Wednesday, October 5, 2011

cycling and sponsorship - pinarello and specialized comparison

Cavendish has a personal deal with Nike, while Sky's kit is supplied by Adidas, and Cavendish prefers a Specialized bike but Sky has a contract with Pinarello. [cyclingnews] It is complicated when you have people paying you buckets of money to use their stuff, and other people paying to use different stuff. Its tough when you don't want to use the stuff you are paid to use because it is not right for you.

So what's a rider to do? I wouldn't know as I have never been paid to use bike equipment before (although of course I am expected to wear my club racing kit when I compete... which I do!) But of course I have been asked to do things, by my employer even, that I personally felt were against the best interests of that same employer. What's a guy to do? When personal ambition is involved – such as in your own pride in winning a race – or (in my case) in teaching a subject well, or presenting an idea clearly, we are left with a conundrum. Tough call. If I were Cavendish I would take the Pinarello! :-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

mary shelley's moonlit window

"In August 2010, Professor Olson, two colleagues and two students went to Lake Geneva to discover when moonlight would have hit the windows, and penetrated the shutters, of Mary Shelley's bedroom." In this way, and by looking up their astro. tables, they aimed to date the birth of her famous tale, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) [The Guardian].

"It was a strong effort of the spirit of good; but it was ineffectual. Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction" – wrote the poor Doctor in Shelley's tale (chapt 2).

If Shelley had her way, perhaps there would be no field of Artificial Life. If we took her text to heart, should we all stop now? Perhaps, like nuclear physics, the potential to make a mess of things is too great? And yet, here we are, pushing onwards in an effort to create life. Ahhh... what would a girl in her late teenage years know about the future of the world anyway?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

melbourne's classic cycling routes

A quick chat in the (miniature) bunch this morning with some friends got me thinking. What are our hottest spots to ride on the road around here? Obviously my views are limited since I usually ride on the Eastern side of the city. Still, here are a few of my favourites (in no particular order). Some are well know and possibly spoiled by rowdy riders or traffic. Others are less well known and still have the rural charm.

  • The Dandenongs (Basin to Sassafras but also the countless roads over the back)
  • Kinglake climb (St. Andrews to Kinglake)
  • Mt. Pleasant Rd. (Eltham)
  • Hussey's Lane (Park Orchards)
  • Beach Rd. (Brighton to Mordialloc)
  • Cottles Bridge - Strathewen Rd. (Cottles Bridge to Strathewen. Doh.)
  • Yarra Boulevard (Kew and Burnley)
  • Beverley - Banyule - Henty - Cleveland - Bonds - Old Eltham Roads (Rosanna)
  • The Esplanade (Mornington to Safety Beach)
  • Clintons Rd (into Smiths Gully)
  • The Alps (Falls Creek, Mt. Buffalo, Mt. Hotham)
  • The Great Ocean Rd. (It is long and almost entirely fabulous)
I am sure I have forgotten many, but that is a start!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

bicycle headlight - moon X-power 500 review

I have recently taken to early starts at o'dark thirty as my previous post highlights. As I have been riding on unlit country roads, a proper headlight was in order. In my case, the Moon X-Power 500 – that's a 500 lumens headlight for a bike! I know brighter lights are available, but really, are they necessary for cycling? Perhaps for mountain bike riding in the dark?

The 500 is ample bright for unlit roads. So bright in fact that I have been riding it on its "standard" setting of 240 lumens (made from a selection of "Full after-burners engaged", High, Standard and Low) unless its really pitch black. The beam is a good design with ample reach and diffusion to provide a nice balance between seeing ahead at speed and around to give a sense of the space beside you. When the sunlight makes its debut, I switch to Flashing mode which, at a reported 380 lumens, is blindingly bright. Retro-reflective street signs flash at me from a kilometre away when I have this mode on. In pitch black, flash mode is disorienting. The whole world seems to strobe and the mode makes me dizzy.

The power/mode button is a flush press fit, not the best when wearing full gloves but manageable. I would also like a mode indicator on the light or a switch that shows by its position the current mode. It is hard to tell which mode you're in and since the battery life is reduced significantly in the brightest modes, I would like to be able to tell at a glance that I am in a lower intensity mode as I trundle along. The unit does flash red LED at you when it is running low on juice. Switching to a lower power mode can save you from complete blackout for awhile.

The mounting bracket for handlebar use is sturdy but the "quick-release" is not quick. You have to screw in the bolt and use the lever just to cinch it down. There's no way to get the quick-release to work as one since you can't get the clamping loop over the bars if the screw is in. Still, this is a minor quibble. The bracket clamps to my oversize road bars with no problems and the light is slid into place on (or removed from) the bracket with the press of a catch. The pitch and yaw of the headlight are adjustable easily.

A helmet mount (velcro strap and bracket) is included with the kit. I haven't tried it and I am unlikely to do so. There's nothing I hate more than a fellow cyclist looking me in the eye and blinding me with their head-mounted laser beam as they wish me good morning. I bet motorists hate it too. This system (IMHO) has no place on the road.

The light comes in a funky carry case with charger and USB cable. It charges okay in a few hours from computer USB or the wall USB charger provided. Only time will tell how many recharge cycles I get from the unit. It doesn't take a standard AA but instead a specially built NiMH battery enclosure slides inside the light. Hopefully a replacement is available when it comes time! Otherwise I would be really annoyed.

Be seen. Be safe.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

august concludes with a ride in the dark

Wow! Its already the end of August. The days are getting longer and milder. A few days ago, in an effort to get out on the real bike (instead of an indoor trainer), I left at 5.30am for a couple of hours of riding down Melbourne's famous Beach Road. A few things I noticed that are worth considering when riding in the dark:
  1. No matter how cool your favourite black kit is, don't wear it in the dark. Death wish?
  2. At 5.30am on a Sunday the main roads are almost completely free of traffic.
  3. At 5.30am on a Sunday the main roads are better lit than the back streets.
  4. The new front LED lights are REALLY bright. Get one.
  5. Riding in the dark in a bunch turns you all into part of a blinking flashing Christmas tree that can be seen for more than a kilometer. Good idea!
  6. Its eery and lovely on a still morning down by the beach. Try it some time. I will see you there!

Friday, July 22, 2011

alexander calder

I just discovered online this image by Calder... Six Day Bike Race, 1924, oil on canvas, 30 by 30 inches, Calder Foundation, New York. Nice and seedy, just like the 6 day races. Was this a conscious inspiration for the work in Paris by Alexandre Ganesco, Les "Six Jours", 1930!? The two have a lot in common. Maybe that is just the subject matter. To do: attend smelly, noisy 6 day race in Belgium.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

it must be time for the TDF

I was putting in a couple of hard laps of a local circuit when I spotted a woman on the footpath walking into the same blasted headwind that was hindering my progress. Her scarf was fluttering in the wind and her overcoat was blowing and flapping about as she moved. "That's really silly", I thought to myself. "What a waste of energy. Why would anybody dress like that for the Team Time Trial?"
Okay I admit it. I must have tour fever :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ERA journal rankings ditched!

[OFF-TOPIC] "There is clear and consistent evidence that the [ERA journal] rankings were being deployed inappropriately within some quarters of the sector, in ways that could produce harmful outcomes, and based on a poor understanding of the actual role of the rankings. One common example was the setting of targets for publication in A and A* journals by institutional research managers." - Senator the Honourable Kim Carr.

Really? Let me count the ways. And it took how long and how many dollars to be squandered in order to figure that out? For crying out loud. The only thing worse than the presence of the rankings was their application as a means to gain quantitative measures of research quality. To some very small extent my faith that commonsense sometimes prevails has been vindicated. Of course I am not so naive as to believe that this system won't be replaced by something more insidious. But until then...

Friday, May 20, 2011

the chickpea and the stone

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I was enjoying some chickpeas when, CRUNCH. Ouch. That hurt. I bit into a stone that had somehow infiltrated my lunch!

Years have passed since that incident. I seldom eat at that restaurant anymore. Instead, I frequently eat sushi and Californian rolls for lunch. Today, I was happily eating a salmon roll when, CRUNCH. Ouch. That hurt. I bit into a chickpea that has somehow infiltrated my lunch!

So now I want to know, was that the chickpea I should have had in my lunch all those years ago? Why was it back? Was it trying to force me to visit the dentist first by its absence and now by its presence?

The world is a strange place. Eat carefully.

Friday, May 6, 2011

the ratchet

Like anyone who has worked on bicycles for more than the last few years, I have seen them change from machines equipped with bolts requiring a good set of spanners, to those that require a few allen keys and now, Torx screws. Whilst I am the first to admit that hex keys and Torx screwdrivers are portable — ideal for keeping in your jersey pocket in one of those pocket-knife like mini-tools — in the workshop I miss the tactile sensation of tightening and loosening bolts with a hefty set of spanners. That sensation has been eliminated apart from on the wheel nuts of my track bike.

The snug fit of a Torx driver is comforting, but turning it is not satisfying. I have never been a fan of allen keys. The bolts always feel to me like they will round out and the keys break, especially in the smaller sizes when operating stuck bolts. The keys themselves lack the solidity of a properly made spanner and operating them is fiddly and uncomfortable. Until now...

I recently acquired a 1/4" drive (square tip) ratcheting handle that takes the set of Torx tips and hex heads from my torque wrench. Where the torque wrench is slightly wobbly due to its two-piece handle (that releases when correct torque is reached), the new ratcheting wrench is firmly and sweetly made.

I can now tighten hex or Torx bolts with one hand, without needing to extract and reinsert the key tip in the limited space amongst the bicycle's many restricted working areas. The other hand can now be used to hold a cable tight, or to keep the bars from turning, or to stop the seatpost from sliding or to maintain seat level. I am a convert! Sure, I will revert to the torque wrench when working on carbon fiber. But for a real workshop experience, when I dig out the old steel machines, I can now enjoy the sensation as much as I like changing wheels on my track bike.

Happy wrenching!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

insect mating

It is autumn in Melbourne. The days are getting shorter, the mornings frostier, but the weather has been glorious for cycling. It is also Preying Mantis mating season. I narrowly avoided one on the road this morning, bright green against the bitumen. The second I saw this afternoon as I left work had not been so lucky. It was squashed flat by a bicycle tyre before my arrival. If it was a female it might not yet have mated or laid its eggs. If it was male, it could not yet have mated or it would already have lost its head! (It hadn't.) It was probably too big to have been a male anyway.

Funny how sometimes I really need to look hard to notice the insects on my daily activities. This is true even when they scream at me from the trees (summer cicadas) or the grass (autumn crickets). At other times they are hard to avoid... such as last spring when dozens of pairs of mating ants fell from the sky to copulate un-ceremoniously on our deck table whilst I read emails!