Thursday, January 24, 2008

Elections and a heavy bike

Well, I finally have the bike set up for my big ride tomorrow. I'm not going to camp out tomorrow night. I just wanted to strap all of my gear to my bike and see if it's even feasable and/or functional to navigate the beast. While this version is more reality-based than any of my previous set-ups, I still don't think I'm very close to the finished product. That truth became frustratingly clear as I grunted and wrestled with my handlebar straps just to create a few extra millimeters of clearence. There's no way I'll acheive that kind of leverage when it's 10 below. Especially considering those straps likely will be frozen to plywood consistency. Plus, all the straps are annoying. There's got to be a better way.

It won't matter for tomorrow, though. The weather will be relatively warm - high 20s - and all this gear will serve mainly as dead weight. I ended up packing clothing, bivy and sleeping pad in the handlebar bag; sleeping bag, pot and stove on the back rack; and food, fuel and batteries in the frame bag. (The big black flap out front is one of the pogies.) I thought the food part was going to be tricky. My cupboards have been stripped bare in anticipation of my upcoming move. I didn't even know what I could pack in place of food, but then this evening I seridipitously received a care package from Dick B. in St. Louis, who has been mailing Trader Joes treasures to help with my training. I pulled up out the calculator and added up the caloric value of all the contents in the box: 15,600. Sounds like three days worth of food to me! Into the frame bag they went. (Thanks, Dick!)

Usually, it's better not to know these things, but I just couldn't help myself. I dragged the bathroom scale outside, picked up my bike, and tentively climbed on. The damage: 65 pounds. And that's not including water, bike pump, first aid kit, GPS, and some other things I've probabaly forgotten. Ouch.

On a, ahem, "lighter" note, I found out via Fat Cyclist that my blog was nominated in the 2008 Bloggies in the "Best Sports Blog" category. The bad news, I found out, is that I'm competing directly with Mr. Fat Cyclist himself. I'm torn on this one. On one hand, it's an honor to be nominated (and to those who took the time, thank you.) I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted to win. On the other hand, I look at the glossy, soulless sheen of a pro blog like Deadspin, and I think "I don't want to be the one to split the cyclist vote." I feel a little bit like John Edwards. Facing crushing defeats in state after state after state, he's cozied up closer to Obama in hopes that a little shine will rub off, maybe in the form of running-mate status or a spot in the Obama administration. If I throw my endorsement to the more popular candidate - Fat Cyclist - then at least I can be comfortable in my convictions: It's better for a bike blog to win than for a Republican to win. So go vote!

Wait a minute ... did I just compare myself to John Edwards? Sad.

At least I have a 12-hour ride with a 65-pound bike to look forward to tomorrow. Better than waiting to be soundly defeated in Florida.


  1. For your luggage woes, you might want to have a look Carousel Design's luggage.

    FYI, Jeff at Carousel is equipping Jay Petervary for the Iditasport (he who won the Great Divide Race in record time using Carousel bags).

  2. Aww come Jill, don't get political on us.

  3. Definitely not what one would call a
    "Fat Tire Flier"
    Good Luck on the test run. I'm sure we will all be anxious to hear how it went.

    Nigity - "Always keep a smile in your heart."

  4. Jill, Have you thought about a front rack for the Pugs,
    Reverse mount a rear rack and tote up to 40-50 lbs. It might make it easier to stap to. Good luck with controlling the monster. Steve

  5. You're turning off your 'publican base. uh-oh, no bloggie for you. nominate the bigringcircus, I hate everyone!

    But seriously, we're going to get it right in Florida this time, too bad our delegates don't count.

  6. Good luck on the test ride. Hopefully the straps won't give you too hard a time, although the reversed rack up front sounds like a solid idea. Looking forward to reading about the ride.

  7. What a ride... I'm sure you'll come back from your test ride with ways to improve upon the design. Good Luck!

  8. I like the looks of Epic Eric's sleeping bag burrito/suasage. It's just a trick of folding and strap combos. Maybe try rolling/folding your sleeping bag/bivy differently to make them a little longer than fatter, and then hook em to your poagies?

    65lbs? that gear weight is including the bike, right?


  9. Now that is one pimped out bike!
    I hope the test ride goes well.

  10. Stick to biking, not politics. If you are going to talk politics go all the way and bring religion into your blog. That way you will be guaranteed to tick off all your readers.

  11. Just curious why you have decided on walnuts instead of almonds or shelled pistachios? I too am a endurance cyclist and am always looking at what works for other people and why. I think they call it an open mind or something. Oh yea! I voted for you since I truly read your blog more and I can say it is one of my favorites.

  12. you are so much cooler than fat cyclist!

    hands down.

    here is why you should win.

    you could ride with him no problem.

    but i don't think he could ride up in Alaska with you.

  13. Oh wow, I just found out about your blog through Fat Cyclist's blog. Those are some great pictures, make me envious. The winters in Michigan just aren't as pretty as there. I was told that Alaska was the prettiest in the summer (I was there this summer, and it was unreal). But these pictures seem to prove that even though it is dark, when the sun is out it is just as pretty.

  14. bungee cords are my buddy with cold hands.

    But I well difer to those who can ride longer then 3 hours in the single digits!

  15. Jill,

    I found the front straps to be a bit
    of a bother too. That is why I kept
    my clothes out of the front bag. I
    think the straps would be almost as
    much trouble with a rack. If you're
    going to get into it more often, you
    might want something more like a
    handlebar bag or a bag in a basket.

    As far as I can tell, you didn't say
    anything political. I have to wonder
    about people who think you did and
    especially about who think they should
    tell you what to put in your blog.

    Take care,


  16. Jill, Just wondering why you don't have paniers on your rack? Is it some snow-trap issue us fareweather bikers don't know about. TSK and I need to find out... for future reference you understand...

  17. Jill, I like the idea of the front rack if it's possible. Also, those straps do like they could be troublesome at -20 or -30 degrees.
    Bungee cords may be a better option.

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  19. Hi Jill. It's my first visit to your site. What a rig you have. I can’t imagine what it's like riding in Alaska as it's the opposite in Queensland, Australia. Nothing but heat, humidity and every now and again it might rain. Keep it up I’ll add you to my blogroll (if I ever get round to fixing it) and keep an eye on the site.

  20. Funny how some of your readers feel that reading the blog that you write of your own accord, for free, entitles them to control your content.

    Mmm, nougat.

  21. Jill, I truly respect each of your daily endeavors and have passed your blog along to many cyclists in my community. Reading about how you embrace the snow and cold has lured me off of my rollers during the winter months and into the cold when my longer training rides are scheduled. This would not have happened two years ago, so essentially I'm saying that your articles are inspiring, as cliché as it sounds.

    It would be naive for anyone to believe that you're too busy riding and working to have time for politics or any beliefs of that nature, but incorporating them into a generally non-political blog was a bit disheartening. Obviously it's your platform, and you should write whatever inspires you on any given day, but I utilize your blog for an escape from the political conversations and articles buzzing around me daily. And just as I would hate to be on a pristine trail as my mind strips itself clear of worries associated with life at home and work and then have one of the smiling candidates on the side of the trail handing me a flyer about why I should vote for him (or her) and how he or she can solve all of the nation's problems, it would kill the blissful moment and bring me back to the aforementioned issues I deal with off the bike.

    You and your readers share something that can't be debated or argued (the love for cycling and the outdoors), so it's difficult for readers to adjust to a medium where they once felt a sense of Utopia as they read your blog, to a reactive sense of debate and dissagreement. Something to think about if it's important for you to please all of your daily readers. But if politicians tried to do that, we'd end up with a lot more lies in campaign speeches than people listening.

    In the end, it's the reader's choice to visit your articles or not. Thanks for sharing your beautiful state and each adventure. All the best in your training.

  22. I totally agree with the previous comment. To me, dragging politics into your blog was disappointing. I've come to love reading about your challenges as a cyclist, the rest I can read anywhere.

  23. Jill, Thank you for you dogged consistency and level of excellence. I check your blog within five minutes of waking up every day, then I usually read it again and click on each photo later in the morning when I have fully woken.

    3:49, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. They mirror mine, only more eloquently stated than I could have expressed out loud.

  24. hey jill, thanks so much for your kind words. the fact is, if either one of us wins that award i'll be very happy and very surprised, cuz -- like you noted last year -- a lot of those generic sports sites get an order of magnitude more traffic than your site and my site combined. regardless, your site is really excellent.

  25. So ... that last paragraph really didn't come across as an election-year, light-hearted joke? Wow. I'm worse at humor than i thought. There goes my future in writing.

  26. So much for free speech.

    I saw the funny side, but then I'm clearly not wound as tight as soe of your readers. Write what you like - I couldn't give a damn what your politics are. Unless you're for Bush,of course. ROFL ;-)

  27. Try to loose the straps for bungee cords?

    (It was 17deg when I rode the motorcycle into work this morning -- I was wondering how cold it would be for you on the bike.)

  28. This is my second time stumbling into your blog. This time it is because of the Bloggies. Congrats on the nomination - I voted for you as a fellow Southeast Alaskan. I actually bought the bike shop in Petersburg this past summer with a friend too. Happy trails!

  29. Trepid ... I'll do a post soon about why I've chosen the gear setup I have. Panniers are not popular in snow bike racing because they have a low center of gravity (contibuting to the bike's sink). They're also not as stable in an environment where it's much harder to control the bike, and the idea of readjusting bags after every single fall (of which I'm likely to take many) isn't appealing.

    "BOB Trailers," or dragging a sled behind a bike, creates way more drag than necessary. In snow, rolling resistance is bad enough without all that dead weight dragging behind. Iditabike cyclists have tried sleds before, but I've never read an account of someone who's been happy with that type of set-up. Especially when you take into account how uneven and choppy the trail can be.

  30. “Panniers are not popular in snow bike racing because they have a low center of gravity (contributing to the bike's sink).”

    I’m no physics professor and I’ve never done research on snow riding other than reading your blog every day, so take this for what it’s worth! I have used both under the saddle style bags with handlebar bags (high center of gravity) and Panniers (low center of gravity). The handling of a low center of gravity set up is WAY better in my experience. I can’t understand why a low center of gravity would cause ‘sink’ in snow. It seems to me that weight would cause sink in snow regardless of where it is located on the bike. I guess if it was deep enough snow panniers would cause drag!

  31. JILL!

    I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I applied a good deal of your tips and lessons to my own snow bike riding up here in the Interior. Thank you, my fellow Ice Biker!

    Man, it's 35 below today.......I may not be able to take my lowly Hardrock for a ride since I don't have it Alaska-winterized with the bearing grease, etc. Dang, I just got new Weir Wolf tires, too.

    Well, *I* lauhged at your joke! LOL! YOU ROCK, FAT BIKE CHICA!!

  32. jill, i think you should just mix politics (or anyting else you want) into your posts more often and then that way you won't have a bunch of people whining like your blog exists solely for their pleasure every time you mention something other than biking in front of a glacier with a wolf running beside you and an eagle flying overhead.

    all you over sensitive, apparantly republican, anon. commenters need to find something else to whine about. seems like trying to figure out ways in which gw isn't the worst president ever should take up all of your time.

    blogs are for the writer, and it's a great thing when readers enjoy them too, but if not then tough sh@t.

  33. Way to go Geoff! I couldn't agree more.

  34. I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don't have suck a writing skills


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