Sunday, June 27, 2010

Strange emails, new tech toys, and beating my legs to death.

Earlier this week I received an email from one Harriet Hungerford, the supposed editor of the website, "the worlds leading 'how to' website," in their own words. I am familiar with the site but don't know a whole lot about it. Th gist of the email is they are starting a new section called VideoJug Pages, and are looking for "a select group of writers & bloggers to become Founding members of the Cycling Channel on the new service which is called 'Videojug Pages'." Anyway after a bit of research and actually getting a response back from what seems to be a real person named Harriet Hungerford it seems to be legitimate. I guess I just found it strange that got tapped as I don't really consider myself part of "a select group." But anyway I'm going to look into it and perhaps make some pages about bike lingo, and how to choose a bike style. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

Slowly but surely I am amassing things for my Cross Canada Tour next year and one of the things that has been on the list, while a little unusual, is a cell phone. More specifically, a smart phone. I've never had a cell phone of my own before as I just didn't really have a need. Not a whole lot of people call me! But of course with me biking everywhere, and going out long distances on my own, the need of having one became apparent when I would worry about getting stranded due to a mechanical. So I figured if I was going to get a phone, I might as well get one that can be used for multiple things, such as internet, gps, and music. So I patiently waited for the new line of Android phones from HTC to arrive in Canada, still unsure of which one I would buy, or if I would just get an iPhone. This past week I have been the proud new owner of an HTC Legend (engadget review).

The second picture is actually a really neat app I downloaded (for free) from the android market called "My Tracks." It utilizes the GPS in the phone to give you all kinds of info about your speed, distance, elevation etc, along with a graph of elevation and speed as a function of distance or time, and it even maps the route you took! You can even send it from your phone straight to your google maps account!

View Ride To Alannas House in a larger map

I have until next Monday to return the phone and cancel my contract with Virgin Mobile if I change my mind about the purchase, no strings attached (except paying for my usage). However, I'm really impressed with the phone and all the neat things it can do from car/transit/walking directions on google maps, to linking all my gmail/facebook contacts with my phone contacts and putting all the stuff from one person in one place. It is barrels of fun. This will come into handy when on tour. I didn't want to take a laptop of anykind, but now I will have access to the wealth of knowledge on the internet along with gps and a phone all in the palm of my hand.

So it has been a pretty hard week for my legs.
-Biked back and forth to work three days in a row. -112km
-Biked to Alannas house at 10pm Friday night ~15km (btw the planet bike lights worked great!)
-Biked around town doing some errands Saturday ~10km
-Saturday went for my first run ever -2.5 miles, walked home 1.5 miles.
That's right I've started running. Alanna is super into running and has mentioned wanting me to run with her only a few times since we've been together. Mainly because she knew I had no interest in it at all. But her training was suffering due to our weekend snuggle/sleep-in/junk-fests, and she was feeling pretty down about being ready for the Tely 10 in time for the race. So I dropped the bomb. "I'll guess I'll have to start running with you." I said. Even going as far as saying I'd run the Tely 10 with her this year, even though I most likely will have no chance of being able to finish that race. But there it is.

I went out, dropped 120 bucks on running shoes and started. My first run was fun, short but fun. But it made my shins hurt. So I'll just have to take it slow and see how it goes. I'm not going to get into it like Alanna, but it will be nice thing to do for "cross-training" purposes, and to spend time with my lady.

Anyway, back to the pain. Then Saturday night I went to a friends party and got hammered. Got home 230am-ish. Got up at 730am to go spectate my friends first triathlon, then had to bike the 15km back home. Not to mention I have to bike to work tomorrow, due to lack of motor vehicle.
I can do it, but my legs will not be happy with me.

I also managed to make a DIY bracket to attach my Planet Bike Superflash to the center of my rear Surly Nice Rack. But my first attempt was flawed, and it kept getting bent and I thought it was going to crack off. So here is my second attempt.

It's just part of a small broom handle with a counter-sunk hole drilled into it for the bolt. Simple, yet I think it will be effective.

Well that's it for know, it's passed my bedtime. Ill leave you with some sample pics from my HTC Legend. It doesn't quite replace the Nikon D50, but it ain't too shabby either!

Having a time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Stuff!

So today my girlfriend Alanna and I received a package from Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). They are a really great company, and a true co-op. They have tons of outdoors equipment and clothing. Above I am pictured wearing my new Castelli cycling cap, MEC Beech short sleeved shirt (in a basil), MEC Quarter Knickers for cyclists, and MEC liner shorts (not pictured of course).

The shirt is very light and made of 100% nylon. It has a hidden vent in the back, as well as in the front, and two front pockets. The Kickers are also very light being 88% polyester and 12% spandex with a durable water repellency finish. These two pieces of clothing were purchased mainly for touring. I want no cotton with me when I tour, or at least very little, so that laundry (or if I get wet) will dry quickly. The choice of collared shirt and knickers also have the added bonus of being kind of dressy casual so I can not feel funny going into a restaurant or attending some sort of function while on the road. I intend to acquire more polyester/nylon clothing in the coming months. The liner shorts are much thinner than normal shorts (more like boxer briefs) yet they have a very thin chamois and rubber leg grips. Great for commuting.

The hat is mostly just because I wanted one, but it did not get uncomfortable on a 17 degree Celsius ride and kept the sun out of my eyes.

I don't do a whole lot of riding in the dark, by the time I'm finished my 36-45km commute for the day I'm usually ready to relax. But last fall I did quite a bit of riding in the dark due to the early sunset and I suspect that as the nights get hotter the streets will seem more appealing at night. So I upgraded my lighting system from a MEC 1 watt shark front light and a wal-mart red flasher on the back, to a Planet Bike pair: the 2 Watt Blaze in the front and a Superflash in the rear, supposedly the "Brightest, most visible tail light on the planet." A lot of people use PB lights and they have a really neat feature on their site for checking actual light power! Haven't tried these yet but they seem really bright! Will do a review once I get out in the dark. I also have a DIY mount planned to attach this to the mount on the back of the Surly Nice Rack, but we'll get back to that when I actually make it.

Also got some camping gear. This is the GSI Pinnacle Dualist cookset (for me and the misses). It's a 1.8L pot with strainer lid, 2 bowls, 2 insulated cups, 2 sporks, and a stuff sack that doubles as a sink. It is also able to store a small fuel container and a pocket stove such as the Pocket Rocket (a very popular camp stove). We have a bigger stove, the MSR Dragonfly, which is multi-fuel and has the ability to simmer, but I may get a small stove for weekend trips.

And last but not least my Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp. Another really bright light! When we went on our bike trip last summer there were a couple of occasions where I had to shag around in the dark for something. Having to hold a flashlight and fix a tarp to prevent getting a wet tent in the middle of the pouring rain and pitch dark night is harder when you have to hold a flashlight. So I got this. It has 2 brightness settings, a flash setting, and a little red light also with a flash setting. I also have a adapter kit for this ordered to give me more mounting options, like a helmet mount.

That's it for now!
Alanna found a 6 week position for the summer, so we should be able to go on our bike vacation in mid August. I do have a bunch of stuff already collected for touring this summer as well as the big trip next year. Perhaps in the coming week's I'll have to document them and give my initial impressions and then do proper reviews after the vacation. Either way I'll probably take some pictures of it all and post it, if only to play with my Nikon D50 (btw all pics here taken with AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 D).

Still on the buy list
-Western Mountaineering Summerlite 0deg Down Bag
-Silk bag liner
-Smartphone (iPhone4 or HTC Legend? What do you guys think?)
-Arkel Handlebar bag (big one)
-Arkel Front Panniers (T-28's or a pair of GT-18's not sure yet)
-A Jersey
-More camping/cycling/travel clothes

2 posts in 2 days! I'm sure I should be doing other things!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Riding the Rails, and some Long Haul Changes

I've recently rediscovered the old railway tracks. There is no train system in Newfoundland anymore, and over the past couple of decades the old railway bed has been transformed into a walking/biking trail that runs from downtown St. Johns clear across the city and most of the Avalon Peninsula. The railway runs right across the province, but it is not groomed or specifically bike/walk. Due to having a hybrid with skinny tires initially, I guess I never considered this as a viable travel method. I had forgotten about it and recently rediscovered it with my Surly Long Haul Trucker and it's 37mm tires.

For those of you who don't know, St. Johns is very hilly. So riding anywhere can be a challenge. I always say that if I lived in a flatter city I'd have a cargo bike. But there is hope. Due to the way the old trains were they could not go up very steep grades, so coming from downtown St. Johns to Paradise (where I live) is uphill but a very slow grade so I can make like 20km/hr the whole way! Not to mention no traffic, no stop lights, so angry drivers. It's awesome.

Speaking of my Surly Long Haul Trucker, I've been trying to make some changes. I had some concerns.
-My handlebars are a little to high compared to saddle height
-My braking power is not that great

So I tried flipping my stem to bring me lower, but it made me feel like I was stretched WAY too far. So I set out to Harolds bike shop to check out a new stem. I picked up a 100mm stem with a smaller rise angle. Turns out the stock stem is not a 110mm as the surly website says for 58cm frame, it's a 100mm stem! Well anyway, the new stem is black and I got some black spacers so it looks nicer, and due to the difference in rise it does bring me a little higher and closer than my flipped stock stem. I'll give it a try over the next couple of days and see how it goes.

I'll wait till my Nitto Randonneuring handlebar gets in to make a final decision on stem height/angle etc.

Oh right...I ordered a Nitto Randonneuring handlebar

I got a 45cm bar, and I'm interested to see how the flared out drops and rise angle on the flats feels. If it doesn't fit nice, I'll sell it. Meh.

So hopefully all that settles my handlebar issues.

Now to the braking.
I've done a lot reading from the Surly LHT and Cross Check Owners Group about brakes on the LHT. It seems to be a common thing to switch from the very squishy, not powerful Tektro cantilever brakes, to standard Shimano Deore V-Brakes. The only problem with this is standard road brake levers don't have the travel for V-Brakes, they only work for cantis. So you can get an adapter or get one of the few levers that go on drop bars and work for V-Brakes. So I did.

On the way all together is
-Nitto Randonneur Bars
-Shimano Deore V-Brakes
-Tektro RL520 Levers

This evening I got to spend some quality time with my LHT tonight. She was awful dirty so I striped her down and gave her a good cleaning. NAKED LHT!

Lots of dirt and grime to get rid of

All clean

So this entry was a little convoluted. It's just because I don't make enough blogs! So I jam a lot of stuff into one. A couple of things will hopefully change that. Hopefully the weather will continue to improve (although it's raining again for the next day or so) and I will get out more to interesting places to talk about. The other thing is that once I get my V-Brakes I am hoping to setup a second stem to carry a handlebar bag for my camera. Getting more pictures and nice weather should give me more things to talk about.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cameras, and Click Stands, and Rain. Oh my!

So I would first like to say that I have failed to live up to my word. I have not continued posting educational, beginner information. I will someday, I just don't know when I'll get the drive to do it. If you do want/need to know something bike wise, shoot me an email and I'll do my best to help.

Moving on.


As some of you have noticed I dug an old Canon AL-1 SLR out of my fathers closet which was "broken" but actually works fine. I have been using this in an attempt to take some nice high quality pics.

Never having been into photography or owning anything more than a old 110mm camera when I was a kid, and a crappy samsung point and shoot as an undergrad, I was surprised. I had a lot to learn about pictures. The film camera from 1982 being one of Canon's early attempts at "auto-focus" simply lit up 3 lights in the view finder to tell you which way to turn the focus ring and if it was in focus. Everything was manual. So over the past month I've been learning how to take a good picture, or at least how to try and take one. And I was satisfied.

Then a visit with the family and young cousins, my girlfriend Alanna's convocation from university, cabin party with friends, and bike excursions, all led to me spending $60+ just in development and digital scanning of my pictures. In one month! It just so happens the day that I start considering going digital (even though 75% of my income is dedicated to touring equipment) an old acquaintance puts her camera gear up for sale. So I got a good deal on this.

-Nikon D50
-AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED (Auto-focus is broken, only works in manual)
-AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D (Mint)
-Charger and an extra battery
-Camera bag with cleaning supplies, all caps for lenses and body, usb/video cables
for $250.

Not bad eh? I would like a zoom with auto-focus but what can you do. Because the D50 has an auto-focus built into the camera body I can use the older AF style lenses from the 90's and can still use auto-focus. So hoping to come across some used Nikon lenses or a film camera with a cheap zoom going for cheap. For now though, no more paying for digital pictures! I'm very happy with the camera, and the quality of pictures it is able to take. Spent last night perusing the manual and learning the functions. I have no shortage of advice from several of my friends who are very into photography. Notably, Willam, Matt, Jonathan, and Marek who is pictured below and recently purchased a Canon 5D Mark 2, a very nice and expensive camera!

Click Stand

On the 18th of May I recieved the answer to my kickstand dilemma, The Click-Stand Max. Here are some pictures of it in action on my commute today.

I gotta say, I love it. It is secure, light, and best of all it doesn't threaten my frame integrity like some other clamp on kickstands would. It takes a couple of seconds to set up, but who cares. It doesn't bother me at all. When I prop it up, and slip on the brake band, I know my bike is secured. The front wheel will also probably turn a little, especially if there is weight on it. Nothing a toe-strap around the downtube couldn't fix if you really wanted to. It's great for taking pics of your bike, or just not laying it against something possibly scratching the paint, or laying it down in the dirt. I highly recommend it. However I bought their side mounting bracket as well and it mysteriously developed a crack down the middle of it a couple of days after mounting it. I'm going to email them and see if I can get a refund for it as I have just been sticking it in my pannier anyway.


UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. The weather here has been absolute garbage. It's 2.72 degrees Celsius right now. Midnight, in the beginning of June. Everywhere else in the country has been enjoying 20-30 degree temperature while it has been pissing rain for the past two months pretty well non stop and we are lucky if we get above 10 degrees. Despite this I have still been commuting by bike at least two days a week. I'm hoping to do so more as the weather improves (if ever), and as well do more recreational riding on the weekends. I've recently rode on a path where the old railway tracks were in NL and that is an awesome gravel track. Will have to ride that more often. Will have pics when I get my last roll of film developed.

That's it for now. The Giant FCR 2 is finally leaving me tomorrow for a new owner. Hopefully he treats her well and I will not suffer from sellers remorse. The sale means more touring gear to be bought soon. Will keep you posted!