Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When I grow up, I'd like to be like this guy...

Being a photographer I'm in a league of my own. Being a cyclist and a photographer puts me in an even smaller niche, one which very few people understand. There are a few people that I would not have to explain myself at all to. People that ride their bikes with their cameras without financial motive or coercion. People who obsessively talk bikes and cameras all the time. Whatever the material we decide to shoot, it is candid and in your face photography. Not like a paparazzi,  we can do it while keeping our class and our cameras in tact. People, like say, Bill Cunningham for example.

Bill is a guy I want to model after as I get older. Like me, he loves his vintage Schwinn bicycle. Like me, he's a photographer. He writes the "On the Street" fashion article for the New York Times, and is best known recently for his self documentary Bill Cunningham's New York. He understands the perspective from the bicycle. He really personifies a bicycle's point of view. He will photograph people on their daily routine and make it interesting, even artistic. He's been around for the last 50 years documenting the fashion culture of New York City. There is a lot to learn from him, as a photographer and as someone who's been around much longer than I have.

People like bill and I realize something important about the world around us. It's there, and many people don't look around enough to realize it's existence. People on the day to day get in their cars and then in their offices, working until they have to get back in their houses. No one wants to be aware anymore. No one wants to make the news, they rather just hear the news. And this is sad, really. Because there is so much left to talk about. The problem is that you can't find many people who are intellectually capable of comprehending this point. Even those who are, do not want to talk about the world around them. People's observations are veiled by social media statuses and reality TV shows. It seems that many people need a wake up call.

That's where guys like Bill and I come in. Eccentric and weird by non cultured standards, ready to give our audience a whopping reality check. We are there to take the reader to the source directly, in our journalism and in our photography. My photography instructor in college was Peter Helms Feresten. He was a documentary photographer that took photos with a large wooden camera at biker bars and poor neighborhoods. He taught me that a photographer needed to capture the back story as well as  the defining moment of a time and place. He also taught me that a photo needed to transport the viewer to a place where they normally would not go, but as a result of seeing the photo now have the curiosity to go.  Although I did not finish college, my college instructor taught me everything I needed to know in just those few words. May he rest in peace, he died a few years ago of kidney failure.

The future is something I look forward to, with great expectation. It is the big "?" in my mind. Whatever my future holds I do hope that I will continue to do the things that I love and bring me joy and satisfaction. That I continue to be conscious of my health and continue to create art for the people around me to enjoy. The best endeavors are always the charitable ones.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Iron Horse Sinister 6.2 29er- A "sinister" deal at your local Department Stores

Iron Horse Sinister 6.2 29er
Now at a Walmart near you.

Twenty nine inches of full suspension, 160mm  dual disk rotors, 1 1/8 threadless headset, 3 piece crankset and Shimano Alivio rear derailleur. Where? At Walmart? Shut the front door! With an asking price of around $300, this is the first brand outside Schwinn, Mongoose, and Huffy that I have seen Walmart carry in many years. The other day at my local store I saw this bike on the rack and did a double take. Granted, it still has about $50 worth of upgrades but for the asking price of $300 you already have a bike shop quality trail worthy bicycle. 

My recomendations on this bike would be to replace the cup and cone bottom bracket with an alloy or steel sealed bottom bracket (a BB30 would be an overkill on this bike). These usually run around $10 to 20 dollars. The crankset can be upgraded as needed but I highly recommend an upgrade to a full Shimano drivetrain as well as a new front fork for when the Sun Tour has finished doing it's job. Afterwards I believe you will have a bike that will last many years and get many memories out of. The trickle down 29er has finally made it's way to the bottom and here is the result. A bike like this deserves good publicity, and I am happy to showcase it on this short article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

White Rock Lake- The beginings of something good in Dallas.

White Rock Lake Trail
And why Dallas isn't far behind progess.

Today I read a disconcerting article about the City of Dallas. This article placed Dallas in the bottom of the least bike friendly cities in the United States. The perception of Texans from outsiders is that they are a backwards people. They love their guns, ten gallon hats,  SUV's, and their giant steaks. That Texas has 5 of the most obese cities in the United States, so the assumption is that Texans like being fat, and they don't like their cyclists. Even though this couldn't be farther from the truth, the current city council of Dallas is fighting hard to maintain that stereotype. They have all but shelved a recent Bike Plan which would have revolutionized the landscape of Dallas, offering people the same bike transportation alternatives as Portland.  The obstacles they say are financial, yet money is always found to finance the behemoth highways and toll roads which in the long run hurt the small communities that they carve through.  Even though the city approved hundreds of millions of dollars for the Margaret Hill Hunt bridge, there are no bike lane implementations and the money seems to disappear altogether when the word "cycling" is mentioned.

There is a silver lining to all this negative portrayal. Dallas does has an bicycle infrastructure set in place, dormant and waiting to be activated. The place in Dallas where all current trails connect is White Rock Lake. The Lake connects with the Santa Fe, Cottonwood, and White Rock Trail system. It is also a very beautiful recreational trail connecting Dallas and it has the potential to be much more.

Here is a map of a similar route that I took through White Rock Lake today

Find more Bike Ride in Dallas, TX

Along side the trail you will find businesses that cater to the needs of cyclists. Dallas Bike Works off of Lawther road is a great place to stop for a flat, a light or even a new bicycle.  The Bicycle Cafe of Dallas is a match made in heaven for cyclists and coffee lovers alike. Let's take a photo tour of some of the highlights of today's ride around White Rock Lake.

Feeling tired on your bike ride? Stop by Bicycle Cafe for your daily dose of coffee boost to keep you going.

You can stop along the trail and relax on a dock alongside the lake

Sail boating and kayaking are popular activities to do out here as well.

A family spends the evening hours together feeding the ducks

Goose Crossing: You can see some fearless geese crossing the road around this time of day.
Dallas, for the most part, is a beautiful place to ride a bike. Unfortunately it has received a negative reputation due to the less progressive thinkers that are calling the shots. Dallas can continue to shine as it redevelops it's Downtown by including bicycle lane development on it's tab. There is currently a development boom and revitalization effort going on right now in the city of Dallas. Taking Dallas out of the Dark Ages can be as easy or as impossible as people make it to be. The challenges facing Dallas are nothing more than removing the belief that it has to be shortsighted and unfriendly to those who are seeking a better quality of life within it's boarders. As we turn the page into a new decade, let's see if the coming generation can finally bring some much needed changes to make Dallas even more wonderful than it already is.  This is what Dallas wants, this is what I personally hope that it gets.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Irving, Texas- A Little Gem for Cyclists In North Texas

Bike Friendly Irving, Texas
You can find weekly races in this part of town. Featuring riders from the Wednesday Night Criterium Series.
Tucked away between the Dallas/Ft.Worth airport and the city of  Coppell lies a small section of a larger city. Valley Ranch, a branch of the suburb of Las Colinas, is mostly known for the Dallas Cowboys training arena. What most people don't know, even locals here in Texas, is that this is one of the most bike friendly places around. Valley Ranch is not it's own city. It is in fact part of Irving, Texas. Though it might as well be, because this area has a personality of it's own.  Below is a the route which was covered in this trip around Valley Ranch and Las Colinas.

Find more Bike Ride in Irving, TX

Here is where you'll find some of the local racing scene battle it out on the weekly Criteriums. The Wednesday Night Criterium series brings cyclists from all over the area to race here. This is a place where people know other people, and cyclists know other cyclists. It is a place where I know business owners by name, and they they know me by name as well. It is rich in it's cultural diversity, home to delicious cuisines from all over the world. It has the best coffee shop I have been to in North Texas, Java Me Up.  It is also a place that is starting to welcome progress, and has the blue print preset for welcoming transit oriented development. In fact, by 2014 this haven will be linked to the international airport via light rail, part of a more larger aggressive program that is connecting all of Dallas County.

Let's take a small tour of what Valley Ranch has to offer. (On a side note to the reader, it is getting hot over here in Texas. The late afternoon sun here builds endurance like no other place in the country. That is why Lance Armstrong was able to win the tour seven times, just sayin'). Check out these observations of my ride through Valley Ranch.

Campion Trails in Valley Ranch.
Gotta love the color yellow.

Java Me Up. The BEST coffee in all the Dallas County Area!

The picturedoes not do this climb much justice, but this is the highest hill in Valley Ranch.

The Bull logo, you see it everywhere here.

Cool Sculptures in the La Villita neighborhood of Las Colinas.
Back on the trail doing a little bit of off-roading on a short section of singletrack.
Making Progress: Rail lines mark where the new transit system will be shortly.
Vinice? No, its the Mandalay Canals at Las Colinas

The Lions of Campion Trail

The hot, late evening sun is the the hottest time of day here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fixed geared bikes vs. Geared Bikes: Really?

Single Speeds vs. Geared bikes- Is this even a fair contest?

When Shopping around for a new bicycle, there really are comparisons which should never come to mind, like "should I go with a geared bike, or a single speed?". It is one thing to opt for the single speed due to the price point or because it suits the terrain and riding style you will be riding on. It is another thing entirely to make claims that a single speed will give you the same advantages of a geared bicycle. If a single speed or fixed gear bike is aesthetically pleasing and it's all some people can afford, that's fine, I won't judge. The important thing is that the person buys a bike and becomes an active person no matter how they decide to do it. But a single-speedster (as cool as they might think they look toting around a carrier bag and wearing Ray Ban wayfarers) will get killed, every single time, when going up a steep hill on their 52/12  gear ratio bicycle. The other alternative to using a ratio like this is getting a larger cog in the rear wheel and going with a smaller gearing ratio in the front. While that will make climbing easier, the rider will lose the ability to effectively sprint and will have an overall too high a cadence to hold up for long rides.

Some may argue that the first bicycles ever raced were single speeds. In fact, some of the early ( and I mean 1920's) racers thought of geared bikes as being suited for younger, inexperienced riders. Some people will tell you that they cross train on single speed bicycles in the winter, in order to mash the pedals harder come summertime. Some people claim these bikes are low maintenance because you do not have to fiddle around with the derailleurs and the chain is thicker on the bike. These reasons, while good, do not serve the purposes of average day to day riders.  Some people can unknowingly buy a single speed bike as their first bicycle. They might like their introduction into cycling, or they might absolutely hate it, leaving their bikes on the side of the hill in frustration.

From a pricing standard, there are similarly priced geared and non-geared bicycles on the market. It is really almost purely up to personal preference. Geared bicycles have opened up worlds to cyclists to ride places many didn't even think were possible, such as riding a bike up a mountain in the Rockies or randonneuring the Alps. These things would be impossible to do on a fixed gear bike (unless you have a Nexus hub).

Adding to the DE-evolution of the bicycle, the hipster posing crowd has taken the fixed gear bike a step further, removing the drop bars and replacing them with 4 inch wide straight handlebars. The bike ends up looking like a larger, goofier  cousin of the BMX instead of a road bike.

I have been a silent on-looker of this phenomenon, not wanting to get involved on the intricacies and foolishness of this subject. But for the record, a single speed bike cannot go uphill for very long (and I mean hours). It cannot win in a grand tour. It can time trial at a velodrome if it's a track bike, but a trip to the grocery store will cause all sorts of hurt. Single speed mountain bikes are not faster than geared bikes. A single speed series for racing should exist for bragging rights only, because the single speed crowd need their own category to be competitive. They should stick to the alley cat races they do in the inner cities.  These bikes are built for fun and some utility for those who live in flat areas. The geared bicycle is a step up, not a step down, on the evolutionary scale of the bicycle. It's the all rounder, better deal of the two options.

Even real bike messengers will realize that Quick Silver was just a movie. Many messengers use single speed bikes but a lot use geared bikes too. Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishurne created a cult following of Walz-capped skinny jean wearing The Onion subscribers which like to pose as the characters of the movie. To Fishburne's credit, he rode the real bike ( an 85' Raleigh Gran Prix) in the movie. The rest of the bikes featured were wannabe bikes for the truly great cycling era in which this movie was made. The Hinaults, Merckxs, Le Monds, and Fignon's of the day are the figures that kids should look up to nowadays. The tough as nails riders, the hard-men, winning back to back victories on their STEEL and GEARED bicycles.

Just a thought, or a rant. You decide.

May 25, 2013- There is some new evidence to show that single speed mountain bikes can place well in 50 mile amateur endurance events. Check out the results of the 2012 Wiskey 50, where the overall winner won by a margin of two minutes riding on a single speed bike. There are more examples of single speed riders outperforming geared riders in competition, but they seem to be the exception rather than the norm. I encourage all gifted single speed riders to continue to challenge and eventually overturn the status quo. In the end, it's not be bike, but the engine that does the work.


Article review as of October 1, 2013: In response to this article, I have written another article that goes into a little more depth regarding some of the statements I made in this single speed vs. geared bicycle debate. To read more about it, click here. To be clear, the title of this article is wrong. It should read fixed gear bikes vs. geared bikes, really? I apologize for that, and as of today the title has been changed. This article is calling out the fallacies of riding a fixed gear bicycle, something all cyclists, including those who ride single speed bikes, will understand and stand behind. 

If a bike frame has horizontal track dropouts, then it should be ridden as a single speed. If a cyclist finds a good bicycle frame with a derailleur hanger but only has a single speed wheelset, chainring and chain, then that cyclist should ride the bike single speed without hacking off the derailleur hanger. Common sense, right? What I completely disagree with is someone going completely out of their way and to great lengths to make their bike a single speed. That would be like myself, for instance, taking the 52t chainring out of my Campagnolo C-Record crank, removing my Sachs 8 speed freewheel for a generic single speed cog, taking off my Regina America 92' rear derailleur and hacking out the dropout, and then binding the whole mess together with a chromed out cruiser chain. Does anyone else find that offensive? Ridiculous? I put together a montage of these ridiculous bikes here. I'm sure any of my disgruntled readers who misunderstood the message of this article would never own bikes like these, because like me, they love their bikes and they love cycling.

I really appreciate all the feedback I am getting from all my international readers. They understand that we all need to stand together as cyclists in solidarity rather than letting our differences split us apart. Unfortunately that message doesn't translate well here in the states, where any difference or preference categorizes people and puts them against others who are not like them. As far as cyclists go, here in the states we have roadies, retro-grouches, hipsters, triathletes, commuters, bmx'ers, etc.; all with their own sets of etiquette and societal rules. The one thing we should all share is our love for cycling and our desire to see more protection for cyclists out on the roads. In order to see a world that embraces cyclists, we as cyclists need to follow the rules. Fixed gear culture is about risk taking, running lights and endangerment. The risk is compounded with fixed gear riders deliberately strip the brakes off of their bikes, and only stop using their rear wheel. That is why I am focusing on this group. That is why I call people who alter their bikes to fixed gear hipsters. I have co-workers who ride fixed gear bicycles. They make all their stop signs and traffic lights. They act responsibly on the roads. This is not the message certain movies have been popularizing. If cyclists are continued to be portrayed as risk taking daredevils, efforts to make cycling accessible as a means of transportation will be ignored by society.

To all my readers, ride safely. Use brakes, don't run signs, and keep subscribing to more posts from a Bicycle's Point of View.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Highlights of the 2012 Giro D' Italia

Via Cycling Art Blog. Designer Vincent Vermeij

Stages 1 through 9 of the Giro D' Italia

Normally, I stick to the topic at hand which is my commutes from the perspective of a bicycle. But since this is the Giro D' Italia, it would be almost sinful not to talk about it, being that I am such a big fan of this race. Here is a short recap of what Has happened from stage 1 until now.

Stage 1: The Giro begins in the town of Herning, Denmark. Taylor Phinney of Team BMC wins the Time Trial to take the lead in the General classification, a lead he will hold for the first 4 stages of the race. He is the youngest American to get the pink jersey in the Giro D'Italia, at 21 years of age.

Stage 2: Trouble starts to follow Taylor Phinney when he gets a mechanical failure just a few kilometers of the finish line, but is able to hold on to the jersey.

Stage 3: Roberto Ferrari of team Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela  side swipes Mark Cavendish about 500 meters from the finish line, taking out Taylor Phinney and leaving him with a swollen ankle. Taylor Phinney had to finish the race in an ambulance. The move was controversial and was talked out for a few days afterwards.

Stage 4: Trouble continues for Taylor Phinney during the team time trial, going off the road and getting grass caught in his shoes and drivetrain. Team BMC finishes over 30 seconds behind the lead, causing the pink jersey to go to Ramunas Navardauskas at the end of the day.

Stage 5: Mark Cavendish wins a sprint victory with his family watching in the audience. He celebrated his stage victory on the podium with his newborn daughter, Delila.

Stage 6: Ramunas Navardauskas, Taylor Phinney and Mark Cavendish get caught up in a crash, and finished the race 34 seconds of the cut off time. Navardauskas loses over 4 minutes on the overall leader. Miguel Angel Rubiano rides to a solo stage win with one minute 12 seconds ahead of the chase group and over two minutes ahead of the peloton. He becomes the first Columbian to win a stage victory in six years at the Giro.

Stage 7: Ryder Hesjedal for Team Sky starts off the day in pink.

Stage 8: Andre Amador held the largest gap in the race at over 11 minutes ahead of the peloton. Domenico Pozzovivo of Team Colnago rides in solo for the stage victory, described as "the diminuative Italian" because of his stature. Pozzovivo thrived on the last category 2 climb of the stage. Ryder Hesjedal battled stomach problems and made a great effort to hold on to the jersey that day. Joaquin Rodriguez moved into second place in the general classification with a 9 second advantage.

Stage 9: Francisco Ventoso wins a sprint victory after a tight corner at the end of the race causes Filippo Pozzato to rear end Matt Goss, which causes a chain reaction that got Mark Cavendish involved. Ryder Hesjedal continues to hold on to the pink jersey at the end of the day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Richardson, Texas At a Glance

Richardson on an evening ride

Kids Playing at a square at close to Gatalyn Park. Transit Oriented Developments are becoming more common in this area
A last minute end of weekend urge drove me to go out to Richardson and do a little bit of cycling photo-journalism.  I managed to get on my bike just as the sun was setting. Although this short article does not do full justice in relating my experience, it does capture some points of interest along the North Richardson bike trail system. I will have to continue reporting on Richardson as time allows, although I can truly say that this city is already becoming one of the safest and most bike friendliest city for cyclists in Texas and among other states as well. Here's a couple of snapshots that I took today before night fell and left me in darkness. Below is a similar route of the trail and bike lane system in Richardson.

Find more Bike Ride in Richardson, TX

Proof that there are dedicated bike lanes here as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Country...

Did you remember to feed Tina?

Riding in the country on an old vintage Schwinn loaded for touring may seem daunting until you actually do it. I wanted to showcase the bike as well as the terrain I rode it on. For a 33 year old bike it handles beautifully and absorbs all the shock from the road. The Panaracer Panera tires roll comfortably on the bumpy asphalt and eat up cracks and pot holes on the road. The climbing specific freewheel made the uphills virtually unoticable. Riding in the countryside anywhere is a beautiful experience. Here's a few photos of my trip through Sunnyvale and Garland, Texas. Contrary to popular belief I was not run over by a Ford F150.

Here's an link of a simliar route that goes through this area that you can do.

Find more Bike Ride in Mesquite, TX

The Old Schwinn with horses in the backdrop. What a lovely touring machine.

A big ol' red country barn house. Do you have one of these in your area?

Holy cow! No seriously, cows.

By the Lake

Kearney's Feed Store. They sell all your ranch hand needs.