30 November 2011

From the Rubbish Bin

My dad noticed this bike in a recycling dumpster and, having every right to take it out, he did. It's a Hawthorne 3-spd ("333" hub) from who-knows-when. The brand was sold at Montgomery-Ward department stores at one time. Dad thought it looked pretty good.

This is the second bike I've prettied-up with a 333 hub, so I was somewhat familiar with this level of quality (i.e. low.)  While the bike may not be suitable for someone of my size and willingness to sprint and jump curbs, this bicycle seems to have some life left as a quiet grocery hauler or a guest bike for my little sister.  After some adjustment, the hub still works fine (the entire right grip is the the shifter between L-N-H), but the brakes need newer pads, cables, and housing.  For less than $10 at 2nd Cycle, I should be able to put this bike safely back on the road. That's my meager shopping list taped to the stem.

I think my little sister is going to enjoy the narrow handlebars and sparkle vinyl saddle (not to mention the fact that the previous owner was likely a Muppet.)

14 November 2011


The Bone Collector Alley Cat race was awesome. I squeaked out a 3rd Place finish by 12 seconds. First time I've been on the podium EVER.

The Starting Line

Choose-Your-Own Course: my route was ~16 miles. 
There was a race official at every stop to punch your card and track your progress.

The Finish!

The Time Keeper

The Battle for Third!

I actually thought I had a good chance at winning, but the McKinley Hill at the end kicked my ass.  I wore Cho-Pat straps on both knees as this was the first time since I injured myself this summer where I was riding hard. I'm happy to report that I had no pain afterward. Woot!  More to follow on the injury recovery process...

11 October 2011

Alley Cat Race This Saturday...in Tacoma!

Here is the good word from Lord Rocktober:

Saturday, October 15th
3:00pm - Registration
4:00pm - Race Starts
$5  -  entry fee

Meet up at: THE ACME GRUB CAGE TAVERN ::  Tacoma, WA

The race will be the stuff of legend...the winners elevated as immortals...uh....yeah...pretty much. Up for grabs is a badass trophy for 1st placed guy and girl! Prizes for top 3 finishers as well. Plus all the the street cred you can shovel into your little ego. Ready to throw it down? Strategy could be the winning ingredient over brut strength, plus there will be opportunities for time bonuses at many of the race checkpoints! Rain or dry we race – (We’re riding bikes...how crazy cool is that?!) 21+ and biking is at your own risk...so don't fall down yo! Spread the word!

TACOMA MOB RIDERS  —  We Own the Streets!!!

26 September 2011

Fender Weather

It's pouring in Tacoma this morning, the first heavy rainfall of the new school year. If you're trying to figure out a way to keep your kids dry on their ride to school, look no further than an old campaign sign.  It's made from coroplast, a corrugated plastic, and it works great for making waterproof things like fenders.  I had to re-reuse the coroplast fender from our trail-a-bike to hack a front and rear fender for Gwen's 16" Schwinn.  Not my best ziptie creation, but it will do for now.  She was actually pretty stoked to have her bike look more like the grown-up bikes in our stable and asked that we also add a spokecard.  Anything to keep you riding, Kid!

Check out Kent's Bike Blog to witness a true coroplast master at work.

24 September 2011

CC'11 -Day 3

[This year's Courage Classic was so awesome, it's gonna take three posts to tell you all about it!  Part 3 of 3. - Matt]

I don't remember waking up during the night.  Instead, I slept hard and awoke a few minutes before the alarm clock was set, feeling refreshed and ready to ride. Gordon, thank you for sharing your condo!

After an early breakfast and a very impromptu team photo, I ran into Tim, rider of the singlespeed Sekai.  It sounds like there were maybe four singlespeeds this year, though we only had visual confirmation of three. I was geared the lowest by at least a few teeth.

The Chumstick Highway quickly takes you out of Leavenworth and into the country.  It's shady and chilly in the morning as we pass farms and homesteads in this narrow valley. The pace is generally relaxed on this section, although there was one bullet train of seven guys that blew by me, led by Tony from Tacoma Bike. That guy could give Superman a run for his money if Superman rode a bike. I was glad to see Gene in that paceline though: Gene rode the Courage Classic last year on a 8-speed internally-geared bike while wearing slacks, shirt and tie for all 3 days. He's a cool guy.

Jaarvis fell in love with my road bike

Neighbors: Me, Steve and Gary live within 2 blocks of each other

Prepare for climb! Remove a layer!

Switchback descent

A few of us regrouped at the first rest stop, everyone still pretty full from the pancake breakfast served up by the Leavenworth Lions Club. So, back on the road.


Once reconnected with Hwy 2, the main line over Steven Pass, there's another rest stop with rootbeer floats, massage tables, and a hula contest.  I was a reigning champ from last year (with the tshirt to prove it!), but I lost this contest early to Terry and the 10 year old in the middle. The kid won, making us both look like fools.  It was fun and funny. (BTW - any of the action shots with me in them were taken by the Courage Classic photographer.)

The real climbing starts after the Hawaiian rest stop.  Unlike the other two passes which are both really just one long climb with two grades (steep and steeper), the climb up Stevens is more like five separate climbs each with its own grade and little mini descent afterwards.  My teammate Joel rode the first of these main climbs with me, his pacing was perfect and we were really moving.  I was out of the saddle for much of the climb, but felt good.  Joel moved ahead on that first mini-descent as I coasted down behind him.

The next 2 parts of the climb were very much the same.  Most of the riders that I'd passed on the climb would pass me on the following downhill section, then I'd catch them on the next climb.  I pulled over to stretch and eat a snack a few times as the miles started to add up. My knees were starting to stiffen a bit, but I was still hammering away with a smile on my face as I approached the final water stop just four miles from the summit.

I stopped for water and stayed only long enough to stretch, maybe two minutes.  I must have had an adrenaline rush or something, because I really didn't want to stop.  All I could think about was getting to the summit.

I left a few teammates at the water stop who were waiting to regroup and headed into the home stretch.  The grade of the last four miles always seems significantly steeper than the other climbs, though I've always wondered if this is just because it's Day 3 and I'm getting tired.  Today it didn't really matter how steep it was because about one mile into this final climb, my knees really started to bug me.

This is where the ride started to be less fun.  I pulled over to stretch and take a long drink.  Other than muscle fatigue and burning lungs after a hard sprint, I'd never hurt like this on a bike.  Something wasn't right and I was now struggling.  I tried to mentally refocus on my technique, thinking that I should try to pull instead of push the pedals, anything for some relief.

Lori and Brian, who had been waiting at the water stop, caught up with me after my second road-side stretch session.  I gingerly got back on the bike and rode with them for a half mile or so, then feeling like the pace wasn't working for the pace I needed to pedal, I picked it up a little and climbed out of the saddle.  Not long after, I had to pull over again.  This time I just sat on the jersey barrier and massaged my knees, trying to look cool, trying to convince myself that I wasn't on the verge of some major injury.

Lori caught me again and I got back on the bike.  All I could think about was my knees and how much I wanted the summit to be around the next bend.  It wasn't.

I don't remember who passed us (Katie?), but I recall Lori pointing out my signlespeededness, boosting my spirits a bit.  Katie was riding a little faster, more the pace I needed to ride, and Lori wanted to slow for Brian.  I took Katie's wheel and tried to stay focused on something other than the pain.  "GO MATT, GO!! YOU CAN DO IT!!" yelled Lori from about 100 yards back.  I almost cried.  Instead I smiled and pedaled on.  It hurt.

That last half mile from the summit was the longest 2600 feet of my life.  I had fallen off Katie's wheel.  Why didn't I just stop and take the SAG wagon to the top? Was I too proud, too stubborn, or just too distracted?  Maybe all of those things. I know that at this point, I wanted to reach the summit on my own power in a bad way. Besides, it was all downhill after that, right?

I barely made it.  That last 200 feet, I could hardly turn the crank even while standing.  I was emotionally overwhelmed as I started thinking about my friends and how they had encouraged me and supported me so much, thinking about how I was finally to the top and how hard it had been, and thinking about how this might be my last Courage Classic - maybe not ever, but at least for a while.  I was emotionally overwhelmed by all of these thoughts, right there at the summit.  Even this last part of the ride had been awesome in its own way.

I choked it all back, not wanting anyone to see my watery eyes, not wanting my teammates to know how hard it was.  If someone had hugged me, I probably would have lost it.  I was limping quite a bit, my left knee feeling worse than the right.  I called Sarah to let her know that I'd made it and that I was going to be at the summit for a while.

We ate lunch and relaxed for close to an hour.  Several teammates had hauled tallboys the whole way up Stevens so they could celebrate the weekend (this is becoming a tradition.)  Hanging out with them made me feel better. That's what friends do.  I've listed many of them in these posts, but have left out twice as many (or more).  Camaraderie is the best reason to ride Courage Classic.

The summit lunch would be a great ending to the ride, but there's an intense descent down the west side of Stevens that can't be missed.  Before we departed, I had to limp down to the summit sign for a photo. I wasn't feeling much better, but I was surely feeling proud.  Regardless of how stupid this whole singlespeed thing may seem, I had done it.

The descent was faster than Blewitt, but still slow for me.  I had a head start on our group, but pulled over to get out of their way as they caught up.  My camera processor simply wasn't quick enough to catch them all as they passed at 40+mph.

Wait for it...


I coasted all the way to the entrance to the Iron Goat Trail, the most beautiful section of the ride.  I found myself riding the brakes on the trail, just to make it last a little longer.  The last few miles to the finish in Skykomish were very slow for me.  I took it as easy as possible.

One of the biggest highlights was seeing my family at the finish line, cheering me on.  My kids have only heard about the ride and never seen any part of it, so this was a uniquely special ending to the weekend.  Maybe more than anyone else, these kids understand how much I love riding bikes!

On the way home, I tell Sarah and the girls about my day as Terry nods to sleep in the backseat.  Gwen talks about how she wants to ride the Courage Classic soon, maybe on her trail-a-bike with me. And it's going to be awesome.    

22 September 2011

CC'11 - Day 2

[This year's Courage Classic was so awesome, it's gonna take three posts to tell you all about it!  Part 2 of 3. - Matt]

I didn't sleep very well on Saturday night because my giant 3-man tent catches ALL of the wind that rips through the Suncadia Lodge field.  I woke broke camp quickly, anxious to ride into Cle Elum for breakfast and coffee.

When we arrived at the Sunset Cafe, many bikes were piled outside, including this Sekai single speed! I didn't find the owner, but noticed that the gearing was slightly taller than mine, and the build was likely much lighter.

I also spotted this trail-a-bike rig, which left me wondering how long it's going to be before my oldest daughter will be willing and ready to ride her first Courage Classic.  She's only 6 and riding her own bike to school, but she also helped me raise $25 in loose change for Courage Classic that she personally donated.  I'm thinking she'll be chomping at the bit to ride with me by 2014!

Terry and Jaarvis and I rolled out of Cle Elum with the sun rising and a cool morning breeze blowing. Blissful...

The course tracks through flat countryside, passing fields of horses and crops, old barns and homesteads.  As you turn onto WA-970, the grade quickly steepens.  My breakfast had kicked in and I charged up the hill, knowing that the guys would catch me on the descent to the WA-97 interchange.  The Day 2 climb up Blewitt Pass over WA-97 is my favorite part of the ride and I planned to show it.

We regrouped at the North Tacoma Rotary Rest Stop, which was rather cool in the shade.  They make the best coffee of any rest stop on the tour and I had my fair share!  We left as a pack of 8 or 9 riders, just like last year.

Rick, Terry, Nate, Rich

The shoulder is wide enough to ride two abreast most of the way.  We struggled to form a paceline and find a good rhythm, with many of us taking turns at the front but no one really finding that perfect pace.

Charging Blewitt!

At some point Nate and I pushed off the front.  We stayed together until the last mile or so, when Nate finally backed off.

I won! I didn't ever tell them we were racing, but, you know, I was still first.  I think I did the climb in 40 or 41 minutes, compared to 47 or 48 minutes last year on my road bike.  I was sucking some serious wind at the top, but feeling like I owned that mountain.


Most of the core TNR Crew at the summit

After a bowl of delicious tomato bisque and a big sandwich, we rolled down Blewitt Pass.  This was a part of the weekend I had been dreading.  The headwind coming up the pass creates a challenging descent that requires you to pedal most of the way down in order to keep any real speed.  Most folks with road bikes can keep a solid 25mph pace (or faster) and paceline their way to the bottom.  The headwind compensated for the grade and I found myself coasting at a speed just higher than I could pedal.  Whenever I approached a wide turn-out on the shoulder, I would look back for bikes.  If anyone was visible behind me, I'd just pull over and let them safely pass.  I did this three or four times.  The descent felt like an eternity.

Once at the bottom and refreshed with a few sno-cones, we headed for Leavenworth.  I had packed an apple in my back pocket and it seemed like a good time to eat it, riding through the apple and pear orchards.

Some of us stopped at a road-side lemonade stand where this girl had smartly setup shop with an assortment of ice-cold drinks.  That was the best $1 of pink lemonade I've ever tasted! She said her mom made it, so she couldn't reveal the recipe.

Once I reached town, there was some confusion about where I was staying.  This was the first time that I wouldn't be camping for the night; instead sharing a condo with a friend.  I didn't know where the condo was and couldn't reach him on his cell, so there was a bit of back and forth around town until I figured it all out.  Since check-in wasn't until 4, the Worldmark Leavenworth staff let me get my bag, gave me a towel and access to the pool shower, then stored my stuff so I could rejoin my friends.  I was really impressed with the hospitality and the facilities.

Gordon and I are the only two original HBC riders that have ridden all four years that our team has participated! (No, we didn't plan the matching jersey photo shoot.)

I met Terry down at the Icicle River to soak my knees in the frigid water for a while before we headed to dinner. Afterwards, we all went to the beer garden.

Our Tuesday Night Rides always ended with beers at the Harmon Tap Room, so our team felt right at home!  

I had a solid 8 hours of sleep that night; another Courage Classic first for me. That condo was worth it!

07 September 2011

CC'11 - Day 1

[This year's Courage Classic was so awesome, it's gonna take three posts to tell you all about it!  Part 1 of 3. - Matt]

I had spent Friday night getting all of my gear prepped and packed.  UPS handles our overnight bags, so it wasn't a big deal that I was bringing an enormous 3-man tent just for myself.  And even though the on-road SAG support is unparalleled and Old Town Bicycle has mechanics stationed at every stop, I was bringing a lot of tools and gear with me on the bike.

Terry and I had decided to forgo the shuttle at the top of Snoqualmie Pass and instead ride around the section of I-90 that was closed to bicycles.  This seemed easy enough via the John Wayne Trail, but since we would be deviating from the course and on our own, I was planning for the worst.  Two tubes, do-it-all multitool, spare bit of chain, etc.  A small handlebar bag and a saddle bag were quite full. I was ready for anything.

Blaine and his family were in town for a wedding, so he volunteered to drive me up to the start line at oh-dark-thirty.  We stopped for coffee on the way (breve latte!) but only after I'd had some pre-ride breakfast:

           Matt's Most Awesome Oatmeal
           -Cook a handfull of unsalted oats in the microwave 
             with just enough water to cover. 3min maybe.
           -Stir in 1tsp natural peanut butter and 1tsp Nutella.
           -Add a splash of half-n-half.

I was fed and caffeinated and ready to hit the road.  Really ready, in fact, because this was the first year that the Courage Classic hosted a pre-ride packet pick-up. Prior to the event, I visited the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Children's hospital where I not only picked up my ride packet, but also received a personal tour of the facility by one of the staff.  It was humbling to see the examination room first-hand.  Very humbling.  The children who have the strength to tell their story and to confront the abuse they've endured; they are the courage in Courage Classic.

We arrived at Snoqualmie around 7am and I was on the road quickly by 7:15.  I figured that I'd be riding pretty slowly on the flat sections, so I wanted to get an early start.  It was overcast and a little misty, my favorite riding conditions.  I took my time and rode solo at a comfortable pace, maybe 12-14 mph.  Remember, I had geared the bike pretty low, 36x18, so I'd be able to do the climbs.

I was heading up the on-ramp to I-90 at 8am, and that first blast of 70mph traffic was a little disorienting after rolling through sleepy North Bend.  The clouds hung low on the mountains and the air was damp.  I had been passed by a number of riders on road bikes, but as the road steepened I passed many of them as I found myself getting out of the saddle and sprinting a bit to stay on top of the gear.  It was the first time I'd let my breathing dictate my speed and it felt great to be riding hard.

I reached the first rest stop around 8:20, just an hour after I'd started.

I've never been out front like this!

I stretched and ate, drank a little coffee.  I chatted with a Rotarian volunteer about the compostable cups they were using and the efforts the Courage Classic has taken over last few years to "green up" the ride.  The Green Team is onsite at all stops to help sort your trash into compostable, recyclable, and garbage bins.  It's something that I'm used to doing at home and I'm excited to see it being done on a big ride.  Tacoma's last landfill is scheduled to close next year and all of my household garbage will be trucked to a suburb about 15 miles away.  I don't really want to burden that community with my waste (nor pay the economic and environmental price to have it hauled there), but I digress.  The volunteers were also very excited about these new racks which replaced their old homemade PVC models.

I packed up my fleece and headed back on course.  It wasn't long before I snagged my first bungee.  The interstate is littered with them, but most are broken or missing a hook.  I've salvaged a few each year.  This year I brought home three.

I taped a little mantra onto the stem: Slow, Stretch, H2O, Smile!  I figured if I did those four things then I'd probably have a fun weekend.

The clouds continued to lift as I gained elevation.  There still were few riders on the road and I hadn't seen any of my teammates yet when I exited I-90 for the main summit climb.

When I reached Denny Creek Campground, I decided to pull over and flip my wheel around to the lower fixed gear.  This is when I realized that my 15mm wrench/tire lever tool was not on board, which meant two things: 1) I couldn't flip the wheel to the lower gear, and 2) I couldn't remove the wheel to change a flat.  I could still patch a tube with the wheel in-place, but I figured the better plan would be to just not get a flat.  I'm easy.

Denny Creek is a steep, switchback road that climbs quickly up the mountainside.  As you look up you can see riders zigzagging on levels above.

You can also look back down and see how far up you've climbed.  It's a lung-buster, but I always find myself smiling and laughing on this section.  The funny bit is that near the top of all these switchbacks is a team of Rotarians blasting Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise through a giant PA system.  The song echos down the valley on permanent repeat.  Hilarious.

I reached the summit at 10am, just as the clouds began to part.


I had an early lunch of spaghetti and fruit, and waited for my teammates to arrive.  I was ready to leave when Terry reached the summit, and since I didn't feel like waiting and didn't have my wrench, we decided to take the shuttle.  It took about 1 hour from the time I got in line to load my bike to when I was back on my bike heading out of the Price Creek rest area.

Near the end of the descent to Lake Easton, just after the fast section, I realized that my rear tire was slowly losing air.  When it got too low, I pulled over and pumped it back up with my hand-pump, then road away as fast as I could.  I was only a few miles from the mechanical tent at this point, so I repeated this strategy of pump and ride about 5 more times before finally walking the last bit.  Jason from Old Town Bicycle changed the flat for me, in spite of my efforts to do it myself, and also loaned me a 15mm wrench from his personal toolbox to use on the rest of the ride.  I love that guy.

Many of our Tuesday Night Ride crew rolled out from Lake Easton together.

Rick and Chris


Rich and Nathan

As we rolled back onto I-90, the geared riders took off and I was left mostly on my own to enjoy the warm, dry breeze of Eastern Washington.  It was blowing hard enough at my back that I was probably coasting along at 17-18mph with out pedaling much.  It was glorious.  As I finished up the course at the Suncadia finish line, I still felt like riding.  A few of us rode a few miles further up the road to Rosalyn, a sleepy town where Northern Exposure was filmed.  (I can't believe that we thought this was Alaska.)  I stopped at the local hardware store and bought a 15mm wrench.

Rosalyn's main drag

Back at Suncadia, I setup my tent and had a few Red Hook beers from the beer garden before hitting the chow line.  It was great to spend the evening hanging out with friends.

My road bike! Loaned to Jaarvis this year.

HBC Bike Pile

At left, Bud, Rotarian and 18yr CC rider 

Chow line.

Rick's plate. Mine looked similar.