When I started building bicycle frames in the basement of my house in early 2005, I had no idea where it would lead in the years that followed. After I built my first frame, I had no idea what I was going to do next. I built the second frame for my friend and co-worker, Dee who continues to ride his single speed porteur bike as a courier in Portland. I knew a lot about bikes but only a little bit about frame building but I went ahead, used the $200 Dee handed me and ordered a tubeset to start cutting and brazing.

I have always been one to keep things simple and as much as I love the over the top style of a lot of lugged frames in the world, it wasn’t what I wanted to be known for and I didn’t want to spend all my time carving lugs into intricate shapes. I wanted to build frames for people who truly appreciated them as riders. I wanted my bikes to be ridden every day by every type of rider and I wanted to see them get dirty and worn over the years of use. Call it my proletariat ideals.  I was young and stupid in a lot of ways.

One bike frame lead to another, lead to another and so on and I was fortunate enough to have a lot of friends who loved bikes and would be willing to pay me just enough money to buy materials and braze a frame together for them to ride. I built a few fixed gear frames, a handful of cyclo cross frames, some touring bikes, road bikes and some porteur frames in the first couple years.

I always seem to draw parallels between the nuances of riding and racing bicycles and many of the things I encounter on a daily basis of being a frame builder. The ups and downs of a business are a lot like climbing and suffering over a mountain in a bicycle race. It is a test of mental and physical strength and a surprising amount of drive is needed to do what some people might see from the outside as easy. If you mis-shift or puncture, it is important to keep calm and keep moving forward. Getting upset or panicking is never a good option if you want to finish the day’s stage.

Looking back I made a lot of mistakes. Not so much in the brazing or construction but I made a lot of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants business decisions in the first 3 years. Some were bigger mistakes than others but I always approached them as chances to learn how to do my job better. It is my opinion that the more I learn about how to be a frame-builder and run a frame-building business, the bigger and broader that universe becomes with more choices on where to take my skills every day.

I remember one of the first things I stressed over was what to call my bikes. I had pages of notebooks full of lists of potential names and sketches of logos and various bikes I wanted to build. After weeks of considering what to call my company (I didn’t even consider it a real business at that time cause I wasn’t sure how far it would go), I opted to put my own name on the down tube. It struck a chord with me that if I put my own name on every bike, it would keep me honest about the energy and time I put into every frame. It was me.

After 9 years of building bicycles, running my own company and now having started Breadwinner Cycles with Tony Pereira, I realize how many things I could have done better. There is a little “no regrets” attitude here that I needed to keep pushing forward and to get out of bed every morning knowing that the day ahead might be rough but I am very proud about creating hundreds of bicycles that people have ridden all over the world. Every day is a chance to do things better and to make “it” count.

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The Oregon Outback.

I really had no idea what to expect for the ride and I knew that riding the B-Road gravel bike with 38 mm tires would either be the perfect bike or the fastest way to complete implosion. Tire choice, gear selection and route finding were all parts of the equation.

Kevin Condron, James Wilson and myself drove down on Thursday afternoon. Gear was checked and rechecked and we rolled into Klamath Falls about 5 pm with enough time to get food, walk around and check into the motel to rest up for the early start and long miles the next few days in the woods.

A few highlights that struck me after finishing the route. The first 90 miles on and off the OC&E trail was the hardest. The windy section on FR-27 was tough and unforgiving. I am pretty convinced the whole route only had about 7,000 feet of climbing so Donnie added the other 10,000 in the last 60 miles. Trout Creek Rd. at 2 am with my Niterider 1200 helmet mount was a fucking blast. The water crossings were a blast but cold. Shitty coffee and Snickers in Prineville were good. Watching the sun come up over Divide Rd. was amazing.

I wasn’t sure who was going to be going for the fastest time, but I did know that there were some fast people riding the Outback including Paul LaCava, who just raced the Trans-Iowa and got second a month before, Nelson Snyder, who has won nearly every Velo Dirt event held and John McCaffrey who is no slouch on a bike. The Maverick Motel in Klamath Falls was busy with activity and everyone was getting ready for the start at 7 am on Friday am. We woke up at 5:45. I used a huge handful of Rapha chamois cream in my Rapha bibs and put them on. I knew neither of these things would give me any trouble over the next 36 hours. Solid. Pockets were filled with food, jackets, chain lube, etc. and we started right at 7 am with Donnie thanking everyone for showing up and a vague warning not to die. Ha.

Seeing everyone’s bike set up really showed who was going for it and who was going to take a few days to camp and ride the route. Nelson’s bike was an old alloy Motor-Bacon with flat bars, aero bars, XTR STI shifters/brake levers, disc brakes, 700×37 tires and a small seat pack. It was clear he was shooting for a fast time. I kept telling myself this was just a bike ride and to not get caught up in any sort of race ego bullshit. The 150+ riders quickly spread out as we rolled towards the edge of K Falls and I was near the back of the group. I knew anyone wanting to “win” would be at the front right away, and I rolled past all my friends to the front to see Nelson already up the road. I was sort of sad to leave so many good people with such good spirits about the adventure so I could ride with a few fast dudes who I knew wouldn’t be much for good conversation.

I caught Nelson with a few other riders looking to make some fast miles early on. The paved path soon turned to gravel, and as we hit the first section with some big rocks scattered around, Nelson mumbled something as I noticed the minefield we were cruising into. I looked behind when I heard the obvious sounds of a crash and saw bikes and riders on the ground. We all stopped to find one guy hit the deck hard and was shaken and the other guy’s derailleur was ripped off the frame. Making sure those two were ok for spares and injuries, Nelson, Jan Heine (from Bicycle Quarterly) and I motored on. We would follow the OC&E trail for the next 70 miles or so. The grade was easy as it was an old decommissioned railroad bed but it had turned into loose rock, weeds and dirt double track for most of its length.

Let me mention Jan Heine here. Jan is the editor/publisher of Bicycle Quarterly and a fan of handmade and old French bikes. In an event where most people are riding 29er mountain bikes with bikepacking gear, Jan was riding the same bike he rides for most events including 1200 km brevets and exploring around the Cascade Mountains in Washington. He is fast and can put in the miles but is also great for conversations and points out details about the landscape, etc. He used to be a geologist so he had plenty to note about the rocks we were dodging all day. He also gets the tough guy award for riding with a broken hand. Ouch. His bike is a Rene Herse 650b rando bike with downtube shifters, Gran Bois tires and full fenders.

Nelson and I pulled away as the pace was just slightly faster than what Jan was comfortable with and we soon were out of sight from anyone else. We rode across the flat valleys on the double tracks of the trail dodging small ground squirrels, their holes and rocks. I spotted a number of big birds including red tail hawks, a lot of turkey vultures and even a mature bald eagle. Lots of magpies, red wing black birds and a bird that looked like a magpie with black and white but with a bright gold head. We took turns opening and closing each of the 48 gates that kept the cattle in.

Soon we were joined by Owen from Bend who was making better time on his 29er than our bikes on the loose bed of gravel. He didn’t say much when I asked him about his plans for timing. Both Nelson and I were open about our goal of 36 hours or so but Nelson was quiet most of the time. This was where I got my only flat for the whole ride. Quickly fixed with a spare tube and rolling but Nelson was out of site for a while. Really loose gravel and bigger rocks scattered on the “road” forces you to use all your back and core muscles to keep moving forward and after hours, we were happy to be done with the OC&E segment of the route.

We started our roll north first on pavement and then again on a evenly graded gravel stretch towards Silver Lake and our first planned water stop. There were some clouds in the sky and the sun didn’t fully cook us on the exposed sections so we were grateful for that. Once the three of us hit the road, Owen dropped back. There were some rollers and I felt good on the B-Road so I pushed on alone. I didn’t think anything about attacking or tactics and instead just practiced my mantra of “it’s just a bike ride” and “just keep pedaling.” I had music and would just cruise along, practice good smooth form and keep eating and drinking.

Eventually, Nelson caught me on the windy section of FR-27 before Silver Lake and we rolled in together to find water, food and some friendly smiles by the two ladies in the store. She had mentioned all the bikers and I am sure they hadn’t seen anything like this before. This was about mile 120 and it was 3:10 pm on Friday.

We continued north onto Pitcher Rd. in the middle of the Fort Rock Valley to find a flat, straight gravel road leading all the way to the horizon. It was beautiful but a little soul crushing at the same time. Add the wind coming from about 10 o’clock and it made for a long stretch north. Soon we saw Fort Rock which makes sense considering that with nothing around for miles, a giant rock formation that looks like a pioneer fort would be reason enough to call the small town Fort Rock. The road kept north and we passed a group of 4 riders who set out a few days prior with typical dust and gear for a 4 day trip.

 

The types of gravel varied a lot of this route from railroad bed rock and loose granite, to crushed limestone that’s been evenly graded and maintained to red pumice sand that has been driven into a fine silt that makes it impossible to ride at all. Packed dirt and well-travelled roads are probably the best but often wide and not as much fun for views, etc.

The day was wearing on, and it was now late afternoon as Nelson and I rode on. I felt good and kept pace but Nelson soon fell back and out of sight. The warm afternoon turned cloudy, and there were a few spits of rain that felt good but nothing to be concerned about or reason to put on a rain cape. The sage brush lined the landscape to the horizon in every direction, and as the sun warmed the leaves, the wind would kick up that hippie smell of warm sage.

The short section through the OHV area near the South Ice Cave was a blast with some twisty, loose corners both up and down. The B-Road’s disc brakes were great and after grinding away for hours, some punchy up and down corners were fun. FR 22 and 2312 were not great as the road was mostly red pumice that was recently graded to make it loose, even and thick. Very hard to keep the bike rolling.  Making it through the Deschutes National Forest puts you in some huge open country with lots of open cattle land which means even more cow shit all over the road. It added a nice touch to the landscape as the sun was setting.

Turning onto the Crooked River road, I stopped at dusk to put on knee warmers, armwarmers, my Rapha gillet and my helmet mounted light for riding into the darkness. The temperature was dropping, but as long as I kept moving, I should stay warm. I had ridden 181.5 miles and was halfway. My knees were starting to get achy so I popped a couple more Advil. A few ibuprofen every couple hours is par for this type of thing from my experience.

The decent on the Crooked River Hwy was great as the sun was going to bed for the night. Fast and loose, and the B-Road was great at 27-30 mph with my headlight showing me the lines in the corners. Smooth pavement greeted me at the bottom and soon pitched up to a long climb before dropping back down to the Prineville Reservoir. The climb really made my left knee ache and the small seed of doubt was planted in my mind as I rode in the dark past campsites full of Memorial Day RV’s. I rolled into Prineville and saw James with the truck shooting video as I rolled by.

I sat and ate “real” food from the Chevron off Main St. and considered the options of knee pain vs. going on. I knew I was the first one through, but I also am older and want to ride smarter, not harder. Hot coffee mixed with hot coco warmed me up, and I decided to just go a little bit more and see how I felt. Food and pavement for the next 10 miles helped. It was 11:30 before I left Prineville and I clipped into my pedals.

Rolling pavement and a steady climb up FR 27 lead to the pass over the Ochoco Mountains, and I wished I could have seen this section with daylight. I am sure it’s great. Made the top of the climb and started the amazing gravel descent past Green Mtn. The road was rough in spots, but with my light on full and the confidence of a solid bike with disc brakes, I charged into every corner. It was also nice to give my legs a break from pushing uphill. The cue sheet was good, and I was able to navigate well with my handlebar bag/map case making it easy to ride and read at night.

Trout Creek Rd. was a blast, and I knew to expect some water across the route soon. Just cryptic talk of several stream crossings was all I knew. The road felt more like flowing singletrack than a road with just the right amount of rocks and loose corners to keep you focused but enough ups and downs to make some speed. 20 mph in the dark can feel so good sometimes. Coming over the first hill with the creek on the other side, I paused before charging through knowing that the wrong rock could be bad. Look for the thin spots in the water with no ripples and go. I even tried to ratchet-pedal with my cranks flat but my feet still got wet. Oh well. There were maybe 4 more crossings. I can’t remember.

Lots of deer at night and I spooked a few for sure. I even came up on a cow and her calf in the road at night and slowly chased them for a half mile as they wouldn’t get off the road to let me by. I eventually just sprinted past them both and hoped they wouldn’t dart into me. Adventure.

Between 2 and 5 am is always the hardest time to keep going, but I felt ok, and it was nice to be able to tick off sections of the cue sheet. I had heard that there was a stiff climb up Gosner Rd. , and I tried to prepare my knees, but they felt ok with a few more Advil and some water. Gosner was steep, but the gravel was rideable, and I just kept moving. By the time I turned onto Divide Rd. , the sky was fully shifting to sunrise mode, and the birds were already starting to chirp. Seeing the road snake around the hills in front of you felt a bit like seeing Ventoux and knowing that the downhill on the other side is going to be worth every pedal stroke.

It was true. The decent was fast and open, and I was able to turn off my light with the sun coming up. Onto Antelope, a quick stop to eat and then climb up the pavement to Shaniko. It was already sunny and starting to get hot, but I felt like I was almost done. I rolled into Shaniko at 6:45 am with 300 miles down. I felt pretty good and kept moving.

A short, fast bit of highway before turning north onto more gravel seemed easy enough. Ha. Every road seemed to be loosely graded gravel with hills and headwind. I could feel my body getting more sensitive to how often and how much food I was eating, but I was virtually gagging on bars and tired of Perpetum flavored water, but I forced myself to keep cramming food into the food hole. The gravel stretches in the last 60 miles were super hard, and I had to walk up one steep, loose section. Looking at the map and seeing the paved road going straight there was so tempting, but I just kept going.

Sayrs Rd. and Erskine Rd. seemed to go on forever, and by this time the sun was fully up and hot too. I could see Gordon Ridge taunting my efforts the whole way, but I was almost done. This will cause some souls to shatter even if they make that last day a shorter one. Add the wind as you get close to Gordon Ridge, and it will break you. Even with some rollers on the last paved stretch, I knew this was the last real climb of the route and the last section of gravel too.

Just once, I would like to descend down Fulton Canyon without a headwind. The wind always whips up the hill from the Columbia River, and you have to tuck down and push hard to get above 35 mph. There was no dessert for this effort other than seeing the river at the bottom. Turn left and ride into the wind for 2 miles, and I would be done. Got to Deschutes Park to find James with a beer and some nice grass to sit in. I was done.

The stats:  363 miles with 17,000 feet of climbing. 75% gravel. Total time was 28 hours, 4 minutes.

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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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