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.