Archive for July, 2009

Gig Harbor/ Port Orchard Loop

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
When you see this awesome view, you are nearly done, but there is one last hill to enjoy

When you see this awesome view, you are nearly done, but there is one last hill to enjoy

This is not a Portland bike route. In fact, it is a 3 hour drive from Portland. Regardless, it is an excellent route. It has several hills, but nothing severe (though there is one short 12% drag and if you vary off track there are some that look brutal).

Gig Harbor is beautiful and Port Orchard is quite nice too. There are great views of Navy ships, ferries and, from the boat ramp in Manchester, you can check out the Seattle skyline.

Starting in the early morning before the marine layer of fog burns off means you have a good chance of beating the heat. In addition, that area is normally much cooler in the summer than Portland.

If you haven’t seen Gig Harbor, it is definitely worth the trip from Portland. If you are feeling particularly frisky, the ride goes right by the Southworth Ferry, so one could shoot over to Vashon Island check that out to.

Bremerton Ferry on its way to Seattle

Bremerton Ferry on its way to Seattle

View from Manchester

View of Seattle from Manchester


The Team Formerly Known as Skidmark Does its Part to Keep the Economy Alive

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Sooooooo many new bikes for Team Skidmark that it is hard to keep track. Michele and Joel started the trend at the beginning of the season. Last week Cole and Kris ordered new Treks. Kris went with the 2010 Madone, which is the same bike Lance and Alberto are riding in the Tour. Only difference is that Kris also went with the new Shimano electronic shifters, which means his new ride will be sicker than what those two hacks are on. Art’s 2009 Madone and my Seven are starting to look like “classics” by comparison.

Michele sports Contessa -- so new that she wasn't yet sporting proper pedals

Michele sports Contessa -- so new that she wasn't yet dressed with proper pedals

Joel and his sporty new Cannondale

Joel and his sporty new Cannondale

Cole's Trek

This thing just looks fast

Kris' new ride -- Awesome!

Kris' new ride -- Awesome!

Custom Titanium Bikes — For Me There is no Other

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
Titanium bike paradise

Titanium bike paradise

When you are 6″6′ and weigh in at nearly 350 pounds bare-assed, you already know that “off the rack” isn’t an option for anything — including bicycles. So, once I decided that cycling was going to be a lifelong commitment rather than a passing phase, I realized it was time to suck it up and take the plunge.

I originally thought carbon fiber was going to be the way to go, but one of River City’s astute sales staff let me know that a LOT of carbon would be needed to craft a bicycle stiff enough for my needs. His recommendation was titanium. It turns out this was a great suggestion.

Titanium is light and strong. It soaks up bumps better than aluminum. And, if you leave the bike unpainted, it is very easy to clean. For my needs, it seemed to be the ultimate material to use for building custom bikes.

Custom Titanium Road Bike — Seven Axiom Race

For my road bike, I went with an Axiom Race by Seven Cycles. Seven has the art of custom bike making down to a science. Through a collaboration between the customer, the local bike shop and their in-house design experts, they are able to come up with the perfect bike for me. What’s more, because the company uses modern manufacturing techniques, the build was fast. In fact, the frame was completed 5 working days after we signed off on the design specs. And it was perfect.

The perfect road bike for me

The perfect road bike for me

In case it gets mixed up with other bikes, I can pick mine out because it has my name on it

In case it gets mixed up with other bikes, I can always pick mine out because it has my name on it

Welded by a craftsman

Welded by a craftsman

Custom Titanium Mountain Bike — Titus Racer X 29er

For the Mountain Bike I went with the Titus Racer X 29er. The process was different. It wasn’t as scientific as the Seven process and I worked only with the bike shop on the design. Fortunately, it is a very good bike shop and th end result was the same — a killer ride. However, I far preferred the way Seven does things. Afterall, I’d rather rely on bike designers to figure out frame design than bike shop staff who may or may not have adequate expertise.

The frame is so large, it is hard to tell that's a 29er

The frame is so large, it is hard to tell its a 29er

Pink and Titanium go great together

Pink and Titanium go great together

Portland Spin Class With Decent Music. Is That Too Much to Ask?

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
A truly great spin class requires an instructor who is part fitness guru and part D.J. who is not afraid to "spin" great tunes

A truly great spin class requires an instructor who is part fitness guru and part D.J. and is not afraid to "spin" great tunes

Group indoor cycling a.k.a. “spin class” or “spinning class” is a great way to get fit (or stay fit), prepare for the cycling season or just blow off some steam. There are several elements  that make up a good spin class. These include a knowledgeable instructor, well-maintained bikes, a good sound system, climate control and fans to keep the air moving. Another important component is music, which helps set the desired pedaling tempo.

Good music is the one thing that can turn a mediocre spin class into a truly great spin class. It can create a mood, energize and inspire. The right tunes can even help distract participants  from the physical suffering that is inherent in this form of exercise and help them get to their happy places much more quickly. Unfortunately, it seems like most spin instructors don’t understand or care about this little tidbit. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of spin instructors play absolute crap. In fact, at my gym the very best spin instructor (from physical training perspective) plays the worst music — stuff that can turn a 55 minute workout into a 5 hour workout. One tragic class of his started out with three selections by Five for Fighting including this P.O.S song. I can’t think of any situation where I would ever want to listen to Five for Fighting, but it certainly isn’t while I’m trying to get psyched to exercise.

I realize that the instructors aren’t the only ones responsible for the bad music played in class. Most gyms these days are run by big corporations. They try to appeal to the masses and certainly don’t want to run the risk of offending anyone’s delicate sensibilities. Moreover, I know that there are a lot of people without any real appreciation for decent music. This is why boy bands, 80s  music, Brittney Spears — and especially Five for Fighting — are able to exist in the first place.

Perfect Spin Class

For me, the perfect spin class soundtrack would consist primarily of a mixture of hard rock, punk, heavy metal, techno, trance and angry rap with a smattering of psychedelic jam music, bluegrass, gospel and classics (and possibly even classical) thrown in to help keep things interesting and diverse. I know this works for spinning because it is something that Shannon Corey of Lake Oswego Fitness Designs experimented with a few years ago.

In addition to playing great music (she’ll play pretty much anything her clients want), her spin classes were an hour-and-a-half long and included 30 minutes of strength and core training. These classes were awesome. While she isn’t currently doing spin classes it is something she would offer again in the future if the interest was there. Ultimately she is looking for a group of 20 people that will commit to twice a week for 6-8 weeks.

So, if you like the music you hear at an average 24 Hour Fitness or Bally’s spin class, consider yourself fortunate (and boring). If you have more discerning tastes and would like to be part of something truly awesome later, drop me a line. Together, we can get Shannon to bring her brand of spin class back before the 2010 cycling season gets going.

Update 9/11/09 — Shannon put this class back on her calendar. Check out the Shannon Corey Fitness Website for all the gory details.

Night Ride

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

As expected, it was a lot of fun. And, as expected, there were a lot of real knuckleheads on the ride. But that was OK. We tacked on a few extra miles by starting and finishing in SE Portland.

Night Ride 1

Night Ride 2

The Many Faces of Bonking

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
Good Bonking

Desrieable bonking

In England, bonking is slang for the act of copulation or coitus, which many people find to be a natural, zesty enterprise. In cycling, bonking is what happens when you run out of glycogen stores, haven’t ingested enough carbs to produce more blood glucose and are still riding the bike. It is less-than-zesty. In fact, its downright awful.

Here’s just one description I’ve found for bonking and, based on personal experience, it is right on the money:

When you bonk, physical exertion becomes extraordinarily difficult. Your muscles don’t have the fuel they need to operate effectively and forcing them to work becomes more and more difficult. You feel extremely weak and lethargic. You may tremble and shake uncontrollably and sweat profusely. You feel dizzy and light headed. Your sense of balance is upset.  You may have heart palpitations. You will probably feel ravenously hungry.

Undesirable bonking bonking

Undesirable bonking

On the mental and emotional side you will probably feel nervous and anxious. You may become confused and disoriented. You will have low emotional control and will become hostile, belligerent and easily irritated. You may experience overwhelming feelings of being defeated, hopeless and unable to go on. Your awareness of what’s going on around you will shrink and can arrive at an extreme form of tunnel vision in which the only thing you’re aware of is the spot on the road ahead that you’re staring at.  You may have difficulty speaking. At the extreme, hypoglycemia can produce seizures and coma.  In a word, it sucks.

The key to avoiding the bonk is making sure you eat and drink throughout any ride that lasts more than one hour. I recently found a good article from Portland’s CycleOne Coaching in the Harvest Century newsletter about eating for endurance. Definitely worth the read.

Mark Cavendish’s Bike

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Mark Cavendish Bike Custom Paint Job

Nose Art on Mark Cavindish Bike

Trouble in River City

Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Rocky Butte counts as training

Rocky Butte counts as training

Sometimes you just don’t feel like packing up your bike to go to the more rural training rides. Fortunately, you can easily flog yourself right here in River City.

Hill repeats on Mount Tabor followed by a climb up Rocky Butte then a quick out-and-back up Marine Drive to Blue Lake makes for a nice 30 – 40 mile ride.

If the wind is screaming up the Columbia, Marine Drive can feel like more climbing! There are a number of ways you can link these areas on your bike. One of them is below.


The Portland Night Ride

Thursday, July 9th, 2009
This man has a large and fuzzy seat

This man has a large and fuzzy seat

And the Night Ride is pretty fun. It is a fundraiser for the BTA, which is a good thing. It is more of a party on wheels than a proper bike ride. Lots of riders are in costume. If that is your bag, then show up early so you can be in the costume contest.

MLK Fashion Plaza Fashion

MLK Fashion Plaza Fashion

The ride starts at 9:00. To avoid congestion, riders are started off in groups. It is easy to get split up. If you are riding with other people, keep them close by at the starting area. For those who don’t ride at night much, it is a very pleasant switch from riding under the hot sun.

There are several stops along the way. One stop is a bike-in movie theater. Another is an outdoor disco (note the location of the disco — it is in the parking lot of MLK Fashion Plaza). If you haven’t been to MLK Fashion Plaza when it is open, it is worth the trip.

The route is a relatively flat 15 mile loop. The steepest climb is the run up to N. Mississippi. The only other uphill section comes toward the end on Vancouver.

There are only two negatives. First, a lot of participants don’t regularly ride in groups and are clueless about some of the dynamics involved. Ride defensively. The other is the doughnut feed at the end. The doughnuts that are served are not fit for human consumption (at least this was the case last year). It is a good idea to register in advance.


Larch Madness

Thursday, July 9th, 2009
The view from the lookout at the top of Larch Mountain is awesome

On a clear day, the view from the lookout at the top of Larch Mountain is awesome

Larch Mountain is the ride many use as one of the final training runs for Cycle Oregon. For all but the very fit and very light, this route is a challenge. From Lewis & Clark State Park, it is pretty much 23 miles uphill followed by 23 miles of downhill. Just past the 9th mile (where you would turn left to go to Crown Point) there is a sign that reads “Larch Mountain, 14 miles.” Don’t believe this sign. Both times I climbed this mountain I became fixated on the mile markers. And mile marker 14 is about a half-mile shy of the goal which is uncool. Someday I’m going to fix that damn sign.

The first 15 miles are pretty easy. The next few become more of a chore. The final 5 are the steepest (5-6% grade) and require some determination. If you start seeing spots or feel like your heart is about to explode, there is no foul in taking a quick rest (or several quick rests if needed). The good news is that, even if you struggle, if you can ride up Larch Mountain in Aug., chances are you’ll be able to tackle Cycle Oregon. Total elevation gain is more than 3,900 feet. Food and water are essential for this ride. Bring a lot of both.

The ride starts at Lewis & Clark State Park. The route is easy — turn left out of the parking lot and continue up the Scenic Columbia River Highway. When you hit the turn-off to Crown Point, resist the urge to go downhill. Instead, keep right. You’ll see the sign that says Larch Mountain 14 miles. Keep going on Larch Mountain Rd. until you get to the top. Failure is not an option.

We used to start at McMenamins Edgefield, which adds a few more miles. Unfortunately, the food at the Edgefield is horrible even by McMenamins standards, which are very, very low to begin with. After a ride like this, you deserve better.

View from the top? Hardly. View from Women's Forum. Always pleasant -- except that there are 15 miles and several thousand feet of vertical to go.

View from the top? Hardly. View from Women's Forum. Always pleasant -- except that there are 14 miles and several thousand feet of vertical to go.

Don't believe it. 14.5 miles to the top

Don't believe it. 14.5 miles to the top.

Nothing special about this sign -- unles you just biked your way up to it.

Nothing special about this sign -- unless you just biked your way up to it.

Directions are easy -- from Troutdale, head east on the Scenic Highway. Whenever there is a fork in the road, go uphill

Directions are easy -- from Troutdale, head east on the Scenic Highway. Whenever there is a fork in the road, go uphill.

Newly-remodeled restaurant right outside Troutdale -- Tippy Canoe -- is a good place to replenish

Newly-remodeled restaurant right outside Troutdale -- Tippy Canoe -- is a good place to replenish.


If you’d like to see it on the map, here it is: