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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…

Please don’t go halfway


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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…




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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…


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