Late Season Permanent


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I saw the opportunity and took it.  I’ve been meaning to try a ride around Washington State’s largest island since I’ve been coming up here in 2003.

My wife and I fell in love with Whidbey Island at some point, and we’ve had properties here twice in the last 11 years.  Last week, I decided to take the holiday week off, and spend some time up here.  Now “up here” is a mere 35.7 miles from “home” in Seattle, so I feel a little funny going up to the cabin, as we say in Minnesotan.  This is less distance than a lot of folks commute to work every day!

When I was growing up, a trip to the “cabin” in northern Minnesota was a 4 hour trip one-way.  It was always the last half hour past Brainerd that I really felt like we were getting out of dodge.  Now it’s just a short drive north that takes a bit over an hour, and I’m in another world, my happy place. The ferry ride helps.  Once you get off the boat, it’s sort of another planet from the urban/suburban bustle of Seattle. There are large tracts of forest, farmland, and a few small picturesque towns dotting the island.  A lovely place, really, and it just feels sleepy and awesome!

Anyway, on to the ride.  The last brevet I had done was a mean, rainy 300k at the end of March.  A long, long time ago.  Now I’ve been commuting plenty, and had several 50-80 mile weeks going, so I felt that stepping up to the 126 mile 200k was reasonable, and my fitness was still good.  I also tried to ignore the little bird telling me that this ride had over 7500′ of climbing.  I figured that this was just a few more hills than a more normal 200k.


I thought I would be well prepared.  I brought both my rando bikes up with plans to ride the A. Homer Hilsen.  I wanted to make sure the shimmy was gone, and the Swift bag worked well on a longer ride.  I had most everything packed up and ready the night before, and got plenty of sleep knowing I had a big day in front of me.  In the morning, I made eggs and coffee, and still managed to get down to the ferry dock around 8:15.  I had set my start time for 8am, so I was already running late.  After a few more minutes of figuring out where I could leave the car all day, I parked and was off at just past 8:30am.


Then I started climbing.  The first hill off the ferry wasn’t too bad, but they seemed to just keep coming.  I was happy I had a 34 big ring on the cassette, so I had extra granny help.  Entering Langley – a small town with an artsy vibe, I wanted to stop at the local coffee shop, but I wasn’t ready for a break.  I had packed a rain jacket, camera, phone, wallet, and a few food items in the Swift.  I had my tool bag under the seat.  I felt that I was packing light, but I did have 3 full water bottles.  I wasn’t into the photo mode yet, but couldn’t help but take a snap of the local museum.

BH-2.jpgAs I rode on towards Freeland, I wondered if I had too much.  The weather was great, and my thin wool undershirt, SIR jersey (also wool), and reflecto vest were keeping me toasty.  There were lots of eastern beach vistas on the high bluffs to keep me occupied, and there were about 3 cars that passed me in 10 miles.  No traffic to speak of, which held true most of the day.  The roads were also glorious!  Smooth, fresh blacktop that looked to be laid in the past year or two.  These islanders keep there roads up really well.  That said, I started noticing the many squashed slugs, as well as some small orange salamanders.  1000 slug trails seemed an apt ride name.



I hit my first walking hill just after Freeland. Resort Rd. climbs back up to HWY 525, and at 10%, it was a bit much. It gave me a chance to stretch my legs. A nice walk in the woods, really – no traffic at all.


The first jaunt on the main island highway was a nice few miles downhill. I was doing 30 with the cars only going slightly faster. Greenbank is a tiny town at the thinnest part of the island, where if you stand on the field by Greenbank Farm (an old loganberry farm), you can see both Saratoga Passage to the east, and Admiralty Inlet to the west. Here, I stopped to photo what turned out to be 20 herons resting/hunting in the marsh below the farm. They all took off when I circled back to get a photo.


Onward – I still had a long way to go. The next walking hill was Rhodena Rd. at about an 8% grade just before Parker. This one was a bummer, but it was in another pretty area.


I realize that all these hill pics look flat, but believe me, they went UP!!! Phew – made it to Coupeville on some nice twisty roads. This is a Washington’s second oldest town, founded in 1853 by a guy who evidently was the only person to have sailed through Deception Pass with wind power alone. X-Games circa a long f’ing time ago! Now I could nearly smell the halfway point.




The aptly named Madrona Way around inner Penn Cove offered great views of the mussel farming rigs. This was one of my favorite rides, with light traffic, nice curvy roads, and great views of the cove.



After a wake-me-up short ride on HWY 20 with lots of cars ripping by, I was back on the easy streets heading into Oak Harbor. I stopped to get a few pics, but I was starting to worry about time, as i was taking pics, and my legs were starting to get tired. I wasn’t quite halfway yet, and I knew I would be fighting a headwind going back south. The forecast was for 15-25 mph gusts, and I was quite tired from the climbing. I had no idea how much of the southerly route echoed the hills on the east side of the island. It was already 1:30, so I was 5 hrs into the ride, but not halfway yet. Hmmm…




After a few more hills, and some duck hunters on Dike Rd. I stopped for a bathroom break a mile from Deception Pass. This was technically past the halfway point, but I didn’t consider it that until I was at the top of the island. I had a reuben and some “power milk” and this picked me up. At the Pass, I watched a seal swimming around the kelp in the shallows. This is a beautiful spot with a high bridge over fast-moving bright green water famous for their whirlpools and standing waves during tidal surges.


This was the turnaround point.


Next stop was Ault Field after a jaunt down the highway again. This wasn’t too bad, but I was ready to get off the main road for a while.


The Navy evidently put their air station on Whidbey partly due to it being in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mts. I just figured it was due to the natural beauty – a great place to fly over if you ask me. Just past Joseph Whidbey State Park (closed) it was starting to get dark. There was a great big hill climb here, and halfway up, I noticed writing on the road, “Legs Up Shut” – ahhh, there have been cyclists before me on this! The infamous Jens Voight “shut up legs” quote. That was a major pick up for me, and got me to the top of another 400 foot hill.


I’m not going to lie to you. I thought about shortening this ride many times over the course of the 12 hrs on the bike. As I got closer to the end and realized I would make the 13.5hr 200k time limit, I knew I had to finish, but every time I went by one of the Island Transport stops on the highway, I thought hmmm…

I made a stop at the Keystone Ferry south of Coupeville for another bathroom break. A bit further south at South Whidbey State Park, I filled out my control card while standing in the dark entrance by the street. At this point, I found that I really liked Clif Shots gummy energy bar nuggets! Yum – there is nothing like junk when you are feeling tired. The tiny bits of rain were good at keeping me focused, but really it was just a long old slog back down to Clinton.

I had one more walk up Lancaster hill, but that was short-lived, and the last few miles were mostly a cruise along the summit of the hills of south Whidbey. The ride back down to the car was awesome! I had a bikers high for the rest of the night thinking about this great day in the saddle and everything I’d been able to see on the way. Pretty cool way to spend a day off.

Special thanks to a very special wife and daughter for giving up Dad on the day before turkey day!


Shimmy Monster


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In my estimate, shimmy is something that is related to weight balance on the bike, frame/fork thickness/stiffness, and perhaps tires.  Oh yeah – lets not forget velocity, either.  If you enjoy stretching occasionally by riding no-handed, shimmy is a demon to be dealt with.

I’ve had some experience with shimmy on my A. Homer Hilsen, but it has been sporadic, and changing things like bar height, front and rear load, and tires seems to impact how bad it is.  I leave out speed, as there’s no way I’m going to try to limit that.

Nope – she doesn’t shimmy

When I first built the bike, it had Noodles at around seat height, and I was using Jack Brown tires.  No shimmy was present with this 25 lb configuration.  I went through a few variations, and initially noticed that when I moved the bars higher, I seemed to get some shimmy.  This usually kicked in riding no-handed above 15 mph.  I generally kept the load up front on the bike, and this seemed to dampen the shaking, so I was fairly happy.  However, with my recent foray into low trail (Cycles Toussaint – no shimmy ever, BTW), I was interested in moving the load back on the Hilsen so it matched the geometry of this higher trail bike.  Or so I thought…


Perfectly good headset


It’s been said that a needle bearing headset can cure shimmy.  I’ve never used one before, so I guess it was time to check this theory out.  I overhauled the bike a month ago, and figured it was time to check the headset.  Since it was out, I put in a Miche needle bearing headset, and at the same time added my former front rack to the back of the bike.  It seemed like it needed a basket, so I put the medium Wald/Shopsack combo on it that worked so nicely in the past on the front of the bike.

S H I M M Y Y Y Y Y Y . . . . .


Shimmy Monster

Wow – I took this in to work with perhaps 5 lbs of gear in the back, and the shimmy was so bad, it even shimmied with my hands on the bar several times.  I experimented with holding my weight forward while I released my hands.  This worked at first, but as I moved back to a more upright position, it released the shaking, shifting frame shimmy.

Hmmm – needle bearing not an answer here.  After my ride home, I removed the basket/rack combo, and put my front handlebar bag back on.  I tied off the tools in my roll bag under the seat.  This cured the beast.


No more shakes


Solution for my bike – weight needs to go up front with only a bit of weight allowed under the seat.  No weight out back or I get the shakes.  It is interesting that my Hunqapillar has never shaken its wooly head.  I generally carry weight on the front, however, and this bike has a long top tube that stretches me out putting the weight more forward.  It also has beefy, stiff tubes that, like the Toussaint, seem to repel shimmy monsters.

I’ve read of several other light, road Rivendells having a similar tendency, so I will chalk this up to balancing weight properly for the bicycle.  If you have shimmy, hopefully this will give you some things to mess around with.




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I tried out our new bike share service in Seattle.  It’s called Pronto, and has dropped a fair amount of bikes – 500 at 50 stations throughout the downtown, Capitol Hill, and U-District areas.  I noticed a station that’s about 2 miles from my home on my commute home last night, so after getting a ride in this morning, I opted to try Pronto for the commute home.  My expectations were that it would be a better substitute for a crowded bus ride home.

I purchased a 24-hr pass with a key for ten-bucks at the kiosk a couple blocks from my office.  I didn’t need to “rent” a helmet as I brought mine with.  After inserting the key in a station and waiting for something to happen, I thought my key was broken.  I tried another bike, and it unlocked right away.  I forgot my foolproof way to raise the seat to the proper height (seat in armpit raised until outstretched middle finger is at center of crank), so I ended up raising it a few times in the first few minutes.


Starting up the new 2nd Ave bike lane, I weaved my way through the city taking the “flat” way home via south Lake Union, riding through the parking lots along the lakefront.  After crossing the Fremont bridge, I continued on the Burke Gilman trail along the north lakefront, and rode through the UW campus before dropping the bike off at the UD-01 station at Blakely and 24th.  Ironically, the first station I tried to lock my bike back into didn’t work, so I docked it in another one which accepted it immediately.  Some gremlins to work out?

My initial observations:

  1. The bike is small, so it would work really well for someone in the lower 5′ range.  I had to boost up my seat quite a bit to avoid the bent-knees, low power pedal stroke.  The bars felt really close, so I felt like I was riding a kid’s bike compared to what I’m used to.  That said, I generally ride a big bike in a fairly stretched out position, so most folks would feel that it is sized just fine.
  2. The bike is solid and sturdy, but not too heavy.
  3. It has a 7 speed range, and shifts are fast and solid.  Shifting to a lower gear is sudden, and I popped my foot off the pedal several times getting used to the shifting.  In the highest gear, I was traveling about 15-17mph on flats with normal cadence.  Not a speedster, but not bad.  I never used the lowest gears.
  4. It is really stiff, and the tires are of the sturdy type – great for folks up to 300lbs, at least.
  5. Fenders work – could use a flap, but adequate and appreciated for the few puddles I went through.
  6. Lights!  Didn’t really need to use them, but great that they are there.
  7. It has a skirt/kilt guard for the ladies and Scots!
  8. There is a small bungie and rack for a small bag or case.  I just carried my musette.  No problems if you have a bit of luggage.
  9. The seat was not great for someone of my size – too squishy, smallish, and angled for folks that are smaller.
  10. The cost structure is not yet ideal for someone who needs the bike for more than ½ hour.  Buying the day pass gave me unlimited rides up to 30-minutes, but anything over 30 minutes adds charges.  My 45 minute ride cost me an additional 2 bucks.

All gripes aside – these bikes are great for the casual tourist, or someone who wants to take the long way home like me on occasion.  I would also use this to get to a lunch spot that may be a bit too far for a walk.  Pretty nice to have an easy option to “rent a bike” and there are stations all over the place.  I could also see someone stuck on foot choosing this as a faster option.  It took me from downtown to the UW in about 45 minutes.


It’s nice to have options when I don’t have my bike handy.  I will likely resort to this in the future.


Tubeless Road Experience


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I’ve been riding a tubeless conversion on my main road/rando bike for most of the summer season.  At this point, I can comment on a few aspects that I really like about this setup.  BH-6.jpg

First, let’s talk about the wheel build.  I have Pacenti PL23 rims with Stan’s tape (wrapped double) and used a Stan’s conversion kit to get a valve stem and goo.  The tires are Gran Bois Hetre Extra Leger.  The PL23s are not normally a tubeless rim, but they are compatible without much work.  The big thing is to have a sealing valve stem (don’t need the conversion kit, just get some replacement tubeless stems) and make sure the spoke holes are taped tight.  You may also need to put an extra layer of tape if your tire fit is too loose.

I used the Stan’s general instructions to set these up, but found that my floor pump wouldn’t push enough air to get the tires to seat/seal, so I set up my compressor with a presta valve so I could pop these guys on.  I’ve heard that some are able to do this with a floor pump, but not I.

Once I got the feel for what needed to happen, I put a scoop of the goop in the tire while it was partly off the wheel – just dumped it in the side, and then carefully pushed the wheel onto the rim.  At this point, you just do a quick inflate, and spin/bounce the wheel a couple times to get the sealant dispersed around the wheel, and leave it.  I was able to ride these immediately.

A myth that I found to be untrue was that the Hetre ELs needed to be run at higher pressures than normal.  Not so.  I actually run them at 25 front and 35 rear which is about 5 psi lower than normal.  Anything more and they don’t feel quite as compliant, but at this pressure, they feel just right.

Now on to the good stuff.  I don’t worry about flats much anymore.  Lower pressure, fat tire, and sealant take care of that worry.  I still try not to willfully ride over glass, but I’ve had zero issues/flats since this conversion, and these tires are thin and super compliant.  I also love the lower pressures – wow are these tires comfortable!

There are a few minor downsides.  I have to add air about once a week now, whereas before it was every other week or so.  I also still carry a spare tube, in case of a bad flat requiring a boot.  The requirement to have a compressor to initially seat the tires is the last bother.  Pretty small potatoes, however.


I plan to do more road tubeless builds going forward.  I’d love to have all the bikes tubeless, and just need to gradually replace my rims with tubeless friendly guys.



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My grandma turned 99 yesterday.  It should have been a bigger event, but I was reminded by an electronic notification.  She is in hospice care in AZ, a long way from Seattle.  I’ve visited her once/twice a year for the past 10 years and watched her slow decline from a distance while raising a family in Seattle. I’m sad that I missed this moment, but I may have a chance to hit the big 100 with her.

Hanging with G-Ma

Hanging with G-Ma

It feels like a big deal that a family member is reaching this age.  Not many people these days can live nearly a century.  My great grandma Viola lived to 99, but most people I know are gone by 80.  I feel like I need to start writing about my experiences with Mabel – she was easily the most colorful character in my immediate family, and was always a loving grandparent.  The kind that always had a big smile when I showed up.  I spent a lot of time with her in my childhood – she lived an hour north of us in the Twin Cities.

Mabel and Ralph had 80 acres in Bradford, MN, and it was always like a fairy tale when I went up there to visit in the summer.  My folks would bring me and my sister up for several weeks at a time to stay on “the farm”.  It wasn’t really a farm, but sort of a hobby ranch.  No animals other than wild – I recall deer, rabbits, squirrels, and birds of all sorts.  It was a great place for my formative years as I was allowed quite free reign.  Not too much to worry about as they lived on a rural road on a lot of forested and swamped land.  They had planted trees on the majority of the land – rows and rows of pines that were 20 feet tall when I was learning to hunt at the ripe age of 10.

My grandparents were Scoutmasters when my dad and his brother were growing up, so needless to say they instilled a love of the outdoors in me.  When it was 90 and humid on the farm, they took us up to the north shore of Lake Superior for epic camping trips in the 60-70 degree mild inland sea climate north of Duluth.  I would be allowed free reign there, as well – I don’t think this would happen as much today, but I ran all over the shoreline, and did a lot of hiking up river (Temperance River).  I recall trips of 2 weeks at a time.

I got my first knife at the farm.  I got my first gun, a Red Ryder styled Daisy BB gun.  I shot my first .22.  I killed my first bird (traumatic unintentional ceremonial burial – cried my eyes out).  I went duck hunting with my dad and grandpa.  I drove the tractor all over the place.  I explored for days, got poison ivy, wood ticks, many mosquito/deerfly/horsefly bites.  I worked on wood projects in my grandpa’s shop – learned to sand, shape, cut with the jigsaw, build stuff.  They moved to Arizona at some point – they had been going there for years in the winters, but I don’t remember the year they bought a place in Mesa – probably while I was distracted in Jr. or Sr. High.

My Grandpa died in 1990, and I moved to Seattle in 1991.  Therein begins my stories of Mable (how I used to spell her name).  Her golden years lasted roughly from 1991 through the mid 2000’s.  I will try to recollect some of the amazing things she did during this period in the next few posts.  After Ralph died, she started traveling, visiting places like South Africa, Kuala Lumpur, and Sri Lanka (when it was still in turmoil).  She also sent us interesting gifts and care packages after our move west, but these can wait for better explanations…


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