Category Archives: TWiBB

This Week in Bikes & Booze; 28 April 2015

Tease.

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

transitive v. To annoy or pester; vex.

transitive v. To make fun of; mock playfully.

transitive v. To arouse hope, desire, or curiosity in without affording satisfaction.

transitive v. To urge persistently; coax: teasing their mother for more candy.

transitive v. To gain by persistent coaxing: “the New York editor who could tease great books from the unpromising woolly jumble of an author’s first draft” ( Ian Jack).

transitive v. To deal with or have an effect on as if by teasing.

transitive v. To cut (tissue, for example) into pieces for examination.

transitive v. To disentangle and dress the fibers of (wool, for example).

transitive v. To raise the nap of (cloth) by dressing, as with a fuller’s teasel.

transitive v. To ruffle (the hair) by combing from the ends toward the scalp for an airy, full effect.

intransitive v. To annoy or make fun of someone persistently.

n. The act of teasing.

n. The state of being teased.

n. One that teases, as:

n. One given to playful mocking.

n. A woman who behaves like a coquette.

n. A preliminary remark or act intended to whet the curiosity.

tease out: To get by or as if by untangling or releasing with a pointed tool or device: “It takes a carefully trained expert to tease out the truth” ( Arthur Green).

Everyone has most likely been subject to teasing and has probably done their fair share of teasing as they get on with their lives. There is a prominent definition of “tease” that frustrates to no end if one is the type of human being that exists in the areas of the United States known as the Mid West and the Great Plains.

Let’s settle briefly on the worst tease of all; bitchy Mother Nature.

Seasons. I am told there are four seasons at last count although in the aforementioned areas of the US it seems that spring and autumn are almost non-existent. Mother Nature blasts us hard with unrelenting frigid winter temps and snow. Coping with weeks of below zero temps takes a strong constitution, particularly if one relies upon public transportation. Imagine stumbling to a bus/train stop in the dark below-zero hours of the early morning, bundled up against the painful cold that will stab any piece of exposed skin.

Imagine a bus/train arriving where everyone in layers and layers of clothing resembles the Michelin man and moves with as much grace and mobility as a heavy weight powerlifter clad in a squat suit. The furnaces of the bus/train you’re about to embark have been running full blast for days. Now imagine trying very hard to not puke on your transit companions as your body has to accommodate the transition from frigid to tropical in a matter of seconds while you’re trying see past fogged eyeglasses. Fortunately, you can bounce off every other Michelin Man in your bus/train while you’re trying to get situated and not puke.

After months of the frigid adventures above, the amount of sunlight gets noticeably longer, temps get marginally warmer and the snow/ice sheets recede from the streets and sidewalks. You begin to relax, to realize that yes, spring is on the way and there will be a day or two when Mother Nature throws her full weight into a gorgeously warm day where windows city wide are thrown open, where the city itself breathes deeply and throws lose the shackles of down winter wear and depression.

When we’re lucky, Mother Nature will let that scenario last a few days.

No, dear reader, do not be lulled into a false sense of lasting serenity cause just as sure as she brings on the heat, she’ll slam the hammer of lasting Arctic Pain down to put you back in your place. Don’t you dare pack away your winter gear till June if you know what’s good for you.

Supreme Tease = Mother Nature.

With all this in mind, it’s long past time to get on your bikes and ride outside again if one expects to have even a moderate base of fitness for the hot weather riding season.

The weather teasing is bothersome but I find the projections and forecasts I might make to be worse. This morning for instance, looking out my window at the brilliance of the morning sun, I’m planning another ride along the lakefront. It’s gonna be cold. I just know it from previous experience as this time of year.

But wait, remember that 80 degree day last year at this time? It could happen again!

What is it the Shrub said about fooling me once and ……. won’t get fooled again?

Bundle up and suckit, sucker! If the wind is off the lake expect wind chills in the 10’s/20’s when you’re riding into the wind.

Projections suck.

Saturday is May’s installment of the Fucking Bike Club’s Full Moon Fiasco in celebration of the Full Flower Moon. The weather forecast is for dry mid-60’s during the day and a dry mid-50’s low which would mean your casual rider won’t need to bundle up in claustrophobic layers for the first time in months.

A Saturday ride means most attendees won’t have to work the next day.

I plan to attend and I’ll most likely ride the erstwhile Kona and will pack a flask of Malort – The Official Drink of the FBC. I’m not feeling like toting a cooler of suds this time around, feeling now like I might want to travel light.

Temperate weather.

Bicycles.

Saturday.

Booze.

Your overly pious and timid observer might assume that these elements cast together lend themselves to a fetid atmosphere of moral turpitude, an orgy to be avoided at all costs.

Your more enlightened and tolerant casual observer, such as myself, might find that these elements intersect in a Venn diagramed shit-show of fun.

Then again, it might just be a big tease.

Today in Bikes and Booze; 16 March, 2015

We’ve all had days like mine today, where events didn’t unfold as one wanted them too. Looking at the weather forecast for this week, today, Monday, is the warmest of the upcoming week and a brief respite from what seems an endless winter in Chicagoland.

I wanted to take advantage of this open-window weather and go for a good road ride for the first time since fall and not worry about being cold and wearing so many layers I begin to feel claustrophobic. I knew I’d ride a bike today but first I’d go to the gym.

Last week I put up some nice numbers, setting some new personal records with barbell back squats and dead lifts so with a kick in my step after sufficient morning caffeinating I walked to the gym with high hopes of moving around some good amounts of iron.

It was all going swell as there was plenty of mat space to warm up and open squat racks galore – this has to be my day! – and warm up sets were going real well and I just knew that I’d hit … wow these heavy squats just aren’t feeling like I want them to.

Moving onward and upward, right then.

I managed to get a good training session in at the gym. I’m no expert but I have enough exercises in my training bag that I can get a good work out in even when something isn’t going to plan.

On the walk home from the gym the sky is hazy blue, not quite a fully brilliant sunscape but dang, it’s not been this warm in millennia and wow this sweatshirt is warm and no furnace needed until later today when the snow returns but for now, windows open and grab some lunch while getting a bike and myself prepared to ride.

What goes in my saddle bag? Where is that inflator and those tire levers and right, in another bike bag and do I really need that inflator along with my frame pump and why can’t I find my knee warmers and yes, get my lightweight gloves otherwise I’ll be bitching at myself for making myself too dang cold and why can’t I ever find the sunglasses I want but hey, I haven’t seen these Oakley cateye sunglasses in around 25 years and those are cool and do I need a do-rag or head band today and you get the picture; it’s always a treat to get ready to do something you’ve done a million times, for the first time again.

To make this a proper RAGBRAI training ride, proper pre-ride nutrition must be followed. Lagunitas Night Time black ale fit the bill just right.

I’ve become a huge fan of the black style of India Pale Ales that many American breweries are putting forth these days.

Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack, Greenbush Brewing’s Anger, Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous and Chicago’s Begyle Brewing collaboration with Dryhop Brewing’s Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts are my favorites in the Black IPA category.

Enter Night Time black ale which is now available in bottles in Chicagoland with the opening of Lagunitas Brewing in Chicago.

To me, the Night Time is perfect balance of demure hoppiness followed by roasty cozy carbo-loading maltiness. It doesn’t break any new ground, in fact, it’s almost too unassuming but I like Lagunitas Night Time, a lot. There’s a roundness to it, how the flavors lead into each other that leads me to drink another one over and over.

I chose to ride my Gunnar Crosshairs cyclocross bike that I’ve never used for any type of cyclocross racing/practicing/etc. This is a solid bike that never disappoints me. Someday I’d like to replace the component group but for now, the aging Shimano 105 does the trick. Last spring I built a new wheel set on the original 105 hubs and with over a thousand miles on the wheels, they still don’t need any attention/truing/love.

The route today was going to be on the Chicago lakefront which I’ve been riding for 25 years and never get tired of but like any road/place/destination, there are times when one doesn’t want to be anywhere near this stretch of pavement, unless one’s attitude has had a severe adjustment.

The lake front path gets a bad rap among the Chicago bicycling “community” and I can understand why. The path is of limited width and unlimited popularity, especially on warm weekends. You’ll see tourists, walkers, dog-walkers, sitters, starers/lurkers/gawkers, beach goers, parents with their damnable uncontrolled demon spawn who will get hit by some Lakefront Lance – yes, he’s there too and why can’t we ban him? – who’s out for a 4 mile time trial on the busiest days of the year. You’ll encounter runners and bikers and roller bladers who have no clue that anyone else could possible be out on the gorgeous Chicago lake front path on these beautiful summer days.

It’s crazy dangerous. I don’t go there on weekends and when I am riding the path, I’m of the attitude that it’s all good.

I did ride the lakefront today and it was glorious to not dress in 83 layers, to not worry about my hands and feet becoming numb, to see the pretty women out running, to see the signs of spring all around.  My bike felt great and I felt great riding it.

This past winter weather was so bitter cold and snowy that after a week of melting temps, there are still huge mounds of ice on the beaches which are drawing local “weather tourists.” Rounding the curve headed south from Oak St. Beach about 6.5 miles into today’s ride, the ice is still so thick that there’s a clear shallow path close to the wall that creates Lake Shore Drive and the ice chills the air noticeably and why is this bike riding soft and and and…

Flatting tires show no mercy.

I haven’t had a flat tire in over 4 years.

After staring at the thing and pondering my options – I mean, really, what other option is there but to repair the damn thing right where were I was? I’m an idiot – I unloaded my seat bag full of tube replacement fixit doo-dads and turned the bike upside down and removed the wheel and proceeded with the tube replacement procedure.

Nothing in the tire; I ran my fingers all around the inside of the tire at least 5 times and felt nothing. I saw nothing. Pumped up the tube to see where the leak was but saw nothing and with all the traffic on Lake Shore Drive just a few feet from my ass I couldn’t hear any air leaks. The only thing I could think of is the tube just failed. It is rather old with thousands of miles on it, not that i’ve ever heard of a tube just spontaneously failing but I suppose it could happen.

I am reluctant to report that i didn’t bring it home to perform a forensic test on the thing. Another “I shoulda…” moment.

Not that I enjoyed changing my tube but things could have been much worse; I was sitting lakeside on a gorgeous day and 5 riders stopped and asked if they could help, if I had everything I needed and if I was okay.

I never do this, I never stop to help. Why? There are a ton of silly stupid reasons but we don’t have time for this now.

I always carry a spare tube, a CO2 inflator and tools needed to fix a flat. From now on, it won’t kill me to carry two spare tubs; one for me and one to give away. Now, you weight weenies might holler but I’m sure y’all think I’m riding a monolith anyway, I mean, just how much does my loaded steel-framed bike weigh? Incomprehensible!

Right!

With the tire fixed, the bike put back together and all is good as new yet I’m down a spare tube and the confidence that inspires. My tires are older than I’d like (just ordered Conti Gatorskin foldables this morning!) and I do ride in an urban environment so I cut today’s ride in half and headed north towards home while mentally plotting out all the bike shops along the way just in case this second tube failed.

Did I yet mention today’s wind is a swirly southerly/westerly mess moving around 12mph and gusting much higher? Did I mention I could motor home with a strong tail/tail-cross wind with all the fun associated with such winds?

With my bike hoisted upstairs, I changed my clothes and walked over to my favorite local bike shop because I had to purchase some extra CO2 cartridges and this gave me a chance to chat up the folks and look around at new bike stuff. What bike rider does not enjoy this? Some pretty new bikes in that shop, I’d like at least three that I saw.

Today’s post-ride nutrition was a painfully cold can of BLATZ.  The words necessary to describe the experience escape me.

I’ll have another Lagunitas Night Time or I have some Greenbush Distorter porter and their Brother Benjamin imperial IPA waiting for some company.

Today was a day where things went almost nowhere near planned, yet, I was able to ride for a few miles and so some admirable work, I was able to get to my local bike shop, I was able to change my flat and honestly, how can any day with a Blatz be a disappointment?

Cheers!

Risk/Reward – The Other Week in Bikes & Booze

Riding a bike in the rain sucks. Yeah, whatever; I have all the necessary gear for wet weather riding, except fenders, but I still don’t like it, especially when it’s cold.

There’ve been many times when rain will catch me and I’ve had to dive into a barn or a garage or under a bridge to escape the downpour or perhaps the hail. Sometimes you can’t help riding in the rain and you just have to soldier on despite how light or heavy the sky is deciding to dump on you at the moment.

I will not begin a ride in the rain unless I’m forced to, like many days on RAGBRAI. I find it extremely demoralizing when beginning a ride in the rain, already soaked to the bone having packed up wet, soaking gear and now you’re faced with riding for hours upon who knows how many hours in the rain. Here’s when I want my couch and an endless supply of beer and naps throughout the day.

Not long ago in the late afternoon of a cold autumn day, a steady mist was floating around, making a general mess of things. I’d wanted a beer and thought I’d take myself off the beaten path of my regular watering holes and this required a short bike ride on wet streets and spitting mist.

Standing on my deck, looking over the parking lot at the wet streets, all geared up with bike locks and some suitable rain wear I wanted to put my bike back inside, get into cozy sweats and order delivery pizza or come up with some dinner rather than get out on my bike in a cold and wet afternoon. I can find it easy to talk myself out of almost anything.

For a change of pace I got out of my brain and took my bike downstairs and I may have theatrically shaken a fist skyward in an act of meager defiance or anger but I rode the long ten minutes to the bar, beginning my ride in a heavy mist which quickly had become a light steady cold rain.

The Yeti Imperial Stout from Great Divide Brewing. Lots of breweries brew a version of imperial stout but I think the best I’ve ever had is a Yeti.

There are 5 Yeti variants and all delicious. My favorite of the five variants, the Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti happened to be on tap at my destination. Imagine if a beer could be a cozy, fleecy liquid blanket of hugs wrapped around your mouth, it would be this beer.

The Yeti erased all trivial pain from the ride to the bar. I had several more draws to gain the courage to ride home through what promised to be a heavier cold rain.

Had I allowed myself to talk myself into staying home, to not taking that risk of beginning a ride in the rain, I’d not been able to experience that superior imperial stout that rarely appears on tap.

Risk a little something, never know what you might get in return.

This Week in Bikes and Booze, 15 November 2014

Some sort of weather bomb went off somewhere to the west and all I know is it’s too freaking cold for this time of year in this location of the earth. At least we don’t have the snow and ice that some folks are suffering through.

I rode a bike on some errands yesterday. There are clothing/shoe strategies to riding in frigid weather and countless words have been spilled on this very topic. I have the proper gear but not really the proper footwear, unless I want to put the awful platform pedals on my bikes and then I’m bullet proof against any weather. At times I’ll take a flask with me.

There’s a swarthy bunch of bike riding folks that I’ve fallen in with, people who ride all year in all weather, with all manner of anti-freeze.

“Swarthy” That’s a good word.

I reminded myself of a drinking adventure a little over a year ago; several friends wanted to travel a few miles south to a reputable watering hole for some draws of one of my favorite breweries, Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, MI. Surprisingly, we don’t see many of their delicious products on tap.

A little corruption, a little contamination, that’s all it takes to influence an event. In this case, on the ride to beer, that corruption was black ice. At one point, one of my companions on this several mile jaunt commented the riding was scary. I was too busy concentrating to reply and nodded agreement to myself. I recall sitting in the bar on the 3rd or so pint, thinking I’d be fine with sticking my bike on the train for the few short miles home. I would have reminded myself that I hate those people who do that very thing. We rode home but I don’t recall it being as frightening.

Long ago in a past life I brewed beer in my kitchen. I had a few decent recipes and I was most proud of a hoppy coffee porter. My damn roommates forced me to hide my beer and 18 or so months later I discovered a hidden six-pack; it aged surprisingly well. Learning to brew, the importance of proper sanitation was brow beaten into me.

NO corruption/contamination otherwise the hours spent brewing will have been for naught! Therefore, I spent hours bending over a bathtub full of bleach solution sterilizing fermenting vessels, racking canes, tubing, bottles and other brewing paraphernalia.

Primitive, yet effective back-aching work. I can honestly say not one bottle of my beer ever corrupted.

On a Full Moon Fiasco of several years ago I brought a 6 of a beer that I hold in the highest esteem: Ska Brewing’s ESB. During a park stop, I popped an ESB and was met face on with the aroma and taste of a can of apple cider vinegar.

The batch of ESB had soured.

Recently I was commenting to some friends about the day after an evening’s bike riding revelry of celebrating The Full Beaver Moon.

I’ve ridden RAGBRAI 15 times and I’m on a team with a modified school bus. I was sent a photograph taken in some fine drinking establishment in the tiny northwestern town of Rock Rapids, IA after a day of treacherous travel in the team bus. I’ve heard stories how the passengers, myself included, of our bus fell out the door at a fuel stop. I believe these to be stories of exaggeration as nothing but some light social libations flowed among friends during the 5 or so hour journey.

Bad ice. Our cocktail ice had been corrupted.

Some of our team couldn’t talk after the bus ride. I needed some help setting up my tent. Apparently I was dancing and while uncommon,  none of these events are alarming in themselves. What is alarming is how easily the ice was tainted.

The next day teammates were nearly incapacitated but rode on courageously. I’ll admit to the copious amounts of vodka consumed, however, the corruption of ice knows no boundaries in the harm inflicted.

Weakened from bad ice, I consumed a breakfast of biscuits and gravy the next morning. I’m sure my breakfast was contaminated.

The other day, doing a stretch at my physiotherapist’s office, my knee popped so loudly it was heard six feet away. Currently, I am frequently wrapping that knee in ice and limiting my activity with the exception of some light bike riding as mention earlier. Just a little bit of corruption in the movement and my knee told me it had had enough. I did, however, need to visit my storage area and found an errant 6 pack of Bell’s Hopslam ale, so, perhaps not all was lost.

Just a little bit of corruption can put an unforeseen kink in one’s day.

This Week in Bikes & Booze, 5 November 2014

I like to think that I’m not a sucker for marketing, that I like certain brands because of form/fit/function/taste/experience/whatever and not because of their marketing.

I can be an addict to anything very quickly. Currently, I’m a hop addict chasing that high of overly hopped beers, my favorites balancing out that hoppy altitude with a warming cozy malty embrace.

One of my favorite brewers was promising me beer so freshly hopped that they’ll hop it as I’m drinking it. Get it! Get it now, before it’s gone and we’ve not distributed it yet!!!

Monday, I went searching on my bike for this beer. Not able to find it in several stores I bought a couple of meat pies from a Middle Eastern bakery instead.

So delicious.

That’s a thing about living in a vibrant city, being able to grab some grub from a different culture and while eating it on the sidewalk at a busy intersection, running into bike riding friends.

There’s a bar in that area that I’d briefly thought about dipping into. Turns out I did as one of the friends I saw on the street came running from that bar so I can’t pass up a chance to visit and enjoy some proper suds.

I had a pint of the beer I’d been in search of and I was expecting a brewer to hop it as it was poured. It was good and well made, just not worthy of the hype. I was glad I didn’t find a 6 pack.

Serendipity.

Before searching for beer, I’d spent some time in a local bike shop that I’d not been to in years.

I have two custom-made steel bike frames from the same builder. I love riding these bikes, every time I take one out, it feels like a new bike, almost like that high of riding a bike for the first time. One of these bikes has had problems with the seat post slipping. After years of frustration and several emails exchanged with the builder, I was sent to this local shop who is a dealer and I went with trepidation considering the troubling experiences I’ve had over the years with various people within this shop.

I think we devised a solution that will cure the slipping seat post in the future so why on earth wouldn’t I be in a bar with some well made beers to celebrate?

This week is filled with opportunities/excuses for escapades with bikes and drinks.

Thursday my favorite local bike shop is having a bike fit clinic. I’ll go, because I’m a bike geek. I’ll bring some beer, cause I’m a beer/hop addict/dork.

An evening in a bike shop talking bike fit? It’s one of those esoteric subjects that I enjoy learning about. Every bike shop, every bike dork/geek/enthusiast has their theories on bike fit. Many bike companies have their systems of bike fit. There are studios dedicated to bike fit and I just learned there are freelance bike fitters moving from bike shop to bike shop plying their craft. I had no idea.

Why? Look at how many bike styles there are. Your road bike, mountain bike, triathlon bike, cyclocross bike, gravel bike, coffee bike, bar bike, city bike all have different geometries and different riding positions. Well, maybe not all those frames. How many people have exactly the same limb lengths, torso lengths and flexibility/mobility? Bike fit sessions rise in price proportionately to the expense of the bike and they should.

Frame size and geometry, stem length, crank arm length, saddle height, saddle fore/aft adjustment, handlebar width/height and the all important Q-Factor add up to an incredible amount of variables for bike geeks/dorks/enthusiasts to consider when offering up unsolicited bike fit advice to their bike riding friends.

Drop Q-Factor into a conversation with bike friends and watch your street cred soar, or tumble in flames.

Saturday is the 6th Annual Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night Tweed Ride. Rather than me telling you about it just go here.

Sounds great doesn’t it, dressing up in natural fiber finery and slowly riding about the city on a preferably British-made leaky city bike while consuming road treats.

I’ve often thought I should dress in synthetic fibers, ride behind the group and hurl epithets in German or French.

A Tweed Ride is evil. I couldn’t find my way home after the last Tweed Ride I rode some years ago. I may “attend” for a few hours Saturday after FBC. Attend a Tweed Ride at your own peril.

Yes, another Friday FBC Full Moon Fiasco is upon us in celebration of The Full Beaver Moon.

Once upon a time, one could reliably predict this to be your basic shit-show of boozing while riding and in some lucky dive bar or two afterwards. In the past year, for whatever reason, the Fiasco hasn’t been as popular as in years past. Without shame, I look upon those rides of decadent alcohol abuse almost wistfully.

Last month’s FBC was an unexpected joy, with a surprising amount of old-timers who’d not graced the ride in several years. After way too much riding and a park stop we attended one of my favorite local dives where they sell very good beer, inexpensively.

Considering the waning popularity and attendance of FBC in the past year, I can’t predict how Friday’s Fiasco will go, however, I will be there with road treats to share as Beer Karma is Good Karma. One thing I won’t be bringing is a flask of Malort, the official drink of The FBC. Contrary to many of the weak, I like Malort, it just has a deleterious effect that I’d like to keep at bay this weekend.

Cheers!