Archive for the ‘Adventure Cyclist’ Category

Picnic

May 24, 2017

The Soma Saga Disc with a light load at the tippy-top of the La Cueva Picnic Grounds.

The whim of the editorial calendar has left me, briefly, with nothing that needed doing, and since nothing is what I do best, I’ve been doing it, and plenty of it, too.

Yesterday, just because I could, I slapped an overnight load on the Soma Saga Disc and went for a two-hour ride to see how it felt. And it felt pretty damn’ nice, is what.

I have a rolling route through the ’burbs that I favor for bike tests, and despite having 15 extra pounds for company I was enjoying the ride. On a whim I took a detour up to the La Cueva picnic grounds to see how I’d fare with a low end of 30×34 (call it 24.3 gear inches, more or less). And that felt pretty OK, too, though I was down to 3.5 mph at one point (that’s one steep little hill).

Alas, the chores are sneaking back into the picture. I have an All-City Space Horse Disc to review, and that Bicycle Retailer deadline has crept around again, too.

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, of course. Imagine my suffering.

Lights, camera, inaction!

April 19, 2017

The Specialized Sequoia, rigged for bikepacking, en route to a loop around the Elena Gallegos picnic grounds.

I don’t know how a dude with no visible means of support (beyond a wife who works at a national lab) manages to stay too busy to blog.

Somehow I get ‘er done, though. Or not, depending upon whether you enjoy regular bloggery.

The Co-Motion Deschutes, a made-in-Oregon touring bike that won’t break the bank.

Mostly I’ve been playing Quentin Ferrentino again, shooting video for Adventure Cyclist.

In front of the camera:

The Specialized Sequoia, which is a wrap, both print and video reviews having been shipped to the home office in Missoula;

 And the Co-Motion Deschutes, which I’m reviewing and videotaping as we speak, with a deadline of May 1.

The news I have been assiduously avoiding, though it was impossible to evade Orange Julius Caesar’s misplacement of an entire aircraft carrier attack group and his announcement that with his help the GOP triumphed in last night’s election to replace Tom Price in Georgia (one Twitter wag noted that OJC’s confusion was understandable in that the candidate with the most votes didn’t win).

But enough of that shit. Back to bikes.

The Sequoia review will be in the May issue, while the Deschutes will have to wait for the August-September edition. Once that review gets filed I get a break from velo-evaluation — unless Management unearths something interesting at the Sea Otter Classic, which starts tomorrow.

Why, I may even get to ride some of my own damn’ bikes for a change.

R.I.P., Mike Deme

March 30, 2017

I always snickered at the mugshot Mike Deme used when he was still in the editor’s chair at Adventure Cyclist. He always looks like, “Goddamnit, are we gonna have some fun here or what?”

My friend and colleague Mike Deme has gone west. He was 51.

Mike devoted nearly a quarter-century to the Adventure Cycling Association, winding up his tour of duty as director of design and media.

We may have first connected when he was editor of The Cyclists’ Yellow Pages — Lord, that would have been a very long time ago — but we had our first real professional how-d’ye-dos in 2009, when he emailed in his capacity as editor of Adventure Cyclist to ask:

“Ever do any touring? It’d be great to get an O’Grady story in Adventure Cyclist. Any interest?”

I confessed that I had never toured, so Mike wangled me a slot in the ACA’s 2010 Southern Arizona Road Adventure as something of a test drive. I wrote that up, and nobody threatened legal action, so next Mike shanghaied me into writing reviews of touring bikes despite another protestation of blithering and disqualifying ignorance. The rest you mostly know, because I’m still at it.

Listen you, enjoy your time,

you really don’t have very long.

You were born just a moment ago,

in another moment you’ll be gone.

—Wang Fan-chih, the Buddhist Layman, in “Cold Mountain Poems: Zen Poems of Han Shan, Shih Te, and Wang Fan-chih,” edited and translated by J.P. Seaton

Working with Mike and the rest of the Adventure Cyclist crew proved a welcome change from pretending to care about bicycle racing for VeloNews and pretending to write about the industry for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Basically, Mike yanked my cycling head out of my racing ass, reminded me that it’s not all about counting grams, going fast and cutting corners.

We tackled a bunch of Interbikes together, along with a couple of North American Handmade Bicycle Shows, and keeping pace with Mike was always a tough hustle. Short and stout, he never meandered, but always marched, to the beat of his own running commentary. There was work to be done, and a booth to staff, and liquor to drink come quitting time.

And the man was funny. On our separate ways home from NAHBS in North Carolina we texted briefly about the joys of airport travel. When I noted that I’d dodged a cavity search at the Charlotte airport Mike replied: “That place was easy. I’m in Detroit drinking a Miller Fortune. All I can say is we really needed High Life in another package with a bit of Malt Liquor Bull added to it.”

This was his professional opinion, mind you. When Mike wasn’t overseeing the magazine, golfing, or touring, he tended bar in Missoula.

He was gruff and abrupt, liked all the right music and disliked all the right people, and I never had to pester him about money. Ask any freelancer how rare a bird that is. Practically extinct, is what.

I’m sad that he’s gone, and that I never got to ride with him. All the wrong people are shoving off lately.

• Late addendum: The ACA bids farewell to Mike.

Rock ‘n’ roll

February 3, 2017
Some places the walls have ears. Here the trails have teefers.

Some places the walls have ears. Here the trails have teefers.

Yesterday I was out shooting snippets of video for my Adventure Cyclist review of the Specialized Sequoia when I decided it would be edifying to snap a still of some of the rocks I throw at these machines during our rides together.

Doesn’t quite give you the shark’s-tooth view I get from the saddle, does it? I need to go back and try again.

Meanwhile, I ordinarily read a bit of poetry before nodding off at night, but lately I’ve been browsing The Paris Review‘s interviews with authors and artists. If you need a break from the full-auto barrage of political news, check it out.

Happy trails

January 2, 2017
Don't let the apparent solitude fool you — the Piedra Lisa/Embudo Dam trails were crawling with people trying to sweat out their hangovers.

Don’t let the apparent solitude fool you — the Piedra Lisa/Embudo Dam trails were crawling with people trying to sweat out their hangovers.

Right. New Year’s Day has come and gone, and it’s all downhill from here.

Instead of Hoppin’ John and cornbread, deadlines are on the menu — print reviews of the Trek 520 and Specialized Sequoia are due this month at Adventure Cyclist, along with video of the Sam Hillborne. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, meanwhile, wants a column and cartoon.

The struggle continues.

Bellying up to the bar on New Year's Day.

Bellying up to the bar on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, the first ride of the year is in the books. I performed a cassette transplant on the mango Steelman Eurocross to replace a 26-tooth cog with a 28 — 36×26 is too tall for some of the trails I ride around here — and went out and about for an hour.

Riding touring bikes has spoiled me for cyclocross. I need to think about rearranging the technology on this Eurocross, losing the balky old eight-speed Ultegra brifters for bar-cons and aero brake levers; shortening and raising the stem a tad; and going wider with the handlebar. Also, and too, pulling a few teeth on the chainrings, going to 46/34 from 48/36.

And while I’m at it, I could go nine-speed. Forward, into the past!

I’m probably stuck as regards tires — 32mm is what I’m rocking now, and I nearly slid off a greasy off-camber bit and into a ditch full of sharp rocks and cacti because I’m used to riding nice, fat, squishy 38s and up. But I think I’ll be lucky if I can shoehorn a 35 into that rear triangle.

And if I’m unlucky, or unfit? Well, I guess I can always ride the Soma Double Cross, which already has bar-cons and aero levers, plus a triple crank and 700x42s. Gotta look for that silver lining, don’t you know.

Along those lines, consider this: At least Mariah Carey won’t be the next president. Too soon?

WWFP (What Would Frank Play?), Part IV

December 15, 2016
Climbing toward the Sandia tram on behalf of Adventure Cyclist magazine.

Climbing toward the Sandia tram on behalf of Adventure Cyclist magazine.

It’s been a deadline week, and that means drawing, writing and shooting a bit of video. (Also, ignoring the news, which can lead to nothing but trouble.)

So WWFP? I’m gonna go with “Trouble Every Day.”

 

Interbike 2016: Tech tock

September 29, 2016
Clockwise from left: The iPod Nano with its fitness app; the Shimano Sports Cam; my iPhone with the cam app open; Garmin's VIRB Ultra 30; and the Timex Metopolitan+ watch and fitness tracker.

Clockwise from left: The iPod Nano with its fitness app; the Shimano Sports Cam; my iPhone with the cam app open; Garmin’s VIRB Ultra 30; and the Timex Metopolitan+ watch and fitness tracker.

Things are slowly returning to what passes for normal around El Rancho Pendejo.

Groceries have been bought and the lawn mowed. The Adventure Cyclist boyos and I have discussed editorial strategery for 2017. And last night I prepared an actual dinner instead of slapping together some light smorgasbord of cheese, ham, crackers, fruit and salad.

My initial impression that Interbike had lost a step or two was confirmed yesterday as organizers guesstimated that visitor count fell 10 to 12 percent while exhibition space dropped 8 percent. The outfit hopes for a good turnout at its Fall CycloFest next month in North Carolina, but you know what they say about hoping in one hand and shitting in the other. One hand fills up faster.

Vato's got a ticket to ride. Orrrrale.

Speaking of lost steps, I used an iPod Nano to track my walking during this year’s show, and I was surprised to have logged only about 20 miles. This is an approximation; I forgot to start the tracker for one longish march, from my room at the Luxor to the Boiler Room to meet some colleagues, then to the media preview at Mandalay Bay, then to the BRAIN dinner at Border Grill, and finally back to the room. If you insist on hard numbers, the way Adventure Cyclist does expense receipts, I can only document 17.5 miles.

I probably would have been better served by using the Timex Metropolitan+ I bought on a whim before heading to Vegas. A watch with delusions of grandeur, it sits on your wrist rather than in your pocket, and thus is harder to forget about. But it needed to be synchronized with my iPhone via an app, and the owner’s manual is about the size of my iPod Nano, and the online instructions seemed to have been translated from the original Feeb into Obfuscation, which is not one of my languages.

So, yeah. Didn’t get it figured out until yesterday, and I may not be completely there yet. Sucker has more hands than Avalokiteśvara, and the app is not nearly as intuitive as the Nano’s basic fitness tracker, which even a Trumpetista with a closed head injury could decode.

In point of fact it’s been something of a technology week here at the ol’ rancheroo. With more video on the horizon for Adventure Cyclist, I finally got around to installing the iPhone app to control my Shimano Action Cam (which lacks any sort of LCD monitor) and began monkeying around with Garmin’s new Virb Ultra 30 cam. You’ve seen footage from the former in my little road-trip video; look for video from the Virb in my review of the Trek 520, the next bike in the pipeline.

With all these tools in-house, and Bicycle Retailer slowing to monthly publication for the off-season, I hope to spend a little downtime honing my audiovisual chops. But you know what they say about hope.

Interbike 2016: Sucking it up

September 26, 2016
The Duke City vortex.

The Duke City vortex.

ALBUQUERQUE (MDM) — There must be something to all that vortex talk about Sedona. Something was definitely sucking there on Saturday. Mostly the drive in, down Oak Creek Canyon, on what should have been a beautiful fall afternoon.

I suppose if you have to be trapped in a traffic jam there are worse places for it. I had just left one of them, Las Vegas (“Gateway to Bankruptcy and Repossession”), and was glad of it, too.

Vato's got a ticket to ride. Orrrrale.

Still, you expect all manner of inconvenience in Sin City. Sedona bills itself as “The Most Beautiful Place On Earth In So Many Ways,” but this linear parking lot was not one of them.

Right behind me were a couple little yos in a red Kia getting their smoke on, their rap music polluting the air nearly as badly as the conga line of cars. (Pro tip: A red Kia is not “gangsta.”)

Up front, a sign proclaimed “Speed Reduced Ahead.” Not possible, I thought, glancing at my speedometer, which was flirting with zero. This made driving through Taos on Memorial Weekend look like barreling down I-25 between Raton and Wagon Mound at 3 in the morning. At least nobody was hollering or honking.

I hadn’t been to Sedona in years, and I wouldn’t see much of the new-and-improved version this trip. After inching through town to my hotel, I slouched over to the inevitable Whole Paycheck, bought a mess of juice, salami, cheese and crackers, and slouched back. Thusly fortified, I reclined on a chaise lounge at poolside and set about enjoying the comparative peace and quiet of the bubbling hot tub after the clangor and din of the Luxor-Mandalay Bay Dante Alighieri Memorial Circles of Hell (Two Through Four Inclusive).

Rub-a-dub in the hot tub! Or right next to it, anyway (yes, I eventually got in).

Rub-a-dub in the hot tub! Or right next to it, anyway (yes, I eventually got in).

Just about then a couple wanders in and of course they are in a mood to chat, having just come from the annual Sedona Winefest. He was a copper miner from Globe-Miami, and she was a phys-ed teacher and coach … who just happened to have cycled with a trailer from Canada to Mexico and was a member of the Adventure Cycling Association.

(“Cue “It’s a Small World After All.” Everybody sing!)

Anyway, they told me that on any given weekend Sedona was pretty much as I had already seen it, and so bright and early the next morning I arose, loaded the Subaru and got the hell out of Dodge. Vortex. Whatever. I took the back door through the hamlet of Oak Creek, which allowed me to use fifth gear and my inside voice.

I made it back to Duke City and El Rancho Pendejo in time for a light dinner and a short walk with Herself and Mister Boo. Turkish and Mia bestirred themselves, albeit briefly. (“Oh, you were gone? We hadn’t noticed.”) We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and an early bedtime.

All this peace and quiet will be shattered by tonight’s debate and the subsequent spinning of same, of course. Some vortexes suck more than others.

 

Interbike 2016: We’ll always have Parris

September 23, 2016
Masi's Adventure Series bikes.

Masi’s Adventure Series bikes.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (MDM) — Ah, so this is what it’s like to have a job. Toting that barge and lifting that bale from sunrise to dark-thirty, lots of bad noise, and no time to play with the old blogaroo.

Vato's got a ticket to ride. Orrrrale.

There’s a new sheriff in town at Adventure CyclistNick Legan, once a top wrench on the racing circuit who went bad and signed on as tech editor for some Boulder-based cycling mag, and then for us — and frankly, the man is a slave driver, marching us around the Interbike floor like maggots at Parris Island (copy coordinator Dan Meyer, another addition, actually did five years in the Marines, but that’s another story).

As a result we have seen things — many, many of them — and more than a few are suited to the adventure-cycling crowd. Seems the industry has finally discovered what the Adventure Cycling Association folks have been all about for, oh, four decades now. Who knew?

Expect a review of the Moots Baxter (not from me, call the waaaaambulance). “Think mountain-bike capabilities in a mountain-cross build,” says the marketing copy, and it’s named for a dog. Plus it’s a Moots. This is all you need to know.

Also looking good are the Adventure Series bikes from Masi. We looked at but did not review the 2016 Giramondo, but it’s in the hopper for 2017. The Speciale Randonneur looks good, too.

Appearances can be deceiving: While there were times when the show floor seemed busy, overall I'd guess attendance is down, and I'm not the only professional pessimist out there.

Appearances can be deceiving: While there were times when the show floor seemed busy, overall I’d guess attendance is down, and I’m not the only professional pessimist out there.

For some reason the Bombtrack bikes didn’t grab me when I first saw them online, but they’re mighty sharp in MeatWorld, especially the Beyond.

Marin, which did such a fine job last year with the Four Corners Elite, is back for more this year with a wide range of adventure-capable machines, from that Four Corners to the insanely affordable Nicasio.

Also priced to move: Breezer’s Radar Pro. The colors are a bit loud for a subtle fashionista like me, but it’s hard to complain about the price.

The fine folks at Panaracer have plenty of adventurous tires (check out the Gravel King SK); Ortlieb has moved into bikepacking gear; and … and … and I’m sure there’s more to report, but right now I need some breakfast and then it’s off to the show for the final day of Interbike 2016.

• Thought of the Day: Is everyone who works at Rí Rá really Irish or are they putting us on? Seriously, it sounds like “The Commitments” in there. It’ll break me heart if it turns out they’re all from Jersey or Iowa and just takin’ the piss.

 

Interbike 2016: Pain in the. …

September 21, 2016
GoPro's crew and the sporting media, brandishing technology at each other. Sort of like the hominids waving bones around in "2001," only without all that Stanley Kubrick going on.

GoPro’s crew and the sporting media, brandishing technology at each other. Sort of like the hominids waving bones around in “2001,” only without all that Stanley Kubrick going on.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (MDM) — The stabbing pain in my right calf let me know that it was time to rise and shine, if by “rise and shine” you mean “vigorously rub a cramping leg muscle while employing language you didn’t learn from your momma.”

Vato's got a ticket to ride. Orrrrale.

It was way too early for a massage that doesn’t have a happy ending. Happily, the Starbucks just around the corner from the East Tower elevators is a 24-hour deal, and after I limped down there for a flagon of the black I was at least able to swear in English and without repeating myself much.

(Yes, I know, Starbucks bad. Starbucks evil. Starbucks also everywhere. We go to Interbike with the coffee we have, not the coffee we wish we had.)

Last night I connected with some of the Adventure Cyclist and Bicycle Retailer mobs for a media preview of a few brands’ offerings and a bite of dinner at Border Grill.

REI announced that it was dropping its Novara label for house-brand bikes, which henceforth will be called “Co-op Cycles.” And GoPro was showing its brand-new HERO 5 camera and Karma drone. That booth was the hottest spot in the room (apologies for the crappy iPhone shot).

I thought briefly about wedging myself into the crush to get the details, and then I thought again. The show hasn’t even opened yet. One cramp at a time, please.

• Deep Thought of the Day: Why do people involved in the collection and distribution of information gather in noisy bistros where they can’t hear each other speak? No wonder everyone stares at their devices all the doo-dah day. “Siri, tell Ray to message me, I can’t hear a damn’ thing he’s saying. What? Can you hear me now? How about now? NOW?”