blustery, by mid-day it was sunny T-shirt weather.

Everyone I met had the same idea. Initially it seemed I had the entire Spencer Spit beach campground to myself. By Friday afternoon it was full of tent campers, kayakers, kids, and dogs — mostly fellow Seattle escapees having a final end of summer outdoor adventure. About 3/4 of our tent city on the beach was occupied by REI corporate office staffers and their families. From the conversations I overheard, gear testing and development was never far from their minds. Of course, they were very well equipped.

Camping on the beach at Spencer Spit.

In the past this would have been a family trip. With my older son off to college, and my younger son away for the weekend, I decided to head out solo. My wife doesn’t cycle. Although I traveled solo, I was rarely alone, as I met people everywhere and even made a few new friends. Lopez Island is 100% bike friendly — perhaps even a cyclist’s paradise. The locals (Lopetians?) consistently waved at me as they drove by. Not the one-fingered wave you sometimes hear about.

Horse Drawn Plow Farm.

Horses interested in alternative modes of transport.

Lopez is the most rural of the San Juan Islands. Lots of open farmland, rolling hills, and back roads. While San Juan & Orcas Island have seen more residential and resort development, residents of Lopez who I spoke with, have worked hard to keep it in a more natural and rural state.

Spandex-free or nothing!

One hidden treasure is Iceberg Point, a natural preserve at the southern tip of the island that juts into the Middle Channel. The white monument in the photo serves as an international boundary marker and commemorates a 1905 treaty between the US and Canada. It’s difficult to find the trail entrance leading to Iceberg Point. I suspect that may be an intentional way of protecting the fragile rocky ecosystem. Please tread lightly should you visit.

Iceberg Point

Kayaks off Iceberg Point

Sustainable Island Living
Mornings were cold, and I was stiff from sleeping on an older leaky inflatable Thermarest camping pad. Fortunately, Lopez Island has two of the essential elements necessary to sustain life — great coffee and an exceptional bakery. Each morning I dragged myself out of the tent, struggled to throw my leg over the bike, and rode from the beach, past Horse Drawn Farm, into Lopez Village. There I started each day with a hazelnut latte at Caffe La Boheme. They serve Graffeo coffee from San Francisco. The baristas were always helpful with ferry schedules and recommendations.

Caffe La Boheme

Adjacent to Caffe La Boheme is Holly B’s Bakery. Holly B’s is exceptional, with a vast array of handmade breads, pastries, pizzas, and croissants. As a non-sweet baked goods connoisseur (junkie?), I was more than satisfied, and primarily lived on an assortment of Holly B’s scones, breads, and pizzas during my 3-day adventure. That mixed with a daily hazelnut latte and a few apples scavenged from an old abandoned tree provided the energy for 90 miles of cycling.

Holly B's Bakery

Sitting outside the cafe and bakery I met many locals who were very happy to have a conversation with me, a somewhat odd looking unshaven guy in a bike helmet with an air freshener hanging from his saddle. They were not the typical polite but aloof northwesterners I’ve gradually grown accustomed to over the last 25 years.

Lopez Bicycle Works

Lopez is home to 2 bike shops. Lopez Bicycle Works repairs and rents bikes. Black Dog Bicycles sells and repairs bikes and also manufactures their own line of bike trailers. I somehow managed to miss their shop, but will be sure to visit on my next trip. I love trailers. Both shop’s hours are longer in-season, and shorter during the off-season. However, their advertising and signs say they’re available even when closed. This is a very bike-friendly place. Seems almost un-American!

On Saturday, while having coffee and a pastry outside Holly B’s bakery, someone asked me if I was going to the Community Center’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration & Potluck Dinner. I had pangs of guilt about crashing the party, but justified it in the interest of writing a good story about the town. I bought a beer, sampled a plateful of local home-cooked fare and made a few new friends. I’ve felt more of an outsider at my own kid’s school auction dinner in Seattle than I did crashing this community party on Lopez. There’s a saying that goes something like, “No strangers, only friends you haven’t yet met”.

Lopez Community Center

View from the ferry after departing Lopez Island looking toward Mt. Baker. Not too shabby, methinks!

Gear Review: MSR Carbon Reflex 2-Person Ultralight Tent
I spent years camping with inexpensive tents, usually bought from Fred Meyer or Costco. Those tents are fine for car camping or short hikes. However, their relatively heavy weight and bulk make them impractical for bicycle camping. I’ve been thinking about getting an ultralight tent for cycling for some time. After a great experience bike camping with my two teenage sons this summer using a 3-person (7+ lbs.) MSR Mutha Hubba tent, I contacted MSR and asked if I could borrow an ultralight 2-person tent for review. When I received the tent I mistakenly thought it must be missing parts, since the sack was so light and compact. I went online, reviewed the photos and set it up in my office in under 2 minutes. It was not missing any parts.

MSR Carbon Reflex 2 Tent

Weighing in at an incredible 3 lbs. (with rain fly & stuff sack), the MSR Carbon Reflex Ultralight 2-Person tent seems ideal for bicycle camping. It’s beautifully designed with simple yet meticulous detailing. With only 2 ultralight carbon fiber poles, it relies on corner stakes for structural integrity. It’s the simplest tent I’ve ever set up. The rain fly creates a spacious vestibule, perfect for protecting panniers, shoes, and helmets from the elements. Its primary design function is to push the envelope on providing shelter space for 2 people within the lightest weight possible. In order to achieve this, the footprint is at a minimum. I slept in this tent comfortably by myself and tried to imagine sharing it with another person. Choose your tent companion wisely! You might be comfortable sharing this tent with someone you are very very intimate with. Examining the product diagram on MSR’s specifications page, it looks like a tight fit for two. No tossing & turning allowed. Best to keep your arms folded across your chest (another great use for those old bicycle inner tubes). If you’re someone who goes insane when someone’s arm is touching yours on an airplane, you may have issues with using this as a 2-person tent. It’s possible that professional mountaineers and serious backpackers are willing to sacrifice body space for weight.

That said, I consider it a perfect 1-person tent for me — but I’m willing to share it in a pinch if I have to. It was chosen by National Geographic Adventure magazine for a 2009 Best of Adventure Gear Award. The $400-$500 online price tag for the ultralight Carbon Reflex 2 tent compares to $240-$300 for the similar but 1 lb. heavier MSR Hubba Hubba. The cost differential for that 1 lb. weight savings will appeal to technical users and serious gear junkies. The cost of either tent may be a worthwhile expense for those of us who already have major investments in our bikes, and want to travel further off the beaten path. When compared to the cost of staying in hotels, motels, and B&Bs it’s easier to justify the cost. At any rate, a lightweight or ultralight 2-person MSR tent is essential gear for the serious cyclist or very very close cycling duo.

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Note the Klondike bicycle in this historic photo.

If you think the weather is too cold for riding, here’s the first-hand account of a young guy who headed off to the Klondike on his bicycle in 1900. Max Hirschberg rode his bicycle 1,200 miles from Dawson to Nome. The odyssey took him roughly 10 weeks.

In the 1950s, at the request of his wife, Max wrote the story of his epic journey, so that his children and grandchildren would know the true story. He died in 1964 (probably in Seattle). Hirschberg’s granddaughter, Penni Busse, submitted his account of the ride to Nome to ALASKA magazine, which published the story in February 1978.

Excerpted From Wheels On Ice: Bicycling in Alaska 1898-1908 Alaska Northwest Publishing Company. Found on icebike.org website.

“In January 1900, I secured a dog team and an outfit to go over the ice, down the Yukon from Dawson to Nome. I sold my share in a roadhouse and my mining claims in Dawson. My partner, Hank West, however, did not believe the reports about the gold strike in Nome were authentic. I did, so we parted.

In Dawson I got my outfit and dog team, and I stayed at the Green Tree Hotel. About midnight, I was awakened by the smell of smoke — the hotel was on fire. I jumped into my clothes and rushed outside. Hundreds of people had formed a bucket line from the Yukon River to the hotel. I joined the line, and we passed buckets of water to quench the fire and to wet blankets on adjoining buildings. The fire department was helpless because the fire hose froze in the extreme cold. Every available man joined the bucket line, but the building burned to the ground.

Broken boards were scattered over the snow. It was pitch dark and I stumbled on a board that contained a rusty nail. I went to the hospital with blood poisoning. It was March before I was up and around again, too late to get to Nome by dog team. With the spring thaw under way, the Yukon would be unfit for travel on the ice. I knew the news of the gold strike at Nome would bring thousands of people from the States to Nome by boat, so I had to get there quickly. I decided to travel by bicycle. I had been an expert bicycle rider for years, and I figured I could reach Nome before the Yukon became unfit for travel.

Many dog teams, driven in single file, had preceded me down the river, and had made a hard trail about 2 inches wide where the sled runners cut deep troughs in the snow. I rode this narrow road, stopping at Indian villages or roadhouses.

The day I left Dawson, March 2, 1900 was clear and crisp, 30 degrees below zero. I was dressed in a flannel shirt, heavy fleece-lined overalls, a heavy mackinaw coat, a drill parka, two pairs of heavy woolen socks and felt high-top shoes, a fur cap that I pulled down over my ears, a fur nosepiece, plus fur gauntlet gloves.

On the handlebars of the bicycle I strapped a large fur robe. Fastened to the springs, back of the seat, was a canvas sack containing a heavy shirt, socks, underwear, a diary in waterproof covering, pencils and several blocks of sulfur matches. In my pockets I carried a penknife and a watch. My poke held gold dust worth $1,500 and my purse contained silver and gold coins. Next to my skin around my waist I carried a belt with $20 gold pieces that had been stitched into it by my aunt in Youngstown, Ohio, before I had left to go to the Klondike.

A number of friends, including my old partner, Hank West, waved good-by. The road out of Dawson was broad and well packed, the was cold and exhilarating, and the Sky was clear and calm. There were numerous dog teams headed for Forty Mile, Circle City and points farther down the Yukon. Whenever I approached a dog team, the driver would accommodatingly pull off the trail and restrain his howling, snapping dogs from nipping me. I passed many dog teams before reaching Forty Mile. At the combination bar, gambling room and roadhouse, I thawed out before a roaring wood fire in an oil-tank stove. Eight or ten whiskered men were sitting and smoking, talking about the rumor of a nearby gold strike.

The Yukon River at Dawson, was about 1,500 feet wide. When the river froze, huge cakes of ice, some standing on edge, others slanting, formed a barrier to the opposite shore. As the final freeze occurred, cakes of ice from the lowered river caused the trail to resemble a sidehill slope. There were overflows covering the ice in places, some frozen over with newly formed ice, which broke when stepped on, leaving a few inches of water over the solid ice beneath.

The trail led along this slanting ice, then along the bank of the river, across frozen cracks winding in and out from the tundra, and back to the sloping ice along the riverbank. Creek overflows were numerous, and by the time I reached Forty Mile, my socks were wet and ice covered my felt shoes. It took me quite a while to orient myself to my 2-inch trail and I had many spills on this early part of my journey.

Rough and hungry looking group.

A few miles below Forty Mile I crossed the boundary line between Canada and the United States. A thrill shot through me as I caught sight of Old Glory waving on U.S. soil.

Eagle City was my next stop, about 100 miles from Dawson. Calico Bluff was about 10 miles farther and at the mouth of Seventymile River was the mushroom town of Star City. Bold, rugged mountains, conspicuous by their height, were visible for a considerable distance. About 180 miles from Eagle City is Circle City. There were many log cabins, saloons, a hospital and an Episcopal church. Adjoining Circle City was an Indian village.
Here the river widened into the Yukon Flats for about 250 miles down the river. Not even a hill was in sight, just scrubby, stunted spruce along the shore.

Twenty miles or so below Circle City was Charley Creek, where I came to a Native village and a little farther on was a roadhouse. Some 10 miles farther was Charley River, where I saw hundreds of caribou.
The most dangerous and difficult parts of the flats were between Circle City and Fort Yukon. Save for a portage land trail of 18 or 20 miles out of Circle City, the trail was on the river, which split into many channels without landmarks. The current was so swift that I encountered stretches of open water and blow holes. Snow storms completely obliterated the trail.

At last I made Fort Yukon, the most northerly point reached by the Yukon River, and about a mile north of the Arctic Circle. There were several saloons, Native cabins, a church and stores displaying marten, fox, wolf and bear skins. It is a site of the oldest English-speaking settlement on the Yukon River. The oldest’ white man’s graves in Alaska, with the exception of Nulato, are those in the little Hudson’s Bay cemetery near Fort Yukon; the headboards were dated 1850 and 1860. In 1862, the Church of England had a clergyman here, a Mr. McDonald, who married a Native girl and translated the Bible and prayer book into the Native tongue.

Next, I reached Birch Creek, and the end of all mountains for the first time. Down the Yukon some 75 miles, I came to the upper Ramparts, where there was a trading post. Then I came to Rampart City and another Native village. Rampart City consisted of stores, log cabins and saloons. It furnished supplies for the placer gold mines on adjacent creeks. About 40 miles farther I came to the rapids, where the ice was free of snow, and for 20 miles my bicycle skidded on the slippery ice, causing me numerous falls.

I arrived at the mouth of the Tanana River, where there was a trading post. I saw Mount McKinley far to the south, as the day was clear.
About five miles out of Tanana I skidded on the glare ice. When I picked myself up, I found I had broken a pedal. I returned to Tanana, and, with the help of the storekeeper, cut out wooden pedals and drilled a hole through the center of each. I also bought bolts, nuts and washers. The pedals wore out about every 75 miles.

Two hundred and fifty miles farther on, I came to the Koyukuk River, and 20 miles beyond that I arrived at Nulato, where a Russian trading post had been established in 1822.
As I wheeled into Nulato, a Jesuit priest met me outside of his home and invited me to stay with him overnight. Next day he took me to his workshop and fashioned a new pedal for my bicycle out of galvanized sheet metal and riveted it together with copper rivets. Luckily, I had the extra bolts I had bought at Tanana, for he had none. This pedal lasted until I reached Nome.

About fifty miles out of Nulato, I reached the Kaltag cutoff and headed overland to the Bering Sea, away from the Yukon, which wound its course to St. Michael. The days were warmer and the trail had begun to thaw and at times became indistinct. Water was flowing in the creeks and rivers. As I crossed the Shaktoolik River, I broke through the ice. Water was running under the surface ice, although there was still ice on the bottom of the river. I succeeded in breaking the surface ice and, hanging on to my bicycle, reached the opposite shore.

As I neared the Bering Sea, I saw what appeared to be glare ice off the shore. I headed for this and before I could stop, I found I was in calm, open water. I succeeded in wading back to shore and, although wet, continued on toward Nome.

Near Norton Bay was a roadhouse, where I dried off and had lunch before continuing. The boys at the roadhouse warned me that the ice would shift in Norton Sound but I started across it anyway. Just as I was nearing the opposite shore, the ice shifted, leaving about 8 to 10 feet of open water between the ice and the shore. I took a chance and leaped to the shore, where I picked up a piece of driftwood, jumped back on the ice floe and poled myself and my bicycle back to the shore, and went on my way. Just east of Nome, I skidded on glare ice. When I picked up my bicycle, I discovered the chain had snapped and broken.

There was a fair wind blowing toward Nome, so I picked up a stick, put it on my back inside my mackinaw coat, and began sailing for Nome. At times the wind was so strong that I was forced to drive into some soft snow to stop my wild flight. Without my chain I could not control the speed of my bicycle. However, I finally arrived at Nome, May 19, 1900, without further incident. I had had my 20th birthday on the trip.”

In 2003, a group of three cyclists, Andy Sterns, Frank Wolf and Kevin Vallely recreated the ride. You can read a National Geographic article about their odyssey here: Ice Bikers Follow Frozen Trail of Gold Rush.

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Crosstoberfest Cyclocross Costume Relay

by Eric Shalit on December 31, 2014

Cyclocross is a type of bicycle racing that typically takes place in autumn and winter. A race consists of many laps of a short (1.5–2  mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry their bike over the obstruction and remount in one fluid well-choreographed motion. Races are generally between 30 minutes and an hour long, with the distance varying depending on the ground conditions.

North Seatac Park was the venue for a full day of traditional cyclocross racing (10/3/09). The final event of the day however, was a costume relay race. After the first rider of each 3-person team completed their lap, they had to drink a beer at the New Belgium Beer Garden or do 20 push-ups before tagging their team-mate who then headed off on the next lap. Immediately out of the gate, riders carried their bikes up a steep sandy hillside staircase. Once at the top they mounted their bikes and sped off along the course.

Here’s a sampling of photos from the event. If I took your photo or you’d like to see more, shoot me an email and I’d be happy to email photos for your wall or wallet. Same goes if you’d like to use the photo for blackmailing a friend or co-worker.

The First Place prize was a baby. In some ways it doesn't seem right, but I think she'll take good care of it.

seattlecyclocross.com

Ragnarok Racing

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Before there were pedals, there was the ‘draisine’.

by Eric Shalit on December 30, 2014

Buster Keaton rides a Laufmaschine (German for 'running machine') in his 1923 film 'Our Hospitality', which is set in the 1830s. Keaton's technical crew were unable to obtain a vintage dandy horse, so they built one to match existing drawings and prints. Keaton later donated the machine to the Smithsonian Institution, which had lacked an authentic example. Thanks to Norman Anderson for sending this my way.

In 1817, Karl Drais, a young baron and inventor in Baden (Germany), designed and built a two-wheel, wooden vehicle that he straddled and propelled by walking swiftly. A forester for the Grand Duke of Baden, Drais used his “lauf-maschine” (running machine) to inspect the Duke’s forests. He could make his rounds more quickly and efficiently on wheels than on foot. The lauf-maschine soon became a novelty among Europeans, who named it the “draisine.” Copies were made in cities across the continent, and rentals, races, and public demonstrations became popular forms of recreation and entertainment.

In England, men and women took pleasure rides on a lighter, simpler version called the hobby horse. By 1818 the draisine craze reached the United States. Charles Wilson Peale, a well known portrait artist, helped to popularize the draisine by displaying one in his museum in Philadelphia. Many American examples were made, and rentals and riding rinks became available in eastern cities. Riding downhill at high speed was a particularly enjoyable activity that compensated for the draisine’s lack of a propulsion mechanism. On both continents, however, the draisine fad ended by 1820. The high cost of the vehicle, combined with its lack of practical value, limited its appeal and made it little more than an expensive toy.

Rough roads and accidents discouraged many riders and caused conflicts with local citizens. The draisine is historically significant because it was the first widely available vehicle that was not animal-powered, and it intrigued many people with the possibility of moving about on a personal, mechanized vehicle. But the success of two-wheelers would not become sustained until pedals were added to the front wheel some fifty years later.

Smithsonian Museum: The exact origin of this draisine is unknown; it is a typical example dating from the late 1810s.

"The Independent Balance." Philadelphian newspaper engraving. 1819. The article suggested the use of hobby-horses that "require no forage" for the grand army of Pennsylvania. (credit: 'The Bicycle' by Pryor Dodge).

What goes around comes around.

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Gear Review: You Too Can Ride in Snoo!

by Eric Shalit on December 29, 2014

I felt very comfortable despite 23F and 30mph gusts that at times made it feel like 8F.

Tradition has it that it rarely ever snows in Seattle, the first frost happens after Thanksgiving, and temperatures rarely drop below freezing. All of these rules were broken yesterday. Blizzard-like conditions hit the Puget Sound area late Monday (11/23/10) with snowfall of 3-5 inches, very windy conditions with gusts of 40-55 mph, and temps in the lower 20s F.

Tuesday morning was spectacular. Blue skies and 23F. The streets were icy but most of the drivers stayed off the roads, having been traumatized by Monday evening’s commute which took people up to 6 hours due to icy roads, abandoned cars, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Bummer!

A couple years ago I bought a pair of nearly new studded snow tires via Craigslist. Today was my first opportunity to try them out, and simultaneously test some of my new winter cycling gear. I’m hoping to put together a winter cycling kit and hope these reviews and recommendations will also work for you.

Kenda Klondike Studded Snow Tires

I’m riding their Skinny Road Bike Tires (700 x 35) with fenders. Each tire has 100 carbide tipped studs. Available in 700×35 or 700×40. My cyclocross bike has frame clearance that can accommodate these tires.

I was skeptical about how well snow tires would perform. I started out cautiously, not so much afraid of falling as about whether or not I would be able to get up. As the day progressed I became more experienced on a wide range of conditions, from compact snow to glazed ice. The tires performed remarkably well under all conditions. Occasionally, I’d channel into a rut created by another cyclist. I never saw another cyclist during my 25 mile ride, so these may have been left over from the previous night’s commute.

This shows a 26" Nokian Hakka WXC 300, but illustrates the general studded bicycle tire concept.

My original plan was to see if I could safely and comfortably ride from my house down to Alki Beach, about 3 miles. Although the entirety of the bike trail was icy snow and snowy ice, I felt reasonably safe, in control, and became more confident as the ride progressed. I rode across the low bridge and along East Marginal Way to the International District where I had a wonderful bowl of soup at my favorite restaurant, Szechuan Noodle Bowl.

A mountain bike would likely be a better setup, but I don’t yet own one. My cyclocross bike worked great. The bike tracked well, with only occasional and minor fishtailing. I avoided making sudden turns. Traction was excellent while climbing a very icy steep hill on my way home. Before heading out I switched out my clipless pedals for a pair of old flat pedals. This allowed me to wear boots and not worry about being able to unclip should I start to fall.

A pair of studded snow tires is a great thing for the cyclist who likes to get out in all weather as long as your frame can accommodate the 35mm tire width.

Click here for a very thorough comparison of Nokian and Schwalbe studded snow tires at Peter White Cycles.

'Baby' is my traveling companion whose hair is always a good barometer of weather conditions.

Ibex El Fito Tight

The Ibex El Fito is available as a full length tight, 3/4 length knickers, and 3/4 length bibs.

Until not too long ago I was Art Director at a company called Filson (outdoor clothing & gear since 1897). It’s there that I got to know and love wool. Not the itchy & scratchy old-fashioned wool, but soft super-fine Merino Wool. Not only did I learn to appreciate wool, but I’m the guy that sold lots of it to customers through the web and email. There’s no man-made fibre that compares to wool for it’s ability to keep you warm without getting clammy.

Since last week, I’ve ridden nearly 100 miles in the full length Ibex El Fito Tights, in temperatures ranging from 50F down to 23F, plus a windchill factor that made it seem like 8F. Ibex El Fito Tights are magnificent. Seriously. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re comfortable down to 0F. No cold spots. 100% breathable. Like pajamas. I put them on at about 10 AM, wore them all day in arctic conditions and am still wearing them while sitting indoors writing at 10 PM. I’m looking forward to bike camping this winter and expect I’ll be sleeping in them.

Made in USA from 92% New Zealand Merino wool, 6% nylon, 2% lycra on body; 87% Polyester/ 13% Spandex on seat and back legs. Climawool lite ® softshell knee front. I haven’t tested them in rain yet, but wool tends to shed light rain, keeps you warm even when wet, and dries quickly.

Ibex makes a full length tight, 3/4 length knicker, 3/4 length bib, and has a mix of men’s, women’s, and unisex styles. They seem committed to providing an expanding line of cycling gear for men and women that includes jerseys, arm warmers, leg warmers, tops, and bottoms.

At $160 list the El Fito Tight isn’t cheap. It’s a beautifully designed and crafted essential piece of gear that would make a great gift for any bike geek.

Click here for the Ibex product page.

Don't these Merino Sheep seem comfortable?

Below is a video someone made during the 11/22/10 Seattle snowstorm, while watching traffic from their front porch.

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