Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gear Esoterica

No, I don't mean gear a la BPL. Or even paddling or ski gear (collectively known as WHITE water gear).

I mean gear as in bike gears and ratios between front and back for the kind of riding I like.

MC has shown me the amazing La Marg-rie combo and I want to put on a freewheel, one that will match my speed and terrain.

Last summer I experimented with a Middleburn ProTrials bashguard 16t up front and a White Industries DOS ENO freewheel 16/18t in the back. For shifting I used a wee old (1972) Campagnolo Nuovo Record der that is very short cage. What does that give me? It gives me shifting, simplicity, and plenty of clearance on brushy trails and rocky beaches/gravel bars. It gave me the two gear ratios I used the most -- or close to them -- from the old hellbiking days: 1.00 and 0.89

That set up was great on the beaches of the Lost Coast and would go on my bike again for that trip, except that I did want a slightly higher gear too: mostly to keep up with Doom.

Right now, daily I ride the same DOS ENO out back and a Middleburn double up front, 27 by 38. That combo works well for town riding summer and winter (for me). Summer time and when the winter roads are well plowed and icy I use the big chain ring on roads and the little chainring on trails. Winter time I use the 27t front and the 18t rear for soft trails and the 27t and 16t rear for harder ones. It's amazing (to me) what a gear difference of 0.2 does on "slow" surfaces like snow and wilderness trails and "trials".

But now I am planning a wheel-set for something more mountainous. My experience when off-trail (or animal trail/gravel bar riding) in wilderness mountains, is that most of a day is either down a drainage or up a drainage. In other words, I could get by with one DOS freewheel all day.

Heading up a drainage or riding caribou trails of North Slope gravel bars most of the day? Then go with a 17/19 t DOS in the back and 18 t Middleburn up front, giving nice low spin gears of 1.06 and 0.95. Heading downstream all day, where the major variability is going to be sand spinning or cobble plowing vs vegetated smooth pea-vine bars? Then go 16/18 t in back to push 1.00 and 1.13 ratio.

How to carry both? two rear wheels. One run as front one run as back, swapped appropriate to the day's anticipated riding.

Of course my dream rig would be a 20/16t White Industries DOS ENO as that would give two versions of gearing that differs by 0.2.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Doug Buchanan: May 19, 1947 -- February 7, 2012

Seven nights before Valentine's Day, while the temperature climbed 80 degrees from -50 to freezing in Fairbanks, Doug Buchanan died.

Doug lived many lives, all connected, all enacted thoughtfully, artfully, meaningfully. He enjoyed the respect and company and humor of many, many, mostly in Fairbanks, but also around the world, where he was famous.

Famous for rabble-rousing, for elevating freedom above safety, security, control.

A revolutionary who did not call us to arms -- us being climbers, mostly in Alaska, but elsewhere, too -- not to arms, but to action, to take responsibility for ourselves and so protect our freedoms.

He was really the first to say that while conservation is critical, mountain freedom will be curbed in the name of conservation.

He was right, of course, as he almost always was during mid-winter party talk, serious parties, serious talk, but witty, too, and humor in those smiling blue eyes.

Yes he was right about the inevitable tension between land managers and freedom-seeking adventurers (like you, brother). This conclusion of Doug's came long before the Access Fund founders even sensed a problem.

In the mid 1980s Doug pioneered climbing insurance in this country. The Mountain Rescue Expense Fund was the first. It lived on for decades, protecting the runners, skiers, and packrafters of the Wilderness Classic.

Doug also pioneered climbs in the Alaska Range and Wrangells, especially first winter ascents. He specialized in the nameless, the unknowable, the cold and the desperate, the lonely.

His many first ascents, while not solo, remained anonymous, purposefully protecting the sensibilities of those who followed, so that they, also, might savor the feeling of first. While Doug must have craved and received recognition and respect, as all humans do, he shunned making his personal conquests known.

Doug was a climber-skier-boater-skydiver-self-propelled-subsistence hunter for 40 years. He jumped out of hot-air balloons, rappelled into glacier bellies, lined his boat upstream and returned with it full of moose. Recently, he and a friend designed and built ice tower climbs in Alaska's Interior. One hundred miles from anyplace steep and wet enough to hold natural ice, they built and colored 150 foot towers of ice in psychedelic colors winter after winter.

Doug experimented with fabrics from the 70s-80s, lightweight fabrics he sewed himself in designs he imagined while pursuing wild, icy mountain and solo ocean adventures so far out of the league of everyone else that decades passed before others did the same. He knapped arrowheads, made museum-quality pipes and sculpture, and later kept incredible entertaining and provocative websites of stories and this and more.

Yes, a revolutionary, a visionary in ways, physical, metaphysical, and herbal, as some may recall (smiling if they happen to read this).

Doug served with the 7/17 Cavalry as platoon leader and helicopter pilot in Vietnam during the late sixties. Soon after, he grew a pony-tail and long beard to match. Head hair reached down his back, face hair his chest. Truth be told in later age, his beard was longer, and in the most recent photos I see the pony tail is gone, but the beard, the long, gray, full beard, an enigmatic blend of wisdom, counter-culture, and liberty shines in resplendent display.

He organized an Alpine Club recognized by the UIAA, sponsoring the likes of Todd Skinner to competitive climbing events. He served on the board of the NRA, too, but quit in disgust of what seemed to be self-serving elitists (just like East Coast climbers, yea?). He fought federal regulations and won.

Yes, he was a visionary. A mentor. And a friend.

More than that, he was a model of a man.

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