Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why do you hate my freedom?

I came into work this morning with several people pointing fingers at me saying I'm one of "those bikers" that was shown on television - how do I justify breaking the law - running red lights - running stop signs - riding on the road - what did I think of the broadcast - blah blah blah. First of all, I'm one of those elitists that chooses not to waste my life watching television, so no, I didn't see the "newscast," nor do I plan on watching it from the internet. From what I've heard people tell me about this "story," including my good friend Matt at CRC who was clearly upset by it, it was a one-sided view of some guy in a van sticking a video camera and microphone out the window while in motion, asking surprised cyclists why they decided to run a stop sign back there. Wow, what piece of shit journalism school did you attend, Mr. local news-person? Screw the biased "breaking news story" they attempted to cover, I'm just surprised so many people get their news from television and take it with no grain of salt. Did the story report on the other side of the issue? Hell no. Turn on the BBC radio, you'll probably hear about what's going on in the world instead of a "journalist" force feeding their populace what they want to hear. It's the same cars vs. bicycles story that comes up every few months in the local media - nothing new here folks.

Why are drivers so pissy about cyclists? I believe it's because they're jealous of our freedom. Leave your vehicle in your 3-car garage and ride your bike to work, you might just realize it's a terrific way to stay in shape without having to join a gym and spend an hour 3 times a week walking on a treadmill. I ride a 10-mile commute in about 40 minutes, interact with a minimal amount of traffic, wave and say hello to fellow cyclists and pedestrians, all while not getting fat - how un-American it all is.

First we had critical mass stirring up the anger of non-cyclists, now we have local Minneapolis television adding further fuel to the fire. Thanks local television, the next time I have a beer bottle thrown at me from a moving car (yes, that hurt) while being told to "get off the fucking road," I'll know who to thank.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bike Sharing and Goathork

Bike sharing program first of its kind in the US. I saw a version of this program while living in Germany for a summer and think it's a good idea, in high density cities. Not so sure it's the best idea in the US of A, however - but let's not get into that right now.

Here's a bike owned and run by the German Bahn transit system - yeah, I know, the seat is missing.
Die Bahn rental

In other news, I made Goathork! I will now quietly and peacefully lay down for a long, much needed rest.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Saturday Night

Saw Bastard Saint play at Rollin's 40th birthday party and sculpture exhibit - yes he got the grant he was trying for. Rode over to Split Lip Rayfield at Lee's - hoot and a half. Lead a small posse through Loring Park - Kevin scores 2, count them - 2, flat tires at once - one of them fixed, the other new tube doesn't hold air. That flat diminished plans to ride down closed-for-the-weekend I-35W, although others successfully rode it. Walking home, saw a guy on a Ninja motorcycle go down HARD on Lyndale doing about 40 mph (64 kph) - he's OK, got a good video of him telling me how the bike "just came out from under him." I offered him a beer from my bag but he declined. Took a few photos of the cab driver at Pizza Luce trying to double-charge a trio for cab fare. He didn't stay long after the camera begun flashing. My left knee and arm are in total pain after an endo crash in a ditch along Lyndale - my right arm is bloody from an earlier fall. Lots of energy, have to dissipate it somehow...

2 flats...
2 flats

Friday, April 25, 2008

Breakdance Riding and Further Snow

I plan on matching the mad trick riding skills of Ines Brunn by the end of the weekend. I think I'll start with the sick worm moves and go from there.

Weekend - I hear people talking about snow tonight. It was really warm for most of the week. See you out there.

P.S. - Last week the Bryant Ave. bridge over Minnehaha creek closed indefinitely. Public works is shutting down bridges in Minneapolis like mad since August 1st. What about bridge club?

Bridge Club

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Planet Bike SuperFlash

Do you have one of these? If not, you need to go straight out and get one - they're about 20-bucks US and are unequaled in the battery operated arena of rear lights. This thing uses a single 1/2 watt LED, backed up with 2 smaller LED's that more than adequately keep you visible to passing cars - not just at night but during daylight hours as well.

Cons to this light? Well, a few times I've had this light fall off my bag, usually with the light arranging itself into its white back, clear red lens, and its 2-AAA batteries rolling around underneath a dumpster or another undesirable location. Fix you say? Simple, take a zip-tie and wrap it around the light such that it grabs onto the back clip - two benefits to this; 1) light doesn't fall apart and 2) light is 'locked' to your bag or quick-attach mount. If you don't use this zip-tie method, people may possibly ridicule you and laugh when you roll by - don't take that chance. [edit - the zip-tie I am using here has a relatively high tensile strength, the ratchet is made of metal instead of plastic, and has an anti-UV additive in the resin. Don't get the cheap cable ties or you might lose your light.]

Planet Bike SuperFlash

Recharge the batteries when the light fades - this light will continue to function under a reduced battery level but at a much lower light output. Put fresh batteries in this gal and you'll notice the difference immediately.

Here's a video of a SuperFlash in action at a distance of 4-yards (3.7m):

My advice - go get at least one of these lights. Even better, put one on your bag and one on your seatpost or seatstay. A few close friends have received this light as a gift from me - I believe it to be the best out there.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth day - get to know her

It's Earth day today, although I didn't know it until I checked the Google logo upon sitting down at my desk.

I commuted in this morning alongside a new friend - it's amazing how little traffic there is by simply leaving an hour earlier than usual. It was a good morning ride, no rain, cool riding temperature, saw a few friends along the way, heard the call of a loon, used my new bell a few times, said hello to a few joggers and walkers, waved at a few passing cyclists - in many ways a typical morning commute, but just a little better than normal - spring is in the air! Riding a bike is such a great start to any day - I highly recommend it.

On a different note - I need to come up with a thank you gift for Chloe. I'm thinking of inviting her to accompany my dog and me as we visit the dog park for a dog-swim and dog-run through the woods. Anyone have any other ideas? Keep in mind she's 8 years old and smart as Doogie Howser.

Monday, April 21, 2008

2 red balloons and a copper bell

A huge thanks to the Cutshall family for having me over for dinner Saturday night - it turns out it's not just a dinner but a surprise belated birthday party for me. Chloe pulled out all the stops for my visit; helium-filled balloons, a guided tour of the aquariums with an introduction to each of the fish, beer pours, delicious dinner, cookies, wrapped presents including one for my dog - all in all a very special evening. My hosts made sure I rode off with 2 red balloons attached to my handlebars, a giant tub filled with fresh hummus, a smaller tub of garlic sauce, cookies, and presents to boot. Good times, thanks again.

Here's a look at my favorite birthday present in memory - given to me by Chloe off of her own bike:
my new bell

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stolen Bike

My friend Erika's bike was stolen from her garage in Robbinsdale sometime this past weekend. This bike has a lot of sentimental value for her, more than a replacement could ever provide.

Bianchi S.A.S.S. (frame has a chrome finish), Truvativ Cranks, Hell Bent bars, WTB saddle, Titec stem, mechanical disc brakes (Avid front, Shimano rear,) Sun rims, some sort of fancy suspension fork (edit: black Manitou shock) ...

Click for larger size:

You see anyone riding this bike let me know - I've got a pair of Vice Grips that are itching to pull out a few fingernails

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ms. Pac-Man and Urinal Trough Entertainment

Biked over to the CC Club last night, where I promptly commanded the high score on Ms. Pac-Man with a single quarter on their table top unit. There's interest in creating a documentary on my mad Ms. Pac-Man skills, I'm told.

Truth be told - one of life's simple pleasures is dropping a coin into a urinal trough and seeing the outcome upon entering again after a beer or two - there are three scenarios that can result:
  1. coin still there
  2. coin no longer there
  3. more coins appear
What's disturbing to me is that, more often than not, situation #2 is the final product. What's even more disturbing is that it's often a low-value coin that's now missing, say a nickel or dime. I guess what I'm trying to get at here is that you should probably wash your hands every now and again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cateye HL-EL520 Headlight

So when I'm not riding with my Schmidt dynamo hub, I've got the Cateye HL-EL520 headlight ($50) on my handlebars. The light output is pretty decent, the Cateye propaganda even states it has 1200 candlepower - yeah, candlepower units mean nothing to this engineer - how about lumens?

This little dangling guy uses 4 AA batteries, and they last quite a while on this single LED light - I've replaced the batteries twice in the six + months I've had this light, although I replace them when I notice the light getting dim, not when it's extinguished.

No real problems with the light output, but I do have a few concerns with the user interface...

Let's start with the on-off switch. It's a single push button with three modes - press once and it's on full power, a second push dims it a bit, and the third turns it off, right? Nope, you have to hold the button down for 5-seconds for it to go off while in the third position. 5-seconds isn't that big of a deal until you have to do it every time you get off your bike. Multiply those 5-seconds out 100 times - that's more than 8-minutes of my life I'm spending holding down this damn button. The predecessor to this model, the EL510, didn't have this issue (it was simply bright-dim-off,) so why did they introduce it here?

Also, see how the button sticks out the back of the light? Put it in your pocket or bag when you lock up your bike and more often than not - voila, it gets bumped and turns on! I have it on to-do list to replace the switch with something a bit more friendly - unfortunately, my soldering iron is packed away.

Next is the attachment device for the EL520. According to the Cateye website, this bracket is a "universal, tool-free design that mounts quickly and securely on virtually any handlebar, stem, or seatpost." While I have no qualms with their claims on mounting, there does seem to be a bit of an issue unmounting said bracket - say you want to transfer the light from one bike to another, that tool-free action doesn't apply here, buddy.

Overall this light supplies more than enough light to "be seen," and provides an adequate patch of light for those dark city streets, much better than the Beamer 3 or 5 models from Planet Bike, but Cateye is lagging in the design of their switch and mounting hardware.

What's that you say? Contact Cateye and let them know of their design flaws? Good luck getting a response. If you have a contact, email me with it.

Conclusion: I do not recommend this product. Get a Planet Bike Blaze 1 (the "1" stands for 1Watt) when available next month ($45) - I tested one at Frostbike a few months ago and it's essentially a white version of their SuperFlash blinky - enough said.

[edit - if you happen to hang your light upside-down, which of course you should - make sure to plug the drainage hole to keep the water out.]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday and I'm Sick at Home

Feeling a bit under the weather - even called in sick to work yesterday. Managed to do a bit of riding last night, but am paying for it a bit today. I was going to do a long ride today to better prepare for the Almonzo 100 coming up, but ended up staying sickly around the house, with a lone visit to the dog park with the Butler.

My thoughts today were with the riders on the Ragnarök 105. The weather really couldn't be worse, although more freezing rain would have done it.

Fleck recently had one of his worst riding days of his life. His story brought up the memory of my first time riding the MN Ironman bike ride, a 100 mile jaunt through Minnesota's farm country. The Ironman now starts down in Lakeville, but my first time riding it was back when it started in Buffalo, MN. This is when I was in high school, mind you. So I head out there by myself, have no luck running into the 2-3 other people I know that are going to ride that day, I head out solo in my cycling shorts and jersey - an hour or so into the ride it starts to lightly rain - that light rain starts coming down a bit harder - rain turns to sleet - sleet turns to you guessed it, snow. I'm in shorts and a riding jersey, mind you - no jacket, no pants, no nothing. I pull into a rest stop at about mile 65 - I'm told, not asked, to get onto the sag van, which I have no problem complying. It's my first experience with hypothermia - I finally get back to the start/finish, get the f into my car where there are dry clothes and get home an hour later where I take a long hot shower. It took me a day or two to recover from that - I was just cold all over for a while. That experience was probably my worst time on a bike, and it was within the first few years after riding and I kept with it - that says something.

My friend Scott is back in the news, this time covering no fewer than 5 pages of Rivendell Reader #40. Also a 6th page written by his wife, Amy, with her take on the issue. Also also a 7th page by Bob Brown, the maker of Scott's frame. You have to subscribe to get the Reader, but it sounds like that might not be true starting with issue #41 - hey, it's the first issue in more than a year from this 'quarterly' publication, there can be no surprises.

Milestones. Today I'm 6-squared. Not too many squared years ahead for me - enjoy it and make the most of it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Schmidt Nabendynamo with E6

If I were forced to pick a favorite component or accessory for my bicycle, it would easily be my Schmidt dynamo hub with its accompanying headlight. (a bit of a review following the pics)

Drive-side view of my Schmidt dynohub:
Stupor Bowl X

I happen to have the Schmidt made E6 headlight, which uses a halogen bulb, as shown attached to my Nitto front rack on Cross-Check frame:
I put that front rack on

Here's the light pattern on the E6 light - tall and narrow and more than adequately lighting up the pitch-dark trail before me. This is a light to see with, not just be seen.
The Ride Home

Here I am going head-to-head with the light rail line - damn did I blind the driver that night:
Riding Home from Work

And finally here is my dynamo hub and light equipped cross-check before the Kölner Dom in Köln, Germany (the E6 is handlebar mounted in this photo) - this photo doesn't show the hub or light very well, it's more of a bragging rights thing:
Mark with his Surly before the Kölner Dom

The one downside to the E6 is the fact that the halogen bulb only lasts for about 100 hours of use - which is actually a lot more than it sounds, I turn mine off during daylight hours. Keep a spare bulb with you and you're fine - they're about 4-bucks each. Replace the bulb when you notice the light output a bit fainter than you remember it - it also gets a bit yellower with time, that's also a good indication. The E6 also does not have an internal capacitor, which means when you stop, the light goes out. I don't see this as an issue, as when I'm stopped it's usually because I'm hiding from the man, but there are other lights that have a capacitor driven LED backup light helping to make you visible to others, notably at traffic stops.

People often remark to me - "man, that thing must really slow you down with all the drag it creates." Yeah, but have you seen my legs? My quadriceps femoris are quite truly enormous. For the rest of you less physically endowed individuals (and I look down upon and mock you when given the opportunity,) the drag has been compared to either a 1- or 5-foot vertical climb for every mile travelled, when the light is switched off or on, respectively.

Here's an efficiency test from (Vintage) Bicycle Quarterly for those of you who care - I happened to study my options for about a year before plunging in - this VBQ comparison pretty much summarizes up most of the other articles I read during that time.

There are other dynamo lighting options available, notably the Inoled +10 and +20, which use an LED vs. a halogen bulb in the E6 - the difference between the Inoled +10 and +20 being a 1 or 2 Watt bulb, respectively, and of course the associated price difference. I can't speak from a great amount of personal use from the Inoled - but a few people I know, including my brother, have the +20 model. I've ridden next to my brother - him with his +20 and me with my E6. The +20 has a wider and shorter light output pattern, while my E6 generates a taller and narrower light patch (see above photo.) Also, the +20 hits peak brightness at walking speed, while I have to reach about 10mph (16kph) to gain peak brightness with the E6.

If I had to do it again, I would likely get the Inoled +20 - but wait...

There's a new light coming out! Introducing the Edelux, made by Schmidt in Germany. This Edelux puts out more than 3x the light intensity, based on Schmidt's own data, as compared to the E6 model, which up to now offers the highest illuminance from a Schmidt light source.

Where to you get a Schmidt hub or light, you ask? Well, if you're in the Minneapolis and surrounding areas, you should go straight to Hiawatha Cyclery without passing go - that's where I got mine more than 2 years ago. You could also go to Peter White, but he probably already has enough business as it is.

Please remember, the US dollar is currently about worthless as compared to the Euro, so this lighting system is in no way an inexpensive accessory - something about the US taxpayers currently spending $5,000USD each second in iRaq. Me? I'll wait before buying a second Schmidt, which is one component my steamroller feels naked without.

edit-here's one more photo showing how far out the light can be adjusted. The ambient lighting is relatively bright on the trail here, not to mention the reflected light from the snow, so the patch of light doesn't look too impressive in this photo.
Snow riding

UPDATE - I went and got the Edelux, read about it here.

Butler Running

Did I mention I have a dog? Butler is a border-collie mix. People always ask me what the mix is - I don't know, that's the way he came from the dog rescue 2.5 years ago. Perhaps shephard? I don't really know.

So Butler and I go to the dog park quite a bit. The video here is Butler running and captured in motion by my condensation-covered lens. Butler loves running through the woods. He's pretty smart, and I recently taught him how to track deer based on their prints in the snow. He also likes to chase squirrels and chipmunks through the woods - hasn't caught one yet, but it sure gets him worked up when he sees them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

missing teeth and a ship of fools

I mean seriously, what's up with that missing tooth, B-Rose?

In other news, did I ever mention I was in the Navy? Good times, wouldn't want to do it again, and if it was now, I'd be in Canada or a friendly European country awaiting for a presidential pardon to be handed down again. Did I mention I'd have my bike with me? Yeah, totally.

Here we are pulling out of Pearl Harbor - I was in the back making the screw go roundy.
Pulling out of Pearl Harbor

And Scott, no worries, I was just giving you crap - take it easy for once... I mean damn!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Saturday night post entry

Did anyone else go to the Artcrank opening party? I showed up a bit past 9pm after a few cervezas and margaritas, took the walk around to the front to go to the head of the beer line, got said beer, before pushing myself through a ridiculous ocean of people to get the heck back out to the dock. And while I'm not a weatherologist, I'm guessing it was somewhere around 97F in the studio with all the bodies in such close proximity - maybe not that hot, but it certainly reminded me of my days working in the engine room, so I followed my instincts and got back outside and none too soon. 10pm was quickly approaching, and while there were originally 5 kegs, they were to be soon rendered useless, based on a bit of extrapolation from the first 3 empties and two time points. A posse was quickly formed to retrieve beer from Sam's across the street. It's a good crowd when most people show up with beverages in their totebags, allowing for fresh drinks past 2am - these are my kind of people.

Highlights of the night include the photobooth and giving rides on Nate's candy-apple-red Big Dummy - I had two riders on the final trip before Nate decided to take back the key and locked her up. It was a good call on his part, there was talk about perhaps adding one more - just kidding, we took good care of it - thanks Nate. Oh, and I love riding through downtown after bar close - seriously, it keeps you on your toes as you pedal through police barricades and around freshly tasered bar patrons.

No photos taken by me - anyone else?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

ms-300 ride and artcrank update

So many of you know I'm doing the MS-150 ride in June. OK then, I'm upping the ante here to get a few more of you wafflers a bit of encouragement to pledge my ass. The ride is 75 miles each day on Saturday and Sunday - that's 150 miles. On Friday I'm reverse riding the 150 miles to Duluth from the National Sports Center - yep, you get 300 miles out of me - that's something like twice what the other riders are doing. Come on, how could you not help me out on this? Seriously.

And if anyone wants to join the company team I'm on, you get a free jersey, free beer and catered food on Saturday night, access to a masseuse on Sat night, and a bunch of other stuff. The money all goes to MS, so it really doesn't matter to me what team you're on, it's all good.

In other news, if you see me at the Artcrank opening party and ask nicely for a sticker, you'll get one - while supplies last, of course. Yes, you must be present to win. Offer void where prohibited (that's you Utah, Kansas, and Nebraska.)

P.S. - a lot of riders out there today. Fair-weathered riders, sure, but riders nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Get Cranked Up on Art

Saturday night - whatcha doin'? I'll be at the Artcrank opening party at o.o.o.b.s. starting at 7pm. (that acronym was for you, Scott.)

Amy C. won't be represented - yeah, I know, WTF? She does have prints she made especially for the show - just ask her and she'll get you hooked up - she'll be there wearing bells (actually I made up the "wearing bells" part.) I've got her print #12/50 on hold for me, so no go takin' it.

Last year's party was a good time - Tommy Boy showed up before falling down:
biker down

Heck, there was even a visit from the Easter Bunny, fresh from a party where he was snubbed by Al Franken. Dress up in a costume all day and show up stinky to Artcrank and you won't be snubbed by anyone, or by some at least.
Easter Bunny