Your LBS to the rescue

January 25, 2013 § 26 Comments

A lot of the time I write about things that never happened outside the four corners of my skull. Rarely do I write about things that really did happen, just as they happened. “Rarely” as in “Never.”

The other day, though, I posted a rant about night lights. The object of my derision was Nite Rider and the cost of replacing the power pack, which was more than the entire unit. I switched to Serfas for my headlight, as I’d had such great results with my Serfas taillight.

Naturally, a few days after getting the new headlight, the Serfas 500, and being very pleased with it, I became very displeased with it. It had the dangerous and terrifying defect of shutting off every time I went over a bump.

“Well,” said one useless biker friend, “quit going over bumps.”

It also shut off at high speeds from road vibrations. Same friend: “You shouldn’t be going fast at night.”

So I went off for a bit on Serfas in a blog post, never expecting that Serfas would get in touch with me to remedy the problem.

And they didn’t.

However, a day or so after excoriating the product, my phone rang, or my email rang. I can’t remember which.

“Hi, Seth. This is Bob down at Bike Palace.”

“Hey, Bob.”

“You know that Serfas light you’re having trouble with?”

“Do I ever.” For a few seconds I wondered why he was calling about the light. To complain, maybe, about my rash treatment? After all, I’d bought the light from the PV Bicycle Center, which was now shuttered.

“Why don’t you bring it down to the shop and let me swap it out for you?”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, we’ve got several in stock. Just drop it off and we’ll give you a new one. They’re great lights and it sounds like you got a dud. Glad to put you onto a new one.”

“Wow, Bob,” I said. “Thanks.”

“You bet,” he said.

A few days later I was down at the Bike Palace in San Pedro, where Bob and owner Tony Jabuka took back the light they had never sold me, and put a new one in my trembling little hands. “Ride safe,” said Bob.

“Thanks, man. I will.”

When’s the last time that happened with a bike shop that you only patronize on the Internet? Right. Me, either.

News from around the Empire

January 18, 2013 § 11 Comments

As of today I’m free at last, free at last, thank Dog almighty I’m free at last. “Why?” you ask. Because henceforth when I get asked The Question(s) about The Cyclist I get to say, after thoughtfully furrowing my brow, this: “Well, it’s a good question. I suggest you go out and ride your bicycle in order to answer it.”

Elbow testing: Junkyard thwacked his rebuilt elbow yesterday at the start of the NPR, right where the electronic circuitry connected to the shoulder bone, which was connected to the brain bone, which was connected to the new PV Kit bone, which got shredded and tore a hole bigger than Dallas. The ‘bow, however, is rock solid minus a touch of cosmetic road wear. They DID build him better than he was before.

Bellyflop: Neumann/aka Hockeystick/now known as “Belly” did a track stand at the turnaround on the NPR, had his wheel chopped, and tumbled off his bicycle. No harm done, and he was quickly helped by Rahsaan. He did, however, bounce when he hit. I’ve never seen that before. Belly, time to try the South Bay Wanker Diet. It’s painful, but it works and it’s free. PS: Track stands in the middle of swirling roadie packs = Numbskullish.

First blood: Charon Smith scored his first win of the year at Ontario last week, finishing so far ahead of the field that he had time to completely recover from his sprint effort and shave his head by the time he crossed the line. The finish photo shows everyone with teeth gritted, faces twisted, bodies hunched over the bars looking like they’re running from a zombie army, and Charon with arms raised, mouth closed, and no visible signs of exertion as he cruises to the win. I’m pretty sure there were some intense post-race team huddles at MRI/Monster Media, and they went like this:

“Don’t ever let it finish in a bunch sprint again, dogdammit!”

“I told you we’re going to have to break away to win! Only way to outsprint Charon is by making him do the 1/2 races, where he belongs.”

“We can’t have him in a break, ever!”

“At CBR we’ll attack the entire race until we get away!”

“If we work together with the other 99 riders in the race, we might have a chance!”

Etc.

By the way, good luck with that plan!

Get ready for CBR: The first South Bay crit of the year happens on Sunday when Chris Lotts puts on the Dominguez Hills Anger Crit Thingy. Please show up to support local road racing in SoCal. Yes, you’ll be pack meat, just like last year. So what?

Winter’s over: The South Bay endured seven (some say eight) days of brutal winter this month, where early temperatures got down to 39, and the highs never crested 65. Thankfully, the bitter temperatures are over, and we’re slowly returning to lows in the high 40’s, highs in the high 70’s. Don’t put away your heavy winter clothing yet, but for sure rotate it to the back of the closet.

Bad wind news: G$ is in Scottsdale testing his bike position in a wind tunnel. Great. A faster G$. Just what those of us in the Elderly Fellows category need.

Gitcher waffle on: The Belgian Waffle Ride is set for April 7, 2013. It will be the hardest one-day ride of the year, where chicken tactics, wheelsucking, and letting others do all the work will earn you nothing more than infamy and a purple card. This will be first and foremost a contest between you and the road. Finish it and you’ll know satisfaction!

Mad props to Dorothy: The 2012 cyclocross season has ended in SoCal, and it couldn’t have gone better or been done without the extraordinary efforts and work and innovation and enthusiasm of Dorothy Wong. I bailed after about ten races. That shit is hard. Next year, which I suppose would be this year, I’ll be in for the whole season now that I know what I’m in for. Thanks to Dorothy for making ‘cross such a success.

Equipment flail: After dissing on my Night Rider lighting system and replacing it with the tube-shaped Serfas light, I can happily report that the Serfas is far superior except that it shuts off every time I hit a bump, and after about four or five bumps it won’t restart without a 1-minute pause or longer. That’s a long-ass time when you’re bombing down VdM on Bull’s wheel at dark-thirty. For $150.00 you’d almost expect something that would work, but then you remember, “It’s an elite cycling product, so of course it’s a pile of shit unless you spend at least $500.00.”

Smooth looking skin: Since incorporating kimchi into my diet, Mrs. Wankmeister has advised me that my skin is softer, more lustrous, and gradually shedding the leathery, scaly, rough, scabbed-over look that comes with road cycling. Though I don’t give a rat’s ass about theĀ  beauty aspect, I do believe that healthier skin will stave off the skin cancer in my future for at least a year or two, and Professor Google confirms that kimchi is the wonderfood for healthy skin. The downside of course are the kimchi farts. Those things are vicious, however, they too have a beneficial effect on skin, as anyone on your wheel gets an instant facial dermal peel when one of those suckers rips into their face. You have to be careful, though, because they can also melt the polarizing slits on your expensive cycling glasses.

Shine a light on me

December 23, 2012 § 25 Comments

I still see bikers riding at dusk, or just before dawn, or sometimes even at night, without a headlight.

They are stupid or cheap or both. They are going to get run over by a car. They are going to spend thousands to fix their stupid bones and their stupid bike, they are going to lose income from being bound to a hospital bed and peeing through a tube, their wifeband is going to fucking ream them to a fare thee well because s/he never approved of cycling anyway, and the jarheaded cop is going to assign them liability for the accident, cutting off a lawsuit and potential recovery against the offending driver.

They are going to spend tens of thousands to fix themselves, when they could have prevented the whole mess with a $150.00 purchase.

Oh, and of course they didn’t stint on the $2,500.00 racing wheelset, and no, they don’t race.

Stupid and cheap people don’t deserve death or horrible injury just because they’re stupid and cheap, but the world often disagrees.

The temerity of the review

I’m usually first impressed, then quickly contemptuous of, people who review new cycling products. It’s impressive because the responsibility is so enormous, and blogger/Bicycling Mag types seem to assume it for no more than a free shipment of swag.

When you review a product you’re telling people how to spend their money. This is like telling them how to do their job, or how to talk to their wife, or what school to send their kids to, or which religion to believe in, only way more personal than those things.

For cycling crap, reviews are more than telling people “buy this, not that.” Depending on the product, reviews are also saying “trust your life with this, not that.”

I’m thinking tires. Glasses. Brakes. Frames. Shoes. Wheels. I’m thinking any of those numerous items on a bike which, when they catastrophically fail, can result in catastrophic injury.

I get contemptuous of the new product review pretty quickly when the product is one of those things we depend on to keep us alive when we cycle. Why? Because there’s no way to review a new product on one of its most important qualities: Durability.

The reviewer may see his mailbox regularly fill with free crap, but most cyclist consumers buy shit and use it for a long time, often way past the expiration date. Shakes the Clown comes to mind, the only cyclist I’ve ever seen actually wear out the color neon yellow. He wore this hideous jersey for so many decades that the unfadable color finally faded.

Or John Saggyshorts, what about him? Dude wore out the stretch in his lycra such that the bottoms of his shorts look like flair jeans. He doesn’t care. he’s in his 70’s, and he knows that bell bottom shorts will be in fashion again someday. Not they ever were, of course.

These cheapskates, and millions like them, are going to buy the product you recommend after careful thought and comparison, and they’re going to use it until the end of time or until it falls apart, whichever comes first. So the reviewer who slap-happily gives a “two thumbs up” to some product that hasn’t been battle tested over thousands and thousands of miles, varying conditions, and preferably a couple of years, is doing a service to no one but himself (gets more free swag) and the manufacturer.

Which, by the way, is fine, as long as it’s disclosed, which it never is, with a disclaimer like this: “WARNING: This is a bullshit review of a bullshit product that has not really been tested against the conditions in which you will use it for the length of time that you will use it. I’m a paid whore for [—–] and my opinions count for shit.”

A quick overview on headlights v. taillights

Bike shops are replete nowadays with salamander lights. These are headlights and tailights whose beam is no bigger around than the rectum of a salamander. This is the kind of light I’m talking about, and the market is flooded with them. I’ve seen countless “serious” cyclists with these or their equivalent strapped to their bike. They are stupid and pointless and a waste of money and when seen from behind cannot be seen from behind. When used to illuminate what’s in front of you they don’t illuminate what’s in front of you. They do, however, identify you as a stupid cheapass.

Since there’s some confusion about what a bicycle light should do, let’s first cover the basics.

  1. Taillight: This should blind anyone behind you and alert them to your miserable existence. It should be so red, and so bright, and so screamingly obvious that the driver coming up behind you should wonder whether or not you’re an emergency vehicle. I’m talking about something like this. How do I know it works? Fellow cyclists beg me to shut it off when I meet up with the group and they have to ride behind me. Since getting this thing two years ago, on my nightly commute cars swerve wide to pass where they once used to pass so closely that I’d regularly get brownshorts. The taillights’s purpose is not to save weight, or to be aero, or to awesomely blend into the architecture of your frame. It’s to keep the fucking traffic from crushing and killing you. So, take a look at your taillight, and if it’s not the brightest, most annoying, badass beam of death out there, throw it in the trash and get a real one. Can’t afford the $60.00 price tag? Then how the hell are you going to afford the catheter that drains the excess fluid off your brain post-collision?
  2. Headlight: This is not really to let people know you’re there. It’s to light the roadway in front of you. So there’s no sense in having a “blinking” front light unless your eyes open and shut uncontrollably and everything’s a strobe to you anyway. The headlight should be a powerful beam. How powerful? So powerful that when a skunk or possum runs across your path, the beam clearly illuminates his spinal cord underneath the fur and skin. So powerful that if you leave it focused on one place for too long, it will start a fire. So powerful that when you plug it in for a recharge the entire apartment complex’s electrical system momentarily sags. In lightspeak, it should be no less than 500 lumens, which is basically the brightness of commercial aircraft landing gear. Can’t afford the $150.00 price tag? Sorry to hear that your brains and bones and internal organs and children and wife and job cost less than $150.00. Or rather, envious. “Green with envy” envious.

Down on Nite Rider stuff, possibly forever

A week ago I was planning this blog post and thinking about all the great things I was going to say about Nite Rider. First, I was going to castigate them for misspelling “Night.” Cutesy names chosen to avoid trademark infringement are nothing more than testament to a feeble imagination, and if you can’t think up a catchy, available name, how good are you going to be inventing something that actually works?

Quite good, apparently.

I’ve used Nite Rider lights for three years, starting with the MiNewt 350 and then, at the end of 2011, upgrading to the MiNewt 750. The beam is bright, and although the brightest beam never seemed to last very long, and certainly never lasted for the 1.5 hours bandied about on the web site, the lower beams were plenty bright to light my way.

I liked the MiNewt because the headlamp was tiny and aero, fit snugly on the bars, and was very solidly built. The $250+ that I paid for the 750 was a downer, but a few extra bucks for a whole lot of extra light was worth it.

The other downside to the MiNewt was the battery pack, which you have to strap to your frame or your bars. When I was riding with my stem jammed all the way down, I’d bump the battery pack with my right knee when climbing out of the saddle. And the lashing-down process with the velcro strap before each ride was a pain in the ass, but the baseline comparison for me was always the same: How much of an inconvenience is it compared to a spinal fracture at C2 and spending the rest of my life navigating a wheelchair with my tongue?

Exactly.

Planned obsolescence: Don’t get me started, or rather, please do

Two weeks ago the Bull and I were descending in the pitch dark on the way to the NPR. He was missing a taillight and the conversation got around to headlights. He was using the new Serfas TSL 500+.

“What’s up with the new light? What happened to your Nite Rider?”

He and I had used the same light for a while now. “The battery pack died.”

“Why didn’t you get another one?”

“Nite Rider has it conveniently set up so that the cost of a new battery pack is about the same as the cost of buying an entire new lighting system.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

He wasn’t. A new 750 MiNewt battery costs $129.00, and with shipping and tax is right around $150.00. Bottom line: Nite Rider sells you a product that is designed to wear out, then rapes you on the replacement part.

I’ve come to expect this from Shimano (replaced the covers on your brake levers lately?), and would expect nothing less from Campy and longtime cycling manufacturers who treat consumers like cows to be continually milked and given nothing in return, but for some reason it came as a shock that Nite Rider has also bought into this philosophy.

It’s a shock because the light market is competitive. Fucking over loyal consumers will send them elsewhere, which is what happened to me. I popped over to the LBS and bought a Serfas TSL 500+. It plugs into the wall, doesn’t have the clunky battery pack with lame velcro strap lashdown system, is super bright, is lightweight, and seems to work just fine.

The only downside is that it’s larger than the MiNewt atop your handlebars and doesn’t look as sleek. However, it easily unclips and fits into your back pocket after the sun comes up, something you could never do with the MiNewt.

So, fuck you Nite Rider. The Serfas may also be built to fail, and it’s only been given one test run, and I can’t vouch for the its quality, durability, or ease of use over time, but for now it has replaced you, who were as of a few minutes ago deposited in the garbage chute.

I don’t mind being screwed around by a light manufacturer…oh, wait a minute…yes, I do.

Good Nite, Rider.

Good Nite, Rider.

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