Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Resolutions...

Ya gotta do 'em.

This year I'm not too motivated to change much personally. Minor tweaking, including...

1) - No more wimping out on the commutes. I feel pretty good about the number of times a week I ride to work, and the area isn't exactly perfect for bike commuting, but I could do better and infrastructure is a lame excuse. SO, unless it's raining or colder than 50 when I leave, or there's some meeting or baby issue that means I have to have a car downtown, I'm on the bike.

2) - Hate them before and during and love them after. I got some pretty good advice for promoting my aggression on road rides. Goes like this...Pick something I hate about an individual who's faster than me, even something as mundane as his/her handlebar tape, and kill them for it. Never let them break on me. Suck their wheel until I vomit. No exceptions. After the battle, approach them and compliment something that I specifically liked about their day's work, or their equipment, or hair or whatever. Be genuine, if there's nothing to compliment, then just say something pleasant and sweep away the karma from the day. I don't need to be the friendliest guy on a ride, that's for the 'organizer', and I don't need to be the one to take one for the team and dump off the back to sit in with slower riders to help. I do not need to limit my own development by serving as domestique to the weak. Conversely, I do not want others to be mine. Focus on promoting my own development as a rider, not as a group rider.

3) - Personal weight goals, 185-190 lbs. After dumping off some 40+ pounds over the last two years, I waffle around 195 or so, although I'm at 2 bills with the holidays. 185 would be ideal, and I think I can easily get back there by...

4) - No beer, no soda, no fast food! - Sounds drastic, but let me elaborate... No beer means no beer at home, and no shit beer when eating out or on occasion. If I'm going to have a beer, it's because it's the beer I want and not the beer that's convenient. No Heineken at Dad's house. No Bud Light at the burrito joint on the corner. My 'Mr Beer' home brewing kit Christmas present, however, will get a workout! No soda means no soda, it aint hard to do and I'm not a big 'pop' guzzler anyway. No fast food means no fast food. Again, I'm not a big burger guy, so it aint hard to do, and you'd be surprised how many calories you avoid by just not going to Whataburger with the fellas.

5) and finally Be more optimistic. I put this one every year it seems, and my protestant upbringing means its next to impossible to follow through with it, but I am a grump and not everyone needs to live their life through my pouting.

My professional list is simple...but more drastic to be sure, than my personal list. I've been toying for a long time about changing careers, and it's time to shit or get off the pot. My three possibilities are seemingly completely unrelated, but to those who know me, you'll understand. Those that don't, no giggling. Clearly, some of these are not compatible with others, and I know that, so there! Bitches.

1) - Welding classes at the community college. I working in a shop years ago that fabricated bike parts and other items in metal and I'd like to do more of it. Might lead to a new career, certainly more than watching "Deadliest Catch" will.

2) - Get active in the cycling industry again. Might mean as little as taking one of the local shops up on working one day a week, might mean putting up a website and peddling something (no pun intended) on the Internet. Might mean opening my own business of some type, brick and mortar maybe, web based maybe, both maybe. Might mean using my skills in the industry in another way. But Lets face it, I can sell anything, fix anything, build anything and I know more than many of the local hacks and I'm wasting that knowledge, and I'm brooding more than I should about my lack of involvement in the industry. Change it. Change it or close the door on it forever and be a happy customer in the cycling world rather than a critic of it

3) - LSAT - The big one... I took it about 6 years ago and scored very, very well with little to no preparation, and I was hung over from a night of 'impressing' the ladies, and I was doing that 'impressing' way too much at the time, because I'd met one that I was very much trying to impress. Well, we're married now, and she still somehow wants to hang around even though she knows all the bad habits, so clearly I don't need to be impressive anymore! Besides, I think she'd be most impressed if I started eating better, drinking less, pouting less, and focusing on m my personal development more.

There! Personal list, simple and easy. Professional list, simple and drastic. The new optimist in me points out that 'simple' is in the description of both.

Interesting Idea...

I especially like the idea of using a quality but not necessarily valuable Japanese lugged frame for the project. Make something pretty nice into something very nice!

On an entirely unrelated note, the JSO (police) have cordoned off all the roads in town today, and they are escorting the football teams (Clemson and Nebraska) for the Gator Bowl to the stadium right now, sirens screaming. Nothing like cops with freshly polished equipment strutting their authority through completely abandoned downtown streets. "Time to earn our overtime 'racketeering fee', boys! Arm up and put out the cones!"
It is after all, the 31st...And I'm sure there's NOTHING more relevant that they could possibly be doing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Morris Bridge, Tampa FL

I met up with Matt, who was in neighboring Orlando for the holidays while I was down in Tampa, and we rode the old stomping grounds, Morris Bridge. Part of the Wilderness Park system in eastern Hillsborough county out near the USF campus, Morris Bridge is comprised of mostly of low lying rooty trails surrounded by the flood plains of the upper Hillsborough River. These trails were the first that I rode some 20 or so years ago, and while the climbing is nonexistent, the technical nature of some of the lowest trails is still a pretty good test of skill. I rode the trails last year over the holidays too, and I remember then thinking that I was surprised by how much of the trail features that I remembered, considering that I hadn't been on the trails for 10 years. Well, the familiarity was still there this time around, and Matt commented on the same experience, that he felt the familiarity of the trails even though he'd not been there since he left USF over ten years before.
Matt brought his orange EWR, and I had my blue. His Turner had a broken derailleur hanger, so he was without his latest passion, and my white EWR single speed, which has been my most favorite bike recently, has a broken eyelet on the front rim which will force me to rebuild the wheel, so I was without the services of the old girl for the trip. It was a convenient excuse for both of us to have our new EWR's in the same place. The newest bikes we owned, in a park that was the first for both of us, two riders who started riding together way back in the day. A neat juxtaposition all around.

Matt's EWR is a wee bit different than mine, other than the orange color, he's also much less dialed in to the retro scene, so his bike features much more modern components and weighs about two pounds or so less than my 27 pounder. He's running the Maveric SC32 fork, an Industry Nine rear hub (with the proprietary Maverick hub up front), and some funky little gold Dangerboy levers. The levers were pretty snappy for newer stuff, but I'll stick to the good old Alteks, thanks. His wheels, however, got me motivated to build a more modern wheelset to take advantage of some of the more proven advancements in wheel technology. My current 217 and 6 bolt Deore XT hubs weigh a ton! I only sampled the Maverick front end in the parking lot of the Communications Building on campus later in the day (read on!), so I can't say too much about the fork. Matt's very impressed with it though, and his aggressive style is not too easy on suspension.
Matt and I also hit the campus for a little scoot-around, just to take a look at the place. There have to be at least 10 new buildings on campus built in the last 10 years. And the dorms look completely different, with a bunch of new dorm buildings parked in the old parking lots, with parking decks all around to take up the slack from the lost surface lots. The wildest part, though, is that the original University Center (Marshall Center) is completely gone! Replaced by new HUGE structure that is roughly 90% completed! Wow!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Syncros and Mavic 217 Sunsets

There's a pretty entertaining thread over on Retrobike regarding's my 2 cents...

Too many younger folks don't have a familiarity or an understanding of the quality of the original Canadian Syncros parts. Original Syncros parts were very well made and thought out. At a time when aftermarket parts had begun to earn a bad rep for durability (or lack thereof, i.e. Kooka) Syncros came into the fray and offered great parts and an understated look that said all business. Syncros was never the same after they were purchased in the late 90s by one of the evil empires of the cycling world, and they later folded, only to be reorganized into the bastard junk vendor that currently hocks complete crap. Were it not for the molesting of the Syncros name by the crap components being labeled by the brand today, we retrobikers would be paying an arm and a leg to get our hands on some of the best mountain components ever made. THAT is why folks in the know go ape for the original Syncros parts. For many, there is no other.

Syncros was then what Thomson is today. You meet a guy on the trail today with a Thomson stem or post and you know that he's solved that component question on his build for good, and he's got no reason to defend his purchase up and above just saying, "Hey, it's a Thomson." Back in the early 90s, "Hey, it's Syncros" meant the same thing. Owning either Syncros (or Thomson today) means no justification needed here, can keep your red KORE crap post or your flexy Ringle Moby with it's myriad of recalls, or your purple Hershey 'naked' hubs or your Nuke Proof garbage. Syncros was all you needed. Hammer and Cycle.

Very few companies to me represent the image of dependable aftermarket components better than Syncros. Race Face, Cook Bros, Syncros, WTB, IRD...none of them dicked around with CNC derailleurs or little floppy brake levers made out of dry spaghetti noodles. They were the real deal.

Then there are some comments regarding Answer ATAC and Control Tech USA stuff, but to me those brands were quality for sure, but not the kind of romanticized quality that Syncros and the others listed above were.

In other totally unrelated news. I picked up a pair of Mavis 217 Sunset rims from the old fleabay today. The pic left is ganked from the auction, (I'm guessing the seller won't mind, as he's sitting pretty happy!) I have one NOS left, and a pair built up on Kristen's mountain bike, so another set will be fun to build for something. Maybe the blue EWR. OR, since earlier today I pulled out an eyelet on the Rhyno Lite on the front of the white EWR, maybe I'll put some Sunsets back on that sucker. That's where the set currently on Kristen's bike started out back in the day. Built that wheeleset in 1996, and it's still going strong.

Riverside Holiday Lights Tour

This evening was the annual Riverside Lights Ride, where every person with a bike essentially, throws a slew of lights on their ride and hits the road over in the Riverside neighborhood in west Jacksonville. Its nice to see so many different bicyclists come out and ride the route. Lots of holiday decorations, and the neighborhood residents all seem to have their parties on the same evening. There were people everywhere and most folks seemed to really have a good time. Kristen and the baby were with me, and we met up with Travis and his little girl, and a few fellas from the Orange Park shop, and their families. A good time. Ho Ho Ho!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Road Ride

Met up with Travis and the folks from About Bikes for their Saturday morning ride. The sensor on my computer wandered a bit during the ride so my stats are a bit wonky for the day, but the pace was pretty good, easily at 22+ cruising speed and some forays up toward 30 when the terrain and tailwinds allowed, and the route is roughly 52 miles or so (not too long). There are a couple of sprints on the route too, so the pace cranked up past 30 for that as well. There were maybe 10 of us on the ride so the group was pretty large and diverse. The ride is advertised as a no drop ride, so there is typically someone around to assist you when you over-extend, and when you're strong you're expected on some level to provide support for the over-exerted. It was a beautiful day, cloudy and humid to start, but the sun came out and the arm warmers went away about halfway through the ride, and the day really turned into one of those days that makes North Florida a nice place to live.

Then I had to drive home through the sprawl of Orange Park, and you're reminded of why North Florida isn't exactly the best place to live after all. Roads near the mall, here on the weekend before Christmas, were nuts with shoppers. Shoot me now.

On the closing miles of the day, a grey Dodge pick-up with a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat, buzzed me pretty close. The woman hanging out the window and yelling "get off the road, faggot!" I'm pretty used to this sort of stupidity from the rednecks around here, and these turds never seem to be interested in commenting to me at the next signal, so you just let it roll off like water off a duck. The sad part, and this is really tragic, is that there was a young girl in the back of the truck, who watched me from the rear window as her parents drove away. I could swear she had a very befuddled look on her face that said either, "why are my parents treating you so bad", or maybe, "Sir, I'd like to apologize for the behavior of my idiot parents. You see, once upon a time in a shack decorated with deer antlers out in the swamp, my grandmother and her father got all freaky and as a result my mother is a little intellectually challenged. Please do not hold this against me, as I am really trying to be a human being amongst this inbred and dimwitted crew."

People, you can hate me because I'm bald, or because I'm on a bike and you're in a terrible hurry, or even because you want to classify me as gay (I guess because of the shorts? original!), but please, think of the lesson you are passing on to your kids when you act like a total idiot in front of them. I know my 2 year old little girl would ask me a barrage of questions if I acted like that, including all sorts of stuff that would lead to a conversation (the 'talk') that she doesn't need to be introduced to for years to come. What do you say when they ask why you acted the way you did? "What's a faggot?" "What's sex?" "Why do you care, mom?" How do you make your explanations sound even remotely logical? Do you drool on your shirt when you're talking? Can you even spell the word Drool?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eating and No Riding.

Today was a day off the bike. I had an office breakfast that I made grits and sausage links for, and obviously I couldn't ride the bike with a crock pot filled with hot grits on my back. You may have other theories on the matter, but it's my back...and my grits. Yesterday, however...WAS a bike day. More of the weird weather pattern we're in right now here in North Florida...warmer than usual and foggy and swampy feeling in the early AM. Almost seems to be raining out of the trees. You have to watch Jacksonville drivers in this weather. It's not easy to eat an Egg-McMuffin, text your girlfriend, AND avoid cyclists when the road is dry and nearly impossible when wet. Cold dry weather is coming though...get us back to a season other than 'Tropical Swamp'. About time...

The breakfast was a success. I'm having a hard time maintaining the weight in this season of fats and goodies. Still holding at below 200, but its a struggle. I like to eat. I like to drink too, but that's not a holiday specific affliction.

Picked up a set of replacement Syncros decals for the Revolution cranks from the ole Fleabay. Bike Snob would make fun of me for talking about all the dorky crud I buy, but then again...the word SNOB is in the name of the blog (of course, DOG is in the name of mine!) Picked up a spare set of Race Face Turbines too. Why? Dunno. I'll violate all Snob ethics and toss a pic up on the blog later. Watch out, old ladies in hybrid Civics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ON the commute!

Rode in again today, same 5.5, same time trial style, same wacky looking bald man running balls out in a big gear on a knobbied 30lb all-mountain hardtail. I am an odd, odd man. No fat old women in Civcs giving me the business today though, just a little bit of fog in the am, and some cooler temps. It was one of those strange days in North Florida where being in the shade means freezing your nipples off and being in the sun means construction worker future-stench! Get the baby wipes, its time for shower in a bag.

For lunch I had Whataburger. For dinner, cheap Chianti. Right juice and sour cream and onion chips. What can I say...athletes eat weird stuff.

Not that I would know!

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the commute...

On the ride home, which again is a very manageable 5.5 miles (I normally ride the commute on a mountain bike with knobbies, and treat is as an individual time trial...push it!), I had a woman in a Honda Civic Hybrid blow her horn at me in anger! I had pulled off the main drag and was tooling through the San Marco neighborhood on the south bank, an area where I lived before we bought the house, and I heard the woman pull up behind me and then...honk!! Then I got the hand! WTF lady, you're in a hybrid! Aren't we somehow supposed to be on the same side?!? Maybe you're tweaked that the cost of gas has gone back down the toilet and suddenly made your overpriced Civic much less of a bargain than you'd planned?

Who knows. What I do know, is that we were in a very residential neighborhood, with many parallel parked cars, and it wasn't hard at all for me to catch up and send the look of panic across her face. Not that I'd have done anything to her...I'm not retaliatory toward rude drivers...and it's not her fault that she's an arrogant idiot, but I just knew that if I could catch her, that maybe, just maybe, she'd feel a little less in-the-car brave about roughing up a cyclist the next time the opportunity presents itself. People are frequently surprised by how not-past a bike you are when you're in a car in the city. I'm right there, lady. 23-25mph. Smile and be nice and I'll accommodate you too. Be a creep, and I'll be happy to point out, ever so politely, that you're really not moving that much faster than me.

Syncros Revolution cranks

Pic loader was taking a goober earlier and couldn't process this one lonely picture. A post clean-up shot of the Syncros Revolution cranks. They cleaned up nicely. I'm quite pleased. Remember that the last set, which came on a Cannondale Super-V that I picked up to chop for eBay, were cracked. These cranks are pretty tough to come by, especially the compact versions like these.

Sunday at Hanna Park

Travis and I ventured to Hanna early Sunday morning to get some trail time under our belts. The weather was a little brisk in the early hours, as we started at about 8am, but it warmed up nicely and the low-hanging cloud-cover burned off to reveal a beautiful winter day on the First Coast. The rainy weather from late the week before did alot to pack the sandy trails and keep the dust down, which was nice. I rode the white EWR with the new (recycled from the wife's bike) Marzochi ECR, or EPX, or DOA or POS or whatever the hell the acronym name is that the thing. Fork has a bit of a clunk to it, but I think that comes from not preloading the spring so that when the fork unloads the springs are just in there flopping around. I've never read the instructions for the fork, as it was on somebody elses bike, and she's at least as able to read a manual as me. Let her fugure it out! At least until I put it on my bike, now I've got to do it. Get to work punk! She's now 100% rigid, which I think will better suit her needs for a bike at the monemt. Make it nice and light, and it has a 2.3 tire on the front for a bit of give if she joins me on the trail. That Marzocchi was a horrible idea for her bike.

We spent about 3 hours on the trails, which were nicely underpopulated due to the day's early cold temperatures. I love it when the urban trail parks have few visitors, especially if it means I don't need to burn a leave day to get time alone on the trail without driving to BF Egypt.

I also put a set of Saint M800 cranks on the EWR, swapping the RF Atlas Gold bearings over to the white bike, and then running the Shimano Saint bearings on the blue. They are interchangeable, according to my quick interpretation of the fit lists for the new Chris King bearings. The gold stuff loked like ass on the blue EWR...had to get that off of there. The Saint cranks are super stiff and look pretty mean to boot. If I was all about intimidation, they'd be the shit, but I'm mostly all about fear and wimpiness, so pose on! Ha! Actually, hopping around on some logs after one of the trails, waiting for Travis to come out, they felt great.

I spent the afternoon cleaning a set of Syncros Revolution cranks I picked up on the fleabay for a decent BIN price. They are pretty clean, with only a minor bit of scratching and an (undisclosed) minor dent in the non-drive arm. I need to chop down some seat bolts to replace the proprietary Syncros inner chainring-spider bolts, as the original alloy hardware is nearly spent. Overall the cranks will work nicely for VRC purposes. Yummy!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Night Ride!

Thursday night ride, Dec 11.

In keeping with the local crew's new scheduled full moon night rides, we ventured out to Westside Regional Park for the monthly ride.

The weather for the day was supposed to be pretty bleak, with 30% chance of storms ahead of the expected cold front. It started out a little shady, but the front ( the same that dropped 3" of snow on New Orleans!) blew through and the sky cleared at around 5pm, 2 hours ahead of kick-off. I grabbed the white EWR, fresh from her weekend overhaul and inspection, and went to meet the fellas.

There were 7 of us this time, and the trails were nicely dampened from the day's rain, with just a few puddles and some mud to deal with but not enough to 'dampen' spirits! (sorry!) The group mainly consisted of transplanted roadie fellas from About Bikes in Orange Park. The Open Road regulars were detained by shop related holiday obligations of some type.

It was a good ride, some minor slip and falls by the guys not so used to off-road work. I'd say at about 60% of my max pace was the group speed for this run, so brisk enough to count as exercise, but I wasn't dying, at least not like when I ride with the same guys on the road. The EWR did great. Still single speed, only now sporting the gold Race Face Atlas BB and Shimano Saint cranks, and the transplanted little-used Marzocchi from my wife's bike. The fork has a bit of a clunk to it, so I'll have to sort that, and it's not quite as adjustable as the newer forks on the market, being 4-5 years old or so and a mid-grade model to boot. The Stella 200L is a great lamp. I'm very happy with the choice.

Next ride, Saturday and the group ride from About Bikes...

Altek BL Levers

From the glory days of the side-pull brake. These beauties are my favorite levers, and are the pinnacle of late 1990's CNC swank. Yummy. The floor of my shop provides the background.

Shadows and Light

I mentioned it earlier in the blog, that my brother had decided to suspend his longtime blog effort, Shadows and Light. I think that I understand his issues with blogging as a pressure inducing endeavor. You feel like you NEED to blog, because there may be people (or in my case, maybe not!) who are somehow waiting for your next update, and the sense of being compelled to give everyone the next 'heads up' sort of lets the smile out of the blog process.

Along the lines of that observation, and in some way because of his decision, I've decided to streamline my approach to the whole blog thing...

First! I can't really get too involved in the planning-speak thing here on my blog, because many of the issues I'd mention here fall into the category of conflict of interest, and I'm not about to lose my job over a comment on my blog! SO...Planning and modern architecture are OUT.

Second! I've been strongly considering selling the VW, and I'm not active at the moment in the Land Rover group here locally at the current time, so the Land Rover is just an appliance right now. Therefore, The Land Rover and VW thing is OUT!

Finally...I've never gotten comfortable with having my daughter's image brandied about on the web in a blog, so I'm removing mention of the family, at least as a title subject of the blog.

And last...I'm going to face lift the blog in the coming weeks. Look for a renewed emphasis on my cycling and training. There will be other things poking up now and again...but the original web-page started as a site about camping and biking with friends, and the current blog will get back to that. The face lift will help to make that point. Also, it may keep me interested...

So, for those of you who possibly lament the passing of Shadows and Light, I offer my tongue-in -cheek tribute to the artsy. I hope my changes to the blog do a better job of focusing on the point of what I really want to do here, and in that, will keep Utahdog! from following Shadows and Light into the sunset...


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Artificial Owl!

If you haven't seen this blog-page...check it out. Urban Exploration with a Google Maps twist. I love it!