Sep 29, 2010

New wheels & one less tooth

After riding the bajeezus out of the wheels that came stock on my Bianchi Pista in 2005, I finally upgraded them. I've grown tired of replacing broken spokes in the rear wheel and the new set of hoops are quite beefy. 50mm tall rims and high flange hubs make for a shorter spoke length and stout build. Although heavier, they sure spin nicely on their sealed cartridge bearings. I also put my 16 tooth cog back to work. I had taken it out and been using a 17 tooth for the last year but I'm feeling strong enough to push the 48X16 combo again. Feelin' pretty good these days. A little before & after action below.

Panoramic Heights

I've been wanting to set up on my building and take a nice time lapse series of the sun setting over the George Washington Bridge, for quite some time now. I didn't have time for it this evening so I made a panoramic image instead. Three images were stitched together in Photoshop using the photomerge feature. The end result is the rather unexciting image above. I'm pleased with the stitching but I think I'll head up onto the roof again when there's a really magical sunset. Stay tuned. Oh, and if you want to take a look, "Where's Waldo" style, you can download the honking huge version (25MB) of this image by clicking the infamous Double Complete Rainbow exclamation below: (Spoiler alert: there are no naked ladies in any of the windows)

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

Very Us Artists is working on a new project that I encourage you to take a look at and support! Very Us Artists (VUA) is a group of composers and visual artists who mix their flavors to create delicious goodness on a regular basis. They routinely produce audible pleasures accompanied by visual delight and offer it to you for free or very, and I mean very, little cost (I'm talking one dead president). What could be better? Take a look at the VUA site and you'll see what I mean. You're going to want to grab their latest beauty: My First Sing-Along Dictionary.

Their latest and biggest project is a combination science fiction anthology with artwork and a soundtrack called Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero which promises another slice of awesome, but they need our help! Please take a look at (Click!) the information below, check out their promo video on their Kickstarter page, and help make it happen!

Sep 27, 2010

Harlem woman

I meant to post this snapshot last week. I'm really happy with it. I took this picture with my point & shoot camera just after my wife and I emerged from the 125th street subway station in Harlem. I like the well put together woman who is out and about on a sunny Sunday morning. I know the back story behind this image but when I look at it as a fresh observer I enjoy the mystery. What are the police doing? Why the expression on her face?

The Bottle Ride

Yesterday I competed in a "gentleman's race" at Blue Mountain. The race was one man's vision; organized by a local rider, racer and all around cool cat, he called it The Bottle Ride. He intended to gather a random group of like-minded individuals to race for fun. ... and wine (Prizes were bottles of wine!) The race was kept a mystery up until two days before the event, hinting that it would take place approximately 55 minutes, by train, from Grand Central Terminal. I knew it would be at Blue Mountain. Racers had to email to get a slot in the race and details were slowly divulged over the few days prior to the event via email and a special blog (See The Bottle Ride blog). The mystery of it all kept me interested. One for adventure, I knew this would be right up my alley. It turned out to be a very low key, time trial mountain bike race. Riders set off every 30 seconds from the top of Myx Monster and climbed up Ned's Left Lung for the finish. In my opinion, Myx Monster is the most technically challenging trail in the area. Several large rocks set at offensive angles try to pinch your bike and stop your momentum while you navigate your way down near-vertical sections of trail. Steep rollers and log build-ups are abundant and the obstacles just keep coming one after another. Extremely dry conditions and absurd quantities of fallen acorns made for very slippery trails likened best to marbles in dry graphite lube. I felt bad for one rider who informed me that it was her first time riding the Monster and I cautioned her to take it easy. There were a few speedy XC racers who took the wins for the geared and singlespeed categories. A handful of women raced as well, the fastest of which came away victorious in their category, wine bottle in hand.

I don't know what my time was, but I feel I did pretty well. I'm guessing I placed around 13th or so of the 30-some riders that attended. I did managed to lay the bike down and rough my leg up pretty good. It all happened before I knew it and I found myself face down in the dirt looking over at my bike laying on it's side; wheels still spinning. I was fine and got back on to finish the course. Funny thing about finishing the course: It was all up hill! Ned's Left Lung (Named, I assume, after Ned Overend) really kicked my ass and I actually walked a portion of it. And so this morning I limped out of the apartment scabby and sore but ready to start a fresh new week.

Beautifully orchestrated, the ride was a blast. I'm sure a lot of time went into organizing this race and it was clear that all who attended had a great time. From the hand painted number plates, clearly marked trails to the opening talk; this man made a lot of people happy! THANK YOU!

Edit: 9/29/10 The results were posted. Of the 27 riders, I had the 10th best time. Yay?!

Sep 23, 2010

Smoldering forearms

Last night I went to Brooklyn Boulders (BKB) with Kreuter and his fiancé, Alexandra. Together we wrestled synthetic rock and beat ourselves up for three hours. BKB periodically rearranges the holds on the walls to keep the climbs fresh and challenging. As such, last night, there was a new inverted 5.8 climb that we enjoyed conquering. The crux of this climb puts your back nearly parallel to the floor causing your forearms and fingertips to burst into flames (not really, but sort of). Thankfully, there were plenty of bucket holds, although it still demands a lot of upper body strength. Inverted climbs force your center of gravity out away from the wall giving your forearms a hell of a work out. When I reached the top of the route my forearms were smoldering. Below are a few iPhone pictures from last night. I used the Tiltshift Generator App to selectively blur, adjust saturation & contrast, and apply a slight vignette.

Above from left to right: Myself chalking up before the crux, Kreuter coming down after besting the 5.8 inverted route, Alexandra scaling a 5.7 while Kreuter belays.

Sep 19, 2010

Riding in Jamaica - Ya mon!

As promised; a short, fun mountain biking video spliced together from clips of yesterday's ride at Cunningham Park, in Jamaica, Queens. I used my Canon S90 point & shoot to capture the footage. I didn't put a whole lot of time into this one. I was more or less figuring out how to use Windows Live Movie Maker. Enjoy.

Sep 18, 2010

Capped at Cunningham Park

Today I took my 1X9 out to Jamaica, Queens to ride the excellent singletrack at Cunningham Park. It takes me an hour and forty-five minutes to get there by subway but it's well worth the journey. The trails at Cunningham are very flat but the twisty, flowing singletrack more than makes up for any lack in elevation gain. It's the ideal spot for a singlespeed. I loved ripping it up on my Cannondale. Although, I took a few dives over the bars today. The most noteworthy came at the beginning of my ride, just after completing a tough skinny. I had ridden the long (skinny) it's full length, only to crash while using the "off ramp" at the end of the log. My knees smashed hard on the rocks leaving me on the ground rocking in agony. I felt like I'd been "capped" by the mafia. I decided to keep my knees moving and pedaled on. I did take a few clips of video and I plan to turn them into a really short fun video. If I get it done tomorrow I'll be sure to post it up on the blog here. For now, here are a couple of images from today's awesome ride. I reeled in 14 miles. Ten of which, were singletrack. Click the screen shot at right to take a look at the ride details.

Above: My Cannondale F1 in front of an Alstom built, R160 Car (selectively desaturated).

Above: I love this section of Cunningham. So lush!

Sep 17, 2010

Carrying the hiss

So much did I enjoy myself yesterday, that I decided to ride to work again today. Stepping out into the brisk, moist air, it was noticeably darker than yesterday morning. Though I stood on the same patch of sidewalk, in front of my building, looking east, exactly 24 hours ago, I was not greeted by the same awe-inspiring, golden sunrise. Instead, I stood immersed in a foggy, dismally, dank scene, barely able to make out the desaturated cityscape. The brick buildings; devoid of any contrast against the sky with their tops disappearing into heavy grey clouds. Muted streetlights, nearing the end of their shift, gave off a hazy, tired glow. While standing there, I felt the fine mist that hung in the air on my face and exposed calves and made my first decision of the day, not to go back inside for my fender. The streets were wet from the fierce storm that rumbled through in the night and were littered with small limbs and fresh, green leaves. The rich color in the leaves punched through the monochromatic, dream-like ambiance. Pedaling smoothly through the darkness, my tires made a hissing sound on the greasy wet pavement and left a momentary line on the road that would fade over time. The fading line; the only evidence that I had traveled the route. I hissed along through Fort Tryon, down to Broadway and found more people beginning their days. Carrying my hiss north, I crossed the Broadway Bridge into the Bronx, unable to see the canal below through the metal grid work. Peering down at the canal is one of the comfortable familiarities I look forward to when I ride to work. Today I would have to go without. Seven miles later I arrived at work, a bit damp, but energized from the ritual and anticipating an equally satisfying ride home in the evening.

Above: Arriving at the office, getting ready for a day of work.

Sep 16, 2010

Check out Guitar George... he knows all the chords.

I rolled out of bed late this morning at 5:50 and almost bailed on my plan to ride to work. However, a speedy shower and quick hustle around the dimly lit apartment bought me some time. I tossed the bare essentials (work polo, deodorant & shoes) in my bag, and threw a leg over my road bike at 6:22. In front of my building, with the golden-orange glow of sunrise lining the cityscape to the east, I selected Dire Straits for this morning's commute. The weather was ideally brisk and I settled into a comfortable rhythm as I rolled north through the Bronx. By the time I reached work I was on track five, Private Investigations, of their "Best of" album. Although, when I stopped in Fort Tryon to take the picture below I did restart Sultans of Swing. How could I not? My road bike works remarkably well, despite having a completely worn out drive train. Albeit shark-toothed, the teeth on my chainrings and cassette mesh wonderfully with my stretched chain and amount to a perfectly harmonized trio of buttery smooth shifting excellence. I used the Runmeter iPhone app to clock my time and mileage, click the screenshot at right to take a look-see.

Sep 11, 2010

Wife's new bike

Today we picked up my wife's new bike. It's a Jamis Coda. She has been researching bikes for the past few weeks bouncing questions off of me from time to time, and I think she made a great choice by going with the Coda. We both agree that the small diameter steel tubing form sleek, attractive lines giving the bike a beautiful form, classic in nature yet modernly simplistic. When we got home from the bike shop, we got to work, making slight changes to the bike that she had envisioned. I let her do all the work and simply gave advise on how to go about doing it. She caught on very quickly and before long, she was adjusting the spring tension on the V-brakes and tilting her bars and brake levers to a comfortable natural position. Off came the reflectors, warning stickers and plastic pedals and on when a nice set of classic touring pedals I had laying around. She even removed her cassette, removed the plastic spoke protector and reinstalled it, taking care to align the cogs on the splined freehub body.

Above: My wife greases the threads before installing her new pedals.
When the bike was sufficiently dialed in, we set off for a few loops around the neighborhood and park. She hadn't ridden in a little over a year and was a little twitchy at first, but was soon zipping around with ease. She even sneaked past me just before we got to Frank's Market to pick up groceries for dinner. I caught a big grin on her face as she spun the cranks as hard as she could to leave me in the dust (I could only shake my fist at her!). I'm so happy she's happy. Let the adventure rides begin!

Sep 10, 2010

Video Friday

This piece absolutely blows my mind. I love the graphic design layering and muffled, skipping audio...

TELEPHONEME | MK12 from MK12 on Vimeo.

Sep 9, 2010

Twentieth Century Manufacturing Company bicycle lamp

Last week, my wife surprised me with an amazing old bicycle lamp. She knows how much I enjoy cleverly engineered items of the past. I must say that this is the best gift she has ever given me. The lamp was made around the turn of the century, approximately 1898 by the Twentieth Century Manufacturing Company. A simple clamping system secures it to the head tube of your bicycle. Interesting to me, are the red and green windows on the left and right (respectively) sides of the lamp. These navigation lights are consistent with today's regulations for boats and airplanes. Red on the left and Green on the right. Rather than describe the fascinating details of this lamp, I've posted a few detail shots below.

I think the next step, is to fasten this to my fixed gear, throw on my woolly knickers and take a retro-ride around the city at night. (Side note: In the background is a great oil lamp, a gift from my father, which we use quite often.)

Above: Right side of lamp; note the small green window. Both of these side windows open so that they may be cleaned. I imagine soot builds up on the lenses over time.
Above: Front view. Original wavy glass with very small entrapped air bubbles.
Above: The front glass is hinged to allow cleaning and aid in replacing the wick.
Above: Top view. The "chimney" you could say, bears the name of the company "Twentieth Century" (ahead of it's time!). That's some clever marketing if you ask me.
Above: Bottom of the lamp, listing where this model was patented.
Above: Detail view of the oil tank. The leather 0-ring under the fill cap is still intact!
Above: Back of the lamp with the clamp system removed. "Made in US of America".

Germans in the Woods

As someone with great interest in World War II, I found this video evocative of an emotional connection to my Grandfather. Here is a sad but interesting story of one American Army soldier's grim experience during World War II.

Germans in the Woods from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Sep 7, 2010

7th Lake

As I write this, my nose runs and I hack debris from my lungs. This trip to the mountains was not without cold and windy weather! The likes of which has left me with a bad cold. Yes indeed, Saturday and Sunday were quite chilly up north. I stayed relatively warm at night but will not bring my summer bag to the Adirondacks in September ever again. It if weren't for the wool blanket I packed, I don't think I would have gotten much sleep at all. My friend and I did a lot over the long weekend. We hiked, fished, swam, cooked some great meals, and caught on up things. I'm not going to write a long detailed entry about everything that went on this weekend but I will throw up some pictures and a little verbiage to boot.

Above: Arrival on Friday morning; the weather was fantastic and made for an easy canoe trip across the lake.
Above: We were fortunate enough to find the lean-to on the point, vacant. We usually tent but the lean-to is fun to stay in.
Above: The view from my bag as I woke up each morning.
Above: The view from Black Bear Mountain looking east.
Above: Great big ol' clouds.
Above: Another view from Black Bear Mountain, looking south. That is 7th lake in the background, only 3 miles away.
Above: Taking a break on the mountain. Looking south, down on 7th Lake.
Above: Looking west.
Above: On the way down from the top, the sky opened up and let some warm sunshine through.
Above: "The Point" on 7th Lake. This is the campsite where we stayed in the lean-to.
Above and below: Monday morning I fought the cold and got out of my bag early enough to catch the morning fog and sunshine on the lake.

Above: Wind storms drop a lot of nice trees like the Birch shown here.

Sep 1, 2010

Ready to go

I'm all set. Tomorrow I'll take a six hour train from NY Penn Station up to Syracuse. Once there I'll meet my friend Keith and catch up over a couple of craft ales. Early Friday morning we'll drive another 110 miles up into the Adirondacks where we'll stay for 3 days. With hurricane Earl working its way up the east coast the weather is supposed to be wet on Saturday and Sunday but I'm sure we'll get some hiking & fishing in just the same. And if not, I think we'll just have to enjoy a few card games. (note to self: learn a card game) I'm hoping that one of the lean-to's on 7th lake are open. There are 3 on the lake, so we'll just have to paddle around until we find one that's free. If not, we've got the tent as back up. So long folks. So, I'm signing off for a few days. I'll be back on Tuesday with pictures and stories!