Oh yeah, I have a blog.

Oh yeah, I have a blog…

I am sitting in Stumptown Coffee Roasters on SW 3rd Street in downtown Portland, Oregon. The famed Voodoo Doughnuts is a block away. I’m pretty sure Stumptown can be credited for re-inventing the coffee shop—making coffee and its culture stronger and hotter on a new level—making a way for other Portland shops that I’ve discovered such as Coava, Ristretto and Extracto to follow—as well as shops like Blue Bottle, Fourbarrel and Sightglass which were my regular haunts down in SF.

In here, the music is loud, decidedly alternative but presenting a pulse to the mix of Portlanders I am sharing the space with. There’s a long shelf of records on the wall and above the turntable a signed Lionel Richie record cover is proudly displayed…IMG_0311

There’s a scrambled looking artist next to me with a mad looking Moleskin full of what appears in my periphery to be a mix of poetry and prose. At the table past him a designer is working more comfortably on his MacBook Air, while an assortment of colored pens and a medium sized spiral notepad sit on the table beside him…IMG_0301

Across from me are the baristas—one blonde girl wearing a Life Aquatic like sailor get-up and one guy executing the Portland urban/sporty lumberjack look to perfection. It’s a serious thing here…IMG_0302

Further down the coffee bar, another creative type is rocking a bit of early Johnny Depp—in a white dress-shirt and black suspenders with messy, shoulder-length black hair—without the Pirates of the Caribbean beard and moustache. In the window behind him a collection of bicycle messengers—happy, free, chatting and enjoying their morning together…IMG_0314

Just like my messenger friends in SF though the added benefit for these guys to sip their coffee is they’re keeping warm. It’s cold out and they’re already dampened by their ride into work. Their bikes are just outside…IMG_0316

Yep, I live in Portland, Oregon now and thanks to the mug and half of drip coffee I’ve just had, you’re reading a post on the VeloCouch blog. A few months ago I did a very un-Portland thing and stopped drinking coffee. I had become too dependent on it as two to three mugs of Portland strong will do that to you. I’m not likely to return to the addiction after today–it’s just a temporary relapse–but for now the warm buzz and image of these messengers has me thinking about my love of bikes and bicycling. I also don’t know if I’m ready for to resurrect this blog with regular posting again, but we’ll see. There’s only so much time in the day and I’m a father now.

Lately, when I’m not pursuing my career interests or medicating myself with bike rides and the increasingly regular run, I’m spending as much time as I can with my boy and his Mama (Wifey). From my perspective, being a parent is EFFING FUN. Wifey and I make a good team and I am happy young Finley is getting what I consider to be a idyllic start in life. Huge thanks to Portland! You are, a good town for babies.

Anyhow—this blog is about bicycling and the bunch of blogging nothing from me since February behooves me to report that I’ve done a ton of bicycling since. Road riding has continued and my explorations of the surrounding territories will carry on for quite sometime. There are so many fantastic and beautiful roads around here…so many! My favorite road ride so far may be the ride from Portland to the top of Larch Mountain—so long as you travel between central Portland and Troutdale along the Columbia River. There’s an awesome bike path that makes the mileage thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve tried several routes cutting through all the suburbia as an alternative and faster route, but will I officially forego those efforts. They sucked.

Mountain biking!

I managed to put together an insanely good 29er trail/enduro bike this past spring. I’ve ridden it in Hood River at Post Canyon, at Sandy Ridge several times and downstream from here in Scappoose. Uh, the bike is a little too much fun. Formerly a “I’ve been riding for years and I can do anything on a 29er hardtail” kind of a guy, the enduro bike has completely changed the way I think about mountain biking. I’m still charged by my cross country roots and will always be interested in pedaling and climbing as much as I can, but boy howdy have gravity fed aspects of the riding I’m doing now compelled me to get “good” on a whole new level. On the dirt shredding continuum of “gnar,” I’m now interested in going faster and bigger, but staying true to form, I want to learn how to do it cleaner and smoother than ever before. This means using the advantages of the larger wheel with full-suspension combination to search for traction where I never knew traction existed by aggressively riding new lines—skipping, gliding, sometimes sliding and mostly carving over, across and around obstacles—like snowboarding on a powder day. It is, fun.

And cyclocross…well what would you expect?

One of the most compelling factors in the decision to move to Portland was to enjoy a new and reputedly better cyclocross scene and community, but I had no idea. It is so freaking good here and I have had so much fun! Starting in September with Tues and Wednesday night races and on weekends with the killer Grand Prix series, which rivaled any of the series that I am used to in CA. I could have raced a whole season’s worth by October 1st, but I held back. I knew that racing cyclocross in Portland is all about the Cross Crusade. Well, again I didn’t really know what to expect and again it proved to be a big friggin deal.

Every race is as big as the only UCI sanctioned professional race that I have done—CrossVegas—with 80 or more starters. And the competition, although 95% locally based, is remarkably good. It’s exciting to realize that I am going to become a much stronger cyclocross racer living and racing here. Did I ever mention my goal to get better and better at this sport into my forties? Totally possible!

Of course I’ve made claims like this before, but I hope to post a season re-cap within the month sharing more about the awesomeness which is my new cyclocross team at Ren Cycles. I also want to write a post about my new race routeen—which may serve as a handbook for racing dads with infant kids. There are certain challenges involved for racing parents. It’s all good though…Finley was born first race of the year last season and was a newborn pup tucked cozily in to Mama’s baby carrier all season. This season he’s a one year old and his life at the races is a little more impressionable. As a preview for the future post which really should be written, here’s a shot of my little lad getting his heckle on…IMG_0236

Portland is Trending

How do I know? Well, because the VeloCouch is being spotted in Portland and Portland is being spotted on Strava. What else is there? Check out these screen captures…

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In case you don’t recognize the scenery, the first image clearly features a runner on the banks of the Willamette River, clearly. And the later two feature runners in Portland’s Forest Park. That’s nuts! Strava followed me from San Francisco to Portland! And even though this is a cycling blog and I shouldn’t admit it, since moving to Portland I’ve actually enjoyed several runs through those very trees, on that very trail–which is Wildwood Trail…duh!

Heck, I’ve even enjoyed running in the snow…

Macleay Snow Run

Anyway, this is all pretty interesting. And, are you stalking me Strava? You cheeky little devil!

Now, are you ready for a final WOW? Do you remember Eric J. Herboth, the aforementioned international man of mystery? Well rumor has it that he has been residing in Portland, and it would appear as if he is making sneak appearances on Strava himself…

EJH Spotting

Exploring new horizons!

My passion for bicycling has several layers, but riding bikes has always appealed a great deal to my curiosity as an explorer. Bicycles get you out into the world, allow you to negotiate a variety of terrain, and enable you to cover significant amounts of ground–all at a pace that leaves you better connected with your surroundings.

I’m feeling pretty happy to have moved to Portland, Oregon. It’s beautiful here!

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A Quick Catch-Up

What up VC Blog friends! It’s been a while, but how about a quick update before carrying on again with a great deal of excitement? Sounds good to me too. Ready, go…

Autumn in San Francisco was fantastic! It always is. Speaking of which, did I ever share the fact that Wifey and I were expecting a baby? Oh, well it turned out to be a little boy named Finley who was born one day back in September. No big deal. Meet the luckiest, most spoiled and loved kid we’ve ever heard of…IMG_0306

Cyclocross season was as fun as always, even though my arch-rival Philip Mooney (also one of my best man-crushes) and I hardly raced each other. I only got to battle him twice this season–once in Santa Rosa and once in the Bay Area Super Prestige Night Race (shown below)–and he barely beat me both times. In the meantime, I managed 13 starts this season out of which I scored 9 top-tens, a handful of podiums and 1 win. I was happy to have won the race hosted at a winery. I traveled home with so much tasty wine. And with huge thanks to my sponsor City Cycle, here are some photos from another highly successful cyclocross season…IMG_5326IMG_0986

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As for winter in San Francisco, global warming and the onset of a terrible drought has made the weather frightfully enjoyable. Not all a good thing, but it did make for sunny and dry bike riding.

The holidays were awesome too!!! So much eating. So much! And lots of time spent enjoying this sort of thing…IMG_5760

Told you he’s spoiled. Shown there disgruntled, due to the lack of attention he was receiving that day.

And then, we moved from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon…IMG_6067

For those of you who are not familiar, Oregon is the heavily wooded state that is north of California. It may be helpful for you to think of it as “Extreme Northern California.” Well, it’s awesome and…HOLY CUSS!!! This blog just turned a corner and started a dramatic, new and exciting chapter.

A San Francisco Factory Tour at DODOcase

As VeloCouch blog readers and Facebook followers are well aware, I am a big supporter of companies who produce innovative, high-quality products, particularly those companies who produce the products themselves, locally and sustainably.

In fact, I use products and services like this whenever and wherever I can because what’s better than buying from people living and working close by, who are members of your community and whose livelihood depends on their ability to provide the best value and service possible? Products from companies like this are often better, and the bottom line for me is that they make me happy. Well, yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the San Francisco factory of DODOcase and I was truly inspired by the experience…

As a participant in an event called OpenCo, I was in a group of six attendees who were fortunate to be able to visit DODOcase for a factory tour where company President and Co-Founder Craig Dalton was our guide. It was inspiring!

We learned the company’s story, and how, with conviction and belief in a seemingly insane idea, they accomplished a number of improbable feats and eventually fell face-first into their own success – re-purposing the art of traditional hard-back book bindings to make innovative, artistic and completely cool cases for modern e-readers, tablet computers, smartphones, etc. And they have done it all right here in San Francisco. If you’re unfamiliar with their products, I highly recommend you check them out…

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A few shots that I took during our tour…

Real San Franciscans making real San Francisco products.
The tricky part is the intricate production of CNC machined bamboo trays that neatly and securely hold a user’s electronic device within each DODOcase. It was amazing to see the complexity of how these “simple” cases come together.
What’s this…the folks at DODOcase are into bicycles? No wonder I love this company!!!
DODOcase uses old-fashioned techniques and machinery in the making of their products. They are artisans–focused on their craft.
You can see attention to detail in every step of DODOcase’s production process.
This press is used to emboss the DODOcase logo on the back of their cases. Its operation was demonstrated for our group. It’s a beautiful machine with an amazing and smooth motion.

Triple Crown 2013, Day Three (The Tamalpa Runners Mount Tam Hill Climb)

Triple Crown 2013, Day Three: Contenders leave their bikes at home in order to take on Mount Tamalpais–for the third day in a row–as participants of The Tamalpa Runner’s Mount Tam Hill Climb. Since 1980 members of the Tamalpa Runners and guests have met on Labor Day morning at 8AM under the depot clock in downtown Mill Valley. The objective: a foot race to the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais–choosing the most direct route possible.

This year the race was attended by roughly 100 athletes, out of which only 7 of us lined up as continuing participants in the weekend’s Triple Crown series.

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The run heads straight out of downtown Mill Valley, up a steep staircase, up steep streets, to the end of the neighborhoods and onto the Tamalpa Trail. This photo shows one of a few “mellow” sections along the Tamalpa route. The rest of the trail is washed out, rutted and/or rocky. In less than three miles the hill climb route ascends 2500 feet.
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Action shot. :)
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And eventually you get here. I definitely had to put my phone back in my pocket for this section. The last pitch of the race is barely managed on all fours as runners climb up a wash, pulling themselves through oleander and over boulders. “The most direct route.”
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As you finally reach the lookout, your clock stops once you tag the metal door.
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A beautiful place to catch your breath.
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Looking from the finish line straight down the race route towards downtown Mill Valley positioned in the very top of this photo. Super crazy! Super FUN!!!
Triple Crown Crew (Day 3)
After a long jog back down the mountain, The Triple Crown crew celebrates their achievement.

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Triple Crown 2013, Day Two

Triple Crown 2013: Day two…

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Another day, another early GGB crossing. This time on my cyclocross bike.
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And another beautiful ride through Sausalito.
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At the start line: The infamous Roger Minna. Behind him in green and white is Sean McFadden. These two guys have completed the Triple Crown every year since its inception.
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Day two starts with a neutral roll-out to the bottom of Eldridge Grade so that we can climb Mount Tam on the dirt.
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And after another hard pedal to the top, day two is celebrated with mimosas.
The group at the finish. Jim Hewett was fastest today, Peter Lucas second and the rest of us...
The group at the finish. Jim Hewett was fastest today, Peter Lucas second.
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The lady’s champion Hillary Diehl is crowned.

Triple Crown 2013, Day One

Introducing what has just become one of my favorite events of the year, “The Triple Crown!”

Last year on Labor Day weekend, I attended day one of this small, underground cycling event which is a hill-climb series that a crew of my Mill Valley friends have been participating in for a number of years now. This year I was sure to do all three days and I’m really glad I did…

Triple Crown 2013: Day One

Early morning GGB crossing, aboard my road bike.
Early morning GGB crossing, aboard my road bike.
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It was a beautiful day for an early start.
The morning's challenger waits on the horizon.
The morning’s challenger waits on the horizon.
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Our small group of competitors is ready at 8:00am, sharp!
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Halfway through the race to the top of Mount Tam, the lead horse is my hard-charging friend Steve Ginsler.
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The youngster Peter Lucas was the fastest up this time. I got 6th. That barely matters though! The reason to participate in the Triple Crown is for the experience. There’s something special about enjoying a hard ride with a bunch of your friends and then enjoying the Saturday event’s signature refreshment (a bloody mary) atop Mount Tam…all before 9AM.

Reports of Triple Crown days two and three coming soon!

-MT