Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle...bollocks.

Snow. Snow snow snow SNOW! I'm sick of the snow.

12 inches of the white powdery stuff makes it nigh on impossible to plan for a new year's ride (although my typical schtick of crashing and hurting myself would be significantly damped by a mantle of white padding) and pretty much restricts life to the trainer. Blargh. Although, there are some reasons to consider the trainer at this point in the year:

1: I've GOT to get rid of some excess holiday inches. I'd like to really cut the fat this year, so to speak. Since I'll be starting my job somewhere in the middle of January, I'll have to really make the most of the little bit of training time I'll have.

2: I need to relieve some stress, and that's a pretty solid way to do it.

3: May marks the return of the William's Lake mountain bike race. Not that I'm even expecting to come close to winning it, but I'd love to at least be in somewhat good shape at that point in the year.

4: What the hell else will I do with all this time off?

So that's about the half of it. Work, moving (we did finally find a house to move into, and it's a beauty) and the eternal struggle to pedal. What a life, eh?

Oh, and yes. The photos on the best of the year post are awful. Next time, I'll make sure to hunt for .jpgs instead of .gifs. Pieces of junk...

Monday, December 8, 2008

The best gear of the year...

(or, what to stick in your bike lover's stocking?)

So, as an editor of Mountain Bike Tales (mountainbiketales.com) I get a lot of opportunity to see the best and the worst of products out there. So, being the holidays, it's time to come up with a couple things that I would classify as standout performers in 2008. Without further ado:

Best of season, 2008:
SRAM X.0 Drivetrain (Front and rear shifters, rear derailleur - ~$450)

Again, it comes down to the most important parts of the bike to fill in my best of the season slot. I'll be accused of being a fan boy, and that may be. I've been there with Shimano's drivetrain parts, but the simple fact remains that they are more labor intensive than SRAM's gear. Shimano even copied the SRAM design when they introduced the Shadow derailleur, so that has to say something, right?

Why do I perennially pick SRAM drivetrain parts as my best of the season? Because they just don't fail me. I've racked up a lot of miles on those parts this season, and they've taken a load of abuse (crashes are a way of life for me, and all these east coast hazards don't help any) through they year and still just keep on ticking. There's something grossly satisfying about not having to replace parts every season, and never having shifting problems. Best...of...season. Period.

Most underappreciated item of 2008:
Jagwire RipCord derailleur cable kit (multiple colours ~$30)

Me. No, really. Me. Or cables. Yeah, that's it. Nobody thinks cables are such a big deal, but when something comes along that keeps your shifting smooth for a full year without being touched, then it's something worth mentioning. Sure, cables do need replacing, but only just. Dirt, grime and crap just DON'T get into the Jagwire sealed systems, which is awesome for us east coast riders. For the $30 spent, not only does my bike look kick-ass, it now shifts perfect in every condition I can imagine.

Most frivolous but cool bike part in general for 2008:
Spank Lock On Grips (Chocolate, White or Black, ~$25)

Yeah, there's only so much to say about something like a pair of grips. (In this case) they're mocha/chocolate in colour, they have gold clamps, and they stay locked down on the bar through the most gruesome conditions. What more can you ask, except for a pair in your stocking?

Best "technogeek approved" item of 2008:
Garmin Edge 305 with Heart Rate Monitor and Cadence Sensor (~$275)

Who doesn't like to know their heart rate, cadence, average grade, current speed, lap speed, and even sunset time with a glance at their handlebars? Well, the old coots that rode with toe clips and straps may not approve, but those of us who know where the 'on' button is on the front of a PC will love this. Pair this gizmo with Sport Tracks training software and you're set to get a wealth of very usable information that will keep your training right on track throughout the season. It's amazingly handy to have a breadcrumb trail map (for full GPS navigation, consider the 705, but double the price, at least) should you get lost and need to return to square one. It's probably one of the most expensive bike computers out there, but to the right person, it's worth it's weight in gold.

Best "My Ass Doesn't Hurt" gear of 2008:
Tossup: AssMaster Chamois Cream and Gore Bike Wear Contest Shorts (~$10 and ~$85)

The AssMaster goes on your ass, and the Contest shorts pad that oiled rear end. Gore's shorts come in the bib and shorts variety (I prefer the bibs) and have an amazingly non-intrusive chamois. It doesn't feel like you're wearing a diaper and it provides cushioning in just the right places to keep you comfy over multiple hours in the saddle. And with a price under $100, you can't really go wrong. Unless of course, you prefer the baggy look to the roadie-weenie lycra look. In that case, buy them anyway and put baggies over them. You'll love me for it.

Best Safety Gear of 2008:
Uvex XP100 helmet (~$95)

With so many vents, it's cooler than a lot of road helmets and has the full coverage of a skate helmet. It's stupidly light and has a nifty-as-all-hell buckle/release system that I just love. Thankfully, I've not had to test its crash durability, but I can say for a fact that this baby is comfy and reassuring like an young lady's bed on a cold night. If you're a drunk college kid anyway...

"Most confusing parts catalog on the planet" of 2008:

Really...what the hell? How many axle assemblies can you really HAVE? And how many times do you have to send me the wrong one before I find the correct model? Really...what the hell...

Well, that's it for another year. What can I say? It's been fun, it's been a wonderful ride, and now it's a ride that goes nowhere with the emergence of the trainer (who wants to ride in snow?) That being said, keep the rubber side down, and we'll see how these things shape up for 2009.

It was the best of the year, it was the worst of the year...

Well, it's almost that time again...

The worst of the year? Well, it has to be the significant down-turn in the economy that has put the squeeze on the wallet and everyone's spirits. 10-20% increases in all things bike related are definitely a killer, but what can you do? Luckily, there hasn't been any major breakages of anything horribly expensive since the downturn. Thankfully.

The best of the year? I've finally managed to get myself out of school and have my doctorate hanging on my wall. How nice is that?

Ok, so what does this post have to do with cycling of any kind? Nothing really, but I'll say that after treating a number of cyclists through my clinic experiences, it's definitely changed my view of things. It's so nice to be able to be relatively pain free and able to ride when I get the itch. There's so many of us out there that jsut have so much trouble doing what we love, riding a bike, that it makes me glad I'm able to put cleats to pedals and move forward. Cheers to that.

Coming soon, my picks of best gear of the year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Welcome to December...

So it's been more than a month since my last update. Let me explain why...

I don't usually talk much about my personal life here, but this time I think it's relevant. I've spent the last 3.3333 (ad nauseum) years in a frozen wasteland known as Seneca Falls, NY. I've been spending most of my time attending New York Chiropractic College, working towards a doctorate degree. As of 11/24, I officially finished up and graduated as a Doctor of Chiropractic. All the final things I needed to do, job interviews, resume work, etc etc are all behind me. Now I need to seal the deal on a position and then I'll be set to move and start a new phase in life.

That being said, I've been doing little riding lately. I seem to have some kind of cold induced asthma (which can only be diagnosed after a ride in the cold, which it WON'T go down below 30 degrees here for me to do that) that has limited me outside. I've been riding the trainer while watching Giro d'Italia reels on cycling.tv, but that can only do so much.

Maybe some cross training. Yeah, that's it.

I'll be back later with my thoughts on the best gizmos of the year, for all you Mountain Bike Tales readers.