Friday, March 29, 2013

To Be Seen

It never ceases to amaze me when I see what appear to be fairly intelligent people riding bikes in Seattle at night wearing dark cloths.  To each their own I suppose, but I have been have been hit by a car at a high rate of speed.  I feels like shit and takes functional years away from your life even it doesn't kill you.

I get the whole hip European thing about jaunting around on your your bike from one fabulous engagement to the next dressed in business casual with no helmet,  and don't get me wrong I would love for Seattle to look much more like Coppenhagen.  But hell Man, this ain't even Portland.  It is my opinion that in Seattle a fellow needs to be visible and on his toes if he wants to live long and prosper as a cyclist.

I am not here to take sides on any issue and whole-heartly wish my bicycling ninja friends well, I hope your strategy proves efficacious.    I however, very much like to be seen when I am riding by drivers and other cyclist alike.  I have a really great wife,  a growing family, wonderful friends and some big plans in the future that don't involve colliding with tons of metal and plastic at any rate of speed; I enjoy being alive and highly functional.  With this in mind, Skookum Jacket recently got a little high visibility upgrade.  Unquestionably a bit rough, but for my first go I am not ashamed of the work.

I also must say that the really nice thing about having old gear is that it gives you the courage to experiment with modifications and have little fear of ruining the garment.  At the end of he day if project  really goes south, the piece is more than recycle worthy already and Mom has been telling me to quit dressing like and an orphan for most of my life anyhow.

Kloshe Konaway, Kloshe Nanitch.


Supplies:  3M reflective tape, seam grip and cutting tools.  Alcohol is handy for cleaning glue off sharp things.

Stencils.  Note to knuckleheaded husbands:  Don't Orange Sharpie your wife's cutting boards.

Learning opportunity 1:
During phase one, I seam-gripped over the entire letters for added durability.  Little did I know that a coat of rubber cement would all but eliminate the reflective properties of the 3M tape.   A week later I added the arm strips and corrected the issue by only seam gripping the edges.  The above photo demonstrates the vast difference in visibility and exposes the need for additional work.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Glove Love

Several years ago I picked up a pair of OR Stormtracker Gloves at Second Ascent for thirty-five bucks.  They were in the clearance bin and I was looking for a reasonably warm glove with exceptional dexterity to climb frozen waterfalls. Outdoor Research is a local company with a reputation for making gear that is designed to function well and built to last; I felt pretty confident in my purchase.

To me, the best part of ice climbing is sitting in a warm  hut with a buddy sipping whiskey reminiscing the mountainside ribbon of ice that you just ascended; definitely type two fun.  The truth is that ice climbing is really quite miserable, dangerous and nearly nonexistent in my region of Cascadia.  Despite the implicit discomfort and hazard of the pursuit, the crux of the issue for me did not lie in the preposterousness of scaling melting waterfalls with really sharp shit protruding from all four appendages of my body, but in the absurdity of driving ten hours for a half-dozen pitches of unreliable ice. The contradictions abound; pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere to climb frozen water while bitching about the ever-shortening and warming winter season.  Hmmm, go figure?  Biking and skiing are both more accessible, sustainable and enjoyable winter pursuits in my not-so-humble opinion.

In any case my career as an ice climber fizzled and the Stormtracker's soon made their way into the general use glove rotation.  I commute daily to work by bike in Seattle and these are my go-to glove for the chilly damp mornings of fall, through the temperate somewhat miserable maritime winter, and into the crisp and occasional clear days of spring.

I have chopped cords of maple in these gloves, and swung ice tools into perfect sixty degree alpine ne've.  I have hunted deer in freezing October rains, and bounced perfect powder turns between three hundred year-old firs with these gloves wrapping my hands.  I have traversed both the Olympic and Cascade Mountain Ranges in these gloves, and run home from parties too inebriated ride with the Stormtracker's insulating my little sausages.   I can conservatively state that I have between five hundred and one thousand days of use on this single pair of gloves.   They cover the range for a guy who likes to do a lot of different stuff and thinks speciality outdoor gear is really kind of stupid.

After years of daily use and frequent abuse, the Stormtracker's are just beginning to show their age.  Seams are still intact, zippers still function well and the leather palms are just beginning to wear through.  They continue to do a remarkable job of absorbing snot with limited chaffing as well.  

Once in a while I run across a piece of gear that is so good that I am almost afraid to buy it again or recommended to a friend.  This is how I feel about the Stormtracker's.  It's not that I fear anyone wouldn't be completely satisfied with the glove, but rather that they wouldn't live up to the nearly legendary status I have built.  Honestly though, I have never owned a finer, more durable or versatile pair of gloves.

If I get half the life out of my next pair of Stormtracker's, I will admittedly be a bit disappointed; but I will still feel got a great deal and think you might surmise the same.

Kloshe Konaway-