Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Specials: "Frankenbike" Becomes A 2.5 & This Writing/Product Evaluating Thing Is Not So Bad.

Well, I really did not go out shopping on this "Black Friday," as I never do, anyway (I have way better things to do with my time).  These latest toys are just part of my "Happy Birthday to me" upgrade plan to make Frankenbike homogenized, component-wise.

When I purchased my Trek 2.3 in 2010, it had a complete Shimano 105 gruppo.  The 105 performed admirably, however, as time went by, the urge and opprotunity arose to upgrade and to be honest, try new things.  And, try new things, I did.  Components, wheels, tires, you name it, it all pretty much got tried, all except for the entire groupset.  Well, not anymore.  With the addition of the front and rear derailleur's (to go along with the crankset, bottom bracket and shifters), my bike will pretty much be what Trek sold around the world as the "2.5," alloy road bike.  It differed from the North American 2.3 by means of having a Shimano Ultegra gruppo, while the 2.3 was equipped with a full 105 compliment.  So, with a complete Ultegra setup, I now have the aforementioned 2.5, save for the brakes, which are SRAM Red's.

Frankenbike went through quite a few upgrades and experimentation, all as part of its life as a Product Testing platform.  Not that it was planned that way.  See, after I got down-sized out of the Aviation industry (if any of you are dying to take a career roller-coaster ride, try Aviation - More Up's & Down's than an evening in Kim Kardashian's bedroom), I suddently had the chance to ride a whole lot more than I previously could, and I felt a need to pen my thoughts, so to speak, and keep my brain occupied via the life of a scribe. 

And, I can't say I am complaining, either, as this budding Scribe/Product Evaluator, in addition to having a lot of fun, has had the opportunity to meet a lot of new, and very nice people in the business.

And the latter, you cannot put a price on.

Pedal safe, my friends.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving From The Staff, Family, And Friends At Cycling Dynamics.

A time to give gracious thanks for all things is also the time to remember to whom all these gracious things were made possible: The Good Lord.

May we all experience His infinite Blessings in 2013 and beyond.

Pedal safe, my friends.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me. Time For A Little Upgrade.

Seriously, it really is my birthday today.  And, unlike that famous quote by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, "It's not the age, it's the mileage," in cycling, it really is about the mileage.  The age part is just a by-product of life tacked on to remind us to not waste any of the precious time we have here on Ol' Blue.  And, waste not, I.

I bought Frankenbike, my reliable Trek 2.3, in 2010, and it has seen me through thick and thin, as well as serving as an excellent testbed for product evaluations.  However, as honest of a ride as it has been, one thing had always kinda' bugged me: The mish-mash of cables out in front of the bars, courtesy of the stock Shimano 105 5600 Series shifters.  While my old friend Mr. 105 has never let me down, I have always admired the clean look of under-the-bar cables, and being it was time to change out all of the cables anyway (three-years was plenty of time), why not clean up the cable routing, too?

Enter Tweaked Sports of Glendora, California, and the fine gentlemen there helped solve my ire with cable spaghetti with a beautiful set of Ultegra 6700 shifters.  Good-bye cable spaghetti!  In addition, they also provided a Shimano PRO Vibe 7S Alloy bar to go along with my birthday upgrade, and to compliment the Pro Vibe 7S alloy stem I have fallen in love with.  The Vibe bar is basically the same as my trusty Ritchey WCS Logic II alloy, but the Vibe carries on where the Ritchey left off: A constant 31.8mm diameter across the tops of the bar.  I have discovered over time that I like the constant diameter, as the Logic II's narrow quite a bit from the center.

Well, there you have it.  Some new stuff to try, another year older, and more roads to explore, yonder there horizon.

So, with the sincerest apologies to Mr. Indiana Jones, give me miles, miles, and miles.  The age factor I cannot do anything about.  

The box.

The prize: New Ultegra 6700 shifters.

Shimano PRO Vibe 7S Alloy, Anatomical bars.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shimano PRO Turnix Titanium “AF” Saddle Review

After my review of the Turnix PRO TU, or “Tail-Up” (Cycling Dynamics, 10-20-2013) saddle, I was curious to try out the AF version to see if, perhaps, I was missing anything.  The AF, which stands for “Air Flow” differs from the TU by means of less padding, a flatter profile, and a cut-out, relief channel.   That being the case, how did it work?

The AF is more of a traditional saddle in the sense it basically has one sweet-spot.  Unlike the TU model, on which you can comfortably put your buns anywhere you like, the AF is more “Placement Critical” for the best performance (at least for this mild-mannered evaluator’s backside).  This is due primarily to the aforementioned thinner and the flatter profile, which had me slamming it forward to get the placement just right for me.  However, once I found the sweet-spot, I still found myself wanting to get back on the TU. 

In totality, was I disappointed?  No.  Though the AF was not as comfortable overall as the TU, the wide, flat profile, combined with the cut-out channel does make for a nice place to get your pedaling done efficiently.  It just all depends on your preferences and how the Good Lord made your sit bones. 

                                                                            The packaging.

The AF has a flatter profile than the TU.

The "Tail-Up" profile of the TU contrasted with the "Flatter" AF model below.

From the rear the difference in padding is clearly visible.

On a final note, the double-edged sword of saddle evaluation is that no two butts are ever in total agreement, and that is what makes saddle evaluation more or less the wicked stop-child of subjectiveness.  This article is meant to inform, however, the final decision is up to your butt. 

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tweaked Sports of Glendora, California for providing the test saddles

The Stats:
·         Available in Black or White
·         Microfiber cover with hi-density foam padding
·         Relief Split-Cutout for comfort
·         Carbon-reinforced nylon base for increased rigidity
·         Lightweight & strong oversized, hollow titanium rails   
·         Approximate weight: 200g
·         Dimensions: 132mm Wide, 280mm Length
·         Retail $145.00 USD


Friday, November 8, 2013

How To Keep Your Bike Clean And Looking New

Total cost: $2.00 USD. You don't have to spend a lot of money to keep your bike looking new

You paid a lot of money for that new ride.  You are rightfully proud of it, and people give you many a complement when you are out on the road.  You want to keep it shiny, new, and happy.  And, since bikes can be pretty darn expensive these days, the least we all can do is treat them with some respect, and keep them in the best mechanical and aesthetic condition possible. 

And, now for a little bit of bad news.  The world a bike must live in is very harsh, dirty, and nasty.  It is as if every element in the universe is keen to take the sheen off of your ride and tone down its rolling awesomeness.  Yes, by the sheer act of riding, our beautiful bikes can get very dirty.  However, with a little active effort, they can be kept looking good for many, many miles.  Here’s how I do it.

The key is to get your bike clean to the point that you can follow a simple, post-ride regimen to keep it there, that way you are not doing a major job everytime you turn around and look at it.  For example, in less than a few minutes, I can wipe the chain, clean, and polish the bike, and it is ready to go for the next outing.  If the bike is very dirty, it will require a hose-down, with soap and a scrubbing.  No high-pressure washers, just a hose, some mild detergent (Dawn dish soap is very effective at removing grease and dirt), and a soft rag. 

Once I get the bike to the point where it is clean, there are basically two schools of thought from here-on regarding a continuous cleaning schedule.  First method is to use commercially available, bicycle specific products, which are nice and convenient, yet expensive.  The other method, and the one I use, is to utilize everyday household products.  They are readily available, effective, safe, and best of all, very, very cheap if procured with a little bit of forethought.  What I have discovered through trial and error is that a combination of Mr. Clean in a spray bottle and simple furniture polish (like Lemon Pledge) works wonders on my bike.    
Post ride, and after servicing and cleaning the chain (Chain Cleaning And Lubing: How To Ride More Efficiently, And Look Good While Doing it, Cycling Dynamics, 09-28-2013) I use the Mr. Clean sprayed onto a clean rag and wipe the bike free of dirt, grime, brake dust, chain lube, and the inevitable electrolyte spills from the water bottle.  I also clean the controls, wheels, and my Microtex bar tape.  I then use a clean micro-fiber cloth for the polishing.  As with the cleaner step, I always spray the polish onto the rag, not onto the bike, as this would just cause over-spray mess and waste product.  First the polish step, then the wipe-down with another micro-fiber cloth to complete the process to a high shine.  Elapsed time: Less than five-minutes. 

                                     Three years-old, and it still looks as good as the day I bought it.

The results are fantastic, and the costs involved are minimal.  The cleaner, polish, and micro-fiber cloths can all be had from your local discount store.  I get my Mr. Clean, furniture polish, and micro-fiber’s (usually in a pack of three) from my local 99-Cent Store for a total cost of $3.00 USD.  As for the cleaning rags, well, we all have rags lying around the house in the form of old cotton t-shirts, socks, sheets, and towels.

The cleaning regimen I use has been tried and tested, and not just on my own bike, but it was honed to a science on my motorcycle, my car, and yes, I have even utilized it on business jets I used to maintain for a living.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It’s Not A Man’s World. And, It’s Not A Woman’s World, Either. It’s A ME World!

Yes, it really is all about ME, ME, and ME!  Nothing else matters, just ME!  I don’t care about anybody else, I just care about ME!  Courtesy, kindness and morality, heck no!  It’s all about ME!  Did I mention it was all about ME?

So, why do I putteth forth this gargantuan cluster of ME’s?  Well, the subject of ME was swirling around in my head during, and after, my regular training ride today.  With the cluster of selfish, dangerous dolts behind the wheel of motor vehicles about off the proverbial hook, even if one is just a once-in-a-blue-moon rider, they know motorists have ZERO respect for a cyclist’s mere, puny existence.

There was a time when it used to be just careless automobile drivers to keep a watchful eye out for, but it has since escalated to commercial vehicles, and yes, even school buses.  Just short of the Pope running us down in a hurry to get to Mass, in my view, the problem of lack of concern from the driving public for cyclists has now reached its crescendo.  The final nail, at least for me, was driven into my psyche today.  You ready for it?  OK, here it comes:

Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s). 

Yes, it finally happened.  A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s patrol car pulled out in front of me, making a left turn across my bow, coming from my right.  Oh, he eventually saw me, but that was after he almost had me splattered across his windshield.  And, for the record, I was wearing a bright red riding kit, a super bright front strobe was blazing my way, I was following all of the applicable laws of the road we must share, and still it was not enough to keep me out of the potential harm and negligence of another. 

It was all of the former proactive safety measures, combined with my common sense in expecting him to cut me off, which kept me out of the local community emergency room.      

So, what does this prove?  Well, in addition to everyone out there only looking out for themselves (ME, ME, ME!), we, as cyclists, must be extra-proactive to ensure our own survival.  We must ride in accordance with the Vehicle Code, wear bright, hi-visibility clothing, with super-bright, flashing lights on even in the daytime.  Remember, and too bad it has to be this way, but the only person responsible for our own personal safety is us. 

The precious resource of Common Sense must not be trusted to others.