Blowing & Drifting

Life in and around Northfield, Minnesota.

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Jones Loop Handlebar: A Belated Review

November 19th, 2014 · No Comments

When I sold the Beast in August to upgrade to a titanium Mukluk, I also decided to switch from traditional straight handlebars to the funny-looking but apparently quite comfortable "Loop" H-Bar made by Jones Bikes.

I had had problems with my hands going numb on many rides on the Muk with straight bars, but many riders on the Internet swore up and down that the unusual backwards sweep of the H-Bar helped relieve pressure on their hands and thus numbness. Mindful of the self-selection there, I figured that I could always sell the H-Bar if I found that my hands still fell asleep on them.

Having now done about 500 miles on the new (to me) ti Mukluk with the H-Bar, I can report that these funny-looking bars are in fact much more comfortable than my flat bars (even cushy flat carbon bars!).*
Jones Loop H-Bar

I spend most of any ride with my hands on the grips at the ends of the bars, where I’ve found the sweep to be very congenial to the way I ride. Bike control is excellent because of or despite my hands being fairly far out and quite far back, even in tight cornering situations like singletrack. The 710mm width seems to allow for more steering by leaning my hips and shoulders and less by actually turning the bars.

When I’m cruising, I can reach forward to the joints where the front loop meets the back bar or even all the way out to the front loop, creating a much more "aero" position that’s perfect for straight flat sections, on gentle uphills, and especially on steady downhills. I have much less control over the bike in these forward positions, but just enough that I can avoid bumps and potholes. And it’s very easy to pop back to the grips to resume full control over the machine.

In my use of the bars, I’ve only had one brief episode with numb hands, which I chalked up to wearing thicker-than-usual gloves and white-knuckling the grips on some long downhills. Lessons learned: relax and switch hand positions frequently.

In addition to excellent handling and comfort of the H-Bar, I have discovered that the bar is great for attaching all the junk needed for the kind of riding I’m doing right now: bar bags on the aft bar for food and stuff, sleeping pad/sleeping bag/drybag under the loop, cyclocomputer on the stem, light on the front of the loop… And the loop itself is a pretty handy spot for either stuffing clothing (at different points I’ve securely wedged my windshell and my vest between the bar and the drybag underneath it) or for carrying stuff:
Cargo Loop Bar

All in all, the Jones H-Bar has been a great addition to my bike. I’m looking forward to racing on it this winter. That front spot should be a great place for number plates!

  • One note: I did switch from a 90mm stem to a 100mm stem after my knees started getting achy on long rides. My LBS guy guessed that the backsweep of the bars was keeping me a little too upright. By getting me forward more, the 100mm stem seems to have fixed the knee problems.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · BloWriMo · cycling · photos · sport

I’m Such a Yankee

November 18th, 2014 · No Comments

I’m such a Yankee.
States I've Visited

Sadly, the countries-I’ve-visited map would have just two spots of color.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · BloWriMo · borrowed content · diversions · narcissism · recollections

Winter Riding Goals

November 16th, 2014 · 3 Comments

Halfway through November, and a week or so into an early winter, I’ve settled on five goals for my winter riding. In descending order:

1. Finish the 200k course of Jay P’s Fat Pursuit in Idaho on January 10 within the time limit – about 36 hours. Last year I made it through 100 miles of this race in 34 hours before Jay pulled me from the course. In 2015, I’ll ride under the finishing arch.

2. Finish the Arrowhead 135 in northern Minnesota on January 26 faster than last year, when it took me 29 hours. Pros: I know the course, I have a better bike and kit, I’ll be in good shape, and I know now to avoid taking such long breaks. Cons: The race might be hellishly cold again, and I’ll only have about two weeks to recover after finishing the Fat Pursuit.

3. Ride at least 750 training miles in November and December. I’m currently at about 150, ramping up toward a high-volume training period in December. These miles – which will hopefully translate into at least 75 hours of riding – are all about getting ready for the Fat Pursuit’s twin challenges: altitude and climbing.

4. Get a lot better at riding singletrack. I am horrible at riding singletrack, but I hope to get a lot better this winter by riding the new tight, technical (but flat) trail that is now available ride right in town, thanks to our local MTB club, CROCT, whose members cut these trails in this fall. And maybe this winter I can get to some of the other mountain bike trails in the area.

5. Ride the Cannon River. I dunno if the river freezes solidly enough to permit riding on it, but I’m going to find out this winter! A ride from Northfield to Faribault would be great!

6. Go bikepacking at least once a month – probably, for obvious reasons, nearby.

→ 3 CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · BloWriMo · cycling · diversions · Minnesota · Northfield · photos · sport · winter

Taste Recall

November 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Twice this evening, I’ve encountered tastes and smells that have taken me back to childhood.

For dinner, Shannon made some ridiculously good Italian-style meatball sandwiches. The tomato sauce soaked into the crusty bread and created a taste-smell that sent me right back to the dim dining room at the Bell Chalet in Hurley, Wisconsin – one of the two or three places where I learned to love square-cut Midwestern pizza. I almost couldn’t finish the sandwich. Almost.

Then after the girls went to bed, I opened a little bottle of brandy that I bought experimentally a few weeks ago after hearing from a friend about its excellent qualities as a winter drink. The smell that floated out of the bottle was exactly the smell of the giant cabinet in which my Grandma kept her fine china and the liquor she used to make her beloved Manhattans. I wonder if in fact she was making Metropolitans

Though I never tasted any of the drinks she made, the scent of the VSOP made it seem like Christmas 1980 again.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · BloWriMo · narcissism · recollections · winter

Oakland C-A

November 10th, 2014 · No Comments

One of the high points of most summers at work is a conference for other grantwriters at liberal arts colleges. The conference moves around the country each year, and this year was held at Mills College, a beautiful little institution in Oakland, California.
Mills College Views

Mills is crowded with amazing eucalyptus trees
Eucalyptus Trees

and gorgeous buildings
Mills Views II

with wonderful art.
Lion Sculpture

I enjoyed and benefited from the meetings themselves, which were held in this great room:
Mills Views III

I also enjoyed staying at an amazing old hotel in Oakland, the Claremont – to which I took my first-ever Uber ride, making me feel very urban, and which afforded incredible views of San Francisco:

San Franscisco from the Claremont

We also took a nice trip to the Wente Vineyards, an old vineyard southeast of the city. I’m not much for wine, but vineyards are apparently always spectacularly gorgeous.
Vineyard Magic Hour

Plus I got to see my cool cousin Sara, though we didn’t remember to document our meetup with photos. All in all, it was a pretty wonderful trip. I’m lucky to have such great trips to make for my job!

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · BloWriMo · Carleton · diversions · photos · traveling · work

Borrowed Blackborow

November 6th, 2014 · No Comments

I was lucky enough in October to borrow a friend’s new fatbike: a Salsa Blackborow, a long-awaited machine that can run 5" tires. I was able to keep the bike for two weeks, which allowed me to enjoy plenty of riding: daily commutes, a few 20-mile sessions in the Carleton Arboretum, and even two extended rides on the flat but challenging trails of the fabulous Minnesota River Bottoms.

Blackborow DS

The bike was amazing. The "Forest Service Green" color is maybe the prettiest color I’ve seen on a bike, first of all. And thanks to the giant wheels – Surly’s Clown Shoe rims mounted with Surly Lou tires on the stock machine, Schwalbe Jumbo Jims on this build – the bike could roll over or through almost anything: dirt, gravel, sand, brush, logs…

Unexpectedly, though, the machine was also remarkably nimble, much more so than my beloved Mukluk. The Blackborow carved corners beautifully, jumped up inclines, and ran well on the straights. I even liked the "dinglespeed" set-up, which is really a singlespeed that can be adjusted, with a quick adjustment of the wheel, from a super-low crawler gear to a slightly higher and, for me, on dry, flat terrain, better gear.

Riding the Blackborow, I could immediately see how it would be the perfect expedition bike: something you can load up with gear and then just ride off into the woods. Someday…

Blackborow at Rest

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · autumn · BloWriMo · cycling · Minnesota · nature · Northfield · photos · sport

Four Crazy Things Said at My House Tonight

November 5th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Julia, finishing dinner: “I just love PowerPoint SO MUCH!”

Genevieve, while I cleaned the kitchen: “Here, taste this sauce that I made from hot sauce, pepper, sugar, and ketchup.”

Julia, after her shower: “If I can’t be the first woman president, I’ll be the best one instead.”

Genevieve, around bedtime: “Look! I made a crocodile from my hands!”

→ 1 CommentTags: 365 for 2014 · BloWriMo · borrowed content · family · girls · parenting

Four Eyes

November 2nd, 2014 · No Comments

As the girls get older, it’s getting more fun to pass along important knowledge, like the skill of making circled-finger spectacles.

Four eyes times two

Both girls needed quite a bit of practice to do this properly – and apparently few of their classmates knew how to do it. How do kids mock kids with glasses these days?

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · autumn · BloWriMo · girls · photos · stupidities

Old Cat, New Tricks

November 1st, 2014 · No Comments

Our beloved "grandma cat," Sabine, is nineteen years old. She’s not an active animal, but she does love us – especially Genevieve, who has about a dozen nicknames for her.

Sabine in her old age has acquired some funny habits, like expecting treats when I come downstairs after putting the girls to bed around 8 and, each morning, expecting to be let into the garage.

Morning Visit

She darts through the door when I open it to throw some recycling in the bin, then spends five or ten minutes exploring the space, sniffing my bike and the car’s tires, and winding up – in truly bizarre feline fashion – by licking the the girls’ bikes’ spokes.

When she’s done, she waits to be let back into the house, then jumps up onto the sofa to sit with the girls while they watch PBS Kids.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · autumn · BloWriMo · family · Northfield · photos

November Bloggery

October 31st, 2014 · No Comments

I’ve been horribly remiss in keeping up with this blog all summer long, making only 19 posts since May, even though I and we have had a very busy, eventful summer and fall!

Riffing on the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo and Academic Writing Month or AcWriMo, I’m going kick off my own Blog Writing Month or BloWriMo to catch up on by backlogged blogging by writing one post each day in November. Topics should include

  • the end of the 2013-2014 academic year
  • Julia’s 10th birthday
  • the Lutsen 99er mountain bike race
  • our vacation trip to the U.P.
  • a business trip to the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Genevieve’s 8th birthday
  • good summer beers
  • selling my Mukluk
  • buying a new Mukluk
  • the Inspiration 100 gravel race
  • the start of the 2014-2015 academic year
  • getting fussy with my hearing aids
  • the girls starting 5th and 3rd grades
  • Shannon’s new full-time job
  • my ninth anniversary at Carleton
  • the Heck of the North gravel race
  • Julia’s field trip to the Minnesota Zoo
  • getting revved up for winter racing

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · autumn · BloWriMo · diversions · miscellany

Awesome Filmmaking by the Girls

October 12th, 2014 · No Comments

Julia learned how to use the iOS version of iMovie at school this week, so she and Vivi have been making “trailers” – four so far. Each is better than the last, and the girls are especially happy with these three. Amazing creativity – and no shortage of sheer weirdness.

The Diary of Fate

Pixie Dust

Attack of the Makeup Monster

→ No CommentsTags: art · autumn · borrowed content · family · girls · media · Minnesota · parenting · video

Tired From Just Knowing Her

September 13th, 2014 · No Comments

I just don’t know how Vivi does it. She was up past midnight at a sleepover, then awake at seven. After a mammoth post-lunch meltdown, we went for a three-hour hike slash creek stomp at a cool little park south of town. I have been basically catatonic since dinner, but she somehow had the energy to do this in her pajamas:

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · autumn · diversions · family · girls · nature · Northfield · parenting · photos

Fabulous Poetry by Genevieve

September 10th, 2014 · No Comments

Tree branches swaying slightly
Leaves whispering to one another
Cornfield already asleep
Clouds have painted the sky a deep blue
Grass admiring the masterpiece
Nature made
Everything ignoring the headlights
From cars slicing through the
Kind evening
Everything ushering everything else
To fall asleep

Life
It passes quickly
But you experience every minute of it
Opposite of space
In space you feel slow
There is no movement
That you can feel
Strange
Different
But true
Life
The longest thing possible
Absorb it

Dark
Empty
Nothing
But it is there
You see it
Wispy but clear
It is there
It guides you
It will lead you
To those bright dots
It already led you this far
Keep going
It says
Persevere

Warm
Flames high
Burning
Orange
Red
Light flashes in your eyes
Owls laughing
Bats circling above
Clear your mind
It is nothing
Empty
But it still leaps in front of
Your eyes to wake you
But you smile
Because it is still nothing

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · art · autumn · borrowed content · family · girls · nature

Happy Eighth Birthday, Vivi

August 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Today, Vivi turns eight! What a roller coaster these years have been, and what a marvelous person she is today!
Newborn Vivi

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · family · girls · parenting · photos · summer

Goodbye, Beast!

August 12th, 2014 · No Comments

Muddy Beast

My attempt to sell the Beast was successful. Within a couple days of putting it up for sale, several people wrote to ask me about the bike, and one guy checked it out on Monday.

I figured Dave was serious, since he was willing to come down from Minneapolis to ride the machine, and he was: he asked good questions, told me he was planning to do a 24-hour cycling race that weekend, and best of all eagerly roared off toward the nearest gravel roads. About a half hour later, he came back grinning and splattered in mud. He handed over cash for the bike, I helped him pack the bike into his car, and away he went, a new fatbiker.

For the first time in almost two years, I don’t own a fatbike. That’ll change on Wednesday, when I go to pick up this beauty from my friend Ben. I’m eager to ride it and name it and race it. I’ve got big plans for us.

Ti Mukluk

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2014 · cycling · Minnesota · narcissism · Northfield · photos · sport · stupidities · summer