Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Scenes We Don't Like To See, And A Major Case Of Bike Lane Fail.

A Public Service Announcement to those whom have not yet received the memo: We are all going to die, someday.  

No, that is not some sort of macabre joke, it is a true fact of life that no one gets off this planet alive, save for the Prophet Elijah.  While the end of life is indeed nothing to fear, the perspective of what can happen to one in between is the sober reminder in the photos below. 

The photos were taken near the end of a recent ride I took through Santiago Canyon.  I had never seen a Ghost Bike before, and it was quite an eye opening reminder of the hazards we face whilst engaged in our passion.  Dying of old age is one thing, but having your life taken from you by a reckless moron is flat-out tragic. 

I never knew Joseph Robinson personally, yet through the brotherhood-of-cycling, we are really all family, and the loss of a brother or sister is hard to take.

As you can see, the posted speed is 55-miles per hour.  That seems a reasonable speed considering the width of the road and it's smooth surface.  The dangerous aspect of these speeds is they are safe as long as the motorists don't swerve out of their lanes and hit cyclists, which is what happened to Mr. Robinson.  Alcohol, and youthful inexperience, were also contributing factors in this case.

In the "Hey, we got room," department, it seems if you have to close a lane for street maintenance, why only close one lane (and traffic monitor the other), when you can simply shut down both lanes and route 45-mile per hour traffic into the bike lane.  On a recent training ride, the photo below shows just such an instance in the City of Claremont.  It also seems that the law of 25-miles per hour in a work zone does not apply, anymore.

I waited for about a dozen cars to pass before I felt it was safe to proceed, as a fencing crew had the sidewalk closed with their own, independent activity.  Epic fail, boys.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A New Perspective

From the merely curious web surfers, to my seven, loyal readers, folks may have noticed I have been extremely silent on the giant, electronic publishing highway.  There was a good, valid reason for that.  The office of Cycling Dynamics has moved, trading the foothills for the coast.  And, said move was not without its share of pain, suffering, sweat and tears, additionally taking a massive chunk out of my available riding, and writing, time.  Yes, life happens.    

However, now that the formally plush publishing office has now become an extremely plush publishing office, don’t think for one minute the insightful commentary, opinions and product testing of this woefully underfunded operation will cease.  The roads may have flattened out around here, but with a bold, fresh perspective, new terrain to explore, and new products to test out, things are guaranteed to get a whole lot more interesting. 

Therefore, back on the information highway with a new location, a new ISP, and an odd sense of spiritual rebirth from the whole experience, the bicycle wheels of life can only go one way: Forward.  And, so too, will Cycling Dynamics move forward for the loyal (and questionably sane) followers of the site, because that is the only direction I know how to go now. 

Come along for the ride. 


Darryl Bustamante, Editor-At-Large

Monday, September 15, 2014

Shimano PRO Vibe 7S Anatomical Road Bar Review

Photo courtesy of PRO Components

First off, I have a confession to make.  I really, really hated taking these bars off my trusty Trek 2.3 testbed.  They were some of the most comfortable, functional, durable, and good looking bars I have ever used, I now understand why they are such a hit in Pro Peletons around the world.  However, in the pursuit of knowledge through ceaseless, selfless testing, I had to do the deed.  Courtesy of the fine folks at Tweaked Sports, of Glendora, California, a brand new set of Ritchey Streem II alloy bars dropped into my hands for evaluation (a write-up will be coming on those later, after I get some miles on them).

Pro markets the Vibe 7S as a “Do-All” road bar, suitable for both racing and training, with the durability of aluminum offering peace-of-mind in the event of a crash.  The latter is why so many pro teams prefer aluminum over the lightness (and cool factor) of carbon fiber bars.  With a carbon bar, the spectre of cracks and delamination are always lurking under the bar tape.  With alloy bars, that lack of a sudden, catastrophic failure is negated (for the most part).

I used a 44cm wide Vibe for 10-months (drop 140mm, reach 80mm), and it was tested on local training rides, Century’s, mountains, the coast, river trails, and even some dirt fire roads.  The bars were some of the most, if not the most, comfortable I have ever used.  The tops are a constant diameter of 31.8mm, from the stem to the first bend, and my size-large hands really liked that.  And, that top bend radiuses just perfectly into the Ultegra 6700 shifters I am currently using, tapering to 23.75mm from the drops to the bar ends.  The anatomical portion of the bar was another thing which fit my hands just right, though the balance of comfort while on the hoods and in the drops meant bar angle was a critical factor in achieving a perfect setup.  Additionally, and a quality of alloy bars which I like, is that you can feel the bars flexing over rough surfaces, so they do indeed dampen out vibrations and harsh bumps; A really good thing.

To sum it all up, would I personally use these bars again, and also recommend them to others?  You bet! 

The Pics:

The anatomical bend.

Wide 31.8mm tops for maximum comfort. Nice "PRO" graphics, too.

The upper radius is well-shaped. Combine a Vibe 7S stem, and the control is excellent.
The Specs:
  • AL-7050 construction for increased rigidity
  • Integrated Dual Cable Routing for brake and shift-cables
  • Available in Round, Anatomic or Compact bends
  • Sizes: 38, 40, 42 and 44cm (C/C)
  • Diameter: 31.8mm
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: from 260g
  • MSRP: $99.00 USD

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Welcome To The Wild, Wild, West.

Due to commitments, and that thing called “Life,” I was off the bike for pretty much the whole month of August.  Too busy to get on-board, I did throw quite a few looks of affection her way as I was coming in, and going out, the door.  Well, I finally decided I was MAKING time to go out for a ride and reacquaint myself with my bike, my legs, and some of the local roads.  And in regards to the latter, well, let me tell you, after today’s training ride, it seems I did not miss a thing.

It is time us to face the facts: We now live in a lawless society, with people pretty much making up the rules as they go, and, of course, the rules apply to themselves, only.  Motorists, cyclists, and even pedestrians, plus everyone in between, peeps are pretty much wholly dismissive of one another today.  The real problems arise when we get a whole society of these creatures together, and one can just watch the machine of humanity slowly grinding to a halt.

While my training ride was pretty much “Business as Usual” as far as purposely rude humans goes, there were some real standouts which warrant special mentions from the ride.  They were kinda’ like Kenny Blankenship’s Most Painful Eliminations of The Day, without the brutal impacts, water traps, or being caught on actual video.

The first shout-out goes to Casa Colina Rehabilitation Center, in Pomona, California.  From an organization in business of healing bodies, their employee’s and guests seem determined to put many-a-cyclist in there as patients due to how they ingress and egress from the property.  It is one place to really watch yourself, lest one becomes a guest, Pronto!

Next up, “Johnny Skinhead.”  From the bad haircut, to the dirty, ripped clothing , to the complete beater-car, this guy already had stereotype written all over him, and that was before he blew the light a full four-seconds after it turned red for him.

My next victim of ridicule, “Jose Oldsmobile.”  This creep not only blew through a stop sign, but he almost plowed into me, two cars at the intersection, plus a man simply just opening the door to his own truck.  “Jose” was traveling so fast, and had such a dangerous disregard for others, that both the truck driver and I tried to track him down and get his license plate to report him.  Alas, “Senior Oldsmobile” was gone in less than 60-seconds.

Then, there was “Toni Hawkeye.”  This knucklehead felt it was his job to be hauling ass in the bike lane – Opposite traffic, while astride a skateboard.  And, this moron was not going to move for anyone, including little ‘ol me and my bicycle.

And finally, I present “Chrissie Curbhugger.”  She felt it was her job, after picking up her cretin kid from school, to drive in the bike lane for about 150-yards before making a right turn, rather than merge into traffic with everyone else, as she was legally required to do.  While she was waiting at the red light (I know, shocked me, too) I politely told he that it is illegal to drive in the bike lane for reasons of convenience.  Yes, she actually had the nerve to get angry regarding the situation: At me.

“Ah, the Flowers of Humanity, I used to think.”  Now, all I think I have been experiencing have been the weeds.

Stay vigilant, my friends.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Rolled A “Fatty” Today.

The Farley. Photo courtesy Trek Bicycles.

Being I have been personally known to pretty much try any new thing twice, I welcomed the opportunity to try out a “Fatty.”  A Fat Tired bicycle, that is.  And while this is by no means a “Review,” it is more of a personal revelation about a class of bikes I had, to this point in my life, personally dismissed.  So, what did I discover?  Well, it was one of the most unexpectedly entertaining things I have done in a long time.   

Courtesy of the fine folks at Pasadena Cyclery, I was invited the opportunity to ride a Trek Farley.  And, being true to my approach to “New Things,” I thought, well, goofy as those darn Fat Tired bikes looked, I welcomed the chance to try one of those odd contraptions out.  And, I am delighted to report I have now been enlightened to what all of the fuss has been about regarding this genre of bikes.  They are absolutely amazing!

While I did not “Take it to the Hills, what the shop’s terrain did provide was a pseudo-rock garden, dirt, and some deep gravel.  The Farley just ate it all up.  ‘Matter of fact, the wide motocross-width tires encouraged foot down cornering like my old mountain bike never did.  Those tires are just plain versatile and fun.  One caution I did come away with was the urge to resist riding it like a regular mountain bike.  With those big tires, and wide, flat pedals, one need not be afraid to lean the sucker over and get a foot out, enduro-style.

In addition to rolling smoothly over every piece of terrain, the rest of the Farley’s package was equally impressive.  First, the phenomenal Avid hydraulic disc’s, at least to this Roadie, were the best brakes I have ever used on a bicycle.  Why some peeps are afraid of disc brakes on road bikes is beyond me, and those people are going to be missing out.  If this level of power and modulation are what’s in store for road bikes, we are all in for a real treat, not to mention a level of safety yet seen on road bicycles. 

The SRAM X7 shifters delivered, along with a SRAM X0 front derailleur and an X9 rear derailleur.  The stock seat was fully adequate for the job at hand (not that you are going to spend much time on it), plus the seatpost is a quick-release, height adjust contraption, so setting the right height for a ride will not be an issue.

And for the record, Fat Tired bikes are an activity I plan to try a lot more than twice.   

For complete Farley specs, clicky here for Trek’s website.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Racing Bicycle Meets Racing Motorcycle.

Concept racing bicycle

50cc Kreidler roadracing motorcycle, circa 1980.
KTM 125cc roadracing bike, circa 2012.

Can't recall where we came across the above concept bicycle photo, but we like it.  There are some interesting ideas at work here, however, the creeps at the UCI would have a mental breakdown just looking at the photo, alone.

The actual ergonomics of efficient pedaling may not be realized, then again, with no human in the photo to ascertain the bar, seat, pedal relationship, we will just have to speculate. 

The bicycle sure looks cool, though, and it looks pretty darn aero, too.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Glendora Mountain Road: Sometimes, You Just Gotta’ Climb The Hill.

I don’t know what has gotten into me lately.  After a few years of semi-serious road bike riding, I have become somewhat addicted to hills (it can’t be the coffee, however, I am not sure about the water).  What this has led to is a semi-serious love affair with Glendora Mountain Road (GMR).  Take a recent “Encounter,” for example. 

I actually arose pretty early (by my standards), and moseyed on-over to the intersection of Sierra Madre Boulevard and Glendora Mountain Road (GMR), focused on a solo day’s ride up the ribbon of switchbacks.  Though riding solo, no worries, as I knew where the road went (a quick note on rising early that morning; Since I could not sleep the previous night, for some reason, I was truly not feeling my best as I began to assault the hill.  However, grinding out a sustained climb has a way of activating the body’s natural rhythm, and I just kept pedaling and forgot how icky I had felt when I stated the climb).  There were actually quite a few cyclists on the hill, and thankfully, not too much vehicle traffic.  In addition to all of the roadies, there was some kind of shuttle taking fat tire riders (mountain bikes) up the hill, where they were let off just passed the road maintenance shack.  It looked like they were taking the fire trails back down the hill.  I also saw a few downhill skateboarders and one street luger (and I thought I was crazy when I raced motorcycles back in the day).

Up, up that ribbon of highway…

As I was grinding out yet another switchback, I came upon two people I recognized at a turnout.  From there, the three of us dragged each other up the hill, sharing stories and jokes along the way.  I was also quite impressed with one of the riders, named Manfred.  For a newer rider, he simply does not quit.  He just kept going and going up that hill.  After our stroll to the top, and a quick pause for drinks and photos, the really fun part began – The decent.  Nothing will put a smile on your face like bombing a really good stretch of downhill.  I made full use of it.  Once at the bottom, we parted ways, and I made for the sanctity of my own kitchen for a well-deserved post ride meal.   

In all, three things got me up the hill that day.  The Good Lord Himself, remembering Trek Factory Racing’s rider Jens Voigt’s famous words of “Shut up legs,” and a friend sharing his advice of counting to 100 repeatedly until the top of the hill is reached, so as to distract the mind while climbing.  It works out pretty good, too.  When the road heads upward, start counting until you get to 100 or the top of the hill, whichever comes first.  If you are not there yet, start counting over again until you get to the top.  I must have counted to 10,000 in total, that particular day.

To sum it all up, it was a good day to ride, a good day to climb, and the surprise company made for a very good time, indeed.

Editor’s Note:

Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) is a two-lane, well paved, multi-switchback road in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California.  It is about 8.5-miles to the top, with a published grade of 4 to 7%, with approximately 2200-feet of climbing.  It is a hotbed of activity for motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, skateboarders and street lugers.  It has even been used in the Amgen Tour of California a few times.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Shimano PRO “550ML” Storage Bottle. The Alternative To Seat Bags And Jersey Pockets For All Your Stuff.

For any cyclist short of having their own, personal support vehicle on their rides, the storage of essential items becomes a must.  From spare tubes, to tools, nutrition, ID, money, and keys, we all need to have certain items with us on all of our rides.  Usually the first option people turn to for storage, after jersey pockets, are underseat bags.  And, why not?  They are useful, practical, pretty much indestructible, and are out of the way until absolutely needed.  However, there is another way.  Enter the Shimano PRO Storage Bottle. 

Storage bottles offer another practical way to hold the items required, and they fit in a space which is quite sensible – A bottle cage.  Why the bottle cage location?  Truth be told, most of our rides are not long enough to require two (2), large water bottles every time we go on a ride.  I can see a well stocked underseat bag on a Century, but on the bulk of the rides we cyclists do, two, large water bottles can be weighty overkill.  The storage bottle offers a nice, cleaner looking alternative to a big, seat bag, and truth be told, once you use a bottle to carry your stuff, you will wonder why you did not do it sooner. 

Innocuous storage - Most of the time we don't need two bottles.

And, you can cram a lot of stuff into these bottles, too.

The Specs:

  • A multi-function storage system
  • Currently available only in 500ML size (that may change)
  • Secure screw-on cap
  • Fits 74mm diameter bottle cages
  • Offered in either black or white

Editor’s Note:

Shimano advertises the bottle on their website in two sizes, both 550 and 750ML.  However, though the larger version has been in their catalog for a couple of years, it is, unfortunately, not available.  And, the smaller version is actually labeled on the packaging as being “500cc.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's Here! Ritchey Superlogic Carbon C260 Stem In Limited Edition Hi-Vis Yellow.

Well, it was just the other day that a very credible rumor floated into the Cycling Dynamics palatial offices that Ritchey was going to do a limited edition, full carbon C260 stem in Hi-Vis Yellow.  This was exciting for a couple of reasons.  First, the Superlogic's are the first, full-carbon stems from Ritchey, and second, this was to be a completely new color they have not done before.  Cool. 

Well, it is a rumor no more, as I actually had the chance to inspect (unfortunately, not try) one of the new, very rare stems over at my sponsor's office, Tweaked Sports, of Glendora, California.  The brothers Brian and Patrick were kind enough to call me up and invite me to come and see one of the first new stems released by Ritchey.

After forcing my way in the door, the first things I noticed upon viewing this beauty (after the striking color, of course), was just how stout, and light, the stem truly is.  I have tried pretty much every Ritchey stem there is, and I really like their offerings a lot, but I have yet to try one of the Superlogic units (after seeing the Hi-Vis version, I hope to recityfy that problem - Hear that, Tweaked Sports!)  It is extrely light, the paint, finish, and carbon weave in the stem body were all first rate.  The thing I did notice which really caught my attention, though, was the seven (7) bolts now required to mount the unit, and they are now Torx heads, not the usual hex heads.

Out of the box, this 90mm version is truly a work of art.

The curves on the slot allow for more even clamping forces, and reduced stress on the steer tube.  There are three Torx head screws to ensure a good fit.

Well, from what I could ascertain, the stem looks to be a damn good offering from the minds at Ritchey.  I hope to get my hands on a test unit soon, and I'll let you know how they work out.  I truly expect this to be the stiffest stems I gave ever tried, and I have tried a lot of them from different manufacturers.

The Specs:

  • C260 bar clamp creates a larger stem-to-bar interface, drastically reducing bolt stress
  • 4 x T-20 faceplate bolts and patented 260 degree bar clamp design reduces weight, increases stiffness and distributes stress more evenly
  • 3 x T-20 steer tube bolts and curved clamp slot reduces weight and steer tube stress
  • Fits most road and mountain bars
  • Material: Carbon with 2014 alloy faceplate
  • Lengths: 90 - 130mm
  • Angle: 84/6 degree
  • Steerer Height: 42mm
  • Faceplate width: 40mm
  • Steerer: 1-1/8" or 1-1/4" (International only)
  • Limited edition yellow finish
  • 125g (110mm)

Retail from Ritchey is $279.95 USD

Tweaked Sports can get 'em to you for $254.95 USD 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cat’s First Time.

I had been bugging her to do it with me for over two-years.  And, everytime I asked, all I got were excuses why she would simply not do it with me.  “I’m not ready.”  “I’m too tired.”  “It’s too hard, and looks too big.”  “I’d like to, but it looks scary.”  And, “I don’t have time.”  After enduring brush-off, after brush-off, why couldn’t she just cooperate, I thought?  It would just be far easier to give in to my wishes, and fighting back just prolonged the inevitable, anyway.  I mean, deep down, she knew we were both going to do it someday. 

So, I kept at her.  And, I kept at her, knowing one day I would get what I wanted, and that afterwards, she would thank me, wondering why we did not do it sooner.  “We could even make it our own, little secret,” I said.  No one had to know if it made her feel better about the whole thing. 

Then, finally, one day, I thought to ask an additional time.  And, she actually said…, yes.  I couldn’t believe it!  I had finally worn her down, and she caved in to my strong suggestions (“Demand” is just too harsh a word) actually agreeing, at long last, to just do it with me.  About dang time, girl!  “You won’t regret it, and I am going to show you one heck of a good time,” I exclaimed with a big ‘ol grin on my face.  So, setting up a date and a time, we finally got together, and we actually did it. 

And, you know what? It was as much fun as I always thought it would be, in fact, even more so.  Catrina (Cat) was finally broken in, and forever the way she saw herself was changed.  She would be a new woman, having done something she had never done before: 

She and I climbed Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) together.

However, she and I did not do it alone.  With the help of a couple of friends of mine, the husband and wife team of Mike and Carla (M&C), we all got together to, “Do it,” aka, ride the Hill.  We met at M&C’s house near the base of GMR for an early evening ride up the famed twists and switchbacks.  But first, a little back story on the event’s cast of characters.  

I have been riding with Cat for over three-years now, and she has become quite an exceptional cyclist.  In addition to riding, she also runs, swims, and hikes, yet the only things she had not done was a serious, prolonged, mountain climb on a road bike.  I always knew she could do GMR.  The problem was convincing HER that she could do GMR.  Thus, with the help of the aforementioned friends, M&C, we agreed to pace Cat up the hill for her “First Time.” 

Cat, after "Doing It." One, happy Climber.

As for the dynamic duo of M&C, well, they are on a whole other level from most recreational, non-professional riders I know.  For their age group (north of forty), they are two of the most physically fit people I have ever seen.  And as for their cycling proclivities, in addition to road cycling, they are also big mountain bike people and hikers, too.  Everytime I ride with them, they both drop me like a bad habit.  And the worst, sickest part of these two is that they both ride with FLAT pedals!  There are no clips or clipless pedals to be found on their road bikes.  The day these two move up to clipless pedals and cleats, they will destroy us all. 

The dynamic duo of Mike and Carla.

Meanwhile, back to the ride…

Beginning the ride at 5:15 PM, the weather was warm, but not too bad, and the air was pretty clear by San Gabriel Valley Basin standards.  M&C said they would go easy on both Catrina and I, however, it turned out they would all be going easy on ME, as all three of them soon dropped me like a losing lottery ticket.  Up, up we went, and with every switchback, I could see I was a little bit farther from the trio.  So, I just settled into a rhythm, with a steady cadence, simply enjoying the scenery, while keeping my brain busy with various cerebral exercises to distract it from my burning legs.  I also kept my mind occupied by remembering one of GMR’s greatest assets (other than the view): Its wonderful descent (it’s one of the axioms of going up – You must also come down.  Thank you, Mr. Gravity!).

When we finally arrived at the top, we stopped, took stock of the moment, drank some fluids, shot some photos, chatted a bit, and all eyes, and amazement, soon turned to the mountain goat we discovered.  Cat climbed like a Pro, kept up with both M&C, and had me wheezing to keep up.  And remember, this was the woman whom had resisted any, and all, of my attempts to get her to go up there in the first place.  Yes, she took to the climb like a proverbial fish to water, and it was as I had been telling her all of those years: You will thank me for it, and wonder why you did not do with me sooner (hah, I was right!).  We then bombed down the hill, and as exceptional a descender as I am (true), I could barely catch Mike on the way down.  I live for a good descent, and GMR delivers. 

At the bottom, and after we parted ways with M&C, whilst Cat and I were having dinner, she inquired if it was as good for me as it was for her.  The smile on my face told her my thoughts.  And, we agreed to do it again soon and as often as possible in the future. 

‘Cause, as everyone knows, the more you do it, the better you get, right?

I also insisted she share with her husband exactly what we had done together.  In fact, I told her to rub his nose in it, and get him to “Do It” with her, too.

* Editor’s note:

Climbing GMR in the late afternoon on a weekday: There were a lot of friendly cyclists on the hill at that time, and motor vehicle traffic was about non-existent.  It was really quite a refreshing time to go up there, as I have done the ride on weekends when it is a complete, and total, zoo.  If one really wants to do GMR, and really enjoy the experience, I recommend riding it on a weekday (the same goes for Highway 39, Azusa Canyon).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

After Some Credible Rumors, Ritchey "Hi-Visibility" Yellow, Superlogic Carbon C260 Stem Finally Spotted.

From our Eyes & Ears in the cycling industry came the news of a soon-to-be-seen Ritchey Superlogic stem in a color other than black, white, or red: High visibility yellow!

Well, here it is.

Slated for a Summer 2014 release, there was no current information on an actual release date, price, or if it will be a limited, or regular, production item.

Ritchey Logic Werbsite

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stupid Is As Stupid Does & Saved From Fido By A Mini-Van.

I just came to the realization today that bad things happen to stupid people for very good reasons.  Sometimes the only way the Good Lord can get a person's attention is by kicking their ass, in some way.  I mean, what value is there in getting the attention of a fool, hoping to alter their foolish ways, if they are given a generous reward?  Answer, they will continue their foolish behavior.  However, with the administering of a royal butt-kicking, well, that's when people really seem to start paying attention.  

Example: Take wrong-way Jogger's, please!

I ran into another member of the "Multitude of Fools Club" today when out on a local training ride.  The sun was out, the weather beautiful, yet here he came.  Popping out from between two parked trucks, pushing one of those jogger's strollers with the big wheels on it, massive headphones completely covering his ears, an oblivious, innocent infant in the seat - Coming right at me on my side of the road, against traffic.

Now, to a mere mortal, there would most likely have been a collision, however, I tend to pay extreme attention when I ride.  Thus, when I saw a pair of legs under the parked trucks in front of me, I eased up on the pedals and applied the brakes.  That's when "Mr. Genius" appeared from between the aforementioned trucks while at a full gait.  With two, full, smooth sidewalks on each side of the road, an infant in the stroller, yet, here was this knucklehead running in the street - AGAINST TRAFFIC.  An accident waiting to happen?  Yes.  Extremely dangerous and stupid behavior?  Duh!

I only had a brief moment of this man's attention, and I said out loud what was the obvious truth: "That is extremely dangerous."  And, his brilliant retort?  "Shut up!"  Yes, it was a very well thought out, highly educated, monumental reply to an extremely dangerous situation.  This gets back to the opening paragraph of this article: That guy deserves to be smacked by a car to alter the thought process guiding his warped behavior.  And, the truly sad part of such an encounter, should the unfortunate happen, would be the innocent infant in that stroller.

As for the other eye-opener on my ride, well, that one was really, really weird.  I was about 100-yards from my driveway, when I suddenly saw a big dog, growling, running at full-speed, coming at me from my left-hand side.  Just as I was going to accelerate in hopes of getting away from "Eddie" (of American Flyers, fame), a silver mini-van passed me on the left, hit the dog, and then swerved to a stop right in front of me.  In the span of about two-seconds, I went from expecting to be bitten, to accelerating, to coming to an abrupt stop to keep from hitting the van now blocking my path.  With nothing to add to the scene, I took stock of the situation and rode on. 

Yes, the roads are indeed a dangerous place to be.  To quote the character Sergeant Major Dickerson from the movie Good Morning, Vietnam, "Things just jump out at you," in reference to how quickly things can go from good to bad.

Looking back at the day, that van driver saved me from a probable mauling.

As for Fido?  Well, he lived. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Random Thoughts From The Passing Scene

Whether it is poor cycling, or poor driving, the cyclist always pays the price in a mishap.

Humans are quick to talk, but slow to act.  That is why things rarely change, and if they do, it happens very, very slowly.

The concept of “Sharing the Road” needs to start at each State’s Legislature and trickle down to individual road users, i.e. Motorists and Bicyclists.  It must begin at the State level, be taught down through Driver’s Education, and even taught in the public schools.

Since so many people are extremely convinced of their own intelligence, why, then, is something as simple as the Stop Sign so perplexing to them?

The Motoring Public has become so irresponsible that it is probably a darn good idea to begin carrying a video camera (Go Pro, Virb, Sport, etc) on rides.

Why is it supposedly grown adults can’t get along and play nice out on the roads?  And people call children immature.

An overwhelming number of cyclists are also vehicle owners/drivers.  So, why is there such an “Us versus Them” mentality in regards to Cyclists and Motorists sharing the road?

“Road Diets” are a Zero-Sum Game, as someone has to lose for someone else to gain.  Don’t expect to make a lot of friends if you are in favor of taking lanes away from motorists.

Taxes and fees are at their highest rates ever.  So, why are Public Roads in such poor shape?

Why is it so many videos on the net (yes, even cycling related videos) open with music loud enough to blast us out of our chairs, yet the dialogue is but a whisper?  Is it a sadistic thing?

Trek just a released a 10-pound bike for the masses, the Emonda SLR, proving that light weight need not be fragile, contrary to what the draconian Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been telling us for decades.  If it is good enough for regular folks, then it is damn good enough for the racers.  In your eye, UCI!

A lot of riders have hit the deck at this year’s Tour de France.  Even more painful to us “Little Folks” were watching those riders hit the deck with $10,000-plus USD bikes.  OUCH!!!

Still, it is almost daily news that another professional rider being popped for doping hits the cycling media.  I mean, is anyone REALLY surprised, anymore?  Face it, doping and cycling go together like foot odor and locker rooms.

To catch a thief, you hire one as a consultant.  Why the UCI has not hired Lance Armstrong as a “Doping Consultant’ is beyond anyone’s guess.

And finally, just who the heck is Frankie Andreu, and why should we care?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saturday’s Ride: Biking To See More Bikes

The routine should look very familiar to many a cyclist: Set out on a ride and end up back where you started from.  Occasionally, it can even be a point-to-point jaunt, and, sometimes, the destination is the point of the adventure, with the ride itself just the icing on the proverbial cake.  Well, that is exactly what a recent Saturday ride had in store when a friend and I set out to attend a motorcycle show.  Yes, you read that right: A motorcycle show.  See, I was riding motorcycles long before I even had a car, and before I got seriously into road biking. 

The route itself was a semi-short, hilly ride over to Southern California Ducati/Royal Enfield/Triumph/Suzuki/Victory (I call it SoCal Ducati, for short) in Brea, California.  Run by a gentleman named Tom Hicks, it really is a destination unto itself.  And, in addition to all of the fine bikes for sale, they hold an Open House every summer to welcome back old friends, and to make new ones.  So, looking to break out of the regular training ride routine, a trip to a motorcycle shop/bike contest seemed like a pretty good idea to us.  And, we were not disappointed.  

After tearing up and down a few climbs, and a spirited ride down Brea Canyon Road, we arrived at SoCal Ducati.  I immediately ran into some old motorcycle riding friends, and the owner, Tom Hicks.  Keen to meander around the dealership, the Parts Department staff was kind enough to put our road bikes in the warehouse for safe keeping whilst we enjoyed all the festivities.  While Tom’s “P-51 Band” played some great music, there was a complimentary BBQ, test rides of new motorcycles, great schwag raffles ever hour, and of course, the aforementioned “Bike Contest.”  We even tried to later sneak into said “Bike Contest,” but alas, we were both disqualified for obvious reasons.  Dang you, Judges!
Overall, the ride there and back was awesome, and Mr. Hicks, plus the entire SoCal Ducati/Royal Enfield/Triumph/Suzuki/Victory staff put on a first-rate Open House.  The food and music were great, the raffles were a hit with attendee’s, and all of the motorcycles, from the one’s for sale, to the bikes customers rode in on, to the rides entered into the Bike Contest were all a joy to be a part of.  We even managed to win some raffle prizes ourselves, and we will definitely be back to the next Open House at the SoCal Dealership.

And, finally, in regards to this ride adventure, there really is quite a connection between cyclists and  motorcyclists.  In addition to my riding partner and I both being caught red-handed owning motorcycles ourselves, there are a lot of members of the bicycling industry which are motorcyclists or were professional racers before turning from throttles to pedals.  I myself have been riding motorcycles for over thirty-years, have worked in the motorcycle industry, and did not even have my first car until seven years after purchasing my first motorcycle, a Honda MB5.  That first motorcycle was followed by a Suzuki GS450L, a Honda CB450T, a Suzuki GS500E, a Honda CBR600F4i, a Ducati 750 SS, and now a Honda Goldwing. 

Seems the “N+1 Rule” applies to motorcycles, too.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sensible “Wide-Ratio” Gearing

My leap back into road cycling, after way too long of an absence, began with fitting fat, road slicks onto my old Trek 4500 mountain bike.  It was a boatload of fun, I rode the snot out of the thing, and it was only when I was began to out-run the gearing that I felt the need for “Something more.”  So, I told myself it was time to seriously venture back into a bike shop for the first time in 14-years to seek out a proper road bike.  And venture, I did. 

Armed with some online knowledge, money, and many, many questions, I approached the bike I was interested in at the very same dealership I had purchased my mountain bike from in 1996; Southern California’s, Pasadena Cyclery.  As the initial inquiry about bikes began, the subject of gearing came up, as the salesman recommended I go with what he called “Compact Gearing.”  Being I had never heard that term before, I asked him to elaborate on the subject.  He queried if were a racer, and looking down at the size of my then stomach, I said “No.”  That was when he told me how gearing on road bikes had changed from the one-size-fits-all, to a much wider-range to make cycling a lot for fun for a lot more people.  Smart guy, he was.  Decision made, bike purchased.

So, with a new bike in hand, a 2010 Trek 2.3, I set out wheezing all over town in an attempt to get back into some semblance of physical shape, being I was not riding my mountain bike as much due to the gearing and work constraints.  I even remember climbing Glendora Mountain Road for the very first time with a 12-27 cassette, and my physique at the time left me asking for a whole lot more from my gruppo (as well as my legs).  Then, I began to hear a lot of talk in various circles about mountain bike-style gearing, 11-32 cassettes’, “WiFLi,” and the claimed imminent death of the triple.  People were looking for more out of their road gearing, which I agreed with at the time (and still do), so I personally took the plunge into wide-ratio gearing in early 2011. 

However, let me not get too far ahead of the story.

Truth be told, while a 53-39 big ring combo, along with an 11-23 cassette, may be good enough for the professionals, us mere mortals require all of the help we can get.  Enter the aforementioned wide-ratio gear set (wide, as in not only more gears in the range, but also larger steps between gears for more useable speeds.  The ratio part you will read about in a minute).  And, there is nothing wrong with some “Extra” help, either.  From 50-34 “Compact” gearing, up to 11-32 cassette’s, anything which helps someone enjoy riding more, over a wider range of terrain versus dreading it, is a really good thing for both rider and the industry as a whole.   

After reading an article in Road Bike Acton Magazine, penned by the illustrious “Kansas Bob” on the subject of building the ultimate climbing bike (“Apex Project Bike,” March 2011), I was very intrigued.  So, I set out to make my own efficient climber, i.e., more useable gears, and it was one of the best leaps of faith I have ever taken.  And, why not?  In the four-years since I rediscovered road cycling, while I may have indeed become stronger, I have not gotten any younger. 

A brief historical note: My trusty Trek 2.3 came stock with a Shimano 105 gruppo, including the previously mentioned 12-27 cassette.  While that was fine, I was a brand new (though, returning) cyclist, and truth be told, I sucked.  I simply wanted more gears for the hills than the bike had available.  That was when I came across that article in Road Bike Action Magazine, and I set out gather as much information as I could before jumping into what was to me at the time, a major modification.  Answers were then gleaned from many on-line forums and by simply asking shops if this could be done with the parts I had chosen to use. 

I chose a SRAM PG-1050, 11-32 cassettes from their then new Apex gruppo, and then I procured a Shimano 105 GS (long-cage) rear derailleur (plus a new, longer chain), and BINGO, an instant climber.  I had all of the ratios I needed for any condition, even that 32-cog in case I needed that oft-discussed, yet many are reluctant to actually try, “Bail-Out” gear.  And, it has made all the difference in my overall riding enjoyment.  

Since that time, I have now “Upgraded” to an Ultegra 6700GS, long-cage, derailleur, and it has been continued sweet, climbing bliss for me.  What I ended up with, in total, was a Shimano Ultegra 6700, 50-34 crankset, and the SRAM PG-1050 with 11,12,14,16,18,20,22,25,28,32-tooth cogs to pretty much go anywhere I liked.  I mean, with the 34-32 combination, I dang near have a 1:1 ratio, and you can about climb walls with that.  I mounted the cassette to a set of Mavic Ksyrium’s, and wow, does this bike want to go vertical!  Additionally, if I get the urge to save a few more grams (approximately 80 in this case), I could even go with a SRAM PG-1070 cassette.  However, now I hear Shimano has finally released an Ultegra 11-32 cassette, themselves.  Welcome to the party, Shimano!

So, while porn stars live by the rule of “Bigger is Better,” cyclists seem to think a smaller cassette is the true measure of a rider.  I have suffered the slings and arrows of arrogant cyclists about my gearing choices, such as “Is that a pie plate on the back,” and truth be told, I could not care less.  I am actually having a whole lot of fun. 

And on a final note, in regards to those still mocking my gearing, physical talents, and questioning my sanity, I quote the brilliant World War II Commander, General Anthony McAuliffe;


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Emonda: It's A French Word, But in English It Means A New, Light, Stiff Line Of Bikes From The Minds At Trek.

In the "Well, this is cool news" Department, Trek Bicycles just realeased details on a new line of road bikes called the Emonda.  While the new name is a take on the French word for "To trim," it looks like that is excatly what Trek has done: Trim weight, while increasing stiffness via integrated parts and Ride-Tuned Performance for a "Perfect balance of stiffness and weight."  The lightest, and most expensive model, the SLR, apparently weighs in at a "Screw you, UCI" complete weight of 10.25 pounds!  However, all of that goodness, which Trek says is the "Lighest production road bike, ever" will set you back a jaw-dropping $15,750!

Neither Madone nor Domane, the Emonda name looks set to redefine the term light-weight across the entire build offering of 18-bicyles, with the top-of-the-line SLR claiming a frame weight of only 690 grams.  Other feature include direct-mount brakes, internal cable/Di2 routing, a tuned seat mast, BB90 bottom bracket, carbon dropouts, a lifetime warranty, and unfortunately (in this bloggers opinion), NO DISC BRAKES!

All models will be be made in varying grades of OCLV carbon fiber, with the aforementioned Ride-Tuned Performance, which means no matter what the frame size, the ride should not differ from the smallest to the largest.

At Press time, the frames are UCI legal, and the SLR is set to be raced by the Trek Factory Team in the up-coming Tour de France. 

Read more at Trek Bicycles.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Infrastructure’s Not The Problem. It’s The People!

I just finished reading the comment section on an article over at the blog, “One Woman Many Bicycles.” The article was about cyclists basically throwing in the towel, and considering parking their bikes, after having the crap scared out of them for the umpteenth time by a motorist.  The comments ranged from the pointed and logical, to the amusing, but one epideictic theme kept leaping to the forefront of the discussion: “We need more, and better, cycling infrastructure.”  “We have too many cars.”  Sure, as if all of the terrors of our minds could be eliminated with more bike lanes/paths and fewer motor vehicles.  Dream on.    

However, it got me thinking.

Amid the calls for “Better infrastructure,” “More Bike Lanes,” “Traffic Calming,” and “Road Diets,” it dawned on me that even if every cycling plan ever conceived by humans were implemented, absolutely nothing would actually change until people themselves began to change.  I mean, c’mon, we basically already have a pretty decent road network to begin with, we all just have to learn to get along on that network.  More to the point, if motorists and cyclists were both considerate users of the road, and everyone obeyed the law, we would not even need to be discussing “Cycling Infrastructure” in the first place.  We all would, simply, just get along.   

In traffic congested areas motorists want more roads, and rightfully so.  In Los Angeles, for example, the freeway system is woefully inadequate, and horribly outdated.  And, like streets, more, and logical, capacity was needed yesterday.  All the wishing in the world for the opposite is completely foolish, as the traffic of tomorrow is already here today.  Removing available traffic lanes/roads via any method only exacerbates the existing problems.  Additionally, efforts to take away “Their” infrastructure will, of course, be met with firm resistance to “Us,” the us being cyclists.  It is not rocket science, people.  For someone to gain, someone has to lose, and that is not how harmony and understanding are promoted.  We need better integration of road users, not segregation, which creates the “Us versus Them” mentality in the first place.

It was once said land was valuable because they are not making any more of it.  This is especially true when it comes to a finite amount of space in which to make roads.  Drivers want more roads, cyclists want more exclusive lanes - Is there any wonder we conflict on how best to use the limited real estate we have?  While adding lanes in already built-up areas is not impossible, taking away available road space in already crowded areas, solely for bicycles, is not going to win us any friends in the long run. 

So, what does this all mean?

First, no one should have to fear for their life so much that they are actually considering parking their bicycles.  How would motorists feel if they were “Constantly harassed by 18-Wheelers all day, everyday,” as was suggested in the comment section following an article in the Orange County Register about a cyclist recently killed on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Laguna Beach, California.  While that may sound like an immature idea, the commenter backed up their point with, “…So that drivers understand the position cyclists are in when they ride the roads they are legally entitled to use.”  Good point.    

Additionally, and factually, society today operates at the speed of commerce, and like it or not, methods such as the horse and buggy are not the most effective, anymore.  Motor vehicles, airplanes, and massive ships are the ways the world does business and how people move around freely and efficiently.  All of the wishing and praying at the alter of “The Church of The Holy Bicycle” will not bring about the extinction of the internal combustion engine, and it never should.  And, since “They” are not going away anytime soon, and since “We” are not going away anytime soon, either, it just makes plain sense to pursue massive, dedicated efforts to get along, and quit trying to “Out-Lane” each other.

OK, so what do we all do? 

While I don’t have the magic, ready answer, ponder the following: The best, first step, would be driver and rider education programs beginning at the State level, filtering down to the local municipalities, being taught as a component of every driver’s education program, and even in the schools.  Heck, if we can teach kids how to do their taxes in schools, why can’t we begin to teach them what the real meaning of what a “Shared Road” is?  This idea would also require serious attention from Law Enforcement to drive home the point of shared road safety, no matter what conveyance one is utilizing at any given moment.  The results would not come over night, but it would be one heck of a good start.

This, then, also leads to us to the concept of capacities and finite spaces.  We limit capacities all over society, from the number of seats in theatres, airliners, buses, trains, our automobiles, the number of souls on an elevator, all the way to how many people can sit at the counter of your local Denny’s.  These capacity protocols were established, and are enforced, for our own safety.  Why, therefore, do cities not follow the logical protocols of capacity limits?  I hate to sound like a Loon, but at what point do we just flat-out, and logically, have to say, “Sorry, no vacancy.”  Congestion need not be a bitter pill we are all forced to swallow.

So, as I wrap this up, we may be better served if the following societal axioms were taken to heart by all parties involved in the battle (which should not even be a battle) for road-based relevancy:

  • To the people in Motor Vehicles: Bicycles are never going to go away.

  • To the people on Bicycles: Motor Vehicles are never going to go away.

And finally, to Law Enforcement and Law Makers: The penalties for harming another on the road must be immediate and huge, lest people think they can “Get Away” with breaking the law without any consequences.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Well, It’s Racing Season Again.

As seems to happen every year about this time, I am overcome with a renewed sense of both cynicism and sarcasm which wells up in me, and I just have to write about it.  In all truthfulness, who am I to even question, let alone ridicule, the professional racer, anyway?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I am a fan.  I am a consumer.  And, I am a cyclist.  Plus, I really, really like the truth and despise hypocrisy.  Well, Professional Cycling is really, really full of the latter, and way too short on the former.

For starters, just who the heck is the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), anyway?  This collection of out of touch, pompous, creeps not only runs a rolling, worldwide, medicated circus, but they also get to decide what kind of bikes we ride, their shapes, their components, their minimum weight, and even if they can have disc brakes or not via an ambiguous set of immature “Rules.”  Seriously, when did this Micro-One-World-Government style mafia get so much control of our beloved activity, anyway?  Is it any wonder nobody likes them.

Additionally, what really got me going on a bender were this year's Giro d’Italia and the Amgen Tour of California.  Both of these races were basically decided by a discipline that really should not have even been featured in a road race to begin with.  The Giro, for example, was a grueling, multi-stage race consisting of many mountains too far, over way too many days, punctuated by a curious event known as the Time Trial (TT).  Why was there even a TT in a road race in the first place?  If anyone is going to hold a real road race, make it one complete with uphills, downhills, flats, and many, many twists and curves, all being conducted on an actual ROAD BIKE.  Leave the TT bikes where they truly belong: In Triathlon’s with real Triathletes.  I mean, even the Indianapolis 500 has the good sense to not require everyone get out of their cars on lap-100, race buses for 50 laps, and then jump back into their cars for a grueling finish.  Why should cycling be any different?  It should be one, single, discipline from start to finish.  The best racer should win, not the best Time Trialer. 

But wait, there’s more!  Just to make sure the racing is even more over-the-top nonsensical, there were two kinds of TT’s at the Giro: The Individual Time Trial (ITT), and the even bigger, more foolish waste of time, the Team Time Trail (TTT).  And, if  you don’t think these discipline’s can affect the outcome of a race, well, check out the following two paragraphs from a recent on-line article over at VeloNews. 

“Time trials are where grand tours are typically decided, and that’s become especially true at the Tour de France, where even an extraordinary climber who cannot perform well against the clock has almost no realistic chance to win the maillot jaune.”

“As cycling has evolved to become more controlled and more scientific (and boring, Editor), especially with the application of power meters in training and racing, the overall level at the top of the peloton is relatively equal. The winning differences are now being made in time trials.”

If that is truly the case, why not just have a one-day TT, with no road stages at all?  I mean, just think of how simple the logistics would be, with all of the savings in time, money, effort, not to mention how happy the planet would be with all of those transport motor vehicles no longer being utilized for travel over multiple stages.  Call it an Environmentalists wet-dream, if you must.  Seriously, why should there be all of those days of racing when the winner can be determined by a single TT?  Sprinting stages?  Ah, who needs ‘em!  And, as for the mountain stages, hah!  We don’t need no stinkin’ mountain stages!  We have a TT to run, lads!

As for the Tour of California, it was basically over on the second day, all due again to that activity usually reserved for Triathlons: The ITT.  After Sir Bradley Wiggins was injected and ran away with the stage, it was pretty much a boring affair from there on (Brad was so pumped up with Happy Juice, he is probably still going on that TT bike).  Again, why are they mixing disciplines at a road race?

So, in winding up my reasonably astute opinion, while I will indeed continue living with a casual eye on the racing scene, and with the Tour de France right around the corner, I would still rather ride myself than sit in front of the TV watching it. 

This is especially true on the days they run TT's.