Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Keeping the Lights On

You have to be flexible when running your own business.  If you believe in your product you have to do whatever you have to do to keep the lights on.
I believe in the future of everyday cycling (i.e. using a bicycle as an everyday form of transportation) and I believe in the future of American clothing manufacture, so I continue to supply everyday cycling clothing produced from the finest materials all cut and sewn in a small workshop here in Seattle.
I'm finishing up a six foot diameter red oak round table for Orcas Island Winery, yeah it isn't clothing, but it's something that I can do to keep Greenlite moving forward, doing what we do.
Cleaning up the top edges

Monday, April 28, 2014


There comes a time in your life when you have to be honest about your abilities, your talents, and your ambition. 

I took up bicycle racing at the advanced age of 47, and over the past three years I’ve discovered a true passion for the sport.  Over the past twenty five years I’ve done a lot of what the guardrail crowd would deem “thrill seeking,” though I would dub it more “thrill avoidance,” but none of that so-called crazy stuff has yielded the excitement of riding at 27mph in a pack during a bike race.  It’s a thrill, no doubt about it, and I seek it like a tweaker seeks a score.  During a recent race, in the heat of the fight, I turned to my buddy Paul and said, “man I love this shit,” he nodded as a little spit rolled off his chin.  I wish that I could say that I love bike racing because I win, but that isn’t the case.
Even if you have a passion for something there comes a point where you have to ask yourself “what the hell am I doing here.”  When it comes to bike racing I’ve decided that “what I’m doing here” is being a player.

Bike racing is a weird sport in that there is a lot of sneakiness to it.  Some would call it “cleaver riding” or “racing smart” I just call it sneaky.  Imagine climbing a mountain with a partner and you break trail all day and then suddenly ten feet from the summit your partner runs around you and starts dancing on the summit saying “I won I won.”  Well that’s bike racing.
I’ve decided not to sit in the back of bike races, not to suck wheels but instead to ride at the front, push the pace and be ready to support my teammates.  This is what I call being a “player” someone who is actively in the race from the opening whistle to the final bell.

Reputation means a lot to me (my biggest fear is causing a crash and then being labeled as “that guy”) and because I’m not going to have a reputation as a winner I want to be seen as a guy who shows up fit and ready to race and goes out every time ready to work hard and ride a legit race.
It’s all about being legit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Grand Fondo Goldendale

The best word to describe both Steve and myself following the Ronde Von Palouse bike race is wrecked.  The toll from being dropped from my last two races was taking a serious mental toll – bike racing is awesome, chasing alone or with maybe another guy for thirty miles sucks.  Anyway that’s fodder for another blog post.  In addition to the mental degradation I’d been pushing my no longer twenty eight year old body too hard: racing, training, skiing – all done too hard and too often had worn me down.
Why then would the two of us elect to drive four hours to the south central Washington town of Goldendale to do a ninety mile hilly, windy Grand Fondo?  I doubt either Steve or I could give a satisfactory answer to that question, but regardless we got in the car and drove to Goldendale; we had planned it that way so that’s what we did.

Steve chefing up in the sweet suit
Goldendale is a sleepy town into which we rolled hungry, but without appetites.  Neither the weird bar that claimed to serve burgers nor the Mexican restaurant seemed appealing, so instead of going straight to dinner we checked in at the hotel.  Thank God I paid the extra five bucks for the suite – the sweet suit we called it.  The sweet suite had a refrigerator, an oven, a stove, pots, pans, plates, everything we needed; we headed to the local grocery store.
After a shower and a massive dinner of pasta, sausage and bread that filled in most of my empty spaces I went to bed thinking that the next day just might be doable.

Cold and clear at the start
We awoke to a slightly cold but clear sky.  Screw it, let’s do this thing and let’s do it with a smile.  Steve and I filled up on as much of the complimentary hotel breakfast as our bellies would hold all the while picking the brains of two other riders.  They were seasoned Fondoliers (a made up word but I like it), and they seemed extraordinarily chill, not the intense Type A’s one finds at sanctioned bike races.
The ride started from the local high school and I met up with a couple of guys I knew from cyclocross as well as a father of a girl on my daughter’s gymnastics team.  I looked across the parking lot to see a familiar kit: it was Monica from my bike team; she had come with a couple of gals on the Group Health team.

Off we went on a neutral rollout through town, rigor mortis had definitely set it.  The crisp morning chill actually felt invigorating - the start of a beautiful day – but my legs were D-E-A-D dead.  Steve, on the other hand, was riding fresh as a daisy. 

This was a relatively small Grand Fondo, about one hundred and twenty riders, but it seemed to break up into predictable groups within the first few miles.  Out front you had the fifteen or twenty “racers” then you had the twenty or so “deliberate riders” guys who were riding hard but not necessarily racing, then you had the recreational riders, then you had the folks on mountain bikes.
I, along with Monica’s friend Marsa, fell in with the deliberate pack, while Steve bridged across to the racers.  At this point I figured that Steve and I would be riding separately, and I settled in for a long day.  Thankfully within a few minutes Steve rolled back to Marsa and myself, “fuck that” he said.

We were in a group of about a dozen riders and strange as it may seem every time we hit the gravel (there was about twenty miles of unpaved road on this ride) the pace would shoot up.  The Grand Fondo was put on by Vicious Cycle Promotions and every time we’d hit the dirt these five or six guys in Vicious Cycles kits would blast on by, but then they’d fade on the pavement.  Those 33mm cross tires inflated to 50 pisi were good on the gravel but they proved painfully slow on the road.  I rode 25mm Continental Gatorskins inflated to 100 psi, some of the downhill gravel was sketchy, but I’ll take that over sixty five miles of road on knobby cross tires anyday.
Steve, Marsa and I fell into a great rhythm, my legs were coming around, we were all riding consistent and strong and the wind, well it wasn’t that bad.  During races hills are my nemesis as I have yet to find that extra tiny little bit required to stay with the peloton over the top, but tone the pace down just one mile per hour and I can ride uphill all day.  I actually kind of enjoy it – it gives me a chance to look around and enjoy the scenery.

At the top of one such long hill we rode through the middle of a wind farm.  Instead of focusing on the steepness of the climb or the crappyness of the rutted dirt road I took in the view: Mount Hood, white in the distance, the Columbia River rolling below, a gentle breeze blowing over the hills of Central Washington, it was spectacular, all you had to do was look up.

Approaching the wind farm
After some rolling terrain, through which we picked up and dropped numerous riders we descended into the Columbia Gorge.  It was a fairly dramatic descent down twisty roads, and I made the most of the free mileage.  Steve later told me that he and Marsa were freaking out over the wild antics of the riders who surrounded me.  I guess I was focused on the road ahead and didn’t really pay them any attention, I thought all was cool.

The Lyle rest stop at mile fifty five was well-stocked.  Steve and I had brought our own food (more on that in another post) and had also prepared drop bags, but I just stood at one of the picnic tables shoving mini Pita Pit sandwiches into my mouth.

From the rest stop we had sixteen slightly uphill miles along the Klickitat River, Marsa, Steve and I caught up with a strong duo and we pushed a steady twenty mile an hour pace.  We had been warned about the hill at mile seventy two.  The hill was really no mystery: we were heading north and soon would have to head east toward Goldendale, and off to the right was nothing but a massive ridge line, we’d have to cross it one way or another.

At mile seventy two, just as predicted, we turned off the river road and literally hit a wall.  I had nothing but big gears and the pitch was nearly too steep to ride.  Within the first few hundred yards we passed a “Primative Road” sign and they weren’t exaggerating.  The ancient road was little more than a rutted jeep trail, the grade remained at least ten percent.  Riding on road tires meant that I couldn’t stand up to pedal – my rear wheel would just spin in the loose dirt.

Somehow, somewhere I got a second wind and it seemed like climbing became nearly effortless, I was rolling up the hill, no problem passing riders one by one.  It was weird, but not unheard of.  I’m used to riding long distances at a moderate pace and have learned how to fuel myself; my near constant ingestion of food was paying off. 

Steve finishing the "hill" Mt Adams in the distance
I waited a little bit at the top of the hill for Steve and Marsa, and then we finished the last sixteen miles of rollers together. 

All in all the weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful and the company impeccable.  By sticking to our plan Steve and I had managed to salvage our weekend and pull out a memorable ride.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Hell of the East

Two years ago I did this half gravel/half road race called the Ronde OHOP down near Eatonville, WA, and I absolutely loved it.  So it was with much enthusiasm and optimism that I signed up for the Ronde von Palouse.

The RvP is staged in the rolling, windy Palouse hills twenty miles south of Spokane.  It is a Roubaix-style race, meaning that the course contains both paved and unpaved sections.  The unpaved sections are rural gravel road, some of which is packed hard and some of which is loose, deep golf ball-size rock.

The main pre-race subject of conversation about the RvP revolves around tire selection.  The majority of the race is on asphalt, so you definitely don’t want to go with low pressure knobby cyclocross tires, but on the other hand 23mm road tires could either get sucked up in the loose gravel or end up sliced by a sharp rock.  I decided to mount some Continental Gatorskins onto my cyclocorss HED Belgium wheels, which I, though heavy, ended up a respectable compromise.

I checked the official web site the day before the race to discover that the course had been changed from three thirteen mile relatively flat miles to two rather hilly twenty three mile laps.  The revised course had more hills, but less gravel.

The Cat 4 race didn’t start till ten after eleven, and Steve and I showed up with nearly two hours to spare.  We’d spent the night in a Spokane motel, and had each ingested gut bombs at the airport Denny’s.  I’d had banana pecan pancakes – a choice I would make again.

I wanted to get in a good warm-up so I took a spin on some nearby gravel – all systems were go – and then I jumped onto the trainer for a good thirty five minute workout.

The race started with a big downhill followed by a big uphill, which I climbed fine, no problem.  A couple of guys rolled off the front and found myself in the no-man’s-land between the peloton and the breakaway.  I knew the guys in the break, and knew that I couldn’t match their pace, so I eased back and was absorbed by the group.
Not twenty feet of flat on this crazy race
Next we hit a series of nine rollers.  A few guys up front were really hitting the climbs hard, we’d crank at max RPM down and then punch it up, max RPM down and then punch it up.  Come about the fifth or sixth roller the group was really breaking up, and this is when I lost touch.  I jumped on the wheel of another lost soul and we really drilled it up a slightly flattish portion trying to catch on, but no luck.  I eventually lost that guy but then partnered up with a strong guy from Fisher Plumbing.

My teammate, Steve, had managed to stay with the forward group, but within four or five miles I could see him up ahead riding solo.  We had nearly caught him when I saw him make a hard right onto the gravel – he was supposed to make a soft right.  The race volunteer yelled for him to turn around and he was just turning onto the actual race course when I came by.  Steve jumped on.  I had to keep my eyes on the road ahead, avoiding potholes and loose rocks, so I didn’t notice that Steve had gone off the back until the Fisher guy and I hit the pavement.

We pushed on as two and then picked up a third guy on the 5K long hill climb leading to the finish line.  When we rolled across the line on the first lap I was starting to get a second wind and thankfully didn’t succumb to the temptation to turn left, ride back to the car and take a DNF.

The three of us worked really well together through the rollers and onto the back stretch.  The Fisher guy and I ended up dropping the third guy somewhere near the start of the gravel section, and then I popped about three miles into the five mile stretch of unpaved road.  From here on it was a fight to the finish.  I just had to put my head down and turn the pedals.  The fact that I could see the finish line, up high on a hill, three miles in the distance made the final climb even more painful as it seemed as though the red banner just floated out in the distance like some mirage, never getting any closer.

I finally crossed the line, happy to have finished the race.  Steve showed up a few minutes later and we loaded the car and headed to Goldendale for the Grand Fondo wondering how on earth were we going to manage ninety miles and six thousand feet of climbing the very next day.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Never before had I worked so hard for so little.  My strategy for the three lap Vance Creek Road Race  was to start easy – roll with the group – for the first trip through the farm road in order to preserve my legs for the climb.  When we hit the highway I was near the back – a stupid place to be – so I started moving up, and, dare I say, I was doing okay as we rolled past the feeding station.  As the grade steepened I started losing a few places here and there, but it was on the final climb to the finish line where I lost contact.  Looking back I’m kicking myself – dang dude if you would have just dug that tiny bit deeper you would have made it.  Maybe I’m just getting to be an old fart with an old heart but during every race I go through a twenty to thirty second period wherein I just can’t catch my breath and my heart feels like it’s going to explode – once that passes all is cool and it doesn’t happen again.  Usually when this happens I can roll with the pack and recover, but on Saturday it happened at the base of that final roller and damn I just didn’t have it.

Anyway I came over the top and there was a long line of stragglers in front of me.  Now I really threw down – snot flying – I had the throttle wide open when I made the right hand turn onto the downhill.  I figured just go all out and maybe I'd be able can catch the group turning onto the farm road.  No luck, but by the time I hit the farm road I was in a chase group of about seven or eight guys.  We were maybe one hundred yards off the back.  A big HSP guy and a little Starbucks guy really knew what they were doing, but these two other guys from a nameless team kept screwing the paceline.  They’d get to the front let up and ride two abreast – were they blocking?  The HSP and Starbucks guys were getting pissed but I tried to stay positive – “come on guys work together we can catch them.”  We picked up Paul who was solo and he joined on. 
Every time we got close to the lead group the mojo would fall apart – the stronger guys would get frustrated and try to bridge across, then they’d get gassed and fall back, we’d surge forward and then fade back.  When we hit the highway I really thought that we’d catch on, but then I started thinking, “dang when I hit that hill I’m going to be totally gassed.”

We turned right onto the climb and the follow car was gone – what the hell happened?  I turned to the HSP guy and said “goddamit.”  I was actually feeling strong at this point and dropped the other chase group guys and even passed a few stragglers from the lead group.  I was riding on the smoother shoulder as I passed one guy.  He said “there’s a lot of glass out there you might get flat.”  My response was “only if I’m lucky.”

I climbed feeling like a million bucks and at the top I was joined by the big HSP guy.  He said “I’ll work with you if you want.”  I said “yeah man we might catch them on the downhill.”  We went full bore down that hill – no coasting spinning as fast as our legs would go the entire time – but no cigar.  On the farm road we picked up a Donkalope rider and were picked up by an Audi guy and another guy.  We got a somewhat functional paceline going and pushed all the way to the final Km where we went every man for himself for the line.

Let me say it again – never before have I worked so hard for so little.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Prep Time

Why does it take me thirty minutes to get ready for a sixty minute bike ride.  I mean all my clothes are right there where I left them yesterday - on the bedroom floor.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Salute to the Spring Classics

As a salute to the cobbled hills that make up the European spring cycling classics my friend Dan and I did some rough-paved climbing of our own.

Here is Seattle's famous Post Alley, note the Gum Wall on the right, where you'll see a couple of folks adding to the collection.
This is the monster.  A cobbled climb up Queen Anne Hill.  My bike computer declared an incline of 23%.