Idaho fire lookout motorcycle tour.

I left Portland Oregon after work on Tuesday with a lightly loaded 79’ R65 and two friends on their motos with plans to head East to Idaho to explore and stay in a few old fire lookouts. Ethan and I were doing the whole trip and planned to take 4-5 days before heading back to puddle-town but Tony needed to be at work and could only swing an overnight trip. Quite the motley crew of motos with Tony riding a rebuilt and custom Yamaha XS650 cafe racer and Ethan on his thumper. With no way to carry gear on the bike, Ethan wore a backpack with his super-light backpacking tent and sleeping bag inside. His Honda XL650 had dry bags lashed behind the seat and topped with a half dozen bananas for breakfast. It had been a long time since I have ridden with other riders so it was fun have a group to roll out with.

We intended on making it to a campsite in the Columbia Gorge after we stopped in White Salmon for a beer and dinner but didn’t have a specific stop in mind. We opted to avoid I-5 as much as possible and instead choose to carve our way out Hwy 14 on the Washington state side on the river. Smaller towns, tighter turns and more smiles. We rode into the darkness and finally found a campsite out of the wind along the river. A few more beers next to the Columbia river before a good nights sleep.

The next day we woke up and parted ways with Tony as we headed east and he rode back to Portland. Being Wednesday, there was minimal traffic on the long roads toward I-82 and Umatilla. Once you make it past the Cascade range, the sky opens up and the landscape turns drier with huge rolling hills and canyons branching off every couple miles. Highway 14 was beautiful but short on gas stations. Ethan’s big thumper could only go about 90 miles between petrol stops and even less at 70+ mph. We slowed down to 50 mph as a precautionary measure when he switched over the reserve just a few miles before we crossed the Columbia to fill up. Total miles on a big freeway thus far, 4.

After a quick fill up at the truck stop on the Oregon side, stretch and more coffee, we jumped on SR 730 towards Walla Walla. The Gorge opens up to rolling hills, rocky canyons and wide open skies at this point but in the distance we could see grey clouds and some rain streaking the sky.
SR 12 took us north and east through Dayton and offered nothing but sweeping turns with the occasional tractor or pickup truck. The motorcycle allows one to travel just as fast on smaller roads as you would on a Interstate but offers a lot more character and quality. We continued onto SR 127 to Colfax, WA. where we had to stop and put on our rain gear next to a grain elevator that stood alone on a long stretch of good pavement.
Crossing into Idaho near Potlach we stopped for gas and found ourselves in a smoky little town from all the wild fires burning south and east of us. Trees and a slightly more rugged landscape greeted us as we traveled towards to mountains.

The R65 was running great and I was happy to be on a smooth bike. With a range of over 200 miles between petrol stops, I felt comfortable the whole time. Even though the top speed isn’t much over 75mph, the smaller roads are a perfect fit the shorter wheelbase and peaky power. A simple oil change, valve adjustment and a few tools under the seat is all it takes to ride across the country with complete confidence.

Ethan’s range of 100 miles worked out well for pit stops and getting off the bike helps make the trip enjoyable for multiple days in the saddle. The Idaho map showed only a few roads north to I-90 so we opted for SR 6 to SR 3 to take us up to the interstate. Twisting and rolling on a quiet Wednesday afternoon was a treat as I followed Ethan through the treelined route knowing that we only had a few hours left to get to our first lookout. Our plan was to meet a few friends who drove out and then caravan up the gravel road to the final stop. After about 30 miles on I-90 at 75 mph, I was grateful to have not had more freeway miles on this route to Idaho. With no fairing getting bounced around by trucks and crosswinds is no fun.

Wallace, Idaho is a cute old mining town and we met up with Daniel, Keiren and Rachel where we got groceries, water and a few camping supplies. Everyone was in good spirits and we turned south into the wilderness to climb to the Arid Peak fire lookout. Ethan’s thumper with knobby tires was much more at home on the loose gravel road but the R65 rode well and was steady on the gravel with it’s low center of gravity, predictable handling and balanced riding position.

The first gravel road took us over Moon pass (el. 4946) and down the other side towards Avery, ID. We discovered the directions we had were from the south and we were quickly discussing, speculating and predicting how lost we were and where the right turn was. After one of those “let’s just go a couple more miles down this road” moments, we found our turn after going through some old rock tunnels cut into the stone. Very J.R.R. Tolkien!

The gravel got rockier and rougher as we climbed up the mountain. I was hungry, tired and it was getting dark but I knew that every twisty, rocky turn might be the last one for the day. We climbed for miles. (I think it was about 8 total) By the time I found Daniel parked, I was ready to be off the bike but just thinking how few people come to a remote place like this on a moto made me happy. I was grateful I was there and that my bike was running like a top.

With a 3 mile hike in, we got our packs ready and headlamps ready before starting up the trail. Pitch black and quiet but we walked along singing songs to scare off any bears.
Arid Peak lookout was like most lookouts with weathered wooden beams cris crossing under a glass box about 30 feet up off the ground. Set on the rocky point of a ridge the views are amazing! Complete with old boxes of Kraft noodles and a small wood stove it’s easy to imagine the quiet life you could have up here for months at a time. We slept well.

The next day we all packed our gear back out along the trail but enjoyed a better view in the sunshine. We were surrounded by jagged mountain peaks in every direction. The trip down the rocky road proved slower than the trip up. Packing the Krauser bags and tank bag to ensure stable and quiet gear was key but I still took my time as Daniel roared past in his 4Runner and Ethan on his XL650. I enjoyed the trip and stopped to take a few photos.

At the bottom, we regrouped near the last turn to find Daniel flatted both his front tires on his truck. Adding further complications, he didn’t have the tool to lower the spare from underneath the truck. Ethan and I offered to moto into town and get some fix-a-flat and Ethan took off. As we are standing there sorting things out, a retired local on a street legal quad stopped and offered his air tiny compressor. By this time, Ethan was back with two cans of flat fixing goo and we added all the goop to the tires. It seemed to be leaking as fast as it was going in but Daniel sped off towards Wallace and the closest mechanic. Ethan and I followed for a while, stopped to snap some photos and eventually met them at the service station in Wallace.

Our schedule was thrown off for the day and being able to make the second fire lookout before dark was out of the question at that point but we were back on the road soon and opted for the fast route to Coeur d’Alene along I-90. Thinking that Hwy 95 north towards Sand Point would be nice and quiet was wrong as we were in stop and go traffic most the way. Add some rain to the mix and it made for a long day on the moto even though we weren’t covering a long distance.

The views in the Idaho panhandle are amazing and watching the clouds open up with rain and sunshine made for some gorgeous scenes. Past Sand Point and onward to Bonners Ferry where we stopped for more coffee to stay warm and caffeinated.

The Kootenai River valley is one of the most beautiful places I have seen and being within a stones throw to Canada made the route feel otherworldly. The late afternoon sunshine bounced off the mountains and golden grass in the valley. The road leading to the Shorty Peak lookout was paved most the way up and offered some twisty corners before crossing a cattle guard and turning to smooth crushed gravel for the last 7 miles. Seeing large signs every couple miles describing the difference between grizzly and black bears made us cautious about wandering too far into the woods without a loud voice and big stick. An occasional cow on the side of the road was the only large animal we saw the whole way up.

Another 3 mile hike uphill lie ahead in the dark as we got our packs ready and turned on our headlamps. The lookout stood on a short concrete box but was obviously taken care of with nice wood floors and all the glass in place. It rained hard that night and beat against the glass but we slept well after a few more beers and some whiskey.
The next day the mountains around us were green and lush and we surveyed the view for 360 degrees without any traces of towns or cities to be seen below us. The hike down offered fresh huckleberries the whole way and we found our motorcycles unmolested by bears or man.

Wearing the signs of 3 days on gravel roads, my beemer was streaked with dirt, dust and water. Very different than the clean bike I started out on a few days prior. I was happy to have a working choke as opposed to the ticklers on my old /5 and the 65 started right up despite the elevation and cold mornings. The roads were wet so we took our time on the corners and enjoyed the views in the sunny valley below.

Stopping at the Starbucks (the only option) in Bonners Ferry for a second (or third?) coffee before heading out to find the third and final tower of the trip, we looked over maps to ensure we wouldn’t get lost. Staying up north in the panhandle, the Deer Ridge lookout was closer to the Montana state line to the east and offered a gravel road all the way to the base of the tower.

Ethan and I headed east on Hwy 95 and soon found ourselves a little off course from our directions but we pushed on and followed our guts and twisting road signs. The gravel was well worn but we worked our way up the valley in what we thought was the right direction. A lot of stopping, discussing and practicing our power slides took place on the quiet roads. We were not worried about time.

Stopping a BLM ranger truck confirmed we were on the right track with a left turn a few miles down the road putting us on the proper road to the peak. Somehow we still managed to work in a few more wrong turns but the roads we found were narrow double track with lots of brush and mud. The boxer’s road tires are not ideal for rough roads or mud but it was fun nonetheless.

Finding the right road and using our keen tracking skills confirmed that Daniel had been up this way (lots of skid fresh skid marks near the edges of the road) and we climbed the washboarded route up along the mountain. Looking up and seeing the sky through the trees is usually a good sign and we followed the ridge to find another 40 foot wooden lookout with a beautiful view. Happy to arrive in the daylight we unloaded gear, relaxed and ate dinner. The sunset was great and you could see clearly for miles.

Friday am we parted ways with Daniel, Keiren and Rachel and Ethan and I planned to ride back to Portland taking a couple days to enjoy a route through central Washington. It was dry for about an hour before the rain started in earnest. The sky looked grey and streaked with rain as far as we could see. We stopped for gas and put on our rain gear. It wasn’t bad for an hour or so but then our hiking boots (hiking in moto boots sucks but hiking boots don’t work as well in the rain at 60mph) got soaked and I was happy to at least be wearing wool socks. The traffic south wasn’t bad but added some stress from Sand Point to Coeur d’Alene on top of rain and soggy feet.

Ethan and I stopped to warm up and eat second breakfast outside Coeur d-Alene at a truck stop style diner and the sun was out for a while so we draped our wet gear over our bikes to dry out a little. After eating camp food for a few days, a hot meal was welcome even if it was sub-par. Things like biscuits and gravy and a big stack of pancakes are all welcome with a moto tour.
We discussed our options for getting back and couldn’t escape the fact that I-90 follows a straight line towards Oregon across the southeast corner of Washington. Assessing our wet feet and thinking about camping in the rain, we opted for the fast route back towards hot showers. The pull of sleeping in your own bed is pretty strong sometimes but looking back, I wished I had all the time in the world to explore on my motorcycle. No regrets, just more options to explore next time right?

The landscape along I-90 is pretty barren and not much to see so just putting your head down and twisting the throttle to 80 isn’t as bad as it may seem. Adding rain to the equation makes for long day but you can cover some miles fast. The amount of tired you feel from fast riding without a fairing adds up quickly if you want to ride for multiple days and cover ground. I would rather go 65 and enjoy the world going by. Going fast also meant poor mileage on Ethan’s bike but I was happy to stop every hour and a half anyway.

We made good time and made it to Kennewick, WA. in a few hours. Looking at the map, we opted for less freeway and could piece together a route from here that took us back to SR14 and Portland. About the time the sun came out, we exited I-82 westbound and took to SR 22 for a nice parallel route to the freeway. Our boots were just starting to dry out but we were well on our way to hit Portland that night. Hard not to feel like a horse to the stable.

Topping off our tanks in Toppenish, WA. we headed south on SR 97 through the Yakima Indian Reservation. The road was sweeping and smooth as we motored over the mountains to Goldendale and the mighty Columbia river. A quick stop at the Maryhill paved test track to see one of the first paved roads built in Washington before we entered the Columbia Gorge was worth it, even if brief. The smooth asphalt looks like a snake slithering up the hillside. It makes you want to take a couple hot laps.

SR 14 took us along the mighty river back towards Portland. It was dry but Ethan’s night vision wasn’t great with his tinted visor so I lead most the way so he could follow my taillight. It is always nice to find a rhythm on the motorcycle after days in the saddle and my beamer was running great.

Like most adventures we just parted ways back in the city and headed home without any long goodbyes. A hot shower and cup of tea before a restful sleep.

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winter inspirations.

Today was cold and very wet. Today was also the first road race of the season and waking up to the sound of the rain and seeing the thermometer read just touching 34 degrees did nothing to motivate me to reach for my clean and light road bike without fenders. All in all it has been a mild winter in Portland up until the snow that fell a few weeks ago. Since then the rain has been steady and typically Pacific Northwest. I am happy to see the rain again since it means the summer will be lush, green and lessen the reality of forest fires. In years past, I wouldn’t flinch about getting out for a long, steady road ride but today the weather has beat me before even getting to the start line.

These rainy days are not great for riding bikes but they are fantastic for looking through old journals, reading past stories about grand adventures and drinking massive amounts of coffee. For years the cold winter months also meant sewing projects or spending all day cooking or baking. Today I opened a large box of photographs I have taken over the last 20 years of bike rides, motorcycle adventures and travels and was taken back in time and also inspired to revisit a little of who I was in those past lives. Taking the time to stop and document the moment is important but over the last couple years, my journal has morphed into a book of lists and contacts for daily work bullshit. I want to write poetry, take photos and relearn to relax a little. I feel too old and too stiff now a days.


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Never too early.

It has been a wet spring but full of shop time for Ira Ryan Cycles and also the new Breadwinner Cycles company that Tony Pereira and I launched in March. 2013 has been full of opportunities and new goals. The reality of being in the bike business is it gets harder to ride bikes as much and it is also tough to want to spend a few hours in the saddle after you woke up, worked all day and had dinner thinking about how to make bicycles better. Don’t get me wrong, I love riding and feel recharged after even a short ride in the rain or sunshine. It fuels me to push what I do better and keeps me in touch with the real reason I love the bicycle as a machine, as a sport, as a culture.

After riding and calling myself a racer for over twenty years, my approach is to just toss myself into the deep end every spring. Racing is never easy and there were a few years “back in the day” when I felt fast and fit. I can’t wait to race cross in the fall and I love riding in a climate that has “emphasis”, as my friend Joe Staples said once. Something about riding on those days when most the other riders are home, makes me feel more connected to the sport. I do like training and being able to ride 10 hours a week is a luxury I long for but racing with 3-4 hours a week has it’s own set of challenges.

Portland is lucky in that it has a great racing and riding culture and there is a full schedule of races from March to November. There are 2-4 training races held during the week that are in town. Being able to ride to a race, toss your backpack on the side of the road, race your bike with 25-40 people and then roll home is a great thing. I have races a bunch of races already this year and I have ridden to every one. I love it even if I get crushed.

Last night I raced the first Mt. Tabor race. It is one of my favorite local race series and always draws a good crowd who sit in the park to watch some bike racing after work. It was a little rainy but still fast. Just like throwing yourself off the high diving board, there were a couple moments of panic as I struggled to breathe but overall, it’s not the world championships and we are racing for a few dollars worth of primes. It’s hard to take yourself too serious. Making my way up towards the front on the last couple corners, someone in front of me slipped and I pulled off a sweet fishtail skid to avoid him and just tapped his back with my rear wheel. It was my friend Richard and I stopped to make sure he was ok and not too hurt. As I rolled to the finish, there were two more crashes caused by slick roads and mossy corners. I am glad it all worked out and I was happy to spin home with Rachel and eat enchiladas.

Next week is a big Rapha Continental exhibition in Portland with a grip of old Conti bikes all on display and I am excited to see everyone all together for a few rides in our back yard. If you are in Portland and have a bike, you are invited to ride. The ride will begin and end at Rapha HQ at 12:30pm on Friday June 7th. It will include 35 miles of Portland’s finest. Tony and I will be there and hopefully riding some sweet Breadwinner bicycles.

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cold in the shop.

tuesday and what a weird week but what can you expect with the end of the world just 3 days away right?

2012 has been a great year and i want to thank all of my customers who have placed orders for bicycles and also all the people who have been patient over the years and are happily racking up miles all over the world. i recently finished a bike that headed to japan and landed just in time to do some cross racing. my friend daisuke was kind enough to translate and help out along the way and also puts on a hell of a cross race in japan. he has some good help and it looks like a lot of big names ended up racing this year. the bike that i built up was a great example of a classic lugged steel cross bike with a matching fork and stem to fit. i never got great photos of the frameset before it left portland but daisuke was kind enough to send me some photos via flickr.

a few notes on things i have discovered recently and have fallen in love with. one is a vintage cycling photo site called il dolore. it is f**king amazing! everything that i  have had a deeply romantic love affair with for over 20 years is distilled down to one website. (i love and hate the internet for this reason. information is so easy to access anymore that it take something away from the act of digging and finding things like this in old magazines and shoe boxes.) it keeps one of my feet firmly planted in our passionate past and in doing so, keeps my compass directed into the future of bicycles, racing and style. thanks simon.

the other thing i discovered was the lumberyard in portland. while i do consider myself to be a “roadie” at heart, i have always ridden mountain bikes and found myself riding my road bike where i shouldn’t be. building skills and feeling comfortable on loose and narrow terrain has never been my ace in the hole but i do love me some shredding every now and again. the lumberyard is a purpose built indoor mountain bike park made for every skill level and the best part is it’s dry all winter long. i don’t know what else to say about it other than i wasn’t able to wipe the smile off my face the whole time and i want to make a dirt jump bike. do it!

enjoy and happy new year to you.

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weal world winter widing wear

i am typically not one to post about gear and equipment that i use (other than my bicycles of course) but over time and hours of riding and working, it is hard not to notice the quality of certain items in the wet, cold and sometimes bumpy world. some weeks don’t see a lot of time in the saddle but over the years, i have developed a short list of things that i use for winter riding. i am a fan of wool, fenders and good rain gear. every region of the world calls for it’s own special blend of riding gear to keep the wheels rolling all winter.

d*pow at pdw helped me out with a fresh set of fenders this fall and they are the best yet. they are very solid and durable but still light and offer great coverage. i added my own special mud flaps to keep my toes and my fellow riders dry but otherwise, they are 100% great for a skinny tired winter whip. they ain’t cheap but from my experience, if it’s cheap, it will fall apart and these hold up on rough stuff.

the rapha overshoes are the best. i have used these for almost every winter ride over the course of 3 years and they are just now starting to show real signs of wear. retro-grouch alert! back in the day in iowa, i remember seeing riders showing up for winter rides with scuba gear approved booties that looked like they have been through the shredder. safety pins and duct tape were common sights. it seemed to be a goal to see who could go longer without buying new booties. putting all those ideals aside, i can say these are classic, understated and durable. i love them. a lot of what makes for a warm and functional shoe set up is using wool socks, making sure your shoes are dry and facing the fact that your feet will be wet but the trick is to make sure they don’t get cold.

speaking of wool, the little package winter riding is the best winter cap, period. it is thin, comfortable and made locally. it fits under a helmet and won’t bunch up. caroline uses wool panels on the front and back and cotton on the sides. (all wool is too warm for portland, trust me) the earflap is poly and won’t stretch out for years. the only downside is that i don’t have any left. sorry for all those people who have to have something right away. this ain’t burger king!

lastly, this has been one of the tougher parts to nail down and i figured out the perfect solution (this is for me and i know that everyone is different). in portland, it is more about being warm and not being cold even when you are wet (and you will be wet!). when i was a bike courier in portland years ago, i was dirt poor and needed durable gear for riding 9 hours a day in the rain. i found a military surplus store that sold all sorts of wool army gear. i bought a bunch of rag wool gloves for $5 and wore them out. they were cheap and warm but never really that warm. years later, i discovered boiled wool and i employed the same “technology” and boiled up a batch of cheap wool gloves. the key is to buy them a size or two too large. boil them for a couple minutes and have a bowl of ice water on hand. the shock of the hot and cold condenses the wool fibers and makes them tighten up. going back and forth until they fit and let them dry out. they are good to about 35 degrees and if you need full water proofing, buy some extra large yellow dishwashing gloves for another $5.

this is likely to be an ongoing topic and i will most likely mention other things that i like to use for riding and working. while the shop wear isn’t as romantic, i do tend to wear old military sweaters to stay warm and cozy at the workbench.

enjoy the ride.

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cam-pag sweet-nazzz

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never worship false idols

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“dialed, awesome, thank you”

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left to right: d*pow!. ira, matt hall, j*pow!, india, ryan, rachel.



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technology is dope.

the modern era is dominated by facebook, twitter and instagram and, while i use social media, i try to balance it out with some older technology in my daily life. my shop and home stereos are from the era where you can weight quality by the pound, i like to read books and collect old magazines and of course i prefer lugged steel bikes with steel forks over the feathery carbon bikes of today. i find myself turning my head at old motorcycles and can say that the front end of a studebaker lark or an international travel-all are two of the best looking cars i have ever seen. classic style.

it is strange how the smallest details in passing can influence the way we see the world. i am fixated on the world around us and am confounded by the mix of high-tech we have in our hands and on our screens but then we also connect with people and our world in ways that can’t be replicated with an app or a video. this being said, i am guilty of spending hours watching world cup cyclo-cross or the latest rapha videos on my computer. hell, i have been looking at this screen for an hour to write this.

i have developed a reputation as a bit of a retro-grouch (i own this title as a testament as my years in the bicycle industry) and in the past year, i see the limitations to this perspective on my craft, my racing and my brand. this year i have looked for ways to streamline my building and have invested in some new tooling (if your reading this jeff buchholz, your tooling is build like a brick shit-house. thanks!), i bought some new carbon wheels (gasp!) for my cross bike and i have been taking my riding a little more serious than just pedaling around for a couple hours.

all of this new technology is dope. maybe it’s a sign of my getting smarter as i get older.


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