Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RALEIGH RECORD ACE -- A quick peek.

Look who's coming to dinner: The new 2010 Raleigh Record Ace. The skinny: Race geometry. Lugged steel. Shimano 6700. Brooks Swallow. Under $2,000.

Yours Truly has not gotten a chance to ride this yet, but he will, just as soon as this weather settles down -- after all, here's what the National Weather Service has to say about today:






I mean, sure, it is hot, but give me a break. It's hot everywhere, and just because it's twenty degrees over our average high temperature around here doesn't mean we are suddenly going to melt and die. Humidity at peak temperature is going to be in the 30% range.

Yes, I will have TWO water bottles on me for my bike ride home, and, sure, one will be all ice to start with. But this isn't going to stop me from four hours of bike commuting per day. If you don't lock your dog in the car, you'll be fine.

For everyone who is using the warmth to stay off of their bike: if you also use rain as an excuse for the same, you are not going to be riding very often in the Pacific Northwest.

I will say that the air quality is pretty crappy. Normally, the wind and rain keep us with beautifully clear air, even if the skies are grey. I could take a dose of THAT, right now.

I'm just glad that I don't sunburn after that initial toasting! I suppose I AM going to get skin cancer and die, but, that's life. Better than dying of obesity-related blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and wow this is getting more depressing than I intended.

It's going to be a great ride home, is my point.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pet Peeve of the day -- Cash for Clunkers Program!

Has anyone read about this thing?

On the surface, it SOUNDS like a good idea -- get people out of their gas-guzzling, low-emissions cars, and into showrooms to buy a shiny new car, with its lower emissions and lower pollution, right? And this isn't chump change we're talking about, it's either $3,500 or $4,500. It'll be like Wheel of Fortune; come on, big money!

But, read the fine print -- your vehicle has to be newer than 25 years old, you've got to have owned and insured it for at least a year, and, here's the big one, the EPA has got to say that your old vehicle has to get NO BETTER THAN 18 MPG COMBINED.

Seriously, that is a pathetic standard. Since the embargo of '74 days, passenger cars were required to get their act together, shrunk dramatically, and began to resemble the moddern auto. After a lot of whining and lobbying, the government continued to subsidize "utility vehicles," including both pickup trucks and the then-nascent SUV market. Because of this, costs remained low, and SUVs were allowed to have powerful, smog-churning engines to their hearts' content (though SOME regulation was added in later.)

This, more than consumer demand, fueled the boom in the tanks that dominate the modern road. What was once a working stiff's rig -- have you ever seen an old truck, with bare metal interiors and a single bench seat? -- became the leather-interior, quad-cab, twenty-inch-chrome wheeled beasts that continue choke the roads. Wow, this got a little more vehement than I expected.

Um, anyhow, if you feel like it, take a look here and see what passenger car mileage was like for the past 25 years. If you want to hunt down one with that bad of mileage, you can, but you'd have to delve deep into the archives to find this.

That's about it for the few remaining land-yachts which qualify for the program. Because of this, and the requirements that you have to improve your gas mileage by FOUR MPG, this is not the "Cash for Clunkers" program at all. Instead, they should call it the "upgrade your truck" program. We'll be swapping out a whole bunch of battered (but drivable, says the program) 80's and 90's pickups for shiny, ridiculous modern trucks so that everyone can feel secure in suburbia and be glad that they have four wheel drive, high clearance rigs, because "they like to go to the mountains sometimes."

Of course, I have a bit of a personal stake in the matter, I admit. While Yours Truly lives only on a bicycle, and might have a bit of opposition to continued subsidy of single-occupancy vehicles to boot, his -- erm, that is, my -- significant other has what would seem like a perfect candidate for the CARS program. It's a 1990 Chevy Corsica. It's got a V6 engine and an automatic without overdrive. It leaks oil. It's got no paint on it. It's everyone's definition of a "beater."

And, yet, it's a no-go. This terrible beast is far too efficient for CARS'. Why, it gets a whole twenty miles per gallon. Twenty!

Nevermind that she'd be trading it for a Honda Fit or something else with over a 50% improvement in mileage, not to mention the dramatically lower NOX, et cetera, it would emit.

You see, the CARS program is binary; you either meet all of its criteria and get the bonus, or you get nothing; there's no way to get a slightly reduced benefit from trading in a fairly okay mileage vehicle into a great one, as opposed to a crappy milesage vehicle into an okay one, even if the net benefit is identical.

But, I guess, those American car manufacturers that the government just bought out of bankruptcy, what was it that they were hurting the most with? Oh, that's right! All of their unsold truck inventory.

Funny, that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

T-Town Throwdown

Last weekend, I checked this out before going to my LBS for a fast-paced groupride.

Trials are pretty far from the skinny-tires-and-lycra that Yours Truly is accustomed to; farther, even, than BMX, which still includes a couple elements of racing.

Basically, this is riding an obstacle course on a bike, slowly. Your goal is to get through each "section" in a period of time, without putting a foot down or otherwise losing your balance. It doesn't seem to score any better to go faster than the guy before you, just need to make make less mistakes.

Zoom in on this picture to note that the rider is cycling along the narrow edge of a two by four. The most impressive part of it to me was the amount that the riders could use their legs and the spring of their low-pressure tires to leap their bikes, from a standing start, up onto obstacles.

Here's what they're riding: 26" bikes that look something between a short-wheelbase mountain bike and a BMX ride, but with no saddle or seatpost whatsoever, and tiny gearing. They also had some kind of hub that I'll need to google -- riders could coast / freewheel, but they also appeared to be able to apply backpressure on the drivetrain with their pedals, and when they walked their bikes forward, the pedals turned like a fixie. I've heard of "freecoaster" hubs, I wonder if that is this?

I don't think I'll ever take part in a Trials event myself, but it was pretty entertaining to watch -- more spectator-friendly, I'd wager, than the spread-out road races that Yours Truly prefers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seen at the top of the hill at Redondo Beach, on 272nd in Federal Way, WA.

I am not 100% sure this guy wanted money, but, if he did, it was the most clever marketing campaign yet.

Click the pic if you can't read it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Long-term review of Clubman ; Sneak Peak of 2010 version:

I've been rolling my Clubman for almost a full six months now, and it's carried me through nearly seven thousand miles.

That's, well, quite a lot of miles, when I really think of it; I think long enough to give you the rest of my thoughts on the machine. You can read my initial observations here:

In sum: Yeah, I'm into this bike. Enough that I'm thinking about trading it in for the new 2010 when it comes out. Yes, of course, the steel frame will last a LONG time, but check out this sneak peek of some of the twen-ten road steel family. I'm digging color-matched steel fenders, especially since I've broken three plastic ones on the rough roads of Tacoma, WA.

(that's the Sojourn, One-Way, and Clubman, top to bottom)

I was happy to hear I wasn't the only one with a few suggestions about color and shape -- check out the silver bits, traditional dropped handlebars, and bartape -- it's a much more complete-looking bike, and it makes the modern 1 1/8" threadless headset look a lot sleeker.

I've taken it on a couple of fast group rides as well as my commutes, and once it's up there, it's got no problem taking pulls with the rest, although I do feel the added weight getting it up to speed. When it gets to the twisties I can feel a few numbers: compared with my Team Carbon race bike, it has almost 20mm longer chainstays, 5mm less fork offset, 1 degree slacker head angle (72.5 versus 73.5 degrees).

The result of all of this is that the Clubman is smooth, comfortable, and predictable, where the Team is responsive, fast, stiff, and nimble. Overall, the Clubman is your old best friend, the one you've grown up around, spent so much time hanging out with that nothing they do really surprises you any more.

After trying a commute on my race bike, I suddenly appreciated the Clubman more: all of the potholes, ruts, gravel sections, bricks, and crumbling asphalt that grace Tacoma's streets turned against me me. My wrists and back felt it at the end of the day. I had to pay a lot more attention to where my front wheel was going, so there was less relaxing and looking out at the water.

For about a thousand, I think this thing is a great value. The Tiagra shifters don't have the level of positive feel and no-effort click that Dura-Ace does, but they've done the job just fine. If you'd rather dispense with those, Clubmans come with both downtube shifter bosses and forward facing, semi-horizontal dropouts, so you can run this sucker single, fixed, or traditional.

Also, though few people know it: Shimano DOES produce SL-7900, indexed, 10-speed downtube shifters, and they did make SL-7700 9-speed downtube ones. If you've ever tried to friction shift through 9- and 10-speed systems, it's pretty finicky.

One note about those dropouts, though: it's possible for the wheel to move front-to-back within them, so it's also possible to pull the wheel off-center. The stock wheelset includes open-cam quick releases (image to follow), which don't provide nearly as much clamping force as a conventional, closed cam skewer. (image to follow). I ended up having my wheel move about in the dropouts on fairly steep, big-ring climbs, so I switched to a Dura-Ace skewer I had on hand. You can use anything, though -- Shimano sells XT ones separately -- but I still wish the bike had included this style of quick release.

People ask me about weight fairly often. That seems like a silly question to me on this sort of bike, but, if you want a general answer, I'd say "mid-twenties." I weighed my 57cm in at 25 pounds, 3 ounces -- that's with bottle cages, pedals, and fenders. Keep in mind that you're looking at well over a pound for a Brooks leather saddle, and it has tough, wire-bead tires.

Some bikes are comfortable because of fancy-sounding high-zoot bits of springy stuff smooshed into their frames, or whacky sweepy curves all over the place. The Clubman gets it done traditionalism: it doesn't have the thinnest, stiffest tubing in existence, so the frame keeps a lively feel while soaking up the nastiest parts of the road.

Bikes are a little like coffee: If you poll people about what they'd like, they will claim to plump for the darkest, boldest, coffee around. Maybe having the taste for this sort of unyielding beverage is meant to say something about its drinker? In any case, when it comes time to drink, what most people want is a nice, versatile medium roast. Here's my call: Stumptown, from the new Satellite, in Tacoma.

I sometimes plan my ride so as to NOT ride past this place on the way home -- then I'd have to stop, get a cup, and before I knew what was what two hours home would turn into four.

Likewise, people will say they want the lightest, stiffest, fastest bike on the block, and while I love my race bike, most of the time, I ain't racing. And neither are most cyclists. The Clubman is agile enough for most of my riding, reasonably light, and comfortable enough for my four hours a day.

I might have a few more words to say, and I've got to grab you some illustrative skewer pictures, but my time here today is up. I'm off home. On my Clubman.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yesterday, I was all set to spend seventy-five cents.

In the end, I did not.

Welcome to the Recession.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Note of the day: GET SERIALIZED!

Summer is bike season.

Summer is also get-your-bike-stolen season.

In addition to typical advice, like lock your stuff up and don't let fancy bikes out of sight, I'd like to add this reminder:

Please write the serial number of your bike down! Better still, take two pictures, one of the complete bike, one of the serial, and keep them in your owners' manual along with your receipt.

It takes two minutes, and even the best lock can be defeated by a determined thief -- in a hurry if he's got an angle grinder.

I've taken a lot of stolen-bike calls this week, many hoping that the manufacturer would have a record of their serial number somewhere. We don't, though we do work with the National Bike Registry if you signed up with them. Your shop MAY have written it down; then again, it may not.

The most painful one was a customer whose bike was stolen and recovered by police, but the police will not release it to them, because they do not have any way to prove ownership.

Here's hoping they get it resolved eventually, perhaps after a waiting period. If they'd just written the thing down, it'd all be sorted out.

If you don't know, your serial number will be stamped into one of a few places on your bike. Most probable is the underside the bottom bracket shell, but it's also sometimes on the downtube near the BB, or, in my case, straight across the headtube near the headset.

That's it for now.