Monday, April 28, 2008

bike lanes

Tonight I helped out at the Mayor's project open house. Highlights of all the projects going on in Anchorage. I've been involved in the new Bike Plan for Anchorage and we were presenting that tonight. On either side of our booth were the Bike to Work Day people and a new group: the BCAA, Bicycle Commuters Alliance of Anchorage It was pretty cool to see what a draw cycling, specifically commuting by bicycle, was. People offered comments and insight to help make Anchorage easier for commuting.

I took a few minutes to wander over to the plans to redo Victor
View Larger Map between Dimond and 100th. That's where the reality of all the optimistic routes we have drawn on our maps came to a launched-over-the-handlebars halt. There's plenty of room to put bike lanes on Victor. Bike lanes are a much better place for commuters than the path (which will be replaced). But it's about the funding. While we don't mind spending millions to put in bridges for four lane highways through wetlands, we aren't deciding to build a wider roadbed to accommodate cyclists.

We've got the chance now. It's all about getting the funding put into the right pot of money. I guess it's in the hands of AMATs. But it's our money - shouldn't we have the chance to say where it's spent?

It's a feel-good experience putting together ideas for the future of my community; it sometimes feels like I'm pounding my head on the curbs to actually have those ideas implemented.

Friday, April 25, 2008

obvious topic

I rode home last night for the second time without my studded tires. So much faster and quieter, I enjoyed hearing the birds and noticing how much less snow was covering the ground. I even left work at a reasonable time, so didn't need a headlamp.

In the yard at an intersection I ride past on Lake Otis every time I commute are various metal sculptures. A few weeks ago I told Jon I'd love to have one in our back yard in the middle of the fireweed patch we allow to grow every year. But, he pointed out, if it was in the fireweed, we wouldn't see it. On our commute, we see if every day.

Last night, when I stopped to take a few photos, I saw something unusual. Someone had left an offering. Eggs and bananas and something in a cup (looks like bugs). I guess worshipping a metal sculpture or bringing it offerings is not so different from making offerings at a temple. I wonder what meaning this had for the person who left it. I've never noticed anything like this here before, but normally I just glide right by. I don't stop to examine.

Tonight, Anchorage is again covered in snow. Nineteen inches at our place when we got home from work - relieved we decided to drive. The sculptures are again covered, as are the bananas and eggs and the tiny shoots of grass that were emerging from the winter's heavy snow. Another week. A few. Maybe back to the studs. Maybe an extra drive in the car.
At this stage, all I can do is laugh. I can't change it - I can barely shovel it! It's out of my control and the control of everyone else who's wondering when the snow will stop surprising us. Well, that's nature. Now, go out and build yourself a snowman! The snow's perfect for it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

carpooling or bike commuting?

Following links while reading Bicycle Retailer online, I found this story about a pedal car. Performance art for our era of rising fuel prices, but can this also be the future of carpooling or bike commuting? After watching the video, it occurred to me the energy wasted to haul it back to its garage. Senseless!

It reminds me of a movie we saw about some guys in Idaho who built a bike car and pedaled it to different snowboarding spots in the Northwest. Maybe you can rent it, or you can buy a copy to share with friends.

Imagine families pedaling to school or to the park in one of these. For short trips together, why not? Maybe this is the future - the most fuel-efficient vehicle ever.

Friday, April 18, 2008

winter somewhere

Though I'm anxious for spring and an infrequent skier, I couldn't pass up a crust ski to Skookum Glacier, just one valley southwest of Portage valley. Not many people out there on a Thursday afternoon. A few snowmachiners and a mushing team. We started at Portage Glacier Road.

View Larger Map

Most people would have used their skate skis, but I prefer my classics, which is a good thing because when Jon started out on his skates, he broke one on an alder. Luckily, we have the same bindings and had brought my skate skis just in case. Though a little short for him, they saved his ski.

I'll admit, the biker in me wondered how it would have been to take the snow bike, but the softer afternoon conditions would have made it a bit of a death march.

We met a few friends at the trailhead. Even though I was going at a different pace, I had a great time. I reached the glacier and decided that was far enough for me that day considering the ski back to the car. After a lunch break, headed back down the valley.

Jon @ the glacier

Alaska Railroad, heading to Seward.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

building wheels

This winter I decided to build up a single speed from a frame. It's a steel castoff that looked like it might have potential. Potential for taking up some time. After cutting off the cables & housing, I went after the cranks & bottom bracket. That's where it took lots of power by one of the guys at the shop and a pry bar to break loose the years of rust that had built up on the bike.

Even the kickstand bolt was rusted in place!

I had a couple old hubs salvaged from the bin of destroyed wheels and a used single-speed converter from one of the guys. I only had to order a couple parts - the funky handlebar and the right size seatpost.

After building the wheels for my Pugsley last fall, I was pretty excited about building another set. With some new rims & spokes and Jon's coaching, we each started lacing a hub to a new rim - Over two, under one, tighten a couple turns, repeat. That was Sunday night.

Last night I spent a bit of time at the truing stand twisting the spoke wrench to pull the rim a little more one direction, taking out the wobbles and hops. Jon finished one of them. I'm almost ready with the other.

I've seen machines build wheels. They're pretty fast and very precise. But I like the process of connecting two circles with what are really just very thick wires, and knowing they will then allow me to roll all over town. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Biking home from work last night, I was looking forward to the day when my route would finally be free of ice. Seems that each time the pavement is close to clear I wake up the next day to another snow storm. Today we drove into work. Outside, the sprinkles became snow, which continued falling until after 8pm.

I love winter cycling. I love riding across the ice on my studded tires. I love biking through the woods on the snow-covered trails. But I'm done. I want to ride a lighter bike. I want the silence of smooth tires on the pavement.

The pussywillows are opening on the trees in my yard. I made it home last night without using my headlamp. It shouldn't be long now. I'm ready for spring.

Friday, April 4, 2008

another april

Things are getting busy. The bike buying season in Anchorage is off to an early start. I only hope it'll be a little less intense, spread out over more weeks than the usual April/May gotta-have-it-now buying season. In the shop where I work, spring is the season of OT. Overtime every day, every week and pretty soon a girl can have enough mad money to buy or build the bike of her dreams... ok, the next bike of her dreams. Maybe have enough left over for a ticket to a great biking the fall...

Speaking of destinations, our friend just moved to Moab (oh, he'll be back - can't stay away from Alaska too long). His recent email had a hint of embarassment at how few days he is required to work and how great the riding is. I guess after he pushed a bike through the snow for 400+ miles, I can't fault a guy for only working four days a week... or can I?

I can't even fathom pushing my bike for more than a mile or so. Last night I was annoyed to walk it a half block! Just one night after leading a flat fixing clinic for my friends, I was biking home with Jon when I noticed that my commuter bike with no suspension suddenly felt, well, like it had suspension. We'd crossed an intersection and started down a hill on the Lake Otis path. The squishiness at first felt nice, but quickly I recognized the feel of a rear tire flat. Glass on the trail! I'd seen it but didn't manage to avoid all of it.

I yelled to Jon to hold on and we pulled into a side street where in the on-and-off glow of a streetlight plus our headlamps we changed out the tube. We've been biking together for a long time and have tag-teamed on plenty of flats, so while I took the tube from the tire, Jon got the spare tube ready and we found the puncture. In just a few minutes, we were on our way.

That's when Jon confessed he wasn't carrying a spare tube or a pump - hasn't all winter. I have been hauling this equipment all season and this has been my first flat. This morning, before riding in to work, he grabbed a spare tube from the garage - hopefully he grabbed a pump as well. April is the season when lots of folks begin commuting again. It's also a big month for flats. You'd better be ready.

Glad I know how to fix these things!