Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another take on "If Apple made bikes"

Last week, the Practical Cyclist blogged about what a bicycle designed by Apple computer might look like:

  • Frame: Probably hydr0formed aluminum, welded, with smooth-dressed joints. The finish would be anodized ("nanochromatic" colors to match the iPod nano?) and clear-coated. All cables would be internally routed. The frame would be set up so that a minimum number of sizes (maybe just two: small and large) would accommodate all riders. This presumes a maximally adjustable seatpost and stem arrangement.
  • Drivetrain: Internally-geared rear hub, probably 8 speed, with an automatic shifter working off cadence and speed scnsors integrated in the frame. Belt drive. Gear range for city hills.
  • Brakes: Internal hub brakes front and rear. (Yes, the hubs will be big, but it'll be a clean look and low maintenance. Speaking of which...).
  • Maintenance: Carbon or aramid drive belt good for 10,000 miles. Sealed bearings everywhere. Aramid-belted tires (possibly tubeless) with interior goo to stop slow leaks. All cables Teflon-coated. An absolute minimum of hardware exposed to the elements. Here's where that famous Apple attention to detail will pay off.

As a guy who's been in the Windows-side of IT for a decade and who's played with DOS-based computers since the late 70s (thanks dad), I've got a thing or two to say about this.

Now, no one doubts that if Apple were to make a bike, it'd be quite the attention getter as Practical Cyclist says. It might even solve some problems many cyclists don't even think of as problems. It might even attract new people to cycling, which is a good thing all around.

But come on...for those of us who like to tinker, an Apple bike would certainly earn the title "EPIC FAIL." Here's my predictions about what an Apple bike would look like:

  • No 4mm bolts for water bottle cages, you'd have to have a special star screwdriver, purchased at the local Bike Genius bar in the Apple Store
  • They would invent a new tire size, thus making it all the more difficult for bike shops and bike geeks to stock replacement tires/tubes. Hello 27 and 3/8 inch tire, goodbye 700c, 26" or 29"!
  • Basic things that all bikes do would be missing from the first generation of the new Apple Bike (think Copy/Paste on your iPhone).
  • You couldn't ever upgrade your Apple bike. Brake pads worn out? Tough, buy a new bike or send the entire bike to Apple for replacement. Want to change out the bottom bracket, handlebars, or saddle for something new and lightweight? You just voided your warranty friend!
  • Any local bike shop that stocked the Apple Bike would be required to have its mechanics Apple Bike Certified (ABC) by attending training in Cupertino. Nevermind if you were a mechanic on Team Discovery in 2002, that's not good enough for the Apple Bike.
  • Little things would be out of place. Like the Quick Release lever would be on the drive side of the bike. The seat post would oddly use three bolts, not two, or four, or one.
  • New names: Apple would invent new names for things that already have names. Steering would become "Gesture Based Cycling," pedaling would become "Human Power Assist"
  • The Apple Bike would be announced with much fanfare and anticipation by Steve Jobs as the "One More Thing" but it wouldn't be released for at least six months. Upon release, it would immediately sell out, grace the cover of Time Magazine, and cause bike/computer geeks to once again roll their eyes as the full force of the Reality Distortion Field takes effect
  • A new sub-culture of Apple Bike Enthusiasts would loudly proclaim on the internet and elsewhere that the bicycle really didn't exist before Apple came into the market, that the Apple Bike is Bicycling Perfection. They'd probably even get a lycra-clad racer to star opposite the Mac Guy in new Apple Bike ads.

Now don't get me wrong, I love Apple and their fans and I think an Apple Bike would be a pretty interesting concept. But a bike from the "Think Different" company would certainly trend in the same direction their technology products have gone: towards proprietary technology, methods and processes. It's what makes Apple, Apple.

Even so, bring it on. I'd love to take the Apple bike Practical Cyclist describes for a long spin before returning to my tried and true steel Jamis.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Enjoyable Video

Just makes you want to quit your job, sell all your stuff, and move to Europe, or Asia, or anywhere there is smooth tarmac, big blue oceans, and rolling mountains:

Great production values in this video too. At first I thought it was a Rapha commercial but I think it's really just an ad for a cycle-tour company in Tenerife.

Hill Therapy

It's late June in Southern California and that means the heat is starting to come on.

Yesterday temps reached 102 here in town. Granted that's a dry heat, but it's still scorching.

Now is the time of year where it's really important to get out on the road early, preferably before 7am. Riding early also helps you avoid the turbulent high desert winds that plague this area in the afternoon.

Of course getting out on the road at 6:30 am on a weekend is easier said than done. As Dave Moulton discusses in a great blog post:

I love to ride my bike, but for some reason hate getting ready to ride my bike. It seems to take me on average about 45 minutes, half an hour if I rush; from the time I decide to go for a ride, to actually walking out the door with my bike.

If I procrastinate over getting out for a ride, it is never over actually riding, but because of this chore of getting ready. How long does it take to throw on a jersey and a pair of shorts, you may ask?

For me it takes about an hour to get ready, mostly because I, ummmm, try to cleanse myself out first, if you know what I mean. No one wants to have to go number 2 in the middle of a 60 mile ride, so I try to take care of that before I leave.

Anyway back on topic: I finally left at about 8:30 am yesterday morning and by then it must have been 85 degrees outside with little to no wind. I decided to ride about 20 miles and focus on climbing:

It's been said that cyclists hate two things: hills and headwinds, but in the year I've been cycling, I've come to really enjoy hills. Not while I'm riding up them, mind you. In the middle of a climb I hate the sport of cycling, I hate that I'm suffering while pedaling up the hill, and everything in me says to turn around and take the easy way back.

But I don't.

Because I love hills. It's therapeutic for me. Everything melts away: money problems, jerks at work, the latest fight with my wife, worry and concern about the future. All those problems and worries just sink into the background of my mind, and my sole reason for existing at that moment is to climb the hill. One more turn of the cranks, one more push all the way up the mountain.

It's odd because once I summit the mountain and go downhill or when I'm riding fast on the flats, my mind wanders back to those problems, those nagging issues that I can't seem to escape from.

But on the mountain it's a different story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Planning my 4th of July Ride to the Beach

My wife and I want to do something adventurous and different for the 4th of July and it just so happens some friends of our's have invited us to celebrate at their house on the beach.

So we have decided to ride there. No big deal for me, and I'm pretty sure my wife can handle the distance (about 52 miles). Here's the route:

If you click the "Show Elevation" button, a new window will pop up with the elevation profile for this ride. It's a complete breeze- all downhill on the way there, and gradients (if you can call it that) of 2 or 3 percent on the way back. Piece of cake!

I've ridden about half this route before, and it offers some truly wonderful cycling. Once you leave the main highway, 126, you can get on some paved farm roads that butt right up against wonderfully-smelling orchards, long tracks of organic crops, and much more. Here's some photos from my last ride in the area:

This was on Guiberson Road, notice the orange trees to the right.

My only concern about this overnight trip is that it will mark the first time I've done cycle touring. Usually I'm just out and back, never packing more than spare tubes, multi-tool, driver's license, money, bank card, and cell phone.

But this time I need to carry a lot more- a change of clothes, swim wear, toiletries etc.

I asked the helpful folks at the Touring forum on BikeForums.net for some advice. They seem to think I'll need a new wheel on my Jamis Quest if I want to pack that much weight on the rear wheel.

I'm going to check out a shop here in town to see what a single Mavic Open Pro wheel with casette would cost me. Otherwise I'm looking at the Nashbar cargo trailer here (towing a trailer wouldn't be as much fun but would take weight off the rear wheel) though that trailer hasn't received very good reviews.

If I decide to risk it, I'll probably just pick up these panniers and try to keep things as light as possible. I don't want my wife to have to carry too much on this ride.

Or I may just give up the road bike idea and bike there on my old Specialized Rockhopper MTB with slick tires. That would suck but it might be my only option.

Whatever the case I can't wait. Any of you ridden this entire route to the beach?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cycling on Sidewalks

The City Council in the town I live in, Santa Clarita California, is set to take up and most likely approve a new cycling on sidewalks ordinance tonight.

The ordinance would allow cyclists to ride their bikes on sidewalks just about everywhere.

From the item on the Council's Agenda:
Staff has seen a growing number of inquiries from the community regarding bicycles on sidewalks for a variety of reasons:
Driving has become too expensive and more residents rely on other modes of transportation such as bicycling.
Current gaps in City trails force bicyclists to use sidewalks to make connections.
Some bicyclists feel unsafe riding on major streets that do not provide sufficient lane width for bicycles.
Parents are not comfortable allowing their children to ride bicycles on streets.
With the adoption of the City's Non-Motorized Transportation Plan in June 2008, the City dedicated itself to providing the infrastructure and policy support necessary to create a non-motorized transportation network. Developing a policy to allow bicycles on sidewalks complements the City's efforts to create a non-motorized transportation network. While it is the City's objective to encourage bicycling as a viable transportation option, any policy regarding bicycles on sidewalks must take into account potential public safety issues created when bicycles interact with pedestrians and automobiles.

There's a couple ways to look at this. Santa Clarita does have a very nice path and trail system, much of it Class 1 bike paths. But it is woefully incomplete and lacks connectivity.

So by allowing us to ride on sidewalks, they're helping us out, right? Or will this ordinance be an excuse to not develop bike lanes/paths in the future?

Earlier this year, the ordinance was shot down with the help of some local cyclists who noticed that the ordinance would have required cyclists to dismount their bikes and walk them through crosswalks. A friend of mine showed up at the Council Meeting, pulled out her SIDI race shoes, and said she could barely walk in them on carpet, let alone asphalt. She also mentioned that some cyclists are disabled and can't walk well (I think she was referring to some 'bent riders).The Council then delayed adoption of the ordinance and subsequently took out the walk through cross-walks section.

Overall I support this ordinance and will gladly take advantage of it (especially in places where the bike path dumps you out onto a sidewalk with no other options), but I hope it's not used as an excuse to retard development of more bike lanes.

Link to ordinance

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend Ride

The soul cyclist couldn't find anyone to ride with this weekend, so, once again, he rode alone.

My destination this time was an old favorite. It's a small desert community called Agua Dulce (Sweet Water) is northern Los Angeles County. You've probably never heard of it but you've seen AD's most striking feature in dozens of movie and television shows. That's right, AD is home to the Vasquez Rocks:

From Agua Dulce Ride

The Rocks, as they're known locally, have most famously appeared in several Star Trek episodes, including the latest JJ Abrams flick.

Anyway, riding to AD offers some moderate climbs, stunning scenery, well-maintained tarmacs, and lots of opportunities for speed. All told it's about a 40 mile round-trip making for a moderately tough way to spend a few hours.

I felt strong for most of the ride but I had to stop for breakfast once I made it to Agua Dulce. Just a bit hungry after fighting my way up those hills and chasing/passing a few cyclists.

If you live in the LA Region, it's definitely worth a trip. I recommend you head up Highway 14 and park at the Newhall Avenue park and ride. Or, if you fancy having a car-free trip, take the Antelope Valley Metrolink line to the Newhall or Santa Clarita stations.

Lance Armstrong wins Nevada City Classic

It's his first pro victory since un-retiring and comes just a few weeks before the start of the Tour de France.

The Nevada City Classic is a 1.1 mile course with only 120 feet of elevation gain according to Velo News:

The seven-time Tour de France champion went it alone with six laps to race, taking a lead of a dozen seconds as he churned out 2.5-minute laps on the 1.1-mile, seven-turn circuit with 120 feet of climbing per go-round.

Here's a good video of the race from YouTube. Zoom forward to about 3:20 to see Lance, Levi and Ben Jacques-Mayne duke it out

No video yet of him crossing the line, so this will have to do.

Here's what Chris Horner had to say about Lance's ride:

Alone up front, Lance was putting on a display of power that no one could respond to, and the crowd lining the course was going crazy, loving every minute of the show. Everyone knew that they were seeing a preview of what could be ahead at next month's Tour de France.

Lance rode across the finish line solo, which any rider will tell you is the best way to win. Levi finished third, and I think I was fifth, but with all the lapped riders it was getting hard to tell who was where.

I'm getting excited for the start of the TdF. So many questions and unknowns, should be a great show.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bike Blog Roll

I've added my favorite cycling blogs to a column on the right side. You can find the gamut of cycling blogs here- from NYC fixie hipsters to BS NYC (who makes fun of said hipsters) to a Canadian mom who pedals around on her electra to a chic Bostonian woman who photographs handsome cyclists, it's all there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bianchi Regret

I want to run over my wife's Bianchi Eros with my Subaru. It was a bad purchase.

First off, let us all never forget that seat tube length is almost certainly of secondary importance to top tube length. My wife has adequate stand over on the Bianchi, the saddle is at a good height, and she can reach the pedals, but, since the bike was built for a man, the top tube is at least two inches too long.

I tried some adjustments- move the saddle closer, buy a $100 Italian-made 80mm 3TTT stem with the word Casati stenciled on it (because she's a style-hound, it has to be italian). Hell, I even rotated the bars up to the point where the Campognolo brifters are comically elevated in the air.

It works...and she's comfortable...for about 5 miles and then she just hates being on the bike. She's getting better about it, but obviously the bike was too big for her.

Speaking of Campognolo- I have to admit it's confusing as shit to shift with these brifters. The left brifter, controlling the front derailleur, has a real attitude problem. Sometimes the paddle will shift flawlessly- other times, it makes the motion but nothing will move on the derailleur. In fact, you don't even feel the brifter 'engage' the cable...nothing happens. I almost thought this was a safety feature. I can't reproduce the problem, I just know it happens now and then, and thus, my wife pedals on a downhill in the smallest chain ring.

Finally, I'd like to toss some monkey poo at all the component manufacturers. I never realized how hard it was for some people to grasp shifting. To us, it's second nature, but to someone like my wife, shifting involves interacting with a confusing mix of levers and buttons, the timing of which is very important.

How do you explain road-STI style shifting to someone? They just have to learn it. I can tell her to "Move the right paddle inward" to make pedaling "easier" but she just isn't grasping it.

Funny that none of the big three component manufacturers have grasped onto this- it takes some no-name Taiwan company to produce an STI road lever for use with an Alfine hub. That's something my wife could figure out and learn.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

False Advertising

Commercial for the new 3rd Generation Toyota Prius:

I like the ad and its creative use of people (parts of it were disturbing, especially the waterfall) but I'm sorry, a Toyota Prius is not "Harmony between man, nature, and machine."

There's only a handful of truly carbon-free ways for man to travel: sailing, pogo stick (heh), walking, surfing, and bicycling. Of those, only bicycling offers true "harmony" between man, nature, and machine and can go to the same places Prius can go.

Not that I'm digging on the Prius, but come on. Even if it is the cleanest, most effecient vehicle in the world, it's still a single passenger car that requires enormous infrastructure and space to support (think parking lots, highway interchanges etc).

Pirate bike lanes in LA

In this month's Bicycling magazine, there's a good article on a group of renegade cyclists in Los Angeles who have taken to painting their own bike lanes on some of the city's dangerous and long bridges.

The article says the cyclists are frustrated with the city's bike plan that promises much but has delivered very little.

I totally sympathize with these guys and I wouldn't characterize this as "renegade" behavior, but more like civil disobedience.

We cyclists pay taxes; parts of the road should be our's as well, especially when the government wants us to ditch our cars and try alternate methods of transportation.

Unfortunately the article isn't available online, so if you see the magazine in print, you should pick up a copy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Celebrate the Lake Show and be more visible too

I recently attached a Los Angeles Lakers car flag to the Bontrager rack on the back of my Swobo commuter bike:

Not exactly “aero” but this bike weighs close to 40lbs and is already slow as a result.

Motorists seem to like the Lakers flag; I get the occasional honk, thumbs-up and even attempts to engage in conversation (at least during stop lights). I’m just happy they see me.

My new Seven, sidelined for now

I was so excited to post pictures of my new Seven Alaris on discussion forums around the web. Everyone likes to show off their new bicycle on BikeForums and other sites, and now it was my turn.

So I cleaned the Seven up, chose a scenic spot near my parents house, and got all jiggy with depth of field:Then I went over to Ars Technica and posted the pics, which turned out pretty well considering I didn't have my DSLR. Great light, hot Ti frame, cool looking bottle water holders and more.

It took about 2.5 minutes for someone to respond to my pictures and sarcastically ask, "ummm, does your bike shop charge extra for crankset bolts on your new $4,000 bike?"


Indeed, the new Seven is missing a crankset bolt. Perhaps this explains why it's already lost the chain twice.

I'm counting the hours until Bicycle John's opens tomorrow.