Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's really simple! All I have to do is lose a few pounds!

In 2009 - much weight was lost and much speed was found.  In 2010 no weight was lost - but a little more speed was found.  In 2011 weight must be lost - or very little additional speed will be found.  The problem is, I just keep finding food. 

Some examples:

These would be various Chunky Soups and tasty Grillin' Beans to my immediate lower left - few sardines in there too - who needs files?

Towards the upper left - I can always find these irresistible beauties

To my upper right some peanut butter, Nutella, apples and Triscuits - seems kinda healthyish.  That reminds me, I really need to get an updated picture of wife and child. 

Behind me - some Wheat Bagels.  These just can't be bad for you - can they?

Let's not forget this office essential just to the right of the "Bagel" drawer. Kind of empty at the moment - but there is a solid 4000 calories waitin' to happen in here.

It gets worse.  Management conducts lots of meetings with lots of important people and it's important to show important people how important they are by lavishing them with plenty of food.  It's also important to not run out.  As it happens - there is a frosted glass window I can peek through right next to me.  Guess where the royal spread goes?  Yep - right on the other side.  When the important people are done I'll watch carefully for the cleanup crew.  That's my cue that soon enough I can count on leftover sandwiches in the break room.  Really tasty sandwiches..

Another pathetic example from a few days ago:  Boss swings by with a foam container - "Hey Alby, want the other half of my steak and cheese pita?" - "Nah... I'm good.  Gotta keep swinging the axe".  Him - "Well, you could save it in the fridge for tomorrow.." Me -"Ooh, that's a good idea - sure, put it in there".   Remember the movie "Gone in 60 seconds"? I beat that.

So this winter / next spring -  The clear focus *has*  to be calorie deficit.  I am still quite porky by bike racing standards - which in a way seems good.  That means there's a whole bunch of speed left to be found.  The flip side of this, which I am sure happens to anyone looking to push themselves to the next level is that being competitive at even a slightly higher level starts to mean work.  So far "training" has been:  Ride to work, go race every so often and win.   Must be strong...  Must stop finding food - or settle for having gone racing "just for the fun of it".  Yick.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Commutah with a computah?? Cygolite Expilion 250 review - it's just right

I have a small collection of existing lights that are plenty effective for either trail riding or commuting - but recently purchased one of  Cygolite's latest - the "Expilion 250" as it has additional features especially suitable for commuters.   One of those existing lights is the Cygolite Trion 600, which has become my go-to handlebar light for the past two years due to it's performance, ease of use and reliability.  Consider the Expilion 250 a well matched smaller sibling with a few extras.

 Finer points of the Expilion 250:
  • One piece design
  •  Battery is easily removed / replaced
  • Chargeable via USB port
  • Lightweight enough for helmet mounting
As for the one piece design:  It caters well to transitioning off and on the bike.  There is no fussing with Velcro straps & cables.  It helps give pessimists the impression that bike-commuting is relatively fuss free. As anyone who bike commutes knows -  when people are on the fence comparing means of transportation they are often at looking the weaknesses or inconvenience opposite their current system. This is one less thing.

Removable battery:  No-brainer here.  Current lithium based battery technology is very impressive - but they still can fail or die out with time.  Having the ability to swap out the battery addresses serviceability and you can bring an extra along for both run-time and the all important redundancy factor.

USB port charging:  I had initially shrugged this off as unnecessary extravagance.  After all, just about every light system available now can run on high for 2.5 hours or more.  My commute is anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes one-way, so why bother?  Worst case you can reduce the output and have plenty to get home safely.  Fact is, I just like being able to top it off at work - knowing I have more than double the capacity required.  This feature really does help increase flexibility for folks who might do lots of work related traveling.  For example: I have a co-worker who flies in from Chicago every Monday - then heads back home on Fridays.  With a one-piece light that requires no special charger - it's that much less fuss.

Lightweight:  At 130 grams it can be used as a dedicated helmet light without causing major imbalance or neck problems.  This is exactly where mine stays - again contributing to simple transitioning.

Light, handlebar mount, helmet mount and US quarter for size reference

Battery removed - simple twist & lock installation - but watch it (or don't)!  The light turns on immediately when you put the battery in.

Wall socket adapter and included USB cable.

Handlebar mount includes adapters for 25.4-31.8mm Ø bars

USB input charging jack with rubber seal

On the household glass head

While charging - light remains red

Done charging  = green. 
Also green during operation with blinking that increases in speed when battery power starts to dwindle.

So the big question of course with any lighting system:  "how much power she got?". For practical application:  Plenty.  I have used the Expilion 250 all by itself on many rides and have found it to have enough light to be used by itself.  That said,  I prefer to use it in tandem with the handlebar light.  It's in this configuration where the it really shines (grrroannn..) especially during pitch black or rainy commutes. With the handlebar light, one can flood the immediate path ahead to illuminate road hazards without blinding oncoming traffic and use the helmet light to project further ahead or around - and if necessary (yes sometimes it's necessary) blind side-street traffic. 

Side note on lighting in general related to commuting:  I have found motorists seem to respect the handlebar mounted lights more than the helmet light by itself.  Theory:  The handlebar light has the same presence & stability as motor-vehicles.  Motor vehicles are far more likely to scratch paint = more respect than bobbing helmet light - which obviously to the sub-conscious is *not* a motor vehicle likely to scratch paint. 

The following photos are an unfair comparison (in terms of overall output)  - but should serve well to demonstrate the beam pattern against the Trion 600 and the very popular Magic-Shine.   The Expilion 250 is rated by Cygolite at 250 lumen's - the Trion 600 (ready for it?) 600 lumen's and the Magic-Shine a slightly optimistic 900 lumen's.

Overall distance here is almost exactly 100' from the lights to the line between the woods and driveway looking straight ahead.  Camera was set at F stop /  4.0 with a time value of 1.3 seconds.  I'm no expert with photography so go easy on me.

Cygolite Trion 600 -  floody buddy

Magic Shine showing her well defined lines

Cygolite Expilion 250 -  very bright and localized. Quite good considering it has less than half the lumen's

The photos clearly demonstrate the beam pattern of the Expilion is more spotlight / less flood than the 600 or more lumen systems which is to be expected.  This offers enough "hotness" to provide well projected illumination - without losing too much light to excessive dispersion.  My advice - use the Expilion exclusively on your helmet to allow pointing the light where needed.  Usually one points ones head in the direction they want to look or go -this'd be a win-win.

Overall I give this light a 4 out of 5. It'd be nearly a 5 were it not for one issue:  The mount tolerances are too tight!  I don't remove my light from my helmet so it's less of an issue for me personally - but if you need to mount and remove the light from the mount  regularly you will find it very difficult to remove.  I remedied this by carefully whittling away some of the material from the light mount slides and retaining plastic spring / lever with an X-acto knife.  It works easier now, but still offers more resistance than preferred. 

UPDATE- Cygolite has responded to the mounting issue http://www.cygolite.com/products/new/Expilion/exp_brackets.html

Here's where to look at more detailed specs: 

MSRP is $ 139.99 - shop around some and you can find it for $20 less.  I happen to know this bike shop..  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It came through.

In 1978 after a lifetime of being carted around in VW beetles that my dad would patch up, our family acquired our first ever new car:  A Ford Fiesta.  Not just any Ford Fiesta, but a bright orange "S" model.  That'd be the sport version for those not-in-the-know.  The Fiesta was designed by the same fellow who introduced the world to the VW Rabbit - thusly it had some Euro pedigree in the form of excellent handling and phenomenal fuel mileage.  I ask the fuel addicted automotive world again:  DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THE SEVENTIES??  It was a quick car at the time due to weighing nearly as much as a modern day...  You know, I don't think anyone makes cars that light and dangerous anymore.

The point of this?  At the time I was overwhelmed by the turn of events.  I had never dreamed it possible that our family could purchase such a beautiful new car.  The first few days it sat in the driveway I'd just stare at it in amazement. 

Now, I'm not suggesting sponsorship is quite on the level of a new car to an impressionable 8 year old - but I still have a bit of doubt that what I have chanced upon is real.  Quite like the Fiesta I am over-dramatizing an everyday occurence.  But for now, I'll take it further than necessary.

Here's my first official plug - I'm rolling with these guys: http://www.bikeman.com/  Here's to 2011!  Fact is,  I have been a bikeman the whole time.  Just ask the girls who I pass cutting through the soccer field on the way home.  "Hey.. bikeman..." Yeah, that's me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

OMG! I'm like almost sponsored.

On Friday afternoon I received an emailed sponsorship offer from *the only* bike team I had been interested in.  I won't divulge the team quite yet as the whole thing could backfire.  Let's just say they're a bike shop from New England, they've been around for awhile and they're wicked smaht... in terms of utilizing the internet to it's fullest.  During the Hampshire 100 (a race I have yet to post about - among  many others that deserve mention) I rode behind one of their team members for awhile and even announced out loud to my favorite rival who I was pacing with that I was interested in joining that team.  The rider overheard me (oh good, it worked) and said it wasn't too hard to hook up with them.  Most excellent I thoughts to myself!

Part of the requirement (a big part) is to bolster internet marketing by offering reports - whether they be from racing, general riding or bike tech.  Additionally, one must offer a short bio and photo for the team page.  In turn, one recieves a very nice discount on general merchandise - an intial team kit below cost and of course above all, gets that much closer to being a "real" race dude.

Most of the racer bio's have a picture of the rider in racer attire looking pretty gnar.  The team manager made it clear, that it was not necessary to be decked out in the team kit with your bike for the photo.  For me, that was a  green light to mix things up and maybe even be a touch competive.  You see, day after day, I am trounced by super dads hamming it up with their kids eliciting oohs and ahhs from ladies.  It's my turn bitches. 

Here is one of the resultant shots from todays photo-shoot.  Ladies out there - try not to be overwhelmed with your emotions or desire.  I know I am working with immense power here, if things get out of hand remind yourself that most of us are competive jerks at the core.

To the men out there: Yeah that's right.  You've been pwnd pal.  By a dad hauling ass with his kid on a dangerously ill constructed pedicab.  I did make sure that it has two brakes - just in case one lets loose.  So maybe, just maybe I'm not all bad.