Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Friday, May 22, 2009

Marin Hamilton 29er

I have always preferred 29 inch/700c wheels on bikes for the road, probably partly out of habit
and partly because I am 6'4", in any case I am really pleased with the current popularity/fad of
29 inch wheels. Bikes as a whole have gotten hugely expensive, granted the parts are top notch
and miles ahead of the old days, but still, even a decent starter bike costs a ton new. Part of the
problem is probably the complexity of modern bikes, with indexed shifting, a berjillion gear hub
and a level of precision that would have been unavailable to all but the top racing teams 15 years
ago. I don't know about you, but as a semi out of shape middle age dude, I don't use half of the
gears on my bike and probably use closer to 1/4 of them (keep in mind I am in a congested
urban environment that is not too hilly). I got my bike for about 1/3 of retail price because it
has a large frame, was a 2 year old model on clearance and the dealer was discontinuing that
manufacturer. What I am getting at is that I never would have ponied up full boat for this bike.
All of this brings me to the modern 29er, the Marin Hamilton is a single speeder, but it has a low
enough gearing that it could probably meet most of my modest needs and it's pretty cheap at
a tick over $400. The only thing it's lacking IMHO is a multi speed hub, in this case the Shimano
8 speed sealed hub. Seriously, add that modest gearing and it will easily cover all my needs.
Well, almost. The handlebars need work. Straight handlebars suck as far as I am concerned,
there are just too few hand position/riding posture options to make them comfortable. I prefer
Nitto Albatross style bars, which are remarkably similar to old skool 3 speed bars, either that or
Japanese style mustache handlebars (which I have not tried but look promising). So, add the
Albatross and the gear hub and u are in business. For those of you generationally challenged,
here is a picture of modern Albatross bars.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rohloff Speedhub 14 speed bicycle hub

Like many folks growing up in the 70's and 80's, the last time I rode a bike with a shifting hub it
was on an English 3 speed and it was not pleasant. They were probably poorly adjusted and
in need of some service, but they shifted terribly and I never gave them a second chance or
thought. Well, as it happens, some folks have been giving it a lot of thought and the current
state of the art as nearly as I can tell is this incredible German made 14 speed hub. Though I
in general try to avoid excess complexity, a derailleur setup is not prize in the simplicity dept
either. The Rohloff has been out for at least a decade and by all accounts is extremely reliable.
The hub is completely sealed and purportedly maintenance free, which a derailleur is definitely not.
Unfortunately, all of this comes at a price of around 1,300 $ US, which in the high end bike world
is not unheard of, but for a casual user it's a bit high. You can learn more about this hub and
practically everything bike at http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/ . Harris cyclery and the late
Sheldon Brown are legendary in the local bike community and their site is a terrific resource.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

House Keeping Camp Yosemite National Park

I have to say, I have camped in a lot of places, but House Keeping camp is my favorite of all.
It's not really camping, per-se, but if you are lucky enough, as we were, to get one of the sites
near the river, it is one of the most magical places imaginable. It is true enough that you are
close to your neighbors, but that drives a camaraderie that I have not experienced elsewhere.
And even though you are in close proximity, it feels private because of the way the sites are
situated. This beautiful shot is by a guy named Pete Burrow and it really captures the
essence of the place. The best thing about it is that the park provides much of the bedding and
such and you can follow our model and fly in and spend 1/2 hour at Target and take care of the
rest of your needs. Yosemite is a great place, and House Keeping Camp is a great way to
experience it.

1913 Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo

This is without a doubt the one of the dumbest ideas in auto history, being right up there with
the Lyatt Helica.  A 3,000 lb motorcycle with a V8 and training wheels, take that O.C Choppers !
And what is up with that "radiator"?  Among the Scripps "firsts" (most of which ended up as
"lasts") was purportedly the first V8 in a Detroit car.  What I can't get over is how much the 
passenger compartment bodywork resembles a kids toy peddle car from the 60's.