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.