A Primitive Curiosity

A Primitive Curiosity

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

En Absentia Cognito, Virtus

As a practicing cynic, I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. But this year I have a few...

Ride more, ride with more people:

Seriously. I'm hungry to get some miles underneath me.
Motivation is a pursuing Viking on a Warbird

Bikecamp/Bikepack/Bikefish more: 

A strong start with the Oregon Troutback in May and a couple of day trips this year didn't feel like enough time in the saddle and out in the woods. This correlates with resolution one, but it would be great to do a series of two night bikepacking trips this next year. It's always easier with someone else, and camping alone sucks. Bikefishing has serious potential, and solves my persistent question "What do I do when I get there?"

Shoot some film:

I have a 35mm Minolta that I don't use nearly enough and I want to shoot more pictures of bikes with people riding them. Some bikes look great without people on them. Some bikes, (track bikes are a great, but not the only example) look best/fastest/sexiest without an engine/pilot. Others look a little odd without a pilot, like my Stumpjumper. Without human, the stump is too long, too slack, and a little goofy. But, this is a great bike and looks rad when someone is on top. I'd like to get better as a photographer, and bikes alone are great, but it's the people who matter.
This is worth carrying a real camera. 

Explore some new places by bike:

Maybe not tour per se, but long days or overnights are a great way to get out and see some country. I am not opposed to driving to bike in order to see some new territory. I'm starting to think outside the geographic limitations of a day ride.

Long, rough, heavy. 

Fast, rough, light, .
Get a Flat: 

I didn't get one flat tire in 2014. Ok, that's not true. The goatheads on the Oregon Troutback made my WTB Nano 2.4's into pincushions. But the Stans did the job and I kept on riding. What I really mean is that flats, dropped chains, mechanical issues in general are probably an indication that I am riding as much as I would like to. And honestly, I love to work on my bike almost as much as ride it. 

Upgraded "Tiny Workshop" coming in 2015. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kruger's Crossing

Raced CX for the first time on Sunday. It rained an inch the day before, so the course was mud, mud, mud. The riding was harder physically than I expected, and I was gassed by the time the race was over. One of my goals this winter is to ride harder and get in better shape. 

Because I didn't have a CX tire, I picked up a set of WTB Nano 40c's. Not a race tire, but I wanted to have something fun to ride on trails and dirt after the race ws over. It handled well on the slick and muddy course, and the extra volume was nice. 42psi front, 45psi rear. 

Beginners race early. 

Special guest photographer caught the start.

And the second lap, coming out of the creekbed and into the barn.

I finished mid -field in the beginners, and got in three laps in 40min. I was happy to get cut off at three laps, I'm not sure how much fun a fourth would have been. Cross is hard.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gunsight Bikefishing

On a sunny October weekend, I hatched a plan to follow part of Oregon Bikepacking's Gunsight Ridge route and do some bikefishing. From Portland, I drove up through Zigzag, OR and parked at the Bennett Pass Sno Park. 

While I was getting ready, I noticed somebody on a motorcycle with a mountain bike on the back. We were the only two people in the parking lot, and I said hello as I rode by. Turns out it was Ira Ryan on his BMW R65 and a beautiful Breadwinner JB Racer. I took that as a good omen.

I packed light on this trip, using a backpack to hold all of my gear except my wading boots and waders which I put in my Wald basket up front. By the end of the trip, I decided that the geometry of the Stumpjumper is really just not suited to carrying a front load up high. 

The weather couldn't have been any better, and the 8 miles up NF-3550 to the lake were honestly too short. This ride should really be an overnight to take advantage of all of the possibilities up here. 

The ride up ended at the boundary of the Badger Creek Wilderness and a short trail marked by a cairn down to the tiny Jean Lake.  

Stashed the bike behind a log, and hiked down to the lake. 

I was really excited to see such a beautiful little lake nestled down in the trees.

First, I needed to keep my energy up with meat, cheese, and whiskey. The only thing we had around the house was Evan Williams over-proof and it definitely did the trick. 

I fished, I caught some perfect little brook trout, and I had so much fun doing it I didn't bother to take any pictures.

On the ride back down, I was treated to this exceptional view of the SE aspect of Mt. Hood with very little snow. The next weekend there was snow on the top, so I guess this photo represents minimum snow cover on the mountain for 2014. This is the best photograph I have produced all year.

This ride was serious fun, and will be the catalyst for many other off road adventures in the future. I built on my expectations for gear and bike set up, and hope to dial in a plan for a capable, comfortable off-road tourer in the Stumpjumper.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Partial, Mostly Successful, Framebag

With a sewing machine I found in the basement of our apartment building, I decide to try my hand at some bikepacking gear. Materials were purchased at rockywoods.com, except for thread which I got from Seattle Fabrics. If rockywoods sells thread, I couldn't find it on the website. 

Zipper in and the first panel complete. Not quite lined up, but within my allowances. I just trimmed it back to shape with my template. 

Attaching the middle panel of 500 denier cordura. You can see here that I am not very square here. This will lead to problems later. 

It was a struggle to finish the last section of the non-zipper side of the bag. I ended up being really far off of square, and the whole bag wanted to twist up into a pretzel. I got pretty frustrated, ran it through the machine, ripped the seam, had a beer, and did it again with a little more patience to finish up the final product. 

I turned it inside out after finishing the final stitch and it looked good, it even sounded good. But it was pretty twisted up because of my lack of attention to detail. I was skeptical as I strapped it to the bike for the first time. 

However, it turns out that it fit a lot better on the bike than off, and the structure of the frame helped camouflage my shitty fabrication (get it?) skills. So I loaded it up with some snacks and whiskey and headed up to Forest Park. It was a beautiful afternoon to ride in the trees. This is the obligatory #leifmp3 shot. 

It turns out that downtube shifters are awesome, but not for framebags. It works, but if I was going to ride for more than 40 or 50 miles I would put bar ends on to make life much better. Also, The metal zipper pull needs to go. I understand why the gear from Revelate and Porcelain Rocket comes with cord zipper pulls. 

Rain started to fall, so I hunkered under a tree and ate a bit of food, drank some booze, and enjoyed some hobo reflection. 

On the way back home, it continued to rain and eventually turned into a real Portland deluge. After crossing the St. John's Bridge I checked to see if any water had infiltrated the new bag and it was bone dry inside. 

That's a rainy view of the city.

All told, the bag is a complete success and I like having the extra storage space on the bike. I'm going to make another one for a different 54cm Cross Check owner, and also a full framebag for the Stumpjumper. I have learned a bunch and my next bags will be much nicer than this one. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Analysis Paralysis

When I was doing this....

Analysis paralysis was more consequential, up to or including the health and safety of self and others. I generally avoided that eventuality, and despite some minor scrapes and bruises escaped unharmed from the wildland fire service. I even got some pictures of me looking painfully cool with a forest fire sneaking up behind me.

Currently however, my paralysis stems from overactive day dreaming about how to spend some cash from a recent significant birthday event. I have gone through several iterations of improvements, modifications, rebuilds, and reworkings of my current two bike stable only to arrive back at the start.

These have included:

  • A set of Compass Barlow Pass 700x38 tires (so supple) and VO Zeppelin fenders to match for the Surly.
  • Build a dyno hub wheel for the Stumpjumper with a Shutter Precision PV-8 and a light to match. Probably something relatively inexpensive like the B&M Eyc.
  • Build a full wheelset for the Stumpjumper with the set of vintage Dura Ace hubs that I recently aquired with Rhyno Lite rims.
  • Build a rear wheel using the Dura Ace hub and with the leftover cash, buy materials for a frame bag/handlebar roll/seatpack for the Stumpjumper. 
  • Powdercoat either/both of the bikes.

So it comes down to this. Sometimes I think too hard about the theoretical and aesthetic implications of these things rather than the real question; What is going to allow me to ride father in the terrain that I like and have more fun? 

I like to ride on dirt, and spend time in the woods. This requires a reliable and trustworthy bike. The wheelset on the Stumpjumper is old to the point that I don't really trust it more than about five miles from home. Especially the rear. 

Also, the rack and pannier setup that I have been using on the stump up to now isn't much to my liking beacuse it sucks on dirt. Plus it's about to rain and I'm about to have a lot more time to plan and sew a framebag.

So I think it's option four. 

As a corollary, I want to build a dyno wheel for the stumpjumper and I would like to use the SP PV-8 for the build. But, I would like a much better light than I can afford, and it seems stupid to build a front wheel when I plan on investing in a dyno soon. On the other hand, I could reuse everything except the spokes, and I have a front hub so maybe that isn't that bad of an idea either.... Damn did it again. I'll just have to make a decision and ride the shit out of it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strangers With Candy

S and I went up to the Puget Sound this last weekend to see my dad and stepmom. They have a house right on the water and my dad just bought a new boat. Since Coho are supposed to be on the move, my dad and I decided to do some fishing. 

I tied up some flies, including these Lefty's Deceivers. The one in the foreground I have nicknamed "Strangers With Candy" since it is a deceiver in cotton candy colors. They looked great in the water, and even got a couple hits, but I couldn't seal the deal with any fish. 

We did a little bit of exploring in new water, and my dad ended up catching a 20lb wild Chinook on his gear rod. It was a beautiful fish, and since it was wild and not in season we released it quickly rather than wait to snap a picture. The weather was beautiful, and hooking up with a fish like that makes any day a good one. 

While we were both heads down fiddling with stuff on the boat, we managed to drift a little too close to a navy submarine base that happens to be the home of all of the Trident nuclear submarines in the Pacific Ocean. We had a polite, but firm exchange with an officer on a Navy security boat who recommended that we leave the area immediately. This was a real bummer because the arrival of the Navy patrol coincided with one of my two fleeting contacts with fish all weekend and I wished I could have fished there a little longer! We decided to head out before we got into any other trouble and motored all the way out into Admiralty Inlet before deciding to head back for the day. 

After that, it was relaxation time with the family and a little boat trip out with S to enjoy the beautiful late summer weather and do some more fishing and swimming. The photo below is just post swim, after some bait showed up on the surface while we were hanging out in the sun. I got another bite here after stack mending my line straight down to about 30' in a bait ball. I think if I would have had fly with a stinger hook on I would have hooked up. Oh well, nice to know that they are interested at least. 

Using this 5 gallon bucket filled with about 2" of water in the bottom was a great way to keep my line from getting tangled while I was casting from the boat. This was not my idea, but was suggested to me by someone who has done a lot more fly fishing from a boat than I have. I was able to shoot about 60' of line this way, and probably would have been able to get more line out if there were some spikes on the bottom to keep my running line from tangling. 

We ended the weekend with a run up to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner and drinks and a sunset cruise home with the Olympics in the background. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Little Reminder

I found this stuck in my orange yesterday:

Which reminded me of this:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tough Choices

I'm getting closer to scrounging up enough time to order and sew a framebag for the Stumpjumper but I have run into a serious dilemma. 

What color? 

Black seems boring, and making custom gear in black seems like a shame. Might as well do something you can't get off the shelf, right? If I use X-Pac for the side panels I'm limited to a pretty narrow range of colors, and fewer that seem desirable. I would probably choose dark grey. However, if I use Cordura a world of possibilities opens up. Check out the selection at Rockywoods Fabrics for an idea. 

For an idea as to what is possible, I have been cruising around Scott Felter's Flickr to see what he has done in the past. There are some REALLY cool bags there and for some reason, the woodland camo and dark camo bags really have caught my eye. Something like this seems so awesome.

Finally, I'm putting the cart before the horse in a way here because I'd like to strip and powder coat the stumpjumper this winter and so I feel like I need to make a decision (or at least have an idea) of what frame color I would like. It would be nice if they complimented each other. I'm tempted to make a decision on a framebag color, and then choose my frame color from there. There are many more PC colors available than there are fabric colors. 

A very dark green might go well with that MultiCam Black. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

In The Meantime

While I work out the details of the framebag project, I have been concentrating on taking care of some deferred maintenance on the bikes.

I built a much needed rear wheel for the Surly with a Mavic A319 rim, Ultegra 6700 hub, DT Comp double butted spokes and DT brass nipples in silver. I'm not a pro wheelbuilder and my dishing technique is what the army would term "field expedient".

Despite my methodology, the wheel turned out great and I have to say, the difference in feel and performance is remarkable and I am really enjoying this bike lately. It also looks awesome. The downtube shifters are great once you get used to them, look classy as hell and provide a great shift "feel."

The Crosscheck frame itself is beginning to feel like a limitation on this bike. It's not very lively feeling. But, my impressions may change if I follow through on my threats to race cyclocross at least once this year.

The stumpjumper got completely rebuilt hubs and bottom bracket, which has changed the way this bike rides considerably. The old grease in the hubs was the color and consistency of old chewing gum and caramel. The BB wasn't so bad, but not great either. I'm sure that I burned about a thousand extra calories on the Oregon Troutback from pushing that gunk around. I bought a tube of Phil's for my little 3oz grease gun and used that for all of the bearings.

I absolutely hate the rear derallieur on this bike, and the first thing I do when I have some spare cash is going to be to try the Altus derailleur that Rivendell is selling. The price is right, and I can't take the constant ticking and buzzing that this one is making for much longer.

Also, check out that new waterbottle from 21st Ave Cycles!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Tech for an Old Bike

All I need is a little time and this thing will be on the Stump ready for some dirt.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oregon Troutback: The Video


I am shamefully late in posting this, but here is the link to the video that Russ and Laura at The Path Less Pedaled shot of the #oregontroutback trip in May. Hope you enjoy it!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Fly Fishing the Missouri River

I have been travelling a lot for work, and when I found out that I would be visiting the Lewis and Clark NF and the Helena NF I know what was right in between those two cities. The Missouri River.

Checking the river level about a month before I left it looked looked high, somewhere in the area of 10,000 CFS. Way too high for any chance of wading. But, with the June came a dramatic change. From June 1 to June 7, the river went from 11000 CFS to 4800 CFS. Perfect for wading. I packed light on dress shirts for work and made room in my bag for my waders, boots and chest pack.

My co-worker was kind enough to drop me off on the river on the way from Great Falls to Helena on Saturday with the promise to pick me up at 5:00. On the way to the river, we stopped at The Trout Shop in Craig, MT. They gave me a couple of patterns for the day, and also clued me into a location to access some great wading just a couple miles from town.

After getting geared up, I hiked about a half mile down a well worn path in the ballast beside a set of railroad tracks. Obviously many people had come this way before. I was worried about crowds, as this is the second weekend in June and people might be on vacation. My hope was that the forecast of mostly cloudy and a 60% chance of rain and thunder storms would scare people off. Apparently it did, because as I got to the side channel I was going to wade, there were only a couple other people wading. Over the course of the day, I would see a half dozen drift boats but everyone was courteous and polite.

The patterns that the shop recommended were the Rainbow Czech nymph in size 14 and 16, and a very small size 20 mayfly nymph in a metallic yellow. I set up a size 16 Rainbow Czech 18" under a foam indicator and went to work. Nymphing is not my favorite way to fish. I prefer to take fish on the dry. I'm not very confident in my nymphing abilities, and my technique isn't very good. However, recently I have been trying to educate myself and practice fishing with a nymph, if nothing else to be a better rounded fly fisherman. It paid off.

It took about an hour to figure out what I was doing, but as soon as I did I got a tug that felt more like a small steelhead than a trout. Turns out, this rainbow was about the size of my first little hatchery steelhead. About 20" with thick shoulders and beautiful red stripe down the side. Nymphing was working! Over the course of the day I caught about a dozen nice rainbows, none smaller than 18". A couple of fish that acted very differently from the rainbows grabbed my fly and just took off. Both broke me off almost right away after a short and powerful run.

Near the end of the end of the day I was working my way downstream back to the point where I would get back to the tracks and hike out. I wanted to catch one last fish, and was secretly hoping that i could hook into one of those hot fish that had broken me off. I was fishing the small yellow mayfly pattern and had noticed there was a nice depression at the downstream end of the island that I was fishing next to.

I set up my drift, and my fly got absolutely nailed. This fish was hot, and I let it take a nice long run and waited until it wanted to slow down before I started to increase the pressure and turn the fish. I did my best to protect my 5x tippet and after a nice fight I landed a huge brown, my first ever.

It's really interesting how much of a different character different species of trout have. The rainbows I landed were acrobatic and didn't take long runs. The brown was different. They got hooked, and immediately took off the other direction.

Did I mention it was raining? Because it was pouring almost all day. I stayed warm by keeping moving and keeping my food intake pretty constant, but once I hiked back to wait for my ride it started raining even harder, and I got a lot colder. I saw a small cave about ten yards uphill from where I was waiting and scrambled up to get out of the rain. It was sheltered from the wind and rain, and ended up being a great place to hang out.

It was probably the best day of trout fishing in my life. I landed a bunch or really nice fish, and made great progress on my nymphing technique.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Oregon Troutback: A Different Sort of Adventure

I didn't do the Oregon Outback because I'm out of shape and lazy. Actually, its really more about not having a couple of like minded people to train, prep, and ride with to make the commitment to register and ride the route. 

So I didn't ride the Outback, but was feeling some serious envy for the riders posting gear lists and getting ready for the ride. So when Russ from The Path Less Pedaled asked if I wanted to take trip up the Deschutes River to camp and fish the stonefly hatch over Memorial Day weekend I jumped at the chance. 

Because of all the other folks riding the Outback the same weekend, and the fact that we were using the trailhead at the Deschutes State Rec Area (the end point of the Outback) it just made sense to call this trip the Oregon Troutback.

In preparation of a long weekend of fishing, I tied up a bunch of stonefly patterns, both wets and dries. I used a foam dry pattern with rubber legs and a deer body wing. I tied these with both black and tan foam in size 6 with 3x long hooks. For nymphs, I used a size 6 nymph hook and tied black and golden colors both with and without beads. I also tied up some golden stone dries using the Kevin's Twisted Stonefly Adult pattern. I also brought a collection of traditional dries, like parachute adams, BWO, elk hair caddis, and whatever else was in my small dry box. I decided to take my 9' 5wt rod.

The bike needed a little love before it was ready to hit the trail. My main concern was the wheels, this is the original wheelset on this bike and my confidence in it is waning quickly. However, I haven't had the time or money to build a couple of new wheels. So, I hoped with a quick true and check I could get away with it for the weekend. Immediately this happened:

Things got weird fast. So, it was off to 21st Ave Cycles for a handful of new spokes and nipples, and a bit deeper into wheel repair than I wanted to get. 

 But, after it was all done the bike looked ready to get rad. 

I'll follow up on some more prep and the actual ride in another post. 

Utah Trip

May was an incredibly busy month. Between moving to a new apartment and travelling for work I managed to still have a bit of fun.

In the middle of the month, I got to take a trip to the Manti La-Sal and Fishlake National Forests for work. These trips are always a bit whirlwind, but I had a day off and got to see some really neat stuff.

I went to the prehistoric museum in Price, UT on Saturday morning and saw some really cool fossils and Fremont culture artifacts.

After lunch I took the drive out to Ninemile Canyon to see the petroglyphs, including The Great Hunt, which is a significant piece of rock art that details a very specific set of environmental circumstances. In the depiction there are male, female and yearling sheep along with hunters and blinds. This is really interesting because this art is not conceptual, or abstract, but represents a specific point in space and time. That's a rad thing to ponder if you are trying to get inside the head of a long dead Fremont hunter. 

While I was walking around on a ledge trying to catch my breath after a steep hill (apparently I have gotten soft living at 200ft above sea leavel) I saw a chert flake on the ground and was stoked to see that it was a secondary reduction flake that was a beautiful semi-transparent red-brown. 

It seems like it is always worth it to spend the extra effort to get out and about when I'm travelling for work. Sometimes it's the last thing I want to do at the end of a long day or week, but I have never regretted it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

This is the Summer

This summer is the year that I really get out and see some of my adopted state of Oregon on a bike. During the winter I have been thinking about how/when/where/which bike I want to set up for exploring. With the weather getting nicer all the time, there has been a new energy behind getting a bike set up for extended exploration.

The weather alone doesn't explain my enthusiasm for getting out and stretching my legs. I got invited to the Oregon Scenic Bikeways event at Chris King last month and drank some free beer, had some good food and saw some excellent videos produced by Russ and Laura of Pathlesspeadled.com. The Scenic Bikeways look good on paper, but the videos took it over the top for me, and I REALLY want to get out there and ride them.

With all of these things in my head, a trip to the Washington coast for some bike fishing on logging roads in a super secret location confirmed that the Stumpjumper is going to be the bike of choice for exploration. 

The change from 42cm B-136 Rando bars to 46cm Nitto Noodles on this bike has been a good one. The Noodles are much more suited to the way this bike handles, and the 2.4" Mutano Raptors do not disappoint for speed or grip.

As it stands now the bike is light on carrying capacity and wearing a backpack on this ride reminded me just how unpleasant an option that can be. The long chainstays of the stump make it  prime candidate for a rear load, so a rack of some kind is probably in the works. I love the basket on the Surly so much that I really want to put the same on the Stump but I'm concerned that it may affect the handling too much. We'll see what happens. 

Now all I need is a route. The VeloDirt routes all look good, but the dirt route from Hillsboro to Tillamook is especially tempting. http://velodirt.com/portfolio/north-trask/ The fact that it parallels the Trask river and the possibility to scout some bike fishing along the way might seal the deal. 

The dirt routes out of the Dalles look amazing too, in particular the Old Dalles route. http://velodirt.com/portfolio/old-dalles/ The views here look great, and soon it will be too damned hot out there to do it, but it is an out and back. Nothing wrong with that, but an expedition to the coast seems like more fun right now. 

I have a weekend in mind, and some prep to do, but I would like someone to ride it with me. I don't really have someone in the area that I can call for this kind of adventure, so that is the final missing link. Hopefully some digging will find a willing candidate. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Nanook of the NW

We got some snow here. I decided to test out how the new drops handled in the 4" or so that had accumulated and headed up to Forest Park. From the apartment to milepost one I had a tough time getting my legs warmed up and I was dragging ass. Halfway up to the gate at Leif Erickson a man about 65 or 70 flagged me down and wanted to know "Why the hell I wasn't falling down?" I said something about big tires with low pressure and he shook his head like I was crazy.

Once I got into the park, I passed some joggers just after the first milepost, started to warm up and have fun. 20psi in the WTB Mutanoraptors was just right traction wise and the center ridge that rides so well on pavement provided a lot of lateral stability. On my way up I saw one other bike track from that morning and several that had been snowed in overnight. At Firelane 1 I saw a Surly Nate track and was jealous of how wide the tracks were they made my 2.4's look tiny. 

Once I got to milepost 5 I got bored, and was starting to get a little cold. I cracked the Fosters oil can I had in my pack and poured as much as would fit into my bottle. I chugged the rest for saftey and descended as fast as I dared back home, occasionally taking a swig from my bottle. The only time I crashed all day was when I got distracted trying to drink some of the slushy beer while moving and let my front wheel get out of shape. Snow is soft and I got up and got home just as I was getting cold. 

It was a great ride. Snow riding is fun and it made me REALLY curious about what a fatbike would feel like in those kind of conditions.