Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last chance to see...

Here's a short video overview of Cannondale's manufacturing process. It's a trip watching the robotic wheel truer.

How Stuff Works: Assembly Line: Cannondale Bicycles

This was pretty much the reason why I liked Cannondale bikes so much.

It's interesting to see how many of the people don't look like the type to ride bikes. I mean, I suppose one could be a NASCAR (I'm recalling the guy who seemed to have a NASCAR-themed deco on his welder's helmet) and still hit the trails on a bicycle. But that's just my bias-- I would never work in a car or motorcycle factory because I don't really like internal combustion engine vehicles.

Perhaps a job is just a job. :)

Holy H. Crow-- do I sound like a dork or what?

Fighting for the right to drive a car

You may or may not know this, but in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive a car. Apparently it's not law, just custom.

A 24 year-old Saudi woman, Areej Khan, recently completed her MFA thesis at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Her project "We The Women" is a campaign to spur debate (and dialog) about Saudi women's right to drive a car.

Part of her project are little downloadable "speech bubbles" that women can download and print out, then write in their thoughts and post them publicly. Car windows, utility poles, etc.

Her project is getting a lot of attention. Here's a blog post on The New York Times. In it the author quotes another story by the English-language paper Arab News:
"...most women believe it is their God-given right to drive."

Let me start out by saying this: I feel that the oppression of one group by another is a blight on humanity. More to the point it's just cowardly.

I find the notion that driving an automobile is a "God given right" a bit perplexing. But that's just my perspective from the "bottomless bike culture" of Portland, Oregon. I've never felt that a driver's license was a right; it is a privilege.

I see so many ills associated with autos: traffic jams, road rage, pollution, the ruination of neighborhoods, and the current dire financial troubles of the US auto manufacturers (because people stopped buying so many cars).

It makes me feel a little sad that women in Saudi Arabia are clamoring, not just for freedom of choice, but to don the yokes of automobiles that their men have had around their necks for so long.

No no no... I'm not insinuating that women are somehow better off without the "right" to drive. I'm thinking laterally here.

Maybe the women of Saudi Arabia should look to the bicycle for liberation. After all, that's what happened here in the USA in the late 1800's.

Susan B. Anthony is credited with saying that the bicycle had "...done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

The bicycle added fuel to the "women's movement" of the late 1800's and enable women to take control of their lives in a way previously unimaginable. The effects rippled through society. Notable was the effect on women's fashions: as more and more women adopted cycling as transport (and even sport-- Here's to you, Annie Londonderry!) the impractical multilayered dresses and restrictive corsets gave way to more practical "cycling clothing" and forever changed the way women dressed.

So I'm all for women in Saudi Arabia taking control of their own lives and "driving" their own destiny.

But I wonder if there might not be a way they could just sidestep the male domination altogether and not try to wrest "rights" from men, to not play that game, but instead to take their ball and start a new game on their own-- one in which they set the rules.

Maybe the bicycle could be their vehicle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good Stuff: Bontrager Inform R saddle

At the end of last MTB season (Which, here, seems to end in May) I noticed that my trusty, relatively comfy Avocet O2 saddle was getting a bit threadbare.

Yay. Time to buy more bike stuff!

I love the OBRA email list. It's a great way to connect with other like-minded folks and there's always a ton of used good stuff circulating. This is where I found the next saddle.

I scored a Fizik Pave Sport for a paltry $30. Yay, deal. It was like new and I happily mounted it to the Thomson seatpost. Well, my mountain bike pretty much sat idle the whole winter as I spent all my time on the SS MTB.

So. A couple of weeks ago I take the MTB out for a little fun in the park-- it's the maiden voyage on the Fizik saddle. (Apparently Fizik is supposed to rhyme with "physique", but it should rhyme with "yeowww", or eventually "What the hell? I can't feel my dick!!")

Immediately the thing is beating the tar out of my ass. It really was like sitting on the end of a baseball bat. With a doily on it. The best part was that the plastic scuff guards were digging into my soft butt. So it was like sitting on the end of a baseball bat. With a doily. With nails in it.

Removing the scuff guards helped tremendously but it was still damned uncomfortable. I mean really, the saddle is so narrow that it's almost inside me.

What, are Italians really that skinny? Or do I just have a big butt?

Well, as fortune would have it, I found myself in one of the local bike shops for an unrelated matter. I discovered that they had all their saddle on sale. I had been eyeing the Specialized Body Geometry saddles for a while since I'd had pretty good luck with one on my road bike. They didn't have the width I wanted in stock and steered me to the new Bontrager inForm saddles. The sales-dude had me sit on this weird squishy bench that revealed my assal pressure points. These correlated to various widths of the saddles.

I was shocked to discover that I was right on the cusp of the widest size-- 154mm!

With tears in my eyes, I blurted out "I've got a big butt!" I turned back to the display wall and began grabbing at several very sporty racing saddles: the "Le Gouger", the "Terriblé Race RL", and the "SuperCry Narrow Sport". I vowed that I'd live with a numb penis before admitting that I had a "wide load". Visions of super-wide "health saddles" crowded out svelte racing imagery.

The helpful sales-dude reASSured me that "internal bone structure doesn't translate to exterior size". Yeah, whatever.

But I bought the 154mm wide Bontrager inForm R saddle because it was barely $60 and I needed a saddle for my first big MTB race of the season in just a few days. Plus the saddle had a 90-day return policy. Parker Lewis Can't Lose!

After mounting the saddle and taking it for a quick test ride out in the street I was amazed at how comfortable the saddle was. It was instant. Like putting on an old pair of jeans. It just fit! The only other time I've had a component fit me so quickly and so well was the OnOne Midge handlebar.

The saddle passed with flying colors just a few days later at the race. Not a single problem. No numbness, no hot spots, no chafing. Just incredible.

And the saddle doesn't look like it belongs on a cruiser or anything.