Sunday, October 29, 2006

While I was sleeping

Michael Penn, a photographer at the Juneau Empire, took this photo last night at about 12:30 a.m. At that time, I was just about to doze off in an effort to go to bed at a decent hour so I could get up early and take this picture:

Not to disparage the Blackerby Ridge or its fresh coat of velvety snow, but I'm feeling a little cheated. The northern lights only come to Juneau on a clear night once every 487.3 years or so, and I missed them. Missed them so I could wake up marginally early, hike up the geological Stairmaster known as Blackerby Ridge, stair-step my way down, go to work and wait for the end of Daylight Savings Time to kick the sunset up to 4:15 p.m.

I did have a good morning, though, all said and done. The upper portions of Blackerby Ridge are covered in nearly a foot of new snow, deep and heavy atop ice-caked mud and partially frozen streams. I dressed well for the sub-freezing temps but not for the slippery conditions. I spent the last half of the morning wet from the knees and elbows down.

The biking season here is definitely in transition. Geoff and I headed out yesterday morning and didn't make it more than a half mile from the house before we both crashed down on a steep stretch of black ice. It must have been a funny sight to see. I hit the downhill slope and my front wheel slipped almost immediately. I dipped into what I feel was an unusually graceful fall - hanging at a 45-degree angle for several fractions of a second, I tucked slowly into the skid, landing square on my left hip, where I and my bike continued to slide down the road for about 20 feet. Geoff tried to swerve around me and down he went as well, also taking a fairly minor fall - although from his road rash I can tell he wasn't as lucky to land on top of the ice. We decided to turn around right there. I walked the whole way home to put off dealing with major chain suck. I really am going to put my studded tires on my mountain bike now ('tis time). I'm also going to start building up my snow bike.

The beginnings of it came in the mail earlier this week. Right now it's nothing more than a Raleigh frame and 2"-wide snowcat rims. (I love these things. The rim tape doesn't even cover half of the rim's surface.) I have to start buying parts. I still have some decisions to make. Like V-brakes versus disc brakes. How to set up the drive train. I've wrestled with everything from single speed to single-ring crank to triple ring. I think I may just go with the triple ring. Although I like the simplicity of a single speed, I'm more drawn to the versatility of a 27-speed. Weight is truly not an issue with this bike. And although it's nice to have less moving parts that may seize up in the cold, I really believe I'll need the low gearing for new snow or bogged-down slushy conditions. After all, my goal in building up this bike as opposed to just riding Sugar all winter long is to do less walking.

Anyway, if any out there has experience with snow or wide-rimmed bicycles (or just bicycle building in general) and has some good advice for me, don't hesitate to tell me why I'm an idiot. Does anyone know if there's such a thing as gear grease formulated for lower temperatures? Anyone have any bicycle parts lying around that they're looking to get rid of? Your comments are always appreciated.