Wednesday, December 30

Tilmann Waldthaler, bike touring legend

himalayas 1977Nice interview with Tilmann Waldthaler on He's done some amazing riding, but he's not the sort of person who you can read about on Wikipedia.
Tilmannhas been touring on a bicycle for 32 years and seen and done things that most people can never imagine. His first trip lasted 4 years and took him from pole to pole between 1977 and 1981. This alone deserves a lot of admiration but that was only the beginning. He's originally from Germany but is now residing Australia. At 68 he's about to embark on Norway to New Zealand tour. He's written several books and done some speaking engagements in several countries. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me. I'm not the best interviewer so bear with me, hopefully my interviews will improve with time.

BTW, "he's written several books" is an understatement. As mentioned in the article he's written 17, but they're all in German.

Africa 1983Some choice questions.
Q. Which of your long trips is your favorite and why?

My very first trip from the Antarctica to Spitzbergen in the Arctic, because I see this trip from todays viewpoint as a 4 year apprenticeship on a bike through many cultures and experiences. I had the best chance to get to know myself much better.

Q. What is the one piece of equipment you never expected to need and now will never leave home on a trip without?

The Internet

Q. How did you go about getting sponsorship for your trips?

The first 10years of my biketravels I worked as a qualified pastrychef and as a cook, later I started to work as a photographer and Journo. It was easier as a Journalist to convince people to receive something back from me during and after my trips. As a pastrychef all I could offer my sponsors were maybe some 'strawberry tarts' which didn`t interest most potential sponsors.

Q. What's your favorite adventure book?/ Who, if anyone has influenced you to take up such a lifestyle?

My favourite adventure books are the ones I write myself (17 in all) A very good old friend Jean Pierre Valley has helped me to get going because I bought a bike with his help.

Q. Imagine if the bicycle had never been invented, how do you think your life would have gone differently?

I`d most probably be dead by now!!!

Read the complete interview on

You can read more about Tilman on his website.

Thanks to Sean Caffrey of Through the Ringer for the interview.

Arctic 1981

Update: Just to be absolutely clear it was Sean Caffrey of the excellent blog Through the Ringer who interviewed Tilmann not myself. In fact the interview was originally posted to Through the Wringer before they posted it to where I discovered it.

It seems the use of the word "me" in the parts of the interview I quoted confused a couple people. It happens, most understandable, but I just wanted to make sure that Sean and the excellent blog he writes for get the credit and thanks they deserve so they'll keep going out there and interviewing amazing people and doing whatever else it is they do. Thanks Sean!

Friday, December 4

new 650km trail to open in South Africa in 2010

Refresing news from Africa.

The Rim of Africa follows a natural line along the mountain ridges of the Western Cape. It is Africa's first long-distance hiking initiative based on the likes of the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails in the USA, the Camino de Santiago in Spain and the more recent Sendero de Chile in South America.

The vision of the Rim of Africa is to create a mega-distance trail on a par with the best the world has to offer. Mega-distance trails in Europe and the USA play an important role in giving access to time in wilderness while stimulating a walking culture.

The Rim of Africa stretches from the greater Cederberg wilderness area on the Cape's West Coast to the Outeniqua Mountains in the Garden Route, traversing more than 650km of mountain paths. The route takes in the Cederberg, Skurweberg, Hexrivier, Keeromberg, Langeberg and the Outeniqua representing a flagship hiking product of international significance, attracting hikers from around the world.

There is potential to link the Rim of Africa to the Outeniqua Trail and on to the Eden to Addo Hike for Biodiversity creating an extended trail of 1200km ending at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.

Via Gadling

Tuesday, November 3

A little inspiration, wild camping in the English Lake District

This video is a little over the top with the dramatic music but I still can't hold that against it. I don't know anyting about the author, Terry, I just stumbled on this video at random. But I do know he speaks very honestly, hits on some universal truths, shoots some amazing video and visits some extrodinarily beautiful places. It is in a word superb.

To check out the high definition version (well worth it) check it out at YouTube - Nirvana

Friday, October 30

2009 fall colors touring

Had a few days in a row, decided to take a spur of the moment trip. I call these short one and two night tours "crimes of convenience" and I fit them in wherever possible.

Below are some randomish photos.

touring staplesoverdonefood packingjust another lake in the Irish Hillsfall cornOld wooden (stone) scoolHistoric landmarkWeird leprechaunhills + dirt = lovefarm countryNatural Beauty Road = dirt + hillsmelon tigers, Stotz Farm, Ida MichiganMars Road, Onstead State Game Areabeautiful stealth campingyet another lake in the Irish Hillsfall corn going to seedIrish Road, Monroe Michiganchickens at Stotz Farm, Ida Michiganstove experimentsold wooden (stone) schoolagriculture industryStotz Farm, Ida Michigan100_7790---farm countrywoodgas + hickory rulesstealth campingIrish HillsMelon Deer, Stotz Farm, Ida Michiganhistorical michigan farmsyet another lake in the Irish Hills.

2009 fall colors touring - a set on Flickr

Thursday, August 6

Jill Homer, 'Bicycling beast'

Nice little article about Jill Homer on the Juneau Empire website (where Jill's an editor) about her race down the Tour Divide. She officially beat the old record by four days.

As mentioned here before, I'm a huge fan of her blog.

Some choice quotes:

"One of the great things about putting in a good, hard day on the road or trail is that supreme feeling of tiredness you get right afterward - those rare moments when you curl up on the couch with a cold can of Diet Pepsi and let your fatigue wrap around you in a blanket of calm satisfaction," she said.

"Against the advice of most fast GDR and Tour Divide veterans, my race strategy is to have no strategy. I have a few tentative goals for the first couple nights, but my plan is to be completely flexible."

Bicycling beast - Juneau Empire

Wednesday, August 5

The spaghetti tree

The report was first produced [by the BBC]... in 1957, reporting on the bumper spaghetti harvest in Switzerland, resulting from the mild winter and "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil." Footage of the traditional "Harvest Festival" was aired as well as discussion of the breeding necessary for the development of a strain that produced the perfect length.

The Wikipedia article on the subject is a most enjoyable read.

See also this lovely video produced by the BBC on flying penguins.

Saturday, July 25

Conquering the Divide

The local paper published an article on the front page of today's sports section on my brother Joe.

"Conquering the Divide,

Trailer for Anima D'Acciaio (Soul of Steel)

Anima D'Acciaio Trailer Ver5.1 from Cinecycle on Vimeo.

I was immediately drawn to this trailer because of the great connection it makes between a long tradition of frame building and today's modern fixie culture.

Via Urban Velo:
Anima D’Acciaio (Soul of Steel) is a film by Daniel Leeb of Cinecycle Productions. You can see the whole film this summer at the Bicycle Film Festival."

The Bicycle Film Festival is in Detroit July 31 to August 1st.

A film by Daniel Leeb of Cinecycle Productions

A Portrait of the legendary Italian Frame Builder Giovanni Pelizzoli aka "Ciocc" . Ciocc shares his wisdom and life story while handbuilding a revolutionary new frame for urban fixed gear cycling. Ciocc demonstrates that the tradition and craft of framebuilding's Golden age can be re-born and push the technical frontier of Cycling's future. . also Feaures Ed "Wonka" La Forte and Antonio Colombo with an original soundtrack composed by Amedeo & Simone Pace of BlondeRedhead.

Yvon Le Caer, a different kind of endurance cycling

After a career in traditional cycle racing in the 1980's Yvon Le Caer turned to new goals on the open seas.

Sadly after his successes crossing the Florida Straight (Florida to the Bahamas, 1981) and the English Channel (1985) he was hit by a hit and run driver in Florida in 1986 permanently halting his cycling pursuits.

A great overview with some impressive press clippings here are on his site here. Yvon Le Caer

BTW, a great quote from his website.

"The world is a better place to live in because it
contains people who will give up ease and security
to do what they themselves believe worth doing.
They do the useless, brave, noble, the divinely foolish
and the very wisest things that are done by man.
And what they prove to themselves and to others is that man
is no mere creature of his habits, no mere automaton in his routine,
but that in the dust in which he is made, there is also fire
lighted now and then by great winds from the sky."

Quote [Author unknown] sent to Yvon by an American enthusiast
in the context of "Operation Gulf Stream."

ghost bikes

Via ghost bikes dot org

Wednesday, July 8

Congrats Jill!

A quick update on the Great Divide Race / Tour.

Jill Homer made it in Monday, July 6th which gives her a time 24 days, 7 hours and 24 minutes which I believe sets a new womens record.

Congrats Jill!

Jill's call in on MTBCast.


From Jill's own blog:

I rolled as close to the Mexican border as the gate would let me at 5:24 p.m. Monday, July 6, to finish the 2,700-ish miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 24 days, 7 hours and 24 minutes. My parents drove down from Salt Lake City to meet me at the border, so even though the guard station was closed, I didn't have to finish alone. What an incredible experience. Feels strange to not have to pedal any more. Feels even stranger to be wearing clothes that I didn't just wash in the shower. I'm happy, healthy and still feeling strong. Despite a few mechanicals, minor injury and weather setbacks, I still kept my goal of finishing within 25 days, and still feel like I could go out again tomorrow if I needed to. Glad I don't have to, though. I took 731 pictures. More to come soon, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 4

Great Divide Finished

My brother got in to Antelope Wells New Mexico last night thus finishing the Tour Divide from Banff to Mexico.

His time was 21 days, 10 hours, 34 minutes.

Below is a picture of him (far left) with some of the other finishers that came in yesterday. Sorry I don't have all their names.

Wednesday, July 1

Ride The Divide, Unofficial Trailer

The bellow trailer was just posted to youtube within the last 24 hours.

It's for "Ride the Divide", a documentary on the race down the Great Divide by Mike Dion. It appears to include footage from this years Tour Divide.

Ride The Divide, unofficial trailer on youtube

More videos are on Mike's website, the official website and blog are at

Matthew Lee wins the 2009 Tour Divide

From: Matthew Lee First Racer to Reach the Mexico Border at Antelope Wells

On Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 at 9:45am, Matthew Lee became the first `09 Tour Divide racer to reach at the Antelope Wells border crossing. This makes back-to-back TD victories for Matthew, 4 Divide racing wins overall and his 6th finish.

His elapsed time of 17 days, 23 hours & 45 min. fell just short of his `07 Full route record (17d:21h:10m). Given this year's consistently bad weather, poor route conditions and additional 34 miles through the Flathead, it is an impressive finish. Matt described his final day as a "total slog," complete with unexpected storms and sloppy mud. He even lost an hour after going back for lost eyewear in the desert north of Separ.

Inspite of Matthew falling short of the overall record, four racers remain on record pace in the face of the continued inclement conditions. Chris Plesko is poised to break the singlespeed record and Jill Homer is still on pace to take the female record sometime in the next week. We also look forward to Jay & Tracey Petervary establishing a tandem record tonight. Deanna Adams, who seems to steadily make here way down the Rockies, can also establish a record for fixed-gear bikes is she finishes.

Kurt Refsnider (blog is only about 10 miles from finishing second as I'm writing this post (July 1st, 1am EST). I expect he'll post at least one more final message to his call in audio updates at

Jay and Tracey Petervary are riding tandem about 10 miles behind Kurt and should finish this morning as well. tTheir audio updates are on the Tour Divide blog where there are also links to some of the best pictures of the 2009 tour divide. (A must see.)

Chris Plesko (audio updates) should come in third if all goes well not long after Jay and Tracey. He's an interesting story because he's doing the whole race on a single speed!

My brother Joe was riding with Kurt and Chris for much of the race until he broke his derailuer and deraulluer arm. This cost him 24 hours while a new derailluer was overnighted to him and then he swapped out his frame to a new one which was mailed ahead to a shop in Colorado.

He is currently racing with (I used the term "with" loosely) a group of about eight people (including Steve Wilkinson, Blaine Nester, Erik Lobeck, Canon Shockley, John Fettis, Leightwon White and Alan Goldsmith) that has dubbed themselves "the pelaton" that will be duking it out for fourth place in the next couple days. So many riders riding together this late in the Tour Divide is unusual. His audio updates can be found on MTBcast.

The interactive leaderboard give a good overview of where everyone is at currently on the route. The field was huge this year including 42 riders. Keep in mind many of the markers are from people who've dropped out for various reasons.

A big congratulations! to all who have participated and are still participating!

Thursday, June 25

Patrick Leigh Fermor: The man who walked

Catching up on Alastair Humphreys blog I was inspired to do a little reading up on Patrick Leigh Fermor and stumbled upon one of the best news paper articles I've read in a long time. It's long, well written and chuck full of interesting facts and details.

Patrick Leigh Fermor: The man who walked - Telegraph: "Patrick Leigh Fermor: The man who walked"

There is a great overview on Fermor on wikipedia, a good introduction, but most of the details come from the article anyway.

Sir Patrick 'Paddy' Michael Leigh Fermor DSO OBE (born 11 February 1915, London) is a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Battle of Crete during World War II. He is famous for his travel writing and is widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer".

His books
  • The Traveller's Tree (1950)
  • The Violins of Saint-Jacques (1953)
  • A Time to Keep Silence (1957)
  • Mani - Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (1958)
  • Roumeli (1966)
  • A Time of Gifts (1977)
  • Between the Woods and the Water (1986)
  • Three Letters from the Andes (1991)
  • Words of Mercury (2003) edited by Artemis Cooper

The Thames Ring 250, the UK's longest non-stop running race

Via: Alastair Humphreys – The UK’s longest ever non-stop running race, the Thames Ring 250

The UK’s longest ever non-stop running race is the Thames Ring 250. 250 miles, to be completed within 100 hours. Nearly ten marathons in four-and-a-bit days…
In wonderfully understated British style, the Thames Ring doesn’t even have a website. You can see the route map here and some photos here from this magnificently understated, yet heroic challenge.
I went along to the start of the race in the unlikely surroundings of Streatley Village Hall in Berkshire. Here’s a 90-second video of what I found.

Wednesday, June 24

Touring at 34lbs

Did a quick overnighter (about 140 miles) in about 24 hours this last weekend. For kicks I decided to try getting all my touring gear on my newest toy, my Salsa Campeon.

The trick was doing it with no racks as the Salsa has absolutely no braze-ons.

Not only was it a success but when I threw it on the scale the whole thing came in at about 34lbs.

For a touring bike it's wicked fast and climbs like the devil.

It's a whole new level of freedom.

This could get very addictive.

34lb touring setup

the ever changing gear list (annotated)

updated post for first Salsa Campeon (ultra-lightweight) overnighter
updated Sunday, 6/21/09

Less stuff, more freedom.

*please note there may be a few missed items or miss-types, the gear list is everchanging.

the bike
Salsa Campeon 62cm (2006/07)
Shimano Ultegra (full groupo, including hubs 2001/2003?)
Velocity deep V front / Mavic Open Pro rear rim
Continental Gatorskin tires 700x25mm
Specialized Ribcages (2)
Ideale saddle (1970s / 80s)
Planet Bike ultra bright LED blinky (2 AAA)

wireless computer
Brunton ball compass
south central michigan map (rolled up in plastic map holder)
dry bag (1L Sea-to-Summit for electronics wrapped around stem)
park headband (not enough wicking capability)
bedroll (contents below)

bedroll (handlebar bag)
OR Aurora Bivy
MSR tent footprint
Lafuma 600 45+ synthetic bag
Exped Airmat 7.5
Frog Toggs Dri Ducks rain jacket
two packs ramen noodle
6 aluminum needle stakes
first aid kit
25 ft para cord (around first aid kit)
camp towel
cook kit (more below)

Epic designs stem bag
cell phone
battery pack for headlamp (4 rechargeable AA)
Browning hat clip light
Bag Balm in tiny tin

Jandd top tube bag
4 spare rechargeable AA (for headlamp)
spare ziplocks (2 for cell phone/wallet)
24oz of denatured alchohol
Topeak Road Morph tire pump
electrolyte / vitamin c water supplement (3-4 packets)
2 spare pens
micro Leatherman + P-38 can opener + keyS
spare tubes (two)
Park multi tool w/ chain tool
Park heavy duty tire lever
generic lightweight tire lever
spare cleat and screws
tiny tube of chain oil
skin so soft (small tube, trying as alt to deet 100)

5L Sea-to-summit dry bag (behind seat)
convertible backpacking pants
smartwool socks
boxer shorts
cotton t-shirt

cook kit
kit bag w/ drawstring
1 quart aluminum pot
1/2 quart aluminum pot
aluminum lid

These contain:
- DIY aluminum windscreen
- citronella / emergency candle
- Trangia alcohol stove
- Sea-to-summit aluminum spoon
- salt
- sugar
- olive oil (small tube)
- waterproof matches
- cheap lighter
- tube Campmor biodegradable camp soap
- instant coffee
- instant grits (2 packs)
- hot pad
- green pad


136 lumen / 6 volt / 4AA / River Rock headlamp (on helmet)
Louis Garneu helmet
bike shirt
multi-panel bike shorts
smart wool socks
Lake 165 bike shoes

Pulse jet bike

From: BikeHacks

From Oregonlive comes this article on oregonian Robert Maddox, the worlds top pulse jet engine builder/designer. The engine is currently selling on ebay for a cool $1200 (+ $95 for shipping/handling), however if you really want to splurge you can throw down $8500 for a fully assembled jet bike from Bob. The engine pumps out 100lbs of thrust and there is a ‘warning’ on the ebay post that states ‘jet engines are dangerous, buy at your own risk, and that the engine runs at 140 decibles’…so you may want to think twice before firing it up in the suburbs. Bob has been working on pulse jet engines for about 10yrs, and now his handiwork brings the possibility of becoming the Rocketeer to your fingertips (if you can afford it). Here’s a video which shows the bike in action, but averaging 1.5 gallons of fuel per mile this is probably not the best way to commute to the office. If you commute by bicycle regularly, riding on this thing will probably put you there in record time.


When wide open, it will top out at around 75mph so before you hop on you may want to up the payout on your life insurance policy.

Wednesday, June 10

Penny Farthing Racing


Singlespeed mountain bike racing was fun until the fast guys figured it out. We need a new racing fad and this could be it. Who’s in?

I’d love to see some penny farthings on a car bike rack with a race number on the bike.

I second these sentiments. :)

Tuesday, June 9

Bicycle Dreams Trailer

"Bicycle Dreams is the true story of the Race Across America, a 3000-mile bike race that challenges riders to pedal across the country in just ten days."

Nough' said.

Via Urban Velo

Saturday, June 6

Jason Hackenwerth: Balloon Artist

Holy cow, it's been to long since I've watched any Lo-fi St. Louis. His interviews and mini docs (mini-documentaries) with artists are simply wonderful.

From: #232 Jason Hackenwerth: Balloon Artist | LO-FI SAINT LOUIS

I first became aware of ’s amazing balloon sculptures when I did a video about Doc Popular last summer. He was at City Museum creating an enourmous balloon sculpture and in retrospect I was foolish for not stopping to talk to him then. But as luck would have it, Jason came back to St. Louis recently (he is a hometown boy who now resides in NYC) to show some of his work at his Alma Mater, . I was able to corner him for a few minutes at his opening to ask him some questions. The show closes at the end of this week so catch it if you can. Jason’s web site is here.

Note: Bill seems to have misspelled a url in the original post. The artists official website is not (He dropped an "n".) I've fixed it in the quoted text above.

Thursday, April 30

Bad motorist, thy name is Zack Colman

Meet Zack Colman.

Zack Colman criminally bad motorist
Zack Colman
criminally bad motorist
Black 2001 Saturn SC2. That's the car I drive — and if you're a bicyclist on the road but not in a bike path and you see my car, I hope you're wearing a helmet, because I might run you over.

Maybe not intentionally.

But you see, with all these things I can do in my car nowadays, such as choose a different song on my iPod, send a text message while driving or fall asleep at the wheel because I had to wake up for a worthless 8 a.m. biology lab, I might not notice you.

No this is not an article from The Onion, (America's finest [satirical] news source) though it would be a dead ringer. (possible future employer Zack??)

I hope to god Zack's article is merely a brilliant parody of Zack's alter ego. If so it is very fine piece of satire and appears to nail with certainty the attitude and criminally ignorance of the bad driver. However his publication is not known for its fine satire.

Zack is the poster boy of every bad driver.

The majority of all drivers are in fact courteous to cyclists but as much riding as I do I still run into the proverbial "Zack" about once a week.

Usually the Zack's of the world are anonymous cowards. They just proclaim their ignorance loudly out the car window as they drive by at high speed often putting the foot down on the accelerator, engine racing, perhaps even letting loose with a long blaring horn to let you know that you have inconvenienced them.

This anonymity and attempt to escape any response causes me to wonder if they subconsciously know of their ignorance and want to escape any possible enlightenment as to the law or otherwise. Fiercely protected ignorance.

I respect bicyclists who use bicycles as a form of exercise, since people certainly can never get enough fitness in their everyday routines.

But for as much as I respect and appreciate bicyclists, I will not hesitate to honk at them when they are interfering with the roads.

My concern is not merely about inconvenience.

Heh it's your fault as a cyclist for daring to inconvenience Zack.

At least, that's how Zack sees it.

While Zack cannot be inconvenienced with your life, nay even be bothered to stop text message while driving to prevent you physical harm, he sincerely claims to write this editorial out of an altruistic concern for the safety of all cyclists.

The truth is the Zacks of the world have no clue as to the law but are always certain of their superior knowledge on the subject of bicycling a subject which they've clearly never endeavored to try or educate themselves on.

As State News commenter "Dumb as D. Bobby" states:

Uh .. Z .. there are things called "facts" that journalists are supposed to be concerned about .. so —

Biking Regulations on Campus

" .. Since bicycles aren't legally allowed to ride sidewalks on campus .."


Facts. They're hard.

Zack Colman has gone a step above and beyond the usual brood of bad drivers by proclaim his ignorance of cycling law in an editorial in the The State News, a Michigan State associated newspaper.

As State News commenter "Michael" (no relation to myself) also states:
Here's the law:


Michigan Vehicle Code

Each person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or moped or operating a low-speed vehicle upon a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter

There are in fact over 250 responses to Zack's editorial. All of which seem to grapple with the same general question... is Zack for real?

A very impressive number of responses indeed.

In summary.

Zack is a bad driver, Zack knows he's a bad driver. Zack even appears to be proud of it. He's constantly distracted by his gadgets. He cannot be bothered not to be distracted. He feels entitled to drive distracted or half asleep because through some unfair stroke of fate he is required to go to "a worthless 8 a.m. biology lab".

Zack feels this inconvenience entitles him to put not only every cyclists life at risk but any pedestrian, even other drivers that may be on the road.

Furthermore Zack feels this inconvenience entitles him not merely to put you at accidentally risk, but even willful and deliberately harm.

I'm left with the following questions.

What kind of idiot proclaims his deliberate ignorance of the law in print?

What kind of idiot declares not only his disregard for law, but human life in print?

Most of all what kind of idiot puts in print his deliberate intention to not only break the law but to deliberately harm people?

Zack does.

Hence Zack is the poster boy of bad drivers.

My only advice to all cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers is:

Yes, the Zacks of the world do exist, but you can't set foot out the door in the morning without taking that risk. This is why helmets and laws were invented. There is little else that can be done unless you choose never to venturing out the front door. You aren't any safer walking or even driving, hence carry on as you are.

My only advice to Zack: consult a lawyer.

Not only may a lawyer be able to explain to you basic laws regarding cycling, but they may also be able to advise you as to the legal liabilities / ramifications of putting such nonsense in print.

I pray you never get into an altercation with a cyclist as your editorial may come back to haunt you (nevermind the poor cyclist).

Wednesday, April 29

Review: the Planet Bike SuperFlash

Planet Bike SuperFlash

The best kind of review is the one you don't have to give. I 100% agree with the below quoted review. (I even use the exact same technique with a zip tie, but I use a reusable zip tie.) The Planet bike Superflash (Serfas also makes an identical version) is the single most important piece of saftey equipment money can buy for cycling besides a helmet, and it's only $20. The brightness of it's primary LED makes all the difference in the world, the price tag makes it a given. If you commute, this is a must have.

The bottom line is cars will behave differently when you use it.

1) cars will actually slow down

2) cars will actually give you the 3 feet entitled to you by law

I think it's simply because the light is so bright they actualy register you. No more brain dead drivers flying buy at 55+ mph inches away. Or maybe they even think you're a cop or construction workers or something. I don't know what they think, but it works.

Do you have one of these? If not, you need to go straight out and get one - they're about 20-bucks US and are unequaled in the battery operated arena of rear lights. This thing uses a single 1/2 watt LED, backed up with 2 smaller LED's that more than adequately keep you visible to passing cars - not just at night but during daylight hours as well.

Cons to this light? Well, a few times I've had this light fall off my bag, usually with the light arranging itself into its white back, clear red lens, and its 2-AAA batteries rolling around underneath a dumpster or another undesirable location. Fix you say? Simple, take a zip-tie and wrap it around the light such that it grabs onto the back clip - two benefits to this; 1) light doesn't fall apart and 2) light is 'locked' to your bag or quick-attach mount. If you don't use this zip-tie method, people may possibly ridicule you and laugh when you roll by - don't take that chance.

Recharge the batteries when the light fades - this light will continue to function under a reduced battery level but at a much lower light output. Put fresh batteries in this gal and you'll notice the difference immediately.


My advice - go get at least one of these lights. Even better, put one on your bag and one on your seatpost or seatstay. A few close friends have received this light as a gift from me - I believe it to be the best out there.

One last point. In winter lithium ion batteries last infinitely longer then regular batteries or rechargeables. Rechargeables are particularly suseptible to cold. In the summer any battery will last virtually forever.

Original post:, The Planet Bike SuperFlash

Sunday, April 26

rural architecture repurposed

There's just something great about the repurposing of something you see everyday, in this case the ubiquitous 1940's grain silo, into something with a completely different purpose. In this case a B&B. Yours for only $175 to $210 a night.

Via the Tiny House Blog

...essentially a one bedroom loft apartment built into a 1940’s grain silo.


Gruene Homestead Inn purchased and moved the silo in 2007 and have since remodeled both the interior and exterior in our own inimitable style.

This unit has a very upscale feel and is quite a unique lodging experience.

The silo has a queen bed, full sofa-bed, stand up shower, two sinks, wet bar, microwave, refrigerator, private porch and can be rented for $175/$210. You can visit the Gruene Homestead Inn’s website and learn more about their unique lodging.

more photos on the Tiny House Blog

Wednesday, April 22

The coming "great age of redevelopment"

From Recycling the Suburbs,
The American suburb as we know it is dying. The implosion began with the housing bust, which started in and has hit hardest the once vibrant neighborhoods outside the urban core. Shopping malls and big-box retail stores, the commercial anchors of the suburbs, are going dark — an estimated 148,000 stores closed last year, the most since 2001. But the shift is deeper than the economic downturn. Thanks to changing demographics, including a steady decline in the percentage of households with kids and a growing preference for urban amenities among Americans young and old, the suburban dream of the big house with the big lawn is vanishing. The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech predicts that by 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (on one-sixth of an acre [675 sq m] or more) in the U.S.


...a transformation is under way in regions that were known for some of the worst sprawl in the U.S. Communities as diverse as Lakewood, Colo., and Long Beach, Calif., have repurposed boarded-up malls as mixed-use developments with retail stores, offices and apartments. In auto-dependent suburbs that were built without a traditional center, shopping malls offer the chance to create downtowns without destroying existing infrastructure, by recycling what's known as underperforming asphalt. "All of these projects are developer-driven, because the market wants them," says Ellen Dunham-Jones, a co-author of the new book Retrofitting Suburbia.

Not every suburb will make it. The fringes of a suburb like Riverside in Southern California, where housing prices have fallen more than 20% since the bust began, could be too diffuse to thrive in a future where density is no longer taboo. It'll be the older inner suburbs like Tysons Corner, Va., that will have the mass transit, public space and economic gravity to thrive postrecession. Though creative cities will grow more attractive for empty-nest -retirees and young graduates alike, we won't all be moving to New York. Many Americans will still prefer the space of the suburbs — including the parking spaces. "People want to balance the privacy of the suburbs with more public and social areas," says Dunham-Jones. But the result will be a U.S. that is more sustainable — environmentally and economically.

While the Times is prone to exaggerating for effect (i.e. "the suburbs are dying") the basic data is true. Major malls, big box and retail developments have been closing for years. This is very similar to what was seen in urban centers. This is causing suburban blight which is devaluing the suburbs as it once did the urban centers.

The hope is that we as a nation will deal with it directly this time, via redevelopment, instead of simply fleeing it for greener pastures.

What's more the basic theory is sound. I think Americans are starting to see that we can no longer just keep sprawling. We have to take the time to redevelop and build upon the old, to try and deal with some of its problems instead of simply making a new suburb in another cornfield.

It's the layering on of new development over historical development over many, many generations that solves the problems of urban planning and teaches us lessons while creating the character and history sought after to sustain long term growth.

This layering is how European cities... and indeed all cities eventually developed. We've largely ignored this development in the U.S. simply because it's cheaper and easier to literally move to a greener pasture. Eventually though we must grapple with the issues of redeveloping areas, both urban and suburban.

We're moving into an era which might well become known as "the great redevelopment".

The rise and fall of great American cities, the rise of the suburbs, what's next?

There's no where else to flee, the entire mass population can't go back to the land. This age of redevelopment is barely at it's infancy... barely on the horizon. It's been going on in some small degree for years, but at this point it still barely started and I doubt we can expect it to be as radical as the flight to the suburbs.

I think when we look back we'll see it's symbolic start in the redevelopment of major league sports complexes in urban centers that we've been seeing for the last ten to twenty years. It's a sign of what is wanted, even it it's not yet known how to accomplish it.

Redevelopment of urban centers is a common concept, but few even recognize the decline and need for redevelopment in the suburbs as well.

To use a metaphor comparing investing in real estate to investing in the markets, I'd liken investing in new suburban real estate both commercial and residential to be like day trading and penny stocks. It's an easy quick good buck so long as you get out before the bubble collapses... but guess what, everyone eventually gets caught holding.

Alternatively I'd liken redevelopment to Warren Buffets "value investing". It may be very early in the game but there's value to be had in those blighted urban centers, small towns and even in those blighted suburban centers. The key is investing in finding the right markets and backing the right re-developers. They are the next growth market.

This real estate bubble collapse is a clear reflection of a market that's focused to much on the short term... bankers and buyers alike.

Wednesday, April 15

The complete streets initative

Transportation should focus on all Americans, not just people who drive cars. —Rep. Matsui
Our outdated transportation system fosters reliance on cars... we talk about an epidemic of obesity, and the way we design our communities is partly to blame.

Complete streets can re-invigorate corridors that are currently dominated by cars. We should transform these areas that are really nothing more than highways superimposed on surface streets.

The days of irresponsible transportation investment are over. We cannot afford them any longer. We cannot afford more asthma, more congestion, and more climate change.

I just did a trip along the Allegheny Passage from DC to Pittsburgh and I had to completely avoid the Pittsburgh area because the only East to West roads through downtown were unsafe for bikes. In order to ride through Pittsburgh I would have to have a guide with extensive knowledge over the course of many years of neighborhoods and streets throughout the greater Pittsburgh area.

I call this problem the culdesac problem.

Modern subdivisions are designed intentionally without through streets forcing all traffic out onto these "highways superimposed on surface streets" that Representative Doris Matsui of California speaks of. This design makes whole areas of cities and suburbs completely unnavigable by anything other then cars.

Despite increased awareness in core circles this is become more and more common do lack of planning in modern cities and suburbs which often completely leave out pedestrians and alternative forms of transportation. These Conservative political and raw market forces see putting anything besides a gravel shoulder on a road (sidewalks often ignored too) as a a liberal use of money... yet not doing providing for rich pedestrian and alternative transport is actually strip mining / clear cutting communities of future potentials.

Many is the time I've witnessed suburban areas where you can't even walk from your house a block or two away to the nearest grocery store without getting in a car because there are simply no sidewalks and no cross walks on these seven to nine lane super streets with their 16+ lane intersections separating quarter mile and even half mile culdesac subdivisions.

The thing is the enlightened and educated who are understand these problems are a tiny minority, as always 90% of their work is purely in helping people realize the potentials.

We have literally painted the pedestrian into a corner isolating our youth, anyone who doesn't have access to a car, and discouraging all alternative means of transportation and recreation.

I'm fond of saying of places like Phoenix and Los Vegas that they are truly democratic cityscape affording anyone from any section of town the same opportunities... so long as you own a car.

Is it any wonder why isolation and obesity have become such a high profile part of the modern American condition. Is it any wonder why children grow up without strong sense of identity and community and old people die alone. We're indoctrinating the young before they are even old enough to drive and hence partake in a larger society. And once they escape the nest they don't have that safety net to fall back on.

"Complete streets" legislation sounds like a superb idea to me, but the devil is in the details... I will believe it when I see it passed... AND working.

More info:, With Complete Streets, Matsui says roads will be for everyone

David Byrne's Bike Racks

Just stumbled on this Wall Street Journal interview from David Byrne from July 2008. Mostly filmed as they ride 6 miles across town from his studio to his fabricator and poweder coater.

I always find it interesting that David does commute regularly by bike, even when on tour.

Youtube link: David Byrne's Bike Racks

Tuesday, April 14

The ultimate gear review, Ian Hibell's gear

All I can say is holy crap.

This is an amazing high quality interview with Ian Hibell, famed world bicycle tourist from 1975 as he was headed from Norway to the Cape of Good Hope.

The interviews starts as they ride bicycles around the studio after which they proceed to go through every bit of his gear.

It's just amazing, I simply can't believe how much gear, in particular how much food he carries. Such as a half dozen eggs!? I have no idea how he fits it all in his bags, they must be magical bottomless bags.

Add the fact that everything is simply larger and heavier... pots, stove, sleeping bags. By comparison everything is now much lighter, warmer and more compact, and yet this guy traveled the world with only a couple panniers.

It's also interesting to note that the basic touring bike has not changed all that much since 1975. In fact you could ride his bike down the road today, almost 35 years later, and not many people would even notice the difference.

Via The Epicurean Cyclist

bike tour as real estate tool

From the Atlanta Journal - Constitution Real estate agent tries new sales technique: bike tour |

A real estate agent who was told in 2004 he would never bicycle again after a terrible accident, proved the doctors wrong. And now Ryan Castleberry of Keller Williams Realty wants to prove something else: Two wheels work better than four when it comes to showing homes in a sluggish market.

Castleberry, 32, plans to lead a dozen bike tours of homes from April 18 to Sept. 19 in Decatur and Avondale Estates. The first one begins at Glenlake Park in Decatur.

“Now you can experience everything that probably would have been overlooked while looking at homes in the traditional car way,” he said. “You get the chance to see parks, meet neighbors or experience the roads that your children may be playing very close to.” Castleberry mass-mailed 4,000 announcements and hopes 10 to 12 people sign up per tour. Each tour will cover five to six nearby homes.

Living in Chicago for ten years I found the bike not only the best way to get around but also the most superb way to find apartments.

1) Newspapers don't have everything... indeed newspapers don't have the best places... the brownstones owned by local people... just the real-estate agent ones who are in it for their commission.

2) Viewing by car makes it REALLY easy to overlook places and parking is IMPOSSIBLE in inner cities.

3) Finally, walking simply takes too long.

Biking works because it offers a nice fluid pace both within neighborhoods and from neighborhood to neighborhood. It's actually the fastest way to find and look at a lot of places quickly. You simply pick your neighborhood, pre-ride it when you have a chance... not a bunch of places, make some calls and ride back by on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

What's more bicycles as an extension of public transport mean virtually NO area of the city is off limits. Everywhere in a city like Chicago is within five minutes of public transit by bike... if not within 25 minutes ride of downtown. It opens up huge possibilities otherwise overlooked.

As for suburban real estate... I cannot speak on the subject... but I can say that looking at real estate from the perspective of a bike changes EVERYTHING. From one suburban area to the next attention to pedestrian traffic is fickle. Some suburbs have SUPERB pedestrian access... others you can't even cross the street without first getting in a car. I've seen it all.... but you would never know it if you don't get out of your car and move around a bit on bike or foot.

Saturday, April 11

Jeff Oatley's bike for the Iditarod Trail Invitational

Great article on Jeff Oatley's winning gear setup for the 2009 Iditarod Invitational.

From: VeloNews, via epic designs.

Component Highlights:

Frame: Speedway Cycles Fatback
Fork: Speedways Cycles custom steel
Wheels: Remolino 80mm wide rims; Hadley 165mm rear hub, Chris King 100mm front hub
Drivetrain: FSA Carbon Pro Team Issue crankset (22/36/44); Truvativ 100mm ISIS bottom bracket; Shimano E-Type front derailleur, SRAM X0 rear derailleur; SRAM X0 twist shifters; Shimano XTR 11-32 9-speed cassette; Nokon derailleur housing
Brakes: Magura Marta SL
Pedals: Crankbrothers Egg Beater 4Ti
Tires: Surly Endomorph 3.7-inch
Saddle: Sella Italia Flight
Stem: Bontrager 100mm 17-degree rise
Grips: Ergon GC-2
Aerobars: Profile Design Jammer GT

Gear Highlights:

Shoes: Lake MXZ300
Booties: Apocalypse Designs
Headlight: Lupine Wilma
GPS: Garmin eTrex Legend
Seatpack: Epic Designs Super Twinkie
Framebag: Epic Designs
Top tube bag: Epic Designs Gas Tank
Handlebar bags/hand warmers: Dogwood Designs Pogies
Gloves: Pearl Izumi Gavia and RBH Designs Vapor Barrier Mitten

Touring the Allegheny Passage

Some pics from my trip last week from DC to Pittsburg along the Allegheny Trail.

Via: Touring the Great Allegheny Passage - a set on Flickr

Friday, April 10

Great Allegheny Passage

I just got back from riding the Great Alleghney Passage. Amazing ride. (Pics and more info will soon follow.) Thought this was a relevant piece of news.

From: Pennsylvania Environmental Award to Present Lifetime Achievement Award to Linda McKenna Boxx, Reuters

Linda McKenna Boxx, the president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance and the
driving force behind the creation of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile
trail connecting Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, will receive a lifetime
achievement award, announced today by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.


In 1993, she saw an opportunity to work with a number of regional trail groups
in Western Pennsylvania and coordinate their local efforts into one large
continuous trail connecting with the C&O Canal Towpath trail in Cumberland,
Maryland, effectively creating a 335-mile continuous hiking and biking trail
from downtown Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

The success of that work resulted in the Great Allegheny Passage, which is now
nearly complete. All that remains is to finish a few miles of trail between
McKeesport and downtown.

Every year thousands of people complete the Washington to Pittsburgh trail ride,
including the hundreds of cyclists who last year participated in the week-long
sojourn or the 24-hour relay ride as part of the "Pittsburgh 250" celebration.

Ms. Boxx also serves on a number of boards, including the Fallingwater Advisory
Committee, the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern
Pennsylvania, and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.

A little more background info on Linda.
Ms. Boxx`s distinguished career includes public service positions in state
government in both Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Her experience included a wide
variety of positions in conservation, land use planning and the infancy of the
rails-to-trails movement in Pennsylvania.

She has also served as the chairman of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation,
based in Latrobe, since 1982. In this capacity, Ms. Boxx has worked to provide
support for a wide range of innovative programs including the remediation and
protection of land and waterways, development of community and recreational
facilities, rehabilitation of landmark buildings and a broad range of
educational opportunities.

Thursday, March 26

William O. Douglas

"Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality, a fiction found useful for maritime purposes. The corporation sole - a creature of ecclesiastical law - is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases.... So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes - fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it."

William O. Douglas, Wikipedia from Sierra Club v. Morton (1972)

Wednesday, March 4

Stoudt's Abominable Ale

I found the perfect ale for winter touring to go with the perfect pannier rack I blogged about yesterday.

Practically speaking, this is brewed in Pennsylvania. Not sure how hard or easy it is to get a hold of (shipping? distributors?) but I definitely am going to try.

Discovered via Flickr.

Update: Hot damn, I just checked out Stoudt's distribution. They have one distributor in Kalamazoo Michigan (Imperial Beverage), one (Winds Café) just north of Xenia Ohio (the central hub of the Ohio bike touring metaverse), one just west of Columbus Ohio (Premium Beverage Supply), and best of all one of my favorite taverns of all the Winking Lizard located in Peninsula Ohio in the heart of the Cuyahoga National Forest just along the superb Cuyahoga path.

This is a winter bear though, so I think I'm going to have to get a move on and do some winter touring before it gets to nice outside. Truth be told I was already planing something, this is just a most excellent excuse. :)

Bacon Vodka

In other important news, Bacon Vodka.

Bakon Vodka is a superior quality potato vodka with a savory bacon flavor. It’s clean, crisp, and delicious. This is the only vodka you’ll ever want to use to make a Bloody Mary, and it's a complementary element of both sweet and savory drinks.

Bakon Vodka is also a great Bar-B-Q companion. Use it in a marinade or sip it chilled with a steak...

The Meat and Potatoes… Premium quality, no joke.

We start with superior quality Idaho potatoes instead of the random mixed grains that make up most vodkas. Our vodka is column-distilled using a single heating process that doesn’t “bruise” the alcohol like the multiple heating cycles needed to make a typical pot-still vodka.

No tinge or burn on the tongue, no obnoxious smoky or chemical flavors, just a clean refreshing potato vodka with delicious savory bacon flavor.

Bakon Vodka!