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…

Please don’t go halfway

I rode the new 2nd ave protected bike lanes in Seattle yesterday.   These were put in over the past weekend to improve safety on a notoriously sketchy street.  I applaud attempts to make things better for bikers, and hope we continue this.  I really want to like these improvements, as well.

Some constructive criticism:  I would appreciate it even more if it wasn’t only funded for several blocks in the middle of the city.  To use this path, you still have to get to it.  C’mon Seattle – first it was the worlds shortest trolley route, and then the excruciatingly slow rollout of light rail.  Now we are slow-rolling bike infrastructure.  Can we sacrifice a few feelings to get stuff done occasionally, people?  Please???

Here’s an idea – close down the inner core of Seattle to car traffic.  Set it up for bus/train/trolley/bike/ped only.  Here’s another idea – if you want to fund a corridor, do it for all, not just a few folks who live in a 8-block radius in the inner core.  I am sure city planning,  getting funding, and dealing with all the politics is tough (and it should be), but doing things like this halfway can hurt more than help.

Case in point – there are more pissed-off drivers now who see these short bike paths as merely a restriction on the lanes.  It seems obvious that the funders weren’t serious about safety, as they didn’t make the lane the length of 2nd – at least get up to the top of the hill?  It’s like a new bottleneck in the central core which is not what anyone needs.

Now on the plus side, I saw a very happy biker riding north on 2nd today – happy smiling face as she crossed the intersection in front of me.  She was obviously very happy to be heading north and felt more protected.  I also appreciated the folks volunteering on the path yesterday during the first day.  They were attentive, and helped bikers and drivers with some of the changes.

Tonight near 2nd and Madison as I was leaving the office, I was flipped off and honked at by a white van for what, I don’t know, until after 2 more intersections I had been waiting at, he drove up next to me and told me to “follow the rules of the road”.  I asked him what I had done, and he said I blew a red light (which I hadn’t – I stopped at all of them on the way down the hill and waited patiently for the green light).  When I told him I stopped, he railed on about how “all you guys are the same…” at which point I rode away.   After a mile down the beautiful Myrtle Edwards trail along the waterfront, I remembered that he was probably just having a bad day, and had seen too many bikers doing this before.  Probably just karma from all the times in the past that I actually had blown through lights.

Here’s a reminder for him that we all need to follow the rules of the road, and “I’m the man and you’re the man and she’s the man as well…”  Tool wisdom for all…



I recently weighed my bicycles to respond to a thread on the RBW list.  Folks were posting their Rivendell bike weight for some reason, even though everyone knows if you own a Riv, you don’t obsess over gram counting.  I had weighed my A. Homer Hilsen when I originally built it up, but before any fenders, racks, or bags were added.  It came out around 25 lbs, so I was interested in how much it weighed after accumulating various accessories over the past 5 years.

Original 25-pounder

The latest version of the bike is coming in about 4 pounds heavier.  Even with a lighter double crankset and bars, but fenders, bags, and dynamo lights/hub add up!  I think the bike is much more useful at 29 pounds, and it still feels pretty light to me.  Not feathery like a Ti or carbon bike, but plenty sprintable for my purposes.  It’s nice to have lights, toolkit, water spray protection, and carrying capacity when you need it, too.


I knew the Hunqapillar was going to be a beast based on the thicker gauge tubeset, and all the extra rack and bag weight on this bike.  It is a touring/camping bike, so it’s nice to have the stability when I’m carrying camp gear.  All this adds up to another 10 pounds over the Hilsen.  It weighed in at 39 pounds in camp-ready mode with bag, basket, and tools loaded for bear.


Ironically, this is not too far off a modern dual-suspension mountain bike.


The Toussaint had to be weighed since the Rivendells were on the scale (a Nintendo Wii with Fit, BTW – I don’t own a scale).  This bike has a slightly heavier bag than the Hilsen, and 650B wheels, but otherwise it is set up with identical cockpit, hub, and crank configurations.  All in with tools, it came out 1 lb heavier at 30 pounds.


OK – now back to not caring about weight, and just riding my bikes.  Having a great time, BTW…


Last week, I left Seattle for a 4-day trek down the coast to the Bay area for a special ride with folks from Rivendell and the RBW Owners Bunch .


I left on Thursday around 3:30pm, and after some initial slow traffic out of Seattle, hit Portland around 7:30pm to pick up some guys from last year’s Seattle/Portland Riv Rumble.

Loaded for the Entmoot

I also met the infamous Coconut Bill and Hugh Smitham from SoCal!  Both were up in Portlandia scoping out a future.  Hugh grabbed a ride with us on his return south, so we had a full truck of bikes and bike nerds!

Around 2:30am we ran out of steam just south of Shasta (northern California) and pulled into a rest stop to… well… rest?


We unrolled the bedrolls and slept under a tree until I felt some rain drops around 5am and sounded the alarm.  A quick pack up in the cloudburst revived us enough to make it all the way down to Rivendell World Headquarters by around 10am.  It was Aaron’s first time to HQ, so he rode every bike model they had (OK, Andy and I rode a few, as well).  Vince was great in accommodating us making us some tasty espresso, and helping with the bike fitting.


This is where we parted ways with Hugh, who was going to meet up with some pals at Samuel P Taylor State Park on Friday night.  Andy, Aaron, and I had other plans, however.  We had to ditch the truck (Thanks Tommy!) in San Leandro, and BART back to Walnut Creek for a special ride with Tommy, Manny and friends up to Shell Ridge for a bit of guerilla camping under the stars.  This was a serious blast, and actually an inaugural S24O for me and my Hunqapillar.  I finally got to load ‘er up and ride up some hills!


Manny (Manuel Acosta) is an active list member who is known for his photography of the local Rivendell riding grounds around the bay area (Shell Ridge, Mt. Diablo, China Camp), and his amazing adventures on his summers off with pals (he is a teacher).  He certainly lived up to his reputation – a natural ride leader with boundless energy and enthusiasm.  He welcomed all of us like old friends, and took us on some amazing trails in Shell Ridge, an area a mile away from Rivendell HQ.  His Sam Hillborne is an amazing testament to hard use and beausage (beautiful usage), as well.  He’s done everything from camping/touring to mountain bike racing to 300k brevets on this thing.  Talk about versatility!




We camped out on a flat hilltop in the wind-burned dry grass.


A few of us followed Manny and the locals for some mountain biking around the area, and I found out how much fun a fully rigid bike is on these trails.  Even with a large basket on front, and a big back bag!  Tire note – the Clement MSOs ripped it!  No issues with traction or flats all weekend – and plenty of sharp objects and dusty washouts were traversed.  The Albastache bars were spot on for this sort of riding, as well.



At this point, I was pretty popped, so sleep came quickly.  We had a great breeze, and a few folks stayed up chatting into the night, but the SEA/PDX crew crashed hard.



The next morning we had some coffee and a few dry bits of food, and headed back down to the BART station to rendezvous with folks in San Francisco for ride up to China Camp, the official site of the Entmoot.  Here we loaded up on some breaky and hardy bits to bring camping, and also met the next level of the list contingent.  Lots of amazing people came together for this ride.  All sizes and shapes! Manny (5’er) rode Amit’s (6’7″?) Bombadil, and there was much laughing.




After the full assembly and some photos, we headed off to cross the Golden Gate, and rode north through Sausalito, Larkspur, and San Rafael, before arriving at our destination.  This was a fun ride – easy, low-key, and allowed us to really see the north bay area.  Lots of bikes, and all were met with Manny ringing his bell, and Amit ringing and waving!  This caught on to the whole group.  We definitely looked a bit out of place from the lycra crowd, but everyone was friendly.




At China Camp, we found five folks from Rivendell, including Grant Petersen himself, as well as Rich Lesnik (wheelbuilder) joining us for the overnight.  We got ourselves unpacked and situated, and just walked around talking and meeting all the great folks we had gotten to know only through their list posts.  It’s really amazing how cool this group of folks is in person!


I was lined up to do a demo of harlequin bar wrapping with some bars that Joe Bunik brought along, but I had to try to catch Manny and his cohorts, who had taken off on another mountain biking trek in the hills surrounding China Camp.  This riding really reminded me of the trails in Seattle, only much, much dryer!  I never did catch them, but I passed a couple guys climbing the ridge in full gear on dual suspension bikes.  I’m sure they were surprised by my helmetless, sandle-wearing, basket/bagged Hunqa thundering by them up the ridge.  After dusting up my legs, I returned to camp and had some dinner, meeting more folks in the process, including Hugh who had returned from the other state park.  I had some great chats with Grant P about his new HAR racks and bags, and Rich Lesnick who had started his career at Boeing in Seattle.  Then it was time for the bar wrapping session with Joe.


This was interrupted (hope you got the bars done, Joe!) by an amazing raffle that the Riv folks held for the Entmooters.  We all got a patch commemorating the event, and several of us were lucky enough to win some cool gear including soaps, bags, and even a hatchet!  I came out of it with a reflective triangle for the Hunq.

We had to hit the trail early the next morning so as to make the 9am ferry out of Larkspur.  I was up pretty early, so brewed up a few shots of coffee on the Trangia.  Great stove, BTW.  Roger checked out my Seattle beans and compared the roast to his home-roasted batches.  Wow – coffee and bike geekery is a common thread here.


I got a couple of last goodbyes and photos with the folks that made this all happen.


After some rejuvenating beverages, we headed on out for a fine morning ride back to the ferry and civilization.  S48O complete!


The ride back up to Portlandia and Seattle was fairly uneventful, although more could be written about this adventure as it involved cleanup and lunch bought by Tommy’s dad when we returned to the truck, a three-hour last stop at Bike, Book, and Hatchet, and a search for a good liquor store where I could find some nice Islays, and other strange drinks for Aaron (??).  We had a beautiful sunset on the way past Shasta – it always seems to be a picturesque place when I go through this part of the country.




We made it to within 90 miles before I became bleary-eyed and had to stop at another rest stop for some shut-eye.  Up to Andy’s early and a goodbye breakfast at Bertie-Lou’s (um, yum!).  Great trip!  I really can see this becoming an annual trek.

Photos from the Entmoot

Backdrop:  in 1994, Grant Petersen left Bridgestone when they folded their US bicycle operation, and started a small mail-order bicycle business that he named after a backpack company and elf city of literary fame.  The business slowly grew with like-minded cyclists who feel steel, leather, lugs, and Grant’s relaxed geometry exemplifies a quality ride.  As the internet became popular around the same timeframe, a newsgroup was formed and dedicated to discussions of Rivendell bikes and ethics.  This branched out of the original iBOB list (Bridgestone Owners Bunch) that had quite a following. RBW was born, and has blossomed into 2000+ users.  It’s a real community of like-minded, friendly folks from around the world.


A Bike for Dad


My folks are visiting Washington this summer to escape the heat of Arizona.  My mom had a bike with her (an older Japanese Soma from the 80s), but my dad was out of luck.  I happened to have a pretty good solution in the Miyata that I had relegated to “lunch ride” bike.  The cockpit wasn’t going to work, however.  Way too hunched over for a 72-year-old.  The genius of Rivendell’s Bosco bars came to the rescue.  I showed him an Albatross setup, as well, but he wanted the higher bars.  After an interesting start launching off the driveway wall, he was underway.  I lowered the seat a bit, but otherwise the bike fit him just right.  Look at that upright position he’s able to get on a laid out ’88 downhill MTB large frame!  Not bad!


I’ll miss this one this summer, but will make due with the alternates.  I’m glad this bike is still finding a home with someone who will be able to enjoy it.  It deserves to be ridden for a few more decades.  Lugged steel!


Tale of two rando bikes

After my brief flirtation with a bigger tire on my Hilsen, I’m back to the real original version.  Jack Brown 33.3s.  They actually measure just under 34mm, so only 3 or 4 mm smaller than the Barlows.  Who knew!  They feel great, and I don’t have as much toe overlap with this setup.


I noticed how much this bike is like the “new” rando I’ve been taking on the longer rides this year.  Slightly different geometry on the frames, different tire size, but really close to the same measurements at the body contact points.  Here are two side by sides:

A. Homer Hilsen


Velo Routier


I’m using the same seat, bars, and cranks.  Pedals will soon be the same if I can make up my mind on the clipless of choice.  There is one main difference I could feel today on my ride home.  The bars on the Hilsen are 2cm above seat height.  On the Routier, they are only  1cm above the seat.  This was changed as soon as i got home as I’ve been plenty comfortable on the Routier this season, and the Hilsen actually felt a bit odd – like I was riding a “comfort” setting.  It was not feeling quite the same in the power output.  With the bars dropped, and a test ride to confirm, I now have a spare rando bike (it was actually the original brevet bike and did just fine for the past two seasons).


Now I just need to get the time to actually devote a day to a ride!


Barlow Pass


After putting 38mm tires (Compass Barlow Pass) and new fenders (VO Zeppelins) on my Hilsen, and riding them for a month or so, I have the following observations.

  1. They are cushy and ride well
  2. They are light (I have the Extra Lights) and don’t slow my pace down
  3. They increase stand over height by a half cm or so (it is noticeable)
  4.  The bike handles about the same
  5. The tread is very grippy – I like the sure-footedness
  6. There is now quite a bit of toe overlap, and I have bounced the fender several times during slow maneuvers
  7. The difference between my 31mm Cypress and these 38mm Barlows is much less evident than jumping to a 42mm Hetre

I am slowly coming to the realization that I like smaller, fatter wheels on road bikes, but if I’m on a 700c, 33.3mm is the most I need.  On both the Hunqapillar and my Hilsen the favorite tires for pure road riding have been either Gran Bois Cypres or Rivendell Jack Brown (Greens).  Both combos make the bikes feel fast, agile, and just “right”.  They also do a good enough job to absorb road bumps that I don’t feel beat up even after a long (200k/300k) ride.  When I have a bigger tire (35mm+) on a 700c wheel, the bike feels a bit ponderous.

Green in Front

I really want to like the Barlows – but they are just not Hetres, and they aren’t feeling significantly better or more comfortable than the Cypres/JBs.  I don’t know if the added volume makes the toe overlap worth the bother. I also like the hammered Honjo fenders I had on this bike.  They added a touch of class…



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