Saturday, December 29, 2012

Premium Rush not either

Premium Rush. It's a movie that features bicycles, so what's not to like? In my case, almost everything.

A friend loaned it to me thinking I'd enjoy it. I admit I was a bit worried, having seen the trailer, but thought "What the heck."

This movie pretty much exemplifies almost everything I hate in movies. Let me start with the concept of social responsibility. The bicycle riders in the film, who are the heroes, display no concern for anyone but themselves, and they're proud of it. They consistently behave like jerks when they ride. That might be an important part of telling an interesting story, but it isn't, it's just an excuse to have them ride in an "exciting" way. So either people will imitate them and get injured or killed (creating who knows how much grief for the blameless car driver who hits them) or it will pretty much influence car drivers to believe that all cyclists are crazy and get what they have coming when they are plowed into. In any event, the way they treat their fellow road and sidewalk users is unconscionable. Imagine how you'd feel if your loved one was on the receiving end of their hijinks.

Even though they're the good guys on a mission, they are completely unlikeable and I hope never to have to deal with people like them them in the real world.

As if that isn't enough, it isn't even shot well. The scenes with riders' faces as they pedal look as real as 1960s bad TV. The light on the faces doesn't come close to matching the background. Did they take lessons from McHales Navy or something? And what's with the fixie vs geared bike race? Really? They didn't even try.

This film is just an excuse for a near endless Disney-like chase scene that goes nowhere and becomes tiresome very quickly.

But the biggest failure is that the characters are so flat that I don't really care if they succeed in their implausible goal anyway. It's as if the writers went to the stock character book and plucked out a few. The bad cop with a gambling problem, the troubled misunderstood law school grad, several "inscrutable orientals" left over from racist Charlie Chan movies and a (once she sees the light) stand-by-your-man girlfriend.

Just to be fair, the graphics when our cyclist approaches an intersection and imagines what might happen if he takes different routes look great and are very creative. And several females have commented on the attractiveness of  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I'll have to take their word for it.

 Executive summary: Bad bike stuff, no character development, (OK, no characters to even develop,) annoyingly amateurish filming, and zero social consciousness.

My recommendation: Rent or buy Breaking Away again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jenny Oh, my new hero

I while ago I saw a post and share on a friends Facebook feed concerning bike theft. I made a snarky comment pretending I thought the poster was offering suggestions on how to steal bikes. Instead of a cheap shot back I got a nice reply and a friend request from the author Jenny Oh. It turns out she is on a mission. A mission to stop bike theft and reunite people with their stolen bikes.

I asked her just what her story was, and if I could write her here. She wrote back, and even told me I could link to her Facebook page where she posts stolen bike photos she's hoping might be seen.

This past summer, my Ibis MTB was stolen. It was recovered by alerting the cycling community through social media, email, forums and other means. I wanted to give back to the cycling community by passing along the knowledge I gained through its recovery, as it seems many folks don't know what to do when a theft occurs. I'd also like to help crackdown on the problem overall. 
 I think she's me new hero. While I never want anyones bike stolen, if it is I hope I see it on her page and again in real life to I can be part of her recovery hero team. She's in SF, and concentrates her efforts there, but sometimes spills over into the greater region.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garmin 305 vs 500

garmin 500 with BarFly
My Garmin Edge 305 cycling GPS thingy has been having some odd behavioral issues lately. More importantly, all the cool kids have Garmin 500s, so clearly exploring (read "buying") the newer model is in order.

My 305 seems to crash regularly when I try to upload to Strava, and the battery occasionally goes dead when I think I've charged it . When I ride with the 500 crowd my climbing figures are always higher. A lot higher. All this, plus promised longer-life battery charges, faster boot up time, lighter weight (OK, that really didn't matter,) temperature recording (is that cool or what?) and a big sale at finely pushed me over the edge (Garmin Edge 305, Garmin Edge 500, get it?) Plus, I can use my existing heart rate strap and cadence sensor. And, when I get a Power Tap power meter from Santa or some local charity (hint hint) it will handle the ANT+ signal from that and display it. Sure, I'll never really have a Power Tap, but just in case.... Anyway, I bought the 500.

I was also happy to discover that the mounting system for the 500 could be replaced by a nifty third-party item called a "Bar Fly" that puts the unit out in front of the handlebars and is just way cool. I was less happy when I found out it cost almost $40. I got all happy again when I found one on eBay for $19, which seemed like a fair price for something that should only cost $6 in a more reasonable world.

When I unboxed the Gramin and started setting it up, going through the endless beep-beep-beep of pushing tiny buttons a zillion times to navigate through myriad screens I discovered an oddity. On my old 305 I could set my maximum heart rate right on the unit with those annoying buttons. With the 500 I had to use Garmin Connect, their online tool for logging rides. Naturally this entailed downloading updated versions of Garmin Connect and Garmin Web Updater to my Mac, then creating a (thankfully) free account for a service I'll never use, plugging in the numbers on a web page then downloading the info to the unit.  In the end it worked, (I think) but what a pain.

Another issue I know I'll have to face is that of a battery extender. My 305 runs about 8 hours, which works for most rides. But double centuries at my speed need more that a 8 hour window. I bought a Minty Boost external battery pack (blog entry on the Minty Boost) and have been very happy with it. With a couple of high-end AA batteries in it I can get through a 19 hour ride with power to spare.

Apparently the Garmin 500 has some weird "feature" that causes it to drop out of it's functioning GPS mode and into a charge-only mode when connected an external power pack. Endless searching on the web suggests that adding a resistor between specific pins of the USB charging cable solves this problem, but that level of electronic and soldering magic is beyond my meager skills. There are third-party battery packs, but the descriptions are annoyingly vague on whether they will power, or merely charge a Garmin 500.

Fortunately, the 500 has a claimed 18 hour battery life, so I won't need anything extra unless I attempt another double, which wouldn't be any time soon anyway.

After waiting out the weather and finally getting a ride in I discovered the BarFly is flippin' great. I holds the computer out in front of the bars where it's a lot easier to see. Plus, it just looks totally cool. I'm really glad I got it.

The Garmin 500 seems to have a couple of key differences from my 305.

  1. It records elevation gain lower than the 305. Really, it may be right, or not. Elevation gain is really a philosophical issue as much as a physical issue. What counts? Every bump, or vibration, or only changes of more than 6 inches? Or a foot? Or three feet? It relates to the age old question: How long is the coast of Britain? I'm not sure but I know at least my numbers will match all my Garmin 500 friends, even though my stats will be lower than with my 305.
  2. It records temperature. It responds slowly, and I know 500 units set next to each other read differently, but it's something fun to look at.
  3. It transfers data a zillion times faster. At first I thought it didn't transfer. It was so fast I didn't see progress. I thought it didn't work, but no, it was so fast I didn't see it happen.  I'm good with that. The 305 sometimes seemed like it would never finish.
I haven't tried setting the screens to page by yet, and I haven't tried "courses," which claims to provide some sort of minimal navigation help. I'll test these features sometimes when the weather is less wet. As they say on TV, "Film at 11:00."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Three cycling books

I'm a reader. Not just blogs, but actual real life dead tree books. I even spend my own money on them. I've recently purchased three very different books about cycling.

Cycling Science by Max Glaskin is a book, that, were it larger would seem like a coffee table book. It's very cleanly designed with interesting graphics and a lot of white space. Each subject is exactly two facing pages long, no matter how complicated or simple it is. You get a header, a snappy lead in, a graphic or two and a short explanation. Nothing goes into a ton of depth, but that makes for an easy breezy read. It could work as a cyclist's bathroom reader.  It's pretty much footnote and citation free, so who knows where these facts come from.
Edit: It seems I missed the 150-odd citations detailed in five pages at the back of the book. I guess that's why I'm not a professional book reviewer. 
I enjoyed this book, but there wasn't much new in it for me. But then I'm an old guy and a compulsive reader who's been reading stuff like this forever. 
The author says he's continuing to gather new material about cycling scence, tweeting daily about it as @cyclinscence1 and beginning to blog at Cool! I know I'll be adding it to my RSS reader.

Cyclepedia by Michael Embacher: I found this at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It's a collection of beautifully shot photos presented in no particular order. I'm guessing, but I think it originated in Germany and was translated for the American market. Most of the bikes are in the author's collection, so this is really a work of love. Many of the bikes are unusual European historical models I've never heard of, which makes it a lot of fun. The photographs are extremely well done. I've enjoyed just picking it up, randomly choosing a page and oogling a bike.

The Secret Race. If you love cycling, Tyler Hamilton's story will break your heart. Hamilton is hard on Lance Armstrong, but just as hard on himself. It provides a look inside the Armstrong doping years in more detail than you may be able to handle. This whole book has a painful ring of sad truth, but it's well written and fascinating, perhaps like a brilliantly written description of a train wreck. I'm glad I read it, and in many ways I enjoyed it. But it left me very sad for Hamilton and cycling.