Archive for the cycling Category

Project Neglected for Bikes, Snowboarding

Posted in Auto Articles, cycling, General News, snowboarding with tags , , on November 15, 2009 by consortiumoffools

bike-headliner

Winter is arriving and my priorities are changing. This summer has been all about road cycling and mountain biking. I’m still going to continue to get out there on my bikes as much as possible, but it’s snowboarding season. To start the season off right, I bought a snowboard. It’s the last piece of the puzzle in my winter equipment line up. I hadn’t purchased a new snowboard since 2002, and that was my first. This board is much lighter and smaller, so I foresee more tricks in my riding career. With much of my summer money gone to bicycle maintenance and the allotment of my winter funds to lift tickets, there isn’t much left for the cars. I use the plural because it’s not just the project car Subaru that’s a money suck, my daily driver needs care too.

In order to ride mountain bikes or snowboard, I have to load up the gear, fill the car with gas and drive to the mountains. At first this seemed like an acceptable sacrifice for me. In fact, it’s still viable based on how much fun I have once I get there. But little did I realize how much of my project car money would be spent on the Focus. The most recent example is the set of snow tires I’m getting for the upcoming season. My summer tires have little grip in the wet, plus I’m planning several trips to Denver. I don’t want to spend the money on new tires, but it’s a must if I want to go snowboarding. Tires aren’t the only expense. I’ve also been changing the synthetic oil every 5,000 miles or so. The car has 113,000 miles on it, so larger items are prone to give out. So far I’ve replaced the timing belt, water pump, clutch, plugs, wires, shocks, brakes– all of the major wear items. The most obvious expense is the gas each trip requires. A less obvious expense is the wear over time, like the interior damage that snowboards and bikes incur when shoved into the hatch.

This past summer I solved the problem of where to put gear without damaging my interior while providing more passenger room: I bought a roof rack! I also bought the mounts for 4 snowboards and 2 bikes. Now I can just throw the muddy bikes and the wet snowboards right on the top of the car. It was $550 for the rack and all the mounts. Unfortunately, that’s $550 taken away from rebuilding my 2009 IHI VF48 Subaru STi turbocharger.

The intake manifolds with no soul and no purpose lay on the concrete bed that is the garage floor. A whole turbo farm, made up of TD04s with blown seals, sits dormant in its cardboard cage. Several injectors, all of them too small and all of them of questionable working order, sit on shelves. I open the garage all the time and see these sad forgotten car parts. Then I take a bike out and shut the door, forgetting all about the neglected Subaru museum.

Parallel Lives: Bikes and Cars

Posted in Auto Articles, cycling with tags , , , on February 18, 2009 by consortiumoffools

Cyclists and drivers do not need to be enemies. It is true that both piss each other off on a regular basis. Bicyclists disobey red lights, ride side-by-side in the street and think the road was designed solely for them. Car drivers disobey red lights, drive way too fast and think the road was designed solely for them. These differences are really similarities.

Each operator considers himself the most important person on the road. I know I do. When I’m driving, pedestrians and cyclists annoy me. When I bike, cars become individual icons of death at every intersection.

Bicycles and automobiles can live amongst each other, if only each demographic understood that both sports are similar.

Bikes and cars share many parallels. Both can be raced, taken off-road, modified, spent too much money on, and enjoyed. Beading a tire is the same principal in both. Both can be used for commuting to work. Both are fun forms of transportation. In each sport, racing technology trickles down to consumers.  The front fork on a mountain bike resembles the shocks found on cars. Both carry the same duties of absorbing impact from the surface of the earth.

My favorite parallel is the specialization of bikes and cars. Each can be built for specific purposes. But the trouble starts when a machine takes on too many responsibilities.

In both worlds, a mixture of specialized features equals a ride that attempts to be everything to everyone, and successfully useless at any individual task. Take for instance a hybrid bicycle like the Giant Expedition. It’s too heavy to go as fast as a road bike. It has no suspension, so it cannot be taken into the mountains and keep the rider comfortable. It has racks and lights, so it’s almost a commuter bike, but again, too heavy and sloppy.

The car counterpart of the hybrid bicycle is the small SUV. A small SUV, like the Ford Escape, was designed for multiple purposes. It has four doors, a rear cargo area, more ground clearance than a car, and an optional all-wheel drive system. It looks like it could go on some mountain trails, until you take a peek at the suspension components. The rear independent suspension, allows each rear wheel to move in separate vertical directions from the other one. This sounds like it would be good for off-roading, but it is not. It is weaker and provides less ground clearance. The four doors are great for a family, but not as practical for a single person. Sure he can truck around his buddies, but so can a van. The Escape is also not as fast and agile as a smaller car.

Both of these sound like a great buy: “One machine for all of my needs? Awesome.” But the reality is that while they each perform basic tasks well enough, as soon as you encounter a specific situation, the machine becomes worthless. In these examples, the off-roading aspect is their the greatest shortcoming. A Specialized Stumpjumper and a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are the step above. Each was designed specifically for off-road applications. Huge shocks, fully suspended and burly; these two will get the job done. But ride them on the street and you immediately see the need for a road-only bike or car.

The best of both worlds is a garage full of equipment designed for specific purposes. A mountain bike for the mountains, a track bike for the velodromes, and a road bike for the roads. You’d also need a Jeep for the mountains, a turbo AWD Legacy for the track, and a Ford Focus for the streets. Damn, this is getting expensive. Now we see the shortcoming of specialization.

Bicycles: Necessity versus Commodity

Posted in cycling with tags , , , on November 7, 2008 by consortiumoffools

bike-lane-sm

So cycling has become a rather trendy activity, and like every other trend, Albuquerque is a few years on the up-take.  We’ve just got some new bike lanes (driven up Coal or down Lead in Nob Hill lately?) and a revitalized spirit of greenosity.  Greenosity being the subscription to, and advocacy of, environmentally friendly ideas, but not really following through with them. (i.e., buying some reusable grocery bags then forgetting them at home).

But back on topic- bicycles.

There are two major categories that all cyclists fall into.  The first is called the “necessity” group.  They ride their bikes because they have to.  Sometimes they’re homeless and they traded a fellow house-less comrade a 40 ounce Steel Reserve and an Army t-shirt for a basic bike.  Other times the necessity cyclists are working-class stiffs who just need a mode of transportation and lack a car.  These people ride their bikes for transportation and because they have no other choice.  Which brings us to our second major category of bicyclists, the commodity cyclists.

These guys are the ones who have a car or two, but find enjoyment in riding their bikes.  They range from your average spandex-clad over-accessorized road racing individual, to the weekend adventurist mountain biker, to the around-town fixter.  These people could drive, but this is their hobby.  They’re in it to grab life by the handle bars… at their convenience.  They enjoy the fresh breeze from time-to-time, but when the temperature drops below 40, they cruise the Volvo.

Now, when you see a person on a bicycle you may wonder which category he or she fits into.  Some tell-all signs of a necessity cyclist are; riding on the sidewalk, pulling a little trailer full of everything he owns; wearing his work uniform, and not trying to look cool- he’s just biking to work.  The exact opposite is true of the commodity cyclists; they only ride in the road, as if it were designed specifically for them.  If they have a little trailer it undoubtedly has their future cyclist child inside.  The commodity cyclists clip into their pedals.  The commodity cyclists wear a uniform as well, but it’s a uniform determined by style.  The road racers have their spandex jerseys and the fixters have their expensive tight clothes and wear locomotive engineer caps.

The sub-genres of cyclists are arguable, but the two main categories hold true.  Sometimes there are border-line cyclists such as biking hippes, in which case it’s difficult to determine if they are a commodity or a necessity.  If you are ever unsure, just ask yourself; is this guy’s bike a mode of transportation or an accessory?