Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vintage Find- 1984 Raleigh Olympian

1984 Raleigh Olympian Road Bike

One of my best vintage finds has been this 1984 Raleigh Olympian. The following year's model had the exact same components and specs on it, except of the Raleigh 502 Chrome moly Tubing (the 1985 model has 555T tubing see Sheldon Brown's page). The frame geometry on this bike makes it extremely comfortable for touring or light commuting. The one of a kind Pletscher swiss bike rack is spring loaded and folds out to securely hold baskets and lunch box sized packages. The alloy wheels are a plus considering lighter metal wheels were just beginning to become available to a more mainstream audience.

Another view of the Raleigh

This bike features the beautiful and classic
 Raleigh Head badge.
Raleigh 502 chrome moly tubing makes the
 frame very shock absorbing  on long rides.
Overall this bike was a pleasure to ride and it did well on some 25 plus mile rides. Unfortunately, I am not much of a casual cyclist anymore. Having one too many of these kinds of bikes in my stable, I moved it along in favor of a more race ready Raleigh R600. If you are looking for an all weather commuter, tourer, something to ride with the family, or just your first bike- this is the bike for you. It has useful features such as bottle braze ons and a bike rack. The quality is built to last, you will find most of these bikes in this kind of shape if as long as the bike is not recklessly abused. Thats not bad for a 27 year old ride. If you find one, its a keeper.

Here is a frame pump that will never let you down. It has gotten me out of a lot of sticky off road situations. Click here to see where you can find the Blackburn Mammoth Pump at a store near you.
Blackburn Mammoth Air

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to make Beautiful Timed Exposures

The Wonders of Timed Exposures
"Taking pictures at night without flash"

"The Cima Club" Downtown Las Colinas Copyright 2011 Jonathan Guzman

Here's a list of things you will need:

Tripod-Sturdy, Aluminum. Able to withstand a windy day. I use a Bogen Manfrotto 3021 Series
Lightmeter- must be able to meter incident light  (The Sekonic Flashmaster or Gossen Luna Pro are a favorite among photographers, although I find the Sekonic easier to use. 
Camera and Lens- Single Lens Reflex, Twin Reflex, DSLR, or Rangefinder. Must have manual focus capabilities, bulb setting or shutter delay capabilities up to at least 30 seconds.
Shutter Release Cable- Optional but highly recommended, especially for cameras that do not use vibration reduction for Image Stabilization features (such as film).

What to do-
1.Set your ISO to where you will have the finest grain possible. (For film users, find a film with low ISO). Preferably 100 to 200 ISO would be recommended.
2.Place the camera on the tripod securely. Connect the shutter release cable if you have one for your camera. For film users, this is a must.
3.Meter the incident light that is coming from the subject. You do this by pointing the light meter towards your subject, with the head facing your subject. Incident right refers to light coming from a specific direction, ambient light is light coming from all directions. There are normally two different light meter heads on the light meter to measure each one.
4. Plug or dial in the light information into your camera. (Example: the light meter says to shoot at 2.8 for 30 seconds. Therefore, my lens aperture will be 2.8 and I will keep the shutter open for 30 seconds either with the bulb setting or shutter delay.
5. Focus in your subject. If your subject is a landscape, just set the lens manually to the figure 8 symbol on your camera. If it is up close, you will have to manually focus it in the dark, preferably with the help of an assistant to flash a light source on it, so that it will be in focus. Auto focus will not work properly and has a high failure rate in this kind of photography.
6. Snap a picture, then wait, then release the shutter release cable (if applicable).

The end results will look like the pictures below:
Texas State Fair Ride. 2011 Jonathan Guzman
Downtown Fort Worth. 2011 Jonathan Guzman

Who said there weren't any cowboys in Texas? Normally I don't use this photo as an example, but here we have an example of a one second exposure with the flash firing. Notice that all the background colors are there, as well as the "ghost" of movement in the image. Its always good to show the exception to the rule.

Following these guidelines and making them your own will result in more beautiful and interesting pictures at night or in low light settings. Please feel free to comment your questions and I will be glad to answer them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tales From The Rigid- My Early days of Mountain Biking .

My brother and I on our Rigid Huffys, circa 1999 or 2000

I like to consider myself a road cyclist with the heart of a mountain biker. That's because mountain bikes are what got me into the world of cycling. Here's a few experiences from my early days of mountain biking.
 My first mountain bike was a rigid frame, an unknown gold colored Huffy from Sears with grip shifters and caliper brakes. It squealed like a lobster as it braked downhill, the little square brake pads holding on for dear life. Yet some of the trails I did with that bike I still haven't revisited with my modern day full suspension or hard tail bicycles. Because of fear perhaps? Maybe so, I will explain later in this article.

A  technical section of trail at Dinosaur Valley State Park similar to what I would do on my Huffy, without the full face helmet and pads. I think I really put the phrase "No Fear" into my Huffy. Unfortunately the bike met it's doom the second time across Knob Hills trail, a local trail near this one. Picture courtesy of Texas

This most accurately resembles the actual bike I used to have, minus the grip shifters and paint.

I got into riding bikes thanks in large part to my Dad. My dad would take my brother can I on long rides through the back roads between cities. For a 12 year old, I was already riding 5 or 6 miles in a ride with my dad, on hilly roads with a BMX bike. Around 13 or 14 years of age, I can't remember exactly, my parents bought me my first mountain bike from Sears, as already mentioned. Shortly afterwards I started riding on trails.

My mountain biking experience all started with a red-headed kid who lived down the street from me named Steve. Steve's parents had Steve much later in life. Steve's dad, who is now around 66 or 67 years old, is a lean but strong man with a long, reddish-white beard. He would remind you of one of the band members from ZZ Top if you saw him. He has been mountain biking since the 80's, and only up to a few years ago was riding only non-suspension rigid frames. Most of the bikes he ever rode were from department stores. To this day he is the fastest person I know, not just for his age, but in general, on singletrack. He has passed many a racer going uphill while smoking his cigar, I have witnessed it personally. His son, taking after his eccentric dad, is no different. Steve would punish my Huffy and I all over the trails, zip-lining through trees as I smashed into them. On one such experience, my Huffy was pretzeled among rocks and I found myself staring into the eyes of a Spanish bull, dead in the middle of the trail.

That is where the fear comes from, I guess. Steve moved to Idaho and bought himself a Brodie mountain bike as soon as he started working over there. During my few years of cycling hiatus he would call me up whenever he came into town to see if I was up for riding. I never would join him for fear of the wrath and punishment he would inflict to me on the trail. I have been cycling steadily for 4 years now, both on the road and on the mountain. I can say because of my road biking my mountain biking has improved a ten-fold since those early days. It also helps to have a suspension bike with brakes that will stop you, not having to rely on trees so much. 

Since then Steve and I have lost touch. As we all get older our friends from childhood start to disappear. Yet every time I ride a technical section of the trail or blow pass other bikers on their expensive machines, I ask myself, "What's steve up to?". Steve, if you're reading this, call me up. I promise, I'll make it worth your while.

Murray Fredericks- A man after my own Heart

I just watched the PBS documentary Salt and I am so impressed that I feel compelled, no, obligated, to express my awe at what this man has done. Murray Fredericks, an Australian photographer and adventurer, equipped with a touring bicycle that looks like a Surly Pugsley with Large Marge wheels, and a large format 8x10 negative film camera, has combined both passions of mine into an unintended but breathtaking quest. In his biography, he states that the very nature of the locations he shoots are inaccessible to most people which makes for taking  extraordinary measures to get to them. Whatever his line of reasoning, as both a cyclist and a photographer I can't help but to stand googly-eyed, in admiration of his work.

To learn more about Murray Fredericks and his photography, visit his website at

Friday, August 5, 2011

The "Heavy" side of cycling

Why you shouldn't Believe your Body Mass Index Calculator

According to my BMI calculator, to put it bluntly "I'm fat". I weigh 186 pounds, which is around 10 pounds over the top end of what my maximum weight should be for someone five foot ten, which is 175 pounds. I would like to ask the guy who invented BMI, "have you ever weighed yourself?"

There are several factors that determine if your weight is healthy or not. We come in all shapes, sizes and builds. Body Mass Index calculations to not account for muscle mass and bone density. Some people will naturally have a higher percentage of muscle mass. This will not make them "unfit" or "fat". Men with broad shoulders and tall women generally fall into this category. Even if someone has a higher percentage of body fat, this doesn't necessarily make them unhealthy. The truth is people with little to no body fat are more susceptible to illness and malnutrition. 

Does that mean that because the scales are inaccurate that everyone gets a free pass? I am not saying this either. Each person needs to evaluate their own bodies and if still in doubt ask their physician about their weight and how to manage it. Too much weight on an individual can cause a broad range of health problems. These include back problems, anxiety, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. 

Is anyone too fat to ride a bike? The truth is that no one is too fat to ride a bicycle. Bike frames are designed to support weights in excess of 300 pounds. If you are a heavy rider (and I mean upwards of 250 pounds), a suspension mountain bike is best suited for you. The frame on a mountain bike is generally more upright and will put less strain on your back and mid-section.  Designs  in road bicycles have really come along way in offering lightweight yet strong materials. A bicycle mechanic at a bike shop can advise you which bicycle best suits your weight and riding abilities. Keep in mind your fitness level before engaging in any sports activity, this includes cycling. Road cycling is very demanding on the body since it usually requires the person to ride long distances for long periods of time at considerable speeds. It would be best to start on the bicycle that you are most comfortable with and work your way up to road cycling and even competitive cycling.

Lets say you are an average Joe like me and ride a bike regularly, but that BMI scale doesn't seem to agree with you. Are you too fat to compete in a bicycle race? The best thing to do is ignore that stupid BMI scale. As long as you have the strength in your legs to hold 20 to 21 mph for 30 minutes, you can compete in any local category five race. Winning races is more about using the peloton to your advantage by drafting behind them and having enough sprint  in your legs to go 30 to 32mph on the last 200 yards of the race. This isn't always easy, it involves skill and timing that is only attained by losing a few races. You will also have the "snobs" as mentioned in my last article, that will try to play mind games with you, as well as early attacks by the peloton. Consider the monetary aspect of the entry fee and the day license, which in itself can be a deterrent. Combine all these factors together and see if it is worth it to you. But if you are capable of dealing with all these factors and don't mind them, do not let your weight be the sole decisive factor to keep you from racing.

Bicycling is for everyone, regardless of size and weight. If everyone replaced driving with walking or riding a bike, weight would not be an issue with society and this article would not exist. It would be like Amsterdam, but bigger. Think about it. Pretty deep, isn't it?

Vintage Find- My old Schwinn

My Old Schwinn Vintage Restoration Project 

About two years ago, I responded to an ad for a Raleigh Sport road bike from 2004. When I got to the seller's house, he brought out an old 3 speed English Raleigh sport from the 70's. I was expecting a road bike, so I excused myself from the scene and kindly bid the guy farewell. He was a foreign guy, and his english wasn't very good. We communicated through hand gestures when I was explaining to him what I was looking for when I refering to "road bike". Then he got a twinkle in his eye and I knew he had understood me. He went back to his shed and pulled out this 1979 Schwinn Le Tour featured here today.

Of course it was nowhere near the condition it is right now. Surface rust had taken over alot of the components. Almost the entire bike had been spray painted silver to mask some of the surface rusting on the frame. Nothing moved on the bike, it was just one solid mass of metal and rotted rubber. Looking at it's vintage potential, I offered him 80 bucks. Maybe it was too much, but I can't argue with what I ended up with today.

I painstakingly took paint thinner, WD40, a metal scrub brush, sandpaper, and went to work on it. After a week of removing paint and rust, I dismantled the components from the frame. Afterwards the frame sat on the balcony of my apartment, probably for most of that winter. I am surprised I was still able to salvage it. In the spring I went to work on it again. I sent the frame to get sandblasted and powder-coated. That is how it is the lovely yellow color it is today. Having the accessibility to get parts for it (I worked for a bike shop at that time) I took the old parts and put them in a chemical bath, making them shine like new and put them back on the bike. Then I threaded new cable and housing for the entire bike, as well as added that georgeous looking bar tape. I couldn't salvage the original wheels, since rust had got the better of them. I replaced the old wheels with new 27" alloys and tires. The same went for the center pull brakes. I put on two brand new Tektro brakes. I had to drill a larger hole in the frame and fork to fit the new threading on the new brakes.

 Alas, is it an old Pinarello? Colnago perhaps? Nope, just a plain old schwinn from the 70's, with about $200 put into it.

Venetian Style Photo-shoots

A Little Piece of Italy In My Own Backyard

As a photographer I try not only to specialize in one thing only. Weddings are a seasonal item and the bulk of good weddings will occur between March and June. This is because, depending on what part of the world you are from, these are the most temperate months of the year. September is another popular Month, and in Texas specifically, there can be warm weather all the way into November. By November, highs can still be in the mid 80s in Fahrenheit. 

So this brings me to my next point, What does one do the rest of the year? Does one simply stop taking pictures? A hobbyist probably will but a professional does not. That is because even when there are no weddings to shoot for the year, a professional is always trying to leave the door open for next year. This involves the process of getting referrals and marketing your business to other potential wedding clients in the future. This can be done, not only at the wedding itself, but in places you know people will be preposing. One such place are the canals in Las Colinas, that happens to be in reasonable distance from me.

I like to say I have a piece of Italy in my own backyard. On an evening stroll through the river walk you can the these gondoliers singing Sinatra or Yanni songs to their star-struck guests on board, which are usually engaged in romantic kissing to even know if he is singing out of key or not. 

Seeing that there were no other photographers around already doing it, I booked a cruise for my wife and I for our 2nd year anniversary. Upon making the reservation I was able to talk to the co-owner of the business (these small businesses are usually family run operations, even the reservationist might be the owner at times). I let them know I was a photographer and would be interested in working with their clients so that they had pictures of their wedding proposals, anniversaries, or other events that they would need a photographer for. This company loved my material and brought me in as their event photographer, and I have been able to build a great relationship with them as well as their clients.

So whether it is an arboretum, botanical garden, river walk, city park, or any other place of considerable beauty that people like to go to prepose, this is an opportunity that is knocking on a photographer's door. If you are a photographer looking for business then stop worrying about search engine ranking and website appearance. Instead go to the people directly and solicit with them. I know other photographer colleagues and competitors with great websites, but no business. This method of marketing works, and it will be a source of extra income in those slow months of wedding photography.

For more information on the work I have done with this company, visit their website

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Brides- Diana Prado and Rebecca Cervantes

2010-2011 Brides of the year

I had the priveledge of shooting the weddings of Diana Prado and Rebecca Cervantes. They are two of my most satifisfied customers and were a pleasure to work with. Congratulations on them both! 

Trans Iowa and gravel grinders- Now I'm happy

I found out about the Trans Iowa by reading an article on Dirt Rag Magazine, a magazine specializing in everything mountain bike and singletrack. Although there are not any real unsanctioned gravel grinder events in my area, I think the Trans Iowa is the pioneer of more events like these to emerge. The concept is real old school. No points, no jersey classifications, no stages. Just a start and a finish line, and 300 to 400 miles of country roads in between. Even the events you have to register to participate are not as expensive as any USAT or UCI sponsored event. There are no rules on what kind of bike you can use; anything goes from cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes to mountain bikes with road bike handlebars and single speeds. There are no on road assists either. You have to carry your own spare tubes and tire pumps. It's a great concept, one that I hope will catch on.

To learn more about the Trans Iowa, visit their website-

Competitive Cycling is a corporate venture. Part 2: Afterthoughts

Afterthoughts: From the editor

After posting about the relationship that exists between competitive cycling, the snob, and the top median wage earner that only buys the top end, I would like to share some additional afterthoughts to this "bike rant".

If the top end of cycling equipment is available to you without having to give up your college education, and is within your budget, then by all means have the best if you can afford it. Keep in mind that long term investment in such high end equipment will end up in more high end expenses. A hobby can become an obsession to have the "must haves" in cycling goods. I will give an example. I ride allot, I have had saddle sores more times than I would like to talk about, but I have never used this "Chamois but-r" people so generously love to soak the inside of their spandex's in. I mean, the thought of having a bunch of cream in my pants isn't at all appealing to me. But that is now a "must have" among competitive cyclists. The retailers and corporations will try to sell this product to you as "essential", along with the 10,000 dollar bike and all the accessories.

At first people don't realize that they already bought into the corporate scheme. Many new cyclists haven't touched a bike in years. They are easily convinced that this is what they have to do by today's standards. That an aluminum road bike just won't cut it in a criterium if it doesn't have a carbon fiber fork, even then it's "sub-par". That your vintage ride isn't good enough to get you around as a commuter, and that you need egg beater pedals on your mountain bike (that although fun, can also be dangerous if you haven't ridden a bike in a while. Platform pedals  and shoes with grippy soles work just as well).

What ever happened to just riding a bike? How are cyclists supposed to increase in number and eventually contribute to the environment if cycling continues to be perceived as an elitist venture? How are more people going to get on a bike this way?

A number of things are just wrong with this picture and need to be addressed. Bikes need to be more affordable to everyday working people. They need to be fun too. People need to feel like a million bucks even if they don't have a million bucks to spend. People also need to quit nitpicking about the details (components, brands, etc.,etc.). Otherwise local bike shops and specialty stores will leave all the fun to the people's markets (Walmart, Costco, Sears). Everyone deserves to have a good bicycle of good lasting quality that fits them. Most adults have outgrown the bicycles that are sold at these department stores.

Another afterthought. Average speed is overrated. I personally can average over 18mph in a distance of 25 miles. in a distance of 10 miles I average almost 20mph. And so on, and so on. I rest my case.

Competitive cycling is a corporate venture. Part 1

Can I get some Starbucks with my Racing License?

Once upon a time, when we were little, our idea of a race was a sprint down to the stop sign at the end of our street. Many of us rode BMX or department store bikes, because times were simpler then and the market of high end LBS bicycles wasn't well known to us. We rode sneakers instead of clipless shoes, torn jeans instead of spandex. We had more fun back then and still found a way to be competitive.

Now flash forward 20, 30 some odd years later, whatever applies to you in this case. You still want to race the "kids" in your neighborhood, all grown up now with top dollar racing machines. But know you have to register with a national organization, pay their yearly dues, and the fee just to race on top of that. That is with no guarantee that you will win or get your money back. Your competitors look down on you if your bicycle is made of aluminum. "Heaven forbid if he is racing in that thing!" even though they may not say it, that is what your competitors are now thinking. You may get disapproving looks if your bicycle is more than 5 years old, has a quill stem and a chromoly/kenisis fork. "You need to go carbon, titanium, scandium even!" some may tell you. "Why I spent 5K just on my frame!" others might say. The pre-race show is a showy display of what luxuries people own, and how much they spent on them."This isn't fun" you say to yourself, "What a bunch of snobs".

Indeed, this to the average person is new reputation that cycling is getting. Normal people feel marginalized, even rejected, from pursuing cycling as a pastime. Many now think of it as a money trap.

I just had this revelation after cycling for recreation and competition for the last 4 years. I never thought of myself as a snob for doing it. I have bicycles made of aluminum and chromoly, what some snobs in the sport might consider "entry level" or "base model". Yet I love my bikes, and I love the freedom that I get from riding them. My average speed is over 18mph, why would I ever need a carbon or lighter composite frame?

After showing up to my last criterium in my 96' Raleigh R600 (with a quill stem), that I purchased from craigslist for $100, I finally realized why people have such an aversion for cyclists and cycling in general. Cycling shouldn't be about the bike, cycling should be about the rider. Even if my average speed is 18mph and someone else's is 21 or 25mph, cycling isn't about numbers on a computer of wattage generated. Its about seeing who will win in a sprint race of 200 yards to the stop sign, at the end of the street.