Saturday, December 26, 2009

Up On Two Wheels - Almost

Few days off for Christmas, busy with family and other related festivities - so I've officially started my winter riding slump - though I continue to stuff my face as if putting the miles in. Thanks to all the holiday cookies, brownies and other goodies - I'll be fully carbo-loaded when I get back on the saddle (burp).

While off, we did attempt to get daughter Amy, now 6 years old, up on two wheels. The incredibly pink little Specialized was purchased over a year ago, that she occasionally rides with training wheels. Over the past year, we've made a few attempts to ride without training wheels - no way, not even close to balancing on her own. As an experiment, I removed the crank, pedals, chain and chain guard, to simulate one of those balance bikes I've seen. Intent is to have the child paddle around, then start coasting feet up, learning to balance along the way.

Sure enough, after a few minutes of paddling around, she was coasting down the slight incline in front of the house - feet up and balancing like a pro. With each attempt, picking up a little speed and veering off into the lawn to slow down - much to her excitement (and mine). We should have tried this months ago!

After 10 runs or so, sans pedals, she begged me to reinstall everything. I thought it was a little too soon, but hey - we're talking about a cute 6 year old here - so I reinstalled all the missing parts. With the simple one piece crank and singlespeed, not really a big deal and just takes a few minutes.

Now outfitted with Barbie knee and elbow pads, we attempted an actual pedal powered ride. I'd love to say she rode off into the sunset with a big smile on her face, but that was not to be. She did balance for a few seconds at a time with me running behind her - but she's not there yet.

No rush, we'll go for another attempt tomorrow. If I need to, will remove the pedal power parts once again, and let her paddle and coast around a bit more. No pressure, she'll get it eventually and this should all be for fun.

Sooner or later, maybe she'll join me on a few rides - something I'm looking forward to.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Steelman Dream Bike

Sit back and ponder the work of art above - pulled from the Steelman site - the builder of this rolling artwork. It's perfect - from the colors, to the steel frame, fork and matching stem, the modern components, room for larger tires - it's all there. Plus the artist constructing this metal wonder is named "Steelman". How cool is that?

It also sports perfect "stance". Car guys talk about "stance" - the way the car sits on it's wheels. The space between the tire and the fender, the width of wheel and if it looks balanced. Some cars look right, others don't. To me, bikes also have "stance" - how much seat post is showing, the angle of the stem, bar height relative to saddle height, space between the front tire and down tube, contrast against the space between the rear wheel and seat tube. This bike looks perfect to me, a touch old school - but damn right on. Compare against any modern sloping top tube frame, seat post jacked way up, stem angled upwards, complete with Stack-O-Spacers. No contest.

I honestly dig all bikes - road, 'cross, mountain, utility - you name it. I'm not super stuck on frame material and admire bikes made from steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon. A great bike is a great bike, no matter what it's made of.

Still, if someone handed me the blank check to pick out a dream road bike, it would be this or something very similar. A handmade steel frame and fork, from a small U.S. builder, set up with modern gear - probably Campy Chorus. The mixture of old world steel and carbon components looks super cool to me.

Brent Steelman has been building bikes since 1983. I've only seen a few of 'em in real life and only briefly while riding myself. I've admired his work many times by pouring over his website. Check out his gallery for further examples of incredible bikes, including additional pictures of my dream bike.

Maybe someday I'll score enough dough to order one myself. Being family guy, that may be awhile. A long while.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Need For Speed

I'm not sure what year Tour this is from - but I could watch it over and over......

62 miles per hour on a bicycle is fast in anyone's book. Anytime I've done 60+ mph, it was on a motorcycle - wearing full road race leathers and a real helmet. Impressive stuff. I wonder if they ponder the integrity of carbon forks while touching 60 mph. Carbon steerer tube - don't fail me now.

I never seem to break 45 mph on my road bike - and trust me, I've tried. I need to find a bigger hill or stop wearing Hefty garbage bags as a cheap jacket. The flapping may be slowing me down some. The flapping noise does help warn pedestrians of my impending closing distance and wet brakes however.

I have hit 51 mph on a mountain bike - my personal record. Long, steep dirt road with assorted loose rocks and bumps. Friend I was riding with left me in the proverbial and actual dust, so maybe 60 for him. During the descent, we passed this Subaru crawling down the road, like it was standing still. This was also the pre-suspension age, so I should score a few bonus points for that. Or stupidity points, depending on your scale.

Personal top speed in a car, about 100 mph. On a motorcycle, that be 136 mph on my Aprilia Falco - which it did effortlessly. Speed is all relative however. Hitting 60+ mph on a bicycle is much more impressive then twisting a throttle or pushing down a gas pedal.

Pro level racers cranking those long descents in the Tour and other races are showing some impressive skill - and risk. Amazing to watch though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm Famous - Sorta

I better be careful what I say about Grant Petersen and Bicycling magazine....

Both have hit my blog recently and as you can see – seem to be very impressed with my so called “work”. Only took 'em one visit to splash me with fame and fortune....

I’m now the full-time editor for all energy drink reviews for Bicycling magazine. They also promised me a cover shot on the latest $15,000 carbon bike – complete with full Photoshop treatment, so I’ll actually look good – they plan to replace my entire head with Kevin Bacon’s. I’ve already started my first energy drink comparison - been on a liquid diet for the last three days now (burp). Besides some blurring in my left eye and peeing a lot – no side effects and I’ve shaved 12 seconds off my commute time.

Grant Petersen has offered to send me a lifetime supply of bee’s wax and twine. I’m also allowed to design the next lug pattern for the soon to be released
mixte-touring-gravel-road frameset, that will be practical – yet still cost $2000 - but the fork is included, so not a bad deal. Grant also promised me some Wald wire baskets and a Pletscher kickstand – if I publicly denounce carbon fiber and STI shifting. I may go for it.

All this from my dumb little blog. Is this a great country or what?

I'm sure now, after my good natured ribbing - they'll never visit again. I'm doomed.

Wussup Sexy?

What did we do before YouTube? It's winter, it's dark - it's (almost) free entertainment.

Turn up the volume for this little gem of crash action.....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cycling Caps, Snow and Pain

Check out this old school, hard core action from the '80s - great footage of Andy Hampsten riding "back in the day". You'll also notice Bob Roll freezing his ass off after crossing the line. That's worth the price of admission alone. These are some tough dudes.

Since I started riding as an (alleged) adult in the '80s, including a bike shop stint at the time - this era looks oh so right to me. Steel frames, no helmets, cycling caps, toe straps - the whole old school shindig. Go back? Nah. Reflect? Oh yeah.

Please note (you'll be tested later): This is the famous stage that launched Hampsten to the Giro victory in '88. The only American to do so.


I noticed this piece of video history on the Competitive Cyclist site - worth a visit.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Road to Ruin

I must state for the record, that I'm a huge Ramones fan. I'm a rock fan for sure and like a fair amount of bands, but the Ramones are at the top of my list - by far. After 25+ years, I still listen to the Ramones almost daily or at least a few times a week. The speed, stripped down sound, insane, yet funny - yet not so funny lyrics, the look, the east coast roots, the dysfunction of the band chemistry - and being trapped in a sense - in the band to make a living. It somehow pushes all the right buttons for me musically. I'm not big on celebrity worship and can't admit to being a full-on fan of many things. I am a Ramones fan however.

Even though I was old enough, a teenager anyway, to be around during the Ramones late '70s heyday - I barely knew they existed. There was no Internet, little radio airplay of the Ramones, and my suburban New Jersey home was a universe away from New York City, though only 40 miles in distance. Besides Rock and Roll High School hitting the airwaves in '79 or '80, and I Wanna Be Sedated a little earlier, I knew little about the Ramones. At the time, I more into guitar lead oriented music of that era - Ted Nugent, Rush, Aerosmith, and the like.

During the early '80s, some friends of mine were into the Ramones a bit, and I remember listening while driving around in their cars. This was the Pleasant Dreams and Subterranean Jungle era - not exactly their best work, nor indicative of what they really sounded like live (though later, I loved those albums as well). I thought the songs were poppy and fun, but not exactly what I was into. At the time, I thought all songs should basically exist to house a guitar solo in the middle. Still, something stuck in the back of my mind about the Ramones.

Around 1984 - and I have no memory why, I specifically headed to the record store one afternoon to buy a Ramones album. I had no idea which album, but I was going to buy a Ramones album. The record shop was located in the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, located in Rockaway, New Jersey. On top of that, as I was cruising through the Ramones albums deciding which one to pick up - the hipster employees were playing the Ramones. Yes, the fate of Rock was shining brightly - like a sun of no frills punk rock. Hey ho, let's go.

I selected Road to Ruin out of the Ramones bin, paid for it and headed home. This was back in the day of records (man, I miss the large artwork on covers) and Road to Ruin sported the cool cartoon drawn cover of the band (by John Holmstrom). The back cover photo, in black and white, of the band sitting on a step - in full Ramones look - ripped jeans, sneakers and leather jackets.

I popped the record onto the turntable (remember those?) and I Just Want To Have Something To Do roared to life, first song on side one. I listened to the whole album and thought it was the greatest thing ever. The guitar sound of Johnny, Joey's voice, Dee Dee's bass, Marky on drums - the poppy rock sound, the wacked lyrics - I was done, this is all I need. To this day, I Wanted Everything, Go Mental, Bad Brain and a few other tracks on this album remain as some of my favorites.

After another trip or two to Rock-Rock-Rockaway, I picked up the other three classic albums - the original Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. Now I was officially hooked and obsessed with the Ramones. It's all I listened to, over and over. All remaining Ramones albums up to that point were added to the mix. Sounds insane, but for many years afterwards, probably 90% of what I listened to were the Ramones. Most other bands for me were now obsolete.

I saw them live in '84 as well, and maybe 10 times total through out the years - including my bachelor party in 1986. The Ramones live were nothing like their poppy-ish studio albums. Nope, everything was done in the Ramones and Rocket to Russia style. Insanely fast, no breaks, wall of noise fun. It was punk rock, but fun punk rock - NYC, all American punk rock. Gabba Gabba, We accept You, We Accept You, One of Us. I'll save these stories for another time.

It's safe to say, it all started with Road to Ruin, one of the classic Ramones albums of all time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Busted Carbon

No - luckily not a picture of my bike, but one of the many examples of carnage you'll find on the Busted Carbon site - not recommended for the squeamish or worrisome types. Being bit of a gear head and semi-old school, I find the pictures and horror stories of breakage fascinating, especially since carbon fiber is so prevalent nowadays. Even most lower end bikes sport carbon forks. No way a steel fork would have snapped like the carbon example above.

Many of the pics and stories on the site are the result of a serious crash - that doesn't concern me. With impacts like that you're going to be sampling pavement, no matter what your frame is made of. Carbon frame busted in a few pieces, aluminum frame cracked beyond repair, steel frame twisted into a pretzel - who cares - they're done. No frame or fork is indestructible.

What does concern me, as you scroll though the various pictures and stories, are the "just riding along" or low impact scenarios - where the fork, handlebar or other carbon component catastrophically fails - resulting in accompanying x-ray photos for some posted stories. That's scary stuff.

Carbon is the (semi) new wonder material for bikes. When designed and manufactured correctly, incredibly light and strong. There's some amazing things being done with it for sure.

Along with a few old school steel bikes and some aluminum mountain bikes, I also own and ride a carbon road bike. The carbon bike rides fantastic, well enough to make me wonder what a carbon hardtail (mountain bike) would be like (please send money) - so, total retro grouch I'm not. My main mountain bike has carbon handlebars as well, compete with carbon bar ends (call me XC Dork Boy).

Still, when it comes to carbon fiber, probably not a bad idea to check components occasionally to give you a little piece of mind - I hope.

Something to think about the next time you're bombing that 50 mph downhill.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cold Commute and Various Rambling

A balmy 23 degrees as I set off for work yesterday morning and not much warmer for the ride home. The cold clear weather reminds of winter back east, where I grew up. With the right clothes and looking out for ice patches, not bad and kind of fun in a "survival" way.

Yeah, folks in the midwest or other cold climates are probably thinking, "Big deal, 23 degrees". True, but it doesn't get that cold here often in the Seattle area - so, bit of shock at first. Cold weather is supposed to continue for a few more days, so I'll revisit my east coast roots a bit more.

Official blurry photo as proof of dark cold ride home. Until downloadable temperature samples are available, you'll have to take my word for it. Trust me, it's cold.

Besides freezing my ass off commuting to work - a few tidbits of life over the last week or so. I'm under contract to help fill up the Internet, so need to do my part with assorted incoherent sentences and bad photography......

Ian had his first basketball game last Saturday – first game that counts anyway. His team was something like 10 points behind, not much time left – thought they were done. Amazingly, they caught up and the game was tied at 23 points each. They added a 2 minute period to break the tie – no one scored. In the sudden death round, his team scored the winning basket – to the cheers of all parents and other players (waiting to play). Fun time. Being a sap, I actually get weepy witnessing such goofy events - anything that involves my kids. Daughter Amy laughs, "Dad, you're crying." "Nah, my eyes are just watering."

After the big game, we celebrated at the Crab Pot - where they steam up a Pile-O-Seafood and dump it all over your table. A big tasty, shared mess of eatin' fun - though a bit expensive. Pretty good though.

Sunday was designated "Christmas Tree Cutting Day", so let the festivities begin. After 15 years of getting our tree from this Woodinville tree farm - you'd think I'd remember the name. Sorry, no clue.

Day after Thanksgiving, we skipped the "Black Friday" nonsense and spent some family time by Lake Washington. Even tried a bit of fishing. Caught nothing but a few cool sunset shots.

This concludes my assorted rambling blog post - not suitable for collecting. Don't call now, operators are not standing by. Adios.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cyclocross Blast From The Past

Discovered this on my laptop hard drive, sitting in a folder of stuff copied from a previous laptop a few years ago. I shot this at a 'cross race at Marymoor Park in Redmond (WA) over 10 years ago.

At the time, I had just purchased my first camcorder and iMac (1999), and this being the first video I ever edited using iMovie. Figures it was something bike related.

I got a kick out of seeing it again, so thought I'd post it.....

It's amazing how easy it's become to shoot and edit movies, record music, self publish - and other ways to express yourself - all due to technology. We take all this for granted nowadays, but in '99 I was thrilled how easily you could do this stuff at home.

Who knows what the future will bring.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dark Commute

Even in the dark, enjoyable ride home after work tonight. Wet, but not raining, temps in the 50s, empty Burke-Gilman Trail - not bad at all.

It's still early enough in the winter for the dark commutes to be a novelty. It'll start getting old in a few weeks, as it does every winter, but for now - it's all good.

I had some fun messing around with camera during the ride. I get a kick out of shooting while moving, since you never know what you'll wind up with. With the digital age, fire away - the "film" is cheap.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hipsters Discussing Cyclocross

Yep, every culture has it's own uniform and rules. I'm guilty at times - charge me as well.

That said, time to poke a little fun at our Fixie Hipster pals......

A coworker and fellow riding pal pointed this link out to me - pulled from the infamous Bike Snob NYC blog. The site it was created on looks pretty fun to goof around with - need to check it out for future entertainment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breaking The Law

It's been raining for days here in the lovely Pacific Northwest. Real rain, not the usual Seattle wet and misty stuff - get Good 'N' Soaked kind of rain. That combined with a busy week at work and home, means just one thing. You know it, love it, you can't live without it - the dreaded wind trainer.

Yes indeed, my high tech indoor fitness set up - 1991 Bridgestone RB-1 mounted on 1989 Supergo trainer - now in full operation in the cluttered garage. Add in the first generation iPod that somehow still holds a charge, and I'm ready to roll. Rock 'N' Roll that is. You need something loud and fast to survive an hour on the trainer - that's my personal limit on the torture rack.

Lucky for me, my iPod is loaded with suitable torture rack material - from the Ramones, to Motorhead, to Judas Priest. I usually set the iPod to shuffle, then fast forward until I hit something that keeps me going. With a few thousand songs at my disposal, never know what you'll come up with.

Just as I was dragging a bit last night, thinking maybe I'd cut the hour short, iPod shuffle selects a classic - Judas Priest, Breaking The Law. Oh yes, thank you.

Exactly what I needed. Listen for yourself, while enjoying the cheesy - but oh so good cheesy - video from the '80s. Judas Priest rides the line between cheesy and amazing - as rock should. That simplistic guitar lead in the middle of the song - well, it just rocks.

Here's to a winter of rolling on the RB-1, going nowhere.....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Epic Commute and Basketball

Riding home from work last night was almost an epic. Flat out pouring rain for the dark, hour plus slosh home. Buzzing down Eastlake Ave was like kayaking down a small river. By the time I hit the Burke-Gilman Trail, was already totally soaked - like I jumped in a pool. Full on sloshing wet feet, soaked through jacket and gloves - total joy. Not.

Cruising through the U District, rode by the aftermath of a bike/car combo - parked car with flashers going, bike with taco'd front wheel, people milling about in the pouring rain. Ouch. Already a small crowd in attendance, no sense in me stopping. I plow on.

Once I got moving on the Burke-Gillman Trail, started to feel pretty good and actually enjoyed the crazy conditions a bit. Well, a little anyway, in-between muttering F&@# when punched with a sideways wallop of rain and wind - more in amazement then anger. I was also digging my new lights. They really pierce a hole through the wet darkness, making the ride a bit more bearable.

I was in a rush, hoping to catch my son Ian's basketball game. It was just a practice game, but his first ever, so I wanted to see it. This made me put the hammer down slightly, so I gassed it for home. Along the way, I caught up to coworker, bike pal Jay - who also was fording his way home. I slowed down a bit to chat with him, then resumed the pace into the driving rain. Crazy fun. I give Jay credit - anyone commuting that day gets bonus points towards their official Bike Commuter merit badge.

I made my son's game and stood there soaking wet in the gym - in full bike geek uniform. I was so soaked, didn't dare take anything off - even my helmet. Some kid informed me the blinky light on my messenger bag was still on. Gee, thanks. Another kid told me I looked cool, like I was in shape. Wow. Then a mom starts telling me her son is interested in BMX. Maybe I should wear bike clothes everywhere - like some sort of roving beacon of all things bike.

After my son's game, I climbed back on the saddle for the short ride to the house - and completely froze my ass off. Once I hit the garage, peeled everything off fast as humanly possible - like it was radioactive - then toweled off and into dry clothes. I didn't fully warm up for quite awhile - though wolfing down my dinner helped. Sounds goofy, but bike commuting makes you appreciate warmth, light and food. A little bit of daily adventure does that.

My son's team didn't win their practice game, but Ian looked good out there and I know he really enjoyed it. Later that night, I could see the gleam in his eye and slight smile when I told him he looked good playing - and that his new team jersey looked pretty cool.

That alone made the soaking wet, crazy rush home worth the trip.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some Inspiration From Italy

This is Cuccuini Libero, 88 years young, photographed at the L'Erocia ride in Italy. You gotta love seeing people like this - I do anyway. Gives me hope that I have many, many more riding years ahead of me.

It's also a glimpse into the cycling culture that exists in Italy, that I'd love to experience one day. Hopefully before I'm 88 years old. Even if it takes that long, I'd hope to ride as well as Cuccuini.

I grabbed this off Italian Cycling Journal, one of the many blogs that I follow - great blog. Take a peek yourself.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Magicshine Lights

The last few weeks have been a bust riding wise - only ridden two days out of the last 3 weeks or so. I don't know if I had Saturday Night Fever or Cat Scratch Fever - but after two weeks of feeling low level sick, got wacked with a full on head cold. In any case, I'm getting back to normal. Well, health wise anyway - mentally is always a different story.

During my only bike commute day last week, post daylight savings time, now dark at 5:00 PM scenario - discovered, or should say reminded, that my Nightsun lighting system battery was almost toast. Barely holds enough charge for the hour plus ride home. I knew this last season, thought I could stretch it one more winter. Maybe not.

The low battery turns the dark commute into a sport all its own - drafting riders with working lights, riding blind at times, using only low beam with brief blasts of high beam when needed. If it went well, the lights would die just a few houses from home - sort of entertaining at times, but not exactly safe.

Monday - after riding home in the dark, playing my "make the lights last" mobile game of chance, complete with full on dripping head cold - plugged the battery in to recharge over night, and the plastic connector popped off the battery lead - ripped the wires right out. Game over, lights are done. R.I.P. Crap.

I knew from previous experience, the Nightsun replacement battery is over $100 and is the old school, heavy Nicad water bottle deal. Now with the busted connector, good excuse for new lights. The Nightsun system lasted me 15 years with one bulb and one battery replacement over that time. A good run for sure - no complaints really.

For my commuting, I need some decent lights - something in the $300 - $500 range (ouch). Before I pulled the trigger on something that expensive, I remembered people off the local mountain bike club email list mentioning Magicshine lights. Yeah, "Magicshine" - now there's a Chinese translated, English marketing goof for sure. Reminds me of the "Wonder Light" we sold during my '80s bike shop days - about the brightness of a weak flashlight. The joke was, "It's a wonder you could see anything". Language fun aside, comments said the Magicshine lights were a killer deal. After a little Google searching, that appeared to be true. $85 for a 900 Lumen light. So I placed an order and hoped the magic would shine.

I ordered a set online from GeoManGear, they appear to be the only source (don't quote me on that). I went for the Racer Special, since it included a second battery and helmet mount - for $125, plus shipping.

Lights arrived in just a few days and I tried 'em out today.....

Everything out of the box. Charger, light, two batteries, helmet mount, cable extension, O rings for mounting.

The light itself is pretty small. I'm not sure what the bulb technology is - maybe plutonium or kryptonite. Hopefully nothing too explosive.

Now is this a high quality product shot or what? Magicshine should use this in their catalog - the garage door and flash really sets off the product - no? Uh, anyway - the goods mounted on the trusty Ibis commute/cyclocross weapon for a quick test ride. The lithium battery, clumsily strapped to old school Salsa stem, is really small and light weight. The O ring holding the light to handlebar works better then I thought it would. The zip ties and cheesy electrical tape on the shifter cables help reduce glare by pulling the cables out of the light beam, and killing some reflection off the silver cables. Ugly, but effective.

How does it work? Well, after playing with 'em a bit and cruising around the neighborhood some - pretty damn well. These are bright lights - way brighter then my old Nightsun setup. You could stun small mammals. If you stared directly into it, could probably see an alternate universe. Yeah, they're bright. I was impressed.

While I was testing 'em out, my riding neighbor dragged out his $500 Lupine system for comparison - also rated at 900 lumen. Shining at various targets in the dark yard, they seem equal power wise. Now I'm really impressed. Sure, the Lupine build quality may be a tad higher, especially the trick quick release mount - but we're talking $85 against $500. Amazing deal for the money.

Yeah, maybe the Magicshine loses the magic and blows up in two weeks - that remains to be seen. Considering the price, if this last me two winters, I'm still way ahead. If they prove reliable, considering I already have a second battery, may spring for a second light alone ($45) and have two complete 900 lumen systems for $170. Incredible. Use on two separate bikes, mount both on one bike (handlebar and helmet mount), or even aim one backwards to stun unwanted drafters on the Burke Gilman Trail (heh, heh).

A few other technical tidbits - battery charges in 4 hours, light has five modes: high (900 lumen), medium (500 lumen), low (200 lumen), flash mode and SOS mode (??). Run time is claimed as 3 hours on high and 5+ hours on low. Everything covered under a 90 day warranty.

To wind down the worlds longest post on lights, let's review - shall we?

The (not so) Bad:
  • Unknown reliability factor.
  • No strap included to mount battery. I used an old pump strap.
  • Can't fully power down light without unplugging the battery - otherwise the power level light remains on.
  • One bulb power only. If fails, welcome darkness. I always carry a wimpy AA powered back up light anyway.

The Good:
  • Insanely bright for the money. A flat out killer deal.
  • It appears to be fairly well made.
  • Extra parts available online.
  • Really compact and light weight.
  • A flat out killer deal - worth saying twice.

I'll be putting these to the real world test starting next week. Multiple dark commuting days for weeks on end. I'll keep you posted in the event of any spectacular failures.

Shine on O Magicshine.

Update: Fellow mountain biker pointed out the nylon battery case can be used as a mounting strap - burrito style. I tried it and it works, but I still use the old pump strap in addition. I also didn't mention this is a LED light. A few other people have reported this light working great as well - truly a deal for the dough.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

It officially feels like fall - mid 50s, damp and overcast. Plus it's Halloween - now you know it's fall. To celebrate and possibly scare ourselves, a mountain bike ride was in order. I've been off the bike for two weeks, my longest break in at least a year. Forced hiatus due to seemingly endless cold symptoms, work and family festivities, plus a few other excuses. I was riding today no matter what - and so I did.

Well, we did - Ian and I. A nice 'n' easy romp through the local woods. Lots of fallen leaves, tacky wet dirt, occasional spritz of rain, punctuated by the sun peeking through the clouds. Quite refreshing actually. Not bad at all.

Interesting sky and lighting conditions today - as demonstrated over Lake Washington.

Ian in silhouette ponders the view - and the steep climb away from the beach.

For Halloween I dressed up as a pro mountain bike racer. I fooled no one.

Bikes gasp in awe of glowing sunlight off lake. Well, something like that anyway.

Ian rests on comfy log, while bikes mysteriously hold themselves upright. Told you it was Halloween.

Our pumpkin collection on display for neighbors to enjoy and squirrels to gnaw on. Everyone wins.

Ian and Amy's Halloween get ups. Beauty and the beast. See? There's no steroids in baseball.

Post ride steak dinner prepared by lovely wife Lori, followed by neighborhood trick or treating - loads of kids running around with overflowing bags of candy. Over the last 10 years or so, there seems to be a huge increase of kids in our neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that - eh?

As a bonus, an extra hour of sleep tonight by turning the clocks back for daylight savings time - or is that daylight un-savings time? Since starting tomorrow, it'll be dark around 5:00 PM. Time to live like mole people.

Happy fall.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We Might As Well Win

We Might As Well Win - a book by Johan Bruyneel (and Bill Strickland) - I picked this up from the local library. If you're anything of a Tour or Lance fan, or a Bruyneel fan for that matter - worth a read. An inside look at the winning machine behind the Postal and Discovery teams, that propelled Lance to 7 consecutive Tour wins. I don't think we'll see that record broken for quite some time - if ever.

After reading the book, can see how this winning streak was a combo effort, idea wise anyway, between Bruyneel and Lance. The full concentration on only the Tour, the recon rides of the stages, and other strategies that blew up some of the old school thinking of preparing for the Tour. Bruyneel is the most successful Team Director of all time and comes across as a smart guy, driven and full of cycling knowledge and smarts.

Johan Bruyneel was also a pro cyclist himself, before becoming a Team Director. I enjoyed his stories from his own exploits as a rider, as much or more so, then the Lance related stories. Growing up in cycling crazy Belgium, his one Tour stage win, losing his cycling dad and biggest supporter to a heart attack at age 53 (on a ride himself), 5 weeks before seeing his son compete in his first ever Tour, crashing off a 100 foot cliff during a race - and other stories that puts some background to the man.

I thought he skipped over the doping issue of pro cycling a bit - especially the hiring and firing of Ivan Basso for Team Discovery - although it is mentioned. The book was also written before Johan and Lance "came out of retirement" to work with Team Astana in 2009. As we all know, he scored another Tour victory as Team Director with Alberto Contador and Lance finishing in 3rd place. A pretty impressive record - no?

Not a bad read at all. Find a copy and give a read yourself.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Race Across The Sky

A week or two ago, someone in the BBTC email list mentioned a documentary about the Leadville 100 mountain bike race - a one night showing in selected theaters across the U.S. I read plenty of bike related fluff, in print and online, but this was news to me. I clicked on the link and purchased two tickets for the Redmond, Washington location - one for me and the another for son Ian.

In case you live in a cave or know nothing about mountain biking, the Leadville 100 is a well known race in mountain biking circles. Takes place in Leadville, Colorado with an out and back course - 100 miles, lots of climbing, all at altitude. Dave Wiens, ex mountain bike pro, 45 years old and all around nice guy, owns this race - 6 time winner of the event - including beating Floyd Landis in 2007 and somebody named Lance Armstrong in 2008. Reading about nice dude Dave hammering two Tour de France champions was good, clean fun. That ended this year when Lance came back determined to win and set a new course record.

Well, last night was the gig and we attended as planned. Lucky we got there a little early - place was packed. Lots of bike nuts here in the Seattle area, collectively assembled to view Race Across The Sky. A beautiful sight indeed.

Before the movie, a featured rap session with Lance, Dave, Matt Shriver and Travis Brown - hired Trek guns for the race, Ken Chlouber - colorful character behind the Leadville 100, and a moderator - who I can't remember the name of. Interesting and informal questions and chatting about the race. Lance mentioned the Leadville 100 is the reason why he came out of retirement. After racing in 2008, realized how much fun racing is - and since Dave beat him - realized you don't have to win everything. This launched his comeback and return to the Tour as well. Cool insight into the mind of Lance.

With that, the movie begins and away it goes. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Bob Roll narrates the action and does a superb job as usual. Being a mountain bike race, it's more about the average Joe and Jane racers hitting the course and testing themselves. Film does a good job balancing the story of the "stars" and the regular racer stories. Some well done race video action - from following motorcycle and helicopter. Cross country mountain bike racing doesn't get the media attention it deserves and this documentary helps put it out there. Sometimes the music was a tad over dramatic - but still good. Being old school XC geek, I dug the whole thing. Man, that area of Colorado is spectacular scenery wise.

As you probably know by now, Lance did win and crushed the course record. Dave Wiens finished 10 minutes back in second place, but is far from being the "loser". I've read about Dave numerous times, but the film shows you what he seems to be - an incredibly down to earth, normal, super nice guy. You can see he truly loves this event and the people surrounding the race love him. Inspiring stuff. Plus, racing at this level at 45 years old is amazing.

A few other highlights of the film include the full on hammer session at the beginning of the race - the Lance factor and a bit of road race strategy. A lot was made of this in the bicycle media as somehow not being fair, since "teammates" were hired to help Lance. While this may be true to an extent, it is fair, and Dave Wiens later said it didn't really affect the outcome. Lance won fair and square. Check out Dave's article in the latest issue of Mountain Flyer for an example.

Watching Lance screw up a flat tire fix a few miles from the finish was amusing. Where's the team car? Sorry, this ain't the Tour. Lance powered 7 miles to the finish on a flat rear tire, the ending to a 60 mile solo breakaway. Before the flat, the shots of Lance powering on his own - he was styling on the black and white Trek Fuel, with matching black and white Mellow Johnny's jersey. The dude is a rock star.

Other interesting scenes are all the "normal" racers suffering through the race - up the climbs, through the rain and hail. Dave Wiens thanking the course support people at the turn around - a class act. Watching Ken Chlouber stopping racers from continuing after they missed the 4 hour cut off point mid-course. Emotional stuff.

After the film, back to the rap session with Lance and the others. Lance making fun of himself with the inability to fix his own flat. He comes across as relaxed and funny - very different from the Tour related quick video interviews you see during the Tour coverage. Very cool. Still, my hero out of all this is Dave Wiens - you just can't help but to like the guy.

Anyway, I'm not spilling all the details - watch it for yourself when you can - on DVD or the encore showing, which is scheduled for November 12th. If you're any kind of mountain bike or Lance fan - you'll be glad you did.

On the way home, 10 year old son Ian said he enjoyed it as well. "It makes me want to race my mountain bike" - his final comment about the movie.

Yeah - me too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cool Bike Hauler

How's this for a cool bike hauler? Being an old air cooled VW fan - think this looks killer. Having a restored van like this to haul bikes around - perhaps with a modified motor, maybe 1835cc with dual Weber carbs, exhaust system, etc - would be styling for sure.

This VW is a rolling advertisement for Vermac USA, the cycling clothes folks. Photo courtesy of Interbike coverage off the Speedgoat blog.

Speedgoat is a fairly well known shop in Pennsylvania with a large Internet and mail order presence. Their site and blog are worth checking out. Take a gander and see if you agree.

Long live old Volkswagens.