*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Gravel Bikes (modern touring) Under $2K

I built up my own gravel mutt from parts I had around, but it's too much the touring bike for long gravel road rides or modern unpaved touring: camping gear is now lighter, so too should be the bike.

Selection rationals:
- Off-the-peg, because one's own build is too spendy.
- Canti brakes are derided, but they are still easier to maintain, allow you to run a more compliant fork and allow plenty of tire clearance.
- Disks are the fashion now, but there isn't the need if you set up your cantis right, and use wide-profile like the CR720.    I will not suggest hydraulic brakes for use far afield.
- Steel frame for best value by pricepoint.
- Shimano Tiagra quality grouppo, or better.
- Geometry more slack than road, but less than touring.
- Bar-end shifters or brifters?  There's an argument for both.  Certainly not on the down-tube.  Gevenalle Retro-Shifters might be best, but never come standard.

Here's my list of the bikes.

Cantilever Brakes

All City Space Horse is the closest to a one-bike to rule them all, but 2015 Tiagra chainrings are ugly!

Surly Cross Check is nearly the same thing, but has a bottom-bracket higher than ideal.

Disc Brakes

Raleigh Clubman Disc: not a real gravel-bike, but works in a pinch and a hell of a price-point.  Best all-around bike with discs?  That ugly chainring again!

Raleigh Tamland 1

Salsa Vaya 2


Kona Rove

Sunday, 22 March 2015

$1000 steel road bikes

That's the cheapest you can go for a geared bike that rides decently.  Any aluminum or carbon frames or forks at this price point are as heavy as steel, and ride more poorly.  As do disk brakes, so none are included here.  No triple-ring cranks here either: unergonomic.  These make a great starter and winter road bike: commuting, light touring, the lot.

Raleigh Grand Sport
- has lots of room for tires and fenders
- won't require parts-swapping

Bianch Lupo
- a bit more rugged than the Grand Sport, and maybe heavier
- more room for tires and fenders
- you'll want to switch for wider-profile canti-brakes

Kona Honky Tonk
- 28mm tires and fenders will only just fit
- a few better bits in the drive-train

Monday, 16 March 2015

Real road bikes

Friend of mine has killed his old touring bike, though hasn't yet come to terms with it.  He's looking at a cost of switching out the worn parts that approaches replacement value, and he never much liked the bike he has.  This post is to convince him to go new.

He's not racing, and wants a bike to commute on and do long days, to multiple days, which means baggage.  I am trying to convince him he no longer needs a bulked out touring bike, as camping gear now weighs much less, and he's liable to use hotels more than he did in his youth.  So, for his benefit and any readers looking for an all-purpose road bike for any road conditions, here's my suggestions to him.  There's a lot of steel here, Tiagra Grouppo, because this is where he's going to get his money's worth. My recommendations.

Note that all of the double-ring cranks need adjustment of the gearing: IRD Triplizer or Shimano's new middle-rings on road-triples; triple-rings have a q-factor too wide.

I'd go for the Raleigh Record Ace with long-reach calipers, but really want the Grand Prix with the Ritchey frame for under $2K.  Outstanding.

Surly Cross Check
Does everything a touring bike can do, has been used as a versatile bike for over a decade with much success by many.  Lots of room for bigger tires and fenders, braze-ons and the like.  30-118", 2x10, bar-cons, cantis, 32 spoke wheels.  BB a bit high for touring.

Surly Straggler
Disc-brake version of the above, with brifters.

Surly Long Haul Trucker and Disc Trucker
As above, overbuilt for today's touring, more cumbersome and slack-angled, triple-ringed, better BB drop.

All City Space Horse
Slightly better frame than the Cross Check, and with brifters, but otherwise similar, but a lower BB.  All City Macho Man and disc version have the usual cyclocross issue for touring: high BB.

Trek 520 and disc version
Rather a lot like the Long Haul Truckers.

MEC CÔTEThis is a neat choice, if you are looking at a lot of gravel roads.

Raleigh Clubman Disc
Best value disc option here, I think.  Not my thing, but he wants them.  This is also the cheapest bike here!  $1000 USD.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Damn, Raleigh: the Grand Prix is my new n+1/s-1*

They give us the Grand Prix.
Where were you when I bought my steel road bike?
- That's a Ritchey Breakaway frame!**  Only $350 over the otherwise similar Record Ace, but a Ritchey steel frame is otherwise a $1750 upgrade.  This bike has everything for $2100.
- Campy Veloce grouppo corresponds to Shimano 105: anything more spendy is wanking.
- The geometry (note the slight, but not touring frame, space between the seat-tube and wheel; also the curved fork with lesser trail) is about right for randonneuring and light touring.  More importantly, it is a steel bike that can take you short of anything but racing, when you wouldn't want steel anyway, but not so heavy as to encourage you to bulk your kit.
- Long reach brakes and room for 28mm tires with fenders (more on the larger sizes I'd put money on).

Not sure what I think about the wheels, which is something I am under-informed on, but 32 spokes might have been a better way to go.

The compact-double is the common mistake of over-gearing bikes with gear-inches Eddie Merckx didn't need to win. There are three ways around that which may work, one expensive and two cheap:
- the expensive is replace the crankset with a Sugino OX801D, so long as the rest of the drivetrain works with it
- the cheaper way is an IRD Triplizer with a 24t inner cog, perhaps small enough not to need any change to the bottom bracket
- even cheaper is use one of the new Shimano middle road rings which work the same way (bonus points for making Campy fanatics grumble).
Any of these will work with levers, ideally these.

I just hope they have this in a year or two when I start to think of PBP...

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.
I only wish they'd used wide-profile cantis, but that's not a popular choice.

**I know of no other major player using one.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Ceci n'est pas un macchiato.

My wife and I had to use a Starbucks, because our end of town sucks.  She had coupons, including one for a macchiato.  So I ordered a double-macchiato.
Sir, you can't have a macchiato with that (coupon).  You have to have one of the Starbucks machiattos [sic.] like a 'caramel-latte-machiatto'.
There are only three coffees: black, espresso, or espresso with very little milk-foam, none mixed in by the barista. If you want a fucking milkshake, knock yourself out, but don't call it coffee.
...  Just get me a tall dark. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

EQAO standardized testing: the observer-expectancy effect, "damn lies and 'statistics'"

As most of my few readers are not from Ontario, I'll give a potted history on the EQAO testing done to grades three and six in elementary schools.  It was brought in for spring of 2001 by a right-wing government hostile to all public servants.  This happened to be my first year of teaching, so I only stayed in teaching as they got soon voted out.*  Proof it was a tool by a hostile government is how difficult it was  made the first year in order to insinuate the entire teaching profession hadn't been earning their keep, and how much easier the test was the second year so they could harp on how they'd overhauled the education system in a single year...  That it still exists is because the succeeding governments have been craven, just not hostile.*

Teachers have a limited effect on student's overall learning in the aggregate, as anyone with any class consciousness knows.

The education of mothers is as important, but you can see it tracks the same way as income and student outcomes.  A good teacher is humble enough to know they can help, but are not the deciding factor: that's Hollywood bullshit.  A decent society floats all boats on the tide, but that's not ours any longer.

If a government were interested in student learning, they'd be interested in all social outcomes: they'd be interested in income equality.  [Ruefully laughing my ass off.]

The test isn't even an accurate test of the failures of our society.  The books get cooked.

Put aside the schools which've had their wrists slapped for changing students' test booklets, and the others who supplied students the answers, because that's an inevitable flaw of all standardized testing: all part of the 'Observer-Expectancy Effect', and why none of them are very good.  Did I mention that the students' classroom teachers present the test to their own classroom?  Their administration is ridden hard by the superintendents for results that have little to do with socioeconomic realities in the school?  Or that the government marks the test themselves?  Cannot see how there'd be any conflicts there.  We INTJs are not subject to the 'Dunning-Kruger Effect', unlike the majority of the other personality archetypes.  Humans are a fucking trial.

An anecdote: a  decade ago, the staff laughed aloud at our principal, due to the 'Lake Wobegon Effect'.  She said, "We expect all the students to be above average."  OK, I did start the laughter.  Another: my school board, which cries poor over class sizes, technology, facilities, staff-benefits and work conditions and much more, has found it in their budget to have EQAO 'tutoring'.

You must understand, as I make my students and their parents understand, the test has no outcomes negative or positive to an individual student, or even teacher for the moment (though the hostile government would have made that happen, and I would now be abroad or in another career**).  It's a, deeply flawed, tool to see how the province, schools, and socioeconomic groups are doing.  Why are we teaching kids to do artificially well at this?

Jesus wept.

*Succeeding governments have less improved conditions than made them no worse.
**The day of the election that had the neo-cons voted out of the province, I announced aloud in the staff-room that if they retained the government I wouldn't be back the next year.  It'd only get worse so fuck it.  I was young enough to start over, with only two years invested.  I was right, but fucked if I know what I would've done.  I'm a teacher.  International schools in Japan would've been the best choice for me, but I knew nothing about them in 2001.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

I want my Dick Tracy watch, damnit!

So much nonsense about smartwatches lately, most of which are shitty accessories to smartphones.  Each of them is ugly as, and needs a charge every day.  That is to say, they are not as reliable as a watch, do not look as good as a decent watch, nor do much more and naught more without a phone nearby.  Do anything off such a small interface?

Why has only Pebble figured out the obvious: e-ink screen for battery life, and plastic is shit? 

Almost interested: why's the bezel wasting so much viewable space?  Someone needs to make the band also screen, but the bracelet form is a non-starter for men.  Homage must be paid to the classic form of the watch if it's going to be worn for anything but during exercise or sci-fi movies.

I realize the purpose of capitalism is to sell value-added products to idiots for a premium; nevertheless, what I want to buy is a replacement to my phone, not an augmentation to it of dubious usefulness.  The next frontier is make the watch central, and larger display devices the peripheral. I've had to run with my smartphone. It'd be nice to leave it behind, but maintain connectivity.  This company's trying, but until a big player does...

In summary, make me a watch:
- with long battery life
- is the phone
- has a large screen extended to the band
- looks appropriate for an adult to wear
- links easily to touchscreens for a larger interface
- has an ergonomic solution to calls in public

This is why I am not an 'early adopter' or the target market.  A smartwatch that replaced a smartphone would be at cross-purposes to selling more tat, in the minds of sellers.  It's a stupid way to think for Android and Windows phones*, but makes sense for the marketing company pretending to be a computer company - Apple.  My phone is Samsung, my TV is LG as is my wife's phone, my wife's tablet is some Docomo D-Tab Chinese POS, my laptop is HP and my wife's Dell, and I had a Kindle once:  Android users are not loyal.  Apple can pull this shit, but Android makers have to make their device a better replacement than everyone else's, such as a watch that replaces a phone in an effective way.

*As I've never seen a Windows phone in the wild, I don't believe they exist; just as I believe Blackberry is extinct.