Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Fitting the Fuji

I'd already fitted the bike as well as I knew how, but somehow I knew something was wrong. On a recent climb up highway 9, I'd found that I had some lower back pain near the top. It went away but I knew more climbing would exacerbate it. One of the problems with fitting yourself is that you have a hard time watching yourself while riding, so I ended up going to Terry Shaw at Shaw's Lightweight Cycles. I wanted the job done right, and Terry Shaw is the most knowledgeable bike fitter I know. (Runner up is probably Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works)

I showed up at Shaw's in the afternoon, and after changing into my riding gear he had me ride around the parking lot while he watched. After that, he had me pedal the bike while holding on to the wall and took a few measurements. Then he moved the seat backwards and down. (I always set the seat too high when getting a new bike, and then end up scooting the seat forward to compensate) He rotated the bars up a little, and that made the bike more comfortable. I still needed a taller stem (which he didn't have in stock), so we ordered a Salsa.

After that, he had me back at the parking lot, and asked me to do a few exercises. One was to set the bike at a fairly high gear, and then accelerate from a slow speed, but rather than push down on the pedal, to kick forward as much as possible, "like kicking a ball." I did that, and the bike almost jumped when I first started. "You bring onboard more muscles when you do this, and it's like firing on 8 cylinders instead of 2. The racing bike almost demands this style of riding, which is very different from the more upright touring position." He then had me do this a couple more times and then had me spin at an easy gear but still maintaining the kicking style. From this, he determined that my stem should be a 115 rise, 110mm stem. (i.e., I did not have the flexibility to go lower)

He also recommended handlebars that weren't as wide --- I had 42s, but I'd do better with a 40cm. He did say that according to traditionalists I'd need a 36cm handlebar, but if you need to stand a lot, wider bars were better. Given that 2cm wasn't that far off from ideal, he suggested that I rode around a bit first before making that adjustment, since that could be an expensive adjustment.

At the end of it all, Terry seemed impress by my performance in my position. "You're not just a tall skinny Chinese guy, you're a tall skinny Chinese guy who's a decent cyclist," he declaimed.

And that was it! $75. As they say, $5 to order a new stem, $5 to adjust the seat, and $65 to know which to order and how much to adjust the seat. If it makes a difference to my comfort on the bike, it's well worth the money. When I first started cycling 13 years ago, I had multiple fittings (one every 3-6 months) while I developed my cycling style. Now with the addition of a new bike to my stable, I'm having to adjust my cycling style yet again. We'll see how it goes!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Amber Spyglass

Book III of His Dark Materials

"I remember. He meant the Kingdom was over, the Kingdom of Heaven, it was all finished. We shouldn't live as if it mattered more than this life in this world, because where we are is always the most important place."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The subtle knife
Book 2 of His Dark Materials.

But Will was there before she could find her feet, and the subtle khnife was at her throat.

"Why did you do that?" he shouted. "Why did you kill him?"

"Because I loved him and he scorned me! I am a witch! I don't forgive!"

And because she was a witch she wouldn't have been afraid of a boy, normally. But she was afraid of Will. This young wounded figure held more force and danger than she'd ever met in a human before, and she quailed. She fell backward, and he followed and gripped her hair with his left hand, feeling no pain, feeling only an immense and shattering despair.

"You don't know who he was," he cried. "He was my father!"

Monday, March 21, 2005

Another pleasant surprise on the Fuji Team SL

No lawyer's lips. Absolutely amazing in a bike at this price. Even my custom tandem came with them! Fuji does "the right thing," once again. They may very well be the Bridgestone of the 2000s.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Golden Compass

Book one of "His Dark Materials" trilogy

"Why on earth should she?" he said. "Why should a distand theological riddle interest a healthy, thoughtless child?"

"Because of what she must experiencde. Part of that includes a great betrayal..."

"Who's going to betray her?"

"No, no, that's the saddest thing.
she will be the betrayer, and the experience will be terrible. She mustn't know that, of course, but there's no reason for her not to know about the problem of Dust. And you might be wrong, Chrales; she might well take an interest in it, if it were explained in a simple way. And it might help her later on. It would certainly help me to be less anxious about her."

"That's the duty of the old," said the Librarian, "to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old."

They sat for a while longer, and then parted, for it was late, and they were old and anxious.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

First ride on the Fuji Team SL

After 10 yeras of never owning a bike that weighed less than 24 pounds, I finally went whole hog and bought a Fuji Team SL. It weights 16 odd pounds after I put in pedals and swapped out the cassette from a 12-23 to a 12-27.

After fixing shipping damage (which still cost less than sales tax would have been!) and putting on a bike computer, I took it for a 10 mile ride. The first thing you notice about the weight loss is the acceleration. It's amazing to go from 0 to 20mph in about 6 pedal strokes almost effortlessly. Then the climbing. The lowest gear was a 36x27 (thank goodness for compact cranks), but I found that when climbing 15-16% grades I was still standing up and going in a straight line and not to-and-froing like you see on TV sometimes. Very nice. (My touring bike has a low of 19 inches, and I think I've had to go into the granny on the same hills!) Now, Ultegra STI isn't necessary if you have low enough gears that you can sit and spin up anything, but if you have to stand up for any significant hills (anything > 8% grade), then I think STI is almost a necessity. Shifting while standing took a little bit of getting used to, but wasn't as disconcerting as I thought it would be. I found I could shift in both directions (both up and down) under power.

Descents were a blast. This bike geometrically speaking is practically a clone of the Bridgestone RB-1, with perhaps a slightly shorter top tube and a slightly high bottom bracket, so that's not suprising. I took it up to about 35mph, and won't hesistate to do more.

I still have to get the fit dialed in a bit more (whenever I get a new bike I have a tendency to set the seat too high), but I'm very surprised by how I seemed to fit this bike almost naturally. (Once again, given that I selected this bike partly because it was so close to the Bridgestone RB-1, isn't surprising)

The price I paid for this bike $1642 after customization, was nothing short of amazing. My 1993 Bridgestone RB-1 was built from frame up and cost $1800 or so, and that was in 1993 dollars! On the other hand, the RB-1 had components so reliable that even after 8 years it was running as well as it was brand new. I have my doubts that the Team SL will still run like that in 3. (The wheels are the weak spot, they are very light, and even given how light I am, I expect them to get trashed very shortly) Nonetheless, the bike's a great buy, and I look forward to spending a few miles on it.
First ride on the Fuji Team SL

After years of riding primarily on heavy bikes, I finally bought a really light one: the Fuji Team SL. It's a stock 2004 model except:
  1. I put a 12-27 cassette on it. (Why do stock bikes always come with such high gearing? I'm not Lance Armstrong and it seems to me that most other riders aren't)
  2. I made the brakes moto-style (right front, left rear)
  3. I'm replacing the tires with Avocet 700x25s as soon as I can.
  4. I've got a Sigma sport computer mount on it.
Initial impressions: the big difference between a really light bike (< 17 pounds) and a heavy bike is how easily you accelerate. It's amazing to stomp on the pedals and almost immediately get up to cruising speed. I expected a big difference in climbing, but that actually didn't come out right away (though thinking about it, the fact that I was climbing 16% grades in the low gear of 36x27 is pretty darn impressive --- I had to stand up, but I didn't have to swing switch-back). And of course, I was climbing faster! Significantly faster 2-3mph faster, maybe more.

Descents were a blast --- the bike does ride a lot like my Bridgestone RB-1 used to: extremely neutral and stable on descents (a sure sign of good geometry) with no skittishness whatsoever. This is a bike that wants to carve corners. The wheels seem to be a bit fragile to me, but maybe that's because they feel so light! I took the bike up to about 35mph and will have no qualms doing 40mph.

Ultegra STIs take some getting used to. Standing up and shifting is nice, and a little bit disconcerting at first but I think I can get used to it. The brakes take a bit of reaching to, and I think the handlebars need to be rotated a bit. I think I'll have to dial in the fit a bit more. I don't know why, but every time I get a new bike I have a tendency to set the seat too high at first and then adjust it down. By the time I was done, though, (not surprisingly) everything was set up like my Heron touring bike, except for the low handlebars. (Nothing I'm going to do about it, it's a racing bike and wants to be ridden like one) We'll see. It's better to adjust one thing at a time.

All in all, for $1642 (after new cassette, all the labor fixing up shipping damage, etc), it's not a bad deal. My RB-1 cost $2200 after all was said and done, and weighed 8 pounds more! Of course, the RB-1 ran for 8 years before getting hit by a car, and ran as nice 8 years later as the day I bought it, despite hard use, and I'll be surprised if the Fuji Team SL does the same. Nevertheless, I think it'll be a nice experiment for someone who has between 1993 and now never bought a stock bike (and in fact, after I bought a stock bike in 1992, I almost immediately thrashed the wheels and headset and replaced them with good stuff!).
Elfenland + Elfengold
What a great game! Nail biting till the last round, and lots of strategy and fun.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Spring Trip Report
Two of us were planning a Jobst-style tour of the Alps this summer, so we decided to do a shake down overnighter on March 12-13 to test out equipment issues. 2 other co-workers joined us at the start but would not be staying overnight.

I had my Heron with a Nelson Longflap mounted on my Brooks, fenders (the Heron served as a commute bike as well), and a Topeak Morph. Mike had a Canondale with a Camper Longflap (which impressed me by its sheer size). Emil showed up with an REI Novara with aerobars, and Noah showed up with a Bianchi Volpe.

We made a few detours in Cupertino to get around the wine festival, headed up McClellan road and then made a turn onto Stevens Canyon road. The weather was cloudy with very little wind as we rounded the quarry and made a sharp right onto Montebello road, a normally untrafficked road that for some reason saw significant traffic (i.e., more than 6 cars per hour) that day.

The cool day made for good climbing and I struggled to keep up with Mike & Emil, who were setting a pace not at all normal for anyone carrying a load. I discovered that my saddlebag reached far enough down to make contact with the fender, which made an annoying squeaking noise. Cinching the straps up further solved that problem but I might well have to do without the fenders for the actual tour, where I expect to overstuff the bag on a regular basis. We climbed hard until we stopped at the Montebello school to wait for Noah, who hadn't ridden a bike for awhile. After 10-20 minutes Noah showed up looking a bit worn, but after a bit of rest signalled that he was ready to go.

The remainder of the climb wasn't steep, but we finally burst through the fog a mile from the top and saw a glorious view of the Bay Area covered entirely by white clouds, with Mt. Hamilton, Mt. Diablo, and parts of the coast range peaking through it. We felt like we were at 7000', though Noah's altimeter only read 2300'.

After stopping for pictures we passed through the gate leading to the fire road and kept going towards Black Mountain. All around us the hills were lush and green, with daisies, poppies, sprinkled throughout the fields. At the top of Black Mountain we paued to enjoy the sun, and peered out towards the ocean to see that the coast was entirely fogged in. We all had sunscreen on but guessed that we really did not need it that day.

Down towards Page Mill road we went, negotiating a few ups and downs with care, since none of us had tires wider than 25mm. Nobody crashed, however, and we all emerged safely onto pavement where a water fountain awaited us. At the corner of Page Mill road, Noah decided that he'd had enough and turned down the mountain. The rest of us completed the climb. There, Mike discovered that his tires were low, so we stopped to pump it up, hoping that it wasn't a slow leak, and descended Alpine road, a fast swooping descent that alternated between sunny warmth and cool hillside as the road threaded its way towards the Redwoods. After a particularly beautiful section Emil noticed he had cellphone coverage and stopped to call his wife to arrange for a pick up at the lunch spot in Pescadero.

We then plunged into the deep Redwoods along a stream, the cathedral of trees with its fresh and scented air permeating our skin, face and lungs. The descent was fast but we were not in a hurry and were sad when we emerged at the bottom at the corner of Pescadero Road, where we turned once again uphill. A quick stop at Sam Macdonald Park HQ to relieve ourselves and we went on ahead. The air was still, so we made rapid time into Pescadero where we stopped at Norm's market for OJ, freshly baked artichoke garlic bread, cheese and meat. The 3 of us demolished short work of an entire loaf, and then Mike and I bought ingredients for the evening's dinner. Emil discovered that his wife had gotten slightly lost and wouldn't show up till later, so we all decided to take another short loop to stay warm.

We rode onto Cloverdale road towards Gazos creek road. There was now a slight South wind, making us work for our progress but also chilling us, so the pace wasn't as high. Past Butano State Park, however, we received a bit of shelter and the rollers started as the road turned towards the coast once we arrived at the intersection with Gazos Creek road. This is a fun, one-lane road with not much traffic, and I was sorry that we reached the coast so quickly.

There, Emil turned right while we turned left (erroneously due to a navigation error of mine). But we stopped for directions at a gas station and quickly corrected ourselves and headed North, this time the wind assisting us and we arrived quickly at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Youth Hostel where a soak at the hot tub was welcome after the day's journey.

The next morning, our bags being lighter from not having to carry dinner, we headed up the coast in still air towards Pescadero, swooping down into the quiet hamlet from above via Bean Hollow Road, heading North. A couple of quick climbs had us passing farmlands (now under a conservation easement paid for by the Peninsula Open Space Trust), and under cloudy skies, we pulled into San Gregorio general store, where we each had a cup of coffee before proceeding.

The descent on Highway 1 to Tunitas Creek road was exhilarating as usual and very low traffic due to the early hour. We rode along this road until Mike had to stop to adjust his saddlebag, which had sagged
onto his tire. After snugging up the straps the bag now had plenty of clearance, so we kept going despite our growing interest in what appeared to be a shouting match between a cow and a rooster in the farm where we'd stopped.

The coffee must have had a stimulative effect on me, for I felt extremely strong, climbing Tunitas Creek with vim. Despite the load, I felt very good on the road, and quickly soared along the stream and breathed in deeply from the fresh clean air. Halfway up the hill the sun broke through and sent shafts of light down through the trees, forming corpuscular beams which lit up little spots of yellow on an otherwise dark road. This further encouraged me, since the road levelled off for a bit and I shifted out of the granny and rode the rest of the way to Skyline which was lit up by a warm morning sun.

Mike joined me after awhile and we descended Kings Mountain road back into Silicon Valley, where at the bottom of the hill Mike found the saddlebag dragging against on the tire. A strong pull on the bag and the entire saddlebag mount came off in his hand, so we stopped to re-attach the saddlebag mount onto his saddle. I advised him to put some loc-tite onto the threads for the actual trip, and then we rode my favorite backroads home, arriving just in time for lunch.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

My ultralight showed up. I spent a half hour putting it together this
morning. The wheels are out of true (might well have been damaged
during shipping), which I can fix myself if I have to. I think the
headset's a bit loose. The brakes are right rear instead of right
front, which I don't like. I need to get a 12-27 on the rear (instead
of the stock 12-23). So I guess I'm making a trip to Cupertino Bike
Shop this afternoon.

On the other hand, here's what I'm impressed by:

The bike is light! It's really light. I know that 15 pounds is light,
but one has no idea until one lifts it. The fit and finish of the Fuji
is nice. Even though the carbon fork is carbon, when you look at where
the brake shoes are on the brakes, you can see that they are right at
the bottom of the slot, exactly where Grant would put them. The same
goes for the rear. I'm going to mount 25s on the bike, but I think I
even have room for 28s if I was so inclined.


I am a d20


Take the quiz at dicepool.com

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Socialized Medicine Works

Surveys by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and other organizations, have reached the same conclusion. The superiority of VA hospitals is so obvious that by now it ought to be common knowledge. But it isn't, because an insane political consensus that firmly opposes turning health care over to the government--because the government is presumed incapable of doing anything well--doesn't want to hear that government hospitals are outperforming private hospitals.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Silver Spike

I should really have read this right after The White Rose.

Many men admire Raven. He fears nothing concrete. He takes no crap from anyone. People who mess with him get hurt, and the hell with the consequences. But those are the only dimensions he has. They are the only dimensions he permits himself. How can I remain emotionally entangled with a man who will not allow himself emotions, however much he did for me in other ways? I appreciate him,. I honor him, I may even revere him. But that is all anymore. He cannot change that with some demonstration, like a boy hanging by his knees from a branch to impress a girl.