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.