Friday, December 03, 2004

Commuter (part II)

(if you haven't already, please read this post first)


After a bit of looking around, I found all the parts, plus an excellent (especially for the price) no-name toolkit for around 150 USD. The finished product is a not-too heavy bike with all that is necessary to commute--rain or shine. I only have one chainring in front (a 32) and an 8-speed in back with a SunTour thumbshifter doing all the work. After a little debate, I went ahead and put on both front and rear linear-pull brakes. Coincidentally, I was able to get all my parts in matte black. Because the frame also has a matte finish (and no branding whatsoever), it lends something to the overall bike. (I will attach photos later.)

I've only really had one problem: My chain will sometimes come off my single chainring when I am at the extreme cogs in the back. I am thinking I need some sort of guide, but I don't want to spend any more money. Any suggestions?

Now, the main problem I have with my commuter is I'm a big wimp. Lately, the highs have been around 28 degrees and more like 14 degrees when I ride in to work. Consequently, I haven't riden all that much. That's turning out to be a much larger hurdle than getting all the parts.

Speaking of parts, I'll try and get a list posted later for those who might be interested (at least, in the non-generic parts).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Turbo = True

In Firefox, there are numerous settings that aren't available in the options dialog. All of them, however, can be changes by typing about:config in the address bar of the browser.

Here's something that I found recently in the about:config (actually, a few things). The first is reminiscent of the old turbo buttons on PCs back in the day.


this defaults to false, so I set mine to true. I have no idea what this does because I also changed these values to true:


I read somewhere that it makes a speed difference, but I was actually amazed. I mean, everyone says that Firefox is faster than IE, but sometimes it is hard to tell. With these set to true, I've done tests giving IE a head start and Firefox wins every time. So, go turn your turbo on.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Program I Wanted to Love.

I love Mozilla Firefox. It is my default browser. It is simple, fast, and very clean. It does everything I would want a browser to do. Naturally, I wanted to switch from using Outlook Express to Thunderbird, the instant I saw it available. I believe that was around v0.4. Unfortunately, however, I can't use Thunderbird. It isn't for a lack of trying, either. I have installed/un-installed that program about half a dozen times or more.

Here's typically how it goes: I install it. I take the time to set everything up with all my POP accounts. I get excited about the junk mail filter. I start to use it for my daily emails. I hate it. I uninstall it and go back to <gasp!> Outlook Express.

There are those reading this that might call me a Microsoft lover. I am not. I am, however, not afraid to admit that sometimes Microsoft does it better than anyone else. Now, don't get me wrong, Outlook Express is limited, and it frustrates me. However, there are certain things that I can't live with in Thunderbird.

1) What is wrong with the fonts? I can't set up the fonts correctly. Out of the box, it seems to look okay, and I'm fine with Arial. Then I notice something: Why is the font I type in the reply bigger than the font in the message? That is, if it is plain text, and the size is set the same, why in the world are the fonts different sizes?! Also, why is 13 tiny? For some reason, Thunderbird seems to render the fonts much smaller than all my other programs.

2) Okay, that's really the big one. Call me a whiner if you will. I mean, it doesn't seem as clean as Firefox does, but that's pretty ambiguous. I've never liked the huge "to:" line in the compose window (which has been the same since the early days of Netscape). I don't like the way it doesn't, by default, let you just choose a font and size during compose. ...

In the end, it is a great program, but there are enough little things that bug me about it, that I'm not compelled to move over from Outlook Express. In the future, with each successivebuild, I'll probably give it a try. I really enjoy trying new programs. I'm skeptical, however, that the Thunderbird team is looking to change the UI much. I did want to love Thunderbird, though.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


A number of years ago, while working at this same company, word got out about my attraction to bicycles. (I have no idea how... its not as if I ever talk about bikes.) Anyway, I met a woman who told me about some "expensive frame made out of a funky material like titanium or something" that she had possession of. It turns out that while doing PR for a local cycling start-up, she came to have this frame for some campaign or something. Low and behold, the company went belly-up. After a few attempts at contacting the owners so she could return the frame, she gave up. Because she had no desire to hold on to a frame--not being a cyclist, herself--she offered to sell it to me.

I found out, through some detective work, that the frame was made of Magnesium, and was a mountain bike hardtail frame. (At the time, expensive hardtails were still prevelant.) The name was Keef. I also found out that they really were just importing the frames from a Russian manufacturer. Low and behold, there was another company that picked up sales where Keef left off. I believe they were called Salt City Cycles (based out of Salt Lake City, Utah). I say "were", because they, too, have gone away. Anywho, I didn't have much money at the time--just like now--so I offered her $50. I also, to be fair and honest, told her that it was worth much more (like $500), so she was free to decline. Much to my surprise and satisfaction, she accepted. Of course, I didn't have money or parts to build up a high-end hardtail then, so it sat and collected dust.

Fast forward until today. I now own a nice full suspension mountain bike. I don't have much desire to ride a hardtail anymore, so I have all but forgotten about the magnesium frame.

Then, all at once (well, based largly on my brother's tremendous commuting record this season), I decided to see how cheaply I could build it up to be a commuter. Since I first purchased that frame, I have cycled through some parts, so I knew I had a wheelset, cranks, and many other items that I could slap on the frame. If I used it only for commuting (where I'd have to park it outside), I would want the quality of parts to be low enough not to worry about it being stolen while at my day job. So, I got online and started pricing things...

To Be Continued...

Part II
Photo 1
Photo 2

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Standings, So Far...

New pack with Non-Camelbak bite-valve: 4
Me: 0

I have not been on a single ride yet with this pack that didn't result in a wet face.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Ride in the Dark

This morning I woke up early and headed out to one of my favorite trails. I got there around 6:20-ish, and it was still dark. Pitch-dark. My only light source was my Cabeza Logic (reviewed here) set at low beam (6 W). (I wanted to conserve battery in case the sun didn't come up--I try to be prepared.) There was a slight drizzle... it was cold.

To further paint the picture, a few weeks ago someone showed me a picture taken of a cougar walking right behind a deer--unbeknownst to the deer. That kind of thing creeps me out when I'm riding alone up in the mountains in the dark.

Anyway, all was still, and it looked like the sun, in fact, would rise, so I knew I could count on at least being able to see what would be eating me in a few minutes time. Other than getting a wet face (see my previous post: "CamelBak and Wet Faces."), I felt pretty good.

I continued up the trail without any mishaps, and I was beginning to get my confidence. "There aren't any ferocious animals out this time of the morning," I told myself. "Besides, I'm feeling pretty good, I could outrun it--on the downhill anyway."

Right about the time when it was almost light enough that I could get away with turning off my light (but I left it on just in case--and because if there were drunk hunters out on the mountains (apologies to those hunters who don't get drunk and wander around shooting things), they might not believe I'm a deer with a flashlight and spare me), I decided to turn around.

On this particular trail, the trees are fairly dense (for Utah, anyway), and there isn't much view on the uphill part. Once turned around, you get to view the valley from which you rode. It was a beautiful view, also. The leaves are changing, and the sun was just starting to light up the sky. Breathtaking, really.

Here's something else that is breathtaking: As I turned around and gazed out at the wonder of it all, I heard a sound. Not just any normal sound like the rustling of leaves, or a bird in the trees. No, this sounded like a combination of wings flapping and a low growl. Yes, a growl.

Instantly in my mind, I pictured a bird flying away from a growling 300 lb mountain lion. Not trusting my ears, I turned around and searched through the low-light of the dawn for a crouching cougar. After not seeing one, I realized that I probably wouldn't see it so it was high time to get out of there.

I almost wish I had more of the story to tell. I don't. It would have made a great blog to tell my death-defying battle between me and my bike and a cougar. That didn't happen.

Fortunately for me, because it didn't happen, I can calmly set my alarm again for 5:10 AM.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

CamelBak and Wet Faces.

I honestly feel bad for every Hydration Pack manufacturer in the world--everyone except CamelBak, that is. In truth, it isn't even the packs. I think CamelBak makes fine packs, but certainly no better (and many times worse) than the competition. I have used many Hydration Packs in my day, and most of them I've liked better than CamelBak. No, the real advantage CamelBak has is in their bite valve--the tiny rubber piece at the end of the reservoir tube that controls the flow.

It's so simple. It's rubber. It has a tiny slit in it. Yet somehow, they managed to come up with the idea first and patent it. Henceforth and forever, every other manufacturer will have to come up with their own 2nd-rate design. And, folks like me that can't stand other manufacturer's valves, will shell out about $10 for a tiny CamelBak valve. Ten dollars! That's about half the cost of an entirely new reservoir (with bite valve, I might add).

Despite all this, CamelBak just smugly sits back and doesn't license their bite valve.

I was recently reminded of this fact again while reviewing/testing a pack/reservoir made by another manufacturer. At first glance, I thought the valve looked promising (the pack is well-constructed and quite nice). As I rode my bike that chilly morning around 6:30, I actually got water squirted in my face by that same valve. That's right, you read correctly. Wet face, cold morning. Besides a somewhat more chilly face at that point, I was left to this thought the rest of the ride: "I wish this bite valve was a CamelBak bite valve."

(Look for my review of this particular pack on in upcoming months.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What in the Blog? ...

Besides my family, it seems as though my two passions in life have come down to electronics (namely computers) and bikes. On any given day, it is hard to pin down which is more important. I am both a web developer and an editor for an online magazine that specializes in professional reviews. This blog will probably have a little of both.

Generally, unless I do something on my own, I don't get much of a chance to be passionate about my development--though I am always quite nerdy about my computer(s).

I am, however, always passionate about biking. Just ask my wife. From the day our first child was born, I've been brainwashing them to revere biking as much as me. I'm not sure it's possible, though.