Testing One Two Three

The official results are in.

First, I’m REALLY fast on my bicycle, as you can see be this visual evidence. Most people wouldn’t consider a 25-pound steel touring bike to be such a rocket, but as you can see….

So if you have been with me for a few weeks now you will remember a post I did about being handed two Voigtlander rangefinder cameras with ultra-wide lenses and finders. Well, I finally got a chance to test one of them. As many of you know, I love the bicycle. Frankly, I think the bike is one of the best inventions of all time, and is a perfect example of clean efficiency. I know a FEW people who don’t like riding bikes, but the vast, vast, vast majority of people I know love it. The bike is typically one of the first glimpses of autonomy we get as young people. Those training wheels come off, we heal from our road rash wounds, and before long, we are exploring the far reaches of our civilized boundaries.

This new site, Smogranch, will in coming weeks, hopefully have a bike blog built in. I’m not sure this will happen, or when, but that is my goal. If you thought photographers were obsessed with equipment, wait till you meet a few bikers. Crazy obsessed. But, I think the bike has only begun to crack the American lifestyle, and what I’m hoping for is to simply raise awareness of what is possible. Bikes aren’t for everyone. Bikes won’t solve our problems. But maybe, just maybe, they can help us rethink some of our current lifestyle choices. And let me be straight here in case you think you think I’m an anti-car, tree hugging dude who is naked at the mall on the weekends burning fur items. I’m not. I love cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc, and I know they are not going away. I drive thousands of miles a year, and am part of the fossil fuel masses. But, when I look around, I see a need for drastic change.

So gearheads, in case you are wondering, these images were done with the 12mm, handheld, as I tried not to crash or get my strap caught in the spokes. The bike is a Trek 520, built for the tour, with Tubus racks front and back. Tires are Continental Gator Skins, 25mm, and the saddle is a Brooks B-17. Other than lights, a computer, it’s stock. I love this bike. Heavy but steady is how I would describe it. I’ve had it LOADED and it still handles well. Trek has a lifetime warranty on frame and fork and this bike carries the touring legend for the Trek brand. There are things I would improve, for sure, but overall, a great bike. And in case your wondering, I use this bike for everything. Training, tour, commute, errands, shopping, etc. The only thing I don’t do on it is off-road. I have another bike for that.

Bike Commuting Update

Out with the old, in with the new.

I just switched from 700×32 tires on the right, to 700×25 tires on the left! Shake and bake!
I know that millions of you out there are wondering how my bike commuting days are going. Well, I have to admit, it is pretty exciting. Using a bike instead of a car, who would have thunk it. It’s not like the rest of the world does it or anything.
I’ve been enjoying my little commute, even though I’m not commuting. You see I work at home, so I have nowhere to commute to. BUT, I do use the bike for errands. Food, bank, beach, training, lab, clients, etc, I can do all from the bike.

My typical rear rack setup. Exciting right?

Sure, I get to the clients and I’m a total sweaty mess, but who cares, it adds excitement to our lives of routine. A lot of folks ask me about the reception to riding in these parts. Frankly, it’s fine. Most people are TOTALLY indifferent to someone on a bike, and those few who blow by you inches from your handlebar, or get close and blast their horn, they have always sucked and have always been lonely, scared, insignificant creatures anyway, and chances are they will never change.

Another photo here for no particular reason.

Last night a friend was able to debut his documentary film titled, “Riding Bikes with the Dutch,” at the Art Theater in Long Beach. A great, fun film which ultimately contrasts Amsterdam with Long Beach, “The most bike friendly city in America.”
I’m not sure why bikes have been so slow to catch on here, well, I take that back. I know why. But, I’m surprised we still haven’t put our egos and status aside and embraced our future. I think when gas hits $5 per gallon, and it will, I think the bike will suddenly become more appealing.
Forty percent of all trips taken in the United States are less than 2 MILES. Just think about that.

But, it has to begin with city planning. Without city planning we are DOOMED. Drive to Phoenix lately? From LA? NINETY miles from Phoenix someone is building track housing developments. People, people, people, this has to be stopped. Not only are they building out there, but there is NO public transport to the city. How in 2010 is that possible? Plus, these places are cracker jack construction which means repairs in ten years, required heating in winter, air conditioning in summer. People, how on Earth does this make sense? And yet…it continues at a record pace.

This country is fantastic, but we sure do settle for less much of the time. We squander our potential, and instead of being a leader in the world we are a distant, reluctant, often times belligerent follower. We have the means to LEAD the world in this area, and yet we lead in sprawl and energy consumption.

The bike for me, don’t get me wrong, was not a revolutionary tactic. I ride because I like to ride. It made sense to me. The VAST majority of my trips are within 10 miles of my house, so naturally, I can take a bike and be fine. I also think the bike gives me time to think. No cell phone, and I even quit listening to music. One, it is safer, but two my mind is more clear, uncluttered. The bike is the ultimate pace. I could never run ten miles a day, and don’t really need my car. A bike is that pace that forces you to be a part of the world, but also allows you to cover a fair amount of ground.

There are a hundred and one reasons NOT to bike around here, but most are lame and old and tired. Check out my friend’s movie. If the those pesky Dutch can do it then so can we. www.everydaybike.com

Pedal Power


Dateline: Orange County

I thought I’d give a commuting update. The new Trek is dirt covered, cranks layered in grease and rims coated in black dust from the new break pads. Anytime I touch the bike I’m rewarded by blackened hands. All looks well and pretty here in the land of oranges, but my bike collects the reality.

Riding in this area is both great and alarming. Riding in Orange County you see plenty of people on bikes, in fact you see a lot of people on bikes. But most of these riders are either students or sport, road riders out for a training session. What you don’t see are people commuting and running errands.

Now, there are a few others out there, but I can only remember seeing one, who was in the middle of Irvine, in the middle of a HUGE intersection, you know the kind, where like eight roads come together with four lanes each, a virtual SEA of concrete. He came from the opposite direction, saddlebags swaying from side to side, helmet on crooked. He looked up as he crossed the intersection as I sat waiting to cross. Behind me sat a huge diesel truck. As the other bike commuter reached the center of the interchange he saw me and the truck and began to furiously pump his arm up and down, in an absurd signal to the truck to blow his horn.

Now I used to do this as a kid, hadn’t thought of it since watching Dumb and Dumber, but it was pure genius. The truck never blew his horn but this bike commuter had left a lasting impression on all us. Not someone to be taken lightly, a real go getter.

When you commute, or run errands via bike in The OC you gotta be prepared for a few things. First, the air sucks. Time your ride with favorable winds, otherwise, you’ll end up with “lung burn.”

Also, people aren’t used to people coming into their store or place of business with helmet, gloves, etc. It can kinda freak people out.

And listen, I don’t wear biking shorts and spandex, I’m a shorts and t-shirt guy, but this does little to quell the urge for some people to hit that panic button. “I thought you were a alien being.” “I was close to blowing you away!”

I think the VAST majority of people have no feelings at all about a bike rider, but a few see you as a counterrevolutionary, a symbol of a society coming unglued.

You also have to be prepared for the power trip. Some people think you are riding because you can’t afford a car and are one pink slip away from being homeless. It’s no big deal. Typically, I pass these folks in traffic five minutes later. And besides, you get the same looks if you walk anywhere.

You will get the occasional “Get off the road a-hole,” but not as often as you would think. I don’t know too many people who don’t like bikes. Even those who don’t choose to ride typically don’t hate bikes, they just don’t ride them.

I’ve put about 400 miles on this bike in the last month, almost all errand miles, and the plan is to put even more next month and so on. I’m thinking the bike is going to become more and more of my life in the future, yes, even here in Orange County.

An average day for me, on errands is 10-25 miles. The future holds longer rides. Next week I see a 60 or 80 miler. A ride this long can take much of a day, at least for me, but the normal rides, the 10-25, don’t actually take that long, and in some cases take about as long as it would in the car.

A bike is so free, and is also a great way to break up the hours in front of the computer. My goal, keep talking about the bike lifestyle, without smelling like patchouli or growing dreadlocks. I don’t think I need to be THAT guy to get the point across. I eat meat, drive a Prius, am not opposed to hunting, love football, dig my wife, and sometimes I press all the buttons in an elevator before jumping out. Try to label me!

So, my message. Dust off your old warhorse and take to the roads. I would love to see my amigos, my clients, out there doing battle on the same concrete wasteland as me. Safety in numbers folks.

My Gran Torino




Okay, I’ll probably never own a real Gran Torino. My grandma had one, loaded with a pavement crumpling massive V8. She didn’t know it was that fast, but when rounding corners would ask, “What is that noise,” as the back tires formed thick clouds of burning smoke.

So here I am in 2009, and my Gran Torino comes with only two wheels, but for me, that is all I’m looking for. The Trek 520 touring model. 57 cm. Metallic root beer. 36 spoke rims. Bar end shifters. Pure steel.

I think the bicycle is in the top five inventions of all time. I love them. I love it.

I’ve only got about 100 miles on this thing, had it a little over a week I think, and so far, so good. I haven’t name it yet, but if you have any suggestions, let me know.