Short and Easy

Short easy rides are essential.  Here’s why:

Short Cut Through the Grand Forest
Short Cut Through the Grand Forest
  • They provide active recovery, essential respites between hard days of climbing.
  • They sustain my “ride every day” plan.  Often the most difficult hurdle is just starting.  Short rides make it easy to start, because it’s always ok just to ride a few miles.  On the other hand, often what I expect to be a short ride turns into a longer ride because I’m having fun.
  • They invite me to look around, pay attention to stuff.  Incredibly relaxing.

Chip Seal Terror

chipSealSignchipSealSurfaceYikes! My favorite roads on Bainbridge Island are being chip sealed, all at the same time, all during primo cycling season.  No one consulted me before doing this work.  What’s worse than riding up a hill on chip surface?  Riding downhill.  Front wheel feels like it’s on the verge of skidding with the slightest shift in weight.  Oh well, Levi’s ride promises some steep climbs on crappy roads.  Guess we can call this training.

Salmon grilled on a Cedar Plank I

  • Cedar Plank – 1/2 in thick, 6 in wide x 10 in long, depending on amount of salmon. Get this from a lumber store, don’t by the expensive ones in the grocery store
  • Fresh wild caught Pacific Salmon – Coho, Sockeye, or King.  3/4 pound serves two people
  • One sliced scallion
  • One juiced lemon
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Soak the cedar plank in water for 2 hours
  • Prepare the marinade with the lemon, oil, basil, salt and pepper.
  • Marinate the salmon for 30 min to 1 hour
  • Pre-heat the grill to 400F.  On a small gas grill, set it to high.
  • Place plank on the grill, salmon on the plank, skin side down. You can pour the remaining marinade over the salmon.
  • Cook covered for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.  I find 20 minutes is sufficient for the tail end of a small piece.  Longer is required for thicker pieces.

Davidson Bicycle

I broke the cable stop off the top tube of my bike by carelessly clamping it into my work stand. Now I must take the bike back to Bill Davidson to have it welded back on.

Davidson weld

Welding titanium is not a simple process. Because titanium oxidizes in the liquid state, the weld needs to be performed in an oxygen free environment.  After stripping and cleaning the frame, the tubing is filled with argon gas, and the weld is done in the presence of a steady stream of argon in the region of the weld. A poor weld would easily fracture.  A good weld exhibits evenly spaced crescent shaped bands where the filler rod was dipped into the titanium puddle.

Davidson bicycles, not to be confused with Harley Davidson motorcycles are hand built by a small team working with Bill Davidson in the Fremont District in Seattle.  I purchased my ti frame in 2001 to replace an older steel frame that Davidson built for me in 1986.  The old frame had developed rust pinholes from too many hours of riding in the rain.  One of the many properties of titanium is that it’s impervious to rust.  It’s also much less dense than steel, providing a similar stiffness with less weight.  The elongation and tensile strength of ti make it a highly durable and reliable frame that can be expected to last a lifetime.

My frame has over 20,000 miles, accumulated on three trans-continental trips, (9,000 miles) three up and down trips (4,500 miles), and the miles needed to train for those trips.  The bike used to have a computer/odometer.  Last time I looked at the odometer, it read 13,000 miles.  When the battery wore out, I took the computer off the bike and never replaced it.  That was several years and several thousand miles ago.  Also, that was the second computer on the bike.  I don’t know how many thousand miles I rode on the first one.

In the years since I purchased my bike, titanium has lost appeal as a material for high end bike frames. Carbon fiber frames are much lighter and currently much more popular. They’re also more expensive.

My first Chro-moly Davidson cost $2,000.  I earned the money to buy the frame by delivering Dominos pizzas, and used the bike for my first cross-country bike ride in 1986.  In 2001, I hesitated paying over $4,000 for a new titanium bike, thinking that at age 51, my cycling days were mostly behind me.  Little did I know they were barely beginning.


Hidden Cove Dock

Hidden Cove Dock
Hidden Cove Dock

Today’s ride took me to the north end of Bainbridge Island, where I stopped to investigate Hidden Cove Park, one of many small parks along the coast. A  dirt and gravel road wound through the forest down the hill to a small parking area and high bank grass field overlooking Madison Bay.  From there, several flights of a narrow stairway led to this dock. Several teenagers were hanging out on the dock, laughing, diving and splashing in the water.  Summer time on the island.

Port Gamble on a Rainy Saturday

Every Saturday morning, a group meets at Winslow Green on Bainbridge Island to ride 40 or so miles to Port Gamble and back.  The likelihood of rain kept most people home this Saturday.  Of the four people who started, two people bailed about a mile into the ride when it actually started raining.

When the rain started, I donned my white garbage bag, which I always carry under the saddle for such occasions. It weighs almost nothing and is quite effective in keeping me warm, if not completely dry in a steady rain.

Twenty odd years ago, I started the Seattle to Portland ride wearing nothing but a short sleeve lycra jersey, even though the forecast promised rain, which indeed started about ten miles down the road.  Fifty miles into the ride I was near hypothermic.  At the halfway point in Centralia, I emptied the trash from one of the garbage bags at a rest stop, poked holes for my head and arms, put it on and finished the ride in relative comfort.

Greg and Karl in Port Gamble
Greg and Karl in Port Gamble

Levi’s Gran Fondo

A week ago I registered to ride in Levi’s Gran Fondo, a 101 mile ride with about 7000 similar lunatics near Sonoma, CA.  The route includes over 9,000 feet of climbing, including an infamous route along King’s Ridge.  I’m in reasonable condition now and could probably do the ride today, although I would feel pretty trashed afterwards.  My goal is to be in good enough shape to have fun and enjoy the ride.

Here’s my training plan: Ride every day until Labor Day.  After that, maybe taper off a bit.  No daily plan for mileage or intensity, or intervals; no heart rate monitor, no Garmin bike computer, just ride and make it up as I go.  Yes, some days will turn out to be long and hard, and in between those days I’ll ride easy to recover.  Most of the rides will be on the short steep hills around Bainbridge Island, and I’ll need to throw in some long climbs, which require a very different type of riding.  I’m thinking Hurricane Ridge, Snoqualmie Pass, maybe Steven’s Pass, maybe Tour de Blast. Living between the Cascades and Olympics, there’s no dearth of nearby mountain passes.


link to Levi’s Gran Fondo

Rain Ride on Fixed Wheel

Rain started in the morning, never stopped. It was the first day of rain for several months, unusual for the Northwest.  When we lived here all year, I was accustomed to riding in the rain.  Now it was hard to get started. I took my time overdressing – tights, wool socks, wool jersey, raincoat, plastic bag inside my helmet. I rode my fixed gear. It’s a great bike for the rain because it has fewer parts to get dirty.  I don’t think I’ve cleaned it for five years.

The bike is a Raliegh Gran Sport, purchased in 1980, one of the last steel frame models built in the Carlton factory in England. At the time of purchase, the Raliegh was a great step up for me, with many characteristics of more expensive racing bikes.  It was light, responsive and nimble with a shorter wheelbase than touring bikes of the era.  I rode my first races on this bike, until 1986 when I upgraded to a steel frame Davidson, which I used for my first cross-country ride. Then the Raliegh became my rain bike and off-season bike; eventually I removed the derailleur and made it a full-time fixed wheel.  (Today people call them fixies.)

I started riding fixed wheel in the early ’80’s.  Part of our race training was to ride fixed gears from September to January.  42 – 17 was the standard gearing, meaning a 42 tooth chain wheel and 17 tooth rear cog.  We simply converted our road bikes by removing the freewheel, screwing a track cog onto the threaded hub, and wrapping a track chain (thicker than a standard road chain) from the 42 tooth inner chainring around the track cog.  Regular track bikes also had lock rings on top of the rear cogs.  We didn’t bother with them, meaning if we backpedalled too hard, the rear cog could spin off the rear hub. Riding fixed wheels helped develop our ability to ride smoothly, because we were never able to coast.  We also developed pretty good spins, developing our fast twitch muscles, key to a good sprint.

We learned this training technique from Mike Kolin, who used to coach the Rainbow Schwin team in Seattle. (Since 2004, he’s been in Scottsdale, AZ, coaching and developing some great young racers on another team: Strada.)  I can still picture him leading a double pace line of 15-20 riders up and down Ames Lake Hill on a rainy Sunday morning.

Back to my rain ride.  I don’t have anywhere near the spin of the old days, so I tend to use the brakes frequently, and backpedal more than the old days. On this particular ride, I was riding a bumpy dirt road and actually managed to spin the cog back off the rear hub. That never happened before.  It was quite a shock when suddenly the pedals spun free of the drivetrain.

fixedGearMedium Picture at the left shows fixed cog on old hub with five years of grime and threaded hub.