Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Cruising along at a good clip.
I wasn't quite sure the best order to put the words in the title, but our ride this morning incorporated all three. Though, the salient item here is snow, as in it fell for the first time in what seems like a long time. As strange as it sounds to say it, I was getting a little tired of 65 to 70 degree F days, so the 3 or so inches of snow we got last night was refreshing.

Scout and I made the most of the snow on our morning ride. In some places along the way, foot tracks and even a bike track or two had already been laid down, but in most of our familiar haunts we were breaking trail.
That is decidedly not a fatbike track. Goes to show that just about any bike can be a snow bike.
The storm was accompanied by some wind, which embedded snow in the bark of this tree for an artistic effect.
Breaking trail in an open space area. 
Paws left, fat tires right.
While riding, I realized that I have liked at least something about every bike I've ever had. However, the more time I have with the Pugsley, the somethings that I like about it just keep accumulating. It rolls so incredibly well of road, and the tires make a huge difference in not only snow, but everything else. The Pug is now hovering around a similar internal ranking as my incredibly useful Big Dummy, and is even more fun to ride.

On another note, I'd been on the lookout for a lightweight down jacket/sweater as an insulative layer in winter and an easily packable jacket for the rest of the year. Most that I'd found were nice, but a bit rich for my blood. Then, one day at Costco, I found a Kirkland Signature microdown jacket that looked just like the Patagonia version. It felt of good quality and was only $70. So I thought it over and did a little research. It seems as though Costco is sourcing a few high quality outdoor items these jackets as a fairly new offering. Costco has a nice return policy, so I bit.

So far, so good. The jacket is great for layering, and is all I need down to about freezing. I don't really review things, but my impression after the first few weeks has been entirely positive. It fits well, with long enough sleeves and waist (I wear size large), and it's only a little larger in girth than would be ideal for me. All the fabrics and stitches are good, and the down feels evenly distributed. No frills, no extraneous colors or patterns; just like I like stuff to be. It would have been nice for the inner pocket to be an integral stuff sack, though. Small quibble.

In any case, I thought I'd put my two cents out there in case anyone else has stumbled across a jacket like this at Costco. It may be the case that I'll get what I pay for by going cheap, but that's not the feeling that I've had to date. Knowing a little about how Costco works, I wouldn't be surprised if the jacket were made in the same factory as the Patagonia version. If my impression of the jacket changes, I'll post it here.
Kirkland Signature down jacket.
Size large. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Back to the future on two wheels

Wheelie action on my 1986 Miyata Trail Runner, circa Fall 1988.
My recent acquisition of a vintage Miyata Ridge Runner mountain bike inspired me to dig through old photos to search out any of a bike I once owned, and which inspired this latest purchase. That bike was a 1986 Miyata Trail Runner, my first mountain bike. As a high school student, I saved up to buy the Trail Runner with earnings from my first job, pulling in minimum wage at $3.35 an hour. The Trail Runner later transitioned to being primary transportation and entertainment in college.

The Trail Runner was a good, solid, early boom era mountain bike, but not terribly impressive compared to a lot of contemporary bikes. It was, however, transformational, as my first high quality bike from an actual bike shop, and superior in precision and performance to any bike I'd ever ridden to that point. Although I had plenty of dirt riding experience on various bikes as a kid, the Trail Runner allowed me to go more places than any of them. It became part of my identity. I even rode this bike on a first date with a young woman, who, after more than two decades, still continues to be accepting, if not fully understanding of my bike obsession.
What can I say? It's a fine example of Wyoming-style cheap entertainment.  
 A couple of shiftless slackers. Brian is in the background on a puke green '87 Diamond Back Curaca. 
Mountain bike fever had hit me sometime in 1985, but it wasn't until the following year that I could scrape together enough cash to get one. The used market for mountain bikes was virtually nonexistent, so a new bike was the only option. The bike shop where I bought the Trail Runner was primarily a Schwinn retailer, owned and operated by a diminutive old European couple who sized me up and brought out the two mountain bikes they had in my size and price range: the Trail Runner and a brown '86 Schwinn High Sierra with roller cam brakes front and rear. Both were nice bikes, but something about the Miyata just felt better, and that was that. After an exchange of a bit more than $450 in greenbacks, I was rolling home. I still have the receipt and owner's manual somewhere.

My metallic platinum 23" Trail Runner had a lugged steel frame and unicrown fork of Miyata cr-mo tubing, with a mix of Shimano, Dia-Compe and SR parts, and 26 x 1.75" Miyata tires on Ukai rims. It had 18 friction-shifted gears, featuring newfangled at the time, biometric-advantaged Biopace chainrings. All those gears were definitely a new experience, but I most appreciated the lowest gear, enabling me to goof around riding over things. The idea of a really low gear is taken for granted now, but it's difficult to convey how revolutionary it felt back then.

I rode the Trail Runner mostly stock for quite a while, then eventually installed some ESGE fenders to ride in the muck. Later, I dropped the fenders and swapped the aluminum riser bar for a flat Tioga Prestige chromoly bar, and fatter rubber in the form of Fisher Fattrax tires. I even installed a quick release axle in place of the solid rear hub axle, to go with the front quick release. The Trail Runner was an educational platform for many mechanic skills, and induced me to begin building a set of tools that continues to grow to this day.

Many of the people I hung around with in college arrived with low end road bikes, department store bikes, or no bike at all, but after seeing the fun of fat tires, several soon got mountain bikes of their own. At the time, the technology of mountain bikes was changing rapidly. Angles got steeper, chainstays got shorter and the focus shifted from wandering and adventure to speed and acrobatics. Wild designs and colors proliferated. As it is with change and fickle youth, eventually the bloom fell off the rose for the Trail Runner and me, as something newer and shinier came along. Though I would have kept it if I could, back then I couldn't really afford another bike straight up, so I reluctantly parted with the Trail Runner in the Fall of 1989 to fund the next bike. In the intervening years, I've owned many bikes, but for a lot of reasons, no bike will ever have quite the magnitude of impact on me as that sturdy old Miyata.

Riding up stairs in the snow, circa early 1989. By this point, the Trail Runner was sporting Tioga flat bars and Fisher Fattrax tires. My thrift store wardrobe was the polar opposite of lycra.
My half of the dorm room housed the majority of my possessions: a couple of flannel shirts, a stereo, a few records, a can of Tri-flow, a Specialized water bottle, and my Trail Runner. Roommate Brian interrupts my phone call with a squirt gun.
Synchronized radicalness. Rich the English guy is on an '87 Diamond Back Ascent. Yes, I'm wearing the same clothes as in the previous photo. No, it wasn't the same day. 
Incidentally, as I was digging through shoe boxes of photos and negatives, it occurred to me that the way I use a camera and think of photos has changed quite a bit in the past quarter century. Back in the old days, I didn't even have a camera until some time after I went to college, and the one I picked up was a cheap point-and-shoot of long forgotten type. Film and processing were relatively expensive at my meager income level, so I only occasionally took photos. Looking through the boxes, I noticed that a single roll of 24 exposure film sometimes chronicled events a year or so apart. Many of the photos I have are courtesy of the photographic generosity of other people, including all those in color on this page. Thus, there are long stretches of my life with virtually no photographic record.

I then realized that the only reason this now seems odd is because of the copious volume of digital photography and the ubiquity of devices with integral cameras. For example, yesterday I took a photo of an address on an envelope with my phone because I was too lazy to write it down. That would have never happened in the old days. Part of me still thinks prolific photography is crazy and wasteful. I wouldn't be surprised if many people of my age or so can relate to this perception. Likewise, photographic frugality may seem astoundingly archaic to people of younger generations.

Where this all leads is to a discovery that the total photographic record of my Trail Runner, a bike that meant enough to me for me to have sought out a similar bike decades later, amounts to perhaps a dozen images, many of which are shown here. Another insight is of time itself, and the realization that something I bought new as a young adult is considered vintage. It's enough to make me feel old. Now where is that hot tub?

Yes, I still dress remarkably similarly, but most of that hair is long gone.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some things from the past day or so

I've earned membership in the prestigious Tarik Saleh Bicycle Club via the TSBC 100 Challenge. Thanks, Tarik! I'll do my best to abide by the rules, though I suppose the indefinite nature of the word "try" can be interpreted as allowing for some error. BTW, my participation continues, as I haven't missed a day of riding since I started the challenge. What about a 365-ish day challenge, or some such? 
Scout and I squeezed in a ride under the setting sun, thanks to the increasing daylight hours.
Spotted this snappy little Corvair convertible on the mean streets of Denver. 
Other people's bikes: magnesium chloride edition. For you Raleigh enthusiasts out there, this late '80s Grand Teton unfortunately had a crusty coat of dried ice-melting solvent. Fenders would help, of course.
Caught a train ride with a couple of my girls.
My first flat on the Miyata was with the cheap replacement tire on the rear. Must've picked up something, as a few blocks from home, it went from feeling a bit spongy to flat in about a minute. The vintage front tire is still going strong. That is all. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1984 Miyata Ridge Runner

My long sought after and newly found 1984 Miyata Ridge Runner, size 23".
As promised, here are some pics of my most recent acquisition. The photos are of the bike in the condition it was when I got it. Actually, it's a little dirtier than when I got it because it's now been on several short rides in melting snow / goose poo dispersal areas. Note also that I swapped out the seat and pedals, because the original Miyata imprinted Selle Italia saddle and the Suntour XC II pedals had unfortunately been lost to the sands of time. I added my own Brooks B-17 and some vintage beartraps. I also took a little artistic license and installed a Breeze-Angell Hite Rite, the original seat dropper, because I had it in my stockpile and it is also a product introduced in 1984.

I bought the Ridge Runner from its original owner, who bought it new in Sonoma, California just as the mountain bike boom was starting to reach a wider audience. It spent many years in California, a couple in Maui, and several more in Colorado. The bike has been ridden, but sparingly. There's a thick layer of waxy grease on much of the drivetrain, but no component shows anything but minimal wear. The front tire is even the original Miyata branded stock model, with a tread and profile that gives the impression of a downsized motocross tire.

This bike represents the culmination of an on-again, off-again effort to reacquire a facsimile of my first mountain bike, a 1986 Miyata Trail Runner, which was a nice bike, but a couple of rungs down the ladder from the Ridge Runner. My '86 Miyata was the first good quality, non department store bike I ever had, as well as the first new bike I ever bought myself, but that's a story for another time. The seller's regret I've experienced since selling my '86 Miyata back in 1989 is probably no small contributor to my difficulty in letting any bike go, because once they're gone, they're gone. In any case, enjoy the following photo dump, all you old-timer mountain bike enthusiasts!

Nice, slack angles: 68 degree head tube, 70.3 degree seat tube. By the end of the '80s, steeper, less comfortable 71/73 angles were mostly commonplace.
Roomy for its era 60 cm (23.5") c-t-c top tube, with about 120 mm  in stem extension. Wide handlebar. This all equates to comfort and control.
Head tube says, "Since 1890." There's a slight kink in the rear brake housing. All will be replaced anyway.
Yep, made in Japan. Note the over the bottom bracket cable routing.
Nice little graphic flourish on the seat tube.
Rack mounts tucked neatly inside the seatstays for a clean look. Fender mount under the brake bridge and another at the chainstay bridge.
This bike has its stickers above the clear coat, as opposed to my '86 which had them under the clear coat. Maybe during the boom this was a quicker timeframe to market to beat the rapidly expanding competition?
The top of the line '84 Ridge Runner was TIG welded throughout, which is odd as Miyata was a company where every other model at the time was lugged. Even the two other '84 Miyata mountain bike models lower down the line had lugs, so I'm not quite sure why the Ridge Runner was welded.  Did the relatively unusual TIG joints look more mountain bike-y at the time?
Original SR seatpost with an era-appropriate Hite Rite. I'll have to dig up a Suntour quick release to replace the non-original Kalloy unit currently here.
TIG welded fastback-style seatstay junction mimics the fillet brazed treatments on custom frames of the time, primarily Ritchey.
Suntour Power Thumbshifters and Dia Compe brake levers. Hardly a wear mark to be found. The less than a year old Avid levers on my Pugsley look more worn. 
The cockpit is built around a Nitto B-902 bull moose bar. The grips are not original, though the originals were of a somewhat similar ergonomic design.
The angle of the Nitto bars felt familiar, and sure enough, they have almost the exact profile of a Salsa Moto Ace bar (the bar currently on my Pugsley), though the Nitto is wider at 720 mm vs. the 660 mm Salsa. It's a very nice bar. 
Brake and shift levers are nearly showroom fresh.
The little spots on the shifter aren't pitting or corrosion, just antiquated grease and dust. 
The Suntour Power Thumbshifter is one of the nicest, simplest shifters ever made, in my opinion.
Shiny Dia-Compe levers mated to Dia-Compe cantilevers. 
Tange Levin headset. Mirror-like surfaces on the faces of the lock nuts.
Perhaps one of the first headsets specifically designated for off road use. The forged fork crown has a very beefy feel.
The tubing sticker has suffered more over time than most of the rest of the bike.
Fun fact: Miyata was the only company of the era to draw its own custom tubing. Good stuff.
Miyata's own fork tubing, too.
Stem/bar assembly of the black chromed, chromoly Nitto B-902 bull moose bar.
Suntour rear hub. Surface grease and dust on the hubs will be attended to shortly.
The only corrosion I've found is on the surface of the nickel-plated spokes. This is not uncommon for a bike of this age. Note the threaded dropout adjusters.
Suntour front hub. Both front and rear hubs have nut-on axles; no quick release here. Top and bottom eyelets on the fork ends.
Sealed bearing Suntour. This is the pre GreaseGuard era, though.
It's even got a Suntour pie plate under the freewheel. Not even yellowed. How cool is that?
Original Suntour New Winner 14-32 6-speed freewheel. Single eyelets on the rear Suntour dropouts.
Suntour Mountech rear derailleur.
Suntour. Dia-Compe. Sugino. This bike has no Shimano parts at all. See original specs here.
Suntour Tech front derailleur. Dust caps on the cranks highlight that they are cotterless. 
Sugino AT cranks. Amazingly smooth finish and no apparent rubbing or wear. 50-40-28 Sugino rings.
A little hard to see in this photo, but that's a 180 mm crank stamped D-4, which I interpret as meaning April, 1984. Nice long cranks for a bike of this size. 
That's a Sugino sealed bottom bracket down there from well before the cartridge bb era.
I got rid of the plastic replacement pedals that were on the bike, in favor of some older beartraps I had. I like how black anodized parts fade to a bronze color over time. 
Can't forget the original Blackburn USA bottle cage. It's apparently been little used, with no scuffing or wear inside.
Plenty of clearance for even fatter tires. Dia-Compe cantilevers with original pads. No through-hole on the fork crown. Instead, there's a fender mount on the front. The front tire is original, and is good and meaty for its era.
The block knobbed Miyata tire is a lot like the Fisher Fattrax tires that I eventually installed on my '86 Miyata. The original Araya rims show barely any marking from brake use.
Some cracking, but the front tire is in remarkably good condition after 29 years. I think I'll continue to ride it until it disintegrates. It would be a shame to take it off to preserve it, thus cursing it to never being ridden again.
The rear tire is not original. I'd love to find something that performs in a similar manner to match the feel of the original front tire. Perhaps a Kenda K-Rad, or a Comp III. Any other suggestions?
I can confirm that the bike rides as good as it looks. Upcoming project: a strip-down for new cables and housing, repacked bearing assemblies and general sprucing up.