Spontaneity

One of the key players from my “new” life in Alaska as a home owner has been largely absent these past two years. It is something that sparks my soul and makes precious life even more so. It is something to maintain a youthful and vibrant self and outlook. It is spontaneity. Seems these last many, many months, every move in my life needs to be planned, calculated, examined, and inspected, largely taking any playfulness out of it. Spontaneity is what makes trips and adventures youthful and fun.

Spontaneity is what I crave. Adventure is what I crave.

I wake up Monday morning, 4 days before my planned departure date for my two week bike ride into the Yukon. I am not feeling it; I want to go now. I dress for work as usual, but hope that my employer Dave and the rest of the crew will see fit to set me free upon myself so I may leave right away. Everyone at work gives me the thumbs up, wishes me well, and I drive home casually with a grin on my face to pack the bike, smoke some Salmon, shop for supplies, and relax a bit.

The next morning I awake and am totally ready: everything is in order, Angela is coming by at 8 for some coffee and I will hit the road. It is raining a bit, but hey, it’s Alaska in the summer, that’s what is does here! I’ll be out of range for the next couple of weeks; when I return, I’ll do a full write up and photo share here on JRB.

Stay tuned!!

Preparation

The bicycle know to me as the Surley Ogre has been on hiatus for some time now…over two years in fact. Like a horse put out to pasture, she has endured this lengthy time situated in the garage amongst the miter saw, planer, router, and other tools of construction. Not fitting in with these apparatus, she squeals and begs for a letting of road miles. In anticipation of an upcoming trip upon her to the mighty Yukon and beyond, I strip the old gal down to her bones and a cleansing and rebuilding ensues.

It has been far too long since the Ogre and I have embarked upon the open road together, and in a quick fit, I work out a stretch of time off from work and make preparations for us to engage the Alaska Golden Triangle; Riding from my house in Haines to Haines Junction to Whitehorse to Skagway. A 360 mile loop through the northern panhandle and into B.C. and the Yukon, ending back in the good ‘ol AK in Skagway, where a quick ferry ride home ends the adventure. With plans to leave on the 29th of July, and returning on the 13th of August, I must say that these bicycle trip are certainly not about the bike. Or even riding them. These excursions are about being there. Or more precisely, being out there and taking in the tundra, mountains, rivers, and wildlife. If I was in shape and looking to make some quick time, I would theoretically make the journey in six or seven days. I think not. I intend on going slowly and enjoying the vast and wonderful summer in the North. Summertime in the regions of Alaska, Northern B.C., and the Yukon are stuff of fantasy to me. It is a time of exploding life and glorious exploration. There is nothing better on Earth than summer in the North.

Having a couple of weeks lead time to the trip in question, I head out to test the newly constructed Ogre for a quick 20 mile excursion up the wonderful Haines Highway, and as luck would have it, a spectacular day of temps in the 70’s, glorious sunshine, and the glaciers of the Chilkat’s shining brightly.

The old girl, spaced out from many months at pasture, bucks wildly when I attempt to pedal forward. After a rough patch, we hit our stride and suddenly it’s just like old times.

As out of shape as I am, I am looking forward to that big nasty climb up Chilkat Pass and into the Yukon I love so much. Two weeks and counting…

Stay posted friends!

Surley Ogre
The omnipotent Surley Ogre
Rivet Pearl
The Rivet Pearl
Ogre Resting
The Ogre rests by the mighty Chilkat River
Chilkat Ogre
Chilkat Cathedrals and Ogre

 

The Rivet Pearl

IMG_8023Like many other cyclists, over the years I have ridden and experienced many different saddles on many different bicycles; sometimes connected to seat posts with varying degrees of setback, length, and stiffness. The vast variety of sensations these experiences created, allowed me to know the difference between what I consider to be a poor saddle,  a good saddle, or even a great saddle.

I have been riding Brooks saddles with a great amount of success for quite a long run. Some time back, I purchased an outstanding B17 Select. This is an upgrade from the standard, featuring thicker leather and hand pounded rivets. Alas, the Salsa Fargo that it was affixed to was stolen, and that was that. When I built my Surly Ogre, I replaced it with an “identical” saddle, paying a full retail value of 200 bucks for another B17 Select. At first glance, this baby seemed exact. A week later, after maybe 200 miles, the saddle looked as tho it had been mounted to the bike for thirty years, and was soft like an old pair of work gloves. Brookes gave me an RA number, but the thought of going through the hassle was more than I could bear; I put the saddle on another commuter, and began looking for a non Brooks alternative…

…Enter Rivet Cycle Works.  While at the bike shop, wrenching away one fine afternoon, Debra Banks, owner and proprietor of said company, and I, struck up a conversation. Debra was there to show some of her new saddles to John Boyer/Edible Pedal. After hearing of my Brooks woes, she handed me her solution in the form of the Rivet Pearl Saddle. It featured leather that one dreams about on a saddle, thick and uncompromising, yet with the ability to become a supple pillow for one’s arse over time. It also features a cutout on the top to allow pressure to be alleviated from said anatomy. The sides of the unit, unlike a Brooks, are folded under the saddle, and riveted in place to a nice stainless plate that you can see through the saddle’s cut out. This prevents the saddle from “splaying” outward. The thought behind this is that a splayed saddle will eventually chaffe the legs and groin. A nice feature I believe. However, the riveted underbelly, and it’s ensuing cause and effect, make this saddle seem a bit narrower than something fairly wide like, say the B17 or a Velo Orange touring saddle. This gives the saddle a nice, slim, low profile feeling that most will enjoy. Honestly, it felt a bit like a Brooks Pro, but more comfortable. Furthermore, it also features Ti rails that are much longer, and therefore have more adjustability than a Brooks, A VO, or a Cardiff.

The saddle is light too; at 460 grams for the Ti version, The Pearl is light enough to go on any bike where comfort is king. Rivet also makes a chromoly version for less money and more weight. The saddle I have is an Au Natural- plain leather. It is a look that I desire, and it is starting to turn a nice deep color that is an indication of the saddle approaching it’s sweet spot in regards to being broke-in. Apparently, these saddles also come in black, burgundy, and white. Rivet claims that the colored models need no leather treatment, as the dying process waterproofs them adequately. They recommend treating the Au Natural version, but, personally, I have never been fan of treating saddles. I am however, a fan of fenders and saddle covers for riding in the rain.

After 600 miles of riding on the Rivet Pearl, I can now say this: It is light, medium feeling in width, firm, yet supple feeling, and made with the best looking leather I have seen on a saddle in years. If you are looking for a durable, yet comfortable saddle alternative to the usual suspects, the Rivet is definitely worth a look. You can see and test one in person at Edible Pedal in Sacramento.

IMG_8024

Not Saddle Sore

IMG_8023
The Rivet Pearl…
IMG_8024
..with Ti Rails!

I’d rather be riding my bike today.. but, well, it’s raining. I know what you’re thinking; how can someone who raves endlessly about all matters northern, about how riding in the rain does not bother, about the “glorious” weather of SE Alaska, simply whine about a simple California drizzle.  Well, for starters, the trails I had in mind to ride today are going to be muddy. In fact, the trails I was going to ride today are in fact illegal. By riding on muddy and illegal trails, I set the stage for prosecution and closure by creating said muddy tracks.

Also, part of the reason for going on a ride today was to test out the new, famously good looking Rivet Pearl saddle, that was graciously given to me for such purposes by the fine folks at Rivet Cycle Works.  As soon as I get the chance to do some vigorous thrashing on this beauty, I will be posting a review, so keep Yer eyes peeled.

So, my time spent in the hours before heading to the bike shop to work will be filled with coffee and hopefully something interesting to say to you all.

Here goes…

I struggle as a writer, struggle as photographer, struggle as an adventurer, insofar as creating the means to do so. I fear not the “talent”, or the creative processes that are required for my sanity, or to paint a beautiful picture of the natural elements of this splendid planet.. I feel soo lucky to have been born here. This globe is beautiful beyond wordly description; that is why I must do what I do. The far reaches of this planet’s wilderness are my calling. This can cost a lot. Financially, yes, but this not what my voice speaks. These places come as a cost in regards to how one can handle the pressures of our given society and how one perceives self and how, not to behold, the “values” that we have been so engrained in believing. Why must we live the way most do? Can it be “acceptable”, by one’s family and peers, to embrace the beauty of the planet before us, to, perhaps, live as our ancestors did, to love all creatures, wether or not they are located in the food chain above us or not. To see and to feel the wind; to be there at that moment in time?

These are the questions and reasonings I behold, not to stroke an ego of self in regards to media or self promotion, but to truly empower one’s self as a Human; a human lost on a planet ruled by a species gone mad.

On certain terms, the living in a  city has been good for me. It has re-shown me the path that we ALL are on and the one that I must follow.  To recognize the destructiveness of our behavior.

I tend to “think” with my heart; my brain merely functions as a overseer to what needs to happen at a given moment in order to accomplish a task at hand, and nothing more. Heart is what guides.

What gets you off most: the thought of the new iphone 5 coming out, or what your heart might feel sitting or walking or riding a bicycle through hours of the most torrential rain storm in recent memory? Can you smell the odor of the trees coming alive with quench of the moisture, or do you merely quander at the thought of what your peers may think of your latest achievement? These are genuine questions that beckon the prose: Am I here to fully realize and experience the whole  of what we really have to offer one another and the planet as a whole, or are we here to simply entertain ourselves through the current form of technology?

I think not.