Sunday, August 26, 2012

Suburban off-road trail riding

Sporting a CamelBak and a smile.
Last week was the first week of school, but reading and math weren't the only things worthy of study. She has had been awash with confidence riding her mountain bike, so we took an afternoon to get out on the trails.

One of my biggest barriers to mountain biking in the past several years has been the time involvement, both real and perceived. Probably my biggest hangup is the time investment to load a car with bikes and gear then to drive to a trailhead. However, since serving as sensei to a budding mountain biking grasshopper, I've become attuned to seeking out off-road opportunities in urbana situ, reducing time requirements for preparation.
Cruising some open singletrack.
We fortuitously live in an area with a quite a few off-road trails of various types. Most are not particularly technical or demanding, but can be a lot of fun regardless. With a little imagination, it's possible to link together several informally developed segments of double and singletrack via more officially sanctioned sections of trail surfaced with crusher fines.

Although there are not tremendous opportunities for long downhill runs, we have been working on some skills that will eventually be useful for descending. Big Sis soaks up new challenges, and has recently had fun mastering the skill of getting behind her seat to shift weight balance over the rear wheel. This is a position to allow for safe and controlled descent down slopes. She's a good climber and seems to enjoy topping hills, so developing the skills to go back down is naturally in the cards.
Showing the people how it's done.
We had a great time poking around the trails, and will continue to do so. The experiences of seeking out places to develop mountain biking skills is reminiscent of the way I rode a bike as a kid; just exploring the outdoors and having fun. There's no competition other than the occasional friendly sprint, and we stop to look at flowers or to get snacks whenever we feel like it. It's all been a valuable reminder that in biking, as well as life in general, the journey is the destination.

Nick the Gypsy

Just in from Fort Collins to a typically small-scale meeting of the Denver Surly Owner's Society (S.O.S.).
This past Wednesday, I met up with Nick, otherwise known as Gypsy by Trade, an adventurous young guy who has ridden his Surly Pugsley all the way from Anchorage, Alaska, a good chunk of which was along the Continental Divide trail. Nick has been alternately riding vast sections of the world, largely offroad, and working intermittently to fund his adventures for the past four years. I like to think that if I were his age and similarly unconnected to obligations such as parenthood and a mortgage, I'd be doing something along the same lines. In any case, his travels are inspiring, and I vicariously tag along when he checks in from the trail.
Nick's loaded rig is in the 75 pound weight range, but you wouldn't know it by the way he makes those fat tires move. Phil of Denver B-cycle leads the way. 

Tracy, the illustrious organizer of the S.O.S. brings up the rear.
I opted for my befendered Surly Cross Check, as a menacing sky seemed to indicate rain in the near future.
A small group of Surly owners had some beer and shot the breeze with Nick on his way through town. We then took a ride up into the Highlands to the new location of Salvagetti, where a benefit party for Mountain2Mountain was in progress. The new shop space is really nice, and there is a lot of room for the shop to continue its role as a community gathering spot for bicyclists.
Scott of Salvagetti and Nick talking about bikes 'n' stuff.
Justin Simoni's CDT conquering single speed Kona on display at Salvagetti.
On my way home, I took advantage of a nice cool evening with slight occasional sprinkles to enjoy my trip home. I don't often ride in the Highlands and am rarely downtown at night. My effort was rewarded with seeing a glimpse of the urban nightlife, much of it seemingly enjoyed by others on bikes.
Little Man Ice Cream is a popular destination.
The Highlands Bridge is teeming with activity, even after the late-for-me-to-be-out time of 10PM.
Nick is spending a bit of time in Fort Collins getting ready for the next segment of his quest, riding the Colorado Trail starting in Waterton Canyon just South of Denver. He's in the midst of setting up a 29er trail machine for his girlfriend Lael, who will be his traveling partner for the route. Best of luck to you both, and stop in any time you're in the area.

Monday, August 20, 2012

First day of 2nd Grade

Ready to go.
 Today was the first day of school for 2012-2013. We were ready to go bright and early and had a nice ride. Here's to another great year!
Cruising on the trail in perfect color coordination.

We were the first bikers to arrive, but a couple more showed up. This is the only bike rack at a school of ~400 kids.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Family camping trip

Cooling off mid-ride in the Bear River.

It had been quite a while since I'd been out of the Denver area. More than a year, actually. That is too long to be cooped up in any one place, so the chance to hit the road for a few days on a trip to Wyoming was more than welcome.

Our new-to-us minivan swallowed up the the seemingly half ton of random clothes, food, toys, books and other equipment essential to transport a family of four plus a dog in present day America. Of course, before we left I made sure a couple of bikes were stowed within the cavernous cargo hold. Say what you will about minivans, but I've found this one to be quite handy, and the closest I'll ever get to owning the dream-mobile of my youth, a VW bus.  Besides, a used minivan may just be unhip enough to be cool.

This was our first road trip for both the new baby and the somewhat older dog. Both did remarkably well considering the many hours of driving. We took it easy, stopping every couple of hours to feed the baby and walk the dog. The division of labor by traditional gender roles saw to it that I was in charge of the walking and Julie the feeding. I think the result was appreciated by both adults involved.

A visit to Wyoming is a good reminder that no matter what time of year it may be, Wyoming is generally about a half season colder than surrounding states. Laramie greeted us with chilly sideways sprinkles of rain, accompanied by roiling greenish clouds. As it turns out, that was ideal ball chasing weather for Scout in a roadside park.

Wind and rain? No complaints here.

Evidence of a Laramie-based tinkerer thinking outside the box.
Eventually, we reached our destination in the Uinta Mountains near the Wyoming/Utah border and camping ensued. And, not surprisingly, so did hiking, cooking, and several bike rides. Sometimes, one activity led to another, as on our way back to the campsite from a hike, I took the opportunity to test the roadworthiness of the Pugsley down the highway on a mountain pass. I had no cyclecomputer or GPS with me, so I don't know my attained speed, but I do know at terminal velocity the fat tires were humming like a freight truck with the hammer down.
At Mirror Lake with Bald Mountain in the background.

A formerly wily bucking rock now tamed by a cowgirl.

Little sister finally big enough to be held by big sister.

A rare non-self-portrait of me riding at the beginning of the Pugsley's land speed record ride.

A speeding fatbike is a rolling conundrum of gravity and friction.

One of the primary objectives of the trip was to get Big Sis out to do some real mountain biking. Our location had no shortage of doubletrack and fire roads, so we made the most of it. I continue to be amazed at her skill and persistence when confronted by new obstacles. She powered up climbs and sorted her way through cobble fields with confidence, as if she had much more experience than she actually has.
Riding through a picturesque stand of aspen. 

Indian Paintbrush, the state flower of Wyoming, stood out along the trail.

Deftly handling rough cobble like a pro.

Mastering the art of the out-of-saddle climb. 

Back at camp, she also excelled in post ride relaxing. Scout, my other riding partner, is no slouch when it comes time to take it easy, either.
Roasting marshmallows with Grandpa.

My cowgirl enjoyed helping me to keep track of the coals.

Curled up into a furry little ball.

Putting those almost 2nd grade reading skills to work in front of a nice fire. This is the good life.
On the way home, we stopped in Evanston long enough for a ride or two. The surrounding high plains desert landscape typifies southwestern Wyoming, and trails are invitingly cool during late summer evenings. The landscape has a range of muted, dusty colors with occasional interjections of small, vibrant flowers and even turquoise deposits of oxidized copper ore. The terrain is pretty, but unforgiving.
This toughed-up old Volkswagen seems like a fun car for arid and mountainous southwestern Wyoming.

The Pug ate up the dirt around here, but the ever present cactus made me wary.

View from the top of a ridge overlooking Evanston, Wyoming.

When we rolled back through Laramie, the rain was gone but the wind remained its old dependable self. However, while exploring some of the superb multi-use paths in the area, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many sections have been designed to seemingly reduce the effects of the wind. Not only that, but the paths are among the finest I've seen anywhere; well constructed, marked, and designed to be useful for commuters and recreational bicyclists alike. Laramie has long been a bit of an unsung sleeper-hit of a bike community, but recent efforts to improve bike infrastructure may bring it into full blossom.
Mommy and baby enjoying a visit to the Laramie River.

I was a bit surprised to find a system of well-implemented paths in Laramie, niceties that didn't exist when I lived there.

This little pointy-eared dog is an ever eager riding companion.

When we returned home, we caught the Western Welcome Week parade. As in previous years, we were escorted by our cowgirl on her aluminum steed. Not a bad way to end summer vacation. Tomorrow, school.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm not alone!

Shocking: a fatbike track that isn't mine.
Last evening I happened upon a familiar tire track freshly imprinted on a local trail. The tread profile was unmistakably a Surly Larry. I was at once astonished and impressed with myself at the finding, almost as much as had I found evidence of bigfoot. After all, that is more or less what I had done.

After scrutinizing the tread a bit, the one thing that troubled me was that, although the imprint was familiar, the scale seemed slightly off. Was this left by a member of the elusive Big Fat Larry branch of the family? I wasn't on my Pugsley at the time, so I quickly took a photo of my finger on the track for later comparison. Notice that the distance between the indentations of the two sets of dart-like knobs one level out from the center ridge equal approximately the length of my index finger from the tip to the second knuckle.

Back at home, I checked against my standard Larry. The equivalent measurement between dart-like knobs to those on the track is shorter. I think this is proof enough that the track was made by a Big Fat Larry, and not by a sibling of my run-of-the-mill Larry. Furthermore, the track must logically have been made by a rear tire, as any imprint of a front tire track would have been overridden by the rear tire. This means that the bike attached to this tire was very likely a Surly Moonlander; the Pugsley's chubbier brother and the most numerous representative of the very small handful of frames capable of accommodating such fat rubber.

So, I am now left with a feeling that is probably not unlike that of a dog encountering a spot marked by another dog. I know there's another fatbiker out there, somewhere near me. I have interpreted the clues to develop an image of what his or her bike looks like. Yet, like a dog that lingers for too long while sniffing, all I can do is wonder. I suppose, to follow a dog's example, my next step is to lay down some markings of my own.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A little light reading

Mobile data collection platform, October 2010.
For the small percentage of my handful of readers who may be interested in digitally thumbing through my dissertation that I completed earlier this year, a PDF version is now available. The title is, "Public Bicycle Sharing as a Population-Scale Health Intervention for Active Transportation in Denver, Colorado." To my knowledge, it is the first and perhaps only dissertation focused on investigating health and environmental impacts of a large-scale public bicycle sharing system. However, be warned that the file is a bit larger than 15 MB and the document is around 280 pages in length.

So enjoy and/or thank me later for helping to reduce your insomnia.