Sunday, May 27, 2012

Roses, chivalry, and a single gear.

I cannot come to grips with why, when I think of doing a long, wandering, hard ride into the horizon, that I see myself on the singlespeed.  How romantic of me or what?  How stupid of me or what?

I think of this as I go through a mental check list in preparation for a Memorial Day ride with FFW on his newly acquired SS Salsa scooter.  Not a killer route, but it gets our attention on a geared bike and I think it will be quite adequate to shatter our old legs that day.

I always love a good ride, right?  Who doesn't?  And although riding alone has great perks, good company is sweet indeed and having FFW along makes for something to look forward to.  But honestly, despite the fact that this ride really is not best with one gear at my command, it is the SS factor that excites me the most.

How odd.  How difficult.  How romantic.  Don Quixote would be proud of me. Regarding 'The Don' - "While mostly a rational man of sound reason, his reading of books of chivalry in excess has had a profound effect on him, leading to the distortion of his perception and the wavering of his mental faculties."  Wikipedia knows me all too well, it seems.  Too much chivalry in my diet, no doubt.

I think that, if I rode a bit less within the group dynamic of the angry pack of weekend warriors looking to KOM the trail on 5" travel, geared carbon wunderbikes, and spent more time on my own in the forest, that I would go SS 100% and just live with the downsides.

"Wait...there are downsides?", says the romantic in me?  Rocinante, tell me it aint so?

Then of course, there are bikes to be tested and evaluated and all that and so it goes.  No chance of a 'single' existence. 

I pondered this when I was armpit deep into WRIAD.  I was seriously considering this as an SS ride and the reality of that thought was a bit less appealing after about 8 hours of sandstone and wind.  I was glad to have both gears and squish on that day, but now I find myself thinking that "next time", if there is one, would I go purist and eschew all that fluffery?

I wonder if this is akin to childbirth?  During the delivery and for some time after, reality is right there smackin' you down and the experience leaves you a bit shattered, wary, and not eager to do it again, or so I imagine.  Then time goes by and there is that romantic notion and the pain seems distant and reasonable after all and soon enough you are planning another go 'round.

Maybe I should ride with a red rose in my teeth, dashing cavalier knight that I am.  "Hello, ladies...I ride with one gear, slaying dragons and all that."  But that would not do, no that would not do at all.  I would suck in that rose in some fit of oxygen deprived hoovering and that would be that...aphids and all.  An inglorious end to be sure.

But just a bit romantic, as it should be.

Me and FFW.  I am the taller one on the right. After all, it's my blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


This message brought to you by the Hopeful Bicycle Manufacturers Association

 It has been interesting watching the 650b spin machine getting warmed up again as 2013 nears and the rush to the market with the 'tweener' wheel size begins in earnest.  At Sea Otter '12 I asked many industry wonks (off the record...if that is ever truly a reality) as to their thoughts on the movement to a third choice.  Now, it is always hard to tell just who is playing the cards very close to the vest (like some big company that starts with a red S) and who is really telling it like it is, but there seemed to be a few main points I heard over and over again and one I listed that I never heard even once.  Guess which one I never heard?
  1. We had a few prototypes of our 650b ________  (insert tires, rims, forks here as needed) that were shelved due to lack of interest, now we have orders for 2013 and we are filling those orders.
  2. We are not sure where it is going or if it will be received by John Q. Public, but we are keeping an eye on it.
  3. What we see is a 'push' by manufacturers to the marketplace for 650b rather than a 'pull' from the marketplace by the consumer.
  4. It really is not "perfectly in between" sizes and is much closer to a 26er than a 29er.
  5.  We are completely sold out on the 650b concept and believe that it is the best wheel size for the majority or riders and applications.  We are so stoked to be offering that new wheel size to the future!
So, my perhaps snidely (word?) responses:

  1. Money talks and we will sell anything to anyone that has a valid checking account tied to it.  Companies are in the biz to make biz.
  2. Well any large bike company has to be at least 2 years ahead of the game in R&D or they will have no bikes to sell.  So if this is 2012, then the 2013 models have been finalized and are being built now and the 2014s are well along the drawing board.  Parts are ordered, sales forecast, marketing in place, etc.  Believe me, all the big players have been riding 650b test mules or I will eat my hat.  No one wants to be off the back and miss the boat like many did for 29ers, but will it be a row boat or a naval destroyer?   Will all of them jump in with both feet?  So far I hear that Scott has bet big.  We shall see if that is right.
  3. I agree.  650b is waaay more push than pull.  "Who can we sell a new bike to now?"  "What will entice the happy owner of a very adequate bike to plop down the credit card for the latest thing?"  
  4. Seems like that to me too.
  5. No, I never heard that one, but then I hardly asked everyone.
A local to me dirt based rag has been thrashing a 650b FS lately and I ride with those guys pretty often.  I heard a gathered group of riders asking about the new 650b scoot at one rest stop in excited tones..."I heard that it is the perfect in between size!"  "I heard that it has the best of both worlds!"  "My buddy says that it will kill 29ers...waaay better."  So the reply from the magazine wonk was kinda funny and telling too.  To paraphase a bit...Well it is a great bike, very fun and it has the best of both wheel sizes.  But it feels a lot like a 26" wheel though.  Oh snap! 

I suppose that, in the early days of my journey to 29er-ness, that I may have waxed on a bit about the bennies of big wheels to anyone that was a skeptic, but then skeptics were the norm then, not the exception.  Now, not so much.  Now I don't talk about it as much and I never get into the silly debates of why this wheel size is faster or scientifically proven (leave that to the Germans) or 'better'.  I don't really care.  I know that I like it and that is enough for me.  It is not blessed of God or the end all of bike designs and there are things that will always bug me about 29ers that will never change due to the realities of things.  But I like them and so do a lot of buyers with cash in hand.  They are truly different in a dramatic, easily perceptible way.  You may not like it, but you can tell right away they are not a 26er.

I may even end up liking 650b more than I do now, which so far has been just like going back to a 26" wheel to me.  Fun, sporty, etc, but hardly earth shattering.  Maybe I will be converted over time.  Likely not, but I have no axe to grind.  I want to ride what works best for me and what I like the most, regardless of label or dimensions and I have no desire to whack others with a big stick about it either way.  Of course I have an investment in seeing 29ers do well as twentynineinches& is a long url.  But really, there is room for everyone to play and ride happy without being so divisive.

It is odd how personal many make it on the forums like on MTBR.  On both sides of the fence, it gets kinda nasty like it really matters who 'wins'.  Sometimes the personal attacks on character against someone like GT by a poster who has never met him, sat down with him, ridden with him, or has any clue about him as a person are so transparently ugly it amazes me.  Shame on them.

I do plan on getting on some really good 'tweener' bikes in the future though, as opportunities arise.  Until then, I will watch with a mix of amusement and disgust as the market forces and the internet cowboys have the 'see who can spin the fastest' contest.  Meanwhile, I suggest this as an ad poster for 650b benefits.  You are getting sleepy...sleeeepy.  Or nauseous if you spin too much.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Got camera?

I have had a few cameras lately, mostly glorified P&S stuff, then the iPhone camera which is pretty darn good for a phone camera.  But, I wanted to step up a notch into a 'real' camera, something that has the depth and versatility to allow me to grow along with the equipment.  I want to be a better photographer, learn the basics and beyond, and become more of a craftsman.  Changeable lenses would be a real plus but it could not be too big or heavy to carry along on a ride if I so desired.  So my priorities were to have better pic quality than a typical P&S, lens choices, small size relative to a full on DSLR, and not cost the moon.

So, I got this.

The Sony NEX5N sits at the top of the new micro 4/3rds camera line and came into my hands from a fellow cyclist/blogger and 'real' photographer, GNAT.   I first shot some stuff at Sea Otter, but I was just getting to know the camera in a very basic way and shooting bikes for the web is hardly art.  But this weekend I took a trip with the missus and brought the NEX5N along to document it all.  

I was playing with many of the modes and stylings for the first time.  Very interesting stuff, some of that, but I was very happy with the results.  I think the Sony was a great choice and has hit all the targets I had in mind.  I picked up a case that sits across my chest right between the shoulder straps of a typical hydration pack and allows easy access for bike rides.

Now I just need to grow into the camera a bunch and that I am very much looking forward to.  Here are some shots...non bikey stuff...that shows some of the results.  Most of this is in camera with some minor post correction and, of course, cropping. 

Will this turn into a photo blog?  Not likely...yet...but I am excited to learn new skills and grow in another area that interests me.  Good fun.

Some of my favs for one reason or another.