Aug 31, 2011

Fabric Horse U-Lock Holster

I've been carrying my current U-lock for nine years now, and in those nine years it's home, while in transit, has been my back pocket. That's where it lives. Location is everything: From my back right pocket its easy to pull out when I need to shake it in a threatening manner or retrieve it to lock up my ride. My lock is my friend; my protector. I've depended on it for many years now and it's never let me down. When I stumble out of the bodega with my Red Bull, hoagie, Bike magazine and canned ham, I'm always relieved to see my bike safe and secure. Thank you my little steel friend.

While my lock does fit nicely in the back pocket of my shorts, pants and shants, last month I discovered a new product from Fabric Horse which piqued my interest: The U-lock Holster. My initial reaction to the holster was one of disinterest and snobbery. With a head-shake, a single "tsssssssss" escaped my lips. What's wrong with the back pocket? I grumbled.

Flash forward a month. It's August 29th and I'm standing at the counter at Mod Squad Cycles in Harlem. I'm wrestling a new mustache bar into my messenger bag and joking with one of the shop workers about shanking unsuspecting pedestrians on the way home with this oddly shaped piece of aluminum protruding from my bag. I'm about to leave when I spot a pile of these holsters on the counter marked: $9.99. So I buy one. What the hell I say. Living in a city of hipsters ensures a respectable resale value if I don't end up using this thing. Thank you Craigslist.

Now flash backward one day. It's August 30th, 6:15am. I'm rubbing a crusty eye-booger from my face while slipping my belt through the loops in my shorts. It is then that I spot the holster draped over the back of a chair. Oh yeah, time to use that ten dollar piece of seat-belt. Positioning the holster in the back, just right of center, I drop my lock in. As my elevator takes me to the ground floor I'm going over things I wasn't supposed to forget: dress shoes, dress shirt, khakis, a couple of slices of pizza from the fridge... then the door opens and I roll down the hall and out on to the street.

As soon as I throw a leg over my bike I realized, perhaps the single most important benefit of the holster, which is: ass pressure reduction. When you shove a U-lock in your back pocket it really presses against your ass. That pressure is now gone because the lock, no longer fights the curvature of your badonkadonk. It simply hangs straight down "off the back" (a position I am quite used to from my road racing daze). So, to the two Phillies at Fabric Horse; thank you, I dig it, nicely done!

Aug 30, 2011

Super Commuter Man

This morning's ride in to work was fantastic. I left phattire headquarters at 6:25am and stepped out in to a cool 60° morning. Not a cloud in the sky; a bit of dew on the grass. I zipped off on the fixed gear taking Broadway north out of Manhattan, through the Bronx and into Yonkers. I'm really loving the new mustache bars. I was totally flying up Broadway this morning. I stopped for a quick moment to snap a couple of photos of the morning fog rising off of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx (pictured above & below). 7 miles later I rolled through the gate at Kawasaki. At work, while I was passing my U-lock through my frame, a production worker approached my bike and I asking "Fixed gear?" which led to a quick conversation about messaging. Turns out, this guy used to be a messenger here in NYC. We talked for a quick moment before I went inside to find a conference room to change in. Now changed out of my commuting clothes, I am no longer Super Commuter Man but instead; a mild mannered QA Engineer.

Today's Yehuda Moon

I rode to work this morning. I can relate to this Yehuda Moon comic. Though I don't usually fight traffic on the ride in to work; the ride home is a different story.

Aug 29, 2011

Mustache bars

I picked up a no-name aluminum mustache bar from Mod Squad Cycles in Harlem today. I was actually looking for a Jeff Jones style Hbar or a set of Mary bars for my singlespeed mountainbike but ended up throwing these bars on a few blocks from the bike shop and really like the way they feel on the fixed gear.

They're much wider than my old sawed-off riser and they also position my hands a good two or three inches farther forward; changing my riding position a bit, but it feels really comfortable. I have the bars flipped upwards which puts me in a slightly more upright position and yet still feels aggressive and comfortable for applying a lot of torque in a sprint. I was able to chug right up Broadway coming north under the bridge at 125th.

Video: Rolling Clouds

Though Hurricane Irene wasn't quite as exciting as I had hoped, she did send a bunch of rolling clouds through the city yesterday. It rained on and off but was also sunny here and there. The film below is one hour of footage shot from my window and sped up 32X.

Aug 28, 2011

Camera protection

I made a quick rain cover for my Nikon this morning before heading out in the weather for some street photos. All you need is a one-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and some electrical tape. First I cut a corner off of the freezer bag, making a hole slightly smaller than the hood on my lens. Then I squeezed the hood through the hole and gave it a few wraps with the electrical tape. Lastly, I applied the same technique to the eye piece area on the back of the body. That's all there is to it. It worked like a charm and was comfortable. Plenty of room in the bag to change camera settings etc. I'll be keeping this bag and a roll of tape with my camera gear.

You call that a hurricane?

Wow. What a let down. I suppose it's good that Irene didn't completely level and flood the Big Apple but I really was looking forward to fleeing to safety. Who knows what kind of adventures could have ensued. Instead. I awoke to a fairly bright morning sky with light wind and rain. No flying debris. No rooftops peeled back like sardine lids. No upside down cars. I grabbed the camera and set off for a little recon. No major damage. Lots of upside-down trash cans and small fallen limbs here and there.

Aug 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Bring it on.

Well, I'm all set for Hurricane Irene. I'm actually really excited about it! Yesterday I packed up some survival/rescue gear and I have a bunch of water stored away in the fridge. Camera batteries are fully charged and I'm just kicking around the apartment reading a new book about modern-westernized Buddhism. I don't plan on going anywhere today. Even if I could, NYCT has shut down all public transportation effective noon today.

I plan on getting out and about with my camera during the course of the day. Below are a few photos from the rooftop of my building; nothing too exciting, just overcast with relatively week winds. These photos were taken at 11:00am this morning.

Aug 25, 2011

Aug 19, 2011

Relating to Yehuda Moon comics

Been following Yehuda Moon for a while now and can definitely relate the piece above. I got a call yesterday from the bike shop saying that my new Lefty (Lefty Speed Carbon XLR) has arrived and they offered me my choice of stem-steerer technology. Apparently the older style System Integration (SI) stem-steerer has quite a long lead time, whereas the new One Piece Integration (OPI) stem is the latest design, lighter, and readily available. I chose the newer OPI unit. Though, their "one piece integration" actually consists of two pieces. We'll see... I just want my damn frame and fork back so I can build it up and ride once again.

Above Left: SI Stem-steerer (Old design) Above Right: OPI Stem Steerer (New design)

Aug 18, 2011

Video from the Catskills trip

I was finally able to get this footage together and uploaded to Vimeo. Below is a video from last weekend's hike at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. I chose not to add a sound track to this and instead let it serve as a virtual hike right here on the interweb. This footage was taken with my Canon S90 and edited with Windows Live Movie Maker.

Aug 17, 2011

The latest from Danny Macaskill...

Blows me away every time I watch him ride... Talk about skills!

Gear Review: EMS Thunderhead Jacket

I typically don't post gear reviews on this blog. Gear reviews are something I always think about doing but usually don't because I feel it crosses that thin line between Interesting Bit o' Information and Nerd-dom. But, since I tend to live right on the border of these two great nations; why not?

Today I am reviewing my rain coat. Everyone needs one: Keeps you dry, keeps you warm, and perhaps most important: it enables you to make those midnight outhouse runs in the pouring rain. "Crap, I forgot TP again?!" I'm only giving this jacket a review because it works so well. It's saved me many a time my friends.

I bought this EMS Thunderhead jacket this past winter. I bought it to use both cycling and hiking/camping. So, for the past 8 months or so I've used this jacket on the trails, on the road, and under a backpack. It breathes really well, which is important when you've already invested in a bunch of moisture whicking under-layers. Your rain gear should breathe and release any moisture you create. It also has "pit zips" which sound a bit ridiculous but are extremely effective in cooling off your armpits and getting some airflow in there. One cool thing about this jacket is that it incorporates what EMS calls their "Sync" system. This means it has a snap & loop system for attaching liners to the inside of it. I have a liner and used it mountainbiking this winter; works great!

If I could suggest one improvement to EMS for the 2012 version of the Thunderhead rain jacket it would be: Add at least one chest zipper pocket. This jacket only has two traditionally placed zipper pockets at the bottom in front. When you're hiking with a pack, the hip-belt falls right over these pockets, making it a pain in the butt to retrieve items from them; like a camera for example.

Aug 16, 2011

Rainy backpacking in the Catskills

I spent this past Saturday through Monday backpacking around Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. Hunter Mountain is the second tallest peak in the Catskills measuring in at 4,040' above sea level. My friend Jay and I enjoyed the weekend hiking from shelter to shelter in a relatively small area of the Cats. In three days we hiked a mere 9 miles total; nice & easy.

We got to the trailhead around 7:00pm on Saturday night. Stepping from the car, a fine mist hung in the air, a dampness, which would accompany us for the next two days and nights. Hefting our packs up and synching our hip belts tight, we set off into the damp forest. After entering the dark woods, we hiked only a few minutes before switching our headlamps on. Rain was not falling but branches and nettles obscured the trail and quickly soaked my shorts with their heavy wet leaves. Though the hike from the car to the first shelter was only 3 miles, the trail was, at times, brutally steep and the overgrown brush from either side of the trail made it difficult to find safe footing on the baby-head sized rocks below. Nettles stung the sides of my knees making them itch!

We reached the Devil's Acre Shelter around 8:30pm and met three guys from Boston who were occupying it. They had just finished dinner and washing dishes when Jay and I arrived. We made small talk, killed a ridiculously large and threatening spider, then ended up sharing the shelter with them for the night. Within a few minutes of arriving, the rain finally let loose and down it came in sheets. It rained on and off all night while the clouds rolled right through our campsite limiting our view to only ten or fifteen feet in front of the shelter. We all got to know each other a bit while Jay and I cooked our dinners and talked about hiking in the Catskills, Adirondacks and life in Boston. Without a fire there wasn’t much incentive to stay up all night so we all crashed around 10:30pm or so. A full moon shown brightly between quickly passing clouds reflecting a silvery glow down upon the rocks and plants laid out before us.

I woke up around 6:30am on Sunday morning. The rain had stopped. Large puddles had filled pockets within tree roots and the hollows of rocks and logs. A trench had been beaten into the ground below the roofline of the shelter where water had dripped for the last several hours. Though dampness hung in the air, the five of us in the shelter were warm and dry. I had slept like a rock all night and I felt well rested. I unzipped my bag, pulled on my boots, grabbed my camera and headed out to take in the morning’s scenery. Water droplets hung in spider webs and crystal clear droplets lined the stems and leaves of lush vegetation everywhere. All the while a dense fog floated about our campsite. It was a wet but beautiful morning in the Catskills.

At around 9:30am the three guys we shared the shelter with, set off on their way while Jay and I took our time packing up and watching a new hard rain set in. When the rain broke, we picked up our packs and set off for the John Robb Shelter, just three miles away. On the way to the next shelter we stopped at the fire tower on the summit of Hunter Mountain (Elevation 4,040’). We climbed the tower but the low flying clouds obscured any type of view. Looking down from the tower, I was barely able to make out the picnic table below. A scenic view of the surrounding mountains was definitely out of the question.

Pressing on, we reached the John Robb Shelter sometime in the afternoon. This is one of the nicest shelters I have ever seen. Built in 2009 it was in spectacular shape and kept us quite comfortable. We ate lunch in the shelter and pretty much napped for most of the day. During a break in the rain, we hiked down to a nearby spring to fetch more drinking water. I spent the rest of the day napping, snacking and enjoying the sites and sounds of heavy rain in the Catskills. Though we heard no thunder and saw no lightening, a steady roar of rain fell down upon everything, creating a lullaby that had me asleep by 8:30pm.

Monday morning we woke to even more rain. It had rained through the night in a relentless bombardment of big fat drops. Rain streamed from the roof and down in front of the shelter, blasting a trough into the ground below. This trough had morphed into a mote around the front of shelter, with a trickling path down through the rocks and over the side of the mountain about 20’ away. After spending most of yesterday and all of the previous night in my sleeping bag, I was eager to get hiking. The rain was not showing any signs of letting up so we decided to get moving around 8:30.

The hike out was really enjoyable. I hiked out wearing shorts, gators, a t-shirt and a rain jacket. Though it was raining pretty hard, the forest canopy created a bit of a buffer and I really didn’t get too wet. The hike was mostly downhill along a very smooth fire road. Though the trail was wide and smooth, it had also transformed itself into a river. A steady stream of water filled the trail. It was a sloshy hike out, but we reached the car warm and dry. Looking forward to next time!