Friday, October 31, 2008

Tonight I finished Jennifer's Bamboo road bike. I have but two words to describe how I feel about the thing: Supreme Satisfaction.

The project has been ongoing much of the summer, I started in late May by harvesting some bamboo growing north of here along the Schuylkill River. I then dried the bamboo for about a month and a half out in the back. By the time the bamboo was bleached a pleasant tan, I was ready to begin the bike.

Stage one involved plotting out the geometry, along with about 6 hours of relearning trigonometry as well as drafting on the kitchen table to get things right. Then I built the jig, mitered the bamboo tubes and glued them together with epoxy.

Next I began the process of laying up carbon fiber sheets around the joints. I've got no pictures of this because my hands tended to be covered with epoxy at that time

After probably close to 100 hours off and on over the course of the summer, I finally finished the frame and then began the lengthy process of acquiring parts. I opted for Campagnolo, because really, it's the best. That, and I had a number of spare parts floating around from my various Campy bikes.

And here is the finished ride. The kanji on the down tube and seat tube read, Ichi go, Ichi e, which is a Japanese saying that translates roughly into, "you have one chance in life, so make it your best," or alternately, "every instance is unique and valuable." Honestly, it sounds a lot less corny in Japanese. I first heard this term on a sake brewery tour when we were in Nagano in which our host's actions truly exemplified the idea of ichi go ichi e.
As for the bike, I put it together at Trophy Bikes and took it for a quick test ride earlier today. The ride quality is TOTALLY SWEET! I realize that I have a bit of a bias, but truthfully I have ridden very few bikes that felt nicer. The bike seems to float over bumpy road surfaces, almost as if it were on giant baloon tires, but nope, they are just 700x23 clinchers pumped hard as rocks. My big worry was that I had not gotten the frame alignment right, but that seems dead on too; riding no-handed is no problem. Oh yeah, and it corners like a fricking roller coaster and it accelerates as fast as anything I've ever ridden. Maybe that's due to the fact that it weighs only 16.5 pounds! I had no idea that it was going to be so light and honestly did a full on "YESSSS!" complete with double fist pump when I hung it on the scale.

Despite my bias, I think that my claims are somewhat well founded. I had as many people as I could test ride it earlier today, mostly to show off, but everyone was suitably impressed, and I don't think that they were just doing it to be nice. I am SUPER PSYCHED, as was Jennifer. She insisted that I take pictures of the bike and post them as soon as I could, and then proceeded to put the bike in the bedroom so that she could take pictures of it. I think that she likes it.

Here are some shots:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I honestly don't give a crap about baseball. I remember one summer being cajoled by Jude and Alf to drag myself to a Twins game. It sucked. All I wanted to do was escape and I think I bitched the whole time about how slow and boring the game was. Shitty shitty baseball.

But, on the other hand, THE PHILLIES ARE THE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!!!
There's something pretty awesome about the collective joy and catharsis of a winning sports club in a city like Philadelphia. People here are pretty up front about their emotions and those emotions overflowed last night as people were honking, screaming and apparently throwing rocks late into the night to celebrate. I even found myself cheering a little when Brad Lidge struck the last guy out in the top of the 9th inning. Yes, I even know some of the players names now. I even know what some of the plays are called. The apocalypse has come.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Here are some pics from my latest cross endeavour.
I'm well into the third fall here in Philadelphia. It's been nice not to have school to contend with, but honestly, I'm getting a little buggy without fulltime employment. I have been assured that there are jobs out there, but damned if I can find them. I have thus far been able to occupy myself with small tasks around the house, building Jennifer's bike and various other things. Now I'm just antsy. At least I have a bike to ride.

I was cross examined this weekend, in a big, painful way. Result: Pass, but just barely.

The Granogue race was on saturday. The race course is laid out in a segment of the DuPont family estate, and has a wide variety of hills, dales and rooty trails to negotiate. Overall the course was on the technical side with those riders who could get out in front quickly and stay away in the following melee at a distinct
advantage. I, without the virtue of preregistration, found myself squarely starting in 108th position at the line. Not the ideal place to be on a course in which crashes and ugly conglomerations of riders make moving up relatively difficult over the long haul. I felt pretty decent, had no real mechanical failures and eventually found myself in no-man's-land toward the middle of the race. This is not quite as bad a place to be as in a road race, but it still no easy feat to bridge
up to riders further along the course. With one lap to go, I managed to get a side stitch and lost 3 or 4 places to various other folks and ended up in 49th.

Wissihickon on Sunday. Got there plenty early and the wide open course was great for spectating but also great for whipping any last trace of heat from a person's body. I'd raced the course in past years and had a bit better idea of what to expect, plus the wider trails allowed me a bit more chance to pass people. I also preregistered (a must for a big cyclocross race) and was a few spots ahead of last this at the start line. The race went pretty well, and except for my general weakness in the tighter technical spots, I did a decent job of making up ground
against other guys. I ended the day in 30th spot. Another Pass.

The best part was sitting in the sun afterwords, drinking some Victory beer and watching the OTHER guys suffer. That's what cyclocross is really all about.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ahh, I just had a true hankering for the home country, the midwest. My sister, Leah, recently wrote an article for Minnesota 2020 about locally produced beer from Minnesota. Beer brewing has always been an autumnal hobby for me, mostly because summer is too goddam hot to boil up a kettle of boiling wort. Fall days though, bring me the desire for hoppy, malty goodness.

For some reason fall always produces ueber strong feelings of nostalgia in me. I don't know what the deal is, but the crisp, cool mornings and the smell of drying and decaying leaves suck me back in time to previous years. Fall rolls around and suddenly I can think of nothing more than bike touring through Europe, or hiking through the mountains above Nagano, or running in cross country meets across the upper Midwest. Why, it was just about 8 years ago to the day that I ran my best 8k time at Lacrosse, Wisconsin. 26:24 I believe.

This fall has been occupied with thoughts of job getting and bike riding. Jennifer's bamboo bike frame is complete, I just need to get some components and build the thing up. I'll post pictures of it when I get things all settled. I had a great time at Interbike with my dad; we totally got overexposed to bicycles but somehow I still want more. Part of it is that the show is like candy for me. I just can't bear to let the sugar high go, and so I want to purchase all of the stuff that I saw there. Maybe when I get a real job I'll be able to afford all of these goodies.