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

Sunday 26 August 2012

Screw my LBS ('local bicycle shop')

And say hello to the Internet.

Look, I want to give love to the 'local bicycle shop'.  I want to give love to every local shop.  However, take any retail and:
- they won't have what you need
- they won't care as much as you do
- they won't know as much as you do
- they will still disagree with your ideas
- you can find things online cheaper
- you can find things online you won't in stores

LBS mythology is misguided
The owner of an LBS needs to move product and services, or go under.  Same as any other retail.  He is not more interested in your particular cycling needs than in his profit margin.  He may be honest (and broke), and he may even tell you where you can get something elsewhere, but even then rarely, only for valued customers, and only if he knows.  An LBS carries two types of bike, for the most part: carbon 'dentist bikes', and aluminum 'bike shaped objects'.  I hate both, but regardless, these are options only at the highest and lowest ends of the price range, and for specific and limited uses.  When you need a specific part for your bike, unless it is so common that you can find it in every shop, there are low odds you will find it any particular shop.  Even a specialty shop, like the faux-randonneuring Velocraft in Tokyo, had less than half of the VO, Nitto, Honjo and Paul bits I wanted to see - and that is what they specialize in.

Store employees may not know any more than you do
Except in the best shops, which are few, and even then not know as much in specific areas important to yourself.  Why should they?  How much money do you imagine they are making (less than you, bourgeois trash)?  They know about the bikes they sell just enough to move them, and whatever accessories move with these.  If you have spent time deciding how to set up your bike, read reviews and specs online, you know as much about these particulars as they could, but they don't.  Like yourself they have their prejudices about the 'best' bike, which are the wrong prejudices for your needs.  And if there is money to be made, they will not tell you buying a product or service is unnecessary (commissioned or not).  As an example, 'Sweetpete's' in Toronto rebuilt a flip/flop wheel for me, because both I and they thought I needed a new hub for a fixed/fixed wheel, and what they rebuilt it with was an identical hub of another colour: the original was fine.

Online has the parts you want, and cheaper
And you did not waste time going across town half a dozen times to different shops to fail to find it.  If you are looking for a popular bike or part, you will certainly find it cheaper online.  If you are looking for something unusual, you may only find it online.  No store can keep much variety in stock, especially if they are not sure it will move quickly.  You might find Paul 'thumbies' for the same $75 in store as at the Paul website, or you might find them online cheaper; or you could get the same thing from VO for $50, or from Dixna for the same (in Japan).

The LBS is dead?
Of course not.  You are reading a bike-blog about LBS and looking for unsual bikes and parts.  Neither you nor me is the common customer.  If you can go into an LBS and throw over three-thousand dollars at a bike made of plastic that weighs less than your excess abdominal fat, you are a target demographic.  If you go into the LBS and throw less than five-hundred at a 'hybrid' with a cushy saddle and shitty suspension forks that you won't know is terrible because you never do more than 5km on paved 'multi-use' paths in the park, you are a target market.  The LBS does fuck all for us.

PS: There is some wrenching that I pay to get done, but less and less all the time.

Friday 24 August 2012

Obligatory Lance Armstrong Post

So he's not going to fight charges, and he's going to lose his seven Tours.  I guess Greg Lemond is the only American to win le Tour!*
(because I can't stand to see Armstrong's fucking face)

I shouldn't care, except to be glad we won't see his smug mug anymore once the news has spun out.  He should, guilty or not, sit back and enjoy his cash, well or ill-gotten, and not care at all, but his kind... it will kill him.  This kind, driven so hard to win that he devoted all of his time and energy, with or without pharmaceuticals, to winning the most well known race in cycling - and skipped the others, giving him an advantage over other competitors - needs external validation, and constantly.  I can tell you the reason he is not fighting it this time is he won't face the accusations, true or not, like a man.

Of course, guilty is the most economical explanation, and I like economical explanations:
- he won seven times
- he recovered from cancer and won
- he won in a field of dopers
- his teammates have been caught
- his teammates accuse him of same
- he acts a right cock, including going after Lemond for accusing him, and wrecking Lemond's relationship with Trek

Yeah, it's a fucking duck.

But if pro-sports are in any way self defining, you are a chump.  Brain-injury and 'roids in football, match-fixing in Sumo, the entirety of the five-ring circus (Olympics)...  You have to be far more credulous than I.  When there's money, people cheat; when people cheat, everyone else has to do so to keep up.

*I read that joke elsewhere.  Wish it were mine.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

How I became car-free

'Kent's Bike' is a good read, and a recent post about a Volkswagen that earned immolation put me in mind of how I became car-free.
How I became car-free takes several stories, but I will try to keep each brief.
I had one of America's worst products: a well-worn Pontiac Sunfire wagon.  It was not all bad - the six-cylinder engine had good pick-up, I could sleep in the back, or load it up well.  On the other hand, it used too much fuel for its size, the steering wheel did not line up with the driver's seat, but worst, the fuses to the taillights shorted every few hundred kilometres.  Same for the dashboard.  An inconvenience in daytime, something else at night, and beyond the capabilities of mechanics to fix.  In a thunderstorm I crashed it into opposite walls of an expressway, and managed to hurt nobody.  Thank god for that.
Insurance paid to replace it with a well-worn Honda Civic, that had much less room in back, and little pick-up, but used little gas, seated more ergonomically and was reliable.  I drove it a little too fast and was caught for it, twice - not street-racing, mind you.  Well, when my insurance came up for review, they took a look at the two tickets, and could not forget they'd had to give me $6K for a car, and started to charge me $6K/yr.  Nobody else would give me better.  They communicate, didn't you know.

They sell a product, so my representative tried to keep me on with a threat that if I gave up driving I would come back as a 'new driver', which would be expensive. I surprised myself that I could answer her icily, keeping my temper in check:
"So, you're telling me that I should pay you $6K/yr because you MIGHT do me a favour in future, but you won't put that in writing, of course.  Whereas I may never own a car again after your pillage, and even if I did I would be over forty, and the 'new driver' rates at that age do not worry me.  Please spare me..."
She did.

I did get a better bike, a bike-commuting habit, and now invest the money I threw away on car ownership ($9K/yr for an average N.American, minus what I spend on car-rental/share and transit, is over $6K/yr more than before to save).  Consequences?  I am over forty, and with very little effort: have a 21 BMI and 17% body-fat, have run a half-marathon and cycled an Imperial-century (100 miles) since, and am aiming for more, despite being the poorest athlete in my youth.  I have beaten the Toronto winter 'seasonal adjustment disorder' that plagued me for years.  I am no longer a candidate for debt-collectors, psychotropic drugs, insulin, heart medication, and general suburban despair.

Thank you Fuck-wit Insurance of Canada.

Sign of bubble-bursting times: indoor ski hill

Suburban Tokyo's got financing approved before 'The Bubble' burst, and went tits-up not long after (the present location of Ikea Funabashi).
Dubai is all bubble, and has one.
Now Toronto?!  Home-owners, you're cooked.

Truth is, it's never going to happen.  This is one time Canada's timidity and sloth might save some people.  Can you imagine the money it would take?  At least the Dubai one and the failed Tokyo-'burb one were: not as far from downtown, on expressways and transit.  Yet my insinuation remains: when there is financial-froth for this kind of idiocy, get your money out, and fast.

So you tell me, is this like showrooms for condos that won't ever get built?  Some clever form of money-laundering or interest-harvesting?

Sunday 19 August 2012

'The West's' lost pretences

Shisaku is always good, but this is brilliant. Please do not fail to read.

Tandem builder challenge: child

My hope, when he is five in three years, is to have a tandem I can ride with my son, and continue to ride with him, or his in utero sibling, until he is a preteen.  After which I will ride it with my wife, or sell it.  This is not as simple as you might imagine.  What am I on about?  Check these links on taking a child on a tandem. The perfect solution doesn't exist yet, but I have sent the below builders this post as a challenge.

Besides having a stoker position a young child can fit, like the Co-Motion Periscopes,
the ideal would:
- fold like a Bike Friday tandem
- put the stoker in front, with a good q-factor, like Dutch tandems or the Kidz tandem
- but cost less than a Bilenky Viewpoint
- Hase Pino
- or custom Da Vinci and let a kid freewheel like Da Vinci's superlative 'Independent Drive'
(but the stock Da Vinci Grand Junction is only $3K) 
- and look better than the defunct, yet clever, Cyclemorph (Xtracycle - build this!)

I will not get everything I want, at a price I want.  Here's the prioritised list of what I need in the bike:
1. ideal price point is $2K new, but up to $3K works - no Hase Pino
2. pilot position fits a 6' man
3. the q-factor for both stoker and me is not wide - no stoker triple, or crank shorteners

What I want in the bike:
4. the stoker position will fit from 4' to 5'6" without a 'kid back' kit - has a low rear top-tube, and shorter cranks
5. transportable - takes apart to standard bicycle length or better*
6. stoker front - for their view and my supervision
7. stoker can freewheel - because I don't
8. disk brakes - with large rotors that stay cooler
9. auxiliary cantilever rim-bakes (may require V-brake plates) with bar-top levers - for safer descents**
10. a slower cadence for the stoker, as mine is high,  achieved by chainring switch-ups

What I don't want in the bike:
10. pilot recumbent - never be that old, and none are affordable
11. stoker steering - only the Hase Pino has it, but I cannot afford it

By price, only a new Bike Friday, Kidz Tandem, Co-motion or Da Vinci Grand Junction are contenders; a used tandem, or Cyclemorph, are contenders, too.  The Co-motion or Da Vinci Grand Junction, used or new, could be improved with a $500 S&S Coupler upgrade*: the Bike Friday and Kidz Tandem with better brakes.  Here's hoping there's a better solution than a trailer-bike in three years...

* Many tandems have six S&S Couplers to take apart quite small.  I think one pair of couplers, top and bottom tube in the centre of the bike, will be sufficient to make the bike much less cumbersome, at 1/3 the cost.

**Problem Solvers Cable Doublers would allow me to minimize levers and brake overheating and maximize stopping.  I'd attach front and rear disks to the left lever, and front and rear rims to the right (many 'mini-V' brakes are compatible with STI levers).  On a bad descent I could simply alternate the hand I squeeze for a constant speed and not overheat the brakes; or squeeze both in duress.

Addendum: November 12, 2012

I forgot the Circe Helios, for $2000+.

And the Circe Morpheus, for $3000+.  These address some of the concerns above well.

Michael Bryant, shut up and fire your PR representative

If the fucker (a lawyer) had not left the scene, made his first call to his PR firm, not 911, and got off in a suspect manner, I might have finished reading this pack of lies so well rehearsed to match the surveillance tapes, but I would still be inclined to believe he was met by the police at that hotel bar so he could pretend he got above the limit after the murder, not before.  Even the Toronto police spokesman has said he is full of shit (I hate respecting the actions of a cop).
Hey Bryant! Time to hire a new PR firm. Judging by the comments on your interview/book-shill you'd do better for yourself to shut up. Then again, you're not aiming this swill at 99% of us, just the 1% who can give you back a career.  You already stayed out of jail for a death/murder recorded on video, and didn't get tested for blood-alcohol, whereas the rest of us would have been cooked. Count yourself lucky. I'd suggest you atone, but I don't think that is something you do, and the fact that psychopaths can't atone might be why your wife left, or maybe it was being witness to what you did that night (then there are the rumours that it was not your wife you were with...).

Friday 17 August 2012

Well done, Toronto (SSFW): Rob Ford.

Toronto, you are famous in the US.  A shame it has to be voting for this dickhead.  At least it's an accurate representation.

(I take no responsibility for the picture on the right.  Missing areolae are not to my taste).

Thursday 16 August 2012


When I go back to Canada, I want to be able to bike my kids easily (one due January), with them having as much fun as possible - me too.  We should be able to communicate, enjoy or endure the weather together, and I should have to spend as little money as possible, for the sake of peace with the J-wife.  Trailers are not an option: awkward, slow, too far away, and a pair would fight in a double.  Also am looking to make as balanced a load as I can.  I needed to plan this out to avoid redundant purchases, and I am sharing it with the world!  I figure everything on here has decent to good resale value too, and the tandem I may keep forever.  Orange shows what I have to buy.

Not going to share my kids' details with the world, and don't yet know the gender of the second one, so let's call them Ichiro and Jiro.  My wife is a cautious cyclist, and not very big.  She'll just ride her own.

2013 - 2014: City Bike with VO porteur rack
Ichiro 3 - 4: Yepp Maxi baby seat (post mount)
Jiro 1/2 - 1 1/2: n/a
I already have a 'city bike' which I can throw the other items on.

summer 2015 - 2017: City Bike
Ichiro 5 - 7: Burley Piccolo trail-a-bike
Jiro 2 1/2 - 4 1/2: Yepp Maxi baby seat (post mount)

summer 2018-2020: Bike Friday Tandem
Ichiro 8 - 10: tandem stoker (or on own bike)
Jiro 5 1/2 - 7 1/2: Burley Piccolo
Pretty much only the BF tandems, the Co-Motion Periscopes, and the Kidz Tandem can take a very small stoker, but the BF takes apart most easily at the best price, though I wish the smaller stoker could go in the front like the Kidz. Here is a link to a BF 5% discount (5% of a $2K tandem is $100).  This is my only expensive year...

summer 2021-23 - Bike Friday Tandem
Ichiro 11-13 - draft if you like, but you ride your own bike, kid
Jiro 8 1/2 - 10 1/2 - tandem stoker

Then they discover girls, or boys.  Whatever.

It is possible to do the Burley Piccolo first, and Tandem after, and may make better sense.  I think this works out better than trailers, or cargo bikes: although the tandem costs some money it is usable for over a decade, or more if I get my wife on it, and while the children are not adolescent they'll ride it with me.  Tandems also have resale value.

UK would storm Ecuadorian embassy to get Assange?

Outrageous.  Even the Nazis respected some extra-territoriality during hostilities.  Whether Assange is guilty, or prey to Neo-Cons in the 'Special Relationship'*, this is not how it is done.  Heads should roll in the Foreign Office and wherever the orders came from in government.  You don't whisper this as a negotiating point, much less put it in writing.  Try threatening to expel an ambassador, then expelling him, before this lunacy.

So this is what has become of 'Western' 'democracy'?  With the involvement of a S.American government and "Baltasar Garzón, the former Spanish judge who ordered the London arrest of Chile's General Pinochet."  This is looking like a Hispanic 'fuck-you!' to America, to join Venezuela's and Cuba's.  Long overdue.

*Id est, Britain is America's bitch.

'kamo' and I continue this debate on his blog-post, and in the comments here.


Glen Greenwald, as ever, covers all the bases:
It is vital that both sets of rights be safeguarded [Asannge's against political persecution, and the women's for a judicial examination of their claims], not just one. The only just solution is one that protects both. Assange's lawyers and the Ecuadorians have repeatedly pursued arrangements to vindicate all substantial rights at stake so that he can travel to Sweden – today – to face those allegations while being protected against unjust extradition to the US. It is the refusal of the British and Swedish authorities even to consider any such proposals that have brought this situation to the unfortunate standstill it is in.
The Guardian's Seumas Milne lays out an argument very close to mine:
Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?
None of that should detract from the seriousness of the rape allegations made against Assange, for which he should clearly answer and, if charges are brought, stand trial. The question is how to achieve justice for the women involved while protecting Assange (and other whistleblowers) from punitive extradition to a legal system that could potentially land him in a US prison cell for decades.
  He adds a crucial point I never got to:
WikiLeaks provided fuel for the Arab uprisings. It didn't just deliver information for citizens to hold governments everywhere to account, but crucially opened up the exercise of US global power to democratic scrutiny. Not surprisingly, the US government made clear it regarded WikiLeaks as a serious threat to its interests from the start, denouncing the release of confidential US cables as a "criminal act".
A criminal act; however, it was not: in the strictest and most metaphorical senses of the word, 'criminal'.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

NHK wtf?!

That was my first reaction to reading this yesterday: 'Japan GDP expands for 4th straight quarter'.  Even before I read the more common news, today: 'Japan's economic growth slows to 0.3% in second quarter'.

Yes, even I know the two articles are probably talking about different economic indicators that I am not interested in researching at all, but you tell me which one paints the more accurate picture of Japan.

 ('NHK Special: Working-Poor')

In my Canada, the CBC is always dying a 'death from a thousand cuts' from the neo-con government, yet never gets better than mediocre, or fights back properly, except its tepid centrism; the NHK is a fully paid-for propaganda organ, but then again, so is the rest of the accredited media in Japan.  No wonder so many Japanese buy the 'classless society' line (yet can talk about 'erai-hito' in the same breath).  In Canada, some investigative journalism is still done by the CBC and the Toronto Star; in Japan, we got the truth about Fukushima, and the 'Senkaku incident' from individuals on the Internet.  The Japanese media has adjusted to this, by repeating what someone else had the guts to print.

- Could someone translate the top picture?  I think it is something to the effect of 'don't collect NHK fees here!'.

Monday 13 August 2012

Why is this so hard?

Why is it so hard to have a 700c wheeled folding bike with a steel frame, in a fixed gear?  I'd take any three of those four and be happy!  And I'd like it stock, not a 200% 'custom' mark-up, thanks.  Instead, I can get these dog's breakfasts, usually in aluminum and single-speed with children's wheels, and no reasonable way to run fenders for something as eccentric as weather.

Montague Boston

Xootr Swift

Dahon Uno
Why isn't this available?!

Trailer or Cargo Bike?

It's a good question.  Let's say you're like me, as many are.  A regular to avid cyclist, who has a kid or two to haul sometimes, some groceries too, and a limited budget.  You've already got your performance bike(s) and a bike you can nominate the errand/daddy bike.  Should you get a cargo bike from $1K to $3K?  They do look sweet.
Great.  You now have another bike to store and maintain, that's too big to throw on a car or train, and is always set to heavy-duty.  Did I mention the price?

Or should you spend less than $500 to get a kid trailer?  Not so flash.  Frankly, I think they are overbuilt and unstreamlined all of them, and none come as a more efficient single-wheel trailer.  Yet, when you don't need it, it's not there.  Did I mention the fraction of the price?  Or that there are often second-hand sales?  The kid-trailer also acts as a great decoy to fuckwit drivers - even full only of cargo they may try not to hit a child more than an adult.
Guess I know what to buy now that hybrid II is on the way, but I still regret not being able to justify the cargo bike.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Amazon-Japan has deodorant!

About bloody time.  Hope the Oyaji take to wearing it.
They are both sold through the same Amazon store, which also carries a bunch of African hair care products, that makes me think this is not Japanese run.

This brand is native, but should suit your other needs.

Some links to older posts on shopping in, or before coming to, Japan.

Monday 6 August 2012

Well and truly Japanned. Exception - Hakuba?

Not that!  More like this:
And these:

Well and truly fucked.

I'll eschew my usual rant about poor service in the world's only international language, for money-dropping tourists, much less residents.  If you've been here for any time, you don't need me to recap.  From hotels to tourist-agency websites, English is not available as it is in any other country with a fraction of the money or the tourists.

But this posting is about an exception, of a sort.
If you want to go skiing in Japan, and not have to learn kanji, take a J-lover, or beg a J-co-worker to aid you: Hakuba, and Niseko, are where you want to go.  (If you want to go hiking, or much of anything else, you are still on your own).  There are even restaurants which do not make hamburgers of pork, cafés where you can get properly pulled coffee, and real-estate agents where you will  not need a word of Japanese.  You can find accommodation that is heated, charges by the room (not the person), desk staff who can communicate with you, and do this through English websites.  If you can afford a second home, you can get one in Hakuba just as easily, using only English.  However, though English language realtors will list only homes which have insulation, central-heating, and are built better than a kennel, for these reasons the prices are multiples of 'The Bubble' era besso.

Why Hakuba and Niseko?  Aussies.  Instead of flying to Whistler with money to spend, or using a work-holiday visa in Canada, the Nagano Olympics got the word out to Aussies there was somewhere half as far away as Whistler, with women half the avoir du pois and twice as GGG, and a culture who drank like Australians, but aren't as false as Canadians. Great for Hakuba's tax-base, and the Australians who've put money into inns, restaurants and bars, the Japanese married to them, and the rare Japanese entrepreneur who meets the foreign market.  About that...

There are damned few Japanese meeting the foreign market.  Sigh.  It's separate sets of tourists and establishments, apart from the ski-hills (where I might add, the English signage is bad enough I got burned buying the wrong ticket - next time I'll read the Japanese).  I am sure there are exceptions, because I came across one, but they are few.

I was very happy with the Japanese owned and run Mimizuku Onsen, because they do everything right:
- most signs are in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese
- even the sign telling how to bathe is also in Japanese - classy
- the lady on duty came out to help me with the ticket machine, even though it had English*
- 'internationalization' was managed without changing any of the charm of a good local onsen

The twats in Kasumigaseki and Marunouchi should, but never will, learn much from this business.

*I do not remember what language she started to help me in, as we talked later in Japanese, but she was certainly willing to help me in English.