Sunday, December 30, 2012

arresting bike pics

I admit it; I spend way too much time looking at stupid stuff on the web. I have no excuse for it, and I know I'd probably be more productive without it, but I haven't been able to give it up. I have little patience with rage comics, and I have little patience for lolcats... but beyond that, I'm a sucker for dumb jokes and cheesecake pictures.

One of the sites I check, pretty much daily, is Oddman.Ca. There were FOUR bike-related pics IN A ROW in today's post; the one above is one of them. Laura OLPH and Chris C, among others, have been talking to me about mountain biking in the snow, and I'm afraid the picture above is what I think of when they bring it up.

The other picture I'm posting is below. I find it arresting, I just keep going back to it.

When I rode the Anchor House ride in 2011, there was one rider with one arm, and another with one leg. I've never seen a rider missing both an arm and a leg, and to ride a bike, missing both on the same side, with all the balance problems that would ensue, is mind-boggling to me.

Is that guy somebody I should know?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 donation plan

Not riding today; it's about 2° colder than I like to go out in. So while I'm stuck at home, I'm working on some end-of-the-year projects. I've done the spreadsheet for my retirement plan, and another to add up my bike miles for the year (Winter Larry did one last year, and it was so useful, I decided not to wait to see if he'll do one - if he doesn't share his with the club, I'll post a link to one you can download. I intend to use two copies: one for miles ridden, and one for hours ridden, because time on the bike may actually be a better index of how much fun I'm having than miles).

I'm looking at my annual donation plan. I'm changing one of the recipients. Two of the other recipients have made it easier to donate, one with a Paypal link, and the other with a downloadable .pdf with an address to send the cash (that's good enough - I'd rather do it online, but I'm willing to send a check; it will be one of the half-dozen paper checks I write this year).

Here's the list:
We also give monthly to the Princeton Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), where The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I are members (they don't throw me out when I say I'm an atheist).

The careful eye will note that there are no entries for October or November. We're keeping those open for apparently-deserving causes that come up during the year (in the past, these have gone to charity walks, and suchlike). Donations to charity bike rides I do are separate; I consider that a cost of riding (although I will gladly deduct whatever is allowed).

As I said in last year's donations post, "Some of our donations are tax-deductible, and some are not, as we believe that making donations to political causes to bring about the kind of country and world we believe in should be part of our plan." Support means more than just talk, or blog posts with links. Put your money where your mouth is - or where your keyboard is.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

what i did at christmas

The Excellent Wife (TEW)'s parents are Polish immigrants, and brought some of their cultural heritage with them when they arrived in the US, including a frightening work ethic, an even more frightening hospitality ethic (I refer to it as "Feed you until you can't move"), and celebrating Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day (I've learned to call it Wigilia, and can almost pronounce it to TEW's satisfaction). For years, with the spirit of inclusiveness that has endeared them to me, my in-laws would do a big feed for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but now that the parents-in-law are both octogenarians (and the father-in-law is close to ninety), we've cut out the Christmas Day observance; more on that later.

The Wigilia feast is traditionally both huge and meatless. In the past, the family has been served some traditional fish dishes... but traditional does not always mean wonderful, and some of the traditional dishes were developing another tradition: that of being ignored, even as leftovers.

Last night, we went to visit the parents-in-law. Now, when the house was built, they had a kitchen on the second floor (with the living room, dining room, and several bedrooms), and years ago, they finished the basement and made a (now empty) apartment there. Then a few years ago, when they re-did the first floor, they added a kitchen to the family room. So there's a kitchen on each floor.

This came in handy, because my excellent mother-in-law (if you know TEW, would you expect anything else?) decided this year that she would forgo the traditional dishes and would fresh-fry the fish while we were eating the soup. And to avoid the smell of fish frying overpowering the second-floor dining room, she fried the fish in the ground floor kitchen, and she engaged the services of my 18-year-old niece as delivery person. Along with the fresh fish were fish dishes from my brother-in-law, who's in the business, and other kinds of dishes from all the other families that came. TEW brought a pumpkin pie, Gulab Jamun from the local Indian grocery, and I don't remember what-all else.

After dinner, we had the singing of Polish Christmas carols. I can read music a bit, and read Polish phonetically, so I sing along (and get huge cred from the excellent mother-in-law for the effort -- her English is only a few steps better than my Polish). Then, of course, the opening of the presents.

By this time, it was heading for 11:00 pm, and those of you who know me know that I've usually been asleep for a couple of hours by that time, so TEW and I said our "Wesołych świąt" and went home to bed.

Today, though, was a day for us. We hid out at home, pulled the shades, took the phone off the hook, and resolved not to answer the door. We opened the presents, went out to dinner together (using up a coupon shortly before it expired -- TEW is, as oft I have told her, a wizard of domestic finance), and came home to a brief rest before making the few phone calls that the obligations of the day would not allow us to avoid. We're now holed up for the rest of the night. We intend to rejoin the rest of the mad world tomorrow, but for tonight, well, here we are.

We hope you had a Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, and if you celebrate no holiday, we hope you had a happy day. By all appearances, the sun is coming back, and we may have spring in a few months -- so whatever rituals we've been engaging in seem to have been effective.

another electronic shifter

People who pay attention to such things know that electronic shifting systems are no available from both Shimano and Campagnolo. Now there's a new kid on the block.

In this week's Gizmag post (forwarded by friend Dave C), there's info about an Italian manufacturer, Tiso, that's releasing an electronic shifting group. From the article:
Apparently just called the Wireless 12-Speed Groupset, the system consists of brake levers with integrated rocker-style shifter switches, micromotor-equipped front and rear derailleurs, a cassette with 12 titanium sprockets ranging from 11 to 29 teeth, and a downtube-mounted AAA-battery-powered receiver/control unit.

Shift signals are transmitted from the shifters to the control unit via Bluetooth and/or another unspecified type of radio protocol – Shimano and Campagnolo’s systems, by contrast, use electrical wiring. Commands are then carried from that unit to the derailleurs by wires. Interestingly, users can forgo the brake lever shifters and instead change gears using a wireless key fob-like remote. This is perhaps intended as a way of letting riders change gears when riding with their hands on top of the bars or in the drops.

I like the idea of the remote key-fob thingie for the aero bars, and I like it that there's another source besides the Big Three (the other one is SRAM, although Nashbar also sells brake-shifter controls under their own brand). But I'm a bit disappointed with the rush to electronic shifting (probably the way some bicycle enthusiasts are disappointed with the integrated brake-shifter, or "brifter", control; some riders pine for the old friction shifters and separate brakes; see Grant Petersen at Rivendell Bikes for an example). One of the many things I get up on my soapbox about is bike technology (sit back; here it comes). From a materials standpoint, modern bikes have all the latest stuff: new plastics, carbon fiber, specially-alloyed metals. But from a mechanicals standpoint, a bike with cabled controls has old technology: gears, wires, levers. Leonardo da Vinci might have figured it out (he didn't, but he might have). I love this juxtaposition. I also love it that I can take the bike down to parts and put it back together (and I do, every year), and that I can fix almost everything that goes wrong on mine (and I do that, too).

On the other hand, Tiso is announcing that the price will be lower than current offerings from The Other Guys. And that's probably a good thing. (There's also the fact that there are few people who care about the mechanicals of the bike as much as I do -- most riders just want a bike that does what they want, whether that is to ride fast, carry stuff, or survive being ignored and abandoned until the next time they take it into their heads to ride it.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

wooden bike

A Basque company has come up with a wooden bike frame that they say is "as light and strong as one made from steel or aluminum".

And they are undoubtedly beautiful. But they are also €6000, or about $7900 as I write this.
 “Working from their joinery called Txirbil (meaning ‘wood shaving’ in Euskera, the ancient language of the Basque lands), the design team came to the conclusion that the tubular fibers of wood were perfect for creating a fast, sturdy bicycle frame. As well as having an interesting natural aesthetic, wood is resistant, can absorb a high level of vibration and can result much lighter than generally perceived.”

Well, with enough plastic and technology, and cash, you can probably make a bike out of cast-off Florida vote chad, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Ash is probably a good choice among woods; it's strong (baseball bats are made from ash), but any wood flexes more than most people want from a bike frame. Just because it can be done doesn't mean it shouid.

pre-christmas ride

Any time you get a ride in this close to the end of December, it's a good ride, but this WAS a good ride. But I wouldn't have bet on it.

The signs that it might have been a disaster started with the ride announcement on Laura OLPH's page, which moved the ride from the announced day, Saturday, to Sunday:
Now, you might be thinking, "Curious.  Saturday's winds are looking awfully strong, and Laura's pushing the ride to Sunday.  Is she getting soft?"

Um, well, yeah, 'cause I've been eating junk, but the real reason is that, since the mid 90's, Jack and I get together with a few of my grad school buddies some time around Christmas.  They're free on Saturday, so that's that.
Then there was the email I got from Ed C, asking if I wanted to add "extra-extra" miles to Laura's already-provided-for extra miles, by driving to the ride start, then riding to Laura's house, then riding with Laura back to the ride start, then doing the ride with Laura & Co., then maybe reversing the process of the extra miles at the end. Laura heard about that, and didn't want to be left out of the "extra-extra" miles, so she promised to add some stuff at the end if we wanted. I decided I mostly wanted to stay put of what might have become an argument, since I'm so bad at getting and keeping friends.

"Extra-extra" miles. Hrmph. It may be that everybody I ride with is crazy.

In any case, Ed C and I got to Laura's early... as did Chris C, recovering from a motorcycle accident (and that's why I haven't seen him in what seems like six months). We rode to the start, and picked up Ron S, Cheryl M, and Mike M, and, after a brief discussion of the options, did this route, partly because the hills wouldn't be too bad. It was a new way up to Ringoes for me. I like the Ringoes rest stop (good coffee and indoor seating), although I should have eaten more than I did while there, I was a bit wobbly on the way back.

The way back also included three crossings of Route 31. I hate Route 31; I've come closer to dying crossing that road than any other, and I find the crossings without traffic lights on that road to be the scariest - some have poor visibility due to hills or curves, and the traffic is faster than I would expect. I've taken to singing the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria" in an effort to make sure we get across safely, or, if I feel I've worn that out, the Pater Noster chant. You can say what you want; we haven't lost anybody yet.

At the end, Laura passed out some Christmas mint candies to us, and I took two; I needed the sugar! Then we took the "extra-extra" mile ride, by the Mercer "Pole Farm" Park, then back to the cars at Laura's.

No rides for me this week; The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I have plans to hole up and avoid civilization on Christmas Day, and, although I'm off on Wednesday, Old Guys leader Dennis W has called off the ride due to threatening weather. We'll see what the weekend before New Year's brings.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

lazy, not crazy

No group ride today; winds are supposed to be up to 40mph. Do you remember that idiotic windy-day ride I did with Al L? I do!

Instead, some maintenance: new chain, new big chainring, true the wheels - maybe de-grease the cog, if I can stand the temperature in the garage!

rip alex moulton

Today, I learned of the death of Dr. Alex Moulton.

That's a photo from 1963.Dr. Moulton was instrumental in inventing suspension systems used in British car manufacture, but that's not what he's best known for.

There are corners of the bicycle world where partisans natter on endlessly about various mechanical and technical preferences and oddities. Some of the most dogged are the adherents of the Brooks Saddle sect. Dr. Moulton invented the Moulton Bicycle, and you may think from the picture above that his partisans should be classified among these fanatics, too... but I disagree.

Moulton bicycles (and there are many, see this page for models) since their beginning have been designed for many uses: for speed, for simple transportation, for carrying things... and for convenience. Most Moulton bikes fold. Many fold or disassemble to a size small enough to fit in a small suitcase. The small wheels were included partly for that, and partly for increased strength. The available gearing is adjusted from standard-sized bicycles to compensate for the wheel size, so that the Moultons have similar mechanical advantage to bikes with larger wheels. Many Moulton bicycles also have suspensions of one type or another - and suspensions have become common on town and (especially) mountain bikes.

In the 19th century, to be working on bicycles was to be on the cutting edge of technological advance, perhaps as software or device engineers are today. Dr. Moulton continued that heritage, in his own way, for a small, but dedicated group of enthusiasts. I wonder if, thirty years from now, there will be another engineer who will have a similar following among the bike tribes.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

back to the slugs ride

I haven't done a ride with Laura OLPH and the Hill Slugs in over a month, so I was glad that Laura had one planned for today, and that the weather was looking good (if cold), and that I didn't have a conflict. Another good omen was that, when I went to my other bagel place this morning, I found the glove I lost earlier this week.

Laura gave instructions for a 9:00 am start from Pennington, or 8:30 from her house, and since I'm chronically early (and you can read that in the same sense as "chronically ill"; it's not always desirable!), I decided to do the extra miles. Ed C also appeared there early. He and Laura's husband, Professor Jack (he's recently Dean Jack, but the spondee just doesn't have the same music to me as the dancing iambs of "Professor Jack") were discussing the university politics at Rutgers, which apparently has loony characters befitting our own House of Representatives, with even more byzantine machinations. Eventually, off went Laura, Ed, and I to Pennington...

... where we picked up four more: Jen (an occasional Slug), Cheryl M, Ron S, and Bob, a newbie with whom I'd ridden for a while a few weeks ago. He appeared a bit nervous about doing the ride, perhaps because of the hills and fearing we'd show him up and leave him panting by the side of the road (not the kind of thing the Slugs do), or perhaps because of not knowing any of us. He did fine, however, and chatted with many of us during the ride; I hope to see him on more Slug rides.

We did this route.  Ignore the average speed, the Garmin shut off for a few minutes, and, after I got it back on, it was a bit wonky, although it saved almost all of the turns, and most of the distance. We went on to Lambertville on a route I don't remember doing before; longer on the way out, I think, but including a pretty stretch of Alexauken Creek Road (do I have that name right?). We stopped at Rojo's for coffee, which Cheryl thinks is upscale, but I'm just glad it's a place where I can order a large coffee without having to learn Italian, like I do at one coffee chain that will remain nameless.

After the stop, we went up to see the dinosaur head on (I think) Mt. Airy-Harbourton Rd (the new Bob saw the Snoopy head, but not the dinosaur), and then back a slightly longer route across 31. Route 31 is one of my bêtes noir; while it's not true that I nearly get run over every time I cross it, it is true that my closest calls have been crossing that road at intersections without signals, so I'm grateful we went across where we did.

Then back to Pennington, and, thereafter, back to Laura's. I forgot to call my wife from the car, as is my usual practice, and on the way back, I got a call from The Excellent Wife (TEW) asking (with a tremor in her voice) if I was OK. I was; I had just stepped out of the Stop & Shop where I had picked up a half-pound of roast beef for lunch (better than the potato chips and pretzels which were my previous post-ride repast), and was unpacking the car and kissing her hello a short while later.

Probably no ride tomorrow: weather threatens, and TEW is suggesting that perhaps we ought to act like married people and do something together; a suggestion with which I am hard-pressed to find fault.

Friday, December 14, 2012

music from trash

No, not trashy music:

I thought this was immense. I was especially take that one of the woodwinds, with all that complicated valve-buttonry, appeared to be recycled, as well.

I found it in the original article on Time.Com.

has a unique poignancy today

Found this on today's Oddman:

For reasons I'm not going into here, it's unusually appropriate today.

edit 12/17/12: After discussion with a skeptic and subsequent research, I can find no evidence that Voltaire ever actually said or wrote this. However, it does express my grumpiness about some recent events. It's also been driven home to me that getting into some people's good opinion is so expensive, in energy, time, and falsity to one's nature, that their good opinion is not worth having.

Also: the shirt-button on the cuff of the oppressing hand should be on the pinkie-ring side, not the thumb side. But I quibble.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

inauspicious beginning ride

It's been almost two weeks since I've done a group ride, and longer since I've done a listed Freewheeler ride, so I was looking forward to the ride today... and I also was out of practice for the preparation (and I've been out-of-sorts for professional and personal reasons, none of which will be discussed here). I emailed Erich W about the Wednesday ride-to-the-ride, and he emailed back that he intended to go, so I got to the Etra Lake Park start point early (as I always do). As I was suiting up, I found that I had lost (HAH! "Found I had lost!" I crack myself up) one of my winter gloves... but I had glove liners with which I could make do.

But about three minutes before we would have left, a car comes up and honks - it's Erich. He had not left enough time to replace the tire which he found was flat when he went to his bike this morning, so he was not going on the group ride. So, alone (and quickly, in comparison to when I ride with the group), I rode down from Etra Lake Park to Byron Johnson Park in Allentown -

- where I met up with eleven of the old guys (including Al L, who's usually a regular on the ride-to-the-ride), and we did this route. It started cold, but warmed up as the sun came up. I chatted with Larry C, with whom I don't, normally, and he was telling me about PAFA and the benefits of his using a studio for his art. We went in directions I don't usually (which means I was even more lost), but wound up at Ft Dix, which is one of leader Dennis W's favorite ride-by's (I guess it's not really a destination, as we don't stop there). We stopped at a McDonald's on the way back, which would not have been my choice - but fellow rider Al P pointed out the three great deals at Mickey D's: coffee, oatmeal (get the stuff without the sugar), and some sundae concoction, but with yogurt and fruit, instead of just junk.

On the way back, I chatted with Al P about my idea for doing some "D" rides next summer. He though it was a good idea, and said he thought some people might want to come just because there would be no competitiveness on the rides (my plan is to advertise "no attitudes, no lectures, lots of stops, nobody dropped"). So now I'm looking for routes: flat, in the 14-to-17-mile range. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Then back to Allentown, and on my own back to Etra. I was tired and hungry, so I didn't break any speed records on the way back. I stopped in at a supermarket to get some sliced roast beef for lunch, which worked better than the junk food I've usually been grabbing on the way home!

Gotta get another pair of gloves, though.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

tougher than i am

Friend Dave C sent me a link to an article about a guy who's biking from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, a distance of 750 miles.

Some people, riders and non-riders alike, think I'm obsessed because I'll go out on a ride as long as the temperature is above freezing. That's nothing; here's some of what this guy will have to contend with:
“The weather is always bad in Antarctica. Okay, maybe not always … but there is always the chance of it changing and getting worse,” he said... "Antarctica is the coldest and windiest place on the planet so to hope for anything other than that is pointless. That said, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere so the cold isn’t as extreme as the Arctic. The coldest temperatures will be roughly -35 (up to -50 with the windchill). Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s a dry cold (seriously)!”

He's got to be concerned about mechanicals, too:
The expedition, dubbed Cycle South, will also be the first to employ a standard fat bike — a Surly Moonlander with a steel frame, 4.7” tires, and 100mm rims. The Moonlander is the “fattest” commercially produced fat bike on the market, offering the maximum amount of float over the dry, wind-compacted snow that Larsen will encounter on his journey... Summer temperatures can drop as low as minus 50 Celsius, which is likely to affect the various moving parts of a bicycle that haven’t been widely tested in those extremes. Sludge-like lubricant, seized headsets, slipping hubs, and split tubes and tires come to mind.

Check out the original article.

(Sorry for the lack of posts; a sudden uptick of work responsibilities had me exhausted this week, and the funeral of a friend precluded today's group ride. I hope to get back on track soon... although the holiday calendar is starting to look demanding!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

both-wheel drive

Dave C sent me this from this week's Gizmag. A careful look at the bike above shows an additional chain just where it's going to reduce your left knee to hamburger. That connects to another 'nother chain, that connects to another 'nother chain, that has some kind of universal joint, that drives the front wheel.

I don't do enough mountain biking to know if this is necessary, or even desirable. But all that extra chain whippin' around the inside of my thigh makes me nervous. (And there's not a good close-up of the universal joint, so I can get a bleppo of how it works.

I don't know whether to file this under "dumb" or not.

tubeless, tireless tires

I don't think this is the first time I've seen this article, but I came across it again this morning. The prototype is called "ERW", for "Energy Return Wheel". From the Gizmag article:
According to Britek founder Brian Russell, the stretching of the internal rubber layer allows elastic potential energy to be stored within the wheel. As that layer is compressed by bumps transmitted from the road, the stored energy is supposedly returned (hence the name) and converted into forward momentum.
There's a prototype for cars as well. I'm not sure I like the open sides for mountain biking, but one of the things I do like:
Although there is no air pressure that riders can adjust, they can instead adjust the rubber-tensioning rods to make the wheels run harder or softer.
I could get away with a much lighter seatbag... no tubes (I carry two), no patch kit, no CO2, no pump...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

cheryl leads the boys from the hood pickup ride

Dave C, Joe M, Shawn R, and Rich B all live within spittin' distance of one another (they might all be in the same development, I don't know). Dave's invited me to join them on a couple of rides recently, and this week, I planned to go with 'em out of their neighborhood - but then I got a text from Dave that Cheryl was leading a "pickup" ride (one without formal notice) from her place; would I like to go?  I would, and did; I've done a ride with Cheryl from her place recently, so I was reasonably sure that she wouldn't object to my tagging along. Indeed she did not; she said she just hadn't thought to add me to her email "A-list" of riders she invites, and said she would remedy what she saw as an oversight. I'm flattered.

Eight of us all told: in addition to the four "Boys", Cheryl, and me, Ron S and Mike M came along. We met at 10 at her house, in hopes that the temperature would come out of the basement (and it did; it was a balmy 43° when we departed, and soared up to 48° by the time we got back). Raw, grey skies, and the thinnest wetness on the roads, but no rain or drizzle. Here's the route. It felt like we were going to Sergeantsville, but we came down to Lambertville from the northeast, then up Quarry Road to 601 back to Pennington and then to Cheryl's. Enough hills to make it a workout, but a leisurely pace.

I got to talking to Shawn, who's about to be a father; his first is due in April (and everybody's healthy so far, I hear). His wife works for Planned Parenthood, and he for Public Radio WHYY, so their house is, if anything, even more lefty-political than mine. He was complaining about how the proprietor of his bike shop treats him like the naughty teenager all the time. We agreed it's probably time to look for a new shop -- after all, it's not like he's getting great prices there, to take that kind of treatment!

Spoke to Rich, too, who rides a bike to work (evidently), but who is mostly notable to me for his choice of clothing - he wore a single jacket over a short-sleeve jersey (as opposed, for example, to my three-layers-of-thermals-with-a-jersey-on-top, and I also had a jacket over that for part of the way). I remembered when he rode the Tour de Franklin in April, he did it in shorts when most of the rest of us had tights and more than one layer.

With this ride, I've met a minor goal; I've ridden in every month in 2012. Dave C has me beat; he's ridden every WEEK! Not long distances always, but the consistency is admirable.

No group ride planned for tomorrow; the group I used to sing with has a concert this weekend, and The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I are going to usher tomorrow; I'd never get back from a group ride in time to get cleaned up, changed, and out. But there might be an early-morning quick one... because the Freewheelers Holiday Party is tonight, and I might need to burn off a few extra calories. Hrmph.