Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good Stuff: Pearl Izumi AmFib lobster mitt

I must have a circulation problem because my fingers and toes seem to get so cold so easily. They'd freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator.

I finally decided to buy a pair of Pearl Izumi's lobster mitts after the "big freeze" we had in December of 2008 around these parts.

I've only worn them a couple of times since getting them because they're so warm. Like the other day: We'd had a little snow and temps were in the mid 30's (F) So I figured that'd be a nice test of the mitts. At the start of the ride, my fingers were fine. Yay. During the second half of my ride -- the part with all the climbing -- my warm fingys started to simmer. Fortunately I was able to cool off a little just before arriving back home, but it was a relief to get the mitts off! Good grief! I suppose these things would be good to 20 degrees (F) or below!

The interior of the mitt is a little different-- the liner separates each finger. Imaging putting on a glove with the index and middle fingers sewn together and the ring and little fingers sewn together. (Live long and prosper...) Now put this into an insulated shell. And call it an oven!

I kind of wish Pearl Izumi hadn't made the lobsters quite so warm. The gloves themselves are a bit puffy and bulky, but handlebar feel wasn't compromised. I think most of the insulation is on the top of the gloves rather than under the palm where it would interfere with one's feel for the bike.

If they made a lighter version of the lobster with half of the insulation and just a wind-block membrane that would be awesome.

These will likely work quite well for just playing around in the snow-- they're supposed to be waterproof.

My only worry is that they work too well for me to get much use out of them. It obviously doesn't get cold enough around here to even challenge the lobsters!

OMG... I've got a "rain bike"

There it is. Full fenders? Check. Single-speed? Check. Dirty? Check. Old technology? Check.

Yup, that must be a "rain bike" alright.

No-- just kidding. That's not really my "rain bike". My road bike got a flat and I don't relish repairing it, tire-bead jack or not. So, in a fit of laziness I took the old singlespeed out instead.

And I liked it! There is absolutely no retreat when climbing-- you either do or you don't. I figure this will be good for my early season "training". Pushing that single gear plus those fatty knobbies should be good, right? When I get on the road bike later, or the 'cross bike, I'll feel like I've got wings on my feet. I hope.

We'll see. Doesn't matter too much, though, because I'm having fun.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bicycling magazine... huh??

I continue my love/hate relationship with Bicycling magazine with this month's issue.

I began grinding my teeth before even opening the cover. A special blue box was all a-squee that "Lance is back!" Well, no duh. That's such old news. Tired news. Beat-a-dead-horse news.

Somewhat less annoying was the teaser: "5 Great Bikes Under $3,000"

Really? One can still get a "great" bike under $3,000? That's good. I was a little worried that these days only department-store bikes and "urban" single-speeds were the only rides available under $3,000. *whew* What a relief. I think I'll swing by the store today and pick up a couple. I mean, under three grand? Dude! At those prices why not pick up two or three? Hell-- I can afford to throw them away when the tires go flat and just buy another! I was really sad that the $1,400 LeMond Poprad that I bought a couple of years ago was a piece of cheap junk.

To be fair, Bicycling lists bike all over the place in terms of price, with the cheapest being a $500 singlespeed. Then we see bikes priced thusly: $1,400, $1,799, $1,810, $2,299, $2,699
and the most expensive being $3,700. So I guess we're supposed to ignore the cheapest and most expensive bikes.

I remember wayyy back in 2006 when I was searching for a cyclocross bike and just being surprised at how "expensive" mid-range/affordable bikes seemed to be.

All this does, though, is show how out of touch I've become. Is it because I'm getting older? I remember thinking, as a child, that my parents were tight-wads for complaining about how much things cost. Now I think I understand. Somehow my perceptions of "value" have changed. Maybe it's that I realize that the true value of a thing is not it's brand name and that it's the brand that constitutes a significant portion of the cost of a product.


I just spent some time flipping through the magazine trying to find something else to criticize. Sure there were plenty of ads for "super premium" bike tours and super expensive bikes (to me, anything over $2,000 is "super expensive").

But I couldn't really find much to rip on. Actually I think it was just a bunch of little things. The overall attitude of the magazine that irks me. I've been reading for years, and I'm not sure which has changed more, me or the magazine. Compared to some other magazines that I DO really like (Dirt Rag), Bicycling seems to cater to the dilettante. As they stated themselves: "bicycling is the new golf". In Bicycling magazine, bikes are a sport, not a lifestyle. Not something central, but peripheral.

I think I'll leave it there for the time being and think about it. Why does Bicycling make me so grumpy? Is it simply because the pages are filled with bikes that I want (ohhhh, me wantee!) but that I'll never be able to afford? Or could never buy and still consider myself a responsible, rational adult?

Maybe that's it. But I could also just be a loser, baby. So why don't you shoot me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On second thought, maybe I won't run...

...'Tis a silly thing.

I thought that, as part of my "New Me in 2009" campaign, I would take up running in addition to my regular rides. Especially useful on the really scummy cold/wet/rainy/windy days.

In the past few weeks I've been out 3-4 times. Got a really good quad burn from just 30 minutes of moderate running. I thought "Yeah-- I'll totally rock the run-ups in CX this fall."

Then all the stringy bits in my left knee started making all sorts of weird noises. It was precisely this sort of thing that made me STOP running years ago.

I had modest goals-- no more than twice a week. Just something to help my legs remember what running was like.

Well, I guess maybe I won't run. My shoes are old, however. Maybe I'll buy some new shoes (but that's money that won't get spent on bike stuff... damn!) and try again.

Perhaps I should try something a bit more focused. Maybe just sprinting up short hills in the park or something.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Riding your bike outside is so 20th century!

Simulators and faux (sucky, lame) video game add-ons to trainers are nothing new.

Still, there's this weird push to make games more realistic: increased resolution, force-feedback, accelerometers and tilt sensors. More like real life.

Imagine this: a fully immersive environment with super-HD 360-deg view. Ultimate force feed-back system lets you feel the road or trail. Ambient effects like stereo environmental sounds and smells. Even moisture. Ride through a mud puddle? Feel it!

Exercising is fun again!

Am I talking about this?

The XBike "Trixter" (Or whatever the hell it's called.)

No. Actually I'm talking about getting the hell outside and damn well riding yr bike!!

I'm out of here.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New for 2009! A new me!

After just a couple of proddings by the Ironclad cycling team -- or pimping, or shilling, or whatever -- to go check out Cyclo-Club, I finally did. I looked around. I threw down plastic and subscribed.

I feel kinda of dirty, for some reason. I joined an on-line cycling fitness club? Whaaaa? I felt that I had to come clean with my wife and almost laughed. I actually just snickered a little. I don't know why.

I guess maybe I was admitting that I was a slug.

What really got me to join up was the promise of a "7-day fat loss bootcamp". I've got some flab. I'd like to get rid of it or, perhaps more realistically, reduce the amount of it.

I also just came off of my fourth season of cyclocross and it was pretty pathetic. Some races were genuinely not fun. Which is no good. To paraphrase Ralphie Wiggum: CX not fun?! That's unpossible! So sometime between the last Crusade race and the USGP finale at PIR I decided that I would do something in 2009 to make my races in 2009 less sucky.

I haven't decided on a goal yet. It's tough to figure out how high you want to aim when you're at the bottom. "Let's see... I'd like to move up 30 places. So I'd go from 68th to 38th. Hm." However, I realize that if I aim too high I'm more likely to fail and get all bummed. But, conversely, if I set my sights too low, then I'll just be wimping out.

That said, I'd like to improve my cardio-vascular capability, my power. I'd like to feel like I've got a little something left after the first lap.

I realized last summer that I had no base to build off of. Nothing. I think my longest ride was about 78 miles. And that was just a little over twice my previous longest ride. I suffered a little from that ride-- my knees were telling me about it.

Bottom line: While I've always said that I race for the fun and personal challenge ot it, I want to be able challenge myself a bit more other than simply finishing (yay me!) a race.

And now for something completely... useless

I think this ranks right down there with Bontrager's stupid US$250 carbon seatpost rack (With a load limit of 11 pounds. Really!)

I discovered this by way of a post by fellow OBRA-ite Will Cortez. How he managed to discover something so silly makes me wonder just what he's doing with his time. Will, stay away from Shimano's corporate marketing communications. Those guys are spending way too much time in the karaoke bars to be believed. I'm sure the engineers at Shimano wish the marketing folks would just sober up and stop dreaming up weird stuff like Coasting and Yumeya. They obviously didn't learn anything from that Exage debacle.

Oh... what am I going on about?


I must warn you-- it's an execrable Flash site. In true Flash-based web site fashion, one can't click anything with out having to endure half-an-hour of transitions and looping and spining and things moving about. You want information from a web site? No, you want entertainment!

In case you're feeding from the internet-tubes on anything less than the latest quad-CPU super-computer with a T1 connection, let me sum up for you the wonderful dream-land that Shimano has cooked up for you:

You get a kabuki performer all dressed up in the bling-blong colors of XTR Yumeya-- White and Gold (Yes, those capitals are intentional. These aren't merely colors, but the "frickin' gestalt" of Yumeya.) -- with a bunch of butterfly-things swarming about at every mouse click. There's also some clouds.

According to the site, cyclists (yes, all of us) dream of "lighter, more exclusve and more premium products." (Wait... "more" exclusive"? "More" premium? But don't... ah forget it.) The real deal-closer, however, is "Yumeya delivers the ultimate in efficiency with a superb weight savings for your XTR bike." But... but... I thought XTR was already supposed to deliver those things?? Curse you Shimano! You lied to us!!

Anyway-- remember the bit about "a superb weight savings," it's important.

Once you get into the product line-up (such as it is) you'll find ultimately efficient add-ons such as an outer plate for the XTR rear derailleur; cover for the brake master cylinder/reservoir; derailleur pulleys (White derailleur pulleys on an off-road component group. Hm.); and a bunch of other less interesting titanium and machined alloy bits. Oh and greased shift cables. (I think I stopped greasing cable housing with the advent of lined housings. Since, you know, grease tends to attract and trap dust and dirt. Silly notion, I know.)

Nothing says "bad ass" like white derailleur pulleys. How long will they stay white?

Fortunately the marketing "hype" such as it is is mostly truth. There's not a whole lot to be done with stuff like "0.5g lighter white novelty color for new image" (pulleys) or "Combination of silver and gold color design makes stylish image" (shifter mounts). Unfortunately this last statement is applied to several other components. I suppose if one can't say something good, one should just keep saying stuff about a stylish image.

Oh, and did you catch that superb weight savings? Go back and read it. Yep. Five tenths of a gram. That's about how much weight that registers when you lean over and breath on one of those super-sensitive scales that Jet Propulsion Lab keeps around for weighing their AeroGel. no kidding. A little puff of breath and that's like a force of five tenths (0.5) of a gram.

So yeah, put those pulleys in and you're like climbing like a mountain goat on amphetamines. Voom.

This is all very depressing-- I hate it when I can't afford bling-blong. I can only suffer with my infuriatingly crappy mish-mash of SRAM and Deore XT (boat anchors!!) componentry on my junky-ass MTB as I pine away for the unbearable lightness of being that white and gold upgrades would provide.

I'll sign-off with the Yumeya Kabuki dude shooting his own bad self in the foot: "Yumeya series are designed for the ultimate in performance. Some of the original functions and features may be compromised." That's not a contradiction. That's Yumeya!

So yeah. Pay money to have the functionality of one's XTR components compromised.