Friday, August 14, 2015

First day of school, 5th grade edition

For each first day of school starting with kindergarten, we've ridden to school. This final year of elementary school was no different.

Bewilderingly, the first day of school is a half day on a Friday, effectively stealing the last weekend of summer vacation. I can't imagine that much will be learned, yet this is the second year in a row that this has been the case, so it's apparently not a fluke.

Also bewildering, was when we arrived to discover new picnic tables installed close to the bike rack. The tables greatly impede access to the already lousy wheelbender bike rack, rendering the rack nearly useless. This is a textbook example of designing to fail. It may be no coincidence that we were the only ones who rode to school today.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bike camp & birthday wheels

Flying on her new Specialized Myka. 
Though already half over, July has been eventful, encapsulating bike camp in Waterton Canyon and a double digit birthday. For good or bad, bike camp happened during an especially rainy week in an abnormally rainy year, so big sister is now a seasoned veteran mud rider.

In the midst of bike camp, she made the jump from 24-inch to 26-inch wheels, via a slightly early birthday bike. The 13-inch frame of a 2012 Specialized Myka Sport is the perfect entry to the world of high quality, big people mountain bike parts. After I performed a quick rebuild, the Myka now features a 2x9 Deore drivetrain, Avid BB5 disc brakes, wide 26" tires, and a Rockshox Recon Gold 100mm suspension fork.
The girls each on new-to-them bikes. 
I decided after she toughed out the first few rain soaked days of bike camp without complaint, that she was due for the bigger bike. Her old bike, a Specialized Hotrock 24" has served us well, but its gearing was not ideal for conditions, and had begun to look a bit small in proportion to her rapidly growing limbs.

Soaked but smiling after the first epic ride of camp. 

She was particularly proud of how muddy her legs were. 

I sewed a tiny framepack to help with the load. 

The Myka will need a larger framepack. 

Friend to amphibians. 

Skipping rocks is an important skill to master. 

The Cateye logged 56 miles of trail over five days. She said she could have gone a lot farther. 

After she figured out that the bigger bike could do things that her old bike couldn't, it was an instant hit. It didn't hurt its popularity that Lael also rides a black Specialized bike. She was especially amazed at the ability of the Rockshox Recon to both smoothe the trail and improve control in a way the mostly ornamental RST fork on her Hotrock simply can't do. In all, she's faster and more confident on the Myka, though there is still much to learn.

Packing material shenanigans. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Go Lael, go!

The instant that she realized those random people cheering on the side of the road were us.
The Tour Divide, for those who don't know, is probably the most challenging long distance race in bicycling. Unlike more well known events, such as the Tour de France, riders have no support teams, can accept no food, water or assistance from anyone, are competing for no fabulous prize money, and many rarely, if ever, encounter a bed or a shower for the duration of the nearly 3,000 mile race. The route traces the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta in southern Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the U.S. border with Mexico.

If you've been keeping track of the Tour Divide this year, you'll undoubtedly know about Lael Wilcox. If you haven't been paying attention, Lael is one of the most exciting parts of this immense race, which, this year is more full of excitement than ever. The best way to keep track of her, in addition to her Spot tracker, is through the blog of her adventure partner and mechanic, Nicholas Carman.

After a 2,100 mile warm up ride from her home in Anchorage to the Tour Divide starting line in Banff, Lael started out strong on the 2015 Tour Divide race. Then, she almost immediately caught a severe case of bronchitis and a cold, yet still managed to rack up well over 100 miles a day as she fought her infection on the trail, eventually with the help of antibiotics. For the first week of the race, I can't imagine how difficult it was for her as she battled a serious respiratory illness, in addition to the elements and grueling distances of the route.

When her Spot tracker showed that she was beginning to cover ever greater distances, passing many competitors along the way, it was a sign that she was feeling better. We've been watching her pink Spot marker move quickly down the map, and when she rolled through Steamboat Springs yesterday, I decided we'd try to find a place to cheer for her along the trail. So today, we made the trek from Denver to a place where the Tour Divide route intersects Highway 285 near Como, Colorado.

The leader of Lael's Colorado cheering section. The sign says, "Go Lael! You can do it!"
We found a place to wait a bit North of Como, and had a picnic lunch. Before I could get my camera out, racers Joe Fox and Andres Bonelli rode past us. I knew that Lael had been picking off the members of the group of riders that they had been a part of, so she couldn't be far behind. About 20 minutes after they went by, we saw her signature light blue helmet, and were happy to have not missed her.

Lael was all smiles when she realized it was us. In order to answer multiple questions, she gave a quick tour of her bike and what she's carrying. Other than snacks, water, navigation devices, and antibiotics, she isn't hauling much. I have a feeling many Tour Divide racers will reevaluate their loads after seeing the minimal amount Lael carries.

After a few minutes, it was time to send her on her way. It was great to see Lael in the midst of the race, and I'm happy to say that she's looking healthy and strong, even if she still has the remnants of a deep cough that she described as, "nothing compared to what it used to be."

We first met Lael and Nick nearly three years ago. She, at the time, was an experienced rider, but novice mountain biker, gaining a footing aboard a used Raleigh XXIX 29er that Nick put together for her. Since then, we've seen these two adventurers when their path took them through our part of the world, or our path through theirs. It's now an honor to see Lael again as a top-tier athlete during a likely record-breaking run. At present, 11 days into the race, she's almost a day ahead of the current women's record. We all wish her the best on her way to Antelope Wells.

Happy trails, Lael!

My official Team Lael cap. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pedal biker!

At 3 years, 3 months, little sister is now a pedal biker. We'll have a lot more to learn, but this is one proud girl with a proud family.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Yesterday was the first time that we all took a ride together, each on our own bikes. Little sister has no problem keeping up for most of the distance of our neighborhood loop. When she gets tired, she hops on the Big Dummy, along with her Strider. She's already asked about a bike with pedals, which I have waiting in the wings, but I want her to further improve her handling skills before I make the introduction.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We have a balancer!

Little sister made a breakthrough in balance riding on her Strider bike tonight. In the last few weeks, she's gone from walking her bike along, to running her bike along, and recently started lifting both legs simultaneously for just a half second as little self-tests of her courage. But during our evening ride today, she discovered she could lift both legs and coast. It seems she's over the crux and just about has this balance bike thing figured out. I predict more speed and coasting in the immediate future.

Friday, February 13, 2015

DIY Longtail of the future: Xtracycle MegaRack

A Surly Krampus with a MegaRack and kid seat. Looks like fun. Images in this post are from Xtracycle.
I ordinarily post only photos and content that I've created, though I occasionally make an exception. This is one of those occasions. The images in this post came from a Google Hangouts video hosted today by Ross Evans of Xtracycle, in which he announced a replacement to the vaunted Xtracycle Freeradical bolt-on kit that was retired last year. I have long been a fan and DIY enthusiast of Xtracycle, and beside my Big Dummy, have owned two Xtracycle Freeradicals.

The new Xtracycle bolt-on looks to be an improved and more capable design, called the MegaRack. It is designed to be considerably more beefy and stable than the old Freeradical, with versions for multiple tire/wheel sizes, including 29+. For me, this is great news, as in the past few years, I've discovered that 29-inch wheels are more compatible with my height and preferred fit of a bike, and the larger diameter wheels excel for much of how I ride.

Functional though it may be, the Xtracycle Edgerunner never appealed much to me, with its 20-inch rear wheel. I understand that designing a cargo bike around a smaller diameter wheel lowers the center of gravity and makes for a stronger wheel, but small wheels are not ideal for the rough surfaces where I like to go, and make for a more jarring ride elsewhere. I've nearly maxed out the clearance on my Big Dummy with 26" x 2.3" tires, so the possibility of going much bigger has me cogitating. As a matter of fact, with a set of 29+ wheels, the new MegaRack would make an unsuspended 29er like my Monocog 29er quite a viable supersized cargo and passenger machine. It's hard to say when or if I'll get my hands on a MegaRack, but it appears to be more than worthy of consideration.

CAD images of the MegaRack design. Via Xtracycle.
A MegaRack on a folding bike. For this, 20-inch wheels make sense. Via Xtracycle.
Ross showing the new, more stout chainstay bridge connector. Welcome indeed. Via Xtracycle

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quite likely the best thing about winter in Denver

It's 75F/24C on January 27th, I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and taking an afternoon ride on a suburban trail with the sun on my face. Sure, I know winter will be back soon, but it's great for spring to stop by for a visit.