Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I've Seen The Future:: Shimano's Dura-Ace Electronic Di2 Groupset

I stopped by the local bike shop this afternoon, to replace a lost spoke wrench of all things, and I find the shop's mechanics drooling over a Fuji outfitted with Shimano’s new Dura-Ace Di2 electronically-controlled shifting system. I've read about this groupset in all the bike magazines, and though I consider myself somewhat of a Luddite when it comes to new bike technology, I was still excited to see how it worked in person. New bike shit is still cool. The sales rep offered to let me take it for a spin so I jumped at the chance. I'm not going to offer a full on review, I was only on the bike for 2-3 minutes, but the first thing I noticed is how quiet the whole system was. The shifting really is seamless, no chain rub, over-shifts, or other typical derailleur issues that you would expect with a mechanical system. The front derailleur is only slightly larger than a traditional one, and the rear looks the same. The shift levers are mere switches, hidden behind the brake levers, and shifting is as easy as clicking the button. The feeling is like clicking a mouse on your laptop, it's that easy. The lithium-ion battery mounts on the frame below the water bottle cages, and I was told it is rated at 600 to 700 charges, and should hold a charge for up to 1500 miles. Now, like I said earlier, I've been accused of being a retro-grouch when it comes to bikes. Both of my road bikes are steel, and I've ridden a fully rigid mountain bike up until last Fall. I don't see myself switching over to electronic shifting anytime soon, especially once the rep told me the groupset would be selling for $4500! Come on now, if I have that much cash to blow on a bike (which I don't!), I'm getting a new Ti Moots with Campy Super Record. It was still very cool to test out something so new, and it will be interesting to see the trickle-down technology over the next few years.

Listening to: Led Zeppelin- "BBC Sessions"

Monday, April 20, 2009

1o Things to Do Before I Die (Revisited)

I love lists. One of my very first posts listed ten things I felt like I wanted to accomplish before my time was up. My life hasn't changed much in four years, I'm still living in the same house and teaching 5th grade, but I thought it was time to revisit and possibly update the list.

Here's the original from 2005:

Below is a list of ten things I want to do before I die, in no particular order.
  1. Travel to Cuba.
  2. Build a house.
  3. Kayak the entire length of the Columbia River.
  4. Really learn to play the guitar, not just the 3 chords I know now.
  5. Surf in Hawaii.
  6. Attend Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
  7. Work at a winery.
  8. Spend a month without seeing or speaking to another person.
  9. See my kids graduate from college.
  10. Retire in Hood River, Oregon.

And here's the new list:
  1. Travel to Cuba.
  2. Build a boat.
  3. Bicycle across the northern United States.
  4. Learn to sail (I've done some sailing, but would not feel confident with others on board).
  5. Hike in Patagonia.
  6. Live off the grid in Maine with my family for a summer.
  7. Work at a bike shop.
  8. Have something I've written be published.
  9. See my kids graduate from college.
  10. Retire in Bend, Oregon (more sunny days than Hood River).

Friday, April 10, 2009

CCY Junior Cycling

I recently read somewhere that junior development makes up something like 3% of the membership in USA Cycling. That is sad to me, we need more younger riders to keep the sport going. I grew up in Eastern Washington and started racing mountain bikes back in the mid-1980's when I was still in middle school. I won the first race I entered because I was the only one in my age category. My parents drove me to the races, and I remember borrowing a helmet from one of my teachers because it was required to race and I didn't own one myself. I would have given anything to have a local junior development team to steer me in the right direction, but nothing like that existed in my hometown. Last year I stumbled across RJ's blog, An Adventure Called Bicycling, and have been checking in almost every day to see what kind of shenanagins she is up to. Besides spreading the Xtracycle love, RJ also coaches the CCY Junior Cycling Team in Walla Walla, Washington, which is less than 60 minutes from where I grew up. Walla Walla is a beautiful little town, tons of great wineries, and plenty of riding to be had. Check out this video of the CCY team, makes me miss the Palouse hills, and the look on the rider's faces says it all. Good stuff.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Commuting Record, and Mountain Bike Envy

I almost didn't ride to work today, was running late, and it was a bit chilly, but boy am I glad I did. From the moment I left the driveway I had that feeling, you know the one, when you just know it is going to be a good ride. Everything seemed perfect, the sun was low over the ocean, not much traffic on the roads yet, and I knew in the first mile that I had the wind in my favor (this never happens), so I decided to try and break my commuting record of 25 minutes (set last Fall). I usually don't push it in the morning, but I just put my head down and hammered it the entire 6.5 miles. When I reached the doors of work I hit the mode button on my computer and it read 22:06 minutes! Now I have to break the 20 minute mark, but I can't imagine that happening anytime soon. Oh the little things in life.

In other news, I have been trying to get out on the mountain bike whenever I can. Last Fall I borrowed a used Devinci Moonracer from the owner of my LBS, and he seems in no hurry to get it back, but I know eventually he will ask for it back. I could probably buy it from him for short money, and the full suspension is pretty sweet, but I think I really want a hardtail. I've been checking craigslist for a lightly used Stumpjumper or something similar, but I know if I brought home another bike right now I'd be sleeping outside for a long time coming. I had a titanium mountain bike back in the early '90s and loved it, but sadly it was a tad small, I replaced it with a '94 Stumpjumper (which I just sold last September). I'd love to have another Ti bike someday. While cruising around the net tonight I came across Carver Bikes. Have you seen these bikes? The owner, Dave, lives in China with his wife, and builds Ti frames starting at, get this, $1,000! Please don't tell him that he could easily sell his frames for much more, at least not until I get my hands on one of his 29'er frames. That isn't happening anytime soon, but it sure is fun to think about it.

Listening to: NPR- All Songs Considered Podcast