Beta Testing Empatica’s Embrace “Seizure Monitoring” Watch

embraceboxI was lucky enough to never have to take home economics in high school. I don’t really know what was taught in those classes, but I’ve read enough books and have watched enough television to know that there was a possibility that I would have been saddled with an egg, flour sack or an electronic doll for a week to practice being an unwed teen mother.

And I would have failed horribly.

I began beta-testing Empatica’s Embrace seizure alert watch at the end of February and since then have gotten lots of response, questions and comments from other Empatica funders, those with seizure disorders and otherwise, trying to figure out how I got this sweet gig and how they can get a hold of one of these babies themselves. First of all, let me explain what beta-testing is and why you shouldn’t be jealous of me.

Being a beta tester has been more of a commitment than I realized that it would be, but I have been absolutely committed to my uncompensated position. Why? Because the better they are able to make this product, the closer they can get to get it recognized as a medical device and not just as a wearable technology. As I am writing this, they have just begun the clinical testing to begin the approval process to have this device recognized by neurologists and medical institutions all while the beta-testers like myself are fumbling through the clunky beta software and giving feedback when applicable.

I have adjusted my lifestyle to accommodate being tethered to a Bluetooth-dependent watch, but it hasn’t been a completely terrible experience!


Being codependent and sending texts without being cognizant of it!

This is basically a “protoype” or kind of like a “dress rehearsal” so to speak. It’s not yet ready to be available on the market, but the company needs live testing with people who have the disorders in which they are trying to assist and monitor so they can improve the software. Because it’s not a finished model, it doesn’t have the battery capacity of a normal wearable and generally needs to be charged twice a day. I was definitely warned about this when I began the testing process, but it has still taken a little adjustment to get used to the charging cycle, and have killed it on numerous occasions.

I was told that because it’s a test model, I am not allowed to change out the thick, gray elastic strap the watch came with, which loosens with wear so I am constantly cinching it back up. If it is too tight, the diodes rub my skin until raw and peeling. Also, the elastic strap is a silvery gray, porous elastic material. IT might as well be white and velcro as it was begging to become filthy from the day I took it out of the box.

Empatica hasn’t pushed the finished app and I don’t even use the “teaser app” that they released on their blog for people that are waiting for their watches to arrive this summer/fall. I am using a special “beta app” which doesn’t allow me to see any of my own biofeedback. There’s a blurb about the “Empatica Mate” on their website, and that’s what I’m most excited about being able to use once I receive the finished model. This allows the wearer to see how their stress levels fluctuate throughout the day depending on their activities “like commuting by car vs. bike, meeting with your boss vs. a friend, and physical activity.” The final version of the watch will allow the wearer to customize a gentle vibration when their stress level is rising, for instance. I don’t get any of that.

What I have is constant vibrations when I get too far from my cellphone. The watch, like, I assume all wearables, is connected to your smart phone by Bluetooth and you need to have internet access for it to work. I don’t generally carry around my phone with me all the time. This has been a learning curve for me. However, I have made a positive discovery:


So there’s that. My loss of items has been greatly reduced since I have been wearing this watch over the past six weeks. The Bluetooth range on this model is. . . not so great. Not that Bluetooth has more than a 60 – 100 ft radius anyway. I find that the watch can’t see through skin or walls, so if I’m in the next room the quality of signal decreases dramatically or if I have my wrist tucked under my arm or am sleeping on top of my wrist, I can lose signal just from having body on top of the watch.

A lot of things can set the seizure alert off. And I have the patience and good nature to mark down which ones are false alarms and which ones aren’t. I’ve had to stop in the middle of working with my clients in the middle of workshops due to flailing my hands too grandiosely to excuse myself and text Brad quickly, “Not a seizure” due to an alert going off.

On my birthday, we went mountain biking and the watch sent Brad and called him 17 times with alert messages due to the off-road vibration simulating monoclonal seizures. If my breathing is slightly labored, for instance if I am somewhat agitated or have been running for a short period of time, I’ve had false positives reported. I have even had a false-positive sent when I had secretly gone to 7-11 to get a slurpee one hot afternoon during a long break from work while I was standing in the store tapping the air bubbles out of the frozen confection. So, the device is still a work in progress.

I’ve never been a person to have my cellphone on me at all times. Usually when I’m at work my phone stays on my desk or in my bag unless I need to check it.

Because I’m a damn good employee.

Damn it.

However, over the last several weeks, I have been finding that if I leave my office, even to go to the restroom which is right across the hall, I will go “out of range” which is only slightly annoying as if I’m out of range for too long, the watch will go into “Error” status which won’t auto-restart when I come back in range, unlike the “out of range” status. When I’m in “Error” status, I have to manually go onto my phone and turn the app off and on again and get the watch to reset.

Like I said, not a big deal, but just annoying.

The only feature that is usable by me on this beta watch is the actual “watch” feature. It’s very futuristic with a single white light illuminating the hour and a slowly pulsing blue light showing the minute. Even a co-worker, whom is color-blind was able to read it once I explained the hour vs minute feature.

You may be asking, does it work? Despite my jokes and tales of false positives, I was on vacation a couple weeks ago, walking down a sidewalk on a street in a city I was unfamiliar with, hungry, dizzy and disoriented – next thing I knew, I was being held in Brad’s arm as he was holding my VNS magnet to my hand to help me “swipe” myself for the umpteenth time.

My watch called Brad and notified him that I was going into an partial or absence seizure and was no longer keeping up with him during our walk. He was able to immediately turn around and retrieve my magnet from my ankle to assist me and after a few minutes of postical phase, I was able to continue on!

Am I thrilled?

Yeah. A little.

Product Review: Ibis Mojo HD

IMG_1055This is kind of a cheat as far as product testing goes. Holy cow it was a while ago; but some of you loyal fans may remember back around Christmas 2014, I won a pretty substantial prize from Fat Cyclist. Unbeknownst to me, for every copy of his latest book a person pre-ordered, they were entered into a drawing sponsored by SRAM and Ibis Cycles with proceeds of the book going to World Bicycle Relief. I failed to notice any of this going on as I just wanted to order the book for Brad for the holidays.

Long story short, I won my choice of any bike from the Ibis stables. After a ridiculous amount of deliberation, I decided on the Mojo HD, mostly because it would be a bike that I would never purchase for myself. Then, I went through the painstaking task of browsing the SRAM catalog and deciding on my components, wheelset, fork, etc.

Like a kid in a freaking candy store.

It took a few months for everything to get settled and delivered, straightened out and all. My health declined. I changed meds and I then I found myself a few days before my 30th birthday eating burritos with my good friend Todd at TFK Wheels here in Portland, Oregon while he ran the internal housing for the SRAM XX1 groupset. Brad and I had the majority of the bike built up, but there were a few things that we didn’t have the tools readily available. Todd’s knowledge and expertise makes me comfortable to have him work on any bike in my stable.

We go out to ride on April 17th. Here in Portland it ended up being a gorgeous, cloudless day in the high-60s. For my first full-suspension ride and to work out any of the kinks, Brad and I decide to head up to Powell Butte Nature Park, which is just 12 miles from downtown Portland (or 7 miles from my place, which is really more important.) I was stubbornly sure that I had been there before, but when we arrived at the parking lot, all that certainty went down the drain, because it was obviously unfamiliar. This then led to awkward feelings regarding the fact that I have lived in Portland for as long as I have and not been to this fantastic park I immediately fell in love with.

So, how was the ride? 


Brad surveying the route ahead

You have to remember it was my first time out on this bike. There was a lot of stopping for adjustment. We didn’t install the Rockshox Reverb Stealth seat post for my first ride, so I just ended up using a post I dug out from our parts bin. That probably wasn’t the best idea as it wasn’t keyed in to my specific height. I ended up stopping about half a dozen times to adjust my height and do saddle adjustments alone.

I am in love with the XX1 groupset. There was a slight shifting learning curve, but I have to tell you – the only other SRAM shifter I’ve used in the last couple years is the Apex, that albeit are road shifters, but comparatively – the XX1 is so much easier to understand and remember – smooth and rapid transitions, which are super important when you’re mashing through gravel and dirt.

It’s super nice.

Good suspension starts at the wheels and this bike is decked out with a set of carbon-tuned ROAM 60 wheelsets, mounted with a set of Maxxis Minions provided by Ibis. Once I got the ‘air pressure-to-terrain ratio’ figured out, the riding was comfortable and smooth. Despite my personal comfort, the seizure alert watch I’m beta-testing for Empatica alerted Brad 17 times of an “unusual activity” – yeah, it’s called physical exercise.

More on this newfangled seizure alert watch in another blog post, so stay tuned for that.

Nothing about the bike wasn’t amazing. (Did that make sense with the double negative? Uhhhh. yeah.) I tire a little easier than I used to, and am a bit out of shape, so we only did a couple hours or riding, maxxing out at 4.73 miles, according to Brad’s Apple Watch. We stopped a lot so I could fiddle things. We didn’t bring any water with us, not realizing that the parking lot is actually kind of a hassle to get to from trails.

What I need to tweak: my pedals. I love iSSi pedals and have been in the process of upgrading a lot of my older clipless pedals over to them. I personally purchased a set of the Off-Road Warriors to complete the bike. I did not adjust the spring tension at all after or before they were installed. That’s a typical thing for me to realize when I’m panicking downhill at high speeds on switchbacks and unable to brake because I can’t unclip.

It’s the little things.

I was given a saddle from Ibis which I ended up using. First and maybe last time for off-roading. I personally like narrow saddles with little to no padding. This saddle just seemed a little more like it would enjoy life on one of my road bikes instead of pummeling my crotch. Though this situation may be alleviated once the dropper post is installed.

Looking forward to bring you more bikey news from BIKELEPTIC HQ as the weather gets nicer to stay tuned!

BIKELEPTIC’s Colonoscopy Adventure – SFW Edition

(This article has nothing to do with cycling or epilepsy. It does have to do with physical health, especially a genre that no one talks about and that everyone should go through at some point; especially to get regular screenings after the age of 40. Cyclists may be more susceptible to issues “down there” due to long duration of sitting, inadequate air flow and humidity, infections, rashes, cysts, etc.)

“Liquid diets” are an excuse to eat nothing but jello for days.

As many of my articles begin, if you’ve been a long time follower, you will know that I’ve whined over my ailments for quite a while. A few years ago my primary care physician sent me to an allergist. That had done wonders in alleviating many of my earlier symptoms. This last year, however, my dietary issues have gotten worse.

I have tried everything.

I went back to an allergist to get a full panel this time and to see what other options were available to me. I have learned that the allergist is basically useless to me. After stabbing my arm 40-something times and sitting there for half an hour, so itchy. . . so very itchy. . . the allergist concluded that the entire test was INVALID! “Inconclusive,” he declared, and asked if I had ever been diagnosed with dermatographia. Pretty much the exact way I found out that I had Raynaud’s Disease.

So there’s that.

I even went to a naturopathic doctor. And you know what I got for the two hours wasted on the NPResque consultation? $120 in homeopathic remedies and the recommendation to take baths with epsom salts. For those of you that don’t know what homeopathic remedies are; they’re a gazillion times water to point-zero-trillion whatever it says it is. It’s like putting a drop of mercury in the ocean and saying it will heal everyone in the world of mercury poisoning. Homeopathic remedies are snake oil – and I don’t know how it is even legal for that quack to be working at my hospital.

Maybe I should take a soothing bath to zen out after my hippie-doctor rage, but instead I was determined to find out what was wrong with me so I kept pestering the doctors. I thought maybe it had to do with my fibromyalgia, which I still wasn’t receiving any medication for, six months after being diagnosed. Some of my rage stemmed from my neurologist; whom upon my rheumatologist deferring my fibro meds to my neurologist due to my polypharmocology, flat out refused to provide me a medication that would not only alleviate joint and muscle pain that is crippling and debilitating to me on a daily basis, but could also eliminate my seizures or reduce my ridiculous amount of anti-epileptics I take. No. No. Instead, this neurologist wanted me to come in for a week-long ‘epilepsy monitoring unit‘ stay, despite the fact that my seizures have been stable and my focus has been on my fibromyalgia pain and my possibly related dietary distress; which up until then I had decided was a byproduct of my fibro. This was really the third strike of lousy, unsympathetic, shitty moves this neurologist made, so I decided to seek other opinions. It took me two months to get into another neurologist. In that time, I met with my rheumatologist again, who went ahead and put me on a fibro med, actually understanding the absurdity of taking a week off of work without pay. (For the record, my new neurologist wasn’t much better – and I am pretty sure he isn’t actually an epileptologist at all.)


Poster I stare at hypnotically the entire time the GI doctor is talking to me. (Click to download PDF)

I finally made an appointment with a gastroenterologist! It took me about a month to meet with this doctor, and the day before I went to go meet with him, Portland got hit with the most incredible snow storm. (Don’t make fun of us, Minneapolis! We’re not equipped to deal with anything more solid than rain!) The roads were blocked. It was a shit-show. Dejected and in pain, barely able to (literally) keep my shit together, I called and rescheduled. Thankfully they didn’t charge me for a cancelled appointment under 24 hours, which my insurance and the clinic loves doing. I believe the weather allowed for some flexibility in scheduling that day. Soooo. .  .three weeks later, I met with the GI specialist. . . and that day, I went home with some, ummm. . . ‘sample cups.’

Hilariously, but not really in a “ha ha” way – the day before my actual appointment, we ended up going to the emergency room. My gut pain was so bad, it was akin to when I was in the hospital for my appendix, except on my lower left side. I didn’t know what was going on, because, if you know anything about anatomy, except for the intestines, there’s nothing there! So, I have all sorts of speculations going through my head from worms to ulcers to cancer. Four hours of sobbing and writhing in the waiting room only to go back and have the doctor tell me that I’m dehydrated, my potassium is low and then give me something to help with the cramping and nausea. I could have stayed home for that. I have drawers full of meds for that. I was hoping for a CAT scan. I was hoping for an ultrasound. Something. I didn’t need to waste a bunch of money (not covered by insurance) to go to the ER to be told stuff I already knew, sitting for six hours in pain and not get any help. Time and energy wasted.

GI doctor also suggested we do some exploring. A little hands-on rotor-rooting to inspect for issues. He noted that if they find what they’re looking for in the “cups” (very gypsy-esque) then we can cancel the colonoscopy, otherwise he highly recommended it. I’m all for it. I’m desperate at this point. I couldn’t eat anything but broth without getting sick. I still can’t really eat anything but broth without the gut pain.

We set the date.

I pick up the tonic from the pharmacy for the “procedure.”

The scheduler gave me the option of various times ranging from morning to afternoon for my lower endoscopy. She said that some people like to do a half-day at work before coming in. Here’s a pro-tip. Schedule it in the morning. You will NOT be able to work in the morning, unless you work from a home office and your office chair is veritably a toilet. Once you go on that clear liquid diet and drink that horrible cherry-flavored, bitter concoction, you have about a 30 minute lead time do whatever it is that you need to do before you will be abruptly dismissing yourself to the washroom.


“You can’t have a superb bowel without Suprep Bowel!” – Morgan B. (Facebook comment)

I believe the only saving grace about having the procedure done in the afternoon is the time that you must take the bowel prep solution. Because my procedure was scheduled for 10:40am, my first dose was at 6pm and the second was set for 4:45am, with no more eating (which is a misnomer, because eating means broth, gel desserts, etc) or drinking after 6:30am. I ended up sleeping on the couch after my second dose as you have to chug 32oz of water within an hour and then will find yourself up and down a dozen times “cleansing.” I was able to nod off in half-asleep lucidly bizarre dream states for about 10 minutes at a time for the next few hours, waking every 20 minutes or so with an urgent need.

There was nothing said about “pre-procedure-showering,” but. . . you know. . . I kind of wanted to cleanse myself on the outside since my inside was as empty as I felt. So I stood there in the shower an hour before we needed to leave and let the hot water wash over me, staring at my fuzzy legs, neglected over the cold winter months and suddenly felt ashamed. I don’t know why. I have gone years before without shaving. I’ve had long, silky armpit hair in the past, such is the “hispter-feminist” trend presently. But for some reason, I felt awkward. I mean, traditionally if you’re going on a date and expecting “something more” out of it, you do some personal grooming – and though I shouldn’t care – I’m not going to see these people ever again in my life. . . but they’re going to see more of me than I have or will ever see in my life. . . I pulled out a razor and the shaving cream and hacked away at my legs.

Long story short, the next day I realized I missed the entire back (haphazardly so) of both my thighs – the exact place you pretty much didn’t want to miss as that’s exactly where they were staring at for the entire hour. But you know, you win some, you lose some. At least I made an effort.


Guests aren’t allowed in the back, so this is Brad’s all too familiar view.

Clinics are always amusing to me. I assume that they have the entire grocery list of allergies and medications that I take – especially if it is a place that I have worked with before, but alas. . . I have to lay there, trying to go through everything off the top of my head, curled up on a gurney, in a gown, cramping, wondering if there’s anything left in me. Wondering if it is possible that it will come out of me when I am unconscious. Pre-embarrassed by that thought, even though I would be unconscious and have no idea if it would happen or not. Having anxiety over thinking about that. Overcompensating for my panic by laughing too much and cracking stupid jokes with the nurses. Then the anesthesiologist comes in and finds out that I am allergic to eggs, which is an ingredient in the monitored anesthesia they use. So we have to go through the whole, “What happens when you eat eggs? Is it a real allergy or do you just not like them?” conversation. I’m already hooked up to an IV and what I assume is oxygen, but possibly nitrous oxide. Maybe I’m just nervous.

I don’t really remember a lot of what happens after that. The doctor comes in, asks me what my name and birthdate are. What I am there for. (All those cognitive questions.) Then the anesthesiologist pops up again on the other side of me and shows me a big ol’ syringe full of what looks like white frosting. He asks me if it looks familiar. The nurse is in the corner trying to look up what I have used in the past for previous operations. Then I remember him putting it in the IV, I’m looking down at it and he asks, “Are you waiting for it to start working?

Then a nurse opens the curtain my room as I’m waking up. It’s surreal. I’m back in the processing room. She gives me paper. I’m shaky. I’m confused. She tells me to get dressed, but I don’t really register it as I’m looking at the paper. Plus, she hasn’t lowered the bar on my gurney. I stare at the paper without really reading it. A few minutes later a nurse comes back and asks if I’m ready. “I forgot.” I mumble. She opens the curtain and lowers the bar for me. I hastily get dressed and half open the curtain to signal that I’m ready to go.

She let’s me use her arm to walk out. I’m wobbly. I’ve got the spins. No silliness anymore. I just want to sleep. And eat. I want to eat everything in the world. But I realize they still don’t know what’s wrong with me so I still have that going on for me.

Initial discovery was inflammatory bowel disease by way of the sample cups. After they did all the little biopsies and all, the formal diagnose is lymphocytic colitis. This is apparently a rare disorder and generally affects men and women in their 50s and older. Plus, there’s not a treatment for it – just another handful of pills.

Returning in March!

After a four month absence with absolutely no explanation – I didn’t call, I didn’t write, I didn’t post witty quips, I’m freaking back! Stay tuned for amazing tales of adventure, medical follies and as usual, all around BIKELEPTIC awkwardness.

UPCOMING EVENT: Powell’s Bicycle Small Press Night

11221701_1622357441322302_8289999210343437640_nBicycle Small Press Night
7:30 pm at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland OR

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Join Elly Blue, April Streeter, Jessie Kwak, Katie Proctor, Cat Caperello, Halley Weaver, and Gretchin Lair for the fourth annual Bicycle Small Press Night. This year we’re celebrating three new books:

The Culinary Cyclist (by Anna Brones, illustrated by Johanna Kindvall)

Pedal Zombies (edited by Elly Blue, featuring 13 feminist bicycle science fiction stories)

Our Bodies, Our Bikes (edited by April Streeter and Elly Blue, featuring over 50 authors and artists), a resource for women who ride bicycles and others.

More information on the Facebook Event page!

Review: Tonik Cycling Jersey

IMG_0158_1e5ce05f-a67d-4609-984c-a3204d1478fe_largeOne of the things that is an ongoing problem with being a woman for me (I promise I won’t go down the BIG list) is regarding athletic gear. When I purchase clothing from the major cycling companies that won’t be named in this article, I often feel like it’s just men’s clothing that has been altered according to generic schematic. “Oh, a woman has a shorter and narrower torso. They have skinnier arms. Also, let’s go ahead and make it pastel and slap some flowers on it. Because that’s what those baby makers like, right?” I don’t know who does the marketing and development for those male-centric companies, but I have personally sat in on several product development groups and have seen just how out of touch some of these agencies are. At the same time, I have seen how on par others are.

What excites me is finding products that are created, designed and developed by women and for women. This is not a huge conglomerate that sells bikes, components, and all matter of accessories. They sell jerseys, arm warmers, socks and their newest product which I haven’t seen in person yet; the “flip belt.” I’m talking about a great two-woman show called Tonik Cycling.

I ran into these lovely ladies last September at Interbike and came home with their “Abbey Tank” in lime/heather. I first want to mention that I have a small soft spot for them as they come from Whidbey Island, WA a mere 15 miles from my hometown of Anacortes, WA. A little island pride. Gotta give that love.

Photo Sep 11, 1 46 58 PMAnyway, I stopped to look at the jerseys because they didn’t look like jerseys. I soon found one yanked over my head right over my blouse. Though it was pretty snug over my other shirt, it felt really good. I already liked it then. Well. . . I’ve had a lot of time to take it for a test ride and let me tell you how I feel about it.

  • I generally overall love the color options that Tonik picks for their jerseys. This is no exception. I love the piping on the front.
  • On the back there is scalloped silver hi-vis trim running down the vertical seams. A little flattering tidbit.
  • I like the ruching on the front. It makes me look like I have abs. And the ruching on the side hides my elastic band wrinkles. So, those are all positive attributes!
  • On the back is a decent sized, open center pocket. It’s narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. The angle of the jersey and the cut of the pocket really makes for an elegant sweep to get into it. And then on the front of that pocket is a smaller zippered pocket. You know, for the important items. It’s just big enough for a smaller, normal sized cell phone (not a crazy plus model or anything ending.)
  • I thought I wouldn’t like the round collar and that it would sit awkwardly while riding. So while flexing the mirror, I realized that it is true – it does occasionally sit funky. . . when my posture is incorrect and I my shoulders and thrown forward improperly. When I arch my back and actually position my arms like they’re supposed to be when I’m riding in a properly fitted bike, the collar lays perfectly flat. This jersey is absolutely genius. Standing straight or in any position considered “good posture” it stayed flat. Rolling my shoulder and the collar buckled…etc.
  • No zipper. I mean, there is on that outer back pocket. But no zipper to get in and out of it. It’s basically just a blouse. Which means that you could also potentially go from riding to going inside to a meeting or dinner with just throwing on a light sweater. I think it’s that flattering. The fabric is also really soft and wicking. It’s some sort of anti-bacterial fabric and has 50 UPF Sun Protection.
  • My one issue, but it’s kind of a non-issue if you remember that this is a jersey. When it’s hot enough to go sleeveless, I usually just wear these tankini deals. I’m used to having a built in sports bra and I’m not that well-endowed. This is just a jersey and so leaves nothing to the imagination. However it has an empire seam so may trick you into thinking it has support. I find a bulky strapped sports bra ends up catching up with the natural shimmy of the shirt fabric movement since the arm holes cut out towards the back and most sports bras tend to be the racer back straps that rub towards that. However it’s surprisingly non-intrusive.
  • Last note; it’s long. It’s long and comfy. Why do most companies make women’s jerseys so short?? And it is loose around the hips but not baggy. Just comfy. I know sometimes when I’m wearing athletic gear I feel self-conscious and exposed. I feel perfectly comfortable wearing this top. Fuck the judgey-judgers anyway.

So there you go. I love this top. Love it. I feel great about supporting Tonik!

Event Review: Salsa Bikes Demo Day


Halley with 2016 Cutthroat Carbon Rival 1

Last weekend I had the awesome excuse to get out of Portland to check out Salsa’s 2016 models in their natural habitat. That’s right, I got to go hang out in the woods for the day up at Sandy Ridge. For those of you that didn’t get my memo or didn’t get the chance to check out my write-up about last year’s demo – this is really a fun opportunity to go out and try out the bikes that you already know, love and want to buy but may have some performance questions about. Well. . . if you had been there, you could have gotten them answered by a truly bonafide Salsa rep, various bike shop representatives (different shop people on the different days) and most importantly – got to shred some dirt.

The event ran from 2pm – 7pm, but since it was both of our day off, we were planning on rolling up there for a lazy afternoon of playing with bikes and chatting with folks. It was a little before 2pm when Brad got a call from a friend and rep that we were expecting to be up there asking when and if we were planning on being there. Turned out he was unable to make the trip due to a family emergency and the Salsa rep was left all by his lonesome. . . so. . . we tossed our stuff. . . and our absentee friend’s bike (which he had left at Brad’s work) in the car and were on our way in a slightly more speedy trajectory. When we arrived around 3pm we were greeted by Eric, “The Salsa Ambassador,” holding down the fort pretty awesomely.

We created a clunky system of Eric doing most of the work and Brad talking to people with me mostly getting in the way and underfoot, kind of helping people fill out the waivers, taking and giving back their IDs, and taking off the pedals on the demo bikes. (Or at least trying to. Some of them got wrenched on a little snugly and I didn’t feel comfortable mashing at them.) It was steadily busy all day long. I mean, it was work. Like, real work. Like a job. There were still bikes in the van when we got there because Eric had gotten mobbed by people right at the beginning so I helped pull out the rest of the Beargreases, which Brad and Eric ended up putting together because I got distracted or something. They are pretty big bikes. I mean, not unwieldy or anything. I mean, I hauled two of the Carbon SUS XO1 models out of the van without the front wheels over my shoulder like they were purses. And they were the larger sized models. Their considered racing fat bikes and I’d believe it. They’re slick. Decked out with the SRAM XO1 drivetrain, the Bluto fork and not to mention that wicked tequila sunrise fade-job from pink to orange. What’s not to love? If that’s not your thing, there is a red/black or purple/blue option. . . but that really seems a waste when pink/orange is an option. (Not to mention the aluminum black.)

KODAK Digital Still Camera

2016 Salsa Pony Rustler Carbon XO1

You’re not here to read about models that already existed, though. You want to hear about the new rides. One that everyone was stoked to try out was the Pony Rustler. (Not to be confused with the Horsethief.) People loved this bike and wanted to try it so much that my small size was constantly out on the trail. All day long. Seriously. There was not a time during the day that I could have stopped what I was doing and taken it out for a moment. It just wasn’t there. And the moment that it came back, it was gone. So elusive. Just as a rustler should be. But what I did get to do is TALK to the people that got to go out with the Pony Rustler and get their feedback on the bike. I didn’t get any negative feedback. Everyone loved the more upright feeling of it. They loved the amount of suspension and the feedback that the bike gave them. The great thing about this bike is that it’s a 27.5+, but has the space for 29ers so if you have the inclination to build up two wheelsets, you basically have two bikes in one! (This is not a revolutionary idea. I just thought it was worth a mention. Because it’s cool. And it may make the price tag easier to swallow if you realize you can use the frameset for so many different terrain opportunities.)

The bikes that I was stoked about weren’t full-suspension. The first of which was the “Deadwood.” This is their 29+ dropbar mountain bike. It is fully rigid. Deadwood is sexy. I would totally get it if I met the mininum height requirement. Unfortunately for a small, recommended height is 160cm – 175cm and I fall short at 152cm. If I hadn’t been so darn busy I would have tried to at least stand over one at the event. (The one pictured in the slideshow is a medium.) There was a guy that took it out on a test ride and he said that it rode nicely on the trail, but while Salsa does consider it “mountain bike ready” he would have preferred a little more cushion. Technically, it’s more for off-road touring like the Oregon Outback or the Tour Divide. Maybe not careening down a rocky mountain bike trail complete with berms.

Speaking of the Tour Divide, the Cutthroat was another hot mama I was eyeing the entire afternoon. This hot carbon 29er is the sexiest race bike that ever came to race town. I don’t even care that I’m too short for this bike. I wants it with a passion that is fiery burning.


Then there is the Marrakesh. This is fun in a different kind of way. But then, so is Marrakesh (the place). I was excited about this because I love touring and touring bikes. I am always interested in how different companies decide to put their spin on their specific touring bikes. This one comes in two different models; a flat bar and with their new “Cowchipper” drop bar. I really wanted to see that one in person. I am kinda “anti-dropbar.” It hurts my hands and back to reach down to dropbars and so this newer, squished version interested me. I had seen different forums talking about a couple different brands recently which have also piqued my interest. These might be usable for me and not just wasted space. Marrakesh also comes in five different sizes starting at 147cm (4′ 8″). The only downside is that it comes with the Brooks B17 and doesn’t seem to have any option to swap it out with a cruelty-free cambium version.

All in all, I think the Pony Rustler won the “amazing bike” of the day award. If there had been an award for best bike that day.

After we got the van packed up; Eric, Brad and I headed back into town to get snacks and rest after the long day. Brad, who is a big fan of brew pubs, found a sign at Sandy Ridge that there was a very science-themed one right in Sandy, Oregon called Bunsenbrewer. Let me tell you, this place is amazing. Also, if you have a GPS system or Google Maps on your phone, etc – you should use it. It’s kind of tucked back there. It’s right on the main road, but it’s in a business warehouse area and is kind of inconspicuous. Once you’re there, it’s fantastic. There’s a stage area where about a dozen instruments from cellos, drums, violins, guitars, tamborines, etc were available for people to experiment with. There’s also a corner full of board games as well as a Nintendo 64. They have quite a few beers on tap (many they make in-house) including rootbeer! And while their menu is limited as far as food, they have a little something for everyone including hummus, quinoa salad and soft pretzels.

201508030 - Sandy Ridge Salsa Demo Day

UPCOMING: Salsa Demo Days – August 3rd & 4th

2014 Sandy Ridge Demo Day

2014 Sandy Ridge Demo Day

If you’ve been a follower of the blog, you may remember that last summer, I went and ripped it up with my friends from Salsa over at Sandy Ridge. I’m stoked to find out that they’re doing it again!

If you’ve been eyeing a Salsa bike, want to see the new 2016 models or are interested in their performance off-road, this is a great opportunity to come out and check ’em out!

You’ll have two different days to choose from and I’ll link you to their corresponding Facebook events.

Monday, August 3rd, 2pm – 7pm

Tuesday, August 4th, 2pm – 7pm

Both days are expected to be gorgeous, in the 90s. If you want to ride with specific pedals, bring your clipless or whatever – otherwise they’ll have flats available there. Make sure you bring a helmet and photo ID so you can check out a bike.

Hope to see you out there!


Event Review: “Comes With Baggage” Film + Limberlost Bikepacking Q & A

2015-07-25 21.41.50I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the evening of Saturday, July 25th than to head over to Velocult where the folks from Blackburn were having a screening of their film, “Comes with Baggage.” Afterward, my friends who run a local company called Limberlost presented on off-roading bikepacking  Q & A to tie up the evening.

It was fun. It started an hour late due to the live screening of the Tour de France – but I did get to watch, for a second time that day the riders struggle up the Alpe d’Huez, and thank my lucky stars that it isn’t me having to make that 8%+ grade uphill to the summit.

So in a typical, low-key casual fashion, the 7pm event rolled out about 8pmish with kind of a local legend, Billy ‘Souphorse’ Sinkford (and old school Boston messenger represent!) began the evening by talking about Blackburn, what the company is up to; talked about the film’s debut in Monterey, CA this spring; Sea Otter. . . I’m sure I’m garbling up all this information – also; it’s Blackburn’s 40th anniversary of being in business. Always cool to see that for a company.

The first video was just a shortie interview with one of Blackburn’s “Rangers” named Shayne Khajehnoori. He is attempting to do the Pacific Coast trail with his bike and portable raft. He realized that it gets a bit lonely out there on the road and it’s nice to learn some new skills. I’ve linked it here if you’d like to watch that 3:11 minute video.

We then went right into the main movie. It was great. Showed the history cycling and bikepacking specifically. Had interviews with some great people. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will show you the trailer!

For the next part of the evening we talked with Gabe and Jason from Limberlost to give us the insider scope about bikepacking. I’ve known Gabe since I moved to Portland and have been super stoked about the birth, evolution and growth of what started out as just a crazy scheme – so it was great to catch up with these guys and get info for people interested in doing some off-road touring for themselves.

(I apologize in advance. These aren’t direct quotes from either Gabe or Jason. I did attempt to notate as verbatim as possible but they were passing the mic back and forth like it was a joint so it was difficult to note who said what. It’s also not in order of when the questions were asked during the Q & A. I reorganized to have it make more sense to you, the reader.)

20150725_211404“What is Limberlost?”
If you’re interested in doing off-road adventuring, but aren’t sure if you can or don’t know where to go, Limberlost provides fully supported, guided tours. They’ll let you know in advance what the expectations are, minimum requirements, they provide the food, have a support van, etc.

“What is the greatest mistake someone can make as a newbie?”
Not remembering to eat. Sometimes you will miscalculate or not realize the next town is further away than you realize and you “bonk.” I mean, you find out really early that chili fritos are available at any gas station, they’re cheap and they’re high in calories. So you eat a lot of chili fritos.
Gabe: You don’t eat 10k calories a day when touring. Not keeping your expectations low. Make sure you learn to adapt.
Jason: Also, splitting up the group when there’s no cellphone reception.

“What is the difference between road touring and off-road?” 
Gabe: Focus on what fits into what else. Space vs weight.
Jason: Load smartly and load lightly. Generally on road touring you’ll have panniers. With off-road the frame bags are against your bike, strapped to your frame. They don’t rattle around, more secure, tighter in.

“Do you plan out your personal trips or do you wing it?” 
(paraphrased) We make a plan but are adaptable to knowing that we may not make it the entire way to where we planned out to camp that night. Keeping expectations low are good so you can just roll with what happens.

“How important is weight distribution?”
Jason: Depends on the type of riding you are planning on doing. For mountain biking, you don’t want to keep a lot of weight in front. In traditional road-type touring, I’ll load the front up a little more. But even distribution is key.

“In reference to a recent news story in which a mountain biker in Idaho lit his feces on fire in an attempt to ‘destroy the evidence,‘ how important is it to leave no trace?” 
(paraphrased) We often don’t want to talk about that kind of personal stuff and unfortunately because of which, misinformation and damage can occur. All you need to do is bury your poop. Remember to bring a trowel or learn to dig with a stick and go 6″ deep and at least 200′ from a water source. And don’t bury or leave plastic wrappers behind.

“What is your favorite comfort item to bring with you?” 
Gabe: I used to have a slingshot, but I lost it. I recently got this jaw harp that I’m learning to play.
Jason: I have a bluetooth speaker kind of boombox. Sometimes I bring my bb gun. I didn’t bring it with me today, because I didn’t want to be riding through Portland with a bb gun strapped across my bike.

“What is your tent set-up like?” 
Gabe: Depends on the trip. Sometimes no tent. Just a tyvek burrito with my sleeping bag, maybe some mosquito netting or a wide-brimmed hat. I like a bivy sack sometimes because you can just crawl into that and not worry about it. Some people like the comfort of a tent no matter what.
Jason: Same. . . When you’re with a group of people it’s nice to have a place to go to where you’re by yourself. That’s when it’s nice to have a tent.

“What do you prefer, clipless or flats?” 
Gabe: Depends on the riding. If I know there’s going to be a lot of walking, I’ll put my flats on but if I know there’s going to be lots of flowy and road terrain, then I’ll ride with clipless.
Jason: I always use clipless. They make shoes now that have enough tread on them that I can walk in them like normal shoes.

“What do you eat besides chili fritos?” 
Jason: Food that’s packable. Gabe makes dry mixes. I get those Indian curry packets that are heavy but they are conformable.
Gabe: Nuts and granola. Try to use things that you can find in places. If you’re going on a 5-day trip you don’t have to pack 5 days worth of food. Check your map because you probably only have to carry food for a few miles to camp from a store.

Find out more information about Gabe, Jason and their crew at their website or look into booking your next event with them. I mean, come on! What a unique way to celebrate something, right?!

I ended up winning an Outpost Fat bike rack at the event. . . mostly out of proxy due to the lack of fat bike riders there and my uncannily good luck at winning things. (I think if I told them of my lucky streak, he would have taken it back.) Keep checking back for a product review as I attempt to bash the crap out of it in proof that I simply can’t have nice things.

Ride Report: Pedalpalooza “Save the Humans Ride” – Now with Extra Irony!


As you my fine followers may have surmised from my previous post, I haven’t been feeling at my most peak athletic condition lately. Which is terrible, considering this month is the holiest of all Portland cycling months; being Pedalpalooza and all.

So, on Tuesday, June 23 when I got home a little early from work after not feeling super great I lubed up with my grand variety of salves and ointments, reveled in the fact that it was 80 degrees and thought that maybe a little aerobic exercise would do me good, despite my constant dull aches and cricks. I skimmed the calendar and checked out what rides would be coming up in the next couple of hours.

That, my friend is the magic of Pedalpalooza.

SAVE THE HUMANS: TRAFFIC SAFETY PROTEST: Taking the Lane, Not Prisoners. This is a ride to protest increasingly unsafe conditions on PDX streets, including those designated as bike routes & neighborhood greenways. The route will include at least one major arterial and one greenway. Ride pace will be slow-moderate, with some stops to “calm” car traffic. We will also be doing a crosswalk enforcement for pedestrian safety at N. Williams and Ivy. While our subject is serious, the ride will be fun (music!). We will meet at Oregon Park to make signs/banners first. BYO assertiveness and sign/banner-making ingredients. Route will be cargo-bike friendly (not too hilly). Approximately 5-7 miles, not a loop. Optional #bikingtobeers at Velocult after the ride.

While I have mentioned in many previous posts before, I am not an activist. (I very clearly identify as an advocate.) I found this ride conveniently located both with the start location, time and the end location. The milage seemed doable, seemed family-friendly. . . all in all my assessment of the situation seemed very positive and I decided to go for it.

Worst case scenario, I figured if I got there and it wasn’t my scene or if I got too sore, I could just peel off at some point.

It ended up being so awesome! There were about two dozen people at the start location making signs – a great combo of several good friends I’ve known for years and lots of new people to chat with. We made signs about sharing the road to tape onto our bikes. As I mentioned, I’m not super into that kind of thing, but the fact that we were planning a nice easy-paced slow-roll with bakfiets and children (sorry – don’t intend to use kids as an excuse. Just saying that between my disabled butt, families, people on beach cruisers, a giant sound system on a Bullit, and very large trailers, people of all skill levels – we weren’t winning any races.) Also to paint the picture that we weren’t an angry mob with torches breaking car windows and cutting through traffic.

I wouldn’t even call it a protest. I would call it a ‘demonstration‘ or ‘parade‘ – maybe ‘(very slow) rally’ or ‘march’ but it’s weird to use the word march when it’s a ride. . .

So what WERE we protesting? People dying due to reckless and dangerous driving behavior included distracted driving (IE: texting and using cellphones, eating/drinking, drugs/alcohol etc), making cars and parking a priority over people (IE: pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfares, etc) – and you know, basic safety concerns about, ummm. . . not dying.

I was not the ride leader, but this is my take-away from this from doing this kind of work in the past, so I could be way off – but I feel confident that it’s that the message is that simple.

The majority of the ride was awesome! We cruised a few blocks up Sandy Blvd with no problems (for those of you that aren’t from Portland, enjoy this apropos youtube video) and even got some waves from people on patios sitting at restaurants. We went through neighborhoods and people waved at us from their cars or front porches. We went across some pretty hefty intersections without any issues at all. In fact, it was as smooth as Earth Balance vegan buttery spread for about 98% of the ride.

The one glitch we had was on Williams Ave. Fuckin’ Williams Ave. I am not going to go into all the drama that Williams has had over the last 5+ years as they’ve attempted to “improve” and redevelop. It is a major bike boulevard and commute route for cyclists, drivers and for some reason buses as well. The area itself has been hugely contentious in general for over 50 years due to major gentrification, redlining, etc. etc. . . but that’s not what we’re talking about now.

I am writing about the incident that occurred at approximately 7pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by the driver of the #4 Trimet bus 3106. Technically if I were a reporter, I would have to use the word “allegedly” to avoid unintended libel; but guess what? I am not a reporter – and I was there watching that irresponsible woman penning her resignation letter on her steering wheel as she was blaring her horn through the crosswalk “WALK” light as she made her left-hand turn through forward heading cyclist traffic (damn those Williams Ave left-hand bike lanes.) So it’s no alleged incident.

Bitch knew exactly what she was doing.


Not only that, but she decided to plow through us on a very well known safety corridor issue on Williams. (to the left) that was tried to fix, but is just getting worse now that there is a new grocery store on that corner and an apartment complex going in right across the street so more pedestrian usage. Why in the world would you have a bus turn down that narrow street, making a left-hand turn across a bike lane?

So what happened? Glad you asked. We headed for Williams and spent no more than 60 seconds tops (though closer 45 seconds based on my photography time stamps. That’s right, yo. I took photos from start to finish.) doing what is called “Sidewalk Enforcement” on N Williams and NE Ivy right in front of New Seasons grocery store. This is an area where there is a marked crosswalk, but everyone is a major jerk. And I’m not just talking about drivers. Cyclists in the bike lane were also being major asshats and cutting through us walking back and forth. You know what? When someone is crossing the road. You stop. If you are traffic and someone is crossing the road, you stop. It doesn’t matter if your vehicle is motorized or if you are driving a human-powered convenience. Otherwise you are a twat. (I have several photos of the cyclists cutting off our pedestrians. I feel like making a meme of shame and posting them at local bike shops. Asshats.)

nefremontAnyway, after several of the group performed their enforcement (not everyone participated. There were too many of us, and as I said, they crossed the road and then came back. The only reason it may have seemed like five minutes to some drivers is because of just that. . . “because bicyclists making a scene”)

After that, we all clustered together in the bike lane on the left and sidewalk next to the parking lot to continue onward north on N Williams. We had the light on NE Fremont so we were good to begin accelerating and continue on our forward momentum.

Seemingly out of nowhere; and I’m not just saying that for dramatic effect – honestly, I have no idea where the Trimet bus came from – they must have been pretty far back in traffic or have turned from somewhere because it wasn’t like they were first in the queue – but they were suddenly there next to our group.

And she had a superiority complex.


Wielding her 27,000 lb weapon she cut our group on twain where you can see the break in the bike lane, at full speed instead of slowly to let forward traffic pass, as is my understanding of how traffic works. In the process, the driver, forced slower, more cautious riders into the curb and back such as myself and a fellow rider who was hauling a bakfiets with two children in the box in front of me. (Her individual experience may vary – I don’t want to project that she was being cautious just because I was; assume or insinuate just because she has kids. We just happened to be in the same place at the same time, thankfully not crushed by a lunatic blaring her horn.)

Then, through the crosswalk signal and the green light, she failed to yield and while blaring her horn made that left-hand turn which is when I lost sight of the majority of my group, though feared the worse because all I knew was that they were in front and to the right of the bus. I hustled as fast as I could to the corner, where half of us clustered on the sidewalk like lost chickens, several more were clinging to the side of the road a little further up the street, as if fearing drift away in a river current, and that’s when I learned that several others had chased down the driver to ensure that a a professional driver wasn’t allowed to get away with that bullshit.

We all took a moment to calm down from the experience. There were a few witnesses on the street corner that came forward to give their information to us and introduce themselves. We met up with the second half of our group and eventually the sprinters returned who informed us that when they did catch up with the bus, initially the driver wouldn’t talk with them. Instead, some passengers came out and tried to start shit.


Finally the driver called dispatch and was all, “Hey, I just plowed through a bunch of pedestrians and cyclists. What am I supposed to do?” [paraphrased, but not by much] no remorse.


After that, we headed off goddamned Williams Ave. This is the exact reason why I don’t ride on bike boulevards. Another rider and I had a lovely conversation with three or four dudes just off of MLK that stopped us asked what his “Passes not Crashes” sign meant. They were totally into the idea of safe streets for everyone. That was a great bounce-back conversation after what had happened just 10 minutes earlier.

We hung out at Wilshire Park for a bit to chill, regroup, get out of traffic and all that before heading on to Velocult.

So if you’re a driver intending to run down a group of cyclists, can you just try not to do it when they’re obviously covered in signs touting “Safe Routes’  – it just makes you look extra douchey.

Other than that, the ride was fantastic – I was definitely sore that night and the next day, but that’s my own personal issues and not because it was necessarily difficult. It was what I would generally consider an easy-paced, family-friendly route. Rider leader was great, friendly – and it was a good time to be had for all. Except for that one intersection.

20150623 - Pedalpalooza Save the Humans Ride

BikePortland also wrote about the incident.